Archive for the ‘Spiritual Formation’ Category
Three weeks ago, just a little more than a week after Lighthouse Trails posted its first article on April 15th regarding the situation with Assemblies of God inviting contemplative activist Ruth Haley Barton to speak at their 2013 General Council conference, AOG General Superintendent George Wood made a video while in Israel. This video clearly appears to be a response to the issue (he was in Israel from April 11-23) and is being brushed aside by the leader of the Assemblies of God as “criticism” of minor doctrinal issues from people on the Internet. We will let the video speak for itself. You may see our coverage links below the video. Since creating this video, we hope that Dr. Wood has had a chance to read our May 13th article showing the evidence that the contemplative issue is no minor doctrinal issue.
Letter to the Editor: Christian & Missionary Alliance OK With Ruth Haley Barton and Other Contemplatives
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
Two and a half years ago the leadership of the Western PA District of the Christian and Missionary Alliance invited Ruth Haley Barton to speak to its pastors and lay delegates at its annual District Conference.
I sat in amazement as I watched my fellow pastors nod their heads in affirmation as Mrs. Barton said Moses went in to the desert to meditate. I didn’t see my fellow pastors turn to the book of Exodus to read the account of Moses. My Bible says Moses went to the desert to escape being killed by Pharaoh.
Mrs. Barton also twisted the account of Elijah to say it was contemplative meditation which brought him out of his despair and depression. At no time did I hear anyone in District C&MA leadership correct Mrs. Barton’s misrepresentation of Scripture.
Other Districts also have had Mrs. Barton speak to their pastors. The late Brennan Manning and other heretical teachers also have been promoted. When I questioned my District Superintendent about the use and promotion of Mr. Manning, I was told he must be all right, because the denomination has used him as a speaker at national youth rallies.
When I learned last spring that my District had invited as speakers for our next District Conference two C&MA seminary professors who teach contemplative meditation, I decided it was time to resign from the C&MA after __ years of ministry. Sadly, the C&MA is no longer what it once was.
Currently my wife and I are working secular jobs, and I preach in independent churches when given the opportunity. Prospects for full-time pastoral ministry seem slim, since I am __ years old. However, I would rather do what I am doing than continue to support the heresy being promoted in the C&MA.
Everywhere in God’s Word where meditation is mentioned, the object of meditation is God’s Word, God’s law, God’s statutes, etc. I see no mention of a centering prayer that I heard Mrs. Barton promote. I want no part of pagan, vain repetitions. Using Christian words doesn’t negate the pagan practice. I was saved out of Catholicism and want no part of Catholicism, Hinduism, or Buddhism.
SPECIAL FOLLOW-UP REPORT: Lighthouse Trails Statement to Assemblies of God Response Regarding Invitation of Ruth Haley Barton
A Special Follow-Up Report by Ray Yungen and the Editors at Lighthouse Trails
Before we begin our report addressing the public response issued by the Assemblies of God Superintendent Dr. George O. Wood and Dr. Jodi Detrick, chairperson for the Network for Women in Ministry regarding the invitation of Ruth Haley Barton to the 2013 General Council Conference, we would like to clarify one thing: Lighthouse Trails carries no personal animosity toward Ruth Haley Barton. Our issue has to do with a spiritual practice that Ms. Barton is deeply involved with and that, as we will show, has roots in Eastern mysticism, which does not line up with the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the Word of God.
To begin, we want to clarify that the names we mention below are not people who are loosely and inadvertently associated with this mystical spirituality but rather are practitioners and dedicated advocates of it.
Dr. Detrick suggested in her response to our April 15th article that what we presented in that article was a “misunderstanding” in that there is a clear and distinctive difference between Eastern mysticism and Christian contemplative prayer. She stated:
Sadly, some are saying that seeking the Lord in such a way equates with the practices of meditation and contemplation in Eastern religions. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and is an unfortunate and inaccurate identification.(source)
What we hope to show in this report is that our conclusions are not the result of a misunderstanding by any means, and we will show that there is a direct correlation between the contemplative prayer movement and Eastern meditation.
While we bear no ill feelings toward Dr. Detrick or Dr. Wood, we are compelled to show that the premise of the following statement by Dr. Detrick can be disproven through solid evidence:
We want to assure those with concerns that there is not even the smallest part of us that embraces any form of eastern religion or the New Age movement’s teachings and practices.(source)
Now while it may be Dr. Detrick’s intent not to embrace any form of Eastern mysticism, we will demonstrate that contemplative prayer and Eastern meditation are essentially the same, and different in name only. At the onset of providing this evidence, please bear in mind that while we only give a relatively few examples (for the reader’s time’s sake) in this report, we could provide many many more similar examples as they are ample.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER AND EASTERN MEDITATION
I. The very person who coined the term New Age, occultist Alice Bailey, saw a direct link between Christian mysticism (i.e., contemplative prayer) and Eastern mysticism. Bailey stated:
It is, of course, easy to find many passages which link the way of the Christian Knower [contemplative] with that of his brother in the East. They bear witness to the same efficacy of method.1
II. Tilden Edwards, the founder of Shalem Institute of whom Ms. Barton received her training in contemplative spirituality, also identified the connection between contemplative prayer and Eastern meditation. Edwards said:
This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.2
III. In his book, Spiritual Friend, Tilden Edwards suggests those who practice contemplative prayer and have begun experiencing “spiritual unfolding” and other “unusual experiences,” should turn to a book titled Psychosynthesis in order to understand the “dynamics” at “certain stages.”3 The man who wrote Psychosynthesis, Roberto Assagioli, was a direct disciple of Alice Bailey! Edwards might as well have recommended people turn to Alice Bailey herself. This is not guilt by association. Edwards knows that there is a connection between contemplative prayer and occultic (i.e., Eastern) mysticism.
IV. Thomas Keating, a major leader in the contemplative prayer movement, also acknowledges that Barton’s contemplative prayer is related to Eastern religious meditation. In a book Keating wrote the foreword to, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality, Keating states:
In order to guide persons having this experience, Christian spiritual directors may need to dialogue with Eastern teachers in order to get a fuller understanding.4
Keating understands that within the DNA of Christian contemplative prayer is Eastern- mysticism. Philip St. Romain, the author of the Kundalini book says: “This book is an important contribution to the renewal of the Christian contemplative tradition.”5 Contemplative mystics say these things because they know them to be true. Also in the foreword of that book, Keating states that the Kundalini energy “is also at work today in numerous persons who are devoting themselves to contemplative prayer.” Kundalini energy is what is known as the serpent power of New Age mysticism. This statement by Keating should cause any Christian who is even thinking of dabbling in contemplative prayer to run the other way. We encourage you to look up Kundalini on the Internet.
