Archive for the ‘Spiritual Formation’ Category
By Berit Kjos
(author of How to Protect Your Child From the New Age and Spiritual Deception)
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.1—Roger Oakland
Spiritual Formation has become a widely used term that was introduced to the evangelical church in the 1970s, primarily through a Thomas Merton disciple named Richard Foster and his longstanding, best-selling book, Celebration of Discipline. Today, there are few venues in the church that have not been influenced by the Merton/Foster model of Spiritual Formation.
While at first glance, the Spiritual Formation movement seems profitable and spiritual at best, harmless and benign at worst, that is only because it has been disguised with Christian language and out-of-context Scriptures all the while making grandiose claims that through Spiritual Formation, you can really know God.
In a nutshell, Spiritual Formation teaches that in order for someone to have an intimate relationship with God, he or she needs to practice certain “spiritual disciplines” that will help one to become more Christ-like. Sounds good so far, right?
What many people don’t really know, however, is that the driving force behind the Spiritual Formation movement is a mystical prayer technique called contemplative or centering prayer. The Spiritual Formation leaders, such as Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Brennan Manning, have told their followers for years that we must get rid of distractions in our minds or else we cannot hear the voice of God.
In order to reach a state of silence or stillness (where the mind is basically put into neutral), a word or phrase is repeated (or the breath is focused on) and a meditative (altered) state can then be achieved. But while contemplative advocates insist that this is not the same thing as Eastern-style meditation because their intent is different (they repeat Jesus Jesus, not om om), the results are the same as practicing Transcendental Meditation (TM) and demonic realms are experienced in this silence. One meditation writer explains:
The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics; it is no accident that both traditions use the same word for the highest reaches of their respective activities: contemplation [samadhi in yoga].2
That’s a little background of the Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer) movement. Although the dangers of this mystical spirituality should be obvious to most Christians, it appears this is not the case, and children have not been exempt from the impact. Evangelical youth groups, children’s organizations, Sunday School curriculum, books, and so forth are introducing contemplative spirituality (i.e., Spiritual Formation) to children.
For instance, in a book titled, Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation, Greg Carlson and John Crupper (executive leaders of the Awana’s children organization at the time the book was written) praise Richard Foster’s contemplative-promoting book Streams of Living Water. Carlson and Crupper also say that the contemplative “tradition” is an important contribution to Christians:
In his excellent overview, Streams of Living Water, Richard Foster outlines six different spiritual traditions that are present within the Christian faith. They are the contemplative tradition, the holiness tradition, the charismatic tradition, the social justice tradition, the evangelical tradition, and the incarnational tradition. Each of these has played an important part in the larger history of the Christian church. . . . Each of these traditions has made significant contributions to Christian spirituality and each has weaknesses when isolated from other traditions.3
When Carlson and Crupper say “weaknesses,” they mean they don’t have a problem with contemplative as long as it is used in conjunction with other spiritual practices or “traditions.” They say that each of these models can learn from the other.4 Clearly, this gives the green light on contemplative. Carlson and Crupper add:
[W]e would see many of the techniques [from the Contemplative-Model] of teaching as valuable tools for learning . . . the ideas of repetition and routine . . . are important; and we affirm them.5
Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation identifies some of these “techniques” and “tools” as lectio divina, centering prayer, labyrinths, the Jesus Prayer, and breath prayers, all of which are part of contemplative spirituality.
Incidentally, in one section of the book, it favorably references the Catholic mystic Thomas Merton, who once said that he “intend[ed] to become as good a Buddhist”6 as he could and that he “was impregnated with Sufism.”7 Merton never hid his admiration for Eastern-style meditation or his panentheistic beliefs (that God was in all humanity). For Awana leadership to co-author a book that speaks highly of Thomas Merton shows little discernment or understanding.
Even though Carlson and Crupper are no longer in executive leadership roles with Awana, the book is still on the market today. Plus, Awana is referred to several times in the book so someone reading it would believe that Awana itself has given an OK to contemplative.
While it is troubling to see this kind of pass on contemplative spirituality by Awana leadership, calling it a “significant contribution” that has “played an important part” in the church, I believe there are many local Awana leaders who are not compromising their teachings and are staying true to God’s Word. Perhaps they will be the ones to help Awana stay on the right path.
One Christian group that has pushed contemplative spirituality onto children is NavPress. In one issue of their PrayKids! publication, an article titled, “Contemplative Prayer” states:
Contemplative prayer is a form of meditative prayer that focuses on communing with God. Although sometimes confused with its Eastern (and non-Christian) counterpart, true Christian meditation has been practiced since Bible times.
This issue of PrayKids! helps kids learn to slow down their fast-paced lives long enough to experience a meaningful relational encounter with their Heavenly Father.8
In one feature article in Pray!, “Empowering Kids to Pray,” Brad Jersak is referenced in relation to kids and prayer. Jersak’s book, Stricken by God (endorsed by emergent church figure Brian McLaren) is a compilation of essays by various authors including Eastern-style meditation proponents Richard Rohr and Marcus Borg. Borg rejects basic foundational tenets of Christian doctrine (such as the virgin birth of Christ and the atonement),9 and Rohr is a panentheistic Catholic priest who embraces interspirituality and mysticism.
Considering that NavPress, the publishing arm of the Navigators, has a publication for children specifically to teach children contemplative prayer illustrates how integrated the New Spirituality has become within Christianity. Children in the church are being targeted. This is tragic—church is supposed to be one of the safest places for our children.
And it doesn’t get better as they get older. Unaware parents who are anticipating their children attending “good” Christian colleges when they are old enough may be very surprised and rudely awakened to find that Spiritual Formation has now entered almost every accredited Christian college, seminary, and university. My publisher, Lighthouse Trails, has been following this trend for over 12 years now and has discovered that some of the top accreditation associations for Christian schools are requiring Spiritual Formation programs to be implemented in schools now before they can be accredited!10 Students in Christian colleges are now being required to study the works of Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster and to take practicum courses in contemplative and centering prayer where they may be required to practice contemplative prayer for a passing grade.
Pray for discernment and guidance, and use the ideas on how to protect your children from spiritual deception that I have laid out in my book to make sure your child is equipped and “armored” to face what is now so prevalent in evangelical/Protestant Christianity.
1. Roger Oakland, Faith Undone (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007), p. 91.
2. Richard Kirby, The Mission of Mysticism (London, UK: SPCK, 1979), p. 7.
3. Michael Anthony, Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2006), p. 82, quoting Carlson and Crupper.
4. Ibid., p. 83.
5. Ibid., p. 85.
6. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
7. Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), p. 69.
8. “Contemplative Prayer” (PrayKids, NavPress, issue #25).
9. Marcus Borg, The God We Never Knew (New York, NY: HarperCollins, First HarperCollins Paperback Edition, 1998), p. 25.
10. “An Epidemic of Apostasy—Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate ‘Spiritual Formation’ to Become Accredited” (Lighthouse Trails Special Report, November 2011, http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=7733).
LTRP Note: The statement below is written by Menno-Lite, a ministry that focuses on the “New” Spirituality entering the Mennonite church, but the information they provide is affecting all denominations, including the writings of emergent church leader Brian McLaren. You can read some of our research on McLaren here. And if you have never listened to an interview McLaren gave a number of years ago where he called the Cross and Hell “false advertising” for God, it might be a good idea to listen to that to help understand the attack on the Gospel that the New Spirituality is bringing into the church. As you come to realize the huge impact against the Gospel that McLaren has had on untold numbers of people (especially young people), remember who played a significant role in helping to launch McLaren and give him momentum: Rick Warren and Bill Hybels (see Faith Undone).
Mennonites have supported the agenda of the contemplative spirituality and emerging church movements to teach and influence their children. Mennonites have even shown their support of Brian McLaren’s agenda to shape their entire families. In 2012, an announcement by MennoMedia Staff appeared on the Mennonite Church Canada website called Brian McLaren headlines Shaping Families line-up in December. Shaping Families was a radio broadcast for three years but now remains as a faith-based resource website. Linked with Mennonite Church USA, Mennonite church Canada and Mennoninte Missions Network, it continues to offer various interviews that Third Way Media/MennoMedia produced in the last number of years. At Shaping Families, Brian McLaren remains as a family shaper on one of their resource pages.
Since 2012, McLaren has been working very hard on his plan of re-imaging church curriculum. His new book, a retelling of the biblical story, will be released next month… Click here to continue reading and to watch video excerpts of Brian McLaren discussing his new book.
Over the past month, God has opened my eyes to see just how deceived I have been when it comes to what I read, what I listen to, and who I go to for Godly wisdom. As a Christian, my greatest desire is to be a true disciple of Jesus Christ, the REAL Jesus Christ. In order to pursue that, I must know the Truth, I must know Jesus Christ, I must know the Word of God. I would like to share my testimony with you in regards to this past month and talk about how God has rekindled a deep desire in me for the Truth. Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31 & 32.
To get started, let me go back about a month ago. My sister-in-law had come to visit, so John* and myself and our kids all went down to our friends Shawn & Shirley’s to eat supper one evening. As we were sitting in the living room visiting, the subject came up (I still don’t know how it came up, but it did!) about a very popular devotional called, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. I wasn’t sure at the time where this conversation was going and who in that living room actually read the Jesus Calling devotional, but I knew that I DID and I knew that I LOVED THAT BOOK! I also loved Sarah Young, even though I had never met her or knew anything very significant about her—all I knew was that she must be a Christian to write a book like that, and that’s all I really needed to know.
Back to our conversation in the living room though. Apparently, there is a man named Warren B. Smith who has written a book titled, “Another Jesus” Calling, and he was featured on a radio program in which he lays out Scripture after Scripture, along with vast amounts of research, all to come to the conclusion that this devotional, Jesus Calling, is a HUGE deception among believers today. It is a LIE! What? “You mean, after I listen to this Warren Smith I may not want to read my Jesus Calling anymore?,” I remember asking my sister-in-law during our conversation, which I could feel was quickly heating up!! Honestly, I was getting mad—wait, who am I kidding, I WAS mad!
I had taken up a defense inside and put up a wall immediately after hearing that something I cherished and loved so much was possibly a huge deception I had allowed in my life—my spiritual life, my life with the Lord. How could this be? The book sounds so good, so real, so true—it even has Scripture verses following every day’s devotion. It encourages me, it blesses me, makes me feel special—there is NO WAY that anyone is going to convince me that this book isn’t good and wholesome and a perfect addition to anyone’s Christian walk. NO ONE!
OK, so I needed some space—some time away from everyone in that living room. Tears were on the verge of overflow and I had to get a way . . . so I went to the bathroom. I will never forget getting into that bathroom, closing and locking the door, and realizing how wrong I was in the way I had reacted inwardly. I didn’t want to be stiff-necked in my thinking or harden my heart towards what God might want to teach me. So I surrendered my hurt feelings and my rebellious attitude and gave it all to God. I told Him that if He wanted me to quit reading the book then that is what I would do, but He was going to have to be the one to show me that.
Now I must be honest and say that doing this was not an easy thing to do and something sadly, I haven’t done much in my walk with the Lord. Laying down my pride and admitting that, “Hey, I may be wrong in this.” Its not an easy thing for me to do, for anybody to do, for that matter. I think one reason is because when I admit that I am wrong that shows weakness. But weakness isn’t always a bad thing, because as Christians, the Bible says:
And He (Jesus) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am made strong. 2 Corinthians 12: 9 & 10
So moving on, I was able to walk out of the bathroom with a new attitude believing and trusting that God would show me what to do with this devotional book I so dearly loved. And boy, did He ever!!
Before we left that night, [our friends] gave me the website address I could go to so I could listen to the radio interview for myself. John and I got home and put the kids to bed, and I headed straight to our computer. After starting the interview and listening for a few minutes, I quickly realized that this guy had some pretty legitimate concerns as to why he thought this book was filled with deception. But I still wasn’t convinced enough to say that I didn’t need to read the book anymore. I would occasionally pause the interview to write down different statements that he made along with lots and lots of Scriptures he had to back up just about everything he said.
