Your Local Christian Bookstore
Could Be Dangerous to Your Spiritual Health
Gone are the days when filling your cart at a Christian bookstore is safe for your spiritual health. I can hardly lay all blame to the bookstore owners. Christian bookstores have always been for-profit enterprises. Nearly 20 years ago my wife and I operated a Christian bookstore. In those days we were already at the mercy of the Christian publishers. But to my memory the publishers were then owned by Christians who tried to monitor their offerings. Well do I remember those days. It was the heyday of the Word-Faith movement. As the proprietor, I wasn't comfortable with the books by Hagin and E.W. Kenyon. But the customers requested these books. I, especially, had a problem stocking the Dakes Bible which was the rage among the Word-faithers at the time. The Dakes Bible Study Notes went way beyond the boundaries of sound doctrine. Since those days the offerings from publishing houses have become much more dubious and large numbers of books should be doctrinally screened by someone. Indeed, many books are trite and nearly meaningless, but probably are no more detrimental than junk food. A number of publishing houses have been purchased by foreign companies. Zondervan, in particular, has not only been promoting contemplative prayer but has actually sponsored numerous national conferences for youth and pastors endorsing a broad range of contemplative and emergent authors. They also publish many of the most popular and radically emergent authors. These books are dangerous because many of the books and authors do indeed have many good things to say. They rightfully are reacting to shallow extremes of seeker-sensitive “Mall Christianity”. But blended into their writings are poisonous ingredients. These spiritual toxins can become spiritually lethal. The pharmaceutical industry has been forced to reveal the side-effects of their products and are required to make these side-effects public. But no such responsibility is required of Christian literature. There is an old saying: “Snake venom is known to contain 85% pure protein, but it's the 15% toxins that get you.” Perhaps a different source of protein is advisable. The local Christian bookstore owner should have some responsibility to screen his products but many owners do not have the time or the skills to do this. They assume that the publishers, who do make decisions to print or not to print, must be right and so the products are passed on to the Christian consumer. In this issue we are going to select just a few authors that provide materials that can cause adverse side-effects to the consuming readers. We will ignore the hundreds of titles that are simply trite and are more or less harmless.
The Word-Faith Authors
Just one quote from the (God-father of the Word-Faith camp, Kenny Copeland “God's reason for creating Adam was His desire to reproduce himself: I mean a reproduction of Himself . . . He was not almost like God. He was not subordinate to God even... Adam is as much like God as you could get, just the same as Jesus. ... Adam in the garden of Eden, was God manifested in the flesh (Tape: Following The Faith Of Abraham 1989, audio tape #01-300)... Even many in the great body of Full-Gospel people do not know that the new birth is a real incarnation ... I was first human so were you, but I was horn of God and so I became a human divine being.'” (The Force Of Righteousness 19,84, p. 12) Senator Grassley has recently opened a congressional investigation oif a number of TV evangelists and their absurdly indulgent lifestyles. Rev Robert s. Liichow reports the facts in his article called Living High On The Widow’s Mite. Jessie Duplantis flies a Cessna Citation 500 a mere $1.25 million which burns 1700+ pounds of fuel per hour. .Jerry Savelle flies a Cessna Citation 500. Joyce Meyer flies a Bombadier Challenger 504 a whopping 4.5 million. Benny Hinn flies a Grumman Gulfsteam II 4.5 million. TBN has been good to Paul and Jan Crouch. They fly a Bombardier Challenger 604 costing 16.5 million. Kenny Copeland has his own air force of 12 planes. But he and Gloria each have Citations at a mere 10 million each. Creflo Dollar (no pun) flies a Gates Learjet seating only 4 at 37 million purchased new. So folks rush right out and buy their books least they can't afford the gas for their planes.
John and Paula Sandford.
The Sandfords have been around for decades. But they are still pitching their inner healing wares. They employ a combination of the pantheist inner healing teaching of Agnes Sanford (their mentor) and the Freudian and Jungian deep hidden unconscious. Forgotten and hidden "biker roots" in the subconscious need to accessed by visionary and imaginative means. These hidden traumas presently hinder peoples with unexplainable thoughts and impulses. The irony is that Freudian theory has generally been discredited in secular psychology. Already in 1993 E. Fuller Torrey wrote a book entitled The Freudian Fraud. Reviewing the evidence, Torrey found no credible evidence of Freud's theory of the hidden unconscious. Nevertheless, for the Sandfords, these hidden "biker roots" can stem from prenatal traumas or even experiences that originate from ancestral sins. The Sandford's see this procedure as the only sanctification that will work. This procedure they feel was divinely revealed to them in these last days to prepare the church for the last days. This accounts for their inclusion in Wagner's New Apostolic Council. For the Sandfords, conscious conversion only goes mind deep. The hidden heart must be revealed by visionary and imaginative means and then brought to the cross. Because they see Jesus death as always present and timeless, a believer is always in the process of being converted. The Sandford's admit that they were taught and mentored by Agnes Sanford (no relation). They were obviously influenced by Agnes's pantheism. In their first book The Elijah Task p. 135 the Sandfords write: "There is a sea in which the Spirit of God, The Father and the Son and all creation and angels exist. The being of God is one spirit in which everything moves and has its being. Spirit and matter are one..." The Sanford's, however, vehemently reject the term pantheist. Actually it is a close variant and first cousin of pantheism called panentheism, which is currently being espoused by the contemplative movement. The Sandfords take this a step further and assert that all matter is not only divine but has personality and a will. This should be called "animism" as found in pagan and primitive peoples. This enables them to communicate with plants. John S says: "Jesus spoke to a plant and it withered. You know, that plant could understand what he said to it." (A Transcript of an Evening with John and Paula Sandford Feb. 25, 1987, p. 57). This teaching also allows them to believe that spirits of departed people hang around for a period of time and can inhabit believers. John gives testimony of casting out the spirit of one already dead from a living person. (An Evening... An Appendix, B-l ). The possibility of a toxic reaction from these teachings seems high. The Sandfords have actually been taken to court over the side-affects of their teachings in families.
Larry Crabb is a leading Christian psychologist, author, bible teacher and seminary professor. He has written many best-selling books and is the founder of New Way Ministries. He has written over 40 books. His most well known books were entitled Inside Out and Finding God. His most recent book is entitled The Papa Prayer. Crabb, now, has come to espouse contemplative prayer and sees it as replacing his former teaching of psychological therapy. In a 2003 article in Christianity Today called A Shrink Gets Stretched, the writer makes the following remark: "Christian Counselor and popular author Larry Crabb took the trouble to earn a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. But now he believes that in today's church, therapy should be replaced by another, more ancient practice - spiritual direction"'. This ancient practice he identifies in other places as contemplative prayer. A year before the CT article came out, Crabb wrote the forward for David Benner's book Sacred Companions. In this forward Crabb wrote "The spiritual climate is ripe. Jesus seekers across the world are being prepared to abandon the old way of the written code for the new way of the spirit." Bernner writes of the panentheistic views (God is in all things) of Merton, Henri Nouwen, Basil Pennington and several others. For Crabb to write this forward leaves no doubt about his views. His latest book is nothing more than a union of mysticism and psychology and his insights spring from his contemplative experiences. In The Papa Prayer he states "I've practiced centering prayer, I've contemplatively prayed... I've benefited from each and I still do. In ways you'll see in elements of each style that are still with me." (Papa Prayer, p. 9). Crabb should know the centering prayer and the contemplative are essentially synonyms. Crabb’s preference was made clear when he recalled that his wife liked to read People magazine and he preferred Merton (perhaps the most read contemplative). It is my view that the contemplative prayer technique, based on the monastic desert fathers of the 14th century (who borrowed from eastern mystics and their panentheistic worldview), is not only not biblical but also toxic to the soul. The panentheistic worldview that accompanies the contemplative short-circuits absolutely necessary biblical truths. "The God is in all his creation" view of panentheism requires that all God's creation is an embedded with God's Spirit. This negates the biblical teaching of original sin of unregenerate people and thus also renders the substitutionary death of Jesus unnecessary. Furthermore if God's Spirit resides in all creation then it follows that Satan must partake of divinity as well. It's no accident then, that the death of Jesus and Satan are basically ignored in contemplative writings
Tony Compolo is a well known author and public speaker. Beginning in 1980 he has authored more than 40 books. He has always been on the cutting edge and somewhat controversial as some of his book titles suggest. Already in 1982, he wrote 20 Hot Potatoes Christians are Afraid to Touch. In 1991 he authored How to be Pentecostal Without Speaking in Tongues. He has recently published Speaking My Mind and Letters to Young Evangelicals. Some of his writings and speaking have skirted close to evangelical boundaries and many would say he crossed many boundaries. He is currently professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University in St. David's Pennsylvania. He is also a frequent speaker in conferences and bible colleges. Compolo's wife Peggie is even more adventurous and is a gay-rights activist. Compolo was the subject of an informal heresy hearing in 1985 brought about by several assertions in his 1983 book A Reasonable Faith. At issue was his claim that Jesus is actually present in every living person. This controversy caused Campus Crusade for Christ and Youth for Christ at that time to block a planned speaking engagement. (Wilkipedia).
Compolo has most recently co-authored a book with Albert Darling entitled The God of Intimacy and Action. The intimacy they refer to is experiencing God by engaging in ancient spiritual mysticism. The authors suggest that social action can best be the result of a joining of mysticism and social awareness. Some other provocative Compolo quotes include:
"Beyond the models of reconciliation, a theology of mysticism provides some hope for common ground between Christianity and Islam. Both religions have within their histories examples of ecstatic union with God....I do not know what to make of the Muslim mystics, especially those who have become known as Sufis. What do they experience in their mystical experiences? Could they have encountered the same God we do in Christian mysticism?" (Speaking My Mind, p. 149,150).
“I am saying that there is no salvation apart from Jesus; that's my evangelical mindset. I am not convinced that Jesus only lives in Christians." (National Liberty Journal, 8/99).
“Going to heaven is like going to Philadelphia...there are many ways." (Carpe Diem -seizing the Day, 1994).
'”In the morning I don't ask God for anything. Instead I center down on Jesus. I say His name over and over again for as long as 15 minutes, until I find my soul suspended in what the ancient Celtic Christians called 'a thin place" - a place, a state where the boundary between heaven and earth, divine and human dissolves. You could say I use the name of Jesus as a koan (a koan is an eastern religious practice that results in a shock to the rational mind used by ancient Zen masters). Lighthouse Trails.
Gary Thomas in his book Sacred Pathways (Zondervan, 2002) lists centering prayer as among the different ways people can use to draw near to God. He describes centering prayer as: in general, centering prayer works like this: choose a word (like Jesus, Father for example) as a focus for contemplative prayer. Repeat the word silently for say 20 minutes until your heart seems to be repeating the word by itself, just as naturally and involuntarily as breathing." (Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, p. 152). Focus on the Family actively promotes Thomas's book Sacred Parenting. FOF was contacted about their support of Thomas. Tim Masters, FOF office of the chairman, replied: "We found nothing within the pages of Sacred Parenting that contradicts the Christian Faith or Dr. Dobson's philosophy... We are not in a position to address the contents of Mr. Thomas's other writings. But this much we can tell you: there has always been a strong tradition of contemplative prayer in the Christian church that has nothing to do with mantra's and eastern meditation." (Lighthouse Trails). This reply is troubling. First his distinction between Christian and eastern contemplative is not really accurate. Most of the Christians authors who promote contemplative prayer, with few exceptions, include mantras as does Gary Thomas in his book Sacred Pathways. For the distinction between Christian and eastern contemplatives, none other than Tilden Edwards, the founder of the largest and most influential contemplative school in the U.S., asserts in his book Spiritual Friends: " that contemplative prayer is the western bridge to far eastern spirituality." Richard Foster indorses Tilden's book as an excellent book. (Lighthouse Trails). In Thomas's book Sacred Parenting, which FOF does directly promote, Thomas leaves no doubt that Teresa of Avila had a major impact on his prayer life. But Teresa of Avila is a classic expression of 14th and 15th century contemplative and she practiced centering prayer. In the website, Centering Prayer, dedicated to promoting centering prayer they assert: 'Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, The Cloud Of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and 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 at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Mass." (Centering Prayer Website). These three monks actively relied on visiting Buddhists to coach them. Tim Masters reply seems like a "political response" from FOF relying on a difference that isn't a difference.
McLaren is the poster-child and the unofficial spokesperson for the Emergent Movement who are professed evangelicals who are being accepted as evangelicals. The Emergent Movement would require many pages to explain and we don't have the space here. McLaren, however, is invited to evangelical conferences. He recently spoke at Willow Creek. Among his most read books are A Generous Orthodoxy and the New Kind of Christian Trilogy. The Emergent Village as the evangelical emergents call themselves have generally adopted a robust postmodern epistemology (how you know things). Because Postmodernists reject the idea of propositional truth, most emergents promote a mystical faith without the necessity of absolute truth claims. McLaren and others in the emergent group, however, have found wide acceptance in evangelical circles. McLaren's new book is Everything Must Change and he is currently on national tour announcing that message and what he calls the "Deep Shift." The most serious claim of McLaren is his denial of the substitutionary death of Jesus. Recently he made his depreciating views of the cross more specific: "The cross isn't the center then. The cross is almost a distraction and false advertising for God... God doesn't say forgive' your wife and then go kick the dog' to vent your anger... The common understanding of the atonement presents a God who is incapable of forgiving unless He kicks someone else." (From Slice of Laodicea).
McLaren has endorsed the back cover of Reimaging Christianity by Alan Jones. Alan Jones openly repudiates biblical Christianity. Jones speaks of imaging the child Jesus sitting on Buddha's lap. He also rejects the death of Jesus as a saving act and sees it as a vindictive act. (Jones, p. 132). Apparently this is no problem to McLaren for he gives Jones's a ringing endorsement: "Alan Jones is a pioneer in re-imaging a Christian faith that emerges from authentic spirituality. His work stimulates and encourages me deeply." (Quoted from the back cover).
I used to lament that the cross was gradually being marginalized and widely ignored in evangelical circles. Now authors with unchallenged credentials as evangelicals are accepted and invited all over evangelicalism not only denying the sacrificial death of Jesus, but doing it in a vulgar way. The core of the gospel (the cross of Christ) has not only been hollowed out but now a pagan and foreign mystical fraud has been inserted in it's place. So if you go to your local Christian bookshop be warned that among all the good materials and also harmless trite offerings there lurks actual poison for the soul.
Rev. Orrel Steinkamp, Master of Divinity, and Doctor of Ministry, (Theology)
Plumbline Ministries, 74425 Co. Rd. Renville, MN 56284... orrelsteinkamp@hotmail.