by Pastor and Author David Pett
The Apostle Paul told Timothy that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they accumulate teachers who tickle their ears, turning men from truth to fables” (2 Tim.4:3-4).
The truth is this – Jesus Christ is the only Lord and Savior! He Himself said: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6). This truth is foundational and unchangeable. No man is a Christian who denies it, for in so doing he denies the Lord who said it.
The Church has turned off its radar. Because we do not want to appear critical or negative, we open to all kinds of people who come with all kinds of doctrine. Because we want them all included, and really do not like the judgment of God against sin and sinners, we open ourselves up to Universalism. We want to believe God will get them all in somehow.
First, many years ago Universalism said – God is love: He will send no one to hell.
A second type of Universalism added this wrinkle: Jesus died for all, so all people are already saved; they just don’t know it. I once knew a Lutheran preacher’s wife whose father passed away not knowing Jesus. She grieved inconsolably, until she accepted Universalism: all – including her Christ-rejecting father – were included in the love of God.
A third form of Universalism says people will be given a second chance to say Yes or No after they physically die.
A fourth Universalism, birthed in ancient Eastern Religions and promoted by the Desert Fathers, came along to outdo all the others. This brand of Universalism depends not on the love of God, the death of Jesus, or a second chance. It says all things, including man, are already one with a mystical god, a god who is “all” [known as pantheism] or “in all” [known as panentheism]. It matters not whether one is a Christian, Hindu, Jew, Moslem, Buddhist, Catholic, or whatever. To benefit from oneness with this mystical god you simply get in touch with the center of your being where “every man has a spot untouched by sin”. Neither the love of God nor the death of Jesus is necessary; we are already a part of god.
There was once a clear distinction between those who knew God and those who knew Him not. Those who came through Jesus Christ knew that they knew Him; they had assurance of salvation. But, this new Universalism is outside the realm of Christianity. Christianity includes only those who come to God through Jesus. This new Universalism tells us that everyone is in; some folks are closer to god because they have discovered that “spot untouched by sin” and others have not. Some are closer because they have found a new way of praying [be they Christians, Buddhists, or you name it]; others are not so far along in their spiritual walk because they have not been taught contemplative praying, or breath prayers, or prayer mantras [repeating a word or series of words over and over until the mind is a blank sheet upon which anything might be written], or how to use the labyrinth, prayer beads, or the rosary. Some are closer to this Universal god because they have found “the quiet place” advocated by Beth Moore, a promoter of the teachings of Brennan Manning, a former Catholic priest who is now welcomed in many evangelical churches. In his book, The Signature of Jesus, Manning teaches his readers how to pray using an eight-word mantra. But, he says that “the first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer.” He also said that “God is a kooky God who can scarcely bear to be without us.” It is obvious He does not know the God of the Bible. Manning’s method encourages mental maneuvers until the “quiet place” is reached and the mind is blank. Manning calls it “the great silence of God.” At heart, this is transcendental meditation. This “silence of God,” we are told, can be found by anyone, regardless of religious affiliation, as long as the prayer mantra that produces a mental vacuum is effectively used.
More and more evangelicals are attracted to Manning’s disarming personality and charming heresy. He was welcomed at several Christian universities: Azuza Pacific, George Fox, Mount Vernon Nazarene, Point Loma Nazarene, Seattle Pacific, Belmont as well as the Alliance Renewal Retreat. I could provide many more prominent evangelical persons and organizations that support him or his books – from Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Richard Foster, Rick Warren, Eugene Peterson, Tony Campolo, Larry Crabb and Philip Yancey to Jimmy Carter. His popularity notwithstanding, Manning is a heretic! He has made fashionable the idea that the Bible is not to be taken either seriously or literally, and those who do uphold Biblical standards are considered hypocrites. Manning and a host of his fellow-travelers see the Bible, not as the inerrant Word of God, but a collection of man’s ideas about God. Universalism flourishes unchecked in this New Age religion, rushing past evangelical radar unimpeded.
Thomas Merton [1915-1968] was also a Catholic, a Trappist monk who said he wanted “to become as good a Buddhist as I can.” His last years were spent studying Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Sufism [a mystical division of Islam], before being accidentally electrocuted in Thailand. Merton was enticed into mysticism by Aldous Huxley, the grandson of Thomas Huxley, the leading fan of Charles Darwin. Merton saw all religions as being on a common plain; he created his own brand of religion [Universalism], while staying under the Catholic umbrella.
In mysticism, doctrine and words and truth are downplayed; they matter not, but the Universal acceptance of all is imperative. In Christianity, however, doctrine is vital, for doctrine tells us who Jesus is, what He did on the Cross, and why.
During a conference on contemplative prayer, Thomas Merton was asked: “How can we best help people to attain union with God?” His heretic answer was clear: “We must tell them that they are already united with God.” Contemplative prayer is nothing other than becoming conscious of what is already there. This was promoted by Merton, who formulated his own brand of Christianity through fellowship with Buddhists. Neither Manning nor Merton believed God was a person and knowable. They both ignored the holiness of God, believing we are all holy – deep inside. They both rejected the sacrifice of Jesus, seeing the atoning sacrifice of Jesus as standing in the way of Universalism, the uniting of all religions.
Sadly, our mega-churches are filled with folks who have never been born again. They may believe Jesus lived, died, and even rose again, and think that is enough to get them into heaven – but they have bothersome doubts about their own salvation. Along comes a Brennan Manning with charming words, and it is easy to see how his Universalism is like a breath of fresh air. No more worries or conviction.
Another lay monk, Wayne Teasdale, well-known in the contemplative prayer movement, felt there was value in adding the insights of Hinduism to his Catholic faith. Pastor and author John MacArthur gives a serious warning in his book, Reckless Faith. He wrote:
“The evangelical consensus has shifted decidedly in the past two decades. Our collective message is now short on doctrine and long on experience. The love of sound doctrine that has always been a distinguishing characteristic of evangelicalism has all but disappeared. Add a dose of mysticism to this mix and you have the recipe for unmitigated spiritual disaster.”
Rick Warren, “America’s pastor,” is planning a year-long Health and Wellness Initiative , beginning January 15, headed by “world-renowned doctors,” Dr. Mehmet Oz [of Oprah fame], Dr. Daniel Amen, and Dr. Mark Hyman. Each of these is a strong advocate of mystical meditation; Dr. Oz said his Ultimate Alternative Medicine was Reiki, the Universal Life Force . His wife is a Reiki practitioner. As this Universal Life Force flows through the body, psychic communication also takes place whereby contact with the spirit world is made. Dr. Amen uses a different technique, a form of Kundalini Yoga. Kundalini, or serpent power, is the energy behind meditation; this serpent energy rises until one receives enlightenment or Self-realization. At this point the person knows himself to be God [a clear repeat of Satan’s offer in the Garden of Eden]. Reiki, Yoga and Kundalini are taught throughout the United States. Due to Warren’s influence, they will expand unchecked into the future.
We must realize that a ll mystical meditation involves an energy that is not of God. And also know that all mystical meditation is satanic. Do not experiment! The only safe meditation is within the confines of the Word of God; In that Word is found the power and energy of Jesus Christ. Moses gave a warning to Israel in Deuteronomy 18:10-13: “There shall not be found among you anyone that uses divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD. Because of these abominations the LORD thy God is driving pagan nations out from before thee. Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God.” If Reiki, Kundalini, or any other mystical meditation, such as Yoga, takes root in America, we will be judged more than the nations destroyed by God. We have more light, both in the Bible and in our history as a Christian nation.
Another factor that closes down our radar is the growing idea that Evolution and Christianity are compatible. Atheistic scientists have convinced the world of the validity of evolution. Our high schools and universities refuse to allow the investigation of “intelligent design,” and the church – not wanting to appear ignorant of science – accepts the possibility that our world came about by evolutionary process. The idea that Adam and Eve were our actual parents is either downplayed or totally rejected. They are reduced to mere symbols of our beginnings. It is no surprise that up to 90% or more of our youth are lost to the church once they leave high school; the church has become too weak in its declaration of Biblical truth regarding man’s origin. If we are not the children of Adam, we are but the products of slime – or maturing monkeys.
