Book Review: “A Wonderful Deception” by Warren B. Smith

Warren B. Smith’s 2011 work A Wonderful Deception: The Further New Age Implications of the Emerging Purpose Driven Movement (henceforth referred to as A Wonderful Deception) represents the second book I have reviewed by Smith. This book serves as the sequel to the important work Deceived On Purpose. Because I found the first book to be an absolute sleeper hit, I wanted to read the sequel as soon as possible. This review notes some of the many highlights found in this book.

Like he does on page 9 in his Deceived On Purpose, Smith makes an important point about why he is writing this book (p. 9):

I would not be writing this book if Rick Warren were just another neighborhood preacher. But when a pastor sells thirty million books, is the founder of a 162-nation network, has trained over “400,000 ministers and priests” throughout the world, and presents his movement as the “Intel chip” for and the “Windows system” of the 21st century church, it becomes imperative to search the Scriptures to see if what he is teaching is really so (Acts 17:11). We are not to blindly follow spiritual leaders just because they are in a position of leadership and power. We must be true to Scripture and to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Obviously, Rick Warren has quite the following. This is far from a Matthew 18 issue, for Warren’s teachings are obviously out in the public arena. Smith is justified in writing another response in the public arena via his book.

For structure, this book has fourteen chapters not arranged into any particular sections. I must admit the topics in this book were much deeper than the ones in his other book. Nevertheless, Smith still presents the information in a clear way. He also both makes excellent connections and cites quotes in an eye-opening and comparative way.

In chapter one, Smith lays the foundation for his book by recapping some basic concerns he expressed in Deceived On Purpose (p. 15). Specifically, he lists ten basic concerns (pp. 16-29). They all deal with Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, and/or Robert Schuller, the New Age heretic who was basically the main influence on Rick Warren. Smith’s concluding paragraph in chapter one smoothly transitions into chapter two (p. 30):

Ultimately, Deceived on Purpose wasn’t about Rick Warren. It was about the schemes of our spiritual adversary — an adversary that the Bible refers to as Satan and as “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). It was about how this adversary uses undiscerning church leaders like Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, and others to further his cunningly devised New Age/New Spirituality. But would Warren and his Saddleback staff recognize how they were being used? And what would be their response — if any — to my book? After Deceived On Purpose was released, it didn’t take long to get my answers.

Before I comment on chapter two, I want to note that Smith is absolutely right about Schuller and Warren’s being “undiscerning church leaders.” Furthermore, it is of my opinion that Schuller and Warren’s lack of discernment has paved the way for such a disgust for discernment both in our present day and for the last decade or two (perhaps longer). Their lack of discernment has also led to a severe lack of discernment from other people with the title of pastor. I have reviewed two books by Ray Johnston, the lead pastor of Bayside Church in Granite Bay, California. I have noted his absolute lack of discernment in my two book reviews of him. In the fall of 2019, popular evangelical figures Robert Jeffress (a pastor), Franklin Graham (son of the late Billy Graham) and Greg Laurie (a pastor) gave a public endorsement of a book by prosperity heretic Paula White. As John MacArthur quipped in regards to that, “What are they thinking?” I could go on here. There is no doubt Warren and Schuller have done great damage to the church with their lack of discernment.

In chapter two, Smith notes two Saddleback apologists who interacted with him in regards to Deceived On Purpose (pp. 31-38). These two gentlemen were Gilbert Thurston and Richard Abanes. I found it interesting that Thurston was labeled as a “former Saddleback apologist” (p. 31). I could not find in the book (perhaps I missed it) why he was a former one. The two apologists basically try and do damage control regarding Schuller’s influence on Warren (pp. 31-38). There is no doubt Schuller had an influence on him. After all, Thurston stated, “There is no question that Robert Schuller has been an influence on Rick through the years” (p. 31).

Chapter three looks at the New Age endorsements of the late Norman Vincent Peale (pp. 39-46). You may have heard of Peale’s name before; he was the pastor of current president Donald Trump. Smith looks at Peale’s ties with the occult, Unity minister Eric Butterworth and affirmation/plagiarism of New Age authors such as Florence Scovel Shinn, John Marks Templeton and Bernie Siegel (pp. 39-44). I found it interesting that Peale was a 33rd degree mason (p. 42). Smith notes how Peale paved the way for both Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, and even the late Eugene Peterson, the engine behind the blasphemous The Message paraphrase. Based on both the information so far in this book and the information from Deceived on Purpose, one could draw the following connection of theological lineage (in order from most recent [left] to oldest [right]):

Rick Warren – Robert Schuller – Norman Vincent Peale – Florence Scovel Shinn – Hermes Trismegistus (the engine behind the New Age and heretical “as above, so below” term)

In chapters four and five, Smith looks at a book by George Mair that affirmed Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life (pp. 47-68). Smith notes how Mair’s book, A Life With Purpose, basically sings Warren’s praises (pp. 47-50). Mair also notes how Warren “hired” (more on that term later) business leader Ken Blanchard in 2003 “to train and equip church leaders in conjunction with Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. Plan” (p. 52). Warren himself even affirmed Blanchard’s helping him (p. 53). Blanchard, however, was more than just a business leader; Smith and also Lighthouse Trails Publishing (the original publisher of Smith’s book; henceforth referred to as LTP) note how Blanchard was “consistently endorsing and writing the forewords to New Age books and organizations” (pp. 54-55). Apparently, as chapter five shows, Rick Warren was none too happy about his connection with Blanchard made by Mair and LTP. In an email (May 31, 2005) from Warren to LTP, Warren states these quotes (pp. 60-61):

George Mair, an unbeliever, evidently wanted to make a quick buck turning out a book on me, at the peak of the popularity of The Purpose Driven Life…Since he is not even born again, he certainly wouldn’t understand theology, what I believe, or even the basics of our ministry.

THERE IS ALMOST NOTHING CORRECT IN MAIR’S BOOK. Practically every page has either a factual error, a made-up story, or Mair’s weird interpretation of my motives and beliefs.

I could go on and on, but any author who gets such basic facts wrong (that are easily checkable) should not be trusted with his interpretation of anything.

Ken is a new believer — a new creature in Christ. He should not be held accountable for statements or endorsements he made just before he became a Christian. And he’s just learning now.

As mentioned earlier, Mair’s book basically sang Warren’s praises. However, Warren basically throws a tantrum by both discrediting Mair and LTP for their connecting Warren with Blanchard and not providing any factual evidence to back his ridiculous claims. Now, I have said this before, but I will say it again; Rick Warren is quite the liar. He proves it here by going ad hominem on Mair. Here are some Mair quotes that Warren should have considered before speaking (or perhaps emailing) with his forked tongue (or maybe a forked keyboard?):

Another thing those critics fail to take into account is the role that Rick himself plays in the phenomenal growth of his church. Rick Warren is a truly charismatic spiritual leader. It’s clear to anyone who experiences one of his Saddleback services that he truly loves what he does. He relishes standing up at the podium, looking out at the smiling crowd, and sharing the Good News of Jesus.

p. 48

The numbers speak for themselves. The Church Growth Movement has been widely successful in Southern California…as well as in the rest of the country. Which prompts us to ask: what are the roots of this powerful movement? Rick Warren may be the foremost figure in the CGM today, but he’s only a piece—albeit an important one—of a greater development in the Christian Church. Who and what age birth to this movement in which Rick would play such a vital role?

pp. 48-49

But in the 1990’s, following in the footsteps of Peale and Schuller, the leader of the next generation of Church Growth Movement pastors emerged. That man was none other than Rick Warren.

p. 50

I show all the above quotes because Smith’s work is once again fantastic. He exposes Rick Warren using documented sources. The evidence here should speak for itself.

Chapter six, the shortest chapter in the book, briefly shows Robert Schuller’s major influence on Warren, Blanchard and even Bruce Wilkinson (pp. 69-74). In chapter seven, Smith revisits the topic of Bernie Siegel, the New Ager Rick Warren briefly alluded to in his book The Purpose Driven Life (pp. 75-81). Smith also analyzes the frequent attempts by both Warren and Warren’s apologists to distance Rick Warren from Robert Schuller (pp. 77-81). Despite the attempts, Smith shows excellent evidence linking Schuller to Warren. This includes but is not limited to:

  • A comment from Rick’s wife, Kay, that showed how Schuller “had a profound influence on Rick” (p. 78)
  • How Warren’s The Purpose Driven Church still listed Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral as one of “many strong, Bible-believing churches” in Southern California (p. 79)
  • How Warren let one of his own Saddleback pastors—Lee Strobel—speak at Schuller’s 2002 Institute For Successful Church Leadership (p. 79)

In chapter eight, Smith uses a tactic that made his Deceived On Purpose an eye-opening sleeper hit; he compares multiple quotes from people. He begins chapter eight this way, as shown (p. 82).

I am not fully forgiven until I allow God to write his new dream for my life on the blackboard of my mind…God has a great plan to redeem society. He needs me and wants to use me.THIS WEEKEND, I’ll begin a series of five messages on God’s dream to use you globally—to literally use YOU to help change the world!I live inside God’s dream for me…God can dream a bigger dream for you than you can dream for yourself.So people interested in being a new kind of Christian will…want to find out how they can fit in with God’s dreams actually coming true down here more often.
Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, p. 104: 1982Rick Warren, Saddleback Church email dated October 27, 2003Oprah Winfrey, “The Divine Miss Winfrey” (USA Today, May 10, 2006)Brian McLaren, Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crises, and a Revolution of Hope, p. 4: 2007

Smith notes that the term “God’s dream” was a term Schuller adopted and then popularized for “more than thirty-five years” (pp. 82, 89). Smith notes how Jesus Christ never talked about “living your dreams or imagining your dreams” (p. 86). In my review of Smith’s Deceived On Purpose, I noted how guys like Warren and Wilkinson reminded me of the false prophets spoken of in Jeremiah 23. On cue, Smith cites Jeremiah 23:32 (KJV) near the end of the chapter (p. 93):

Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all, saith the Lord.

To conclude the chapter, Smith shows an excellent table of “God’s Dream” quotes. One page shows church leaders Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, Erwin McManus, Bruce Wilkinson, Brian McLaren, Shane Claiborne and Leonard Sweet giving affirmation of the New Age “God’s Dream” concept with their quotes (p. 94). On the very next page are New Age/New Spirituality Leaders Oprah Winfrey. Wayne Dyer, Desmond Tutu, Sun Myung Moon and Sri Chinmov giving affirmation of the New Age “God’s Dream” concept with their quotes (p. 95). If that table does not show how the New Age has crept into modern evangelicalism, I do not know what does.

In chapter nine, Smith revisits Rick Warren’s disgust for Bible prophecy (pp. 96-97). He also notes how Robert Schuller, Brian McLaren and the late C. Peter Wagner (who was Rick Warren’s “former doctoral ‘mentor’ at Fuller Theological Seminary”; p. 97) basically despised Bible prophecy (pp. 96-100). While I could go on about McLaren’s blasphemous “jihadist Jesus”, that very term likely would not exist if not for Rick Warren’s influence on McLaren (pp. 101-103). I’ll let McLaren explain (p. 102).

I first heard this material in 1985, when I was a college English professor. As I heard Rick share the story of Saddleback Valley Community Church, for the first time in my life I could envision a church that had authentic evangelism running through its veins, and for the first time I sensed that God might be inviting me to leave teaching to do this kind of church-based disciple-making. I literally would not be doing what I am doing if not for Rick’s impact on my life.

My heart broke when I read the above quote. Brian McLaren seems like a smart guy. Unfortunately, given his promoting the nonsense and heresy that has influenced the Emergent Church, I consider him a casualty at the hands of Rick Warren.

Chapter ten looks a bit at Leonard Sweet, a colleague of Rick Warren (p. 104). It also looks at heretical Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955), a man “frequently referred to as ‘the father of the New Age movement'” (pp. 110-111). Smith cites some Chardin quotes that prove Chardin’s New Age leanings (p. 119):

[T]he Cross still stands….

But this is one one condition, and one only: that it expand itself to the dimensions of a new age, and cease to present itself to us as primarily (or even exclusively) the sign of a victory over sin.

A general convergence of religions upon a universal Christ who fundamentally satisfies them all: that seems to me the only possible conversion of the world, and the only form in which a religion of the future can be conceived.

I believe that the Messiah whom we await, whom we all without any doubt await, is the universal Christ; that is to say, the Christ of evolution.

Christ is in the Church in the same way as the sun is before our eyes. We see the same sun as our fathers saw, and yet we understand it in a much more magnificent way.

It should be obvious that Chardin’s Christ is not the Christ of the Bible. Smith also shows Chardin’s influence over New Age author Bernie Siegel, Chicken Soup for the Soul co-author Jack Canfield, Leonard Sweet, Episcopalian priest Matthew Fox, the late New Age author M. Scott Peck and even Robert Schuller (pp. 110-120). Smith once again shows excellent quotes when he shows what was Chardin’s goal (p. 114):

What I am proposing to do is to narrow that gap between pantheism and Christianity by bringing out what one might call the Christian soul of pantheism or the pantheistic aspect of Christianity.

I briefly covered the subject of pantheism in a brief article I wrote about the New Age here. Pantheism is a heresy. What Chardin tried to do in his life as a New Ager was blur the lines between biblical Christianity and pantheism. Smith’s documenting that shows Chardin to have been an enemy of the Gospel. Christianity has no pantheistic aspects.

Smith addresses the topics of Leonard Sweet, Quantum Christianity and New Age leader David Spangler in chapter eleven (pp. 121-138). The chapter also notes Rick Warren’s endorsement of Leonard Sweet via Warren’s endorsing Sweet’s 1999 book SoulTsunami: Sink Or Swim in New Millennium Culture (p. 130). Among other eye-opening highlights in this chapter, Smith notes how many “self-professing Evangelical leaders with New Age sympathies” engage in talk about starting a revolution. He concludes the last chapter with many “revolution” quotes from these New Age affirmers (pp. 138, 223):

You know, Ken, let’s start a revolution.

Rick Warren to Ken Blanchard, Lead Like Jesus Celebration, 11/20/2003, Church at Brook Hills in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Evolution of a Revolution.

Erwin McManus, An Unstoppable Force, op. cit., p. 102

If you ever get a chance to hang out with Mack, you will soon learn that he’s hoping for a revolution.

William Paul Young, The Shack: Where Tragedy Confronts Eternity (Newbury Park, CA: Windblown Media, 2007), p. 248

The time has come for a new kind of conversation, a new kind of Christianity, a new kind of revolution.

Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2006), p. 29

An underground revolution is sweeping the hearts and minds of the people of the world….This revolution is a fundamental change of worldview.

Marianne Williamson, The Gift of Change, op. cit., p. 279

The world is undergoing an extraordinary revolution, an intellectual rebellion against the exclusionary belief structure that has dominated Western thought for centuries.

Willis Harman, Global Mind Change, op. cit., back cover

[T]he revolution or revolutionary movement of God naturally flows from the metaphor of the dream of God for creation.

Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus: Uncovering the Truth that Could Change Everything (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2006), p. 142

You will notice that William Paul Young, author of the heretical The Shack, made an appearance on the list. He, his book, Chaos Theory, Quantum Spirituality and fractals (the latter three being terms, not any work of Young) make an appearance in chapter twelve (pp. 139-161). I had never heard of the term “fractals” until I read this book. Apparently they are linked to the heretical “as above, so below” nonsense that the late Eugene Peterson promoted in his blasphemous The Message paraphrase (pp. 141-145). They are also found in The Shack (pp. 141-142). Like the other chapters, this one is certainly not short on highlights. Among them is an excellent chart showing comparisons between the New Age and The Shack (p. 161):

New Age BeliefThe Shack
God is the ground of all being—God is “in” all things.“God,” who is the ground of all being, dwells in, around, and through all things (p. 112).
God indwells creation, therefore the word creation is frequently spelled with a capital “C.”The word creation is spelled with a capital “C” over twenty times.
Evil, darkness, Satan have no actual existence.“Evil and darkness…do not have any actual existence” (p. 136). Satan is never mentioned.
Quantum Physics, chaos theory, fractal theory deceptively used by New Age and the Occult to try to scientifically “prove” that God is “in” everything because God is allegedly “in” every atom.Subtly introduces quantum physics, chaos theory, fractal theory through references to “quantum stuff” and “sub-atomic level” (p. 95), “chaos” (p. 128), and fractals (p. 129) while simultaneously teaching that God is “in” everything—including every atom (p. 112).
Bible is not inerrant and reliable. Mystical spiritual “experiences” with “God” are more authoritative—even if they conflict with Scripture.The Bible is consistently devalued and marginalized. Mystical spiritual experiences with “God” more authoritative—even if they conflict with Scripture.

If that chart does not show the New Age roots of The Shack, I do not know what does.

In chapter thirteen (titled “The Quantum Leap to a New Age/New Spirituality?”), Smith looks a bit at both Rick Warren’s rhetoric as it pertained to the 2008 Saddleback Civil Forum his church hosted on August 16, 2008 and some more of Warren’s associations (pp. 163-182). Smith also looks at the influence of “New Age sympathizer” John Marks Templeton and his influences on both Robert Schuller and Rick Warren (pp. 174-176). Warren was even a judge for an essay contest for Templeton’s organization (p. 176). Smith shows some notable quotes from Templeton’s work The Humble Approach (p. 175):

God is five billion people on Earth and He is much more….God is all of you and you are a little part of Him.

Differing concepts of God have developed in different cultures. No one should say that God can be reached by only one path.

Scriptures have been very beneficial to the whole world, but I am hoping we can develop a body of knowledge about God that doesn’t rely on ancient revelations or scripture.

Jesus Christ said He was the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). Furthermore, salvation is found in nobody but Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12; Isaiah 43:11). Notice the universalism, polytheism/pantheism and denial of Sola Scriptura from the above quotes from Templeton. The late Dave Hunt also notes how Robert Schuller introduced Templeton’s heretical teachings to the church in 1986 (p. 175). It has already been shown how Schuller has heavily influenced Rick Warren. The connections Smith shows are absolutely eye-opening.

The last chapter in the book (titled “Rick Warren’s ‘Broad Way’ Christianity”) gives ten Scripturally based reasons for “why people with any love of the truth should not involve themselves in Warren’s ‘Broad Way’ Christianity” (pp. 183-190). In the Epilogue that follows, Smith states his whole-hearted belief that “Rick Warren and his colleagues are being used to lead the church into a New Spirituality for a New Age” (pp. 191-193). With all the quotes and documentations Smith has shown, I do not believe Smith to be wrong in his whole-hearted belief.

In Appendix A (which comes after the Epilogue), Smith details how Warren recruited Occult/New Age doctors Mehmet Oz (famously known as Dr. Oz), Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Mark Hyman to oversee Warren’s “Daniel Plan Curriculum” (pp. 195-204). Smith notes the following about each of the individuals:

  • Oz’s fascination with psychics, spirit guides, past lives, contacting the dead (known as necromancy) and practicing Yoga (p. 198)
  • Amen’s recommendation of tantric sex and a “Hindu Kundalini form of meditation called Kirtan Kriya” (pp. 199-200)
  • Hyman’s recommendation of yoga and meditation (p. 201)

Smith gives good Scriptural refutation in this Appendix (2 Corinthians 6:14; Ephesians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 10:21; Romans 14:13; Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:10-12; 1 Timothy 4:1, etc). He follows this appendix with Appendix B (p. 205). Appendix B shows the plethora of Scriptural refutation for the pantheistic and heretical belief that God is in everything (Psalm 9:20; Psalm 39:5; Isaiah 31:3; Isaiah 46:9; Jeremiah 10:23; Ezekiel 28:2; Hosea 11:9; John 2:24-25; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Galatians 6:3). A plethora of endnotes and a solid index wrap up this book (pp. 206-243).

CONCLUSION

After I reviewed Deceived On Purpose and submitted my review to Smith, I had no idea he had written a sequel. Because I had such high praise for Deceived On Purpose, I did not see how the sequel could have met or exceeded the quality of Deceived On Purpose. In fact, after I read the sequel, I concluded it wasn’t (my brain was fried after trying to dissect the terms of Quantum Spirituality and Chaos Theory). However, after going over the book in reviewing it, I do have to admit that A Wonderful Deception is just as an important work as Deceived On Purpose, if not more. In my opinion, Deceived On Purpose represents a good pre-requisite to A Wonderful Deception, for things will make more sense in A Wonderful Deception if Deceived On Purpose is read first. Nevertheless, A Wonderful Deception is a wonderful must-own for the Christian. It is an important work that shows how Christianity has been impacted by the New Age leanings of the popular evangelicals of the last few decades.

NOTE: I emailed this review to Smith.

Published by Clint Adams

My name is Clinton Adams. I am a born-again Christian. I used to have the blog "faithcontenderblog.wordpress.com." After taking it down, I have since rebooted as "The Earnest Layman" as I earnestly contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3). I also promote sound Christian doctrine and rebuke that which contradicts it (Titus 1:9). I mainly do book reviews. However, I also do other types of posts (normally extensive). Should you request a certain topic, I will most definitely consider it. :) If you ever have questions or comments on anything you read here, feel free to comment with your feedback on any of my posts. You can also email me at earnestlayman@outlook.com. If you really like what you read here, you can always follow my blog. Thank you so much for reading!

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