WHY are Joel Rosenberg and Frank Peretti Appearing With New Age/New Spirituality Sympathizers?

Lighthouse Trails Blog (Link) (November 9, 2009)

Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord�s table, and of the table of devils. (I Corinthians 10:21)

Why are so many Christian leaders continually appearing with personalities who claim to be Christian yet promote the heretical �new spirituality�? In January 2010, in Alberta, Canada, such a situation will take place at the Break Forth conference, bringing together a conglomeration of Christian figures, New Age sympathizers, and mystic/emerging proponents. From Joel Rosenberg (Epicenter), Frank Peretti (This Present Darkness), and Lee Strobel (The Case for Christ) to William Paul Young (The Shack), Leonard Sweet (Quantum Spirituality), and contemplative proponents such as Duffy Robbins (Enjoy the Silence) and Brad Jersak, Break Forth will be like drawing gray lines in the sand�blended, indistinguishable lines.

In essence, this merging together, like so many other events now taking place within evangelical Christianity, willhelp erode the distinction between truth and falsehood and light and dark.

With well-known names like Rosenberg, Peretti, and Strobel as part of the speaking platform, many Christians who otherwise might not attend or pay much attention to this emerging event, could be drawn in just by the mere mention of these men�s names. And with Break Forth boasting that 1000 Canadian churches are represented at this event, tens of thousands of church goers could easily, directly or indirectly, be impacted in a fashion ultimately leading to spiritual deception and apostasy.

As for Lee Strobel, though many have admired his work in the past (such as The Case for Christ), it is really no surprise that he is attending Break Forth. With his sponsorship of his son�s very contemplative/emerging ministry Metamorpha, multiple appearances at Robert Schuller�s Crystal Cathedral over the years, and his ongoing connections with Saddleback and Willow Creek, discernment is not something that Strobel appears to give much attention to.

But most people would not expect Joel Rosenberg and Frank Peretti to share a platform with those in the contemplative/emerging/new spirituality camp.

In Warren B. Smith�s book, A �Wonderful� Deception, Smith has clearly laid out the New Age sympathies of Leonard Sweet, one of the Break Forth teachers. Smith reveals how Sweet calls the late heretical panentheist New Age leader Pierre Teilhard de Chardin �Twentieth-century Christianity�s major voice.�1 But Chardin does not represent biblical Christianity�on the contrary, he falls in a spiritual camp that embraces the �cosmic Christ,� which is the I AM (God) in every creature. Even though this christ-consciousness-in-all-people belief rejects the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, Sweet has openly aligned himself with Chardin. In Sweet�s book, Aqua Church, he favorably quotes Chardin saying: �Christ is in the Church in the same way as the sun is before our eyes. We see the same sun as our fathers saw, and yet we understand it in a much more magnificent way� (p. 39, Aqua Church). This pure arrogance of Sweet�s alignment with Chardin�s New Age views is nothing short of heresy.

It isn�t just Chardin with whom Leonard Sweet resonates. Referring to certain New Age advocates as �New Light� leaders, Sweet calls them his �role models� and �heroes.� 2 Who are some of those Sweet esteems?�Matthew Fox, Willis Harman, M. Scott Peck. And of pioneering New Age leader David Spangler, Sweet says: �I am grateful to David Spangler for his help in formulating this �new cell� understanding of New Light leadership.� Read the following quotes by Teilhard de Chardin (another of Sweet�s New Light role models) from his book, Christianity and Evolution, and decide for yourself if this is someone whom a Christian could consider a role model and a hero.

[T]he Cross still stands � But this in on one condition, and one only: that it expand itself to the dimensions of a New Age, and cease to present itself to us as primarily (or even exclusively) the sign of a victory over sin. (p. 219-220).

I believe that the Messiah whom we await, whom we all without any doubt await, is the universal Christ; that is to say, the Christ of evolution (p. 95).

What I am proposing to do is to narrow that gap between pantheism and Christianity by bringing out what one might call the Christian soul of Pantheism of the pantheist aspect of Christianity (p. 56).

