In Part Two of this series I began to show you more about why the work of “living spiritual teachers” Alan Jones and Marcus Borg figure into the theological agenda being forged by Brian McLaren and other leaders in the Emergent Church to use it to transform the Christian message. And yes I am aware of a bit of over-kill regarding the use of the ridiculous and pompous title “living spiritual teachers.” However, I feel I am to use it until influential leaders within the Evangelical community that McLaren also ministers in come to their senses and ask: What could an instructor of pastors in the Christian Church ever want with fools who would claim such a useless title? Unless he is going to follow their corrupt theology concerning the true nature of God and some alleged Global Family.

Where Is McLaren Headed?

And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about.

As we begin I wish to point out that I am aware that most who read this series will accept this information without such meticulous documentation. However, it is my prayer that these articles might also touch some who are involved in the Emergent Church. As such then I am attempting to provide more than enough material to overcome their most likely objections. And for those who are somewhat familiar with the law you will know that a circumstantial case such as the one I am building against Brian McLaren being considered as an Evangelical Christian must be carefully and methodically laid out.

My first concern as I open this piece is to show you a bit of what is at stake here for the Evangelical community as far as the outreach ministry of Brian McLaren itself. He has already spoken at Dallas Theological Seminary, and from this reader’s question we see that he is having a significant impact on people who are buying into McLaren’s spiritually bankrupt message of postmodernism which is then coupled with his twisted view of the Gospel and Church history:

How are we to Preach?

I recently heard you speak at Dallas Seminary. I enjoyed your sessions and especially your gentle tone and historical sensitivity. I agreed that the gospel is a story and not just one event or a static doctrinal system that develops around that event. But how is the atonement to be preached, how are we to present Scripture, where are we to place our emphasis, how do we present the accurate message of the cross when it may be fundamentally opposed to the postmodern world? How do we deconstruct the modern elements of our message without losing the essentials?

A: They’re great questions, and I can only offer these three thoughts:

1. Those questions should bring you and others into ongoing prayerful conversation. I believe the answers that count most will not be the ones I give … but the ones you and your friends find as you wrestle in honest, passionate dialogue in the context of spirituality, community, and mission.

2. You note that the postmodern world will fundamentally oppose some aspects of our message. No doubt this is true (acknowledging that “the postmodern world” is actually a world composed of many different worlds, often quite divergent ones). But it is also true that the modern world was hostile to other elements of our message – and I hope that as you seek to understand our message, you’ll remember that we have probably lost or distorted essential elements already in our struggles with modernity. In other words – it’s not that we’re starting with a great understanding of the gospel, and we might lose it in postmodernity: I think we’re starting with a pretty distorted picture already. That’s why I often say that our biggest challenge – before we can preach the gospel to postmodern people, is to discern whether we understand it ourselves!

3. For that reason, our situation is even more difficult and dangerous than your question implies! In light of these challenges, we need to focus on first-order disciplines – prayer, meditation, service, fellowship, sacrifice, and the like. “Who we are” and “who we are becoming in community” will determine so much of what we see, understand, and learn. I wish I could offer more, but perhaps these few brief thoughts will be helpful.
(, emphasis added)

Leaving aside McLaren’s circular reasoning concerning so-called “postmodernism,” (it’s true because I say it’s true), I draw your attention to the phrase “first-order disciplines,” and the word “meditation.” The reason I began Part One with Tony Jones teaching us the history of “centering/contemplative” prayer (meditation) was to substantiate that “Christian” mysticism is an integral part of the Emerging Church movement. This is also why I firmly established that Brian McLaren is one of its key leaders and cited his confirmation that Richard Foster himself is also “key mentor” in this schismatic movement. So now we have layed the foundation that mystic spirituality was programmed in from the very beginning of the EC movement as a whole. And it is going to be the spiritual “discipline” of meditation that will ultimately be responsible for the actual transformation of the Emergent Church.

