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Apostasy #9 – Emerging Churches

Mysticism in the Emerging Church

By Richard Bennett


First we must define just what the term ‘mysticism’ means. Mysticism is an attempt to gain ultimate knowledge of God by a direct experience that bypasses the mind. As practiced by those who claim to be Christian, mysticism not only bypasses the mind, but it circumvents Christ Jesus as mediator. For centuries the Roman Catholic Church has assimilated into herself the mystery elements of pagan religions; however, in 1965, at the time of Vatican Council II, Papal Rome officially joined itself with pagan religions and their practice of seeking to know God by direct experience. Some of the exact words of approval for these practices are still in the Vatican Council II documents. For example, Papal Rome states,

“…In Hinduism men explore the divine mystery and express it both in the limitless riches of myth and the accurately defined insights of philosophy. They seek release from the trials of the present life by ascetical practices, profound meditation and recourse to God in confidence and love. Buddhism in its various forms testifies to the essential inadequacy of this changing world. It proposes a way of life by which man can, with confidence and trust, attain a state of perfect liberation and reach supreme illumination either through their own efforts or by the aid of divine help…The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.”[1]


Thus, Papal Rome officially accepts in Hinduism, that with confidence and love, one may seek release from the trials of the present life by ascetical practices and profound meditation. Similarly, in Buddhism, one may “attain a state of perfect liberation and reach supreme illumination, either through their own efforts or by the aid of divine help.”[2] Such an authorized approval of pagan practices has now become quite apparent in modern-day Catholicism. Two months after the Vatican’s monumental acceptance of pagan mysticism, another well known papal document revealed the heart of Roman Catholic policy. The basis for the recognition of pagan practices was proclaimed to be a “divine element” in mankind. This divine element in mankind makes it possible for the Catholic to have some sense of brotherhood with other religions. The exact words of another Vatican Council II document are,

“It [Vatican Council II] longs to set forth the way it understands the presence and function of the [Roman Catholic] Church in the world of today. Therefore, the world which the Council has in mind is the whole human family seen in the context of everything which envelops it… This is the reason why this sacred Synod, in proclaiming the noble destiny of man and affirming an element of the divine in him, offers to co-operate unreservedly with mankind in fostering a sense of brotherhood to correspond to this destiny of theirs.”[3]

Emerging Church Movement

Since the late twentieth century the Emerging Church Movement has become quite influential in the USA and across the world. Much of what this movement teaches is quite similar to Catholic mystical practices; sometimes it actually uses traditional Catholic techniques and methods. Until recently, while the alignment of Roman Catholicism with the “Emerging Church Movement” was evident, there was no formal recognition of the matter. However, it was announced in early 2008 that leading Catholic and Emerging Church personages were to speak at what is called “The Emerging Church conference,” which is to take place on March 20-22, 2009 in Albuquerque, N.M. The website proclaiming the coming together stated the following, “Come to the first large gathering of Roman Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, and other Christians seeking to explore this emergence and convergence together. You’ll be inspired by provocative speakers and spiritual leaders and engage in in-depth conversation about our shared quests for: A fresh understanding of Jesus, Spirituality that links contemplation and action, Social justice and holistic mission, Authentic community. Join Fr. Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Shane Claiborne, Alexie Torres-Fleming.”[4]


The Roman Catholic Church was very wise in its choice of Emergent Church leaders.[5] Besides Brian McLaren, who has always been the main leader and so-called guide of the movement, they chose Phyllis Tickle. In point of fact, the movement to some extent centers on Phyllis Tickle and her book, “The Great Emergence.”[6] Phyllis Tickle has likened the Emergent Church leader, Brian McLaren, to Martin Luther.[7] Phyllis Tickle joined Brian McLaren as a formidable leader of Emergent Christianity. Together, with thousands of devoted followers across the world, they amount to one of the most serious menaces to true Christian faith.


Bypassing Christ

We remember the Catholic mysticism, through the soul-destroying voices of the Emergent Church, is demolished by the direct work of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel. The Gospel alone remains the power of God unto salvation! True believers are those who adhere to God only and His Written Word, as did the Lord and the Apostles after Him. They believe we are saved before the All-Holy God by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone; and all glory and praise is to God alone. It is these very principles that are now being ruthlessly attacked by Emerging Church leaders. Because of this, it is of vital importance that genuine believers defend true biblical faith.


The Emergent Church leaders totally neglect God’s call, “come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.”[8]  Rather than engaging their minds over the issues of sin and righteousness, they seek a subjective meeting with God through spiritual exercises, i.e., practices that do not engage the mind with biblical truth. When this so-called union is experienced, a sense of “spiritual fulfilment” is felt. This so-called “enlightenment” completely bypasses Christ as the only way to come to God. Yet, fallen man cannot communicate with God other than through Christ, who is the only Mediator. Jesus Christ the Lord said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father but by me.”[9] This declaration excludes all subjective, mystical experiences as means of reaching the Father. Historically, the spiritual disciplines, which the Emergent Church leaders advocate, arose and flourished under the Catholic monastic system. These mystical practices went hand in hand with the asceticism that prevailed during ancient times in Egypt and the Middle East. The fundamental principle behind the ancient practices and Catholic monastic practices was the Gnostic idea that human flesh is the seat of evil, and that to find and meet with God one must first mortify the body and engage in spiritual rituals or disciplines. The present-day Emerging Church movement is full of such spurious “contemplative practices.” The danger of the Emerging Church’s type of spirituality is that it replaces the certainty of the written Word by subjective experiences. Only by taking heed to the counsel of the Lord can his followers enjoy genuine fellowship with God. The only true approach to God is by trusting in the perfect life and sacrifice of Christ, which includes repenting of and forsaking sin.  In that, there is true peace and salvation.


We must understand how serious Catholic mysticism is in the Catholic Church itself, and the Emergent Church movement is propagating the same mysticism. The machinations of Catholic mysticism, and that of the Emergent Church, have clearly unveiled apostasy, seeing that they have rejected the Christ of history, received “the christ of Satan,” which “christ” is “enlightenment,” and “self realization;” while they sport and play with Satan’s rites for fulfillment in such as “Centering Prayer,” “The Ignatian Examen,” and “The Labyrinth.”

There is no valid excuse for true believers to be deceived by “false apostles” who transform themselves into the “apostles of Christ,” “for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”[10] There are many false prophets gone out into the world, but if we diligently study these things, which God has recorded for our safeguard against the subtle deceptions of Satan, we need not mislead nor be misled. The forces of evil are present in the influence and power of the Papal Church, and at the time, the Emerging Church is powerful, but not all-powerful. It has been fought and overcome by One greater and mightier. We take courage, though the subtleties and deceit of mysticism that has arisen in recent times can as we analyze, it brings us closer to Christ Jesus and His truth in the Bible. As his Word declares, “But be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”[11] What a glorious closing for the Lord’s final discourse to His Apostles; what a wonderful Word to us at this hour. There must be no surrender, no compromise, and no fellowship with the world of mysticism. Here is the Lord’s war-cry; “him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”[12] As we stand strong in Him, it will not be long before the conflict will cease! For “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world; and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”[13]


Permission is given to copy and distribute this article

[1] Vatican Council II: , Nostra Aetate, “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Para. 2

[2] Ibid also Para 2

[3] Vatican II Document No. 64, Gaudium et Spes, 7 Dec. 1965 in Flannery, Vol. I, Sec. 2, 3 pp. 904-5.

[4] 1/8/2009

[5] Others, Shane Claiborne is a founding partner of The Simple Way, a faith community in inner city Philadelphia. Alexie Torres-Fleming is the founder of Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice in the South Bronx. In addition, she is the co-founder of the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance.

[6] Phyllis Tickle, The Great Emergence, (Baker: Grand Rapids, MI., 2008

[7], 1/21/09.

[8] Isaiah 1:18

[9] John 16:8

[10] II Corinthians 11:13-14

[11] John 16:33

[12] Revelation 3:21

[13] 1 John 5:4

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