Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Aquarian Conspiracy in Medicine

The New Age Roots of Healthcare Reform

"Today, thirty years after The Aquarian Conspiracy was published, many of Marilyn Ferguson's forecasts for change have become social realities. Spurred by the student movement of the sixties, the New Age movement that followed, the educational transformation, and a controlled liberal media, America has indeed been changed by "people's conspiracy" blindly led by the media, schools, and "power elites."

"Most of the people simply drifted along. They didn't know what was happening or where they were headed. Even churches failed to notice or resist the rising hostility toward God's Truth and values...."

--Berit Kjos

Marilyn Ferguson, in her book that launched the New Age Movement publicly, The Aquarian Conspiracy, explained in great detail how the New Age transformation in healthcare would transition people over to the new esoteric worldview. She also spoke about education in the same way. Both education and healthcare reform would be a way to change people's worldviews, mindsets, ways of thinking, seeing, perceiving, feeling, believing. All of this transformation was part of a plan to actually shift over American public policy. She wrote:

"The new way of thinking about health and disease, with its message of hope and its charge of individual responsibility, is widely communicated by the Aquarian Conspiracy, as in a 1978 Washington conference, ‘Holistic Health: A Public Policy,’ co-sponsored by several government agencies and private organizations. Agencies from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare were represented. So was the White House staff. Insurance companies, prepaid health-plan organizations, and foundations sent representatives—in many cases, their top executive officers.

"Politicians, physicians, psychologists, traditional healers, spiritual teachers, researchers, futurists, sociologists, and health policymakers shared the platform. The assistant surgeon-general opened the conference; principal speakers included Jerome Frank on the placebo effect, California legislator John Vasconcellos, meditation teacher Jack Schwarz, Buckminster Fuller on human ecology." (p. 259-260, emphases added)

To read more of the fascinating historical documentation from The Aquarian Conspiracy detailing the New Age involvements in the actual transition of the American healthcare establishment and its government policy, see Part 5 of this ongoing series of articles by Berit Kjos and Sarah Leslie, posted HERE.

This supplemental material to the previous posts in this series underscores our growing concerns about Rick Warren's Daniel Plan for healthcare reform.

Background information: Part 1: Rick Warren’s New Age Health Gurus

Part 2: Reiki "Power" Part 3: The “WOO” Factor

Part 4: Changing Science, Changing Mind

3-Legged "Health" Care: The Agenda of Rick Warren's "Daniel Plan"

Monday, March 28, 2011


Changing Science, Changing Mind

“A new world, as the mystics have always said, is a new mind.”
–Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy[1]

"…The core of the current challenge to the scientific worldview can be taken to be ‘consciousness,’ which has come to be a code word for a wide range of human experience, including conscious awareness or subjectivity, intentionality, selective attention, intuition, creativity, relationship of mind to healing, spiritual sensibility, and a range of anomalous experience and phenomena."
–Willis Harman[2]

The New Age Movement has always seen itself as being in charge of the healthcare reform agenda. This may surprise people who think that this is just a secular political agenda. From its very beginning healthcare reform was intended to be the chief conduit for global mind change. To the New Age “Aquarians,” healthcare reform itself was viewed as a channel in an occult sense, a pathway to communicate a New Age worldview. To pull off this massive shift would necessitate a transformation from a scientific paradigm to the mystical. Medicine needed to become holistic with an active spirituality component – the New Age/New Spirituality.

Marilyn Ferguson, author of The Aquarian Conspiracy, outlined a specific plan for a “body-mind-spirit”[3] paradigm shift over to a new mysticism. She touted this as a new way of “seeing”—i.e., thinking, or mind. By tampering with the brain, New Age leaders actively sought to create pathways to the spirit world. Ferguson put forth a bold plan whereby people could become vulnerable to a psychic experience by subjecting the mind to alterations in both body and spirit:

Deep inner shifts may occur in response to disciplined contemplation, grave illness, wilderness treks, peak emotions, creative effort, spiritual exercises, controlled breathing, techniques for ‘inhibiting thought,’ psychedelics, movement, isolation, music, hypnosis, meditation, reverie, and in the wake of intense intellectual struggle.[4]

Ferguson extolled ancient so-called “technologies for inducing such experiences” which would be “shared among a few initiates” who had “esoteric doctrines.” She wrote that many of these occult techniques, formerly part of “brotherhoods” and “religious orders,” were not “available to whole populations.” But now they could become more accessible via pop culture’s interest in “new sources of personal energy, integration, harmony.”[5] Ferguson said the key to societal transformation would be the brain, and she actually published a Brain/Mind Bulletin newsletter for a time. She wrote:

“These systems aim to fine-tune the mind and body, to expand the brain’s sensing, to bring the participants to a new awareness of a vast untapped potential. When they work, it’s like adding sonar, radar, and powerful lenses to the mind.”[6]

This brain/mind was tied to an evolutionary worldview. Ferguson and her esoteric cohorts were hoping that by accessing the occult world the human mind would evolve. They believed that there would be a “rapid transformation of the human species” through “all of the systems for widening and deepening consciousness” of the mind. It was claimed that “laboratory investigation” was revealing that these psychic methods would “integrate the brain’s activity, making it less random, provoking it into higher organization. Brains undergo a quite literal accelerated transformation.”[7]

Ferguson called these psychic experiences “transformative technologies” which would “offer us passage to creativity, healing, choices.”[8] These “subtle sciences of the mind” would give mankind psychic “insight” and “shifts in awareness” and spiritual “awakening.” Furthermore, once “minds are transformed,” people would become more open to “innovate,” which means discarding old notions (such as traditional Christian beliefs) in exchange for esoteric new worldviews.[9] This would become the essential component of the Aquarian Conspiracy’s paradigm shift. A global mind change.[10] And it would be evolutionary and revolutionary. The Aquarians (i.e., Luciferians) viewed the mind in a Teilhardian sense,[11] i.e., a way to activate a collective change in global consciousness. Therefore, when New Agers talk about MIND and BRAIN they mean a mind open to psychic spirituality, i.e., the occult!

Ferguson wrote that the “Aquarian Conspiracy creates opportunities wherever possible for people to experience shifts of consciousness. Hearts as well as minds must change.”[12] She explained that the “key to success of the movement would be its embodiment in the lives of its most committed members, who would work in small groups toward personal transformation…. They would probably engage in meditation and other reflective states of consciousness….”[13] This would all be done, she said, as part of “new spirituality” networks which “became the long-prophesied conspiracy.”[14] (Of course, the parallels to the modern-day evangelical churches’ strong emphasis on meditation and contemplating, as well as networking and small groups, is quite apparent.)

