They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and clasp hands with pagans. (Isaiah 2:6)

Having A Form Of Godliness

As I previously pointed out in Shane Hipps Exposed at the beginning of this clip below from the September 23 Fighting for the Faith (F4tF) program of Christian apologist Chris Rosebrough, which airs on his Pirate Christian Radio network, Rosebrough reminds us that recently Hipps preached a whacked-out sermon at Mars Hill Bible Church about the “spiritual discipline of silence.” If you don’t know, “silence” is mystic-speak for Contemplative/Centering Prayer, which is meditation in an altered state of consciousness i.e. transcendental meditation-lite for the Christian.

You may also recall that Apprising Ministries has introduced you to Hipps, lead pastor of Trinity Mennonite Church—a missional, urban, Anabaptist congregation, in posts such as Shane Hipps And Rob Bell Teaching Heresy and Shane Hipps: Osama Bin Laden Indwelt By Holy Spirit. I’ve also told you that Hipps is “a beloved friend” of Rob Bell, easily the Elvis of the egregiously ecumenical Emerging Church aka Emergent Church de-formation of the Christian faith—now morphing into Emergence Christianity—(EC).

In that latter post mentioned above I included a video of Bell as he introduces his good friend Shane Hipps at the 2009 Zondervan National Pastors Convention in San Diego. You hear Hipps expounding upon the idea that the methods may change, but the message remains the same; in fact, Hipps even says:

Tell me this is not the foundation-bedrock upon which we undertsand why we can inovate the way we do as evangelicals. We work very very hard to innovate our methods, but we want to preserve that—sort of—unchanging Gospel message; can I get an amen? (1:23-1:38)

But, as I said before, this is precisely the issue with these EC teachers like Bell and Hipps; the message that they are preaching as the “unchanging Gospel” is not at all in line with historic orthodox Christianity. With this in mind then, it’s important to note that in the clip below Rosebrough also tells us of a couple of phone conversations he’s personally had with Shane Hipps, “basically encouraging him to come on to the program, and explain his theology.” Unfortunately Hipps has declined; however, Rosebrough does tell us:

In the course of my conversations, come to find out that, he believes that the reason why Jesus came was to, “awaken us to the breath of God that is within us; awaken us to the spark of the divine that is within us.”

I also brought to your attention last time Rosebroughs shares that Hipps told him, “salvation is when Jesus came to awaken us to the breath of God [i.e. pneuma] within us.” Those familiar with the Quakers will recognize this as consistent with their myth of the “inner light.” Like I said before, as one who’s background is in Comparative Religion, and from my personal study of corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism—from sources within many religious systems—I can tell you again that what you’ll hear is also right in line with the classic delusion mystics eventually receive.

That’s why I told you they speak of this experience using words like “enlightenment” and ”transformation,” Buddhists call it “satori,” but the result is always the same—and is stated along this line: I was filled with an overwhelming sense of God’s presence/love, and I then realized I was one with Him/it, as well as with the creation itself—which for many of these mystics is also alive and dwelling in God i.e. panentheism. The problem here is EC preachers like Hipps and Bell are claiming all of this mystic foolishness is in line with Christianity, when what they really are involved in is a neo-Gnosticism.

The second sermon review begins at 39:14, and as with the prior piece, the transcription of Enlightment follows below so that you can also read this counter-biblical teaching for yourself. In simple terms, what Hipps is preaching is Gnosticism; gnosis being the Greek word for “knowledge.” Gnostics go beyond Scripture for “more”; in other words, as you’ll see such as these teach that you need to come into their special spiritual knowledge in order to really experience God ala Eastern meditation. Gnostics tell you of “hidden dimensions” and things you need to be practicing:

the Gospel of John is primarily interested in the inner or hidden dimensions of the gospel…this God comes to enlighten….everyone… Enlightenment is the inner experience of being subsumed in the very light of God in your deepest part of your being…an awareness that you are totally enlightened…let me offer this one, little practice…

It’s a beautiful thing, but it requires some practice. Here’s how we do it…it’s very simple: Silent prayer…is when you go to a silent place and then you quiet the mind; and you don’t say anything to God…you just “be”…very little in the mind helps you deepen your awareness of your spirit…this is a way of deepening your awareness to experience this inner, vast well of God’s enlightenment…

So,…all you’re doing is watching your thoughts… You cannot observe your thoughts without having a place to go, and that space is the space of the spirit…it takes a long time… The point is to practice it; just to keep getting your spirit in a habit of learning how to receive this enlightenment…[where] you are bathed in “radiant light,”…

The sermon transcribed below, preached October 19, 2008 by Shane Hipps, is called Enlightenment:

Some of you have noted that I’m very secure in my masculinity because I’m wearing pink this morning. I’ll have you know I feel a little bit “had”, the salesperson told me this is “strawberry.” (Audience laughter) Cause I am undoubtedly not secure enough to wear pink, so this is strawberry in case anybody wants to take issue with it. 

Uh, hey…this morning we’re kicking off…well we’re not kicking off anything…we’re continuing on our series in the Gospel of John. If you were here two weeks ago I started it off, and let me just give you a couple of reminders about the Gospel of John so that we’re all kind of one the same page. The Gospel of John is different from the other three gospels in that the Gospel of John (Aside) Hello! (Audience laughter) is delightful (aside)…you have a wonderful smile… 

Umm, the Gospel of John is primarily interested in the inner or hidden dimensions of the gospel. The Gospel of John spends a lot of time talking about very abstract things that are not tangible and concrete in the same way that some of the other gospels do. So, what you have is the inner dimension of the gospel that’s being explored and one of the things that John does is he kicks off (we did this two weeks ago), right off the bat he kicks off his whole gospel with a discussion of something called the “logos” (you remember this?). The logos…it’s the Greek word behind the word, “word.” Whew! Okay, remember? You translate logos as word, but that’s really not what the logos means. So, “In the beginning was the logos, the logos was with God, and the logos was God.” Logos is this Greek idea…this Greek concept for…and a Greek name for the animating principle of the whole universe. 

So for the ancient Greeks, logos was always defined by two primary images: fire and breath. That’s how they tried to explain this mysterious, abstract thing called the logos…fire and breath; and fire, is a symbol of light and breath is a symbol of life. So the logos is the light and life of the world according to the Greeks. And along comes John and he says, “That logos became flesh in the person of Jesus Christ.” Okay, that’s this whole, abstract, theological stuff that we did last week or two weeks ago. 

Umm…what’s fascinating is John uses this word logos, which to the Jewish imagination…to his primary audience…very, very strange…they don’t have a category for the logos in the same way that the Greeks did. So it’s fascinating that John uses that…and he’s writing largely to Jews. And not only is that fascinating, he abandons that word after verse fourteen – you’ll never see it again in the rest of the gospel. Logos goes away…vanishes…like nothing…what? Wait a minute…you just said that the logos is and you never talk about the logos anymore? And the reason is because the logos became flesh…it didn’t ever un-become flesh…it became flesh fully. And so, Jesus then is the word he used to describe logos. He uses two other words; light and life. So all throughout the Gospel of John (if you’ve read all four gospels you’ll notice that’s one of the primary distinctions), Gospel of John talks about light and life in ways that the other gospels don’t; so these images of light and life…light is basically the equivalent of the logos. I just…I’m trying to transition us out of logos now into light and life as images. Okay? Are you with me? Following? Terrific. 

Let’s jump in and we’ll read. We’re gonna’ start in verse six. You’ll notice lots of references to light. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John (this is John the Baptist). He came as a witness to testify to the light so that all might believe through him. He himself was not that light (that is John was not the light), but he came to testify to the light; the true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” 

So, the gospel wants to make very clear that John the Baptist is not the light, he’s not the Messiah, he’s not the guy you should be looking at…he’s the guy pointing at the light whose going to come into the world. And there’s a little phrase in there that says, “The true light that will give light to everyone.” It’s a beautiful, beautiful little statement. The literal translation of that would be, “the true light that enlightens.” So to give light is the Greek word photizo and that would be “to enlighten”. A more literal translation is “enlighten”…the true light that enlightens everybody; not just those who believe, not just those who trust it, not just those who want it…everybody…whether you know it or not, or want it or not, or believe it or not…Jesus came to enlighten us. (Chris’ comments)…and is enlightening us in this very moment right now; the true light that enlightens everyone. It’s this universalizing gospel transcending all barriers in the world to (Chris’ comments) say this God comes to enlighten….everyone…even the people you despise; God came to enlighten. 

So, enlightenment…uh, it’s not a word we use a lot in the Christian tradition. The other traditions use the word enlightenment all the time, but for Christians enlightenment is not a very common word that gets used; we use a different word to describe the same, basic thing. So enlightenment means basically the same thing…this will be (uh, we‘ll walk through this) as the word discipleship. (Chris’ comments) We use the concept of discipleship to describe what John is talking about enlightenment. Now, here’s how it’s different, though; discipleship (the word disciple means a “learner” or a “student”). A disciple is someone who tries to learn and act like or imitate a master. A disciple is someone who looks like their master (or tries to anyway)…to mirror, and mimic, and imitate their master. (Chris’ comments) So discipleship is the external act of expressing the visible virtues in our world…visible virtues like: peace making, justice, forgiveness, compassion, service — that’s discipleship…you with me? Follow me…good that’s discipleship. 

Enlightenment is the internal experience of the external practice, okay?  So, if discipleship is the external practice, enlightenment is the inner condition that animates that practice. Enlightenment is the inner experience of being subsumed in the very light of God in your deepest part of your being…an awareness that you are totally enlightened. (Chris’ comments) Subsumed in the very light of God and that enlightened experience animates discipleship. Now, let me clarify something; umm…you can be a disciple without every having experienced enlightenment…without ever becoming aware of how enlightened you really are. You can absolutely become a disciple; in fact, its how discipleship starts. It starts just by imitating…the external behaviors. 

When I was in fifth grade, I went to a church camp where I became a Christian, and I met a counselor (he was my camp counselor, his name was Chris Pope) and I am convinced Chris Pope was the coolest guy that ever walked the face of the earth. And you know what? It’s true, he actually is the coolest guy that ever walked the face of the earth…and all of you who think you are? You’re not; its Chris Pope…turns out. (Audience laughter) I have empirical research. Uh, Chris Pope…this guy was amazing. He was like so nice to everybody, he was extremely athletic, incredibly good looking – all the girls wanted him — and so I said, “I want to be like him” that’s how spiritual I was. (Audience laughter) It’s just how it works, right? So I say, “I want to be like that!” And he didn’t drink, smoke, swear, have sex…so I said, “Great, I’ll just do that – whatever he does, I’ll do.” That’s the extent of how spiritual I was. I started out saying, “Oh, I’ll imitate whatever he does.”  And it’s the same thing that happens in the life of a disciple. When you meet Jesus and you see Him for the first time you go, “Oh, I like this guy, I think He’s on to something, I kinda’ wanna’ be like this guy, Jesus…I’m just gonna’ imitate whatever He does;” even if it has nothing to do with who you really are. Like you may be a really angry, aggressive person, but you see that Jesus doesn’t respond, retaliate in the face of aggression and so you…inside you might just be furious, but you’re going to go, “No, I’m going to pretend that everything’s fine…I’m not going to respond…I’m not going to react” that’s sort of what discipleship starts out as – practicing the external habits, okay? 

This uh, reminds me a lot of a story. In 2005, you guys uh, during the tsunami…the tsunami in Asia is this story (you may have heard this story before) of a wildlife preserve team in Kenya was helicoptering over a beach and they found a little, baby hippo that had lost its mother in the tsunami. And they saw the hippo and they said, “Well, he’s going to die if he doesn’t have a mother, so we’re going to put him in the wildlife preserve,” which they did. And the little, baby hippo found a 100-year old male turtle and imprinted to that turtle as its mother. (Shows pictures) And it’s adorable isn’t it? I mean, I got the oohs and the ahh’s, right…a cute little hippo following the turtle…I mean, isn’t that sweet? See some other pictures (Aww c’mon…if you don’t give me an “ahhh” you’re heartless) Alright? (Audience laughter) Oh! That’s adorable…oh c’mon…how sweet is that? One more….this is the best one. (Audience: “Ahh”) Thank you…thank you. Any of you who didn’t “Ah” or “Oh” you should be ashamed of yourselves. Check your pulse…that’s totally adorable (laughing). 

Okay, so that’s just a cheap trick to make you feel good about me because that’s cute. (Audience laughter) Um…here’s the deal; so the hippo (not only did it just sort of need an emotional attachment) the hippo actually tried to act like the turtle, despite some biological challenges with that, right? Kinda’ hard, but none-the-less the hippo was trying to act like this turtle even though they have nothing in common other than like four paws (right); so very, very different creatures. That’s sort of how discipleship starts; you start out by saying, “I want to follow that turtle” (who happens to be Jesus).