Slowly, I was becoming more aware that this man may actually be right about this book. I didn’t want to believe it, but it was all there, plain as day. He was using the Bible as his reference, so what could I say? What could anyone say? The Bible is the Word of God, it is the Truth. And so, if I believe that, then this devotional book is absolutely deceptive because in the interview he pointed out numerous, obvious contradictions to the Holy Word of God. But wait a minute, was I willing to chuck the book just yet? Believe it or not, no I wasn’t. I’m about to get to that. Before I do though, I just want to go into a little more detail about why I loved this book so much,—what it was about it that made me feel so drawn to it:
Here’s a few reasons:
- It’s a daily devotional—it has a small entry for each day out of the year. Hence, it’s short, doesn’t take much of my time, easy to read.
- Very comforting, makes me feel good inside, good about myself, no conviction, ever!
- Makes me feel special, like Jesus is just a good ‘ole buddy that walks around with me all day!
- Sadly, this fourth reason I am not proud to mention, but it is a HUGE part of why I am convinced this book is dangerous. I found myself using Jesus Calling as my “Bible.”
I remember seeing my Bible and my Jesus Calling devotional sitting side by side on my coffee table. Guess which one I was more eager to pick up? It wasn’t that I didn’t believe the Bible was full of Truth or that I didn’t “want” to read it. I knew that I desperately needed to be in the Word. There are a lot of excuses I told myself as to why I just couldn’t read the Bible today. One of those excuses being TIME—just not having enough time to read the Bible, it’s too big. Or “I just don’t know where to start?” I know the Bible in part, but I am by no means an expert on where to find this and that. The Bible isn’t always fun to read. By this I mean, a lot of the time when I read my Bible, the Holy Spirit will point out something in my life that I might not want to look at or deal with. I’d much rather be told how much I am loved and thought of and cared for and needed. So, you get the point—I chose Jesus Calling day after day over the Bible because it was all nicely packaged in short, daily message to me straight from Jesus’ mouth, so what’s wrong with that?
Well, back to my “tipping point,” if you will, on what caused me to decide that Jesus Calling was dangerous and deceitful and that it needed to get thrown out. The night I listened to that radio interview, I was pausing often to take notes or go back and rewind to listen again to something that was said. I happened to pause it as one point when John walked in to tell me good night. We talked a minute about it, and I confessed that I was very aware now of how I had been choosing this book over my Bible and how wrong it was. He and I talked about this for a few minutes and when he went to bed, I resumed the interview. What I heard next literally cause my jaw to fall open! As soon as I hit play, Warren Smith mentions a woman who basically said everything I had just finished sharing with John moments before! In his words from the interview, he says, “One woman in particular said that she was so taken by Jesus Calling that finally one day she realized that she wasn’t reading her Bible. She was going back and reading her Jesus Calling as much as possible.” For me, I knew that God was making it very clear to me—get rid of the book! Read MY WORD!! I was excited by this and all hesitations I had about it were out the window. I knew what God expected of me at that moment. It was like God opened my eyes to see something for the very first time. He literally changed my mind. Romans 12:2 says, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove, what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”
I give all the praise and glory to God for what he has done in my life over the past few weeks. It is not anything I have done on my own. God has brought to my attention many things that I need to look at and test according to His Word. One of those being the music I listen to. I gave up secular music some time ago and have been listening exclusively to Christian music for years, but I have to admit that some of the more popular Christian tunes that are out now a days, I’m just not sure about. And that’s all I can say; I’m just not sure about it. Along with the music, I would add authors, well-known speakers/pastors, books, so many things I am not sure about. It sounds so overwhelming at times, all the things out there that I thought were good and true. It’s like, trust the Bible and the Truths that are found within. 2 Timothy 3:16 & 17 says:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
This last month, I have grown a lot, and I have a deep hunger for the Living Word of God that I can honestly say I did not have prior to eating supper at Shawn and Shirley’s house one month ago.