V. Ruth Haley Barton identifies with Keating. In her book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, she admits that Thomas Keating helped her to understand the contemplative idea of “the true self” (man’s divinity):
The concept of the true self and the false self is a consistent theme not only in Scripture but also in the writings of the church fathers and mothers. Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen (particularly Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart) and Father Thomas Keating are contemporary authors who have shaped my understanding of this aspect of the spiritual life.6
Merton, Nouwen, and Keating believe that man can attain to his “true self” (perfect self) through mystical practices. This is actually the crux of the Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer) movement, that man realizes his divinity through mystical experiences. Ruth Haley Barton’s Transforming Center has a mission of helping people find their “higher” true self through contemplative practices.
VI. Henri Nouwen, the late Catholic priest, who is touted highly by Barton as well as by virtually every contemplative proponent, knew very well that Eastern mysticism was at the underlying roots of contemplative prayer. In a book written by universalist Catholic priest, Thomas Ryan, Nouwen (in the foreword) wrote:
[T]he author shows a wonderful openness to the gifts of Buddhism, Hinduism and Moslem religion. He discovers their great wisdom for the spiritual life of the Christian . . . Ryan [the author] went to India to learn from spiritual traditions other than his own. He brought home many treasures and offers them to us in the book.7
VII. Regarding a book written by Philip Goldberg titled, American Veda, the book shows how “Hindu mysticism has profoundly affected the world view of millions of Americans and radically altered the religious landscape.”8 Goldberg saw fit to devote an entire chapter to contemplative prayer stating:
Perhaps the biggest shakeup by the eastern winds has been . . . the reawakening - of Western mysticism . . . the long sequestered vaults of contemplative Christianity and Jewish mysticism [Kabbalah] begin to be unlocked.9
If contemplative prayer has nothing to do with eastern mysticism, then why does Goldberg devote an entire chapter to it? He saw it as an adjunct to Hinduism. One final point to consider is this: Virtually every major New Age bookstore has a sizable section on Christian meditation (i.e., contemplative prayer). Call one up in your own town or city and ask if this is so. We believe you’ll see it is.
WHERE DID CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE COME FROM?
I. Carl McColman, in his book, The Big Book of Mysticism, The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality, states:
It is important to note that, throughout the history of Christianity, Christian mystics have displayed an unusual openness to the wisdom of non-Christian philosophy and religion. . . . Ultimately, however, no absolutely clear distinction can be drawn between Christian and non-Christian mysticism… It is precisely in this dimension of mystery that people of different faiths and different wisdom traditions can relate to each other.”10
II. Brian C. Taylor said:
These contemplatives also recognize their soul mates in other traditions, as did Thomas Merton in his pilgrimage to Buddhist Asia. This is because they have passed beyond the confines of religion as a closed system to an open awareness of God-in-life.”11
III. The contemplative prayer movement that is rising rapidly within evangelical circles largely through the early work of figures like Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and Ruth Haley Barton, and now many of their protégés, stems primarily from the Catholic church. Michael Leach, past president of the Catholic Book Publishers Association, explained this:
The irony is that the best of the New Age ideas—those flowing from a spiritual understanding of God, humankind and the universe—have been jewels in the Catholic treasury since the very beginning, but for too long have been neglected, forgotten or buried.12
IV. How did Eastern meditation enter the Catholic church in the first place? Did the early church fathers get it from the apostles, Jesus’ teachings, or Scripture? No, they did not. On the contrary, the Desert Fathers (monks such as St. Anthony who became hermits) experimented:
It was a time of great experimentation with spiritual methods. Many different kinds of disciplines were tried … many different methods of prayer were created and explored by them.13
And in this experimentation, they “discovered” a prayer tool. According to one meditation scholar:
The meditation practices and rules for living of these earliest Christian monks bear strong similarity to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East . . . the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery.14
The fourth-century Desert Fathers understood that a simple device was needed to keep the “monkey mind” from wandering. Thus, the mantra method of prayer, which had been introduced centuries before by Buddhists and Hindus, came to be a stable form of Christian prayer, not only for the Desert Fathers and Mothers but for Christians down through the ages.15
One of Christian contemplative’s own, Marcus Borg, reveals the role the mantra plays in contemplative prayer:
Contemplation typically involves the silent repetition of a mantra—-a single word, a short phrase or a series of short phrases. . . . Ultimately the purpose of contemplative prayer is to descend to the deepest level of the self, of the heart, where we open out into the sea of being that is God.16
V. Christian contemplative teachers will often say that in contemplative prayer one is not using Buddhist or Hindu mantras, so therefore it cannot be called Eastern meditation. While it is true that different words or syllables are repeated in the contemplative mantra than those used by Eastern mystics, the method (mantra or focus) of entering an altered state of consciousness is the same. Furthermore, as we will demonstrate later, the fruit of contemplative prayer has been shown time and time again to be the same – that of a pantheistic (or panentheistic) mindset of divinity in all things. In short, one would have to conclude – after witnessing the teachings of countless contemplative prayer mystics – that contemplative prayer and Eastern mysticism alike connect the practitioner with spirit guides that will erode – and in time destroy – their belief in the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Once the practitioner establishes the belief, as contemplative prayer will bring him to, that he has divinity within, there is no longer the need for the Cross. Yes, and countless contemplative mystics have already come to this conclusion.
PROOF THAT CONTEMPLATIVE IS OCCULTIC
I. Perhaps the strongest evidence to prove that the realms entered during contemplative prayer are not God’s realm (i.e., the Holy Spirit) but rather demonic occultic realms is observing the “fruit” that contemplative prayer bears in a practitioner’s life. Probably the most profound example is that of the late Catholic monk and mystic, Thomas Merton, who said once that he was “impregnated with Sufism”17 (Islamic mysticism).
Merton’s mystical experiences ultimately made him a kindred spirit and co-mystic with those in other Eastern religions. At an interfaith conference in Thailand, he stated:
I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian [mystical] traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own Christian traditions.18
Please understand that contemplative prayer alone was the catalyst for such theological views. One of Merton’s biographers made this very clear when he explained:
If one wants to understand Merton’s going to the East it is important to understand that it was his rootedness in his own faith tradition [Catholicism] that gave him the spiritual equipment [contemplative prayer] he needed to grasp the way of wisdom that is proper to the East.19
II. A second remarkable example of the “fruit” of contemplative prayer can be found in an author (often quoted by evangelical contemplative advocates, including Barton) named Sue Monk Kidd. Monk Kidd was once a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher. One day, she was handed a book by Thomas Merton. It changed her life dramatically (that’s an understatement). Monk Kidd explained:
I found a host of Christian thinkers and saints talking about a way of “being with” God—a way of needing Him and experiencing Him in the depths of one’s being—that opened the door to oneness with Him. They called it contemplation. I was amazed to realize that I had known practically nothing about this ancient and powerful tradition of Christian meditation…. I was ready.20
She wrote that quote in a book titled God’s Joyful Surprise: a spiritual biography. Just to illustrate how subtle this spirituality can be, listen to some of the endorsements she received for that book by traditional Christian organizations:
“[A] joy to read from beginning to end.” Virtue Magazine (back cover); A Virtue Magazine best book of the year
“[T]he message and challenge of the book is profound.” Today’s Christian Woman (back cover)
“[Kidd] suggests some disciplines for cultivating an interior ‘quietness’ and a richer, personal experience of God’s love.” Moody Monthly (back cover)
We don’t believe that the people who wrote these endorsements really understood what they were endorsing.
III. But back to our point here to show the “fruit” of contemplative prayer. Where is Sue Monk Kidd today, spiritually speaking? Listen to these quotes written by her a number of years after God’s Joyful Surprise to see where it took her:
We also need Goddess consciousness to reveal earth’s holiness… Matter becomes inspirited; it breathes divinity. Earth becomes alive and sacred… Goddess offers us the holiness of everything. . . . As I grounded myself in feminine spiritual experience, that fall, I was initiated into my body in a deeper way. I came to know myself as an embodiment of Goddess.21
Mystical awakening in all the great religious traditions, including Christianity, involves arriving at an experience of unity or nondualism. In Zen it’s known as samadhi . . . The day of my awakening was the day I saw, and knew I saw, all things in God, and God in all things. 22
Today, after going down the contemplative path, Sue Monk Kidd worships the goddess within and not the God of the Bible. That is what practicing contemplative prayer got her. And it is what it got Thomas Merton. He came to believe, as well, that God was inside every human being (panentheism):
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, … now I realize what we all are …. If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are …I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other … At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth … This little point …is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody. 23
And Henri Nouwen:
The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is also the God who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being.24
What we are saying here is vital. God does not work in the contemplative silence—but rather demons do. Moreover, what makes it so dangerous is that they are very clever. One well-known New Ager revealed what his guiding (familiar) spirit candidly disclosed:
We work with all who are vibrationally sympathetic; simple and sincere people who feel our spirit moving, but for the most part, only within the context of their current belief system.25
The term “vibrationally sympathetic” here means those who suspend thought through word repetition or breath focus—inward mental silence. That is what attracts them. That is their opening. That is why Tilden Edwards called this the “bridge to far Eastern spirituality,” and this is what is being injected into the evangelical church!
WHERE IS THIS ALL LEADING?
In Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, she makes a revealing comment:
Deity means that divinity will no longer be only heavenly … It will also be right here, right now, in me, in the earth, in this river, in excrement and roses alike.26
Monk Kidd has come to believe that God is in everything, literally. She rejects the belief that God is holy and man is a sinner needing a Savior and redemption.
We do not believe that Dr. George Wood or Dr. Detrick would deny the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, nor do we believe they would say that they agree with the words of Thomas Merton or Sue Monk Kidd. But by their willingness to embrace the teachings of Ruth Haley Barton (or any contemplative, for that matter) they are directly exposing themselves and potentially the two-and-a-half million in their denomination to the beliefs of Merton and Monk Kidd.
Alice Bailey predicted that there would be a global awakening where mankind would finally realize the divinity within. She called it the “regeneration of the churches.” Her rationale for this was obvious:
The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplished.27 (emphasis added)
Satan is very good at deceiving people, often in very subtle ways. The Bible talks about a day that is coming when Christians will fall into great deception. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (I Timothy 4:1). These seducing spirits are just that – seducing.
In Acts 16, there is a good example of this. The spirit in the woman endorsed Paul and Silas, but that spirit was not for them but rather against them. It was a demon. In Matthew 24, Jesus talks about great deception coming upon the earth prior to His return. False christs, false prophets, great signs and wonders, and many coming in His name. Could it be that this mystical spirituality, which leads man to say he is divine, is part of this great falling away? We believe it is.
Nothing is being twisted here. The aforementioned evidence is based on facts, not speculations. The leaders of the Assemblies of God (and every other denomination, actually) must decide if they really want to take their denomination in this direction. If they decide to go forward, they must explain away the evidence we have given.
In her books, Ruth Haley Barton quotes a number of people who could legitimately be called New Agers. Bear in mind that she quotes these figures in the context of the practices they share. In her book Sacred Rhythms, she quotes Basil Pennington from his book Finding Grace at the Center. This means she must have read that book, which is a primer in contemplative mysticism. Listen to what Pennington says:
We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible.
Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM [Transcendental Meditation] and similar practices, especially where they have been initiated by reliable teachers and have a solidly developed Christian faith to find inner form and meaning to the resulting experiences.28
Basil Pennington is one of the prominent figures of the contemplative prayer movement.
We stated in this report that contemplative prayer stands on the same ground as occultism. With that in mind, it is worth mentioning that both Thomas Keating (who, according to Barton, shaped her thinking) and Basil Pennington enthusiastically endorsed a book titled Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey in Christian Hermeticism. Fortune-telling Tarot cards are one of the major tools for divination in occultism. And Hermeticism is a set of ancient esoteric beliefs based on the writings of Hermes Trismegistus, the one who coined the term “as above, so below” (the maxim for the New Age movement). Keating said the book was “the greatest contribution to date toward the rediscovery and renewal of the Christian contemplative tradition,”29 and Pennington said, “It is without doubt the most extraordinary work I have ever read.”30 We’re talking about outright occultism here – there’s no room for doubt.
We are not asking anyone reading this to take our word for it. Look these authors up and see for yourself what they are saying. Compare this report we have written with our earlier article showing how Ruth Haley Barton is directly promoting the practice of contemplative prayer. We think, after true prayer and deliberation, you will come to the same conclusion we have—that contemplative prayer has no place in the biblical Christian faith.
Dr. Detrick claims that “[c]ountless AG people, and credentialed leaders, have testified to drawing much closer to the Lord as a result of Ruth’s books and teachings.” If it is true that “countless AG people” have been influenced by Ruth Haley Barton, then this report should motivate those in the Assemblies of God to get to the bottom of this controversy that is unfolding here.
1. Alice Bailey, From Intellect to Intuition (New York, NY: Lucis Publishing Co., 1987, 13th printing), p. 193.
2.Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend (New York, NY: Paulist Press,1980), pp. 18.
3. Ibid., pp. 162-163.
4. Philip St. Romain, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1995), foreword written by Thomas Keating.
5. Ibid, p. 7.
6. Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence (Downer Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2004), p. 160.
7. Thomas Ryan, Disciplines for Christian Living (Disciplines for Christian Living ), pp. 2-3, from Henri Nouwen in the foreword.
8. The publisher’s description of American Veda on both the publisher’s website and Amazon.com.
9. Philip Goldberg, American Veda (New York, NY: Random House, 2010), p. 310.
10. Carl McColman, The Big Book of Mysticism (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing, 2010), pp. 63-64.
11. Brian C. Taylor, Setting the Gospel Free (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing , 1996), p. 62.
12. Michael Leach (America Magazine, May 2, 1992), p. 385.
13. Ken Kaisch, Finding God (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1994), p. 191.
14. Daniel Goleman, The Meditative Mind (Los Angeles, CA: Tarcher/Putnam Inc., 1988), p. 53.
15. Frank X. Tuoti, The Dawn of the Mystical Age (New York, NY: Crossroad, 1997), p. 137.
16. Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity (San Francisco, CA: 2004), p. 198.
17. Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), p. 69.
18. William Shannon, Silent Lamp (New York, NY: Crossroad, 1992), p. 276.
19. Ibid, p. 281.
20. Sue Monk Kidd, God’s Joyful Surprise (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1997), pg. 187.
21. Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1996), pp. 162-163, 161.
22. Ibid, p. 161.
23. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1989 edition), pp. 157-158.
24. Henri Nouwen, Here and Now (New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997 edition), p. 22.
25. Ken Carey, The Starseed Transmissions (A Uni-Sun Book, 1985 4th printing), p. 33.
26. Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, op. cit., p. 160.
27. Alice Bailey, The Externalization of the Hierarchy (New York, NY: Lucis Publishing, 1976), p. 510.
28. M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, Thomas E. Clarke, Finding Grace at the Center (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Pub., 1978), pp. 5-6.
29. Endorsement on jacket of book
Note: Ray Yungen has been researching the New Age and contemplative spirituality for over 20 years. He is the author of A Time of Departing and For Many Shall Come in My Name. You may find more information, including contact information, about Ray Yungen and Lighthouse Trails at www.lighthousetrails.com and www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com.
When I first began writing in the field in the late 70s and early 80s the term “Spiritual Formation” was hardly known, except for highly specialized references in relation to the Catholic orders. Today it is a rare person who has not heard the term. Seminary courses in Spiritual Formation proliferate like baby rabbits. Huge numbers are seeking to become certified as Spiritual Directors to answer the cry of multiplied thousands for spiritual direction.1 Richard Foster
What is spiritual formation, and what is its premise? According to Roger Oakland, spiritual formation came upon the church like an unsuspecting avalanche:
A move away from the truth of God’s Word to a mystical form of Christianity has infiltrated, to some degree, nearly all evangelical denominations. Few Bible teachers saw this avalanche coming. Now that it is underway, most do not realize it has even happened.
The best way to understand this process is to recall what happened during the Dark Ages when the Bible became the forbidden book. Until the Reformers translated the Bible into the language of the common people, the great masses were in darkness. When the light of God’s Word became available, the Gospel was once again understood.
I believe history is repeating itself. As the Word of God becomes less and less important, the rise in mystical experiences escalates, and these experiences are presented to convince the unsuspecting that Christianity is about feeling, touching, smelling, and seeing God. The postmodern mindset is the perfect environment for fostering spiritual formation. This term suggests there are various ways and means to get closer to God and to emulate him. Thus the idea that if you do certain practices, you can be more like Jesus. Proponents of spiritual formation erroneously teach that anyone can practice these mystical rituals and find God within. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ is not a prerequisite. In a DVD called Be Still, which promotes contemplative prayer, Richard Foster said that contemplative prayer is for anyone and that by practicing it, one becomes “a portable sanctuary” for “the presence of God.”2 Rather than having the indwelling of the person of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, spiritual formation through the spiritual disciplines supposedly transforms the seeker by entering an altered realm of consciousness.
The spiritual formation movement is widely promoted at colleges and seminaries as the latest and the greatest way to become a spiritual leader. It teaches people that this is how they can become more intimate with God and truly hear His voice. Even Christian leaders with longstanding reputations of teaching God’s word seem to be succumbing. In so doing, many Christian leaders are frivolously playing with fire, and the result will be thousands, probably millions, getting burned.
It isn’t going into the silence that transforms a person’s life. It is in accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and allowing Him to change us, that transformation occurs. (Faith Undone, pp. 90-92)
To understand spiritual formation, all one needs to do is understand the spirituality of Richard Foster. Lighthouse Trails has documented his beliefs through A Time of Departing and Faith Undone, as well as through numerous articles on the Lighthouse Trails Research site. In this particular article, let us turn to a small book Richard Foster wrote called Meditative Prayer. Foster says that the purpose of meditative prayer is to create a “spiritual space” or “inner sanctuary” through “specific meditation exercises” (p. 9). Foster references several mystics in the book who can point the way to these exercises: Madame Guyon, Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, Henri Nouwen, and Thomas Merton. Foster breaks the contemplative process down into three steps. He says:
The first step [into meditative prayer] is sometimes called “centering down.” Others have used the term re-collection; that is, a re-collecting of ourselves until we are unified or whole. The idea is to let go of all competing distractions until we are truly centered, until we are truly present where we are.
Foster suggests that practicing visualization methods help us center down (p. 17). In the second step of meditation, Foster suggests that mystic Richard Rolle experienced “physical sensations” (see kundalini info) during meditation which perhaps we may or may not experience as well (p. 18). Step three of meditation, Foster says, is that of “listening” to God. Once the meditative exercises have been implemented and the “spiritual ecstasy” is reached, this entered realm is where the voice of God can be heard (p. 23). However, as any New Age meditator knows, this ecstatic state is an altered state of consciousness where everything is supposed to be unified and one with God. Foster acknowledges the interspiritual attribute linked to contemplative prayer when he states: “[Jesus] showed us God’s yearning for the gathering of an all-inclusive community of loving persons” (p. 5). Foster defines more of what he means by “all-inclusive” in his book Streams of Living Water when he says this “all-inclusive community” includes everything from a “Catholic monk” to a “Baptist evangelist.”3 In other writings, he says that contemplative prayer (and its results) are for everyone and anyone (see Be Still DVD).
