.by Warren Smith
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From Chapter 1 - The Purpose-Driven Life
...The first time I encountered Rick Warren was in the spring of 2002, in a book entitled From the Ashes: A Spiritual Response to the Attack on America. The book was a collection of articles, written by a wide variety of “spiritual leaders” and “extraordinary citizens,” published in response to the events of September 11, 2001. Proceeds from the book were to go to the families of the 9/11 victims. I remember being intrigued by the fact that Christian leaders found themselves included in a book that also featured many familiar New Age leaders. Articles by Billy Graham, Bruce Wilkinson, Charles Colson, Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, Jerry Jenkins, Bishop T.D. Jakes and others were side by side with articles written by prominent New Age leaders like Neale Donald Walsch, the Dalai Lama and Starhawk the witch. I was not familiar with the man simply listed as “Pastor Rick Warren.”...
New Age leader Neale Donald Walsch’s article appeared just pages from Bishop T.D. Jakes’ opening article. In his article, Walsch challenged religious leaders everywhere including Rick Warren, Billy Graham, and every Christian leader in the book—in light of the events of September 11th—to accept and preach the “new gospel” that “We are all one.” After erroneously claiming that the Bible supports the idea that “We are all one,” Walsch wrote:
I remember reading this and realizing how brazen the New Age was getting, and how deceptively appealing the idea of “Oneness” must sound to a terrified humanity still wondering when the next disaster might strike. What a clever way to present New Age teachings to a vulnerable world.
But I was also thinking what a great opportunity it was for Christian leaders—particularly in this book—to contend for the faith by exposing the New Age teachings that were behind Walsch’s seemingly “positive” exhortation. In Walsch’s bestselling Conversations with God books, in which he purports to have actual “conversations with God,” Walsch’s “God” specifically defines what he means by the “new gospel” teaching that “We are all One.” “God” tells Walsch: God is creation."4 ...
But even with all of these open threats and challenges to biblical Christianity, most Christian leaders today continue to generally ignore almost anything having to do with New Age teachers and teachings. ...
From Chapter 3 - What Message?
As above, so below
Eugene Peterson’s The Message seems to be very important to Rick Warren. It is the first Bible version that he quotes in The Purpose-Driven Life. He cites it at the bottom of his dedication page. He cites it again on the page that precedes his first chapter. He uses quotes from The Message to open and close his first chapter. Five of the six Scriptures that Rick Warren cites in his first chapter all come from The Message. Even the title of the first chapter, “It All Starts with God,” is taken from The Message paraphrase of Colossians 1:16, which appears right under the chapter heading.
The King James translates Colossians 1:16 as follows: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
It wasn’t Peterson’s use of the phrase “got started” instead of “created,” or even the word “purpose,” that jumped out at me, as much as his use of the phrase “above and below” instead of “heaven and earth.” When I was in the New Age, it was well understood that the words “above and below” had metaphysical/New Age connotations and were routinely substituted for “heaven and earth.” In fact, the term “as above, so below” was a commonly accepted New Age phrase.
In reading through The Message, I discovered that Peterson had actually inserted the entire phrase “as above, so below” into his paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. I compared Peterson’s version of the Lord’s Prayer with the King James Version of that same prayer.
The Message: "Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what’s best— as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge! You can do anything you want! You’re ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes."3 [Emphasis added]
Peterson had deliberately substituted “as above, so below” in place of “in earth, as it is in heaven.”
In Colossians 1:16, Peterson again chose to use the terms “above” and “below” instead of the commonly accepted “heaven” and “earth” found in most Bible translations. The “above” and “below” in Colossians 1:16 is an obvious derivative form of the “as above, so below” he had used previously in his paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. This derivative form of the more complete phrase “as above, so below” is also common to the New Age. The fact that this whole “above” and “below” issue was presenting itself on the first page of the first chapter of Rick Warren’s book was unsettling. Was I reading too much into this? Was there some other reasonable explanation for Eugene Peterson’s use of the term “as above, so below” in the Lord’s Prayer and its derivative form in Colossians 1:16?
King James Bible: "Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." [Emphasis added]
Ancient Egypt and Oneness
Right about the time I was looking into Eugene Peterson’s use of the term “as above, so below,” I was at a book sale at our local library. Almost lost amongst some cookbooks and business manuals was a book written and published by the editors of the New Age Journal. It was entitled As Above, So Below. I picked it up and began reading it. In the introduction the chief editor of the book, Ronald S. Miller, had written:
He continued his explanation by quoting Sufi scholar Reshad Field.
The New Age Journal editor went on to state that old forms of religion no longer serve people, and that the term “as above, so below” describes the “emerging spirituality” that is quickly moving onto the world’s scene. He concluded his introduction to As Above, So Below by writing: "The breadth of this exploration suggests that we are living in an age of spiritual reinvention, a transitional age that leaves the safety and security of the known to seek out the new, the untested, the possible."6
Moving from the library book sale to the Internet, I put “as above, so below” into the Google search engine to see what would come up. There were countless references. The very first reference listed by Google for “as above, so below” read:
As I checked out the most popular websites for “as above, so below” each one described the term as having the same mystical, eastern, New Age, esoteric and magical sources. One site stated:
The phrase “as above, so below” headlined a page from the Theosophical Society’s website containing the “esoteric” teachings of New Age matriarch Alice A. Bailey. A derivative form of the term—similar to Peterson’s abbreviated use of “above and below” in Colossians 1:16—appeared on the website in a quote from Theosophy founder Helena Blavatsky’s pioneering New Age work, The Secret Doctrine:
To see if there was any other explanation for Peterson’s use of this mystical New Age phrase, I put the term “as above, so below,” along with the term “Christianity,” into the search engine of the computer I was using. There were only seven references. None of them had anything to do with biblical Christianity. The first reference was entitled “Mystical Christianity” and said:
In all of my searching I could find no good reason for Peterson’s using “as above, so below” in his paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. Nor could I find any good reason for his use of the obvious “above and below” derivative, that appears in his Colossians 1:16 paraphrase, that Rick Warren used at the very beginning of his book to initiate his readers into The Purpose-Driven Life.
I guess if Rick Warren or anyone else says, “So what?” I would say, “So how come?” How come Eugene Peterson inserted a universally accepted, mystical New Age term right into the middle of the Lord’s Prayer? And why does a derivative of the saying show up in his paraphrase of Colossians 1:16?
Even if you thought there was some “good” reason for using the term “as above, so below,” why would you? Why would you choose a term that so clearly has its origins in the magic of ancient Egypt, and is so heavily identified today with the New Age and the New Spirituality?
“As above, so below” agrees with the “immanent” New Age view that God is not only outside of creation, but also within creation. It means that God is “in” everyone and everything. It perfectly denotes the New Age concept of “Oneness” and provides apparent support for the New Age contention that “We are all One.”
I tried to imagine what it would be like for a confused New Ager today coming into a Purpose-Driven Church that uses The Message, and finding this popular New Age phrase right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer. Or what it would be like for that person to be handed a copy of Rick Warren’s book, only to find an abbreviated form of this same New Age phrase as part of the lead-off Scripture introducing them to The Purpose-Driven Life. This hardly seemed to be the way to introduce the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an unbelieving New Ager.
Rick Warren’s reintroduction of The Message into my life only reinforced the concerns I had originally voiced on the radio when Peterson’s book first came out. Why was Rick Warren so drawn to The Message? The Message not only obscured prophetic Scriptures like Matthew 24:3–5, it also introduced paraphrased material like “as above, so below,” that made it appear that some of the teachings of the Bible were “at One” with the teachings of the New Age. In Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel, I had observed:
Unfortunately, undiscerning Christian leaders have not adequately exposed these [New Age, ed.] “new gospel” teachings and, as a result, the spirit behind the “new gospel” has entered the Church.12
Posted with author's permission.
© 2004 by Warren Smith.
Second Edition; December 2004
Mountain Stream Press
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
First Edition: August 2004. Conscience Press
Scripture quotations unless otherwise indicated are taken from the Authorized King James Version Bible.
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You may also order
Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel by Warren Smith
11. Warren Smith, Reinventing
Jesus Christ: The New Gospel, p. 68.