Letter to the Editor: Campus Crusade for Christ “Gospel Message” Includes Spiritual Formation/Contemplative Spirituality
I am a semi-retired pastor who has been growing more and more troubled by the trend in evangelical churches toward new age, emergent, and eastern mysticism. We were looking for some sound material to give to a Korean lady who is showing interest in Christianity. We went to Power to Change, __________ (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) to secure something useful for this purpose. We were sold a booklet titled “Knowing Jesus Personally.” It was looking good as we studied the content, until we came to the chapter on being empowered by the Holy Spirit. On page 53 of the booklet, we read:
If you find that you have retaken control of your life through sin – any definite act of disobedience – simply breathe spiritually (exhale the impure and inhale the pure). This important exercise will enable you to continue to experience Christ’s loving control in your life throughout each day.
a)Exhale-Confess your sin. (I John 1:9) . . . b) Inhale–Claim by faith the fullness of the Spirit in your life. (from Lesson Four: Power for Living, point 4 on Power to Change website)
We cannot conscientiously give this booklet to this lady. I don’t know if you have reported on the Spiritual Formation tendencies in Power to Change, so I thought I would apprise you of what we found. Our local Christian bookstore has nothing suitable for evangelism, nothing that simply presents the pure gospel of Christ. But we were told they could supply us with plenty of Spiritual Formation materials. Understandably we found this to be most upsetting.
Thanks for your faithfulness in true spiritual discernment, and you courage to post the faulty findings on your website.
In His grace,
DB ( B.C. Canada)
After receiving this letter to the editor from this Canadian pastor, we discovered that the same instructions on breath prayer are on the U.S. CRU (Campus Crusade’s new U.S. name) website in an article attributed to Dr. Bill Bright (CCC founder) (using virtually the same wordage).
In 2008, Lighthouse Trails had reported that Campus Crusade for Christ was promoting contemplative spirituality. On their main website at that time, we learned that the following concepts and/or practices were frequently referred to:
Spiritual Formation 126 Times
Lectio Divina 12 Times
Richard Foster 28 Times
Henri Nouwen 41 Times
Thomas Merton 45 Times
Contemplative 96 Times
Brian McLaren 5 Times
Brother Lawrence 28 Times
Desert Fathers 13 Times
Labyrinth Multiple Times
We stated back then: “On the current CCCI website, there are still indications that they are promoting contemplative/emerging spirituality. For instance, an audio they use for Campus Crusade Staff Training (CSU) and Big Break at Easter includes contemplative/emerging proponents: Rick Warren, John Eldredge, and Larry Crabb.” That resource is still sold on the CRU/CCCI webstore.
From every indication, CCCI (CRU) is continuing on the path of Spiritual Formation/contemplative spirituality. We’ll provide one compelling example: In October 2013, an article was posted on the CRU/CCCI website titled, “Sometimes You Just Need to Stop.” It tells the story of a young missionary couple, who upon returning from the mission field to the U.S., found themselves tired and worn out. During this time, the wife was reading a book titled Soul Custody (by Stephen Smith), and they attended a retreat center in Colorado, and from the time at that retreat center, they developed a list of things they could do in their lives, one of which is practicing lectio divina and another is to read Soul Custody, a book that is loaded with references to and teachings by contemplative mystics such as Henri Nouwen, Annie Dillard, Philip Yancey, Adele Calhoun, Dallas Willard, Richard Rohr, Eugene Peterson, Thomas Merton, and a number of others. One of the Merton books that is quoted from in Smith’s book is Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. As Ray Yungen points out in A Time of Departing, in that book, Merton made the quintessential panentheistic statement:
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, … now I realize what we all are.… If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are … I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.… At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth.… This little point … is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pp. 157-158)
The article on CCCI’s website about the two burnt out missionaries turning to a highly contemplative book and the practice of lectio divina is just one example that Campus Crusade is remaining on the contemplative prayer path. The breath-the-good-in/breath-the-bad-out exercise that our reader brought to our attention in his letter to us is another example.
If CCCI continues promoting contemplative spirituality, in time (if they haven’t already), they will absorb the panentheistic spirituality of Thomas Merton. We say that with confidence because panentheism and interspirituality are the “fruit” of contemplative prayer, which as Ray Yungen has often pointed out, is proof enough that contemplative prayer brings practitioners under the influence of familiar spirits and doctrines of devils.
A couple years ago Campus Crusade for Christ changed their 60-year-long name to CRU in order, they said, to reach more people for Christ. What they don’t realize is that the “Christ” of contemplative prayer is not the Jesus Christ of the Bible. The “Christ” of contemplative prayer will introduce adherents to Henri Nouwen, who stated near the end of his life after years of practicing contemplative mysticism:
Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God. (Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, p.51, 1998 Hardcover Edition)