what appears to be a sweeping phenomenon, Christian leaders are
embracing practices and a new spirituality that borrows from Eastern
mysticism and New Age philosophy. The changes are taking place
worldwide and involve many of the most popular evangelical leaders
including Rick Warren, Brian
McLaren, Richard Foster, Tony
Campolo, and Eugene Peterson.
Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Life, on Day Eleven, he encourages
people to practice "breath prayers"
by repeating words and phrases over and over in a mantra-style
prayer, a practice used centuries ago by a group of mystical monks
known as the Desert Fathers. This so-called "prayer"
is identical to that found in Hindu yoga and Zen Buddhism.
McLaren, leader of the emerging church
movement has been caught with his hands in the contemplative
cookie jar too by endorsing the back covers of some more-than-questionable
books. One in particular, Reimagining Christianity by Alan
Jones says that the doctrine of the Cross is a vile doctrine.
Alan Jones is an interspiritualist and mystic in every sense of
the words. Take a look at the Living
Spiritual Teachers Project, of which Jones is involved.
This group of about twenty includes Zen and Buddhist monks, New
Agers and even Marianne Williamson and her Course in Miracles.
The goal of this group is to integrate other world religious beliefs
into Christianity. McLaren has also endorsed the back covers of
Dave Fleming's The Seeker's Way and Tony Campolo's Speaking
My Mind, both of which believe that Christianity is too limiting,
and a union between other religions is necessary. In Speaking
My Mind, Campolo states: "[M]ysticism [contemplative
prayer] provides some hope for common ground between Christianity
and Islam." (p.149)
Kimball, author of The Emerging Church (with forewords
by Rick Warren and Brian McLaren), encourages practices such as
lectio divina, (p. 223) a form of mantra-style meditation and
the use of labyrinths, maze-like structures. Historically and
in most labyrinths today, a chanting prayer is used while walking
the labyrinth with the purpose of connecting to God or what many
call Divinity. According to most who promote labyrinths, it is
not necessary to be a born-again Christian to reach this inner
Wilkinson, author of Prayer of Jabez, does his part
in bringing this new spirituality into Christendom by accepting
universalist Robert Schuller's
invitation to speak at the Robert Schuller Leadership Institute
this past January. Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow
Creek and Foursquare President Jack Hayford joined Wilkinson
at this year's event. Incidentally, Hayford has no problem placing
his name on the cover of Richard Foster's Streams of Living
Water, in which Foster quotes universalist Thomas Kelly as
saying all human beings have a Divine Center.
Publishing hopped on the band wagon too. A couple years ago they
formed a formal partnership with Youth Specialties, host of the
National Pastor's Convention which brings in an array of New Age
practices from labyrinths, contemplative prayer and yoga. Last
year Rick Warren spoke immediately after the yoga workshop. This
year Warren is incorporating into his Purpose-Driven Life youth
ministry speakers from Youth Specialties and the pro-contemplative
Haley Barton, formerly of Willow Creek and trained at the
very contemplative Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in
Washington D.C., wrote Invitation to Solitude and Silence, and teaches contemplative prayer through her Transforming Center.
Barton co-authored with John Ortberg Ordinary Day With Jesus,
which clearly instructs readers in mystical prayer practices.
as if that were not enough to show Ortberg's sympathies to this
New Age spirituality, he will be speaking this year at the National
Pastor's Convention where labyrinths, contemplative prayer exercises,
and yoga workshops will take place. Do not think that the infiltration
stops thereEugene Peterson,
author of The Message, endorsed the back cover of Sue
Monk Kidd's book, When the Heart Waits. Monk Kidd, once a conservative Baptist, began practicing
contemplative prayer and has now become a major promoter of the
practice and of feminine spirituality.When
the Heart Waits clearly shows her descent into this belief system.What
was Peterson thinking when he put his name on that book?
magazines such as Christianity
Today, Charisma, Youth Worker Journal and Discipleship
Journal find nothing wrong with producing article after article
written by those who promote this Buddhist-style New
Age spirituality. Last October, Charisma magazine, carried
an article called "Be Still and Know" in which contemplative
prayer is described as a trance-like state of mind. According
to Ray Yungen, author of A Time of Departing, this trance-like
state is an altered-state of consciousness that the Bible warns
who have helped to propel contemplative spirituality include the
late Henri Nouwen who said he was uncomfortable
with those who said Jesus was the only way and Richard Foster
who say we should "all enroll in the school of contemplative
prayer" (Celebration of Discipline) but then warns us it
could be so dangerous that prayers of protection should be said
first (Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home).
In Brennan Manning's Abba's Child he
tells readers that Dr. Beatrice Bruteau is a "trustworthy
guide to contemplative consciousness." What many may not
realize when they read Abba's Child is that Bruteau, founder of
the School of Contemplation, believes that God is in every human
being and that we can reach this Divinity through the conduit
of contemplative prayer. According to Bruteau, "We have realized
ourselves as the Self that says only IAM, with no predicate following,
not 'I am a this' or 'I have that quality.' Only unlimited, absolute
IAM." (A Song That Goes On Singing - Interview with B.B.)
Evangelicalism is being redefined, reimagined and reinvented,
and while many of these evangelical leaders seem to be rallying
behind this redefining, a growing number of Christian believers
are beginning to take notice, and a legitimate concern mounts.
Will evangelical leaders continue in the direction they are heading
or will there be an about-face and a return to the simplicity
and purity of the Christian faith? For the sake of the gospel,
may that be the case.