Jesus is a turtle…who knew? (Chris’ comments) Umm…so anyway, you get the point here…this is how it works. Enlightenment, what John is talking about is uh…inviting us to the next level of discipleship. (Chris’ comments) Necessary important part of discipleship just imitating Jesus; there’s another level – a deeper level, a higher level, a wider level and John is talking about it…and it’s “enlightenment.”  Enlightenment (the experience of being enlightened) is when something un…un-impossible happens. It’s like God takes some um…DNA and does a DNA transplant of the hippo and actually infuses the hippo with turtle DNA and all of the sudden the hippo is now a turtle. And so now that it acts like a turtle…it’s just a natural thing it’s acting like a turtle because it IS a turtle. 

Okay, this is what’s so powerful and profound and often missed in the beauty of this Christian tradition; is that when Jesus came into the world and said, “I am the light of the world and I come to enlighten EVERYONE” and then he turns around in Matthew and says, “You are the light of the world,” he’s saying that at the deepest part of who you are – your deepest identity – is utterly bathed, subsumed and fused in the same light that Jesus was subsumed in. (Chris’ comments) 

You have the same DNA as God. You have the same DNA as Jesus. (Chris’ comments) The more that people move from just the externals (which are beautiful) to also an inner experience, an inner awareness of your enlightened state…the more the external things become habit; they become automatic, they become what you do because that’s just who you are…you don’t even think about them anymore. (Chris’ comments) So…discipleship is the external act and enlightenment is internal transformation; external imitation…internal transformation. Do you see the difference? Okay. And, it’s possible to do one without the other and it isn’t even necessary that you have to do both; no one’s saying you have to do both. It’s just there if you want it. (Chris’ comments) So if you just like imitating Jesus…great! Or, if you’re just trying to figure out this whole Jesus thing…fine! Imitate Jesus…try and figure it out. But, if you want more…you want something transformative, then John is inviting us to enlightenment; to a direct experience of something that already is at your core. Okay. (Chris’ comments) Are you with me? Great. We’re gonna’ talk about how that happens. 

Here’s another way to think about discipleship and enlightenment; they kind of exist in two different domains of our existence. Discipleship is something that happens mostly in the mind and the body; like when you’re doing kind of discipleship-type of things…when you’re trying to become a student and a learner of Jesus…you’re doing a lot of work with your mind (like your intellect), you’re trying to think about things in the right way…you’re trying to read about Jesus in a certain way…you’re trying to understand what you’re doing now (right now) as kind of one of these mind exercises; and then you’re also trying to act like Jesus. You’re trying to get in the habit of practicing these very generous, compassionate things…beautiful, wonderful, necessary…mind and body is where discipleship is. 

What John is talking about is in the realm of enlightenment.  He is talking primarily about “being” – not thinking or doing, but being; and being is the domain of spirit. Spirit goes beyond thinking and doing and thinking and feeling; spirit is beyond those things…bigger than those things…deeper than those things. Spirit is at the center of who you are. (Chris’ comments) And enlightenment is the experience of suddenly becoming aware that you are that at your deepest place – that you are one with God that you are…(Chris’ comments)…bathed in the light of God. 

Hey, so this is nice and abstract and interesting and ethereal. This is far more immediate and concrete than I think most of us realize. Every single one of us in this room has experienced enlightenment…this being “bathed” in the light of God (we just may not call it that). If you’ve ever had an experience of just “peace”…just inner tranquility…for no reason or maybe it’s because you’re on a beach somewhere on vacation…just inner peace – that is enlightenment. If you’ve ever felt incredible love for someone else – that is enlightenment; that’s an awareness of your deepest identity what you offer. If you’ve ever felt healing take place in you, some wound you had is now no longer affecting you — that is enlightenment; very, very regular everyday stuff – it’s always happening. It’s like a flash of lightening that illuminates the entire sky and everything around it, and then disappears just as fast. And it’s a gift – it just comes – and it’s a given (Chris’ comments) then you have it…then it kind of disappears.  And here’s the beautiful thing – there is a way to stabilize that lightening bolt (Chris’ comments) There is a way for that experience of enlightenment…of being bathed in the light of God…there is a way for that to be stabilized in your life rather than just intermittent gifts that sort of pop up accidentally whenever (I guess) God decides or our spirit accidentally finds itself in that position. (Chris’ comments) There is a way to do that…and I just want to give you one way (there are thousands of ways to do it) I’ll just give you one this morning. (Chris’ comments)  

