The Rebirthing of God, Or The Remaking of God? An Evaluation of The Rebirthing of God by John Philip Newell

By Marcia Montenegro, January 2022  (page 2 of 2)

Jesus Not a Christian

Newell writes that Jesus was not a Christian, nor did he start a religion (52). This is a straw man fallacy. To be a Christian is to have faith in Christ and be forgiven of sins. Jesus could not have faith in himself nor did he have any sins to be forgiven. So, the issue is not whether Jesus was a Christian, but what a Christian is according to the Bible and the historic faith.

Did Jesus found a religion? Technically, yes. He started the church (Matthew 16: 18) and he is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22, 5:23; Colossians 1:18). There is nothing wrong with Christianity being a religion (see James 1:27), but it is the only religion started by God, and not by men. Israel was created and sustained by God, just as the church was and is.

The Diamond Essence

Followers of Perennial Wisdom like Newell strongly advocate contemplative practices based on Eastern spiritual methods that teach suspending thought (not using the mind), repetition of word or words, and Lectio Divina, an esoteric way of reading Scripture.

Referring to Thomas Merton, Newell claims that contemplation is about seeking the experience of Presence (61, 62). The word Presence is often used of God by Perennial followers. Newell advocates finding our diamond essence (64). This idea was the basis for Richard Rohr's book, Immortal Diamond.

This diamond self or essence is our truest identity, according to Newell (65). It is a Center which we reach through Contemplative Prayer by which we experience Presence and can then arrive at the Truth and our diamond essence (67). Contemplative Prayer is often not using words or thoughts, according to Merton, Newell writes. Newell asserts that the essence is not the small self but is the Great Self, into whose depths we can let go to find the strength that will bear all things (116).

Newell writes:

        To know God is to know our essence. And to know our essence is to know God. (67)

These are also the teachings of David G. Benner and Richard Rohr who call this essence the True Self. Newell states that Merton got this from Augustine who wrote May I know You, may I know myself. But Merton and Newell are taking Augustine out of context. In the next sentence of this prayer, Augustine writes:

        And desire nothing save only Thee. Let me hate myself and love Thee. Let me do everything for the sake of Thee.
        Let me humble myself and exalt Thee. Let me think of nothing except Thee. Let me die to myself and live
        in Thee.

The context for Augustine is that knowing oneself in the light of God leads to the realization that one is a sinner, in contrast to God who is righteous and good.

Newell writes about Merton's view that if we could see that everyone has this diamond essence, our problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other (69, 70). Newell is on board with this view.

Carl Jung and the Many as One

The rebirthing process requires a reconnection with the unconscious, avers Newell. Alluding to legends about an Irish saint, St. Brigid, Newell writes that she combined the pre-Christian wisdom of her Druid priest father with Christianity. Newell approves of this and claims that that Celtic Christianity was nurtured on the nature mysticism of pre-Christian beliefs (90).

People seek Brigid's blessings at twilight, because that is a liminal realm between worlds when there could be an encounter with messengers from the invisible realms from the universe that are linked inextricably to our realm (90, 91). Newell does not specify who these messengers might be.

Newell applies these thoughts to Carl Jung's belief that we need to access the depths of the unconscious through dreams, intuition and imagination (91). Everything for Jung was a manifestation of the One, according to Newell, but we neglect the view of polarity, that opposites are complements of each other. (As a former professional astrologer, this writer is familiar with this view of polarity which is a part of contemporary astrology due to the influence of Jung).

Christianity takes masculine over feminine, day over night, the mind over intuition, bemoans Newell. This claim is a straw man, but it is typical criticism from mystics like Newell and Rohr. Rohr, himself a fan and follower of Carl Jung's ideas, repeatedly talks about Western Christianity being too rational, intellectual, and neglectful of the Divine Feminine.

However, the Bible supports the use of reason and the rational mind: Psalm 16:7; Proverbs 1:2-5, 18:15, 22:17; Isaiah 1:18; Matthew 22:37; Acts 17:17, 18:4, 19; Romans 12:3; 1 Corinthians 14:15, 16; and Philippians 4:8. The Bible is in words, and language is based on logic and reason, all of which are rooted in God's character. God is not a God of chaos or confusion but of order and peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).

Moreover, to criticize reason or logic, one must use reason and logic to do so.

Newell completely massacres the meanings of Isaiah 11:6 and Matthew 8:11 by using these verses to support the idea that we need to embrace opposites as part of the one. Newell does not use the term polarity but this is what he is promoting. He writes that to be born of the Spirit

        is to remember our oneness with each other, with the earth, and with those who seem most different from us (94).

Newell misuses the longing for redemption in Romans 8:22 as a supposed affirmation of a cosmic yearning to live in oneness (109).

Although Newell is not New Age, his Perennial beliefs have given him a New Age outlook on this topic. Perennial beliefs, which are rooted in mysticism, are compatible with some New Age beliefs. However, a strong distinction between the two remains and should be recognized.

Newell also discusses the Jungian shadow, usually called the shadow self or shadow side (another topic of Rohr's) (95-98).

The Divine Feminine

The Divine Feminine, a figure in New Age and progressive spiritualities, is often called the feminine aspect of God. However, God does not have an aspect; God is one and is not divided into parts or aspects. He has (or rather is) many attributes, but these are present equally all the time in God. Some use the term Sophia for God, a Greek word for wisdom found in Proverbs. But Sophia is a personification of wisdom, and in the New Testament, we are told that Jesus is the wisdom (Sophia) of God (1 Corinthians 1:24).

The Greek word Sophia is feminine but many languages, such as the Romance languages, German, Greek, and others have masculine and feminine grammatical gender, and some even have neuter. These classifications have nothing to do with men or women. These grammatical genders have no relevance to whether something has masculine or feminine traits.

Passages in scripture about God portraying what are seen as female traits merely demonstrate that God is the ideal in anything viewed as masculine or feminine. God having what are called maternal traits, for example, only shows that what is considered to be maternal is based on God's character. One cannot say God is feminine because one thinks of maternal as feminine. Rather, it is that what are seen as maternal traits are based on something in God's character, and God is spirit and without gender (although he is clear we are to think of him in male terms).

The Divine Feminine easily turns into the concept of a goddess. This has been the case in the New Age, in Neo-paganism, and in some areas of Progressive Christianity. There is no scriptural support for the concept of a divine feminine aspect of or female counterpart of God.

Two Major Errors

If one is seeking to know what true Christianity is, or who God is as revealed in his word, it will not be found in this book. Indeed, what one finds are teachings opposed to the faith. Two of the most egregious are these.

The first one is that Newell asserts that Christians who believe what is deepest in us is opposed to God (the sinful nature) are wrong, and that in reality what is deepest in us is of God (100). This is contrary to one of the chief messages of the Bible, that man is separated from God by sin and needs reconciliation with God. There are so many passages on this that it would be impossible to list them. But since Newell as a Perennialist does not see the Bible as authoritative, he has dismissed this major theme of the scriptures.

Secondly, Newell agrees with a rabbi in the book that Judaism does not have doctrine; it has a story (100). Ironically, that statement is a doctrine! While the Old Testament has narrative, it also offers doctrine in the laws given to Israel by God through Moses, judgments exercised by God, and warnings from the prophets against worship of false gods. Judgments and warnings are maybe not technically doctrine, but they are based on laws and commandments from God.


The last chapter ends on a theme about love. We are to believe with Jesus in the way of love (116).

But Jesus did not believe in the way of love because Jesus does not believe in anything. He has no need for beliefs because he knows everything. To believe or have faith in something or someone requires placing trust in that thing, idea, or person. There is no one for Jesus to trust since he is the God-man. Jesus would be putting an idea above himself in order to trust it, and there cannot be anything above Jesus (or God the Father or the Holy Spirit).

Newell's words about love are empty because he does not believe in the true God but in the Perennial Presence. The true God is the standard for love (1 John 3:1, 23; 4:10), and this love is known because God manifested His love for humanity through Christ (1 John 4:9).

This love is not what Newell discusses because Newell believes in a false god who is in every person as the Great Self. To understand that God is love requires one to know who this God of love is.

God sent Christ as the Savior (Matthew 1:21; John 6:29; 7:33; 8:18, 26, 42; 9:4). God is known through Christ (John 8:19; 10:15; 2 Corinthians 4:6). This God is the God who reveals himself in his word. Jesus spoke God's words which give life; those who reject Christ and his words do not know God (Luke 10:16; John 6:63, 12:48, 14:10).

Newell rejects this God and the words of God in Scripture, so he is not writing of the love God speaks of, which is the only true, enduring love.

        In this is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation
        for our   sins
(I John 4:10, 11).

As Jesus himself said, He who is of God hears the words of God (John 8:47).



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