Interestingly, Foster discusses the practice of lectio divina in his book, which is being heralded in many Christian settings as a Christian, biblical practice. People are persuaded to believe that repeating phrases and words of Scripture over and over again is a deeper way to know God. They believe that since it is Scripture being repeated (and not just any words), then this validates the practice and that this sacred reading is sacred because it is the Bible being used. But Foster himself proves that it has nothing to do with Scripture. It’s the repetition that is effective, not the words. He states: “[L]ectio divina includes more than the Bible. There are the lives of the saints and the writings which have proceeded from their profound [mystical] experiences” (p. 25). Foster obliterates the supposed premise of lectio divina by saying this. That is because as a meditation proponent he knows that meditation has nothing to do with which words are repeated over and over; it is the repetition itself that puts one into an altered state. Thus whether you say Jesus, Abba, Buddha, or OM, it produces the same effect.
Just in case there is any doubt in the reader’s mind, Richard Foster tells readers to study Thomas Merton for a deeper understanding of meditation, calling his book, Contemplative Prayer a “powerful analysis of the central nature of contemplative prayer.”
Spiritual formation is contemplative spirituality, and it is sweeping quickly throughout Christianity today. If a college, a seminary, a church, or an organization (like Focus on the Family) wants spiritual formation, may they keep in mind, they will get eastern meditation and the occultic realms that accompany it.
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel. (Colossians 1:21-23)
As Roger Oakland states:
We are reconciled to God only through his “death” (the atonement for sin), and we are presented “holy and unblamable and unreproveable” when we belong to Him through rebirth. It has nothing to do with works, rituals, or mystical experiences. It is Christ’s life in the converted believer that transforms him. (Faith Undone)
1. “Spiritual Formation: A Pastoral Letter”
2. Richard Foster, Be Still DVD (Fox Home Entertainment, 2006), section titled “Contemplative Prayer.”
3. Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1998), p. 273.
To Lighthouse Trails:
My church just started advertising a “Contemplative Communion” service for Good Friday. My pastor is really into contemplative prayer, spiritual disciplines, etc. Since I’m a faithful reader of your site (and the BIBLE!), I know that this is bad news. I wanted to mention the contemplative communion thing to you folks in case you feel it might be good to warn people about it, especially this close to Easter. There’s more info on the Shalem Institute’s website.
Thanks for speaking the truth!!
There is actually a story behind the story regarding Shalem Institute’s ecumenical “Contemplative Communion” Good Friday service. Because we have followed Shalem Institute for many years now, it is no surprise to us that they are holding a contemplative service. Shalem’s contemplative roots go back to its beginning. And when we say contemplative, we mean contemplative in its “purest” form, meaning interspiritual, universalistic, New Age/New Spirituality, and so forth. But the story from our vantage point (actually a two-fold story) is that first, mainstream Christianity (United Methodist, Episcopal, etc) has stepped over that line onto the New Age playing field, and second, largely because of one key figure who was trained at Shalem, the evangelical church is right behind them. In other words, Protestant Christianity is beginning to fulfill the “prophecy” from occultist Alice Bailey, whose “spirit guide” told her that the Age of Aquarius (or Age of Awakening for mankind – to know he is Divine) would come to the world, not around the Christian church, but rather through it.
Shalem Institute, located in Washington, DC, was founded by two interspiritualists: Tilden Edwards and Gerald May. We first heard about Shalem before Lighthouse Trails even began, when we were handed an unpublished manuscript by Ray Yungen in the year 2000. In that manuscript, later to be published as A Time of Departing,Yungen revealed that Shalem Institute played a major role in bringing contemplative prayer to the Christian church. Below is an excerpt from A Time of Departing:
Ray Yungen (pp. 65-67, A Time of Departing): If the contemplative prayer movement has a major alma mater, it would be the Shalem Institute (for Spiritual Formation) located in Washington D.C. The Shalem Institute is one of the bastions of contemplative prayer in this country and has trained thousands of spiritual directors since its inception in 1972. To understand the interspiritual proclivities in the contemplative prayer movement, I invite you to take a good look at this organization. Founded by an Episcopal clergyman, the Reverend Tilden Edwards, Shalem’s mission is to spread the practice of mystical prayer to Christianity as a whole.
Dr. Edwards himself makes no effort to hide his interspiritual approach to Christianity. One example was a workshop he did titled: Buddhist Contributions to Christian Living. He promises that if one wants to live in the divine Presence, then consider that:
“Some Buddhist traditions have developed very practical ways of doing so that many Christians have found helpful . . . offering participants new perspectives and possibilities for living more fully in the radiant gracious Presence through the day.”
An individual who had a particularly large influence in the Christian counseling field is the late psychiatrist and author Gerald May. May, who passed away in 2005, was also a cofounder and teacher at the Shalem Institute. . . . one finds a direct affinity between May and Eastern mysticism.
In the front of his book, Simply Sane, he states upfront: “The lineage of searching expressed herein arises from scriptures of the world’s great religions.” He then gives thanks to two Tibetan Buddhist lamas (holy men) and a Japanese Zen Master for their “particular impact” on him.
The influence of Eastern spirituality is also depicted in his book, Addiction and Grace, which is considered to be a classic in the field of Christian recovery. In this book, May conveys that “our core . . . one’s own center . . . is where we realize our essential unity with one another with all God’s creation” (emphasis mine).
Of course the method for entering this “core” is the silence, which May makes obvious when he explains:
“I am not speaking here of meditation that involves guided imagery or scriptural reflections, but of a more contemplative practice in which one just sits still and stays awake with God.”
May is even more upfront about his Eastern metaphysical views in his book, The Awakened Heart, where he expounds on the “cosmic presence” which he explains is “pervading ourselves and all creation.”
One might defend May by saying he was just speaking of God’s omnipresence. But May was firmly in the mystical panentheistic camp. There can be no mistaking his theological underpinnings when May revealed his meaning of “cosmic presence” in such statements as:
“It is revealed in the Hindu greetings jai bhagwan and namaste that reverence the divinity that both resides within and embraces us all.”55
Like [New Ager] M. Scott Peck, May started with Zen Buddhism back in the 1970s. He was still in tune with it some thirty years later when he wrote the foreword to a book called Zen for Christians. In it, he wrote: “I wish I’d had this book when I began to explore Buddhism. It would have made things much easier.”56
Later in A Time of Departing, Yungen quotes Shalem founder Tilden Edwards as saying the following: “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.”
That is the very core of why Lighthouse Trails continues warning about the contemplative prayer (i.e., spiritual formation) movement that has literally knocked the evangelical church off its feet (only she doesn’t realize it).
