To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. (Isaiah 8:20, NASB)
“Star Trek” Quantum Spirituality Of An Alleged New Light
As a pastor-teacher, in addition to laboring in online apologetics and discernment, I no doubt cover these issues a bit differently than some others would, which we pray will help Apprising Ministries continue to be of some value. This particular article in this series concerns a disturbing aspect in the theology of Brian McLaren, a recognized leader in the egregiously ecumenical Emerging Church aka Emergent Church—morphing into Emergence Christianity (EC).
A mystic himself McLaren also associates with such as Living Spiritual Teacher Alan Jones and “Progessive Christian” scholar Marcus Borg, another Living Spiritual Teacher, who will all take us into the void of a bankrupt New Age of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM). In truth we’re encountering a neo-paganism consistent with Eastern religions e.g. Buddhism and Hinduism all mixed up into a new Gnosticism, which then emerges as a pseudo-Christianity teaching that within all mankind is the indwelling spark of the divine; i.e. that on some level, man is also like God.
I touched upon that subject previously in The Emergent “One”; however, in eastern religions and in New Age terminology this concept is also referred to the Higher or True Self, which is considered to be God. We have also refuted this antibiblical anthropology in Understanding The New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind. With this as our backdrop, in Brian McLaren And The Emerging Church I began to explore what McLaren’s particular theology has long been emerging into; and now beginning here, we start putting some of the pieces together as food for thought.
As I have stated before, I’m not someone prone to conspiracy theories so what I am going to be showing you is based on my careful and personal analysis of what McLaren himself writes, as well as what those he associates with and endorses have also said in their own books. Following I will present quite credible evidence that Brian McLaren, as well as others within the EC—such as Rob Bell—either have come to, or are coming to, believe about the nature of the God they are supposed to be representing as ministers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Like the aforementioned Borg it appears we’re moving toward doctrine of panentheism—or even worse—in the EC. And not only is McLaren and those he is aligning himself with teaching this blasphemy e.g. Alan Jones, but they also join him in his denial of the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ our Lord on the Cross. And we first caught a glimpse that something is just not quite right within this section of the EC from Leonard Sweet’s Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic (QS).
In the AM articles Emergence Christianity And Panentheism and Emergence Christianity: Quantum Shift To Panentheism I point out some things in more depth that are critical for the reader to understand here. In his book The Heart of Christianity Marcus Borg, whom we will talk more about in a later piece, defines panentheism as a: “concept [that] imagines God as the encompassing Spirit in whom everything that is, is. The universe is not separate from God, but in God” (66, emphasis his).
As this series moves on you’ll also see how this above view is even quite consistent with the theology espoused by what the EC, and others, refer to as “Christian mystics.” But for our purposes here we need to realize that Brian McLaren is a good friend of Leonard Sweet, and as a matter of fact, he has even written: “I am a better pastor and a better Christian because of Len’s brilliant and stimulating work” (Carpe Manana, back cover).
It would be helpful for you to understand that this spurious CSM has now slithered deeply into mainstream evangelicalism disquised as the highly subjective Spiritual Formation ala Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster and his spiritual twin Dallas Willard. I encourage you to look for yourself in Richard Foster Forming Protestant Southern Baptist Convention Spirituality. And leading online apologetics and discernment ministry Lighthouse Trails Research gives you another example of this continuing crossover in 2009 National Worship Conference Brings Contemplatives, Laurie, and Sweet Together.
Mysticism Ushering In The Emerging Church Shift To Panentheism
We really need to start paying closer attention to what McLaren has already been telling us because this shift (read: drift) from Protestant evangelical doctrine has been right there in front of us all along. Also Sweet has not retracted what he wrote in QS; in fact, it was once actually presented as a prominent feature on his own website until its recent redesign. We now consider the following example of Sweet’s “brilliant and stimulating work” that, by his own admission, has made Brian McLaren such “a better pastor and a better Christian.”
This brief excerpt, pertinent to our discussion concerning an “evangelical” panentheism, appears beneath the subheading With All of Nature: Priests of Creation:
New Light embodiment means to be “in connection” and “information” with all of creation. New Light communities extend the sense of connectionalism to creation and see themselves as members of an ecological community encompassing the whole of creation. “This is my body” is not an anthropocentric metaphor. Theologian/feminist critic Sallie McFague has argued persuasively for seeing Earth, in a very real sense, as much as a part of the body of Christ as humans.65
We are all earthlings. Indeed, in the biblical view of creation human earthlings do not stand at the apex of God’s handiwork…nature has an identity and purpose apart from human benefit. But we constitute together a cosmic body of Christ.66 (124, emphasis added)
Lord willing, we’ll also talk more about the heretical McFague in the near future; but for now, I will tell you that in her work we will find a denial of the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity as well. Sweet himself also further informs us that “Sallie McFague develops ‘the world as God’s body’ as a primary metaphor for God’s relationship to creation in Models of God: Theology for an Ecological, Nuclear Age” (324, emphasis added).
However, in regard to this wrong idea that mankind and nature together “constitute a cosmic body of Christ,” I have previously brought out that if one turns to page 324 of QS, and checks the footnote 66 above, they will see this absurd notion is referenced from The Cosmic Christ: The Coming of the Cosmic Christ: The Healing of Mother Earth and the Birth of a Global Renaissance by the mystic Matthew Fox.
The term to watch for regarding this type of panentheism is “creation spirituality.” And just when you think this stuff can’t possibly get any weirder Sweet then tells the reader that books on this alleged creation spirituality of God’s Body also include:
Matthew Fox, Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality Presented in Four Parts, Twenty-six Themes, and Two Questions (Santa Fe, N.M.: Bear and Company, 1983); Fox, Creation Spiuiutality (sic): Liberating Gifts for the Peoples of the Earth (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1990); Ron Miller and Jim Kenney, Fireball and the Lotus: Emerging Spirituality from Ancient Roots, Santa Fe, N.M.: Bear and Company, 1987). See also other volumes in the Creation Spirituality Series published by Bear and Company issues of Creation. A Magazine of Earthly Spirituality for an Evolving Planet…
It sure seems at this point, all we’d need for this Quantum Creation Spirituality—that all of the cosmos itself is a living part of God’s Body—to become some kind of bizarre episode of the original Star Trek is for Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock to suddenly beam aboard our story. And if all of this didn’t have eternal ramifications, then it might just be dismissed as the meandering musings of some harmless flaked-out New Age kooks.
As we prepare to shift focus here I must also bring to your attention that Matthew Fox also has a book out literally called A New Reformation: Creation Spirituality and the Transformation of Christianity. There really is a counter reformation underway through CSM as this title clearly indicates. And this particular book by Fox gives us a little bit better indication as to just what all of this New Light Quantum Quasi-Christianity, which has penetrated the evangelical community through men like Sweet and McLaren is actually emerging toward:
In Fox’s new book called “A New Reformation!” he proclaims that we are in fact confronted with two churches: one expressed by the image of the Punitive Father, personified by a rigidly hierarchical church structure, repression of the feminine,…and the other expressed by the feminine figure of Wisdom, personified by a Mother/Father God of justice and compassion. It is time for Christians to choose whom it will follow: an angry exclusionary god or the loving open path of wisdom (Online source, emphasis mine).
A Universal Atonement, Or None At All, Needed For This New Reformation
You can see here that someone who is known to be a practitioner of antichrist doctrine in the New Age movement has now been thoroughly grafted into our picture through Leonard Sweet. Anyone following my writings such as Emergence Christianity—A Postliberal Cult Slithers Into Evangelicalism concerning what has been growing right under the noses of mainstream evangelical leaders will recognize immediately that Fox sounds just like Alan Jones and Steve Chalke regarding their own disgust for the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ our Lord on the Cross.
Hatred of what Jesus did upon the Cross will make for some unusual alliances for these blood brothers in denial. And who do we have as a corrupt thread between Sweet, Fox, and the rest cited above? As you can see it’s one Brian McLaren. Once again I ask the reader to think with me here, if these people are looking at God through this warped perspective of a panentheism of so-called New Light, then in their minds there wouldn’t be a need for a penal substitutionary atonement.
All they’d need to do is recast the Cross as an at-one-ment. In addition, as God may allow, I will be showing you further examples of Marcus Borg and Sallie McFague teachings on panetheism as well as other heretical doctrines they espouse as this series may progress. But for now we consider that, if the world is all a part of God anyway as Sweet, Borg and McFague et al have already stated above, then all of what God created would already be divine and sharing His deity—including Satan himself.
You’ve already seen from Sweet and Fox this “creation spirituality,” more than a mere metaphor, does also include a living creation as being a part of God’s “Body.” For as a result of this doctrine of panentheism all that would even be necessary (at most) regarding the atonement in the theology of a McLaren or a Sweet and/or an Alan Jones would simply be a reconciling of this living creation back to God—assuming that one could be estranged from their own body in the first place.
This would then be a credible explanation for McLaren’s own personal hedging whenever he’s asked about the Gospel:
Theory of Atonement
Could you elaborate on your personal theory of atonement? If God wanted to forgive us, why didn’t he just forgive us? Why did torturing Jesus make things better?
This is such an important and difficult question. I’d recommend, for starters, you read “Recovering the Scandal of the Cross” (by Baker and Green). There will be a sequel to this book in the next year or so, and I’ve contributed a chapter to it.
Short answer: I think the gospel is a many faceted diamond, and atonement is only one facet, and legal models of atonement (which predominate in western Christianity) are only one small portion of that one facet.
