a response to the charge that YS is embracing eastern religion

we’ve been getting a bit of heat from a web article accusing us of embracing eastern religions (here’s the article). This isn’t the first time, of course. Sabbath took tons of hits. Yac did also. And YS has been maligned for years by the LighthouseTrails “research” website .

A couple days ago I got an email from a youth worker who’s been adding some contemplative elements to his youth ministry, and taking a bunch of heat for it. this week, a church member sent him the above article. This youth worker was just looking for some help, and asked three questions (that I thought were good questions). So I took the time to write a fairly long response; partly because I thought we should help him; and partly because I wanted to form some thoughts and responses for what i expect to be an ongoing parade of these complaints and questions.

The youth worker’s questions are in bold; my responses in normal text.

I received this link from a church member today. In her note and in a previous meeting, she brings up the proximity of emergent practices to New Age and eastern mysticism, which I respectfully disagree as a thought pattern grounded firmly in 20th century fundamentalism and in absence of 19 centuries of church histories.

I was wondering how you respond to this type of criticism. I am all about listening to all sides of arguments since I surely am not an authority on everything. At the same time, the more I try to educate and introduce old things responsibly, the more flack I get. So here are a couple of things I wonder about this article.

1. Do you think that the statement “that you introduce students to yoga or to contemplative prayer practices where you say a word over and over again to put yourself into what Youth Specialties says is a ‘semi-conscious state” is something that came from YS or was that something misread from something you’ve published?

Well, first of all, the only place we ever offered “yoga” (it was called “yoga and stretching”) was at the National Pastors Convention. It’s never appeared as a suggestion in any Youth Specialties materials (for youth ministry), nor have we had it at our National Youth Workers Convention. So it is a bit ludicrous (actually, flat out false) to say that YS introduces students to yoga. But that said, yoga is really just about stretching and slowing down. Sure, yoga, I suppose, could focus on Hindi or Buddhist gods or something – but it can also focus on Christ. We received a couple stomping-mad complaints about the yoga at the National Pastors Convention, saying “putting your body in those positions invites Hindi gods to enter your body.” I’m sorry – this just sounds like heresy to me. If we don’t believe Hindi gods actually exist, then why are we concerned about them entering our bodies? And even for those who would say this is about other dark spiritual forces in the world; well, as believers, we have no fear of them. So the whole “don’t put yourself at risk by doing these stretching exercises” argument is just lost on me.

On saying words over and over again: well that sure is taken out of context. It’s not like we would suggest someone grab any word (“Tree!” “Towel!” “Beer!”) and chant it over and over again – which is her implication. There is a wonderful spiritual practice, however, of repeating a phrase from the Bible and seeing what God reveals to you about it (or about Him, or about you). It’s prayer: not a chant. I think of this as similar to rolling a really good piece of chocolate around your mouth to get the full flavor. The argument against this I’ve heard is the scriptural passage about not praying idle words. But these aren’t idle words – they’re the God-breathed, inspired words of scripture! Again, the application of this line of reasoning against praying scripture sounds darn close to heretical to me.

Short answer: yes, I think they’ve completely misread and misrepresented what we’ve suggested in publications, and what we offer at events. But even if they hadn’t misrepresented things, they would probably still not “like” what we ARE suggesting!

2. Were you or anyone at YS contacted for this story?

No, certainly not. I’ll be honest: this type of article is RARELY researched. Had we been contacted, we would have been more than happy to engage in dialogue about what we are and aren’t promoting. There’s a website (lighthouse trails research) that has been maligning us for years on this issue (I’m sure it was one of the sources for the article you forwarded). Look at the list of people and ministries they malign, under the heading “Avenues Through Which Contemplative Spirituality is Entering the Church … “:

    Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven
    The Emerging Church
    The Alpha Course
    Brian McLaren
    Contemplative Prayer
    Global Peace Plan
    The Message
    Willow Creek
    Leonard Sweet & Quantum Spirituality
    Interspirituality
    Youth Specialties
    Labyrinths
    Richard Foster and Renovare
    Brennan Manning
    Robert Schuller
    Association of Christian Counselors
    Misguided Pastors
    North America’s Seminaries & Colleges
    Ken Blanchard
    Robert Schuller

I’m not sure whether to laugh at this (I mean, how did YS ever get on the same list – any list! — as some of these people? And, The Message and Rick Warren and Willow Creek are somehow ushering in Eastern Religion? And, how did Robert Schuller get on the list twice?) or be honored that we’re lumped together with some of these people and organizations.

This organization (lighthouse trails), as well as the book referenced in the agape press “news” piece (I find the name of that news agency to be highly ironic) have a few very interesting (and revealing, and not very helpful) approaches:

    a. They do not connect with anyone to verify anything. They merely form opinions (which they call fact) based on books and web stuff.

    b. They are HUGE into “guilt by association”. For instance: if an author writes a book with a questionable comment in it, and one of our authors says it’s a worthwhile book to read (which, of course, to reasonable people does NOT mean an endorsement of everything in the book!), and we’ve published the endorser, we get accused being part of the problem. There’s a great example of this on the lighthouse trails site (actually, dozens of them): there’s a section called “How are Youth Specialties and Thomas Keating linked?” They have a page about how Thomas Keating is terrible for this or that. Then, they link to a very old webpage from the YS Sabbath event (which hasn’t been offered in three years) that suggests a Thomas Keating book as reading. This is how we are “linked”!

    c. This one really troubles me: they seem to (I’m not 100% sure on this, but it seems to be the case) malign anyone who even suggests that we should listen to God. Their position SEEMS to be that God said everything God will ever say in scripture, and that’s that. So this is where people like Rick Warren get lumped in – he has suggested, in print somewhere, that listening to God is a good thing (actually quieting yourself and physically/spiritually listening); and that constitutes eastern mysticism to these folk.

    d. They seem to be very threatened by questions. For instance (this is hypothetical, but along the lines of the methodology they often employ): if I were to ask the question, “is there more to understanding the Cross than just Jesus paying the price for our sin?” These people would instantly write me off. Questions (as opposed to answers) seem to be a very quick route to being added to their list.

