Posts Tagged ‘contemplative prayer’

Revealing Quotes by Influential Contemplatives

These revealing quotes are from well-known figures who have significantly influenced the religious landscape in today’s culture. Sadly, they have helped to mislead millions with their promotion of contemplative prayer (a mystical, panentheistic-rooted practice).

Shalem Prayer Institute
“This mystical stream [contemplative prayer and other monastic traditions] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.”—Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 18.

Gerald May/Brother Lawrence
“. . . a little phrase that Love inspires,” letting a word, phrase or image repeat itself quietly deep inside us as we go through our daily activities.”—Gerald May, quoting Brother Lawrence – “Contemplative Spiritual Formation: Going Deeper”

Rick Warren
“With practice, you can develop the habit of praying silent ‘breath prayers'” – Rick Warren, from his book, The Purpose Driven Life (p. 299)

“[U]se ‘breath prayers’ throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath.”—Rick Warren,
Purpose Driven Life, p. 89.

Ken Blanchard
“Does Buddha have anything to offer non-Buddhists in the workplace? My answer is a wholehearted, ‘Yes.’—Ken Blanchard, co-author of the One Minute Manager, from the foreword and front cover of What Would Buddha Do in the Workplace?

Bruce Wilkinson
“We have promoted an unbiblical message that becoming born-again is the answer to everything. It’s not. It changes your eternity, but it doesn’t change your sexual behavior, for instance. The gospel does not always have the answer for modern-day dilemmas.” – JOY! magazine, the South African counterpart to Charisma, in April 2004

From Youth Specialties
“I built myself a prayer room—a tiny sanctuary in a basement closet filled with books on spiritual disciplines, contemplative prayer, and Christian mysticism. In that space I lit candles, burned incense, hung rosaries, and listened to tapes of Benedictine monks. I meditated for hours on words, images, and sounds. I reached the point of being able to achieve alpha brain patterns…”—Mike Perschon, Youth Specialties Magazine, December 2004

“Choose a sacred word or phrase. Consistently use the same word throughout the prayer. Begin silently to repeat your sacred word or phrase.” – Mark Yaconelli, Youth Specialties National Pastor’s Convention (source)

Charisma Magazine
“Spiritual ecstasy. The third phase of contemplative prayer … a supernatural trance state …” – Charisma magazine, Oct. 2004

Brennan Manning
“Contemplative prayer is nothing other than coming into consciousness of what is already there.” – Brennan Manning, Signature of Jesus, p. 197

Larry Crabb
“Brennan (Manning) is my friend, walking ahead of me on the path toward home. As I watch him from behind, I am drawn to more closely follow on the path…” – Larry Crabb, endorsement of Abba’s Child (source)

Henri Nouwen
“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.” – Sabbatical Journey (the last book Nouwen wrote), p. 51, hardcover edition

“The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart.” – Way of the Heart, p. 81.

Ruth Haley Barton
“Ask for a simple prayer to express your willingness to meet God in the silence … a simple statement …such as “Here I am.” … Help yourself return to your original intent by repeating the prayer that you have chosen.” – Discipleship Journal, Vol. 113 1999

John Michael Talbot
“I began practicing meditation, specifically breath prayer, once again. I integrated the use of Tai Chi and yoga.” – John Michael Talbot, Interview with Christianity Today 10/22/2001

Shakti Gawain
“Its [visualization] effect is to dissolve our internal barriers to natural harmony and self realization.” – Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization, p. 6.

Richard Foster
“[Y]ou and I may have strong opinions on double predestination, supralapsarianism, and biblical inerrancy, but these should not be considered evangelical essentials.” – Streams of Living Water, Kindle location 3914

Matthew Fox
“We need to become aware of the Cosmic Christ, which means recognizing that every being has within it the light of Christ.” – Steve Turner interviewing Matthew Fox, “Natural Mystic?” (Nine O Clock Service, March 1995)

“Everyone is born a mystic and a lover who experiences the unity of things and all are called to keep this mystic or lover of life alive.” (source)

Beth Moore
“[I]f we are not still before Him [God], we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.” – from the Be Still DVD, an infomercial for contemplative prayer (source)

Jack Canfield, Chicken Soup for the Soul
“What works for me is a combination of disciplines: I do yoga, tai chi which is a Chinese martial art and three kinds of meditation—vipasana, transcendental and mantra (sound) meditation.” – from Choosing to be Happy

Thomas Merton
“Isn’t it a pity that people are going into LSD to have spiritual experiences, when we have a tradition in the Church [contemplative prayer] which no one knows anything about?” (source)