Changing the Mind of Man

Ferguson cited Willis Harman’s work on “The Changing Images of Man, a landmark study prepared for the Charles Kettering Foundation by the Stanford Research Institute in 1974” as the “remarkable document” that “laid the groundwork for a paradigm shift in understanding how individual and social transformation might be accomplished.”[15] Social transformation would involve changing the entire concept of “science.” This would be a radical shift from science to mysticism. In a report by Dr. Martin Erdmann titled “The Spiritualization of Science, Technology, and Education in a One-World Society” he explained that Willis Harman was an “electrical engineering professor at Stanford University” who had

“involved himself in researching the cognitive and societal effects of LSD consumption - conducted seminars at Esalen on 'Human Potentialities.' Under his directorial supervision at the Stanford Research Institute, a scientific study entitled Changing Images of Man was carried out from 1972-74, with the purpose of changing the 'conceptual premises underlying Western society' – including a radical modification of the rational worldview of western scientists. As the president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences from 1977 to 1996, Harman openly advocated a mystical outlook on life, claiming that a spiritual approach to scientific research and technological development would greatly enhance our understanding of the monistic unity of the universe.”[16]

This significant report called for the “obsolete pursuit of industrial progress... [which] needed to be abandoned in favour of a renewed dedication to religious mysticism” especially as a way to anticipate the “future of humankind’s spiritual evolution.”[17] According to Dr. Erdmann, the “central ideas of Harman’s urgent plea to adopt a holistic outlook on life can be gleaned from his essay “Bringing About the Transition to Sustainable Peace.” This essay by Harman stated:

“This emerging trans-modern worldview, involves a shift in the locus of authority from external to ‘inner knowing.’ It has basically turned away from the older scientific view that ultimate reality is ‘fundamental particles,’ and trusts perceptions of the wholeness and spiritual aspect of organisms, ecosystems, Gaia and Cosmos. This implies a spiritual reality, and ultimate trust in the authority of the whole. It amounts to a reconciliation of scientific inquiry with the ‘perennial wisdom’ at the core of the world’s spiritual traditions. It continues to involve a confidence in scientific inquiry, but an inquiry whose metaphysical base has shifted from the reductionist, objectivist, positivist base of 19th and 20th-century science to a more holistic and transcendental metaphysical foundation."[18]

According to Constance Cumbey, the Michigan attorney who first warned evangelicals about the dangers of the New Age, Willis Harman’s “influence in the New Age Movement is virtually unlimited.” She wrote that his work in the “Changing Images of Man study… was heavily relied upon by New Age activist Marilyn Ferguson in The Aquarian Conspiracy.”[19] This fact explains the why Harman and Ferguson were both advocating the same shift from science to mysticism. Harman wasn’t just a New Ager, however. He was also one of the leaders working on building a New World Order. Cumbey explained how

“Harman also substantially influenced the notorious and disturbing Global 2000 Report to President Carter. Harman is also a part of Planetary Citizens/Planetary Initiative as well as one of its convening organizations: the limited membership United States Association for the Club of Rome.”[20]

Harman spent his life working on modernizing the occult. He wanted to take it out of its ancient origins and primitive traditions and make it acceptable and normative in pop culture. His Institute for Noetic Sciences was formed in 1977, and one of its purposes was to market the paranormal psychic as if it were hard science, and to mainstream the occult into the culture. His used the word “noetic,” which is derived from the Greek word “gnosis,” to describe his new science. Note that from this word we get the term “Gnostic,” (or Gnosticism) which means an inner mystic knowledge. Thus, the very word “noetic” epitomizes the oxymoron of “mystical science.”

Wooing the Evangelicals

Several years before The Aquarian Conspiracy was published, launching the New Age movement officially into American mainstream, this same occultist, Willis Harman, was invited to present his new ideas about science to evangelical leaders at a second Consultation on the Future sponsored by the Billy Graham Association. His topic was titled “A Utopian Perspective on the Future” and he advocated that science be broadened to include the psychic.” Remarkably, his talk met with little or no opposition.[21] He stated that

“Once-taboo areas of science – notably sleep and dreams, creativity, hypnosis, unconscious processes, psychosomatic theories of illness – have become legitimatized. Psychic phenomena such as 'remote viewing,' precognition, and psychokinesis are being explored with renewed interest. Altered states of consciousness related to those traditionally known by such terms as meditation, contemplation and ‘graces of interior prayer,’ are being tentatively explored via biofeedback training and other routes.”[22]

Note that Harman’s examples of the mystical new science all had to do with the mind, the body and the spirit of man, i.e., man’s “health.” Harman challenged evangelical leaders to reconsider" the "outmoded 'warfare between science and religion'...."[23] He explained how his concept of noetic science would permit a profound new syncretism between world religions:

“This new ‘noetic’ science would eliminate the apparent contradiction between the experiential understanding of Hindu, Moslem, and Christian. For the first time in history we see emerging a growing, progressively funded body of empirically established experience about man’s inner life – particularly about the perennial wisdom of the great religious traditions and Gnostic groups. For the first time there is hope that this knowledge can become, not a secret repeatedly lost in dogmatization and institutionalization, or degenerating into manifold varieties of cultism and occultism, but the living heritage of all mankind.”[24]

In his address to these prominent evangelicals, Willis Harman promoted a new “paradigm-shaking” psychic science of “unconscious knowing… ‘involuntary’ bodily processes… biofeedback… psychic phenomena… unsuspected powers… ‘remote viewing’ and precognition… Minds are joined… psychokinetic phenomena… ‘losing one’s mind’….”[25] Harman urged the leaders to adopt his paradigm of syncretism, which was based on a collective consciousness of shared “inner experience” and “inner wisdom” that would bind “all societies” together. He claimed,

“The deepest value commitments and the ultimate goals of all societies that ever existed have come from the profound inner experiences of some group of people – religious leaders, prophets, mystics, poet-philosophers, or in some visionary cultures the majority of the adult population. Some form of systematic knowledge of the world of inner experience, publicly validated and widely disseminated, would seem to be among the knowledge most needed to guide society in its crucial choices.”[26]

Noetic Research Methods

In an interview before he died, Willis Harman explained the unorthodox scientific research methods of his new mystical paradigm:

"the spiritual traditions have had a tradition of validating data in various ways, just as the sciences have. But because it's a different kind of data, describing a different kind of experience, the validation procedures had to be different. You can't very well do a controlled experiment with spiritual experience. It doesn't work that way."[27]

Harman explained that in his model there should be “at least three tests” that could be used to validate spiritual data:
  1. a “check with tradition” or “dogma,”
  2. experience; asking “how would the world be” if everyone adopted this new spiritual data, and
  3. “does it still feel noetically true?”[28]
These pseudo-scientific suggestions might seem ridiculous if it weren’t for the fact that millions of people are applying these same subjective principles daily on their journey into New Spirituality. Harman's noetic science model for scientific inquiry now forms the foundation of the entire body-mind-spirit paradigm of New Age holistic healthcare.

The Noetic Mind

It is at this very juncture -- at the crossroads of a neo-gnostic [noetic] emerging science paradigm -- that key evangelical leaders have positioned themselves as cheerleaders for the new science paradigm. Emergent leaders such as Leonard Sweet[28] and Brian McLaren[29] have been at the forefront for well over a decade. Brian McLaren even described his “deep shift” into this new paradigm as a “revolution” that starts “in our minds, our hearts--as an act of faith, a transfer of trust from the dominant system to a new way of seeing, believing, and living."[30]

The neo-gnostics who hold to the new paradigm, however, have disparaging things to say about the minds of those people who won’t “shift” into the new way of thinking. Brian McLaren called old-time believers “defensive, deranged, out of touch, manic” and "tense, judgmental, imbalanced, reactionary, negative, and hypocritical."[31] Marilyn Ferguson claimed that those who did shift, who underwent this "awakening" process, had a more "sane, healthy center, the wherewithall to deal with stress and to innovate."[32] She explained how

"The Aquarian Conspiracy is using its widespread outposts of influence to focus on the dangerous myths and mystiques of the old paradigm, to attack obsolete ideas and practices.... We can conspire against the old, deadly assumptions… our crippling belief systems. The Aquarian Conspiracy creates opportunities wherever possible for people to experience shifts in consciousness. Hearts as well as minds must change. Communication must be not only wide but deep..... Penetrating to the roots of fears and doubts, we can change radically.... A new world, as the mystics have always said, is a new mind."[33]


In the context of this article, and article series, it is important to note that Rick Warren’s new Daniel Plan is ensuring that this same noetic sciences paradigm will be marketed to the masses, but in slightly different garb – this time around it is coming via a healthcare mode. It may account for why none of the doctors advising him on the Daniel Plan are adhering to established standards of credible and scholarly scientific research methods. (See previous Herescope post.)

His three guru-doctors place an inordinate emphasis on the brain, i.e., the mind. But there are dangers to doing this. It is the human mind that is most susceptible to the occult. This is why Willis Harman spent his lifetime researching it. And this is why the neo-gnostics and Emergents are emphasizing it. And this is why the old science paradigm of research and rational inquiry is shifting over to the subjectivity of mystical "noetic" body-mind-spirit science.

The Truth:

Scripture warns us to avoid the so-called "sciences" of the body-mind-spirit. There is nothing new under the sun. Nearly two thousand years ago Paul wrote to Timothy,

"O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith." (1 Tim. 6:20-21a)

And the Apostle Peter wrote,

"Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ;" (1 Peter 1:13)

1. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s (JP Tarcher, 1980, p. 36.
2. Quote by Willis Harman cited by Dr. Martin Erdmann, “The Spiritualization of Science, Technology, and Education in a One-World Society,” originally published in the European Journal of Nanomedicine, Jan. 2009, Also published in Forcing Change, Vol. 5, Issue 1, January 2011, now published on the Discernment Ministries website at,%20Technology%20and%20Education.pdf, page 14, citing footnote 54 at
3. p. 248.
4. p. 31.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid., p. 32.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid.
10. See the article “Global Mind Change” by Berit Kjos posted at:
11. A reference to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who the Father of the New Age Movement’s evolutionary philosophy, that man is evolving to a higher order species and will perfect himself on earth. See: for additional context.
12. The Aquarian Conspiracy, p. 36.
13. Ibid., p. 57.
14. Ibid., p. 63.
15. Ibid., p. 61.
16. Dr. Martin Erdmann,,%20Technology%20and%20Education.pdf, Abstract.
17. Ibid., p. 12
18. Ibid., p. 13-14, citing footnote 54 at
19. Constance Cumbey, A Planned Deception: The Staging of a New Age ‘Messiah’, Pointe Publishers, 1985, p. 39.
20. Ibid.
21. See this Herescope post: At this post one can read a partial listing of the evangelical leaders who were present at this Consultation.
22. Harman and other speakers’ presentations were published in An Evangelical Agenda: 1984 and beyond, copyright 1979 by the Billy Graham Center and published by the William Carey Library (Fuller Theological Seminary), p. 35. The book contains “Addresses, Responses, and Scenarios from the ‘Continuing Consultation on Future Evangelical Concerns’ held in Overland Park, Kansas, December 11-14, 1979.” The event was sponsored by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. This material is excerpted from an earlier Herescope post:
23. Ibid, p. 37. See this Herescope post for details:
24. Ibid. Also published here:
25. See this Herescope post: Quotes from An Evangelical Agenda: 1884 and beyond, pp. 35-36.
26. Ibid., (p. 33) See:
27. "Science and Religion," Dr. Jeffrey Mishlove interview with Willis Harman [Abridged], Cited on the Herescope post:
28. “Leonard Sweet & Willis Harman: ‘Spiritual Sciences,’” Herescope post, 9/29/05,
29. “Emergent MIND Change,” Herescope post, 4/25/08,
30. Brian McLaren, everything must change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, p. 271. Cited at
31. Ibid., pp. 33-34.
32. The Aquarian Conspiracy, pp. 31-32.
33. Ibid., p. 34-36.

Ed. Note: All emphases in quoted material has been added.

This article is part of an ongoing series which is being written by Berit Kjos and Sarah Leslie about Rick Warren's new Daniel Plan for healthcare reform. Click to view Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 on Berit's website. The original article describing Rick Warren's Daniel Plan, "3-Legged 'Health' Care," Feb. 10. 2011, is posted HERE.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The "WOO" Factor

Rick Warren's Healthcare Reform Model

"Dr. Mark Hyman is famous as the "founder" of a form of woo known as 'functional medicine.' appears to be a serious grab bag of various forms of woo that, according to Dr. Hyman's website itself, involve environmental inputs, inflammation, hormones, gut & digestive health, detoxification, energy/mitochondria/oxidative stress, and, of course, 'mind-body'..."[1]

Woo, a term used by scientific skeptics for pseudoscience, alternative medicine and New Age beliefs, or a person who holds such beliefs.”[2]

One doesn’t have to google very long to discover that the three doctors assisting Rick Warren in his Daniel Plan for healthcare reform in the church have been the subject of ongoing controversies in the public medical arena for the past several years. The controversies are serious enough to make one wonder if he hasn’t enlisted the support of some super snake oil salesmen.

What is WOO?

The three doctors working with Rick Warren’s healthcare reform plan are deeply connected with “alternative medicine.” Before we proceed it is important to briefly define “alternative medicine” because this is their context.

"In Western culture, alternative medicine is any healing practice 'that does not fall within the realm of conventional medicine', or 'that which has not been shown consistently to be effective.' In some instances, it is based on historical or cultural traditions, rather than a scientific (e.g. evidence-based) basis…." [3]

“Alternative medicine” brings in the spiritual aspect, which sometimes gets pretty bizarre. This is why it is sometimes called Woo – this is a reference to “woo-woo-woo” (think of the Twilight Zone TV show). This spiritual aspect is why Woo is so appealing to Christians. Many mistakenly think that if something is “spiritual” then it must be okay. But that is naïve and not exercising biblical discernment. Alternative medicine, by definition, includes the spiritual aspect:

"on individualizing treatments, treating the whole person, promoting self-care and self-healing, and recognizing the spiritual nature of each individual."[4]

Newly emerging scientific models of research and potential new paradigms of treatment are often mistakenly classified as “alternative medicine” simply because they fall outside the medical mainstream. One way to differentiate between Woo and experimental fields of medicine is to look at the science. Credible “alternative” medical models willingly test their hypotheses, experiment within the rigors of the scientific method, and submit their evidence to the open and academic processes of clinical studies, peer reviews and systematic research. This transparency is not only ethical, it is a responsible way to respect people’s health.

"If scientific investigation establishes the safety and effectiveness of an alternative medical practice, it then becomes mainstream medicine and is no longer 'alternative', and may therefore become widely adopted by conventional practitioners."[5]

Woo can be classified as “New Age.” A believer must always do research to determine if an alternative medicine model or practice originates from an eastern or occult mystical worldview. It is this spiritual component that is so dangerous to believers. It can be very deceptive. Christians are vulnerable to these mind-body-spirit healing claims of Woo, especially when they are desperate for a medical miracle. They turn to “spirit” rather than the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, Woo might actually “work.” It might work in the spirit world, and it might work in the physical natural world. Note that Woo relies heavily on subjective personal testimonies rather than objective science. In fact, intriguing conspiracy theories abound about why the medical establishment rejects certain Woo practices.

