For the land is full of adulterers; for because of swearing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right. For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the LORD.
Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the LORD (Jeremiah 23:10-12, KJV).


Reshaping History And Theology

Tony Jones is the first National Director of Emergent Village and minister to youth and young adults at Colonial Church of Edina in Minnesota. The back cover of one his books Soul Shaper, published by Zondervan, informs us that it “is hands down the most comprehensive primer on the study and use of spiritual and contemplative practices for the benefit of your teenagers – and especially your own soul.” The full title of this book is Soul Shaper: Exploring Spirituality And Contemplative Practices In Youth Ministry, which tells us how potentially dangerous it has become to the evangelical community, as the book was targeted for youth ministers and pastors.

In Soul Shaper Tony Jones advocates some sixteen “ancient-future” spiritual tools such as The Jesus Prayer, Lectio Divina, Silence and Solitude, Stations of the Cross, Centering Prayer, and the Labyrinth. Here Jones begins defining his postmodern approach to youth ministry by combining aspects of what he sees as common spirituality in evangelicalism, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions along with eastern religious practices gleaned from Buddhism and Hinduism. These soul shaping “disciplines” will later become even more developed in his next book The Sacred Way. This type of approach by Jones is worthy of special concern because of his careless use of somewhat obscure heretical practices originating within the apostate Church of Rome and then passing them off to the unsuspecting as if he has rediscovered a long hidden orthodoxy for a postmodern Christianity that makes the “past come alive in the present.” (back cover)

What is so hazardous here is that most youth ministers are not conversant enough with the actual history of the Christian Church to recognize that in books like this by Tony Jones we are really being sold a bill of spiritually bankrupt goods. In truth Soul Shaper is a veritable how not to do youth ministry in the Protestant evangelical framework, and yet pastors within the mainstream of the Christian community are being taught these practices at annual Pastor’s Conferences sponsored by Zondervan. However, we can’t help wishing that Jones’ initial statement in Soul Shaper concerning these techniques would be heeded, for on his Warning page he writes, “but I don’t want you to apply them.” But unfortunately Jones is only telling the reader to thoroughly study these “spiritual exercises” before “you implement them”; however, he is at best being misleading when he mentions, “the saints of the Christian church who have over the past two millennia labored at practicing and perfecting these disciplines.”

The Mystical Spark Within

That Tony Jones draws heavily upon mystic Thomas a Kempis as a primary influence becomes immediately obvious as each chapter in Soul Shaper opens with a quote from Kempis. In fact on page 254 Jones writes, “Thomas a Kempis has guided us throughout our exploration of ancient spiritual practices.” On page 19 Jones says, “this book is long on history and theology.” My concern is what kind of “history” and what kind of “theology” the average reader, and perhaps more importantly the young people are getting. This is especially troubling when one considers that most of them would not be prepared to see through this corrupt view of spirituality they are taught throughout this book. All throughout Soul Shaper people as disparate as Henry Nouwen and Athanasius and John Calvin are carelessly lumped together as if they would be compatible theologically. Then Jones’ section of “recommended reading” is a virtual all-star roster of mystics of all persuasions. Among those he encourages youth ministers to read are: “George Fox, John of the Cross, Thomas Merton and Theresa of Lisieux.” (pp.252,252)

In his recommendation of Meister Eckhardt’s Collected Works Tony Jones tells us that they are, “a mystical treatise on the intersection between Greek philosophy and Christian theology with an emphasis on God’s indwelling of humanity” (252). But what we need to see here about this Emergent Church movement is that at its core theology is the seed of a growing deception that within all the religions of the world to varying degrees there is a universal work of God. This spirit of inclusivism is behind the theology of some of their other leaders like Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt who are already leaning toward the possibility that there is a divine spark within all religions which can ultimately unite all of mankind itself because God lives in all men. And all who follow this emerging “generous orthodoxy” will be taken in by this mistaken idea of an ideal global family of God.

Each chapter of Soul Shaper introduces the reader to a new spiritual practice, and true to his word Jones begins each one with the alleged history and theology behind each “discipline” within. For instance, here is Jones’ rather unique historic background for chapter 9 on “icons.” He informs us that, “According to legend, the first icon (icon is Greek for ‘image’) was made by Jesus himself” (109). He then describes this “extrabiblical story kept alive by the church,” where supposedly Jesus wipes His face on a cloth leaving “a near-perfect imprint.” Among these legends Jones goes on to describe one “we observe in the Stations of the Cross,” where “another tradition has Veronica (vera icona, ‘true image’) handing Jesus a cloth to wipe his face as he carried his Cross to Golgotha––this icon is kept in one of the massive piers that support the cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome” (111). Finally Jones tells the unsuspecting reader that all of these “stories tie the origin of iconography to Jesus Himself” (ibid).

However, the immediate problem we have here is a radical incongruity posited by the words from Holy Scripture, “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image (Exodus 20:4). You see if Jones’ thesis that all of these “stories tie the origin of iconography to Jesus” is correct then we are left with the glaring contradiction of God the Son instituting a practice that was expressly forbidden by God the Father and recorded for us by God the Holy Spirit as part of The Ten Commandments. This is a little bit much to believe. And while it is understandable how such tall tales and fanciful speculations amidst the hushed voices and flickering candles of a late-night lock in sleepover at the church might wow the kids who don’t know any better, this kind of careless misrepresentation of historic theology simply shouldn’t be able to con so many leaders within the evangelical community. No longer on the fringe of the Body of Christ the Emergent Church has now taken center stage through the relentless promotion, from among others, Zondervan publishing which happens to be an “Affiliate” who lends financial support.

Emergent Pastor and senior minister of Waterloo, at Christ Church & Upton. Steve Chalke has also spoken during the General Session of these Zondervan Pastors conferences. Chalke is on record in his book The Lost Message Of Jesus as denying the penal substutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the cross. He even calls it “cosmic child abuse”, but this will no longer be a surprise when you read more and more of the things these men like McLaren and Pagitt and Jones believe regarding some alleged universality of God’s revelation of Himself through the various religions of the world. And as long as the Lord should choose to sustain me here at Apprising Ministries you can be sure I will do all I can to shed additional light on the Emergent Church, a growing cult within the largely slumbering evangelical community. As I keep sounding this warning, sure, I have taken some heat for allegedly being an over zealous fundamentalist and there are those whom feel I am being overly harsh by supposedly using over the top rhetoric and name-calling.

However, I would like to inform the reader that if one were to claim to be a Christian and actually hold to said position, it would belie their claim to be serious students of the Bible for they would obviously never have read 2 Peter chapter 2:

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into gloomy dungeons to be held for judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)—if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment, while continuing their punishment. This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the sinful nature and despise authority. Bold and arrogant, these men are not afraid to slander celestial beings; yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not bring slanderous accusations against such beings in the presence of the Lord.



But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish. They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Beor, who loved the wages of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—a beast without speech—who spoke with a man’s voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

These men are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”