To read, disciple, and equip people to know Christ and to make Him known through successive generations.” That is the stated mission of The Navigators, a Christian organization headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado. In addition, they use the expression, “To know Christ and to make Him known.” The U.S. International Ministries Group, which is the missions branch of the U. S. Navigators says, “We serve 425 American staff in 62 countries,” and, “We also have links to countries where our non-American staff are ministering, giving you opportunities to serve in a total of 105 countries.”
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.
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.
The Navigators has 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-steps, 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. 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 other writers and us. 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. In each instance that we have investigated, 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.
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 cosponsored by Promise Keepers. Thus, our critique 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 the book. Hicks has responded to our critique and we have responded to him. (See Materials Sheet.)
Hicks’s book is not based solely on the Bible, but rather 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’s contrived stages of manhood. One of the six Hebrew words for one of Hicks’s stages of manhood is zakar. One acid test we have given 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 nonmales, 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.” Many other problems exist in the book, which we have previously noted.
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’s 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 the most recent NavPress catalog reveals just the opposite.
The love for psychology can be seen throughout 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, Navigators sends a psychologist to the field 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, expressed in our many books, such use of psychology is completely unnecessary.
The Navigators have ecumenically compromised in a number of ways. We will give only a few examples, but more could easily be given.
Promise Keepers. We and others have written and criticized the Promise Keepers (PK) for both its rank ecumenism and psychoheresy. Terry Taylor, President, and The Navigators 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 their 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.
Renovare. Richard Foster is the author of Celebration of Discipline (Harper & Row), which is filled with psychoheresy and Eastern meditative techniques. Foster is also the codirector of Renovare, which is a highly mystical and broadly ecumenical approach to spirituality. The extent of the problems with Renovare is documented in a “Special Report on Renovare” by Albert James Dager of Media Spotlight. The Navigators sponsored a Richard Foster conference at Glen Eyrie and sent announcements to those on their own (Navigators) mailing list.
Covenant of Mutual Respect. This is a covenant 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.” 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” (The Catholic Herald 6/2/93).
NavPress Authors. A review of NavPress books will demonstrate how broadly ecumenical they are willing to be The following are two examples:
A House United by Keith Fournier. Fournier “claims to be both fully evangelical and fully Catholic” (see The Berean Call, February 1991). Fournier is a leading Catholic apologist and listed as one of the signers of the Evangelicals and Catholics Together. The Navigators refer to this book as: “A plea for evangelicals and Catholics to form a winning alliance for the 21st century.”
Gospel According to Judas by Ray Anderson. The endorsement by M. Scott Peck should be enough to warn any reader. Dave Hunt says, “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 essentials of the faith—as does professor Anderson in Judas. The book is heretical from beginning to end” (see The Berean Call, January 1996).
A call to NavPress reveals that these two books are now out-of-print, but the question remains why were they published originally?
We have discussed The Navigators with some former contributors and the following are some additional comments: (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. (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. We have seen that the twin cancers of psychologism and ecumenism tend to invade and engulf together. That is why we urge all Christians 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).