“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.” (Isaiah 43:10-11)

A Mystical Union With What Spirit?

We now finish up our look at the “radical evangelical” Emergent prophet Tony Campolo and what this “man of God” has had to tell us as a “follower of Jesus.” As we do we’ll also be including a few pertinent excerpts from Phil Johnson’s “Absolutely Not! A critical look at the emerging church movement” delivered at the 2006 Shepherd’s Conference. Interestingly enough the Campolo interview with Shane Claiborne that we have been using to understand the Emergent prophet’s pronouncements from the Lord also illustrates quite well what Johnson will tell you about the Emerging Church movement itself. In this way we also confirm what I have been trying to tell you over this past year here at AM, which will better help you see why the Church of Jesus Christ needs to publicly reject this movement.

At this point in the interview, which originally appeared in Cross Currents, Claiborne is talking with Campolo about “St.” Francis of Assisi and his “encounter” with “the Muslim Sultan during the thirteenth century.” And by the way Cross Currents is “more than just a magazine” we’re told, it’s “a global network for people of faith.” Can you see the warning flag there? Claiborne then goes on to explain that Assisi and the Sultan:

came together across major religious divides and had a mystical unity; the Sultan became known for his kindness and Francis used the Muslim horn given him to call the Christian brothers to prayer… As you mention in the book, MacDonald says, “Theologians have done more to hide the gospel of Christ than any of its adversaries.” Rarely are people converted by force or words, but through intimate encounters. Perhaps one of the best things we can do is stop talking with our mouths and cross the chasm between us with our lives. Maybe we will even find a mystical union of the Spirit as Francis did. (emphasis added)

Meditating On Christ’s Example

I open with this because Claiborne–“Elisha” to Campolo’s “Elijah”–has just stated what I have been talking about all along in my work of exposing the neo-pagan mysticism that is foundational to the EC. The practice of “contemplative prayer” is simply meditation just the same as practiced by these Sufi Muslims Claiborne is alluding to here. What he is actually telling us is that Assisi and the Sultan found “a mystical union of the Spirit” through their mutual meditation experiences. And so also will all those who indulge in this type of meditation today be arriving at this very same “enlightenment.” However, it is clearly not a union in the Holy Spirit with these other religions. It couldn’t be easier to see for those who would be willing to stand for the Truth of God’s Word in the Bible. Because if “a mystical union of the Spirit” could be reached by unregenerate men of different religions then surely we would expect to see examples of Jesus Christ of Nazareth also “meditating” together with Jewish religious leaders in the Gospels.

However, this we simply do not find. Nowhere in Scripture do we see Christ–the Ulitimate Theologian–“hiding the Gospel” or meditating with the Samaritans or the Zealots or the Essenes in an attempt to come “together across major religious divides” working toward some alleged “mystical unity.” Claiborne is bringing to light the so-called “missional” aspect of the EC as he tells the evangelical church that we need to “stop talking with our mouths and cross the chasm between us with our lives.” This is a good place to bring in Phil Johnson as he points out how this facet is lived out through the EC:

Now, here is another vital aspect of what distinguishes “emerging church movement”: Most congregations in the movement would describe themselves as missional, by which they mean they stress the importance of evangelistic outreach by involving themselves in the lives of unbelievers in the community outside the narrow circle of the church. They point out that the way believers live is one of the most potent and persuasive aspects of our testimony to unbelievers–if not the single most important thing of all.

A Misguided Mystical Approach To Missions

No one is arguing with the sincere sentimentality with which those in the EC are approaching the idea of helping their fellow man. Without a doubt the Christian Church in America could be doing a better job of living out the Truth of our faith. And this brings us to the critical issue as Johnson correctly states:

There’s nothing essentially wrong with that idea, of course, as long as we also communicate the truth of the gospel clearly and distinctly with words. The problem arises when you factor in the postmodern tendency to distrust or despise every kind of clarity, certainty, or authoritative truth-claim. It has often meant, in practice, that the emphasis on “missional living” results in an evangelistic strategy where gospel preaching is downplayed or deliberately omitted.

And this is precisely what is happening in the Emerging Church movement and now the Emergent prophet Campolo will tell you once again exactly why “gospel preaching is downplayed or deliberately omitted.” Campolo describes meeting the head of the “Franciscan order,” the Roman Catholic order that developed from Assisi. Then the Emergent prophet tells us about how the Franciscans in Thailand “felt they needed to show some graciousness to the Buddhists, because they were in a Buddhist country.” Campolo says they:

got Buddhist theologians together and Franciscan theologians together and sent them off for three days to talk and see if they could find common ground. They also took Buddhist and Franciscan monastics and sent them off together to pray with each other. On the fourth day they all reassembled. The theologians were fighting with each other, arguing with each other, contending there was no common ground between them. The monastics that had gone off praying together, came back hugging each other. In a mystical relationship with God, there is a coming together of people where theology is left behind and in this spirituality they found a commonality. (emphasis added)

Men and women, just how many times must you hear this from the mouths of EC leaders before you see that the “contemplative prayer” movement–spearheaded by Emergent mentor Richard Foster–which is simply meditation for the Christian–is always going to lead one into the spiritual deception “where theology is left behind.” All those who adhere to this practice of “Christian” mysticism long enough will come to the exact same conclusions that mystics such as Francis of Assisi did where “in this spirituality they found a commonality” with pagan religions in “a mystical relationship with God.” And you’d best wake up soon because this contemplative prayer movement with its mystic new spirituality has already slithered its way into mainstream evangelicalism as evidenced in the recent works of men like David Jeremiah and Chuck Swindoll. Although there is indication that Jeremiah may be reconsidering.

Nailing Down Postmodern Jell-O

What we are about to hear next from Emergent prophet Campolo results from his adherence to the philosophy of postmodernism. But first Phil Johnson nails the postmodern jell-o to the wall regarding the false view of truth that results from this faulty philosophy when he writes:

Postmodernism is not really a significant departure from modernism; it is just a similar attempt to subvert and defeat the truth of Scripture by glorifying irrationality, and by portraying all truth as hopelessly paradoxical, ambiguous, unclear, uncertain, unimportant, or otherwise unworthy of all the concern and attention philosophers have given to the idea. Postmodernism abandons the hope of finding any absolute or incontrovertible truth, and instead, the postmodernist looks for amusement by playing with words and language, and by questioning every assumption and challenging every truth-claim.

That’s no answer to modernism; it is a further step in the same wrong direction. So my assessment of the “emerging church movement” is that far from being the antithesis of modernism, this sort of “evangelical postmodernism” is really ultimately nothing more than Modernism 2.0.

The modernism Johnson speaks of here is the liberal theology which began seeping into decaying mainstream denominations around the turn of the twentieth century. In fact, while discussing Brian McLaren’s approach to the Christian faith, Johnson notes that he “is in almost every way an exact replica of Harry Emerson Fosdick, adapted to suit the 21st-century zeitgeist.” And the results of all of this postmodern wordplay today is that the Devil has been able to get the second phase of his two-pronged attack on God’s Word firmly embedded in the Lord’s Own Church–in the evangelical community of all places! We’ve been over this a few times, but briefly, in Satan’s subtle trickery with Eve in the Garden he first tries to get her to doubt that God has indeed spoken at all. When he couldn’t do that he slides into plan B: Get her to believe that she didn’t really understand what it is that God has said.

And once the enemy of men’s souls was able to accomplish this the rest of history has been the long and sordid story of mankind trying to live according to his fallen reason. HELLO! Here’s a wakeup call from reality: The Emerging Church is the Devil’s vehicle for accomplishing this same goal in the heart of the evangelical community itself! You know, “the Bible-believing community.” Now let’s see how this all plays out within the new liberalism of the new evangelicalism and affects the Gospel that Christ left His Church here to preach as His ambassadors. The “radical evangelical” Emergent prophet Tony Campolo has been encouraging us to follow the very spurious example of Roman Catholic monk Francis of Assisi and seek “common ground” with people of other faiths through mystic spiritual encounters.

The cessationists think the charismatics and pentecostals are the real threat; how about this lunacy from Campolo:

It seems to me that when we listen to the Muslim mystics as they talk about Jesus and their love for Jesus, I must say, it’s a lot closer to New Testament Christianity than a lot of the Christians that I hear. In other words if we are looking for common ground, can we find it in mystical spirituality, even if we cannot theologically agree, Can we pray together in such a way that we connect with a God that transcends our theological differences?

So we make sure we don’t compromise what we believe. But we also make sure that in mystical spirituality we find a kind of oneness that we leave judgment of who goes to heaven and who goes to hell in the hands of God and just preach the truth as we understand it. (emphasis added)

Mysticism Leads To Another Jesus

There is so much here to wrestle with the serpent about but just let me point out a couple of things concerning what the Emergent prophet has said above. First in the style typical of today’s evangelical apologetic writing I state the point where I agree. Oh yes, prophet Campolo these “Muslim mystics” as they talk about “their love for Jesus” can indeed be found in “New Testament Christianity.” Permit me to show you exactly where that is. In the a part of 2 Corinthians 11:4 – For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. Unfortunately for the Emergent prophet and the rest of his mystical buddies, they comprise the b part of this critical verse.

As we move to wrap up this piece the other point I wanted to draw your attention to is the illogic of Campolo’s idea that while we may “feel” God is one way, we really don’t “compromise what we believe” as we worship with those who believe differently. The insoluble problem for the mystics of the EC is that the Christian Church has always believed all those who die without a personal decision to place their faith in Jesus Christ are going to Hell regardless of what they may personally feel about God. For me to “worship” God with a Sufi Muslim is already to compromise the Christian faith. But your key to understanding why the Emergent prophet Campolo can actually believe his contradictory views lies within the statement he makes that we “just preach the truth as we understand it.” This is the philosophy of postmodernism in a nutshell.

In his previously mentioned dissertation on the Emerging Church at the Shepherd’s Conference Phil Johnson gives a very good and succinct presentation of the Hegelian concept of truth held by virtually all of the leaders within the EC, and most particularly the exceptionally corrupt Emergent-US group headed by their deluded spiritual director Brian McLaren. Johnson correctly points out:

people in the emerging church movement often don’t hold the idea of propositional truth in very high regard. And this one of the key points many of them want to make: A proposition, by definition, is a premise that is either true or false. There is no third choice. (That is one of the most basic laws of logic, known as the law of the excluded middle.)

Postmodernists simply don’t like handling ideas with that kind of clarity. So there’s a tendency among emergent types to denigrate or devalue the very idea of propositional truth, logic, and rationality.

The Rebellion Against God’s Word

This is why I have attempted to narrow the issue of the Emerging Church down for you to its most basic proposition as a rebellion against the authority of the Bible. The rest of the EC is just various misrepresentations and distortions of the historic Christian faith as recaptured by the Reformers. Johnson even refers to the EC in the same terms as I have previously in that this movement (at best) is a reimagined neo-orthodoxy with “one of the key tenets” its inherent attack on propositional truth. And what Johnson correctly argues for us below is vital for the true Body of Christ to understand if we wish to counter-attack the Devil’s invasion of Christ’s precious Church which our Great God and Savior purchased with His Own Blood:

I would argue that the assault on propositional truth ultimately entails the abandonment of logic completely. It is an irrational idea. Francis Schaeffer said the same thing. He regarded neo-orthodoxy’s attack on propositional truth as the theological equivalent of suicide. He said when we abandon rationality in that way, we have crossed “the line of despair.” We might as well abandon the quest for truth itself. And in effect, that is the result of the postmodernist perspective.

If the Lord wills we will look at this another time, but for now suffice to say that any of us who have read books by EC leaders and engaged Emergents in dialogue will know that what Johnson has just told us is the spiritually putrifying consequence of believing postmodern philosophy. Let’s think this through: In the Gospel of John, Christ Jesus of Nazareth said – I am…the Truth” (see–14:6), the Master then informs us that He would send the Spirit of Truth to live within us (see–14:17) and finally a little further on Jesus tells us, as He speaks to the Father – “Thy Word Is Truth” (see–John 17:17). Are we really expected to believe that our Lord, Who often began statements with the phrase “I tell you the truth,” has now suddenly willed His Church to abandon its historic stance for the Truth?

But this is where the Emerging Church–ostensibly a “Christian” movement–would try to take us. The EC would wish us to follow them right into the nebulous new spirituality of subjective mystical experiences without the propositional and factual truth in Scripture necessary to test those experiences by. And Claiborne gives us further example of what invariably happens as we rely on these mystical feelings arrived at through the meditation of contemplative prayer. As he sets up the Emergent prophet Tony Campolo for his final comment disciple Claiborne remarks that it is so liberating to simply leave the “theological” part of the Gospel:

in the hands of the Spirit, and continue to live in a way that magnetizes people to God. Rabbi Michael Lerner…points to the many places that our faith traditions intersect, namely in calling us to work for justice and peace and reconciliation. Lerner says, “People of all faiths need to shape a political and social movement that reaffirms the most generous, peace-oriented, social justice-committed, and loving truths of the spiritual heritage of the human race. It is only this resurrection of hope that can save us from a new wave of global hatred.” (emphasis added)

True Christianity Is One Ultra Narrow Path

There is your old Social Gospel of liberal theology back from the theological scrapheap. To shed light on the error of leaving theology behind in favor of intersecting with other “faith traditions” for the sake of social goals I need only quote the famous agnostic and antagonist to the Christian faith, the late Robert Ingersol, who stated in many of his lectures against the faith authored by our Lord: “If this religion is true there is only one narrow path to Heaven…Christianity cannot live in peace with any other religion.” Sadly this unbeliever could see what pseudo-Christians such as the Emergent prophet Campolo and his deluded disciple Claiborne simply cannot.

As we near the end of this investigation into the errant Emergent message as delivered by Campolo note the emphasis on telling stories as opposed to sharing the Gospel. This is the flaw of acquiescence to our immature culture by the new evangelical leaders who lack the spiritual backbone to unabashedly stand for the absolute authority of the Word of the one true and living God revealed in Holy Scripture. And again Phil Johnson hits the mark spot on when he says:

the “emerging church movement” seems to be all about the conversion of the church, rather than the conversion of the sinner. In fact, I found little or no emphasis on conversion in any of more than a dozen books I read about the “emerging church movement”. (Sometimes, emerging church writers adopt the language of postmodern narcissism and talk about “recovery,” but that’s as close as they usually get to discussing conversion.) It is simply not a major theme of discussion in the emerging conversation.

This is a glaring flaw in a movement that calls itself “missional.” The true mission of the church is embodied in the gospel message and the Great Commission. It is truth that demands to be proclaimed with clarity, and authority and conviction, and if you refuse to do that, even if you insist you are being “missional,” you are not fulfilling the mission of the church at all.

We bring this look at the radical evangelical Emergent prophet Tony Campolo to a close now as Claiborne tells Campolo that the mystical Muslims “I know” are quite “interested in seeing another face of Christianity than that which they have encountered in the popular media.” And further says Caliborne this will happen “when we remove the layers that separate us from seeing the sacredness in every person, the image of God in them.” The way Claiborne sees it this “makes it harder for us to simply condemn them to Hell.” Then right on cue Campolo has the appropriate story to tell:

Rather than making theological statements, we need to tell each other our stories. Jesus would tell stories and then say, “what do you make of this story?” One more story.

In the city of Toledo, right in the middle of Spain in the year 1000, when the Inquisition was in high gear. Jews, Catholics, and Muslims in this little city had learned to live together and respect one another and love one another, and protect one another. And the Catholics would not let the Inquisition come in and hurt their Muslim or Jewish brothers and vice-versa the Muslims would not let the invading Muslim troops do anything to hurt the Catholics and Jews. They had found among each other a commonality and a common spirituality that was really quite remarkable.

There is a fellowship of kindred minds and you can’t deny it. And this is why C.S. Lewis asks the question, “Once I am connected with such a person in love: Could I possible enjoy heaven without him?”

Love Cannot Save Anyone

Notice that Campolo quotes Lewis because he agrees that people need only be “connected” to each other “in love,” not necessarily in Christ, for them to share “a common spirituality.” Claiborne then tells the Emergent prophet: “That’s a good word.” To which Campolo replies: “Yes, a real good word.” However ear-tickling this “word” might be, the answer to Lewis’ question above about having to enjoy Heaven without this person you love is: Well, if you never share the true Gospel with him then you’d better be prepared to enjoy “heaven without him” because he isn’t going to be there. Our love for someone does not save them.

I leave you with two examples from the life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth as irrefutable proof. Do you possibly think you can love more than God Himself? Consider this from the account of the Master’s dealing with the man who has become known to us as the “rich young ruler.”

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:21-23)

And finally, how about this eyewitness account from the Apostle Matthew as Jesus prepared to enter His beloved Jerusalem:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate.” (Matthew 23:37-38)

So how about we love our fellow man and those in other faith traditions enough to tell them the Truth…as kindly, as gently, as tenderly as possible…but tell them we must…

See also: