An Open Letter to Christian Leaders: Please Tell Us Where We Are Wrong

By the Editors at Lighthouse Trails

For over 11 years, Lighthouse Trails has been issuing a warning about a mystical spirituality, known as contemplative prayer, which is coming through the conduit of the Spiritual Formation movement. It has not been an easy road to travel on, but through the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we saw this paradigm shift, which was affecting a large segment of the evangelical and Protestant church and lining up with biblical prophecy of a day coming when there will be great deception and many would fall away from the faith. We also became completely convinced that the roots of contemplative spirituality were based in panentheism (God in all), interspirituality (all paths lead to God), and universalism (everyone is united with God in spite of belief).

Once we saw this, we simply could not quit the work we had been called to do. Today, those convictions are stronger than ever, but the opposition or indifference we have encountered from the ranks of those widely known as leaders of the evangelical church has been stunning and sometimes unbelievable, especially in light of the fact that our only desire is to protect the message of the Cross from an opposite message that carries no hope of salvation or a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Looking back, it is hard for us not to see ourselves as a kind of David in his battle with Goliath. Lighthouse Trails is not a big ministry, at least as far as staff and resources go. If someone had told us 11 years ago that one day most major Christian ministries would know who we were and would resent, despise, or even hate us, we would not have believed it. You see, when we first began, we were under the impression that our warning was going to be welcomed by Christian leaders, and in fact, we thought that our own ministry could be short lived because once they were given the information and documentation about this great spiritual deception, they would take up the banner and run with it, and we would be able to go back to our lives before Lighthouse Trails began. After all, they were the ones who had the money, audience, credentials, and popularity to really make a difference. We had none of these things.

It wasn’t too long before we learned that the Christian leaders were not going to be receiving our message.

Opposition didn’t start right away. But then, that would make sense as we started at ground zero, with virtually no publishing experience and no readership. We had to take online college courses to learn how to build websites and design books. We sent out free copies of A Time of Departing (our launching book) to Christian radio stations, organizations, ministries, and pastors. One of these copies went to Rick Warren. Another to John MacArthur. One to Jerry Falwell, another to Focus on the Family, and on and on. From 2002 to 2006, we gave away over three thousand copies of A Time of Departing.  We heard back from several men and women, many of whom had Masters and Doctorate degrees who told us the book was right on the mark. Dr. Jim Diehl, for example, former General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, called one day and praised the book as “excellent” and “vital.” Chuck Smith spoke with one of our editors and said that our work was meaningful and important. John MacArthur told a staff member, who told us by phone, that he greatly appreciated the work we were doing. Rick Warren wrote us a personal note to tell us the book is a “hot topic” and has a place on his library bookshelf.

But then in 2005, we wrote a special report titled “Rick Warren Teams Up With New-Age Sympathizer Ken Blanchard!” It didn’t take too long after that report came out for us to know that we had crossed a line, and life was never going to be the same again. You can read more about those early years in two articles we wrote: one, “How Lighthouse Trails Began – Part One: “It was a dark and stormy night,” and two, “Lighthouse Trails, the Early Years – Part 2 – “A Hot Topic” That Just Wouldn’t Go Away.”  Warren B. Smith also documented some of the events in an entire chapter in his book A “Wonderful” Deception (chapter 5). Some of the things that took place were like elements out of a B-rated mystery novel like phone lines suddenly “out of order,” e-mails apparently being intercepted, being told by Saddleback that federal agents were investigating us because they thought we had broken into the Saddleback server, and so forth. We wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.

Over the course of the years, there have been many terrible and unkind things said about us in public venues. We’ll give you a brief rundown of some of these things that have been said. Prepare yourself – none of them have anything to do directly with our actual work. In fact, the one thing we have yet to see is any solid and biblical refutation of our work. It’s as if it’s always avoided. Everything is said, but no solid challenge is given.

So what are these terrible things said publically about Lighthouse Trails? Here’s an incomplete sampling: One  pastor, on a popular blog, said we were “like fleas on the back of a dog.” Then there was the time, on stage at a Calvary Chapel event with thousands of young people, where we were called “the haters.” Rick Warren’s former chief apologist said in an article that has been sitting on a high traffic Christian website for years that if we had the legal means we would torture and murder people. One well-known apologist coined the term “discernment divas” and first used it referring to one of the women writers at Lighthouse Trails in 2006. Then there were the generic name-calling terms like witch-hunters, freaks, fanatics, militant fundamentalists, and so forth. After a few years of this, we couldn’t help wonder why these highly qualified men (and sometimes women) had nothing qualified to say about our work.

We want to make one thing clear here. By telling our readers these things, we are not trying to gain sympathy. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We understand that in doing this kind of ministry, there is inevitably going to be strong reaction and defense tactics. No one wants to be criticized or challenged, especially leaders who have become accustomed to being followed, not being corrected.

What’s been frustrating about the name calling, however, is that we’ve been very open to receiving solid biblical refutation of the message we are proclaiming. In fact, we said from the very beginning of our ministry that all we really wanted was for the contemplative issue to come to the table, to be discussed, challenged, and considered. Eleven years ago, if one Googled the term “contemplative prayer,” virtually nothing came up on the first few pages of search results that was from a critiquing point of view. Mystical spirituality in the Christian church was being largely unchallenged.

As we learned of all the men who had great educational and theological credentials, we thought there would be some scholarly response and a taking hold of the torch, so to speak. We didn’t expect name calling, innuendos, sometimes downright lies (like the rumors that we often hear), and ad hominem and straw men arguments. That took us by surprise. And we began to wonder why this was happening. Was it possible, we asked ourselves, that some of these educated leaders couldn’t see the big picture of this deception? We just wanted some proof that we were wrong, some good solid biblical evidence that our conclusions were way off.

We got used to the name calling and over time, found some of it humorous (in a way); at least, we found it meaningless. It was the other accusations that got to us though, because we knew they were without merit (or evidence). One of the most common accusations against the research at Lighthouse Trails is that we take quotes out of context. And yet, and this is the truth, in all these years, we have not had one person actually give us an example of where we have done this. As a case in point, about 5 years ago, two educated men, both with doctorates from a higher learning institution in Canada, said that A Time of Departing was faulty because it took quotes out of context. We wrote to them in an amiable manner and asked if they could provide just one or two examples so that we could see where we went wrong. They did not produce one example. Lighthouse Trails has been meticulous about checking and double checking every quote in a book or article we publish to make sure that the intent of any particular author is not misconstrued or taken out of context. If someone did produce a legitimate example, we would speedily correct that. You see, it is not our intention to falsely accuse or villanize anyone. Taking quotes out of context is an accusation we take very seriously, and we take great efforts not to do that. And yet, we hear this often from our critics. But we are still waiting for an example.

The second most common accusation against us is that we use faulty and loose guilt by association reasoning. We have addressed this in many past articles, but we will say it again here: there is a difference between loose guilt by association and guilt by promotion or by proxy. What’s more, there is a legitimate guilt by association. The way our critics would have it, there is no such thing and it doesn’t matter who a person is associated with. But you won’t find backup in Scripture on that. On the contrary, consider all the verses that tell God-fearing people to keep good company, avoid standing with heretics or unruly people, keep oneself unspotted from the world, avoid the appearance of evil, and so forth.

One of the big issues that continuously surfaces is related to guilt by association. Those who accuse us of using guilt by association say that we call people contemplative or emerging proponents because they have been “associated” with a contemplative person. But, we have never done that. For instance, often we will challenge a big name leader for sharing a platform with contemplative and emergent figures. But we have never said that person was now a contemplative or emergent himself just for sharing the platform with one. An example of this is when we challenged Joel Rosenberg and Kay Arthur for attending Canada’s Breakforth contemplative-promoting conference and sharing the platform with emergents like Leonard Sweet and Tony Campolo. We never once said that now this makes Rosenberg and Arthur contemplatives or emergents themselves. No. The challenge we gave was that reputable, Bible-believing leaders should not give credibility to false teachers by standing on the same platforms or being at the same conferences.

