Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. (Galatians 4:8)

Maybe We Do All Worship The Same God By Different Names

We continue our look at some of the views and theology of the “Radical Evangelical Emergent prophet” Tony Campolo. As you may know the below is taken from an interview which appeared in Cross Currents in the spring of last year. Truly it isn’t easy to surprise me these days, but I am taken back by the non-response from Evangelical leaders to the danger of allowing the Emerging Church and Emergent leaders to teach their brand of neo-pagan mysticism under the guise of orthodoxy at the National Pastor’s Conference 2006 sponsored by Zondervan, InterVarsityPress and Leadership.

Tony Campolo is among those associated with Emergent who were slated to be speakers at NPC 2006. So here in Campolo we have a man who as an American Baptist minister openly denies that the Bible is the inerrant and infallible Word of God, who will in fact be a featured speaker at General Session of this conference for your pastors. Well I guess we should figure why not because his denomination denies God’s Word in Scripture as well. And also among the speakers is Campolo’s radical disciple Shane Claiborne founder of the Simple Way Community who is conducting the following interview. Like his mentor, Claiborne’s stance on virtually any doctrine related to the historic orthodox Christian faith would at the very best be the most extreme liberal view possible.

As we begin, although he probably doesn’t know it, Claiborne is actually talking about the end result of “enlightenment” (spiritual transformation), which is arrived at through the mystic meditation practiced by the Emerging Church. At this point Shane just hasn’t “received” it yet; as for now he says:

There is a discomfort when I hear Gandhi’s whisper that the religions are one tree with many branches, and I can appreciate the fact that our faiths trace their roots back to the same dysfunctional family of Abraham and Sarah. But in many interreligious gatherings I have experienced the feeling that we are forced to walk on eggshells in a shallow murky spirituality that does not honor the distinctiveness of each tradition. This universalism, in its attempt to honor every tradition I often merely creates a culture where their beauty and distinctiveness are lost.

You can see that Claiborne’s lagging a bit behind right now in falling completely for the delusion of the One World Global Family, and even the Emergent prophet Campolo’s not quite there himself, yet, for he says:

I think we have to maintain our theological differences. We don’t have any integrity if we don’t. We end up with this mishmash in which we say, ‘Well, in the end, we all believe in the same God’.

Okay, all of this sounds pretty good so far, but watch now in grand McLarenesque fashion Campolo will reverse his field and head toward “transformation.” The Emergent prophet has just informed us that we need to “maintain our theological differences” or we don’t “have any integrity.” Further he enlightens us that we can’t just say, “we all believe in the same God” because then we just “end up with this mishmash.” But wait a minute, now out of the other side of his mouth our Emergent prophet of God says:

Maybe we do, but we don’t define God in the same way. We don’t come to God in the same manner. And each of us makes exclusivist claims, and we have to recognize that. We cannot allow our theologies to separate us, and we cannot allow our theologies to get watered down lest we lose our integrity.

Are you serious? Here we have Tony Campolo, the “radical” Emergent prophet and he says “maybe” we worship the same God as Islam? But shouldn’t a true prophet of God know Him Who has allegedly sent him? But this itself harkens back to Campolo’s denial of the inerrancy and infallibility of the eternal Word of God in the Bible. Now we have the most ridiculous scenario in front of us; a prophet sent by God who arises with his decree: “Thus saith the LORD God Almighty, the one true and living God…um, maybe. Well, at least that’s what I think right now; ah however, I could be wrong. You see, maybe all these other “foreign gods” the Lord warns us about are really just Him called by different names after-all.” And this men and women, is exactly why men like Campolo simply should not be allowed to teach within the Evangelical church.

Inerrancy Is Necessary For Biblical Authority

In fact this situation with Campolo reminds me of a time in the early nineties when the Lord was still preparing me a young minister. Those of you who have been following my work for Christ here at Apprising Ministries will probably find it a little hard to believe, but I have actually been considered just a bit “controversial” in my walk with the Lord. Oh, but it really is true. In any event, I was with an American Baptist Church at the time and the pastor recommended me as Sunday School Superintendent. I ended up being elected, but I was not aware that this was actually just a “figurehead” who was to order the materials. Instead though, I remembered that James 3:1 says – Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

So with the realization that God would be judging me for what would be taught in that church I decided to write to the president of the ABC, which I already suspected to be a denomination caving in to the cult of liberal theology. The reply I received would certainly confirm my conclusion, and in fact it turned out to be much worse than I expected. I then called a meeting with my teachers at the church and inquired of each what their stand was regarding the inerrancy and infallibility of the Bible. During the discussion one woman who had been teaching there said she did not hold to inerrancy and was particularly hostile to “Paul’s” theology. Now that she had openly admitted this in front of the others I told her that I would not allow her to teach that view here any longer. This would not be received very well.

A long story short, she went to the pastor’s wife and complained about my “unloving” attitude. This would quickly lead to a meeting with the pastor and his wife over dinner. Sadly, this minister’s wife also held the very view that was espoused by the other woman teacher. As you might imagine the conversation that evening was rather “stimulating” to say the least. I felt led to begin further research into this critical subject and later presented the pastor with a position paper defending the inerrancy of the Bible. It would only be a short time later that this man would come to my home and tell me: “I don’t agree with your position, but your sources are excellent.” Amazingly I was looking at a man who had, in fact, just called himself a fool. And I have dealt with this issue of inerrancy and infallibility many times since.

For Campolo, Brian McLaren and leaders in the Emergent Church to deny the inerrancy and infallibility of God’s Word is to bring themselves under the judgment of the Lord they will tell you they serve. I don’t fear confronting these men regarding this most critical issue, and neither should any of the men God has chosen to place in positions of far more prominence in His Church than I. For it is written: If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31), and again – Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful (Joshua 1:8). God will always honor His Word; and the time has now arrived for us to publicly expel from our ranks men like Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren who undermine people’s faith in the Bible.

The Gospel Of Jesus Christ Is Exclusive

As we return to our discussion of interspiritual meetings Shane Claiborne asks the Emergent prophet Campolo if he might “share a recent example of where we have seen inter-religious cooperation at its best, with evangelicals at the table? Campolo then tells us:

Jimmy Carter, who is certainly evangelical, wrote a book called The Seed of Abraham, pointing out that Judaism, Islam, and Christianity all trace back to Abraham and have a certain commonality between them. I look at how Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin were able to cross the line. You should know that what led up to the Camp David accord was that fact that Jimmy Carter knew the Bible very well.

Carter may have known the Bible “well,” but there is considerable doubt whether the Arabs are descendants of Abraham’s son Ishmael. (e.g. McClintock and Strong, Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vol. 1, 339) This would be similar to saying that the Mormon Church should also be considered as worshipping the same God for they too say they are descendants of the Hebrew people and trace their own lineage back to Abraham as well. In any event however, this is but a red herring because the issue is not whether these faiths are related, but rather the real issue is: Can one be saved from an eternity in Hell without a personal commitment by faith in the only begotten God, Jesus of Nazareth. And only the historic orthodox Christian faith based on the Bible truly offers this Gospel of Christ Jesus.

I have previously and most emphatically pointed out that the god of Islam is very clearly not the one true and living LORD God Almighty Creator of the heavens and the earth! For those wishing to do some further research in order to be able to teach members of the Muslim Faith Who God really is I recommend Fast Facts On Islam by Dr. John Ankerberg and Dr. John Weldon. It’s written on a layman’s level and in the form of specific questions to make your study quite easy. Under the question “What Does Islam Teach About God (Allah)?” we read:

Islam teaches that the true God is the Muslim deity, Allah. All other views of God are false because the Quran emphasizes of Allah, “There is no God but he, the Living, the everlasting.” But who is Allah? Is he similar to the God of the Christian faith? First, the Quran stresses that Allah is one person only:

They are unbelievers who say, “God is the Third of Three.” No god is there but one God. If they refrain not from what they say, there shall afflict those of them that disbelieve a painful chastisement.”

Here, the Quran emphasizes that Christians are considered unbelievers because they accept the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity (23)

Yet even in spite of these readily accessible facts Claiborne then goes on to comment that in his mind community among religious groups “seems to form most naturally during times of struggle.” He tells Campolo that the times he personally has really “felt deeply connected to people of other faiths were during times where our survival required interdependence.” The Emergent prophet then asks us to think about the following:

What can we learn about that kind of spirituality that can help us find common ground? No theological statements were made, no compromising beliefs, no attempts to come to a common denominator. And yet, a kind of spiritual oneness.