But note, even the science can be an unreliable barometer. Although evidence may demonstrate that some practices such as Yoga or Martial Arts lower blood pressure, relieve stress/pain, help with weight loss, strengthen muscles, etc., nonetheless believers should avoid these. Why? Because it is impossible to separate out the leaven. The breathing, the meditation, the mind work, the centering, the progressing through levels of physical/mental/spiritual attainment are all intricately interconnected with the occult significance.[6] (It should also be noted that much Woo is promoted through downline network marketing structures, and that even the financial benefits are seen as “levels” through which one progresses.)

Rick Warren’s WOO doctors

All three of Rick Warren’s health care advisors can be classified into the alternative medicine genre of Woo. These doctors incorporate a mind-body-spirit component into their healthcare reform models. They are called “guru doctors” because they 1) have “followers” and 2) are mixing alternative spiritualities in with their medical paradigm.[7] They are also well-known “infomercial” doctors, selling their particular brand of alternative medicine to the public via websites, TV shows, publicity and media outlets, etc. In this sense they may be likened to “snake oil” salesmen: they are marketing products with “questionable and/or unverifiable quality or benefit.”[8]

Hence, the controversy. Why is Rick Warren using Woo doctors? Why did he hitch his Daniel Plan for healthcare reform to these guru-doctors – men who have strayed off-the-beaten-path into alternative medicine’s Woo? These doctors have made pretty wild claims and said very wacky things. Recall that Dr. Hyman has openly rejected the scientific hypothesis model![9] This fact alone should raise serious concerns about the integrity of these men – and about Rick Warren’s lack of sound judgment and discernment.

Below are a few noteworthy examples of the more controversial aspects of these three doctors. Be aware that some of the sources for this information are suspect, and have their own agenda – an agenda that we do not necessarily share. However, this information is included because it raises important questions about the “alternative medicine” that these doctors are practicing. And it gives a sense of the Woo that forms their medical foundation.

Dr. Oz’s Woo

Dr. Oz’s name is nearly synonymous with Woo, especially because of his high-profile association with New Age leader Oprah Winfrey and his incessant promotion of Alternative Medicine. Dr. Oz frequently invites New Age psychic-type healers on his TV shows. For example:

"Yesterday, I concluded that Dr. Mehmet Oz's journey to the Dark Side was continuing apace. After all, he had pulled the classic 'bait and switch' of 'alternative' medicine by allowing a man who calls himself Yogi Cameron to use his television show to co-opt the perfectly science-based modalities of diet and exercise as being somehow 'alternative.' Like all good promoters of woo, whether you call it 'alternative' medicine, 'complementary and alternative medicine' (CAM), or 'integrative medicine' (IM), Yogi Cameron used diet and exercise as the thin edge of the wedge, behind which followed nonsense such as Ayurvedic tongue diagnosis and Pancha Karma, the latter of which is in essence Indian "detox" involving purging and enemas, among other things. Of course, also like a good propagandist trying to popularize woo, Yogi Cameron left out the 'hard' parts (like the enemas) and stuck to the softer side of Pancha Karma, such as the nasal irrigation and the 'detox diet.'"

"[Regarding a show segment Dr. Oz did about Dr. Issam Nemeh, 'Is this man a faith healer?'] …Dr. Oz breathlessly proclaims this to be a show 'unlike any other we have done before' and describes how he has been 'fascinated' by this doctor… who doesn't use drugs or procedures but 'heals with his hands.' Dr. Nemeh, we're told, uses a 'high tech form of acupuncture' in his office and the laying on of hands and the use of spirit in churches and meeting halls, all to 'heal.' …Dr. Nemeh himself proclaims that his goal is to 'bridge the gap between science and spirituality.'"

"In the next part of the segment, Dr. Oz tells the audience to judge for themselves whether Dr. Nemeh is a faith healer on the basis of the patients of Dr. Nemeh's whose story he will tell. Of course, as an academic surgeon (which Dr. Oz was for a long time before turning to woo and, given that he is still a professor of surgery at Columbia University, technically still is even though he long ago abandoned science in favor of nonsense), Dr. Oz should know that single anecdotes say at best little or nothing and at worst mislead. The plural of "anecdote," as we say, is not "data." Yet anecdotes are what he provides--and then only two of them. No science. No statistics. No scientific studies to be presented along with the human interest anecdotes. Just testimonials and utterly unconvincing cherry picked clinical test results."

Dr. Oz has consistently been described in New Age terms by the mainstream press. For example:

"In recent years Oz has emerged as America's most visible pitchman for unconventional health care, elements of which are variously known as integrative medicine, complementary medicine, mind-body medicine or alternative medicine…. In testimony last February before a Senate panel called Integrative Care: A Pathway to a Healthier Nation, Oz urged greater openness to 'the natural healing power of our bodies.' He had warm words for "hypnotherapists, massage therapists, spiritual healers" and others, and called for easier credentialing, more generous insurance reimbursement and improved 'access to research moneys' for the alternative-medicine community as a whole.

"Oz's demonstrable passion for the eccentric dates back to the mid-'90s, when he spearheaded the Cardiac Complementary Care Center at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and immediately set out to validate the energy-healing regimen known as therapeutic touch - an updated version of the Ancients' 'laying on of hands.' In Oz's new operating-theater-of-the-absurd, a self-described 'radical healer' was stationed at the head of the surgery table, her mission to report any changes she discerned in the patient's energy as the operation progressed.

"These days, Oz's favorite form of energy enhancement is Reiki, a kind of spiritual massage. Its practitioners - notably including Oz's wife, Lisa - claim to facilitate healing by strengthening or balancing energy 'meridians.'"

Many Christians are big fans of Dr. Oz because of his alternative health advocacy. They aren’t concerned about his New Age spirituality because they like his advice. But some of the health treatments recommended by Dr. Oz border on the bizarre. They may be downright dangerous! One website divulged his extremely unorthodox treatment for diabetes:

“…I was a bit surprised to learn from his website that I’ve been going after diabetes the wrong way. Unknown to me is the 'prevention powerhouse' of coffee and vinegar. He recommends heavy consumption of these miracle foods to prevent diabetes and to help the liver and cholesterol, whatever that means….

"The data support the plausibility of the question of coffee and diabetes, but not the truth of the statement. But let’s pretend it is true. The next questions are how much risk reduction is there, and at what cost?... [E]ven small amounts of caffeine can cause significant acid reflux, sleep problems, heart palpitations, headaches.

"What Dr. Oz is suggesting is using an unproven drug (coffee or dilute acetic acid) that isn’t needed. We have safe, effective ways to prevent diabetes. Our biggest failure is in providing people with the education, health care, and other tools to follow through."

Dr. Hyman’s Woo

Dr. Mark Hyman, who has eschewed the scientific research model (as cited above) has been called the “founder” of Woo:

"Dr. Mark Hyman is famous as the "founder" of a form of woo known as 'functional medicine.'… [I]t appears to be a serious grab bag of various forms of woo that, according to Dr. Hyman's website itself, involve environmental inputs, inflammation, hormones, gut & digestive health, detoxification, energy/mitochondria/oxidative stress, and, of course, 'mind-body,' whatever that means. No woo would be complete without mind-body, you know. Actually, no self-respecting woo would leave out 'detoxification,' either…"

"Dr. Hyman is the prototypical brave maverick doctor who don't need no steekin' randomized controlled studies to tell him what works.

In our previous article “Rick Warren’s New Age Health Gurus” we explained in some detail Dr. Hyman’s controversial alternative medical model, where he states that “disease doesn’t exist” and “shifts focus from illness to wellness, from disease treatment to functional enhancement.”[14] Dr. Hyman’s medical model is systems-based and is heavily oriented to the body-mind-spirit. Dr. Hyman describes his “Functional Medicine” paradigm as “the view that the human body functions as an orchestrated network of interconnected systems, rather than individual systems functioning autonomously and without effect on each other.”[15] His paradigm is based on the Eastern mystical idea of energy fields and systemic imbalances. For example,

"Functional medicine is anchored by an examination of the core clinical imbalances that underlie various disease conditions. Those imbalances arise as environmental inputs such as diet, nutrients (including air and water), exercise, and trauma are processed by one’s body, mind, and spirit through a unique set of genetic predispositions, attitudes, and beliefs. The fundamental physiological processes include communication, both outside and inside the cell; bioenergetics, or the transformation of food into energy; replication, repair, and maintenance of structural integrity, from the cellular to the whole body level; elimination of waste; protection and defense; and transport and circulation."[16]

Marilyn Ferguson in her bestselling book about the New Age movement, The Aquarian Conspiracy, described the future of New Age healing practices in terms of energy and systems:

“Just as some psychotechnologies increase the fluctuation of energy through the brain, enabling new patterns or paradigm shifts to occur, bodywork alters the flow of energy through the body, freeing it of its old 'ideas' or patterns, increasing its range of movement.”[17]

References to “energies” is an easy way to identify Woo, by the way. Dr. Nolan Byler, an expert on how New Age practices have become adopted by conservative church people, explains why Christian believers should be wary of anything that has to do with “energies”:

“The first thing that I want to note, is that in all of these things [various alternative practices, ed.]…, there seems to be a special energy connected with each of these. They talk of a certain kind of energy; there is a common denominator here. It‘s called by many different names, such as, universal energy, healing energy, life energy, life force, vital energy, vital force, magnetic energy, electricity, bio-energy, healing force, and then the Chinese names, chi and prana, or yin and yang.”[18]

Dr. Byler continues with a remarkable explanation of the significance of “energy” in occult healing:

"In the Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine and Self-Help a Ray Nielsen writes that, 'Spiritual healing,' or psychic healing, is what he‘s referring to, 'Is the transfer of energy from the healer to the patient.' Transfer of healing!

"Healing never comes from a person, it comes from God. But this man says, 'this is the same known to the eastern yogis as energyprana, or the universal life force, and that this energy flows in abundance throughout space and can be harnessed by the individual, who sensitizes himself by certain occult practices.'

Do you see what he‘s saying? He‘s saying that yes, this energy can be transferred from a person, from a 'healer,' supposedly, to another person. If he can practice certain occult things, he will become a channel that will bring it from the universe to this person. Which means to me, that he‘s getting energy from the wrong source, the prince of the power of the air."

Dr. Amen’s Woo

Dr. Hyman and Dr. Amen have both been the subject of a controversy regarding their programs which aired on PBS. The PBS Ombudsmen described these shows:

"The focus of critical viewer attention this time is an hour-long program called 'The UltraMind Solution.' It is based on a book of the same name by Dr. Mark Hyman that also carries the subtitle: 'Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First.' The last time I wrote about the pledge issue was the May 15, 2008 column, and it was based on an earlier program called 'Change Your Brain, Change Your Life' featuring Dr. Daniel G. Amen, who is described in promotional material as a 'best-selling author, psychiatrist and brain-imaging specialist.'

"There are lots of similarities. The promotion material for the program featuring Hyman is also described as 'based on the best-selling, highly acclaimed book.' Both the Hyman and Amen programs are distributed by the Executive Program Services, which is not PBS."

Dr. Amen, whose website promotes a “Brain Test,” is a psychiatrist, not a neurologist. He promotes an unusual type of brain scan called SPECT that makes him a lot of money. He charges “$3,250 for a ‘comprehensive evaluation’” according to a report that questions both the validity and safety of these tests.[21] His whole website seems devoted to marketing his unorthodox ideas. Dr. Amen, who is the only one of these doctors who professes to be a Christian, received his medical degree from Oral Roberts University School of Medicine, and questions could be raised about how much of Oral Roberts’ heresies are part of his spirituality.[22] According to a website mocking his “Brain Scam” methods, Dr. Amen claims that

"'One of the sustaining factors in my work has been my own personal faith,' he declared in his 2002 book....'From the first month that I started to order these (SPECT) scans, I felt that they had a special place in science and that I was led by God to pursue this work."[23]

To see how far and wide Dr. Amen’s strange brain “surface blood flow scans” have been marketed into the field of “human resources” management, see this website page where it is claimed that “only 24 brains out of 600 have been found to be ‘NORMAL.’”[24] Note that in this context, Dr. Amen’s work is being tied to controversial ideas such as “emotional intelligence.”[25]

Dr. Amen has also come under fire for his outlandish claims to prevent Alzheimer’s on PBS:

"May. 12, 2008 | It's 10 on a Saturday night and on my local PBS station a diminutive middle-aged doctor with a toothy smile and televangelical delivery is facing a rapt studio audience. 'I will show you how to make your brain great, including how to prevent Alzheimer's disease,' he declares. 'And I'm not kidding.'

"...the doctor, Daniel Amen, is being interviewed by KQED host Greg Sherwood. Sherwood is wildly enthusiastic. After reading Amen's book, 'Change Your Brain, Change Your Life,' Sherwood says, 'The first thing I wanted to do was to get a brain scan.' He turns to Amen. 'You could start taking care 10 years in advance of ever having a symptom and prevent Alzheimer's disease,' he says. 'Yes, prevent Alzheimer's disease,' Amen chimes in.

"Wait a minute. Prevent Alzheimer's disease? Is he kidding? But Sherwood is already holding up Amen's package of DVDs on learning your risk factors for A.D., as well as his book with a section titled 'Preventing Alzheimer's.'…

"Amen's sense of calling hasn't led him to undertake the high-quality clinical investigations that would lend scientific credence to his claims..."

Don’t miss the significance of that that last statement, that Dr. Amen hasn’t undertaken “the high-quality clinical investigations that would lend scientific credence to his claims.” Another critique of Dr. Amen’s SPECT brain scans observes the following oddities about his startling lack of scientific and ethical medical research practices:

“What about these SPECT scans for all the other things that Dr. Amen treats? He uses them in his diagnosis and treatment for many disorders: attention deficit disorders (ADD), mood disorders, anxiety and panic disorders, autistic spectrum disorders, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), substance abuse, toxic exposure, brain trauma, memory problems, temper problems, and relationship and marital problems. Yes, he treats Alzheimer's and does marriage counseling. That's a pretty wide playing field. Can these scans really provide vital information about these disorders and problems? Can they really provide valuable data regarding appropriate treatment or counseling?

“To answer these questions, we must look at the control studies that have been done to see how effective SPECT scans are in diagnosing various brain disorders. Unfortunately, the studies don't exist. We have to rely on Amen's evaluation of his personal experience with thousands of scans over many years. The self, however, is not exactly an unbiased observer of personal experience. The potential for self-deception here is enormous. A critical thinker would rather see references to controlled studies than the self-serving testimonials from satisfied customers that one finds on Dr. Amen's website. No wonder one searches in vain to find Amen's approach recommended by other psychiatrists. He truly is a voice crying in the wilderness of his own making."

Why WOO?

Why did Rick Warren’s doctors choose doctors who practice “WOO” medicine? In fact, these doctors are at the top of the field in Woo! These doctors fall well outside the boundaries of both conventional and standard alternative medicine despite their pop culture popularity.

Christian leaders who profess to hold biblical doctrines need to speak up now, before this Daniel Plan takes hold across the nation as the model of healthcare reform for church folks. Hard questions need to be asked about their involvement. How much are these doctors being paid to be involved in the Daniel Plan? How far will their ideologies and strange, sometimes even extremely bizarre, medical practices enter into the Daniel Plan? How much economic benefit are they deriving from their full-scale launch into the evangelical church world via the purpose-driven empire? And, most important, how much effect like leaven will their New Age teachings and practices have upon the global church if left unchecked?

In 1980 Marilyn Ferguson bragged, “For many Aquarian Conspirators, an involvement in health care was a major stimulus to transformation.”[28] Will this Woo healthcare reform be the major stimulus to transformation in the church?

The Biblical “Alternative”

Dr. Nolan Byler, in explaining to believers how to recognize alternative medicine (“Woo”), provides the following encouragement and admonition:

"So, let‘s take the biblical alternative that we have in the Bible. Let‘s go to God and get His Direction, His Understanding. And then I think we can be blessed people. I think we‘ve missed blessings when we‘ve failed to go to God. God is the only One that provides true holistic healing! He can give you holistic healing! It‘s not wrong if the Right One is doing it; He can heal you—body, soul and spirit! Man can‘t do it, Satan can‘t do it, but God can. And so, this bears repeating;

"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil. And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” 1Thessalonians 5:21-24 [29]

1. The Huffington Post, “Dr. Mark Hyman mangles autism science on--where else?--The Huffington Post,” 9/8/09,
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. See Gaylene Goodroad’s online book MY LIFE IN THE WAY for an extended discussion on this topic: especially pages 15-16. These thoughts are courtesy of Gaylene, who extensively assisted with the research undergirding this report.
7. See definition at
8. See definition at
9. Dr. Mark Hyman’s YouTube video presentation We analyzed Dr. Hyman’s claims in a detailed article on Herescope, “Rick Warren’s New Age Health Gurus,” 3/12/11,
10. Dr. Oz's journey to the Dark Side is now complete: Faith healing quackery glorified, 2/2/11,
11. “Emmys, don't be led down Dr. Oz's yellow brick road: Oprah's favorite doctor promotes quackery,” By Steve Salerno, NYDAILYNEWS.COM, 6/25/10,
12. “Dr. Oz, you’re not helping diabetics,” 2/24/22,
13. “Dr. Mark Hyman mangles autism science on--where else? The Huffington Post,” 9/8/09,
14. See quoting from Dr. Mark Hyman’s YouTube video presentation
15. “What is Functional Medicine?”
16. Ibid.
17. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s (JP Tarcher, 1980, pp. 255-6, emphases added. See additional material on this topic at the Herescope post “3-Legged ‘Health’ Care,
18. Christian Perspectives on Alternative Medicine, compiled by Lyle Kropf, p. 80. This book will become available from the Discernment Ministries products webpage at
19. Ibid, p. 81.
20. The Ombudsman Column, “More Pledge Madness,” by Michael Getler, 3/20/09,
21. Harriet Hall, M.C., “A Skeptical View of SPECT Scans and Dr. Daniel Amen,” Quackwatch,
22. See report at and reports at
23. The Neurocritic, “More Brain Scams,” 5/21/08,
26. “More Brain Scams, 5/21/08, Also published at on 5/12/08, HTTP://WWW.SALON.COM/LIFE/MIND_READER/2008/05/12/DANIEL_AMEN/INDEX.HTML
27. “PBS Informercial for Daniel Amen’s Clinics,”
28. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy: Personal and Social Transformation in the 1980s (JP Tarcher, 1980), quoted at
29. Christian Perspectives on Alternative Medicine, compiled by Lyle Kropf, p. 105, some emphasis added. Soon available from the Discernment Ministries products webpage at

Ed Note: Some formatting changes to quoted material, such as links, have been deleted and in a few cases, added; and bold emphases may have been added to assist the reader's comprehension.

This article is part of an ongoing series which is being written by Berit Kjos and Sarah Leslie. Click to view Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 on Berit's website.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hush! Whispers at Willow Creek

A Review of Bill Hybels’ Book, The Power of a Whisper

By Pastor Larry DeBruyn

Bill Hybels, The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010) 260 pages, appendixes, notes. The back cover dust jacket bears the following promo: Learn to Hear from Heaven as You Navigate Life on Earth.

"How sweet are thy words unto my taste!
yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through thy precepts I get understanding:
therefore I hate every false way."

Psalm 119:103-104, KJV

Sixteen years ago a psychologist noted our culture’s shift to mystical spirituality, a shift which involved people hearing “a distinct ‘inner voice’,” a voice that from time to time gives “the listener advice and counsel.”[1] Perhaps the Christian shibboleth, “The Lord told me . . .,” evidences the shift. But amazingly, what characterized the mysticism of the New Age/New Consciousness movement fifteen years ago is now emerging amongst mainstream evangelicals. In their attempt to keep in step with the culture and in the process becoming culturized (Contra Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15-17.), this phenomenon of hearing God speak in a personal way has become quite chic in evangelical Christendom.[2]

Paul Young, author of the bestselling religious allegory The Shack, accounts for the book’s origin due to conversations he had with God.[3] On his daily work-commute from Gresham to Portland, Oregon, World magazine reported that, “Young used 80 minutes each day . . . to fill yellow legal pads with imagined conversations with God focused on suffering, pain, and evil.”[4] A friend of Young’s testified that the conversations were authentic.[5] The Shack became a religious bestseller with evangelicals. Now amidst the cacophony of voices claiming to either have heard or to be hearing a divine “inner voice,” add the name of Bill Hybels.

Since his boyhood, the head of the Willow Creek Association of pastors and churches claims God has whispered to him. In thinking how to explain the story of his ministry to a campmate with whom he had been reunited in his adult life, Bill Hybels asked:

How could I tell this savvy, cynical business guy that my fifty-year odyssey unfolded as it has because of a series of whispers from God? Inaudible whispers, at that. (Emphasis added, The Power of a Whisper, 16)

For those members and followers of his association, one might hope the inaudible whispers Hybels heard/hears are really from God (See Luke 6:39.). On the point of inaudible whispers, William James (1842-1910) noted that mystics often employ self-contradicting phrases—like “shoreless lake,” “mute language,” “whispering silence,” and “dazzling obscurity”—to explain their spiritual experiences.[6] Now the oxymoron “inaudible whispers” can be added to any list of contradictory phrases used to describe mystical experiences. We turn therefore to the biblical backdrop employed by the author to authenticate that God inaudibly whispers to people.

The Biblical Analogy

Samuel was apprenticing under the priest Eli who for forty years judged Israel (1 Samuel 1:9; 4:18). Eli’s judgeship was marred by the profligate immorality of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, who might have otherwise followed in their father’s priestly footsteps. But because of their scandalous behavior, God called someone else to spiritually lead Israel. He called Samuel. The historian records that on four occasions by night, “the Lord called Samuel” (1 Samuel 3:4, 6, 8, 10). God’s call of Samuel becomes the basis upon which Hybels builds his case that God whispers to him. As God called Samuel, so God whispers to Bill.

Hybels Personal Journey

Upon the occasion of hearing his second grade teacher read the Old Testament story of Eli and Samuel and after class, Hybels relates he approached his teacher asking:

"Miss Van Soelen,” I said as my throat began to choke up, “does God still speak to little boys?”
She smiled and let out a relieved sigh. Placing her two hands on my shoulders, she looked me square in the eye.
“Oh, yes, Billy,” she said. “He most certainly does. And if you learn to quiet yourself and listen, he even will speak to you. I am sure of it.”
I felt a swell of release as I considered for the first time in my seven years of life that perhaps Christianity was more than ancient rules, creeds and other stiff-necked ways. Maybe God really did speak. And maybe he’d speak to me. (The Power of a Whisper, 20-21)

After the conversation, his teacher gave him a poem containing the following rhyming refrain: Oh! Give me Samuel’s ear, / An open ear, O Lord, / Alive and quick to hear / Each whisper of Thy Word; / Like him to answer to Thy call / And to obey Thee first of all. (The Power of a Whisper, 22, 37)[7] About employing God’s call of Samuel to validate hearing divine whispers, there are problems, experiential, biblical and theological.

An Experiential Problem

That a seven year-old boy in the late 1950s thought in terms of “ancient rules, creeds and other stiff-necked ways” strains credulity. Like Hybels, I was raised in a Christian family in “Dutch” Western Michigan, and I assure you that the farthest thing from my young mind was being liberated from “ancient” restrictions. Though 21st Century evangelicals, culturized by postmodernism (i.e., there is no such thing as truth), may balk at such “stiff necked” ways—inferring that the “stiff-necked” Christians are to be compared to the Jews who rebelled against Jesus (Acts 7:51)—kids of the 1950s were not thinking like that. While contemporary evangelicals feel increasingly disconnected from Christian dogmas and creeds, and therefore in need of fresh spiritual experiences and revelations to authenticate their faith, I don’t remember that being a part of the intellectual milieu of the 1950s.

Please note: The authenticity of the author’s innocent conversation with his teacher over God calling Samuel is not in question. What is doubtful is whether the interchange stimulated a seven year old boy to feel released from “ancient rules, creeds and other stiff-necked ways.” Most Christian boys in that era weren’t thinking about stuff like that, but like the rest of their peers, about bikes, bubblegum and baseball cards. But perhaps in the 1950s, Hybels was a man—or boy—ahead of the times. Yet his (or his editor’s) account of feeling relieved from “ancient rules, creeds and other stiff-necked ways” appears anachronistic. Furthermore, if since in his childhood Hybels has heard mystical whispers, why are we finally finding out about them now? Why weren’t we told about them earlier in his ministry?

Biblical Problems

God’s calling of Samuel occurred during a time when “the word of the Lord was precious” (1 Samuel 3:1), when God’s communications (words and visions) to the priests, including Eli, were rare. But God spoke to Samuel, perhaps when he was sleeping in a chamber “in close proximity to the ark.”[8] To avoid appearance of impropriety, the Targum (an Aramaic translation and paraphrase of the Old Testament) explains that “Samuel was sleeping in the court of the Levites and the voice was heard from the temple of the Lord.”[9] We should note that the verb call (Hebrew quara’) does not mean whisper (1 Samuel 3:4, 6, 8, 10). The verb commonly means to “summon.”[10] As God called Samuel, so Eli called Samuel (Hebrew quara’, 1 Samuel 3:16). God's call to Samuel was real, not ethereal. If we had been there, we would have heard it. That's the meaning of the Hebrew verb. The call was of such a sound level that Samuel thought Eli heard it. Without regard to the contents of what He was going to say to the boy, God was summoning Samuel. If the contents of God’s speaking had been emphasized, then the text would have read, The Lord called (Hebrew quara’) Samuel and said (Hebrew ’amar) unto him (1 Samuel 3:5, 11).

That “the Lord came and stood” by Samuel when He called him, indicates that “numinous feelings are no substitute for an encounter with God.”[11] Samuel was not feeling or intuiting God’s speaking to him. The Lord spoke verbally to him. Unlike how The Power of a Whisper infers it to have been, God’s calling of Samuel to the prophetic ministry was audible.

Furthermore, the record indicates that after the Lord called Samuel on four consecutive nights, He did not call him again. In other words, God’s calling of Samuel was not ongoing. Though the record indicates that Samuel “called” God (1 Samuel 12:18), it does not indicate that after the third chapter, God called Samuel. God’s call of Samuel to the prophetic ministry was finalized in chapter 3. No further call needed to be proffered. In other words, contrary to Hybels’ assumption and experience, there’s no biblical indication that inaudible whispers were ongoing in Samuel’s life. So what does one do when the very Scripture employed to support a spiritual experience really doesn’t support it? Other evidence is needed.

So Hybels also alludes to the experience of Elijah to make a case that God whispers, as when the prophet fled from the threats of Jezebel, hid in a cave, survived a tornado and an earthquake, and amidst the following calm, heard God’s “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12, KJV).[12] When he surrendered his life to Christ, in alluding to Elijah’s experience, Hybels confesses: “In a flash of divine insight, I heard God’s still small voice.” (Emphasis added, The Power of a Whisper, 25) Later the author confesses he’s “staked [his] entire life on following the still small voice of God.” (Emphasis added, The Power of a Whisper, 109)

In his chapter “Our Communicating God,” the author attempts to buttress his case for a whispering God by listing persons and prophets in the Bible who heard God’s voice—Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Balaam (a false prophet), David, Micaiah, Satan (who continuously slanders God and His people?), Job, Isaiah, Zechariah, Mary, Joseph, Jesus (God spoke to Jesus as He might speak to anybody?), the disciples, Peter and Paul. (The Power of a Whisper, 39-61) Are we to think that God spoke to all these individuals via inaudible whispers? Even a superficial reading of the text indicates He did not.

Theological Problems

That God communicates to people via inaudible whispers introduces the thought that these whispers might not be from God. Hybels admits to this when he states:

Even though God’s whispers are rarely tangible, there are concrete steps we can take to help us discern if we’re hearing from God . . . What we are about to explore in this chapter can significantly lower the likelihood of us hearing a message that is not God’s. (The Power of a Whisper, 91)

Note: The author provides discernment criteria by which to determine whether or not whispers are from God, but admits that hearing whispers is a dicey deal.

Believer, are you willing to admit that whispers heard might be only the musings of your own heart? As Martin Luther observed concerning the origin of what some called God’s word, “They determine what can be God’s word, not by starting from God who speaks it, but starting from man who receives it, and then they still claim it is God’s word.”[13]

Christian, are you willing, amidst the cacophony of spiritual voices shouting out in our religious culture now-a-days, to evaluate that so-called whispers might be from an unholy spirit, or perhaps the Slanderer himself? (See 1 John 4:1) When hearing of whispers, I can only think of Isaiah’s question to Israel: “And when they say to you, ‘Consult the mediums and the spiritists, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people consult their God?” (Isaiah 8:19). In his own words, in chapter 4, "How to Know When You’re Hearing from God," the author confesses that the criteria he sets forth for discerning whispers only lowers “the likelihood of us hearing a message that is not God’s.” They do not eliminate it. Remember, there are no guarantees that whispers are from God, and not from another “source.” So if whispers are not from God, to hitchhike on the subtitle of the book, then will hearers have the guts not to respond?

