Book Review: David Teague’s Book “Godly Servants – Discipleship & Spiritual Formation for Missionaries” Promotes Contemplative Spirituality

A better name for David Teague’s 2012 book  Godly Servants – Discipleship & Spiritual Formation for Missionaries would be Making Contemplative Missionaries. Published by the pro-contemplative  Zondervan, Godly Servants falls into step with the numerous other books that advocate for spiritual formation (i.e., contemplative spirituality). However, this may be the first book that is specifically geared toward missionaries, and in time, we expect to see missionary societies incorporating this book into the missionary training of their missionaries.

On the book website, it states: “Dr. David Teague is available as a consultant with the specific goal of helping mission organizations to train a cadre of spiritual formation specialists.” In the introduction of his book, Teague states:

The purpose of this book is to help evangelical mission workers to intentionally deepen their Christian spirituality. There are now a multitude of books available on discipleship and spiritual formation, but very little has been written specifically for missionaries. Mission work presents its own unique challenges that require a specialized treatment.

It doesn’t take too long into the book before Teague begins referencing the contemplative mystics. In chapter one under the heading “What is Spiritual Formation?,” he credits Henri Nouwen as being a pioneer in the development of “spiritual formation.” (p. 2, Kindle location 165) This is a point worth mentioning: many people using the term “spiritual formation” today insist that “spiritual formation” has nothing to do with mysticism. But the ones who brought this term to evangelical Christianity (Nouwen, Merton, Foster, Willard) all happen to advocate for the mystics. And those who are using and defending the term almost without exception turn to Nouwen, Foster, Merton, and Willard for direction in their spiritual formation pursuits.

Teague defends “spiritual formation” with four Scriptures: Romans 8:29, Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 3:18, and Galatians 4:19. But these Scriptures are talking about Jesus Christ transforming us or “being formed in us,” and the credit goes, not to “spiritual disciplines,” contemplative prayer, or the “silence” but rather to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. And it is ironic that the verse just prior to Romans 12:2 (“be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind”), which Teague uses to defend spiritual formation, tells us to “present [our] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God.” Ironic because the “fruit” of contemplative prayer is not holy and acceptable to God (e.g., panentheism and interspirituality (man is as divine as God), laxed views on the homosexual lifestyle, universalism, altered states of consciousness, etc.).  That is the controversy here. Contemplative spirituality has the facade of holiness because of its outward focus on “social justice” (i.e., helping the poor). But all the factors must be weighed, rather than just focusing on one benign factor. Helping the poor is a good thing, and we are not disputing that at all, but it cannot be the measuring rod of whether a movement or a spiritual belief is biblical and thus, ordained by God. And remember, Scripture warns us that Satan’s ministers come as ministers of righteousness and he himself is transformed into an angel of light:

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)

How interesting that the word “transformed” is used here in these Scriptures about Satan (2 of 3 instances where the word is used in the KJV). The point being that Teague (and most spiritual formation defenders) is using Scriptures out of context to say that “spiritual formation” (i.e., contemplative) is biblical.

Teague admits that:

[S]ome non-evangelicals who write about spiritual formation mistakenly confuse Christian mediation with the mind-emptying techniques of Buddhism . . . [and] some evangelicals react against the phrase “spiritual formation” because it is relatively new to us — being largely a carry-over from Roman Catholic spiritual writers. (Kindle,p. 4, location 206)

He adds: “True Christian meditation is never mind-emptying, but rather is a means to becoming more mindful of God.” Teague is doing here what is a classic defense for contemplative spirituality, saying that it is not the same thing as eastern meditation. And for ten years, Lighthouse Trails has been stating that they are indeed the same thing.  This is one of the main messages in Ray Yungen’s book, A Time of Departing.

Teague’s book is just another contemplative-promoting book, referencing lots of contemplative mystics and their ideas (e.g.Nouwen, Richard Foster, Thomas Merton, Teresa of Avila, St. Ignatius, St. Anthony, the Desert Fathers, and so forth). When Teague states the following, he leaves no doubt that his “spiritual formation” is one and the same as that of the mystics:

Today, we have some excellent evangelical authors, such as Richard Foster, who are helping us to learn about contemplative prayer. The classic source which describes the contemplative spirituality of the Desert Fathers and Mothers is called The Philokalia, which is well-worth exploring, especially the first volume. St. Teresa of Avila with her book, the Interior Castle and St. John of the Cross with his book, Dark Night of the Soul, are two other major sources for understanding contemplative prayer. (Kindle p. 50, location, 976)

For those who still may be skeptical regarding Teague’s “spiritual formation,” consider this. He tells readers to “access the Wikipedia article titled ‘Christian Contemplation'” to better understand contemplative spirituality (Kindle p. 50, location, 976). On that Wikipedia page, you will find a great assortment of mystical references and names, one particular one that hits you in the face is Thomas Keating. To get right to the point of what Keating stands for, read this quote by Keating in the foreword of Philip St. Romain’s book, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality:

Since this energy [kundalini] is also at work today in numerous persons who are devoting themselves to contemplative prayer, this book is an important contribution to the renewal of the Christian contemplative tradition. It will be a great consolation to those who have experienced physical symptoms arising from the awakening of kundalini in the course of their spiritual journey … Most spiritual disciplines world-wide insist on some kind of serious discipline before techniques of awakening kundalini are communicated. In Christian tradition … the regular practice of the stages of Christian prayer … contemplation are the essential disciplines…

Keating is acknowledging that kundalini is the same as “Christian contemplation.” For those who are unfamiliar with the term kundalini, it is an energy at the heart of Hindu mysticism and is based on the occultic chakra system where a supposed universal energy flows through a human being and through all of creation, uniting all and acknowledging divinity in all things and all people. In Hinduism, kundalini is called serpent power. Some of the symptoms include:

* Burning hot or ice cold streams moving up the spine.

* Pains in varying locations throughout the body.

* Vibrations, unease, or cramps in legs and other parts of body.

* Fast pulse and increased metabolism.

* Disturbance in the breathing–and/or heart function.

* Sensitivity to sound, light, smell, and proximity of other people.

* Mystical/religious experiences.

* Parapsychological abilities.

* Persistent anxiety or anxiety attacks, confusion

* Insomnia, manic high spirits or deep depression. Energy loss.

* Impaired concentration and memory.

* Total isolation due to inability to communicate inner experiences out.

* Experiences of possession and poltergeist phenomena.

Please research this to understand the seriousness of what we are trying to get across.

This should dispel any doubt about whether eastern mysticism and contemplative prayer (i.e., spiritual formation) are the same thing. And it should make missionary societies that are trying to walk in the way of biblical truth and the Gospel stay far away from books like David Teague’s book, Godly Servants. While Teague’s book itself doesn’t reference Thomas Keating, he points readers to the Wikipedia article, and there they will find Thomas Keating as a resource to better understand spiritual formation and contemplative prayer. And he does reference Thomas Merton, who was of the same persuasion as Thomas Keating.

Basically, Teague’s book is advocating for the same spirituality as Thomas Keating’s, and while he may be well intentioned, he will lead missionaries down a path that most of them would not want to go if they knew the true source. Take a look at these youtube videos of Thomas Keating interviewing with New Age mystic Ken Wilber. Another example of the solidarity of contemplative spirituality and New Age (i.e., eastern) mysticism. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SUNlpyfT2LU, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ro6Qj1GjWh8

Already, Christian missionary societies have been greatly influenced and altered through contemplative spirituality and the emerging church. YWAM is a perfect example of that. Other’s are following suit. The “new” missiology that says “keep your own religion – just add Jesus to what you already believe” is destroying biblical mission work, and thus, it is harming the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ – the only message that saves souls.

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