Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end. (Psalm 102:25-27, NASB)

So Just Where Would All Of This Be Going?

Last time Apprising Ministries mentioned in Brian McLaren And Evangelical Panentheism that while we have become accustomed to our version of almost Spirit-less comfortable Christianity, through the Trojan Horse of the egregiously ecumenical Emerging Church aka Emergent Church—morphing into Emergence Christianity—(EC), the enemy has come right into the mainstream camp and unloaded a new version of modern theology aka liberalism—a postmodern theology i.e. postliberalism—complete with a reinterpreted social gospel.

This is why we see Brian McLaren Of Emerging Church To Celebrate Ramadan, and the EC as a whole, is also furthering the kind of lunacy in the Lord’s Name you’ll find within Jesus Died For Our Reptilian Brain. But there’s also a deeper goal the so-called “postmoderns” are being conditioned to accept through what might appear on the surface to be harmless enough; and that would be the evangelical acceptance of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) ala Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster, which from its inception, the EC has been pushing.

With an able assist from Foster’s spiritual twin Dallas Willard, this spurious CSM has been foisted upon younger unsuspecting mainstream evangelicals as a highly subjective Spiritual Formation. As Dr. Gary Gilley has pointed out, this Spiritual Formation System Of Richard Foster Was Derived From Counter-Reformation Mystics. And Bob DeWaay has correctly revealed—through his work at Critical Issues Commentary—that this whole idea of some supposed “Inward Journey” Espoused By Richard Foster Is Actually A Form Of Divination deeply rooted in pagan eastern spirituality.

What this spurious CSM is moving men like Brian McLaren, as well as others in the EC, toward would be a New Age/New Light form of panentheism; and with it, the belief in some warped version of theosis—a Higher Self—a supposed “Inner Light” and/or spark of God already within all of mankind, where on some level man is also divine. And the false doctrines of theosis and panentheism do have an unquestionably nullifying effect on the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ—our great God and Savior—as you can see e.g. in Brian McLaren And Theosis.

Theosis And Panentheism Have Nothing To Do With Biblical Christianity

In my mind “Evangelical Panentheism” is an oxymoron, which is I’ve used this title for our examination of these issues. And yet evangelicals still continue to embrace the vague, vacuous, and almost eerie, doctrine taught by such as McLaren—and which is even beginning to surface in his disciple Rob Bell—easily the Elvis of this Emergence. No doubt some Christians, with a fair amount of Biblical knowledge, following this series as it unfolds have been scratching their heads and asking: What in the world does panentheism have to do with evangelicalism? Ah, the truth is…absolutely nothing!

At this point it seems appropriate to first show you where McLaren’s teaching is leading us, and from where, it actually comes. Then we would be in a good position later to go into the Bible itself and to work our way back from there. By the time we are finished, Lord willing, the reader will understand that even while McLaren appears to be a very personable man the facts will show that he is not leading people (whether he knows it or not) to Jesus Christ of Nazareth. The truth will be told; it’s actually quite the contrary, and the eternal destiny of those following men like McLaren hang in the balance.

Where we’re going with this investigation of the doctrine of these EC leaders will unfortunately take us into that metaphysical void of a bankrupt neo-Gnostic New Age/New Light spirituality. And these men e.g. McLaren, his friend Leonard Sweet, and panentheistic Living Spiritual Teacher and “Progessive Christian” scholar Marcus Borg, know exactly what they are doing. For example from Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic we have Sweet who tells us:

A surprisingly central feature of all the world’s religions is the language of light in communicating the divine and symbolizing the union of the human with the divine: Muhammed’s light-filled cave, Moses’ burning bush, Paul’s blinding light, Fox’s “inner light,” Krishna’s Lord of Light, Böhme’s light-filled cobbler shop, Plotinus’ fire experiences, Bodhisattvas with the flow of Kundalini’s fire erupting from their fontanelles, and so on.53 (236) 

Note here that, right in line with classic liberalism, Sweet’s laboring to bring “all the world religions” to some alleged common ground as if this supposed “inner light” and the alleged “union of the human with the divine” of Quantum Spirituality have any real place in Biblical Christianity; they don’t. However, as I pointed out previously, to one who adheres to panentheism all religions would have validity because they are made up of people who were originally created within God. One might use the analogy of a large window, which in its completeness, would then be likened to God.

