Leonard Sweet: Emergent/New Age Hall Of Shame

Leonard Sweet is fast becoming very popular in the Nazarene denomination.  He has been invited to several pastor’s seminars around the country, and also makes regular speaking appearances at some Nazarene universities.  Sweet is currently the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew University, Madison, NJ and a Visiting Distinguished Professor at George Fox University, Portland, Oregon.  Sounds impressive, but who is he, and why is he in my Emergent Church/New Age Hall of Shame?  And if he is, am I way off base to list him, or is something seriously wrong with Nazarenes and other Christians inviting him to speak at evangelical seminars, universities, and churches?

He is scheduled to be the plenary speaker at the Northwest Regional PALCON seminar for Nazarene pastors, hosted by Northwest Nazarene University.  Yes, the same Northwest Nazarene University that had Dr. Jay McDaniel as a guest lecturer a few years back, whose talk was extremely difficult to get through, especially knowing that he was essentially speaking unchallenged to students at NNU.  The same university that brought Brian McLaren there for his Everything Must Change tour, with his translation of John 3:16 meaning to save the earth, not people.  So to me, no surprise that Sweet shows up at this school, for it is extremely sympathetic to emergent thought, contemplative spirituality (aka spiritual formation), New Agers and extreme liberal speakers.

He will also be a featured speaker at the National Worship Leader Conference this year, both at the Southwest Regional in New Mexico, and the East Regional in Pennsylvania.

Sweet is described at Lighthouse Trails Research as a New Age sympathizer.  He is linked to many New Agers and promoters of contemplative spirituality, including Rick Warren, whose Purpose Driven Life book is full of New Age references and approving quotes.  According to Zondervan, Sweet has teamed with Rick Warren for an audio seminar titled The Tides of Change, and is collaborating with Brian McLaren and Jerry Haselmayer for a church consulting corporation called Helix21.  Sweet’s most famous book, perhaps, is Quantum Spirituality, which for whatever reason, was left out of the bio that was listed for PALCON Conference.  Perhaps it was a “good” thing, because it is a strange book that speaks well of his New Age leanings, with his emphasis on the “Christ-consciousness”, and his fascination with the “New Light”.

He has been at Southern Nazarene University, where you can listen to audio clips from the Dream Big Seminar.
He spoke at Eastern Nazarene College a few years ago at a pastor’s seminar.
He was a plenary speaker at the Church of the Nazarene’s M3 Conference.
In my post from Nov 5, it tells of his sponsorship by the Northwest Nazarene District at a local Nazarene church, and also describes much of his New Age influence.
And on, and on, and on we could go with more appearances at Nazarene venues.

And from my friend at the sadnazarene blog, here is a post on how Sweet and other colleagues are coming out with yet another new Bible (The Voice), because apparently none of the present Bible versions fit their “emergent lens”, as they like to often say.  On the site promoting The Voice it is described as “holistic”, “sensitive”, “beautiful”, “balanced”.  Apparently the King James version and all the others are… what?  Insensitive?  Ugly?  Unbalanced?  So Sweet is probably just another of those folks who are just not happy with a literal, accurate translation of the scriptures, but instead want to put their post-modern slant to it.  The KJV is just not good enough anymore to reach this new generation, is it?

In his own words, here is a writing by Sweet called A Magna Carta For Restoring The Supremacy Of Jesus Christ.  Sounds good, but if you read it and are impressed, remember this:

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping. 2 Peter 1:21-2:3

For a review of some of his more extensive quotes, see Sandy Simpson’s article from his site Deception in the Church.  In the meantime, below is Leonard Sweet’s Hall Of Shame poster.  If any pastor goes to the PALCON Conference at NNU, you most likely will not hear Sweet’s most radical theories or spiritual ideas, especially from Quantum Spirituality and other books.  Trust me, he is not your typical evangelical.  In my opinion, based on all that I know, he’s not a good choice for teaching Christian pastors or lecturing on Christian spirituality.  His New Age thinking is just not found in the Bible, so that in itself is a disqualifier.  He should be shunned, not welcomed, as it is a scriptural command to do.  But we ought to pray for him, and for those who continue to invite him to speak, especially to young immature Christians.  As Pastor Tony preached last Sunday, a lion seeks it’s prey first from among the weakest, not the strongest.

30 responses to “Leonard Sweet: Emergent/New Age Hall Of Shame

  1. This is crazy stuff. Len Sweet is not a Christian by any stretch, he’s just not. He is a full blown New Ager. Yet he is endorsed and shares the stage with many main stream evangelical’s.
    Ive read Quantun Spirituality twice and there is no way after reading that piece you can come away stating Len is a Christian.
    At least by biblical standards.
    Well I guess anything is up for grabs Brian McLaren states he is a Christian.
    Funny how these guys will say they love Jesus while screaming they hate God.
    Very disturbing

  2. Here is an excerpt from his “manifesto” piece I mentioned:

    “Jesus does not leave his disciples with CliffsNotes for a systematic theology. He leaves his disciples with breath and body.

    Jesus does not leave his disciples with a coherent and clear belief system by which to love God and others. Jesus gives his disciples wounds to touch and hands to heal.

    Jesus does not leave his disciples with intellectual belief or a “Christian worldview.” He leaves his disciples with a relational faith.

    Christians don’t follow a book. Christians follow a person, and this library of divinely inspired books we call “The Holy Bible” best help us follow that person. The Written Word is a map that leads us to The Living Word. Or as Jesus himself put it, “All Scripture testifies of me.” The Bible is not the destination; it’s a compass that points to Christ, heaven’s North Star.

    The Bible does not offer a plan or a blueprint for living. The “good news” was not a new set of laws, or a new set of ethical injunctions, or a new and better PLAN. The “good news” was the story of a person’s life, as reflected in The Apostle’s Creed. The Mystery of Faith proclaims this narrative: “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again.” The meaning of Christianity does not come from allegiance to complex theological doctrines, but a passionate love for a way of living in the world that revolves around following Jesus, who taught that love is what makes life a success . . . not wealth or health or anything else: but love. And God is love.”

  3. ok so you don’t like “the vision” bible and you don’t like “the message” but you keep harping about the kjv…but i thought the concerned nazarenes weren’t kjv only. so what versions are ok by you guys? is niv still cool? esv? i am asking this for a genuine answer and would love not be insulted for asking in the response but if an insult has to be there then i would simply be happy with a response to the question. if you will let this question through course. thanks.

  4. Ash, on April 5, 2010 at 11:49 pm Said:
    save your breath. you are trying to find peace where it is not wanted. the only exegesis this group cares about is a literalist view of scripture. “scripture interprets scripture” as if that makes any sense. you will only find a “christian” response like that of steve by simple childish name calling such as “heretic” which is the primary insult of this group with is totally “biblical” if you proof text enough. you are here to educate but you forget, this group already knows “everything”.

    This is why I am resistant to answer a question that you ask. Your statements seem to have a hidden agenda.

    I can answer a question about bible versions from my own walk but I don’t speak for this group. It seems that you are asking for a formal group response. That is something that I can not give.

  5. thanks pam,
    i suppose i should have restated the question. if there is no official view as to what versions are ok by this group but if that is decided rather on an individual basis than that is that. my previous comment has more to with not understanding why anyone who doesn’t agree with the concerned nazarenes tries to convince them of error when usually all it ends up being (at best) is an empty conversation that goes nowhere cause lets face it….every party involved is sure they are “right” or (at worse) it turns into slander and name calling (“heretic” seems to be the weapon of choice). i was simply telling gene to save you both some time cause i knew (as did reformednazarene im sure) from his first comment that the convo was going nowhere. my question about bible versions was simply one of curiosity. i have no intention of trying to convince this group on anything because i am sure we both have better things to do than not agree and i certainly do not want to get slandered. if the question is a big deal , than we can forget i asked it. i was just curious if as a group, the concerned nazarenes reject any versions of the bible besides those mentioned before.(vision and message)

  6. Ash,

    I don’t think the group speaks as a group but as individuals about things they / we have seen and witnessed in the Nazarene church and would like a Biblical response.