3. Surely you’ve heard this argument against ancient spiritual disciplines… especially since there are some which share names with Eastern practices, how do you combat the differences between Eastern mysticism and the upsurge in popularity of Christian disciplines?

A few responses:

    a. Christianity IS an eastern religion. It has all its roots in the East! It’s a bit baffling to me that people lose sight of this, and insist on creating a false separation between eastern religions and (apparently) western Christianity.

    b. All truth is God’s truth. By this I do not mean that all roads lead to God. Quite conversely, I’m saying that all truth – any truth that exists on earth or anywhere else in the created universe – emanates and originates from God. Since we are co-heirs with Christ to all God has created, God’s truth is ours to claim. If a Buddhist is using a breathing exercise to bring some peace to her life, well, bless her. But that should have no bearing on whether or not I choose to focus on my God-created breath – every single breath given to me by a loving God – as a way of focusing my otherwise distracted attention on my God.

    c. There is a rise in interest in eastern mysticism – this is true. But it doesn’t freak me out. God’s response to Moses, when Mo asks what he should say when the people ask who his God is: I AM. In other words, “the fact that they do not know who I am has no bearing on who I am.” So I don’t spend a ton of effort on “combating” eastern mysticism. Sure, I want kids to understand their faith – which includes theology, not only experiences. But I want them to live their faith – not just understand it. Jesus says, “follow me”; not, “learn about me.” It’s active and lived and calls for experience.

To wrap it up a bit: Youth Specialties exists to serve youth workers; and we are driven by our passion for Jesus, and for helping youth workers expose teenagers to the passionate Jesus who loves them so perfectly. We serve the whole church, from every imaginable denominational persuasion. We’d love to serve the people who are accusing us of ushering in eastern religions – though I doubt they’ll want to be served by us.

71 thoughts on “a response to the charge that YS is embracing eastern religion”

  1. Marko,
    After experiencing the prayer labyrinth at my home church a few months back & then again experiencing it at the Pittsburgh NYWC, I have nothing but good things to say about it. It really helped me have a bit of peace in my life that I just don’t usually have in my busy day to day life. It allowed me to really focus on God.
    The prayer chapel did the same thing. Sitting silently in the prayer chapel while reading scripture truly helped me start my day off in a very unique way. I was really inspired by both of those options.
    Do you think that these are the same people who would call the David Crowder Band “Devil’s Music”?
    The Bald Guy

  2. Mark-O,
    Thank you for sharing these responses!
    I first read the article after returning from the NYWC in Sacramento and immediately dismissed the article. Jim Brown failed to contact YS for comment in the article. This is BAD journalism and wouldn’t fly with any reputable publication.
    I popped over to the Lighthouse Trails Research website and read the list of those who they say are promoting “eastern spirituality within the Christian faith.” I personal think that they are honoring YS with such great distinction by placing you guys in a group with Rick Warren, Eugene Peterson, Richard Foster and many others. What an honor and how exciting!
    To everyone at YS: Keep up the good work! You guys make our journeys as Youth Workers more palatable on a daily basis. I know that God will continue to bless each of you individually as well as corporately! Remember: you are fighting the good fight!
    Thank you for all you do…
    Abby Fox

  3. Marko,

    You may find some comfort in Christian Smith’s research which seems to indicate that among American teens there isn’t actually an upsurge of interest in non-Christian Eastern religious practices. The whole smorgasbord spirituality, at least from a practices perspective, is not really present. Very few kids adopt practices from minority religions.

    It is way more likely that a Budhist or Hindu would adopt some Christian practices than the other way around in the U.S.. This makes sense sociologically because Christianity is such the nt religion in the U.S. (I swear it is in your water, in different concentrations but certainly there everywhere, even California) that to fit in minority groups adopt the nt culture.

    This doesn’t mean that you can advocate Hindu practices but rather that the probability of any kid actually doing them is very small even if you did advocate them. Of course the darkhouse folks won’t be all that interested since they are attempting to preserve the purity of the faith against any and all cultural intrusions (wasn’t Jesus a 1st century cultural Jew?) but you can feel good that syncretism is not on the rise.

  4. I don’t know what frustrates me more … people focusing all their time and resources on shutting down other ministries instead of reaching the lost, or people who blindly accept and propagate what they’re saying. It’s incredibly irresponsible to publish something false about a ministry, but it is also incredibly irresponsible to read it, accept it and pass it on as fact without checking into it as well. As Christians we get so frustrated when the world does that to us in the media, etc., and yet we are so much more vicious to each other in doing the very same thing.

  5. So funny reading this here having seen it on his blog this morning! I was actually surprised he didn’t know about all this before!

  6. Why are evangelicals so cautious? There are only so many ways to drop from the head to the heart, that inner sanctuary of the soul where God has chosen to dwell. Most of them involve some type of solitude, silence or contemplation. So the Buddhists meditate. Does that mean we shouldn’t? More power to them. With the right attitude of the heart they will find God and if they are saved it will be because of Jesus. God is that way. He desires even the Buddhists to come to Him.

    I learned some time ago that spiritual fitness requires so much more than just correct thinking. Let’s learn from Jesus how to live like him. In John he said he he only said and did what the Father told him. I’ll bet that means that he did not go into those several hours prayer times in solitude with a list of petitions and intercessions. He probably used some type of contemplative practice to hear from the Father.

  7. Marko, very good response to the questions. As you know I have been concerned about some of the directions YS has taken, but I am confident that you and the rest of the team will keep the ministry on track. Mike …

  8. sevita,

    it should be: very cool, marko.

    “very cool marko” means marko is very cool
    “very, cool marko” means you are responding with ‘very’ to something unknown to us as readers, and calling marko cool.
    “very, cool, marko” means you are responding with ‘very’ to something unknown to us as readers, and adding that you are ‘cool’ with it,while addressing all of that to marko.

    hope that clears it up! :o)

  9. excellent post. i personally do not get much out of the whole emerging deal and I don’t connect with God best through prayer labrynths and what-not. Articles like that just remind me that people bash what they don’t understand and don’t like.

  10. oh yes, it’s all so clear now.
    well, sort of clear.
    mostly clear, i guess.
    although i don’t mind saying that you are cool too.

  11. Way to go Marko. I was at the Sac. Convention. I went to google news to see if they had any news item about YS and the convention. The only one I found was the Agappe press article. I read it and laughed. It is ridiculous. It would be nice if you got some good press too.

  12. man…after reading that, i wish that i had the opportunity to hang with you more often. ever come travel through dallas much? i’d love to take you out for a brewski sometime.

  13. Youth Specialties is misleading thousands of young people straight into the arms of Eastern mysticism and a spirituality that unites all religions and negates the gospel of Jesus Christ. Isn’t it time Youth Specialties admits what they are really up to?

  14. well, obviously, from what i wrote, deborah, you and i would have a clear disagreement about that. our only desire is to lead young people straight into the arms of jesus. if you and i disagree on approach, i would at least ask you to not question our motive (with statements like, “it’s time to admit what we’re really up to”). while i strongly disagree with both your conclusions and your tactics, i do not question your motives.

  15. Marko,
    Great response. I have worked as a youth leader for over a dozen years. I have had the great opportunity to work with several denominations. I had never experienced a prayer labyrinth until the NYWC. I have noticed that more harm has come from the “believers” that have been quick to pass judgment on things they do not yet fully understand.
    I agree with you Marko and I also believe that the Pharasies meant well so…. let me add my two cents….
    I guess I feel like having such firm and immovable stances on such issues can’t help but cause us to have an “I’m right, therefore you’re wrong” mentality. Pride begins to well up within us and we have to defend our position, defend our rights, defend that we have a right to be right…now at the same time I would hope that there are a group of absolute truths that we could all agree on that are not open to interpretation, but beyond that, why can’t we embrace the diversity of the body and quit being so exclusive in our language and practices. If we could all just allow for the possibility that our views aren’t correct…that maybe we don’t have a monopoly on the truth on some of these secondary issues…
    I worked the labyrinth this year in Pittsburgh and I saw with my own eyes as God moved and communicated with his babies. I watched hurting youth pastors focus on their Savior and give Him their hurts.
    I want to thank YS for being an emptied out vessel that God uses to bless so many in ALL DENOMINATIONS and letting His spirit of true community shine through.
    GO YS!!!
    P.S. Marko, I got a great pic of your wife and I sweating off our tails in Pitts while setting up the prayer/art installation.

  16. Deborah Dombrowski, isn’t it time you addressed what Marko actually wrote, instead of throwing around more accusations?

  17. Marko:

    Many of us have spent a lot of time researching this. “Christian yoga”; that’s a joke. Even the yoga proponents recognize that this is not yoga.

    Some of us are not party poopers, we actually have looked at this and see major problems. It’s easy for you and some of the commenters here to be dismissive of people as ignorant, but you should realize that many understand it far better than you.

    And you do know that Foster himself states that contemplative practices are not for the novice and even open up the practitioner to the demonic. See Prayer: Finding the Heart’s

    Do Hindu gods actually exist? Well, actually some do: they are called D-E-M-O-N-S.

    I just fear that you are treading on very dangerous ground.

    As to you comment that Jesus said “follow me” and not “learn of me” you have got to be joking. He continually admonished people to know him. He makes reference to the prophets who he said spoke of him. Do you consider that to be an invitation to know and learn of him?

    Of course, you are free to promote what you want; and we are free to critique it, out of love and a concern for you and the truth.

  18. john — your tone (while we may disagree on some conclusions) is not out of line. i invite criticism, always have. so does YS. i DO, however, have a problem with accusations made that aren’t based on fact or inquiry (as is true of the agape press piece and the lighthouse press stuff). and i have a HUGE problem with people wrongly maligning my motives, or the motives of ys, as ms. dombrowski so clearly does above.

    on the “follow me” or “learn about me” — well, i was using a literary device to make a point (and i can see how i may have “overmade” my point). yes, i certainly believe we benefit from learning about jesus. however, i know many people who know bookshelves of information about jesus and have no real faith, and are not experiencing the life jesus offers. i’m sure you’d agree with me that jesus’ offer to his disciples was: follow me. and i’m sure you would agree that jesus continues to offer that to each of us today. learning about jesus is important; but it’s rather useless without the daily choice to follow him.

  19. I’m *really* enjoying this conversation, because I’ve been tossing some of the same stuff around in the old brain pan, while reflecing on my own experiences.

    Gosh, Marko, I *totally* hear what you’re saying, bro’; but, gosh, I dunno… I’ll tell ya: some of this stuff sorta gives me the heebie-jeebies..?

    I remember when Tim and I were new Christians. We drove cross-country back to our hometowns to share The Faith with our loved ones. We were SO excited, you know. Some of the first folks we visited were my old teacher/nuns. These dear women practically raised me, so I figured they’d be relieved to know I was a Christian now, even if I wasn’t the rosary-toting kind.

    Boy was I in for a shocker: they had discarded their veils and some of their other nunnish trappings– and were sporting neatly-set, 50’s style HAIR-DO’s for pete’s sake! Too cute! I was so happy for them in their newfound wash-n-set freedom.

    Curiously, however, along with The Liberated Nun Look they were also now ALL into the labyrinth walking, centering prayer, “Jesus magick,” let’s-get-one-with-the-universe stuff– no kidding, some of the same stuff that *I* was into waaay back in the mid-80s– when I was still *searching*!!!

    Most shockingly, they were no longer Jesus-alone. (Well, okay, I guess back when I hung with them they were more like “Jesus-n-Mary alone”. But at least they *got* the No-one-cometh-to-the-Father-but-by-Me part, you know?) No kidding, Marko: they, also, were suddenly saying things like, “All truth is God’s truth”– but then they DID take that to the not-so-good place, you know?

    Now I know *you* are not saying all-roads-lead-to-Heaven, but I know these ladies didn’t believe that at the beginning of their “spiritual stuff” journey either. So, like, what took ’em there? (Maybe the veils had been tightly holding their brains together all those years, so that when they removed them, their brains loosened up and got all mixed up..?)