There is yet another factor that lets the heresy of Universalism into the church, the willingness to be in union with various non-Christian religions. Philip Yancey, adored by many evangelicals, said: "Perhaps our day calls for a new kind of ecumenical movement: not of doctrine, nor even of religious unity, but one that builds on what Jews, Christians, and Muslims hold in common. . ." So we ask: What does the believer have in common with the non-Christian? Or, as the Apostle Paul asks: “W hat fellowship does righteousness have with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Cor.6:14) Paul gives us a principle here that no serious Christian can function without: Neither Jesus Christ, nor the Holy Spirit, nor any true servant of God ever cooperated with anti-Christ forces.
There is also a movement afoot to join Catholics and evangelicals. This became clear in the 1994 document entitled Evangelicals and Catholics Together. An accompanying press release said that leading Catholics and evangelicals are asking their flocks “to finally accept each other as Christians.” How can that be when Catholics worship the Eucharist: The Eucharist is a false Christ manufactured by the priest as he “changes the elements into the literal body of Christ?” The Catholic online Encyclopedia states, Christ “ desired us to receive Him in Holy Communion”. Online Wikipedia says the bread and wine, after the consecration, are transubstantiated (change of substance) into the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. Charles Chiniquy (1809-1899), author of 50 Years in the “Church” of Rome , tells of the consecrated Eucharist falling from his pocket when staying in a guest room reserved for him in his travels as a Catholic priest in Canada. When he returned a month later he found that mice had eaten some of the Eucharist, which led Chiniquy to ask: “If this was truly Jesus Christ, would he allow Himself to be eaten by mice?” Chiniquy was eventually converted and became a personal friend and counselor to President Abraham Lincoln.
Promoters of the document Evangelicals and Catholics Together – including Charles Colson – urged Catholics and evangelicals “to stop aggressive proselytizing of each other’s flocks.” This is in keeping with the Billy Graham crusades that received monetary support from the Catholic diocese where a crusade was held, and Catholic counselors in the crusades guided Catholics that came forward to return to their local Catholic churches. Little do evangelicals realize the goal of Catholic Universalism: To the Catholic it means one thing – one Church, the Catholic Church, with all Protestants coming under the Pope’s authority! In July of 2007 Pope Benedict XVI said that other Christian denominations ‘suffer from defects,’ and that the “ Catholic Church is the one, holy, apostolic church of Christ.” That statement explains the only Universalism acceptable to the pope.
As for Merton, Manning and Moore, how did it happen that they and their fellow travelers got under our radar? I understand that the servant of the Lord must be gentle unto all men (2 Tim.2:24; Tit.3:2), but Jesus also said to beware of false prophets that look like sheep, but are ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15): They look like evangelicals, but when sheep get swallowed it is time for us to check our spiritual radar. Where did we go wrong? What is our foundational thinking that allows a divergent theology into the church? What has happened to evangelicals that they are no longer able to recognize the wolves, and seem to abandon all desire for discernment? Perhaps the leading element that urges men to turn off their radar is the desire for church growth; a mega-church cannot be built without the support of wolves.
Joel the prophet had a heavy heart over Israel’s condition. He said: “Let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep between the porch and the altar, and plead, Spare thy people, O LORD, and give not thine heritage to reproach so that the heathen rule over them. Why should they say among the nations: Where is their God” (Joel 2:17)?
Universalism has a goal – to compel all people to adopt only that religion that accepts all religions as equal. The Christian cannot conform! He has found peace with God through Jesus, and knows that He is the only Lord and Savior. Peter warns that there will be “false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Peter 2:1). It is imperative that we take Peter’s warning seriously, pleading with the Holy Spirit to redirect the church’s worship back to Jesus Christ alone.
"Beloved, I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation. It was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you to earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). It is time to repair the radar!--David Pett, author of "Can These Bones Live?"