    Ash said, “usually all it ends up being (at best) is an empty conversation that goes nowhere cause lets face it….every party involved is sure they are “right” or (at worse) it turns into slander and name calling”

    I think they are trying to answer you with Biblical answers, well that is what I am trying to do when I interject. I don’t think my ideas or opinions have much merit on their own, but what Jesus says about his church makes me stop, think and chose wisely.

    The teachers of any church have to be held to a very high standard because so much is at stake. There are things that we can chose to disagree about in the body of Christ.

    Some believers have very strong beliefs about the KJV because of the road they have walked. I have a lot of respect for those type of things. I was raised in the Naz church and was not allowed to go to dances or movies. I see some of these things as lines that have been drawn for protection and I chose to respect other’s lines. See Rom 14:21.

    Romans 14:21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall.

    When it comes to teachers and leaders who cause believers to doubt Jesus as Lord or lead other from Jesus that is a discussion that will become very intense with me and “heretic” is a correct word.

    Main Entry: her·e·tic
    Pronunciation: \ˈher-ə-ˌtik, ˈhe-rə-\
    Function: noun
    Date: 14th century
    1 : a dissenter from established religious dogma; especially : a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church who disavows a revealed truth
    2 : one who dissents from an accepted belief or doctrine

    It’s not about being mean it’s about being clear even though it may feel that way. Steve is intense because of the heartache that he has gone through with these things. I hope that helps answer your question(s).

  7. Thanks Pam, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    I am King James because I prayed about it and God showed me some things.

    I got saved reading the Living bible and I do believe that other versions (contain) portions of the word of God. However, that is changing rapidly. Variations of words do not change inspiration. Anyone knows that there is a number of ways to say the same thing. The issue with new versions for me is:

    1. Once you have two versions, authority is broken. That’s why everyone around here keeps saying “yea hath God said.” Can you imagine having two versions of the articles of faith, or two versions your union contract, or any thing that needed to be decisive and authoritative?

    2. By their fruits ye shall know them. Since the printing of the NIV the Church has taken a dive.

    3. Anyone knows the KJV is the model.

    4. There are enough versions to determine that the English language is going out of date twice a year for the last 100 years. This is not the Holy Spirit.

    5. New version introduce Catholic readings that were available at the translating of the KJV, even though Codex Siniaticus was not found until 1844 having been obviously tampered with and tossed in the trash.

    6. If you don’t stand for something; you will fall for anything.

    7. If all versions are equal, I pick the KJV.

    8. My King James has no copy write. It belongs to the people.

    9. It is the easiest to read and understand.

    10. It has never been proved to have errors. This is not true of modern translations.

    I could go on to 1,000 easily.

    But people love a new thing!

    I only bring up the issue as it pertains to the topic being discussed, even though I know that it is at the heart of all apostasy. There are good hearted Christians out there fighting heresy that do not see the problem, they will some day.


  8. Very well put Pam.

    I thought I had given a good demonstration on how scripture interprets scripture a few weeks back if anyone had doubts that it doesn’t.

    A lot of this intesity comes from knowing that souls are at stake and these “Emergent” are misleading so many unknowing individuals.

  9. Hate to point this out folks but see how easily our opposition can derail a post and put it on a bunny trail?
    Not that bible versions is not a good topic of discussion.
    But notice how the debate has been drawn away from the problem of Len Sweet.
    I’m wondering if this isn’t the same way Len Sweet has been making more into the evangelical mainstrean circle.
    Seems all like a little bait and switch is going on here.
    And I’ve seen it many times with emergent detractors as they derail a post to get it off the main topic or person.
    Happen’s all over the internet where these discussions are taking place.
    The topic here is Len Sweet folks.