If we were to shatter the window, all of the pieces of broken glass would no longer be united to the Whole i.e. God, but they would not then cease to be made of glass. So bringing forth the analogy to religion, for the person who holds to the doctrine of panentheism (means “all in God”), each religion is thought to contain some truth since it’s adherents were all created within God. Perhaps now you’ll have a better idea of what quasi-universalist EC “pastor” Doug Pagittis talking about when he tells us that the Emerging Church is excited about the propect of finding God “in the Other.”

Those Who Will Turn The Faith Into Mythology Are Arriving Within Evangelicalism

You may recall that Brian McLaren wrote a book called A New Kind Of Christian; and that Pagitt’s latest book is A Christianity Worth Believing, while his “theologian in residence” Tony Jones has one called The New Christians. As such the idea here is that by the time we’re through examining this aspect of the theology of the EC, with their “new kind” of Christianity “worth believing” for the “new Christians,” we pray you’ll be able to see that these neo-Gnostics—surfacing within most sections of the EC—are actually attempting to return us to the single oldest lie in the Book.

The truth is, their father Lucifer once pridefully boasted: “I will make myself like the Most High”(Isaiah 14:14). And Satan is succeeeding in doing just that right now through the work of men like McLaren and Sweet, with Bell for the youth. You need to understand these seducing spirits with their doctrines of devils have penetrated much deeper into the mainstream of evangelicalism than you may even think. However, for now, we do catch a glimpse of where this “Christian” mysticism is going to lead us on page 221 of The Sacred Way (TSW) by leading EC spokesman Tony Jones.

Keep in mind that no less an EC spiritual authority than Brian McLaren lavishes praise as upon TSW as “a sturdy introduction to contemplative practices.” In A short List of Christian spiritual classics in TSW by Jones we find the Collected Worksof Meister Eckhart. Jones informs us that Eckhart’s work is:

a mystical treatise on the intersection between Greek philosophy and Christian theology with an emphasis on God’s indwelling of humanity. (emphasis added) 

Completely consistent with false prophet George Fox—founder the heretical Quakers—we have a patent denial of regeneration, which is the work of God the Holy Spirit in the genuine born again believer in Christ. And interestingly enough this idea of an “inner light” or “spark of the divine” within all of mankind would even appear to surface below in the following quote from a document called Gaudium et Spes that was produced by the Second Vatican Council of the apostate Roman Catholic Church:

Therefore, this sacred synod, proclaiming the noble destiny of man and championing the Godlike seed which has been sown in him, offers to mankind the honest assitance of the Church in fostering that the brotherhood of all men. which corresponds to this destiny of theirs. (Online source

In moving away from this topic for now, let me inform the reader that for the purpose of our discussion here we will set up the definition of panentheism as it is defined by those with whom Brian McLaren is—at the very least—influenced by. But before we do I wish to bring to your attention that, combined as it all is with the tangential issues of the whole Emerging/ent/ence Church itself, here we have one of the clearest cases in the long and sordid history of the Christian Church of the fulfillment of the following Scriptures:

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

Let’s Clearly Understand That Opposition Does Not Equate To Disrespect

For a few years now I’ve personally felt led to study issues concerning the EC, and especially, its core doctrine of CSM. Many people forget that McLaren is on the record as saying Foster and Willard are “key mentors” of the EC; and CSM is their shtick. I’ve spoken personally with, read books from, and listened to sermons/podcasts by, men involved with the EC. And as I have also been monitoring websites within the EC, it’s become very apparent that their doctrines simply cannot be supported by the text of the Bible; nor were their mystic musings ever advanced by proper Christian sources.

As such these people are then left with no other choice but to turn to influences outside of mainstream Protestant evangelical doctrine and to highly subjective existential experiences culled from their practice of CSM for their doctrine. To my mind, with this EC, we have a classic case of “don’t confuse me with the facts; I’ve already made up my mind.” And since this particular expose is directed primarily toward Brian McLaren we will look first at what the people he has chosen to surround himself with have to say on the issues we are covering. His associations are really quite revealing. 

