Posts Tagged ‘contemplative colleges’

Dallas Theological Seminary Not Contemplative? – New Evidence Shows Otherwise

Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) has always maintained that while they teach Spiritual Formation, they only teach the “good” kind and that they are not a school that promotes contemplative spirituality. Lighthouse Trails has always challenged these suppositions. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago when Lighthouse Trails editors had some correspondence with two different DTS faculty members (one a dean) who insisted that DTS was not promoting contemplative spirituality and that Lighthouse Trails should not include their name in our Contemplative College list or in our booklet An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited” that names several evangelical seminaries (including DTS) that promote contemplative spirituality.

One example of how DTS is promoting contemplative spirituality is through their textbook Foundations of Spiritual Formation written by Paul Pettit.  While instructors at DTS who use this book may or may not ever mention Richard Foster or Dallas Willard, the textbook by Pettit does. Within the pages of Pettit’s book is Richard Foster, Philip Yancey, N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Thomas Aquinas, 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,” plus the practice of Lectio Divina. These are some of the heavy weights in the contemplative prayer movement. Paul Pettit teaches in DTS’s Spiritual Formation department. One course that uses Pettit’s book at DTS is Mentored Spiritual Formation. If DTS isn’t promoting the contemplative prayer movement, why use a textbook that includes teachers and writers who do?

There is more to this Spiritual Formation saga at Dallas Theological Seminary. Take a look at this page for the DTS Doctor of Ministry (DMIN) Spiritual Formation Cohort.  Scroll to the bottom of the page and see the names of the two faculty members for this program. One of them is Gail Seidel (you can view her professional credentials here and here.) Last month (June 2017), she wrote a blog article titled “Soul Noticing 101,” in which she  shows an obvious affinity for contemplative spirituality. She speaks, as all the contemplatives do, of Christians who feel depleted, tired, and neglected (which is how they convince people they need to do contemplative prayer).

Seidel quotes enthusiastically from several contemplatives in the article. One quote is by Cindy Caliguire. Lighthouse Trails wrote about Caliguire in 2009 because of her advocacy for contemplative prayer. The following is an excerpt from that article:

With all these contemplative connections, it’s no surprise that Soul Care founder Mindy Caliguire’s teaching sessions are also based on contemplative spirituality and the spiritual disciplines. This is clearly evident if one listens on-line to her sessions. Caliguire is a good speaker, and she does quote and reference the Bible, but for those who understand and recognize contemplative spirituality, it becomes obvious in listening to her that Caliguire is in that camp.

In Practicing Silent Prayer [a 2009 workshop at Willow Creek], Caliguire teaches about mantras, silence, and finding a quiet place undistracted. She also mentions that this kind of prayer is “difficult to do. In Practicing Solitude Part 1, she teaches on how to prepare an undistracted quiet place or retreat, and explains what things to bring to connect with God. Oddly, she recommends bringing an alternative Bible translation that is less familiar to you, a journal, and The Way of the Heart by Henry Nouwen. The following is from Nouwen’s book: “The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart … This way of simple prayer … opens us to God’s active presence” (p. 81).

DTS Magazine – low-resolution shot used in accordance with the US Fair Use Act for critical review

This “repetition of a single word” is intended to put the practitioner in an altered state of consciousness. Gail Seidel goes on to quote Dallas Willard from his book Renovation of the Heart (remember, Willard and Richard Foster are the two main pioneers in bringing contemplative spirituality into the church and were inspired to do so by Catholic mystic Thomas Merton). After quoting Willard, Seidel quotes psychotherapist and meditation advocate Thomas Moore from his book Care of the Soul. The book is actually endorsed inside the cover by New Age author Larry Dossey, and in a section at the back of Moore’s book for further recommended reading, he includes Carl Jung! According to the New Age website Spirituality & Practice, Moore is “a leading lecturer in the fields of archetypal psychology, mythology, and imagination” and a columnist for Spirituality & Health magazine. How can a faculty member at DTS be promoting such a book unless she is resonating with the author? She never gives any indication that she disagrees with any of these quoted figures; on the contrary.

After quoting Willard, Caliguire, and Moore, Gail Seidel continues on her contemplative-author escapade by quoting “spiritual director” Alice Fryling from her book Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction. This book is a who’s who of contemplative, New Age, panentheistic mystics: Thomas Merton, Gerald May, Shalem Institute found Tilden Edwards, not to mention Henri Nouwen, Richard, Foster, and David Benner (all of whom you can read about in Ray Yungen’s A Time of Departing).

It cannot be ignored that one of two Spiritual Formation faculty members at Dallas Theological Seminary is so taken with so many hard-core contemplative prayer advocates. Dating back to 2010, in Seidel’s DTS Soul Care Lead Lab, she is recommending books by David Benner, Richard Foster, Ruth Haley Barton, Mindy Caliguire, Leighton Ford, Fil Anderson, Thomas Moore, and Dallas Willard (all contemplative teachers).

