One year ago, Lighthouse Trails released an article titled “Nazarene Superintendent Praises ‘A Time of Departing” But Denomination’s Schools Sinking into Contemplative.” It had been just a few years earlier that Dr. Jim Diehl, one of six General Superintendents of the Nazarene denomination contacted Lighthouse Trails after receiving and reading a copy of A Time of Departing. He said he agreed with Yungen’s warning, and his comments of the book and the message in it were most favorable. The report stated:
We told [Dr. Diehl] at that time that some of the Nazarene colleges were inviting contemplative speakers to address the student bodies. Today, the Nazarene colleges and universities are sinking deeper than ever into contemplative. We are saddened that professors and college presidents within the Nazarene church do not share Dr. Diehl’s appreciation for our warning against contemplative spirituality (i.e., spiritual formation).
The picture being painted at Nazarene colleges and seminaries is no better than it was a year ago. In fact, it may be getting worse. On February 7th-9th in Nampa, Idaho at Northwest Nazarene University, emerging church leader Brian McLaren will be the featured speaker. On March 28th-29th, he will be speaking at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego.
McLaren left his pastorate to focus more on speaking to students at universities and colleges. His present Everything Must Change tour is based largely on his new book with the same title.
Over the past several years, many college personnel we have spoken with said the reason they have a variety of speakers address students is so they can be exposed to different views. This is what occurred this week at Cedarville when a professor explained why they had invited an emerging activist to campus. However, this reasoning really must be challenged, and here is why. First of all, at most of the Christian colleges we have seen who invited emerging leaders, the speakers were billed in a favorable light, often called “conversations.” Thus, the speakers aren’t brought in to be challenged or debated but are allowed to freely share their philosophies to the students unhindered and without reservation or stern warning.
Today, Lighthouse Trails received a very interesting phone call. It was from a student at a Christian college in New England. He told us that for four years he had been continually introduced to the writings of contemplatives and emerging church authors. Professors required he and his fellow students to read the books, then lectured them on how they themselves viewed the books (almost always positively) and rarely allowed the students in class interaction to question or challenge the ideas being presented. We are pretty much left to ourselves to figure it all out, he said. He also said that students who questioned the contemplative/emerging authors (or the contemplative promoting professors) were often scrutinized and belittled publicly in class.
Regarding Brian McLaren, legitimate questions must be asked. When McLaren comes to Northwest Nazarene University and Point Loma University in the next couple months, are students going to be warned beforehand that McLaren rejects the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ, and calls the doctrine of hell “false advertising for God”? 2 Are they going to be forewarned that McLaren resonates with Episcopalian priest Alan Jones, who in his book Reimagining Christianity calls the doctrine of the Cross a vile doctrine and of interspirituality says:
But another ancient strand of Christianity teaches that we are all caught up in the Divine Mystery we call God, that the Spirit is in everyone, and that there are depths of interpretation yet to be plumbed…. At the cathedral we “break the bread” for those who follow the path of the Buddha and walk the way of the Hindus. (p. 89)
Or are students going to be told that McLaren teamed up in 2006 with interspiritualist Marcus Borg even though Borg denies the virgin birth and other fundamentals of the Christian faith?3 Incidentally, McLaren says he has “high regard” for Borg.4Most likely, students will be asked to focus on McLaren’s “good points,” and not to throw the baby out with the bath water as is a most common argument by those defending contemplative spirituality.
But when we stop to think about what happened to popular author and speaker Sue Monk Kidd, there should be serious reconsideration by Christian college professors and staff who seem to find it so necessary to expose their students to contemplatives and emerging leaders.
Sue Monk Kidd started off as a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher. One day, a co-worker handed her a copy of a book by Thomas Merton. Ray Yungen explains what happened to her after that:
Once Monk Kidd read it, her life changed dramatically. What happened next completely reoriented Sue Monk Kidd’s worldview and belief system. She started down the contemplative prayer road with bliss, reading numerous books and repeating the sacred word methods taught in her readings. She ultimately came to the mystical realization that:
I am speaking of recognizing the hidden truth that we are one with all people. We are part of them and they are part of us … When we encounter another person, … we should walk as if we were upon holy ground. We should respond as if God dwells there.(God’s Joyful Surprise pp. 233, 228)
One could come to Monk Kidd’s defense by saying she is just referring to Christians and non-Christians sharing a common humanity and the need to treat all people well. Yet, while respecting humanity is important, she fails to distinguish between Christians and non-Christians thereby negating Christ’s imperative, “You must be born again” (John 3:7), as the prerequisite for the indwelling of God. Her mystical universalism is apparent when she quotes someone who advises that the Hindu greeting namaste, which translates, I honor the god in you, should be used by Christians. (Ibid., pp. 228-229)
Monk Kidd, like Merton, did not join a metaphysical church such as the Unity Church or a Religious Science church. She found her spirituality within the comfortable and familiar confines of a Baptist church!
Moreover, when Monk Kidd found her universal spirituality she was no teenager. She was a sophisticated, mature family woman. This illustrates the susceptibility of the millions like her who are seeking seemingly novel, positive approaches to Christian spiritual growth. Those who lack discernment are at great risk. What looks godly or spiritually benign on the surface may have principles behind it that are in dire conflict with Christianity….
[J]ust a few years after she had written the book I’ve quoted, she wrote another book on spirituality. This one was titled The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. If ever there was a book confirming my message, this book is it.
In her first and second books, Monk Kidd was writing from a Christian perspective…. But with her third and fourth book, Monk Kidd had made the full transition to a spiritual view more in tune with Wicca than with Christianity. Now she worships the Goddess Sophia rather than Jesus Christ:
We also need Goddess consciousness to reveal earth’s holiness…. Matter becomes inspirited; it breathes divinity. Earth becomes alive and sacred…. Goddess offers us the holiness of everything. (pp. 162-163)
There is one portion in Monk Kidd’s book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter that, for me, stands out and speaks right to the heart of this issue…. No one can lightly dismiss or ignore the powers behind contemplative prayer after reading this narrative:
The minister was preaching. He was holding up a Bible. It was open, perched atop his raised hand as if a blackbird had landed there. He was saying that the Bible was the sole and ultimate authority of the Christian’s life. The sole and ultimate authority.
I remember a feeling rising up from a place about two inches below my navel. It was a passionate, determined feeling, and it spread out from the core of me like a current so that my skin vibrated with it. If feelings could be translated into English, this feeling would have roughly been the word no!
It was the purest inner knowing I had experienced, and it was shouting in me no, no, no! The ultimate authority of my life is not the Bible; it is not confined between the covers of a book. It is not something written by men and frozen in time. It is not from a source outside myself. My ultimate authority is the divine voice in my own soul. Period. (p. 76)(excerpt from A Time of Departing, chapter 7)
Later in that same book Monk Kidd stated that God dwelled in everything, even excrement! That’s where a contemplative mystic (Thomas Merton) took her.
Now we must soberly ask, where will Brian McLaren take the Nazarene students?
“And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, … to whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.” – the Apostle Paul (Galatians 2: 4, 5)