It’s because we have done all of the above that we can now bring in the book Celebration of Discipline (COD) by Foster as corroboration that McLaren is not talking about “meditating” on Scripture, but he is actually referring to the spiritual discipline of transcendental meditation (TM). Of course we don’t call it TM in Christian circles but this is, in actual fact, exactly what we are talking about. Chapter one of COD is called “The Spiritual Disciplines: Door to Liberation.” This is what McLaren meant by “first-order disciplines” above. We’ll cover this more thoroughly as we go along, but for now we note that chapter 2 of COD is called “The Discipline of Meditation.”

Spreading A Diseased Theology

Now let me show you from McLaren’s website how far in the Body of Christ McLaren’s spiritual disease has been spread and where it will now be headed if it is not held in check.

I’ve been part of events and gatherings in Grand Rapids, Indianapolis, Chicago, New York, Pennsylvania, DC, Santa Fe, Portland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Kansas city, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Miami. I’ve lectured or taught at six seminaries – Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, Wesley Seminary, George Fox Seminary, Fuller Seminary, Bakke Graduate University, and Princeton Seminary. I’ve met with a wide variety of denominations and met a wonderful array of people – from theologians to college students, from bishops to youth workers, from church planters to seasoned pastors and lay leaders. It’s been a great time of networking for the emergent community.

I will be doing a lot of international travel in early 2006, and not much domestically. Between January and May, I’ll be traveling to Dominican Republic, France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Switzerland, England, Wales, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Southern Ireland. I’ll be hoping to strengthen the emergent network globally, and I hope to meet many of you who check in at this website from these countries.

The spread of his message of an emerging and transforming spirituality through “a wide variety of denominations” and from “international travel” only figures to increase now that McLaren is stepping down as senior pastor of his local church in order to devote more time to sowing his corrupt version of Christianity oozing up as it does from the polluted well of neopaganism:

I’ve also enjoyed my last season of ministry as senior pastor at Cedar Ridge Community Church ( Grace and I anticipate staying involved at Cedar Ridge as our home base, but in January I’ll pass the baton to the church’s second senior pastor, Matthew Dyer… I will be doing a lot of international travel in early 2006, and not much domestically… I’ll be hoping to strengthen the emergent network globally, and… [my] new book, The Secret Message of Jesus, will be out in April… In many ways, most of my previous books have been a preparation for this one…and I think many of you will find it the kind of book you want to give to spiritually seeking friends.

The thing everyone seems to be missing here is the constant reference in McLaren’s work to “spiritually seeking.” That term is not at all a reference to the Christian message as we know it, but rather this terminology of spiritually seeking actually harkens back to the mystic neopagan spirituality of men like the “living spiritual teacher” Alan Jones. And this now becomes even more evident by what McLaren says below as he tells us of an upcoming book:

I’ve been invited to write the first book in a series of which Phyllis Tickle will be the general editor, called “The Way of the Ancient Practices.” I’ve been dreaming of writing a book about spiritual practices (or disciplines) for some years, and this will be a great opportunity… I am so grateful whenever I hear stories of how people have been helped by my books or speaking. (, emphasis added)

What Is The Message For The Spiritual Seeker?

It is quite important to note that McLaren’s been wanting to write about “spiritual practices” for years and although he mentions how people have “been helped” by his books never is there any mention of them coming to know Christ. There again is the reason for my opening this series by connecting McLaren to Tony Jones and Richard Foster and their own Emergent emphasis on these alleged spiritual “disciplines” that we are going to cover more specifically in parts Four and Five. This is the key point for my assertion that there is an ongoing transformation of the Emergent Church toward a non-Christian spirituality that will actually be accomplished through the changes that occur to individuals through these so-called “spiritual practices.”

The practice/discipline we are most particularly concerned with here is that of transcendental meditation. You’ve already seen this practice is recommended by Brian McLaren himself and it will prove essential that we have established this beyond any doubt as we move on. When we look at the subject of mediation and it’s effects on the people who engage in its practice, it will be crucial to have it firmly established that as a teacher of Evangelical pastors McLaren advocates this non-Christian method of meditation. So here is one more example from his website where he is asked:

What’s a guy like me to do??

Anyhow, I just received your latest book in the mail (a Generous Orthodoxy)… I am decidedly evangelical in my orientation, from a rather baptist angle. I don’t particularly like most things about most churches, I don’t particularly like most “Christians”, I HATE church politics, and probably most importantly know how screwed up I am and how little what I know to be true (however modernist/postmodernist/existentially you want to define that) actually filters into my day to day life (e.g., orthopraxy, or as Willard would say a renovated heart)…

So I guess the question is, given your view and framework, what’s a guy like me to do? I want to “do” ministry, better, I want to be a minister to others in the truest sense of the word (not necessarily a professional sense), but I’m more than a little jaded by it all – conservative, liberal, seeker/purpose – driven and emergent. If that’s not confusing enough, I’d love to hear from you.

A: You’re right – that’s confusing! But it’s also honest, and there are so many who find themselves in a similar situation. I wish I could offer a magic solution, but the best I can say is this: Stay faithful to God. Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God. Don’t let up on the first-order practices – prayer, worship, confession, thankfulness, reconciliation, meditation. If you hold on in these ways, I am confident God will lead you through in time.

But in my experience, the “tunnel” can be very long and very dark. I felt that God took very big risks with me – letting me come so close to despair, and to remain there for so long. In the end, the dark tunnel (aka dark night of the soul) did its work on/in me, and for that I am grateful, … I’d also strongly recommend some sort of primary community – a spiritual director at the least, or a few friends with whom you can share openly, who won’t try to fix you, but will be there for you. (, emphasis added)

Spiritual Director Brian McLaren

I find it interesting to note here that not only does McLaren recommend meditation to this person but he also uses the term spiritual director rather than pastor. Herein lies the reason McLaren himself becomes more and more important in the transformation of the Emerging Church movement. As his notoriety increases within Evangelical circles the more this Emergent cancer is going to be spread through his credibility. For instance McLaren is slated to be a speaker at the upcoming Love Out Loud Congress 2006 (LOL) sponsored by Vision New England in a couple of weeks.

The goal is here is uniting Christians for evangelism (not “spiritual seeking”) and among the featured speakers are Joseph Stowell of former president of Moody Bible Institute and NAE president Ted Haggard. Again our concern must be the kind of spiritual message that our new kind of Christian is going to bringing to LOL. And now that in addition to his writings McLaren is moving exclusively into an itinerant speaking ministry he is undoubtedly to be considered a leader within the Body of Christ. Below we present yet another example of McLaren’s failure to exhibit the character necessary to even be a Christian leader.

The minister of the Gospel is asked a direct question and simply refuses to live up to his responsibilities to answer it forthrightly. I offer this is because it goes against his theological agenda of developing a Global family:

4) You speak out against pluralism. I no longer feel comfortable saying that Jesus is the only way? To salvation? If salvation is less about heaven and more about here and the now then…cant a Buddhist be ‘saved’ if their faith has made them a good person and they are seeking justice for the earth and Gods creations? In the bible notice that Jesus never condemns the people of other faiths, instead he points to them as the people who get the big picture.

Answer: This is a complex question that I don’t feel I can do justice to here. I seek to address it in a number of my books. The word “pluralism” may be the problem, as it has a number of meanings. That particular word aside: I think there are better alternatives than either the exclusivism of some fundamentalists and the relativism of some liberals. Lesslie Newbigin (The Open Secret) and David Bosch (Transforming Mission) have been most helpful to me in this regard, as has C. S. Lewis.
(, emphasis added)

Why Not Just Answer The Question

“A complex question”? This is the best that this “spiritual director” who is also an instructor of Evangelical Christian pastors can do? “I don’t feel I can do justice here.” You have got to be kidding me! Here’s a little help from the sticks of New Hampshire. While this person may not “feel comfortable” saying Jesus is the only way of salvation, we will be eternally grateful that our Lord did not have such a problem. In John 14:6 Jesus says – “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

As for the next part of the statement concerning salvation being less about Heaven and more about living in the here and now, we can think about Heaven as we live here in grateful service to our fellow man because God has saved us. And the truth is that no one can be “saved” on their own efforts because God the Holy Spirit specifically told us in Romans 8:7-8 – the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. So you see according to the Bible there is no such thing as a “good” person.

The true minister sent by God would then conclude by saying, “you are right to say Jesus never condemns anyone, but there is good reason for that in John 3:18 – “whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Can you see that now? All men were already condemned by their sin long before Jesus even came on the scene. And this was a “complex question”? Only for someone who is trying to hide in the Church as a minister of the Gospel while he is pushing his brand of neopagan mystic spirituality.

Finding Faith In Authentic Spirituality

This now brings us right back to this whole issue of mysticism that we established in Part One of this series was built into the Emergent Church right from the start. Without this mystical element programmed into the fabric of the Emergent Church we would not be able to forge a theological agenda to unite all religions into one Global family. And we begin to see this mystical spirituality hinted at in Brian McLaren’s 1999 book Finding Faith (FF), which we have mentioned a couple of times in this series.

One of those likely aforementioned objections at this point would be: “That book is years old, it’s no longer relevant to this issue of McLaren’s goals within the Emerging Church movement.” So let us pause and remove this potential obstacle to someone listening to the evidence presented. This ties back as well to the opening of this article and the growing danger to the Evangelical church posed by McLaren’s ministry as it begins to expand further. On his website we see the following question from a reader. Also note the use of The Alpha Course:

Subject: Generous Orthodoxy as a newcomers course?

We are looking in post post-modern Toronto, Ontario to either replace or supplement our Alpha courses with something that better fits our cultural mileau. Alpha is very modernist in its theological method. The first question we almost always get asked in the group discussions is “What about other religions?” which is only minimally addressed through the course.

“Generous Orthodoxy” may fit the bill. Is this book being used elsewhere as a starters course in Christianity? If so where so I could confer and if not how might you suggest how we could get started?

A: Thanks for writing. As you’ve probably heard – AGO is now in paperback and has a study guide included… You may be interested in contacting Lambrick Park Church in Victoria, BC. They used my book “Finding Faith” to create something very similar to what you’re describing. Remember – ideas aren’t copyrighted, only arrangements of words. So if any of the ideas in my books can be of help to your people, put them in your own words and use them freely!
(, emphasis added)

And if there is still any doubt left that FF does indeed still represent McLaren’s theological views we have this question from a reader at his website:

Subject: Thank you!

I’m only on page 72 of your book, “Finding Faith,” and I am blown away so far! I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and as I reached young adulthood I started questioning many of my “programmed” teachings and beliefs… I suppose that this was my way of stepping out of my “stage 1” faith,…

A: Thanks so much. “Finding Faith” has a special place in my heart because at heart, helping others get in touch with God is my main calling in life.
(, emphasis added)

The Survey Says

Now that we have meticulously laid all of this out and we have carefully connected the players together with their spiritual teachings we may begin to bring this case together. Chapter 9 of FF asks the question “How Might God Be Experienced?” On page 163 our spiritual director Brian McLaren tells us that his, “survey of spirituality through history and around the world suggests to me at least twelve categories of answers,…” In the next chapter McLaren speaks of the tenth category which is “Solitude.” You may recall from our look at these spiritual disciplines in Part One that solitude is actually another contemplative aspect of the practice of meditation.

Brian McLaren, teacher of Evangelical Christian pastors then tells us more about the importance of solitude in experiencing God when he says that one, “value of solitude is seen in the beautiful parable about the lost (or prodigal) son” (190). McLaren has a unique spin on this teaching by Christ but for our purposes here we note that our spiritual director tells us that in the son’s “forced solitude” he “comes to himself.” And says McLaren, “this coming to oneself then opens him to the possibility of coming home to his father and his true home” (ibid.).

You’ll come to see that phrases like “coming to oneself” and “coming home/true home” will figure prominently as we move along into the study of mediation as the vehicle to accomplish the transformation of the Emergent Church. Here is how the “living spiritual teacher” Alan Jones talks about meditation in “Spiritual Practice, Spiritual Presence,” which is the Epilogue of his book Reimagining Christianity:

One way to stop the world and allow yourself to catch up with yourself is to be part of a community committed to repetitive meditative acts. You have to show up somewhere. It mat be a church, a synagogue, a temple, an AA group, a yoga class, the Kiwanis, the Rotary Club, Log Cabin Republicans, a Quaker meeting, a Buddhist meditation group–the list is endless. This isn’t to say that all these activities are of equal value. They’re not. (236)

Well, at least I can agree with Guru Jones about that. Oh could we wrestle with the serpent here, but we resist and zero in on “a Buddhist meditation group.” You need to know the Guru stuck that in for a reason, the practice of meditation. And this is a good place to bring our other living spiritual Guru Marcus Borg back into the picture. As most of you know he just happens to be a member of The Living Spiritual Teachers Project with Alan Jones, he is also slated to work with Brian McLaren a bit this summer at The Center for Spiritual Development and Borg is the author/editor of an interesting book called Jesus And Buddha: The Parallel Sayings.

