The Navigators

Psychoheresy & Ecumenism*

-  "To reach, disciple, and equip people to know Christ and to make Him known through successive generations." That is the stated mission of The Navigators, an organization headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The U.S. International Ministries Group, which is the missions branch of the U. S. Navigators says, "We serve 460 American staff who work in 65 countries," and, "We also have links to countries where our non-American staff are ministering, giving you opportunities to serve in a total of 102 countries." The U.S. Military Ministry of The Navigators says, "We are composed of approximately 257 staff and more than 1,200 active-duty works [sic] serving Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard personnel on more then 117 U.S. and overseas military bases and posts." (Source: Navigators Internet web site, 9/00.)

As The Navigators describe their history and their current work, one will be impressed -- unless the psychologizing of the faith (psychoheresy) and rank ecumenism are important issues. Through their involvement in both psychoheresy and ecumenism, The Navigators organization has drifted drastically off course. Concerning psychoheresy, The Navigators organization has been deeply involved in psychoheresy in two primary ministry efforts. The first is through books published by NavPress, which is The Navigators' publishing arm; the second is through their recruitment and care of missionaries. Concerning ecumenism, The Navigators endorse and/or affiliate with a number of ecumenical, unbiblical organizations, and publish the books of ecumenical authors.

-  The Navigators have demonstrated a love for psychology through NavPress books. An enormous amount of writing would be necessary to critique all the books produced by NavPress that involve psychoheresy, self-esteem, 12-step programs, and other aberrant and heretical teachings. Some of the major psychoheresy in the church has originated from NavPress with such authors as Dan Allender, Gary Collins, Larry Crabb, and Robert Hicks, to name a few. Two prime examples of psychoheresy would be books by Larry Crabb and Robert Hicks:

(a) Probably Crabb's best-known and most popular book is Inside Out, published by NavPress. This book has been a prime source of the psychologizing of the faith. In his earlier books, Crabb uses the word unconscious directly and explains its hidden nature and power for motivation. In Inside Out, he relies on metaphors and descriptive phrases such as "heart," "core," "beneath the surface," "hidden inner regions of our soul," "dark regions of our soul," "beneath the waterline," "underlying motivation," "hidden purpose," and "reservoir of their self-protective energy." The very title Inside Out suggests the Freudian notion of the unconscious. Crabb clearly presents the unconscious as a real and powerful part of every person. He also suggests that doctrines of the unconscious are indispensable to the church! The many problems with Inside Out have been documented by various writers, including the Bobgans (see Larry Crabb's Gospel). Yet, in spite of its unbiblical teachings, NavPress continues to offer it. Since the writing of Inside Out, Crabb has written other books and spoken publicly about counseling and the church. It is clear that Crabb still supports his past books, his psychologized model of "biblical counseling," counseling for pay, and the ungodly and unbiblical American Association of Christian Counselors (of which NavPress published author Gary Collins [was its long-time] president).

(b) The other example of a psychoheretical book published by NavPress is The Masculine Journey (TMJ) by Robert Hicks. TMJ is not only filled with psychoheresy, but is also riddled with blasphemy and heresy. The publication of TMJ in 1993 was originally co-sponsored by Promise Keepers (PK). Thus, the Bobgan's 44-page booklet critiquing of TMJ titled Promise Keepers & PsychoHeresy could as well have been titled The Navigators and PsychoHeresy. PK has discontinued supporting the book, but NavPress continues to advertise and sell it. 

Hicks' book is based on his own personal experience of what it means to be a man. He forms arbitrary stages, in which to place his own personal experience and subjective psychological notions. By giving Biblical labels to these stages and mixing in some Biblical truth, he makes it appear that the Bible validates everything he says about manhood.

Hicks recalls six Hebrew words he learned in seminary. Miraculously, each word just happens to fit one of Hicks' contrived stages of manhood. One of the six Hebrew words for one of Hicks' stages of manhood is zakar. (One acid test to give pastors for the book is to ask them to preach a message in graphic detail from TMJ, particularly from Chapter 3, "The Phallic Man -- Zakar. " It is our belief that any pastor who preaches it the way it is written would be dismissed from his pastorate.) Hicks contends that "this word [zakar] reflects the phallic male in his distinct sexual aspect" (TMJ, p. 24). He says, "To be male is to be a phallic kind of guy, and as men we should never apologize for it, or allow it to be denigrated by women (or crass men either)" (p. 24). He also identifies Jesus as being "very much zakar, phallic" and says, "I believe Jesus was phallic with all the inherent phallic passions we experience as men" (TMJ, p. 181).

The phrase "a phallic kind of guy" brings forth images of Greek paganism rather than Biblical manhood. That is exactly the direction Hicks takes his readers. To emphasize the connection between sexuality and spirituality, Hicks refers to various pagan artifacts and practices as well as Biblical circumcision. He says, "The phallus has always been the symbol of religious devotion and dedication" (TMJ, p. 51). Hicks reduces the Biblical definition of manhood to one body part. He says, "The Bible simply defines manhood by the phallus" (TMJ, p. 49). As a matter of fact, Christianity has nothing to do with the phallus as a symbol of manhood. Paul even called those who insisted on circumcising new believers as preaching another (not the same) gospel. Why does Hicks want to introduce the phallus into Christianity? He says, "We are called to worship God as phallic kinds of guys, not as some sort of androgynous, neutered non-males, or the feminized males so popular in many feminist-enlightened churches" (TMJ, p. 51).

Hicks declares: "I believe until the church sees men for what they are, phallic males with all their inherent spiritual tensions, it will not begin to reach men where they are living" (TMJ, p. 55). He contends that men's sexual problems (including "sexual addictions," pornography, and adultery) "reveal how desperate we are to express, in some perverted form, the deep compulsion to worship with our phallus" (TMJ, p. 56). But his analysis of the situation is driven by psychological notions. He fails to give any solid Biblical support that every man has a "deep compulsion to worship with [his] phallus."

If The Navigators were truly a Bible-centered organization, and if they truly cared for the doctrines and practices of the faith, they would never have published Hicks' book in the first place. Moreover, they would have removed all of their books that contain psychoheresy and issued an apology, a repudiation, and even a warning. However, one look at any NavPress catalog reveals just the opposite.

-  The love for psychology can be seen throughout The Navigators. That love is not restricted to NavPress, but permeates the very core, being embraced by administrators and missionaries alike. The leaders are proud of their recruitment of missionaries, even though they use two questionable psychological tests, as well as a psychological evaluation by a Ph.D. psychologist, in examining candidates for missionary work. The Navigators are also proud of the psychological way they take care of their missionaries on the field. If a Navigators missionary is having personal or family problems on the field, The Navigators sends a psychologist to give psychological assistance. Such reliance on psychological tests, psychological evaluations, and psychological counseling communicates little confidence in the Word of God or in the power of the Holy Spirit. There is no good reason to involve psychological tests, psychological evaluations, or psychological counseling in recruiting or caring for missionaries. For both Biblical and scientific reasons, such use of psychology is completely unnecessary and unwarranted (e.g., see the Bobgan's Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing; Missions & PsychoHeresy; and Against Biblical Counseling: For the Bible).

The Navigators have ecumenically compromised in a number of ways. Just a few of many possible examples follow:

(a) Promise Keepers -- Promise Keepers (PK) is the gigantic new (1991) "men's movement" among professing evangelical Christians. Its roots are Catholic and charismatic to the core. PK's contradictory stand on homosexuality; its promotion of secular psychology; its unscriptural feminizing of men; its depiction of Jesus as a "phallic messiah" tempted to perform homosexual acts; and its ecumenical and unbiblical teachings should dissuade any true Christian from participating. Promise Keepers is proving to be one of the most ungodly and misleading movements in the annals of Christian history. Nevertheless, The Navigators and its president, Terry Taylor, have been strongly supportive of PK. An eight-page letter supporting The Masculine Journey (TMJ) is no longer sent out by PK, and PK has asked that its logo be removed from TMJ. Earlier, when the letter of support was available through PK, Taylor was also sending it out to individuals. In addition, Taylor has referred to "the overwhelmingly positive influence Promise Keepers is having on men in our society." Taylor also refers to the PK movement as "a remarkable work of God in our time." In further support of PK, NavPress has also published another PK book, What Makes a Man by Bill McCartney, PK's founder.

(b) Renovaré -- Renovaré is an international, New Age, ecumenical organization that emanates from the religious traditions of Quakerism, whose message is that today's Church is missing out on some wonderful spiritual experiences that can only be found by studying and practicing the "meditative" and "contemplative" lifestyle "of early Christianity." In actuality, Renovaré espouses the use of the early pagan traditions of guided imagery and visualization, astral projection, "Zen" prayer techniques for meditation (i.e., Buddhism), and Jungian psychology (i.e., a blend of Eastern mysticism and Roman Catholic mystical spiritual tradition, which nicely fits the New Age model), all as means of obtaining "personal spiritual renewal" in the lives of believers. Richard Foster is the author of Celebration of Discipline (Harper & Row), which is filled with psychoheresy and Eastern meditative techniques. Foster is also the co-director of Renovaré. Nevertheless, The Navigators sponsored a Richard Foster conference at The Navigators' Glen Eyrie retreat center and sent announcements to those on The Navigators' mailing list. [For a more detailed analysis of Renovaré and the teachings of its co-directors, psychologist Richard Foster and William Vaswig, see Media Spotlight's Special Report of March, 1992: "Renovaré: Taking Leave of One's Senses."]

(c) Covenant of Mutual Respect -- In early-1993, Rabbi Howard Hirsch of Temple Shalom in Colorado Springs, and the Catholic Bishop of Colorado Springs, Richard C. Hanifen, were outraged that "Jewish and Catholic youth were being evangelized at school." They met with "Christian" leaders in Colorado Springs (there are 72 national and international "Christian" associations headquartered there) and agreed that such evangelization was improper! Christian students were rebuked for trying to rescue their school friends from a Christless eternity (11/95, The Berean Call). In April of 1993, a "Covenant of Mutual Respect" was drawn up in which the parties agreed to respect one another's diverse beliefs and to avoid "polarization"! The covenant was signed by a diversity of religious leaders in the Colorado Springs area, including a Rabbi, a Bishop, James Dobson, and Terry Taylor of The Navigators. The dictionary defines covenant as "a binding and solemn agreement made by two or more individuals, parties, etc. to do or keep from doing a specified thing; compact." (Imagine Peter, James, and John, when forbidden by the Sanhedrin to preach the gospel, signing an agreement to cease such activities out of respect for diverse beliefs among Roman citizens!) Two of the sentences from the "Covenant" are: "The diversity of our religious perspectives may lead us into areas of possible disagreement. It is our hope to address those areas of difference with an attitude of openness, respect and love, and a willingness to listen and learn from each other to the end that we may manifest the ministry of reconciliation" (6/2/93, The Catholic Herald). Bottom line, The Navigators are not only ignoring fundamental differences of belief in order to unite for common causes, but have also become a party to muzzling the gospel.

(d) NavPress Authors -- A review of NavPress books will demonstrate how broadly ecumenical they are willing to be. The following are four examples. (A call to NavPress reveals that the first two books are now out-of-print, but the question remains, why were they published originally?):

(1) A House United by Keith Fournier. Fournier "claims to be both fully evangelical and fully Catholic" (see the 2/91, The Berean Call). Fournier is a leading Catholic apologist and listed as one of the signers of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together accord (ECT) and author of the book Evangelical Catholics. The Navigators refer to this book as: "A plea for evangelicals and Catholics to form a winning alliance for the 21st century." (See also the BDM report on Chuck Colson, which has a lengthy section detailing Fournier's teachings in Evangelical Catholics.)

(2) Gospel According to Judas by Ray Anderson. The endorsement of this book by M. Scott Peck should be enough to warn any reader. One researcher writes, "Peck, though his books are highly praised by some evangelical leaders, is a blatant New Ager who, though he deceives many with 'Christian' terminology, denies the ... faith -- as does professor Anderson in Judas. The book is heretical from beginning to end" (see the 1/96, The Berean Call). (See also the BDM report on M. Scott Peck.)

(3) Eugene Peterson's modern Bible "translation," The Message, has swept into Christian bookstores, homes, and churches from coast to coast. In the first four months after its mid-July, 1993 release, 100,000 copies of this "New Testament in contemporary English" were printed by NavPress and 70,000 books were sold. The Message teaches a different gospel and a different morality than the Bible (as well as a worldly/warm fuzzy view of life)! For example, The Message translates Jesus' statement in John 14:28, "The Father is the goal and purpose of my life," versus the Bible's "... The Father is greater than I." In l Cor. 6:18-20, the words "sexual immorality" are deleted and the words "avoids commitment and intimacy" are added. (One could conclude that now "commitment and intimacy," not marriage, set the boundaries for acceptable sex.) In Rom. 1:26-27, the words "God gave them over ..." are deleted and words that qualify homosexuality are added (a loophole is provided for committed homosexuals who "love" each other; thus "lust" becomes the sin, not the choosing of a same-sex partner). There are hundreds of examples like these in The Message.

(4) NavPress has published three of Hugh Ross's books -- Creation and Time, The Creator and the Cosmos, and Beyond the Cosmos. Ross is perhaps the most visible spokesman for Progressive Creationism, a belief that opposes both atheistic evolutionism and historic Christianity's understanding of Biblical creationism. At best, Ross is a theistic evolutionist. Among other things, Ross teaches that the Earth is billions of years old and that physical death fully existed long before Adam. Yet, this belief causes the doctrines of sin and salvation to fall! If death and bloodshed preceded Adam's rebellion against God, then what are "the wages of sin" and how did the entrance of sin change things? And if death preceded sin, then death is not the penalty for sin, and Christ's death on the cross accomplished nothing! Even though such evolutionary and old-earth thinking is totally incompatible with the work of Christ, NavPress has had no problem publishing and promoting Ross's books. (For more, see the BDM report on Hugh Ross.)

-  Perhaps one of the most offensive things about The Navigators is its acceptance of Romanism as just another Christian denomination. An e-mail sent out to The Navigators field staff on 9/14/00 made the following [excerpted] announcement (emphases in CAPS ours):

"… During the past decade, God has led several staff to develop ministries with Catholics, starting with the Hispanic ministry in Albuquerque in the mid 1980s. In 1993, Rich and Gail Cleveland began to experiment with Catholic ministry in Colorado Springs, AND WERE WELCOMED BY THE LOCAL BISHOP AND SEVERAL PARISH PRIESTS. RICH NOW DIRECTS THE SMALL-GROUP MINISTRY AT THE LARGEST CATHOLIC CHURCH IN COLORADO SPRINGS, leading more than 200 people each year through a three-book discipling tool, Emmaus Journey, that he's designed especially for Catholics. This series, which INCORPORATES CATHOLIC TERMINOLOGY, THEOLOGY, AND REFERENCES while preserving Navigator values and distinctives, has been well received by Catholic leaders and laymen across the country. …

"'God has consistently demonstrated that He will open doors of ministry opportunity,' Rich explains, 'as long as we come with a desire to help Catholics know Christ and MAKE NO ATTEMPT TO UNDERMINE THEIR CATHOLICITY. Every indication is that God is going before these ministries, opening doors, and making the rough places smooth, and that He desires Roman Catholics to participate fully with the Navigator ministry.'

"… The task force concluded that, for the U.S. Navigators, THERE IS 'ROOM TO RUN' IN MINISTERING WITH CATHOLICS AS CATHOLICS. CATHOLIC DISCIPLES CAN ENRICH THE NAVIGATOR CULTURE, particularly in the areas of devotion to Christ, care for the poor and needy, and accepting the mystery of God and His work. … AFFIRMED THE LEGITIMACY AND STRATEGIC VALUE OF MINISTRY WITH CATHOLICS. We believe the Holy Spirit is doing a new and unique work of evangelism in and through Catholic communities …"

Roman Catholics need to be reached with the gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ, but the Bible absolutely forbids Bible-believing Christians to yoke together with the Roman Catholic Church in the aforementioned manner. It is impossible to be faithful to the Scriptures and to the Lord's Great Commission while at the same time making "no attempt to undermine Catholicity." To preach the blessed gospel to Roman Catholics is obedience to the Lord's command; to yoke together in ministry with the Roman Catholic Church in any fashion whatsoever is grave disobedience and confusion. (Source: 9/26/00, FBIS e-mail.)

-  Those with long-term involvement with The Navigators make the following observations: (1) The Navigators organization is not what it used to be years ago; (2) The Navigators organization has admitted making mistakes over the years, but the leaders do not identify these mistakes except in euphemistic terms; (3) The Navigators organization does not publicly repudiate its past errors nor repent of them; and (4) If one surveyed The Navigators' missionaries, one would find the same embracing of rank ecumenism and psychoheresy. The missionaries for The Navigators are merely a reflection of the problems presented above.

It is sad to see so many well-intentioned organizations go astray. The twin cancers of psychologism and ecumenism tend to invade and engulf together. All true Christians need to behave like the noble Bereans who "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11).

* This report has been adapted and/or excerpted from an article by the same name from the July-August 1997, PsychoHeresy Awareness Letter, PsychoHeresy Awareness Ministries, 4137 Primavera Road, Santa Barbara, CA 93110.

Biblical Discernment Ministries - 9/00 Revised