Mystical Spirituality, Not Scripture, the New Norm for Contemporary Christian Faith

Rohring down the Rails toward a Fuller EvangelicalismArticle by Peter Jones

Oct 28, 2010

The Berlin train system is a jewel of Prussian efficiency. But I don’t speak German, so when I tried to take my Berlin grandchildren home from the Berlin zoo, we jumped on a train going the wrong way. Panic took over, until my five-year old German-speaking grandson got us back on track! Those who love biblical orthodoxy need to panic. Post-Evangelicalism is roaring off in the wrong direction.

Since mystical spirituality, not Scripture, has become the norm for contemporary Christian faith, some Evangelical groups, including Willow Creek, are turning to experts like Franciscan Father Richard Rohr, an authority on the use of contemplative spirituality, the enneagram and feminist spirituality. In 2009, Rohr organized at his Center a women’s conference led by Marianne Williamson, author of the New Age text A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles.” Rohr believes we must learn, like the mystics of all the religions, to seek “non-dualistic” transformation. This, of course, is the goal of all non-Christian Eastern religions, where the soul and God, Brahma and Atman, become one essence. It defies belief to learn that Rohr is teaching a course, SP761: Action and Contemplation (8 units), in the DMin program this fall at Fuller Theological Seminary, ( helping future Evangelical pastors “grapple with how our rationalist thinking gets in the way of demonstrating compassion, living with paradox and contradictions, and appreciating the mystery of God.”

“Living with paradox” is how Post­-Evangelicals bring together in dynamic tension the various religions of the world. Rohr is not alone. “Progressive evangelical,” Spencer Burke, interviewing Tim King, an ex-Evangelical, rejoices with King that all the world religions are coming together and looks for the day when we will all meet “beyond our belief systems.”

Emergent historian, Phyllis Tickle, gets beyond belief systems by declaring that the age of sola scriptura is over and that the age of sola spiritus has arrived. Appropriately, she also writes books on mystical spirituality. “Spirit-led” experience is neither conservative nor liberal, but the “third” mystical “way of Jesus.” Brian McLaren touts a new spirituality that will “face the new challenge of a new age” (like that of Meister Eckhardt who believed he possessed within himself a divine spark). Liberal Baptist and Harvard professor of Religion, Harvey Cox, in The Future of Faith (2009) rejoices that we are leaving the “Age of Belief,” of “compulsive creed creating” and are entering the “Age of the Spirit.” This “spirit” will lead us into communion with all the spirits/religions. Inevitably, with words like that from her elders, Danielle Shroyer, pastor of Journey Church (Dallas, Texas), at an Emergent Reclaiming Paul Conference (August 12, 2008) led a workshop in which she said:

I cannot say exactly what we believe except that experience is a higher authority than Scripture. I do not believe the Bible is the Word of God, I believe Jesus is…Scripture has no hierarchy over other books, it is inspiring the way a quantum physics book is.

Clearly, Interfaith is becoming one of the distinguishing marks of Post-Evangelical orthodoxy. Brian McLaren hopes that Buddhists become “Buddhist followers of Jesus.”[1] Samir Selmanovic writes an article in An Emergent Manifesto (edited by Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones) on “The Sweet Problem of Inclusiveness,” which includes partaking with local wiccans in the practice of ceremonial witchcraft. The spiritual goal of such an exercise? “…to take comfort in the closeness of the spirits of Nature, our Gods and Goddesses, and especially our Ancestors.”

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