“Religious leadership must end its intellectual and imaginative failure to think through what it is doing in the light of the new emerging cosmology, which is hospitable to spirit-matter theories and mindbody experiences.” Leonard Sweet
Sweet and Viola’s book, Jesus Manifesto, is subtitled “Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ,” and it pushes the envelope on redefining Jesus, including “You can be a Jesus Manifest.” A quick glance at the lineup of key endorsers for this book includes a list of who’s who in Emergent, the Latter Rain cult, neoevangelicalism and the New Apostolic Reformation.
In recent posts on this blog we have noticed that emerging church leader Leonard Sweet has links to the NAR. The co-author of his book, Frank Viola, also has roots in the NAR. He has been connected with the House2House group, a movement that is ostensibly about “house” churches, but in reality is concerned with building the networking apostolic cellular model of church for the purpose of building the kingdom of God on earth. This is the same Dominionist goal that is characteristic of the NAR: “This amazing network of churches is rapidly transitioning as a network to embrace the simple church models that the Lord is blessing all around the world,” leading to the “transforming work of God in bringing people to Christ. . . leading to dramatic advances of the Kingdom of God.” John Arnott of the Toronto “Laughing Revival” has been a notable contributor to the House2House magazine.
A key name associated with Frank Viola is Heidi Baker, whose frequently appears with her husband Rolland. They flourish in the New Apostolic Reformation and can often be found on the Elijah List (chief organ for the NAR) and OpenHeaven.com (a radical Dominionist group). The Bakers spoke at the Global Awakening “Voice of the Apostles” conference, October 28-31, 2009 along with other NAR apostles Randy Clark, Che Ann, Bill Johnson and John Arnott. Heidi was featured along with Latter Rain cult leader Rick Joyner at his MorningStar Ministries “Harvest Fest” held September 24-30, 2009. The list of interconnections and associations with the NAR could go on and on…
Neil Cole is another well-known name associated with Frank Viola and the House2House movement. He is also connected with Leadership Network. Furthermore, Frank Viola’s book Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens is endorsed by such notables as Bob Buford (head of Leadership Network) and John Maxwell.
Leonard Sweet endorsed one of Frank Viola’s earlier books, Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity, by connecting it to the idea of “God’s Dream,” an increasingly common metaphor. Viola has also authored From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God, described as “a whole new way of looking at the Scriptures, at Jesus, at the church, and at me,” and endorsed by such Emergent leaders as Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, Shane Claiborne and many others.
Characteristic of all of these recent emerging convergences, a MANIFESTO accompanies the agenda being promoted jointly by Sweet and Viola. It is called “A Magna Carta for Restoring the Supremacy of Jesus Christ a.k.a. A Jesus Manifesto for the 21st Century Church.” This Manifesto does not hearken back to the written Word of God in order to follow Jesus or His teachings. Instead it speaks of “implantation and impartation” and “incarnation.” This is based on imaging, imagining, visualization, meditation, and following a “Presence,” even using the term “cosmic Christ.” The document also makes this amazing statement – an example of psycho-spiritual biblical revisionism:
The Bible does not offer a plan or a blueprint for living. The “good news” was not a new set of laws, or a new set of ethical injunctions, or a new and better PLAN. The “good news” was the story of a person’s life, as reflected in The Apostle’s Creed. The Mystery of Faith proclaims this narrative: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught that love is what makes life a success . . . not wealth or health or anything else: but love. And God is love.
It also seems to claim we are Christ:
Jesus Christ cannot be separated from his church. While Jesus is distinct from his Bride, he is not separate from her. She is in fact his very own Body in the earth. God has chosen to vest all of power, authority, and life in the living Christ. And God in Christ is only known fully in and through his church….We, collectively, as the ekklesia of God, are Christ in and to this world.
All of this is a very quick overview, and there is much more that could be said. There are many more connections and associations. The key point is the context of this new book by Sweet and Viola. It isn’t just Emergent! This represents that much-anticipated, much touted New Apostolic Reformation great convergence, the many streams coming together into one big river!
It was inevitable that the NAR would eventually openly connect with the Emergent Church. First, they are related historically in many diverse ways, some of which we have previously documented on this blog. Second, and more obviously, the aberrant beliefs of the New Apostolic Reformation are nearly identical to those of the emerging church movement in some of the following ways:
- The same Gnosticism, mysticism and altered states of consciousness. The belief that we are evolving to a higher order body of believers here on earth, and that if we would just jump through various mystical or restructuring hoops, paradise or “culture” would be renewed.
- The belief that we can transform the Earth and restore it to pre-Fall conditions — either via a green environmentalism return to paradise (George Otis, James Rutz, Ralph Winter), or by building the kingdom of God on earth where Christians will reign and rule and finally “get it right” by imposing their kingdom authority on the whole planet (Dominionism).
- The belief that God has assigned certain men with special abilities or supernatural powers to be rulers and kings, Apostles and Prophets (aka “leaders”) now on earth, in this present age.
- The belief that the church should realign into a networking downline marketing “apostolic”/cells/small groups for a more “authentic”or “original” New Testament structure.
- The deconstruction (de-emphasis, denigration or mangling) of solid biblical theology and practice, and the concoction of new theologies augmented with old/new extra-biblical practices.
- The belief that God is giving his church new revelations, new understandings, or “fresh words” for these times, especially by including old manuscripts, mystical writings, supernatural incidents, extra-biblical traditions and sources, etc.
