For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:3-4, ESV)

It’s Happening Now At An Unprecedented Rate

This online apologetics and discernment work Apprising Ministries was among the ministries singled out in a recent post denouncing so-called ODMs that was simply entitled Enough! 

As I said in Emergent Church Leaders And ODMS—Online Discernment Ministries, once that derogatory slur ODM—short for Online Discernment Ministries—is attached one is then thought to be essentially a Fred Phelps-like hater with an IQ akin to Beverly Hillbilly Jethro Bodine. Pastor Michael Newnham wrote concerning Moriel MinstriesLighthouse Trails Research and Apprising Ministries:

A cursory look at these websites will reveal everyone from Billy Graham to Mark Driscoll to be either heretics or apostates…smeared with vague accusations of being “emergent” or “contemplative” without defining either term.

In the past these sites have been a shameful annoyance, now they’ve drawn blood… It’s time to say ENOUGH! to the accusers of the brethren… (Online source)

Pastor Newnham is angry that his friend, Emerging Church evangelical theologian Leonard Sweet, has apparently been “disinvited” to speak at the National Worship Leader Conference Regional Southwest, which will be using the facilities of Calvary of Albuquerque. In A Sweet Story of Hate he says:

For those who were wondering why Skip Heitzig canceled Leonard Sweet…Moriel Ministries and Jacob Prasch give us a little insight Actually, I gave you the insight when it happened…he caved in to the wicked demands of the ODM Inquisition… There’s the deal Skip cut with the real devils in this debacle…slime Sweet or be silent when these talking snakes do so, and all will be forgiven…

A hate crime has been perpetrated against a brother by Prasch, the ODMs, and Heitzig…and I refuse to believe that God will not respond. (Online source, emphasis his)

The “brother” pastor Newnham refers to above is Leonard Sweet, and the “hate crime” committed is alleged ODMs criticizing the theology of his friend Sweet; but whether this actually had any real impact upon pastor Heitzeg is still in question. Personally, as a pastor-teacher myself, I think we could also make a strong case of a hate crime by pastor Newnham himself against those of us following the biblical admonition of Jude 3 as well. That aside, for now, we point out that Leonard Sweet did post A Response to Recent Misunderstandings concerning which pastor Newnham said of me personally:

Here we see the character and integrity of Ken Silva…or the complete lack of both. Instead of interacting with Dr. Sweets clear statement, the only “evidence” allowed in front of his readers are out of context quotes on another ODM blog. Instead of interacting with us here, he stays safely behind his blog and shoots off his bile filled posts.

Instead of dealing with the real issue,which is accusing the brethren and dividing the church, he wants to discern between slander and libel. Sweets statement is never linked to by Silva, for the same reason he won’t interact with anyone.

If he did he would be exposed as both a coward and a bully…people might find out that the accusations had been answered and a brothers name had been smeared. This is sin…it’s gross sin and Silva needs to repent.

As a brother in Christ, Sweet has a Christian right to be dealt with in love and with charity. Sound doctrine begins with the great commandments…love your God and your neighbor as yourself. I discern a problem with Silva’s doctrine… (Online source)

Um, now what was that about love and charity again? The truth is, I wanted to take some time and do some personal homework before I addressed Sweet’s statement. Beginning here I’m going to share some of the results of my research into what it is Leonard Sweet teaches and then I’ll be comparing it to his statement. As I see it, because of Sweet’s recent statement, this is actually to act “in love and with charity”; I mean, we wouldn’t want to rush to judgment now would we. ;-) In this first post concerning these issues I will bring to your attention that Sweet begins his response by telling us that:

Being a follower of Jesus requires two things of me: 1) a desire to love Jesus with all my being 2) a devoted humility to please God–no if, ands, buts, or a comma between the “please” and “God.” My dream is to render both faithfully every day.

But Jesus-following and God-pleasing–not people-pleasing–can sometimes lead me up a hill, often carrying a cross. It can mean being silent when accused, even refusing to defend myself or push back when my faith or character is unjustly attacked by brothers and sisters in the faith. Nothing hurts more than being shot by friendly fire. Yet, I recognize that God can use my critics to humble me, teach me, and transform me and in so doing revitalize and empower my ministry even more so than before. (Online source)

Fair enough; and ditto. Then Sweet says:

First, I thank the many of you, who have been kind enough to approach me with questions and queries on the misinterpretations of my theology by various ODM groups. I also know that many of you have read many of my almost 40 books, hundreds of articles, and thousands of sermons and have therefore been confused by some of the comments made regarding my faith and ministry. I thank you for your faithfulness and integrity. This short treatise, therefore, is for you, in order hopefully to put to rest any your concerns, your confusion, or your sadness at the “false teacher” accusations leveled my way.

Second, let me now take the opportunity to address some of these accusations—-to correct where misunderstandings have occurred, to concur if called for, and to adamantly restate when gross inaccuracies have altered the meaning of my writings and evangelism.
(Online source)

Here my first concern is these “various ODM groups” Sweet mentions; and just who might these ODM groups be? After-all, just because you’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get you; you know? My second concern is these “almost 40 books, hundreds of articles, and thousands of sermons”; in spite of his statement, I’ve still not seen any of these retracted yet. However, I have read an advanced copy of Jesus Manifesto (JM), which is a new book by Sweet and Frank Viola released today. We’re told by Mike Morrell, “wannabe mystic and prophet” and editor for popular Emerging Church website The Ooze:

Frank Viola is a prophetic voice in the contemporary Christian milieu. Through his prolific publishing and conference-speaking output, Frank has informed, challenged, and deepened the spiritual lives of many over the past decade, myself included. Frank’s pen played a key role in introducing me to knowing Jesus in an organic community of God’s friends, combining meticulous research and firsthand experience into books that capture heart and mind.

He brings years of alternative church experience to the table, offering fresh (even radical, “to the root”) thinking to bear on old questions, while pioneering new questions few have asked. I’ve found in my own circles of friends that Frank’s writing and speaking appeals to a broad cross-section of people in my lifeevangelicals and post-evangelicals, charismatics and contemplatives, as well as my curious friends not on a Christian path. He seems to have the ear of both the ever-growing organic church movement and the emerging/missional church conversation like few others. (Online source)

As Morrel points out in his exclusive interview today Frank Viola & Leonard Sweet on ‘Jesus Manifesto’ Viola has also long been associated with “the ‘house church’ and ‘organic church’ movements.” [1] Consider the following from Christian Research Network contributor and author of Driven Away by Purpose Daniel Chew from his post just the other day Family, Community and Communitarianism:

The House Church model promoted by anti-institutionalist Frank Viola in his book Reimaging Christianity (Colorado Springs, CO, USA: David C. Cook, 2008) promotes a communitarian way of doing church, as based upon his idea of the Social Trinitarian analogue which we have previously discussed… 

In Viola’s view therefore, Christian “body-life” is to be lived in a communitarian manner. Viola further charged the “church in the West” to be “dominated by individualistic, anticommunal forces” (p. 147), which are clearly in his view unbiblical…

Viola’s Communitarianism is that it violates the biblical ordering of relations. Biblical Christianity starts off with the relation between God and the individual one-to-one… Community therefore is not, contrary to Viola and his Emergent friends, the focus of Scripture. While church is a community of saints, it is first and foremost a community of saints before being a community of saints, which is incidentally why the fact of fellowship itself is to be grounded upon absolute objective Truth (cf Jn. 17:17,19) and not the other way around. (Online source, bold his)

Citing Heretics And Apostates To Make Your Case Is To Make No Biblical Case At All

So now we can see that both Sweet and Viola leave much to be desired theologically to begin with. The heavy emphasis on “community” and capitulation to postmodernity in Emergent Church circles is part of the rise we’re also seeing of a spiritual form of fascism. In his recent article Fascism Reborn Christian apologist Chris Rosebrough points out:

From Foucault to Derrida, John Franke to Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren to Doug Pagitt, Pete Rollins to Tony Jones all of these men are disciples of and dealers in the irrational philosophies of such men as Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, and Heidegger.

Just like their 20th Century counterparts these philosophers and theologians are characterized not by their positive ideologies and theologies but by their strident attacks against rational thought, knowable transcendent truth, individual rights, individual salvation, transcendent morals, systematic theology, and the bedrock reasoning upon which all of the societal structures of Western Civilization are built, including Constitutional Republicanism, the free market and the Church. (Online source)

And one of the ways the Emerging Church has systematically attacked “rational thought, knowable transcendent truth, individual rights, individual salvation, transcendent morals, systematic theology,” is through their core doctrine of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) as taught by Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster along with his spiritual twin and Southern Baptist minister Dallas Willard. Contemplative spirituality is a key component in bypassing critical reasoning skills through the crowning jewel of CSM, which is a form of meditation in an altered state of consciousness called Contemplative/Centering Prayer—it’s quite literally a TM-lite for the Christian.

Yesterday in Frank Viola And The Merry Monk I showed you that Viola made sure to point us to the “Merry Monk” Erik Guzman, a mystic who tells us in his post Spiritual Experimentation:

as Kierkegaard said, “If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe.” However, through belief there is experience.

Here’s an example that’s foundational for what I call spiritual experimentation… As a Christian Existentialist, I also believe that the power of my spirit being united with God’s Spirit affects my body. So, during a fast I can have a real, emotional, physical experience with the divine through belief… I’m into spiritual experimentation. Experimenting is just more fun than spiritual discipline or spiritual formation… Experimentation lacks any real commitment…

My experience with spiritual experimentation, and the experience of those who have experimented with me, has been like making a little tear in the fabric of reality…Try a week of meditating for 30 minutes every day. Just sit with the awareness that God is all around you and in you. I’ll bet your perception during the other 23.5 hours will start to change appreciably. Then dabble with solitude or silence or my favorite spiritual discipline, celebration. Share your results with me or other experimenters and learn from more experienced dabblers.