This brings us to the 2017 summer issue of DTS Magazine (see cover to the right) that one of our readers brought to our attention recently. There are a number of innuendos and hints (including the cover) of contemplative spirituality in this issue. But we will focus on one particular article written by Brandon Geilla titled “Patterns of Prayer: Ancient and Modern Tools for Reading Scripture and Communing with God,” which states:

Ancient words like liturgy can seem scary for modern, nondenominational evangelicals. Liturgy and words like lectionary, or guides like the Book of Common Prayer, often bring up feelings of empty ritual. Are they hollowed out forms of true Christian faith from which we broke away during the Reformation? We often believe so and we make subconscious vows to never return to dead habits.

Yet, this year—the 500th since the Reformation—looking back to more traditional roots of our Christian practice can prove fruitful for our spiritual growth. In the last several years, in fact, many articles have explored why millennials are returning to mainline, traditional denominations because of their formal liturgy. (emphasis added)

What the millennials are “returning” to is a mystical form of prayer developed by the Desert Fathers and other monastics. Geilla’s article elaborates on the “lectionary,” stating, “Within a more structured worship environment, people hear the Scriptures as part of a more multisensory, whole-body experience” (emphasis added). The article insinuates that DTS founder Lewis Sperry Chafer would approve of this “multisensory” kind of Christianity and stretches Chafer’s apparent willingness to work with those of other denominations into a willingness to embrace these liturgical sensory experiences as well. By the way, we believe the practices being recommended in this article have the potential to be like gateway drugs to full-blown contemplative prayer (in a similar way as lectio divina is used in the contemplative prayer movement). In fact, this article is a gateway article. For example, it quotes (and recommends) a man named Drew Dickens and a group he is part of called Abide. Dickens heads the spiritual formation department at Abide. The Abide website promotes meditation calling it  “Christian meditation.” But by the descriptions (such as it relieves stress), they are talking about something much different than meditating (pondering or thinking about) on Scripture. Abide links to a particular website to make their point that mediation is beneficial (when the world says meditation, it is not talking about reading Scripture and pondering on it – it’s talking about mantra-like meditation). Just take a look at some of the books on that site (that Abide recommends to view), and you will see clearly what Abide means by “meditation.” For an example of one of Abide’s mediation exercises, click here (but please use caution). The monotone woman’s voice is an earmark of New Age meditation exercises. In addition, she instructs the listener to breath in slowly and breath out slowly. For those who are familiar with New Age meditation, you will recognize the similarity.

The article by Brandon Geilla in DTS Magazine would never appear in a magazine that understood the dangers of contemplative prayer. Interestingly, Geilla favorably references Bishop Ray Sutton in his article, who was mentioned in a Lighthouse Trails article where we stated:

Bishop Ray Sutton of The Gathering is Dean of the Province and Ecumenical Affairs of the Anglican Church in North America and is involved in a number of ecumenical (road to Rome) activities. Sutton also advocates for the Catholic transubstantiation of the communion elements (a re-crucifixion of Christ) (click here and here for some more information on Sutton).

We know our critics, including those at DTS who defend the school no matter what, will say we are using guilt by association in our article to implicate DTS, but what it is guilty of is guilt by promotion and guilt by proxy. There’s a big difference! We do not believe these are isolated incidents at DTS. And it has not just started. Like others who have gone down the contemplative/emergent path, DTS started off slowly years ago building momentum over the years. At the very least, DTS needs to come clean and admit what they are doing for the sake of unsuspecting students who will later become pastors and teachers of today’s Christian church and will have been greatly influenced in a manner that does not align with the biblical Gospel.

What’s really troubling about Dallas Theological Seminary is that they deny they are promoting contemplative spirituality. Yet, one of two faculty members for their Spiritual Formation Cohort is gleaning heavily from outright contemplative mystics. At least with some schools, they admit that is what they are doing – it’s out in the open. But not so with DTS. Their hands are in the cookie jar, but they are denying it. What would their older Christian donors do if they knew the school has willfully entered a spirituality that negates the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Related Articles:

Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why It Shouldn’t)”

5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer”

2015 YEAR IN REVIEW – PART 3 – LIGHTHOUSE TRAILS COVERAGE ON CHRISTIAN COLLEGES IN 2015

That Time of Year Again~Looking for a Christian College This Fall For Your Child? Better Think Carefully About Which One to Attend

As Lighthouse Trails has reported over the last several years, a growing number of evangelical/Protestant colleges, seminaries, and universities are integrating contemplative spirituality and emerging ideologies into their schools. If you, or someone you know, are currently looking for a Christian school, we beseech you to check potential schools very carefully. Ask to see textbook lists, search their websites to see if they have spiritual formation programs, and find out who speaks at their student chapels. It would also be a good idea to contact the school chaplain and ask some good questions.

Here is our growing list of Christian schools that ARE promoting contemplative and/or emerging: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/Colleges.htm And here is a small list we have put together of schools that are NOT going in that direction at this time: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/collegesgood.htm.

Also read some of our past articles on Christian colleges:

Baylor University Professors Using Meditation and Mantras to “Help” Students

Letter to the Editor: Liberty University Offering Yoga Classes . . . AGAIN!