Umm…here’s how to think about this; if…if someone wanted to pour water into your hands, you could either receive that water with an open hand or a clenched fist, right? (Chris’s comments) The water’s going to be poured either way, it’s just a matter of how much you catch and retain; how you position your hands is how much you catch and retain, okay? Well there’s a way to position your spirit as an open hand to receive this always, already enlightened gift. (Chris’ comments) God is always pouring this gift of enlightenment out…always. And we have a practice we can do that can open our spirit and posture it in such a way to receive it…to catch it…to taste it, okay?  So let me offer this one, little practice and then we’ll close…and my invitation to you is try this for like, five minutes a day. If you want that experience (you don’t have to have it) (Chris’ comments)…it’s not a mandatory thing, it’s just there if you want it. (Chris’ comments) It’s a beautiful thing, but it requires some practice. 

Here’s how we do it…it’s very simple: Silent prayer (Chris’ comments). Silent prayer (Chris’ comments), aww that sounds innovative, doesn’t it (laughs)? Let me just clarify by what I mean by silent prayers; silent prayer is not going into a room where nobody is talking and then expressing your inner monologue to God. That’s a form of prayer – it’s a good form of prayer, nothing wrong with it – it’s just not what I mean by silent prayer. Silent prayer is when you go to a silent place and then you quiet the mind; and you don’t say anything to God…you just “be.” (Chris’ comments) 

Now, if any of you have ever tried this, you know it’s totally maddening (laughs) to try to just stop thinking, right? And because we all know that’s pretty much impossible because the mind is like a frantic monkey bouncing around on the inside of your brain, and trying to calm that is crazy…the practice (the actual way to do this best) is to just learn to watch your thoughts; don’t try to control them, don’t try to contain them, don’t resist them and don’t retain them…welcome them and watch them and then wave good-bye. Here’s what happens: it’s about taking whatever you’re doing…you sit there in your mind (you quiet yourself) (Chris’ comments) and then all of the sudden thoughts start streaming everywhere and your only job is to take one step back and watch them happen; like clouds moving through the sky. Sounds really strange…I’ll tell you why it’s really important, though. Remember, I said that discipleship is about the mind and the body and enlightenment is experienced in the spirit; this is a practice that gives you distance from the mind…much needed (Chris’ comments)…very little in the mind helps you deepen your awareness of your spirit. The mind is constantly, frantically moving and keeping you above the fray. So this is a way of deepening your awareness to experience this inner, vast well of God’s enlightenment. 

So, all you do is you sit there – take five minutes and practice it – and it will be very strange initially, but all you’re doing is watching your thoughts. I can’t believe she just said that to me…I’m really hungry…Wow, I want to stop doing this…This seems so pointless…What am I doing here…(Chris’ comments)…whatever your thoughts it doesn’t even matter…Wow, I’m really angry…(Chris’ comments)…just watch them, and here’s why; in order to watch your thoughts you have to get distance, and when you get distance, when you observe your thoughts, here’s what the most amazing thing is: the position from which you observe those thoughts is the domain of the spirit. (Chris’ comments) You cannot observe your thoughts without having a place to go, and that space is the space of the spirit. And, if you rest in that space long enough, in that very moment you’ve positioned your hands like this…that’s all. (Chris’ comments)  

Now, you may not experience anything dramatic or overwhelming or anything…it takes a long time…sometimes it happens immediately, sometimes it can take years, sometimes people go 30 minutes like this…or five minutes…or whatever. The point is to practice it; just to keep getting your spirit in a habit of learning how to receive this enlightenment. (Chris’ comments) Getting distance from the mind, which makes a lot of us suffer,  does it not? The mind, isn’t it maddening sometimes…just can’t stop it from moving? (Chris’ comments

So, my hope is you take this (there’s millions of other practices like this, I just chose one to…it’s going to work for some of you, some of you it won’t, there are other ways to do this), but (Chris’ comments) I offer it (Chris’ comments) concretely because I don’t want to leave here without having the opportunity to experience that enlightenment. My great hope is that everyone of us in here will become fully aware of this fundamental fact that you are bathed in “radiant light,” and it beams from within and upon you at all times; and in the midst of a very, very troubling world there is this space of infinite enlightenment – a gift for you – to animate you to bless the world.

See also: