Apprising Ministries has been warning about, and documenting, the sad slide of largely pretending to be Protestant evangelicalism into becoming what I’ve referred to as The Ecumenical Church Of Deceit (ECoD); and much of the current sorry state of the church visible can be traced back through to the semi-pelagian (at best) man-centered Church Growth Movement of Fuller Theological Seminary.

Keep in mind this is coming from one who is not a strict cessationist; the root roughly begins with the charismatic revival as it spreads through the Jesus People/Movement circa early 1970′s out into various denominations and into what became the Fuller Theological Seminary School of World Mission. [1] This is the cesspool from which the new liberalism of the seeker-friendly/sinner-sensitive methodology of letting culture define the church would spring.

As Dr. John MacArthur said:

And I’ll tell you, how do you know it’s the new liberalism?  Because you can’t stop a seeker-friendly movement, because it’s going to be redefined, it’s going to be redefined, it’s going to be redefined…  It’s relentlessly being redefined because the culture changes so fast in a media-driven society.  It changes so fast!…

So, there’s a flow going on here.  And where is it going?  It’s going toward the Emerging Church.  That’s why you can have all those people—Rick Warren and Brian McLaren—way out on the edge of the Emergent Church, you can have all those people at the same conference in San Diego all speaking, and, in between, sessions on Yoga.  If you just look at the roots of something—and look where it’s going: if you let the culture define the church, there’s no way to catch up. (Online source)

The fact is, within squishy evanjellyfish there’s been a re-education process spewed at us by these leaders of the man-loving ECoD as she does her best to please her harlot mother the Church of Rome with her own apostate Roman Catholicism and undo the the Lord’s Reformation. Look at these various factions like Purpose Driven/Seeker Driven sector, and the neo-liberal cult of the Emerging Church 2.0 with its reimagined i.e. new form of Progessive Christianity they call Emergence Christianity, as having the same product—church—that they are selling to different markets using different forms of advertising.

As these kinds of 1 Peter 4:17 judgments are sent upon the church visible by Jesus, the result is a growing apostasy and spiritual blindness. Evangelicals are now turning away from the proper Christian spirituality of sola Scriptura to corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM)—and its crown jewel Contemplative/Centering Prayer, which is itself a form of meditation in an altered state of consciousness; the “key mentors” within being  Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster, along with his spiritual twin Dallas Willard, who at last check is with the Southern Baptist Convention.

Sadly, this dumping of discernment has opened the door for highly subjective experiences—allegedly with God—into the very mainstream Protestant sectors of the visible church. It’s against this context I tell you that one of the more popular books of this kind of refried mystic mythology of Roman Catholicism currently making the rounds in evangelical women’s Bible studies is One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. We’re really not surprised to see that this book is Published by Zondervan who tells us using classic mystic-speak:

Ann Voskamp invites you into her grace-bathed life of farming, parenting, and writing—and deeper still into your own life. Here you will discover a way of seeing that opens your eyes to ordinary amazing grace, a way of living that is fully alive, and a way of becoming present to God that brings you deep and lasting joy. (Online source)

I’m glad that my friend Ingrid Schlueter pointed me to Romantic Panentheism, a Review of One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp where we find out just how far off-track this book actually is:

We live in a theological age (postmodern) where the rational and cognitive are questioned and replaced by the sensual and mysterious. Many churches promote the idea of worshipping God with all five senses. Feelings trump clear Biblical exegesis, systematic theology, statements of faith, and any other rational approach to Christian theology. Into this milieu comes a book that takes romanticism to a new level, using sensuality to invoke religious feelings and ostensibly true devotion…

[There is a] panentheistic worldview revealed in the book [as well as] the romanticism that accompanies it. Panentheism is the belief that God is in everything. It is to be distinguished from pantheism that teaches that God is everything. The very popular Emergent movement is panentheistic as is New Age theology. Since God is in everything, then God can be discovered and understood through encounters with nature. Voskamp shows that she knows what is wrong with pantheism, but unwittingly (or perhaps not so unwittingly) replaces it with panentheism:

Pantheism, seeing the natural world as divine, is a very different thing than seeing divine God present in all things. I know it here kneeling, the twilight so still: nature is not God but God revealing the weight of Himself, all His glory, through the looking glass of nature.[2]

Her statement is not a valid implication from passages such as Psalm 19 and Romans 1 that speak of general revelation. For one thing, nature is fallen and does not reveal “all His glory” (Christ does that) and what can be discerned about God through nature is not saving knowledge, but condemning knowledge… Pagan nature religions do not provide messianic salvation. Paul claims that salvation comes only through the gospel (which comes to us through special, not general revelation). The confusion between these two categories is shown throughout Voskamp’s book…

Voskamp would likely recoil from the notion that she is promoting pagan nature religion or mysticism. But she does put Christians on the same footing as the pagans by taking them on a journey with her to find God in nature and art. The concepts about God that are distinctively Christian in her book are borrowed from special revelation (the Bible) and brought with her on her journey of discovery. But she never makes a distinction between general revelation and special revelation and by integrating the two so seamlessly, elevates nature to the status of saving revelation.

Since God is supposedly in everything, then God can be found in everything… Her experience is described in salvific terms: “It’s dawning, my full moon rising. I was lost but know I am found again” (Voskamp: 118). She claims an “inner eye” that sees God in a panentheistic way: “If my inner eye has God seeping up through all things, then can’t I give thanks for anything? . . . The art of deep seeing makes gratitude possible” (Voskamp: 118). In Romans 1, “seeing” God through general revelation in a way that makes all humans culpable is true for all, not just special enlightened ones like Voskamp.