  10. Thanks Tim.

    Here are more “Christian” quotes from Len Sweet:

    “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. (Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, pg. 38)”

    “So far the church has refused to dip its toe into postmodern culture. A quantum spirituality challenges the church to bear its past and to dare its future by sticking its big TOE into the time and place of the present…. Then, and only then, will the church not appear to be in a timecapsule, sealed against new developments. Then, and only then, will a New Light movement of ‘world-making’ faith have helped to create the world that is to, and may yet, be. Then, and only then, will earthlings have uncovered the meaning of these words, some of the last words poet/activist/contemplative/bridge between East and West Thomas Merton uttered: “We are already one. But we imagine that we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity.” (Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, pg. 10)

  11. ok first off, i am not emergent. i could care less about the emergent church and i could care less if you guys bash it until kingdom come.

    this started because of the comments made about the “vision” bible which happened to be in the leonard sweet post. i even wrote that if the question was a big deal we could forget it. ive never read anything from leonard sweet and know nothing about the man so believe me when i say i had no intention to “derail” the conversation. i asked whether the concerned nazarenes, as a group, reject any versions of the bible. i asked this to satisfy a curiosity. it was not a dire question. i thought i made that clear when i said we could skip it if it was going to become a big deal. i even made it clear that i was not looking for a fight or argument. in answering the simple question, a couple people went into their personal views on different versions of the bible. they were very honest and respectful with their posts and i assumed the question was answered and that was that. so why all of the sudden does tim wirth come out of nowhere with the accusations. i am truly sorry if i drew attention away from other things in the post that he wanted you all to discuss. sorry reformednazarene for asking a question based on the wrong part of your post. thanks again for everyones time.

  12. Tim,

    We are on topic!

    On the site promoting The Voice it is described as “holistic”, “sensitive”, “beautiful”, “balanced”. Apparently the King James version and all the others are… what? Insensitive? Ugly? Unbalanced? So Sweet is probably just another of those folks who are just not happy with a literal, accurate translation of the scriptures, but instead want to put their post-modern slant to it. The KJV is just not good enough anymore to reach this new generation, is it?

    Get into it and find the tares!

  13. Ash,

    I can understand Tim’s point, as well as Steve’s. I did notice less focus on Sweet, hence the added statements about him. You may not have read anything about him, but have you had a chance to read the Sandy Simpson article I linked with all the Sweet quotes? Just reading that article is an eye opener, and you should be able to make some kind of judgment as to what kind of ideology he is teaching from that book.

    Surely you could have an opinion on these comments from Sweet- surely you do care if we have wolves in the midst of us, pretending to be Christian.

    Why would you not care if I and others are exposing the wolves in sheep’s clothing? Are you saying you choose to disobey the commands of Christ and the apostles to:

    Defend the faith?
    Test the spirits?
    Rebuke those who preach another gospel?

    We are to preach the whole counsel of God, not just part of it. And part of it is to expose the false teachers. You can’t argue with that, because it is scripturally sound and is true.


  14. Manny,

    I am not trying to be a trouble maker. The topic of Bible versions is too hot and controversial for most people to handle.

    And personally I don’t care what anybody uses.

    However, However, However,

    There are just as many verses on adding to, subtracting from, changing, corrupting, handling deceitfully, and on and on about the scripture.

    90% of this forum is underscored by “the bible says.”

    For any group who is trying to envelope the “whole” council of God not to address the issue that divides friends, and not just enemies is half baked, in bible terms.

    If the Cat gets your tongue on this one he wins.

    Some voice is eventually going to have to tell the Nazarene church enough is enough, and another version, called the “Voice” is only going to damn the Church further.

    It will do 100 times the damage of prayer labyrinths, and monastary retreats!

    So I will say and I will shut up, for the last time and for the record loudly.

    Until the Church realizes that the devil has caught them in guile and has the upper hand here you are only talking about a problems in which there is no solution.

    Where people cannot speak about this important biblical subject that is at the heart of each article you write. It is all talk and bunny trails or not. You can bad mouth sweeny all you want but until you draw a focus and subdue these new versions like you do prayer labyrinths God will walk away.

    Thanks again for everything you do. I do pray for you and your family. I know the devil has you as a marked man.


  15. Ash,

    I would like to teach you something if you don’t mind.

    Read the following verses.

    Rev 19:11 And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.

    Rev 19:16 And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.

    Do you know why Jesus has something written on his thigh?

    Take your time and don’t feel bad to say, I don’t know.

  16. For the record,
    I agree, Steve, about the version issue. It took me a long time to finally realize- the translation is so critical- and I don’t use the NIV anymore because of that. The Message- forget that completely!

    I prefer using the KJV, although my main study Bible is an NKJV- and if there is good information that I should not use it, I will do that.

    Thanks for the wealth of info, Steve. I don’t consider you to be a troublemaker at all.

  17. before boiling Sweet in oil, why don’t you go to his website and read The Jesus Manifesto?
    i thought this was about God revealing Himself in The Christ…

  18. Perplexed,
    Are you saying that Sweet’s concept of the Christ is an orthodox Christian view, based on Quantum Spirituality and some of his other writings?

    I have no plans to boil him in oil; I do have plans to pray for him often. I think you’ll find that most of us who are criticizing his ideology STRONGLY, can separate that from him as a person. I will continue therefore to pray for him that he will see that his Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible.

  19. You lost me when you started saying the KJV was a literal translation of the Bible…
    Mocking this “generation” probably didn’t get you too many points either.
    Why are we still so afraid of the word New Age? Isn’t that a term for the 1980s…how do we even define that now?
    I enjoy Leonard Sweet’s writings. And having just discovered Brian McLaren {I was living in a theological bubble}, I’m going to say praise God for these men who are speaking outside the tightly constrained institutionalized church box. It’s suffocating in there.
    Sounds like we might be a bit paranoid.

  20. Hi Jessica,
    Perhaps you can explain what is so biblically sound about the writings of Len Sweet that you enjoy so much? And if you have the time, the same for Brian McLaren.

  21. I’m not a great theologian but I know one thing: Len Sweet is one of the most hospitable, decent people I know. I know kindness doesn’t always resonate in theological circles, but it’s high on my list of virtues.

  22. I think you just want to argue. And the things of Christ can’t be argued. Not really. The truth…His living and breathing truth isn’t something I can debate. I have no theological legs to stand on. What I know is that I am relieved to find people that are asking the same questions I have asked. I am relieved to find men of God willing to question our historical church. Why we believe what we believe and why we are so stuck in a box.
    Christ himself questioned why they were doing things the way they were… and if we can’t question the KJV or the NASB or the NIV or the way a particular scripture has always been represented then we will fail to find truth. Fail to recognize it. Fail to live in it. Fail to hear God above our own noise.

  23. O and hey just for the record I think bible translations is a very worthy topic of conversation.
    My point was that an Emergent followers (sometimes) MO is to take the thread off out onto a bunny trail to get the heat off one of the leaders.
    Just a observation.
    Again I think bible translations is a great topic but we also seem to drift away from Len Sweets teaching which is a big part of the problem as well and a lot of what this thread is about as well
    Me I like King James and New King James

  24. Brian McClaren’s A New Kind of Christianity

    “When people claim to interpret the Bible literally, they often unconsciously mean, “like lawyers who write and interpret constitutions.”

    Constitutional readings trap readers in the grim and limited hermeneutics of the past.”

    Jessica, if you agree with Brian McLaren, we are going to have to agree to disagree.

  25. Jessica, you answered me, but you didn’t answer my question. No surpsie, because Len Sweet is not defensible when going up against scripture.
    Dan, I’m sure Len Sweet is a nice guy- has nothing to do with his theology. Would you give a defense of his ideology and show that it is biblical?

  26. Ash,

    Don’t forget to read it in every version, check on the ten thousand of ten thousands of varient fragmented manuscripts, ask you pastor if you have one, then ask his pastor, ask every Bible scholar in the world, search the web until your computer dies, ask any of the emergents that seem to know so much, and please do fail to research the verse in Greek, check all the commentaries, and zodiates, and if all else fails call the pope surely he will know.


  27. manny,
    i will read the article by sandy simpson thanks. also the point of my last post was not to be recruited to the ranks of the “concerned” (i understand you are and that is of course your right) but rather to let you and your readers know that my question had nothing to do with drawing away attention from leonard sweet as i really do not know anything about the guy. i could not have made it any clearer that it was a simple question to be avoided it it would cause problems. once again i am sorry if it took the focus off of your main topic but i appreciate the grace in your replies. also thanks for the article suggestion.

  28. it really should be understood that i do not align myself with either emergents or the concerned no matter how much each side would try to pull me. i am sure everyone involved are sincere but this is one war i refuse to take part in. thanks again everyone who replied for being gracious in your answers.

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