Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The "New" New Age Presbyterian Mysticism and a question

In my last posting, “Something mystical this way comes: A new syncretism in the Presbyterian Church USA” I referred to Reverend Jud Hendrix’s use of the New Age Guru Ken Wilber. And I pointed out that Wilber’s “Integral Mini Model” is the first guiding text listed by Hendrix in his pamphlet the “The Mystical Church Network: A Contemplative Community of Support, Creative & Accountability.”

Drawing by Melissa McHenry Tregilgas

Also, on his blog, Out Beyond Ideas …, Hendrix has posted what he calls a Shema Circle.1. As I stated in the last posting he writes that it is “structured around Perenniel philosophy (Mind, Body, Soul, Spirit) and the Integral theory of Ken Wilber.” 2.

Having stated, after reading the material, and listening to some sermons that the new mystical movement is panentheistic and somewhat based on Ken Wilber’s new age material I looked around on Ken Wilber’s vast web site,
KenWilber.Com. I found there in their on line magazine Holons a very recent summary of an interview with Brother David Steindl-Rast entitled “Brother David Steindl-Rast - Integral Christianity: Theory and Practice.” Steindl-Rast in an interview with Ken Wilber explains how panentheism is the more acceptable religious viewpoint than either pantheism or theistic Christianity.

In the summary Cory W. deVos writes from the interview:

“Panentheism also frees us from the typically mythological conceptions of God that are found in traditional forms of theism, in which one particular group of people claim an exclusive knowledge of God's nature—usually a single, monolithic, omniscient God who reveals himself only through faith and revelation, which more often than not resembles the "great superego in the sky." (Emphasis author’s)

Via deVos, Steindl-Rast, who is a Benedictine monk, adds to this a strange view of the Trinity. After explaining that “when viewed through the lens of Integral panentheism, the Trinity truly comes alive in our minds as three very different ways of experiencing God:

- The God that is the great, unknowable, Absolute Mystery, from which we come and to which we shall return—God transcendent, or God the Father.

- The God that we recognize in everything that we see, everything that we touch, everything that is—the entire universe as the Body of Christ; God immanent; or God the Son.

- The God that exists through doing, creating, knowing, understanding—the dynamic aspects of God; God as verb; or God as Holy Spirit.”

If this is the basis of the new denominational mysticism many questions could be asked but one might be: “When, for instance, at the “
Church Unbound Conference,” Jud Hendrix and Liz Kaznak, co-Pastors of Covenant Community Church, a part of the new mysticism, minister as liturgists with Paul Detterman of Presbyterians for Renewal are the three people all lifting up the same Jesus?”

I don’t in anyway mean this as a put down, but it seems to me that these three people are embracing two different truths that cannot be reconciled.
2. See also, Integral Christianity Experience by Hendrix


john said...


Thanks for the links! What a breath of fresh air for our denomination these emergent folks are! They are not hung up on the old, tiring, never-ending liberal-conservative conflict. Sorry I missed the Church Unbound conference.

Was it your hope to scandalize your readers by your links to the web-sites? “…are the three people all lifting up the same Jesus?” Sure you were putting them down.

Here's to the coming, dare I say it, post-modern Presbyterian church.

John McNeese

will said...

not post modern - just counter-Christian

Viola said...

You didn't answer my question. I wonder why?

john said...

Your question is irrelevant. Listen to Christoph Blumhardt (1842-1919);

“We have no right to look down with disdain on others because we feel that our beliefs about Jesus are superior to theirs. I say, we should sink down to the ground in repentance.” and “There are so many proud Christians: yet they have nothing to be proud of. They are intoxicated by their piety, and each one thinks that he is the one, that he’s got it, that his group is it.”

Good answer.

John McNeese

will said...

The quotation violates its own ethic. It is intrinsically looking down on others - and the speaker cannot escape gross hypocrisy at best.

Viola said...

John my question is not irrelevant. Or perhaps a different question: irrelevant to what?
There is the question of truth for the Christian. If one is simply talking or writing about what someone believes with just an interest in religious ideas the question I asked in my posting would not have supreme importance. But if, as I am, thinking in terms of our relationship to God, our eternal salvation through Jesus Christ because of his life, death and resurrection, then the question has ultimate importance and relevance. There are many views of Jesus in the world but only as he is found in Holy Scripture is he God’s true revelation.
And I should add that I don’t look down on someone because their view of Jesus Christ is different, but I do believe that we are told in Scripture to beware of the wolves that come in sheep’s clothes.

john said...

Viola -

I've never been interested in heresy hunting. It is a death-dealing practice.

Pastor Bob said...

I know we presbyterians don't have discipline anymore but I thought Catholic orders did.

Don't Benedictines have rules and superiors and spiritual guides? I would think a monk would be sent to his cell without his supper for saying that about the Trinity.

Viola said...

I just read something in the magazine Touchstone and thought of your quote--so I will give you a quote for a quote. This is by Peter J. Leithart entitled, "Consensual Silence"

...Not only do we knowwhat words mean because a group agrees, but learning what words mean involves coming to agreement with those who use the word. learning that 'katze' means 'cat' unites me, in a small way, with all German speakers.

This is the heart of Augustine's analysis of the dangers of superstition. If the astrologer says, 'If Venus is in the fifth house, you'll fall in love,' and i agree, even if I agree simply by failing to disagree, I have formed a pact in falsehood. Worse, by agreeing with the astrologer, I've entered into a league with the demons who inspired his false signs in the first place.

Confronted with a false word, there is no way to remainneutral, to let it slide. I must either break the consensus by disagreeing and telling the truth. "No,' I must say to the astrologer, 'Venus doesn't mean that.'

Such disagreement is a liberation. But Augustine's analysis also raises distrubing questions about our culture's mania for politeness. what kind of villainy do we tolerate when we smile and smile and refuse to disagree?"

Viola said...

I think the Catholic Church in some areas including radical feminism has greater problems than the PCUSA. I am not sure how that works but I do know that eventually people like Matthew Fox push too far.

Mark Smith said...

Ah. Guilt by association. Nice debating tactic.

Viola said...

Mark perhaps I misunderstand, but I think you should read the posting before this one.

will said...

Mark - I don't think that's Viola's intent. Source material and association are very different things. If one uses particular sources for one's programs, philosophies, etc. one invokes all that goes along with that. It's a 'poisoned fruit of a poison tree' rationale.

Association, on the other hand, is a 'birds of a feather' rationale and is far weaker. It may be accurate, it may not - it proves little, and can often be coincidence.

Viola said...

What I am saying here about Hendrix's theology and those who agree with him is first of all based on primary sources: his sermons & his writings. See at the end of the first post, "Something Mystical this way comes: a New Syncretism ..." The other sources, which he himself mentions, only confirm what he has said himself.
I in fact did not use all of the material I could have including Hendrix's liking of Rudolf Steiner the founder of the Anthroposophical society.

Pastor Bob said...

Spreading the conversation further based on Viola's note about truth telling:

I have occasionally voted against candidates for ordination as Presbyterian ministers. If the candidate doesn't articulate an accurate, (albeit brief) doctrine of the Trinity er/his written statement of faith and doesn't provide an adequate explanation I will vote no. I'll do the same thing if there is no theological reason given for the crucifixion and for some other reasons.

Curiously I am usually the only one who ever votes against a candidate. Maybe my standards are too high. Or maybe we Presbyterians are just too polite to tell someone they can't be a minister.

Viola said...

Of course part of the problem is the kind of theological training the person is receiving. But how sad if a person becomes a pastor and can't articulate the truth of the Trinity or the biblical understanding of Christ's redemption on the cross. How can they begin to understand what it means to rightly preach the word or administer the sacraments?

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Adel Thalos said...


Excellent blog. Your prophetic calling is vital.
Thank you for your thorough and well researched entry.

I believe we have underestimated how many false theologies and false Christ's have influenced moderates and even those who consider themselves evangelical. I have worked with many who consider themselves evangelical who "put up" with all kinds false teachings in total silence (2Cor. 11:1-6). When asked about this, they usually respond with a postmodern kind of false agnosticism, saying that who are we to judge what is true or not.

Keep up the good work, and I pray that your ministry abounds.

In His Grace,

Viola said...

Thank you Adel Thalos,
Encouragement is always welcome. I almost missed your comment.

Jud Hendrix said...


This is Jud Hendrix, whom you have been referring to in your blog.

I have been debating on whether or not to respond to this blog, since responding may encourage its form of interaction and communication. However, I feel I have a responsibility to let you know how your blogging is effecting me and others.
Simple stated, it is hurtful.
I don’t believe that I know any of you personally, especially you viola. You have never sat with me at table. We have not shared our stories with one another. You have not come to my church, heard the full breadth of my theology, nor do you know the context of the community I serve. You have not contacted me to discuss what you are writing nor given me a chance to respond - we do not have a mutual relationship. I hope in the future you will seek to engage me personally before you make reference to my “heretical” beliefs. We are more than our thoughts, we are people seeking to be live out a Christian life as best we can. In the future I would honor and appreciate a conversation and mutual interaction around these matters.
I am sure there are theological matters to which we would disagree, but I hope our disagreements could be had within a context of care and encouragement.

Jud Hendrix

Bill Crawford said...

Funny, someone puts something on the internet and expects nobody to react to it?

Bill Crawford said...

I mean by that once you put something on the internet you've lost the right to privacy on that particular thing.

The Rev. David Fischler said...

I'm sorry that Jud Hendrix is "hurt" by what Viola wrote. I'm also not surprised that he didn't dispute any of the substance of what she or any of the commenters had to say, or that he tried to change the subject from what he's preached to his hurt feelings.


Viola said...

Greetings to you Jud,

First a question:
Why haven't you said (or written) that I did not explain the theology of the integral Church or your theology correctly?

I did go to the primary sources, your writings, your sermons and your recommendations. And I did not use everything. I shudder when I think that you are a shepherd over sheep!