Letter to Editor: Does Beth Moore Still Promote Contemplative Prayer?

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

To whom it may concern, I stumbled across information the other day about some prominent Christian leaders who support contemplative prayer and was so shocked and saddened; however I noticed that the information was old, from 2006-2008 and wondered if maybe these people have since recanted and stopped supporting this practice. I do not want to believe they are still in support if they aren’t any longer. I was hoping if you know of their stand as of now; we do a Beth Moore Bible study in our church a couple times a year, but cannot continue to do that if she is still in support if this. Hopefully you can shed some light on this. Thank you so much! S.H.

Dear S.H.

We have never heard of one single thing that would suggest Beth Moore has recanted her support of contemplative spirituality or her promotion of Brennan Manning. And the Be Still DVD is still on the market, as is her book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things.

Please find below an article we wrote about this matter:

Why We Say Beth Moore is a Contemplative Advocate

Advocate: one that defends or maintains a cause (Webster’s Dictionary)

In our article, “Rick Warren Points Network Followers to the Contemplative ‘Sabbath,’” we state that Beth Moore is a “contemplative advocate.” Some people have a hard time with this statement. Why do we say she is advocating contemplative spirituality? Below is our explanation:

The Be Still DVD by Fox Home Entertainment was released in April 2006. Featured speakers included Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Max Lucado, Beth Moore and many others. There is no indication on the DVD that Beth Moore is against contemplative prayer (the subject of the DVD), and in fact when we spoke with her assistant shortly after the release of the DVD, she told us that Beth Moore did not have a problem with Richard Foster or Dallas Willard’s teachings.

Furthermore, a statement was issued by Living Proof Ministries (see statement) that clarified: “[W]e believe that once you view the Be Still video you will agree that there is no problem with its expression of Truth.” Living Proof is offering to send a free copy of the DVD to anyone who receives their email statement and wishes to view the DVD, saying that, “[I]t would be our privilege to do this for you to assure you that there is no problem with Beth’s participation in the Be Still video.”

First a look at the DVD: In the Be Still DVD, countless enticements, references and comments clearly show its affinity with contemplative spirituality. For instance, Richard Foster says that anyone can practice contemplative prayer and become a “portable sanctuary” for God. This panentheistic view of God is very typical for contemplatives. As Ray Yungen points out, those who practice contemplative prayer begin to view God through panentheistic (God in all) and interspiritual (all is united) eyes. Thomas Merton, whom Foster has admired publicly for many years, believed that all human beings have divinity within, and this divinity can be reached through contemplative prayer, thereby making the Cross of Jesus unnecessary for union with God.

The underlying theme of the Be Still DVD is that we cannot truly know God or be intimate with Him without contemplative prayer and the state of silence that it produces. While the DVD is vague and lacking in actual instruction on word or phrase repetition (which lies at the heart of contemplative prayer), it is very misleading. What they don’t tell you in the DVD is that this state of stillness or silence is, for the most part, achieved through some method such as mantra-like meditation. The purpose of the DVD, in essence, is not to instruct you in contemplative prayer but rather to make you and your family hungry for it. The DVD even promises that practicing the silence will heal your family problems. We hope you will take some time to study the research we have been providing over the past six weeks on the Be Still DVD. We are confident that if you take a careful look at what this DVD is promoting you will come to the same conclusion that we have, that this project is an infomercial for contemplative practice, and because of the huge advertising campaign that Fox Home Entertainment has launched, contemplative prayer could be potentially introduced into millions of homes around the world.

The question must be asked, is this Be Still DVD an accurate “expression of Truth,” as Beth Moore says it is, and is there truly “no problem with Beth’s participation” in this project? If Beth Moore is actually a contemplative, then she does belong on the DVD. If that is the case and she is indeed in the contemplative camp, we hope and pray she will openly and honestly acknowledge this. Apologizing one moment and commending the next certainly will leave many confused. However, Beth Moore’s statement on the DVD leaves little room for speculation: “[I]f we are not still before Him [God], we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.” Moore says that it is not possible to “truly know” that He is God without “a stillness.” She is not talking about a quiet place but rather a stillness of the mind. And this is absolutely the theme in the DVD. Thus, unless you practice this stillness of the mind, your relationship with the Lord is inadequate. According to Beth Moore, you don’t even know Him in the way you should.

You may be asking yourself, where does Beth Moore really stand with regard to contemplative. The answer to that may at least partially be found in a book she wrote in 2002 called When Godly People Do Ungodly Things. In a section about “Unceasing Prayer” Moore states: “I have picked up on the terminology of Brother Lawrence, who called praying unceasingly practicing God’s presence. In fact, practicing God’s presence has been my number one goal for the last year” (p. 109).