By way of contrast, the Psalmist tells us that, “The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Psalm 19:8). In another website article—Who Goes There?—problems raised by hearing extra-biblical communications from God are addressed.[14]

Are we also to assume that in building the church’s foundation, God whispered to the New Testament apostles and prophets (Ephesians 2:20; See Hebrews 1:1-2.)? As they call into question the Sola Scriptura of the Protestant Reformation and the sufficiency of the Bible, God’s written Word, claims to be hearing inaudible whispers open up a Pandora’s Box of possible alternative spiritualities.

Amongst emergent evangelicals, it’s common to view Scripture as “metaphor,” as a description of people’s experiences with God. As such, the Bible becomes the Word of God only as persons attempt to enter into experiences like those the biblical characters had. To enter into the metaphor, Hybels invokes equivalency between his and Samuel's, and to a lesser extent Elijah's, experience. But by his own discernment criteria (“Filter #2: Is It Scriptural?” The Power of a Whisper, 99) and as has been pointed out, the equation does not equate. Four times God summoned Samuel. He didn’t whisper to Samuel in an ongoing way throughout his life. To equate that He did, goes beyond the plain account in 1 Samuel, chapter 3. That Scripture is the discernment sieve through which the idea of inaudible whispers must pass, I find the claim of whispers passing through that sieve.


The fact that contemporary evangelicals seek “fresh” revelations from God indicates that they no longer consider Holy Scripture to be sufficient and authoritative in matters of faith (Contra 2 Timothy 3:16.). Yet if the Bible is no longer considered sufficient, the coming of “fresh revelations” raises the following conundrum. If whispers repeat the Word of God—and there is much in Hybels’ book that does—then they are unnecessary. If whispers contradict the Word of God, then they are heresy. If they add to the Word of God, then they point to Scripture’s inadequacy and insufficiency. To this point Proverbs warns: “Add thou not unto his [God’s] words, lest he [God] reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Proverbs 30:6, KJV).

Fifteen years ago the Van der Merwes observed this trend. They wrote:

By all appearances, Christians are knowingly or unknowingly dabbling in eastern mysticism and the spirit world. . . . Deeper spiritual understanding seems to be the motivation behind it all. The problem is that Christians are no longer satisfied with the literal Word of God. They are looking for experiences “beyond the sacred page”. The Bread of Heaven, according to their inner “sacred feelings”, has become stale and outmoded.[15]

Behold, I am against the prophets,
saith the Lord,
that use their tongues,
and say, He saith.

(Jeremiah 23:31, KJV)

[1] Elizabeth L. Hillstrom, Testing the Spirits (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995): 15. Listening to and hearing the voice of God is a popular experience claimed by many of today’s New Age/New Spiritualists. In 1965, Columbia University Professor of Medical Psychology Helen Schucman (1909-1981) began to hear an inner Voice speak to her. Over a period of seven years, the Voice dictated material to her that, with transcriptional help provided by her faculty colleague William Thetford, became A Course in Miracles. See Helen Schucman with William Thetford, A Course in Miracles, 3 Volumes (New York, NY: The Foundation for Inner Peace, 1976). Schucman credited the Voice that dictated the Course to be that of Jesus. New Age spiritualist Barbara Marx Hubbard (1929- ) also listens to someone who speaks inside her. See Warren Smith, False Christ Coming: Does Anybody Care? (Magalia, CA: Mountain Stream Press, 2011): 25-34. New Age guru Neale Donald Walsch also claims to have heard God speak to him. See Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God: an uncommon dialog, Book 1 (New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1995, 1996). His two subsequent volumes (Books 2 and 3) were published by Hampton Roads Publishing in Charlottesville, Virginia, 1997, 1998.
[2] See Larry DeBruyn, “Be Still: Contemplative, or Listening Prayer and Psalm 46:10,” Guarding His Flock Ministries, online:
[3] Immediate to the plot of The Shack is a personal note that the main character, Mack, receives from Papa, or God. The note reads: “Mackenzie, It’s been a while. I’ve missed you. I’ll be back at the shack next weekend if you want to get together. –Papa” See Wm. Paul Young, The Shack (Los Angeles, CA: Windblown Media, 2007): 16.
[4] Susan Olasky, “Commuter-driven bestseller,” World, June 28/July 5, 2008, 49.
[5] “I know the author well—a personal friend. (Our whole house church devoured it last summer, and Paul came to our home to discuss it—WONDERFUL time!) The conversations that “Mack” has with God are real conversations that Paul Young had with God . . . and they revolutionized him, his family, and friends . . . When he was a broken mess, God began to speak to him. He wrote the story (rather than a “sermon”) to give the real conversations context—because Jesus also used simple stories to engage our hearts, even by-passing our objecting brains, in order to have His message take root in our hearts, and grow.” Quoting Dena Brehm, on the interactive blog, Christian Universalism-The Beautiful Heresy: The Shack, posted February 14, 2008 at 11:44AM, http:// heresy/2008/02/the-shack.html. Though no longer available on the blog, the writer possesses a copy of the letter.
[6] See William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1902): 420-421.
[7] Bill Hybels, The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010): 22. Hybels quotes the hymn written by James Drummond Burns (1823-54), “Hushed Was the Evening Hymn,” also called “Samuel” in some hymnals, from Church Hymns and Tunes (London: SPCK, 1874).
[8] S.R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel (Winona Lake, IN: Alpha Publications, 1984 reprint of 1912 edition): 42.
[9] Robert P. Gordon, I & II Samuel: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986): 89.
[10] Francis Brown, The New Brown—Driver—Briggs—Gesenius Hebrew and English Lexicon (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1979): 895.
[11] Gordon, I & II Samuel, 89. The word “numinous” means “spiritually elevated.” The word is used of the ecstatic state which contemplatives feel they achieve when they experience God within. Gordon compares the Lord standing by Samuel to Eliphaz when a spirit-image spoke to him and said, “Shall mortal man be more just than God? shall a man be more pure than his maker?” (Job 4:12-17). Neither Samuel's nor Eliphaz's experiences were inaudibly numinous. No. God really spoke to them, and had you or I have been present, we would have heard the conversation. That’s why we read of the calls in the Bible!
[12] That Elijah’s encounter with the Lord was not mystical, see Larry DeBruyn, “A Still Small Voice?” Guarding His Flock Ministries, online:
[13] Quoted by Donald G. Bloesch, Holy Scripture: Revelation, Inspiration & Interpretation (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994): 223. That I employ Luther’s quote from his book does not mean that I embrace Bloesch’s view of inspiration.
[14] See Larry DeBruyn, “Who Goes There? Encountering Voices in the Quiet of Contemplative Prayer,” Guarding His Flock Ministries, online:
[15] Travers and Jewel Van der Merwe, Strange Fire: the Rise of Gnosticism in the Church (Lafayette, IN: Discernment Ministries, 1995): 21. Available online:

Permission to reprint by author. Original article posted HERE. Pastor Larry DeBruyn is the author of the following books: UNSHACKLED: Breaking Away from Seductive Spirituality and Church on the Rise: Why I am not a Purpose Driven Pastor, and Drumming Up Deception. All of these books can be ordered HERE.