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Tropical_Man 68M
6573 posts
1/16/2012 5:12 am
Eugene Peterson’s Message: Part 1 (My 1994 Warning)

By Warren B. Smith

Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.
(2 Timothy 3:5)

I first became aware of Eugene Peterson’s “paraphrase” of the Bible in 1994 when I was doing a weekly segment on a syndicated radio show based on the East coast. The producer of the show entitled my weekly spot “Keeping Our Eye on the Enemy.” It was based on a scripture from the First Book of Peter where he warned:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour. (I Peter 5:

From my perspective of having been involved in New Age teachings, I would comment on best-selling New Age books and other issues that had New Age implications for the Church. On one program I expressed concern about author Eugene Peterson’s new paraphrase of the Bible entitled The Message.

On the first page of The Message, the book is described as “a contemporary rendering of the Bible from the original languages, crafted to present its tone, rhythm, events, and ideas in everyday language.” In other words, Peterson took the carefully translated words of the Holy Bible and put them into his own chosen words and idioms.

I expressed deep concern about The Message on my radio show. Anyone reading The Message should be able to quickly see how verses from Scripture often had their otherwise clear meanings obscured or even altered. Important details were sometimes omitted, while misleading words and phrases were often added. For example, when the disciples asked Jesus about His second coming and the end of the world, His reply in the Bible was very straightforward and clear:

And Jesus answered and said unto them. Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. (Matthew 24:4-5)

These important Bible verses had opened my eyes to truth back when I was involved in the New Age. A Course in Miracles and my other New Age teachings had taught me that love is all there is. Everything else is “fear” and “illusion.” I had been told that because God is love, God is therefore in everyone and everything. There is no separation between God and His creation. Because everything is love and everything is “God,” we are naturally “at One” with God and Christ and all creation. Lesson 124 in A Course in Miracles taught us to affirm, “Let me remember I am one with God.”1 When the “Jesus” of A Course in Miracles was asked if he was the Christ, he answered, “O yes, along with you.”2 According to A Course in Miracles and my other New Age teachings, all of humanity is divine. We are all “God” and we are all “Christ” and we are all “One.”

I remember the day when I read Matthew 24:4-5 and fully grasped what Jesus was saying. Thanks, in part, to that scripture I suddenly understood how deceived I had been. I wasn’t Christ, or a part of Christ, at all. Jesus is the one and only Christ—there is no other. In my book The Light that was Dark, I described the importance of that scripture and its personal significance to me:

Those of us who had believed the Course’s Jesus—that he was the Christ and that we were too—were deceived…But in believing the Course and my other spiritual teachers, I had unwittingly become the very person that the real Jesus warned me to watch out for. “Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.”3

It was very sobering for me to realize that I was one of the people that Jesus was warning His followers to watch out for. This scripture enabled me to understand that my New Age belief that I was Christ was a definite false teaching. Because of that important scripture, I had been made to realize that Jesus’ warning applied to the whole New Age movement that included my wife and me. This particular scripture helped to save my life. It gave me godly insight into the dynamics of the deception I had been a part of. But not so with Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of this same scripture. It fails to communicate what Jesus was really saying. When the disciples asked about Jesus’ second coming and the end of the world, Peterson’s paraphrase reads as follows:

Jesus said, “Watch out for doomsday deceivers. Many leaders are going to show up with forged identities, claiming, ‘I am Christ, the Messiah.’ They will deceive a lot of people.”4

By omitting the warning to let “no man” deceive you and paraphrasing it with only a general caution about “doomsday deceivers” and “leaders with forged identities,” Peterson’s paraphrase completely missed exposing all of us who were in the New Age believing we were Christ. It also allowed false Christs who portray themselves as “peace loving,” and not as “doomsday deceivers,” to slip under the scriptural radar. Jesus was not limiting His comments about false Christs to “doomsday deceivers.” In fact, He wasn’t specifying “doomsday deceivers” at all. His warning was all-encompassing. He said, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” He was warning about anyone who says “I am Christ.”

My wife and I were not “doomsday deceivers.” We were not “leaders with forged identities.” If we had been looking only at Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase when we were unbelievers, we would have never seen ourselves and the whole New Age movement in that prophetic passage of Scripture. But thanks to a real Bible, we were clearly shown that we were the subjects of Jesus’ warning. Coming into the faith we had learned first-hand how the precision of a properly translated Bible can be the difference between truth and deception.