* The names in this letter have been changed.
That Time of Year Again~Looking for a Christian College This Fall For Your Child? Better Think Carefully About Which One to Attend
As Lighthouse Trails has reported over the last several years, a growing number of evangelical/Protestant colleges, seminaries, and universities are integrating contemplative spirituality and emerging ideologies into their schools. If you, or someone you know, are currently looking for a Christian school, we beseech you to check potential schools very carefully. Ask to see textbook lists, search their websites to see if they have spiritual formation programs, and find out who speaks at their student chapels. It would also be a good idea to contact the school chaplain and ask some good questions.
Here is our growing list of Christian schools that ARE promoting contemplative and/or emerging: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/Colleges.htm And here is a small list we have put together of schools that are NOT going in that direction at this time: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/collegesgood.htm.
Also read some of our past articles on Christian colleges:
More articles in our Contemplative Colleges category.
Book Review on Dangerous Illusions, the Newest Release From Lighthouse Trails
There is something very comfortable and familiar about reading sequels. “Dangerous Illusions” is a novel that picks up where “Castles in the Sand” leaves off. Having read ‘Castles’ a few years ago, it took a while for me to become familiar with the characters and story line once again, but there are enough references to the past that soon it fits like a pair of comfortable shoes.
It is several years later and Tessa returns to her home town, from a missions trip, where she finds things not quite the way she had left them. Her adoptive parents are out of sorts, her church is struggling out of a slump, and there are strange and unexplained things happening to her, quite randomly, or so it would seem.
There are two themes running through the novel, one of which admits it to the genre of ‘Christian fiction’, and one which fits it quite nicely into the mystery/intrigue/suspense genre. As new characters are introduced and developed, you just know they are going to be connected somehow, but the reader must be patient.
Click here to continue this review.
Larry Crabb to Join Richard Foster’s Renovare Contemplative Conference – Christian Leaders Continue to Promote Crabb
I’ve practiced centering prayer. I’ve contemplatively prayed. I’ve prayed liturgically . . . I’ve benefited from each, and I still do. In ways you’ll see, elements of each style are still with me.—Larry Crabb in The Papa Prayer, p.9
I’m glad that as a conservative evangelical who still believes in biblical inerrancy and penal substitution, I’ve gotten over my Catholic phobia, and I’ve been studying contemplative prayer, practicing lectio divina, valuing monastic retreats, and worshipping through ancient liturgy. I appreciate Bernard of Clairvaux’s provocative insights. I’m drawn to Brother Lawrence’s profoundly simple ways to practice God’s presence. I’m intrigued and enticed by Julian of Norwich’s mysterious appearings of Jesus.—Larry Crabb, Real Church, p. 41
I generally read books to stimulate my mind, but I read this one [The Papa Prayer] for my soul, and it has left an imprint that I believe will be with me for the rest of my life. In these pages you will be introduced to a new way of praying that will, I guarantee, change the way you think about prayer; and, best of all, you will actually be motivated to pray continually, joyfully, and purposefully. This is a book for all of us who want to pray more but don’t; for all of us who have been discouraged because our prayers have not been answered, and for those of us whose priorities in praying need to be redirected. It is also for those who have read many books on prayer and think they need not read another one! Read these pages and let God change your perspective and your heart.—Erwin Lutzer, from The Papa Prayer endorsement pages
On April 3rd, Richard Foster’s Renovare organization will be presenting the Formation for Whole Life conference in Houston, Texas.
According to several sources, including Rick Warren,1 Christianity Today,2 and Lighthouse Trails, Richard Foster is a key player in the contemplative prayer movement (aka: Spiritual Formation movement). Speakers at this year’s Renovare conference include contemplative figures Ruth Haley Barton,3 Mark Scandrette,4 Richard Foster, and Kyle Strobel.5 Joining the team of speakers will be Larry Crabb, a popular evangelical author and speaker, who years ago switched from a psychology focus to a focus on Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer).6
While it is not surprising to see Larry Crabb sharing a platform with other contemplatives, what is troubling is that Crabb continues to receive acceptance by Christian leaders. In 2011, Crabb spoke to the student body at Liberty University. In 2012 and 2013, he spoke at the Billy Graham Training Center. In 2012, he was invited to Moody Church (the church once pastored by Harry Ironside and D.L. Moody, now pastored by Erwin Lutzer)—7 (click here to see video of that Sunday).