Moore says: “A head full of biblical knowledge without a heart passionately in love with Christ is terribly dangerous–a stronghold waiting to happen. The head is full, but the heart and soul are still unsatisfied” (p. 60). This language is very indicative of contemplatives and echoes Richard Foster who said we have become barren within or Rick Warren who said the church is not fully mature without contemplative prayer. However, all of this talk leads one to think that the Word of God is little more than a philosophy and needs the help of contemplative prayer to be effective at all. The insinuation is that the Holy Spirit is dormant and ineffective without this extra stimuli. This is perhaps why contemplative-promoter Rick Warren says the last thing Christians need is another Bible study. Contemplatives are making a distinction between studying and meditating on the Word of God versus loving Him, suggesting that we cannot love Him simply by studying His Word or even through normal prayer–we must practice contemplative to accomplish this. But the Bible makes it clear that the Word of God is living and active, and it is in filling our minds with it that we come to love Him, not through a mystical practice that is never once mentioned in the Bible, except in warnings against vain repetitions and Old Testament warnings against divination.

Moore builds her case for contemplative in her frequent references to Brennan Manning in her book, suggesting that his contribution to “our generation of believers may be a gift without parallel” (p. 72). This is indeed a troubling statement made by a Christian leader who so many women look to for direction and instruction in their spiritual lives. Many of those women, in reading Moore’s comments about Manning and her quoting of him in the book may turn to the writings of Manning for further insights. When they do, they will find that Manning is a devout admirer of Beatrice Bruteau of The School for Contemplation.

Bruteau believes that God lives in all creation, stating: “We have realized ourselves as the Self that says only I AM, with no predicate following, not “I am a this” or “I have that quality.” Only unlimited, absolute I AM.

And yet in Abba’s Child, Manning says that Bruteau is a “trustworthy guide to contemplative consciousness.” Manning, whose view of the Cross is very similar to that of Brian McLaren, promotes contemplative and states:

[T]he first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer.

Choose a single, sacred word or phrase that captures something of the flavor of your intimate relationship with God. A word such as Jesus, Abba, Peace, God or a phrase such as “Abba, I belong to you.” … Without moving your lips, repeat the sacred word inwardly, slowly, and often.

When distractions come, … simply return to listening to your sacred word…. [G]ently return [your mind] to your sacred word. (Brennan Manning)

Beth Moore quotes Manning from his book Ragamuffin Gospel calling the book “one of the most remarkable books” (p. 290) she has ever read. But it is this very book that reveals Manning’s true affinity with contemplative spirituality. In the back of the book, Manning makes reference to Basil Pennington saying that Pennington’s methods will provide us with “a way of praying that leads to a deep living relationship with God.” However, Pennington’s methods of prayer draw from Eastern religions. In his book, Finding Grace at the Center, Pennington says:

We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible. Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices. (from A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p.64)

Manning also cites Carl Jung in Ragamuffin Gospel as well as interspiritualists and contemplatives, Anthony De Mello, Marcus Borg, Morton Kelsey, Gerald May, Henri Nouwen, Annie Dillard, Alan Jones, Eugene Peterson, and Sue Monk Kidd.

For Moore to call Manning’s book “remarkable” and to say his contribution to this generation of believers is “a gift without parallel” leads one to conclude that Beth Moore has absorbed Brennan Manning’s spirituality.

We know that many are upset because we call Beth Moore an advocate for contemplative spirituality. However, we beseech those who are bothered by our reports to search out this matter completely before drawing pre-mature conclusions. Find a way to come to an understanding of what contemplative really is, and then ask Beth Moore to renounce the spirituality that Brennan Manning and Richard Foster are propagating. If she will not do that (which would also include removing her book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things from the market) then she does indeed belong in the contemplative camp and for us to say she is a contemplative advocate is accurate and needful to say. If, however, she will renounce the teachings of these mystic proponents (Foster, Manning, etc) and make it clear that when she says “stillness” she in no way means a stilling of the mind as Foster, Manning and other contemplative mystics teach, she will do a great service to many Christian women and put much confusion to rest. In addition, in order to clear up this present confusion, she would need to remove herself from the 2009 Focus on Marriage seminar, in which she openly and willingly shares a platform with mantra proponent Gary Thomas or ask event organizers to remove Thomas from the schedule. All this to say, if Beth Moore is not a contemplative advocate, she needs to correct her past actions that prove otherwise and make a clear and public declaration. Lighthouse Trails has received a number of angry emails and calls from women who want Lighthouse Trails to stop saying this about Beth Moore, but we are presenting solid facts in a non-vitriolic, straight-forward manner, and we believe we are compelled by the Lord to do so, as are all believers required to defend the faith.

Postscript: The Be Still DVD is being widely promoted and can be found even in your local video rental stores. Couple this DVD with the fast growing CCN (Church Communication Network – hosts of the marriage seminar with Moore and Thomas) and we can safely say that contemplative prayer is quickly becoming “normal” in Christianity. But before we are too swift to think “oh well, maybe it isn’t that bad,” listen to these words by mystic Richard Kirby: “The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics.” That statement is taken from Ray Yungen’s book, A Time of Departing. Ray saw this coming back in 1994 when he sat and listened to Richard Foster and soon realized Foster was promoting the teachings of mystic Thomas Merton.

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