That’s the place where we come together, in common need and common suffering, as we reach out to one another in love, leaving judgment in the hands of God, sharing out of our own faith. I mean the last thing we are asking in those times is—is your theology the same as mine?—and vice-versa. All of the sudden in the hour of suffering there is a commonality. And that’s where we meet. It’s in mystical spirituality and in communal mutuality that’s where we come together.

What Does A Believer Have In Common With An Unbeliever?

But the question that the true Christian is going to ask this Emergent prophet here is: What exactly are we coming together for? No one who truly belongs to Christ argues that in a time of crisis; oh, let’s just say for instance, after the destruction of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, that we can find “common ground” in helping to alleviate someone’s suffering. This does not however produce a “spiritual oneness,” although it certainly can create bonds of friendship in which the Christian could later share the true Gospel when those we have helped may ask us why. But when Campolo says “the last thing we are asking in those times–is your theology the same as mine,” he is seriously confusing these issues. This only furnishes further reason that men like this are simply not fit to be ministers in the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ.

However, the most revealing part of this convoluted conversation here with the Emergent prophet Tony Campolo comes when he tells us all these interspiritualists “meet” in “a kind of spiritual oneness.” My thesis in this ongoing series on the growing cult of the Emergent Church is that the “common ground” which all of these spiritual communities have is the practice of transcendental meditation. And Campolo states this yet again when he says, “that’s where we meet. It’s in mystical spirituality.” If you make the effort yourself to check out the many links and references I have been providing then you will see that all of these people are talking about the mind-altering effect produced by meditation. Called by many names, “satori,” “enlightenment,” “transformation,” “Oneness,” these words all refer to the desired result of an alleged “mystical union” with God where one suddenly comes ot the realization they are actually merged with God.

If you prayerfully study this out for yourself, as I have, then you will be able to see that the universal testimony from those who finally reach this state is a feeling of incredible “peace” with the enlightenment that we are all truly and literally one with God. What follows in this delusion is the belief that all men are really one with each other because all mankind shares a divine spark (deity) of God within our “true self.” In a coming article you will see this more clearly when I draw together a composite of these testimonies from adherents of various spiritual traditions such as the New Age Movement, Eckankar, and the Mind Science cults. I have already thoroughly covered both of the “living spiritual teachers” Alan Jones and Marcus Borg with which Emergent spiritual director Brian McLaren has become involved with. And Borg’s area of expertise in the Living Spiritual Teachers Project actually happens to be this very idea of spiritual transformation.

Space allows just one example of where all of this is undoubtedly heading. In his book The Sacred Way, which comes highly recommended by McLaren himself, Emergent theologian Tony Jones lists some “Book Resources” for further study on the “spiritual disciplines” he is teaching within. Under “silence and solitude” (i.e. meditation, aka Zen) Jones recommends a book called The Silent Life by Thomas Merton (214). He says the after “taking monastic vows” Merton would later write this one about “the union with Christ that had resulted” through his transcendental meditation. In a subsequent article you will be hearing more from Merton, but for now I share a bit from another book called Christian Zen by William Johnston, who as a Roman Catholic priest was an ardent practitioner of transcendental meditation, and wrote “numerous articles on Zen and Christianity.

The late Johnston was also the author of The Mysticism Of “The Cloud Of Unknowing” which happens to be among those Book Resources mentioned in the back of Jones’ book (ibid.). As one who “lived in the heart of Zen country for over twenty years” Johnston “learned to listen to the spirit of the east.” The front flap of his 1971 book Christian Zen also tells us in words very reminiscent of Brian McLaren:

Deeply impressed with what Zen has to offer Western religious experience,…[Johnston] discovered in Zen a pool of quiet energy which transforms the Western intellectualized experience of meditation into a full-bodied, intuitive communion with God. Wordless meditation, a modified lotus position, rhythmical breathing,…[are] used by the author to heighten Christian meditation.

Empty Reasoning

In The Sacred Way Emergent National Coordinator Tony Jones, himself another speaker at NPC 2006, discusses virtually the same things as Johnston above. And note the subtle twist of truth by Satan as the back flap of Johnston’s book makes this neo-pagan mysticism sound quite “Christian” as we are further told: “One need only meditate on the Son of God on the cross dying a mortal death to sense the impotence of reason to reach the heart of the experience.” Indeed this vacuous concept has been taken to dangerous extremes through the “emptying of the mind” taught in this eastern interspiritualistic practice of transcendental meditation. For here is where the practitioner, by shutting down God’s gift of the process of human reasoning, ends up placing themselves out of the Lord’s will and into grave spiritual danger. Yet this is exactly why you will see Gurus like William Johnston, Alan Jones, Marcus Borg, and now Brian McLaren himself consistently railing against Western thought.

We mentioned Thomas Merton a moment ago, in Christian researcher Ray Yungen’s excellent book A Time For Departing he informs us that Merton is a veritable “super-star” on the roster of “Christian” mystics:

What Martin Luther King was to the civil rights movement and what Henry Ford was to the automobile, Thomas Merton is to contemplative prayer [read: meditation]. Although this prayer movement existed centuries before he came along, Merton took it out of its monastic setting and made it available to and popular with the masses (60).

The above is also confirmed by Guru Johnston as well in Christian Zen while he is discussing the theologies of monism (one type of being) versus dualism (two types of being). Johnston observes that when Christianity and Buddhism begin to join forces what is going to be “at stake is monism versus dualism” (21). Then he reminds us that his old roshi (means “Zen Master”) taught him that “Christ’s enlightenment” was expressed when He realized all is God, and this is what our Lord meant when He “used the words, ‘I am.’” And then in words, which will later be expressed by McLaren, Guru Johnston tells us that, “the Christian West needs a touch of this so-called monism.” Further says Johnston; he feels that this also was one of the “insights of the great Thomas Merton” (22).

Guru Johnston proudly quotes from a letter sent to him by Merton personally sometime after Johnston had met with him. In it Merton says that “to get the true satori (means “enlightenment”) one must have no plans whatever about a Christian getting satori––one must be completely detached from such plans…I myself believe that a Christian can get satori just as easily as a Buddhist. It is simply a case of going beyond all forms, images, concepts, categories and the rest” (22,23) To this Guru Johnston adds, “Zen goes beyond all categories and all duality and that Christianity can do the same.” Then he makes a very interesting observation germane to our discussion here about the “common ground” found through neo-pagan mysticism with other religious “communities of faith” when he talks about the way “popular Christianity” has spoken about God.

Guru Johnston gives us the benefit of his own enlightenment as he instructs us:

I say popular Christianity because the mystics like [Meister] Eckhart, the anonymous author of The Cloud, John of the Cross, and the rest were never guilty of oversimplification. But the popular brand of Christianity…did tend to speak about the God “out there”… (24)

The rest of the page reads just like the things I have recently been reading in the works of Alan Jones, Brian McLaren, and especially Marcus Borg; but suffice to say Johnston is setting up this “simplistic” concept of God in favor of the superior “story” of those who have practiced transcendental meditation. Please pay very close attention to what Guru Johnston is about to tell us as you are going to hear, from someone who practiced and taught this Zen for years, what is the end result of it:

Turning to the Christian mystics, however, we find a different story. Here are men and women whose meditation (or contemplation) is more akin to that of the Zen Masters in that it embraces an area of experience which is beyond subject and object. I was particularly impressed by this while writing my book on The Cloud.

The English author [of The Cloud Of Unknowing], in one of his minor treatises called The Epistle of Privy Counsel (which [says Johnston] I highly recommend to anyone interested in Zen), is no less unrelenting than the Masters in his efforts to withdraw his disciple from subject-object relations.

God is your being, he says (not “God is in you or in your being,” etc.)––though your being is not the being of God. Simply be! Lose the sense of your own being for a sense of the being of God! This English author stands clearly in the great tradition of “theology of negation” that stems from Dionysius, passes to the Rhenish mystics, and reaches a climax with John of the Cross. Merton, too, belongs to the same tradition, and that is why he has such sympathy for Zen” (25)

We’ll cover this more in depth another time but what you’ve just seen above couldn’t be any clearer to those who have been given eyes to see. Here we have heard it for ourselves, from an author who was quite familiar with Christian mystics, and more specifically with the work The Cloud Of Unknowing, that this type of transcendental meditation–about to be taught to your pastors through Emergent Church leaders–is designed to shut down the human reasoning process. The very ability, I might add, that is needed in following God’s advice to – Test everything. Hold on to the good (1 Thessalonians 5:21). So who do you think came up with this idea? And notice that the Lord says to “hold on,” not to empty yourself. If you think that I’m making too much of this here is the link to an article called The Idolatry of Truth by Alan Hartung, who is General Editor of THEOOZE, which is linked directly to Emergent-US.

Don’t you remember that Christ tells us in Mark 12:30 the Christian is to – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” One can hardly do this sitting in the lotus position staring at a wall while contemplating: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” Men and women, there is no place in the historic orthodox Christian faith which was once for all handed down to the saints
for this kind of dangerous practice of transcendental meditation which does lead to a permanent psychological shift. And not only that, for those who persist in this practice it leads to God sending them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie (see–2 Thessalonians 2:11). How much better we become like the Bereans [who] were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true (Acts 17:11).

Oneness Through Panentheism

As we begin to wrap up this piece I ask you to keep in mind that the key point here is that all of this interspiritual mysticism and enlightenment through transcendental meditation is leading people to believe they can be one with God apart from placing their faith in Jesus Christ and becoming born again. The verse in the Bible these mystics often point to is Ephesians 4:6. Here it is in The Message translation from contemplative/meditating pastor Eugene Peterson – one God and Father of all, who rules over all, work through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness. Did this New Age language cause you to get a little shiver down your spine; it ought to, this is the classic concept of Oneness from those who have reached that enlightenment/transformation I have been speaking of.

Now consider this from page 88 of The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren where he says that because “God is with you all the time, no place is any closer to God than the place where you are right now. The Bible says, He rules everything and is everywhere and is in everything.” This quote of Ephesians 4:6 is from the New Century Version and it reflects the doctrine of panentheism, which is about to surface into the Christ’s Church through the neo-pagan spiritualism of new evangelicalism. I have mentioned before that the Emerging Church is being used as the vehicle to bring the mystical element of transcendental meditation right into the mainstream Evangelical community. For those who don’t know, the practice of contemplative prayer as championed by Richard Foster is gaining ground even as I write, and in reality it is but transcendental meditation for the Christian.

You must come to understand that the Bible does not teach that God is in all things He has created, and it most certainly does not teach that God indwells mankind apart from someone who has surrendered their life to Christ. Holy Scripture teaches that when one places their complete trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, it is at that moment that God the Holy Spirit regenerates the believer and only then comes to dwell within this person. And the verse quoted from Ephesians 4 above has actually been wrenched from its context by Warren because it was written solely for Christians. Emergent spiritual director Brian McLaren, another who will soon be bold enough to come right out and teach panentheism does the same with this verse on page 118 of his book Finding Faith.

In closing let me share this verse again, only this time I’m going to include the preceding verses 4 and 5 so that you will clearly be able to see the inspired Apostle Paul is really encouraging believers concerning the amazing truth that God lives in His people who are in Christ. The point being made here is that the universal (Gr. katholikos) Body of Christ, the historic orthodox Christian Church has great reason for unity, as in Christ we are truly all one in God, because of the fact that the Lord Himself is also living in us. You need to know that both of the above translations err when they read in all and in everything because in the Greek text Paul uses the word “you” (humin), which tells us he meant people who are believers, and not created things in general at all.

There is one body and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope in your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, He above all and in you all. (literal Greek from Interlinear Bible, Jay P. Green, Sr., General Editor and Translator)

We’ll finish up with the Emergent Evangelical Prophet Tony Campolo in Part Four next time. But men and women, the absolute truth is this simply cannot happen through some ecstatic “mystical union” with God arrived at by transcendental meditation as suggested by Campolo. No, because this true mystical union of the believer in Christ that the Apostle Paul is writing about here in Ephesians 4 is actually a reference to the fulfillment of Christ’s High Priestly prayer in John 17:21-23 where our Lord prayed:

that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me (John 17:21-23).

And as Romans 8:9 most emphatically states – You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.

See also: