Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Does Tim Keller Endorse New Age Teachers?

by Dwayna Litz (

We are praying for the truth to be known and for the vacillation to come to an end. I posted something recently about Tim Keller's endorsement of a New Age book. His team at Redeemer Pres. NYC denied it. Well, someone is not telling the truth. We are certainly telling the truth, as an excerpt from this letter explains:

I know you are telling the truth when you say the church categorically denies any endorsement of new age teachings. That’s absolutely true. I know they deny it. Which is what makes all of this so baffling and frustrating. They deny it on one hand and endorse it on the other. The endorsements however are rather subtle and done in the more secret corners of the church – e.g. on the website and in the extracurricular classes the church holds.
NEVER are these endorsements made in public meetings and NEVER does Tim Keller endorse these things from the pulpit. In fact, Tim recently this summer mentioned new age meditation in a sermon. He rightly said that Christian meditation and new age meditation are not the same thing, and they’re not compatible. He correctly pointed out that new age meditation is all about emptying your mind and Christian meditation is about filling your mind with God’s Word.

Yet, on the Redeemer website, teachers who endorse this emptying-of-the-mind new age meditation are promoted. And in some previous classes the church has offered – this kind of meditation is taught.
I’ve had several email conversations with Tim about this over the last few months, and the bottom line is he simply disagrees with where the church should draw the line in its endorsements and in its teachings. He says it’s okay to endorse teachers with whom we may disagree, even on major doctrines, as long as the specific thing the church endorses from each teacher is orthodox.
So it is possible for them to categorically deny any endorsement of new age teachings while at the same time – for Dwayna and others to believe they have in fact endorsed new age teachings because they have endorsed teachers who do.
I’ll give just two quick examples which are representative of others.

For at least a couple of years the church sponsored a class led by Susan Castillo (a member and full-time staffer at Redeemer) called Way of the Monk. The class had such heavy new age overtones that many Redeemerites complained and they eventually cancelled the class.
The teacher, Susan Castillo was described as someone who has been going to monasteries for years to “honeymoon with Jesus”. And that’s what we were going to learn in the class – how to honeymoon with Jesus in the way ancient Catholic monks did. And one of the meditation “techniques” that was taught was the use of a “prayer rope”. The use of the rope was designed for those with fidgety minds to help them send all their thoughts through their shoulders and down their arms and into the rope – thus helping them “empty” their minds so they could “feel the presence” of God.

This even though Tim publicly states that new age meditation with its emphasis on emptying your mind – is not Christian. At the exact same moment Tim is stating that publicly, the church is conducting this class.
...I can't tell you how much I would love to believe their categorical denials, but in the face of the church’s actions, I can't.

In another example, on the Redeemer website, is an article written by a woman named Jan Johnson. She is also a proponent of this type of meditation, yet Tim has told me privately by email that the article she wrote on the site is fine and doesn't contain any doctrinal errors. I can agree with Tim on that. A valid argument could be made that the article on the Redeemer site is fine. (

At the bottom of that page under “About the Author” the church recommends her 1999 book called “Listening to God”. I recently purchased that book and was stunned to find that every chapter starts off with a new age, emptying-of-the-mind technique.

For instance Chapter (or Session as it’s called in the book) 5 starts off with this instruction for meditation:

Warming Up 5-10 Minutes: Center yourself by breathing in and out several times. Relax your neck and then take time to let your muscles go limp. Offer your distracting thoughts to God, one by one.

This is exactly what any good Yoga teacher or Buddhist monk would instruct their students to do in meditation. And I hope you see that it has no resemblance to any kind of Biblical meditation or prayer.
Session 4 starts off with this instruction:

Warming Up 5-10 Minutes: Close your eyes and sit in the quiet. Relax yourself by breathing in and out several times. Loosen up each muscle one by one as you let go of the things that distract you. When you’re ready, consider this quiet question to help you focus your thoughts for meditation. Let’s say that someone delights in you. what color does that bring to mind?”
Ignoring the theological question as to whether or not it’s a good idea for Christians to sit around imagining others delighting in us – rather than us delighting in God, this again is straight out of new age meditation where the goal is to put yourself into a light trance. The ultimate result if this is practiced consistently and often is to bring the believer into a feeling of “oneness” with everything and everyone. 

In fact, that’s the purpose behind the Way of the Monk (which you can read more about here: If you study this thoroughly you’ll eventually learn that the ultimate goal of these techniques is to lead people to a universalist view of salvation, where all religions are just different paths to the same end.
Jan Johnson is also a proponent of a meditation technique called the “cloud of unknowing” in which it is suggested that before we pray we should empty our mind of all thoughts – even thoughts of God himself! She does not however (to my knowledge) mention this in her book Listening to God. And Tim says since she doesn't mention it in that book – then it’s okay for the church to endorse that book, even though she talks about it in many of her more recent books.

Of course Redeemer vehemently denies sharing any of these beliefs. Yet they consistently continue to endorse people who do. So I’m left scratching my head and wondering why, if they really don't share these beliefs, do they have such a consistent track record of endorsing people who do?
In my email conversations with Tim this summer he simply draws a very strict line – believing that it’s okay to endorse and promote teachers who believe these things – as long as the church doesn't specifically endorse their errant teachings.

A Redeemer elder and friend told me that the church believes its members and attenders, saved and unsaved alike, are smart enough to discern the good from the bad. I believe this is a wildly risky way to lead the flock. If the church isn't actively teaching people what’s right and what’s wrong how are they supposed to know? And if the church is endorsing people who disagree with it on the most foundational doctrines (as do other people they endorse as well), how is the flock supposed to figure that out if the church doesn't tell them? No, most people once they know the church they trust endorses someone – will believe that that person and all that they teach is good.

And on a personal level I can tell you that many people at Redeemer are seriously confused on these issues. So many people I know there continue to believe there are many ways to God. Many people strongly believe there is nothing wrong with new age meditation despite Tim’s occasional mention of it. And it should be no surprise. Because in the background, the church is teaching classes in new age meditation (while insisting that it’s Christian meditation), and they’re endorsing authors, teachers and books that embrace new age meditation – while again at the same time, calling it Christian meditation.
If you look beyond what people say and look at the actual things that are being taught, you’ll sadly find no difference between what’s being taught and new age meditation.

See also:

"The Way of the Monk" at Tim Keller's Redeemer Presbyterian Church

"The Way of the Monk" Class Schedule at Redeemer Presbyterian