Over at the Church of the Nazarene Northwest District, they are promoting a one day “conversation” at the River Church of the Nazarene, on Nov. 20, 2009. This District includes churches in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.
The title of the seminar is “Beautiful Future: Hope for the Church in Transition”. The speaker is Leonard Sweet. I ask the question here: why is Leonard Sweet being invited to Nazarene churches and campuses? Now, you may in turn ask me, why are you questioning whether Leonard Sweet should be in any Nazarene venue, or any Christian venue for that matter? Let me explain.
Who is Leonard Sweet? In the promo for this seminar he is described this way:
Leonard Sweet is a historian of American culture; a futurist who “sees things the rest of us do not see, and dreams possibilities that are beyond most of our imagining.” He is a preacher and writer who communicates the gospel powerfully to a postmodern age by bridging the worlds of academics and popular culture.
First, it almost sounds to me as if they are describing a prophet of some kind (‘sees things the rest of us do not see”). Besides that, however, if you dig deep enough into his background, you will find much disturbing information, if you are one who believes in the Biblical Christianity that is not mixed with New Age or anything pagan. Leonard Sweet is the author of several popular books, including Quantum Spirituality. I’ve done a lot of research on him, and if I gave you all the information here, it would be too long. I advise that you do more if you need to, but I think what I give you here will be enough to make you wonder, “where is the discernment of any Christian church or university that invites Leonard Sweet to speak at their school or church, if they are aware of what he teaches?”
Leonard Sweet’s ideology is a mix of Christianity, paganism and New Age. He promotes “the new spirituality”, and the “christ-consciousness”. He promotes visualism, guided imagery, breath prayers; all practices of contemplative mysticism. Please be aware that “new spirituality” is the new way of saying “New Age”, since that already is a loaded word for many people. (Its like putting lipstick on a pig- but its still a pig). The new spirituality includes authors like Eckhart Tolle who emphasizes the “god in you”. He has appeared on Oprah’s show many times.
I have never read any complete work by Sweet, but that does not stop me or you from having the discernment to judge from the vast amounts of excerpts from his books that are available, and from his messages on YouTube and other sites. Many emergents make the claim that unless we read an entire work from cover to cover, we cannot get things in proper context and we don’t understand what he is saying. That is not necessarily so, and Leonard Sweet’s writings confirm that he is not orthodox in his “Christian” theology. He also co-authored a book with Brian McLaren in 2003 called A Is For Abductive: The Language of the Emerging Church. So he is also a supporter of this heretical movement.
Here in his own words, are some hints at what his new spirituality entails, taken from Lighthouse Trails Research:
“The first of these five untheorized observations is that New Light embodiment means to be “in connection” and ‘in-formation’ with other Christians. Deeper feeling and higher relating go together. The church is fundamentally one being, one person, a comm-union whose cells are connected to one another within the information network called the Christ consciousness.” —Quantum Spirituality, P. 122
“Energy-fire experiences take us into ourselves only that we might reach outside of ourselves. Metanoia is a de-centering experience of connected-ness and community. It is not an exercise in reciting what Jesus has done for me lately. Energy-fire ecstasy, more a buzz than a binge, takes us out of ourselves, literally. That is the meaning of the word ‘ecstatic.'” —Quantum Spirituality, P. 93
Note: This ecstasy Sweet speaks refers to the New Age ecstasy that occurs in an altered state of consciousness.
The power of small groups is in their ability to develop the discipline to get people “in-phase” with the Christ consciousness and connected with one another. P. 147
New Lights offer up themselves as the cosmions of a mind-of-Christ consciousness. As a cosmion incarnating the cells of a new body, New Lights will function as transitional vessels through which transforming energy can renew the divine image in the world, moving postmoderns from one state of embodiment to another. P. 48
A surprisingly central feature of all the world’s religions is the language of light in communicating the divine and symbolizing the union of the human with the divine: Muhammed’s light-filled cave, Moses’ burning bush, Paul’s blinding light, Fox’s “inner light,” Krishna’s Lord of Light, Bohme’s light-filled cobbler shop, Plotinus’ fire experiences, Bodhisattvas with the flow of Kundalini’s fire erupting from their fontanelles, and so on.” P. 235
What Sweet means by “Christ consciousness” can be determined through his book, Quantum Spirituality. For instance, in the Acknowledgements pages Sweet thanks the “New Light leaders” whom he has followed in his spiritual journey. He names interspiritualists/universalists such as Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ), Episcopalian priest/mystic Morton Kelsey, Willis Harman (author of Global Mind Change) and Ken Wilber (one of the major intellectuals in the New Age movement). In the Preface of Sweet’s book (p. 3), he (referring to other New Agers such as Gary Zukav) says: “Unfortunately, little of this literature is known or celebrated in the religious community.” Zukav’s book, The Seat of the Soul, teaches people how to get in touch with their spirit guides.
Another sample from his book Quantum Spirituality: Under the topic of Sevening (On the seventh day [God] rested and drew breath.) he gives some 10 deep breathing exercises. “1. Get in touch with your lungs by closing your eyes. Visualize in your mind a tennis court” 8.“Hold your Bible and breathe meditatively. The breathtaking, nay, breathgiving truth of aliveness is more than Methuselean in its span: Part of your body right now was once actually, literally part of the body of Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Esther, David, Abigail, Moses, Ruth, Matthew, Mary, Like, Martha, John, Priscilla, Paul… and Jesus. 9. Keep breathing quietly while holding your Bible. You have within you not just the powers of goodness resident in the great spiritual leaders like Moses, Jesus, Muhammed, Lao Tzu You also have within you the forces of evil and destruction.” Resident in each breath you take is the body of angels like Joan of Arc and devils like Gilles de Rais, Genghis Khan, Judas Iscariot, Herod, Hitler, Stalin and all the other destructive spirits throughout history” (Quantum Spirituality p.300-301) (Courtesy of Mike Oppenheimer at Let Us Reason Ministries)
END OF QUOTES (is that enough?)
So many buzzwords of New Age, occultism and paganism: Christ consciousness, Kundalini fire, New Light, energy-fire ecstacy, the divine image, the “union of human with the divine”. This is not what you will find anywhere in scripture, and there is nothing in scripture close to suggesting that these ideas are within the bounds of orthodoxy.
And the numerous mystics that he quotes and recommends is well documented, such as Thomas Merton, the Roman Catholic monk who said that everyone must find there own way to God. These associations or connections go against the admonishment to not be “unequally yoked with unbelievers.” And if this is how he “communicates the gospel powerfully to a postmodern age”, I don’t want it. If he wants to communicate the gospel, he ought to communicate the gospel once given to the saints, without inventing new ways of “finding the divine in you.”
Mike Oppenheimer says in his article Spiritual Fusion: East Comes West:
“How much can you change the church and still have it be part of the Christianity that began with the apostles. These men may consider themselves innovators and think deeply about the future but it seems that they do not know when to stop philosophizing and read the Bible to see if their direction they are going is the right direction. Yet we are reminded by the wisest man who ever lived (besides Jesus), there “Is nothing new under the sun.” The early church saw the Gnostics and Mystics within their ranks and were willing to oppose them; we see those of the same pursuit among us today, but what will we do? Our decision today will affect our tomorrow, our future. Do we return to the ancient path or pursue what is new?
Leonard Sweet is a false teacher, according to the scriptures. So why is a false teacher being invited to speak at a Nazarene church? I don’t know, but I believe this is just another example of poor discernment at best, and worst, the intentional acceptance of New Age and emergent ideology into the Nazarene denomination. Another bit of bad news which seems to be too plentiful nowadays in the Nazarene denomination.
Unless Leonard Sweet has renounced his New Age ideas and repented, it seems to me that he has no business speaking at any Nazarene church or school, or other Christian denomination for that matter. Please pray for Leonard Sweet.
Romans 16:17-18 I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.
Some places where he has spoken at, or his books are used as a resource, are: Mid America Nazarene University (podcast); Southern Nazarene University in Oct. 2006; Nazarene Eastern Michigan District in 2003; Danville Nazarene in Virginia; Eastern Nazarene College Pastors/Leaders Enrichment Conference in June 2006; Northwest Nazarene University Missional Leadership resource list. Also Tennessee Nazarene District speaker in October, on church growth.
He was a featured speaker at the 2003 M3 Church of the Nazarene Conference in Nashville, but his video presentation has been removed from the link I went to. You can see some info about his session here.
He is also on the schedule to speak at the National Worship Leaders Conference in 2010 in June and October.
Extra research: For a better understanding of the fusion of Eastern mysticism with Christianity and how the emergent church uses it, read Mike Oppenheimer’s article at Let Us Reason Ministries: Spiritual Fusion: East Comes West
(Mike is a featured speaker on the DVD The Emerging Church, which you can receive a free copy by emailing a request to me).
Leonard Sweet on YouTube (highlights of Northwest Ministry Conference). having research emergent ideology for so long, I know exactly what is behind his thought process in this short video)