A verse in Hebrews beautifully conveys what we had learned and what I was trying to communicate to the radio audience about the difference between a poorly translated Bible and the true Word of God.

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

I was amazed that Peterson’s book was being sold in Christian bookstores. I was concerned that if it ever became popular it could mislead a lot of people. I wondered how Peterson could just add, and subtract, and change God’s Holy Word and not fear for his life. It seemed so obvious to me that part of the Bible’s admonition to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) meant that we were not to “manhandle” the Word of God. In the Book of Revelation, God warns:

For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. (Revelation 22: 18- 19)

However, when Peterson’s book first came out there was no reason to think that it would one day be quoted as the Word of God. Back in 1994, The Message seemed to be just another strange sidelight in an already all too undiscerning Christian marketplace. No one that I was aware of was taking it seriously, much less referencing it, as authoritative Scripture. But now here it was again—Rick Warren was quoting from Peterson’s paraphrase as if it were the Word of God.

Excerpted from Deceived On Purpose, pp. 23-27

Eugene Peterson’s Message: Part 2 (As Above, So Below)


1. Foundation for Inner Peace, A Course in Miracles: Combined Volume (Workbook),
p. 222
2. Ibid., (Teachers Manual), p. 87.
3. Warren Smith, The Light That Was Dark: A Spiritual Journey, p. 144.
4. Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The New Testament in Contemporary Language (Colorado Springs, Colorado: NavPress, 1993, 2003), p. 60.

Tropical_Man 68M
6389 posts
1/16/2012 5:14 am

Part 2

By Warren B. Smith

“As above, so below; as below, so above.” This maxim implies that the transcendent God beyond the physical universe and the immanent God within ourselves are one.1
–Ronald S. Miller and the editors of New Age Journal
As Above, So Below, 1992

Eugene Peterson’s The Message seems to be very important to Rick Warren. It is the first Bible version that he quotes in The Purpose-Driven Life. He cites it at the bottom of his dedication page. He cites it again on the page that precedes his first chapter. He uses quotes from The Message to open and close his first chapter. Five of the six scriptures that Rick Warren cites in his first chapter all come from The Message. Even the title of the first chapter, “It All Starts with God,” is taken from The Message paraphrase of Colossians 1:16, which appears right under the chapter heading.

For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible….everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him.2

The King James Bible translates Colossians 1 : 16 as follows:

For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.

It wasn’t Peterson’s use of the phrase “got started” instead of “created,” or even the word “purpose” that jumped out at me, as much as his use of the phrase “above and below” instead of “heaven and earth.” When I was in the New Age, it was well understood that the words “above and below” had metaphysical/New Age connotations and were routinely substituted for “heaven and earth.” In fact, the term “as above, so below” was a commonly accepted New Age phrase.

In reading through The Message, I discovered that Peterson had actually inserted the entire phrase “as above, so below” into his paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. I compared Peterson’s version of the Lord’s Prayer with the King James translation of that same prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). Peterson had deliberately substituted “as above, so below” in place of “in earth, as it is in heaven.”

In Colossians 1:16, Peterson again chose to use the terms “above” and “below” instead of the commonly accepted “heaven” and “earth” found in most Bible versions. The “above” and “below” in Colossians 1:16 is an obvious derivative form of the “as above, so below” he had used previously in his paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. This derivative form of the more complete phrase “as above, so below” is also common to the New Age.

The fact that this whole “above” and “below” issue was presenting itself on the first page of the first chapter of Rick Warren’s book was unsettling. Was I reading too much into this? Was there some other reasonable explanation for Eugene Peterson’s use of the term “as above, so below” in the Lord’s Prayer and its derivative form in Colossians 1:16? Or can there even be a good reason for inserting an occultic New Age term into the middle of the Lord’s Prayer?

The Lord’s Prayer

The Message

King James Bible

Our Father in heaven.
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best—
as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes. 3
(Emphasis added)

Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
in earth, as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, for ever.
(Emphasis added)
Ancient Egypt and Oneness

Right about the time I was looking into Eugene Peterson’s use of the term “as above, so below,” I was at a book sale at our local library. Almost lost amongst some cookbooks and business manuals was a book written and published by the editors of the New Age Journal. It was entitled As Above, So Below. I picked it up and began reading. In the introduction the chief editor of the book, Ronald S. Miller, had written:

Thousands of years ago in ancient Egypt, the great master alchemist Hermes Trismegistus, believed to be a contemporary of the Hebrew prophet Abraham, proclaimed this fundamental truth about the universe: “As above, so below; as below, so above.” This maxim implies that the transcendent God beyond the physical universe and the immanent God within ourselves are one. Heaven and Earth, spirit and matter, the invisible and the visible worlds form a unity to which we are intimately linked.4

He continued his explanation by quoting Sufi scholar Reshad Field.

“‘As above, so below’ means that the two worlds are instantaneously seen to be one when we realize our essential unity with God….The One and the many, time and eternity, are all One.”5 (Ellipsis dots in original)

The New Age Journal editor went on to state that old forms of religion no longer serve people, and that the term “as above, so below” describes the “emerging spirituality” that is quickly moving onto the world’s scene. He concluded his introduction to As Above, So Below by writing:

The breadth of this exploration suggests that we are living in an age of spiritual reinvention, a transitional age that leaves the safety and security of the known to seek out the new, the untested, the possible.6

Moving from the library book sale to the Internet, I put “as above, so below” into the Google search engine to see what would come up. There were countless references. The very first reference listed by Google for “as above, so below” read:

This phrase comes from the beginning of The Emerald Tablet and embraces the entire system of traditional and modern magic which was inscribed upon the tablet in cryptic wording by Hermes Trismegistus. The significance of this phrase is that it is believed to hold the key to all mysteries. All systems of magic are claimed to function by this formula. “’That which is above is the same as that which is below’….The universe is the same as God, God is the same as man…”7

As I checked out the most popular websites for “as above, so below,” each one described the term as having the same occultic, mystical, eastern, New Age, esoteric and magical sources. One site stated:

This ancient phrase, “As above, so below” describes the Oneness of All That Is.8

The phrase “AS ABOVE, SO BELOW” headlined a page from a Theosophical website containing “esoteric” teachings espoused by New Age matriarch Alice A. Bailey. A derivative form of the term—similar to Peterson’s abbreviated use of “above and below” in Colossians 1:16—appeared on the website in a quote from Theosophy founder Helena Blavatsky’s pioneering New Age work, The Secret Doctrine:

Above, the Son is the whole KOSMOS;
below, he is MANKIND.9

To see if there was any other explanation for Peterson’s use of this mystical New Age phrase, I put the term as above, so below along with the term Christianity into the search engine of the computer I was using. There were only seven immediate references. None of them had anything to do with biblical Christianity. The first reference was entitled “Mystical Christianity” and said:

…to help the seeker of an inner spiritual path find resources to aid their spiritual journey towards a mystical and magickal Christianity.10

In all of my searching, I could find no good reason for Peterson using “as above, so below” in his paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer. Nor could I find any good reason for his use of the obvious “above and below” derivative in his Colossians 1:16 paraphrase, which Rick Warren used at the very beginning of his book to initiate his readers into The Purpose-Driven Life.

So What?

I guess if Rick Warren or anyone else says, “So what?” I would say, “So how come?” How come Eugene Peterson inserted a universally accepted, mystical New Age term right into the middle of the Lord’s Prayer? And why does a derivative of the saying show up in his paraphrase of Colossians 1:16? Even if you thought there was some “good” reason for using the term “as above, so below,” why would you? Why would you choose a term that so clearly has its origins in the magic of ancient Egypt and is so heavily identified today with the New Age and the New Spirituality?

“As above, so below” agrees with the “immanent” New Age view that God is not only outside of creation, but also within creation. It means that God is “in” everyone and everything. It perfectly denotes the New Age concept of “Oneness” and provides apparent support for the New Age contention that “We are all One.”

Seeker Friendly?

I tried to imagine what it would be like for a confused New Ager today coming into a Purpose-Driven Church that uses The Message, and finding this popular New Age phrase right in the middle of the Lord’s Prayer. Or what it would be like for that person to be handed a copy of Rick Warren’s book, only to find an abbreviated form of this same New Age phrase as part of the lead-off scripture introducing them to The Purpose-Driven Life. This hardly seemed to be the way to introduce the Gospel of Jesus Christ to an unbelieving New Ager.

Rick Warren’s reintroduction of The Message into my life only reinforced the concerns I had originally voiced on the radio when Peterson’s book first came out. Why was Rick Warren so drawn to The Message? The Message not only obscured prophetic scriptures like Matthew 24:3-5, it also introduced paraphrased material like “as above, so below,” which made it appear that some of the teachings of the Bible were “at One” with the teachings of the New Age.

In Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel [now published as False Christ Coming), I had observed:

And it is, indeed, very disturbing to see many Christian leaders today using many of the same words and expressions commonly used by their [New Age] “new gospel” counterparts.11

Unfortunately, undiscerning Christian leaders have not adequately exposed these [New Age] “new gospel” teachings and, as a result, the spirit behind the “new gospel” has entered the Church.12

Excerpted from Deceived On Purpose, pp. 29-35

Eugene Peterson’s Message: Part 1 (My 1994 Warning)

1. Ronald S. Miller and the Editors of New Age Journal, As Above, So Below: Paths to Spiritual Renewal in Daily Life (Los Angeles: Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc., 1992), p. xi.
2. Rick Warren, The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here for?, p. 17, citing Eugene H. Peterson, The Message: The New Testament in Contemporary Language,
p. 415.
3. Peterson, The Message, pp. 21-22.
4. Miller et al., As Above, So Below, p. xi.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid., p. xiv.
7. (
8. (, p. 1.
9. Helena P. Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine, p. 160, quoted in “As Above, So Below” by Sri Raghavan Iyer, Hermes, April 1980, (, p. 1.
10. (
11. Warren Smith, Reinventing Jesus Christ: The New Gospel, p. 68.
12. Ibid., p. 6.

Comment via e-mail regarding witchcraft and “above and below” 7/26/11

Mr. Smith,

I just wanted to thank you for writing your books about the deception of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. My husband bought this book about 6 years ago. We decided we were going to do a bible study together. My husband had not been saved for very long and we were newlyweds. We read the first chapter and my husband said we are not going to read this book. He said I recognize this spirit. And I said what do you mean you know this spirit? He began to explain how he was [previously] in witchcraft and had a spirit guide and he started his spells with for everything above and below. I had been a baptist all my life. I didn’t know about new age or witchcraft. I just did what he said and pushed the book under the bed. We got our KJV bibles and began to study from it. Actually I had forgotten about the book until I came across you as a guest speaker one day on Jimmy Swaggart ministries. You where discussing your books about Rick Warren…. My husband and I watched and I said that’s what you told me about that book 6 years ago. His discernment helped me then, I just didn’t know it at the time. Well, a few weeks ago our pastor announced that we were going to start having bible studies every week at church. I said, great, what are they going to be teaching from? My heart about stopped when he said, Purpose Driven Life study. I immediately ordered your books on my kindle, and I took notes and my husband and I studied your books, compared scripture. We were prepared to prove our case using your help and Gods guidance. My husband spoke after they read a paragraph of the first chapter. He began to tell his testimony and how when he was lost he followed witchcraft and the spirit world. Everyone listened, he did this in love just like the bible tells us to do.
We used your book and scriptures to debunk Rick Warren’s book…. They threw the books away!! And we are starting next week in the gospel of John from the KJV. My husband and I had already decided that we would have to leave our church if they continued. After we spoke to them, we did it in love, and just explained your findings to them, how the whole church had been deceived, from baptist to pentecostal. I was so angry at myself for just thinking because everyone was doing these studies 6 years ago that it must be a great book. I told the group tonight if anyone gives them a book, I don’t care if its a leader in the church, compare scripture to scripture, don’t just swallow what they give us, I will never trust anyone else again without checking it out for myself first…. Like I said thanks again, and may our Lord Jesus Christ bless you for what you are doing.

Angela Blair
The Shadow of the Cross Riders
Christian Motorcyclist Association
Chapter #637
Albertville, Alabama