Archive for the ‘Contemplative Spirituality’ Category

Letter to the Editor: Popular Group Publishing’s Vacation Bible School Curriculums Promoting Contemplative/Emergent Ideas

LTRP Note: Group Publishing has been listed as a contemplative publisher on the LT Research site for many years. Just take a look at this 1999 article in the Group Publishing archives written by contemplative pioneer Mark Yaconelli to see an example of their early efforts. This particular article is one that is discussed in Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing.

bigstockphoto.com

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I have been hearing about a number churches using Group Publishing’s Vacation Bible School curriculums this year, including my own.  The four 2017 Protestant versions are:  Maker Fun Factory, Passport to Peru, Rome, and Campout.  My church will be using Campout.  Thankfully, someone at our church read through the curriculum and noticed there is no mention of sin, which is the reason why we need our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The discerning individual who noticed the omission is now rewriting some parts of the VBS curriculum in order to teach more sound theology to our church’s children.  The Campout curriculum, instead of focusing on what Jesus did on the cross as the sacrifice for man’s sin, focuses on how “Jesus’ life showed God’s love.”  I have since been researching more about Group Publishing, and I came across a few things.

Group Publishing also makes a Catholic version of its Protestant VBS curriculum(s), and apparently the company has been doing this at least since 2009, according this article:  http://baptistbulletin.org/the-baptist-bulletin-magazine/is-your-vbs-taking-a-vacation-from-the-gospel/ .  Here is a link to the Totally Catholic Maker Fun Factory (2017):  http://vbs.osv.com/totally-catholic-maker-fun-factory and Totally Catholic Shipwrecked (2018):  http://vbs.osv.com/totally-catholic-shipwrecked.

Group Publishing is also hosting two conferences this year, KidMin Children’s Ministry Conference in September and the Future of the Church Summit in October.  Two of the five speakers at KidMin are Max Lucado and Mark Batterson [The Circle Maker author], both of whom promote contemplative spirituality.  Spiritual formation, which is Roman Catholic mysticism based in eastern spiritual practices, will also be a key component of this conference.  A session on  “Spiritual Formation in Families” will be led by Luz Figueroa during the conference, and here is a description of that session:

“Spiritual formation is the process of being transformed into the image of Christ for the sake of others. What does it take for children to experience God and spiritual growth? And what implications and applications does that have on families? Just because we know it’s the responsibility of parents to be the nurturers of their children’s faith doesn’t mean they have the tools for the job. Spiritual formation is a family matter as children respond to the spiritual formation reflected by the adults who influence them. In this session, you’ll deepen your desire to grow in Christ and consent more freely to the love of God infiltrating your home and ministry context. You’ll also learn how to help children and families live in ways that are increasingly attentive to God, oneself, and others.

  • Consider your personal spiritual formation to discover a fresh approach that seeks transformation—not just education.
  • Explore the important roles of spirituality and formation in relation to the home and church.
  • Explore and understand transformative learning.
  • Experience how as we willingly open ourselves to the transformative movement of the love of God, we open ourselves to the world around us.
  • Discover spiritual practices that will help parents move from the goal of good behavior to creating a compelling faith future for their children.
  • Review 12 spiritual practices that can be implemented at church and at home.”

Click on Family Ministry to see the “Spiritual Formation in Families” session description:  https://www.group.com/category/training-and-events/conferences/kidmin-conference/sessions.do

Group Publishing is additionally organizing a Future of the Church Summit in October.  Leaders of World Vision and World Relief will be speaking among others.  Three of seven topics that will be discussed are:
–   “The Future of Disciple-Making – Explore a new paradigm for the church’s work in discipleship—moving from four-week classes to lifestyle transformation.”
–   “Surprising Paths for Growth in the Church – Discover refreshing forms of ministry that work with those who are done with church as we know it.”
–   “The Next Reformation -Some have noted that the church goes through a major transformation every 500 years. This year marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation. So, what’s next?”
https://www.group.com/category/training-and-events/training/future-of-the-church-summit.do

Not only is Group Publishing teaching a watered down Gospel and another version of Jesus, they are also promoting Roman Catholic mysticism through conferences and leading discussions on how the church needs to adopt new paradigms, new ministries, new ways of doing things with the stated purpose of being more effective, rich, relevant, and meaningful.  Many, many churches are unknowingly using these VBS curriculums to teach their children about Jesus and the Bible, but the theology of the publishing group and the theology presented in the VBS curriculums are clearly compromised.

M.P.

A Further Unveiling of Assemblies of God Resolution 3 & the Serious Implications

Also see Part 1: “Commentary: Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel ” and Part 2: “Dr. George Wood Responds to Lighthouse Trails Article on AoG Resolution 3 and Israel”

By Cedric Fisher
Truth Keepers

When I wrote my commentary on July 28th about the Assemblies of God Resolution 3, which will be voted on during the 57th Assemblies General Council (August 7-11th) in Anaheim, California, I was quite unprepared for the firestorm that ensued.(1) I was especially surprised by George Wood’s response.(2)

Remember that when Ruth Haley Barton (who is a powerful advocate for the New Age practice of contemplative prayer) was invited to speak at the AoG General Council in 2013, Dr. Wood defended the decision.(3) Furthermore, he has never expressed any public reluctance or regret in inviting Rick Warren (who promotes unity with the Catholic Church and contemplative practices) to speak at previous General Councils or this upcoming one. Rick Warren is also a signer of “A Common Word” Christian Response, a document where Christian leaders ask for forgiveness from “the All-Merciful One” (a Muslim term for Allah) and essentially say that the Christian God and Allah are the same God.(4) While Dr. Wood has been blasé and silent about Rick Warren, Mark Batterson (creator of the Circle Maker heresy),(5) and Priscilla Shirer(6) (popular contemplative speaker and author) speaking at the 57th General Council, he lost his composure regarding my commentary about Resolution 3. What was he so frantic about? Why did he expose himself as imperious and acerbic? Dr. Wood’s reaction indicates there might be more to the story. After further research, I believe there is indeed behind-the-scenes information that needs to be brought forth.

 Reformed Theology Activists and Their View of Israel

During this past week, after my commentary was released by Lighthouse Trails, I have spent hours digging through the Internet, reading documents, and talking to people, some of whom have had first-hand experience within AoG regarding the matters at hand. As a result, I have come to the conclusion that the Assemblies of God denomination is dangerously compromised with so-called “justice and peacemakers” that adhere to Replacement Theology (Supersessionism).(7) These “peacemakers” are in virtually every position of influence in the AoG including leadership at the national level, universities, colleges, seminaries, and missions. Their basic belief can be summed up as follows: The Israeli claim to Palestine as a Jewish State by divine right is incorrect, and their continued enforcement of this claim is unjust.

Resolution 3 (R3) is being supported by Replacement Theology activists (as has been documented in my previous commentary, in the pursuing response article by Lighthouse Trails, and will be further documented in this article). In essence, the resolution is anti-Zionist, which in itself stems from the age-old spirit of hatred for the Jews). Whether these activists realize this or not, this is disguised anti-Semitism.

Dr. David Reagan of Lamb and Lion Ministries explains:

Anti-Zionism is just anti-Semitism in new, sophisticated clothes. Whereas anti-Semitism sought to drive out the Jews from the lands where they lived, anti-Zionism refuses to accept their right to live in their own land.(8)

Of course, most Replacement Theology activists will not admit their true views about Israel publicly. Instead, they declare that they love and support Israel and even go there often. However, just as in secular politics, one has to read between the lines and decipher the doublespeak. In reality, they do not love and support the Israel that presently exists. They are, in deeds (and with words in certain venues), adamantly opposed to present-day Israel.

If they loved and supported Israel, they would not be involved in a mission to force her into conformity with something she is not (and something that would eventually destroy her). Furthermore, they would not deny her genetic heritage and legacy and attempt to erase her from eschatology. Last, they would not be teaching anti-Semitism, as some of them are, to unsuspecting generations of younger professing Christians.

What they truly love and support is a futuristic and completely transformed “Israel”—an “Israel” that does not yet exist. It is a model they have concocted to agree with their “peace” plan. They arrogantly believe that Israel does not know what’s best for her and that they must steer the nation into its peaceful destiny.

Their commitment is as saying, “I love and support you, but not as you are. You must change.” That is commitment with conditions, which is not love and support at all. It is coercion and extortion. Those conditions include kowtowing to Muslim and especially Palestinian demands. Capitulating to those requirements would indeed change Israel to meet the approval of her “fair-weather friends” in denomination leadership, and tenured at colleges and universities. But there is nothing to gain from such a commitment and much to lose.

While this is not God’s plan according to His Word, these “pacifists” alter, remove, replace, reinterpret, and otherwise manipulate God’s Word to conform with their definition of “justice and peacemaking,” one of their popular buzz phrases.

“But,” they insist, “we must have world peace.” And as Rick Warren has often said, we must do “whatever it takes” to accomplish that peace.(9)

But at what price? Alliance with haters of Israel? The sacrifice of truth? The price of twisting God’s Word to disenfranchise His chosen people? Will the price be a massive assault of many armies on the nation of Israel? If the latter occurs, supporters of false peace will soon realize Who they were offending.

What Are These “Justice and Peacemakers” Really About?

What exactly are these “justice and peacemakers really about? And what are some of their tactics? Let’s take a look at a couple of the individuals involved in this so-called “justice and peacemaking” movement who have influenced the Assemblies of God.

Consider Paul Alexander, author of Peace to War: Shifting Allegiances in the Assemblies of God. Alexander was a Pneuma Book Award finalist chosen by The Society for Pentecostal Studies, a bastion of Replacement Theology. He edits the Pentecostals, Peacemaking, and Social Justice book series. His bio says he is a Pentecostal “peacemaker and justice seeker” originally from Kansas. He was a Missions major at Southwestern Assemblies of God University, has a M.Div. from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, and a doctorate from Baylor University. He is currently professor of Christian ethics and public policy at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University and the director of public policy for Evangelicals for Social Action.(10)

Alexander founded Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice (PCPJ) with the mission “to encourage, enable, and sustain peacemaking and justice–seeking as authentic and integral parts of Pentecostal–Charismatic Christianity.”(11) If you wish to see a glimpse of the next generation of Pentecostals and charismatics that are now rising to leadership, check out PCPJ’s Facebook page.(12)

Alexander also edited the book, Christ at the Checkpoint: Theology in the Service of Justice and Peace, commissioned and written by Palestinian Christians. In the Series Preface, Alexander writes, “We understand that peace and justice are not separate concerns but different ways of talking about and seeking Shalom—God’s salvation, justice and peace.”(13) Alexander and his associates, the Palestinian Christians, believe that Israel does not have biblical heritage or a right to their land. Christ at the Checkpoint conferences, sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College featuring speakers such as emergent progressive leaders Lynne Hybels(14) and Tony Campolo,(15) have a distinct anti-Israel political agenda.

According to various sources, Bethlehem Bible College is steeped in Replacement Theology that encourages sympathy for the Palestinians. For example, a 2014 NGO Monitor article titled “U.S., U.K., Netherlands Fund Anti-Israel ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ Conference,” said of the 2014 conference that Christ at the Checkpoint “seeks to advance the Palestinian nationalist agenda within Evangelical Christian churches, while simultaneously reviving theological anti-Semitic themes such as replacement theology.”(16)

And an article in the Jerusalem Post stated of Bethlehem Bible College:

The school has a deeply entrenched anti-Israel position, demonstrated through statements and publications of leaders associated with the school.(17)

Map of Middle East. Green indicates Muslim countries; Red is Israel

However, Alexander calls his book a “book of love.” He declares, “The Palestinian Christians who organized the conference at which these essays were presented are motivated by their love for God, love for Israelis, and love for their fellow Palestinians.”(18)

Alexander is no longer affiliated with the Assemblies of God. He was dismissed as a licensed AoG minister in 2014 for his changed views on homosexuality and acceptance of gay marriage.(19)But his dismissal had nothing to do with his anti-Israel efforts, which had begun long before 2014. So while the AoG was right in dismissing him for his pro-homosexual views, they apparently saw nothing wrong with his activism against Israel a number of years before that.

“This Land is . . . Your Land?”—The Dilemma of Ross Byars, R3’s Foremost Author

This brings me to J. Ross Byars, the apparent foremost author of Resolution 3. Byars is co-founder of the Jerusalem School of Bethlehem, of which students are predominantly Muslim. While the school focuses on giving Muslim youth a good education, “justice and peacemaking” is a major theme. Byars is known as an advocate of Replacement Theology. His rewrite of Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land is Your Land” leaves no doubt as to his position on Israel. Below are a few stanzas of this rewritten song:

It’s not just our land,
it’s also your land,
from the Rafah crossing
to the Northern Highland.
From the sandy seashore
to the tumbling Jordan,
this land is made for you and me. . . .
from the bubbling springs of Dan,
to Beersheba’s desert sand.
From the walls of the city,
to the snows of Hermon,
this land is made for you and me.(20)

You can watch a video of students at Jerusalem School of Bethlehem singing Byars rendition of the American song here: http://www.cppi.co/proactivities.html. Peter Yarrow (of the 60s singing group Peter, Paul, and Mary) is leading the group (also we have posted all the lyrics below this article).

In one verse, Byars postulates the concept that the Israelis and Palestinians are Arabs and their God is one:

So why these wars and fuss?
We’re you and you are us
We’re all one family,
this land’s one country.
We’re all Abram’s sons
Our God we serve is one,
Who made this land for you and me. (21)

Just hours before Lighthouse Trails released their response to George Wood’s comments about my first commentary,(22) Ross Byars called the office of Lighthouse Trails and spoke to one of its editors. He said that he is not anti-Israel but admitted he is for a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, saying that even Israel is for it. The LT editor responded by saying that Israel is not for it but is being coerced and forced into it.

The two-state solution. I explained the difference in versions of two-state agreements in the Lighthouse Trails response to George Wood:

Some evangelical leaders insist there is nothing wrong with the Two-State Solution. They claim that Israel advocates a Two-State Solution. If that were true, then it would have already occurred and we would not be having this controversy. There is a vast difference between the versions of Two-State Solutions. Israel’s version could be summed up as, “You leave us alone, and we’ll leave you alone.” Conversely, the Two-State Solution advocated by certain evangelicals is to moderate a resolution between Israel and Palestine that involves Israel giving up the West Bank, its biblical heritage as God’s Chosen People, and other untenable concessions. There is an effort to dismiss Israel from eschatology and brand it as just another sinful nation.(23)

Those who are advocating a two-state solution are overlooking something: they are assuming that once Israel falls into step with what the world is demanding of them, then the Muslims, Palestinians, and everyone else will now love Israel and be kind to her. But why would people think that is going to happen?! Israel and the Jews have been hated throughout history, long before there was the modern-day nation of Israel. Hitler didn’t need that as an excuse. There was no nation of Israel, but still he hated them, he killed them, and leaders and people around the world turned a blind eye while six million Jews were annihilated. Today, there are only fourteen million Jews on the Earth. Those who know (and believe) their Bibles know that God’s adversary, the devil, has a vehement hate for the Jews (and the nation of Israel) and will stop at nothing to destroy them. Those who think that Muslim terrorists and enemies are going to love Israel if they agree to a two-state solution are living in a deadly bubble of delusion.

“Justice and peacemaker” Murray Dempster (one of the supporters/authors of R3) is a professor at Southeastern and an adherent of Replacement Theology as was shown in both my earlier commentary and the Lighthouse Trails response to George Woods. An online article titled “Liberal Theology at Assemblies of God University?” reports on enthusiastic student support for anti-Semitism at Southeastern:

[One] week they invited Sami Awad, a pro-Palestine advocate to guest lecture. The lecture had very anti-Semitic comments and at one point it was mentioned that Israel did not have a right to exist. The discussion became very disturbing.(24)

Awad is a so-called “justice and peacemaker” and executive Director of Holy Land Trust. His father, Bishara Awad, is the founder of the Bethlehem Bible College that sponsors Christ at the Checkpoint conferences. At the 2012 Christ at the Checkpoint conference, Sami Awad, MC for the event, supported Dr. Manfred Kohl who condemned another speaker, Wayne Hilsden, for his “literal reading of scripture” (where Hilsden stated that the “physical return of the Jews to their ancient homeland is biblically mandated”). Kohl said of Hilsden, “the theology of fools who delight in their own idiocy.” Awad suggested that it “was time for Christians who use the Bible to support Israel’s restoration to stand before the security wall in Bethlehem and, similar to John F. Kennedy before the Berlin Wall, declare, ‘I am an idiot.’”(25)

These remarks are far from peaceful. They are arrogant, provocative, and reveal the true nature of these “justice and peacemakers.” For a comprehensive, well-documented, and compelling documentary on “Christian Palestinianism” and its implications on Israel, watch Caryl Productions film Exposing Christian Palestinianism.(26)

Are “Justice and Peacemakers” Being Honest About Their True Purpose?

Throughout Replacement Theology activists’ literature and speeches, one becomes aware of a constant supposed theme of love, justice, peacemaking, etc. Their definition of love is not credible though because they are not being honest. Their explanation of “justice and peacemaking” is based on Replacement Theology. Their two-state solution is based on the claim that Israel does not have a right to her land, that she stole it from the Palestinians who are lovingly practicing justice and peacemaking by allowing Israel to keep a small tract of it.

It is a great shame that professing Christians resort to the same tactics as secular politicians and hide their true intent to reach their goals. God’s Word declares, let your yea be yea and your nay be nay (Matthew 5:37).  It is clearly a godly directive for Christians to be forthright and honest with our words. Instead, Replacement Theology activists use subterfuge and doublespeak to inch their way into leadership and positions of influence. Once in power, they oppress and take advantage of the very ones who trusted them with their offices.

When Assemblies of God pastors and leaders vote this coming week on Resolution 3, I pray they will understand that if they vote for R3, they will be helping to pave the way to legitimize and unleash a hoard of RT activists on Israel. I beseech these leaders not to be deceived by tactics that are not forthright or according to God’s Word. In addition, to vote for R3 is a vote against Israel, and this can only bring judgment upon Assemblies of God and even the church at large because many other evangelical groups will eventually follow suit in the AoG decision.

Jesus Christ warned that end-times deception would be so clever that the very elect could be deceived if that were possible. The apostle Paul wrote that those who do not have a “love of the truth . . . God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11). As committed believers in Jesus Christ, we need to be on guard against deception, which works because it is comfortable, is convincing, and appeals to the carnal mind of nominal Christians. Do not be deceived, beloved!

Endnotes:

1.Commentary: Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel
2. Dr. George Wood Responds to Lighthouse Trails Article on AoG Resolution 3 and Israel
3. Assemblies of God General Superintendent Letter Responds to Lighthouse Trails Article – Defends Contemplative Spirituality
4. http://faith.yale.edu/common-word/common-word-christian-response
5. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=13869
6. See Beth Moore & Priscilla Shirer – Their History of Contemplative Prayer and Why War Room Should Not Have Used Them
7.  ISRAEL: REPLACING WHAT GOD HAS NOT
8. Dr. David R. Reagan, “The Evil of Replacement Theology: The Historical Abuse of the Jews by the Church,” Lion and Lamb Ministries, http://christinprophecy.org/articles/the-evil-of-replacement-theology/.
9.Time Magazine on Rick Warren’s New Global Reformation and PEACE Coalition
10. https://sojo.net/biography/paul-alexander
11. https://pcpjtest.wordpress.com/about/
12. https://www.facebook.com/pcpeacejustice/
13. Paul Alexander, Christ at the Checkpoint: Theology in the Service of Justice and Peace (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2012), Series Preface.
14. Jim Fletcher, “Lynne Hybel’s God” (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17590)
15. See “2010 Film ‘With God on Our Side’ – Championed by Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren & Steve Haas (World Vision) – Has Changed the Minds of Evangelicals”
16. Sean Savage, “NGO Monitor: U.S., U.K., Netherlands Fund Anti-Israel ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ Conference” (http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/03/12/ngo-monitor-u-s-u-k-netherlands-fund-anti-israel-%E2%80%98christ-at-the-checkpoint%E2%80%99-conference/)
17. Tricia Miller, “Bethlehem Bible College—Purveyor of Anti-Israel Propaganda” (Jerusalem Post, October 26, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Christian-News/Bethlehem-Bible-College-purveyor-of-anti-Israel-propaganda-379858)
18. Paul Alexander, Christ at the Checkpoint, op. cit., Preface.
19. https://www.onenewsnow.com/church/2014/02/17/ag-disciplines-pastor-who-departs-from-biblical-truth and http://www.evangelicalsforsocialaction.org/sexual-justice/esa-statement-on-the-dismissal-of-paul-alexander-by-the-assemblies-of-god.
20. http://www.cppi.co/proactivities.html
21. Ibid.
22. Dr. George Wood Responds to Lighthouse Trails Article on AoG Resolution 3 and Israel
23. Ibid.
24. Chelsen Vicari, “Liberal Theology at Assemblies of God University?” (Juicy Ecumenism: The Institute on Religion & Democracy blog, December 18, 2014, https://juicyecumenism.com/2014/12/18/squishy-theology-assembly-gods-southeastern-university).
25. Jan Markell, “‘Checked’ at the Checkpoint” (March 15, 2012, http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs019/1101818841456/archive/1109521345222.html).
26. This incredible film is available through Lighthouse Trails. Every church and church group should watch this film! (http://www.lighthousetrails.com/home/454-exposing-christian-palestinianism-dvd.html)

Appendix:

Transcript of Ross Byars rewrite of Woody Guthrie’s song, “This Land is Your Land.”

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway.
I saw below me that golden valley,
this land is made for your and me.
I roamed and rambled
and I followed my footsteps,
to the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts.
And all around me a voice was sounding,
this land is made for you and me.

Chorus

It’s not just our land,
it’s also your land,
from the Rafah crossing
to the Northern Highland.
From the sandy seashore to the tumbling Jordan,
this land is made for you and me.
As I was walking I saw a wall there.
A great big sign said, “Our people only.”
But on the other side it didn’t say “Nothing.”
Now that side is made for you and me.
In the towns and cities, at church and temple.
By shrine and mosque I saw the people
As they stood hating, and I stood crying,
“This land is made for you and me.”

Chorus

It’s not just our land, it’s also your land,
from the bubbling springs of Dan
To Beersheba’s desert sand.
From the walls of the city
To the snows of Hermon,
this land is made for you and me
Nobody living can ever stop us,
as we go walking our true peace highway
No wall or weapon can make us turn back,
‘cause this land is made for you and me.
So why these wars and fuss?
We’re you and you are us
We’re all one family, this land’s one country.
We’re all Abram’s sons
Our God we serve is one,
Who made this land for you and me

Chorus

It’s not just our land,
it’s also your land,
from the Rafah crossing
to the Northern Highland.
From the sandy seashore
to the tumbling Jordan.
This land is made for you and me.

Dr. George Wood Responds to Lighthouse Trails Article on AoG Resolution 3 and Israel

Also see Part 1: “Commentary: Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel ” and Part 3: “A Further Unveiling of Assemblies of God Resolution 3 & the Serious Implications”

By the Editors at Lighthouse Trails

On July 28th, Lighthouse Trails posted a commentary by Lighthouse Trails author Cedric Fisher titled “Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel.” This commentary set off a fire storm on the Internet, and on Saturday July 29th, Lighthouse Trails editors received an e-mail from Dr. George Wood (General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God). Dr. Wood is familiar with Lighthouse Trails because of a controversy in 2013 where Dr. Wood gave his blessing and permission for contemplative emergent Ruth Haley Barton to speak at the 2013 AoG General Council Conference resulting in some Lighthouse Trails articles addressing the seriousness of such promotion.

Shortly after Lighthouse Trails editors received the e-mail from Dr. Wood on the 29th regarding our recent posting of Cedric Fisher’s commentary, we learned that the e-mail was being distributed on the Internet. Because Dr. Wood has made his e-mail public, we are responding in the public arena; and because his e-mail stated that the commentary we posted is “false, meretricious, and slanderous,” we are compelled to issue this response. Below is Dr. Wood’s e-mail to Lighthouse Trails editors in its entirety (in black bold) along with response comments by us in indented non-bold green paragraphs. (After you have read this section, please see a response written by Cedric Fisher regarding Dr. Wood’s e-mail.)

Dr. George Wood, General Superintendent of AoG

Dr. George Wood’s e-mail to Lighthouse Trails:

I don’t know exactly who to address this to, so I have included all the email contact points provided on your website.

I am asking you to retract and apologize for the totally incorrect article you published on July 28, titled, “Commentary: Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel.”

Here are the facts, as opposed to the lies given by Cedric Fisher.

1. Resolution 3 doesn’t mention Israel at all. It has nothing to do with Israel. As general superintendent, I am not indicating my support or opposition to this resolution as it comes from delegates to our General Council – but, I can tell you for a fact that you can search this resolution with a microscope and you will find no reference to Israel, nor will you find any intention that this resolution applies to Israel. Here’s the full text of the resolution: http://generalcouncil.ag.org/-/media/GC17/2017GCResolutionsBooklet.pdf?la=en.

Our Response: It is true that Resolution 3 does not mention Israel at all, and Cedric Fisher never said that it did. However, the resolution absolutely connects Israel with the Resolution when it states: “Furthermore, the Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the General Presbytery approved the 12 Assemblies of God position paper entitled, ‘Church Mission and Peacemaking.’” It is in that position paper that Israel is discussed and clearly rebuked as the guilty party for causing conflict. There is no mention of Islamic/Muslim wrong doing in the position paper. We realize that some reading “Church Mission and Peacemaking” may not see how it is implicating modern-day Israel, especially if they are not familiar with the present efforts to put most or all of the blame on Israel for Middle East conflict.

2. The AG position paper is titled, “Church Mission and Peacemaking.” Lighthouse Trails added “and Israel,” even though the position paper doesn’t mention issues regarding the modern state of Israel. Here’s the position paper: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Church-Mission-and-Peacemaking.

Our Response: The phrase “and Israel” was mistakenly added twice in one sentence. We have now corrected that error. However, this does not change the context of the position paper. Dr. Wood says that the position paper doesn’t mention issues regarding the modern state of Israel, but we believe that is exactly what that position paper is doing.

3. “Israel–the Church’s Response” is not a position paper. It’s what we call a “common concerns” article. It was written by the Office of Public Relations over 15 years ago. Here’s the article itself: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Israel-the-Churchs-Response. Here’s the topic index of other common concern articles: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index.

Our Response: Cedric Fisher’s commentary did call both papers “position papers” when in reality “Israel – The Church’s Response” is not an official AoG position paper. Rather, it is listed under AoG Beliefs on their website and described as “based upon [AoG] common understanding of scriptural teaching.” (source: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index)

4. By mixing quotations from the position paper and the common concerns article, Lighthouse Trails concocts a belief that simply doesn’t exist.

Our Response: We don’t agree with Dr. Wood’s assumption here. To say that an argument can’t be proven by using different credible (and related) documents is faulty reasoning.

5. The article goes on to talk about Rick Warren’s PEACE plan, which is NOT mentioned in Resolution 3, the position paper, or the common concerns article. It then states, “Resolution 3 is an attempt to present a more powerful statement of disassociation with Israel.” But Resolution 3 doesn’t mention the contemporary state of Israel at all, let alone “a more powerful statement of disassociation with Israel.” This is simply a lie.

Our Response: As for Rick Warren’s influence within the AoG, this could be proven in a number of different ways (not to mention that he is one of the keynote speakers at this year’s AoG General Council along with Mark Batterson (Circle Maker) and Priscilla Shirer (contemplative teacher)), but we will provide this one piece of documentation. In a 2008 Time Magazine article titled “Rick Warren Goes Global,” it states:

“Warren is particularly excited by the hands-on involvement of some of the larger players in the Evangelical community. “A guy was going, ‘I’ll take Mozambique,’ and another guy was going ‘I’ll take Nigeria,’ ” he said happily, adding that he’s already secured personal commitments from influential leaders in the Salvation Army and the Assemblies of God (the largest Pentecostal denomination.) “They’ve said, they’re in, and they have to get their boards along,” he reported.” (emphasis added; source: http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1809833,00.html?xid=rss-nation).

Since 2008, the Purpose Driven paradigm has continued to have a major influence in nearly all evangelical denominations, including Assemblies of God. 

Regarding Dr. Wood’s statement that it is a lie to say that Resolution 3 is anti-Israel, it is not. This resolution was worded in such a way as to not appear to be directly implicating modern Israel. 

6. “AoG General Superintendent George O. Wood and other leaders of the denomination appear enamored with Warren to the extent they are virtually subservient.” That would be news to me, Rick Warren, and other leaders of the denomination. Furthermore, there is no denomination more active than ours in evangelizing Muslims.

See our response in point #5.

7. As is typical of Lighthouse Trails, you engage in six-degrees-of-separation conspiracy mongering. Even though neither Don nor Jodi Detrick wrote Resolution 3, he is mentioned because he is married to her, and she is mentioned because she allegedly promotes “contemplative spirituality.” This isn’t research; this is nonsense.

Our Response: Actually, Cedric Fisher’s mentioning Jodi Detrick because she is the wife of the chairperson of the AoG 2017 Resolutions Committee is certainly not “six-degrees-of-separation conspiracy mongering.” First of all, this is a husband and wife who are both highly active in AoG leadership; this is hardly “six-degrees of separation.” Second, the issue that took place with Dr. Wood and the AoG General Council in May of 2013 was no minor issue. Dr. Wood allowed Ms. Detrick to bring in a hard core New Age sympathizer to teach AoG women at the AoG General Council Conference that year. Lighthouse Trails wrote three carefully documented articles explaining several aspects as to why Barton should not be allowed to teach Christian women. After our first article (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11431), Dr. Wood issued a public statement defending Ms. Detrick’s choice of speakers (and he incidentally mentioned Ms. Detrick’s husband as he felt the association was important for people to know – the very thing he condemned Cedric Fisher for doing). Our second article in 2013 included Dr. Wood’s response defending the choice of Ruth Haley Barton (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11554). Incidentally, Cedric Fisher (a former AoG pastor who was not an LT author at that time) wrote an article addressing the issue with Barton (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11569). He made some very valid points, and his article from 2013 is worth reading to better understand the dilemma.

We believe it was appropriate for Cedric Fisher to mention the Wood/Detrick/Barton event that took place four years ago because from years of researching the contemplative prayer movement, we know that one of the “fruits” of contemplative prayer is a shift in attitude regarding Israel. While there have always been those (such as those in the Reformed camp) who have historically rejected Israel of having significance according to a biblically prophetic view and adhere to Replacement Theology, there is also now a growing number of evangelicals who are moving from a pro-Israel stance to an anti-Israel stance, and many of those evangelicals have first embraced the contemplative prayer movement. Is this just a coincidence? We don’t believe so. Those who practice contemplative meditation, over time, begin to change their views on the Atonement, the Cross, salvation, and even Israel and the Jews because the meditation experience is panentheistic (God in all) and interspiritual (all paths lead to God) in nature; and when one begins to accept panentheism and interspirituality, the Cross, the Atonement, salvation through Christ alone, and Bible prophecy (which includes understanding Israel and the return of Christ) do not fit into that mold any longer.

Dr. Wood resents the fact that Jodi Detrick name was mentioned in Cedric Fisher’s article, so much so that he has resorted to ugly name calling. We fear that Dr. Wood does not understand these vital issues, and that is why he is lashing out. 

8. The article about Ross Byar’s school is hilarious. Ross teaches “pacifism,” not “passivism.” And do evangelical Christians really want to go on record opposing the teaching of pacifism to MUSLIM students? Additionally, the Haaretz.com article cited doesn’t report that Byars’ school advocates “inner eye” mysticism. It says that on the day the journalist visited, they were learning about the mysticism of an important modern Jewish rabbi. A good education acquaints people accurately with the beliefs of others. LTR makes that look suspicious.

Our Response: Dr. Wood better read that article at Haaretz.com again. It clearly states that the teacher at Byar’s school is introducing and advocating a mystical spirituality to the students. The article states:

“Today, in fact, she’s [the teacher] trying to introduce the students to a mystical teaching from Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi in British Mandatory Palestine. The big idea is his concept of the “inner eye,” and Talesnick [the teacher] wants to suggest that if you can see with it, you’re color blind. It’s a good lesson against racism.”

Cedric Fisher stated it accurately when he said the school was advocating a mystical teaching. 

9. I could pick apart the article’s references to the six authors of Resolution 3–all of whom I know personally or at least know of–but I’ll just quote this hilarious statement about Nam Soo Kim: “I could not discover any significant involvement or contributions to the AoG. As with most of the other authors, he seems to be involved with activity outside of the denomination.” For the record, Nam Soo Kim is an executive presbyter of the national Assemblies of God, a fact that is easily found on the AG website: https://ag.org/About/Leadership-Team/Executive-Presbytery.

Our Response: The fact that Cedric Fisher did not know of Nam Soo Kim’s involvement with AoG is a moot point, but we accept the correction. However, there is one author of Resolution 3 that we do know about, and that is Murray Dempster. In 2007, 80 evangelical leaders signed a document titled “An Evangelical Statement on Israel/Palestine.” A November 2007 Christianity Today article titled “Evangelical Leaders Reiterate Call for Two-State Solution for Israel and Palestine” discussed the document and listed Murray Dempster as one of the signatories. The article stated:

[O]ver 80 evangelical leaders have signed a statement indicating their belief ‘that the way forward is for the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a fair, two-state solution.'” (source: http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2007/november/148-33.0.html (For a list of Dempster’s credentials that include the signing of this two-state solution document, see http://www.seu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/MWD-Resume-Updated-SEU-8.1.2013.pdf)

We find this unnerving that a man, Dempster, who is a signatory for a document that calls for a two-state solution, is also a contributing author and endorser to this AoG resolution that has the potential of invoking great harm to the Jewish people; and it is equally troubling that the head of AoG is perfectly OK with this. He says that he knows all of them personally or at least knows of them—insinuating that this makes them all legitimate). According to one Jewish Christian radio host we spoke with this morning, a two-state solution would “legitimize” a Palestinian State filled with brutal terrorists who want to destroy Israel. What in the world is AoG doing playing with this kind of fire?! Cedric Fisher provided us with some thought-provoking comments today on the two-state solution:

“Some evangelical leaders insist there is nothing wrong with the Two-State Solution.  They claim that Israel advocates a Two-State Solution.  If that were true, then it would have already occurred and we would not be having this controversy.  There is a vast difference between the versions of Two-State Solutions.  Israel’s version could be summed up as, “You leave us alone, and we’ll leave you alone.”  Conversely, the Two-State Solution advocated by certain evangelicals is to moderate a resolution between Israel and Palestine that involves Israel giving up the West Bank, its biblical heritage as God’s Chosen People, and other untenable concessions.  There is an effort to dismiss Israel from eschatology and brand it as just another sinful nation.

“These leaders cannot understand why true supporters of Israel view them as anti-Semitic.  They claim they are not anti-Semitic but rather that they also support Israel.  They obviously do not support the Israel that exists, but the “Israel” they have modeled for their peace plan.  I invite the reader to read the literature of these so-called pacifists for “peace.”  If they supported Israel as it presently exists, they would not be sympathetic to the Muslim narrative and attempt to coerce Israel to accept a pro-Palestinian Two-State Solution.  

10. This conclusory statement is an outright lie: “Therefore, to embrace the Palestinian and Muslim cause and reject Israel is, in essence, to be anti-Semitic. Thus, the AoG’s positions papers and Resolution 3 is oxymoronic in presentation and factitious in intent. It is an effort to unite the 60 million-member worldwide denomination with other denominations and political groups that are openly hostile to Israel.” None of the AG links the author has provided–to Resolution 3, our position paper, or even our common concerns article–embrace Islam, reject Israel, or exhibit antisemitism. The World Assemblies of God Fellowship numbers 68.5 million adherents, not 60 million (https://ag.org/About/Statistics), but the author can’t even get this basic statistic right. And I am unaware of any member nation of the WAGF that’s “openly hostile to Israel.” I certainly am not – having been to Israel over 40 times and having established the Assemblies of God Center for Holy Lands Studies that has brought thousands to Israel – including hundreds of students preparing for the ministry.

Our response: We stand behind Cedric Fisher’s closing comments. We believe AoG is facing a real threat, and the fact that their head cannot see this and has no problem with Resolution 3 is scary at best.

You should have regard for truth. But, you [do] not.

The article you published is false, meretricious, and slanderous. You should be ashamed.

Finally, there is a process in our Constitution and Bylaws by which members can present resolutions. The authors of resolutions have no guarantee that what they propose will be adopted; but, our Bylaws make provision for members to have that right.

Our Response: The men who wrote Resolution 3 are leaders in the AoG, not some renegades who have no influence in the denomination. Without intending on sounding disrespectful, the shame goes to AoG leaders who are involved in trying to pass Resolution 3 and to Dr. Wood, not Cedric Fisher and Lighthouse Trails.

Response to George Wood’s E-mail from Cedric Fisher:

I wish to thank Dr. Wood for taking time out of his busy schedule to respond to my commentary. Since Dr. Wood has insisted on more information, I will respectfully honor his request.

First, I concede that Resolution 3 does not contain the word “Israel,” and I never stated that it did. However, it contains the reference to a position paper that does mention Israel. Additionally, although “Israel—the Church’s Response” is not an official position paper, it is a position officially assigned to the “Church” and included under “Beliefs” on the AoG website. Further, Resolution 3 is presented as being about peacekeeping, but the statement it proposes to add to the Constitution includes justice and peacemaking. Here is why that is important.

We must ask, “What nations in conflict did the authors of R3 have in mind when they wrote the Resolution?”

The only nation in conflict that the majority of evangelicals are focused on is Israel. Regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the terms justice and peacekeeping are interpreted by the worldview of whoever employs them. Some evangelicals consider Israel “unjust” and even “racist” in their dealings with Palestinians. I propose that the conflict is not because Israel is unjust, racist, or rejects peace. It exists because her neighbors wish to annihilate her as stated in the following:

I will never allow a single Israeli to live among us on Palestinian land. (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, The Jerusalem Post)

The solution that political Progressives, Liberals, Palestinian sympathizers, denominations, and some leading evangelical “pacifists” propose is a two-state solution. That attempt at “justice and peacemaking” would devastate Israel. Standing in the way of a two-state solution is the traditional, biblical, eschatological view that most evangelicals hold dear. There is currently a massive effort underway throughout Christianity to neutralize and eject that view from evangelicalism. The result, unintended or perhaps intended, is that anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in evangelicalism.

Therefore, we are wary of overtures of justice and peacemaking by individuals who have been involved in efforts to impose a two-state solution on Israel.  Is it the intent of R3 authors to legitimize a worldview that undermines historical evangelical support for Israel in the name of justice and peacemaking? We can help answer that question by taking a look at some of R3’s authors.

R3 author Murray Dempster is considered by some of his peers as the “‘Grandfather of Modern Pentecostal Pacifism.” Dempster was a signer of the document “An Evangelical Statement on Israel/Palestine” that proposes a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He also signed a letter to President George Bush in July 29, 2007, calling for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict that includes the vast majority of the West Bank.

Dempster is professor of social ethics at Assemblies of God Southeastern University. An online blog post titled, “Liberal Theology at Assemblies of God University?” features the testimony by David Thrower expressing concern about the influence of the Emergent Church and “progressive” adherents that question the supremacy of God and the authority and veracity of His Word at Southeastern. Thrower mentioned Dempster touting liberal theologian James Cone. However, deeply troubling was his observation concerning rampant anti-Semitism that included an on-campus lecture by pro-Palestine advocate Sami Awad. At one point in the lecture, Awad had very anti-Semitic comments mentioning that Israel did not have a right to exist. – Chelsen Vicari, Juicy Ecumenism blog; December 18, 2014, https://juicyecumenism.com/2014/12/18/squishy-theology-assembly-gods-southeastern-university/

Another R3 author, Robert E. Cooley, signed the Yale “A Common Word” Christian Response document http://faith.yale.edu/common-word/common-word-christian-response. Among the signers is Rick Warren, one of the speakers at the upcoming 57th General Council in Anaheim. The document begins:

As members of the worldwide Christian community, we were deeply encouraged and challenged by the recent historic open letter signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals from around the world. “A Common Word Between Us and You” identifies some core common ground between Christianity and Islam which lies at the heart of our respective faiths as well as at the heart of the most ancient Abrahamic faith, Judaism.

The document also stated:

Before we “shake your hand” in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One [a name for the Muslim god] and of the Muslim community around the world. . . . That so much common ground exists—common ground in some of the fundamentals of faith—gives hope that undeniable differences and even the very real external pressures that bear down upon us can not overshadow the common ground upon which we stand together.

As I pointed out in my commentary, R3 author Robert W. Houlihan and Russell P. Spittler have made statements in support of Dempster.

How can I or anyone who is willing to take a serious look at this situation conclude that R3 is anything other than an attempt to undermine evangelical support for Israel?

Related Information:

The Berean Call Conference: Israel in the Line of Fire

DVD Exposes “Christian Palestinianism” and the Evangelical Leaders Promoting It

 Chrislam – The Blending Together of Islam & Christianity

Another Look: Has the Church Replaced Israel?

Terror Against Israel

 

Letter to the Editor: Even Good Churches Being Affected by Contemplative Authors

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Dear Lighthouse Trails,

A picture of Dallas Willard and John Ortberg

I visited a church in my area for the first time today. When I looked online at the church’s doctrines before my visit, the doctrines looked very biblically sound. The church’s site clearly states that the pastor preaches from the Bible verse by verse, and he did. With all of the faithfulness to the Word of God that I observed, I was very surprised to glance at some bookshelves, which was the church library for this small church, and see one of Dallas Willard’s books on the shelf! I didn’t get a chance to look through the other books, but I wish I had now for the purposes of this letter. The pastor even attended Bob Jones University, which I know you have listed as not being contemplative. These contemplative books clearly seem to be getting into the hands of pastors and Christians everywhere. A pastor’s seminary and even an individual’s denomination doesn’t seem to dictate who is reading them. As I was thinking about my experience today and doing some research on your site, I found this list of The Top 50 “Christian” Contemplative Books – A “NOT RECOMMENDED Reading List” and 25 Christian “Bridgers” to Them and am planning to share this list with the pastor from the church I visited today and others. I pray that more Christians will realize that many popular authors and teachers are leading the church toward a new, mystical spirituality and away from traditional, biblical Christianity. I pray that Christians will take heed, compare every teaching and practice of men to the Word of God, and warn others so that more know will know what is happening today within the Church.

A Lighthouse Trails reader

LTRP Note: The list of authors mentioned above can be found in Chris Lawson’s more comprehensive booklet titled, A Directory of Authors (Three NOT Recommended Lists), which can be printed directly from our blog (scroll to bottom for Print Button) or bought in booklet format.

Letter to the Editor: Purpose Driven Movement – Is There Really Something to Be Concerned About?

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I don’t normally write others with questions, but seek answers through my own research. Your posting about Rick Warren and the Purpose-Driven Church, along with books offered on your website, have been most helpful.

On June 26-29, I attended a PD conference at Saddleback Church. The church staff and spouses attended a 3-day conference on “Hope Renewed.” I was there all 3 days taking notes and listening to what was said. The speaker each day was Rick Warren.

After those 3 days, I found myself questioning what I thought I knew about Rick Warren and the Purpose-Driven Church; even realizing all that I had previously read at your site and others. After all, he seemed to have a gift for simplifying things and holding everyone’s attention. Was I wrong to think differently and was he on target? I found myself wondering why I had questioned this fine man speaking before me.

But at the end of the third day during one of the worship music sessions, I realized how sad I felt for all the attendees and how all the messages thru music were only “positive” messages about God; not much if any about our sin and desperate need for Jesus.

For as humble as Rick Warren presents himself, I couldn’t help thinking that I was missing something that didn’t seem quite right, or I was wrong to question him and the PD movement at all; and somehow the articles on your website and others were all wrong. Was it a possibility that I was in the presence of a seducing spirit or a spirit that deceives and blinds even believers in Christ? As I have reflected over the last 2 weeks, I believe that is exactly what happened.

I writing to share with you what happened – trusting that my thinking and assumptions are not wrong. I appreciate your consistent work with sharing the truth of God’s Word and that of your authors. I have not found many places to get such help.

_____________________

LTRP Note: After observing and researching Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Movement for over 15 years, we find that the evidence gathered simply cannot be ignored. If you are reading this letter to the editor and finding yourself uncertain as to what the roots, foundation, and goals of Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Movement are, please read some of the articles below. For books on this issue, read A Time of Departing, Faith Undone, Deceived on Purpose, A “Wonderful” Deception, and The Good Shepherd Calls. 

Some of the More important Articles About the Purpose Driven Movement

The Peace of God versus the P.E.A.C.E. of Man

The Kingdom of God and a Man of Peace

Rick Warren’s Dangerous Ecumenical Pathway to Rome And How One Interview Revealed So Much

THE THREE LEGGED STOOL PLAN

Rick Warren’s Daniel Plan – The New Age/Eastern Meditation Doctors Behind the Saddleback Health

A Visit to Rick Warren’s Health Seminar – The Unfolding of a Global New Age Plan

The Story Behind Lighthouse Trails

The New Missiology – Doing Missions Without the Gospel

RICK WARREN RETAINS UNBIBLICAL POSITION IN NEW 2012 EDITION OF THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE

Rick Warren’s Popular Broad Way Christianity Misses the (Biblical) Mark

Looking to the Past to Unravel Confusion About Rick Warren, Islam, and Warren’s All-Inclusive “Second Reformation”

Purpose Driven Terrorism

Chrislam – The Blending Together of Islam & Christianity and Rick Warren’s Muslim Man of Peace 

Dallas Theological Seminary Not Contemplative? – New Evidence Shows Otherwise

Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) has always maintained that while they teach Spiritual Formation, they only teach the “good” kind and that they are not a school that promotes contemplative spirituality. Lighthouse Trails has always challenged these suppositions. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago when Lighthouse Trails editors had some correspondence with two different DTS faculty members (one a dean) who insisted that DTS was not promoting contemplative spirituality and that Lighthouse Trails should not include their name in our Contemplative College list or in our booklet An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited” that names several evangelical seminaries (including DTS) that promote contemplative spirituality.

One example of how DTS is promoting contemplative spirituality is through their textbook Foundations of Spiritual Formation written by Paul Pettit.  While instructors at DTS who use this book may or may not ever mention Richard Foster or Dallas Willard, the textbook by Pettit does. Within the pages of Pettit’s book is Richard Foster, Philip Yancey, N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Thomas Aquinas, Ayn Rand, Parker Palmer, Eugene Peterson, J.P. Moreland, Klaus Issler, Bruce Dermerst, Jim Burns, Kenneth Boa and Brother Lawrence’s “practicing God’s presence,” plus the practice of Lectio Divina. These are some of the heavy weights in the contemplative prayer movement. Paul Pettit teaches in DTS’s Spiritual Formation department. One course that uses Pettit’s book at DTS is Mentored Spiritual Formation. If DTS isn’t promoting the contemplative prayer movement, why use a textbook that includes teachers and writers who do?

There is more to this Spiritual Formation saga at Dallas Theological Seminary. Take a look at this page for the DTS Doctor of Ministry (DMIN) Spiritual Formation Cohort.  Scroll to the bottom of the page and see the names of the two faculty members for this program. One of them is Gail Seidel (you can view her professional credentials here and here.) Last month (June 2017), she wrote a blog article titled “Soul Noticing 101,” in which she  shows an obvious affinity for contemplative spirituality. She speaks, as all the contemplatives do, of Christians who feel depleted, tired, and neglected (which is how they convince people they need to do contemplative prayer).

Seidel quotes enthusiastically from several contemplatives in the article. One quote is by Cindy Caliguire. Lighthouse Trails wrote about Caliguire in 2009 because of her advocacy for contemplative prayer. The following is an excerpt from that article:

With all these contemplative connections, it’s no surprise that Soul Care founder Mindy Caliguire’s teaching sessions are also based on contemplative spirituality and the spiritual disciplines. This is clearly evident if one listens on-line to her sessions. Caliguire is a good speaker, and she does quote and reference the Bible, but for those who understand and recognize contemplative spirituality, it becomes obvious in listening to her that Caliguire is in that camp.

In Practicing Silent Prayer [a 2009 workshop at Willow Creek], Caliguire teaches about mantras, silence, and finding a quiet place undistracted. She also mentions that this kind of prayer is “difficult to do. In Practicing Solitude Part 1, she teaches on how to prepare an undistracted quiet place or retreat, and explains what things to bring to connect with God. Oddly, she recommends bringing an alternative Bible translation that is less familiar to you, a journal, and The Way of the Heart by Henry Nouwen. The following is from Nouwen’s book: “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” (p. 81).

DTS Magazine – low-resolution shot used in accordance with the US Fair Use Act for critical review

This “repetition of a single word” is intended to put the practitioner in an altered state of consciousness. Gail Seidel goes on to quote Dallas Willard from his book Renovation of the Heart (remember, Willard and Richard Foster are the two main pioneers in bringing contemplative spirituality into the church and were inspired to do so by Catholic mystic Thomas Merton). After quoting Willard, Seidel quotes psychotherapist and meditation advocate Thomas Moore from his book Care of the Soul. The book is actually endorsed inside the cover by New Age author Larry Dossey, and in a section at the back of Moore’s book for further recommended reading, he includes Carl Jung! According to the New Age website Spirituality & Practice, Moore is “a leading lecturer in the fields of archetypal psychology, mythology, and imagination” and a columnist for Spirituality & Health magazine. How can a faculty member at DTS be promoting such a book unless she is resonating with the author? She never gives any indication that she disagrees with any of these quoted figures; on the contrary.

After quoting Willard, Caliguire, and Moore, Gail Seidel continues on her contemplative-author escapade by quoting “spiritual director” Alice Fryling from her book Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction. This book is a who’s who of contemplative, New Age, panentheistic mystics: Thomas Merton, Gerald May, Shalem Institute found Tilden Edwards, not to mention Henri Nouwen, Richard, Foster, and David Benner (all of whom you can read about in Ray Yungen’s A Time of Departing).

It cannot be ignored that one of two Spiritual Formation faculty members at Dallas Theological Seminary is so taken with so many hard-core contemplative prayer advocates. Dating back to 2010, in Seidel’s DTS Soul Care Lead Lab, she is recommending books by David Benner, Richard Foster, Ruth Haley Barton, Mindy Caliguire, Leighton Ford, Fil Anderson, Thomas Moore, and Dallas Willard (all contemplative teachers).

This brings us to the 2017 summer issue of DTS Magazine (see cover to the right) that one of our readers brought to our attention recently. There are a number of innuendos and hints (including the cover) of contemplative spirituality in this issue. But we will focus on one particular article written by Brandon Geilla titled “Patterns of Prayer: Ancient and Modern Tools for Reading Scripture and Communing with God,” which states:

Ancient words like liturgy can seem scary for modern, nondenominational evangelicals. Liturgy and words like lectionary, or guides like the Book of Common Prayer, often bring up feelings of empty ritual. Are they hollowed out forms of true Christian faith from which we broke away during the Reformation? We often believe so and we make subconscious vows to never return to dead habits.

Yet, this year—the 500th since the Reformation—looking back to more traditional roots of our Christian practice can prove fruitful for our spiritual growth. In the last several years, in fact, many articles have explored why millennials are returning to mainline, traditional denominations because of their formal liturgy. (emphasis added)

What the millennials are “returning” to is a mystical form of prayer developed by the Desert Fathers and other monastics. Geilla’s article elaborates on the “lectionary,” stating, “Within a more structured worship environment, people hear the Scriptures as part of a more multisensory, whole-body experience” (emphasis added). The article insinuates that DTS founder Lewis Sperry Chafer would approve of this “multisensory” kind of Christianity and stretches Chafer’s apparent willingness to work with those of other denominations into a willingness to embrace these liturgical sensory experiences as well. By the way, we believe the practices being recommended in this article have the potential to be like gateway drugs to full-blown contemplative prayer (in a similar way as lectio divina is used in the contemplative prayer movement). In fact, this article is a gateway article. For example, it quotes (and recommends) a man named Drew Dickens and a group he is part of called Abide. Dickens heads the spiritual formation department at Abide. The Abide website promotes meditation calling it  “Christian meditation.” But by the descriptions (such as it relieves stress), they are talking about something much different than meditating (pondering or thinking about) on Scripture. Abide links to a particular website to make their point that mediation is beneficial (when the world says meditation, it is not talking about reading Scripture and pondering on it – it’s talking about mantra-like meditation). Just take a look at some of the books on that site (that Abide recommends to view), and you will see clearly what Abide means by “meditation.” For an example of one of Abide’s mediation exercises, click here (but please use caution). The monotone woman’s voice is an earmark of New Age meditation exercises. In addition, she instructs the listener to breath in slowly and breath out slowly. For those who are familiar with New Age meditation, you will recognize the similarity.

The article by Brandon Geilla in DTS Magazine would never appear in a magazine that understood the dangers of contemplative prayer. Interestingly, Geilla favorably references Bishop Ray Sutton in his article, who was mentioned in a Lighthouse Trails article where we stated:

Bishop Ray Sutton of The Gathering is Dean of the Province and Ecumenical Affairs of the Anglican Church in North America and is involved in a number of ecumenical (road to Rome) activities. Sutton also advocates for the Catholic transubstantiation of the communion elements (a re-crucifixion of Christ) (click here and here for some more information on Sutton).

We know our critics, including those at DTS who defend the school no matter what, will say we are using guilt by association in our article to implicate DTS, but what it is guilty of is guilt by promotion and guilt by proxy. There’s a big difference! We do not believe these are isolated incidents at DTS. And it has not just started. Like others who have gone down the contemplative/emergent path, DTS started off slowly years ago building momentum over the years. At the very least, DTS needs to come clean and admit what they are doing for the sake of unsuspecting students who will later become pastors and teachers of today’s Christian church and will have been greatly influenced in a manner that does not align with the biblical Gospel.

What’s really troubling about Dallas Theological Seminary is that they deny they are promoting contemplative spirituality. Yet, one of two faculty members for their Spiritual Formation Cohort is gleaning heavily from outright contemplative mystics. At least with some schools, they admit that is what they are doing – it’s out in the open. But not so with DTS. Their hands are in the cookie jar, but they are denying it. What would their older Christian donors do if they knew the school has willfully entered a spirituality that negates the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Related Articles:

Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why It Shouldn’t)”

5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer”

Sorceries or Salvation—Which Will It Be?

Ray Yungen

By Ray Yungen

God’s Desire

Just what exactly is God’s desire for mankind? Does He want to send people to Hell? Does He want anyone to live eternally without Him? Scripture is very clear about this when it says:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

God makes a strong plea to all people, giving them every opportunity to receive Him. It is God’s desire that none should perish eternally. That’s why He offered His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ—the only perfect sacrifice for mankind’s sin:

Therefore as by the offence of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Jesus] the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Romans 5:18)

What it comes down to is the preaching of the higher self (as taught in contemplative spirituality) versus the preaching of the Cross. The New Age says that God is the higher self in man—that God is just a meditation away.

Many people are turned off when they think Christian teaching says we are bad and worthless. But this is not an accurate depiction of Christianity. It may teach that man is bad  (i.e., sinful) (which is evident) but certainly not worthless. The fact that Christ died for the “ungodly” to “reconcile” them to God shows God’s love toward man. In contrast to karma, the Gospel of grace is better in that if you accept its provision, you are complete (perfect) in Christ Jesus.

This is why Christianity is so steadfast on these issues. If a belief system is not preaching the Cross, then it is not “the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). If other ways are correct, then Christ died in vain, His blood shed unnecessarily.

A Warning and a Plea

It is very true that God loves mankind, so much so He sent His Son to save all who receive Him by faith. The Lord is very patient with man, and as “the day of the Lord” draws nearer and nearer, He continues beckoning humanity to Himself.

However, while God’s love, mercy, and patience are very enduring, His warnings about a great judgment coming upon the earth are to be taken very seriously. Those who refuse to bow their knee to Jesus Christ will suffer severe and eternal consequences—make no mistake, that day will come:

But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7)

Jesus said, in referring to His return “of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Matthew 24:36). But He also said that while we will not know the exact hour and day of His return, we should be watching for the signs of the coming tribulation period. Throughout the centuries, Christians generally thought they were living in a time when Christ’s return was imminent based on natural disasters, wars, upheaval, and prominent military leaders (e.g., Napoleon). But never in the history of humanity has occultism and mysticism been unleashed as it has now.

Many think that the New Age movement is only a fairly recent manifestation of the last few decades. But I believe that the words of the prophet Isaiah reveal that New Age spirituality was even around back then, although not called that. And he links this Ancient Wisdom in with the end of the age period. Isaiah issues a stern and fearsome warning:

Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth, if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. (Isaiah 47:12-13)

The next verse describes the judgment that these will be subjected to:

Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame. (Isaiah 47:14)

And in Revelation 9:20-21, it discloses:

And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries.

The Book of Revelation explains that there are those who in the latter times “blasphemed the name of God” and “repented not to give him [God] glory” (Revelation 16:9) and again, “repented not of their deeds” (vs. 11).

These verses that speak of sorceries portray the “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thessalonians 2:7) that is being judged during the tribulation period because its adherents are claiming to be God, and they refuse to give Him the glory but rather take it upon themselves. This will be the ultimate test revealing who the real God is.

This word “sorceries” used in Revelation comes from the greek word pharmakaia. The word is translated into four meanings.:

1) the use or the administering of drugs
2) poisoning
3) sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it
4) metaphorically the deceptions and seductions of idolatry

I want you to realize the significance of this. The Bible is clear that sorcery will be a pervasive practice, to the point of being epidemic during “the day of the Lord.” And this is what is now called the Ancient Wisdom by its proponents! The occultist Alice Bailey said that the Ancient Wisdom would be at the very root of her new vital world religion, which she proudly proclaimed would be universal.

Scripture is very clear that sorceries are practices that will be judged by God. Traditionally throughout the centuries, sorcery has been practiced by a very small number of persons (i.e., occult or kept secret). But now we have a virtual explosion of sorcery through various practices and pronouncements (Yoga, contemplative, meditation, Reiki, Oneness Blessing, etc). What I am talking about is a whole world like the psychic slave girl in the Book of Acts.

From Genesis to Revelation, the pages are filled with God’s warning to mankind when he refuses to acknowledge that the Lord is God and man is not. And throughout these pages are stories of those who mocked and scorned the warnings brought by God’s messengers. The apostle Peter referred to this scenario:

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. (2 Peter 3: 3-4)

Many people today believe that it is wrong to talk about and warn of an endtime, apocolyptic time period. Rather, they say, we should spend time meditating and employing our higher powers to reach happiness and enlightenment in life. We each have a choice to make. Do we seek after this consciousness, or do we humbly call upon the living God and accept His free gift of salvation and eternal life?

If you don’t already, I pray you will come to know the true Christ (Jesus Christ) before it is too late. I cannot emphasize enough the vital importance of understanding and believing the following verse:

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (John 10:9)

By saying this, Jesus made clear that it was by Him and not a mystical consciousness that we are saved. Let me leave you with this. Compare these four views below. I pray you will see the difference as I did so many years ago!

I AM GOD! This is THE most basic tenant of metaphysical spiritual understanding.1—A metaphysical teacher

You are God in a physical body.. . .You are all power. . . . You are all intelligence. . . . You are the creator.2—The Secret

[T]here is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:21-22)

He that hath the Son [not higher consciousness] hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (1 John 5:12)

Many people have not grasped what “the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13)  is all about—which can be summed up by the following verses:

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)

But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one [Adam] many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. (Romans 5:15)

Salvation is having personal faith and trust in the person and finished work (sacrifice) of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have “peace with God” (Romans 5:1), are “forgiven” (Ephesians 5:4), and are “reconciled” to God (2 Corinthians 5:18) only by Him. That’s where our faith or trust is to be directed.

The notion of achieving Christ consciousness (as offered in the New Age) is just not compatible with being redeemed by Christ’s precious blood. The two just don’t mix. Romans 5:6 says:

For when we were yet without strength [spiritually impotent], in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

A consciousness can’t die for anyone—only a person can. If you “receive not the love of the truth,” as Scripture says, your eternal destination will be determined:

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11)

Endnotes:

1. “I AM,” Communicated through Kathy Wilson (The Light of Olympia Newspaper Vol. 1, Number 8, August 1988), p. 7.
2. Rhonda Byrne, The Secret, p. 164.


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