“Christian Palestinianism” & Emergents Lynn Hybels and Jim Wallis Come to Multnomah University For “Justice” Conference

Faith Baptist Bible College & Seminary “Crossed Off” “Good” College List – Hopefully Temporarily

Letter to the Editor: Saddened by Christian & Missionary Alliance and Ambrose University Continuing Plunge into Contemplative

The “New” Emerging Theology Breeds Atheism in a Generation of Young People

In Need of a Pastor for Your Church? Try Looking at NON-Contemplative Colleges

Teresa of Avila Comes to Christian College

More articles in our Contemplative Colleges category.

Letter to the Editor: Eastern University to Add Labyrinth With Grant From Calvin Institute

Hi Lighthouse Trails:

I’ve read your blog and appreciate very much all of the information and insights you share with your readers.

I wanted to update you on a recent development on the university where my _______ attends.  I recently read a press release that they are building a labyrinth, and this caused me great concern.  Of course, that is the school that Tony Campolo helped to form.  Even more unsettling is the organization that they received the grant from [Calvin Institute]. . . .  My hope is that it will not be a requirement for the students, but I still find it quite sad, and almost a rebellion from their Protestant background.

My thought is that you might use this to sound a warning when and if appropriate.  I am thankful for organizations such as yours that work to get the word out to others.

Here’s the link:

https://web.archive.org/web/20130201212848/http://www.eastern.edu/news/releases/2012/calvininstitute_labyrinthgrant.html

Written by ______________.

Bryan and Hope Colleges Added to Contemplative Christian School List

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

Thank you so much for your site as I have found it to be a great resource to see how the Christian world is slowly shifting into the contemplative/emergent realm.

It is with sadness that I wanted to let you know that I think my former college – Bryan College may be embracing this mindset. In a recent newsletter it is mentioned that they will offer a minor in “Soul care.” As they have been mentioning spiritual formation for a while now without much else to add this seems to be the first fruits of that shift. I have attached the newsletter for reference.

I emailed Mr. Doran to get a reading list and the results are not encouraging:

In the Introduction to Christian Soul Care course that will be offered this Fall, I have selected the following books and authors:

  • *Spiritual Direction and the Care of Souls ( David Benner and Gary Moon)
  • *Care of the Soul (David Benner)
  • *Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service (Stephen Seamands)

I just wanted to email to see if you have heard anything else regarding Bryan.

Feel free to quote my email but please exclude my name.

Thanks,  A Lighthouse Trails reader

Our Comments: After doing some research, we would agree with our reader that Bryan College is indeed promoting contemplative spirituality. Another example would be their CT201SEMA – CLF:Spiritual Disciplines (Fall 2011) course which will use a textbook called Disciplines of the Holy Spirit by Siang-Yang Tan. This book is filled with favorable quotes by and references to contemplatives such as Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, and Julian of Norwich (you may do a search on our site for documentation on each of these names). The course also uses a textbook by Francis Chan.

LTRP Note: Bryan College has been added to our list of Christian colleges and seminaries that promote contemplative/spiritual formation.  We also added Hope College of Holland, Michigan to our contemplative list today. A look at their 2010 textbook list shows evidence that the teachers at Hope College are turning to contemplative advocates to teach Hope College students. One of the books being used is Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s book Handbook in Spiritual Disciplines. Lighthouse Trails has included information about Ms. Calhoun’s book in a number of articles because this book is packed with references and quotes by New Age eastern-style mystics and because Rick Warren includes this book in his own list of worthy reads.

We provide this list of contemplative colleges to help parents and students who are wanting to choose schools that are biblically sound. We also provide a small list of schools that are NOT promoting spiritual formation or contemplative prayer.

Related Information:

In Need of a Pastor for Your Church? Try Looking at NON-Contemplative Colleges

COLLEGE ALERT: CMA Simpson University Students Seek Contemplative Chapel Experience

LTRP Note: Simpson University in Redding California (part of Christian Missionary Alliance) is just one of countless Christian schools that has gone into the contemplative/emerging camp. Please see our links below this article for more information.

The Slate – Redding, California

Several students have collaborated with Simpson University to form a more contemplation-based chapel experience.

“Alternative Chapel,” as it has been dubbed, is still in the experimental stages of development, and currently exists as a discussion-based small group with 10-20 participants.

According to their mission statement, their goal is the cultivation of “meaningful philosophical and theological dialogue, with a view to both academic and spiritual development.”

Brândon Williams, the creator and facilitator of the group, said that some students want a more contemplative atmosphere on campus.

“The more contemplative component is something that I felt was really lacking in the Chapel on campus,” he said. “There is actually quite a wide diversity of people here at Simpson, and a diversity of spiritual preferences, backgrounds and learning styles…that diversity would be better served in a more pluralistic approach to spiritual formation.” Click here to read more.

Related Information:

Simpson University writes to Lighthouse Trails – denies promoting the New Age

Is your Christian college or university going contemplative? Check out our growing list.

Understanding Spiritual Formation


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