    One of the nuns eagerly sent us home with a book she had just gotten published. It had the imprimatur on it and everything! We read it in the van and nearly drove off a cliff. TOTAL new-age crapola– the very kind of fluffy “spiritual” stuff I used to read during HER CLASS by tucking it into the RC theology book I was *supposed* to be reading!!!

    All of these “spiritual” practices just remind me too much of my pre-Christian years,
    when they got me absolutely nowhere. You know my story.

    Sure, I guess there was *some* “truth” in the some of the junk I used to read. The question is: how do we decide what is True and what is not? Is it true because I like it? Is it true because it worked? This is kind of a stupid analogy, but: you can repair a gas tank with chewing gum and it will work, for a while, but this does not make it the proper and lasting solution to the broken tank. So like, just because something works, doesn’t necessarily make it true. Think Pharoah’s court magicians.

    I don’t know. It seems to me a lot of the false religions’ practices (in Hinduism, Buddhism, Wicca, etc.) offer chewing gum solutions.

    You see, back in the day, if you had asked me, I would have answered, “I’m a Christian.” Ask Tim. That’s what I told him when I met him. I totally was NOT a Christian– but I really thought I was. But, what is a Christian? Who was Jesus to me??? These are the questions answered when we pursue Truth in the Scriptures, instead of through our experiences. It needs to be experience *guided by* Scripture. I know you agree with this, and I’m NOT accusing you of departing from the Sciptures. But I think this point is often unwittingly de-emphasized in the EC at large. And that’s where I suspect the Universalist slant could be creeping in. Cuz none of ya’ll recently took off tight veils, or anything like that.

    Just my dumb two cents.

    Love, your little friend,
    Donna “Photini” (my chrismation name) Ellis

    P.S.
    Sorry if this is all over the place. As I’m trying to sort through all these memories and conclusions, the boys keep showing me Lego stuff! They add ONE tiny brick and say, “Mommy, NOW look at it!”– no kidding, like, every five seconds.

    P.P.S.
    Is Max into Bionicles? Never thought I’d be trying to learn how to pronounce “Metro Nui” and “Toa Nuju”!

    P.P.P.S.
    We miss you guys SO much!!!!!!!!!! Come up to the mountains and we’ll set you up!!!!!

  20. donna – first of all, yes, max is TOTALLY into bionicles.

    now: i think you’re unknowingly doing what others who are afraid of spiritual practices are and have done — throwing the baby out with the bathwater. it’s guilt by association.

    let me explain.

    because some people mix legalism (clearly renounced by jesus) in with bible-reading, does that mean we should throw out the bible? of course not. because some people use “prayer” to pray some to god (as we christians understand and know god), but other times pray to spirits, the dead, saints, and whatever or whoever else; does that mean we throw out prayer? of course not. because some people mix in manipulation and judgementalism and even heresy with preaching, does that mean we throw out preaching? of course not. i could go on, but i think you get my line of reasoning here.

    yes, there are people who utilize prayer and scripture and labyrinths and meditation and just about everything associated with christianity for spirituality that we would consider “other” than true christianity. what’s new? that’s been the case since the beginning of time, pretty much.

    none of that mis-use should cause us to retreat from christ-centered, jesus-only (in response to your jesus-plus phrase) ways and means. most of the prayer practices i’ve used, which have greatly deepened my understanding of and relationship with jesus, are rooted in historic christianity. if someone misuses them, well, that’s a bummer; but it just doesn’t make sense to distance ourselves from things that can deepen our faith because “those people” have or are using them for other purposes.

  21. Yo Marko, thanks for writing back! Yeah, good thoughts; I totally get what you’re saying. I have more to add but I must not come across the way I want to in writing or something, because I am so NOT the throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater type of Christian.

    After the Amish gig, one of our means of healing was absolutely devouring the Church Fathers… which eventually led us to Holy Orthodoxy. We appreciate historic Chrisianity so much, matter of fact, both our children have been baptized, chrismated and received the Mysteries in the Antiochian Orthodox Church. (I really prefer the worship in the Coptic Orthodox Church, but I’m not supposed to receive the Mysteries there because they are alleged monophysites: Christian quibbling being seemingly unavoidable across every denomination.) We have a chapel in our house that’s got icons from one end to the other (my favorite is a print of Christ Pantocrator from St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt). One of my favorite books is “Way of a Pilgrim” (the R.M. French translation); one of Tim’s favorite authors is Kallistos Ware (not that he agrees with *everything* the Bishop says)…

    All that to say, nobody ever gets what I try to communicate online so I think it’s a sign from God that I ought to just be quiet.

    Also, there’s laundry to do.

    We love you guys,
    your little friend,
    Donna Photini Ellis (& Tim Bezalel Ellis)

    P.S.
    Do come visit us and we can all play Bionicles!!!

  22. donna, you’re a heretic, and i can never talk to you again.

    :o)

    really: would so love to see you guys. but, frazier park? or gorman? or wherever the heck you are? might as well be bakersfield.

    you come here! two guest rooms; pool; spa; san diego weather…

  23. It’s when one is persecuted that thier real motives shine through.

    And it’s obvious to me, that Marko is the anti-Christ and YS is the devil’s handmaid.

    Just look at his last response. It is marked with the sign of Lucifer himself.

    I dare not repeat it, but for those who may not understand, here is the clear mark:

    :o)

    I was planning on going to Nashville, but after all this yoga devil worshipping stuff, I’m out.

    We now return you to your regularly scheduled program…

  24. O MI GOSH! I am SO going to heck. I worked in the labyrinth in Pittsburgh. Marko, you sly devil, why didn’t you tell me that I was merely a pawn in your evil plot to convert 10,000 youth workers to eastern mysticism. I’m so embarrassed. All my decades of youth ministry and only now I find out that I’m not supposed to get “in touch” with God? Who knew?

    a slightly red-faced messy disciple,
    carl
    ;)

    PS Where do I sign up to work the labyrinth next year?

