Archive for the ‘Contemplative Denominations’ Category
Conflicting Reports: Nazarene Superintendent Says Nazarene Church Not Emergent versus Olivet Nazarene University Welcomes Emergent Mystic
QUESTION: IS THE NAZARENE CHURCH STILL PROMOTING THE EMERGING CHURCH AND CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY?
SIDE ONE: “Our General Leaders have taken a very clear stand concerning the emergent church.” – Nazarene District Superintendent
SIDE TWO: “I grew up a Roman Catholic and later became an Anglican priest (it was the closest I could get to being a Catholic priest without having to “swim the Tiber”) so there’s definitely a weird brew of influences floating around the community. I’m presently studying spiritual direction and contemplative spirituality at the Shalem Institute and beginning next year in a doctoral program at Fordham University (The Jesuit University of New York) so the voices of Merton, Rahner, Ignatius, St Francis, Teresa of Avila, Evelyn Underhill and other contemplatives find their way into our ministries and preaching as well.”-Ian Morgan Cron, speaker at Olivet Nazarene University
SIDE ONE: Letter from a Nazarene District Superintendent (Used with permission):
2011 - Our [Nazarene] denomination has shown great growth in the USA this last year. I don’t know about any mass exodus over these issues. While some of our schools, including MNU have had some speakers in the past that we wouldn’t have again, it was before it was revealed that they are heretics. There have been some questions about Point Loma and NNU, but much of it has been addressed. I believe this is very much overstated. Our General Leaders have taken a very clear stand concerning the emergent church. We are very aware what is being taught at MNU and will not tolerate any of these false teachings there. Also, we just finished our Ordination interviews and the right questions were asked concerning the reality of hell and the authority of the Word of God.
The “concerned Nazarenes” tend to get their facts confused and are still harping about old news. It reminds me of the rumor that continued to circulate that Madam Murray O’Hair was trying to shut down Christian broadcasting. It was never true, made the Christians making the accusations look like fools, and continued to be spread by over zealous people long after she was dead. My thoughts about all this are simple. I don’t believe everything I read. I do realize there are some heretics out there, and we need to pay attention to what is being taught at our schools, especially our regional college, MNU. We (the DS’s) will continue to meet with the religion department and they know loud and clear what we think about all this.
SIDE TWO: Olivet Nazarene University Welcomes Emergent Mystic
If the problem with emerging/contemplative spirituality in the Nazarene denomination has been “overstated” as the Nazarene superintendent says in the above letter, then one must ask the question, why is it that Nazarene universities are STILL promoting “New” spirituality/ contemplative figures?
One year ago, Lighthouse Trails posted an article titled Olivet Nazarene University 105th School Added to Lighthouse Trails Contemplative School List . That article was spawned when we received an e-mail from a concerned parent whose child was attending Olivet University who learned that the school was promoting Richard Foster and Henri Nouwen. After doing research, we placed Olivet Nazarene University on our “Contemplative School List.” This past weekend we received a phone call from a man who told us that Nazarene universities are bringing in speakers who “fly under the radar” and who are of “liberal emergent” persuasion. His case in point was the upcoming scheduled visit to Olivet by Ian Morgan Cron, of whom until this past weekend we had not heard the name. On March 13th and 14th, Cron will be speaking at the Olivet chapel service from 10am to 11am. We called Olivet and were told that Olivet’s school chaplain Mark Holcolm in the Office of Spiritual Development is responsible for chapel speakers. Cron also spoke at Olivet on September 5th and 6th 2012 at the chapel service.
Who is Ian Morgan Cron, and why is it so important to know that he is a speaker at this Nazarene university? If you have heard the names Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, Jim Wallis, Marcus Borg, Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, and Henri Nouwen, and if you are familiar with the mystical emergent spirituality that these people adhere to, then you can understand the spirituality of Ian Morgan Cron (who describes himself as an “Episcopal priest, psychotherapist, and retreat guide” and says he was trained at the Shalem Prayer Institute). Not only does Cron admire and promote these teachers but he is admired and promoted by them. And not only does he admire the hard-core mystics but he teaches contemplative meditation himself. Below we are listing some documentation so you can see for yourself what Cron believes . Then you can see how ill-advised it is for a Nazarene superintendent to say that the issue of emerging coming into the Nazarene denomination is being “overstated.” It is not being overstated, and sadly, while Nazarenes are being lulled into slumber and told that “all is well,” the denomination is being increasingly influenced by a panentheistic interspiritual belief system that negates the message of the Cross. Does that sound extreme? Consider the “theologies” of some of the writers Cron adheres to: Brian McLaren calls the doctrine of Hell “false advertising” for God; Marcus Borg does not believe in the virgin birth or that Jesus is the Son of God come to die for the sins of the world; Jim Wallis, founder of SoJourner is a heralder for a liberal, marxist agenda; Phyllis Tickle says that Brian McLaren is the next Luther; Thomas Merton says that divinity dwells in all human beings and that if we knew what was in each one of us, we would bow down and worship each other; Henri Nouwen reiterates Merton’s interspiritual panentheistic views in numerous instances in his own writing; Richard Rohr could be considered a Matthew Fox spiritual look-alike. Example: In Rohr’s book The Naked Now he states: “[New Age mystic] Ken Wilber is really the best teacher today . . . to give us an ‘integral spirituality.’ Pick any book of his that fascinates you, and you will know why I, as a Christian, recommend him.” (p. 153) Wilber’s “integral spirituality” includes every form of mysticism that you can imagine, including tantric sex.
While we were researching Ian Morgan Cron, we stumbled across a Twitter post he wrote on February 22nd stating that he was speaking with Dr. Eben Alexander (author of Proof of Heaven) at Christ Church in Greenwich, CT, where Cron is currently an adjunct pastor. In 2012, Lighthouse Trails wrote 2 stories about Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who was featured on the cover of Newsweek for his near death experience that has led him to become heavily involved in New Age meditation practices. Our one story, Follow Up Story on Newsweek Article about Author of “Proof of Heaven” Admits to Practicing Deep Meditation” discusses and documents this. Alexander refers to God as “om,” a Hindu mantra. The interview between Cron and Alexander took place at Christ Church on February 23rd.
Cron is currently obtaining his doctorate at Fordham University, a Jesuit college and is a curator for a project called Courageous and Faith Series. These “conversations” to “follow Jesus” take place at Christ Church and interview figures such as Rob Bell, Jim Wallis, Anne Lamott, Gabe Lyons, Phyllis Tickle, and William Paul Young (The Shack), all of which fall in the emergent/contemplative camp.
The point is Ian Morgan Cron has surrounded and absorbed himself with meditation mystics, yet he is going to be talking to students at Olivet Nazarene University. With this kind of thing happening, we just don’t see how any Nazarene pastor or superintendent could say that concerns that we and others have are “overstated.” The superintendent who wrote the letter above said “While some of our schools . . . have had some speakers in the past that we wouldn’t have again, it was before it was revealed that they are heretics,” we must wonder if Cron would be in that category of “heretic.” Panentheism, interspirituality, altered states of consciousness, God in all – the answer seems pretty clear.
Lest one think that the Nazarenes stand alone in embracing Cron, just take a look at Cron’s speaking schedule. Places he will be speaking (or has spoken) at include: World Vision, Willow Creek, Denver Seminary, Family Fest with the Gaithers, the Dove Awards, Renovare, C3 Conference with Philip Yancey, the Calvinist Crossroads Community Church in MD, Texas Christian University, Catalyst Conference with Andy Stanley, and Worship Leaders Conference with James McDonald and Saddleback pastor Buddy Owens. He also has written for Fox News and his 2011 book Jesus, My Father, the CIA and Me: A Memoir . . . of Sorts was published by Thomas Nelson. An earlier book was published by NavPress. All this to show that Cron has very much been accepted into evangelical Christianity.
In conclusion, in a video on YouTube, Cron states that “the future of the church lies with silence.” He is referring to the mystical state that occurs during contemplative meditation. He echoes Karl Rahner who said the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will be nothing. This is where “Christianity” is heading, and the Nazarenes are helping to lead the way.
Cron joins Dr. Eben Alexander: I’m with Dr. Eben Alexander, author of”Proof of Heaven” tomorrow night. Fascinating book.— Ian Morgan Cron (@iancron) February 22, 2013 (Twitter)
From an interview on Internet Monk with Cron from 2008 -Ian: ”I grew up a Roman Catholic and later became an Anglican priest (it was the closest I could get to being a Catholic priest without having to “swim the Tiber”) so there’s definitely a weird brew of influences floating around the community. I’m presently studying spiritual direction and contemplative spirituality at the Shalem Institute and beginning next year in a doctoral program at Fordham University (The Jesuit University of New York) so the voices of Merton, Rahner, Ignatius, St Francis, Teresa of Avila, Evelyn Underhill and other contemplatives find their way into our ministries and preaching as well.”-Ian Morgan Cron
Letter to the Editor: Lectio Divina in South Africa Among Dutch Reformed – “Is there really a different way of reading the Word?”
LTRP Note: For an understanding of Lectio Divina, please refer to several links below this Letter to the Editor and our comments.
I live in South Africa and even here the Dutch Reformed church is doing the contemplative route.
Some writers have even written some books on the subject in which they actually encourage their members to explore that route!
I put an enquiry to one of the blokes on this subject and he explained as follows:
(trying a translation from Afrikaans)
. . . In the years after Christ ascended to heaven, there were actually two ways of reading the Bible…
The school of Antioch read it as a historic/grammatical narrative and the school of Alexandria took the more ‘spiritual’ route of reading.
Both ways are/were apparently valid.
The Antioch model ensured that God’s Word was read with intellectual integrity and the Alexandrian model ensured that it was read as God’s Word. (i.e. meditative and contemplative reading)
From the 12th century onwards, universities then created a platform on which the Word could be challenged or critiqued which led to the questioning of the “Godly Dimensions” thereof . . . Lectio Divina was then neglected and by now starting the Lectio Divina method, the idea is to reclaim the ‘Godly Dimensions” of the Word!!”
End of translation . . . this as true as I could get it.
Question . . . how could we as children of God ever have missed this (tongue in cheek) and is there really a different way of reading the Word?
God’s Word is His Word, and we read it as it stands, right, with recognition of the metaphors that is used? ( maybe I am missing something)
Your comments on this will be appreciated, since people just accept this and follow as it is fine!
If you do challenge them on this, you are in the wilderness and should wake up and smell the roses [they say] . . .
The contemplative prayer movement (i.e., spiritual formation movement) has found its way into virtually every Christian denomination throughout the world. Thank you for reporting on what is happening in South Africa with the Dutch Reformed.
In your letter, you ask, “how could we as children of God ever have missed this . . . ?.” That’s a good question. If Lectio Divina and other contemplative practices were so utterly vital to sustain our relationship with Christ (some Christian leaders state we must have the “stillness” to really know God), how is it that no where in the Bible is there any indication at all that we are to use God’s word as a tool to go into a state of silence to reach “‘Godly dimensions’ of the Word.”
If indeed such practices were vital for the Christian believer, surely Jesus Christ or the apostles (especially the apostle Paul) would have explicitly instructed us on this. In Ephesians 2, we are told that the “saints” (i.e., “the household of God”) are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone,” and that it is through Christ that we become a “holy temple in the Lord . . . for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (vs. 19-22). But the contemplative prayer movement says we must draw from the ancient Catholic mystics and desert fathers in order for us to become all that Christ desires for us. Basically, the foundation that was laid out in Scripture (which is the Gospel) with Christ as the chief corner stone (the sacrificial Lamb for our salvation) was not enough, but the foundation of the ancient mystics is laid down instead. And as Ray Yungen points out in A Time of Departing, one mysticism proponent admits that the practices these earliest monks drew from were so strongly similar “to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East” that “the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing form the East or a spontaneous rediscovery” (ATOD, 2nd ed., p. 42).
With Lectio Divina (as with other contemplative practices), the Word of God is used as a tool to perform a ritual that will bring on a mystical experience. A word or phrase from a passage of Scripture is turned into a mantra-like practice, where it is repeated over and over. No longer do the words have the meaning they were intended by the authors (the apostles and prophets inspired by the Holy Spirit) but rather an experience to “feel” closer to God is sought.
The contemplative says we must seek after a “deeper” relationship with God. But for the born-again believer who has been united with Christ through faith by His grace and “sealed” for the “day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30), a method or ritual is not needed to draw near to the Lord for He is already in our hearts established and “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:9-10). That is the main theme of A Time of Departing (Ray Yungen’s book) that simply being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and being in the body of Christ is all that is necessary to fulfil your relationship needs for God. There is no esoteric tradition that will give you more of the Holy Spirit.
In answer to your question, no, we as believers did not miss anything. Contemplatives such as Richard Foster say that Christians are missing something, that our lives are empty and lacking in vitality, and thus we need, they say, these meditation techniques. But if we truly do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, if we have allowed Him to be Lord and Savior of our lives, then He promises to live in our hearts and commune with us. Surely, if we needed to repeat words and phrases over and over in order to have that fellowship with Christ, He would, at some point, have told us in His Word and laid out these contemplative instructions. But rather, the Word tells us that His “grace and peace” have been given to us ”through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord and that His “divine power” has given us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” and that through ”exceeding great and precious promises” we can be ”partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:2-4).
The biblical way to draw near to God is one in which the work has already been done at the Cross and is offered to “whosoever believeth,” with a free and clear invitation of communion with God, a communion that is ours for the asking. The contemplative way to “draw near to God” is riddled with man’s efforts, mystical eastern practices, altered states of consciousness, an eventual change in attitude toward the atonement, an exaltation of man (as having divinity), and a growing view that the Bible is more of a ritualistic tool and a poetic piece of literature rather than an authority (unchanging, solid, and trustworthy) for our spiritual lives. Simply look at the views of the emerging church (which is propelled by contemplative prayer) to see the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality. Or consider what the occult prophetess Alice Bailey said,
It is, of course, easy to find many passages which link the way of the Christian Knower with that of his brother in the East. They bear witness to the same efficacy [efficiency] of method.
Or the words of Thomas Merton’s biographer and advocate, William Shannon:
If one wants to understand Merton’s going to the East it is important to understand that it was his rootedness in his own faith tradition [Catholicism] that gave him the spiritual equipment [contemplative prayer] he needed to grasp the way of wisdom that is proper to the East.
Simply put, what these quotes reveal is that these “dimensions” of God are not really dimensions of God at all, but pathways to the mystical occult practices and teachings of the East. Ironically, Lectio Divina will lead practitioners away from the very thing it claims to embrace: the Word of God.
Thus, as believers, let us reject this practice, and let us cling to and “contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
LTRP Note: The following is a letter we received from someone who has a legitimate concern. Below his question is our response and some added information.
To Lighthouse Trails:
I have been enjoying your expose of the emergent church. We share the same concerns; however, it seems that anyone who has uttered the word “meditate” in the past is suspect of bringing Hinduism into the church. Don’t the Psalms encourage us to meditate on his word?
Sincerely concerned about crying wolf.
A man from Minnesota
Thank you for writing. We understand your concerns. And you are right that there is a biblical kind of meditation where we mindfully think about, give thanks for, and ponder on the wonderful things of God and His Word. However, the teachers and writers we critique are in a category where their view of “to meditate” has slipped into a different dimension, mostly due to their adherence of the teachings of the mystics. Of each case we write, the person speaks of something different than thoughtful meditation; they speak of stilling the mind, putting it into neutral, so to speak (what they refer to as the silence). For instance, in Chuck Swindoll’s book, So You Want to Be Like Christ: Eight Essential Disciplines to Get Your There, he says there is a stillness of the mind that is different than the quieting of the outer atmosphere (televisions, phones, etc). And he encourages this inner stilling; in fact he says we cannot become deep Christians without it. Whether he knew it or not when he wrote these things, his words echoe Thomas Merton and other mystics. And of course in that same book, in his chapter on “Silence and Solitude,” he points to Henri Nouwen’s book, The Way of the Heart, a book that is a primer on contemplative meditation. What Swindoll has done is point thousands in a direction that could have disastrous spiritual results.
To our response above, we would like to suggest an article by Ray Yungen on meditation: What is Mantra Meditation? In addition, keep in mind that one of the common elements of contemplative meditation is the notion that we must remove the inner distractions of our mind (remove our thoughts) in order to hear from God and become truly “deep” Christians as Swindoll suggests. However, nowhere in Scripture are we instructed to stop thinking. Contemplative Brennan Manning says to “choose a single sacred word … repeat the sacred word inwardly, slowly, often” (from Signature of Jesus), and in Ragamuffin Gospel, he explains: “[T]he first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer”(p. 212). But this is not what the Bible instructs us to do. Turning off our thoughts is the core of Hinduism and not biblical meditation.
Below are some quotes by a mixture of Christian figures and New Age mystics, speaking about the silence and stilling the mind. When these authors speak of stillness, solitude, and silence, it is a fair question to ask them: are they talking about finding a quiet place to read the Word, pray, and think about God, or are they talking about removing distractions from our minds and shutting out our thoughts? We believe in the cases below, they are referring to the latter.
“What you need is stillness and silence so that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.”–Ruth Haley Barton, “Beyond Words” (Barton encourages the use of repeating a word or phrase. 1
“The basic method promoted in The Cloud [of Unknowing] is to move beyond thinking into a place of utter stillness with the Lord … the believer must first achieve a state of silence and contemplation, and then God works in the believer’s heart.”–Tony Jones, Sacred Way, p. 15
“Progress in intimacy with God means progress toward silence…. It is this recreating silence to which we are called in Contemplative Prayer.–Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home
“It is through silence that you find your inner being.”–Vijay Eswaran, In the Sphere of Silence
“This book [In the Sphere of Silence] is a wonderful guide on how to enter the realm of silence and draw closer to God.”–Ken Blanchard, originally from the In the Sphere of Silence website
“[G]o into the silence for guidance”–New Ager, Wayne Dyer, see ATOD p. 18, endnote #23
“While we are all equally precious in the eyes of God, we are not all equally ready to listen to ‘God’s speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all embracing silence.’”–Richard Foster, Prayer, Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 156.
“When one enters the deeper layers of contemplative prayer one sooner or later experiences the void, the emptiness, the nothingness … the profound mystical silence … an absence of thought.”–Thomas Merton biographer, William Johnston, Letters to Contemplatives, p. 13
“In the silence is a dynamic presence. And that’s God, and we become attuned to that.”–Interspiritualist, Wayne Teasdale, see ATOD, p. 55, endnote #1
From the Be Still DVD:
“One of the great things silence does, it gives us a new concept of God.”–Calvin Miller
“[I]f we are not still before Him [God], we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.”–Beth Moore (In her book, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, Moore says that “practicing God’s presence” has become extremely important to her; she points readers to Brennan Manning several times in the book and suggests that his contribution to “our generation of believers may be a gift without parallel” (p. 72). Her participation in Richard Foster’s DVD project, Be Still, and her recanting of an apology for being in the film which included a promotion of the Be Still contemplative message backs up Moore’s statements about Manning and the stillness2
In essence, biblical meditation is thinking; and contemplative New Age meditation is simply not thinking … and that is something to think about.
Revisting Awana’s Move Toward Contemplative – And Another Look at “Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation
Update April 2012: Because Awana’s book, Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation is circulating the market, and because we hear from Lighthouse Trails readers who ask about Awana and their promotion of Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative), we are reposting this information about this book. Prior to posting this revisit article, we contacted Broadman and Holman, the publishers of the book, and learned that the book is still in active print.
Is Awana naive about contemplative spirituality? If so, then we beseech them to educate themselves and request a recall on their book, Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation.
In the February 2008 edition of The Berean Call newsletter, a question was asked about Awana:
I’ve heard that Awana is drifting toward mysticism in the way they are ministering to children. What do you know about that?
The Berean Call gave an excellent answer, stating that the issue arose from a book titled, Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation. Two leaders in the Awana organization are contributors of the book, and comments they made promoting the contemplative approach have caused concern for the direction Awana may be heading. In the Berean Call answer, it was suggested that perhaps Awana is naive when it comes to contemplative, and this is why they made the comments they did. In other words, when they spoke favorably about Richard Foster and other elements of contemplative, maybe they didn’t know what they were talking about.
This naivete presents a problem, however. And for Christian leaders, naivete is not an acceptable excuse, because people (and in this case, children) can be misled and spiritually hurt. So what can Awana do about this? If their comments in the book (that they offer in their store and use in their Rorheim Institute) are based on their naivete of contemplative spirituality, and if they truly do not want to take Awana in the mystical direction, then two things need to happen.
First, they must educate Awana leaders who are under their tutelage about the true nature of contemplative spirituality. Secondly, they will need to request a recall of the present edition of Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation and revise it so statements like the following are no longer in the book. These comments are made by Greg Carlson and John Crupper, executives of Awana. A comment of explanation by Lighthouse Trails follows each of their statements:
Page 82: “In his excellent overview, Streams of Living Water, Richard Foster outlines six different spiritual traditions that 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.” (emphasis added)
Our Comment: It is in Streams of Living Water that Foster quotes panentheist Thomas Kelly as saying “within all” there is a “Divine Center” (p. 23). Foster also talks about a “kingdom of heaven” and a “vision of an all-inclusive people” (p.12). He later in the book reveals his “I see a people” essay, which is a description of this all-inclusive kingdom (p. 273). This “great gathering of the people of God” includes evangelical pastors, Catholic priests, and contemplative monks.
What Carlson and Crupper seem to have a problem with when it comes to contemplative, isn’t contemplative itself but rather that it should not be isolated but should be included in Christian spirituality. That is why they said each has weaknesses when isolated from other traditions. Thus they give the green light to contemplative as long as it is combined with other “traditions.” They say: Each of these models can learn from the other (p. 83).
Page 83-84: “While we believe that the Contemplative-Reflective Model highlights some significant needs in children’s spiritual formation, we should see it as an addition to the base provided for us in the Scriptures….We share agreement with the Contemplative-Reflective Model in a number of areas … we have much to learn from the Contemplative-Reflective Model. Many of our children’s programs are far from reverential, and the constant barrage of impulses does not seem to help in developing this interior life.”
Our Comment: This “interior life” of getting rid of distractions is classic contemplative spirituality. Contemplative mystic Henri Nouwen stated: “to empty out our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God” (Nouwen, The Way of the Heart)
Page 85: [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.
Our Comment: If the Awana writers in this book are trying to persuade readers that they do not promote contemplative spirituality, they have done a terrible job in expressing this. On the contrary, they have given minor cautions and major affirmations. They conclude with: “Given this framework, the Contemplative-Reflective Model becomes, at best, an important tool in helping provide a balanced development of the Christian spiritual life” (p. 87). While Carlson and Crupper point out some of the flaws in the Contemplative-Reflective Model, they make it clear that there is much good in it. Their response to contemplative spirituality leaves one message to readers: contemplative has some problems but if incorporated with other spiritual traditions, it has great value. This will take Awana in the same direction as Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen.
Page 88: [Carlson and Crupper] “appreciate the Contemplative-Reflective Model’s commitment to the development of the child’s spiritual life. We are not in disagreement about the necessity of this. Nor would we disagree with the validity of the model to build upon the foundation that is laid by knowing Scriptures. Further, we would acknowledge that the commitments that drive this model provide a necessary balance within the larger scheme of things.”
Our Comment: Perhaps Carlson and Crupper do not realize that the “commitments that drive” the contemplative model are based on the spirituality of Thomas Merton as the book points out, and they are aligned with panentheism that states all humans have God within.
The comments made in Perspectives in Children’s Spiritual Formation are not the only indications that Awana is being heavily influenced by contemplative spirituality. For instance, through Awana’s prison project, the organization has partnered with New Age sympathizer Ken Blanchard’s Lead Like Jesus Encounter program. On July 13th 2007, we spoke with Lyndon Azcuna, Awana Cross Cultural Ministries director, who told us he was a Lead Like Jesus facilitator. Azcuna works in the main headquarters office of Awana. He said that the project was using Ken Blanchard’s materials. When we explained to him that Blanchard promoted the New Age and mystical meditation, he said that the program did not have these elements. And in the 1999-2009 Ten Years and Counting report by Lead Like Jesus, reference to this partnership with Awana is made several times (on pages 16, 20, 23).
Update April 2012: On of the steps that the Ten Years and Counting report gives to “Lead Like Jesus” is:
“By engaging the habits of solitude, prayer, and study of the Scriptures, I seek to align my Servant Leadership efforts with what Jesus modeled, and to constantly seek ways to be a servant first and a leader second with the people I encounter in my leadership responsibilities.”
What Ken Blanchard means by “solitude” and “Servant Leadership” is not what it may sound like. Blanchard, who wrote the foreword to a book called What Would Buddha Do at Work?, has consistently promoted New Age mysticism books for over twenty years. And the term Servant Leadership suggests that Jesus is more of model whom we can follow as opposed to a Lord and Savior. While Blanchard says that Jesus is his Savior, he continues to promote the New Age. To this day, he still sits on the advisory council of the Hoffman Institute, an ultra New Age think tank and resource center for New Agers. We do not believe Ken Blanchard’s Lead Like Jesus program is a good fit for Awana, that is supposed to be ministering biblical truth to children.
The Lead Like Jesus Encounter is largely based on Blanchard’s book, Lead Like Jesus, and that book does include contemplative elements. For instance, in the chapter called “The Habits of a Servant Leader” a palms-up, palms-down exercise is described (something Richard Foster has encouraged)(p. 158). The book gives a typical instruction on contemplative:
Before we send people off for their period of solitude, we have them recite with us Psalm 46:10 in this way: Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be…. When people return from their time of solitude, they have big smiles on their faces. While many of them found it difficult to quiet their mind, they say it was a powerful experience. The reality is most of us spend little if any time in solitude. Yet if we don’t, how can God have a chance to talk with us?
Blanchard participated in the Hoffman Process and said it made his spirituality come alive. We believe this experience he had through Hoffman is similar to what Blanchard refers to in his Lead Like Jesus book, when he says people who “quiet their mind[s]” during the Lead Like Jesus Encounter have “powerful experience[s].” This means that now children and families in Awana could possibly wind up with the same experience.
Blanchard, who has been a professing Christian since the 1980s, wrote the foreword for a 2001 book titled What Would Buddha Do at Work?. In the book, Blanchard said:
“Buddha points to the path and invites us to begin our journey to enlightenment. I … invite you to begin your journey to enlightened work.”
Blanchard has made numerous other similar statements about other books. After a 2005 report by Lighthouse Trails exposed his connection with Rick Warren, Blanchard placed a statement on a page of his website for a short time that said some of his previous endorsements had been wrong. However, since that time, the endorsements have continued, including his connection with the Hoffman Institute. One example of his continued endorsement of meditation practices is his back-cover statement on Jon Gordon’s 2006 book, 10-Minute Energy Solution, in which Gordon makes several favorable references to eastern-style meditators and the practice itself (see ATOD, pp. 164-165). Another example is Blanchard’s June 2006 endorsement of Thom Crum’s book, Three Deep Breaths.
Amazingly, in the book that inspired the Lead Like Jesus Encounter that Awana is using, Blanchard acknowledges Norman Vincent Peale’s role in his spiritual walk. According to Ray Yungen (For Many Shall Come in My Name – p. 47), Peale had strong New Thought connections. This could partly explain Blanchard’s leanings toward the New Age.
In the past, we have written other articles about Awana. One was showing their promotion of Youth Specialties. The other was pointing to their affiliation with Willow Creek. Affiliation with these two organizations could explain how Awana has been drifting toward contemplative.[Both Youth Specialties and Willow Creek are on our 50 top Contemplative organizations list.]
Ken Blanchard, Norman Vincent Peale, Richard Foster, Youth Specialties, and Willow Creek – these cannot help Awana lead children in a direction pleasing to the Lord.
While some may say our strength in this article is inappropriate – after all, look at all the good that Awana has done – it is done with the utmost love and concern for the children being taught through Awana. Strong yes, hateful no. We beseech Awana leaders to consider these requests to both educate their leaders and have Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation recalled and end their partnership with Lead Like Jesus. Without these two things taking place, it will be difficult to alleviate grave concerns over the future welfare of Awana.
Note: Awana has removed the Youth Specialties link from their 24-7 Ministries site. However, they have now formed a partnership with Student Leadership University. SLU, which encourages students to take a “20 year quantum leap,” is an organization that uses the materials of Ken Blanchard and Ron Luce (Teen Mania – see our article, “Teen Mania Goes Contemplative“).
by Roger Oakland
Proponents of contemplative prayer say the purpose of contemplative prayer is to tune in with God and hear His voice. However, Richard Foster claims that practitioners must use caution. He admits that in contemplative prayer “we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm” and that sometimes it is not the realm of God even though it is “supernatural.” He admits there are spiritual beings and that a prayer of protection should be said beforehand something to the effect of “All dark and evil spirits must now leave.”1 Where in Scripture do we find such a prayer? Where in witchcraft?
I wonder if all these Christians who now practice contemplative prayer are following Foster’s advice. Whether they are or not, they have put themselves in spiritual harm’s way. Nowhere in Scripture are we required to pray a prayer of protection before we pray. The fact that Foster recognizes contemplative prayer is dangerous and opens the door to the fallen spirit world is very revealing. What is this–praying to the God of the Bible but instead reaching demons? Maybe contemplative prayer should be renamed contemplative terror.
While Foster has said repeatedly that contemplative prayer is for everyone, he contradicts himself when he says it is only for a select group and not for the “novice.”2 He says not everyone is ready and equipped to listen to God’s voice through the “all embracing silence.”3
This is amazing. Foster admits that contemplative prayer is dangerous and will possibly take the participant into demonic realms, but he gives a disclaimer saying not everyone is ready for it. My question is, who is ready, and how will they know they are ready? What about all the young people in the emerging church movement? Are they ready? Or are they going into demonic altered states of consciousness completely unaware? Given Foster’s admission of the danger, he does great damage when he says: “We should all, without shame, enroll in the school of contemplative prayer.”4
Foster’s implication that some contemplative prayer is safe is terribly mistaken. No contemplative prayer is biblical or safe–even the most mature of the Christian mystical leaders proved susceptible to its demonic pull. Thomas Merton at the end of his life said he wanted to be the best Buddhist he could be. Henri Nouwen at the end of his life said all paths lead to God. This was the spiritual fruit of their lives after years of practicing mystical prayer.
[In relation to mysticism and contemplative prayer], the real question is whether or not the realm of the silence is God’s realm or Satan’s–light or darkness. The Bible tells us that Satan is very deceptive, and what can often look good is not good at all:
And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness. (II Corinthians 11:14-15)
The word occultism means hidden or secret. There are two connotations to this. The first level involves employment of these practices themselves. Throughout human history, mystical techniques were used by only a small number of persons. The terms esoteric and arcane are often used to signify the fact that these practices have been traditionally concealed. Occult methods almost always employ the use of altered states of consciousness induced by prolonged focus and repetition–a practice that has largely been unknown to many … until now!
A second and perhaps more important concept agrees that behind the physical world lies a hidden reality, and we can interact and have a relationship with this hidden spiritual realm. Occult practitioners in every age and every country agree that all of creation is connected together and God is in all of creation–thus, all is God. These two definitions sum up occultism succinctly. The contemplative prayer movement conforms to these aspects of occultism to the letter.
It is for this very reason I have devoted an entire chapter of Faith Undone to contemplative spirituality. Mystical practices have entered the church through these ancient Christian mystics (ancient wisdom), and they have become the driving force of the emerging church. (from chapter 6, Faith Undone by Roger Oakland)
1. Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (Harper: San Francisco, 1992, First Edition), p. 157.
2. Ibid., p. 156.
4. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1978 edition), p. 13.
by Ray Yungen
Catholic priest William Shannon in his book, Seeds of Peace, explained the human dilemma as being the following:
This forgetfulness, of our oneness with God, is not just a personal experience, it is the corporate experience of humanity. Indeed, this is one way to understanding original sin. We are in God, but we don’t seem to know it. We are in paradise, but we don’t realize it.1
Shannon’s viewpoint defines the basic underlying worldview of the contemplative prayer movement as a whole. One can find similar quotations in practically every book written by contemplative authors. A Hindu guru or a Zen Buddhist master would offer the same explanation. This conclusion becomes completely logical when tracing the roots of contemplative prayer. Let us look at the beginnings of this practice.
In the early Middle Ages, there lived a group of hermits in the wilderness areas of the Middle East. They are known to history as the Desert Fathers. They dwelt in small isolated communities for the purpose of devoting their lives completely to God without distraction. The contemplative movement traces its roots back to these monks who promoted the mantra as a prayer tool. One meditation scholar made this connection when he said:
The meditation practices and rules for living of these earliest Christian monks bear strong similarity to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East … the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery.2
Many of the Desert Fathers, in their zeal, were simply seeking God through trial and error. A leading contemplative prayer teacher candidly acknowledged the haphazard way the Desert Fathers acquired their practices:
It was a time of great experimentation with spiritual methods. Many different kinds of disciplines were tried, some of which are too harsh or extreme for people today. Many different methods of prayer were created and explored by them.3
Attempting to reach God through occult mystical practices will guarantee disaster. The Desert Fathers of Egypt were located in a particularly dangerous locale at that time to be groping around for innovative approaches to God, because as one theologian pointed out:
[D]evelopment of Christian meditative disciplines should have begun in Egypt because much of the intellectual, philosophical, and theological basis of the practice of meditation in Christianity also comes out of the theology of Hellenic and Roman Egypt. This is significant because it was in Alexandria that Christian theology had the most contact with the various Gnostic speculations which, according to many scholars, have their roots in the East, possibly in India.4
Consequently, the Desert Fathers believed as long as the desire for God was sincere–anything could be utilized to reach God. If a method worked for the Hindus to reach their gods, then Christian mantras could be used to reach Jesus. A current practitioner and promoter of the Desert Fathers’ mystical prayer still echoes the logical formulations of his mystical ancestors:
In the wider ecumenism of the Spirit being opened for us today, we need to humbly accept the learnings of particular Eastern religions … What makes a particular practice Christian is not its source, but its intent … this is important to remember in the face of those Christians who would try to impoverish our spiritual resources by too narrowly defining them. If we view the human family as one in God’s spirit, then this historical cross-fertilization is not surprising … selective attention to Eastern spiritual practices can be of great assistance to a fully embodied Christian life.5
Do you catch the reasoning here? Non-Christian sources, as avenues to spiritual growth, are perfectly legitimate in the Christian life, and if Christians only practice their Christianity based on the Bible, they will actually impoverish their spirituality. This was the thinking of the Desert Fathers. So as a result, we now have contemplative prayer. Jesus addressed this when he warned His disciples: “And when you pray, do not
use vain repetitions, as the heathen do.” (Matthew 6:7)
It should be apparent that mantra meditation or sacred word prayer qualifies as “vain repetition” and clearly fits an accurate description of the point Jesus was making. Yet in spite of this, trusted evangelical Christians have often pronounced that Christian mysticism is different from other forms of mysticism (such as Eastern or occult) because it is focused on Jesus Christ.
This logic may sound credible on the surface, but Christians must ask themselves a very simple and fundamental question: What really makes a practice Christian? The answer is obvious–does the New Testament sanction it? Hasn’t Christ taught us, through His Word, to pray in faith in His name and according to His will? Did He leave something out? Would Jesus hold out on His true followers? Never!
Understanding this truth, God has declared in His Word that He does not leave it up to earnest, yet sinful people, to reinvent their own Christianity. When Christians ignore God’s instructions in following Him they end up learning the way of the heathen. Israel did this countless times. It is just human nature.
The account of Cain and Abel is a classic biblical example of spiritual infidelity. Both of Adam’s sons wanted to please God, but Cain decided he would experiment with his own method of being devout. Cain must have reasoned to himself: “Perhaps God would like fruit or grain better than a dead animal. It’s not as gross. It’s less smelly. Hey, I think I will try it!”
As you know, God was not the least bit impressed by Cain’s attempt to create his own approach to pleasing God. The Lord made it clear to Cain that God’s favor would be upon him if he did what is right, not just what was intended for God or God-focused.
In many ways, the Desert Fathers were like Cain–eager to please but not willing to listen to the instruction of the Lord and do what was right. One cannot fault them for their devotion, but one certainly can fault them for their lack of discernment.
1. William Shannon, Seeds of Peace, p. 66.
2. Daniel Goleman, The Meditative Mind 1988, p.53.
3. Ken Kaisch, Finding God, p.191.
4. Father William Teska, Meditation in Christianity , p.65.
5. Tilden Edwards, Living in the Presence , Acknowledgement page.
This week we received an e-mail from someone who asked us to check up on a workshop taking place at the Vineyard in Anaheim, California. Our reader shared her concern that this may be an emerging type workshop and that the church might be going in that direction.
“The Vineyard Movement Grabs Hold of Contemplative Spirituality”
The Vineyard movement was started in the 1970s by John Wimber (who had been a leader in the Friends (Quaker) church) after breaking off from Calvary Chapel where Kenn and Joanie Gulliksen had started the first meetings. Vineyard Anaheim is the “mother” or “flagship” Vineyard church, pastored today by Lance Pittluck. Regarding the ”Spiritual Formation” workshop that our reader wrote to us about, on the church website, it states:
We believe that every disciple is invited by the Holy Spirit into becoming conformed to the Image of Christ through the disciplines encompassed by solitude, silence, scripture-meditation and reflection.
Vineyard Anaheim has turned to Richard Foster’s Renovare to bring these “disciplines” to their church members. Richard Foster, also a Quaker, is one of the pioneers in bringing contemplative spirituality to the evangelical/Protestant church and is a disciple of Thomas Merton. Foster believes that Merton tried to “awaken” God’s people (through mysticism)2 and that he “has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.3 Yet Merton’s panentheistic view (i.e., God in all) coupled with his strong affinity to Buddhism (he once stated: “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity … I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can”4) is contrary to the God of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Richard Foster so resonates with Merton that he includes him in his list of spiritual masters in his two books Spiritual Classics and Devotional Classics.
It’s not just Richard Foster that Vineyard is looking to for “spiritual formation.” On the ”Pastoral Staff Recommends” page, there is a who’s who of contemplative mystics listed. Craig Lockwood, the pastor who will be heading up the Spiritual Formation program, includes Dallas Willard, Jan Johnson, Larry Crabb, Madame Guyon, Richard Foster, Gary Thomas, Morton Kelsey, and Adele Calhoun on his recommended reading list. These are some of the “heavy weights” in the contemplative movement, and you can read about most of them in A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen or on our research site. Typical of the contemplative mindset, one of those listed, Morton Kelsey, stated: “You can find most of the New Age practices in the depth of Christianity . . . I believe that the Holy One lives in every soul.”5
In Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (which Lockwood recommends), Ahlberg Calhoun promotes mantra meditation, giving detailed instructions on several types of contemplative practices. In addition, she quotes from many New Age sympathizers and New Age contemplatives and encourages the use of centering prayer, breath prayers, contemplative prayer, labyrinths, palms-up, palms-down exercises, and recommends for further reading a plethora of mystics. One of those she lists is Tilden Edwards, the founder of the mysticism promoting Shalem Prayer Institute, who said that contemplative prayer is the bridge between Christianity and Eastern religion.6
An interesting name shows up on the “Pastoral Staff Recommends” page at Vineyard Anaheim – J.P. Moreland. The beliefs of Moreland have been discussed in a number of Lighthouse Trails articles regarding his contemplative views, but we didn’t realize that he attends Vineyard Anaheim. When we saw his name on the Pastoral Staff Recommends page, we called Vineyard and were told that Moreland attends Vineyard Anaheim and “sometimes speaks” there. Moreland, a teacher at Biola University and Summit Ministries (in Colorado) recommends a number of Dallas Willard books and The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen. In that book, which is a primer on contemplative prayer, Nouwen states:
The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart . . . This way of simple prayer . . . opens us to God’s active presence. 7
What Nouwen is describing here is mantra meditation (i.e., eastern-style meditation). Practicing mysticism is what led Nouwen to say near the end of his life:
Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.8
By saying this, Nouwen illustrated the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality – panentheism (God in all) and interspirituality. This can be further proven by Nouwen’s strong affinity with New Age meditation proponent, Beatrice Bruteau where he called her a “trustworthy guide to contemplative consciousness” (from Abba’s Child) . J.P. Moreland’s endorsement of The Way of the Heart will point Vineyard members to the same spirituality Nouwen came to embrace.
In a book review of Moreland’s book Kingdom Triangle, he lays out a three-step process to bring about a kingdom of God on earth through spiritual formation (i.e., contemplative prayer). This would resonate with what Vineyard is doing – turning to contemplative to accelerate their kingdom of God on earth goals.
In Kevin Reeves book The Other Side of the River, Reeves addresses the spiritual viewpoints of John Wimber. Wimber said that the Western church needed to go through a major paradigm shift because of its resistance to the supernatural.9 Reeves explains some of Wimber’s ideas:
The old study and learn method (commended by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 4:13-16, and II Timothy 3:14-17) is no longer adequate. In fact, according to Wimber and a flood of Third Wave teachers, it never has been. Experience is what counts, they say, and all that head knowledge we’ve been accumulating all these years is a big waste of time. This teaching states that to really know God, His power and miracles, we need to shuck all that dead letter stuff and get into the life.
Wimber also first introduced into mainstream charismatic congregations the incredibly strange manifestations that are supposedly initiated by the Holy Spirit. Pogoing (jumping up and down in place), rippling on or under the skin, tingling, shaking, convulsions, uncontrollable laughter—many of the same kinds of manifestations traditionally attributed to demonic influence—have now attained prominence in River meetings. It is shocking and frightening to see the similarities between Wimber’s manifestations and what is called Kundalini, “a Hindu term for the mystical power or force that underlies Hindu spirituality.” Here is a list of Kundalini symptoms:
* Burning hot or ice cold streams moving up the spine.
* Pains in varying locations throughout the body.
* Vibrations, unease, or cramps in legs and other parts of body.
* Fast pulse and increased metabolism.
* Disturbance in the breathing–and/or heart function.
* Sensitivity to sound, light, smell, and proximity of other people.
* Mystical/religious experiences.
* Parapsychological abilities.
* Persistent anxiety or anxiety attacks, confusion
* Insomnia, manic high spirits or deep depression. Energy loss.
* Impaired concentration and memory.
* Total isolation due to inability to communicate inner experiences out.
* Experiences of possession and poltergeist phenomena. 10
What some may not realize is that many of these symptoms are also experienced during deep contemplative meditation. By combining the hyper-charismatic experiences with contemplative spirituality (as Vineyard is doing), the process of going into altered states of consciousness (i.e., demonic realms) is speeded up; and the voice heard, believed to be God, may not be Him at all. Reeves points out that Wimber was drawn to the writings of Agnes Sanford and Morton Kelsey. Did Wimber realize that Kelsey “equates the ministry of Jesus with shamanism, commends encounters with the dead as natural spirit-earth links, bases much of his book on paganistic Jungian psychology, and calls the atonement a “hypothesis developed” by the early church”?11
An article titled “Buried Seed: Spiritual Direction and the Vineyard Movement” written by a Vineyard “spiritual director” in New Zealand reveals the efforts by spiritual directors in Vineyard to integrate spiritual formation into the Vineyard movement. Just to show the lack of discernment that occurs by contemplative advocates, the author of the article lists Thomas Keating as a source he used to write the article. Keating, like Merton, is a panentheist and mystic Catholic priest.
We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible.
Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices, especially where they have been initiated by reliable teachers and have a solidly developed Christian faith to find inner form and meaning to the resulting experiences. 12
Our reader who sent us the e-mail inquiring about Vineyard Anaheim asked if there was any emergent connection to spiritual formation. We have always contended that they are basically the same thing (see Faith Undone). What’s more, on the recommended reading list of Vineyard Anaheim, senior pastor Lance Pittluck recommends Rob Bell along with several other contemplative/emerging figures (Nouwen, Sider, Manning, Miller, Boyd, etc). It is clear that Pittluck resonates with these people.
For those who wonder if the contemplative/emerging infiltration is confined to just Vineyard Anaheim, a Book Recommendations for Youth list on the main USA Vineyard website recommends emerging church favorites N.T. Wright, Andy Stanley, Erwin McManus, and Shane Claiborne, and contemplatives Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, Jim Burns, and John Eldredge. Sadly, Vineyard youth are being introduced to these contemplative/emerging leaders. In addition, Vineyard has at least one leader who is designated to work with Vineyard churches in spiritual formation. And just as a sampling to show this is not an isolated situation, listed below are a few Vineyard churches that are incorporating “spiritual formation” into church life:
Vineyard City Church – Redding California’ (also links to the very contemplative/emerging Simpson College and Bethel Church in Redding)
Live Oak Vineyard – Monrovia California (promotes New Age sympathizer Phyllis Tickle)
Friends Langley Vineyard – BC Canada
Vineyard Community Church – Cincinnati, OH
All this would leave little doubt that the Vineyard movement has hopped onto the contemplative/emergent track, seemingly full speed ahead.
- Bill Jackson, The Quest For The Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard, ch 3, p. 80.
- Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd ed, 2006), pp. 76-77, quoting Richard Foster at a seminar Yungen attended.
- Richard Foster and Emilie Griffin, Spiritual Classics (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 2000), p. 17.
- David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
- Morton Kelsey cited in Charles H. Simpkinson, “In the Spirit of the Early Christians.”
- Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1980), pp. 18.
- Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1991), p. 81.
- Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1998), p. 51.
- John Wimber: 1934-1997. Wimber’s “paradigm shift” is discussed and documented in several books and articles such as C. Peter Wagner’s Acts of the Holy Spirit (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2000), p. 123.
- Kevin Reeves, The Other Side of the River (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007), pp. 167-168.
- Ibid, p. 169.
- M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, Thomas E. Clarke, Finding Grace at the Center (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Pub., 1978), pp. 5-6.
This is a follow up of our recent article, New Book and Upcoming Conference Bring More Confusion Out of Calvary Chapel Movement where we reported that Calvary Chapel Ft Lauderdale had hosted a concert by a musical group called Gungor this past March. Our article addressed the slide that the Calvary Chapel movement is making toward contemplative/emerging and Purpose Driven.
Today, a Lighthouse Trails reader contacted us, after reading our article (see link above). The reader stated:
I recently attended Calvary Chapel in St. Petersburg, Florida and they too are hosting Gungor on July 17th. I just emailed the Pastor of CCSP and told him that the lead singer and his wife practice New Age meditation and that they tell people how to do it in their blog. Thanks for EXPOSING that group! Will be praying for them as they are leading many astray!!
As you can see by these two links, one of which is from Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg’s website, they are hosting Gungor on July 17th. http://www.itickets.com/events/266030.html and http://calvarystp.org/
As was pointed out in our previous article, on the Gungor website blog, Michael Gungor (head of the band) is giving detailed information on how to practice contemplative meditation in a three part article. We think it is necessary to take a closer examination of this three part article written by Michael Gungor. We hope this will help skeptical readers who think perhaps Lighthouse Trails is being too critical of Calvary Chapel to better understand our concerns.
In the first part of Michael Gungor’s article, he explains to his readers that he went on a “spiritual pilgrimage” in September 2010 that incorporated a week to Italy and a week to Spain. Gungor states: ”The first week was a week of silence and meditation at a spiritual retreat that I found by googling ‘best spiritual retreats in the world.’” He said that he went on this pilgrimage because he was “on the brink” and “didn’t really know what [he] believed in.” Gungor began his journey with a trip to the Vatican where he heard the Pope speak: “not a bad way to start out my spiritual journey. Made me want to be Catholic actually.” After this, Gungor caught a flight to Assisi and on the flight he ”listened to a couple Rob Bell sermons on [his] ipod.” Gungor explains that the retreat was ”a cross religious retreat, so they had statues of Mary in the room next to a Buddha next to a Hindu something or other.” Part of the week of silence included times called “prayer movements,” where participants ”slowly wav[ed] [their] arms around, turning in circles and kneeling in the grass . . . It was a lot of ‘now the river that gave us everything is taking everything back’ kind of stuff.” Gungor writes in his journal at the retreat:
Peace. We just came back from our first prayer movement meditation, and I feel so close to God right now. So close that “You” almost feels funny. I get why one might say close to everything. I was going to say some sort of defensive, fearful statement clarifying that I’m not talking about pantheism. But I don’t need to be afraid.
God is beautiful.
Light and essence and love of the purest kind. God is something to be experienced not to “believe” in? God is too big to be believed in or not believed in. God is. Am I? Today, yes.
In part 2of Gungor’s article, he does what most emerging figures do – he de-emphasizes beliefs and doctrine, calling evangelism a “pyramid scheme” and says in many ways he agrees with the “new atheists.” He says he doesn’t ”believe in the old guy in the sky,” talking about God, adding:
To me, God is the basic Reality of the universe. God is what is. That’s how Moses wrote that God introduced Himself, isn’t it? “I am that I am.”
Whatever is, that is God.
Gungor tells his readers that “encountering” God is more important that beliefs and doctrine. In part 3 of his article, he teaches how to “encounter” God, through meditation. ”Assisi helped me discover a new discipline for me that I can’t believe I had gone so long without. Meditation.” He adds:
I had tried meditating a handful of times before, but it never really did that much for me. So I stopped. But in Assisi, we would get up every morning and meditate with each other for an hour. Than we’d do a movement meditation, then we’d go and meditate on our own for most of the day, and then we’d get together at night one more time and meditate for another half hour before going to bed. That’s a lot of meditation.
And I finally got it. Now I understand why people from pretty much all religions do this.
Gungor isn’t talking about biblical meditation where one ponders on and thinks about the Word of God. That is not something “all religions do.” He is talking about eastern-style meditation where either the breath (or something else) is focused upon or a word or phrase is repeated.
A de-emphasis in doctrine and beliefs is very common among those who practice contemplative meditation. Why is this? Because the meditator is going into altered states of consciousness during meditation, he is entering into what we believe are demonic realms (that’s a hard thing to hear for someone who is practicing contemplative). The result of ongoing meditation is spiritual deception. After awhile a meditator begins to see himself as connected to everything and everyone.He also begins to believe that God is ineverything and everyone. Eventually, for the Christian who practices meditation, the doctrines of Christianity begin to grow dim and become less important than how he once may have viewed them. And once these doctrines diminish, even the doctrine of the atonement can take on new meaning (e.g. how could a loving God send His son to a violent death for the sins of others?). We believe this is the spirituality that many of these young people like Michael Gungor and Ann Voskamp could end having if they continue on this contemplative path.
And that is why we hold Calvary Chapel and other denominations responsible for what they are doing. As Christian leaders, they do not have the right to promote people with these views, because such promotion only propagates the deception. The Bible says so – not us. Calvary Chapel claims to be a Bible-centered organization with mature Christian pastors who adhere to the Gospel; but a lot of misrepresentation is going on these days. There are many well-meaning Christians who attend Calvary Chapels, and we are sure there are Calvary Chapel pastors who would never consider having Gungor do a concert at their church. But two of their large churches are doing that, and a mixed message is being sent out from Calvary Chapel.
Just as with other denominations, pastors (and congregants) within the Calvary Chapel movement have a responsibility to speak up against serious compromises within their organization, especially if those compromises are ones that represent “another gospel” and ”another Jesus” as does the contemplative prayer movement and the emerging church movement. If a pastor cannot speak up, then according to Scripture, he should separate himself (come out from among them) and by thus doing so, protect his flock and the message of the Cross.