(423) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: MYSTICISM & POSTMODERNISM IN YOUR CHURCH – Part 1.
THE ENNEAGRAM – MYSTICISM & POSTMODERNISM in THE C&MA.
Hopefully, you quickly raised some red flags after reading Part 1 and Part 2 of the series on the Enneagram. It is difficult to ignore the influence of beliefs such as Gnosticism, esoteric Christianity, divination, Eastern Mysticism…….etc. It is a history that includes a wealth of mysticism, beliefs, and practices that don’t originate from the Bible.
To give you an idea of how quickly that this tool is spreading within Evangelical churches, let’s look at a church that I am most familiar with – the Christian & Missionary Alliance Church.
Again, there is much to look up to and emulate in the C&MA’s history of missions and discipleship. The people are dedicated to spreading the Gospel and living a life pleasing to God. That is why it is even more difficult to understand why/how the church is going down a mystical path starting in their colleges and seminary (e.g. Nyack). Therefore, the point of this is not to criticize any one person but to raise up these issues, engage in further discussions and find biblical solutions to them. For those not in the C&MA, don’t worry, YOUR church, more likely than not, is already being influenced by these trends.
A major concern is that as more and more professors teach concepts that are not historically Evangelical, unorthodox, and ultimately nonbiblical, you end up with a church that grows further away from its roots and beliefs and most importantly further away from a close walk based on Scripture. Mysticism has more of an emphasis of looking INSIDE of YOURSELF. This runs in the opposite direction for churches that are more evangelistic and missions focus. Some of these churches will be educating the next generation of pastors to look inside of their own “DEEP” feelings to UNITE with God instead of looking to sharing God’s light with the rest of the world.
Here are some examples of this trend working in a top-down process starting from professors at seminaries and Bible colleges to local church officials and pastors –
(1) Last year, the Western Pennsylvania C&MA was hosting a conference in which the meeting topic was – “Restoring Garden Intimacy“. Typically these events are open to local pastors and church leaders. Several of the slides from the meetings revealed a couple of alarming issues.
- Some slides discussed the use of the ENNEAGRAM. One slide stated the following:
“Using the Enneagram Assessment I tend to exhibit the traits of a #3 One Who Needs to Succeed”
- => QUESTION: Why use a tool based not on the Bible, but has its orgins based in beliefs such as Gnosticism, mysticism, numerical divination…?
- Another slide quoted RICHARD ROHR from his book The Enneagram. As you may recall, Rohr is a Franciscan Priest and mystic within the Roman Catholic Church. What is so alarming is that Richard Rohr promotes the Enneagram with its rich history of non-biblical development? Richard Rohr’s theology is a mixture of unorthodox beliefs, aberrant theology, and in several cases – out right heresy. His views span the range from – and this is just a sampling –
- homosexuality advocacy,
- promotes Roman Catholic mysticism,
- he believes that no blood sacrifice was needed to pay the penalty of sin,
- includes pagan ritualism – Rohr’s almost uncritical adoption of religious rituals alien to the Gospel brings us to the main problem with his theory of male initiation.
- refers to God as “she“,
- promotes contemplative prayer
- => QUESTION: Why are leaders from protestant Evangelical church using a tool being taught by a mystic Roman Catholic monk who believes in seemingly everything under the sun except what the Bible teaches?
- Other mystical elements on the presentation slides included the use of spiritual disciplines such as SILENCE and SOLITUDE to name a few. The problem is that these concepts don’t have biblical support unless one forces a meaning out of verses that, in context, do not apply to the meaning being promoted.
What is becoming very obvious is the fact that some of the C&MA clergy and some of Nyack college/ATS Seminary professors are following after these alternative routes in their personal walks. Is the C&MA opening itself up to the inclusion of error and false teaching creeping into the church from within?
With the inclusion of New Age principles such as those associated with the Enneagram, we can also start to see a further breakdown of the authority of God’s word. How better to introduce error into the church than to get people inside of the church to believe, to teach, to focus on other sources of guidance over and above the Bible.
(2) Dean, Dr. Ron Walborn – ALLIANCE THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY – clearly includes methods that don’t have their origin in the Bible. One of them is SPIRITUAL FORMATION. It is part of the core education of students at the seminary. His wife actually teaches courses in SPIRITUAL FORMATION. So what? Well, while there may be plenty of Scripture being studied and “good sounding” issues learned, there is also an emphasis on topics that include ancient church practices that follow after Roman Catholic mysticism. http://www.nyack.edu/content/SFATSWelcome
- SPIRITUAL FORMATION: A movement that has provided a platform and a channel through which contemplative prayer is entering the church. Find spiritual formation being used, and in nearly every case you will find contemplative spirituality. In fact, contemplative spirituality is the heartbeat of the spiritual formation movement.
- CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY: A belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in MYSTICISM and the OCCULT but often wrapped up in Christian terminology. The premise of contemplative spirituality is PANTHEISTIC (God is all) and PANENTHEISTIC (God is in all). Common terms used for this movement are “spiritual formation“, “the silence“, “the stillness,” “ancient- wisdom”, “spiritual discipines,” and many others.
To some, these definitions may seem a bit too harsh or not applicable to what is offered at ATS? If they seem harsh or not applicable, I have to ask why are they using them to describe their program? Words have meanings. If they use these words to describe the program at ATS, how have they differentiated their meaning from the meaning normally used by others?
If you were a lawyer trying to prove a case before a judge. The amount of evidence is staggering. ATS is not only including these mystical programs but training future church leaders to use these programs in the church. One could look at these types of words which describe their program as initial evidence. But then, you can look at other areas such as the professors at Nyack/ATS – you will see several who promote these concepts as defined above through the books & articles they write, the lectures they give, and first-hand accounts of students who have taken these courses. In their writings, they refer to mystics – both ancient historical mystics and modern day influences that promote a belief system that looks less like it came from the Bible and looks very closely related to Eastern Mysticism. Let’s look now at one of these professors –
(3) DR. JAMES DANAHER (@ NYACK) – At Nyack Christian and Missionary Alliance College in Nyack, NY in the fall of 2011 Dr. James P. Danaher, professor and chair of the Philosophy Department, taught Roman Catholic Father RICHARD ROHR’S The Naked Now to his Nyack students. Some Evangelical commentators come out and call Rohr’s writings heretical. Danaher not only taught this book but he even posted lectures on YouTube for the world to see. This is very troubling because now you have someone representing the C&MA denomination (a professor at their leading higher education institution) spreading questionable (at best) teaching from a Roman Catholic mystic – RICHARD ROHR.
Clutching the book in his hand, Danaher read aloud sections of The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See to his students. Stopping to discuss each part he continuously ENDORSED ALL Rohr wrote. He especially wanted to emphasize to his students that they rid themselves of all or nothing thinking, and let themselves be open to the “Yes!” He tells the students they are “now here, (New Age for “nowhere”) or in the past” but where we want to go “is to get out of our minds” so we can “just be present.” And how can one “be in the moment?” Danaher answers: “Through CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER.” (what comes to my mind are sayings commonly associated with Eastern religions that while using simple words that should be easily understood, in the end, their meaning makes little sense.)
- CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER, also called Centering Prayer or Listening Prayer, has been taught by Roman Catholic monks Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, and Basil Pennington, as well as by Quaker Richard Foster, and is being advocated by many others. There is no one authority on this method, nor is there necessarily a consistent teaching on it, though most of the founding teachers quote medieval mystics, Hindu, and Buddhist spiritual teachers.
- According to http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org, “Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating. It should be added, “During the twenty years (1961-1981) when Keating was abbot, St. Joseph’s held dialogues with Buddhist and Hindu representatives, and a Zen master gave a week-long retreat to the monks. A former Trappist monk who had become a Transcendental Meditation teacher also gave a session to the monks.”
- The influence of Buddhism and Hinduism on Contemplative Prayer is apparent. Words such as “detachment,” “transformation,” “emptiness,” “enlightenment” and “awakening” swim in and out of the waters of these books. The use of such terms certainly mandates a closer inspection of what is being taught, despite the fact that contemplative prayer is presented as Christian practice.
- Themes that one finds echoed in the CP movement include the notions that true prayer is: silent, beyond words, beyond thought, does away with the “false self,” triggers transformation of consciousness, and is an awakening. Suggested techniques often include breathing exercises, visualization, repetition of a word or phrase, and detachment from thinking.
=> This is not something that can be taken lightly. As much as I love the C&MA, if these trends continue, they will end up changing the core foundation of the church. I know that may seem difficult to see at this point and I hope that I am wrong! But, when you have leaders in the church teaching the next generations of pastors using influences ranging from Gnosticism to Roman Catholic and Eastern Mysicism, what else do you see as an outcome. Do we need to go through the Bible and see how many times God warns against mixing in customs and practices from other religions? The OT is full of episodes warning the Israelites the potential harm that this represents. In the NT, Paul is very clear – “Teach no other doctrine”. Read the Pastoral Epistles and you will get an often repeated warning against the rise of false teachers from WITHIN the church. Again, a simple principle but vitally important in our walk – the further you move away from the Bible, the more error that creeps into the church.
We will look further at these trends in Part 2.