No Repentance from Willow Creek – Only a Mystical Paradigm Shift

Recently, headlines about Willow Creek filled the home pages of several online news outlets. The caption stated: “A Shocking Confession from Willow Creek Community Church.” Some wondered if Willow Creek’s pastor Bill Hybels was repenting from past errors in ministry techniques.1 But a Lighthouse Trails commentary showed that this “shocking confession” was actually a re-enforcement of Willow Creek’s efforts to “transform this planet” through contemplative and emerging spiritualities. The LT commentary stated:

It is no new thing that Willow Creek wishes to “transform the planet.” They are part of the emerging spirituality that includes Rick Warren and many other major Christian leaders who believe the church will usher in the kingdom of God on earth before Christ returns. This dominionist, kingdom-now theology is literally permeating the lecture halls of many Christian seminaries and churches, and mysticism is the propeller that keeps its momentum. If Willow Creek hopes to transform the planet, they won’t be able to get rid of the focus on the mystical (i.e., contemplative). Their new Fall 2007 Catalog gives a clear picture of where their heart lies, with resources offered by New Age proponent Rob Bell, contemplative author Keri Wyatt Kent, and the Ancient Future Conference with emerging leaders Scot McKnight and Alan Hirsch as well as resources by Ruth Haley Barton and John Ortberg. Time will tell what Willow Creek intends to do about strengthening its focus on “spiritual practices” and “transform[ing] the planet.”

Well, it appears it isn’t going to take a lot of time to see what their future intentions look like. The most current issue (Fall 2007) of Willow Creek’s magazine, Willow (in hard copy and also online) gives a clear view of the organization’s spiritual emphasis. The issue titled Ministry Shifts has a subtitle that says: “The landscape of our ministries is shifting. Brace yourself for the aftershocks.”

Article titles in this Willow issue certainly make a statement that things are going to change: “Seismic Shifts,” “Rediscovering Spiritual Formation,” “Stemming the Tide,” “The Changing Face of Worship,” “Shifts in Missional Mindset,” and “The Next Great Debate.” With such commitment to change, it’s no wonder Willow Creek supports Brian McLaren, who is currently on his “Everything Must Change” tour (named for his new book).

In the first article, “Seismic Shifts,” the message is straightforward: “Change or die. … If the local church refuses to change, it will die. … But the winds of change are blowing. Leaders and entire congregations are making the choice to try something new. They are looking at the world, culture, norms and trends and they are daring to take a chance, venture a risk, find another way.” Bell explains that the other articles in the issue give “snapshots” of how the church is now shifting.

In the first article to follow, “Rediscovering Spiritual Formation,” meditation promoter Keri Wyatt Kent writes positively about “monastic communities” and “the emergent church.” Quoting or favorably referring to one mystic after the next (Richard Foster, Ruth Haley Barton, David Benner, John Ortberg, etc.) Kent paints a picture that shows mysticism’s role in this seismic shift that Willow Creek proclaims. She correctly states that while there are some “conservative” Christians who are suspect of spiritual formation, by and large the term and “the practices” have become “mainstream.” These practices, of course, are the mystical practices that are the energy behind the spiritual formation movement.

Kent identifies Scot McKnight as part of this mystical shift. McKnight acknowledges the Catholic connection to contemplative practices, and amazingly, Kent brings into her article Catholic priest Richard Rohr. Why amazing? Rohr’s spirituality would be in the same camp as someone like Matthew Fox who believes in pantheism and panentheism. For Willow Creek to include him in Willow speaks volumes about the level of spiritual deception that Willow Creek is now under. If Kent is right that spiritual formation is now mainstream, then this deception is mainstream as well. Incidentally, Richard Rohr wrote the foreword to a 2007 book called How Big is Your God? by Jesuit priest (from India) PaulCoutinho. In Coutinho’s book, he describes an interspiritual community where people of all religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity) worship the same God. Is this where Willow Creek is heading?

While the Willow issue says that they are not moving away from biblical principles, nothing could be further from the truth. For those reading this who may be new to the terms contemplative prayer and spiritual formation, it is quite simple. A mantric-style meditation is practiced so that the pray-er can enter a silent, altered state, which supposedly allows him or her to hear God’s voice and be transformed. However, because the premise of contemplative prayer is panentheistic (God in all), it is actually occultic in nature. We can say that, because in occultism all things are one, and there is no distinction between God and man – both enjoy equal glory. This is why research analyst Ray Yungen believes that the mystery of iniquity that Paul talked about in the book of II Thessalonians, chapter 2 could very well be mysticism. If man is brought under the delusion that he is part of God and one with God (with or without Jesus), then the Cross and the Gospel become of no effect (theoretically). It is Satan’s ultimate desire to be equal to God (Isaiah 14:14), and he tried to convince Eve of this in the Garden of Eden and continues to this day with his seductive alluring.