The main point here being that just because we can find neo-orthodox and liberal scholars who will deny the same things we also wish to deny, and just because we can find some rather obscure “Desert Fathers and Mothers” who attempted to practice eastern mysticism within a Christian context, it does not really change the actual witness of history concerning these critical matters. Permit me to quote McLaren at this point from his book The Secret Message of Jesus concerning an issue upon which he and I are actually agreed:

A lot of people say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, as long as you are sincere.” I’d like to challenge that belief. Believing untrue things puts you at odds with reality and can prove downright destructive. For example, try believing–however sincerely– that you have an exemption from gravity that allows you to step off tall buildings or that traffic signals don’t apply to you… and reality will quite forcefully come smashing in, contrary to your beliefs with reality during a long hospital stay. But what I want to say–clearly–that it is tragic for anyone, especially anyone affiliated with the religion named after Jesus, not to be clear about what Jesus’s message actually was (6, 7, emphasis mine).

If only McLaren would have followed his own advice not to believe “untrue things” instead of turning to those who would simply reinforce what he had apparently already chosen to believe. The more I have studied these issues surrounding McLaren, and the EC where he’s highly influential, the more the following Scripture come to mind — always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth(2 Timothy 3:7). Now it’s important to note that many of the scholars who are becoming more and more prominent in our discussion here are indeed first rate and formidible in their respective fields.

People around this EC like Leonard Sweet, Sallie McFague, N.T. Wright, Marcus Boyd, and even McLaren himself, are obviously very gifted theologians and/or teachers. This has never been the issue, and in our sappy sentimental effeminized culture we have forgotten that to oppose someone does not imply disrespect for their skills at all. As a matter of fact, my final year as a high school head football coach my boys won the award for the team that best exemplified sportsmanship on the field because I had always taught them to have the utmost respect for those they should come up against.

No, what we are dealing with here is simply an opposition to what these people are trying to teach in the Name of the Master and then passing off to the world as Christian. As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ I have a duty to vehemently oppose anything that sets itself up in opposition to the Glory that is due to Him alone. And this I will do unashamedly, with all the power at work within me, for as long as Christ chooses to sustain me. For those who know me will often hear me say: It’s to the end; for today is as good a day as any other to die in battle for our great God and King.

So This Is So-Called “Evangelical” Panentheism

We’ll wrap up this second part with a look at the doctrine of panentheism as defined by McLaren’s “good friend” Len Sweet whom McLaren has told us made him “a better pastor and a better Christian” with his “brilliant and stimulating work.” I previously covered Sweet’s views on panentheism in Emergence Christianity: Quantum Shift To Panentheism and what you’ll see below from Sweet is actually gleaned in large part from “creation spirituality” ala New Age mystic Matthew Fox; it has about as much affinity with historic Christianity as the comic section of a Sunday Morning newspaper.

By way of preparing the reader, we note that in Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern ApologeticSweet tells us that the “New Light apologetic chronicled in this book is devoted to enfranchising and energizing Christians to connect their faith with the indigenous historical place in which God has chosen them to live” (1). Before we get to what Sweet will tells us about the nature of this “God” and His creation, his quote on page 2 from “looking-glass physicist/philosopher David Bohm” certainly fits what you are about to read below, “you have to be ready to consider some strange ideas.”

Sweet has a bit more background for us as to where his Quantum Spirituality of “New Light” originates:

I am calling the New Light apologetic. It is already present in bits and pieces, here and there in this discipline and that discipline, in this denomination and that denomination, in this thinker and that thinker. The New Light apologetic represents a Christian alternative to the largely Old Light “New Age” movement.

The emergence of this New Light apologetic is a harbinger and hope that anew, age-old world is aborning in the church, even that the church may now be on the edge of another awakening. Amidst all the cliffhanging circumstances and conditions of the church, the Spirit is at work. All around there is evidence that the church is learning to dance to a new rhythm, to adapt the metaphor of Harvard Business School professor/economist Rosabeth Moss Kanter.

The New Light movement is characterized by bizarre, sometimes anxious alliances of a ragbag assortment of preachers, theologians, pastors, professors, artists, scientists, business leaders, and scholars.What ties their creative piracy together is a radical faith commitment that is willing to dance to a new rhythm. (7)

As we set up our definition of panentheism, there’s no doubt that this emerging New Light “Christian alternative” to the New Age movement is bizarre all right. And especially so as we now listen to our postmodern apologist of this new (false) spirituality Leonard Sweet explain to us what panentheism is. He will actually tell us below that God created this universe as a literal and living part of Himself:

Quantum spirituality bonds us to all creation as well as to other members of the human family. New Light pastors are what Arthur Peacocke calls “priests of creation”70–earth ministers who can relate the realm of nature to God, who can help nurture a brother-sister relationship with the living organism called Planet Earth. This entails a radical doctrine of embodiment of God in the very substance of creation.

The OxfordDictionary of the Chnctian Church (1974) (sic) identifies the difference between pantheism and pan-entheism: Pantheism is “the belief or theory that God and the universe are identical”; panentheism is “the belief that the Being of God includes and penetrates the whole universe, so that every part of it exists in Him, but. . . that His Being is more than, and is not exhausted by, the Universe.”77 New Light spirituality does more than settle for the created order, as many forms of New Age pantheism do. But a spirituality that is not in some way entheistic (whether pan– or trans-), that does not extend to the spirit-matter of the cosmos, is not Christian. A quantum spirituality can in no way define God out of existence (124).

Sweet is quite right; it doesn’t define God out of existence, but it does follow suit with the Humpty Dumptytheme of the Emergent Church and  just simply redefines Him. As I have mentioned a few times now you will constantly see the prefix “re” in EC literature. As we continue our look at the oxymoron that is evangelical panenetheism in Part Three we’ll see this doctrine in the writings of both Sallie McFague and Marcus Borg as well. In addition we’ll also *ahem* re-examine some of McLaren’s work, most particularly A Generous Orthodoxy, now that we have idea of what we’re looking for.

You see, what we need to remember here, is that with a panentheistic world view we would see mankind as already sharing God’s divinity because he would literally be a part of God. Then, with this kind of wrong understanding, we would also believe that God already dwells within all men because they are actually a part of His Own Body by creation. And this is why Brian McLaren, Alan Jones, and others within Emergence Christianity, so quickly and easily deny the vicarious penal substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ on the Cross in favor of a type of universal at-one-ment.

The reason being, many in the EC are now turning to Christian universalist Jurgen Moltmann and his fantasy “Theology of Hope” for their eschatology (study of the end times). For example Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt, whom we mentioned earlier, formed a production company and together are putting on next month’s EC Theological Conversation with Jurgen Moltmann. Now consider the following from Emerging Toward Convergence by the research team at Herescope:

Pastor [Bob] DeWaay identifies Jürgen Moltmann’s book, Theology of Hope, first published in 1964, as a seminal document forming a foundation for the Emergent Church movement’s revisionist, evolutionary eschatology…

[And t]he root theology undergirding all Emergent eschatology is evolution. A generation ago, certain Christian leaders took the ideas of Moltmann and began to fill in the outlines for his “theology of hope.” They also got their ideas from a group of so-called “secular” futurists, who happened to hold a Teilhardian evolutionary worldview.[11]Today we might classify these futurists as New Agers.

Modern Emergents hold a remarkably similar worldview to these early futurists. Phyllis Tickle, in her book The Great Emergence, writes approvingly of Darwin’s evolution theory, saying that it was “the tipping point that sent us careening off into new cultural, social, political, and theological territory” (p. 64)… (Online source

In Mysticism Melds Muslim Mystics To Tony Campolo And Emergence Christianity you’ll see this EC marries the science of emergence theory to their CSM while envisioning some coming evolution up into higher state of consciousness. Sadly, such as these are actually sucuuming to the New Age/New Light myth that all we need to do to have peace on this planet is to get people to understand that they are really one with each other and the Sacred i.e. God; a postliberalism advancing a re-interpreted Fatherhood of God and Brotherhood of Man in a Global Family as the divine children of God.

See also: