Archive for the ‘Spiritual Formation’ Category
Recently, a reader brought to our attention a new development within the emerging church – the Cana Initiative, a think tank comprised of ”faith-engaged organizations, individuals, institutions and networks.” On the Cana Initiative website, it states:
The CANA Initiative seeks to create a healthy ecosystem for connection among existing and emerging individuals, organizations, and networks and will serve as an influential “network of networks.” The CANA Initiative is comprised of Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Mainline Protestant, Orthodox, and other Christians who believe the future for Christian life and mission will be different in many ways from the past and present. . . . The CANA Initiative seeks to support and encourage what is often called Emergence Christianity.
Interestingly, the first meeting that the CANA Initiative is holding is actually wrapping up today, November 21st, and is being held at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC. (an Episcopal church). We posted an unrelated (but maybe actually related) article this past October titled “National Cathedral Leader: ‘Homophobia’ a Sin; Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Performed.”
On the CANA website (started and managed by Doug Pagitt according to Domain Tools.com), it talks about how the last two decades have brought out many ”emerging expressions of Christian faith across the entire religious landscape”1 (translated, that means interspiritual). It was just about 15 years ago that Leadership Network (under Peter Drucker’s protégée, Bob Buford) gathered together a group of young Christian men (first calling them the Young Leaders Network) and began the Terra Nova project (see chapter 2 of Faith Undone for more about Terra Nova). Some of those men were: Mark Driscoll, Brian McLaren, Dan Kimball, Chris Seay, Tony Jones, and Doug Pagitt. Eventually, the group broke away from Leadership Network and became what is known as Emergent. While they did not all stay together as the years past, today, they are all advocates for contemplative spirituality (worth noting).
According to CANA Initiative, “A number of innovative leaders have emerged over recent decades. They have taken big risks and made big sacrifices. Around them, Progressive, Emergence, and Missional networks have taken shape.” CANA has a pretty hefty list of these leaders, and CANA may be the first time they have made such a major effort to come together in a more organized fashion. We’re quite confident that atonement rejector Brian McLaren is at a top level of this organizing. In May of 2013, we posted an article from Stand Up For the Truth titled “Brian McLaren ask for significant cash for mystery project.” That article stated:
On his blog [on May 22, 2013], Brian McLaren is making a mysterious appeal for money. Not just a few dollars, but big, bodacious financial support from those with deep pockets. What’s it for? Brian won’t say, but if you want to contribute, you could email him at a special “happy to help” address.
On McLaren’s blog, he stated with regard to this request for money: “Grace [his wife] and I recently decided to make a significant financial investment in building some behind-the-scenes support structures for this movement to take its next steps. I think the time is ripe. I’m looking for some people to join in this initiative.” Later, in another posting, McLaren stated: “We’re considering the name CANA . . . (Potential Name: CANA Initiative).”2
When you think of the negative impact (from a biblical point of view) Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones, and a number of other emergent figures have had, it’s scary to think of the further impact this new CANA initiative could have on many, especially many young people. Thanks to the big bucks, the huge media attention, an early endorsement and promotion by big name figures like Bill Hybels and Rick Warren, and publishing companies whose support they have enjoyed, the Emergent pioneers are “alive and well.” We knew they had not gone away. That is why we have always disputed the notion that the emerging church was a passing fad that has dissipated. A case in point, two years ago when John MacArthur said the emerging church was in “disarray and decline,” we were compelled to speak up in our article, ”John MacArthur Says Emerging Church in “Disarray and Decline” – Evidence Shows Differently.” We’re not really sure why MacArthur and others have thought that the emerging church was dead. It made no sense. For one thing, the main driving force behind the emerging church is contemplative mystical prayer. And sadly, that is NOT in disarray and decline. On the contrary, contemplative spirituality has, for the most part, entered almost every evangelical Protestant denomination and almost every Christian seminary and college (Richard Foster and Dallas Willard having been at the forefront of bringing it in).
The emerging church may have a greater end they are seeking than contemplative prayer (that greater end being total unity and oneness among all of humanity), but they cannot get there without getting a critical mass of people to have a change of consciousness, which can come speedily through meditative experiences (altered states). Unbeknownst to these emerging change agents (perhaps some of them do know), they have fallen prey to the devil’s end-time plan to bring total unity and oneness among all humanity for one purpose – so he can be worshipped by the world as God: ” that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world (Revelation 12:9).
If you want to understand where the emerging/emergent/contemplative/progressive church is heading and how they are going to get there, just read the chapter by chapter synopsis of Faith Undone. Pay attention to the sections that talk about the denial of the atonement of Jesus Christ for our sins and the kingdom of God on earth now (prior to Christ’s return) being established. We don’t know how much money Brian McLaren and his wife donated to kick off the new initiative, but we do know he and the others means business. Watch in the future to see how many books are published by CANA initiators. In the past decade, numerous publishers have provided ample platform for McLaren and the others. Some of the more outstanding publishers catering to emergent have been: Wiley & Sons, Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Baker (Emersion Books), Intervarsity Press, and NavPress. McLaren’s most recent book, Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?: Christian Identity in a Multi-Faith World and his 2014 upcoming book We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation are examples of what we have to look forward to from these CANA Initiators.
Here are some of the names and photos of “Initiators” of the CANA Initiative. If you type in any of these names in our search engine at the top right of this blog, you can find background information on most of them:
Request for Help: Our Church is Becoming Involved with “Spiritual Direction” and Spiritual Director International
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I am writing to you to in the hope you might be able to give me information about Spiritual Direction as our Church is becoming involved with it. As a Spiritual Director this person is a member of The Australian Network of Spiritual Directors (ANSD) and of Spiritual Directors International (SDI). After reading the brochure I am concerned about the direction it may lead us as it talks about contemplative reflection and interconnectedness of all things and also seeks to encourage ecumenism and inter faith dialogue etc.
Hoping you might be able to help me with this. Thank you for all the work you are doing in warning Christians about the many deceptions we can encounter. Keep up the good work that God has entrusted you to do. __________
Basically, the term “spiritual direction” is part of the contemplative prayer movement. Contemplative teachers say that one must have a “spiritual director” to “teach” or guide him or her how to enter into the silence of contemplative prayer. The spiritual director will provide books and resources by contemplative authors and direct his or her student on how to implement these authors’ spiritual practices. Ruth Haley Barton, a contemplative advocate who teaches thousands of pastors and Christian leaders about spiritual formation said this about her own spiritual director:
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.1 (emphasis added)
As for Spiritual Directors International (SDI), we consider them the leading association for spiritual directors in the world. Ray Yungen discusses SDI in his book, A Time of Departing:
To underscore the scope and reach of the contemplative prayer movement let’s look at the numbers put out by an organization called Spiritual Directors International (SDI). On their website this group gives ample evidence of what their practices are. In one national conference, the following was presented:
“This workshop offers an opportunity to study and experience the [spiritual] director’s role in a person’s move into the beginning and early stages of contemplative prayer, silence, and openness to new sorts of praying.”
One of the objectives of SDI is “Tending the holy around the world and across traditions.” A 2008 membership list showed 652 Episcopalians, 239 Presbyterians, 239 Methodists, 175 Lutherans, and a whopping 2,386 Roman Catholics; counting another forty or so “traditions,” the total was 6648. To show the nature of just what they mean by “across traditions,” the list included Buddhist, Gnostic Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Siddha Yoga, and even Pagan/Wiccan.2 [Today, the figure is 10,000 spiritual directors.]
On the SDI website, it states the following:
[SDI] has become one of the most significant and forward looking ecumenical and multi-faith spiritual organizations in the world today. (emphasis added)
It’s important to understand that “muliti-faith” and spiritual direction (contemplative spirituality) go hand in hand. As we have stated in the past, the “fruit” of contemplative prayer is interspirituality.
A Christianity Today article, “Got Your Spiritual Director Yet?,” confirmed two things, one that spiritual direction is contemplative, and two that it is on its way to becoming an integral part of evangelical Christianity. The article explains that popular Christian author Larry Crabb changed his views. Once a believer in psychology he switched to spiritual direction. He is just one of many who have done this.
The article credits contemplatives (mystics) such as John Cassian and Ignatius of Loyola for getting spiritual direction into the church and suggests that we can learn more about it from Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson, and Dallas Willard. As Rick Warren stated in his book, The Purpose Driven Church, Foster and Willard are key players in the Spiritual Formation movement, but while Warren says that this movement is a “valid message for the church”3 that has “given the body of Christ a wake-up call,”4 we say it is a terrible seduction for the church.
Incidentally, SDI is listed in our “50 Top Organizations With a Significant Role in Bringing Contemplative Spirituality to the Church”; needless to say, we strongly recommend a church not become involved with it or with “spiritual direction” i.e., contemplative spirituality.
To further illustrate our concerns, SDI has a book titled Tending the Holy: Spiritual Direction Across the Traditions. When it says “across the traditions,” it means across all the world’s religious traditions. The book is filled with quotes by and references to mystics from the world’s largest religions (e.g., Swami Muktananda, Swami Rama, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Sri Chinmoy, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi). Thus “tending the holy” infers that the holy (or God) is in all the various religions (i.e., interspirituality), even ones that reject the preaching of the Cross.
For those wanting to get involved with the spiritual formation movement (i.e., contemplative, spiritual direction), consider the “direction” you will actually be going. Not toward biblical Christianity and the Jesus of the Bible but rather toward an ecumenical, interfaith spirituality that excludes salvation which comes solely through the sacrifice on the Cross made by Jesus Christ. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This SDI poster for an event taking place in 2014 says it all.
We are reminded of a June 2013 article we did titled “Concerns Grow as Moody Presses Forward Down Contemplative Path, ” where it reports how Moody’s radio host Anita Lustrea graduated with a 2-year degree in Spiritual Direction recently from the Christos Center for Spiritual Formation. One of the teachers for the Christos 2-year certificate program is Joann Nesser, who is a member of Spiritual Directors International and served on the SDI Coordinating Council for 6 of the early formative years. (source) In looking at the photos above of the interspiritual line up of speakers for the SDI 2014 conference, one cannot help wonder if these are the faces of the “new” Christianity that has surfaced and looks like it is here to stay.
1. Ruth Haley Barton, “Beyond Words”(Discipleship Journal, Issue #113, September/October, 1999, http://www. navpress.com/EPubs/DisplayArticle/1/1.113.13.html, p. 35.
2. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails, 2nd ed. 2006), p. 41; information taken from the Spiritual Directors International website—”Demographics of our Learning Community.”
3. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), p. 127.
Is your church involved in a Spiritual Formation program? If so, you might want to ask the question, what does Spiritual Formation look like? It’s a fair question, and one, that if not asked, could end up surprising you when your church changes in ways you never imagined.
In a 2002 Christianity Today article, it stated: “Spiritual Formation is in.” The article reveals who is largely responsible for starting the movement:
Now many evangelical seminaries offer programs in spiritual formation. Renovare, which Richard Foster and others founded in 1989 to cultivate spiritual formation (especially among evangelicals), today offers retreats and resources worldwide.
Foster began his organization Renovare in 1989, but 11 years earlier (1978) his book Celebration of Discipline first came out, and that has been a Spiritual Formation primer ever since.
The Christianity Today article defines Spiritual Formation as:
Formation, like the forming of a pot from clay, brings to mind shaping and molding, helping something potential become something actual. Spiritual formation speaks of a shaping process with reference to the spiritual dimension of a person’s life. Christian spiritual formation thus refers to the process by which believers become more fully conformed and united to Christ.
Such a definition would hardly send up red flags. But what this definition excludes is how this “process” of conforming and uniting to Christ takes place, and who is eligible to participate in such a process.
The “how” is done through spiritual disciplines, mainly through the discipline of the silence. The silence is an altered state that is reached through mantra meditation, breath prayers, or some other meditative practice. The idea behind it is that if you go into this silent state, you will hear from God, and He will transform you to be like Christ. The “who” (who can practice these disciplines and become like Christ) is anyone (according to Foster and other proponents of Spiritual Formation). A Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim, even an atheist — anyone at all can benefit from the spiritual disciplines and become like Christ (the question is which Christ).
According to Rick Warren, the Spiritual Formation movement is a “wake up call” and a “valid message” to the body of Christ. 1He acknowledges that Richard Foster is a key player in the movement. Brian McLaren, a leader in the emerging church movement, names Richard Foster as one of the “key mentors for the emerging church.”2It is noteworthy that McLaren and Warren (two of the most influential figures today3) each recognize Foster’s role and contribution. Two and two do add up here. McLaren sees Foster’s mystical affinities, and that’s why he says Foster is a key mentor – mysticism is the energy behind the emerging church movement. Without it, there would be no emerging church. Rick Warren considers Foster’s spirituality important because Warren too adheres to the mystical. Thus, these two heavy-weight “evangelicals” see mysticism as crucial for their agendas.
So just what does Spiritual Formation look like? That’s easy. Richard Foster has the answer to that. When he told Ray Yungen several years ago that Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people, what he meant was that Thomas Merton saw one element missing within Christianity – the mystical element. Merton had learned from a Hindu swami named Dr. Bramachari that Merton could obtain mystical properties from Christians like the Desert Fathers – he didn’t need to leave his own tradition.
But Merton realized that most Christians didn’t know about this. So, he set out to bring mysticism (i.e., contemplative prayer) to the Christian world. However, Merton died an early death in 1968 and was unable to accomplish his goal. But somewhere between 1968 and 1978, Richard Foster picked up the mantle of Thomas Merton and carried it forward. Now today, tens of thousands of churches, maybe even yours, are going forth with Thomas Merton’s message of Spiritual Formation. But in essence they are going forth with the Hindu message of: God is in all things (panentheism), and God is all things (pantheism). Such a message contradicts the Gospel message of Jesus Christ – that man is sinful, he is heading for eternal destruction because of sin, and he needs a Savior, and that Savior is God (i.e., Jesus Christ) who paid the price for us with His shed blood.
Just remember, when you find out that your church is going to do a Spiritual Formation program, think about these words by Thomas Merton:
The most important need in the Christian world today is this inner truth nourished by this Spirit of contemplation . . . Without contemplation and interior prayer the Church cannot fulfill her mission to transform and save mankind. (cited in A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 129)
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. (Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Publishers, 1989), pp. 157-158).
This “Spirit of contemplation” is what fuels the Spiritual Formation movement. Merton believed that God dwelled in all people – Richard Foster believes this too. The question you must ask yourself is, do you believe that also? If not, then Spiritual Formation does not belong in your church or in your family’s spiritual structure.
For more information on Spiritual Formation:
For documentation of the quotes in this article and for further information on contemplative spirituality, read A Time of Departing
by Roger Oakland
Promoters of the emergent conversation say we are on the verge of an era that promises renewed spiritual awareness. “Spiritual disciplines” are being touted as the avenue to a “spiritual reformation” that will take Christianity to a new and higher level of spirituality drawing all participants closer to God.
Books published by major Christian publishers written by well known authors are plentiful on this topic. For example, J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler are both professors at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in southern California. Moreland is professor of philosophy. Issler is professor of Christian education and theology. Navpress published a book they co-authored titled The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering the Disciplines of the Good Life. On the back cover, the following statement is made:
Authors J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler illustrate how we are happy only when we pursue a transcendent purpose - something larger than ourselves. This involves a deeply meaningful relationship with God through a selfless preoccupation with the spiritual disciplines. The Lost Virtue of Happiness takes a fresh look at the spiritual disciplines, offering concrete examples of ways you can make them practical and life transforming.
The title gives a good overview of what the book is about. Moreland and Issler believe they have rediscovered important spiritual principles that have been lost. If you follow these principles and they become part of your everyday Christian life, you can be transformed. Click here to read this entire article.
To Lighthouse Trails:
My hope is that this might benefit someone, if not in the writing of it, but in the responses it might receive. Telling myself always in all that I do, I try to do for the Glory of God.
The need to unburden is great. I cry over the lost joy I had in going to church, and I’ve stopped attending. I feel the pull to go back, if anything to be a witness to what is transpiring since to my shame there seems to be little I can do to change the direction my church is heading in. Yet I can’t stop trying!
It began three years ago when a lady who attends my church and temporarily worked where I do, wanted to know if I had ever heard of the book called Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. She read it and was concerned with the contents. It was being taught in the youth group which her daughter was a part of. She asked me to see what I could find out about the book and the author. I had never heard of the book or the author, but figured that I should be able to Google it and find what I needed without actually having to read the book. Little did I know what I was in for! I’m sure many of you if not all of you have been equally surprised to find that there is an abundance of material in this arena. Sadly, most of it is positive on the subject, and increasingly the norm in Christian circles. On one of my searches I came across Lighthouse Trails! Boy were my eyes opened and of cause I will be forever grateful for those at Lighthouse Trails and those who have stayed faithful to the Word of God. I can now include this blog in that blessing as well.
I never realized that any movement of this size touching all areas of society and more importantly the church could exist so under cover! The words Emergent Church, Spiritual Formation, Centering Prayer, Labyrinth, etc… They weren’t even a part of my vocabulary at the time. I thought Labyrinth was a movie! Now I can hear terms from unexpected places that brings my heart to my throat and my mind starts to scream, please God no!!!!!! Even as I write this my eyes tear for this deception that is sinking its claws into not only my church, but countless others.
From Lighthouse Trails I ordered the book by Ray Yungen For Many Shall Come In My Name. This is where I first was introduced to the concept or should I say the term Centering Prayer. The subject matter so moved me that I ordered 10 copies and provided it to my pastor to distribute it to the ministry team at church. Thinking maybe they were unaware of the direction the church was moving in. Looking back I never realized how naïve I was! How unprepared! I believed that the books would be read and I would receive some type of response. Negative! Upon giving the Pastor the book and its copies, the reaction was not what I hoped for. He looked at the back and said that it had no supporting commentaries[endorsements] on the back. Looking inside, he said it looks like he’s probably a Baptist. Getting over the shock of that statement, or should I say trying not to show how much that statement shocked me, I told him that the supporting commentaries might get me to read the book, but it would be the contents that would make or break the book for me. He thanked me and took the books with a promise of getting back to me.
The church is of good size. It has about 800 or more members with easily 1000 to 1500 attending two services on any given Sunday. The Easter program will have up to 8,000 going through its doors in less than a week. Since it was around this time I had given him the books, I didn’t anticipate him getting back to me promptly. I was also hopeful that the ministry team would also provide him feedback. Time passed and not a word. As days, weeks, and months passed I started to believe nothing was going to come of opening this dialogue with my pastor. After some time I attempted to reconnect with him by e-mail in order to set up a meeting between us. I’d say about six months later.
With his initial reaction in receiving the books, and with the passing of time, my hope that anything positive would come of this, started to dwindle. During the wait I continued to research online and started to compile quotes and references garnered from different sites into a binder. There is so much material! I’m not ashamed to say, I was overwhelmed. The subjects seemed to cross over into each other. An example of this is a chart showing the connectivity between individuals that was so intertwined, that a Rubik’s Cube would have been easier to figure out than this chart!
I asked myself how to put this data into a form whereby whoever I gave it to could research through it and not be overwhelmed as I had been. Trying to provide something that was compact, researchable, and most importantly supported by scripture was what I aimed for. Listing by author instead of by subject seemed the best way to go. I decided if I went the other way, I’d have to have a binder for each subject!
With a starting point of Rob Bell, through Philip Yancy and still finding more, the meeting that I had been dreading to have finally occurred. More than half a year had passed. By then I had put together a binder with 24 different authors, preachers, teachers, in a little over a hundred pages. I had left out much because some of the information did not have direct references I could locate, while others had none at all. The reason for this was if I were to provide the binder to someone, I didn’t want it to be unsupported, allowing the person to treat it as gossip or someone being spitefulness. My intention was not to present my Pastor with the binder at our next meeting because the meeting had to deal with the book by Ray Yungen. My wife warned me that it wouldn’t be right to come out of the clear blue sky with this binder or “blind side” him with it. I told her that I was taking it with me, but would allow the Holy Spirit to move me on whether I would give the binder to Pastor. If the Holy Spirit provided the opportunity then I would use the binder, if not then I would hold on to it for another time. Not being a theologian and feeling extremely worried about the meeting I prayed myself up and turned it over to God. Continuing to tell myself, “His will not mine.”
This is how naïve I was and to some extent still am. Even though he had neither provided the books to the ministry team and only scanned the book himself. I believed the meeting went well. In the meeting he mentioned that a couple of ladies had brought similar observations to his attention, and even stated that should he find out what was being said was true, he would have the churches article of faith change to reflect that it would not accept such doctrine! Strong words! Joyful words to my ears! This I believe is where the Holy Spirit took over. Amazing!!!! Right after stating what he would do, he told me that he had told the ladies that they would need documentation on the subject matter before he would address it. I guess the book wasn’t enough. We do serve an amazing God my brothers and sisters! Here I was sitting with this binder in my briefcase! I looked at him and said “it just so happens I have a binder containing such information” and pulled out the binder and handed it to him. When I pulled out the binder, I don’t know if he was pleased or not, but he was definitely surprised. At that moment I felt such a filling of joy that I could have run a marathon with the energy I felt!!!! Being an admin person, I attempted to make it presentable and easy to utilize. Even had a table of contents listing each author with the name of the documents reflected under each one. He told me he would look into it once the Easter play was done. My hope was running high!
Sadly, another meeting between us has never happened. It has been two years and the binder has made its way into the associate pastor’s hands a half year after providing the binder to the pastor. The associate pastor told me he didn’t know what to do with it; I told him he should return it to the pastor. I’m assuming he did. I haven’t mentioned things like psychedelic lights occurring during one praise and worship service (I complained and it hasn’t happened again. At least not while I was still going regularly). On stage with the men’s choir and hearing an individual who is now titled the Director of Spiritual Formation say on communion “it’s worthy to be worshipped”! I used to be Catholic and in a Catholic Church I would not have been surprised to hear this! But in [an Evangelical] Church? No Way!!! It hit me so hard, I wanted to do like scripture mentions when people start to mourn. I wanted to rip my shirt, pour ashes on myself and run out of the place screaming! However, this happened during the first service and there was another service to go! My hope was that somehow I had misheard what he had said. He did not repeat it during the second service, but the seed was planted in my mind. I still believe the comment was said. Small groups have become the norm covering Spiritual Formation books. Even on Facebook I see the Associate Pastor and Director of SF providing links or quotes from Emergent/SF individuals and associated sites. I’ve taken a worship class that would make for another example but the details of it would lengthen this post even more than it already is.
I’ve done nothing since then in addressing this with my Pastor. I feel like a very poor servant for our Lord. To be honest I’m torn between completely severing ties with the church and continuing to go. I love the people in this church. If I was a teacher I’d ask to be allowed to teach a class on the subject. I’m not. My knowledge base is poor and my skills in this area even worse.
I’m praying on once again opening dialogue with my Pastor (by e-mail) and asking bluntly if the church is Emergent and/or Universalist. I don’t know if he’s rationalized the changes or truly doesn’t see the danger involved, but his ministry staff is all for it, and sadly even his wife (Creative Arts Ministry Director). My heart goes out to him and yet I have this need to have him say yes, so I can move on. I know this is not right, yet I can’t seem to help myself. God continues to show me that this is not going away.
Since I’ve been typing this post, I’ve sent out the e-mail posing the question above. His reply was an empathically typed “NO”!
A Believer in Christ Jesus who is my Lord and Savior. One who cries not only for the church but for this country as well.
(Editor’s note: This was originally sent to us in 2010. We have reposted it because almost daily we receive phone calls and e-mails from believers sharing similar stories. We have lost touch with Nick. If he reads this note, we hope he will contact us and tell us how he is doing.)
By the Editors at Lighthouse Trails
For over 11 years, Lighthouse Trails has been issuing a warning about a mystical spirituality, known as contemplative prayer, which is coming through the conduit of the Spiritual Formation movement. It has not been an easy road to travel on, but through the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we saw this paradigm shift, which was affecting a large segment of the evangelical and Protestant church and lining up with biblical prophecy of a day coming when there will be great deception and many would fall away from the faith. We also became completely convinced that the roots of contemplative spirituality were based in panentheism (God in all), interspirituality (all paths lead to God), and universalism (everyone is united with God in spite of belief).
Once we saw this, we simply could not quit the work we had been called to do. Today, those convictions are stronger than ever, but the opposition or indifference we have encountered from the ranks of those widely known as leaders of the evangelical church has been stunning and sometimes unbelievable, especially in light of the fact that our only desire is to protect the message of the Cross from an opposite message that carries no hope of salvation or a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Looking back, it is hard for us not to see ourselves as a kind of David in his battle with Goliath. Lighthouse Trails is not a big ministry, at least as far as staff and resources go. If someone had told us 11 years ago that one day most major Christian ministries would know who we were and would resent, despise, or even hate us, we would not have believed it. You see, when we first began, we were under the impression that our warning was going to be welcomed by Christian leaders, and in fact, we thought that our own ministry could be short lived because once they were given the information and documentation about this great spiritual deception, they would take up the banner and run with it, and we would be able to go back to our lives before Lighthouse Trails began. After all, they were the ones who had the money, audience, credentials, and popularity to really make a difference. We had none of these things.
It wasn’t too long before we learned that the Christian leaders were not going to be receiving our message.
Opposition didn’t start right away. But then, that would make sense as we started at ground zero, with virtually no publishing experience and no readership. We had to take online college courses to learn how to build websites and design books. We sent out free copies of A Time of Departing (our launching book) to Christian radio stations, organizations, ministries, and pastors. One of these copies went to Rick Warren. Another to John MacArthur. One to Jerry Falwell, another to Focus on the Family, and on and on. From 2002 to 2006, we gave away over three thousand copies of A Time of Departing. We heard back from several men and women, many of whom had Masters and Doctorate degrees who told us the book was right on the mark. Dr. Jim Diehl, for example, former General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, called one day and praised the book as “excellent” and “vital.” Chuck Smith spoke with one of our editors and said that our work was meaningful and important. John MacArthur told a staff member, who told us by phone, that he greatly appreciated the work we were doing. Rick Warren wrote us a personal note to tell us the book is a “hot topic” and has a place on his library bookshelf.
But then in 2005, we wrote a special report titled ”Rick Warren Teams Up With New-Age Sympathizer Ken Blanchard!” It didn’t take too long after that report came out for us to know that we had crossed a line, and life was never going to be the same again. You can read more about those early years in two articles we wrote: one, “How Lighthouse Trails Began – Part One: “It was a dark and stormy night,” and two, “Lighthouse Trails, the Early Years – Part 2 – “A Hot Topic” That Just Wouldn’t Go Away.” Warren B. Smith also documented some of the events in an entire chapter in his book A “Wonderful” Deception (chapter 5). Some of the things that took place were like elements out of a B-rated mystery novel like phone lines suddenly “out of order,” e-mails apparently being intercepted, being told by Saddleback that federal agents were investigating us because they thought we had broken into the Saddleback server, and so forth. We wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.
Over the course of the years, there have been many terrible and unkind things said about us in public venues. We’ll give you a brief rundown of some of these things that have been said. Prepare yourself - none of them have anything to do directly with our actual work. In fact, the one thing we have yet to see is any solid and biblical refutation of our work. It’s as if it’s always avoided. Everything is said, but no solid challenge is given.
So what are these terrible things said publically about Lighthouse Trails? Here’s an incomplete sampling: One pastor, on a popular blog, said we were “like fleas on the back of a dog.” Then there was the time, on stage at a Calvary Chapel event with thousands of young people, where we were called “the haters.” Rick Warren’s former chief apologist said in an article that has been sitting on a high traffic Christian website for years that if we had the legal means we would torture and murder people. One well-known apologist coined the term “discernment divas” and first used it referring to one of the women writers at Lighthouse Trails in 2006. Then there were the generic name-calling terms like witch-hunters, freaks, fanatics, militant fundamentalists, and so forth. After a few years of this, we couldn’t help wonder why these highly qualified men (and sometimes women) had nothing qualified to say about our work.
We want to make one thing clear here. By telling our readers these things, we are not trying to gain sympathy. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We understand that in doing this kind of ministry, there is inevitably going to be strong reaction and defense tactics. No one wants to be criticized or challenged, especially leaders who have become accustomed to being followed, not being corrected.
What’s been frustrating about the name calling, however, is that we’ve been very open to receiving solid biblical refutation of the message we are proclaiming. In fact, we said from the very beginning of our ministry that all we really wanted was for the contemplative issue to come to the table, to be discussed, challenged, and considered. Eleven years ago, if one Googled the term “contemplative prayer,” virtually nothing came up on the first few pages of search results that was from a critiquing point of view. Mystical spirituality in the Christian church was being largely unchallenged.
As we learned of all the men who had great educational and theological credentials, we thought there would be some scholarly response and a taking hold of the torch, so to speak. We didn’t expect name calling, innuendos, sometimes downright lies (like the rumors that we often hear), and ad hominem and straw men arguments. That took us by surprise. And we began to wonder why this was happening. Was it possible, we asked ourselves, that some of these educated leaders couldn’t see the big picture of this deception? We just wanted some proof that we were wrong, some good solid biblical evidence that our conclusions were way off.
We got used to the name calling and over time, found some of it humorous (in a way); at least, we found it meaningless. It was the other accusations that got to us though, because we knew they were without merit (or evidence). One of the most common accusations against the research at Lighthouse Trails is that we take quotes out of context. And yet, and this is the truth, in all these years, we have not had one person actually give us an example of where we have done this. As a case in point, about 5 years ago, two educated men, both with doctorates from a higher learning institution in Canada, said that A Time of Departing was faulty because it took quotes out of context. We wrote to them in an amiable manner and asked if they could provide just one or two examples so that we could see where we went wrong. They did not produce one example. Lighthouse Trails has been meticulous about checking and double checking every quote in a book or article we publish to make sure that the intent of any particular author is not misconstrued or taken out of context. If someone did produce a legitimate example, we would speedily correct that. You see, it is not our intention to falsely accuse or villanize anyone. Taking quotes out of context is an accusation we take very seriously, and we take great efforts not to do that. And yet, we hear this often from our critics. But we are still waiting for an example.
The second most common accusation against us is that we use faulty and loose guilt by association reasoning. We have addressed this in many past articles, but we will say it again here: there is a difference between loose guilt by association and guilt by promotion or by proxy. What’s more, there is a legitimate guilt by association. The way our critics would have it, there is no such thing and it doesn’t matter who a person is associated with. But you won’t find backup in Scripture on that. On the contrary, consider all the verses that tell God-fearing people to keep good company, avoid standing with heretics or unruly people, keep oneself unspotted from the world, avoid the appearance of evil, and so forth.
One of the big issues that continuously surfaces is related to guilt by association. Those who accuse us of using guilt by association say that we call people contemplative or emerging proponents because they have been “associated” with a contemplative person. But, we have never done that. For instance, often we will challenge a big name leader for sharing a platform with contemplative and emergent figures. But we have never said that person was now a contemplative or emergent himself just for sharing the platform with one. An example of this is when we challenged Joel Rosenberg and Kay Arthur for attending Canada’s Breakforth contemplative-promoting conference and sharing the platform with emergents like Leonard Sweet and Tony Campolo. We never once said that now this makes Rosenberg and Arthur contemplatives or emergents themselves. No. The challenge we gave was that reputable, Bible-believing leaders should not give credibility to false teachers by standing on the same platforms or being at the same conferences.
Another case in point just occurred. We challenged John MacArthur for using a sermon for many years till present where he favorably quotes the late major contemplative pioneer Dallas Willard. The accusations started pouring in that we were calling MacArthur a contemplative proponent. But we never did. Our challenge was and is that by highly influential leaders favorably quoting false teachers, they inadvertently are giving credibility to that teacher and thereby lessening resistance from the Christian community at large to their message.
One last accusation that we want to address in this article is an accusation that comes primarily from a few popular public figures in the Calvinist/Reformed camp, and that is that all or most of the writing done at Lighthouse Trails is done by one woman (or a “discernment diva” as they say – incidentally a diva is typically a self-centered, egotistical, arrogant woman (often a performer) who is domineering and rude to those around her. If you read our articles you’ll see this is not an accurate description of what we are trying to do that springs from a heart-felt love for people, which is the opposite of diva behavior). Three things on this issue: first, calling women who are believers in Christ “divas” is a derogatory and ungodly remark – period! Second, it isn’t true that most of the writing at Lighthouse Trails comes from just one person. Take a look at any of our e-newsletters, our blog, or our printed journals, and you will see the names of many writers, both men and women. As you can see on our authors’ page, we currently use the writings of 11 women and 19 men. For anyone to say that our material is written by just one person appears to be a dishonest effort to minimize the value in the work of these 30 some writers.
Relating to the issue of women, as far as the accusation that women shouldn’t be in a ministry of this kind at all – all we can say to that is that if God can use a donkey, surely He can use a woman (Numbers 22:21-38). It is interesting to note that in the case of Balaam’s donkey, God used the donkey to warn and save Balaam’s life. Is it so unthinkable that God would use women to warn of impending spiritual danger? To cry out to their brothers, of whom many have fallen asleep on the watch? Of all those labeled ”discernment divas” whom we know, each of them is a loving mother, wife, and in some cases grandmother who has, not by her own choice, but by God’s apparent choice, accepted the role much like Balaam’s donkey. And remember, that donkey was struck several times by Balaam before God finally intervened – then Balaam’s eyes were opened, and he saw that the donkey’s efforts to warn him were legitimate.
All of this that we have said in this article leads us to ask the question to Christian leaders, where have we gone wrong? Please tell us. Not by name calling or accusations without proof. If we have taken something out of context, please show us some examples of that. If have wrongly called someone a contemplative advocate or sympathizer, please tell us how. But all we ask is you present us with the documentation, the evidence. We only ask for the same standard to be applied to us that we have tried to use ourselves: honesty, accuracy, and Christian charity.
While we know we are all fallible, and as humans we don’t have a full understanding of the things of God according to Scripture, we, like others in the body of Christ, are attempting to walk a life that is honoring to God. We know we fail at that at times, and we are totally dependent on Him to lead us and strengthen us. We have attempted to report to Christians information that is pertinent to the health of the Christian church. If we have erred in our deductions and conclusions, then we want to be corrected. If we can be shown that our warning and work is faulty and against Scripture, we will apologize and even step down from this work.
We do not see ourselves as better than anyone else, and certainly we know we do not have the “qualifications” (from a human point of view) that would entitle us to be in any kind of authority over another (we do not even desire such authority). We have endeavored to stand beside our brothers and sisters, not above, not below. But because we believe so strongly that we are living in the days the Bible predicts will occur before the return of Christ where there will be a great falling away (of faith), we are gravely concerned that most of the Christian leaders seem to be either ignoring or going along with this major paradigm shift in the church at large. And while Lighthouse Trails is just a small ministry which could end at any time (as God sees fit) and certainly we have not come to the church with the splendor, finesse, support, or backing that most of the major Christian leaders have, we beseech these leaders to consider that God often uses the foolish things and weak things to speak His message (like Balaam’s donkey).
And so, if we are wrong, rather than using name calling, which is unprofitable, show us where we are wrong. If you, dear Christian leader, are on the side of truth, then consider our warning. Maybe you don’t like our delivery, but if there is no solid evidence to prove us wrong, wouldn’t it be wise to humble yourselves and listen?
We have written this article, not as a means to defend ourselves but more so to defend our work.
3 Things to Think About Regarding Our Article on John MacArthur’s Quoting of Contemplative Dallas Willard
This is a follow up article to our August 26th report titled, ”John MacArthur Broadcast Favorably Quotes Dallas Willard – Why This is a Bad Move.” While we believe we laid out a concise and accurate argument for why quoting contemplative pioneer Dallas Willard will reap bad fruit, after our article posted, a number of people wrote comments on a Facebook group, and this was brought to our attention. There were basically three contentions about our article that were brought forth. We will address these three issues in this follow up.
First, before we do, we have made an observation that is worth noting. When we wrote our report on the recent Assemblies of God invitation of Ruth Haley Barton to the AOG General Council 2013 Conference, Dr. George Wood and Dr. Jodi Detrick responded to our article. One of the things insinuated was that we were criticizing AOG because we were not Pentecostal. Similarly, in comments on Facebook regarding the MacArthur/Willard situation, it was said that we were attacking John MacArthur because we are not Calvinist. Yet, in both instances, we can honestly say that this was entirely not the case. Even a casual perusal of both of our critiques should reveal that we wrote nothing about Pentecostalism in the former case and nothing about Calvinism in the latter case as these topics had nothing to do with our long-standing concern over mysticism sweeping into the church via spiritual formation, contemplative, and emergent teachings. The goal of Lighthouse Trails has been and continues to be exposing the “new” spirituality which has come into the evangelical/Protestant church and is a serious problem which has been, by and large, neglected by church leaders. This spirituality is a panentheistic and interspiritual view that by its very nature negates the Gospel. And it is what brought us to writing the MacArthur/Willard article in the first place.
Secondly, before addressing the three points of this article, we want to make one thing clear. We use a certain amount of caution when writing follow up stories because there is the risk of getting the focus off the original topic and putting the focus on what we consider moot points. In other words, we don’t want the focus to afterward become WHY we wrote the article as opposed to what is IN the article. And we don’t want to put the focus on our defending ourselves. We learned many years ago, after undergoing rather severe attack from Saddleback over our articles and books on The Purpose Driven movement to let God defend us as He saw fit. Our philosophy is to put the information out there in the most accurate and biblical way possible and leave the fruit of it up to Him.
Now the three points:
1. The most common dispute that came forth in the Facebook comments regarding our August 26th article on MacArthur’s quoting Willard was the question, did we contact John MacArthur or Grace to You first. The answer to that is no. And there are two reasons: First, as we have stated in times past, when books, DVDs, lectures, conferences, and so forth are in the public arena (and in the case of MacArthur’s quoting of Dallas Willard, those materials have been sold through Grace to You for at least the past seven years), this disqualifies the subject as a Matthew 18 private offense between two people. We have some good articles posted on our research site on Matthew 18, which we hope you will get a chance to read.
Second, with that said, Lighthouse Trails has actually spoken with many, if not most, of the ministries we have critiqued over the years (e.g. Saddleback, In Touch, Focus on the Family, Youth Specialties, Beth Moore’s ministry, Dan Kimball, Shane Claiborne, Philip Yancey, Liberty University, Moody, Gary Thomas etc.) and have offered to send materials free of charge to these ministries. One of the ministries we spoke with a number of years ago was Grace to You. In that case, we were actually trying to help Grace to You. We had been contacted by a research journalist who was planning on writing an article because he found an article on the Grace to You website where John MacArthur was favorably quoting Richard Foster. But the article was dated over 20 years ago, and to our knowledge was not being used currently. We asked this journalist to hold off on his article and that we would contact GTY and tell them about the quote. We felt that MacArthur would not want that quote up on the Internet this many years later. While the GTY office personnel treated us with the utmost respect and gratitude, we were contacted soon after by a senior staff member who responded in an utterly harsh, angry, and vitriolic manner to us even though we were merely a go-between trying to assist. We were told to basically leave them alone and mind our own business. So while it has been some time since that happened, it did have some influence on our not contacting GTY over the present Dallas Willard situation.
2. The second concern that came up on the Facebook comments is the issue of Christian leaders quoting those who promote serious false teachings. The most common defense we have seen over the years regarding the quoting of false teachers is Paul’s talk on Mars Hill (Acts 17). Ironically, emerging church figures have also used this Scripture to “prove” that Paul integrated himself (or absorbed himself) into culture in order to reach them. In this case (MacArthur/Willard) MacArthur defenders are using the Scripture to say there is nothing wrong with quoting false teachers if you aren’t quoting their “bad” teachings. Earlier today, we posted an article written by Mike Oppenheimer (Let Us Reason Ministries) where he deals with this very topic. We timed our posting of it to be coupled with our own article here because of its relevance. Oppenheimer’s article refutes both presumptions: that Acts 17 gives license to favorably quote anyone and also to become part of a culture to the point of accepting the culture’s pagan views.
3. The third point is actually 2 points in one because they are related. First, it was brought up on Facebook and is almost not worth mentioning because the answer is so obvious as pointed out in our August 26th article, that since MacArthur quoted Dallas Willard over 20 years ago, it shouldn’t be used against him today. Please read this excerpt from our article:
While MacArthur’s original citing of Willard in this sermon took place many years ago, the fact that it is still being offered at Grace to You in a sermon series and is being broadcast currently is cause for concern and is the reason we are writing this report. It is hard for us to understand why Grace to You would continue using this particular sermon, knowing how pervasive the Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer) movement is today in the evangelical Protestant church; and as we will show below, even John MacArthur acknowledges that Dallas Willard is a key figure in that movement. . . .
Those reading this who wish to defend MacArthur and Grace to You, saying that there is no issue here because the original sermon was so long ago need to understand that if this sermon were sitting in some obscure archive, stored away for no one to see, we wouldn’t be writing this today. But that is not the case. Grace to You is continuing to use a sermon that should have been discarded years ago , and it must be treated as if it were new material because that is how it is going to be looked at by those who heard the recent broadcast and also by those who buy the Faith Through Fire series.
Second, it was suggested in the FB comments that Dallas Willard was not a contemplative advocate when he wrote The Spirit of the Disciplines (the book MacArthur quoted from). As we have shown in our August 26th article, The Spirit of the Disciplines was definitely a contemplative promoting book. The documentation of that can be found in our previous article.
In conclusion for this follow up article, we realize that some John MacArthur followers are very upset about our report. Many of these people have also been Lighthouse Trails readers. We’d like to say two things to these people. First, just because someone criticizes a public figure does not mean he is out to attack or destroy that person or his ministry. If criticism is done in a biblical and amiable fashion, then it should be welcomed even though not always easy to hear. There is a big difference between constructive critique and hateful character assassination (which although we ourselves have been the target of that at times over the last 11 years, we have attempted to never do that to anyone).
Second, we hope those who admire John MacArthur will contact Grace to You (as we know some have already) and beseech the ministry to remove the section of the sermon quoting Dallas Willard. Really, this is more about Dallas Willard than John MacArthur. Willard’s spirituality is the same spirituality as Richard Foster and Henri Nouwen and it leads people into a dangerous deceptive spiritual outlook that will have a negative impact in one’s faith in Christ.
The bottom line in all of this is that what occurred on August 21st (when GTY broadcast the Willard quotes) erodes resistance to contemplative prayer among the listening masses and even inadvertently helps undo the work at Lighthouse Trails. If someone hears John MacArthur quoting a contemplative author such as Dallas Willard, it could make that person think that John MacArthur does not have an issue with the teachings of Dallas Willard. This is the basic controversy here, and GTY would be doing both themselves and the body of Christ a favor if they did not leave the impression that a laxed view of Dallas Willard’s theology is ok.