Some people have said that contemplative spirituality and the emerging church are just passing whims or trends. But that isn’t true, and Keri Wyatt Kent see that. She explains: “Spiritual formation is not a passing fad, but it does continue to shift and to change as the Church and its people grow.” Of course, what this really means is that where once the true nature of contemplative had to be disguised, more and more it can come out of the closet. No passing fad here. Contemplative is pure New Ageism, the devil’s religion to put it bluntly.

For those who realize that contemplative spirituality is the vehicle through which the kingdom-now, emerging church, dominionist views draw their strength and momentum, Willow Creek’s “shocking confession” will indeed be very shocking. As Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, and most other major leaders in Christianity today, stand arm and arm with contemplatives and emerging spirituality, those who understand biblical prophecy about the days prior to Christ’s return will realize that history is being made. But unfortunately, Scripture warns that Satan will deceive the whole world (Revelation 12:9) and that a great falling away will occur. Let us be sober-minded and diligent to stand for biblical truth and the Gospel that alone can save the soul that turns to Jesus Christ in humility and repentance, acknowledging Him to be God, Lord, and Savior.

But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that be drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. I Thessalonians 5:1-8

To understand more about contemplative spirituality and the emerging church, read A Time of Departing and Faith Undone.

About Mary

I have been a believer since 1981. Everything else before that is relatively meaningless. My heart has, from day 1, always been toward the subject of bible prophecy and I have seen the Lord do amazing things in my life through simply studying the Word and applying it to my life. I am a wife, grandmother and work full time in ministry. Life is full, and full of learning curves and seasons.
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3 Responses to No Repentance from Willow Creek – Only a Mystical Paradigm Shift

  1. J Blair says:

    Apart from the emerging church, to put Richard Rohr and Matthew Fox in the same camp is really a stretch and suggests selective reading by or about each. Fox has certainly become more extreme in his belief especially in recent years. And “contemplatives,” depending on who defines them, have existed throughout the history of Christianity, although they have become more prominent for some Christians in recent decades.

  2. Mary says:

    The problem here is not that Lighthouse Trails put Richard Rohr and Matthew Fox in the same camp, but that there would be a matter of ‘degrees’ as to which one is worse.

    Do we judge them as Catholics, because technically they are heretical, or do we inspect their fruit as Christians? They fall way short in both arenas. Rohr with his psycho-babble work “The Enneagram of Personality”, and his unbiblical social gospel; Fox with his ‘techno-cosmic masses’, his Cosmic Christ heresy, and pagan mysticism – this is even more dangerous than the Catholicism I was saved out of 28 years ago. I came out of this unbiblical junk, and lo and behold, Protestants who have never been where I was, and have no idea what Catholicism teaches, are dragging it into the church and packaging it as some sort of ‘vintage Christianity’.

    Emergent believers somehow have decided that anything goes in the new church, and discernment is out the window on every front. Doesn’t anyone care about sound doctrine anymore? The Bible says that this will be the case in the last days. And since when is experience (contemplative practices) any indicator of spirituality? Since when do experiences and practices become acceptable or romanticized simply because ‘people did it a long time ago’? I find this troubling and illogical. Defining ‘contemplatives’ apparently is really important for the case against the Emergent movement. Satan has been deceiving since the Garden, and if Christians are going to open themselves up to any old spirit, then they better be ready for the consequences. I am appalled that today’s emergent leaders are so indifferent to spiritually protecting the people they minister to that they will just repackage any old thing for what reason I will never understand. Money? The praise of men? To be culturally relevant? All chaff that will blow in the wind, not to mention keep the spiritually starved and ignorant from true living water.

    Those who are sounding the loudest warnings about the emerging church are those who came out of the New Age, and those who came out of Catholicism. But is anyone listening? I think that anyone who is not familiar with these two spiritual disciplines had better do their homework, or they WILL be deceived. Not MIGHT, but WILL. We live in a dark time.

    I guess the question is, why would a bible-believing Christian – I mean, a Bible STUDYING Christian – have anything to do with these two mystical, Eastern, New Age Catholics and their weird smorgasbord of mysticism?

  3. Donna says:

    Well said, Mary. It is sad to me that we have come to this point of having to define which Jesus we believe in. Isn’t there only one? I believe God’s Word, which tells me that “Jesus is THE WAY, THE TRUTH, and THE LIFE. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” John 14:6
    That being the case, and God’s Word being Truth, it seems as if there should be no confusion or question as to what to believe.

    Having heard and read many of the Emergent “pastors” defense of what they are teaching, I would say, “Stay in the Word, stay in the Word, Stay in the Word.” We don’t need another way of “doing church,” we need God’s Holy Spirit to teach us the time-tested Truth.

    To say there have been “contemplatives” for ever is like saying there have been murderer’s forever, as if somehow that makes it more tolerable, or even acceptable.

    Romans 10:17 says, “now faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Not by discussion or dialogue or someone mystical experience, but by THE WORD OF GOD.

    Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

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