Lighthouse Trails has written a number of articles in the past three years regarding Biola University, once a trusted and respected evangelical Christian school. Today, they are helping to lead the way in bringing contemplative mysticism and the emerging church into the Christian faith. Last week, Lighthouse Trails was contacted by a student at Biola, who shared deep concerns over what is being taught in class. This student shared many instances where the new spirituality is being taught to students there, and those students who oppose it are in a minority and are often reprimanded in one form or another when they speak up. Because we do not want to reveal the identity of this student, we will not be posting the letter, but the student has asked us to help get the word out about what is taking place at Biola.
Biola has been introducing students to contemplative spirituality through their Institute of Spiritual Formation and the Talbot School of Theology for some time. Speakers at their Christian Spirituality & Soul Care have included contemplatives Dallas Willard, Ruth Haley Barton, and others in the same camp.2
The Journal of Spiritual Formation is one example of the continued spread of contemplative in Biola. The peer-reviewed journal began this past spring and will include the writings of contemplative authors.
Professors and other staff at Biola admit that they are influenced by contemplative writers. Matthew Hooper, Associate Dean of Campus Life, says Henri Nouwen is one of the people who has most influenced his life. 3 In the book of Nouwen’s that Hooper lists, The Way of the Heart, Nouwen advises his readers: “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 is active presence.” It is Nouwen who said he was uncomfortable with those who say Jesus is the only way of salvation (Sabbatical Journey).
J.P. Moreland, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot (Biola) School of Theology, has written about contemplative and emerging philosophy in his book, The Kingdom Triangle (see our book review). In that book, Moreland says that spiritual formation is one of three essential components needed in Christianity. Moreland discusses the “true self” and the “false self.” He echoes Thomas Merton and Martin Buber, both who had strong mystical propensities, and who believed we could attain to our true self (a perfect self) through mystical practices. Moreland encourages the writings (and practices) of St. Ignatius Loyola, saying such practices will help us to “cultivate the ability to discern the divine components” within us. And like most contemplatives, Moreland touts Henri Nouwen. Please understand the premise of the “true self” and the “false self” is: man is divine.
Katie Tuttle, Director of Commuter Life at Biola, names Nouwen, Brother Lawrence, and Brennan Manning as those who have most influenced her.4
And the list goes on as to professors and staff at Biola who are persuaded that contemplative is a legitimate Christian theology. It must be understood that where there is contemplative, there is emerging spirituality. They are connected at the hip, and the basic premises of each are the same: interspirituality, panentheism, and pantheism. In addition, the “Kingdom” theology and eschatology are also identical (see Faith Undone).
The letter we received from the Biola student addresses Biola’s Intercultural Studies Program.
The student told us that in one course of this program, “Integration Seminar: Gospel and Culture,” the following textbooks are used:
Contextualization in the New Testament: Patterns for Theology and Missions by Dean Fleming
Christianity Rediscovered by Vincent J. Donovan (a Roman Catholic priest)
The Changing Face of World Missions: Engaging Contemporary Issues and Trends by Michael Pocock
Theology in the Context of World Christianity by Timothy Tennent.
In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen
To better understand what is meant by “contextualization, please read this excerpt from Roger Oakland’s Faith Undone: Contextual Theology – Falling From Truth Through the Emerging Church
If you are a student at Biola, please contact Lighthouse Trails if you would like to receive a free copy of Faith Undone.
Previous Reports on Biola University