Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church/
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Brian McLaren... What Christianity Has Come To

Part VI... Glossing Over the Occult

Carol Brooks


Foreword and Introduction: Why Brian McLaren in particular? Who is Brian McLaren?...Short Bio. Index to sections

 Part I...The Secret Message of Jesus: Overview The "secret" message... isn't such a big secret. The New Testament emphasis on doing good works to "the brethren". Do modern day Christians get it?

Part II... God's Coming Kingdom: Are God's coming kingdom and the second coming of Christ literal physical events, or are they to be seen in a 'spiritual' sense? What does the Bible say? The dual 'now' and 'then' message of the Kingdom. How McLaren redefines the word "Kingdom, the phrase "Eternal Life", and changes God's "will" to God's "dream" in order to 'prove' his points.

 Part III... A Gospel of Transformation, Evacuation... or Justice? The wrath Of God.The "amazingly subversive" Book Of Jonah. The justice and judgement of God. While there is no question that, as McLaren says.. Jesus will condemn and destroy evil, who or what, according to the Scriptures, is evil? Revelation...example of the "literature of the oppressed", territory of the lunatic fringe, or our only hope. Does God plan to "destroy creation"?

 Part IV... McLaren's All Inclusive Kingdom: God's promise to Abraham... who exactly would be "blessed"? Practicing what he preaches... Brian McLaren and Jewish leaders. Services done to "Tash".... unbelievers saved without explicit faith in Christ. Salvation. Does seeking salvation make a person "self-centered" and "narcissistic"? The Bible's conditions for entrance into the kingdom. Redefining repentance and the word "transgression". Demon worship. What's in a Name? What exactly Is a "Christian"? Did Gandhi seek "to follow the way of Christ"? The inclusiveness AND exclusiveness of Jesus. What determines one's 'status' in the Kingdom? The Pax Christi. Many shall come from the east, and from the west..

Part V... The Lambeth Conference: Three questions asked Brian McLaren after the Lambeth Conference. Should Christianity be seen as a "threat" or "welcome friend" to other religions, and are they caretakers or enemies of the Gospel

    You Are Here 001orange Part VI... Glossing Over the Occult: Occult ceremonies are not harmless 'traditions'. Contemplative spirituality...practices learned learned from a myriad of sources outside of Christianity

Part VII... McLaren And The Bible: Is the Bible inerrant, infallible, absolute and authoritative, or are Christians resorting to the authority of extra Biblical words and concepts" to justify their own belief in the Bible's ultimate authority? Is the sole purpose of the Scriptures to equip God's people for good works. Seeing the Bible as narrative, does not mean forgetting the all-important meta-narrative. Genesis literal or "deep mythic language"?

Part VIII... Conclusion: God A or God B? Re-writing and sanitizing the Message. Profane babbling. Brian McLaren, the New Age, and the antichrist. Ideas that blends harmoniously with New Age beliefs. McLaren and the "visionaries"



Glossing Over the Occult
Contemplative Spirituality

Glossing Over the Occult

Occult Ceremonies Are Not Harmless 'Traditions'
Page 78 of A New Kind of Christian, contains this gem

    "I had been asked to perform a wedding for a native American woman and an Anglo man. The wedding began with a loud yip-yip-yip shouts, and it included having the couple smoke a peace pipe and blow sage smoke in the four directions of the compass and several other customs that when new to me. I remember thinking that some of the people from my church must think I'm really over the edge to be participating in this event. But then we came to the part of the wedding where they exchanged rings, and I realized that gold rings were simply part of European culture-no better or worse then smoking a pipe or blowing sage smoke... I was simply more used to customs that came from my own culture" [72]

Is this true? Can the blowing of sage smoke in the native American culture be equated with the exchange of wedding rings. Undoubtably, as anyone who bothers to do a little research on both subjects will find, they can not. This is simply an attempt to make occult ceremonies seem like harmless 'traditions'.

The Wedding Ring
As far as one can tell, there never was anything "spiritual" connected to the exchange of rings (a tradition that was in use in Ancient Rome, and possibly dates even further back). According to some customs, the ring formed the last in a series of gifts, which may have included the engagement ring, traditionally given as a betrothal present. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, the Romans are also thought to have originated the custom of betrothal rings, or engagement rings, symbolizing a promise of marriage to a member of the opposite sex.

Historically, the wedding ring was connected to the exchange of valuables at the moment of the wedding, rather than a symbol of eternal love and devotion. It is a relic of the times when marriage was a contract between families, not individual lovers. Both families were then eager to ensure the economic safety of the young couple. Sometimes it went as far as being a conditional exchange as this old (and today outdated) German formula shows: 'I give you this ring as a sign of the marriage which has been promised between us, provided your father gives with you a marriage portion of 1000 Reichsthalers' [73]

Today the wedding ring merely symbolizes love, fidelity and marriage, but sage is an entirely different matter.

