In April, Blue Like Jazz, the movie named after the New York Times best-selling book by Donald Miller, hit theaters. While we can’t comment on the movie at this time, having not seen it, we are compelled to say something about the book. No doubt, tens or hundreds of thousands of young people will see the movie, which will, for many of them, be their introduction to the emerging church (i.e., the “new” Christianity).
Blue Like Jazz, the book, published by Thomas Nelson in 2003, was essentially a “soft” introduction to the emerging church. There are two myths about Donald Miller that all concerned Christians should know:
Two Myths about Donald Miller
Myth 1: Donald Miller is not really an emerging church figure.
Truth: Miller shares the same spiritual outlook as other emerging leaders (even in Blue Like Jazz, which has sold over a million copies and has gained enormous influence in the evangelical church). That is why Brian McLaren (who rejects biblical atonement) said there is “no better book than Blue Like Jazz to introduce Christian spirituality.” McLaren said this about Miller because he recognizes Miller as a soul mate of emerging spirituality.
The following quote by Miller (in BLJ) reveals much about his spiritual propensities:
For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained (p. 115).
When Miller says that “Christian spirituality” cannot be explained, he means that solid, unchangeable biblical doctrine and theology do not exist. When Miller says “Christian spirituality” can only be “experienced,” this is referring to mysticism. That can be substantiated when Miller says: “You cannot be a Christian without being a mystic” (p. 202). He has echoed mystic Karl Rahner’s words who said the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will be nothing. Some may say that Miller is merely defending ideas like the trinity or eternity (which he refers to in BLJ) as being mystical. But putting in context Miller’s statement above, he is actually defending “Christian writers” who embrace “mysticism.” These are two different things. When the “Christian” mystics speak of mysticism, they are referring to altered states of consciousness (the silence) reached during mantric-style meditation. And while Miller doesn’t mention contemplative or mantras in his books, he helps condition people to see mysticism as a legitimate and valuable practice.
For those who may be skeptical regarding Miller’s view on mysticism, in his book Searching for God Knows What in the acknowledgements, Miller thanks New Age meditation proponent Daniel Goleman. Goleman (author of The Meditative Mind) writes favorably about mantra meditation and Buddhism. He was the editor for a book titled Healing Emotions: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mindfulness, Emotions, and Health.
Miller backs up his dismissal of doctrine and theology (an earmark of all emerging leaders) when he says he has “climb[ed] outside my pat answers [doctrine],” and says “Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid” (p. 205). That might sound acceptable to many people today in our feel-good, redefining society, but it is the “pat answers” and the “chart” that the Bible has given us so we can understand God, life, and salvation. Miller reiterates his rejection of immoveable doctrine by concluding:
At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay. And wonder is that feeling we get when we let go of our silly answers, our mapped out rules that we want God to follow. (emphasis added)
A million to one is very low odds that “any” of our theology is right. What about the theology of the atonement? Is our chance of understanding that a million to one? What about the theology of Jesus Christ’s return? Can we possibly know whether or not He is coming back? And what about the theology of biblical inerrancy? Can we even trust the Bible? With the odds Miller suggests, no, we can trust nothing about God’s Word at all. Praise God, that Miller’s odds are completely wrong.
Myth 2: The emerging church isn’t against debating the abortion or gay issues; they just don’t want those to be the ONLY issues.
Truth: In Searching for God Knows What, mystic proponent, Tony Campolo, endorsed the book, saying, “We need this book.” Brian McLaren and other emergent leaders endorsed the book as well. In that book, Miller echoes the emergent voices when he states:
I wondered if the Christian faith in America had not been hijacked as well, hijacked by those same two issues: abortion and gay marriage. How did a spirituality such as Christianity, a spirituality that speaks of eternity, of a world without end, of forgiveness of sins and a mysterious union with the Godhead, come to be represented by a moralist agenda and a trickle-down economic theory?
The mantra of the emerging church is the false accusation that the only two things biblical Christians care about is stopping abortion and gay marriage. They state publicly that we should also care about the sick, the poor, and the needy. But you see, this is not what they mean: Since biblical Christians have cared about the poor, the sick, and the needy already, what they really mean is those two issues should be dumped altogether.
Rick Warren and other emerging leaders are not being honest when they use the media and their books to convince the masses that biblical Christians do not care about those in need. And whether they know it or not, they are helping to bring about a new spirituality, which has its foundation based on death. How’s that? The driving force behind the emerging church is mysticism. The premise behind mysticism is man’s divinity. Believing that man is God ultimately leads to death because in that belief system, there is no need for a Savior. Man erroneously thinks he can save himself. Thus, he dies in his sin because he rejects the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Everything that Satan does leads to death. Abortion and practicing homosexuality are in essence practices of death, and it only makes sense that this New Age mystical spirituality that is entering the church condemns Christians who oppose abortion and the practice of homosexuality.
The reason the emerging church must ultimately accept practicing homosexuality and abortion is because both of these practices lead to death, and emerging spirituality is ultimately a belief system that draws people away from biblical truth that gives life and takes them toward an interspiritual, panentheistic “religion” (i.e., man is God) that leads to spiritual death (see Sue Monk Kidd).