Posts Tagged ‘A Time of Departing’

Christian University Graduate Agrees—Celebration of Discipline/Richard Foster Bypass the Cross—As CoD Soon Celebrates 40-Year Anniversary!

40th Anniversary edition of Celebration of Discipline to be released in 2018, which is the 40th anniversary of CoD.

Just as Lighthouse Trails was about to issue a post this week about Celebration of Discipline’s (by Richard Foster) 40-year anniversary announcement (that we received by e-mail this month), we received the following e-mail from a Christian university graduate:

Three years ago this past September, I began my studies at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario. Right away, for one class, we were asked to study one author in particular whom I had never heard of, Richard Foster and his book Celebration of Discipline. I went online to do research and came across your website, and found your analysis of Foster to be spot on. As I read Foster, I realized he had completely bypassed the role of the Cross in bringing man into relationship with God, and instead substituted what he calls the “spiritual disciplines.” This is of course heresy.

For nearly sixteen years, Lighthouse Trails has tirelessly tried to warn the church about contemplative spirituality and how it entered the church in the first place largely through Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline.

The following is a repost of a prior article we wrote about Celebration of Discipline. It would be a good idea to ask your own pastor if he has ever read Celebration of Discipline and if he has, what does he think. And if he has not read the refutation A Time of Departing and is willing to do so, Lighthouse Trails will gladly send him a complimentary copy of it.

First published in 1978, Celebration of Discipline has had a massive influence on today’s Christianity. Unfortunately, the influence has helped to saturate the church with mystical contemplative prayer and the New Age. Most likely, your pastor has a copy of this book sitting on his library shelves. He may even have it sitting on his desk for easy reach and reference. Richard Foster, a Quaker and the founder of an organization called Renovare (meaning renewal), wrote the book, and even he may have had no idea the impact this book would have. But decades later, it is still being read, and in fact, Christian leaders and organizations continue promoting the book.

Foster said in the book, that we “should all without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer” (p. 13, 1978 ed.). In other books and writings of Foster’s, he makes it very clear that this “contemplative prayer” is the eastern-style mantra meditation to which mystic monk Thomas Merton adhered. In fact, Richard Foster once told Ray Yungen (author of A Time of Departing) that “Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people” (at a conference in Salem, OR in the 90s).

Thomas Merton, who said he was “impregnated with Sufism” (Merton and Sufism, p. 69) and wanted to “become as good a Buddhist” as he could be (David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West”), believed that “God’s people” lacked one thing—mysticism, and this is to what they needed “awakening.” Of Merton, Foster says: “Thomas Merton has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.” (Spiritual Classics, p. 17) And yet, Thomas Merton once told New Age Episcopal priest Matthew Fox that he felt sorry for the hippies in the 60s who were dropping LSD because all they had to do was practice the mystical (contemplative) stream to achieve the same results. (Interview) We couldn’t agree with him more. Both altered states are the same, but we differ from Merton and Foster in conclusions outcome—we know neither leads to God.

Listed under “excellent books on spirituality,” in some editions of Celebration of Discipline, Foster says of panentheist Tilden Edwards’ book Spiritual Friend that it helps “clear away the confusion and invites us to see that we do not have to live the spiritual life in isolation.” And yet, Tilden Edwards, founder of the “Christian”/Buddhist Shalem Institute in Washington, DC, said that contemplative spirituality was the “Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality”(Spiritual Friend, p. 18). On the Shalem Institute website you can find numerous quotes, references, articles, and recommendations to panentheism, universalism, interspirituality, New Age, and Eastern thought.

In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster tells us “we must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation” (COD, p.13.) He goes on to say that the “masters of meditation beckon us.” Just prior to that remark, he quotes Carl Jung and Thomas Merton.

Celebration of Discipline has helped to pave the way for Thomas Merton’s panentheistic belief system. It has opened the door for other Christian authors, speakers, and pastors to bring contemplative spirituality into the lives of millions of people. The late Henri Nouwen, a popular contemplative who also followed the teachings of Thomas Merton, made a telling statement towards the end of his life:

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 (emphasis added – Sabbatical Journey, p. 51).

Essentially, the fruit of years of practicing mysticism by Nouwen was a departure from believing the Cross was the only way to salvation. This is the fruit of contemplative spirituality.

Today, countless ministers and ministries are promoting and endorsing Celebration of Discipline. If they really knew what Foster’s “celebration” was all about, we think many of them would race away from the teachings of Thomas Merton and Richard Foster and back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Note: If your pastor or someone you know has a copy of Celebration of Discipline or quotes Richard Foster, be sure and give him a copy of Ray Yungen’s new booklet A Serious Look at Richard Foster’s “School” of Contemplative Prayer. Also, want to know what Spiritual Formation is (and its dangers), read this: Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t

Quotes by Richard Foster:

“Spend some time this week listening to contemplative music designed to quiet you, settle you, deepen you. (Compact discs and tapes from the Taize community, John Michael Talbot, and the Monks of Weston Priory are especially helpful).” Renovare’s Perspective Newsletter

“We now come to the ultimate stage of Christian experience. Divine Union…. Contemplatives sometimes speak of their union with God by the analogy of a log in a fire: the glowing log is so united with the fire that it is fire.” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 159)

“Christians . . .  have developed two fundamental expressions of Unceasing Prayer. The first . . .  is usually called aspiratory prayer or breath prayer. The most famous of the breath prayers is the Jesus Prayer. It is also possible to discover your own individual breath prayer. . . . Begin praying your breath prayer as often as possible.” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 122) [LT Note: Remember, Rick Warren promoted breath prayers in The Purpose Driven Life.]

NEW BOOKLET: Sound the Trumpet in the Midst of Apostasy: The Enemy is in the Camp

NEW BOOKLET: Sound the Trumpet in the Midst of Apostasy: The Enemy is in the Camp by David Dombrowski is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 10 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Sound the Trumpet in the Midst of Apostasy: The Enemy is in the Camp, click here.

Sound the Trumpet in the Midst of Apostasy: The Enemy Is In the Camp

By David Dombrowski

Over the past decade and a half, we have watched with a mixture of surprise and sadness how an apostate church has materialized before our eyes. It all began for us here at Lighthouse Trails when we met Ray Yungen in 2000.1 Though we were not publishers back then, he shared with us his manuscript for A Time of Departing, which spoke of a coming apostasy in the form of mystical practices and “spiritual disciplines.” Stirred by the content of that book, we agreed to help him find a publisher. But, at the time, we never imagined how relevant and prophetic that book would be nor how quickly this apostasy would flourish in the mainstream churches. Today, it is even difficult to find a church that has not been compromised or in some way influenced by this contemplative spirituality (i.e., an emerging church philosophy). Now e-mails, phone calls, and letters pour into our office telling how readers who either just discovered us or were at one time skeptical of our warnings are now shocked to see that these things have entered their churches.

How did this happen, and how did it happen so quickly? We think this can partly be explained by what we discovered years ago. After meeting Ray, we felt compelled to help him find a publisher for his book, but after contacting a number of Christian publishing houses, we soon learned that they were only looking for books that would sell well—and that meant books considered non-controversial and written by well-known authors. At that point, we prayerfully decided to start our own publishing house. But just the lack of interest that we saw in the publishers was indicative of what was to happen in the church.

Whether we realize it or not, there is tremendous spiritual warfare taking place in our world today. In numerous instances, we are hearing stories of young people going to Christian colleges only to have their spiritual lives shipwrecked. They may have been safer in secular colleges. At the same time, we know of countless numbers of Christians who have no church to go to because the ones that are available have abandoned the simplicity of the Gospel for a universal emerging “spirituality.” These believers are now witnessing the apostasy and are looking to ministries like ours for encouragement and help. In many cases, the only encouragement we can offer these people is to assure them that they are not alone in what they see.

As Canadian singer/songwriter Trevor Baker sings in his song “The Lonely Road,” committed Christians may have to endure much loneliness or isolation in the future for lack of genuine fellowship.

Please remember that while Jesus said we cannot know the day or the hour of His return, He also instructed us to observe the seasons. In saying this, Jesus was sharing a principle that is both profound and very simple:

Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. (Matthew 24: 32-33)

In other words, Jesus was saying that various things must occur before He returns, and when they do occur, we can know that His coming is near. Today, the stage is being set for the fulfillment of the events described in Matthew 24, and in fact, things are moving at a highly accelerated rate. While the church has slept, tares have been sown into God’s wheat field (Matthew 13:25). The apostasy we see in the church today is the result of Satan sowing these “tares” in the church.

As we have watched events unfold in the apostate church in recent years, it has been very sobering to see how nearly identical its intents and actions are to that of the New Age movement in moving toward a one-world  global order. As you are reading this, religious leaders are shaking hands with political figures in bringing about a more highly evolved society. The occultist Alice Bailey, who had much to do with the development of the New Age movement, with all its occult practices and mysticism, predicted that this movement rather than having to move around the church would move through it. In fact, she saw the church as helping to propel the world into this higher level of consciousness.2 Sadly, we are hearing almost daily of highly respected Christian leaders with large followings who are now embracing the writings of mystics and contemplative authors. Perhaps they do not realize that the contemplative prayer and mysticism they are now passing on to their followers is no different than the occult practices of Alice Bailey with a new “Christianized” twist. And as long as the name of “Jesus” is used, everything is O.K., they think.

Looking again at the fig tree, we can see that more fruit is developing and getting heavier. Also, as Rick Warren points out (and he himself promotes), we will see a blending of religious, political, and economic forces as future events unfold. Unity will be a key to the future and will be an increasing theme as the world awaits the Antichrist. Considering that we are even now moving toward a one-world order, let us look at our fig tree whose fruit is already there and beginning to get ripe; the events we already see, only to increase, are:

The unifying of the world’s religious thought where eastern-style mystical practice to include Yoga, contemplative prayer, and healing practices like Reiki are joining east with west.

The Purpose Driven P.E.A.C.E. Plan where political, economic, and religious forces are being brought together to form a unified effort.

Plans for a global currency paving the way to the use of the “mark.”

The accelerating significance of the United Nations leading toward a confederation of nations.

Increasing interest in the world in finding a Christ figure who can solve the world’s economic and political problems and unite the world in peace.

Increasing moral decay throughout the world to include abortion, violence, pandemic divorce, the dissolution of the family unit, homosexuality, and pedophilia.

Increasing hatred toward Bible-believing born-again believers.

The growth of a spirit of anti-Semitism throughout the world including in much of the organized Christian church today.

Increased natural disasters to include earthquakes, weather phenomena, and possible volcanic activity.

Intensifying of wars and rumors of war and man-made disasters.

Increased skepticism about the Lord’s return to include an abandonment of Bible prophecy.

The appearance of false christs culminating in the appearance of the Antichrist. As a result of mystical practices, to include contemplative prayer, people are already being conditioned to seeing themselves as having a “divine center” where the “Christ” or “I am” resides. Man has become divine.

An all-out effort to bring the “lost brethren” (evangelicals and Protestants) back into the fold of the Roman Catholic “Mother Church” by the papacy. We are witnessing this more and more today.

An increasing curiosity and dependence on signs and wonders rather than the Word of God. Signs and wonders will be seen in the future as the final proof of truth holding sway over many people. This will make it possible for the Antichrist to lead the whole world in a grand delusion as he will be a master at performing signs and wonders.

Let us pause to look at our fig tree again; I see a couple more figs developing there. One of them is called “the bridgers” and the other is called “the silencers.” Unfortunately, both of these figs are growing on the same branch—and the branch has a name on it—it says, “the church.” This is odd because these two figs look putrefied, yet they are growing on a branch that looks very healthy.

If you have followed Lighthouse Trails for some time, you may remember a number of years ago a radio interview between LT editor Deborah Dombrowski and radio host Ingrid Schlueter. The title of this broadcast was “Beware the Bridgers: Orthodoxy Is More Than A Doctrinal Statement.”3 This program talked about the emergence of what one might call a welcoming committee within the church where things God considers foul and unclean are invited in. Oddly enough, it is not the dissenters in the church who are doing this, as would have been the case fifteen or so years ago, but our pastors and Christian leaders—many of whom have had very large followings and been respected as being both conservative and of sound doctrine. But the problem is that these leaders are now gleaning from the writings of New Age, occultic, or mystical authors and quoting them to their followers, oftentimes with a word of recommendation if not persuasion to buy these writings and read them in their entirety. We won’t take time here to discuss God’s view on these things, but if you are curious, you might want to pause to look at Deuteronomy 18:9-14. The question is, why are pastors and respected Christian leaders promoting mystics and occultists? And we use the word “promoting” because this is more than the occasional slip of quoting someone for their clever or witty anecdote. These leaders are both bringing the nail and driving it in. However, in many cases these leaders are obscure as to whether they practice these things themselves; they seem content enough in bringing their followers to the bait, then leaving their followers to fend for themselves. Ingrid Schlueter coined the term “the bridgers” because these leaders in their obscurity seem quite innocent, yet due to their positions of respect and large followings, they are wittingly or unwittingly pulling large numbers of otherwise conservative followers into a trap that these followers would not have ventured to on their own accord. In other words, these bridgers are introducing the more conservative flock to what the Bible calls an abomination.

Then there is the other fig called “the silencers” that we mentioned a moment ago, and it is getting larger. It too looks putrefied though it is on a healthy looking branch labeled “the church.” This fig represents those in the church who regard themselves as having a special corner, and almost elitist attitude, on discernment. While they proclaim their humility, they also pride themselves as having the educational credentials and biblical know-how to steer the church on a straight course. They speak of the embarrassment other ministries are to the body of Christ who are not deemed worthy to hold the compass. A case in point was brought to our attention in 2011 when two Calvinist men stood before an audience and proceeded to praise each other as the purveyors of sound wisdom, discernment, and biblical scholarship. Then, in turn, they engaged in a joint attack of verbally punching down those they deemed unworthy of discerning the things of God. This ganged venture began when one of them made reference to “housewives and home-school moms” who have no business interfering in things they know nothing about. One referred to such women as “discernment divas” saying that their “greatest ability for [discernment] is not some rational understanding of doctrinal truths but an ability to use a really sharp tongue.” Both men maintained that such things belong to men of wisdom, like themselves. By the way, one of these two men is the “right-hand man” to one of the most popular Christian figures today.4

After the program, however, this same man, in realizing that he had put his foot in his mouth—figuratively speaking—proceeded to try to remedy the matter lest there be an influx of home-schooling moms and irate husbands knocking at the door. He attempted to remedy the matter by pointing out that he did not mean all home-schooling moms but two in particular—namely Ingrid Schlueter, former host of the Crosstalk radio program and Lighthouse Trails Publishing’s Deborah Dombrowski.5 Hoping to put out the spot fires he started, he referred to these women as discernment divas, then proceeded to provide his own derogatory definition of the term.

We must not forget the seriousness or the ramifications of what can happen when someone who is endeavoring to help the Body of Christ is knocked down, verbally or otherwise. Again, we are in a spiritual battle—very real, with its own victories and consequences.

The fact is that the darkness hates the light, and when you bring light where there is darkness, it means exposure. We live in a corrupt world where not even the organized church is willing to have the light shine in the dark corners.

But we at Lighthouse Trails were founded on the principle that there is a growing body of believers who have heard God’s heart cry to repentance. It is our belief that repentance is meant to be a part of the Christian life, and as we become aware of our imperfections, we endure rather than resist God’s refining process in our lives. When John wrote his letters to the seven churches, he did it with this in mind, but history tells us not all seven of them heeded his letters.

Here at Lighthouse Trails, we have endeavored to blow the trumpet over the years, sounding the call to repentance and to a return to the sound doctrine of the Bible. But many have become annoyed with the repeated blasts of the trumpet. All we can say to this is that the time is short, and we remember the words of Jesus when he said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). We will continue to sound the trumpet for as long as we can while doors of opportunity are still open.

Some will say it is better for Christians to be silent and just let God take care of things. But it is through silence that the church in North America has lost so much ground. Rather than helping the process, silence accelerates the work of the enemy. It was through silence that a man called Hitler was able to come to power and murder millions of innocent people.

Keep praying and do what you can to help sound the trumpet. The enemy forces are advancing; in fact, they are within our ranks.

I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken. (Jeremiah 6:17)

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12-13)

To order copies of Sound the Trumpet in the Midst of Apostasy: The Enemy is in the Camp, click here.

David Dombrowski is the co-founder and chief editor at Lighthouse Trails Publishing.

Endnotes:

1. For a history of Lighthouse Trails, read our article “The Story Behind Lighthouse Trails” online at http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=15423 or order it in the booklet format.
2. See A Time of Departing for more information on Alice Bailey’s “revitalization” of the churches.
3. Beware the Bridgers is available in CD through Lighthouse Trails. We would be happy to send a free copy of that CD to anyone who sends us a $3 check for postage.
4. The two men discussed in this section are Todd Friel and John MacArthur’s Executive Director Phil Johnson speaking at the 2011 Psalm 119 Conference in Keller, TX (you can watch this segment of the conference where “discernment divas” are talked about at: http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2011/10/first-blast-of-trumpet-against.html).
5. Though Deborah Dombrowski’s name was not mentioned, it was inferred by saying Lighthouse Trails Publishing as at the time, she was the only woman writer for Lighthouse Trails

To order copies of Sound the Trumpet in the Midst of Apostasy: The Enemy is in the Camp, click here.

Sound the Trumpet in the Midst of Apostasy – The Enemy is in the Camp

By David Dombrowski
Lighthouse Trails Editor

Over the past decade and a half, we have watched with a mixture of surprise and sadness at how an apostate church has materialized before our eyes. It all began for us here at Lighthouse Trails when we met Ray Yungen in 2000. Though we were not publishers back then, he shared with us his manuscript for  A Time of Departing, which spoke of a coming apostasy in the form of mystical practices and “spiritual disciplines.” Stirred by the content of that book, we agreed to help him find a publisher. But, at the time, we never imagined how relevant and prophetic that book would be nor how quickly this apostasy would flourish in the mainstream churches. Today, it is even difficult to find a church that has not been compromised by some form of eastern-style mystical practice or emerging church philosophy. Now e-mails and letters pour into our office telling how readers who either just discovered us or were at one time skeptical of our warnings are now shocked to see that these things have entered their churches.

How did all this happen, and how did it happen so quickly? We think this can partly be explained by what we discovered years ago. After meeting with Ray, we felt compelled to help him find a publisher for his book, but after contacting a number of Christian publishing houses, we soon learned that they were only looking for books that could sell well—and that meant books considered non-controversial and by well-known authors. At that point, we prayerfully decided to start our own publishing house. But just the lack of interest that we saw in the publishers was indicative of what was to happen in the church.

Whether we realize it or not, there is tremendous spiritual warfare taking place in our world today. In numerous instances, we are hearing stories of young people going to Christian colleges only to have their spiritual lives shipwrecked. They may have been safer in secular colleges. At the same time, we know of countless numbers of Christians who have no church to go to because the ones that are available have abandoned the simplicity of the Gospel for a universal emerging “spirituality.” These believers are now witnessing the apostasy and are looking to ministries like ours for encouragement and help. In many cases, the only encouragement we can offer these people is to assure them that they are not alone in what they see.

As singer/songwriter Trevor Baker sings in his song The Lonely Road, committed Christians may have to endure much loneliness or isolation in the future for lack of genuine fellowship.

Please remember that while Jesus said we cannot know the day or the hour of His return, He also instructed us to observe the seasons. In saying this, Jesus was sharing a principle that is both profound and very simple:

 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. (Matthew 24: 32-33)

In other words, Jesus was saying that various things must occur before He returns, and when they do occur, we can know that His coming is near. Today, the stage is being set for the fulfillment of these events described in Matthew 24, and in fact, things are moving at a highly accelerated rate. While the church has slept, tares have been sown into God’s wheat field (Matthew 13:25). The apostasy that we see in the church today is the result of Satan sowing these “tares” in the church.

As we have watched events unfold in the apostate church in recent years, it has been very sobering to see how nearly identical its intents and actions are to that of the New Age movement in moving toward a one-world global order. As you are reading this, religious leaders are shaking hands with political figures in bringing about a more highly evolved society. Alice Bailey, who had much to do with the development of the New Age movement, with all its occult practices and mysticism, predicted that this movement rather than having to move around the church would move through it. In fact, she saw the church as helping to propel the world into this higher level of consciousness.1 Sadly, we are hearing almost daily of highly respected Christian leaders with large followings who are now embracing the writings of mystics and contemplative authors. Perhaps they do not realize that the contemplative prayer and mysticism they are now passing on to their followers is no different than the occult practices of Alice Bailey with a new twist. And as long as the name of “Jesus” is used, everything is O.K., they think.

Looking again at the fig tree, we can see that more fruit is developing and getting heavier. Also, as Rick Warren points out (and promotes), we will see a blending of religious, political, and economic forces as future events unfold. Unity will be a key to the future and will be an increasing theme as the world awaits the Antichrist. Considering that we are even now moving toward a one-world order, let us look at our fig tree whose fruit is already there and beginning to get ripe; the events we already see, only to increase, are:

The unifying of the world’s religious thought where eastern-style mystical practice to include yoga, contemplative prayer, and healing practices like Reiki are joining east with west.

The Purpose Driven P.E.A.C.E. Plan where political, economic, and religious forces are being brought together to form a unified effort.

Plans for a global currency paving the way to the use of the “mark.”

The accelerating significance of the United Nations leading toward a confederation of nations.

Increasing interest in the world finding a Christ figure who can solve the world’s economic and political problems and unite the world in peace.

Increasing moral decay throughout the world to include abortion, violence, pandemic divorce, the dissolution of the family unit, homosexuality, and pedophilia.

Increasing hatred toward born-again believers.

The growth of a spirit of Anti-Semitism throughout the world including in much of the organized Christian church today.

Increased natural disasters to include earthquakes, weather phenomena, and possible volcanic activity.

Intensifying of wars and rumors of war and man-made disasters.

Increased skepticism about the Lord’s return to include an abandonment of biblical prophecy.

The appearance of false christs culminating in the appearance of the Antichrist. As a result of mystical practices, to include contemplative prayer, people are already being conditioned to seeing themselves as having a “divine center” where the “Christ” or “I am” resides. Man has become divine.

An increasing curiosity and dependence on signs and wonders rather than the Word of God. Of special significance today are Mary apparitions and Eucharistic wonders, which point people to another Jesus of another gospel. Signs and wonders will be seen in the future as the final proof of truth holding sway over many people. This will make it possible for the Antichrist to lead the whole world in a grand delusion as he will be a master at performing signs and wonders.

Let us pause to look at our fig tree again; I see a couple more figs developing there. One of them is called “the bridgers” and the other is called “the silencers.” Unfortunately, both of these figs are growing on the same branch—and the branch has a name on it – it says, “the church.” This is odd because these two figs look putrefied, yet they are growing on a branch that looks very healthy.

You may remember a number of years ago a radio interview between LT editor Deborah Dombrowski and radio host Ingrid Schlueter. The title of this broadcast was“Beware The Bridgers: Orthodoxy Is More Than A Doctrinal Statement.”    This program talked about the emergence of what one might call a welcoming committee within the church where things God considers foul and unclean are invited in. Oddly enough, it is not the dissenters in the church who are doing this, as would have been the case fifteen or so years ago, but our pastors and Christian leaders—many of whom have had very large followings and been respected as being both conservative and of sound doctrine. But the problem is that these leaders are now gleaning from the writings of New Age, occultic, or mystical authors and quoting them to their followers, oftentimes with a word of recommendation if not persuasion to buy these writings and read them in their entirety. We won’t take time here to discuss God’s view on these things, but if you are curious, you might want to pause to look at Deuteronomy 18:9-14. The question is, why are pastors and respected Christian leaders promoting mystics and occultists? And we use the word “promoting” because this is more than the occasional slip of quoting someone for their clever or witty anecdote. These leaders are both bringing the nail and driving it in. However, in many cases these leaders are obscure as to whether they practice these things themselves; they seem content enough in bringing their followers to the bait, then leaving their followers to fend for themselves. Ingrid Schlueter coined the term “the bridgers” because these leaders in their obscurity seem quite innocent, yet due to their positions of respect and large followings, they are wittingly or unwittingly pulling large numbers of otherwise conservative followers into  a trap that these followers would  not have ventured to on their own accord. In other words, these bridgers are introducing the more conservative flock to what the Bible calls an abomination.

Then there is the other fig called “the silencers” that we looked at a moment ago, and it is getting larger. It too looks putrefied though it is on a healthy looking branch labeled “the church.” This fig represents those in the church who regard themselves as having a special corner, and almost elitist attitude, on discernment. While they proclaim their humility, they also pride themselves as having the educational credentials and biblical know-how to steer the church on a straight course. They speak of the embarrassment other ministries are to the body of Christ who are not deemed worthy to hold the compass. A case in point was brought to our attention when two men stood before an audience and proceeded to praise each other as the purveyors of sound wisdom, discernment, and biblical scholarship. Then, in turn they engaged in a joint attack of verbally punching down those they deemed unworthy of discerning the things of God. This ganged venture began when one of them made reference to “housewives and home-school moms” who have no business interfering in things they know nothing about. One referred to such women as “discernment divas” saying that their “greatest ability for [discernment] is not some rational understanding of doctrinal truths but an ability to use a really sharp tongue.”  Both men on the stage maintained that such things belong to men of wisdom, like themselves. By the way, the one who said this is said to be the “right-hand man” to one of the most popular and looked up to Christian figures today.

After the program, however, this same man, in realizing that he had put his foot in his mouth–figuratively speaking—proceeded to try to remedy the matter lest there be an influx of home-schooling moms and irate husbands knocking at the door. He attempted to remedy the matter by pointing out that he did not mean all home-schooling moms but two in particular—namely Ingrid Schlueter of Crosstalk and Lighthouse Trails Publishing’s Deborah Dombrowski.2 Hoping to put out the spot fires he started, he referred to these women as discernment divas, then proceeded to provide his own derogatory definition of the term.

We must not forget the seriousness or the ramifications of what can happen when someone who is endeavoring to help the Body of Christ is knocked down, verbally or otherwise. Again, we are in a spiritual battle—very real, with its own victories and consequences.

The fact is that the darkness hates the light, and when you bring light where there is darkness it means exposure. We live in a corrupt world where not even the organized church is willing to have the light shine in the dark corners.

But we at Lighthouse Trails were founded on the principle that there is a growing body of believers who have heard God’s heart cry to repentance. It is our belief that repentance is meant to be a part of the Christian life, and as we become aware of our imperfections we endure rather than resist God’s refining process in our lives. When John wrote his letters to the seven churches, he did it with this in mind, but history tells us not all seven of them heeded his letters.

Here at Lighthouse Trails, we have endeavored to blow the trumpet over the years, sounding the call to repentance and to a return to the sound doctrine of the Bible. But many have become annoyed with the repeated blasts of the trumpet. All we can say to this is that the time is short, and we remember the words of Jesus when he said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). We will continue to sound the trumpet for as long as we can while doors of opportunity are still open.

Some will say that it is better for Christians to be silent and just let God take care of things. But it is through silence that the church in America has lost so much ground. Rather than helping the process, silence accelerates the work of the enemy. It was through silence that a man called Hitler was able to come to power and murder millions of innocent people.

Keep praying and do what you can to help sound the trumpet. The enemy forces are advancing; in fact, they are within our ranks.

I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken. (Jeremiah 6:17)

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12)

Notes:
1. See A Time of Departing for more information on Alice Bailey’s “revitalization” of the churches.
2. Though Deborah Dombrowski’s name was not mentioned, it was inferred by saying Lighthouse Trails Publishing

What Your Church Needs to Know Before Doing a Priscilla Shirer Study

The repetition [of a word or phrase] can in fact be soothing and very freeing, helping us, as Nouwen says, “to empty out our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God.”—Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens, p. 93

Years ago, I got a chance to meet Jan Johnson. . . . I was encouraged and redirected in so many ways. As a young woman trying to navigate the ins and outs of my relationship with the Lord, Ms. Jan spoke wisdom into my life that was extremely pivotal in my life—personally and in ministry.—Priscilla Shirer (emphasis added; http://www.goingbeyond.com/blog/wisbits; quoted in 2010 and still up on Shirer’s website)

Priscilla Shirer

This week, our office received a call from a woman who was concerned that her church is going to be doing a study using material by Priscilla Shirer. Our caller wanted to get some information she can show her pastor as to why her church should not be doing a Priscilla Shirer study. Because Priscilla Shirer is a contemplative proponent, we concur with our caller’s concerns. In John Lanagan’s booklet,  Beth Moore & Priscilla Shirer – Their History of Contemplative Prayer,Lanagan shows how both Moore and Shirer have been advocates of contemplative spirituality for quite some time. In that booklet, and this is what we want to focus on in this article, Lanagan discusses a woman named Jan Johnson. Because Priscilla Shirer embraces and has gleaned spiritually from Johnson, we need to take a closer look at what Johnson believes.

We first heard about Jan Johnson in Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing where Yungen explains:

Spiritual director Jan Johnson, in her book When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, is a perfect example of an evangelical Christian who endorses and promotes this practice [contemplative prayer]. She leaves no doubt about what this type of prayer entails:

“Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.” [emphasis added]

Johnson’s explanation of the initial stages of contemplative prayer leaves no doubt that “stilling” your thoughts means only one thing; she explains:

“In the beginning, it is usual to feel nothing but a cloud of unknowing. . . . If you’re a person who has relied on yourself a great deal to know what’s going on, this unknowing will be unnerving. [emphasis added] (Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 82.)

When Johnson talks about stilling the mind in order to experience God’s presence and hear His voice, she is referring to something that is universal with mystics—putting the mind into a neutral, altered state where one is not aware of the distractions around him. This inner stillness can only be achieved through some type of meditative practice (see Johnson’s quote at top of this article), which in the case of “Christian” mystics is contemplative prayer. For those of you unfamiliar with contemplative jargon, the “cloud of unknowing” is taken from a small book of the same name, written by an anonymous monk several hundred years ago. The book is a primer on contemplative prayer and in it instructs:

Take just a little word, of one syllable rather than of two . . .  With this word you are to strike down every kind of thought under the cloud of forgetting. (The Cloud of Unknowing)

This is describing a mantra-style practice, no different than that used in eastern meditation. It is interesting that Jan Johnson says the effect of this type of prayer is “unnerving.” Webster’s Dictionary defines unnerving as “inspiring fear.” This reminds us of another contemplative teacher, Richard Foster, who suggested that people pray prayers of protection before practicing contemplative prayer in order to avoid an evil encounter. But where in Scripture is prayer to God described as inspiring fear or something that needs prayers of protection first? Nowhere. That’s not how God’s Word defines prayer.

Jan Johnson

In Jan Johnson’s book, Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness, Johnson shows her resonance with a number of contemplative figures with quotes by and references to them.  One particular name that jumps out is New Age sympathizer Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Read a few quotes by Chardin and then ask yourself, why would a Christian author (Johnson) be drawn to someone with these views:

What I am proposing to do is to narrow that gap between pantheism and Christianity by bringing out what one might call the Christian soul of pantheism or the pantheist aspect of Christianity.—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 56

Now I realize that, on the model of the incarnate God whom Christianity reveals to me, I can be saved only by becoming one with the universe. Thereby, too, my deepest ‘pantheist’ aspirations are satisfied.—Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 128.

I believe that the Messiah whom we await, whom we all without any doubt await, is the universal Christ; that is to say, the Christ of evolution.—Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 95.

