Mysticism big business for mainstream evangelical authors, publishers, retailers |

TBC Staff

IF THE WORD “Christian” was not part of their logo, readers could easily mistake Family Christian Stores’ recent sales flyer as a New Age publication. Nine spiritualistic symbols “dance” around a central circle in a flowing sunburst pattern. Turning the cover, a lavish spread is devoted to explain “nine sacred paths” to worship God: 1) Naturalists; 2) Sensates; 3) Traditionalists; 4) Ascetics; 5) Activists; 6) Caregivers; 7) Enthusiasts; 8) Contemplatives; and 9) Intellectuals. Each of these “paths” is defined (since the terminology is foreign to most evangelicals except for those versed—or immersed—in Catholic mysticism or the New Age). The entire display is given credence by a large advertisement for Andy Stanley’s new four-part, small group video series called You’ve Got Style, marketed under Stanley’s “northpoint” church resource imprint—a product of Multnomah Publishers. Readers are invited to take an online “worship style” quiz, which connects the “familychristian” website to Stanley’s own “sacredpaths” survey. The 45-question personality inventory is designed to reveal “how you draw near to God.” Several questions make no distinction between Catholic and Christian—for example: “I enjoy attending a ‘high church’ service with incense and...[the] Eucharist.” The promotional copy describes Stanley’s teaching as “inspired by Gary Thomas’s book, Sacred Pathways. Due to the massive marketing forces at work, and the widespread influence of Stanley (whose church near Atlanta, Georgia, hosts over 10,000 adults in three Sunday a.m. services), further inquiry into the origin of “nine sacred paths” —and how they oppose the one “narrow way” and “strait gate”is necessary.

The Pathway to Psycho-Spirituality

Sacred Pathways author Gary Thomas recounts how “Carl Jung developed four profiles to describe human nature...” (p. 21). “Knowing our personal temperaments, whether we are sanguine or melancholy, for instance, will tell us how we relate to others or how we can choose a suitable spouse or vocation. But it doesn’t necessarily tell us how we relate to God” (p. 17). [Past issues of TBC have long established the occult connection in seeking to classify people by personality types and temperaments.] Thomas continues building a case for his nine worship styles: “Using biblical figures, historic church movements, and various personality temperaments, we can identify nine spiritual temperaments—what I call sacred pathways.” Thomas is somewhat vague as to the exact origin of his ideas, but research reveals a close connection to the nine psycho-spiritual “types” of the mystical, esoteric Enneagram.

Enter the Enigmatic Enneagram

In the grossly unbiblical The Enneagram: A Christian Perspective (Crossroad, 2004), Robert Rohr states, “The Enneagram[’s]...roots go back at least as far as the early monasticism of the Desert Fathers...presumably passed on through the Islamic wisdom tradition of Sufism.... These mystical currents of the major religions come astonishingly close to one another in...the religious experiences they transmit.... Indeed, the Enneagram seems to be...a bridge that people can step onto from different sides and in the middle of which they can meet” (xii). “Indeed” is right—comparison of Thomas’s ecumenical “sacred paths” to the characteristics of the syncretistic Enneagram reveals unmistakable parallels (see illustration). Rohr (a Franciscan “retreat master”) relates, “The Sufis supposedly called the Enneagram ‘the face of God’ because they saw the nine energies manifested in the nine personality types as nine attributes of God...” (p. 232). Rohr writes “Self-knowledge is tied in with inner work, which is both demanding and painful.... The masters and soul guides of all spiritual traditions of the West and East have known that true self-knowledge is the presupposition of the ‘inner journey’... (xiii, emphasis added). “The transfer of wisdom between religions of the most essential contributions to world peace.... The Enneagram can help us to find a deeper and more authentic relationship with God—even though it was not discovered by Christians.” Christ, the only way, is denied.

The Zondervan Connection

The fact that Sacred Pathways (Zondervan, 2000) is an “evangelical” introduction to the practices of Catholic mystics and the Desert Fathers is nosurprise.Thomas’spriorbook,TheGloriousPursuit:EmbracingtheVirtues of Christ (NavPress, 1998), was part of a “spiritual formation” series edited by Dallas Willard (a longtime advocate of mysticism and an editor of The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible; see TBC, Aug. ’05). Thomas is the founder of his own highly ecumenical “Center for Evangelical Spirituality” that “integrates Scripture, church history, and the Christian [mystic] classics.” A back cover endorsement by Publishers Weekly exudes, “Thomas cites Henri Nouwen as an example of the ‘sensate,’ which is a happy illustration since Thomas himself shows great potential for becoming the Henri Nouwen of evangelicalism.” Emergent church pastor/ leader Doug Pagitt (whose wife, Shelley, promotes yoga) is a Zondervan author of Reimagining Spiritual Formation. His website proudly proclaims he is an “Enneagram Type 8,” and a convenient link connects viewers to the Enneagram Institute for a free “sampler” evaluation. While Stanley is a prominent Multnomah author whose endorsement will further popularize Gary Thomas’s “Christian” mysticism, perhaps the biggest boost to Thomas’s work has come from Zondervan author Rick Warren. On pages 102 and 103 of The Purpose-Driven Life, Warren shares, “My friend Gary Thomas...discovered that Christians [mystics, desert fathers] have used many different paths for 2,000 years to enjoy intimacy with God...In his book Sacred Pathways, Gary identifies nine of the ways people draw near to God.” Warren proceeds to validate the nine “types” with a poor proof-text from Eugene Peterson’s The Message. But Scripture only knows one path: “the Spirit of truth” (John:14:17).

Looking Inward for Identity Instead of Upward for Understanding

The new “evangelical” market for mysticism is big business—but there are no “new” occult teachings: “That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been...” (Ecc:3:15). Sadly, for a growing number of professing Christians, God’s Word is not sufficient: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine...they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Tim:4:3-4). The eager cross-pollination and promotion of blended beliefs is a sure sign: that time has come.