Each Wednesday I publish one of my old columns that I hope will be instructive, informative, and hopefully inspiring. The following 2008 column is lengthy, but is very important and reveals heresy in many famous churches. All my columns on this subject can be read and heard at www.cstnews.com :
God warns us in Jer. 10:2, “Learn not the way of the heathen,” but heathenism is exactly what some Emergent Church leaders are teaching. The Bible gives no support for chanting, centering prayer, yoga, beads, candles, incense, labyrinths, breathe prayers, etc. The Roman Catholic Church brought all those from paganism and baptized them into “Christianity.” I don’t think anything has shocked me in my entire ministry like seeing Evangelicals wade waist deep into pagan practices and call it “a return to Christianity”! The New Age (which is really old) has arrived in our churches!
Robert Webber, a Wheaton College professor, further encouraged pagan practices in evangelical circles when he wrote, “The early Fathers can bring us back to what is common and help us get behind our various traditions….Here is where our unity lies…evangelicals need to go beyond talk about the unity of the church to experience it through an attitude of acceptance of the whole church and an entrance into dialogue with the Orthodox, Catholic, and other Protestant bodies.” (Ancient-Future Faith: Rethinking Evangelicalism for a Postmodern World, p. 89.) These “early Fathers” are given far more credibility than they deserve in my opinion. They transferred numerous Greek, Roman, and Eastern pagan practices into the post-apostolic churches and those practices then became accepted as biblical by the slowly forming Roman Catholic Church.
Read the following scary statement about Eastern mysticism by a young preacher who read Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, etc.: “I built myself a prayer room—a tiny sanctuary in a basement closet filled with books on spiritual disciplines, contemplative prayer, and Christian mysticism. In that space I lit candles, burned incense, hung rosaries, and listened to tapes of Benedictine Monks. I meditated for hours on words, images and sounds. I reached the point of being able to achieve alpha brain patterns, the state in which dreams occur, while still awake and meditating. I made many journal entries of my thoughts, dreams and prayers.” (Mike Perschon, Youth Specialties website, “Desert Youth Worker: Disciplines, Mystics and the Contemplative Life.”) Mike would have been far more biblical and productive if he had been developing a biblical prayer life and systematic study of the Bible.
A huge number of EC devotees, sitting in small and large rooms, are having experiences such as Mike had that are totally foreign to the Bible. Such people are subsequently marching blindly off a cliff. Still some “Evangelicals” tell us that such activities are “spiritual,” “biblical,” etc., but a New Ager says otherwise. Tilden Edwards wrote, “This mystical stream (contemplative prayer) is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.” (Spiritual Friend, p. 18.) Well, that’s a bridge I’m not going to cross.
Richard Foster, a New Age Quaker/liberal recommends using one’s imagination in an incredibly unscriptural way. He makes a very bold assertion: “Hence, you can actually encounter the living Christ in the event, be addressed by His voice and be touched by His healing power. It can be more than an exercise of the imagination; it can be a genuine confrontation. Jesus Christ will actually come to you.” (His emphasis!) (Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, p. 26.) That’s neither “spiritual” nor scriptural but it is scary and a little spooky.
But it gets spookier! Foster continued, (emphasis mine): “After awhile (sic) there is a deep yearning within to go into the upper regions beyond the clouds. In your imagination allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body. Look back so that you can see yourself lying in the grass and reassure your body that you will return momentarily. Imagine your spiritual self, alive and vibrant, rising up through the clouds and into the stratosphere. Observe your physical body, the knoll, and the forest shrink as you leave the earth. Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator….listen carefully…Note any instruction given….return to the meadow. Walk joyfully back along the path until you return home full of new life and energy.” (Ibid. p. 27.) That is astral projection which is used by shamans and other fakers.
In his best seller, The Purpose Driven Life, Rick Warren quotes Catholic mystic “Brother” Lawrence (p. 88), endorsing Catholic contemplative prayer techniques, which Rick says are “helpful ideas.” Brother Lawrence (Practicing the Presence of God) was not only a traditional Roman Catholic but he also disseminated teachings that have similarities with Hinduism and with many New Age writers.
We are told that for the Church’s first sixteen centuries Contemplative Prayer was the goal of Christian spirituality. Afraid not. The scriptural goal was to become more like Christ and take the Gospel to an unbelieving world. Prayer, among other things, will help us do that.
In his book, Warren cites approvingly the famous Catholic mystic Madame Guyon (p. 193), also recommended by Moody Press, Campus Crusade, etc. He approves also of St. John of the Cross (p. 108) and the Catholic priest mystic, psychologist, and ecumenist Henri Nouwen (p. 269). Nouwen wrote, “Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.” (Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, p. 51, 1998 edition). Rick snuggles up to “Mother” Teresa who taught many ways to Heaven (pp. 125, 231). These misleading and dangerous people and techniques are thus promoted and lead further into the whole mystic plague that presently threatens naïve believers.
Sometimes, these EC leaders and other mystics will say or write something that sounds biblical and it may be biblical, then their next statement is heretical. We must use godly wisdom and, like the Bereans, search the Scriptures to see “whether those things were so.” Nothing but the Bible is safe and reliable.
