McLaren’s Refreshing Winds at CMU – Part 2

While not a direct transcript, the following post covers the basics of what Brian McLaren spoke about in his second talk at Canadian Mennonite University this February. Some direct quotes are included. Menno-lite ENDNOTES & COMMENTARY, below, sheds some light of truth on the subject.

During McLaren’s second session(1) on Naked Spirituality at the CMU Refreshing Winds Conference, he talked about the here and now, and slowing down to say “we’ve spent the last 500 years converting long term assets that belong to everyone into short term assets that belong to the “upper crust” and it’s time for us to imagine a different way of running our economic lives.”(2)

McLaren also remarked how ‘sneaky’ the Holy Spirit is to inspire the stories that subvert as well as comfort us – an amazing ‘trick’ of the Spirit (in reference to Hagar and Ishmael and how God said “I will make you a great nation” to Ishmael and his descendants).

Then he began to address spirituality, and how important it is for us to turn inwardly and re-examine spirituality. If God is the answer, He is also the problem, if spirituality and religion have solutions, they are the problems. People view spirituality as different than being religious. Organized religion organizes people into “us vs. them.” People who are open to spirituality but not religion don’t want to push spirituality into an afterlife, architecture, or a space, but they want all of their life to be touched with something sacred. They are looking for practices that nourish aliveness and sacredness, a real experience. So here is where we are at an amazing moment, but can our churches help people have those direct experiences of God? McLaren asks a second time…

“Can you introduce non Christians to practices that will deepen their connection with God? I don’t think there’s a good reason to come to church anymore unless you can say yes to that question.” -McLaren [at about 9:30](3)

Beyond stage one of Simplicity is the second stage: Complexity. The motto for this stage is that “There’s more than one way to do things.” Higher education is the portal into this stage, says McLaren, as perception shifts from dualistic to pragmatic. In stage one, everything is knowable, in stage two, everything is doable. (As in, get an ‘A’ on the test, play by the rules of the game, while authorities are the coaches to help you to succeed.) An example of a writer that does that (coach step by step) broke a record in history: the Purpose Driven Life. It has steps and stages, and people in stage one churches were ready for this. Another example McLaren gave was Joel Osteen (Your Best Life Now). In stage two, you are interested in cause, achievement, and independence. You learn “how to study the Bible yourself, lead people to Christ, YOURSELF! “I can do it myself.””(4)

More people are moving into stage two where God is your success guide to what you couldn’t do in church. Complexity is important in this stage where there are the extremely spiritual practices of confession of sin, and the practice of regret. As an example of this, McLaren talked about a movie called The Big Kahuna, which he said was profound and thoughtful but full of F words. A young Christian in the movie named Bob represents ‘stage one.’ They argue about faith and religion as the movie is based on a play where the idea is that the three characters are the same person in three stages of life. The lesson is that when you start to regret the earlier things you’ve done in life, earlier failures are what you now treasure. This, says McLaren, is what’s behind the doctrine of confession of sin.(5)

McLaren did make a few valid points during his talk. For example, we should be holier than we appear to be, rather than trying to appear holier than we are, and that we should be the first to admit the worst about ourselves.(6)

In stage two regret, explained McLaren, we face the fact that “I am a bad guy as well as a good guy.” Likewise, encoded in the book of Genesis, he stated, are the tools of corporate regret setting the precedence – we are both the slave owner and the slave, we have both sides in our history; Abraham owned an Egyptian slave and mistreated her til she was suicidal. The bible is full of individual and ‘social regret,’ he said. We need to come together as people and just say sorry. The Christian religion isn’t there yet…the departure of millions of Christians from the faith over the last century(7)…they are morally ready to be in a place of regret but find unwillingness in the church to express regret over anti-Semetism, anti-Islam(8), anti-environment(9), injustices to Arius (?) and how we treat the one we judge and treat as heretic and so on.(10)

The opposite of defensiveness is expansiveness(11), said McLaren. Ask for help, he suggested; using God to remake the world(12) to match my current abilities is actually a form of magic(13). “I’m asking you to expand my capacity to meet reality, offering myself to be expanded.”

After confession and regret, concluded McLaren, the third word is please, which means intercession, to ask on behalf of others. It’s to say sorry, say help, and please, on behalf of others. Then he led the audience in a moment of silence and in his prayer mentioned that many Egyptians are our cousins (Muslims) and asked, “help other human beings be expanded.”(14)



Friday, February 4, 2011, 9:00am
Plenary: Brian McLaren, Naked Spirituality, Stage 2: Complexity

(2) This statement is just a kind and gentle version of Marxism (redistribution of wealth). What McLaren may or may not realize is that “the conversion of long-term assets (i.e. natural resources ) into short term assets for the upper crust. . . ” is what allows him the luxury of living well in a democratic society while having the freedom to decry the upper crust technology and benefits which he himself is using. Had it not been for the rapid growth of the industrial revolution, McLaren would be in no position to write his lies in books, as there would be no books, and he would have no audience.

As Carl Teichrib says:
“In the social justice framework there is another agenda that lurks behind the tragic: A political/economic cause is piggybacked and leveraged – the cause of economic equality through wealth redistribution. This isn’t about truly helping the victim; it’s about using the victim.
Biblical justice, on the other hand, never seeks to dismantle class structures. Evil actions are condemned, but this isn’t specific to a particular social strata.”
Social Justice: Theft to All

(3) The church serves a far greater purpose than what McLaren boils it down to. Besides out of love for the brethren and fellowship, Christians come to church to worship God, to hear and learn from the Bible, to exhort, be equipped and sent out for ministry, and to pray for eachother. (See: Why is church attendance important?) We introduce non Christians to God by bringing them to an understanding of their need of a Savior and introducing them to the good news of the gospel, not ‘practices.’ There are no practices that non Christians can ‘do’ that will deepen their connection with God, because they need to come to God through Jesus, who has made the only way possible to do that – John 3:16. People who want spirituality and practices that help make them feel spiritual are choosing religion (traditions of man).
Also, church is for believers. McLaren knows that when unbelievers are brought into church to participate instead of be evangelized, the process of change can begin. There must be antithesis (unbelievers) to oppose the thesis (believers) in order to move towards consensus (compromise) and move believers away from their moral absolutism (resistance to change). [See: What is the Hegelian Dialectic?]

(4) While some Christians may think so, no one leads anyone to Christ by themselves; it is only by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit that anyone comes to saving faith. Jesus said “no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him” (John 6:44). Anyone who relies on themselves to lead people to Christ is sadly mistaken.

(5) While McLaren may think it’s appropriate to draw from a movie filled with F words for his teaching on the confession of sin, the biblical doctrine of confession of sin means to repent, turn from your own way and rely on the power and finished work of Christ to save you. In true repentance there is conviction, contrition, and conversion as one turns from his sin to Christ alone for salvation. There is a difference between regrets and repentance. (See: Apologies, Regrets, and True Repentance)

(6) Such authentic holiness and humility is most desirable for any Christian. However, McLaren did not clarify his definition of Holy, which is most likely redefined like everything else he has deconstructed, since his motto is that everything must change.

(7) The ‘departure’ of Christians from the faith is false conversions and those who never were among us, as in the ‘Parable of the Soils’, and those who departed from Jesus when He talked of His blood. (“They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” 1 John 2:19) It’s not about regrets of the culture-borne heresies and man made traditions of the church.

(8) Comment by a friend of the olives: Anti-Semitism was a theological heresy in the church borne of false doctrine (one which McLaren carries himself in his anti-Israel stance). Anti-Semitism is part of the basic theology of Islam (which they, by the way, don’t regret at all); “anti-Islam” is merely survival since they are responsible for 150 million deaths in their crusades and the body-count again rises daily, while the body count of Christian ‘murders’ is zero. Islam and Communism (which McLaren appears to be an apologists for) make the church look like boy and girl scouts in the ‘injustice’ field.
Brian McLaren, Christian social justice and the boycott of Israel
The Anti-Israel Revelation

(9) Comment by a friend of the olives: Given the frauds in the environmental movement (fraudulent research proposals, flawed computer programs, cover ups of contradictory data, unfulfilled predictions etc) we are hardly the ones with regrets.

(10) Does he mean Arius of Alexandria, founder of the heresy known as Arianism, or Aerius of Sebaste who taught doctrines in opposition to the RC church (both 4th century)? [It was the Catholic heirarchy that persecuted Aerius.] Is McLaren’s wish that we apologize to the heretics also his wish that we no longer critique his false teachings?

(11) Expansiveness is the code word for tolerance-of-evil.

(12) We are never told to ‘remake the world.’ (John 18:36) Remaking the world is reconstructionism and another heresy (see: The Dominion Mandate and the Christian Reconstruction Movement by Bob DeWaay.) As Dave Hunt has noted in Whatever Happened to Heaven?:
“The great seduction is to turn us from heaven to earth, from the true God to ourselves, from the denial of self to the acceptance, love, and esteem of oneself, from God’s truth to Satan’s lie. At the heart of this seduction are beliefs that have a deceptively spiritual appeal, but which actually turn us from loving Christ and His appearing to the earthly ambition of taking over society and remaking this world into the paradise that Adam and Eve lost” (p. 308). [Source: The Temporal Delusion Part 1, The Berean Call]

(13) Magic? In the light of Deuteronomy 18:9-14, Acts 19:19, should this word even be used in a Christian context?

(14) Final comments (from a friend of the olives): “This ‘guilt-trip’ is social and political. What we are really guilty of is: not evangelizing, not cleaning our house of heretics, not living righteously, not promoting the TRUTH…(Do) you ever hear him (McLaren) railing against the greatest western genocide: abortion? No, OUR CHRIST criticizes us (Revelation 3) for none of these things but for being Laodicea. His command was ‘preach and teach the gospel’ not do politics and social work (although there is a place for both, they are VEHICLES for the message not the message).”


McLaren’s Refreshing Winds at CMU – Part 1


McLaren’s Refreshing Winds at CMU – Part 3


The Spiritual Practices of a Mennonite Brethren Church

A Mennonite Brethren church that practices contemplative prayer likes how apostate/universalist Rob Bell describes spiritual practices.

Spiritual Practices
What are Spiritual Practices? We like how Rob Bell described them…
“Spiritual practices are exactly what their name suggests; they’re ways to be deliberate about matters of the soul. A spiritual practice is a tool for becoming aware of God within the normalcy of life—it injects the sacred into elements that could otherwise seem just everyday. So in applying spiritual practices, we find that the lines can be blurred between those things spiritual and what is secular: gratitude can happen when we’re mowing the lawn, worship and grocery shopping are compatible, God can be pursued on the evening commute.”

…Commonly observed Spiritual Practices include prayer, Bible reading, confession, journaling. Here are a few resources to assist you in these and other practices:
Lectio Divina. The four stages of lectio divina are beautifully summarised by a Carthusian Prior, Guigo: “We read a text of scripture. We meditate to enter deeply into the text’s meaning. In prayer we respond to God in the light of this meaning. In contemplation we rest simply in the presence of God, needing no further words. Reading, as it were, puts the food into the mouth. Meditation chews it and breaks it up. Prayer extracts its flavour. Contemplation is the sweetness itself which gladdens and refreshes.”


Artisan is a new church in the heart of Downtown Vancouver. As part of the Mennonite Brethren Church, they are committed to upholding its Statement of Faith and seeking to apply it to everyday life. Artisan is affiliated with the Canadian Conference of MB Churches, BC Conference of MB Churches, Church Planting BC and Pacific Church.

One of the online devotions at Artisan is Sacred Space – Daily Prayer, a Jesuit prayer website. Artisan also invites people to join them for prayer every other Wednesday morning for INWARD focus (Lectio Divina/contemplative prayer).


Inhaling and Exhaling at BCMB Church Plant


Love or Leave the Labyrinth?

In light of yesterday’s post, should Christians love or leave the labyrinth?

The following quotes are from the blog of one of the retreat facilitators at the (Mennonite Brethren affiliated) Mark Centre where silence, contemplative prayer and Christian mantra meditation is being encouraged by spiritual directors (see “Take a little word, and repeat it.”). It causes one to wonder how many Mennonites have actually been influenced and encouraged to walk the labyrinth.

Bowen Island Labyrinth

“I love walking the labyrinth on Bowen Island.
Close to Rivendell Retreat Centre – it is open to the public all year round. Made of beautiful stones and infused with small herb plants – it offers a prayerful experience for all the senses.
There is something about having the body participate in prayer – perhaps I have no words…..but I can be present………I can offer myself……I can open myself up to listen”
-Monday, July 06, 2009

“When I walk the labyrinth, I remember all these things – my choices as well as the circumstances in my life I have no control over. The labyrinth seems so symbolic of stepping forward yet at the same time experiencing going backwards while still moving towards the centre. It is an interesting experience to walk in 20 minutes what can be so symbolic of life itself.
It seems like a journey of trust – trusting to take risks and also trusting in the moments of surrender to what is beyond me.
If you get a chance – walk the labyrinth…….I’d love to hear how your expereince is!”
The Labyrinth – the symbolic walk of choice & letting go
Sunday, July 25, 2010

NOTE: The Mark Centre is occasionally highlighted and promoted in the MB Herald.
MB Herald Promotes Contemplative Centre, Again
Silently Retreating Mennonites


“Would Mennonites actually walk the labyrinth/swastika?”

The Labyrinth Journey: Walking the Path to Fulfillment? by Carl Teichrib

“Would Mennonites actually walk the labyrinth/swastika?”

The following well documented insights were submitted to Menno-lite by a reader named Clara in response to recent posts on Mennonites and the Labyrinth.

Walking the Labyrinth: Walking the Swastika

I was intrigued by the post on February 6th “Did these Young Mennonites Walk the Labyrinth?”, particularly the photo of a labyrinth. I noticed the four sides to this labyrinth – it is a circle divided into four quadrants with an obvious center. The next post on February 9th “Mennonite Labyrinths” shows a similar circle divided into four sections with a center. The second post begins by raising the question: “Would Mennonites actually walk the labyrinth?” In my mind, I asked: “Would Mennonites actually walk the SWASTIKA?”

How can I say something so outrageous? Recently I was doing some research on the derivation of an occult symbol and I stumbled onto the history of labyrinths. I discovered that labyrinths are cross-cultural and originate from widely diverse pagan societies over at least three millennia. If you go to this webpage, you can read about labyrinths and see these graphic depictions of a labyrinth. I became so curious that I started digging further. I learned that a labyrinth is also a symbolic ritual, it is a space set aside for spiritual activity. This activity has covert sexual and spiritual significance.

It hit me in the face. When looking down at a labyrinth from above, the connection to a swastika is obvious to the naked eye. Some labyrinths also resemble the eastern religions’ Yin/Yang symbol. When I researched the origins of these two symbols I learned that they are actually share some common meanings in the occult.

I pulled a book off my shelf by Dr. Cathy Burns, who has done extensive research on the occult and its symbols. Her book Masonic and Occult Symbols Illustrated (Sharing, 1998) explains that a labyrinth is related to a double-headed axe, a symbol used in witchcraft known as a “labrys.” This word is connected to female anatomy, and it has to do with both fertility and “celestial illumination.”(p. 247-8) Dr. Burns cites Albert Pike, a famous Freemason who said that a labyrinth “was built in honor of the sun” (p. 319), and she mentions that the labyrinth is used by the Eastern Star (the women’s Freemasonry organization).(p. 319-321) Sun worship and fertility rituals was the old pagan idolatry condemned by the Bible—Baal worship. This included perverse sexual rites of initiation.

I grabbed two more books off my shelf. These were written by Richard Noll, a historian who wrote about the rising culture of German occultism just prior to the Nazi regime in Germany. He explains the reasons why the swastika became the German symbol of spiritual and political rebirth. He wrote that

The National Socialists constructed their ideology out of the elements of German Volkish thought that had been popular for several generations among the educated middle classes. They borrowed their solar symbolism from occultism and Aryan mysticism. The National Socialist flag contains a white solar disk or mandala at its center, in which is set another solar symbol: the Hakenkreutz or swastika, a symbol of eternal recurrence and regenerative power. The sun was a potent natural symbol and National Socialist rhetoric was often laced with references that link the power of the sun to the Volk. (The Aryan Christ, p. 273)

The swastika wasn’t just a symbol on a flag. It had deep religious and cultural significance to the Germans of that era. There was a religious meaning behind the swirling sun of the swastika:

Self-deification, or becoming one with the god within, was a pagan appeal to reject Christianity, its symbols, and its Semitic god. The dynamic swastika was hailed as the alternative to the cross. An article on the swastika in a 1918 issue of Die Tat by Illse Alma Drews exemplifies the use of metaphors in a neopagan… sense…: “As the Christians joyfully gather round their cross symbol, so should all of us, too, who confess the new religion, meet each other under the common sign of the swastika. . . . The swastikas can, like no other sign, warn and arouse us, light the holy flame in us, so that we become joyful sacrifices to the highest. . . a victory sign of the new, inner-world God.”(The Jung Cult, p. 346)

Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophists, who during the 1880s began to promote a Lucifer-worship cult, “popularized” the swastika through her activities and her writings. Noll wrote that “Blavatsky adopted it as part of the official insignia of the Theosophical Society and also as part of her own personal crest.” There was a definite “solar basis of swastika symbolism and its prevalence in archaic Celtic and Germanic symbolism….”(The Jung Cult, p. 77, 335) The Theosophists, by the way, are the forerunners to the modern New Age movement. (For this history see Constance Cumbey’s The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow).

The German psychiatrist Carl Jung developed a method of “active imagination,” which was a way to “have a direct experience of God as a star or sun within.” The star or sun was depicted by the swirling sun of the swastika, the “ancient Aryan sun wheel,’… a symbol of god that could be found in the ancient homelands of the Aryans… in the form of circular mandalas.”(The Jung Cult, p. 114). This same occult technique is now popularly called “visualization” and it is very popular in the church world. This technique, which is often used in meditation and contemplation, would explain how labyrinths are used for spiritual purposes. As people step into the swirling sun of the labyrinth, they can then experience “the god within.” As they move towards the center, they are imitating a sexual and spiritual union with “God.” How heretical!

It is interesting to read about the historical, cultural and religious context to this sun-worshipping “neopagan culture in German Europe at the turn of the [last] century.” Some of this sounds a lot like the New Age movement today. Certain other occult activities accompanied this swastika motif. For example, here is how Aryan sun-worshipping connects to the eastern Yin/Yang:

“Aryanist sun-worshipping imagery, runic symbols, swastikas, and towering pillars of fire are synthesized with male and female figures, often nude, who symbolized the great cosmic principles of Masculine and Feminine. Typically there are polar opposites united within or just under a circle that symbolizes god as the sun—the primordial ground of all being. In one book illustration…, the Masculine and Feminine are united in a Janus-like bust depicting the Aryan ideals of male and female beauty. This syzvgy, this union of opposites, is surrounded by solar rays and crowned by an encircled swastika, a solar symbol of regeneration and eternal recurrence.”(The Aryan Christ, p. 114)

Why were the German people so interested in this type of occultism? The historian Noll said that the Germans were seeking to rediscover the “sexual magic and sexual religion of the ancient Aryans” which were being touted by the Theosophists as a way to return to a genuinely German volkish (folk) religion. The disliked Christianity and wanted to supplant it with something new and more exciting. Noll explains the heresies that then developed:

“The Aryanist and occultist theory popular in bohemian circles was that the universe had been created from a primordial fiery chaos out of which the first two principles to emerge were the Masculine and the Feminine. Only from the eternal tension between these opposites, the eternal joining and separating of the two, could the creative force, the primal energy of the sun or fire be released. On the individual level, only the integration of the Masculine and Feminine principles within the soul could restore the connection with the internal solar fire….”(The Aryan Christ, p. 118)

In other words, the Germans of the late 1800s and early 1900s became enthralled with the ancient occult idea of connecting the sun with sexual energy. These solar myths generally refer to bringing heaven to earth in an ecstatic union that is depicted sexually. It is also described in terms of spiritual elitism as a way for man to become God. In order to achieve godhood, man needed a “medium between the sacred and profane,” a means to develop an “altered state of consciousness.” (The Aryan Christ, p. 9) The swastika represented one such medium. In like fashion the labyrinth provides a physical medium in which to gain access to godhood. Today this is sometimes referred to as being a “co-creator” with God.

Of course, we have the perspective of 100 years later. We know the “rest of the story”—what terrible things happened when Germany was under the flag and symbol of the swastika. The Germans connected this solar religion to that of creating a new breed, a master race of pure-blooded Aryans:

[T]his blazing primal energy was also associated with blood. Therefore, to release the creative potential of an entire race, eugenics would be necessary to create pure prototypical Aryan males and females who could then produce progressively superior progeny.(The Aryan Christ, p. 118)

How did the frightful master race idea become so widespread? Madame Blavatsky “and her Theosophical Society played a key role in the dissemination of occultist doctrines at the turn of the [last] century,” especially the Aryan race mythology. (The Jung Cult, p. 67) Noll wrote that Blavatsky

chose the name theosophy (“knowledge of God” or “divine wisdom”) for her doctrine, which was based on the idea that all of the world’s religions and spiritual traditions down through history were derived from a long-lost “secret doctrine” that had been revealed to her by these divine beings [her “guru-like ‘ascended masters’”]. The secret doctrine included… the “root races” of mankind, which prominently described the “Aryan race.” (The Jung Cult, p. 61-2)

So how do labyrinths connect with swastikas? An entry on Wikipedia shows a Black Sun wheel symbol in a floor mosaic. It is a swastika embedded in the floor in the Wewelsburg Castle. This labyrinthian floor mosaic is a “twelve-spoke sun wheel,” and it was embedded on a ground floor room in the North Tower of this castle by high-ranking German SS generals who were deeply involved in the occult. This Wikipedia report states that:

Traditional Christianity was to be replaced by a “völkisch” (folkish or racial) cult. Instead of Christianity, Himmler wanted a moral doctrine derived from the pre-Christian pagan Germanic heritage. Cultic ceremonies and rituals were part of the everyday life of the SS. The Wewelsburg was to be a center of a “species-compliant” religion (German: “artgemäße” Religion)

According to studies commissioned by the Third Reich regarding the beliefs of the pre-Christianized Germanic peoples, it was estimated that these pagan ancestors believed in “a grand force or a grand god in the background of the multiplicity of gods and spirits who becomes visible in a multiple way in the universe, on earth and in the life of all beings and facts”. So the sun was interpreted as “only one, but a very important and big expression (of that force or god) in the surrounding events and in the life of the ancestors”. ( )

A related Wikipedia entry on the “Sun Cross” depicts a similar four-quadrant sun wheel (“a cross inside a circle) for the purpose of sun worship. ( And the Wikipedia entry on “Swastika” includes an extensive discussion of the cross-cultural pervasiveness of this symbol, relating it to the double-axe of witchcraft, and noting its four-hinged geometrical symmetry with a noticeable center. ( It is undeniable when comparing the symbols—the labyrinth bears a unique resemblance to the swastika. The fact that their spiritual meanings are similar underscores the point: the two are one in the same. The labyrinth is just more “acceptable” to our modern sensibilities; it is less offensive.

The swirling sun known as a mandala is also connected to the idea of a swastika and a labyrinth, according to Dr. Cathy Burns in her book Masonic and Occult Symbols. A mandala is sometimes viewed as a “MAGIC CIRCLE,” (p. 181) and like a labyrinth it is said to be “an aid in inducing certain mental states and in encouraging the spirit to move forward along its path of evolution.” (p. 273) Dr. Burns quotes from a Theosophical Society publication:

The word mandala originates from Sanskrit, meaning holy or magical circle. Three principles of order determine structure of a mandala: the center, the radiation that emanates from the center, and a periphery of the circle. The center represents the MYSTERIOUS SPIRITUAL FORCE, birthplace of all existence within space and time. The emanation streams from the center toward the circle’s periphery, uniting the inner and outer. Our road to self-realization may lead to the center of being. There, too, we may discover a peaceful centeredness and healing energy of color therapy.” (p. 182-3, emphasis added by Burns)

Viewed in this context, then, the popular Labyrinth Walk takes on a terrible significance. Not only is it overly connected to eastern mysticism, but it is also related to sun god cults with their sexual orgies. The identification of labyrinths with swirling suns, mandalas, Yin/Yang and swastika symbols should be offensive to any true Christian believer.

The question then gets back to: “Would Mennonites actually walk the labyrinth/swastika?”

[*Published with permission from the author.]


Eastern Mennonite University Labyrinth:

Chartres Labyrinth Design:

Black Sun:

Sun Cross:

Sun Cross Swastika:


McLaren’s Refreshing Winds at CMU – Part 1

Recently the MB Herald (December 2010 issue) ran a half page ad promoting Brian McLaren and the 2011 Biennial Conference at Canadian Mennonite University (CMU) in Winnipeg this February 3-5 (see MB Herald Promotes Brian McLaren). The conference was called Refreshing Winds, Here in This Place, Worship in Context (1). In his five plenary sessions McLaren talked about Naked Spirituality, which is the title of his next and soon to be released book (Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words). In the opening session he spoke on the different stages of spirituality, the first one being Simplicity (2).

Some of the things he mentioned during the first evening included the practices of simplicity, wonder, and experiencing the “hereness” and presence of God. McLaren said that we are all in “various stages of our ascent to full spectrum light,” and that there are a number of theorists who have influenced his thinking on these stages of life. These include the great romantic poet William Blake, Soren Keirkegard, James Fowler (3), and “Graves, Beck and Wilber, who have been talking a lot about stages of social development,” said McLaren.

Who are these men who have been so influential to McLaren? Are their theories based on God’s Word, or are they based on the philosophies of this world?

To begin with, who is James Fowler?

“Dr. James W. Fowler III is Professor of Theology and Human Development at Emory University, and was director of both the Center for Research on Faith and Moral Development and the Center for Ethics until he retired in 2005. He is a minister in the United Methodist Church, and is best known for his book Stages of Faith, published in 1981, in which he sought to develop the idea of a developmental process in faith.
During the 2007 Integral Spiritual Center conference, Integral Institute paid a formal tribute to Dr. Fowler’s extraordinary body of work, presenting him with a very special lifetime achievement award—the first such Integral Spirituality Award ever given. It was an incredibly moving occasion for everyone involved, and remains one of the most poignant memories in Integral Spiritual Center’s already abundant legacy.”

Source: Stairways to Heaven: Honoring Dr. James Fowler
Contributors: Roland Stanich and Ken Wilber

[Note: This Integral Life (4) tribute to James Fowler was co-authored by Ken Wilber.]

Next, who are “Graves, Beck and Wilber”?

We already saw in 2007 that McLaren drew from the ‘systems theory’ of the late Clare W. Graves when he suggested that the kingdom of God should be understood as a ‘higher-order system that continually invites humanity to move upward in the “unfolding, emergent… spiraling process”’ (p 276, Everything Must Change). Graves theories were based on human systems and development, and were developed further into Spiral Dynamics, which revolves around human evolutionary development, and the elimination of old ways of thinking and shifting or awakening from lesser to greater complexity. When McLaren talks about theories of stages of development and faith, it is critical to understand that these ideas are based on the works of Clare Graves which have been popularized by Don Beck(5) and Ken Wilber(6).

Don Beck, creator of Spiral Dynamics, has co-authored a book with Christopher C. Cowan called Spiral Dynamics : Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change (Developmental Management) .

The back cover of this book tells us that these systems theories of evolutionary development mesh with those of atheist and evolutionist Richard Dawkins:

“Spiral Dynamics reveals the hidden codes that shape human nature, create global diversities, and drive evolutionary change. These magnetic forces attract and repel individuals, form the webs that connect people within organizations, and forge the rise and fall of nations and cultures. This book tracks our historic emergence from clans to tribes to networks and holograms; identifies seven Variations on Change, and adds power and precision to the design of human systems and 21st century leadership.
Spiral Dynamics is an extension and elaboration of the biopsychosocial systems concept of the late Clare W. Graves; work that Canada’s Maclean’s Magazine called ‘The Theory that Explains Everything’. The authors mesh UK biologist Richard Dawkins’ concept of ‘memes’ with Gravesian ‘value systems’ in crafting a timely transformational change formula and process. Their concept of MEMES represents the first major statement of the new ‘Science of Memetics.’
Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan, who were closely associated with Clare W. Graves, apply the principles of Spiral Dynamics worldwide in both corporate and top-level governmental sectors.”

Ken Wilber, best known for what he calls integral theory, is a respected and highly regarded theoretician in the New Age movement. Among the spiritual practices he promotes on his website are yoga, Zen, centering prayer, kabbalah, TM, tantra sexuality, and kundalini yoga. Of Don Beck’s theories, Wilber says that “Spiral Dynamics Integral is one of the first integral psychologies now available and, as presented by Don Beck, I give it my highest recommendation. It has profound implications for business, politics, education, and medicine, and it will give you the tools to begin applying these revolutionary ideas in your own field immediately. Don’t miss it!” ~ Ken Wilber, author-philosopher and president, Integral Institute (

The following gives a little more insight into the beliefs of these men who McLaren says have influenced his evolutionary thinking on the stages of life.

“…the theory of values development first postulated by Clare Graves was based on a research methodology of asking a single question to college students: Describe the behavior of a healthy human organism. Graves sorted the wide variety of answers to this question into a theory about the evolution of values through stages, from archaic, to magic, mythic, rational, post-rational (post-modern) integral, post-integral etc. Beck picked this up and expanded on it, creating Spiral Dynamics, which has a lot more features, including V memes (values DNA) , color coding of stages, gamma traps, and all the rest. Ken in turn picked this up because he needed something to put on the left hand (vertical) axis of his state-stage model– something that described stages of consciousness (shown on the vertical axis) in ways that were readily accessible and intuitively obvious to many people. In Ken’s model, ‘states’ of consciousness (shown on the horizontal axis) do not evolve. For example, experiencing emptiness is the same experience now as it was when the Buddha experienced it.”

The website where the above quote came from tells us that the framework for Evolutionary Christian Spirituality ( is Integral Spirituality (Ken Wilber), and that Dr. Don Beck’s Spiral Dynamics provides a very helpful model for evolutionary development. Is it any wonder we see Brian McLaren in the midst of the evolutionary thinkers at Evolutionary Christianity? (See The Advent of Evolutionary Muddy ‘Christianity’.)

These are the values, beliefs and systems of the evolutionary theorists who have influenced Brian McLaren’s theories of faith stages, on which he has based his lecture series for the Refreshing Winds Conference at CMU.

About half way through his first talk about the four stages, which are related to ‘a book’ he has coming out (Naked Spirituality: A Life with God in 12 Simple Words), McLaren said we have to realize that in our dogmatic traditions every religion begins with mystical experiences. Then come the dogmas and arguments, because that’s how humans are, but “if we try to get back before the argument there is this naked encounter with the Divine. And that encounter is, all that it requires is that you be here, be present, to whoever and whatever is present.”

McLaren easily names influences Blake, Kierkegaard, Fowler, Graves, Beck and Wilber, but God is “whoever” or “whatever”(7) because, as McLaren had earlier mentioned, “as soon as we name God we start to get in trouble.” For believing this statement, McLaren is to be greatly pitied, as the Bible is filled with the names of God, and tells us that we can know Him. Instead, McLaren pities those who think they know the answers and are stuck in the naïve stage one mentality of “us vs. them.”

“And I feel so sorry for us all at this stage. We have so many blessings that come to us from 2000 years of church history, but do you ever just feel it’s a really heavy burden? Like to be a Christian you have to have an opinion on an awful lot of arguments – 2000 years of ‘em! And you’ve, you know, you didn’t ask for this. But as soon as you’re in – Calvinist/Armenian, charismatic/non charismatic, you know, inerrentist/not inerrentist, pro-gay/anti-gay, you know, there’s just a lot, you gotta have a lot of opinions about things. {audience laughter} But what if one of the things we need at a time like this is to give ourselves permission to say I don’t know about all of that, I’m just trying to be present to whoever and whatever is present. I think we sometimes just need permission to say I don’t know, but I’m here. Amen? And you know I’m interested in theology, I’m not against theology, I’m interested in that, but I think something…we get into trouble when we rush into the opinions without ever having been present. Here. Not somewhere else. Not where you oughtta be. Not how you oughtta be. Here. Now. This is the place where we can uniquely see something of the presence of God. Whoever and whatever God is.
…the universal experience of people encountering God when they become aware of His presence is being blessed”
-Brian McLaren, Naked Spirituality, Stage 1: Simplicity, February 3, 2011, CMU

Has McLaren jokingly reduced homosexuality and the inerrantist(8) position to nothing more than 2000 years of opinions and arguments? He insists we don’t need to know anything about God, but is quick to draw from the opinions of men rather than scripture and call the Lord God “whoever” and “whatever.” This is typical, as John MacArthur says, “an inerrantist perspective demands expository preaching, and a non-inerrantist perspective makes expository preaching unnecessary.” – Preaching the Book God Wrote (

McLaren also stated that when it comes to God he prefers the mystics, and thinks we are going to ‘rediscover’ that Paul was a mystic(9) and John was a mystic (this was at about 40 minutes into his talk), because in the gospel of John is mysticism.

Concluding his first talk, McLaren gave his audience permission to not know and not have everything figured out in this first early spiritual phase of life, and to say the truth is bigger than all of our opinions. He finished by guiding his listeners to say “here I am God, I want the real me to encounter the real you, I want the barefoot me to encounter the barefoot you, the naked me to encounter the naked you…a god that can never be contained in arguments and words…”

Is this the “new kind of Christianity,” where no one has the answers, and everybody is right in their own eyes?

Is McLaren simply echoing the theories of his mentor Ken Wilber?

“For the real intent of my writing is not to say, You must think in this way. The real intent is: here are some of the many important facets of this extraordinary Kosmos; have you thought about including them in your own worldview? My work is an attempt to make room in the Kosmos for all of the dimensions, levels, domains, waves, memes, modes, individuals, cultures, and so on ad infinitum. I have on major rule: everybody is right. More specifically, everybody—including me—has some important pieces of truth, and all of those pieces need to be honored, cherished, and included in a more gracious, spacious, and compassionate embrace… My critical writings have never attacked the central beliefs of any discipline, only the claims that the particular discipline has the only truth—and on those grounds I have often been harsh. But every approach, I honestly believe, is essentially true but partial, true but partial, true but partial. And on my own tombstone, I dearly hope that someday they will write: He was true but partial.” – Ken Wilber

It is true that God cannot be contained, and that as Christians we must never expect God to conform to our ways (instead, we surrender to be transformed and changed by His will and power). Sadly for McLaren, who chooses not believe it, God has told us in His (inerrant) Word that we can know Him.

“Thus saith the LORD, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches:
But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:23-24

It is obvious that McLaren’s ‘stage one’ of simplicity appears to be based on the flawed theories systems and complicated philosophies of this world.

“See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” Col. 2:8

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3

NEXT WEEK: McLaren’s Refreshing Winds at CMU – Part 2



(1) McLaren’s plenary sessions on Naked Spirituality can be listened to here:
Refreshing Winds 2011 audio

(2) Listen to mp3 here:
Thursday, February 3, 2011, 7:00pm
Plenary: Brian McLaren, Naked Spirituality, Stage 1: Simplicity

(3) See:
Fowler’s stages of faith development

Chart of James Fowler’s Stages of Faith

(4) Other contributors to Integral Life include:
-Brother Wayne Teasdale
(spokesperson for the practical power of spiritual realization and personal friend of the Dalai Lama)
Deepak Chopra
(mind-body medicine guru)
Thomas Keating
(founded Contemplative Outreach)
Ken Wilber
(philospher and founder of Integral Institute)
Marianne Williamson
(new age author/tacher)

(5) See:
Stages of Social Development
The Cultural Dynamics that Spark Violence, Spread Prosperity, and Shape Globalization
Don Edward Beck, Ph. D.

Spiral Dynamics quotes:

“It’s not that we need to form new organizations. It’s simply that we have to awaken to new ways of thinking. I believe it makes no sense to spend a lot of time attacking the current realities. It is time to create the new models that have in them the complexity that makes the older systems obsolete. And to the extent that we can do that, and do that quickly, I think we can provide what will be necessary for a major breakthrough for the future.” ~ Dr. Don Beck (

“Briefly, what I am proposing is that the psychology of the mature human being is an unfolding, emergent, oscillating, spiraling process, marked by progressive subordination of older, lower-order behavior systems to newer, higher-order systems as man’s existential problems change.” ~ CWG (

“Spiral Dynamics Integral is one of the first integral psychologies now available and, as presented by Don Beck, I give it my highest recommendation. It has profound implications for business, politics, education, and medicine, and it will give you the tools to begin applying these revolutionary ideas in your own field immediately. Don’t miss it!” ~ Ken Wilber, author-philosopher and president, Integral Institute (

Don Beck is a geopolitical commentator and founder of the global Center for Human Emergence, (CHE), where “We are creating an organization that will facilitate large-scale global change within a decade – something that has never been done before. What is required is a comprehensive, overarching, plantet-oriented vision.” -Dr. Don Beck (

*Don Beck is also an Integral Life Contributor (

(6) See:
Ken Wilber’s Five Stages

Spiral Dynamics Integral (SDi)
[courtesy of Clare W. Graves, Don Beck, & Ken Wilber]
Explanation of Spiral Dynamics Integral (SDi) courtesy of Clare Graves, Don Beck, & Ken WIlber. For more in-depth information please visit the website at:

(7) While McLaren calls God whoever and whatever, he has known seven Jesus’s, “the sixth Jesus is the Anabaptist Jesus who saves through community building. He saves by calling together disciples in order to carry out his teachings.” –The Seven Jesuses I Have Known

Also see Brian McLaren’s Seven Jesuses

[“He has chosen the “Jesus” he prefers from various traditions and now chooses the aspects of Christianity he will follow from various versions of Christianity. The result is the type of Christianity he feels good about. Rarely does he do any exegetical work from the Scriptures to validate the aspects of “orthodoxy” he chooses to embrace. The criterion, as we shall see, is what fits into his understanding of the kingdom of God emerging in the process of planetary salvation.”
Emergent Delusion – A Critique of Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy by Bob DeWaay]

(8) See:
Do Inerrantists elevate the Bible to the level of idolatry?
Everyone is an Inerrantist

(9) Pastor DeBruyn examines the question: “Was Paul a Mystic?” He provides a helpful explanation of the key elements of the emerging mysticism that is permeating the evangelical world. His talk is, in part, based on his 4-part Herescope series that ran in May 2008. See here:

Was Paul A Mystic? Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


The Mennonites, Brian McLaren and the Neopagan Gospel Unite


MB Herald calls A New Kind of Christianity “a book on freedom”

*Emerging church leader Rob Bell, who has recently shown his universalistic colors, also refers to the works of Graves, Beck and Wilber. See HERE.

Mennonite seminary hosts conference on Mary

As seen in yesterday’s post, Common Cause – for Concern, the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches, the Evangelical Fellowship Canada, the Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops all appear to be heading down the path of ecumenism in the name of ‘common cause.’ Is the Canadian MB Conference tip toeing in the footsteps of their Mennonite cousins who have already crossed the bridge to Rome?

For example, the Bridgefolk want you to know…

Mennonite seminary hosts conference on Mary

Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Elkhart, Indiana) will be hosting a conference entitled My Spirit Rejoices in God my Savior: Mary in Anabaptist Dress in late March. Bridgefolk board members Mary Schertz and Marlene Kropf are among the event coordinators.

More here:

More conference info can be found on the AMBS website, here:

My spirit rejoices in God my savior: Mary in Anabaptist Dress
March 24 to 26, 2011

The goal of the conference is that all who participate in the conversations will understand the place of Mary in their lives and thoughts.

However, as Roger Oakland reminds us, the Bible teaches us to focus on Jesus, not Mary:

As we read through both the Old and New Testament, one thing becomes very apparent—Christianity is all about Jesus Christ and in believing in Him alone for salvation. The Scriptures testify of the true Jesus, who made this clear:

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. (John 5: 39-40)

The entire Bible leads us to, testifies of, and focuses on, the one and only Savior of the world.

Source: The “Mary Connection” to the Eucharistic (False) Christ

Roman Catholics venerate, and even offer prayers to, Mary and the Saints, but the veneration of Mary has no place in the life of a true Christian who believes in the biblical Jesus.

Roman Catholics attempt to “bypass” these clear Scriptural principles by claiming they do not “worship” Mary or saints, but rather that they only “venerate” Mary and the saints. Using a different word does not change the essence of what is being done. A definition of “venerate” is “to regard with respect or reverence.” Nowhere in the Bible are we told to revere anyone but God alone. There is nothing wrong with respecting those faithful Christians who have gone before us (see Hebrews chapter 11). There is nothing wrong with honoring Mary as the earthly mother of Jesus. The Bible describes Mary as “highly favored” by God (Luke 1:28). At the same time, there is no instruction in the Bible to revere those whom have gone to Heaven. We are to follow their example, yes, but worship, revere, or venerate, no!

Is worship of saints / Mary Biblical?

Surprisingly, a recent issue of the MB Herald promoted the uniquely Catholic Feast of the Immaculate Conception on their ‘traditional’ Christmas calendar, even though the doctrine of the immaculate conception is not taught in the Bible.

Why are Mennonites seeking common ground with the doctrines of the Roman Catholic church? Are Christians to learn of Mary or Jesus?

Jesus said: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Matthew 11:29


Mary to be in the spotlight at AMBS

Roman Catholicism, Mary, and Idolatry

What Every Catholic Should Know – about MARY

Common Cause – for Concern

In the February 2011 MB Herald on page 24 is an article called Gospel’s common cause links Christians of all stripes. The article is about evangelicals engaging in broader dialogue with other Christian traditions in order to impact Canada with the gospel. A joint committee with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) and the Evangelical Fellowship Canada (EFC) recently explored the potential for ongoing conversation between Roman Catholics and evangelicals, leading to the establishment of the EFC/CCCB dialogue.

“We recognized that there is indeed more that we can do together to strengthen one another’s witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ,” says Van Ginkel [EFC rep].

David Freeman, co-chair of the EFC/CCCB dialogue and vice president of The Christian and Missionary Alliance in Canada, sees a “growing urgency” for greater dialogue between faith traditions. “On what basis do we allow differences in other, often secondary, doctrinal areas to separate us when we together are followers of the biblical Jesus?”

Cooperation “is a theological imperative, an act of obedience to Christ, an expression of humility, and a testimony to those who see division instead of unity.”

Van Ginkel adds, “It’s almost as if God reveals only a part of who God is to different traditions so that we will come together in the recognition that we need one another in order to experience a fuller understanding of who God is and what God is saying to the church in Canada.”

She also stresses the need for wisdom and discernment. Rather than talking institutional merger, “we’re focusing on how we can better present the gospel…no matter which church family we come out of.”

–Mags Storey, Gospel’s common cause links Christians of all stripes

The MB Herald notes that this article first appeared in Christianweek (however it is not the same).

Why is this ecumenical article in the MB Herald? Because the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches is an affiliate of the Evangelical Fellowship Canada.

Also in the same MB Herald, on page 12, is an article about parish nursing called Caring for Body and Soul. While it’s admirable that Christians would want to be trained for a nursing ministry, this article found it necessary to mention as one training option: St. Peter’s Institute for Catholic Formation, at St. Peter’s seminary, London, Ont. ( Is the MB Herald advocating that Mennonites be trained at a Catholic seminary?

And since the subject of Roman Catholicism in the MB Herald has come up once again, it’s time to make honorable mention of this excellent comment that made it into the letters to the editor section (page 17):

Immaculate Conception a false teaching

Re “A traditional calendar of Christmas” (Homepage, December). The Immaculate Conception is a false teaching and has no place inside the MB church. Jesus’ conception was most assuredly immaculate, but the Immaculate Conception does not refer to Jesus at all. The Immaculate Conception is the belief that Mary was protected from original sin, that Mary did not have a sin nature, and was, in fact, sinless.

The Bible does not even hint that there was anything significant about Mary’s conception. If we examine this concept logically, Mary’s mother would have to be immaculately conceived as well. How could Mary be conceived without sin if her mother was sinful? The same would have to be said of Mary’s grandmother, great-grandmother, and so on.

The Bible teaches the miraculous virgin conception of Jesus Christ, not the immaculate conception of Mary. So the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception is neither biblical nor necessary.

This was pertaining to the so called traditional Christmas calendar in the December issue of the MB Herald, which you can read about here: A traditional Calendar of Christmas – for Mennonites or Catholics?

In light of this all too common cause for concern, the following videos may be enlightening for those Mennonites who are seeking common ground with the Roman Catholic church and her doctrines which their namesake, Menno Simons (remember him?) renounced so long ago.

Does the Bible teach unity or division in the name of ‘common cause’? Watch the videos:

Part 1 Catholicism VS Evangelical Christianity

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

Part 6

Part 7


Canada’s bishops enter formal dialogue with evangelicals
Western Catholic Reporter

Evangelicals and Catholics: The Next Generation?
T. A. McMahon

Catholic Evangelical Alliance?