Leonard Sweet: A Good Choice For Pastor’s and Leader’s Conference?

Is there a shortage of solid, Bible-grounded speakers for the Nazarene denomination? I have no objection to non-Nazarenes speaking to Nazarenes, but New Age sympathizer Leonard Sweet will be speaking at PALCON (pastors and leaders conference) at Northwest Nazarene University, July 27-30.  I have previously written several posts warning about him.  Here is a portion of the description of the conference:

“It is our vision to participate in a fresh move of God upon the Church of the Nazarene in the United States and Canada. We minister in days with a unique opportunity to impact our world. This event has tremendous potential to shape and mold us more clearly into the people and church God envisions.”

Sweet will speak not only once, but twice, in the two major plenary sessions.  Did Northwest Nazarene University staff specifically ask for him?  Or is there someone else responsible for selecting Leonard Sweet to speak not only here, but apparently at other Nazarene events for pastors and students?  Will Leonard Sweet hide his true beliefs when he speaks at the plenary sessions, by “playing it safe” and saying things that are more palatable for Nazarene pastors to hear?  If so, is that acceptable, in spite of his ideology and the grossly New Age like flavor of several of his books?

Following is an article by David Cloud from Way of Life.  After reading it, does it make you ask the question: how is Leonard Sweet a good choice to speak to pastors and students at Christian universities, and why?  What does his ideology have to do with holiness preaching, or sanctification, or Nazarene doctrine, or most importantly- Biblical doctrine?  What does Leonard Sweet have to offer to pastors, that will contribute to a “fresh move of God?”  Will Leonard Sweet with all this baggage he carries with him, really help “mold us more clearly into the people and church God envisions?”  Where are the biblically solid evangelists, pastors, and leaders of today, who are better qualified to speak to pastors, than someone who is not biblically sound and is a New Age sympathizer, based on his own writings?  Is there even any record of Leonard Sweet’s testimony of salvation through repentance of sin and forgiveness by Jesus Christ?  Is there a Nazarene pastor out there who can respond and give us a solid Bible based reason that Leonard Sweet is a good resource for ANY Christian?  If he is not a good resource, may I suggest that he not speak anymore at Nazarene events, but at the same time, let’s pray that he will repent of some of his works, and that he will reject his spurious teachings and books.  Until then, it seems that those who might be ready to criticize me (its predictable, believe me) for using as a resource a solid Bible based Baptist preacher as David Cloud here, have no leg to stand on if they defend Leonard Sweet’s ideology.

[Update: Read this interview, in Leonard Sweet’s own words, at Grace and Peace website, a resource for Nazarene pastors!]

Beware of Leonard Sweet: Master of Doublespeak

June 16, 2010 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org)

Leonard Sweet is a United Methodist clergyman, E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at the very liberal Drew University, and founder and president of SpiritVenture Ministries.

He is the author and co-author of 34 books, including Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic (1991), Soul Tsunami (1999), Postmodern Pilgrims (2000), Carpe Manana: Is Your Church Ready to Seize Tomorrow? (2001), Jesus Drives Me Crazy (2003), and The Gospel according to Starbucks (2007).

He was twice voted “one of the 50 Most Influential Christians in America” by ChurchReport magazine.

Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren recommends Sweet’s book Soul Tsunami (his recommendation is printed on the cover), which says, “It is time for a Postmodern Reformation … Reinvent yourself for the 21st century or die” (p. 75). Warren and Sweet collaborated on an audio set entitled Tides of Change, and Sweet was scheduled to speak at Saddleback Church in January 2008 for a small groups training conference.

In an undated blog that I viewed on May 17, 2010, Sweet complains about his critics and pretends that he is being wrongly persecuted. He rejects the charge that he is a New Ager and says he does not believe in the divinity of man. He further (and amazingly) pretends that he is theologically sound.

Actually, the man is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. He is a master of doublespeak.

If Leonard Sweet truly does not hold to a New Age philosophy, he needs to publicly renounce his books Quantum Spirituality and Carpe Manana. He needs to apologize publicly and loudly for his non-critical recommendation of New Agers. He needs to publicly and loudly expose and rebuke the errors of the heretics he has foolishly recommended.

He needs to stop pointing the finger at his “critics” and point the finger at himself in deep repentance.

Consider the following facts from Sweet’s own books.

Sweet promotes a New Age-like, universalist-tinged spirituality that he calls New Light and “quantum spirituality” and “the Christ consciousness.” He describes it in terms of “the union of the human with the divine” which is the “center feature of all the world’s religions” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 235). He defines the New Light as “a structure of human becoming, a channeling of Christ energies through mindbody experience” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 70).

He says,

“Quantum spirituality bonds us to all creation as well as to other members of the human family. New Light pastors are what Arthur Peacocke calls ‘priests of creation’–earth ministers who can relate the realm of nature to God, who can help nurture a brother-sister relationship with the living organism called Planet Earth. This entails a radical doctrine of EMBODIMENT OF GOD IN THE VERY SUBSTANCE OF CREATION” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 124).

In his book Carpe Manana, Sweet says:

“New Light embodiment means to be ‘in connection’ and ‘information’ with all of creation. New Light communities extend the sense of connectionalism to creation and see themselves as members of an ecological community encompassing the whole of creation. ‘This is my body’ is not an anthropocentric metaphor. Theologian/feminist critic Sallie McFague has argued persuasively for seeing Earth, in a very real sense, as much as a part of the body of Christ as humans. We are all earthlings. … WE CONSTITUTE TOGETHER A COSMIC BODY OF CHRIST” (Carpe Manana, p. 124).

Sweet calls for a “New Light movement of ‘world-making’ faith” that will “CREATE THE WORLD THAT IS TO, AND MAY YET, BE” (http://www.leonardsweet.com/Quantum/quantum-ebook.pdf, p. 12).

He says the New Light was experienced by Mohammed, Moses, and Krishna.

Sweet says that some of the “New Light leaders” that have influenced his thinking are Matthew Fox, M. Scott Peck, Willis Harman, and Ken Wilber. These are prominent New Agers who hold a pantheistic philosophy and believe in the divinity of man, as we have documented in the book The New Age Tower of Babel.

Sweet calls the New Age Catholic priest Teilhard de Chardin “twentieth-century Christianity’s major voice” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 106). Teilhard promoted the theory of evolution, taught that God is the consciousness of the universe, that everything is one, and that everything is evolving in greater and greater enlightenment toward an ultimate point of perfection, which he called CHRIST and THE OMEGA POINT. Teilhard spoke much of Christ, but his christ is not the Christ of the Bible. For this reason, Teilhard is a favorite with New Agers. (See our book Contemplative Mysticism for extensive documentation on Teilhard and a host of other influential modern-day mystics.)

Sweet promotes Catholic mysticism enthusiastically:

“Mysticism, once cast to the sidelines of the Christian tradition, is now situated in postmodernist culture near the center. … In the words of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Jesuit philosopher of religion/dogmatist Karl Rahner, ‘The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will be nothing’” (Quantum Spirituality, 1991, pp. 11, 76).

To call Rahner a great theologian is irrefutable evidence of Sweet’s spiritual blindness. Rahner was a Jesuit priest who believed in evolution and in salvation apart from personal faith in Christ. He spoke of the “anonymous Christian,” referring to an individual who unconsciously responds to God’s grace operating in the world, though he might even reject the gospel. “His approach allows him to suggest that the beliefs of non-Christian religious traditions are not necessarily true, while allowing that they may nevertheless mediate the grace of God by the lifestyles which they evoke–such as a selfless love of one’s neighbor” (“Karl Rahner,” http://www.island-of-freedom.com/rahner.htm).

Sweet defines mysticism as an “experience with God” in the metaphysical realm that is achieved through “mindbody experiences” (Quantum Spirituality, 1991, p. 11).

Sweet also cites as a major influence the Catholic-Buddhist mystic Thomas Merton. Sweet says humanity needs to learn the truth of Merton’s words, “We are already one” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 13). Merton was a universalist and a panentheist. If Sweet is theologically sound as he professes in his blog, why does he recommend Merton? Why doesn’t he rather warn his readers of Merton’s gross heresies?

In emerging church fashion, Sweet is extremely relativistic and vague about doctrinal truth. For him everything is experiential. He acknowledges that “revelation has occurred” but this revelation only gives us “universal moral truths” and even these broad truths cannot be dogmatically understood because “knowledge about these truths is socially constructed” (Postmodern Pilgrims, p. 146). He says, “Objectivity can no longer be the sole objective of the pursuit of truth” (p. 146). Sweet quotes Lorraine Code as saying that “subjectivity–however conflicted and multiple–becomes part of the conditions that make knowledge possible” (p. 149). Sweet is supportive of the poet Robert Bly who said that he had no idea of the meaning of the ending of one of own poems (p. 149). Sweet says: “For Jesus truth was not propositions or the property of sentences. Rather, truth was what was revealed through our participation and interaction with him, others, and the world” (Postmodern Pilgrims, p. 157).

In light of his promotion of Catholic mysticism, it is not surprising that Sweet makes the following claim:

“One can be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ without denying the flickers of the sacred in followers of Yahweh, or Kali, or Krishna” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 130).

Kali is the Hindu goddess of destruction. Krishna is the supposed incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. We are told that “as a youth, Krishna enchanted and intoxicated the cowherd women with his flute playing; he teased them and made love to them” (Indian Gods, Kent: Grange Books, 1998, p. 45, 47). Krishna’s flute playing is said to “pull virtuous women from their homes and drag them to Krishna” and to make “chaste ladies forget their lords” (David Kinsley, The Sword and the Flute).

We would like to know exactly what “flickers of the sacred” Leonard Sweet finds in Kali and Krishna.

Do these supposed “flickers” put their adherents into a saving relationship with Almighty God and take them to Heaven?

I suspect that Sweet doesn’t even believe in the necessity of salvation from eternal Hell. In fact, I suspect that he doesn’t believe in the reality of Hell fire.

Maybe he will clarify these things in a future blog, but we will warn our friends to take anything the man says with a grain of salt unless he plainly renounces his own books and repents of the heresies he has formerly taught.

David Cloud, from Way of Life

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29 responses to “Leonard Sweet: A Good Choice For Pastor’s and Leader’s Conference?

  1. Why are all the resources used by this group Baptist? Before you derail MY concern here, I of course do not have disdain towards Baptists, especially since my brother attends Liberty University, however if you are going to call yourselves “Concerned NAZARENES”, don’t you think it would help you case to once and a while use an article written by a Nazarene or even a Wesleyan. I know you think this matter to be trivial, but when you carry on with a name like Reformed Nazarene, I’ve heard you excuse for the name by the way, and you seem to only quote and recommend Reformed theologians, mostly Baptist, which we Nazarenes are not, it does not add any credibility to your cause within our denomination. Now don’t get me wrong. I have no problem with you guys and I share many of the same concerns you do. I do not like the Emergent church nonsense and I believe it will fade away soon enough just like all false movements. I am however, very proud of my Nazarene heritage and to be Wesleyan. I am not saying this to bash you or your group, so please try not to bash me in reply, but to let you know that it would be nice as a fellow Nazarene with the same concerns if you would use some more voices from our own denomination or at least our Wesleyan heritage. I believe it will help you very much in your cause. Blessings.

  2. Manny don’t you understand that you can listen to the man without buying into his doctrinal ideology? Why can’t we just take the good parts of New Age and blend it with the good parts of holiness doctrine?
    (Sarcasm intended)
    Great job Brother.

    Rick Headley

  3. Hi Bradley,
    I know what you are saying about Nazarene sources being important- although I have no problem whatsoever in using David Cloud and other Baptist sources- as long as they are solid, Bible based people who are exposing these false teaching biblically. I really don’t care or worry that he or others are not Nazarene; rather, are they grounded in the scriptures.

    I have been calling for Nazarene voices all over the country to start speaking out- and many are doing that. I recently posted an article by Rev. William McCumber, former editor of Holiness Today, and senior pastor at a Naz church in GA. Here is his post:

    http://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/2010/06/17/duty-and-danger_of-opposing-emergent/

    Another Nazarene pastor is Rev. Peter Migner, who has several blogs with commentaries and reviews:

    http://nazarenesforbiblicalcreationism.blogspot.com/

    http://40daysplus.blogspot.com/

    There are others who are also speaking out, perhaps not on a blog, but at churches, revival services, and other venues. However, I always welcome any of them and others to send in their thoughts on the emerging church. I certainly would like to see Nazarenes speak out on Nazarene issues, and I believe the numbers will grow as the Lord leads others to follow suit.

    As far as my reformed name, well, I’ll have to live with the criticism- I’ve explained it enough to many emergents who pick on it- and if that’s the best they can do, they are really hurting!

    Thanks for your concerns,
    Hope to hear from you again,
    Blessings,
    Manny

  4. RevRick,

    You mean: “don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater”, as they (the emergentites) like to say?

  5. One other thought Bradley:

    Would it not be great if our Nazarene universities and churches stopped using less of false teachers like Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and others, and go back to bringing in solid holiness Nazarene pastors, preachers and teachers?

    I would assume you are very worried about that as well. In fact, I would argue that the use of these people at our seminaries and schools is a lot more concerning than my use of non-Nazarene sources who are otherwise biblically sound.
    Blessings,
    Manny

  6. Bradley,

    I would be thrilled beyond words if Nazarene heavy hitters spoke up and were heard on these issues. These efforts are mostly layperson lead, one person at a time.

    I would love to here ideas or names for Nazarene Christians who stand for Biblical promises and principles.

    Pam

  7. Leonard Sweet’s book the Jesus Manifesto is a clear articulation of biblically sound doctrine on the person of Christ. Almost no one of emergent sympathies or even of fundamentalist persuasion can dispute its content. Moreover, I personally know Len Sweet and had him for a professor, he is about as far from new age as you can get.

  8. Bob,
    You are apparently either okay with the heresies this man believes in, or you read nothing from this post. I sincerely pray that God will open your eyes someday.

    There is nothing biblically sound of the things that he says here.
    Manny

  9. Of course Bob is ok with heresy.
    Have you ever seen his homemade videos ?(which of course speak for themselves.)
    Bob must have never read Quantum Spirtituality which is clearly new age that has been proven in many articles.
    On the other hand it makes perfect sense that Bob had Sweet for a professor that makes sense and shows where Bobs head is really at.
    Plus I thought our hertitage was Christ and the apostles?
    Which is biblically based.
    Not saying that any tradition is bad in itself but our true heritage and doctrine should be in Christ and what is written in scripture.
    Tim

  10. Bob and just for the record most any false teacher has the ability to mix truth with error.
    That’s what makes Len Sweet so sought after
    Tim

  11. FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

    Q. Who were the leaders who shaped PALCON 2010?
    A. A steering committee shaped and guided the approach to the 2010 emphasis.

    Each region selected one pastor, one district superintendent and one university representative. Included in the discussion were representatives from the Nazarene Bible College, Nazarene Theological Seminary, and one university president.

    The 3 representatives from each region gave leadership to each regional PALCON. As a result, each event is different and has been shaped by the regions.

    http://www.palcon2010.org/faq

  12. This is probably why we can not get Nazarene “heavy weights” to comment on these speakers, thus we have to rely on the Baptists.

    I’ve been wondering why Nazarene Theological Seminary and Nazarene Bible College don’t offer some light on these things.

    I can only deduct that they have been strong armed into this or agree, but I’ve dedicated my life to the writings of the uneducated and ignorant fishermen who spent a few years with a Jewish teacher from Nazareth who claimed to be the Son of God.

    1 Corinthians 1:18
    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

  13. Pam,
    I don’t know much yet on NBC, but from my research, Nazarene Theological Seminary is deep into the contemplative movement and needs some big changes there if it is going to be recognizable in the near future as a solid Bible based institution.

  14. Amazing. This stuff just gets deeper and deeper all the time.

    I heard Dan Boone at M7 in Kansas City and wondered who dropped the ball on that one. Then I went to NTS and their front page was just as weird. I think NTS grads need a disclosure agreement before they are called to churches. It’s clear that GSs, DSs and NTS are not going to deal with any of these issues in the near term.

    Every time I’ve asked questions of Naz leadership they went “Switzerland” on me. I guess they are and continue to use the bury it deep methodology for the golden calf problem. It doesn’t seem Biblical to me.

  15. Thus the serious danger of NTS. They are producing the pastors of tomorrow, yet a professor at NTS, Doug Hardy, is a members of Spiritual Directors International. It is astounding to see this happening in the Nazarene denomination.
    I’ll be doing a post sometime soon on Hardy and his connections, his love of the mystics, but here is a link to the site where he is listed as a reviewer of their professional journal, along with Lauren Artress, who introduced prayer labyrinths and made them popular in the U.S.:

    http://www.sdiworld.org/review_panel.html

  16. Pam, I was told by an NTS student when I visited NTS
    two years ago that “They don’t hardly use the chapel
    anymore on campus. Most of the students go to Jacob’s Well to attend services”. This student also told me that many of the GS’s at that time attended
    Jacob’s Well. Jacob’s Well is over the top emergent.
    Many of the District Supt.’s are giving preferential treatment to NTS students when they present resumes to church board as they search for pastors.
    The educational institutions’ heresies are infecting
    local churches at an alarming rate.

  17. There are still holiness colleges that are standing firm!
    Hobe Sound Bible College and God’s Bible School have not bowed to the emergents!

  18. I had a nice conversation with Dr Fullerton at NNU last night. I called the school to find out who made the decision to invite Sweet to PALCON. He was not demeaning to me but listened to my concerns. I appreciated him actually calling me back and not just sending an email.

    We agreed to disagree. One thing that he said that was troubling was his statement, and I am paraphrasing, What would be gained by bringing Nazarene speakers in and talking about the same things we all believe. I was given the same answer by President Alexander a few months ago saying these studies of other religions and bringing in speakers to the college campus with wrong theology helps the students better know how to reach them for Christ. We need to trust these pastors and students to discern what is not doctrinal sound with the Nazarene church.

    We are playing with fire. We warned against new age movements and now we are embracing them. It is sad when I feel more comfortable sending my daughter to secular college than our church schools.

  19. Darren: You and I, and obvious many others, share some of the same concerns especially concerning people of questionable beliefs that are allowed to speak on our campuses. I wrote the president of TNU awhile back and received a similar response offering excuses for what they are permitting.
    From where I sit it would appear that most of our leaders of higher learning have bought into the same answer to justify for allowing them to speak openly on our campuses and beyond. Both Dr’s Fullerton and Alexander response reflects this observation.
    If Jesus in Rev. [2: 6] commends the church of Ephesus for their hatred of the deeds of the Nicolaitans, whom Jesus also hated, how much more should we not guard against bringing in those who teach a damnable doctrine contrary to scripture. The Dr.s Answers does not find agreement in scripture in my opinion. In regard to the students being able to “better know how to reach them for Christ” is shallow and weak. If they are led astray from the scripture (which some have been) they will not have been spiritually equip for the task.
    I find no where in scripture where the early church leaders such as Paul, Peter, James, etc. ever invited a guest preaching heresy to their church. Think about this? Are we not on dangerous ground.
    FYI, I wrote to our editor of “Grace and Peace” as to why they had an interview with Leonard Sweet and questioned as to whether or not this was going to be another format to spread emergent ideology. So far I have not received a respone and probably will not. Silence is becoming goldern or so it seems.

  20. Wow! You guys are really afraid of Catholics–sad. Why don’t you go to Catholic.com or Catholic Answers and find out what Catholics really believe before printing half truths and scare tactics on your site. It just makes you look bad and frankly, dumb. I am a fourth generation Nazarene and have very little love for NNU or it’s antics from the theology dept. However, your misplaced blame on the Catholic church is just that–misplaced. My Catholic friends just shrug and smile at the way Protestants are claiming “catholic” worship traditions. It is very foreign to them the way Protestants use contemplation etc. Catholics just call it praying.

  21. Hi Jeannine,
    I would appreciate it if you could be specific and point out any half truths and scare tactics.

  22. Sorry I was so nasty. Forgive me. I just have a ton of Catholic friends and I really get tired of misrepresentation of this old and venerable church we all came from and who gave us our Bible. I can answer every point of your site but will begin with “good works”. In short, The Second Council of Orange said, “As often as we do good God operates in us and with us, so that we may operate” (canon 9), and “Man does no good except that which God brings about and man performs” (canon 20). In other words, the Catholic Church affirms as strongly as Luther, Calvin, and Wesley that God’s grace is always prior to our good works (or “prevenient,” to use theological technobabble). Isn’t this what Nazarene’s believe? If you would like to read more, go to

    http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1995/9510fea3.asp

  23. Jennine,
    No offense taken. I realize it is a touchy subject.

    I’ll check out your link, but let me give you some info to consider as well. I believe all of these are still official RCC teaching:

    The following is a partial list of heathen, unscriptural practices that became a part of Roman Catholic dogma over a period of seventeen centuries. Some of the dates given
    are approximate. In many cases, these heresies were even debated for years before being given the status of required beliefs. Although some of these heresies are now
    being questioned by many individuals inside and outside the Roman Catholic Church, none have been officially repudiated and all continue to be practiced by millions of
    Catholics around the world (Source: “The Truth About Roman Catholicism,” September-October
    1996, Foundation magazine, pp. 516.):

    1. Prayers for the dead 300 AD
    2. Making the sign of the cross 300 AD
    3. Veneration of angels & dead saints 375 A.D.
    4. Use of images in worship 375 A D.
    5. The Mass as a daily celebration 394 AD
    6. Beginning of the exaltation of Mary; the term, “Mother of God” applied at Council of Ephesus 431AD.
    7. Extreme Unction (Last Rites) 526 AD
    8. Doctrine of Purgatory (Gregory I) 593AD
    9. Prayers to Mary & dead saints 600AD
    10. Worship of cross, images & relics 786AD
    11. Canonization of dead saints 995AD
    12. Celibacy of priesthood 1079AD
    13. The Rosary 1090AD
    14. Indulgences 1190AD
    15. Transubstantiation (Innocent III) 1215AD
    16. Auricular Confession of sins to a priest 1215AD
    17. Adoration of the wafer (Host) 1220AD
    18. Cup forbidden to the people at communion 1414AD
    19. Purgatory proclaimed as a dogma 1439AD
    20. The doctrine of the Seven Sacraments confirmed 1439AD
    21. Tradition declared of equal authority with Bible by Council of Trent1545AD
    22. Apocryphal books added to Bible 1546AD
    23. Immaculate Conception of Mary 1854AD
    24. Infallibility of the pope in matters of faith and morals, proclaimed by the Vatican Council 1870AD
    25. Assumption of the Virgin Mary (bodily ascension into heaven shortly after her death) 1950AD
    26. Mary proclaimed Mother of the Roman Catholic Church 1965AD

  24. If Darren or anyone else thinks that young people are better off on secular campuses than any Nazarene University I challenge that they really know the depths to which secular colleges/universities have fallen. I shudder that someone would really believe that, there is no comparison.

  25. I listened to Leonard Sweet for two full mornings at the NNU Palcon and heard nothing unorthodox/unbiblical. I thought he was excellent!

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