With it's roots buried deep in native American spirituality, different kinds of sage are used for different spiritual and healing purposes. It is not for nothing that stores, specializing in spiritual and metaphysical products (tarot cards, runes, crystal balls, "sacred" candles, etc), are known to use the names sage, or sacred sage.

    Sage is held sacred by many Native American Indians, because of it's effective purifying energies. It heals by bringing the patient back into balance and cleanses the body and mind of negative spirits and impurities. It played an intricate part in ancient, as well as current ceremonies and was often included as an ingredient in a mixture called Kinnikinic, and then smoked in a pipe or used was used externally for smudging. [74]

Asunam is an ordained Shingon Buddhist monk, a "Certifying Reiki MasterTM, and Director of the Reiki FoundationTM; a select group of Masters who have researched and been indoctrinated into the ancient traditions that Reiki itself comes from" [75]. This is what he has on his website about the Native American "smudging ceremony" [All Emphasis Added]

    Our Native elders have taught us that before a person can be healed or heal another, one must be cleansed of any bad feelings, negative thoughts, bad spirits or negative energy - cleansed both physically and spiritually. This helps the healing to come through in a clear way, without being distorted or sidetracked by negative "stuff" in either the healer or the client. The elders say that all ceremonies, tribal or private, must be entered into with a good heart so that we can pray, sing, and walk in a sacred manner, and be helped by the spirits to enter the sacred realm.

    Native people throughout the world use herbs to accomplish this. One common ceremony is to burn certain herbs, take the smoke in one's hands and rub or brush it over the body. Today this is commonly called "smudging." In Western North America the three plants most frequently used in smudging are sage, cedar, and sweetgrass.

    To do a smudging ceremony, burn the clippings of these herbs (dried), rub your hands in the smoke, and then gather the smoke and bring it into your body, or - rub it onto yourself; especially onto any area you feel needs spiritual healing. Keep praying all the while that the unseen powers of the plant will cleanse your spirit. Sometimes, one person will smudge another, or a group of people, using hands - or more often a feather - to lightly brush the smoke over the other person(s). We were taught to look for dark spots in a person's spirit-body. As one California Indian woman told us, she "sees" a person's spirit-body glowing around them, and where there are "dark or foggy parts," she brushes the smoke into these "holes in their spirit-body." This helps to heal the spirit and to "close up" these holes. [76]

Additionally, a book available on Amazon entitled Sacred Sage: How It Heals, was written by Wendy Whitman who, on a walkabout in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, outside of Taos, New Mexico, says she "found herself harvesting sage". The messages and feelings she received during this time motivated her to relocate to this area, change her name to Silver Wolf Walks Alone. The resulting book tells of the healing abilities of sagebrush, and the spiritual messages she received during meditations with the sagebrush [77]

And, of course, Brian McLaren endorses the "Christian mystical tradition".


Contemplative Spirituality

Practices Learned Learned From A Myriad Of Sources Outside Of Christianity
And, of course, any refutation of Brian's McLaren's teachings would not be complete without referring to his endorsement of contemplative prayer and other mystical practices. While I have not read his book Finding Our Way Again: The Return of the Ancient Practices, he believes Dallas Willard and Richard Foster, with their emphasis on spiritual disciplines, are

    “key mentors for the emerging church." [78]

And books by both Tony Jones and Richard Foster are great resources for contemplative practices.. Archived on his site are the questions asked of Brian McLaren in April 2005, included among which is the following

     In some of my readings, both of books authored by you and others, I have read about Christian mystics. Who are the predominant Christian mystic authors?

McLaren’s reply...

    “If you pick up Richard Foster's "Celebration of Discipline" and his other work via Renovare, you'll get a great exposure to the Christian mystical tradition. "The Spiritual Formation Workbook" is a great resource too. Tony Jones' "The Sacred Way” is also a sturdy introduction to contemplative practices." [79].

Although nothing further is needed to show that McLaren strongly endorses contemplative practices, as one more example McLaren has endorsed Carl McColman's "The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality", on the back cover of which, he says

    "Before I heard about The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, I had been thinking about how such a book has been needed for a long time. Now, having read it, I'm glad we waited for Carl McColman to come along to write it. It's accessible, well-informed, balanced ... just what we needed." - Brian McLaren, author of A New Kind of Christian

Part of the book description on Amazon includes these words (Emphasis Added)

    The second part of the book considers how mysticism can make a difference in the lives of ordinary Christians today, considering how spiritual practices such as lectio divina, meditation, and contemplative prayer can foster a deeper openness to Divine presence. An extensive list of the greatest Christian mystics, a recommended reading list, and a bibliography round out this in-depth introduction. [80]

"The Big Book" has also been endorsed by Caroline Myss, world famous psychic and occultist, who says

    McColman's book on Christian mysticism is a masterpiece of scholarship and wisdom. This author obviously earned his understanding of mysticism through years of research as well as his own personal spiritual journey and there is no more powerful combination for inspired writing." [80]

Considering that, in Romans 9:33, Christ Himself is called a stumbling stone and rock of offense, it is obvious that the book contains nothing that can possibly offend anyone regardless of belief, or their view of Christianity.

