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A Christian University, the McManus Brothers, Mysticism and the Emerging Church

A Worldview Weekend Special Report:


A Christian University, the McManus Brothers, Mysticism and the Emerging Church


Commentary Opinion by Brannon Howse


One day soon I hope to write about something that will encourage you. But for now, I have no choice but to report on what is happening in the American church in order to encourage you to be vigilant, discerning and committed to sound Biblical doctrine.

The EmergingChurch poses one of the greatest threats to ever face evangelicals because it promotes an exceptionally deceptive, esoteric, and seductive form of counterfeit Christianity. EC is a term that is used to describe this movement, but like any movement, its members vary in their beliefs and practices. A big part of the EC is the importance it places on feelings, emotions, and experiences and how it downplays or completely rejects the Scriptures and foundational Christian doctrines. However, like any movement, there are varying opinions and beliefs. Some within the Emergent or EmergingChurch hold to more traditional and evangelical beliefs while others reject some of the key doctrines and teachings contained within the pages of the Bible.


One of America's EmergingChurch leaders is Erwin McManus. Erwin is an author as well as pastor of a Los Angeles church called Mosaic. Erwin's brother, Alex, is the global liaison for a separate organization, the Mosaic Alliance, made up in part by Mosaic church leadership. Alex is also founder of The International Mentoring Network. What disturbs me-and should any Christian committed to a biblical worldview-is that the McManus' brothers and Pastor Leith Anderson are part of the Doctorate of Ministry for Emerging Leaders through BethelCollege and Seminary of St. Paul, Minnesota. (Founded by the General Baptist Conference) Leith is teaching his own cohort and the McManus brothers are teaching their own cohort. In addition, Bethel's Doctorate of Ministry program does not have any connection that I know of, to the liberal Emergent or EmergingChurch that is of the likes of Brian McLaren.


As I explain this connection, remember that Leith Anderson is not only the Senior Pastor of WooddaleChurch in Minneapolis, but President of the Board of Regents of Bethel College and Seminary and the past President of the National Association of Evangelicals. Note too, that Pastor Leith Anderson and George Brushaber, President of Bethel College and Seminary, are among the 85 Christian leaders that recently signed the Evangelical Climate Initiative on global warming to which I objected in a recent Christian Worldview Network article. The initiative has been extremely controversial in evangelical circles because its funding comes in part from foundations that have also supported such things as globalism, abortion, and same-sex marriage.


Now, hold on to your hat because what I'm going to share next is really alarming. When I visited the website of Bethel College and Seminary and read about Erwin and Alex McManus' involvement with the school, I realized I knew nothing about Alex. After a quick Internet search, however, I found alexmcmanus.org. Alex, it turns out, is an EmergingChurch leader and trainer. After just a few minutes of reading his site, I was simply stunned.


The alexmcmanus.org site opens with the title "Into the Mystic…" Alex says he is on a quest and he invites others to join him as they attempt to get in touch with some sort of "mystic guide" from among the "mystic warriors" of the "mystic nation." Here are a few choice excerpts from alexmcmanus.org:


• Purportedly, the mystic nation is inhabited by "mystic warriors" each of which enters the nation through a mystic guide. No one enters "the mystic" without this guide, it is said. I came close to tracking down one of these enigmatic creatures recently, I think. Witnesses are sparse but I've contacted a couple of people [including a prophetic seminary prof and a visionary "poster of threads"] who seem to have some knowledge of these things.


• Well, anyway, any help you can lend me in following up clues is appreciated. I'll travel any length at any cost to speak even if only for a moment to any member of this clan. The Mystic are part, they say, of a long line of mystic warriors that have gone before them. Their wisdom is ancient and they believe themselves to be stewards of it-as if something precious had been handed down to them. Their responsibility as stewards, interestingly enough, is to give this treasure away. And, reportedly, the more they give it away the more of it they seem to have.


• Rumor has it that some of the Mystic never die, and that others die and live and die and live again. At first, I thought this interesting and kind of comic, but the more I thought I about it, the more I began to suspect that this business of living and dying again sounded a lot like the teachings of an ancient mystic that lived in the near east in the first century. Could this urban legend be some real off-shoot of a Christ following movement? I wondered.


This is weird! Dozens of people have joined Alex in his blog to discuss their search for the "mystic guide" and the "mystic nation." New Agers regularly attempt to contact spirit or master guides to lead and teach them. These spirit guides are of course really demons. 


Only after spending about 2 hours on the site did I come up with enough clues to lead me to believe that these strange writings by Alex appear to be a literary device. One visitor to the site has posted a comment concerning his inability to understand what Alex is talking about. While Alex may be attempting to be cool or cutting edge to attract postmodern young people to his ministry, I believe it reveals a lack of Biblical discernment. Why would a Christian take the chance of introducing mysticism to a non-believer or give the appearance to those that are involved in mysticism that it is acceptable? Alex's words can lead one to think that he may be trying to contact a spirit guide.

Alex's site includes a link to another site titled, "Shamanism, Love, and the Warrior Poet." Webster's dictionary defines Shamanism as, "a religion practiced by indigenous peoples of far northern Europe and Siberia that is characterized by belief in an unseen world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits responsive only to the shaman."


The McManus brothers are promoting merging Christianity with mysticism, or at least portraying Christianity as being mystical. In his book, The Barbarian Way Erwin R. McManus writes (emphasis mine):


 "Somehow Christianity has become a non-mystical religion.  It's about the reasonable faith. If we believe the right things then we are orthodox.  To know God in the Scripture always went beyond information to intimacy.  We may find ourselves uncomfortable with this reality; but the faith of the Scriptures is a mystical faith.  It leads us beyond the material into an invisible reality." (p. 60-61)


 


"We are mystic warriors who use weapons not of this world." (p. 109)


 


According to Webster's dictionary, mystical is "having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence." Webster's dictionary defines mysticism as "vague speculation, a belief without sound basis."


 


Biblical Christianity requires intelligent thought and reasoning. In fact, Jesus said, "seek and ye shall find."  I don't find Biblical Christianity to be based on vague speculation without sound basis, do you? Biblical Christianity is not mystical, and I am not a mystic warrior, are you?


 


This promotion of mysticism is also on the website of Erwin's church which is called the Mosaic. Erwin has symbols used by various other religions to describe the beliefs of their church. These symbols include Earth, Wind, Fire, Water, and Wood. The symbol for water is the same symbol of the Yin and Yang which is a Chinese symbol associated with Tai Chi, a form of martial arts.


I was further shocked when I visited Erwin's church website and played a short video clip on his sermon series. The background music was a song by the vulgar rapper Eminem entitled "Lose Yourself." The song plays for about 36 seconds and it is a good thing. When I looked up the words to the song and read them, I found that Eminem takes God's name in vain and it is connected to a swear word, and he uses a four letter word that starts with an F. Why would a church and pastor use a song by Eminem as the soundtrack to promote his upcoming sermon series? Does Pastor Erwin not see anything wrong with the music or worldview of Eminem?


In order to reach the lost are we to mix Christianity with mysticism and use the music of a blasphemous, vulgar rapper? Is this what it takes to be cutting edge, relevant, cool, and postmodern?


Essentially a manmade worldview and religion, EmergingChurch teachings have also alarmed author and talk-show host Jan Markell. Jan perhaps describes it as well as anyone. The EmergingChurch, she writes:


…relies heavily on mysticism, a great danger to believers of all denominations. Some leaders will tell you that you cannot know truth. An EC service will often meet in homes, and will rely on extra-biblical paraphernalia, extra-sensory images, sounds, smells of candles and incense, silence, mystical meditation, making the sign of the cross, touching icons, statues of saints, rosary beads for Protestants, liturgy, yoga-like deep breathing, contemplative prayer, and sacraments-all for a full sensory immersion with the divine. In other words, they are looking for an encounter with the Lord using all their senses. Worship is stressed, but some would say more than the Word.


Ephesians says, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but, rather reprove them." Why would any Christian want to mix Christianity with mysticism? Why would a Christian minister mix truth with evil? Why do I find such little use of Scripture on the web pages of the McManus brothers? For people that claim they want to reach the lost, why do I not find a clear gospel message on their website? Why do I not find the use of the moral law, the discussion of man's sinfulness, the need for repentance and atonement, or a discussion of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Why has it become more important to look like the world than to be set apart? Why is it about appearing culturally relevant rather than Biblically committed? Why is it about making people comfortable rather than convicted? Why is it about being ecumenical instead of evangelical?  Why is the sound of the music more important than sound doctrine? Why is the focus on a mystical Christianity instead of a Biblical Christianity? Why is BethelCollege and Seminary and Pastor Leith Anderson promoting the EmergingChurch and trying to promote its growth?


This EC movement is growing fast. Many of the EC leaders claim they want to plant an EC church in every major American city. It is time for true evangelicals to wake up! While I am all for the pro-life movement, opposed to same-sex marriages, and one who grieves over the secularization of America, nothing is more important than evangelicals' commitment to biblical truth, sound teaching, and the defense of foundational Christian doctrines! Nothing matters more than sound theology. Support of solid doctrine is something to which I wish BethelCollege and Seminary would recommit. My personal connections-and good experiences-with the school include the fact that my wife is a Bethel graduate and that the school used to sponsor my outdoor hymn-sing events in Minneapolis. But something's obviously has gone wrong-at least in part.


If EC mumbo-jumbo can creep in to a place like Bethel, it's time to alert America's churches, Christian, pro-family talk show hosts, and Bible teachers to beware and to have the courage to address the dangers of the EmergingChurch. Christian radio programs spend hours each year hammering on the culture war. Can they not commit a few programs to discuss this fast growing apostasy? All the marriage amendments and pro-life legislation will mean very little if the American church is corrupted from the inside out and infects the surrounding culture. Where can the commitment to biblical justice, law, economics, civil government, evangelism, the pro-life movement, the biblical model of marriage and family be found if our churches, Christian leaders, colleges, seminaries, and Christian radio stations are compromised by the influence and false teaching of the EmergingChurch?


It is beyond me how anyone can justify being involved in the EC Movement when it is so clearly unbiblical is so many ways. If BethelUniversity and Seminary does not teach, nor agree with the liberal and false teachings of the more extreme EC Movement, then they should avoid the use of the term "emerging" or emergent altogether so as not to confuse people.

I strongly urge you to find out what your pastor thinks of the EmergingChurch. Will you warn your leaders and church members about this movement? Please say you will! In Colossians 2:8 we read, "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of the world and not after Christ."


 


Additional Information:


BethelCollege and Seminary, hosting Emerging Church Leadership training with Erwin & Alex McManus:


 


http://seminary.bethel.edu/virtual/dmin/emerging-leaders/index.html


 


 


Erwin and Alex McManus and Leith Anderson are working with BethelCollege and Seminary:


 


http://www.leadershipvision.net/about.html


 


Links to read the website of Alex McManus:


http://alexmcmanus.org/index.php/2005/08/16/in-search-of-the-mystic-phantoms/


 


http://alexmcmanus.org/index.php/2005/08/05/the-mystic-nation-update/


 


Erwin's Church, Mosaic:


http://www.mosaic.org/