In the beginning You laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing You will change them and they will be discarded. But You remain the same, and Your years will never end. (Psalm 102:25-27)
Mysticism Leads To The So-Called “God” Within
As with the previous Apprising Ministries article Emergence Christianity: Quantum Shift To Panentheism the main purpose here is to draw your attention to a growing theology within the postliberal cult of the egregiously ecumenical Emerging Church aka Emergent Church—morphing into Emergence Christianity (EC). A couple of years ago I first mentioned this panentheism, which is beginning to creep in; for example, with EC guru with Brian McLaren. AM has continued turning over a few more rocks and the following scurried out into the light.
Panentheism basically teaches that God is in all things, much like the soul is in the body, where pantheism would say that all things are God. You may have heard long-time mystic Matthew Fox refer to “Creation Spirituality”; and just as Living Spiritual Teacher and “Progessive Christian” panentheist Marcus Borg, this is what Fox is referring to. And it’s all very closely related to the metaphysical process theology/philosophy of mathematician Alfred Whitehead.
Once you have this bit of working knowledge you can better understand why McLaren and EC icon Rob Bell write as they do about the beauty of God’s creation and being so in “tune” with it. It is because they are already drifting toward, if not have already arrived at, the idea that Christ died for “the world.” You may say: “But the Bible actually says that.” Indeed it does, however, the spin that the Emergent Church is putting onto this phrase takes it to mean, “the world,” as in the entire planet; which in panentheism is actually a part of God Himself.
Now we see the reason that McLaren will so readily endorse books by men who deny outright the penal substitutionary atonement like Steve Chalke and Alan Jones. In their view, if any redemption was even necessary, the Cross involved the restoration of the entire cosmos itself back to God; and so, they have no interest in individual salvation because that’s all part of the package. This is why EC leaders are already so inclusive and interspiritual whereas some, like quasi-Christian universalist Doug Pagitt, even lean toward Universal Redemption.
Here’s a little background as to why the EC is so interested in mysticism and particularly the eastern fathers of the early church. The following is from the section Biblical Panetheism: The “Everywhere-ness” of God–God in all things at a pseudo-Christian website, and specifically, an article called Christian Mysticism: God in all things, which not suprisingly opens with a quote from “mystical theologian Matthew Fox,” whom we’re told has written: “As the ocean is in the fish and the fish are in God, so God is in everything and everything is in God.”
The article then goes on sounding like any number of “spiritual directors” and teachers of corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) currently infesting the mainstream evangelical community today with their myths:
Most great truths of Christian faith, and perhaps most great truths, period, are expressed as paradox. God is completely One, and yet, Triune and Infinite. Jesus is fully and completely human, but fully divine, as well. Panentheism presents another one: God is completely transcendent, and yet, immanent throughout his Creation. Like the mysteries of Trinity and Incarnation, panentheism is an ancient theological realization.
The Greek Church Fathers referred to the transcendence of God as God’s “essence” (ousia) and the immanence of God as his “energies” (energeia). In 553, at the Second Council of Constantinople, the universal Church proclaimed a panentheistic vision of the Trinity, developed from St. Paul’s writing in Ephesians: “There is One God and Father from whom all things are, one Lord Jesus Christ through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are.” God is in all things, for they spring from him, and all things are in God, for they subsist in him, yet he transcends all as well as emanates in all.
Throughout the centuries, Christian mystics have encountered God as both “unapproachable Light,” and the “still, small voice” within, seeing the wild things of God in all things. The Christian meditation method called contemplative prayer, or contemplation, practiced by innumerable monks and nuns (and now laypeople) from the times of the Desert Fathers to the present, goes deep within the heart to meet God, ever-present within, though without thoughts, words, or images, because he is beyond them. (Online source)
With this all in mind, now let’s consider this bit of instruction on “enlightenment” from Brian McLaren in an article entitled “Kneeling With Turtles” in Dream Seeker Magazine “Voices from the Soul” and you can now see the drift begin right in front of your eyes:
It seems to me we go through five stages in the enlightenment process.
1. In the first stage, we do not honor life and the world around us at all. We live, we want, we complain, we fight, all without much awareness or reflection. We speed down the highway never noticing the beautiful trees or lakes or fields along the roadside, absorbed in our own little annoyances and schemes.
2. In the second stage, we honor life and the world around us for the pleasure they bring us. This stage is not completely self-absorbed, but it is still self-centered: things are of value as they relate to me. A tree is worth noticing if I can cut it down for my fire; a lake is noteworthy if I can ride my powerboat on it; the field has flowers which I enjoy.