Many leaders of the EC are leading gullible people to drink deep and long at the murky waters of contemplative meditation (old term, Transcendental Meditation) where the mind is emptied and filled with religious gibberish. Sometimes, other forces can take over the empty mind and destroy any real spiritual and biblical desires, motives, and longings that may be present.
Tony Campolo heretically declared, “Beyond these models of reconciliation, a theology of Mysticism provides some hope for common ground between Christianity and Islam. Both religions have within their histories examples of ecstatic union with God … I do not know what to make of the Muslim mystics, especially those who have come to be known as the Sufis. What do they experience in their mystical experiences? Could they have encountered the same God we do in our Christian mysticism?” (Speaking My Mind, pp.149-150.). I’m afraid so but not the God of the Bible!
M. Basil Pennington, a Catholic Trappist monk and priest and major proponent of pagan practices, expresses Gnostic mysticism in his conferences and books. He wrote, “In the course of the years, sitting in silent prayer, beyond where words can interfere, men and women of many diverse traditions have come together. In that deeper place a oneness is experienced that gives assurance and heart to our feeble ecumenical efforts and interreligious dialogues. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi has said that if one percent of the people would meditate we will have peace. Jesus spoke of the leaven that will leaven the whole.” (M. Basil Pennington, Finding Grace at the Center: The Beginning of Centering Prayer, pp.10, 11.)
In that one paragraph, he clearly espouses ecumenism and meditation (but not the Bible kind). He also expressed his ignorance in not knowing that leaven in the New Testament is always negative, yet he uses it as a positive. The New Testament warns about leaven eleven times and five times Christ told His disciples to “beware” of leaven. I suggest that Christians be wary and beware of the leaven of the Emergent Church. I would not trust any of these “leaders” to walk my dog.
Pennington, in his book, True Self/False Self Unmasking the Spirit Within, teaches that the answers to self-centeredness are centering prayer, lectio divina, and the healing of memories. He quoted fellow-heretic Thomas Merton, “The easiest way to come to God is to enter into our own center and then pass through that center into the center of God.” Such religious gibberish is supposed to be “deep” and “spiritual.” We are told that if we follow their instructions we will learn our real self when we accept the Divine image within and rejoice in our calling as “an expression of the Divine Creative Energies.” (Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat, book review.) Poppycock!
I don’t mean to be unkind but that is nonscriptural as well as nonsense. Does anyone ever ask these EC leaders, “What in the world are you talking about?” They use a jargon totally foreign to the Bible, often from pagan mystics. According to the Centering Prayer website, CP is a revival of the mystical activities of the “Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila… It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.”
The EC leaders think “Christianity” lost something during the Reformation when the Reformers attacked the Roman Catholic Church and “the baby” (mysticism) was thrown out with the bath water (indulgences, immoral priests, etc.). In my opinion, the big mistake of the Reformers was they lost their direction and formed other state churches after the pattern of the Roman Catholic Church and some mysticism was kept by the Reformers.
Lectio divina is a very ancient art, practiced at one time by Roman Catholics. It is “a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God.” (Intro. To Lectio divina website.) Reading, meditation, prayer, and reflection make up the structure of lectio divina—or divine reading. “These phases correspond fairly well to the four primary cognitive functions posited by psychologist Carl Jung [pronounced youug/young and a very messed up man however you pronounce his name.]: sensing, thinking, feeling, and intuiting. Recognizing this association is important, because it emphasizes how the method of lectio divina, while itself a spiritual activity, nonetheless involves psychological processes.” (A Method for Lectio Divina Based on Jungian Psychology website.) We are told, “One may begin by making the sign of the cross. This ancient custom has many benefits.” No benefits are provided because there aren’t any!
Read the foolish statement by Doug Pagitt: “Our last pose of the evening is called ‘savasana’ or corpse pose. The student lies on her back letting the legs fall open as they will, the arms hang limp like empty coat sleeves….Eyes are closed, breathing is rhythmic. I turn the lights off, and only the glow of candles and sometimes fireplace illuminates the room. This state of being is holy. It is at this time that we become closer to God, aware of our bodies, of the divine….Slowly people get up, talk, commit to a daily practice of yoga in hopes of getting this feeling again and again. We are hesitant to leave this moment of shared reverence, this experience of worship.” (Church Re-imagined, pp. 87, 89.) That is not “holy” but hokum.
How can any mature Christian even suggest that such a practice is biblical? The Emergent Church is leading people into a dark, dismal, and dangerous valley.
Fact, Fraud or Faith?
by Don Boys, Ph.D.
Only an uninformed fanatic says that evolution or creation can be proved scientifically. Christians believe in creationism because we believe in the veracity of the Bible but we also have scientific evidence to support our position. In every debate I’ve had with evolutionary scientists, the arrogant, asinine accusation is made, “Well, evolution is scientific while creationism is religion.” Evolution is about as scientific as a voodoo rooster plucking ceremony in Haiti. Almost.