Maybe that tear in the fabric of reality will get so big and so much light will come through that you’ll realize you are living and breathing in the very words of God. (Online source)

Sure enough in JM Sweet and Viola use the mystic Meister Eckhart in chapter four to attempt to make this point: God is nearer to me than I am to myself. This would only be true for the regenerated Christian; and later Eckhart’s brought in to try and establish the mystic belief of some alleged “true self” as Eckhart is cited as saying: “No one can know God who does not first know him/herself.” In a footnote in the back of the book we’re told Eckhart actually said: “How can man know that he knows God, if he does not know himself.” [2] This is the kind of irrational drivel enjoyed by mystics, which has no place in the Church.

The Eckhart Society tells us Eckhart von Hochheim aka Meister (means “the Master”) Eckhart is supposed as:

one of the great Christian mystics. He was born near Erfurt in Thuringia and in his distinguished career become a Parisian Professor of Theology and took a leading pastoral and organisational role in the Dominican Order. (Online source)

Meister Eckhart was even considered an apostate by the Church of Rome whom he served spreading its non-gospel in the antibiblical Dominican monastic tradition. So now we can notice just how far off target Sweet and Viola are willing to go in appealing to an apostate that even apostates considered apostate. And so once again we welcome you to the postmodern Wonderland of Humpty Dumpty language where words mean whatever one wants them to mean at a given time. And in Samir Selmanovic And Being Unable To Follow Jesus Without Islam I showed you that Eckhart, like all classic mystics, was a universalist.

If you don’t know, Samir Selmanovic is:

is an ordained pastor of the Seventh-day Adventist church and cofounder of Re-church Network. He has been integral to the birth of the emerging church movement, serving as a member of the Coordinating Group of Emergent Village and representing emergents at the Interfaith Relations Commission of the National Council of Churches. (Online source)

Last year interspiritual minister Selmanovic wrote a book, which no less an authority than Emergent Church guru Brian McLaren himself blessed and said it was about “bridges over which we travel to find God in the other [religions].” In regard to this quasi-universalism Selmanovic made a point to tell us:

Meister Eckhart said that our religions are like houses. Each house has a trap door somewhere down in the basement, and if we go deep enough, we will fall through the trap door into a river that flows beneath all of us. Beautiful, I thought. [3] 

Translation: Eckhart is talking about what’s commonly called “a spark of the divine” that’s supposedly within each “house” i.e. all of mankind, and the “river” is God. Eckhart clearly contradicts God’s Word in Scripture with a denial of the doctrine of regeneration when he teaches, “Every creature is full of God and a book about God.” [4] This now sheds much light upon a tweet by Sweet the other day, which I originally posted in Leonard Sweet Tweet On How To Find God:

(Online source)

And we even have a denial of the Triune nature of God when Meister Eckhart muses, “God laughed and brought forth Jesus. Jesus laughed and brought forth the Holy Spirit. All three laughed and brought forth us.” [5] Logic tells us if you’re “brought forth,” then you weren’t there before. In lockstep with classic mysticism of whatever stripe Eckhart did teach all of mankind contains “a divine spark,” which as I said above, is the heretical notion that God already indwells everything created thing [6]. For example Eckhart would share his myth below:

I say that if a man will turn away from himself and from all created things, which has never touched either time or place. This spark rejects all created things, and wants nothing but its naked God, as he is in himself… I say truly that this light is not content with with the divine nature’s generative or fruitful qualities…this same light is not content with the simple divine essence in repose,… [7]

You may notice this supposed “spark” is also called “light,” which was fleshed out by George Fox, the mystic who founded the Quaker sect, as “the Inner Light” that he taught was Christ. [8] It’s interesting to note that in the Morrel interview Leonard Sweet informs us that he and Viola met at a GFU [George Fox University] event where his about section tells us Sweet’s a “Visiting Distinguished Professor at” this school named after the heretical founder of the mystic Quaker camp. You should also know that George Fox claimed to have direct revelation from God:

And when all my hopes in them [i.e., preachers, and “those called the most experienced people”] and in all men were gone, so that I had nothing outwardly to help me, nor could I tell what to do; then, oh then I heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Jesus Christ, that can speak to thy condition”: and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord did let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give Him all the glory; for all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief, as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence, who enlightens, and gives grace and faith and power.

Thus when God doth work, who shall let it? And this I knew experientially. My desires after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book, or writing. For though I read the Scriptures that spake of Christ and of God, yet I knew Him not, but by revelation, as He who hath the key did open, and as the Father of Life drew me to His Son by His Spirit. (Online source, emphasis mine)

In closing this out, for now, the truth is that when someone is citing heretics and apostates to build their case it’s because they have none biblically. 


1. http://tinyurl.com/256jqty, accessed 6/1/10.
2. Leonard Sweet, Frank Viola, Jesus Manifesto: Restoring The Supremacy and Sovereignty Of Jesus Christ, [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010], 61, 66, 189.
3. Samir Selmanovic, It’s Really All About God: Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian [San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Wiley, 2009], 262.
4. As cited in http://tinyurl.com/2cup973, accessed 6/1/10.
5. Ibid.
6. I refute this biblically in Understanding The New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind.
7. Meister Eckhart, Selections from His Essential Writings, [New York: HarperCollins, 2005], 85.
8. I covered this in great detail previously in the two part series Contemplating The Inner Light Of The Quakers.

See also: