A Blinding Darkness

A book review by Sarah Leslie

The Light That Was Dark: A Spiritual Journey  is available from Discernment Ministries

"They meet with darkness in the daytime,
and grope in the noonday as in the night."  Job 5:14

Two rugged cowboys came galloping into Deadville. They leaped off their horses and flung the reins over a post. Bashing in the door of the sheriff’s office, they blurted out breathlessly, “There’s been a fire over in Tombstone City! It was a bad one. The town went up in smoke! There ain’t nothin’ left!”

Their grimy faces looked haggard and worn. “We seen the outlaws who did it. We know their names. We seen how they operate.”

Deadville’s sheriff leaned back in his chair and put his boots up on his desk. “Well, now,” he drawled complacently, “what does this hafta do with me and my town?”

Looking very earnest, the older cowboy exclaimed, “’Cause they’re comin’ here next! We overheard them plotting! They might be headed this way right now!”

The old sheriff stuck a toothpick in his mouth and chewed it around absent-mindedly. He scrutinized the sooty clothes that the men were wearing and examined their dusty boots. “Now, how do I know that you fellas are tellin’ me the truth? I ain’t heard about no outlaws in this area. Particularly not the kind that burn down towns.”

“But, sir, you gotta understand! These are bad men. They got evil ways about them! They tricked folks and set Tombstone City on fire! They burned it down to the ground!” The younger cowboy was very earnest.

The sheriff clasped his hands behind his head with a slightly bemused expression on his face. The other cowboy chimed in impatiently, “We seen how they do it! We know how they operate!”

The sheriff casually flicked some lint off his pants and then crossed one polished boot on top of the other. “Suppose you fellas tell me what makes you such big experts on fire-setting?”

The two cowboys looked at each other in dismay and shrugged their shoulders. “We ain’t experts, sir,” the younger cowboy apologized. “We jus’ know what happened. We figured you’d want to be warned before these outlaws get over to yer town.”

“I thought so,” the sheriff grimaced. “You boys is greenhorns, ain’t ya? You dunno what yer talking about.” He paused for a moment to look distractedly out the window at the freshly-built wooden storefronts lining Deadville’s streets. ”Jus’ who didja say these men were?”

The two cowboys eagerly reported the names of the outlaws. “Hmmmm….,” sighed the sheriff, shifting uneasily in his chair. “I know those fellas and they’re a fine bunch. Got a good reputation as law-abidin’ citizens in these parts. They’re rich kin to the McCaber clan over on Mort Mountain.”

“Those men are outlaws!” asserted the older cowboy vigorously. “They conned everybody in Tombstone City and we overheard ‘em talkin’.” They’re headin’ over here to charm your ladies and swindle the townfolk with their good manners. We seen how it happens!”

The sheriff looked upon them with utter scorn which quickly turned to anger. “See here! You boys get outta here now – before I give ya the boot,” he said menacingly. “I know your type. You’re jus’ here to make trouble fer folks. Now git on with the both of you!”

There was a stunned silence. “Dontcha even want to know what happened?” pleaded the younger cowboy softly. The face of the sheriff was threatening and unmovable. The cowboys rose up and dejectedly walked out of the office.

As soon as they were gone, the sheriff turned to his deputy, who had been sitting silently in the corner witnessing the entire scene. Nodding towards the doorway, the sheriff gruffly issued instruction, “You’d best follow them boys and make sure they’re headed in the direction outta town. Be real quick about it before they stir up any trouble around here.”

The deputy stood up. He grasped his holster as he ambled toward the door. His face looked hard. He knew what he had to do.

GURUS and JESUSES – a Modern-Day Parable

Twenty-five years ago, a young man searching for some spiritual meaning to his life began a journey. His steps seemed particularly well-orchestrated, almost as if an unseen hand was directing his path. Strange coincidences and chance encounters served as guideposts on his quest for faith. Psychics, mystical leaders, and a host of self-help experts introduced him to the methods and beliefs of metaphysics and the occult. Each step took him deeper into a dizzying array of doctrines that taught spirituality and self-fulfillment.

The young man devoured everything in sight, aching to find that ultimate answer to the innermost yearnings in his soul. His search led him to a myriad of New Age workshops, retreats, conferences and training sessions. He became an expert in the plethora of concepts and practices leading towards “godhood.” Eventually this young man’s path took him to a “Jesus.” He studied this “Jesus” tediously for many months by reading A Course In Miracles. “Jesus” taught him that he could become a “god” and that we are all “perfect, sinless, guiltless Sons of God.”

Hungry for deeper spirituality, he dug into a wide variety of esoteric teachings. He followed gurus, attended conferences, received training from reputed masters, and learned the fundamentals of “New Age” doctrine – that God “is already inside us, waiting to be discovered,” and that the spiritual journey is “inward into the vast realms of our divine consciousness,” and that our “only obstacles are our own self-imposed limitations.” He was taught by the Course that “as we shed our false beliefs of a sinful self we can more fully appreciate and love ourselves for who we are – a glorious part of the totality and oneness and perfection that we call God.”

This young man lived the perfect, free-spirited California life during the 1970s. Everything in his life seemed to be part of a magnificent synchronistic destiny, until…. One day something dark and sinister happened that changed his life – forever. This cataclysmic event precipitated an unfolding drama in which all things that he had previously believed began to disintegrate rapidly. The crisis led him to read the Holy Bible, and in so doing he discovered the real Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died on a cross and shed his blood for our sins. The young man quickly learned that he was a sinner and that he needed salvation. He became a Christian.

Rapidly and miraculously, his life was pulled back together, but nothing would ever be the same again. He had a genuine burden to reach the lost souls still imprisoned by the false doctrines of the New Age movement. He began to reach out and minister wherever there was an open door. By this time the young man knew his Scripture well. He told anybody who would listen, “I know these gurus! They’re wolves in sheep’s clothing! I know their slick words and tactics! I used to follow their heresies! I know how seductive they can be! I know how evil they are! Flee from it!”

Then one day the Lord opened a door for his testimony to be published. He finally had a way to reach the lost, unsaved souls held captive by the New Age movement. You’d think that the evangelical Christian community would be excited about a book that could reach New Agers with the Gospel. But what happened next begins to parallel the Cowboys and Outlaws parable.

The LIGHT that was DARK

Eight years after he was saved, Warren Smith retained a deep burden to minister to others still caught up in the burgeoning occult doctrines and practices of the New Age. He hoped that by sharing his life story he could show New Agers the way to the true Jesus Christ of the Bible. And, he hoped that by writing a book for the Christian market he could persuade Christians to stay far away from the false “Jesus” he had encountered on his metaphysical journey. Moody Press published Warren Smith’s Christian testimony in 1992 in a book entitled The Light that was Dark: A Spiritual Journey.

Soon after Smith’s testimony was published, the book began to die on the vine. The Christian publishing industry had apparently decided that nobody was interested in reading about the New Age movement. It was becoming more profitable to publish books that were re-defining and “transforming” Christ and Christianity by merging and blending New Age beliefs into evangelicalism. Despite Smith’s best efforts at getting the word out, his book eventually ended up in back storerooms and warehouses.

During the next decade there arose a powerful evangelical media culture which elevated its leaders to guru-like states of infallibility. Smith began to observe telltale signs that New Age ideas were creeping into mainstream evangelical books, beliefs and practices. He noticed that easily recognizable New Age leaders were sharing the stage with popular evangelical media preachers, patting each other on the back and commending one another. He detected that these leaders were using a deceptive Christian-like vocabulary – just like the false “Jesus” he had studied in A Course In Miracles. Alarmed, Smith watched with dismay as the very same techniques and methods he had learned in metaphysics were being integrated into Christian doctrine and practice.

A volatile mishmash of doctrinal confusion was beginning to rise. A heretical hybrid of Christianity and the New Age was forming and rapidly gaining momentum. Smith watched in growing consternation as “emergent” and “transformational” Christianity began to take shape. By the late 1990s, an explosion of alternative theologies had entered the evangelical marketplace. Suddenly Christians were vulnerable to being seduced by the same evil doctrines and heresies that he had once encountered in the New Age!

Surely, Christians would want to be warned about this, assumed Smith. Early in 2002, Warren Smith wrote Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel. In this book he documented the increasing connections – after the 9/11 tragedy – between national evangelical pastors and New Age leaders. The same false “Jesus” that Warren had once encountered in A Course In Miracles was suddenly center stage and rapidly gaining new converts.

Two years later, Warren Smith wrote again, this time alerting Christians about the New Age connections to Rick Warren’s purpose-driven church. By this time prominent New Age personalities were being mainstreamed into respectful roles within Christianity as experts, advisors and “mentors.” But leading evangelical spokespersons appeared to be disinterested and were strangely silent. Deceived On Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church rapidly sold out its first two printings and was quickly re-published for wider distribution.

Christian Cowboys and Outlaws

It became increasingly apparent to Smith that a new generation could benefit from hearing his testimony. He decided to re-publish The Light That Was Dark: A Spiritual Journey. The timing couldn’t be more perfect. His testimony is even more relevant today than it was 13 years ago. Smith’s life story provides an important opportunity for those people who missed learning about the dangers of the New Age movement the first time around. Thank God for second chances. But now the audience would extend beyond New Agers and non-believers. Smith realized that his testimony could help explain many things to Christians sitting in the pews of the post-modern churches.

It is indeed a sad fact that there is now a whole new generation of evangelicals who have never been warned about the New Age movement. For whatever reason, they didn’t read the landmark books written in the 1980s exposing the New Age – excellent books such as Constance Cumbey’s Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow or Johanna Michaelsen’s The Beautiful Side of Evil. As a tragic result, many Christians simply do not know how to recognize the error. They’ve never been taught about the necessity of exercising discernment. These poor souls are ripe for seduction and exploitation from the false shepherds who are creating and/or promoting New Age mysticism.

Writing clearly and concisely, in his easy-to-read, laid-back style, Smith recounts his harrowing spiritual journey. He thought he was heading into light, but it turned out to be very dark indeed. The Light That Was Dark is the kind of book that can be given to anyone. It is a captivating book that one can read all the way through in one sitting. The conclusion is absolutely riveting.

This is a book that you should give to your pastor. In a perfect world, we’d like to think that somebody like Warren Smith, who’s “been there and done that,” would be respected and intently listened to. He knows his facts. But just like the sheriff in the cowboy parable, there is an inexplicable complacency. Today would be a great opportunity for a sheriff/shepherd to read this book, and then step outside the office and take a look towards Tombstone City, where the black smoke of heresy is rising high in the sky.

"For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord:
walk as children of light….
And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness,
but rather reprove them." Eph. 5:8,11

The Light That Was Dark: A Spiritual Journey  is available from Discernment Ministries for $12.95 plus $3.00 shipping and handling. Other books and materials cited in this review can also be ordered from Discernment Ministries, PO Box 2535, W. Lafayette, IN 47996, or by phoning 903-567-6423. For more information on this topic see http://www.discernment-ministries.org.

© 2005 by Sarah Leslie.

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