- The idea that we are somehow responsible for bringing back Jesus either literally and physically, or that we are evolving or “incarnating” into little christs and/or one big cosmic Christ.
- The idea that onerous and manipulative psycho-socio and scientific technologies are benevolent tools to bring in the kingdom on earth, including even altering the basic nature of man.
This is not a complete list, but it does present an important overview.
In conclusion, it is important to remind readers that Len Sweet has always played a pivotal role in charting a 21st century course for reinventing Christianity. As Chief Scout of Leadership Network’s “Exploring Off The Map expedition” in 2000, he worked alongside New Age gurus like Margaret Wheatley, Ken Blanchard and Peter Senge to chart “NEW MAPS FOR AN ANCIENT FUTURE.” This is not a new role for him, and he is still right on course. In this regard, Leadership Network has also played a pivotal role, not only launching the Emergent movement, but also giving a platform for the New Apostolic Reformation consistently throughout the past few decades. But that’s a topic for another time. . . .
“But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
1. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic (SpiritVenture Ministries, 1994), p. 37.
2. This sounds eerily similar to the concept of “Manifest Sons of God,” explained here: http://www.letusreason.org/latrain1.htm. Leonard Sweet tweet at http://twitter.com/lensweet/status/14441937454
3. See these two posts: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2010/05/mainstreaming-dominionism.html and footnote 28 of this post: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2010/04/coalescing-of-christian-right-with.html
4. House2House E-newsletter for June 18th 2007.
5. For this history of John Arnott, see the article series by Ed Tarkowski, “The Laughing Phenomena: Its History & Possible Effects on the Church,” that begins here: http://www.velocity.net/~edju/apos1.htm. House2House magazine, Issue 9, August 2007, Url for this was originally here: http://www.house2house.net/modules.php name=Content&pa=showpage&pid=4. The June 2006 issue of Charisma Magazine featured an article “God Is Out of the Box,” by Ken Walker, which featured John Arnott, Neil Cole, James Rutz, John Eldredge, and others; the original url was http://www.charismamag.com/display.php?id=13085
6. The Elijah List promoted Heidi Baker as a keynote speaker at the “FLORIDA GLORY BREAKTHROUGH,” held at Tampa & Boca Raton, Florida on March 3-14th, this year, where she appeared with John Arnott. See, for example: http://www.elijahlist.com/words/display_word_pf.html?ID=8493.
7. For example, “Pressing on to the best yet!” by Rolland and Heidi Baker, OpenHeaven.com Digest, March 11, 2010. For an example of a Herescope post that gives examples of the extreme Dominionism of this group, see http://herescope.blogspot.com/2010/05/mainstreaming-dominionism.html
10. “Neil Cole Featured by Leadership Network,” http://www.fgbcworld-blog.com/2005/09/13/neil-cole-featured-by-leadership-network/ See also Eric Swanson’s post “Changing the Trajectory of the Church Part 3,” at: http://ericswanson.blogspot.com/2006/03/changing-trajectory-of-church-part-3.html. Mark Driscoll, Emergent leader, also worked with Neil Cole, “Equal Time on Video Venues,” by Darrin Patrick at http://www.the-next-wave-ezine.info/issue94/index.cfm?id=17&ref=ARTICLES_CHURCH%20LIFE_260 Also see this Leadership Network document, WHO STARTS NEW CHURCHES?” at: http://www.leadnet.org/downloads/State%20of%20Church%20Planting%20Report_Who%20Starts.pdf
11. See http://www.amazon.com/Organic-Church-Growing-Faith-Happens/dp/078798129X
12. See these two Herescope posts for an explanation of the significance of the “God’s Dream” metaphor: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2008/07/gods-dream.html and http://herescope.blogspot.com/2008/08/gods-dream-peace.html. Note that the original quotation from Leonard Sweet at the Amazon page has now been altered to remove his remarks about God’s Dream. On July 31, 2008, at http://www.amazon.com/Reimagining-Church-Pursuing-Organic-Christianity/dp/1434768759 the following quote was found:
Leonard Sweet, author of Soul Tsunami, Soul Salsa, and 11 “Dissent is a gift to the church. It is the imagination of the prophets that continually call us back to our identity as the peculiar people of God. May Viola’s words challenge us to become the change that we want to see in the church … and not to settle for anything less than God’s dream for Her.” [emphasis added]
13. Endorsement by Steve Brown, described as a “seminary professor at Reformed Theological Seminary,” http://www.blogger.com/seminary%20professor%20at%20Reformed%20Theological%20Seminary
14.”A Magna Carta for Restoring the Supremacy of Jesus Christ a.k.a. A Jesus Manifesto for the 21st Century Church,” by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola, JULY 8, 2009 http://www.story.house2house.com/2009/07/08/a-magna-carta-for-restoring-the-supremacy-of-jesus-christ-aka-a-jesus-manifesto-for-the-21st-century-church/
15. Ibid. Emphases added.
16. See the series we ran last summer on the early history of the Emerging Church, for example, beginning here:
17. A more comprehensive listing can be found here: http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/05/sarah-leslie/transformation.htm
18. See the Herescope post: http://herescope.blogspot.com/2005/10/christian-leaders-go-on-expedition.html. See also EXPLORER…field notes for the emerging church, An e-publication of Leadership Network, Number 12, June 5, 2000, “EIGHT CATCH 22’s of 21C. . .,” by Len Sweet, http://www.leadnet.org/epubarchive.asp?id=30&db=archive_explorer