Another case in point just occurred. We challenged John MacArthur for using a sermon for many years till present where he favorably quotes the late major contemplative pioneer Dallas Willard. The accusations started pouring in that we were calling MacArthur a contemplative proponent. But we never did. Our challenge was and is that by highly influential leaders favorably quoting false teachers, they inadvertently are giving credibility to that teacher and thereby lessening resistance from the Christian community at large to their message.

One last accusation that we want to address in this article is an accusation that comes primarily from a few popular public figures in the Calvinist/Reformed camp, and that is that all or most of the writing done at Lighthouse Trails is done by one woman (or a “discernment diva” as they  say – incidentally a diva is typically a self-centered, egotistical, arrogant woman (often a performer) who is domineering and rude to those around her. If you read our articles you’ll see this is not an accurate description of what we are trying to do that springs from a heart-felt love for people, which is the opposite of diva behavior). Three things on this issue: first, calling women who are believers in Christ “divas” is a derogatory and ungodly remark – period! Second, it isn’t true that most of the writing at Lighthouse Trails comes from just one person. Take a look at any of our e-newsletters, our blog, or our printed journals, and you will see  the names of many writers, both men and women. As you can see on our authors’ page, we currently use the writings of 11 women and 19 men. For anyone to say that our material is written by just one person appears to be a dishonest effort to minimize the value in the work of these 30 some writers.

Relating to the issue of women, as far as the accusation that women shouldn’t be in a ministry of this kind at all – all we can say to that is that if God can use a donkey, surely He can use a woman (Numbers 22:21-38). It is interesting to note that in the case of Balaam’s donkey, God used the donkey to warn and save Balaam’s life.  Is it so unthinkable that God would use women to warn of impending spiritual danger? To cry out to their brothers, of whom many have fallen asleep on the watch? Of all those labeled “discernment divas” whom we know, each of them is a loving mother, wife, and in some cases grandmother who has, not by her own choice, but by God’s apparent choice, accepted the role much like Balaam’s donkey. And remember, that donkey was struck several times by Balaam before God finally intervened – then Balaam’s eyes were opened, and he saw that the donkey’s efforts to warn him were legitimate.

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All of this that we have said in this article leads us to ask the question to Christian leaders, where have we gone wrong? Please tell us. Not by name calling or accusations without proof. If we have taken something out of context, please show us some examples of that. If have wrongly called someone a contemplative advocate or sympathizer, please tell us how. But all we ask is you present us with the documentation, the evidence. We only ask for the same standard to be applied to us that we have tried to use ourselves: honesty, accuracy, and Christian charity.

While we know we are all fallible, and as humans we don’t have a full understanding of the things of God according to Scripture, we, like others in the body of Christ, are attempting to walk a life that is honoring to God. We know we fail at that at times, and we are totally dependent on Him to lead us and strengthen us. We have attempted to report to Christians information that is pertinent to the health of the Christian church. If we have erred in our deductions and conclusions, then we want to be corrected. If we can be shown that our warning and work is faulty and against Scripture, we will apologize and even step down from this work.

We do not see ourselves as better than anyone else, and certainly we know we do not have the “qualifications” (from a human point of view) that would entitle us to be in any kind of authority over another (we do not even desire such authority). We have endeavored to stand beside our brothers and sisters, not above, not below. But because we believe so strongly that we are living in the days the Bible predicts will occur before the return of Christ where there will be a great falling away (of faith), we are gravely concerned that most of the Christian leaders seem to be either ignoring or going along with this major paradigm shift in the church at large. And while Lighthouse Trails is just a small ministry which could end at any time (as God sees fit) and certainly we have not come to the church with the splendor, finesse, support, or backing that most of the major Christian leaders have, we beseech these leaders to consider that God often uses the foolish things and weak things to speak His message (like Balaam’s donkey).

And so, if we are wrong, rather than using name calling, which is unprofitable, show us where we are wrong. If you, dear Christian leader, are  on the side of truth, then consider our warning. Maybe you don’t like our delivery, but if there is no solid evidence to prove us wrong, wouldn’t it be wise to humble yourselves and listen?

We have written this article, not as a means to defend ourselves but more so to defend our work.

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