Let me point out here that with the foundation for our case firmly laid we no longer need to explore the relationships/ties of all these spiritual teacher-directors we will now be free to begin exploring in depth what it is they are teaching. And as I close this Part Three we look at the following question which concerns Guru Borg. Our spiritual director and instructor of Evangelical pastors is asked:

Dear Brian, have you read “The Heart of Christianity” written by Marcus Borg? Is there anyway we can overcome the division between mainline and evangelical Christians?

A: Yes, I’ve read it and found so much in it that I agreed with. My guess is that Marcus and I are coming from two different poles and our paths are converging in many ways. I look forward to meeting him later this year. In “A Generous Orthodoxy” I express the same desire that you express – that postliberal and postconservative Christians can come together in unprecedented ways to work for the kingdom of God.
(, emphasis added)

Meditation And The Global Family

Our concern here is twofold: 1) the admission that Brian McLaren would find so much he would agree with from Marcus Borg who denies both the Deity and the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ–the Lord pastor McLaren says he loves. And 2) what exactly does our spiritual director mean he expresses the desire that “Christians can come together in unprecedented ways to work for the kingdom of God.” The pieces really don’t fit here as this can never happen with diametrically opposed approaches to the Christian faith. Unless of course we have a theological agenda for the transformation of mankind through a “reimagined” Christianity that McLaren feels will emerge from “authentic spirituality” into some kind of Global family .

In Part Four we will look a little more specifically into Guru Borg’s teachings within which spiritual director/pastor-teacher McLaren found so much to agree. But for our purposes here we examine a bit about what Borg has to say about the spiritual practice/discipline of meditation. In The Heart of Christianity while he is discussing his three categories of Christian prayer the Guru says that “the second and third categories of Christian prayer are meditation and contemplation” (198). He further tells us that these practices he’s been sharing about were “central in the history of the Christian tradition.” However, then in McLarenesque language our living spiritual teacher goes on to inform us, “they have been quite neglected in modern Western Christianity” (ibid.)

And now we close as Guru Borg explains more about “Christian” meditation:

Meditation involves reflecting on an image or a phrase, sitting with it, holding it, remaining with it. A classic example is “Ignatian mediatation,” named after St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit order in the sixteenth century. Very concisely, it provides a structure for meditation on images in a biblical text. We enter into the text, and the images of the text become a means for the Spirit to speak to us (ibid.).

But as you will come to see even more clearly in our next two pieces, earlier in this book while talking about his concept of being “born again” Borg tells us what the goal of this meditation actually is:

As the Christian life matures, we begin to experience the self-forgetfulness that accompanies a deepening trust in God… I sometimes feel a lightness of being… This process [of daily dying] is at the heart not only of Christianity, but of the enduring religions of the world. The image of following “the way” is common in Judaism, and “the way” involves a new heart, a new self centered in God… According to the Tao te Ching, a foundational text for both Taoism and Zen Buddhism, Lao Tzu said: “If you want to become full, let yourself be empty; if you want to be reborn, let yourself die” (118,119).

Men and women what you just read has about as much to do with the historic orthodox Christian faith as a Sufi Sheik. You’ll see why I used that as my example next time, but for now we begin to see why our spiritual director Brian McLaren would find much to approve of in what we have just read from Guru Borg. Here McLaren has found yet another living spiritual teacher who confirms what he already wants to believe: All religions are really one because mankind is actually a divine Global family created in God.

And this is exactly where the spiritual discipline of transcendental meditation will eventually carry all those who choose to get involved in the transformation of the emergent church…