There are other troubling things about the claim that salvation can be found in seeing God in the harvest moon. One is that Voskamp implies that for her, “salvation” is being saved from an unhappy life filled with ingratitude. She never mentions God’s wrath against sin (she does mention sin but not in the context of substitutionary atonement)… Voskamp’s panentheism is not compatible with Christian theism. This worldview is very popular in today’s culture, inside and outside the church, but it is not from God. It is a departure from the faith once for all delivered to the saints…

Romanticism arose in the early 19th Century as a reaction against the Enlightenment and rationalism. The idea was that truth could be found in feelings, art, and the intuitive rather than through empirical investigation and the rational. At the conclusion of my book on the Emergent Church, I suggested that Emergent was a new Romanticism[3] I was able to express that idea to Doug Paggit personally, and he did not offer disagreement, but silence. I am quite sure that the assessment is accurate. Romanticism, old and new, has a common enemy which is the Enlightenment.

Voskamp is not so concerned about the Enlightenment or other philosophical considerations, but displays Romanticism throughout her book. In fact it could be mistaken for a romance novel with God the desired lover… Voskamp’s point in the soap bubble chapter is to teach the theological error that time is the essence and nature of God. She gains that idea through wrongly interpreting the self-designation of God as I AM to be proof that time is of the essence of God so therefore God is to be found in the present (Voskamp: 69, 70). Her ideas are remarkably similar to Echkart Tolle’s (New Age pantheist) ideas taught in his
books The Power of Now and The New Earth[4]…

Voskamp is not really interested in theology understood cognitively, but rather in romantic feelings about God… This [idea] is about seeing (an art for the spiritually enlightened) God in the moment and in all things (panentheism). It is not really about God’s relationship to time, but about our attentiveness and awareness that will cause use to see God (Voskamp: 77)… New Age ideas are found throughout One Thousand Gifts. For example she cites Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who is a darling with New Age writers: “Nothing here below is profane for those who know how to see” (Chardin as cited by Voskamp: 122).

It is possible that a false teacher like Chardin could have some true ideas; but Voskamp cites him (as part of the heading of a chapter) precisely at his point of error (and hers). The idea that everything is holy and nothing profane is popular but fully unbiblical. It comports with the idea of panentheism. If indeed God is in everything, then nothing is profane. Rob Bell makes the same error in Velvet Elvis when he claims everything is holy.[5]…

Emergent writers speak of the “rhythm of God in the world,” an idea promoted by Doug Pagitt. In their thinking this rhythm is to be found and tuned into through man-invented practices.[6] What is important to understand is that the idea that nothing is profane and that God’s rhythm can be found in all things is panentheistic and not Christian. The Christian view is that the created order, because of sin and rebellion, contains good and evil, the holy and the profane…

The real problem is not our failure to see God in everything, but our failure to believe what God has said, and by grace obey. The grand claim of the Bible is that “God has spoken” (Hebrews 1:1, 2). The question is whether we will listen to what God has said or not… Voskamp’s romanticism reaches its pinnacle in chapter 11. There she describes a trip to Paris where she has an intimate encounter with God through art and architecture. God “woos” her through this encounter and she falls in love…

At Notre Dame Cathedral, carried away by the experience, she claims to have found the holy: “This air is old, the ground, holy” (Voskamp: 207). On the contrary, the New Testament does not describe holy places, especially not Roman Catholic cathedrals filled with pagan icons and grotesque gargoyles such as at Notre Dame (which means “our lady” referring to the virgin Mary)… There, in a Catholic cathedral which ought to invoke our objection, Voskamp, as do her role models, the mystics of the Middle Ages, finds “intimate union” with God…

Amazingly, Voskamp unabashedly teaches the path to mystical union that has its roots in ancient, pagan, Rome. This path is taught in the Catholic Encyclopedia.9 This threefold path is “common to all forms of mysticism, Christian or otherwise” writes Pastor Gary Gilley who rightly warns the church about it.[7] Voskamp extols the medieval mystics who were instrumental in the building of Notre Dame (Voskamp: 208)…

Mysticism and the practices Voskamp endorses that promote it, do lead to a Cosmic Christ, that is a creation centered one rather that the Christ who bodily ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of God. The mystical Christ is immanent only, not transcendent. He is contacted by unbiblical, mystical means rather than through the gospel that saves us from God’s wrath against sin…

As fraught with theological error that this book is, its basic premise is true: as Christians we ought to be thankful people who give thanks in all things. The Bible teaches us that. But do we need to jettison Christian theism in favor of panentheism and objective truth in favor of romantic feelings and higher order experiences to become thankful? No! … There is enough sensuality in the world without us having sensual desires stirred up under the guise of a higher order religious experience in the context of a panentheistic worldview.

Voskamp’s book feeds into the romantic sensibilities of its postmodern readers. But it does nothing to promote the faith once for all delivered to the saints. It pushes the church even further down the unbiblical road of mysticism that so many are already on. We need to reject this and instead return to objective, Biblical truth. (Online source)


[1], accessed 5/10/11.

[2] Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts; (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010) 110. All further references from this book will be in brackets within this article.

[3] Bob DeWaay, The Emergent Church – Undefining Christianity; (Minneapolis: DeWaay, 2009), 204.

[4] see my review of Tolle’s The New Earth:

[5] See CIC Issue 4 for Bell’s misuse of “holy.”

[6] I discuss Doug Pagitt’s idea of God’s “rhythm” here: CIC Issue 99

See also: