Tuesday, April 8, 2008

James Emery White's Purpose Driven Mysticism

19th Annual National Conference on Preaching explores the role of preaching in addressing cultural, social, and political issues under the conference theme of “Where Do Pulpit and Culture Meet?”

A few of the headliners from the seeker sensitive / purpose driven camp include Rick Warren, Chuck Colson, Mark Batterson of National Community Church in Washington, D.C and James Emery White of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C.

James Emery White has authored several books on prayer and spirituality. In his book, Rethinking the Church: A Challenge to Creative Redesign in an Age of Transition, White promotes the emergent perspective of how the church must rethink it's foundational purposes in light of the changing realities of our world. White uses illustrations from the business world to highlight that an organization must change to stay in business.

White writes: "To understand our purpose, we must understand what business we are in..." White also references Warren's book, The Purpose Driven Church, and how to focus on Warren's five purposes of the church.

No surprise that Rick Warren and Bill Hybels lent their endorsements on the back cover. No surprise that James Emery White was a featured columnist at Warren's Pastor.com Ministry Tool Box. White speaks to the pastor's need for solitude, refreshment to prepare for ministry. He begins his article by paying homage to the Catholic mystic, Thomas Merton and the Desert Fathers:

In his catalog of wisdom from the desert fathers of the fourth century, Thomas Merton tells of a certain brother who went to Abbot Moses in Scete and asked him for a good word. The elder said to him, "Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything."

"The power of silence and solitude has been recognized throughout the history of spiritual formation. It is the purposeful separation of ourselves from the world in order to place ourselves with God. The evil one assaults our senses with the material world to drown out the distant chords of eternity's symphony.

Only in silence can we move past the deafening roar of the world and hear the music of God...The rule of (Roman Catholic) St. Benedict speaks of cultivating silence in our lives."

White then describes the Celtic tradition of "silence and solitude...an "inner attentiveness to God". White references to another Roman Catholic mystic, St. Francis de Sales.

In Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day White continues his endorsement of Roman Catholic mystics such as St. Teresa of Ávila and St. Benedict, as means to develop the "essence of serious lives" in light of epochal changes in our world. White also uses Mother Teresa as a portrait of a "rule of life".

James Emory White and Rick Warren seem to have a strong affection for good deeds, mysticism and legalism. A dynamic combination for a counterfeit Christianity, to honor a counterfeit Christ.

See more on Purpose Driven Mysticism.


  1. You have REALLY misread this guy. Calling for the church to "rethink" is different than arguing for compromise; and citing ancient contemplatives is very different than wholesale endorsement. By this standard, you would condemn almost every orthodox author/speaker in evangelicalism! I know for a fact, and first-hand, that your concerns regarding this person are totally unfounded.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for visiting. As a former Roman Catholic, I am astounded at the edification of Catholic mysticism in Evangelicalism. A Bible believing pastor would be warning people of it's pagan roots, especially in his writings.

    A Bible believing pastor would not endorse an individual from a false religious system, especially when the individual declared that there are many paths to God,as Mother Teresa did.

    If in today's popular evangelical circles, the word RETHINK meant a return to the Bible and doctrine, I would be the first to honor this man's minstry. My definition of ORTHODOX seems to be very different. Authors and speakers aren't as much interest to me as men who claim to be pastors who have the biblical responsibility to feed and protect their flocks.

    A Bible believing pastor would be calling Rick Warren and his network of pastors to return to the whole counsel of God.

  3. Sorry, while I can sympathize with your general concerns about evangelicalism, I am another "anonymous" who agrees with the first "anonymous." I was in his theology class at Gordon-Conwell, and he's very sound. Just read his book, "A Mind for God." Yes, he draws from the rich tradition of pre-Reformation spirituality, but not uncritically. Calling for silence and solitude is not exactly out of synch with the Christian faith - it was the practice of Jesus (Mark 1:35). And his "rethinking" of the church is very, very balanced. Many have seized on "rethinking", but he is pretty careful in the difference between "rethinking" and "revision." I like much on this site, but targeting James Emery White is going a bit far if you've read him, heard him, or studied under him.

  4. "arguing for compromise;"

    Purpose-Driven is already semi-pelagian compromise.

    "citing ancient contemplatives is very different than wholesale endorsement"

    Why cite these apostates favorably at all when their brand of so-called "Christian" mysticism is a core doctrine of the Emergent Church.

    "Calling for silence and solitude is not exactly out of synch with the Christian faith - it was the practice of Jesus."

    As one who has studied the theology of these mystic meditators their use of "silence and solitude" is absolutely NOT sitting in a quiet place reading and praying.

    Their is no historic record whatsoever of Jesus practicing the kind of mediation mystics are talking about. Their use of silence and solitude is referring to the pagan practice of meditation, which John Cassian (who advanced semi-pelagianism) culled from apostate desert monks and monkettes in the East.

    They in turn got this type of transcendental meditation coated in Christianese from their own "interspiritual" dialogues with those practicing pagan religions like Hinduism and Buddhism.

    Sound familiar?

  5. Anonymous(s),

    The whole idea behind the word "rethink" is that there was something wrong in the first place. I agree that there was, but the problem isn't sound doctrine, it was people not holding to sound doctrine. These "Christian leaders" have totally misdiagnosed the problem and have made an entirely new problem. This isn't because they've figured out what it is and are "brave, new souls doing what is right for everyone's eternal souls"; this springs from cowardice to stand up for God's Word that He's already revealed and, instead, appeal to people that are as unregenerate as the people promoting this stuff are doing.

    Think about it like this: if it's true that the Holy Spirit inspired the entire Bible (2Ti 3:16), that it's the Holy Spirit that leads a person into all truth (John 16:13), and that a person without the Spirit is not Christ's and has nothing to do with Him (Rom 8:9), is it safe to conclude that those who don't care much for what the Bible teaches and who lure others away from Scripture and actually contradict what it says in many cases are not doing God's work but their own? This is the issue of contention for people like Ken, the writer of this blog, myself, and many others. It's the equivalent of seeing a child run over a cliff because some narcissistic nut who has their own goals and agenda in mind is leading them that way with a sucker and you just sit back and say it's alright as long as they're not hurting anyone. That doesn't make any sense. It certainly isn't loving and protecting someone you love. Since Jesus said that those who love him keep his commandments and one of them are to love our neighbor as ourselves, it's easy to assume that the person who is holding the sucker isn't exactly loving Christ as loudly as they may be professing Him.

  6. Thank you anonymous (both of you)! I am also a student of Dr. White's at Gordon-Conwell. I can also say that he's being entirely misread. Thanks so much for pointing that out. Did the author of this post even read the books he mentions? Because it really sounds like he's basing his assessment off the blurb on the back cover. And yes, I think there is something really wrong with the church in America and, thankfully, there are people like Dr. White calling for change. And it is entirely unfair to attack someone without being more familiar with what he teaches. I have no problem with discernment ministries (even this one), but you can't have a reasoned discussion based on a Christian Post article and a few book blurbs on Amazon.

    And, as a side note, all truth is God's truth, no matter where it is found.

  7. For: "student of Dr. White's at Gordon-Conwell."

    You opine: "I can also say that he's being entirely misread." I wish you students would stop with the smokescreen: "a Christian Post article and a few book blurbs on Amazon."

    The spiritual formation neo-Gnostic mystic junk White spews is linked right from Pastors.com. Did you even read it? As a former Roman Catholic I know this pagan mystic mumbo jumbo comes directly from the antibiblical monastic traditions of the apostate Roman Catholic Church.

    Dr. White ought to know it was this kind of contemplative foolishishness which would eventually lead to the Reformation. There was no such spiritual formation garbage in Christ's teachings not was it found in the Apostle's teachings.

    Those of us who know Church history know that it surfaces 300 years later - as I said in a comment above - through John Cassian after he comes under the spell of apostate desert hermits.

    Friend, the theology is exactly the same - it always leads to an over-emphasis on the love of God and ends up in 2 Timothy 3:2.

  8. I am not really sure who I am replying to; Anonymous #1,#2, or #3

    I think quoting any of the aforementioned folks should give us reason for pause.

    Thomas Merton-""My prayer is then a kind of praise rising up out of the center of Nothing and Silence. If I am still present ‘myself’ this I recognize as an obstacle
    about which I can do nothing unless He Himself removes the obstacle. If He wills He can then make the Nothingness into a total clarity. If He does not will, then the Nothingness seems to itself to be an object and remains an obstacle. Such is my ordinary way of prayer, or meditation. It is not ‘thinking about’ anything, but a direct seeking of the Face of the Invisible, which cannot be found unless we become lost in Him who is Invisible. I do not ordinarily write about such things and I ask you therefore to be discreet about it. But I write this as a testimony of confidence and friendship. It will show you how much I appreciate the tradition of Sufism. . . . I am united with you in prayer during this month of Ramadan (Muslim holy day) and will remember you on the Night of Destiny." [Hidden Ground. p. 64.]

    de Sales- "I well know, thank God, that Tradition was before all Scripture"

    Spoken like a true Roman Catholic.

    Teresa of Avila- The RCC acknowledges her "gift" interior locution. These visions are a total farce.

    Need I say anything about "Mother" Teresa?

    Who you listen to, read and in this case, quote, is a big deal.

    Would it be ok if I quote Anton LeVay?


  9. Wow,

    OK... so John Calvin who was influence by St Bernard of Clairvaux and At Augustine (Both RCC mystics) would also be considered as JEM...

    How about Tozer who also wrote respectfully about St Gregory who was also a mystic... so CRN should be considered apostate for their Tozer devotionals?

    How about Ingrid at SoL who also promoted mysticism?

    It seems that blogs like this want to revise history to fit whatever you disagree with... and that is sad.

    So quoting someone is wrong if they are wrong in their beliefs... man... I can't even get that logic at all! LOL!

    Before you hold some standard to others... you better check yourselves first...


  10. You're not going to convince a semiliterate generation that what they "perceive" is wrong, when all they've been taught is that their perceptions are reality. The Roman Catholic Church is the siren. . .it appeals to experience-glutted youth still bent on achieving the "ultimate" spiritual experience. Give me dead orthodoxy over gnosticism. The pretension of the Merton cult alone should repel Bible believers.

  11. Quoting someone who is wrong is not wrong. Doing it in a promotional way is wrong and misleading.
    If we are serious about our Christian life we will not allow any opening for corruption. Here's only three of many scriptures from God that pertain to this subject:

    "Catch the foxes for us, The little foxes that are ruining the vineyards, While our vineyards are in blossom." Song of Solomon 2:15

    "Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."
    1 Peter 5:8

    "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea." Mark 9:42


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