Will the Next Billy Graham Be a Mystic?

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In a recent Chicago Sun-Times article, the headline reads, “The Next Billy Graham?” At first glance, someone like Rick Warren or Luis Palau (both of whom have been mentioned to take the place of Graham), might come to mind. But neither of those names was mentioned in the article. Instead, a popular emerging church leader, Rob Bell, was named as the possible replacement. While that may seem like a far-fetched notion to many, the article quotes emerging leader Brian McLaren as saying it “could very well be true.”

Bell, a graduate of Wheaton College (the same as Billy Graham), is the producer for short films called Noomas. His newest film, called “Breathe,” is currently in production:

“Each day we take around 26,000 breaths,” Bell begins … “Our breathing should come from our stomach, not our chest.”

Doesn’t sound like anything to be too alarmed about, right? Breathing … we all do it to survive. But it may be time to take a serious look at Rob Bell’s spirituality, especially in light of some seeing him as the next Billy Graham.

In a 2004 Christianity Today article titled Emergent Mystique, Bell (pastor of Mars Hill of Michigan) said, “We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life.” What does Bell mean by “an Eastern religion”? It sounds a lot like Thomas Merton who, while he considered himself a Christian, said he was impregnated with Sufism (Islamic mysticism). As with most emergent and contemplative leaders, the Christianity of the Bible is not enough for them, and there is one main reason it isn’t … meditation. Since the Bible lacks any instruction on a self- induced mystical trance, other than condemning it in the Old Testament, contemplatives must turn to Eastern religious techniques adopted by Catholic mystics such as Thomas Merton or Basil Pennington, who have grasped onto Hindu style meditation or latched onto New Age mystics. You may think this is an outlandish statement, but on March 19th 2006 (audio) Bell did just that. He invited a Dominican sister from the Dominican Center at Marywood in Michigan to speak at a church service at Mars Hill. The Dominican Center is a “Spirituality center,” which offers a wide variety of contemplative opportunities, including Reiki, a Spiritual Formation program, a Spiritual Director program, labyrinths, Celtic Spirituality, enneagrams and much more. Read this entire article.

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