Posts Tagged ‘Charles Stanley’
As we reported earlier this week, mega-church pastor (and son of Charles Stanley) says that Christian leaders need to “get the spotlight off the Bible.” Stanley may think he has come up with some unique idea and saying, but he hasn’t. It’s the same ol’ emerging talk that has been going on with emergent figures all along. For instance, Biola University professor J.P. Moreland once said that evangelical Christians are too committed to the Bible.
“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,” [Moreland] said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.” The problem, he said, is “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice.(source)
But just like Stanley’s statement isn’t going to upset most Christians and certainly isn’t going to ruffle any Christian leader feathers, Moreland’s absurd comments didn’t ruffle anything up either. In fact, he’s still a major influential voice in evangelical Christianity.
While Moreland gives examples such as non-charismatics who steer clear of any and all venues such as “impressions, dreams, visions, prophetic words, words of knowledge and wisdom,” there may be more behind his statements than meets the eye. This idea of “bibliolatry” (the idolizing of the Bible) did not originate with Moreland either. Contemplative Brennan Manning (who gets many of his ideas from mystics like Thomas Merton and William Shannon (Silence on Fire), once said this:
I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word—bibliolatry. God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book. I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants.”–Brennan Manning, Signature of Jesus, pp. 188-189
Without checking the further inferences of such statements, some may agree with Manning and Moreland solely on the idea that we should not worship a leather-bound book but rather the One of whom the book is about. But few “over-committed” Bible-believing Christians would argue with that. Christians who believe the Bible is the actual inspired word of God know that the Bible is not God Himself, but it is the Jesus Christ proclaimed in that Bible who is to be worshiped. But they also know that within the pages of the Bible are the holy words, ideas, and truths of God (and, in fact, the words are so inspired by God that it is called a two-edged sword). So for Moreland and Manning to suggest that these types of Christians don’t really worship God but rather pages in a book is a misrepresentation of Bible-believing Christians.
Emergent Scot McKnight is another who uses this term, bibliolatry. In his book A Community Called Atonement, McKnight says, “I begin with the rubble called bibliolatry, the tendency for some Christians to ascribe too much to the Bible” (p. 143).
Emerging spirituality figure Walter Brueggemann uses the term in his book Theology of the Old Testament (p. 574).
There may be a logical reason why these men condemn those who adhere to the Bible too strongly. All have something in common – they all promote contemplative spirituality. And, as we have shown time and again, those who embrace the contemplative spiritual outlook, often shift their focus from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical as Henri Nouwen suggested in his book In the Name of Jesus:
Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love . . . For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required. (p. 32)
In Moreland’s book, The Lost Virtue of Happiness, he talks about rediscovering important spiritual principles that have been lost. In Faith Undone, Roger Oakland cites this book in explaining the problem of mysticism:
Two of the spiritual disciplines . . . are “Solitude and Silence” (p. 51). The book says that these two disciplines are “absolutely fundamental to the Christian life” (p. 51). . . . Moreland and Issler [co-author] state:
In our experience, Catholic retreat centers [bastions of mysticism] are usually ideal for solitude retreats . . . We also recommend that you bring photos of your loved ones and a picture of Jesus . . . Or gaze at a statue of Jesus. Or let some pleasant thought, feeling, or memory run through your mind over and over again (pp. 54-55)….
Moreland and Issler provide tips for developing a prayer life. Here are some of the recommendations they make:
[W]e recommend that you begin by saying the Jesus Prayer about three hundred times a day (p. 90).
When you first awaken, say the Jesus Prayer twenty to thirty times. As you do, something will begin to happen to you. God will begin to slowly begin to occupy the center of your attention (p. 92).
Repetitive use of the Jesus Prayer while doing more focused things allows God to be on the boundaries of your mind and forms the habit of being gently in contact with him all day long (p. 93).
Moreland and Issler try to present what they consider a scriptural case that repetitive prayers are OK with God. But they never do it! They say the Jesus Prayer is derived from Luke 18:38 where the blind man cries out, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me,”(p.90) but nowhere in that section of the Bible (or any other section for that matter) does it instruct people to repeat a rendition of Luke 18:38 over and over. (from Faith Undone, pp. 117-119)
To be sure, the worship of leather and paper would be unscriptural and idolatrous, but we have never known or heard of a single case where a Christian advocates or practices Bible worship in that sense. As far as that goes, we have known countless Christians who respect (revere) the Bible as being the inspired Word of God; now if that were a point deserving criticism and condemnation, then we would necessarily need to place the apostle Paul under such scrutiny for having said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Was Paul a Bible worshiper? We know he was not. We also know that he never instructed anyone to repeat words or phrases from the Bible over and over for the purpose of achieving a “silence” (i.e., a mind-altering state). Such a practice is not taught anywhere in Scripture; hence, we propose that it is just such a practice that is a misuse of Scripture. Is it mere coincidence that in almost every case where someone uses the “bibliolatry” argument, that person also promotes contemplative prayer, a practice that cannot be supported through Scripture? And by downplaying scriptural authority, cannot the contemplative viewpoint be easier to promote within Christianity?
One last case in point about “bibliolatry” comes from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho (NNU) where Dr. Jay McDaniel was invited to speak. McDaniel is a self-proclaimed “Christian” Buddhist sympathizer. When asked by a student at the lecture whether he believed that Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life,” McDaniel stated that if Jesus had meant to say that He himself was the way, the truth, and the life, it would have been egocentric and arrogant of Jesus – He only meant to point people in the right direction – letting go of ego and grasping love. McDaniel stated also that Buddhist mindfulness (eastern meditation) is just as truth filled as doctrine and theology. He said there was an overemphasis in the church on doctrine calling it bibliolatry (idol worship of the Bible). (source) (click here to watch video of McDaniel lecture)
There is an attack on the Word of God. That’s no new thing–secular humanists, New Agers, and philosophers have attacked the Bible for centuries. But this attack of which we speak comes from within the ranks of Christianity out of the halls of highly respected universities, off the presses of successful Christian publishers, and out of the mouths of really popular Christian leaders.
What can we make of this idea of “bibliolatry”? The following statement offers some valid insight regarding this idea that Christians put too much emphasis on the Bible:
Today some are saying that the Bible is a lesser revelation than the Son and to make to much of it is to worship the Bible (bibliolatry). But if we do not make much of the Bible, then we cannot know much of the Son, for our only source of information about the Son (and hence about the Father) is through the Bible. Furthermore, if the Bible is not to be trusted, then again, we cannot know truth about the Son . . . if the Bible is not completely true, we end up with either misinformation or subjective evaluation. Jesus Himself asserted that the Bible revealed Him (Luke 24:27, 44-45, John 5:39).. (A Survey of Bible Doctrine,Charles Ryrie, p. 17)
In summary, we find it rather odd that in a time in history when many churches are hardly even opening the Bible that Bible-believing Christians would be accused of focusing too much on the Bible (what is it about the Bible these guys don’t like?). Our continual plea to all Christians is to be diligent in their study of the Scriptures and to be as the Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). We should also note that Jesus never corrected people for studying the Scriptures but rather for their lack of understanding them. Paul nailed it on the head when he said, “Study to show thyself approved unto God . . . rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Could this accusation of “bibliolatry” be nothing more than a smoke screen to further the contemplative agenda, which ultimately leads right to a one-world global religion that will declare all is God and God is in all.
LTRP Note: For a number of years, Lighthouse Trails has identified Andy Stanley as part of the emerging church and has considered him to be a bridger (bridging the gap between the emerging church and evangelical Christianity). This excellent book review by Gary Gilley shows an example of the (sometimes subtle) deception that occurs in many of the books being written today by prolific and popular Christian figures.
By Gary Gilley
Pastor and apologist
Endorsed by everyone from Rick Warren and Bill Hybels to Dave Ramsey, Steven Furtick and Jeff Foxworthy, Deep and Wide reveals Andy Stanley’s “secret sauce” (p. 17) which he believes makes his church not only great but a model others should adopt. Stanley’s goal has been to create a church that unchurched men, women and children love to attend (p. 11) and by all accounts he has succeeded. The first of five sections tells the story of the birth of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia, first as an extension of his father’s (Charles) church, then as a split, in which several thousand people eventually left the mother church to join Andy’s. Andy knows this is not the best way to start a church, but is honest and transparent enough to admit that this is what happened. Conflicts with his famous father were inevitable and Andy chronicles those as well.
Deep and Wide promotes the seeker-sensitive, market-driven approach of “doing church.” There is virtually nothing in the book that hasn’t been said or done by his “hero” Bill Hybels and others that teach the paradigm. From basing North Point’s programming on surveys and secular management (p. 14), to seeing people as consumers (p. 16) and a target audience that must be attracted and pleased (p. 15), to erroneously believing that the unbeliever should like us because they liked Jesus (pp. 12-13), to virtually every aspect of what they do, Stanley is parroting the philosophy of Hybels. Ironically this model is the same one that Hybels and Willow Creek recently admitted did not accomplish their goal of making followers of Christ (see my book This Little Church Had None, pp. 23-35).
Of course, the real issue is not whether something works, but if it is biblical. Therefore, in section two, Stanley attempts a scriptural justification for his church model. This is easily the most disappointing aspect of the book as Stanley, who has a master’s degree from Dallas Seminary, makes no attempt to engage the key Scriptures dealing with the doctrine of the church. His only venture into biblical exegesis is a feeble, terribly flawed and out of context examination of the counsel at Jerusalem in Acts 15 (pp. 85-91). Stanley comes up with a strained interpretation of the text because he uses what some call rhetorical hermeneutics in which Scripture should be interpreted based upon the characters actions, not their words (pp. 86, 90-92, 298-299). Using this interpretative method, Stanley believes, “Everything [Paul] taught should be defined within the context of what takes place in Acts 15.” And since the conclusion drawn by the council was minimalistic: “You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell” (p. 91), the church today should require very little as well (p. 92). Wrapping (or, better, ignoring) everything else in the New Testament pertaining to the church around this concept, Stanley offers this strained understanding as the biblical foundation for the local church. Click here to continue reading this book review.
About two weeks ago, I received my monthly copy of IN TOUCH magazine. Lately the magazine has seemed “off” to me, but when I read the article on L’arche — even knowing nothing about them at that time — I literally said out loud (to no one as I was home alone) “Are you kidding me??” . . .
I had decided to write to Dr. Stanley when I received the monthly Lighthouse Trails [e-newsletter] and was shocked and amazed to see you had written about this very story in IT! So thank you for confirming to me what the Spirit of God had already revealed. I am so thankful for your site. I have not “liked” Rick Warren for years but never knew why until I came upon Lighthouse Trails when looking for information on Calvary Chapel which I still attend here on the east coast. (So far, contemplative has not reached the CC’s I know of in the lower New York area.)
The world grows darker day-by day — we desperately need Watchmen on the Wall! Stay strong and stand firm in the Truth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Grace and peace to you,
Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine has been the subject of several Lighthouse Trails articles because of the magazine’s continued propensity toward contemplative/emergent people. Just this past summer, our most recent article, “Sad News About Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine,” reported how the August 2013 issue of In Touch featured Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of the “New Monasticism” emerging church movement. Now in the November 2013 issue, In Touch magazine is featuring an article about an ecumenical interfaith organization that is largely Catholic influenced and was, in fact, the very organization where Henri Nouwen spent the last decade of his life. What’s the big deal about that? some may ask. Well, it is a big deal when you stop and consider the implications. Charles Stanley is seen as the quintessential evangelical Bible teacher by millions. He is trusted, respected, and looked to for understanding of the biblical Gospel. So when his organization starts down a path that promotes contemplative spirituality, the emerging church, and yes, Roman Catholicism – there is a big problem.
In the November 2013 issue is an article written by Benjamin Dolson titled “Our Table.” It is a story about L’Arche, an organization that began in the 60s to offer an alternative living style for intellectually-handicapped people. The work itself is certainly not what we contest as it has removed needy people out of institutions and into a more viable living situation. We are not here to condemn the work being done at the L’Arche communities from a humanitarian point of view. But why does an evangelical ministry feel the need to continually point its followers to organizations or people that do not line up with the biblical Gospel. As Lighthouse Trails has documented scripturally for several years, the contemplative prayer movement and Roman Catholicism are presenting a different “Gospel” than the one the Bible presents. The Roman Catholic “Gospel” is a justification by works gospel, and the contemplative prayer (i.e., Spiritual Formation) “Gospel” is one that has panentheistic and interspiritual roots. And we should mention that the Catholic church is utilizing the contemplative prayer movement to draw in converts to Catholicism (as Ray Yungen explains in his article “Contemplative Spirituality – the Source of the Catholic Church’s Expansion“).
For those who may not realize just how Catholic L’Arche is, here is a statement posted on the L’Arche international website:
L’Arche was founded in a village in France in the Roman Catholic tradition. Generally the communities reflect the predominant faith tradition or traditions of the local population. Thus, with the foundations of the communities of Daybreak in Canada and Asha Niketan in India, the Federation became first ecumenical and then interfaith. Most communities today consider themselves as Christian, some are ecumenical, some identify as Anglican or Protestant, and the majority are Catholic in their practice. The four communities in India and the project in Bangladesh have an interfaith character. All communities of the Federation welcome people of any or no faith and seek to respect and support members in their particular faith choice.1 (emphasis added)
The award-winning In Touch magazine has inspired and motivated readers for more than 25 years with resources to invigorate their faith including daily devotionals, in-depth Bible studies, insightful teaching from Dr. Stanley, and much more.
Communities of faith, of God’s reign, bring together into oneness those who by culture and by education are far apart. This is the body of Christ. This is the church.
In reading our article here, some may feel we are being too nit-picky and critical. After all, In Touch is talking about helping the needy. But if that reasoning is legitimate, then basically, as Christians, we are to embrace an anything-goes mentality (i.e., the church should embrace all “faith communities” without any protection over the Christian message of redemption). But the Bible so clearly and so frequently warns of beliefs that are contrary to the truth of Scripture. In writing this article about In Touch and L’Arch ecumenical interfaith communities, we are reminded of something Henri Nouwen said in the last book he ever wrote. We’ve quoted it often over the years because it shows very succinctly the “fruit” of contemplative mysticism, which Nouwen fully adhered to and practiced:
Today 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. —From Sabbatical Journey, page 51, 1998 Hardcover Edition
It boils down to this: Christian organizations like In Touch Ministries have been presenting themselves to their readers and supporters for many years as having a solid biblical message. Yet now, many of them appear to be changing course. Isn’t it only right and fair for them to come forward and tell their followers that they are no longer adhering just to biblical Christianity?
Does Charles Stanley know what has happened to his magazine? some may ask. We have no idea as he has remained absolutely silent on the situation. We’ve sent books, made phone calls, and we know there are LT readers who have contacted his ministry. But to date, we have never heard of any response. At least Focus on the Family has come right out and admitted that they see nothing wrong with the contemplative tradition. With In Touch, we will just have to keep putting pieces of the puzzle together until a complete picture can be seen.
Lighthouse Trails has watched in dismay over the past few years as Charles Stanley’s In Touch magazine has made the decision to promote contemplative/emergent names. When our editors picked up a copy of the August 2013 issue and saw a feature article written by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, we decided to call In Touch Ministries to find out who was responsible for the content in the magazine. Sadly, the response we received from the editorial department at In Touch left us with a sinking feeling that the evangelical church has been seduced and there was no turning back.
We’ll talk about the phone call in a minute but first a look at Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.
In June of 2011, Lighthouse Trails free lance writer Mike Stanwood wrote “Contemplative Spirituality Lands on Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine . . . Again.” In this article, it was revealed that in the January 2011 In Touch magazine issue, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove was featured in an article written by In Touch Managing Editor Cameron Lawrence. That article, titled “The Craft of Stability: Discovering the Ancient Art of Staying Put,” highlighted the “ intentional Christian community” at the Rutba House (Wilson-Hartgrove’s home) and their “daily prayer routine.” The In Touch article stated that Rutba House is an evangelical community rooted in the Protestant tradition and that Wilson-Hartgrove is an ordained Baptist minister, yet it also reported that Rutba’s community principles are borrowed from Benedictine monks and that all of their efforts are based on St. Benedict’s “rule of life.”
In Stanwood’s article, he points out that Wilson-Hartgrove is part of the “New Monasticism” movement within the emerging church. To help you understand just how serious this situation is with Charles Stanley and his ministry, read this following section of Stanwood’s article:
Wilson-Hartgrove is most recently known for co-authoring Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals with new monastic activist Shane Claiborne. Other books he has authored may also fall into the emerging/contemplative category. For example, one such book called New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church (1) has been endorsed by mystic proponents Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Tony Campolo, and Catholic priest and centering prayer advocate Richard Rohr. The mystics resonate with the “new monasticism” – this is plain to see.
On the surface, the new monasticism may look OK with its many good works of helping the poor and the needy. But the underlying belief system does not line up with biblical doctrine; rather it is about establishing an all-inclusive kingdom of God on earth now where individual salvation is replaced with a community salvation for the whole world. Atonement has less emphasis on Jesus Christ as the only atonement for man’s sins and instead becomes an at-one-ment where all of creation is “being” saved by coming together as one (and yes, seeing the divinity of man). This is the kind of “atonement” that McLaren, Tickle, and Rohr would resonate with.
It is important to see that they don’t just resonate with the good works coming out of the new monasticism; born-again Christians have been performing good works by helping the poor and needy for centuries and continue to do so. While this new monasticism supposedly distinguishes itself by its good works, in reality it is mysticism and the foundational beliefs of mysticism (i.e., panentheism, kingdom now, etc) that distinguish it. And it is that element that Tickle, McLaren, and Rohr embrace.
Additional resources on Wilson-Hartgrove’s website include a DVD called Discovering Christian Classics: 5 Sessions in the Ancient Faith of Our Future, a five-week study with contemplative advocate Lauren F. Winner (Girl Meets God) for high school or adult “formation.” A description of this DVD states:
“You will discover the meaning of conversion and prayer from the Desert Fathers and Mothers; how to love from the sermons of St. John Chrysostom; St. Benedict’s Rule of Life and how it became one of the foundations of Western Christian spirituality; how to have an intimate relationship with God according to The Cloud of Unknowing; and what it means to ‘pick up your cross” in the Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis.’”
Another book Wilson-Hartgrove has authored, called The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, refers readers to the wisdom of Lao-tzu, the desert monastics, Thomas Merton, Benedictine spirituality, panentheist and interspiritualist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Benedictine nun Joan Chittister.
In a Beliefnet interview one year ago, Wilson-Hartgrove shared how “we need the wisdom of those who’ve gone before us.” This wisdom he is referring to comes not from the Bible, but from the contemplative “Benedictines (who) taught us to start the day with common prayer.”1
After seeing what is at the core of Wilson-Hartgrove’s spiritual wisdom, it is not surprising to learn that he recently made an appearance at the [very emergent] Wild Goose Festival .2 According to an article in the Christian Post, the Wild Goose Festival was a “four-day revival camp in North Carolina featuring music, yoga, liberal talk and embracing of gays and lesbians.”
The fact is, anyone who is drawn to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, as Wilson-Hartgrove is, has got to be following a different spirit and another gospel or at the very least greatly deceived. Chardin, who is attributed to the term “cosmic Christ,” did not hide the fact in his writings that he believed, not in the Christ of the Bible, but a christ consciousness in every human being.
While we do not challenge Wilson-Hartgrove’s sincerity or concern for the poor and needy, we must challenge his consistent promotion of contemplative mystics and emergent leaders, and he certainly does not seem like a proper fit with In Touch Ministries, that is unless In Touch is going emerging. The reason we say this about Wilson-Hartgrove’s sincerity has to do with the phone call we had with two editors of the editorial staff of In Touch magazine on July 24, 2013. One of the editors we spoke with was Cameron Lawrence, the Editor in Chief (and also the one who wrote the 2011 In Touch article featuring Wilson-Hartgrove). Lawrence asked us if we had ever spoken with Wilson-Hartgrove personally, suggesting that he was a sincere man who lived out the Gospel by helping the needy. We answered him by stating that the issue at hand was not a private matter but rather a public issue because Wilson-Hartgrove is a public figure (books, conferences, articles, etc). We said that it did not matter what he might say in a private conversation, but it did matter what he was teaching others. And it mattered greatly that In Touch was promoting him.
When we spoke with Cameron Lawrence, we told him we wanted to know who was responsible for putting the article by Wilson-Hartgrove in the magazine to which he told us “the entire editorial staff” made the decision. We asked him if he would be interested in seeing some of our documentation to which he answered, “I have been on the Lighthouse Trails website, and I didn’t find it helpful.” The other editor we spoke with, who wished to remain anonymous, said it sounded like we were on a “witch hunt” to which we responded, “No, we are part of a Gospel-protection effort.”
At times like this, it is difficult not to become discouraged by the lack of interest in Christian intelligentsia and leadership regarding the contemplative/emerging issue. What more can we say to show them what seems so obvious to ourselves and many other Bible believing contenders of the faith? A number of years ago, when the Be Still DVD (a contemplative infomercial) came out and we saw Charles Stanley’s name in the credits as someone who supported the DVD, we contacted his ministry and spoke with a personal assistant. He accepted our offer for a free copy of A Time of Departing but said that Charles Stanley would be too busy to read it.
If the mystics whom Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove gravitates to are right, then Jesus’ words that He is the only Way to the Father are wrong. You can’t have it both ways. The opposite view – the contemplative – is that God is in all things, including all people. This is what all mystics believe, across the board. And if that were true, then the need for a Savior would vanish, and there wouldn’t be any need for “one way” to God because man is already indwelled with God and a part of God.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6
1. New Monasticism & The Emergent Church: FS Talks with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove: http://blog.beliefnet.com/flunkingsainthood/2010/06/new-monasticism-the-emergent-church-fs-talks-with-jonathan-wilson-hartgrove.html.
2. Learn more about the Wild Goose Festival here: Left-Leaning ‘Wild Goose’ Festival Draws Ire of Evangelicals
In the July 2012 issue of Charles Stanley’s In Touch magazine, in an article titled “Welcome In, Reach Out,” the author writes glowingly of what is called “Celtic Spirituality, basing her article on George H. Hunter III’s The Celtic Way of Evangelism and John Finney’s book Recovering the past: Celtic and Roman Mission. The article talks about how to reach out to unsaved friends and associates and that Celtic Spirituality has some valuable insights from which we can learn to evangelize, calling it a “uniquely Celtic brand of faith.” Hughes elaborates, for a half a page no less, on Hunter’s affinity toward Celtic monasteries where “faith wasn’t even a prerequisite to enter into the fellowship with the community.”
At first glance, Hunter’s evangelistic focus seems commendable as he talks about reaching out to drug addicts, poverty stricken people, and others who have often been overlooked and neglected. But what exactly is Celtic Spirituality? Hunter differentiates between what he calls “Roman Christianity” (Catholicism), its “Reformation offshoots” (Protestantism), and “ancient Celtic Christianity,” saying they all have value but Celtic Christianity “could show the way ” (p. 10).
A good question would be, just what is Celtic Spirituality really promoting? Well, we believe it’s a cover for contemplative spirituality and panentheism. In an interview about his book, Hunter states: “Within the Celtic outreach model, people are being grounded in Christian truth and spiritual disciplines.” In his book, he identifies at least one of these disciplines – he says that the Celtic communities turn to “contemplative prayer” that “characterize[s] Celtic Christian piety” (p. 32). In that same book (the one featured in In Touch), Hunter references two key contemplative mystics, Pierre Tielhard de Chardin and Thomas Merton, saying they both drew from a “distinctly Celtic theological vision” (p. 108). From what we understand regarding Celtic Spirituality’s panentheistic undertones, we can believe Hunter when he says that Merton and Chardin drew from the Celtic way. It is Chardin who said:
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. (Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 56)
And Thomas Merton who stated:
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, … now I realize what we all are … If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are. I suppose the big problem would be that we would bow down and worship each other…. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth….This little point … is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pp. 157-158)
Hunter indicts all three – Chardin, Merton, and Celtic Spirituality – by linking them together. Chardin and Merton drew from it because they spiritually resonated with it. What’s more, Hunter acknowledges that the “new monasticism, the Taize community in France, and many of the emerging churches, missional churches . . . have conscious Celtic roots.” (Kindle edition, Location 1953). This too would go hand-in-hand.
We didn’t have an opportunity to review John Finney’s book, Recovering the Past: Celtic and Roman Mission, featured in In Touch, but Hunter makes an interesting observation in his book that identifies Finney as a pioneer of Celtic Spirituality coming into the Western church. He states:
A renaissance in Celtic music, Celtic art, Celtic dance, Celtic love of nature, and Celtic spirituality is already under way. John Finney’s Recovering the Past began the movement to help Western Christianity do evangelism and mission in more Celtic ways. (Kindle Edition, Locations 1755-1757)
And for sure, Celtic Spirituality is taking root here in North America. Christian colleges, such as Fuller, are teaching courses on it, a 2000 Christianity Today article titled Saving Celtic Spirituality gave the movement a big boost forward, books such as The Path of Celtic Prayer by contemplative advocate Calvin Miller (published by InterVarsity Press) came out in 2012. Bibles, such as the ESV, are coming out with Celtic Crosses on their covers. Holman Publishers has a new one that it calls a Celtic Bible saying it is “reflective of the growing interest modern Christians have in the ancient roots of their deepening faith.” But is Celtic Spirituality really reflective of our true biblical roots? We don’t believe it is. In future articles, we will write further about this growing direction within evangelical Christianity.
While the term may be fairly new to many Western Christians, like contemplative spirituality once was, Celtic Spirituality has been simmering for awhile, but it is starting to fast forward. That is evidenced just by seeing it featured in what was once a traditional evangelical magazine by one of the church’s most trusted pastors, Charles Stanley. However, we have witnessed In Touch magazine heading in the contemplative direction several times now in the last couple years, and we are becoming less surprised all the time by where the ministry is going.
When you see that term Celtic Christianity or Celtic Spirituality, be on the look out – contemplative spirituality is it’s kindred spirit, and they are walking hand in hand.
Incidentally, one of the terms used in Celtic Christianity is “thin places.” Roger Oakland talks about the Celtic thin places in his book, Faith Undone. We will close with this quote from that book and hope you will contact In Touch magazine and ask them to reconsider the direction they are heading:
Thin Places of “Oneness” in Celtic Spirituality
By Roger Oakland
Mantra-style meditation is actually divination, where practitioners perform rituals or meditation exercises in order to go into trances and then receive information from spiritual entities. [Tony]Campolo elaborates on the fruit of mysticism, an atmosphere he calls “the thin place”:
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.” The thin place is that spiritual condition wherein the separation between the self and God becomes so thin that God is able to break through and envelop the soul.1
This term “thin place” originated with Celtic spirituality (i.e., contemplative) and is in line with panentheism. Listen to one meditator:
I experienced a shift deep within me, a calmness I never knew possible. I was also graced with a sense of “oneness” with nature around me and with everyone else in the human family. It was strangely wonderful to experience God in silence, no-thingness.2
This “oneness” with all things is the essence of the ancient wisdom. Marcus Borg, a [former] professor at Oregon State University and a pro-emergent author, also speaks of “thin places.” One commentator discusses Borg’s ideas on this:
In The Heart of Christianity, Borg writes of “thin places,” places where, to use Eliade’s terminology, the division between the sacred and the profane becomes thin. Borg writes that he owes this metaphor of “thin places” to Celtic Christianity and the recent recovery of Celtic spirituality. As the following passage reveals, his understanding of “thin places” is deeply connected to his panentheism, his articulation of God as “the More,” and his—like Eliade—division of the world into layers of reality.3
Borg says these thin places (reached through meditation) are “[d]eeply rooted in the Bible and the Christian tradition,”4 but he, like others, is unable to show biblical evidence that God mandates meditation. . . . Thin places imply that God is in all things, and the gap between God, evil, man, everything thins out and ultimately disappears in meditation:
God is a nonmaterial layer of reality all around us, “right here” as well as “more than right here.” This way of thinking thus affirms that there are minimally two layers or dimensions of reality, the visible world of our ordinary experience and God, the sacred, Spirit.5
Mike Perschon [once a writer for Youth Specialities] also found these thin places as he went into the silence:
We held “thin place” services in reference to a belief that in prayer, the veil between us and God becomes thinner. Entire nights were devoted to guided meditations, drum circles, and “soul labs.”44
I believe that Campolo, Borg, and Perschon each experienced the same realm in their thin places, but the question is, what is that realm? (from Faith Undone, pp. 114-116)
1.. Tony Campolo, Letters to a Young Evangelical (New York, NY: Perseus Books Group (Basic Books), 2006), p. 40. 37. Ibid., p. 25. 38. Ibid., p. 26. 39. Ibid.
2. Carol and Rick Weber, “Journeying Together” (Thin Places, April/May 2007, Year Eight, Issue Four, Number 46), p. 1.
3. Chris Baker, “A Positive Articulation of Marcus Borg’s Theology” (Sandlestraps Sanctuary blog, April 5, 2007, http://sandalstraps.blogspot.com/2007/04/positive-articulation-of-marcus-borgs_05.html.
4. Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity (New York, NY: HarperCollins, First HarperCollins Paperback Edition, 2004), p. 155.
6. Mike Perschon, “Desert Youth Worker: Disciplines, Mystics and the Contemplative Life” (http://web.archive.org/web/20041204133251/http://youthspecialties.com/articles/topics/spirituality/desert.php).
More on In Touch’s move toward contemplative spirituality:
Is Charles Stanley trying to tell Christians something but doesn’t want to come right out and just admit, “Hey, I’m a contemplative, and I am using my In Touch magazine to let everybody know it.” A Lighthouse Trails January 2010 article titled “Letter to Charles Stanley: Is In Touch Getting Out-of-Touch With the True Gospel?,” discussed the January 2010 issue of Stanley’s In Touch magazine, which included an article by Joseph Bentz. In that article, Bentz highlighted the spiritual journeysof two women. Bentz claimed both were converted to the Christian faith, however, each of the women would fall in the “new spirituality/New Age” camp. One of the women highlighted is Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies). Most In Touchreaders are probably not familiar with any problems associated with her name. But Lamott, mentioned in several Lighthouse Trails articles, reveals her true spiritual sympathies when she endorsed the back cover of the made-popular-by-Oprah book, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book is about Gilbert’s search for spirituality, which took her to India and into eastern meditation. Her book is a virtual primer on New Age thinking. Lamott not only endorsed the back of her book but also has spoken with Gilbert at various events. Of Gilbert’s book, Lamott states: “This is a wonderful book, brilliant and personal, rich in spiritual insight.”1 Lamott hardly seems like one that In Touch should be promoting.
In January 2010, Lighthouse Trails received a letter from a LT reader who, out of concern, wrote a letter to Charles Stanley about Joseph Bentz’ article. She stated:
[I] expressed my concerns that the two women Mr. Benz focuses on in the article, Anne Lamott and Sara Miles, both authors, by their own words, deeds, and indeed, lifestyles do not show a biblical conversion. In fact, the copies of interviews given by Lamott and Miles since their “epiphanies” which I am enclosing with this letter portray no such Christian conversion. In fact, Sara Miles is a lesbian in a 14+-year “marriage” relationship with her lesbian lover. Gay and proud of it she is. Your caller seemed surprised at that, even though it was mentioned in my previous letter, and you can read Ms. Miles own declaration of that fact and her other unbiblical beliefs in the enclosed materials. Anne Lamott, on the other hand, is braggadocios in the fact that in each of her books she uses the “F” word in describing her “conversion,” and states she was “F* by Jesus.”
Lighthouse Trails had hoped that once this situation was brought to Charles Stanley’s attention, he would retract the article and also publicly renounce the contemplative prayer/new spirituality movement. Sadly, no sign of this took place. Some Lighthouse Trails readers may remember our 2006 coverage of the Be Still DVD where Beth Moore teamed up with contemplative Richard Foster in this Fox Entertainment infomercial for contemplative prayer. When the DVD was first released, we learned that the DVD stated at the end of it that Charles Stanley was one of the supporters of the project. Lighthouse Trails contacted both the producer of the film and Charles Stanley’s personal assistant. Fox told us that originally Stanley was going to narrate the film, but those plans changed, for undisclosed reasons, toward the completion of the project. Stanley’s assistant told us that they knew nothing about the contemplative prayer movement. The assistant told Lighthouse Trails that we could send a copy of A Time of Departingto them, but he did not think Charles Stanley would have enough time to read the book.
In June of 2011, Lighthouse Trails free lance writer Mike Stanwood wrote “Contemplative Spirituality Lands on Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine . . . Again.” In this article, it was revealed that in the January 2011 In Touch magazine, a man named Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove was featured in an article written by In Touch Managing Editor Cameron Lawrence. The article called “The Craft of Stability: Discovering the Ancient Art of Staying Put” highlights the “ intentional Christian community” at the Rutba House (Wilson-Hartgrove’s home) and their “daily prayer routine.” The In Touch article states that Rutba House is an evangelical community rooted in the Protestant tradition, and that Wilson-Hartgrove is an ordained Baptist minister. The In Touch article also reports that Rutba’s community principles are borrowed from Benedictine monks and that all of their efforts are based on St. Benedict’s “rule of life.”
In Stanwood’s article, he points out that Wilson-Hartgrove is part of the “New Monasticism” movement within the emerging church. So that you can understand just how serious this situation is with Charles Stanley and his ministry, read this following section of Stanwood’s article:
Wilson-Hartgrove is most recently known for co-authoring Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals with new monastic activist Shane Claiborne. Other books he has authored may also fall into the emerging/contemplative category. For example, one such book called New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church (1) has been endorsed by mystic proponents Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Tony Campolo, and Catholic priest Richard Rohr. The mystics resonate with the “new monasticism” – this is plain to see. While on the surface, the new monasticism may look ok with its many good works of helping the poor and the needy. But the underlying belief system does not line up with biblical doctrine; rather it is about establishing an all inclusive kingdom of God on earth now where individual salvation is replaced with a community salvation for the whole world. Atonement has less emphasis on Jesus Christ as the only atonement for man’s sins and instead becomes an at-one-mentwhere all of creation is “being” saved by coming together as one (and yes, seeing the divinity of man). This is the kind of “atonement” that McLaren, Tickle, and Rohr would resonate with. It is important to see that they don’t just resonate with the good works coming out of the new monasticism – born-again Christians have been performing good work by helping the poor and needy for centuries and continue to do so. While this new monasticism supposedly distinguishes itself by its good works, in reality it is mysticismand the foundational beliefs of mysticism (i.e., panentheism, kingdom now, etc) that distinguish it. And it is that element that Tickle, McLaren, and Rohr embrace.
Additional resources on Wilson-Hartgrove’s website include a DVD called Discovering Christian Classics: 5 Sessions in the Ancient Faith of Our Future, a five-week study with contemplative advocate Lauren F. Winner (Girl Meets God) for high school or adult “formation.” A description of this DVD states:
You will discover the meaning of conversion and prayer from the Desert Fathers and Mothers; how to love from the sermons of St. John Chrysostom; St. Benedict’s Rule of Life and how it became one of the foundations of Western Christian spirituality; how to have an intimate relationship with God according to The Cloud of Unknowing; and what it means to “pick up your cross” in the Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis.”
Another book Wilson-Hartgrove has authored, called The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, refers readers to the wisdom of Lao-tzu, the desert monastics, Thomas Merton, Benedictine spirituality, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Benedictine nun Joan Chittister.
In a Beliefnet interview one year ago, Wilson-Hartgrove shared how “we need the wisdom of those who’ve gone before us.” This wisdom he is referring to comes not from the Bible, but from the contemplative “Benedictines (who) taught us to start the day with common prayer.” (2)
After seeing what is at the core of Wilson-Hartgrove’s spiritual wisdom, it is not surprising to learn that he recently made an appearance at the Wild Goose Festival (3). According to an article in the Christian Post, the Wild Goose Festival was a “four-day revival camp in North Carolina featuring music, yoga, liberal talk and embracing of gays and lesbians.”
This brings us to the most recent issue of In Touch (October 21011) titled “The Prayerful Life.” We received an e-mail this week by a LT reader (also an In Touch reader). Our reader stated:
Just wanted to give you a heads up on Charles Stanley’s latest In Touch magazine. . . . Many articles on prayer and peppered throughout are hints of spiritual disciplines, conversational prayer, sacred space, even a quote from Brother Lawrence, and Augustine of Hippo. On the back page with “Ask Dr Stanley” the question is (p 48): Whats the difference between loneliness and solitude? And why is solitude so important?
Dr. Stanley’s answer: “Loneliness is the anxious feeling of longing for a personal connection that isn’t presently possible or available. But solitude is a deliberate choice to spend time with God and give Him your undivided attention. From this perspective, solitude becomes something we look forward to. As you spend time with your heavenly Father, the joy of His friendship defeats loneliness and paves the road for victorious living. This is how Jesus met challenges on a daily basis. Before ministering to the masses, He would spend focused time alone with the Father. (Mark 1:35)
“Still, many people shy away from solitude because they’re not sure what to expect or how to go about it. My first suggestion is to find a silent place that’s free from distractions. Once you’re there, the next step is to do nothing but make yourself available to the Lord, In that moment, God is not necessarily expecting you to read through a prayer list or study a devotional . Simply invite Him to meet with you in the stillness and speak to you through His Word, however He chooses. Depending on your point of need, He may speak words of encouragement or instruction, or simply surround you with His love. Don’t be discouraged if sensing His presence doesn’t happen right away. With time you’ll experience it in ways that are transforming and unforgettable.
“Practicing the discipline of solitude is important to daily life because it calms our hearts in a demanding world and lightens the load on a busy schedule. With a deeper awareness of God, we find that what was previously overwhelming is now manageable. Solitude helps us develop an abiding sense that He’s there with us every step of the way, guiding our conversations and activities.
“Whatever the task, we can turn to the Lord and receive strength, creativity, and wisdom for every responsibility. This saves a lot of time and reduces stress, which also benefits our health. But most importantly through solitude we become intimate with God, and nothing in this world compares with knowing Him deeply.”
On page 23, an article called “Out of the Din, The necessity of silence” by [In Touch Managing Editor] Cameron Lawrence states: “From the churches early days, the discipline of keeping silence has been an important tool for growing in oneness with God. The discipline of keeping silenceextends to every aspect of life. . . . But growing in Christlikeness requires we embrace silence as an essential component of our spiritual lives, not run from it . . . try setting aside just a few minutes each day, and gradually increase as you build endurance . . . eventually long periods of silence will become comfortable, and you will experience a deeper life with God in prayer.
On page 21, “Wordless Prayer” by Tony Woodlief: “Jesus has a very special love for you” wrote a wistful [contemplative advocate] Mother Theresa” …. ” It’s not getting the words right that matters, its coming to Him. And what a shame to tarry before coming, or to quit His presence too soon, all because we cant find the “right” words. Far better to whisper “please” or “help” or still better, “Jesus” over and over on our knees, than to not come to Him at all.”
While these references may appear somewhat benign to the reader who is not familiar with what contemplative spirituality is, these references are not only the language of contemplative mystics, they also allude to the idea that we cannot really know God (or hear from Him) unless we go into this silent state where we can remove thoughts (distractions) and then and only then hear the voice of God. The contemplative mindset is that we need to go into this self-induced state of silence because that is the only way we can hear the voice of God. So the Word of God and the Holy Spirit are no longer the avenues but rather repeating a word or phrase (the earmark of contemplative spirituality) to enter silence is. True, Charles Stanley himself has not come out (that we know of) and told his readers to repeat a word or phrase. But he is inadvertently pointing people to that by allowing In Touchto promote people like Anne Lamott, Sara Miles, Brother Lawrence, Mother Teresa, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, as well as by using the language that has been primarily used by mystics.
In our own evaluation of this most recent issue of In Touch magazine, in addition to what our reader above stated, we find other troubling aspects of the October issue, a few of which we are mentioning below:
Page 8:In Charles Stanley’s article titled “Conversation with God,” he states that “[i]ntimacy[with God] will not happen any other way” than to “experience His awesome presence.” We find this attitude with virtually every contemplative we have examined over the last ten years.
Page 14:An article titled “The Attentive Life” features Leighton Ford’s book by the same name. We wrote about Ford (vice president of the Billy Graham Association) and his book in 2008stating: “The book offers a collection of quotes by and references to some of the most prolific eastern-style meditation teachers, including Thomas Keating, David Steindl-Rast, Gerald May, Kathleen Norris, and atonement rejector and Episcopal priest Alan Jones (Reimagining Christianity). It is Steindl-Rast who suggested that the Gospel “gets in the way” between Christian and Buddhist dialogue.” Leighton Ford wrote the foreword toPete Scazzero’s very contemplative book The Emotionally Healthy Church. Gary Gilley reviews Ford’s The Attentive Life and states: “First, he [Ford] equates his attentive practices with centering prayer as explained by Roman Catholic mystic Thomas Keating, “We wait quietly in God’s presence, perhaps repeating a ‘sacred word,’ [mantra] and let go of our thoughts…. Centering prayer is not so much an exercise of attention as intention.”
Page 19: An article titled “Seven Creative Ways to Pray as a Family” is written by contemplative advocate Mary DeMuth, author of Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture(Harvest House). In the In Touch article, DeMuth tells readers to visit “prayer rooms – sacred spaces where you can experience different aspects of praying.” DeMuthtells readers to “[r]esearch online to find a prayer room near you.” Try this experiment: go to Google and type in “prayer room” and “sacred space.” One of the first entries you’ll come up with is http://www.stillpoint.org/SP/Home/index.cfm where a higher consciousness and New Age thought is promoted.
It does not seem out of place to be questioning the direction that Charles Stanley’s ministry appears to be going. So we ask, “Just what are you trying to tell us Dr. Stanley?”