Rick Warren, Leonard Sweet, and Sweet's "New Light" Leaders
By Warren B. Smith (07/17/09)
(View Warren B. Smith Books & Articles)
(Excerpt from A "Wonderful" Deception)
"Quantum spirituality bonds us to all creation as well as to other members of the human family. . . . This entails a radical doctrine of embodiment of God in the very substance of creation. . . . But a spirituality that is not in some way entheistic (whether pan- or trans-), that does not extend to the spirit-matter of the cosmos, is not Christian."1
- Leonard Sweet
Shortly after Deceived on Purpose was published, I came across a book titled Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Dialectic written by Rick Warren's "Evangelical" colleague Leonard Sweet. Also, around the same time, I was given a cassette tape set of a presentation Sweet had done with Warren in 1995. Their recorded discussion is titled The Tides of Change and was packaged as part of an ongoing series called "Choice Voices for Church Leadership." At the time this audio project took place, Sweet was a Christian author, Methodist minister, and the Dean of the Theological School at Drew University. According to information on the tape set, this presentation was about ministry on the emerging "new frontier."2
Challenging pastors to make changes in their ministry to meet the emerging postmodern culture and the changing times, Sweet and Rick Warren present themselves not only as pastors but also as modern-day change agents. In their conversation together, Sweet enthusiastically remarked to Warren: "I think this is part of this New Spirituality that we are seeing birthed around us."3
In listening to this cassette-tape series, I found it interesting that Leonard Sweet was talking about the birth of a "New Spirituality" with Rick Warren way back in 1995. Since 9/11, "New Spirituality" is the term that most New Age leaders are now using instead of "New Age Spirituality." By simply removing the word "Age" from "New Age Spirituality," the "New Age Spirituality" has suddenly become the "New Spirituality." Emerging church figures like Sweet, Brian McLaren, and others are also employing the term "New Spirituality." They use it to describe the "new" Christianity they are practicing as "New Christians" and "New Light leaders."4 What has become clear over the last decade is that the "New Spirituality"--with its bottom line belief that God is "in" everything--is, in reality, the foundational New Age "hub" for the coming New World Religion. This panentheistic New Age/New Spirituality teaching that God is "in" everything will be the "common ground" melting pot belief that the coming New World Religion will ultimately rest upon.
In The Tides of Change, it is clear that Rick Warren and Leonard Sweet are working toward a "New Reformation" of the church.5 But as I read Sweet's book Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic, I quickly discovered that Sweet's New Reformation is really just a New Age re-formation of biblical Christianity--a New Spirituality. And his New Age/New Spirituality take on things is just one more reason to be concerned about the further New Age implications that are already so present in Warren's Purpose Driven movement.
Serving Two Masters
Although I was not previously familiar with Leonard Sweet, I knew that his book, Quantum Spirituality, had raised some concerns about his apparent affection for New Age teachings. When I began reading through Quantum Spirituality, I could see why people were concerned.
Highly intellectual and well-read, Leonard Sweet almost dares you to keep up with him as he charges through the spiritual marketplace. Operating at lightning speed and quoting from countless books and articles, he will impress many readers with his quick wit and spiritual insights. However, as he treacherously dives into New Age waters and challenges his readers to go there with him, serious problems arise within his "postmodern apologetic."
In reading Quantum Spirituality, I recalled the Sermon on the Mount when Jesus warned that you can't serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). Leonard Sweet may be a professing Evangelical Christian, but he also simultaneously praises New Age authors and their teachings. Observing Sweet's obvious New Age slant to Christianity, I was not surprised to see that he was one of the featured speakers at a 2007 leadership conference at the Crystal Cathedral.6 He also co-led two small-group workshops with Warren in 2008.7
New Light Leaders?
While some Leonard Sweet defenders have argued that Sweet's hybridized postmodern "New Light" apologetic flies right over the heads of "old light" "fundamentalist" types, the facts tell a much different story. What I learned in reading Quantum Spirituality is that Sweet is in the process of trying to transform biblical Christianity into a quantum/postmodern/New Light/New Age/New Spirituality. Without apology, Sweet writes that he is part of a "New Light movement" and he describes those he especially admires as "New Light leaders."8
In the "Acknowledgments" of Quantum Spirituality, Sweet expresses his deep gratitude and admiration to various "New Light leaders" that he openly praises as "the most creative religious leaders in America today."9 Included in his group are a number of New Age leaders I am very familiar with--most particularly Willis Harman, Matthew Fox, and M. Scott Peck. Sweet describes these three men--along with all the others cited--as "extraordinary" and "great" New Light leaders. He goes so far as to say that they are his "personal role models" and "heroes" of the "true nature of the postmodern apologetic." Sweet writes:
They are my personal role models (in an earlier day one could get away with "heroes") of the true nature of the postmodern apologetic. More than anyone else, they have been my teachers on how to translate, without compromising content, the gospel into the indigenous context of the postmodern vernacular.10
But many of the men Leonard Sweet acknowledges have compromised the "content" of the Gospel by translating it into the "postmodern vernacular" of a New Age/New Spirituality. For example, Willis Harman, Matthew Fox, and M. Scott Peck have all played leading roles in the building and popularizing of today's New Age/New Spirituality movement. Therefore, how can these three leaders be Sweet's "role models" and "heroes"? Sweet's praise of these men says all you need to know about his "postmodern apologetic." Rather than commending these New Age/New Light leaders, a self-professing Christian leader like Sweet should be warning the church about them. A brief look at these three "New Light leaders" and their teachings will make this very clear.
(This is an excerpt from chapter 10, A "Wonderful" Deception by Warren Smith.)
1. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality: A Postmodern Apologetic (Dayton, OH: Whaleprints for SpiritVenture Ministries, Inc. 1991, 1994), p. 125.
2. Rick Warren and Leonard Sweet, The Tides of Change, op. cit, introductory information sheet.
4. Tony Jones, The New Christianity, op. cit., pp. 2, 40; Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change, op. cit., p. 296; Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, op. cit., p. viii.
5. Rick Warren and Leonard Sweet, The Tides of Change, op. cit.
6. Faith Forward conference in 2007 at Crystal Cathedral with Leonard Sweet, http://www.cathedralgifts.com/20fafoco.html.
7. For information on the small-group workshop at the 2008 Saddleback Small Groups conference: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/index.php?p=988&more=1&c=1.
8. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality, op. cit., p. viii.
9. Ibid., p. ix.
10. Ibid., p. viii.
See also: Leonard Sweet Quotes ; Leonard Sweet: Quantum Spirituality and a Christ Consciousness! ; Leonard Sweet: Futurist, Author, Emerging Church leader & Saddleback Church speaker ; Small Groups and the Dialectic Process ; Biblical vs. Post-Modern Thinking
"While some Christian leaders are issuing warnings about New Age figures such as Oprah, Eckhart Tolle, and A Course in Miracles, this same new (age) spirituality (under a "Christian" disguise) is being promoted and embraced right in the Christian church by popular Christian teachers and authors." - Berit Kjos
Read Ch. 13 excerpt of A Wonderful Deception - Are Christian and Emerging Leaders Heading Toward a False Christ Through Quantum Spirituality?