  25. Pingback: ysmarko
  26. As a follow-up to John’s comment (I too have read Foster’s caveat on contemplative prayer). Assuming some minimum level of spiritual maturity, isn’t it all about attitude? If I go into a contemplative time with the prayerful attitude that I want to still some of the white noise of the mind, with its anxieties and cares (third soil stuff) so that I can better listen to God’s word, guidance and promptings in my life, do I really need to be so afraid of demonic influences? Are the demons more easily experienced than God? I don’t see it.

    C.S. Lewis stated that “the real problem in the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving them all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in. And so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussings and frettings; coming in out of the wind.”

    How would you propose we do this? Seems difficult without some form of silent, solitary, meditative, and/or contemplative practice. My reading of the bible, particularly the gospels, would suggest we embrace such practices.

  27. Marko,
    Nice to meet you. After reading your opening statement or responce, I’ve one question: Do you think Robert Schuller is a false teacher? Thank you in advance for your reply.
    Jimmy O’Rourke

  28. hi jimmy — unfortunately, i’m not qualified to comment on robert schuller’s theology, as i’ve never read a thing by him or heard him speak. from the little i DO know, the whole “positive thinking” thing seems a bit like missing the target to me; but i can’t go so far as to call him a false teacher (which he may or may not be).

  29. Marko, the last question I read addressed to you was “do you think Robert Schuller is a false teacher?” You said you had never heard him speak or had never read anything by him. If that is the case, how can you say that you have to “laugh at the list of people” among whom Robert Schuller is one whom Lighthouse Trails says, according to your words, “is ushering in Eastern Spirituality?”-You also are quoted as saying, “look at the list of people and ministries they malign, under the heading “Avenues Through Which Contemplative Spirituality is Entering the Church.” Marko, are you willing to research teachings by “Christians” to see if they are truly Biblical or are you going to take the stand that whatever a Christian teaches is all right with you because you are so busy building the kingdom? According to Phil. 1:15-18, it is true that Paul told his co-laborers not to fret over those were who were preaching “Christ”, even though their motives were that of envy, strife, selfish ambition, or thinking to cause him distress. He taught them to rejoice that “Christ” was being preached! But he did not “back off” when so-called Christians were teaching heresy! Paul always confronted those who taught heresy and false doctrine. To the Galatians, he admonished, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a “different Gospel”…. If any is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.” And in Jude 3, we are taught “to contend earnestly for the faith, which was once for all delivered to the saints.”

    While contending for the Faith, Lighthouse Trails and many others are concerned about New Age Eastern mysticism, as well as other false doctrines and practices, entering into the Church. Those who are injecting false practices and teachings into the Church are not going to see it easily because of a deceiving spirit blinding them to the Truth. Those bringing the false teachings and practices will deny that they are introducing error. They will be deceived. It would serve the body of Christ well, for you to know something about Schuller’s teachings and to understand how the power of positive thinking could possibly have anything to do with the New Age. But if you just “poo-poo” the idea that any of these people on the list could possibly be deceived, you are not the Berean you might think you are. Those who are mature have had their senses trained to discern good and evil.

    We cannot just pursue “truth for truth’s sake.” Truth is made known to us by lining it up with the Bible. You are quoted as saying, “All truth is God’s truth. By this I do not mean that all roads lead to God. Quite conversely, I’m saying that all truth – any truth that exists on earth or anywhere else in the created universe – emanates and originates from God. Since we are co-heirs with Christ to all God has created, God’s truth is ours to claim. If a Buddhist is using a breathing exercise to bring some peace to her life, well, bless her.” You seem to be saying that her breathing exercise experience, which brings her peace, is “truth.” -or at least to her it is “truth.” There is a major problem here because New Agers believe “what is true for them is “Truth.” If they perceive something as true than for them it is. They believe that for you the same thing may not be “truth.” To the New Ager, “Truth” is what is “true” for you and “reality” is what is “real” to you. The same line of thinking follows then that, if it works for the Buddhist lady (and it did, it brought her peace), than great! “Bless her,” as you say!

    Your implications and thinking though are unbiblical. I suppose we should say “bless her” when a woman’s psychic tells her she will not die from cancer and she experiences peace as a result; or when a woman communicates with her dead husband and he tells her he can’t wait to see her in heaven, she too finds peace. NO, no, no! We must avoid certain practices whether they seem to work or not. Watch on TV how detectives use Psychics these days to solve cases. It works and families are comforted when cases are solved. But even if they seem to bring peace or stability or “intimacy with God”(which does not always originate from God but from deceptive spirits), certain practices are to be avoided. The means does not justify the end. The means can be an out and out abomination to God and still seemingly get the sought after results!

    Deborah, of Lighthouse Trails, is not against any of us “experiencing God” but she is against teaching that our “experiences” are God. There is a big difference. Some of them are and some of them aren’t and we need to have our senses trained to discern good and evil, so that we can hold our experiences up against the Word and be sure they are Biblical. It was not just “what” the pagan nations “believed” in their minds but also the “form” in which they practiced them that was an abomination to God. How can you separate the two? Marko, you can choose to do breath prayers because you can’t find it in the bible where God specifically said, “Don’t do breath prayers.” But I will not because it is a practice that is used in false religions, and God did not instruct me to pray that way. My Muslim sister wears her prayers on a chain in a a silver cylinder container around her neck. I am not going to imitate this false eastern religion by wearing my prayers around my neck also, even though, I don’t worship her false God. I am not going to do anything that could cause my brother to stumble “into false religions through my example.” I do not have dream catchers in my house, just because they are pretty. I will not imitate other false religions. (By the way if you were to ask saved Gurus about yoga, they would differ with you. They teach unsuspecting Christians that by emptying one’s mind and assuming the yoga position, one opens their person up to demon spirits.

    So I will choose to avoid even the appearance of evil and do what The Lord says to me. “When you enter the land which the Lord your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations…..You shall be blameless before your God.” I will not use “breath prayers “ even though it is ” my God given breath” as you say and so justify it. I have a lot of God given bodily functions but that does not mean I can do what ever I want with those functions and bring glory to God! Neither will I use contemplative prayers, or walk a labyrinth. And I will warn others of these practices at the same time.

    On ending, Robert Schuller’s name was on the list twice because it was a typo. Why would you want to imply anything otherwise? And your semantics about Christianity being an Eastern Religion is what cults do when they want to change the accepted meaning of a word or phrase. We all know that Christianity bagan in the East, but that does not make it an “Eastern Religion” by the American Church’s popular understanding of the term “Eastern Religion.” It would do you well not to play word games with your brothers and sisters. Once you desensitize some of them to accept Christianity as a “eastern religion” you may end up being responsible for leading some astray, as they see nothing wrong with other Eastern religions and ignorantly embrace those abominable practices. Karen

  30. karen — my schuller comment (being on the list twice) was a joke. as to who i’ve read — i’ve read many of the others on the list, and know some of the them personally. i just can’t really comment on schuller, that’s all.

  31. Hi Marko,

    Although I too question the Lighthouse approach of using minor associations to build a case for major agreement on doctrine, I suggest that you devote some time to the study of the insights that people who have been deeply committed to Eastern religions before their conversion to Christian faith have been sharing with us since the 1970s. You might subscribe to the “SCP Journal” published by the Berkeley Spiritual Counterfeits Project, for example.

    The problem with trying to Christianize Yoga is that the yogis have developed the poses or asanas of yoga over the centuries to enhance the altered states of consciousness that have led Hindus (and their Western converts) to the illusion of their own divinity. Likewise, repetition of a mantra or chanting of a phrase rather readily blanks out the mind and induces the illusion of oneness with the universe that leads to the monist doctrine that “All is One.” (This of course fulfills the definition of idolatry with its confusion of the creation with the Creator.) Meditation on the breath leads in the same direction.

    In addition, these practices put the mind and body into the passive state used by mediums to channel their familiar spirits. And those who seriously practice Eastern meditation and hatha yoga commonly report demonic apparitions during these practices. This was the experience of Vail Hamilton (a teacher of Trancendental Meditation before her conversion) with whom I co-authored “TM Wants You!” (Baker Book House, 1976).

    So you would do well to know how Eastern religious practices are understood and used in their own traditions before you try to use them as a Christian. I fear that what we are seeing all over the place is the commodification of religion and of religious practices as if religious traditions were frangible commodities like beads that you can string on your own relgious necklace to suit yourself. Thus, half of Canadians are said to believe in both reincarnation and resurrection! This disrespects both the Christian and the Buddhist traditions.

  32. Marko, David Haddon gave you more information than anyone yet, and as in the case of your response to my e-mail on 11/09, you haven’t really responded to any of the important issues presented to you. To me you say your were only joking and to David Haddon you say you like his tone and you would prefer to blog with Him. But you didn’t. Please consider the content of what we are saying and find out if there is truth to it by lining it up against the Word. These things are not joking matters. That is why we are so alarmed. It’s just as important to us as whether or not a person accepts Christ as their Lord and Savior. We would never ever make such a big deal about it if we did not care about those who the Holy Spirit is trying to draw into the Kindom of God. If they are served error, they can miss the Door and be led in another direction. The way is narrow and few find it. The masses will be led astray. Who would want to take their experiences so casually that they might be the one to lead another astray? I know deep down you would not want to do that. We have to examine ourselves and what we believe or we too can be deceived. I have a sister who for over 30 years has been steeped in New Age and Eastern mysticism and another who is a Muslim. We cannot partake of the same things they do. Yoga, breath prayers,contemplative prayer, laberynth walk, etc. Please research these things. Think of all the people you could affect if we were right and you were not; but, you later turned around and set the record straight! Please open your heart to consider these things. It is true, if you had been alive in the late 60’s when Eastern Mysticism entered this country and you saw the change that it affected in the hearts of Americans you would know what we are talking about. We have known for years that this (eastern Religions) would be a major factor in the Great Falling Away. And now 40 years later we see it happening. It is so sad! Please do not be mad at us. We know you have such a huge influence and could have such a positive influence on so many kids and even older people who have bought into all of this, if you were to see it another way. Have you ever read The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow? or The Beautiful Side of Evil? They were written years ago and are eye openers and easy to read. I apologize for coming on so strong and I ask you to forgive me. I see that another method of approach would have been better. Hey, don’t we all come to a point in our Christian walk where we have to put everything we know and everything we have accomplished on the alter, and say “Lord not my will but thine? It is hard and it seems we may loose what is so dear to us, but we will never loose when we seek God for direction that way. I really ask you to put everything else aside and seek God to know if we are right or wrong. God Bless you, Karen

  33. karen — my comment about the joke was only pertaining to your question about my comment about robert schuller being on the LTR list twice. i never said any of the rest of this was a joke. also, i said (if you read it, you will see) to david that i appreciated his tone, and that his is the kind of dialogue i want on my blog. i never said “i would prefer to blog with him”.

    please, karen (and others), DO NOT assume i am saying people should try anything. NOR am i saying we should “erase the lines between christianity and eastern religions” (you didn’t say this, but others have misrepresented my comments that way in the past week). i’m not encouraging, nor have i ever, people to try TM. i remain very open to whatever God’s Spirit will say to me about these issues. i AM saying that i fail to see how — for example — praying scripture in a contemplative manner, which has been practiced by believing christians for hundreds, if not thousands, of years somehow constitutes a sudden slide toward watering down our faith. just the opposite, i believe (and i believe the Spirit has confirmed in my own soul) these practices bring us closer into communion with our living God, who so deeply desires to be in intimate communion with us.

    as to more fully engaging in every point and question put forth by every commenter, i just don’t have the time at this moment to engage in that. but again, i DO remain completely open to the Spirit on this. is it even conceivable to you that i MAY HAVE BEEN open to God on this — seeking God to know if i am right or wrong — and have peace that God HAS clearly spoken to me (and many other passionate followers of jesus christ). do you also have this openness you desire for me?

  34. I agree with the comments made by John. Yes there are spiritual powers in eastern religions. They are called demons. When Scripture tells us to meditate in I Timothy 4:15 it isn’t telling us to repeat a word, phrase, or even a verse of Scripture over and over (mantra), but rather to prayerfully ponder the meaning to various texts of Scripture. Blanking out your mind, by repeating a word, phrase or even verse of Scripture repeatedly is the same as going into an altered state of consciousness, which allows demons to enter in. The Bible never tells us to blank out our mind, but rather God says, “Come let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). The way some Bible teachers twist the plain truth of Scripture is revolting.

  35. Marko,

    I too have had some concerns about YS. After reading some of the articles and about some of their sponsored events and resources, I was especially surprised to see that you are the president (this was before I ever heard of Lighthouse Trails Research).

    Now, about the youth workers’ question #1, from my own findings, I would have to say that according to the retreat leaders (for your sponsored event “Sabbath”), Michael Hryniuk and Mark Yaconelli, contemplative prayer does put you into another level of consciousness. In Michael’s article, “YMSP: What is our theology?” he states:
    “Historically, the definition that Evagrius Pontus gives of contemplation as ‘theoria physike’ is illuminative here. Evagrius speaks of contemplation as a way of being and seeing (theoria) that discloses God’s presence in and through the nature of the created things (physike). For Evagrius, the kind of awareness, that sees created reality as transparent to the glory of God, requires ‘praktike’ or the cultivation of virtue through spiritual discipline. The purpose of the disciplines we teach is, likewise, to systematically cultivate the nascent capacity for this level of awareness of God’s presence.”
    Then, later in the same article, he states:
    “This is the cardinal purpose of ‘praktike’ or the ascetical practice: to purify the senses, the mind, the heart, and the body of non-essential stimulation so as to focus attention more deliberately and effectively on what is essential — the divine presence. For many of our participants – pastors, youth ministers, adults and youth – this is a liberation and a conversion to another level of consciousness.”
    I would take it from that article that at Sabbath (sponsored by YS), that some were experiencing another level of consciousness, due to their teaching. I don’t believe that I have misread or misrepresented what YS has offered at an event.

    Now, I have a question, who is the “divine presence”? In the same article under “The ‘Contemplative’ Approach: Basic Context and Premises”, Michael says:
    “The core of this approach is to awaken the heart to a different way of being, seeing, hearing, and knowing that is sensitive to the divine presence in all creation, beginning with oneself.”
    Since many new agers also claim to find the “divine presence” within, how do you discern which “divine presence” is God? If God is always within everyone, why did Jesus need to send the Holy Spirit to believers?

    Another concern of mine is a more recent article titled “Contemplative Prayer Practices” by Mike Perschon. In this article, Mike recommends a weblink under the Deep Breathing heading: http://www.authentic-breathing.com/deep_breathing.htm. This link leads to an eastern mysticism/ new age website where I don’t see any biblical teachings listed at all. Why would YS allow this website to be promoted through this article?
    Also, about the Thomas Keating book, that was actually a suggested reading on the YS website for Sabbath. The actual page, which I have in front of me (I like to print everything), states that, “ the selections can help you prepare for your Sabbath experience”. The two books by Keating that are recommended are, “Open Mind, Open Heart: The contemplative Dimension of the Gospel” and Invitation to Love: The Way of Christian Contemplation”. The statements about the books are positive. There is nothing negative at all. Why wouldn’t YS be linked to this? If YS is committed to encouraging and resourcing youth workers so they can expose teenagers to Jesus, wasn’t the Sabbath one of those resources? They did sponsor it, right? I guess that would provide the link. (YS name IS on the page.) Just as a restaurant owner or manager is responsible for the food they serve, I would also have to believe that YS is also responsible for the “food” they serve. If your mission is to provide resources so that others will find Jesus, you have to be careful about what you promote and is on the site. Does the link to Keating bother you or not? It seems like it does. By the way, I discovered this without Lighthouse Trails.

    Well, I know I’ve said a lot even though I still have more examples.When I came across Lighthouse Trails, I found those who were seeing the same things. There are many more who agree with them too. Please feel free to contact me to talk more about this. I’m a friend from your past,and Mark, it’s not your openness to God that has me concerned, but rather whom you may or eventually may be hearing if engaging in contemplative practices. Sheryl(Mondalek)Phillips

  36. well, sitting at my computer at 5:30am all i can say is: sheryl mondalek!?! wow! how cool! (well, in a way. “hello, how ya doin’, remember when you totalled that VW on our first driving date when we were both 16?” — that would have been a bit more fun.)

  37. IMPORTANT NOTE TO ALL READERS OF THESE COMMENTS

    i’m pretty much out of the loop for the next two weeks — lots of travel and ministry stuff.
    and…
    this is getting nowhere. when a high school friend (and ex-girlfriend!) writes a very long comment with her concerns about me and ys without even saying hello, it’s time to pack it in.

    friends, clearly we are not going to convince each other on this subject. i have read every word of your comments, and will, as always, remain open to God’s leading in my life. i don’t mean this to be dismissive, really. it’s just that we have 7500 real youth workers who DO trust us and desperately need a fresh touch from Jesus coming to nashville in a few days, and i have two trips before that — starting today.

    you are welcome to continue posting comments here — i will not edit or delete them unless they’re WAY out of line. but i have other fish to fry, so to speak, and can’t continue to be consumed by this discussion.

    as i recently (this week) did with Brett Kunkle from Stand to Reason (with whom i’d had semi-contentious blog-comment discussions with over a different subject), i’d be happy to have lunch or coffee with any of you if you’re ever in san diego, and wish to have a real conversation face-to-face.

  38. Marko, Forgive me for saying you would prefer to blog with David when you actually said “that his kind of dialogue is the kind you want on your blog.” And in answer to your question “do I also have an openness to whether or not I am right or wrong.” Of course, I do. That is why I have read many books and articles by non-christians and Christians about these very subjects. This subject has been near and dear to me since my family members have been so involved in New Age and pagan religions and practices. In response to your comment about TM, it is only one of many New Age,Eastern religious practices-Pagan!!! And whether ar not you have involved yourself or any one else in TM specifically is not proof of your strict adherence to Biblicl practices. There are many people practicing and promoting practices that are abominations to the Lord who never practiced or promoted TM specifically. Concerning ancient practices in the Chruch, I was raised Catholic and know full well that many ancient practices were a part of the Church; but that is not confirmation that they were acceptable to God. When Bibles finally were printed in the language of the people,which the Catholic Church opposed,(rather than just written in Latin) many things changed. Now the saints could read it for themselves and the Body of Christ began to realize many of these same practices were pagan and they discarded them as unbiblical.