3. In the third stage, we honor life and the world around us for their own sake. We begin to notice the trees and to think of their existence as independent of our own; we notice the lake as a thing of value itself, not just because of its utility for us. The field and its flowers are important not just for the aesthetic pleasure they bring me, but for the pollen they provide for the bees, the home for the fox, the food for the swallows.
4. In the fourth stage, we telescope out from the individual things around us, and we begin to see a whole which includes us. We begin to honor the whole, and we become more aware of the interconnectedness of everything within that whole, including ourselves. We begin to feel honored ourselves for being privileged to be part of the whole: we feel honored by association with the other “players” on the stage.
5. In the fifth stage, we honor God. We honor God as the creator who conceived of and crafted the reality of which we are a part, as the Spirit that ennobles it and sustains it and permeates it, and as the purpose toward which all things move through time. (Online source)
“All-ee In Free”—A Really, Really, Really Generous Orthodoxy
Let’s look a little further at some things McLaren says in A Generous Orthodoxy; it is really is no wonder the full title is: A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I AM A missional + evangelical + post/protestant + liberal/conservative + mystical + biblical + charismatic/contemplative + fundamental/calvinist + anabaptist/anglican + methodist + catholic + green + incarnational + depressed-yet-hopeful + emergent + infinished CHRISTIAN. And this drift to panentheism would also shed further insight into statements like the following from McLaren:
In this light, although I don’t hope all Buddhists will become (cultural) Christians, I do hope all who feel called will become Buddhist followers of Jesus; I believe they should be given that opportunity and invitation. I don’t hope all Jews or Hindus will become members of the Christian religion. But I do hope all who feel called will become Jewish or Hindu followers of Jesus. Ultimately, I hope Jesus will save Buddhism, Islam, and every other religion, including the Christian religion, which often seems to need saving about as much as any other religion does. (264)
If the very cosmos itself is now reconciled to God through the Cross, then we really do have the makings of the New World and Global Family the Emergent Church is more than just hinting at. And a panentheistic world view would seem to be evident in this experience that McLaren describes on page 178:
But on this occasion, for a period of 20 minutes, I felt that every tree, every blade of grass, and every pool of water become especially eloquent with God’s grandeur. Somehow they seemed to become transparent—or perhaps translucent is the better word—because each thing in its particularity was still utterly visible and unspeakably important: the movement of the grass in waves swayed by the wind, the way the goldfinches perch just so on a purple thistle plant. These specific, concrete things became translucent in the sense that a powerful, indescribable, invisible light seemed to shine through. The beauty of the creations around me, which I am always careful to notice, seemed on this day to explode, seemed to detonate, seemed to radiate with glory.
An ecstasy came over me that I can’t describe. It brings tears to my eyes as I sit here and type. It was the exuberant joy of simply seeing these masterpieces of God’s creation…and knowing myself to be among them. It was to be one of them, and to feel and know that “we”—all of these creatures, molecules, and phenomena—were together known and loved by God, who embraced us all into the ultimate “We.” (emphasis added)
AM has mentioned previously that Brian McLaren endorsed the book Reimagining Christianity: Reconnect Your Spirit without Disconnecting Your Mind, by the Very Reverend Alan Jones, Episcopal priest and Dean of Grace Cathedral. Jones is also a member of the Living Spiritual Teachers Project, which is an interfaith/interspiritual group of alleged “living teachers whose wisdom might augment your spiritual journey.” In fact Spirituality & Health: The Soul/Body Connection further informs us of their ongoing special project:
The twenty-first century has been dubbed the “age of interspirituality” by Brother Wayne Teasdale and others who are impressed by the increased sharing of ultimate experiences among people of different spiritual traditions. Certainly publishers have taken note of the trend — making available an unprecedented array of resources from all the world’s religions. (Online source)
Considering the above, here’s what EC theologian Brian McLaren said about RC by “Living Spiritual Teacher” Alan Jones:
“It used to be that Christian institutions and systems of dogma sustained the spiritual life of Christians. Increasingly spirituality itself is what sustains everything else Alan Jones is a pioneer in reimagining a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality. His work stimulates and encourages me deeply (back flap, emphasis added).”
We look now at an excerpt from “Who Is God?” preached by Guru Jones; and the below can be accessed right off a link from Grace Cathedral’s own website. If McLaren is drifting more and more toward panentheism, then it would be little wonder why the following kind of theology espoused by Jones would be so deeply stimulating and encouraging to him. Here’s some inspirational “wisdom” designed to augment our spiritual journey from Alan Jones, who is also supposed to be a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
We learn about who God is by telling stories. Let me begin by telling you one [Does this style of teaching look familiar?].
In the beginning, before there were any beginnings and endings, there was no place that was not already God! And we call this unimaginable openness, “Ain Soph” – Being-without end. Then came the urge to give life to our world and to us. But there was no place that was not already God. So “Ain Soph” breathed in to make room, like a father steps back so his child will walk to him. Into the emptiness “Ain Soph” set vessels and began to fill them with divine light, as a mother places bowls in which to pour her delicious soup.
As the light poured forth, a perfect world was being created! Think of it! A world without greed and cruelty and violence! But then, something happened. The bowls shattered. No one knows why. Perhaps the bowls were too frail? Perhaps the light too intense? Perhaps “Ain Soph” was learning. After all, no one makes perfect the first time. And with the shattering of the bowls, divine sparks flew everywhere! Some rushing back to “Ain Soph,” some falling, falling, trapped in the broken shards to become our world, and us.
Though this is hard to believe, the perfect world is all around us, but broken into jagged pieces, like a puzzle thrown to the floor, the picture lost, each piece without meaning, until someone puts them back together again. We are that someone. There is no one else. We are the ones who can find the broken pieces, remember how they fit together and rejoin them. This is the repairing of the world — the mending of creation. In every moment, with every act, we can heal our world and us. We are all holy sparks dulled by separation.
But when we meet, and talk and eat and make love, when we work and play and disagree with holiness in our eyes, seeing “Ain Soph” everywhere, then our brokenness will end, and our bowls will be strong enough to hold the light, and our light will be gentle enough to fill the bowls. As we repair the world together, we will learn that there is no place that is not God! (Online source, emphasis added)
Just Say No To The Mystic Mush “God” With The Man-Shaped Hole In Its Heart
As one should be able to plainly see, this panentheistic work of “living teacher” Alan Jones, which so “stimulates and encourages” Brian McLaren, may indeed be some emerging kind of reimagined spirituality, but it is certainly not Christian theology. However, now through our own “enlightened” eyes, as we begin to put all this together with what we are hearing Rob Bell and McLaren saying, the shift of the Emergent track becomes even clearer before us.
Now we can better understand why Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster, as well as EC leaders like Tony Jones, recommend such spiritual “disciplines” as Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP), Lectio Divina, and the Labyrinth, which were practiced/used by the esoteric Eastern Fathers the EC is so fond of. And this is why the Emerging Church has developed their postmodern/postliberal “eastern” approach to Christianity.
With this panentheism undergirding its core theology, and even if they aren’t fully cognizant of it themselves, the leaders within the EC will see no reason not to combine aspects of what they see as common spirituality in mainline evangelical churches killed by the Cult of Liberal Theology and the apostate Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. This is also why the Emergence Christianity has been further seen incorporating Eastern religious practices gleaned from Buddhism and Hinduism such as Yoga and the Transcendental Meditation of CCP.
It should be obvious enough now that if these spiritual disciplines are practiced long enough they will only inevitably lead you into this convoluted view of some kind of reimagined Christian faith, and even worse. These are definitely not the kind of men we need teaching our pastors at venues such as the Zondervan National Pastors Conference, and most certainly not our precious and impressionable young people. The interested reader is invited to keep an eye out here at Apprising Ministries as Lord willing these writings on panentheism will be ongoing.
Until then I close with the following circa mid-80’s from Dr. Walter Martin (1928-1989) about what he called “The Cult of Liberal Theology.” Sadly, right now this warning is still ringing true with crystalline clarity because this EC postliberal cult has long been doing the same to mainstream evangelicalism itself:
Point number one; every major theological seminary that has turned from orthodox Christianity began with disbelief of Biblical doctrine. There wasn’t a single exception. This corrupt Bibliology then lead them to the next step. Their Theology began to be touched by it, their view of the Cross, the Virgin Birth were both immediately questioned; then came the miracles of Christ.
And finally they had emptied the Gospel of all its content; they were simply using the outward shell so that they go on collecting money from the people and the churches; because they knew that if the people in the pew knew that they were apostate, they’d throw them out. So the strategy was hang on to the trust funds; hang on to the money we’ve got; hang on the properties we control, and we will gradually educate the laymen into this new approach to theology.
And then finally we will take control of everything. The gradual process of feeding you theological poison until you become immunized enough so that you don’t know what’s happening to you. And when you wake up to what’s happening to you, it’s too late they’ve got everything. That is not a baseless charge, I stand prepared to prove that the Cult of Liberal Theology in the United States has deliberately and consistently followed this methodology to entrap, control and dominate the denominations and the churches of the United States and our educational institutions. (The Cult of Liberalism, available from Walter Martin Religious InfoNet)