During that 2012 “sermon” by Larry Crabb at Moody Church, Crabb introduced Jesus as more of an example or model to us (one that we can be like) than a Savior to us. This is the crux of the contemplative/emerging message. This is where Spiritual Formation comes in. Since to be truly Christ-like is not possible without Christ in us (born-again), the contemplatives turn to the disciplines (with the emphasis on the mystical), and this gives them the illusion of being close to God (the mystical experience produces this euphoric feeling). Crabb’s conclusion was that we need to search for our own “center[s].” His psychology-filled, Scripture-starving sermon at Moody did not point to Jesus Christ and His magnificence but rather pointed to how the attributes of God can make us a great community having great relationships. This is the focus of the emergent church where personal salvation is set aside for great relationships and community social justice.
Lighthouse Trails editors spoke with Erwin Lutzer a number of years ago expressing concern about his endorsement in Larry Crabb’s book, The Papa Prayer, where Crabb praised the role that “centering prayer” (i.e., mantra-type meditation) had in his life. In that phone conversation, Lutzer asked us to please remember to love all the brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. He felt this was more important than criticizing others and naming names, and he said that we (Lighthouse Trails) may not really be qualified to identify spiritual deception within the church.8
In a 2012 article Lighthouse Trails wrote regarding Larry Crabb’s spiritual affinities, we stated:
Perhaps one of the most sure-tell indicators of where Larry Crabb’s spiritual sympathies lie and why he’s not a good match for Dwight L. Moody’s church can be found in a book Crabb wrote the foreword to. The book, Sacred Companions (written by David Benner), heartily recommends a plethora of contemplative mystics: Thomas Keating, Henri Nouwen, Basil Pennington, Richard Foster, John of the Cross, Gerald May, John Main, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, Alan Jones and several others. Many of these are panentheistic (God is in all), universalist (all are saved), and interspiritual (all paths lead to God). Ray Yungen talked about Benner’s book in the first edition of A Time of Departing. Yungen stated:
“[C]ontemplative prayer stands on the threshold of exploding worldwide. Dr. Larry Crabb . . . has written the foreword to a book [Spiritual Companions] that expounds on the future of spiritual direction in the evangelical church. . . . It is safe to assume then that we are looking at a contemplative approach. With that in mind, Dr. Crabb predicted [in Sacred Companions]: ‘The spiritual climate is ripe. Jesus seekers across the world are being prepared to abandon the old way of the written code for the new way of the Spirit.’” (ATOD, 1st ed., p. 137)
As Lighthouse Trails has often said, when Christian pastors and leaders endorse or share platforms with those who are teaching serious heresy (contemplative negates the Gospel itself with panentheistic/universalisitic/interspiritual roots),9 this not only sends a confusing message to the body of Christ, it actually puts many in harm’s way. Isn’t it time for Christian leaders who name the name of Jesus Christ to stop promoting contemplative advocates?
1. In The Purpose Driven Church (pp. 126-126), Rick Warren calls the Spiritual Formation movement a “valid message for the church” that has “given the body of Christ a wake-up call.” He identifies Richard Foster and Dallas Willard as key players in the SF movement.See chapter 8 of A Time of Departing for this documentation: http://www.lighthousetrails.com/atodch8.pdf.
2. In a 2008 Christianity Today article titled “The Future Lies in the Past,” Richard Foster is credited with the “birth of the ancient-future movement” (i.e, contemplative/Spiritual Formation movement): http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/february/22.22.html.
4. Mark Scandrette is addressed in Faith Undone by Roger Oakland: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=1614.
6. Christianity Today, “A Shrink Gets Stretched.”
Update: Feb. 23, 2014: When this article below was written on Feb. 13, 2014, the Faith Baptist Bible College bookstore was not carrying Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling (though they were carrying a couple of her other books). They had been carrying Jesus Calling last year but removed the book when Lighthouse Trails had informed the recently retired president of the book. Unfortunately, today, the book is appearing back on the college bookstore website. Lighthouse Trails had sent a copy of Warren B. Smith’s new book “Another Jesus” Calling to the interim president in early February of this year. He wrote us a note thanking us for the book and saying that it would be helpful to the school.
* * * * *
As Lighthouse Trails has reported over the last several years, a fast-growing number of evangelical/Protestant colleges, seminaries, and universities are integrating contemplative spirituality (i.e., Spiritual Formation) and emerging ideologies into their schools. If you or someone you know are currently looking for a Christian college, we beseech you to check potential schools very carefully. Ask to see textbook lists, search their websites to see if they have spiritual formation programs, and find out who speaks at their student chapels. It would also be a good idea to contact the school chaplain and ask some good questions.
For many years now, Lighthouse Trails has maintained two lists on the research site. The first one is our growing list of Christian schools that ARE promoting contemplative and/or emerging: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/Colleges.htm And the second one is a small list we have put together of schools that are NOT going in that direction at this time: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/collegesgood.htm.
This brings us to the topic of this article. Today, February 12, 2014, with much dismay, Lighthouse Trails has put a stroke through Faith Baptist Bible College(in Iowa) which is one of the schools that has been on our “good”college list for many years. At this time, we cannot in good faith recommend the school and are compelled to issue this notice of caution to our readers. It is our hope that before Faith Baptist ends up on the contemplative college list, they will set things straight. Rather than remove their name altogether, we have crossed it out with the hopes that it might be able to remain on that “good” list.
The decision was made primarily because of the ongoing promotion and selling of contemplative-promoting authors in their bookstore (Sarah Young, Gary Thomas (also being used in their course M‐LC 648), John Ortberg, Brennan Manning, Peter Scazzero, Calvin Miller, Philip Yancey, Ken Boa, N. T. Wright (used in their course B‐AN 821), Beth Moore, Mark Driscoll, Brother Lawrence, and many others. They are even carrying the Thomas Merton promoting book Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation. You can find information on each of these authors on our research site).
Over the past several years, Lighthouse Trails editors have had occasional correspondence with the recently retired president of Faith Baptist, Dr. James Maxwell. As a matter of fact, Dr. Maxwell wrote a great informative article a few years ago titled “The New Spirituality.” In that article, he rightly identified contemplative prayer as the vehicle through which the New Spirituality was entering the church. He footnoted Lighthouse Trails’ research as well. Based on that article and from correspondence we have had with Dr. Maxwell, we have been assured that he shares the same strong concerns that Lighthouse Trails has on this issue.
In 2011, Lighthouse Trails wrote a letter to Dr. Maxwell. The following is a shortened version of that letter with the key points:
Dear Dr. Maxwell,
. . . We learned recently that the accreditation Faith holds nationally is with Association for Biblical Higher Education. We learned about this while writing an article (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=7733) about Christian school accreditation and how ABHE is requiring member schools to incorporate “spiritual formation” into the lives of their students. While we realize that each school is given some liberty as to how they interpret and implement spiritual formation, we have strong concerns because the term spiritual formation was pioneered into the evangelical church by those who promote a mystical contemplative spirituality (Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, etc), and when you point students to “spiritual formation,” you will ultimately be pointing them to these and other similar writers. We know that Faith is now beginning to use that term, saying that their spiritual formation will be a good one.
. . . . As just one example (a serious one) to back up our concerns, in your bookstore, under recommended books, in the Prayer section, you list just one book, and that is a book by homosexuality sympathizer, contemplative advocate, Phil Yancey. http://www.fbbcbooks.com/servlet/the-Books-cln-Christian-Living-cln-Prayer/Categories Do you realize what is in that book? It is basically a primer on contemplative spirituality. In the back of the book he recommends resources from people like Buddhist sympathizer Catholic convert Peter Kreeft, emerging darling Phyllis Tickle, of course Richard Foster, and many others of the same caliber. How did this recommendation come to be on Faith’s site? . . . However, you can remove the book but another will take its place if this issue isn’t dealt with properly [Note: while that book appears to no longer be on the Faith bookstore website, other books by Yancey are].
I know you received a letter recently from a Dr. ______ with his concerns. You stated to him that Faith was not going to practice or incorporate contemplative spirituality, but Dr. Maxwell, how are you warning your faculty and students? How can you be so sure that some of them are not at home in the evenings reading Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard, or Phil Yancey? They are probably reading Yancey as you have the book readily recommended to them. I have often wondered these past few years why your school did not ever have your professors or students read A Time of Departing. To date, there is no other book that covers this matter in the well documented, logical and biblical manner that this book does.
Now two years later, Faith Baptist Bible is still carrying books by contemplative authors and using a smattering of them in their classrooms. And the accreditation with ABHE is still in effect. It is because of these things that Lighthouse Trails can no longer safely recommend Faith Baptist to our readers as a school that is free from the contemplative influence.
If you are not acquainted with ABHE, please read our article “An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited.” In that article, we document that ABHE intends to insure that all accrediting member schools will fall into step with a vigorous Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative) program. Faith Baptist will be no exception!
We’ve already done the homework here for nearly 12 years. So please read our “Epidemic of Apostasy” article if you never have. It connects the dots. But we’ll give one convincing example now that for a school to be aligned with ABHE for accreditation will mean theological and spiritual suicide for a college in the long run (from a biblical point of view). As you can see on this page here, ABHE is partnered with a number of various organizations (about eight of them). These partnerships are not some kind of loose association. On the contrary, ABHE utilizes their “cutting-edge services.” One of the partnerships is with Spiritual Transformation Inventory. Long story short (see our article for more), this is basically an assessment tool on how well a school is integrating Spiritual Formation and the “spiritual disciplines” and practices into its school. There are numerous things we could show you, but let’s take a look at the STI’s Connected Life Workbook. In the book, under REFERENCES ON SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES/PRACTICES (p. 23), there is a who’s who of contemplative mysticism proponents some of which are Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, David Benner, Ruth Haley Barton, and so forth. The workbook encourages students to “develop a contemplative prayer life” (p. 19). The book focuses on how well the individual feels and experiences “God’s presence” (obtaining a low score if the feeling or experience is small). It includes a section on how to hear God’s voice while practicing being still and repeating portions of Scripture. This workbook is a classic example of pushing contemplative prayer. ABHE uses this assessment tool to help steer member schools in obtaining and keeping their accreditation. Do the math—it all adds up.
Lighthouse Trails has witnessed many once-solid Christian colleges and seminaries take those first small, seemingly insignificant steps toward the contemplative deception. Once a school starts down that path, the momentum picks up, and before you know it, that school is wholeheartedly embracing this dangerous heretical spirituality.
While the interim president at Faith Baptist Bible College & Seminary did accept a copy of “Another Jesus” Calling and some other materials from us last month, we have yet to see the bookstore cleaned up. After over two years of pleading with the school to remove these books, we are skeptical that it will happen now.
In December of 2013, we sent the following note to Dr. Maxwell as a final effort before he retired:
Dr. Maxwell, in reviewing Faith’s “module textbook” list, we found that one of the classes is using Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Marriage where Thomas references a tantric sex teacher a dozen times (M‐LC 648 Marriage Counseling Prb. & Case Studies Newman Sacred Marriage). We wrote about Thomas’ book. Here is the link to that article: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=2515. We can’t figure out why a school like Faith is willing to use a book by a major contemplative figure like Thomas (in his book Sacred Pathways, he tells readers to repeat a word for 20 minutes) but will not use a book like A Time of Departing in their classes, especially when they have had a president who understands the seriousness. We find that so strange. But we are beginning to wonder if our efforts to warn Faith Baptist are just words blowing in the wind.
More articles in our Contemplative Colleges category