Johnson’s 2016 book Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-On Guide to Lectio Divina leads readers in lectio divina meditations. Lectio Divina is used today as a gateway practice into contemplative mystical prayer. In her book, Johnson provides a section titled  “Relax and Refocus (silencio)”  which is instruction to readers on how to get rid of mental distractions when trying to practice lectio divina:

Each exercise begins with brief guidance to slow down, quiet your inner self and let go of distracting thoughts. . . . focusing on God. A way to interrupt this [mental] traffic is to focus on being present in the moment by breathing in and out deeply— even overbreathing. It also helps to relax our body parts one by one: bending the neck, letting the arms go limp, relaxing the legs and ankles. Loosen each part from the inside out. This doesn’t mean you’re setting aside your mind— you’re redirecting your mind away from the busyness that often consumes you. Being present in the moment prepares you to wait on the still, small voice of God. If you are distracted, you may want to try the palms up, palms down method. Rest your hands in your lap, placing your hands palms down as a symbol of turning over any concerns you have. If a nagging thought arises, turn your hands palms up as a “symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord.” [Foster] If you become distracted at any time during meditation, repeat the exercise. (Meeting God in Scripture, Kindle version, Kindle location 102)

To back up her teaching on practicing contemplative meditation and finding that inner stillness of the mind, Johnson turns to several contemplative teachers in Meeting God in Scripture. Sadly, God and Scripture are not the only things readers are going to meet when they read this book by Johnson. They will also meet Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, and David Benner. Other books Johnson has written have the same caliber.  A few of those titles are:  Spiritual Disciplines Companion: Bible Studies and Practices to Transform Your Soul, Enjoying the Presence of God: Discovering Intimacy with God in the Daily Rhythms of Life, Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace, and Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice: Experiments in Spiritual Transformation (Willard and Johnson). She has written several others books which carry the same message: you’ve got to have the inner mental silence to really know God (something Beth Moore has said too—in the Be Still DVD).

We could give several more examples of Johnson’s embracing contemplative spirituality. You won’t find much that she has written that doesn’t include this element. In one article on her website titled “What Is Solitude & Why Do I Need It? or . . . Turn Up the Quiet,” she quotes panentheist Thomas Merton from his book New Seeds of Contemplation. Why does Jan Johnson keep referring to contemplative mystics in her writings? There can only be one answer to that question—because she resonates with them.

Conclusion

As noted at the beginning of this article, Priscilla Shirer “was encouraged and redirected in so many ways” when she met Jan Johnson. She added that Johnson “spoke wisdom into [Priscilla’s] life that was extremely pivotal in [her] life—personally and in ministry.” Shirer said these words in 2010 and has left them up on her website to this day. Obviously, she still feels this way about Johnson. In Shirer’s popular book 2006/2012 Discerning the Voice of God, she favorably quotes Jan Johnson twice from When the Soul Listens. Shirer also quotes contemplatives Joyce Huggett and Phil Yancey in Discerning the Voice of God. Shirer clearly has been influenced by Jan Johnson as she admits herself.

We’ll close with this: On Priscilla Shirer’s website, where she talks about meeting Jan Johnson, she also includes an article by Johnson who is quoting panentheist Catholic priest Richard Rohr (founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation) from his book Everything Belongs (meaning everything and everyone is part of God). Rohr’s spirituality would be in the same camp as someone like Episcopalian panentheist Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ). Rohr wrote the foreword to a book called How Big is Your God? by Jesuit priest (from India) Paul Coutinho. In Coutinho’s book, he describes an interspiritual community where people of all religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity) worship the same God. For Rohr to write the foreword to such a book, he would have to agree with Coutinho’s views. On Rohr’s website, he has an article titled “Cosmic Christ.” One need not look too far into Rohr’s teachings and website to see he is indeed promoting the same Cosmic Christ as Matthew Fox – this is the “christ” whose being they say lives in every human—this, of course, would nullify the need for atonement by a savior. Lighthouse Trails has written numerous times about Rohr as he is aggressively pushing his panentheistic mystical spirituality into the evangelical church. If everything you have read in this article has not persuaded you to steer clear of Shirer’s studies, then this should do it, hands down. The fact that she keeps the post about Rohr on her website should alarm all Bible-believing Christians and illustrates the spiritual affinity Priscilla Shirer is drawn to.

Before your church does a Priscilla Shirer study, please keep in mind the things you have read in this article. Contemplative prayer has roots in panentheism  (God is in all) and interspirituality (all paths lead to God) as you can read in Ray Yungen’s article “The Final Outcome of Practicing Contemplative Prayer: Interspirituality.” Do you really want your church influenced in any way by a spirituality that is so against the Cross? Are we saying Priscilla Shirer is necessarily against the Cross? No, but for someone who wrote a book on how to discern the voice of God, she sure isn’t showing any discernment in the voices that she herself is listening to and being persuaded by.

Christianity is Missing Out on Something Vital – Is This True?

By Ray Yungen

Contemplative advocates propose that there has been something vital and important missing from the church for centuries. The insinuation is that Christians have been lacking something necessary for their spiritual vitality; but that would mean the Holy Spirit has not been fully effective for hundreds of years and only now the secret key has been found that unlocks God’s full power to know Him. These proponents believe that Christianity has been seriously crippled without this extra ingredient. This kind of thinking leads one to believe that traditional, biblical Christianity is merely a philosophy without the contemplative prayer element. Contemplatives are making a distinction between studying and meditating on the Word of God versus experiencing Him, suggesting that we cannot hear Him or really know Him simply by studying His Word or even through normal prayer—we must be contemplative to accomplish this. But the Bible makes it clear that the Word of God is living and active and has always been that way, and it is in filling our minds with it that we come to love Him, not through a mystical practice of stopping the flow of thought (the stillness) that is never once mentioned in the Bible, except in warnings against vain repetitions in the New Testament and divination in the Old Testament.

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton (the man who inspired Dallas Willard and Richard Foster) said that he saw various Eastern religions “come together in his life” (as a Christian mystic). On a rational, practical level, Christianity and Eastern religions will not mix; but add the mystical element and they do blend together like adding soap to oil and water. I must clarify what I mean: Mysticism neutralizes doctrinal differences by sacrificing the truth of Scripture for a mystical experience. Mysticism offers a common ground, and supposedly that commonality is divinity in all. But we know from Scripture “there is one God; and there is none other but he” (Mark 12:32).

In a booklet put out by Saddleback Church on spiritual maturity, the following quote by Henri Nouwen is given:

Solitude begins with a time and place for God, and Him alone. If we really believe not only that God exists, but that He is actively present in our lives—healing, teaching, and guiding—we need to set aside a time and space to give Him our undivided attention.1

Henri-Nouwen

Henri Nouwen

When we understand what Nouwen really means by “time and space” given to God, we can also see the emptiness and deception of his spirituality. In his biography of Nouwen, God’s Beloved, Michael O’ Laughlin says:

Some new elements began to emerge in Nouwen’s thinking when he discovered Thomas Merton. Merton opened up for Henri an enticing vista of the world of contemplation and a way of seeing not only God but also the world through new eyes. . . . If ever there was a time when Henri Nouwen wished to enter the realm of the spiritual masters or dedicate himself to a higher spiritual path, it was when he fell under the spell of Cistercian monasticism and the writings of Thomas Merton.2

In his book, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic, Nouwen talks about these “new eyes” that Merton helped to formulate and said that Merton and his work “had such an impact” on his life and that he was the man who had “inspired” him greatly.3 But when we read Nouwen’s very revealing account, something disturbing is unveiled. Nouwen lays out the path of Merton’s spiritual pilgrimage into contemplative spirituality. Those who have studied Merton from a critical point of view, such as myself, have tried to understand what are the roots behind Merton’s spiritual affinities. Nouwen explains that Merton was influenced by LSD mystic Aldous Huxley who “brought him to a deeper level of knowledge” and “was one of Merton’s favorite novelists.”4 It was through Huxley’s book, Ends and Means, that first brought Merton “into contact with mysticism.”5 Merton states:

 He [Huxley] had read widely and deeply and intelligently in all kinds of Christian and Oriental mystical literature, and had come out with the astonishing truth that all this, far from being a mixture of dreams and magic and charlatanism, was very real and very serious.6

This is why, Nouwen revealed, Merton’s mystical journey took him right into the arms of Buddhism:

 Merton learned from him [Chuang Tzu—a Taoist] what Suzuki [a Zen master] had said about Zen: “Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake and become aware.”7

Become aware of what? The Buddha nature. Divinity within all.

That is why Merton said if we knew what was in each one of us, we would bow down and worship one another. Merton’s descent into contemplative led him to the belief that God is in all things and that God is all things. This is made clear by Merton when he said: “True solitude is a participation in the solitariness of God—Who is in all things.8

Nouwen adds: “[Chuang Tzu] awakened and led him [Merton] . . . to the deeper ground of his consciousness.”9

This has been the ploy of Satan since the Garden of Eden when the serpent said to Eve, “ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:4). It is this very essence that is the foundation of contemplative prayer.

In Merton’s efforts to become a mystic, he found guidance from a Hindu swami, whom Merton referred to as Dr. Bramachari. Bramachari played a pivotal role in Merton’s future spiritual outlook. Nouwen divulged this when he said:

Thus he [Merton] was more impressed when this Hindu monk pointed him to the Christian mystical tradition. . . . It seems providential indeed that this Hindu monk relativized [sic] Merton’s youthful curiosity for the East and made him sensitive to the richness of Western mysticism.10

Why would a Hindu monk advocate the Christian mystical tradition? The answer is simple: they are one in the same. Even though the repetitive words used may differ (e.g. Christian words: Abba, Father, etc. rather than Hindu words), the end result is the same. And the Hindu monk knew this to be true. Bramachari understood that Merton didn’t need to switch to Hinduism to get the same enlightenment that he himself experienced through the Hindu mystical tradition. In essence, Bramachari backed up what I am trying to get across, that all the world’s mystical traditions basically come from the same source and teach the same precepts . . . and that source is not the God of the Old and New Testaments. That biblical God is not interspiritual!

Evangelical Christianity is now being invited, perhaps even catapulted into seeing God with these new eyes of contemplative prayer. And so the question must be asked, is Thomas Merton’s silence, Henri Nouwen’s space, and Richard Foster’s contemplative prayer the way in which we can know and be close to God? Or is this actually a spiritual belief system that is contrary to the true message that the Bible so absolutely defines—that there is only one way to God and that is through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice on the Cross obtained our full salvation? If indeed my concerns for the future actually come to fruition, then we will truly enter a time of departing.

For more about Ray Yungen’s work, visit: www.atimeofdeparting.com.

Endnotes:

1.. Henri Nouwen, cited in Saddleback training book, Soul Construction: Solitude Tool  (Lake Forest, CA: Saddleback Church, 2003), p. 12.

2. Michael O’ Laughlin, God’s Beloved (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), p. 178.

3. Henri J.M. Nouwen, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1991, Triumph Books Edition), p. 3.

4. Ibid., pp. 19-20.

5. Ibid., p. 20.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., p. 71.

8. Ibid., pp. 46, 71.

9. Ibid., p. 71.

10 . Ibid., p. 29.

Spiritual Formation—A Dangerous Substitute For the Life of Christ

Sometimes we think of spiritual formation as formation by the Holy Spirit. Once again. That’s essential. . . . But now I have to say something that may be challenging for you to think about: Spiritual formation is not all by the Holy Spirit. . . . We have to recognize that spiritual formation in us is something that is also done to us by those around us, by ourselves, and by activities which we voluntarily undertake . . .There has to be method.1—Dallas Willard

bigstockphoto.com (a monastery)

bigstockphoto.com

Aside from the fact that Spiritual Formation incorporates mystical practices into its infrastructure (remove the contemplative aspect and you don’t have “Spiritual Formation” anymore), Spiritual Formation is a works-based substitute for biblical Christianity. Let us explain.

When one becomes born again (“that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9-10), having given his or her life and heart over to Christ as Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ says He will come in and live in that surrendered heart:

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23)

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Colossians 1:27)

[I]f the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (Romans 8:11; emphasis added)

When God, through Jesus Christ, is living in us, He begins to do a transforming work in our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:18). Not only does He change us, He also communes with us. In other words, we have fellowship with Him, and He promises never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

This life of God in the believer’s heart is not something we need to conjure up through meditative practices. But if a person does not have this relationship with the Lord, he may seek out ways to feel close to God. This is where Spiritual Formation comes into play. Rather than a surrendered life to Christ, the seeking person begins practicing the spiritual disciplines (e.g., prayer, fasting, good works, etc.) with the promise that if he practices these disciplines, he will become more Christ-like.

But merely doing these acts fails to make one feel close to God—something is still missing. And thus, he begins practicing the discipline of silence (or solitude), and now in these altered states of silence, he finally feels connected to God. He now feels complete. What he does not understand is that he has substituted the indwelling of Christ in his heart for a works-based methodology that endangers his spiritual life. Dangerous because these mystical experiences he now engages in appear to be good because they make him feel close to God, but in reality he is being drawn into demonic realms no different than what happens to someone who is practicing transcendental meditation or eastern meditation. Even mystics themselves acknowledge that the contemplative realm is no different than the realm reached by occultists. To understand this more fully, please read Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing.

Bottom line, it is not possible to be truly Christ-like without having Christ inside of us because it is He who is able to change our hearts—we cannot do it without Him.

It is interesting to note that virtually every contemplative teacher has a common theme—they feel dry and empty and want to go “deeper” with God or “become more intimate” with God. But if we have Christ living in us, how can we go any deeper than that? How can we become more intimate than that? And if going deeper and becoming intimate were so important, why is it that none of the disciples or Jesus Himself ever told us to do this? As Larry DeBruyn states:

Why are Christians seeking a divine presence that Jesus promised would abundantly flow in them? . . . Why do they need another voice, another visitation, or another vision? Why are some people unthankfully desirous of “something more” than what God has already given to us? Why is it that some Christians, in the depth of their souls, are not seemingly at rest?2

Is There a “Good” Spiritual Formation?
One of the most common arguments we hear defending Spiritual Formation is that there is a “good” Spiritual Formation done without contemplative prayer. To that we say, we have never yet seen a Spiritual Formation program in a school or a church that doesn’t in some way point people to the contemplative mystics. It might be indirectly, but in every case, if you follow the trail, it will lead you right into the arms of Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and other contemplative teachers.

Think about this common scenario: A Christian college decides to begin a Spiritual Formation course. The instructor has heard some negative things about Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Brennan Manning, and he figures he will teach the class good Spiritual Formation and leave those teachers completely out. But he’s going to need a textbook. He turns to a respected institution, Dallas Theological Seminary, and finds a book written by Paul Pettit, Professor in Pastoral and Education Ministries. The book is titled Foundations of Spiritual Formation. The instructor who has found this book to use in his own class may never mention Richard Foster or Dallas Willard, but the textbook he is using does. Within the pages of Pettit’s book is Richard Foster, Philip Yancey, N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Thomas Aquinas, Lectio Divina, Ayn Rand, Parker Palmer, Eugene Peterson, J.P. Moreland, Klaus Issler, Bruce Dermerst, Jim Burns, Kenneth Boa and Brother Lawrence’s “practicing God’s presence.” You may not have heard of all these names, but they are all associated with the contemplative prayer movement and the emerging church.

Another example of this is Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Whitney is Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. While his book does not promote contemplative mysticism, he says that Richard Foster has “done much good”3 in the area of Christian spirituality.

Our point is that even if there is a sincere attempt to teach Spiritual Formation and stay away from the mystical side, we contend that it cannot be successfully accomplished because it will always lead back to the ones who have brought it to the church in the first place.

Spiritual formation is sweeping quickly throughout Christianity today. It’s no wonder when the majority of Christian leaders have either endorsed the movement or given it a silent pass. For instance, in Chuck Swindoll’s book So You Want to Be Like Christ: 8 Essential Disciplines to Get Your There, Swindoll favorably quotes Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Swindoll calls Celebration of Discipline a “meaningful work”4 and Willard’s book The Spirit of the Disciplines “excellent work.”5 In chapter three,”Silence and Solitude,” Swindoll talks about “digging for secrets . . . that will deepen our intimacy with God.”6 Quoting the contemplative poster-verse Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God,” Swindoll says the verse is a call to the “discipline of silence.”7 As other contemplative proponents have done, he has taken this verse very much out of context.

Roger Oakland sums it up:

The Spiritual Formation movement . . . teaches people that this is how they can become more intimate with God and truly hear His voice. Even Christian leaders with longstanding reputations of teaching God’s word seem to be succumbing. . . .

We are reconciled to God only through his “death” (the atonement for sin), and we are presented “holy and unblameable and unreproveable” when we belong to Him through rebirth. It has nothing to do with works, rituals, or mystical experiences. It is Christ’s life in the converted believer that transforms him.8

What Christians need is not a method or program or ritual or practice  that will supposedly connect them to God. What we need is to be “in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:30) and Christ in us. And He has promised His Spirit “will guide [us] into all truth” (John 16:13).

In Colossians 1:9, the apostle Paul tells the saints that he was praying for them that they “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” He was praying that they would have discernment (“spiritual understanding”). He said that God, the Father, has made us “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (vs 12) and had “delivered us from the power of darkness [i.e., power of deception]” (vs. 13). But what was the key to having this wisdom and spiritual understanding and being delivered from the power of darkness? Paul tells us in that same chapter. He calls it “the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (vs. 26). What is that mystery? Verse 27 says: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

For those wanting to get involved with the Spiritual Formation movement (i.e., contemplative, spiritual direction), consider the “direction” you will actually be going.

And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel. (Colossians 1:21-23)

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2: 8-10)

To order copies of Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t), click here.

Endnotes:
1. Dallas Willard, “Spiritual Formation: What it is, and How it is Done” (http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=58).
2. Larry DeBruyn, “The Practice of His Presence”
3. Donald Whitney, “Doctrine and Devotion: A Reunion Devoutly to be Desired” (http://web.archive.org/web/20080828052145/http://biblicalspirituality.org/devotion.html).
4. Chuck Swindoll, So You Want to Be Like Christ: 8 Essential Disciplines to Get You There (Nashville, TN:W Publishing Group, a div. of Thomas Nelson, 2005), p. 15.
5. Ibid., p. 13.
6. Ibid., p. 55.
7. Ibid.
8. Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, op. cit., pp. 91-92.

This has been an extract from our booklet Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t). To order this booklet, click here.

A Tribute – Remembering Ray Yungen

By Lois Putnam

Ray Yungen, Lighthouse Trails special author and supporter, died October 16, 2016 much to the sadness of his many Lighthouse Trails friends and readers.  And although I never met Ray, his writings and warnings impacted my life many times over!

Here are a few of the things I remember from his book: A Time of Departing.

I remember reading that book, now well-marked, and well-worn, while trying to wrap my mind round all of its new ideas, and new names I was encountering.

I remember beginning to understand the scope of the New Age, and the Emergent Church and how it had impacted so many churches and denominations.  I began to be able to use this new found information to “red flag” words, teachings, and persons that Ray had written about.

I remember Ray’s use of key scripture at every turn (highlighted in small gray boxes) to substantiate his findings.

I remember Ray’s writing style as never nasty nor mean, but sincere and truthful pleading with the reader to be aware of the movements that had crept into the churches.

I remember wanting to share the book with others touting its chapters, glossary of terms, list of questions, list of past Christian mystics, endnotes, and index.

I remember being amazed at the degree of, and depth of Ray’s documentation with his twenty-four   end note pages.  Truly Ray’s work was never just hear say or conjecture, but based on solid
research. (pp.208-231) . Click here to continue reading.
 


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