An Open Letter to Mark Young, President of Denver Seminary

Do not be bound together with unbelievers, for what partnership have righteousness and lawlesness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?  Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?  Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols?  For we are the temple of the Living God . . . (2 Corinthians 6:14-16a, NASB)

Dr. Young,

Denver Seminary occupies a position of trust in the Evangelical community. This trust requires you to act with due care and diligence, testing the spirits (for we know that not every spirit comes from God) and holding fast to that which is good, guarding the deposit of faith and training your students to give an answer to all who ask. In the matter of Vaun Swanson and Pomegranate Place, you did not do this. You have acknowledged your error in this and removed the video from the seminary’s website. For this, I and faithful Christians who care about Denver Seminary thank you. Although, I must note that as of this writing (7am on 2 June), the video is still posted on the seminary’s YouTube channel.

What is of continued concern, however, is that more than a month after you were first notified of the nature of the “ministry” at Pomegranate Place, you are still unable to determine whether it is “consistent with the seminary’s beliefs and values”! Please allow me to help you make that determination by briefly going over some of the information available on their website and then highlighting just three areas of concern regarding the commitments and belief systems of the “Affiliate Guides” promoted on the website.

The “Ministry” of Pomegranate Place
While Vaun Swanson, founder of Pomegranate Place and a Denver Seminary alumna, says elsewhere (see the interview in the April 2011 issue of FullFill Magazine, Elisa Morgan, yet another Denver Seminary alumna is the publisher), that the women’s center is operated with a “Judeo-Christian spirituality,” little if any trace of that is to be found on their website.  Pomegranate Place’s vision is to help women live “more meaningful lives,” and its foundational values include compassion, justice, freedom, and transcendence. But with no mention on their website of this supposed “Judeo-Christian spirituality,” we are left wondering about the actual content of those foundational values.  Their guiding principles include “embrace and honor diversity of views” and “celebrate differences.” Again, no whisper of this guiding spirituality, and the concepts seem to be embraced for their own sake.  Nor is there any trace to be found on the website of core Christian concepts such as sin, repentance, redemption, salvation — or– the person and work of Jesus Christ, the triune God or Christ’s bride, the Church.  Given this striking lack, how can the business of Pomegranate Place be termed a “ministry?”

The First Problematic Philosophy:  The Law of Being
The Law of Being is a Hindu teaching dealing with Dharma (righteousness). According to Hinduism, Sanatana Dharma (the Law of Being) is the religion of humanity. This righteousness opens the way to “god-realization.”  All ills come from the ancient belief that there is God and there is man when the mind of God is indivisible, being a facet of the god-consciousness in each of us. Anything which helps you attain this god-consciousness is virtue and, although Dharma impels right action, the righteousness of an action, the rightness of an action, is determined by that which will aid a man’s spiritual progress.  This is the Hindu concept of the Law of Being.

In other words, the Law of Being offers us situation ethics, self-divinization and a pantheistic view of God.  Is this consistent with the seminary’s beliefs and values?

The Second Problematic Philosophy: Transformational Breath
Transformational Breath is a “self-healing modality” which incorporates metaphysics, Kundalini Yoga, sound healing, body mapping and other spiritual healing principles. It is said to balance the flow of energy (chi) through the body and to strengthen the connection with the “Divine.”  The source of healing is within the individual, coming from the connection with a higher self which clears the pathway to higher consciousness.

In other words, Transformational Breath is a self-idolatrous exercise based in esoteric/occult practices where self-healing is said to occur by harnessing a life-force via the breath.  Is this consistent with the seminary’s beliefs and values?

The Third Problematic Philosophy:  The Enneagram
George Gurdjieff brought the Enneagram to the west around the turn of the last century after traveling to Afghanistan and  Turkestan (among other countries in the region) in pursuit of esoteric “sciences.”  Gurdjieff, who said he learned the Enneagram and other Gnostic doctrines from the Sufi mystics, was in contact with “Transformed Ones,” evolved masters at a higher level of existence.  Gurdjieff’s most influential follower was Oscar Ichazo, who founded the Arica school in Chile.  Ichazo was guided by Metatron, the prince of the archangels and his students were guided by an interior master, Green Qu’Tub, who revealed himself to them when they had sufficiently evolved.

It was Ichazo who gave us the form of the Enneagram we know today, mapping the nine personality types (and there are only nine) to the nine points of the figure and tying an animal “totem” to each type. The nine points are derived from the Law of Three and the Law of Seven. Within the circle, the triangle represents the Law of Three, deconstructing all distinctions between creator and creation, good and evil, male and female.  The hexad represents the Law of Seven. Dividing 1 by 7 provides the pattern (.142857) along which Sufi mystics were said to perform their dervish dances (this number does not include any multiples of 3).

The Enneagram was introduced in the United States in the form developed by Ichazo in the 1960s.  The theory holds that everyone has an “essence” which is divine but which we turn away from as very young children to choose an ego form.  This choosing is sometimes held to be the original sin.  You can return to your essence through deliberate, conscious work.  The Holy Idea or virtue of each type is one of the nine faces of God.  The compulsive aspect of each type turns the face of God upside-down and becomes a demon. The purpose of the work is to free oneself of the demon and return to one’s essence.

In other words, the Enneagram teaching redefines original sin and presents salvation as an effort of the self aided by the secret (esoteric, occult) knowledge divulged by the Enneagram.  Is this consistent with the seminary’s beliefs and values?

There are other worrying practices offered by the women of Pomegranate Place that are steeped in Esoteric. Syncretistic, Gnostic, and Pantheistic thought and yet, despite founder Vaun Swanson’s claim to present a Judeo-Christian spirituality as well as the involvement of some Christians as “affiliate guides,” not one single guide offers a clearly and unapologetically Evangelical Christian approach to helping women discover who they are created to be.

I hope this information clarifies the deep divergence between the work of Pomegranate Place and the seminary’s stated beliefs and values.

In closing, I must offer a few words in response to your expressed concerns about the (lack of) collegiality in the blogosphere. If I may speak for those of us who have worked to expose Denver Seminary’s failure here, I don’t think I would go far wrong in saying that professional courtesy or collegiality was among the least of our concerns.  The false gospel presented by the guides of Pomegranate Place, and the public endorsement of that which was previously given by Denver Seminary (and which is still under review as of your 27 May blog post), demands a public response.  Our Savior and his disciples publicly rebuked false teachers, sometimes by name.  The fate of tender souls who will be led astray by such teachers demands nothing less than the courage to step out publicly and rebuke you for endorsing the false gospel of Pomegranate Place which can do nothing other than lead those souls to destruction.

Nevertheless, when I was first approached about this, I naturally hesitated.  Given the command of Scripture that woman not teach or exercise authority over man, it has troubled me that this remonstrance is from a woman to a man.  If the seminary you lead had not tried to make peace with the violation of this command, perhaps you would be disturbed as well (although I believe, had the seminary not already compromised on this point, Pomegranate Place would never have been promoted on its website). However, once I became aware of the situation I had no choice but to act as a Titus 2 woman working to protect other women. Since the damage has been done on your watch, you are the one to address. Throughout, I found God’s gracious provision of faithful shepherds who have advised, encouraged and supported this effort at every step along the way – it has not been my sole effort by any means.  I thank God for their wisdom and their continued work in the care of souls.

Now  my prayer is that you and the other officials of Denver Seminary will have the courage to act for the sake of the souls in your care and that you will quickly come to a clear, unambiguous and publicly acknowledged judgment on the “ministry” of Pomegranate Place.


Kamilla Ludwig

[Note: See also “Vaun Swanson’s Gnostic Christ” on my blog.]

One thought on “An Open Letter to Mark Young, President of Denver Seminary

  1. I have seen firsthand the egalitarian teaching at Denver Seminary (at a weekend Women’s Ministry workshop). Sadly, the promotion of Pomegranate Place doesn’t surprise me. Thank you for shining a light on this false teaching, and calling to account an institution that ought to know better.


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