    Now the saints could read for themselves Matthew 6:7 NKJ “And when you pray do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.” NAS “When you are praying do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words.” NLT “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered only by repeating their words again and again.” He is talking about things like praying the rosary. The argument one might use who believed repeating phrases from the bible over and over again would be alright because the rosery prayers were truly vain and meaningless repetitions won’t hold water. The rosary is partly the Lord’s prayer. We are instructed to pray the Lord’s prayer, but not over and over again. The point of this scripture is that the “repetition” of praying something, anything, over and over again is not biblical but heathen. The same with contemplative prayers. They are heathen! It is not what you are praying that makes it heathen, it is the repetiton, the saying it over and over again that makes it heathen. Why? Because eventually it will put you in an altered state of consciousness and a false sence of position with the Lord. NAS “for they “suppose” they will be heard for their many words. “NKJ “for they “think” they will be heard for their any words.”
    Clearly, we are told not to immitate the abominible practices of the heathen in Deut. 18 and here again is a specific way we are not to imitate them. Why? Because it will “water down our faith.”
    How can you continue to say “I don’t see how contemplative prayers constitute a sudden slide toward watering down our faith?” The bible says “how can two walk together unless they agree.” If you are going to walk with God you have to agree with His word. If you are going to walk with God you have to agree that the repetition of prayers is a heathen practice and God has told us “do not do it.”

    Marko, There are obviously other people who are contacting you with good and specific information asking you to really look into the other side of what you believe to be true. Are these practices really emminating from the “Holy Spirit” or from the other one which New Agers commonly call “Spirit.” You keep telling me that “the Spirit” or “Spirit” has comfirmed these things to you. The problem with that is that we sometimes hear things we think are from the Holy Spirit but are not. We are taught in the Scriptures that we need to take what we hear the Holy Spirit telling us and line it up against all the scriptures to see if it is true. But I don’t hear you giving any biblical scriptural support for what you say “the Spirit” is telling you.

    Please don’t let it be said of you “Contact Marko! It will be fun. It will be cool and it will be sure to take you places you haven’t been before! And eventually places you wish you hadn’t gone.” God Bless you, Karen

  39. marko,i’m not a big philosopher. i don’t have any letters after my name (unlike my better half). i have a simple faith. i love my god. i wake up every morning and ask him to walk with me like he did with adam and eve in the garden. i ask him to open my eyes and ears. i ask him to teach me and show me what he wants for today. i thank him for my life. i thank him for the earth and i ask him to give me eyes and ears to see people. to encourage people. to love people. so my friend today a little bit of irish love comes your way. may peace, grace, truth, patience, wisdom, self-control and love reign in your heart. you are a good man who is loved by many. let the presence of our god cover you. may his words enrich you. may the blessing of our god be over your family.
    and finally a wee irish blessing:

    May the road rise to meet you.
    May the wind be always at your back.
    May the sun shine warm upon your face.
    And rains fall soft upon your fields.
    And until we meet again,
    May God hold you in the hollow of His hand

  40. Hi Marko, sorry,I didn’t mean to not say hi.I don’t usually do this blog stuff and talking from a computer is unnatural for me. I was trying to make it brief but I guess that didn’t happen.(By the way, I don’t think it was me who totalled the VW, but I do remember going over that cement thing at what,10 mph. I didn’t think it was possible to total a car going that slow.) well,
    maybe we can talk again in a few weeks and sorry again, I didn’t mean to be rude or unfriendly. Sheryl

  41. thanks, sheryl — welcome to blog-land. i was driving the VW, it was at 12 Oaks Mall, which had just opened. i was cutting across the parking lot a WHOLE lot faster than 10 mph — more like 50! i’ll have to post that story sometime.

  42. Mark,

    First go to India and look at what Yoga, the basis and root of Hinduism has done to the people on the Indian sub-continent.

    And you promote this for Christians?

    Sad indeed!

  43. I am doing some research for someone who is taking a college course which involves learning about some of the contemplative practices mentioned here. I already have great concerns about these practices and now that someone I know is learning about them I feel that it is imperative to begin doing more research.

    I especially appreciate the comments of David Haddom, Karen Graves and Sherl Phillips. Thankyou for writing in as much detail as you did. Can any of you refer me to specific articles which are well-researched? I don’t want articles that come to conclusions based on one or two sentences which may be taken out of context.

    Here is some of the reading the college student has to do: about St. John of the Cross (not sure which book, perhaps various writings by him); The Cloud of Unknowing; Thomas Greene “Opening to God.” And of course, Richard Foster.

    Marko, being in a position to influence so many young people, you have a great responsibility. You seem to have been turned off by what you consider shoddy research. That does not take away the responsibility that you have to look into these things. You don’t seem interested in pursuing other avenues of research.

    I have lived overseas in a country where people practice witchcraft. I have personally experienced what many people probably only experience from becoming personally involved in the occult. I would never want to think that I had led even one person in opening themselves up to demons. There are STRONG warnings in scripture about being involved in demonic practices. Those warnings are strong because the demons which can manifest themselves through these practices are real.

    I have spent perhaps 5-10 hours months ago researching some of the things discussed on this site. It doesn’t take long to discover that many people promoting these practices believe that we all meet the same god when we get into a contemplative state. Please don’t ignore the warning of Christians who have looked into this more than you have. God may be using them to show you something.

    Read up on the occult. Read up on Hinduism. Read about people who are demonically oppressed. Talk to missionaries. Read the theology of a lot of folks involved in contemplation: what ends up taking priority, Scripture which teaches one way to God, or the “knowledge” that one is in “the Presence?”

    I suggest that you call someone at Gospel for Asia and ask them to give you some first-hand accounts of some of the demonic oppression that people in India suffer.

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