Point Loma has hopped on the contemplative/emergent bandwagon, and one student and his family are very concerned. Lighthouse Trails has been contacted by a parent who told us her son attends Point Loma Nazarene University in California. Fortunately, for this woman’s son, he recognizes the spiritual deception that is taking place at Point Loma, but unfortunately he is a minority there and believes if he spoke up and his identity were revealed, he could be asked to leave the school or be reprimanded in some way.
The mother who called us said her son is in a dilemma. The school’s required chapel services are inundated with contemplative/emerging persuasions, and students who do not attend are fined. This particular student has made a decision not to sit in chapel when there are false doctrines being espoused, and he now owes quite a bit of money to the school. (1, 2)
Let’s take a moment and examine what is taking place at Point Loma Nazarene University–
To begin with, this past February PLNU had emergent leader and mysticism promoter Brian McLaren speak. Click here to listen to McLaren at PLNU. There is also the following endorsement for McLaren is posted on the Point Loma website:
On February 6, 2009, the Center for Pastoral Leadership had the pleasure of hosting Pastors Day 2009 for over 200 pastors from the greater San Diego area and beyond. This year, we were pleased to welcome as our special guest, author Brian McLaren. Time Magazine, in a recent publication, listed McLaren as “one of the twenty-five most influential evangelicals in America.” It was a generous grant from the Strategic Planning Committee that made his coming to PLNU a reality. 3
This was not the first time Brian McLaren has spoken at Point Loma. In February 2008, Lighthouse Trails reported that McLaren was to be a featured speaker in March (08).4 To better understand McLaren’s spiritual views and why his theology is not compatible with biblical Christianity, please read our review of his book, Finding Our Way Again. The book is part of the Ancient Practice Series put out by Thomas Nelson publishers. The book is a diatribe against biblical Christians (especially the ones waiting for Christ’s return) and an appeal to interspirituality via mysticism.
Since McLaren left the pastorate a few years ago, he has focused much of his time at colleges and universities. In Finding Our Way Again, McLaren reveals his interest in reaching youth. We explain in our book review:
In McLaren’s chapter titled “Moving On,” he gives a detailed analysis of how the emerging church is God’s answer to a stifled, fearful Christian church. He explains that this merging church must infiltrate the “institutions that rejected it,” adding that “conservative Protestants have repeated their Catholic sibling’s earlier mistakes (referring to the Catholic church’s one time rejection of Galileo). Then he says: “But over time, what they reject will find or create safe space outside their borders and become a resource so that many if not most of the grandchildren of today’s fundamentalists will learn and grow and move on from the misguided battles of their forebears [biblical believers]” (p. 133). You see, McLaren and his emerging church fellows (Pagitt, Sweet, Warren, et.al) want to change the minds of our children and grandchildren. That is why Rick Warren once said that the older traditional ones will have to leave or die because they won’t change, thus the emphasis in the emerging church on the youth.
Point Loma doesn’t seem to have any problem handing over their young charges to emergent leaders like Brian McLaren.
Another contemplative/emerging advocate that has spoken in the last couple years at Point Loma is Tony Campolo (who says mysticism unites religions). In Campolo’s book, Letters to a Young Evangelical, Campolo states: “[T]he West had severed itself from an ancient, magical form of religiosity and replaced it with a modern worldview in which religion was reduced to that which is rational [doctrine] and ethical [morality](p.10).” He talks in that book about becoming an “actualized Christian” and describes his own embracing of mystical practices:
[I]ntimacy with Christ has developed gradually over the years, primarily through what Catholic mystics call “centering prayer.” Each morning, as soon as I wake up, I take time–sometimes as much as a half hour–to center myself on Jesus. I say his name over and over again to drive back the 101 things that begin to clutter up my mind the minute I open my eyes. Jesus is my mantra, as some would say. The constant repetition of his name clears my head of everything but the awareness of his presence. By driving back all other concerns, I am able to create what the ancient Celtic Christians called “the thin place.”… After a while, an inner stillness pervades (p. 26).”
Is it any wonder that discerning students don’t want to attend Point Loma chapel services. What a travesty that they are being charged monetary fines to protect themselves.
Point Loma student body president, Andrew Henck, represents Point Loma students. Sadly, he turns to Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and Parker Palmer for his spiritual nourishment and recommends these authors to Point Loma students, many of whom, no doubt, look up to him for guidance.
There could be at least a partial explanation for Point Loma’s interest in mysticism proponents. Mark Carter, the school’s chaplain, is apparently drawn to contemplative spirituality. In the January 26, 2009 PLNU newsletter, it gives information for a class Carter was presenting: LISTENING FOR GOD’S VOICE: AN EXPLANATION AND EXPERIENCE OF LECTIO DIVINA–Grab your dinner and join Chaplain Mark Carter in the Cunningham Dining Room on Tuesday, January 27, at 6:30 p.m. for time in God’s Word. Also, on his bio, on the Point Loma website, Carter says that “Brother Roger of Taize” is his hero. Brother Roger is the late founder of a contemplative, interspiritual community called Taize in France. In the Taize Songbook, it describes the Taize experience:
“Short chants, repeated again and again, give it a meditative character,” the brothers explain in a brief introduction printed in the paperback songbook. “Using just a few words, [the chants] express a basic reality of faith, quickly grasped by the mind. As the words are sung over many times, this reality gradually penetrates the whole being.”
In a UK news article that came out after Brother Roger’s death, it identified him as a “new age pioneer.” We believe this would be an accurate estimation of Taize’s founder and Taize worship. And it is in contradiction to evangelical Christianity. A chaplain from a Christian university should not be telling students that an interspiritual mystic is his hero. Remember, the premise behind mysticism is panentheism (God in all things).
Contemplative spirituality is peppered throughout Point Loma Nazarene University. One book list, at PLNU’s Center for Pastoral Leadership, names a number of contemplative authors, including Marjorie Thompson, listing her book, Soul Feast. Thompson, an ordained Presbyterian minister, promotes mantra meditation in that book and favorably quotes New Age mystics. One person she points to in the book is Anthony DeMello, who once said:
A Jesuit friend once told me that he approached a Hindu guru for initiation in the art of prayer. The guru said to him, “Concentrate on your breathing.” My friend proceeded to do just that for about five minutes. Then the guru said, “The air you breathe is God. You are breathing God in and out. Become aware of that, and stay with that awareness.” (FMSCN, p. 119)
As Lighthouse Trails has reported on many times, most of the Nazarene universities are now embracing contemplative/emerging spirituality. Point Loma is one of them, and for students at Point Loma who see what is happening and refuse to sit and listen to the school’s barrage of mystic-proponents in chapel, they are going to have to dig deep in their wallets and purses and pay PLNU’s “chapel fines.”
If you know a student at a Nazarene University who is standing to defend the faith by refusing to sit and listen to those espousing mysticism, perhaps you could offer to help pay their chapel fines and include with that payment a letter to that school’s president. And if anyone would like to help the young man whose mother contacted us, you may do so through Lighthouse Trails, and we will make sure your contribution goes to this young man. It is a sad day in Christianity, when nearly an entire denomination’s university system has headed down the road of dangerous spiritual deception. Other evangelical denominations are doing the same, and it is equally tragic.
We’ll leave you with this. Point Loma is hosting a “Christian Formation Retreat.” The theme for this year’s retreat, “The Sacred Way” is based on emergent leader Tony Jones’ book by the same name. Jones’ writings have been the topic of several Lighthouse Trails articles. Jones, one of the original “emergent” guys from the 1990s with Leadership Network, has continued to promote mystical practices. He has become more pronounced in his beliefs in recent years, which can be clearly seen in his newer book, The New Christians, as well as in recent statements showing his laxed views on the homosexual lifestyle. As we have shown in the past, these two mind-sets naturally gel together (mysticism and advocating homosexuality) because both, by their very nature, deny a Creator who is separate from his creation. And thus, the rejection of the atonement is an obvious course.