Hopefully you, like I, have been disgusted by Oprah Winfrey’s smattering about “New Spirituality” all over the airwaves and Internet. But at least, you think, we can still count on churches to discern and repudiate such nonsense. If you think so, you’re, sadly, very, very wrong.
A select, highly influential segment of the church buys into this contemporary spiritual mush and reconstitutes it in Christian-ese. These prophets of Newness are building the Emergent Church, a loose and dangerous collection of liberal churches that have overlaid New Age Spirituality with Christian terminology. My friend and Worldview Weekend speaker and columnist Jason Carlson was part of the small group that founded the Emergent Church—a fact Jason is no longer proud of—but not long after the faction’s “progressive” beginnings, Jason recognized their quick slip toward heresy and got out.
From his insider’s experience, Jason offers a number of points helpful in discerning the degenerate hallmarks of the Emergent Church. It consistently presents:
- A highly ambiguous notion of truth;
- A quasi-universalistic view of salvation;
- A lack of a proper appreciation for biblical authority versus personal experience or individual “revelation”;
- Openness to pagan religious practices—like Hindu Yoga—including integrating them into Christian life and worship;
- Openly questioning the relevance and reality of essential historical, biblical doctrines such as the Trinity;
- A reading of Scripture heavily biased towards a “social gospel”;
- Little or no talk of evangelism or saving lost souls;
- A salvation-by-osmosis mentality, suggesting that “if you hang out with us long enough you’re in.”
As an example, take a look at the logo we’ve reproduced on this page for Faith House in Manhattan, an Emergent organization. It supports what I’ve been warning for almost two years—that the Emergent Church promotes pluralism and universalism. You’ll find a link on the Faith House website announcing its goal: “One community, multiple religions.”
In the past few months, the pastors of the Emergent Church have begun to reveal just how dramatically their worldview deviates from a truly Biblical one. Built on New Age Spirituality and Universalism, their (sort of) truth claims are promoted through a virtual library of books and DVDs. Many have made their way into otherwise evangelical, Bible-believing churches. One dominant leader in the Emergent Church is Pastor Rob Bell of Mars Hill Church in Michigan. Bell has sold 1.2 million units of his Nooma DVDs which have become an enticing platform for his New Spirituality.
In November 2004, Christianity Today published an interview with Pastor Bell noting something of the background for his current thinking:
"The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the Bible itself—“discovering the Bible as a human product,” as Rob puts it, rather than the product of divine fiat."
In his book, Velvet Elvis, Pastor Rob Bell trivializes the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ by saying it really would not matter if we found out through DNA testing that Jesus had an earthly father named Larry.
Excuse me, but yes, it would matter. It would turn much of Christian thinking on its head. It would mean Jesus Christ was not the sinless Savior. It would mean the Bible is filled with errors, and Jesus was not God incarnate. Yet what makes Bell’s cavalier attitude especially perilous is the lack of perception this leader demonstrates of significant Biblical thinking.
Such a thought pattern makes it not so surprising that the Emergent Church has no qualms about partnering with other religious. One of our columnists at christianworldviewnetwork.com reported this:
[quote] In one of the boldest moves yet in their promotion of New Spirituality, Pastor Doug Pagitt and Pastor Rob Bell are joining the Dali Lama, Desmond Tutu, and a whole line-up of New Spirituality proponents for the Seeds of Compassion Interspiritual Event in Seattle on April 15, 2008 to nurture “spirituality” in youth. Doug Pagitt says on his blog that he is “extremely excited” about the event. Rob Bell and Pagitt will be joining Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, Episcopalians, Catholics, and the United Nations (UNESCO) at this event. [end quote]
Doug Pagitt went so far as to explain to a friend of mine on her radio program that he believes the Gospel is found in other world religions.
Testing the Spirits
Many of today’s best-selling Emergent Church pastors sound remarkably like Oprah Winfrey and her New Spirituality friends. Just for “fun,” I’ve put together a little quiz to demonstrate how bizarre they’ve become. Take it, and discover your Emergent Church Recognition Quotient (ECRQ—I made that up).
Question 1—Who said: “[In Yoga] it’s not how flexible you are, it’s not whether you can do the poses, it’s not how much you can bend yourself, it’s can you keep your breath through whatever you are doing? And the Yoga Masters say this is how it is when you follow Jesus and surrender to God. If it’s your breath being consistent, it’s your connection with God regardless of the pose you find yourself in. That’s integrating the divine into the daily.”
A. Deepak Chopra
B. Rob Bell
C. Shirley MacLaine
(Answer = B)
Question 2—Who said: “New Lights offer up themselves as the cosmions of a mind-of-Christ consciousness. As a Cosmion incarnating the cells of a new body, New Lights will function as transitional vessels through which transforming energy can renew the divine image in the word, moving postmoderns from one state of embodiment to another.”
A. Leonard Sweet
B. Deepak Chopra
C. Marianne Williamson
(Answer = A)
Question #3—Who said: “By living more deeply into our own tradition as a sacrament of the sacred, we become more centered in the one to whom the tradition points and in whom we live and move and have our being. A Christian is one who does this within the framework of the Christian tradition, just as a Jew is one who does this within the framework of the Jewish tradition, a Muslim within the framework of the Muslim tradition and so forth. And I cannot believe God cares which one of these we are. All are paths of relationship and transformation.”
A. Deepak Chopra
B. Marcus Borg, author of The Heart of Christianity
C. Rob Bell
(Answer = B but the book is highly recommended by Rob Bell in Velvet Elvis)
Should we be alarmed at the growth of the Emergent Church among us? Absolutely. Should we be surprised? Probably not. The apostle Paul warned that folks like these would come along, and in 2 Corinthians 11:13, he described them very astutely: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workman, masquerading as apostles of Christ.”
Don’t say you haven’t been warned.