In addition to appearing with Leonard Sweet at Break Forth, Joel Rosenberg and Frank Peretti will also be appearing with William Paul Young. Young wrote the New York Times best-seller, The Shack, a book that has strong elements of universalism, interspirituality, and panentheism. The story�s emotional appeal has drawn millions in, but its rejection of traditional biblical Christianity is apparent to those who are willing to look past the sensual pull. The book states that �Jesus� does not want to convert anyone to Christianity and that ��God,� who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things� (p. 112). The book never mentions God�s adversary, Satan, and states: �Evil and darkness . . . do not have any actual existence� (p. 136). The black Madonna (goddess spirituality) is reflected in the story as well.3

In A �Wonderful� Deception, Smith lays out the New Age spirituality of Sweet and The Shack, showing how what they believe ties in more with the vision of the New Age than with the God of the Bible. We have placed three of the chapters of Smith�s book (the ones dealing with Sweet and The Shack), online to underline our concern.4

Break Forth�s invitation to emerging/new spirituality speakers is not an isolated incident this year. In the past, speakers have included: Erwin McManus, Tony Campolo, Robert Webber, Bill Hybels, and Mike Yaconelli (Youth Specialties). This year, Canadian author Brad Jersak will be teaching at Break Forth in a workshop on prayer. Jersak is a strong proponent of contemplative spirituality. His book, Stricken by God (endorsed by emergent leader Brian McLaren) is a compilation of essays by various authors. Two of those authors are Richard Rohr and Marcus Borg. Borg, a mystic proponent, rejects basic foundational tenets of Christian doctrine (such as the virgin birth of Christ), and Rohr is a panentheist who wrote the foreword to a 2007 book called How Big is Your God? by Jesuit priest (from India) Paul Coutinho. In Coutinho�s book, he describes an interspiritual community where people of all religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity) worship the same God. When Break Forth attendees will sit and listen to Brad Jersak this year, they could be getting, at least in part, the spiritual overtones of Marcus Borg and Richard Rohr.

The spiritualities of Rohr, Borg, Sweet, and Young have a common New Age/New Spirituality theme�the belief that God is IN all things�this panentheistic belief is the bottom line of the coming New Age world religion. Clearly, this is not biblical Christianity. If such a belief were true, then there would be no need for the Cross because all would already be united to God and in no need of atonement or salvation as the Bible describes. Man would not truly be sinful and in need of a Savior. His problem wouldn�t be his sinful nature but would be merely an ignorance of his own divinity. This is classic New Ageism and occultism. And it is the underlying foundation of the new emerging spirituality to which Break Forth is giving a platform.

While seeing Leonard Sweet�s, Brad Jersak�s, and William Paul Young�s names on the schedule makes perfect sense because of Break Forth�s emphasis on the New Age/new spirituality, seeing Joel Rosenberg and Frank Peretti as scheduled speakers is cause for concern.  Don�t Christian leaders understand that spiritual deception is very real and very tangible? And why don�t they speak up against those who are vehicles for such apostasy? Why do respected Christian authors, like Peretti and Rosenberg, appear with New Age sympathizers like Leonard Sweet and William Paul Young? Will they rationalize�as Kay Arthur did at a past Break Forth conference when she appeared with the liberal mystic proponent Tony Campolo�that they don�t have a problem appearing with anyone as long as they can share their own message?  But such an attitude is not scriptural. Ephesians 5:11 says we are to have no fellowship with  �the unfruitful works of darkness� but rather expose them.

Sharing a platform with Frank Peretti and Joel Rosenberg gives emerging New Age/new spirituality sympathizers an apparent badge of authenticity and respectability. It implants in the minds of the attendees that if someone like Leonard Sweet is on the same speaking lineup as Frank Peretti, Sweet must be, for the most part, orthodox in his views. But this isn�t just a matter of certain doctrinal differences�this goes much deeper. This has to do with an entirely different spiritual viewpoint, one that does not reflect what biblical Christianity stands for.

It would be well for Joel Rosenberg and Frank Peretti to remember the words of the apostle Paul who said that believers are to warn against those preaching heresy, not stand with them. Leonard Sweet and William Paul Young and the whole emerging/new spirituality movement are what the Bible refers to as �wild grapes.� 

Now will I sing to my wellbeloved a song of my beloved touching his vineyard. My wellbeloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful hill: And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes. Isaiah 5:1-2

Christian leaders should not, in any way, enable �wild grapes� within God�s vineyard. In This Present Darkness, Frank Peretti�s stalwart and faithful Christian believers would expose rather than appear with New Age/new spirituality sympathizers. The back cover of Peretti�s book reiterates this: �Ashton is just a typical small town. But when a skeptical reporter and a prayerful pastor begin to compare notes, they suddenly find themselves fighting a hideous New Age plot to subjugate the town�s people, and eventually the entire human race.�

Peretti cites Ephesians 6:12 on the back cover as well. That Scripture states: �For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.� Is Peretti forgetting his own exhortation to Christian believers to beware of deceptive New Age spirituality? He rode to prominence defending Christianity against this very thing.

In A Time of Departing, Ray Yungen has given a vital plea to believers:

The Bible teaches that man has an inherently rebellious and ungodly nature (which is evident), and his ways are naturally self-centered and evil in the sight of God. The Bible teaches that God is not indifferent to us. The sacrifice of Christ for the ungodly to reconcile us to God reveals the Lord�s love toward Man.

This explains why Christianity must be steadfast on these issues. If a belief system does not teach the preaching of the Cross, then it is not �the power of God� (I Corinthians 1:18). If other ways are correct, �then Christ is dead in vain,� rendering His shed blood unnecessary and immaterial (Galatians 2:21).

Because of this conflict, we can safely assume that Christendom is the most formidable obstacle to the New Age, standing like a bulwark against this tidal wave of meditation teachers and practical mystics. But, incredibly � many of the most successful practical mystics are appearing from within Christendom itself. Ironically, instead of stemming the momentum of New Age spirituality, it is our own churches that may very well be the decisive catalysts to propel this movement into prominence. (chapter 1, ATOD)

When Jesus was asked what would be the sign of His return and the end of the world, He warned, �Take heed that no man deceive you.� Matthew 24:4

1. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, p. 106, from page 111, A �Wonderful� Deception by Warren B. Smith
2. Ibid., Acknowledgements and Preface
3. For more information on the spirituality behind The Shack, read Larry DeBruyn�s new book, Unshackled.
4. chapter 10, chapter 11, chapter 12 (A �Wonderful� Deception)

on November 13th, Joel Rosenberg issued a public statement regarding this matter. He stated:

A few of you have expressed concern that I've agreed to speak at the "Break Forth 2010" conference in Edmonton, Canada Jan 29-31 because there are some other speakers slated to attend whose theology is questionable. Chief concern: William Young, author of "The Shack," a novel I and others have found heretical. The reason I am attending is because it is the largest Christian conference in Canada (some 15,000 evangelicals are expected) and I'm not ready to concede such ground to those who are peddling false teaching. I've been asked to come there at [sic] [to] teach the Word of God and preach the gospel, and that's exactly what I'm going to do. I can't explain why Young, for example, was invited. But why cede the entire stage to him. Moreover, at this critical juncture, I plan on explaining why God loves Israel so much and why He wants us to help mobilize a global movement to stand with Israel while so much of the rest of the world is turning against her. Thanks for your concerns. I would appreciate your prayers. May God bless you guys.

In his statement, Joel Rosenberg has implied that Break Forth is a trustworthy organization that is bringing in just one heretical teacher, William Paul Young, but the conference is bringing in a number of them, and in fact, the New emerging spirituality is the dominant presence in the conference. Even though Rosenberg's rationale sounds credible on the surface and even though his message is valid, unless  he specifically identifies and challenges what these other speakers are saying, he in essence gives credence by sharing a platform with them because his respectability will be implanted in the minds of the attendees. It is logical that because Rosenberg is respected and trusted,  the others will be too because in people's minds you don't have heretics and proclaimers of the Gospel on the same bill in  a non-debate scenario.  In essence, it is the opposite of guilt by association; it is validity by association.

In Rosenberg's earlier announcement on his blog about Break Forth, he called this a "powerful Christian conference." Saying this indicates that he may not understand the gravity of what is going on in the church. This is not just a doctrinal issue - what's at stake is  what Christianity will be in the future. Will it be mystical, panentheistic, and New Age, or will it be the Gospel once delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3)? If our concerns sound outlandish, read our report from last week where we show how Leonard Sweet resonates spiritually with New Age icons such as David Spangler and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

As the New Spirituality becomes more widespread and acceptable, we'll be seeing in the future many more of these dichotomies: the defenders of the faith sharing platforms with those who seek to radically change and alter the very Gospel these defenders are seeking to uphold. This is not the example that the Old Testament prophets or the New Testament disciples set. Most of them stood alone and often died alone because they would not compromise under any circumstances. Regarding those who teach or promote heresy, the apostle Paul writes strong words: "A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject" (Titus 3:10). According to the Rosenberg's rationale, it is OK for him to share a platform with false teachers because his message is so important. But doesn't his desire to get his message out override the Scripture in Titus 3:10? (And other Scriptures as well.) We must strongly disagree with this reasoning. The end does not always justify the means, and in this case, the end is highly questionable.