There are two key players within the evangelical camp who have been heavily impacted by Shalem Institute, one directly and one indirectly: Ruth Haley Barton and John Ortberg. Barton was trained at the Shalem Institute and later became the Associate Director of Spiritual Formation at Willow Creek. There, she teamed up with John Ortberg to create Willow Creek’s curriculum on Spiritual Formation. While Richard Foster was bringing contemplative prayer into the church through his 1978 classic Celebration of Discipline, Barton and Ortberg were bringing it in through a side door, the highly influential Willow Creek. Today, both Barton and Ortberg are actively doing their part in bringing about this paradigm shift to evangelical Christianity.
If one would like to see what the evangelical church is becoming, one only needs to take a look at Ruth Haley Barton today. After she left Willow Creek, she went on to start her own organization, The Transforming Center. There, her program trains thousands of pastors and church leaders how to become contemplative.
Again, from Ray Yungen:
The following scenario Barton relates could be the wave of the future for the evangelical church if this movement continues to unfold in the manner it already has:
“I sought out a spiritual director, someone well versed in the ways of the soul . . . eventually this wise woman said to me, . . . ‘What you need is stillness and silence so that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.’ . . . I decided to accept this invitation to move beyond my addiction to words.”6
By “addiction to words” [Barton] means normal ways of praying. She still uses words, but only three of them, “Here I am.” This is nothing more than The Cloud of Unknowing or the prayer of the heart.
Like Richard Foster, Barton argues that God cannot be reached adequately, if at all, without the silence. (p. 172, A Time of Departing)
On Ruth Haley Barton’s website, it states:” Our passion is to see every church become a center for spiritual transformation.” We believe it would be profound to know how many evangelical pastors, who are holding Good Friday services this coming Friday, have been influenced by Ruth Haley Barton or Richard Foster. Most likely the majority of them have a copy of Celebration of Discipline on their bookshelves. If your pastor is one of those who does, take a look at Shalem Institute, and we believe you will be taking a look at the near future of evangelical Christianity.
A number of years ago, one of our colleagues contacted Gerald May via e-mail and asked him if he believed that Jesus was the only way to salvation. He answered emphatically, “Absolutely not!” This is the face of the Christian of the future, a future that is at the threshold right now.
Emerging “Progressive” Spirituality: Joining the New Age with Christianity, and Christian Leaders Say OK
No one group understands emerging “progressive” spirituality as much as those in the New Age. That’s because it is their religion. So when the evangelical emerging church movement rose to the forefront, New Agers must have found it quite intriguing and most likely rewarding to see their belief system finally take root in Christianity.
In the book, As Above, So Below, written by Ronald S. Miller and the editors of New Age Journal, the authors appropriately name the first chapter “The Emerging Spirituality.” Now some may say, “Oh, they might call it that, but it isn’t the same as the Emerging Church ala McLaren, Jones, Kimball, Pagitt, etc. That’s an entirely different ball game.” Well, let’s take a look at this chapter in the New Age book. The chapter, “The Emerging Spirituality” starts off with a story about Jesus and Moses. That would certainly throw a few people–only Christians talk about Jesus, right? The book then quotes New Ager Joan Borysenko who explains the significance of the story they relate:
Like the Jesus of this story, . . . many of us lose touch with our own indwelling Divine nature-the unlimited creative potential of love the real Jesus assured us could literally move mountains.
The book goes on to say that the problem with most people is they have forgotten who they really are, don’t know their purpose or reason for existing and just need to reach higher to grasp their utmost potential. It sounds just like some of our most popular evangelical leaders. And like many emerging church leaders, the book says we need to get away from “automatized programs” and have a wake up call. The book tells us that this “wake up call” comes in the form of the metaphysical (mysticism), the “esoteric core of all the world’s spiritual traditions.” This mirrors what Rick Warren (who promotes the emerging church and its spirituality) said in his first book, the Purpose Driven Church, where he praised the “Spiritual Formation” movement which he sees as God’s way of bringing “believers to full maturity.” Warren said that the movement had a “valid message for the church” and gave “the body of Christ a wake-up call” (pp. 126-127). The problem is that the Spiritual Formation movement draws on the same mystical techniques as found in the New Age movement, (eg., mantra-like prayers, breath prayers). In Warren’s book, he touts Richard Foster and Dallas Willard as icons of the Spiritual Formation movement. When Warren says maturity, it implies that the church has been immature because of its mystical deficiency. At other times, Rick Warren has stated that his “new reformation,” an idea that New Agers share, would incorporate those from different religious traditions. Warren may use the name of Jesus quite often, but the overall concept implies that faith in Jesus is not really necessary to bring peace into the world, and this is exactly the thing the New Age teaches.
As Above, So Below (a primer for the New Age) says that “we possess a hidden higher self, the spark of divinity within the soul” (p. 3). Once again, we can turn to emerging/contemplative leaders within Christianity to see they are saying the same thing. Anyone who has read Brennan Manning will recognize the term higher self. And in Max Lucado’s book, Cure for the Common Life, Lucado talks about the “divine spark” that is in each person. And we could give numerous other examples of contemplative emerging authors and leaders who talk like this, even though they name the name of Jesus. So the New Age teaches a higher self and a “spark of divinity” within the soul of every person, and so do Christian leaders.
Miller’s book says that mysticism is the “highest common factor” (p. 2) that links all religions together. He adds that we can practice this mysticism and still remain in our own religion. That’s exactly what Thomas Merton came to believe when he spoke with Dr. Bramachari,1 a Hindu monk who told him he didn’t have to leave the Christian tradition to be the best Buddhist he could be. Tony Campolo, another emerging/contemplative evangelical saw this common factor and suggested this very thing in his book, Speaking My Mind:
Beyond these models of reconciliation, a theology of mysticism provides some hope for common ground between Christianity and Islam. Both religions have within their histories examples of ecstatic union with God … I do not know what to make of the Muslim mystics, especially those who have come to be known as the Sufis. What do they experience in their mystical experiences? Could they have encountered the same God we do in our Christian mysticism?” (pp. 149-150)
Ronald Miller sounds very much like many of today’s emerging leaders when he says: “The modern age requires that we use our newly gained wisdom to transform the world (p. 7).” It is alarming to hear him say that mysticism (i.e., meditation) is the catalyst for “planetary healing,” naming various ecological and social problems facing the world today. Because some of the most influential Christian leaders and organizations today are promoting contemplative spirituality with one hand and working towards global transformation and unity on the other, we believe they are going in the same direction and with the same vehicle (mysticism) as the New Age. And when one realizes that the philosophy behind the New Age is panentheism (God in all) and that it totally negates the gospel message of Jesus Christ, then it is easier to see why it is so disturbing to see Christians promoting the emerging church and contemplative spirituality. For those readers who may be skeptical of our assertions, As Above, So Below has an entire chapter devoted to contemplative spirituality (chapter 3) and its vital place in its panoply of respected New Age practices. And yet that chapter makes reference to some of the same authors that Christians are now adhering to: Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, the Desert Fathers, Julian of Norwich, and Martin Buber (Buber is quoted by Max Lucado on the divine spark). The fact is, Miller makes our point for us as no one else could.
1. Henri J.M. Nouwen, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1991, Triumph Books Edition)
“Francis is a Jesuit and his long, arduous formation as a priest was founded on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.” – UK Telegraph
“To think that the leader of the Catholic Church is one who follows in the tradition of Ignatius, whose life has been devoted to finding God in all things.” – Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities
LTRP Note: As we stated in a recent article, Contemplative Spirituality – the Source of the Catholic Church’s Expansion,” contemplative prayer (mysticism) is the tool used to grow the Catholic church. It is also the tool that is drawing all religions together (though called different things in different religious traditions: Sufism, Kabbalah, Samadhi, etc.). In the UK Telegraph article below, the subtitle reads “The power of prayer is bringing Canterbury and Rome together after 500 years.” The article says that Pope Francis’ spirituality is based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are named after the founder of the Jesuit Order, and have typically been used by Catholics. However, according to one source, “[b]eginning in the 1980s, Protestants have had a growing interest in the Spiritual Exercises. There are recent (2006) adaptations that are specific to Protestants which emphasize the exercises as a school of contemplative prayer.” Traditionally, Ignatian Spirituality is practiced in a retreat center setting usually with the assistance of a spiritual director. As with other contemplative practices, it is believed that if the Ignatian exercises are practiced, the practitioner can conquer self and become more Christ-like (this is why Ignatian Spirituality is often included in Spiritual Formation programs). There is much that could be said here about Spiritual Formation but we will reserve that for another time.
It is correct to say that Ignatian Spirituality is part of contemplative spirituality. We could give many examples but one case in point to illustrate this would be James Wakefield’s book, Sacred Listening: Discovering the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola (Baker Books, 2006). We discuss certain aspects of Wakefield’s book in our The Jesuit Agenda booklet tract. Right now, we’d like to draw your attention to his book to show its ties with contemplative spirituality. The book includes instructions on various contemplative practices such as lectio divina and quotes and references several contemplative advocates, including Tilden Edwards. Edwards, the co-founder of the panentheistic Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington DC. made the revealing statement that “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality” ( Spiritual Friend, p. 18). It couldn’t have been said more accurately, which is precisely why Lighthouse Trails continues its efforts to warn about contemplative spirituality.
When one considers how evangelical leaders such as Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Focus on the Family, Beth Moore, and many others have promoted contemplative spirituality for many years now, is it really any wonder that Protestants and Catholics are being drawn together? Couple that with efforts such as the Manhattan Declaration (endorsed by numerous Christian figures and organizations) that drew evangelicals and Catholics together from a “moral issues” point of view, and separation between the two didn’t have a standing chance. Put it all together, and the evangelical church is in big trouble. Remember the price that many believers had to pay for breaking away from the Roman Catholic church. They paid with their blood and lives. What would they be saying to us now if they were standing here with us?
For further documentation that Pope Francis is founded on contemplative practices, a statement was issued from the AJCU (Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities) reaffirming the pope’s “Ignatian spirituality,” stating that:
All Jesuits share the experience of a rigorous spiritual formation process marked by a transformative experience with the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. To think that the leader of the Catholic Church is one who follows in the tradition of Ignatius, whose life has been devoted to finding God in all things, and who is committed to the service of faith and the promotion of justice, fills me with great hope. This is a great day for the Jesuits and the worldwide Church. (source)
Article from the UK Telegraph:
“A new Pope, a new Primate and a new life for Christianity”
The power of prayer is bringing Canterbury and Rome together after 500 years
by Charles Moore
So far, the combined media knowledge of Pope Francis has not been impressive. We, the public, have been told that he likes travelling on public transport, that he played a controversial role among his fellow Jesuits in the years of the Argentine military dictatorships, and that he “is a conservative but cares for the poor” (that “but” tells you the politics of most ecclesiastical reportage). That’s about it.
I know that the Catholic Church is a huge global organisation, so lots of its cardinals, including Pope Francis, have the cheek to come from funny, faraway places. But one feels that if Jorge Bergoglio had been an Argentine footballer rather than an archbishop, plenty of experts would have been on hand to impart useful information. When it comes to religion, our media are very provincial. We project on to it our Western obsessions, which are mainly sexual. We are alarmed by its breadth and its depth. Click here to continue reading.
Conflicting Reports: Nazarene Superintendent Says Nazarene Church Not Emergent versus Olivet Nazarene University Welcomes Emergent Mystic
QUESTION: IS THE NAZARENE CHURCH STILL PROMOTING THE EMERGING CHURCH AND CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY?
SIDE ONE: “Our General Leaders have taken a very clear stand concerning the emergent church.” – Nazarene District Superintendent
SIDE TWO: “I grew up a Roman Catholic and later became an Anglican priest (it was the closest I could get to being a Catholic priest without having to “swim the Tiber”) so there’s definitely a weird brew of influences floating around the community. I’m presently studying spiritual direction and contemplative spirituality at the Shalem Institute and beginning next year in a doctoral program at Fordham University (The Jesuit University of New York) so the voices of Merton, Rahner, Ignatius, St Francis, Teresa of Avila, Evelyn Underhill and other contemplatives find their way into our ministries and preaching as well.”-Ian Morgan Cron, speaker at Olivet Nazarene University
SIDE ONE: Letter from a Nazarene District Superintendent (Used with permission):
2011 - Our [Nazarene] denomination has shown great growth in the USA this last year. I don’t know about any mass exodus over these issues. While some of our schools, including MNU have had some speakers in the past that we wouldn’t have again, it was before it was revealed that they are heretics. There have been some questions about Point Loma and NNU, but much of it has been addressed. I believe this is very much overstated. Our General Leaders have taken a very clear stand concerning the emergent church. We are very aware what is being taught at MNU and will not tolerate any of these false teachings there. Also, we just finished our Ordination interviews and the right questions were asked concerning the reality of hell and the authority of the Word of God.
The “concerned Nazarenes” tend to get their facts confused and are still harping about old news. It reminds me of the rumor that continued to circulate that Madam Murray O’Hair was trying to shut down Christian broadcasting. It was never true, made the Christians making the accusations look like fools, and continued to be spread by over zealous people long after she was dead. My thoughts about all this are simple. I don’t believe everything I read. I do realize there are some heretics out there, and we need to pay attention to what is being taught at our schools, especially our regional college, MNU. We (the DS’s) will continue to meet with the religion department and they know loud and clear what we think about all this.
SIDE TWO: Olivet Nazarene University Welcomes Emergent Mystic
If the problem with emerging/contemplative spirituality in the Nazarene denomination has been “overstated” as the Nazarene superintendent says in the above letter, then one must ask the question, why is it that Nazarene universities are STILL promoting “New” spirituality/ contemplative figures?
One year ago, Lighthouse Trails posted an article titled Olivet Nazarene University 105th School Added to Lighthouse Trails Contemplative School List . That article was spawned when we received an e-mail from a concerned parent whose child was attending Olivet University who learned that the school was promoting Richard Foster and Henri Nouwen. After doing research, we placed Olivet Nazarene University on our “Contemplative School List.” This past weekend we received a phone call from a man who told us that Nazarene universities are bringing in speakers who “fly under the radar” and who are of “liberal emergent” persuasion. His case in point was the upcoming scheduled visit to Olivet by Ian Morgan Cron, of whom until this past weekend we had not heard the name. On March 13th and 14th, Cron will be speaking at the Olivet chapel service from 10am to 11am. We called Olivet and were told that Olivet’s school chaplain Mark Holcolm in the Office of Spiritual Development is responsible for chapel speakers. Cron also spoke at Olivet on September 5th and 6th 2012 at the chapel service.
Who is Ian Morgan Cron, and why is it so important to know that he is a speaker at this Nazarene university? If you have heard the names Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, Jim Wallis, Marcus Borg, Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, and Henri Nouwen, and if you are familiar with the mystical emergent spirituality that these people adhere to, then you can understand the spirituality of Ian Morgan Cron (who describes himself as an “Episcopal priest, psychotherapist, and retreat guide” and says he was trained at the Shalem Prayer Institute). Not only does Cron admire and promote these teachers but he is admired and promoted by them. And not only does he admire the hard-core mystics but he teaches contemplative meditation himself. Below we are listing some documentation so you can see for yourself what Cron believes . Then you can see how ill-advised it is for a Nazarene superintendent to say that the issue of emerging coming into the Nazarene denomination is being “overstated.” It is not being overstated, and sadly, while Nazarenes are being lulled into slumber and told that “all is well,” the denomination is being increasingly influenced by a panentheistic interspiritual belief system that negates the message of the Cross. Does that sound extreme? Consider the “theologies” of some of the writers Cron adheres to: Brian McLaren calls the doctrine of Hell “false advertising” for God; Marcus Borg does not believe in the virgin birth or that Jesus is the Son of God come to die for the sins of the world; Jim Wallis, founder of SoJourner is a heralder for a liberal, marxist agenda; Phyllis Tickle says that Brian McLaren is the next Luther; Thomas Merton says that divinity dwells in all human beings and that if we knew what was in each one of us, we would bow down and worship each other; Henri Nouwen reiterates Merton’s interspiritual panentheistic views in numerous instances in his own writing; Richard Rohr could be considered a Matthew Fox spiritual look-alike. Example: In Rohr’s book The Naked Now he states: “[New Age mystic] Ken Wilber is really the best teacher today . . . to give us an ‘integral spirituality.’ Pick any book of his that fascinates you, and you will know why I, as a Christian, recommend him.” (p. 153) Wilber’s “integral spirituality” includes every form of mysticism that you can imagine, including tantric sex.
While we were researching Ian Morgan Cron, we stumbled across a Twitter post he wrote on February 22nd stating that he was speaking with Dr. Eben Alexander (author of Proof of Heaven) at Christ Church in Greenwich, CT, where Cron is currently an adjunct pastor. In 2012, Lighthouse Trails wrote 2 stories about Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who was featured on the cover of Newsweek for his near death experience that has led him to become heavily involved in New Age meditation practices. Our one story, Follow Up Story on Newsweek Article about Author of “Proof of Heaven” Admits to Practicing Deep Meditation” discusses and documents this. Alexander refers to God as “om,” a Hindu mantra. The interview between Cron and Alexander took place at Christ Church on February 23rd.
Cron is currently obtaining his doctorate at Fordham University, a Jesuit college and is a curator for a project called Courageous and Faith Series. These “conversations” to “follow Jesus” take place at Christ Church and interview figures such as Rob Bell, Jim Wallis, Anne Lamott, Gabe Lyons, Phyllis Tickle, and William Paul Young (The Shack), all of which fall in the emergent/contemplative camp.
The point is Ian Morgan Cron has surrounded and absorbed himself with meditation mystics, yet he is going to be talking to students at Olivet Nazarene University. With this kind of thing happening, we just don’t see how any Nazarene pastor or superintendent could say that concerns that we and others have are “overstated.” The superintendent who wrote the letter above said “While some of our schools . . . have had some speakers in the past that we wouldn’t have again, it was before it was revealed that they are heretics,” we must wonder if Cron would be in that category of “heretic.” Panentheism, interspirituality, altered states of consciousness, God in all – the answer seems pretty clear.
Lest one think that the Nazarenes stand alone in embracing Cron, just take a look at Cron’s speaking schedule. Places he will be speaking (or has spoken) at include: World Vision, Willow Creek, Denver Seminary, Family Fest with the Gaithers, the Dove Awards, Renovare, C3 Conference with Philip Yancey, the Calvinist Crossroads Community Church in MD, Texas Christian University, Catalyst Conference with Andy Stanley, and Worship Leaders Conference with James McDonald and Saddleback pastor Buddy Owens. He also has written for Fox News and his 2011 book Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me: A Memoir . . . of Sorts was published by Thomas Nelson. An earlier book was published by NavPress. All this to show that Cron has very much been accepted into evangelical Christianity.
In conclusion, in a video on YouTube, Cron states that “the future of the church lies with silence.” He is referring to the mystical state that occurs during contemplative meditation. He echoes Karl Rahner who said the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will be nothing. This is where “Christianity” is heading, and the Nazarenes are helping to lead the way.
Cron joins Dr. Eben Alexander: I’m with Dr. Eben Alexander, author of”Proof of Heaven” tomorrow night. Fascinating book.— Ian Morgan Cron (@iancron) February 22, 2013 (Twitter)
From an interview on Internet Monk with Cron from 2008 -Ian: ”I grew up a Roman Catholic and later became an Anglican priest (it was the closest I could get to being a Catholic priest without having to “swim the Tiber”) so there’s definitely a weird brew of influences floating around the community. I’m presently studying spiritual direction and contemplative spirituality at the Shalem Institute and beginning next year in a doctoral program at Fordham University (The Jesuit University of New York) so the voices of Merton, Rahner, Ignatius, St Francis, Teresa of Avila, Evelyn Underhill and other contemplatives find their way into our ministries and preaching as well.”-Ian Morgan Cron