Who is Carl McColman? In his own words (Emphasis Added)

    I was raised a Lutheran Christian, moving to the Episcopal/Anglican communion as a young adult. But I was also drawn to the wisdom of other traditions, including Buddhism and Neopaganism. Eventually I spent about seven years outside of Christianity, exploring Wicca, shamanism, Goddess spirituality, Celtic Druidism, Ken Wilber's Integral Theory, among other spiritual paths. But the Christian contemplative path called me back, and in my 40s I entered the Catholic Church, placing myself under the spiritual guidance of Cistercian monks and Benedictine wisdom. What all this means is that I've been able to ponder the meaning of Christian mysticism for people both inside and outside the institutional expression of Christianity (the church)....

    Mysticism is a wonderful "location" of spiritual experience, particularly for those who are more drawn to what unites all people, rather than what separates us [81]

In other words, it is the same old story, told in the same old way. Mystical spirituality is first learned from a myriad of sources outside of Christianity, and then the Scriptures are poked, prodded, and wrung out, in the effort to make them appear to support these ideas. All clear reading of the Scriptures are abandoned in favor of every esoteric interpretation under the sun. In the interests of space, one small example will have to suffice.

In The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Carl McColman uses the parable of the landowner as an illustration that the mystical life does not have to be a journey, or several stage process. He says

    Jesus told the parable in which a man hired workers to work on his land, and he paid the same wage to those who works there all day long and those who arrived at the last hour. Did he intend to imply by this that the fullness of union with God is available to anyone, at any time, not just those who "work the program"?  [82]

Repeating what I said in an earlier chapter...

The parable ostensibly begins in Matthew 20, but since chapter and verse divisions were not present in the original documents, but added later for convenience (often at the most inappropriate times), there is a solid connection between chapter 19 and 20. Chapter 20 begins with the word "for", which connects it to chapter 19. Additionally, Jesus uses the same words about the last being first and the first being last both at the beginning (19:30), and end (20:16), of the parable.  Therefore we should start reading much earlier.... perhaps around 19:16.

Brian McLaren uses these words "many who are seen as last will be first there, and many who are first here will be last there" to show that we should not judge others or prognosticate their eternal destinies.

A careful reading of the parable and the verses preceding it, makes it clear that the underlying message was that the length of time spent in the vineyard was not the issue. The Jews who had been there from the beginning, had no reason to complain about the believing Gentiles who came to work in the vineyard much later, but would receive the same reward.

But, contemplative spirituality is way too long and involved a topic to be dealt with here. [Please see section  Contemplative Spirituality]


CONTINUE ON TO PART VII... MCLAREN AND THE BIBLE: Is the Bible inerrant, infallible, absolute and authoritative, or are Christians resorting to the authority of extra Biblical words and concepts" to justify their own belief in the Bible's ultimate authority? Is the sole purpose of the Scriptures to equip God's people for good works. Seeing the Bible as narrative, does not mean forgetting the all-important meta-narrative. Genesis literal or "deep mythic language"?


End Notes
All URLs were good at the time of writing (July 2012)

[72] Brian McLaren. A New Kind of Christian. Hardcover. Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (March 28, 2001) Page 78.  (Around Pg. 112 in the paperback edition)

[73] http://www.farlang.com/gemstones/kunz-rings/page_289 and http://www.farlang.com/gemstones/kunz-rings/page_290

[74] The Sacredness of Sage by Terri J. Andrews. http://www.angelfire.com/biz2/turquoisebutterfly/sage.html

[75] http://www.asunam.com/

[76] The Smudging Ceremony By Adrienne Borden and Steve Coyote. http://www.asunam.com/smudge_ceremony.html

[77] http://www.amazon.com/Sacred-Sage-How-It-Heals/dp/0964022907

[78] Andy Crouch. The Emergent Mystique. 11/1/2004 http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/november/12.36.html?start=5

[79] Questions from April 2005. http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/000467.html

[80] http://www.amazon.com/The-Book-Christian-Mysticism-Contemplative/dp/1571746242

[81] From the Author. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1571746242/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

[82] Carl McColman. The Big Book of Christian Mysticism: The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality [Paperback] Pages 115 and 116. Hampton Roads Publishing (August 1, 2010)


Brian McLaren, Part 5... The Lambeth Conference