While Rosenberg says he is attending Break Forth to "defend Israel," does he not realize that by giving credence to emergent/New Spirituality speakers, he is  abetting the emerging philosophy that sees NO prophetic importance in Israel. A flood of Christian leaders are turning their backs on Israel, directly or indirectly, merely by promoting the emerging/contemplative/New Spirituality. Mr. Rosenberg, defend Israel, yes, by all means, but first defend the Gospel.

A note of irony. In Rosenberg's  rebuttal statement, he gives a link to Norman Geisler's article refuting The Shack. Yet, Geisler recently teamed up with emerging-church-promoter Rick Warren (at Warren's apologetic conference), all the while Rick Warren is selling The Shack on his Purpose Driven Connection website.  Perhaps part of the problem here is that  Christian leaders are not taking spiritual deception seriously. And yet Scripture warns that the days before Christ's return will be very spiritually dark and that many will fall away: "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first. (II Thessalonians 2: 2).

This fusion of orthodox and heretical is not a new tactic. One of the best examples of this blending is Robert Schuller, identified by Bruce Wilkinson as "the real leader" (see A "Wonderful" Deception, p. 69) who has been inviting orthodox traditional Christians to  Crystal Cathedral for a long time. Often these invited guests, such as Corrie ten Boom, come because they want to share their messages. But often they are being used to bring credibility to these vehicles of heresy--just as we believe Rosenberg and Peretti are being used. Even Break Forth's promotion photo shows William Paul Young sandwiched between Peretti and Rosenberg.

We want to make one thing very clear. Lighthouse Trails believes Israel has a biblical prophetic role, and we agree with Rosenberg that anti-Semitic as well as anti-Israel sentiment is growing at an alarming rate. We too are vitally concerned, which is one of the reasons we publish and distribute several books and DVDs by Holocaust survivors and former resistance workers.

But Rosenberg and other dedicated Christian leaders must understand that it is also vitally important for defenders of the faith to warn against the devastation of spiritual deception that is quickly overtaking much of the evangelical Church. The Bible warns that a day will come when a one-world religious body will join together with a one-world governmental body, and together they will serve a world master who will seek to destroy Israel (and the Church) and cause all mankind to worship him. What good will the church be to Israel (or anyone else for that matter), if the Gospel is no longer preached? "[F]aith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).

 If Rosenberg and other Christian leaders can steer their own followers away from this subtle yet deadly deception, they will do more to help thwart anti-Israel sentiments than they can know, just by the very reason that they will be pointing believers back to the Bible and away from the New Spirituality.

Does Rosenberg realize that the very emerging spirituality that is represented at Break Forth will help to usher in a "kingdom" that will allow no room for Israel? Roger Oakland explains:

As the world becomes more and more resentful toward Israel, the view that the church takes the place of Israel, leaving Israel no prophetic significance (replacement theology), will become increasingly accepted within Christianity at large. Those who believe the Book of Revelation predicts an apocalyptic future will be considered a danger to society and the well-being of this new kingdom of God. (Faith Undone, p. 227)

New Agers believe these dangers of society (Bible-believing Christians) will need to be gone before the world can truly be "healed." (Please read the free online book Reinventing Jesus Christ by Warren B. Smith for documentation on this "selection process.")  This is where the emerging, apostate church is heading. And whether they realize it or not, many are helping her to get there through their promotion of this New Spirituality. 

Are we being extreme in saying these things? We think not. Watch, and see as the events and deception that the Bible warns about unfolds before your very eyes. And pray that there will be some courageous Christian leaders who will take a stand no matter the cost. It is possible that Rosenberg and Peretti could do more harm to Israel and the church than help by attending such conferences. We pray there will be those in these days,  when the birth pangs in the Earth continue to intensify, who will "earnestly contend for the faith" (Jude 1:3). And may we as believers truly trust in Him and not lean to our OWN understanding but in all our ways acknowledge Him; then He promises to direct our paths (Proverbs 3).