Dallas Willard also addresses this issue in “The Divine Conspiracy.” Atonement-centered understandings of the gospel, he says, create vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else. He calls us to move beyond a “gospel of sin management” – to the gospel of the kingdom of God. So, rather than focusing on an alternative theory of atonement, I’d suggest we ponder the meaning and mission of the kingdom of God. (Online source)
As previously stated, we see here from McLaren exactly the kind of answer one would expect to see if indeed he has subtly been preparing an evangelical audience for some type of creation spirituality in a New Light panentheism, which I’ve been systematically laying out for you. This means McLaren’s idea for the atonement is most likely in some nebulous area between the moral influence theory and the mystical theory.
The latter would certainly be quite consistent with the entire eastern mystical bent of the EC as a whole and the best explanation for their constant criticism of western Christianity. But let us not forget the main question here: Has panentheism ever been evangelical doctrine? And according to testimony from EC pastor Mark Driscoll, we have confirmation that there is a denial of the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ by his “friend” Brian McLaren.
Oddly enough we are now told, “You are not authorized to access this page” when we click the link below, but following is how it originally appeared:
I eventually had to distance myself from the Emergent stream of the network because friends like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt began pushing a theological agenda that greatly troubled me. Examples include referring to God as a chick, questioning God’s sovereignty over and knowledge of the future, denial of the substitutionary atonement at the cross, a low view of Scripture, and denial of hell…(Online source, emphasis added)
New Light Means No Light In This Postmodern/PostLiberal Theology
Do you see where under the guise of evangelicalism men like McLaren are now prepared to lead many unsuspecting pastors into these kinds of false beliefs? And this is why AM warned that if we didn’t examine the doctrine of these men from the EC more thoroughly then the 2006 National Pastors Conference sponsored by Zondervan, which featured the EC, would metastasize their denial of the final authority of Scripture, the penal substitutionary atonement, as well as their neo-Gnostic mysticism throughout the Body of Christ like a spiritual cancer.
Regardless of what you may think of him, you might recall the late Dr. Walter Martin consistently warning the Church to define its terms. Well here in the EC we have a reimagined [read: reinterpreted] version of classic liberal theology with repackaged version of the social gospel of Walter Rauschenbusch. From years of personal studies into the EC—and from their own books and sermons—I can tell you with certainty the terms these people mentioned above use sound “evangelical,” but they redefined for their faithful.
Through this so-called “Christian” mysticism of Emergence Christianity in the Emerging Church we are witnessing a penetration into the mainstream evangelical community of a New Age panentheism and a theosis (deification) of some version of a Higher Self and God already within all mankind. We must look very carefully at the associations made by McLaren, as well as at the people he quotes from, speaks highly of and/or endorses—such as M. Scott Peck, Jones and McFague.
Don’t you see it? While so many have become accustomed to a version of almost Spirit-less comfortable Christianity while busy blogging about nothing and/or promoting CEO pastor-teacher types, the enemy has come right into the camp and unloaded a new version of liberal theology. Remember, liberal theology was also know as “modern theology”; and now we have postmodern theology, which is a form of postliberalism, with a new social gospel of social causes for our unsuspecting young.
And if time and funding allows, I will also attempt to show you there is a deeper goal which the postmoderns are being conditioned to accept through what might appear to be harmless enough acceptance of eastern spirituality through these new EC Gnostic mystics. Yes, of course pragmatic purpose driven ideas hatched from the Church Growth Movement (CGM) made “churches” bigger; advertising works, it fills buildings.
I’ve said many times before that these Madison Avenue sales pitches and sound worldly business ideas that come from Drucker and Buford to Warren. But most people miss the connection of the Emergent Church as simply another branch from the corrupt CGM tree. In fact, pertinent to our discussion here, again I ask you to take a look at a very informative article by the research team at Herescope called How Leadership Network created the “Emerging Church”.
In violation of this command from God the Holy Spirit – See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ (Colossians 2:8), but yes, they are currently working. I wish I could tell you that all of this isn’t going to come down to some very intense study of Biblical texts that might bear on panentheism and theosis, but in truth I cannot.
You should know that’s never been the Devil’s style to suddenly show up and say: “Hi, here’s my latest deception, and now I’ll introduce you to my new false prophets and counterfeit teachers.” Did we really think that as the end grows nearer to the Age of Grace that we’d just get a free ride home? Let’s stop for a moment and think about this question: If Arius had arisen today, I wonder; what would most likely be the reaction from our current afraid of its own shadow sentimental seeker sensitive evangelical community.
Crippled by a Rodney King theology of can’t we all just get along, can’t you just hear it now: “Well, we do have some serious concerns here with Arius; what with his teaching that Christ is a created Being. But the Arians love Jesus so in the interest of love and unity in the Body of Christ, we’d best just let God sort out what the Bible says about Jesus of Nazareth. Perhaps we can have some ‘conversations’ about it with the Arians and maybe reach some sort of understanding to work together for the sake of the Kingdom of God.”
Somehow, despite our warnings, I find myself doubting the situation concerning the quasi-Christianity of the Emergent Church will ever come to be known in history as “Evangelicalism Contra Mundum.”