M. Basil Pennington
“When we go to the center of our being and pass through that center into the very center of God we get in immediate touch with this divine creating energy … that the divine energy may have the freedom to forward the evolution of consciousness in us and through us, as a part of the whole, in the whole of the creation.” – An Invitation to Centering Prayer

Thomas Keating
“My acquaintance with eastern methods of meditation has convinced me that … there are ways of calming the mind in the spiritual disciplines of both the east and the west [and] many serious seekers of truth study the eastern religions.” – Open Mind, Open Heart, p. 29

Pope John Paul
“Pick out a word or two. Tell your children to sit quietly and repeat the word in their heads—not thinking about the word, just repeating it.” – Everyday Catholic newsletter, Nov. 2001

The Emerging Church
“The first time I introduced this, the kids came in, and I had a candle going and a little incense burning and some Gregorian chant music on the CD player” – Tony Jones, from interview with editor Jeff Bailey, Cutting Edge magazine, pp. 15-22.

“Some of the values of the emerging church are an emphasis on emotions, global outlook, a rise in the use of arts, and a rise in mysticism and spirituality.”—Josh Reich, Youth Specialties, “Creating Worship Gatherings for the Emerging Church” 

“We’re rediscovering Christianity as an Eastern religion, as a way of life.”– Rob Bell, “The Emergent Mystique,” Christianity Today, Nov. 1, 2004

Letter From Dallas Theological Seminary to Lighthouse Trails Reader Reveals “Required” Spiritual Formation

A Lighthouse Trails reader sent Lighthouse Trails a copy of a letter he recently received from Dallas Theological Seminary. DTS has consistently said the school does not promote the” bad” Spiritual Formation, but we have reported on a number of occasions that the Spiritual Formation taught and promoted at DTS IS contemplative spirituality (which is bad). As we have maintained since the inception of Lighthouse Trails – there is no “good” Spiritual Formation as it always leads to the mystics and puts practitioners in harm’s way. DTS is no exception. Our reader (who is a DTS alumni) told us he has been receiving update letters from DTS for years, and this is the first time he has seen them actually mention Spiritual Formation in an alumni letter. You can read an enlarged version of the letter by clicking on the letter below.

One thing to note about this letter is the following statement: “Most students are required to be part of a spiritual formation small group of six to eight students who meet weekly for two years.” This lines up with the special report Lighthouse Trails released in 2013 titled “An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited,”  which shows how many, if not most, Christian colleges, seminaries, and universities must include Spiritual Formation into their students’ lives if the schools want to receive accreditation from “distinguished” accrediting organizations. Dallas Theological Seminary was mentioned in that report:

What do Abilene Christian University, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Bethel Seminary, Biola Seminary, Briercrest College and Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, Moody Theological Seminary & Graduate School, Multnomah Biblical Seminary, Regent College, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and around 240 other seminaries and colleges throughout North America all have in common? They are all accredited or in the process of being accredited through the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).

As you can see here, https://www.ats.edu/member-schools/member-school-list#D, DTS is included on ATS’s member school list. On the ATS website, Letter from Dallas Theological Seminary Promoting Spiritual Formationthe term “spiritual formation” shows up over 540 times on its search engine (https://www.ats.edu/search/google/%22spiritual%20formation%22). The term “Christian formation” (another term for Spiritual Formation) shows up over 440 times.

If you would like to learn more about how accreditation organizations are requiring Spiritual Formation, please read our report. 

A Rose By Any Other Name OR A Deception By Any Other Name – It’s All the Same

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

This is from a circulating email from Prairie [formerly Prairie Bible Institute or PBI in Three Hills Alberta].

It sounds so good, but I suspect it is dangerous.

S. ____

Email Our Reader Received from Prairie:

What’s NEW for our upcoming year
New Student Orientation begins tomorrow! This time of year campus is filled with a joyful buzz. As we begin the 2017/2018 school year, we have a lot to be thankful for and want to share what is new at Prairie.

LAUNCHING NEW CHRISTIAN FORMATION PROGRAM
Centered on keeping company with Jesus and being reshaped by his Spirit, students in the Christian Formation program will become more deeply rooted in the Scriptures and the process of discipleship. We will celebrate the launch of this program on September 15, 2017.

Online: http://prairie.edu/Bible-College/Christian-Formation

Comments by Lighthouse Trails:

Lighthouse Trails has researched and reported on Prairie Bible Institute a number of times over the past several years (e.g. our article: “COLLEGE ALERT: Letters to Lighthouse Trails Prove Prairie Bible Institute (Alberta) Has Gone Emergent”) And even though school leadership has, at times, insisted they were not contemplative or emergent, every time we have observed them, we have come to the same conclusion – that’s exactly what they are.

“Christian Formation” is just another term for Spiritual Formation or Spirituality. It is rooted in contemplative spirituality. In Prairie’s description for the Christian Formation program, it says students will: “Engage with Christians of the past that have thought deeply about Christian growth and formation” (emphasis added). Which Christians of the past? (Or the present?)

We can gain some insight into who PBI is turning to for spiritual guidance by looking at PBI’s current textbook list for 2017. These may or may not be books being used in PBI’s Christian Formation program, but they are books being used in the school. One thing we’ve learned over the years, when  a school is immersed in contemplative spirituality, it isn’t just in the Spiritual Formation program; rather, it is integrated throughout the school.

We would consider all of these authors as part of the emergent church and/or outside the scope of biblical Christianity.

This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry

The Transforming Friendship by James Houston and Dallas Willard

Lifesigns : Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective by Henri Nouwen

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – Annie Dillard

The Secret : What Great Leaders Know and Do by Ken Blanchard

The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson

Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication by Andy Stanley

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas (references about a dozen times a tantric sex author)

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

Taking Your Soul to Work (foreword by Eugene Peterson)

Being Well When We are Ill: Wholeness And Hope In Spite Of Infirmity (Living Well) by Marva Dawn

The Core Realities of Youth Ministry by Mike Yaconelli

Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto of Where We’ve Been, Where We Are and Where We Need to Go by Mark Oestreicher (Marko – former Youth Specialties president)

If you are not familiar with these names, you can do a search on our research site and find information.

 

 

Taizé Worship – Growing in Popularity, But Roots Are in Mystical Monasticism

Taizé Worship Service

Taizé Community in France during a worship service (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons; copyright owner: Damir Jelic; used with permission)

By Chris Lawson
(Author of Taizé: A Community and Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

The worship practiced at Taizé has attracted many people from around the globe and from many different denominations. While many of the words found in Taizé worship music are words found in Scripture or words that do not necessarily contradict Scripture, the Taizé songs and worship services themselves are centered around contemplative, ecumenical, and oftentimes emergent spirituality themes. The emphasis is not on the teaching or exhortation of the Word of God but rather is to help participants “experience” God through sensory-focused music and singing. A church association in the UK describes the Taizé worship style as such:

The contemplative worship practices of the Taizé community are promoted at an annual international conference. Taizé worship is being incorporated in a wide variety of churches, both Protestant and Catholic and its pattern of devotion is emulated in other monastic communities around the world.

A Taizé worship service involves sung and chanted prayers, meditation, a period of silence, liturgical readings, and use of candles. There is no preaching. The style of prayer practiced at Taizé has attracted many worshippers from around the globe and from many different denominations.1

The main focus on the Taizé worship is the chanted prayers, meditations, and songs. However, the Bible warns against such practices:

[W]hen ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8)

The Contemplative Network, an online resource for those interested in meditative prayer practices, describes Taizé worship and prayer like this:

For those familiar with Taizé common prayer, but unfamiliar with Centering Prayer practices, they will discover that they grow from the same root of seeking to surrender the mind and heart to the intimate presence of God. They share the same spirit of ancient monastic traditions to open space to let the Word of God reverberate in all its dimensions. Those who have tasted of this open space during the silent period of a Taizé common prayer service may find themselves well disposed to explore related contemplative practices such as Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer.2

The Taizé worship is not based on the objective Word of God but rather offers spiritual experiences that are subjectively appealing to the flesh. In Scripture, we are instructed to build up the inner spiritual man and to resist the carnality of the flesh (Ephesians 3:16, Romans 8:1-16).

Jesus Christ instructed His disciples that they should not use repetitive prayers (chanting) like the heathen (New Agers, pagans, etc.) do. Anytime experience is given higher regard than God’s Word, it puts followers at risk of becoming victim to deception and even dangerous spiritual realms. Mystical and esoteric experiences are subjective, meaning they are not founded on anything solid or concrete. It is the Word of God (the Bible) that is to be our steering mechanism through life. Consider these verses that show the importance of the Word of God. You won’t find any verses giving credence to seeking after mystical experiences:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9)

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)

Taizé Worship Influenced by Catholic Prayers

The repetitive Taizé songs are influenced by the Roman Catholic notion that a person needs to say a certain amount of repeated prayers in order for them to be enough (e.g., the Catholic works mentality—which dictates that one must do enough works to reduce the time in Purgatory).

An example in Roman Catholicism would be the Rosary—a droning repetition of the same set of prayers, something like this: six repetitions of Our Father, fifty repetitions of the Hail Marys, and three repetitions of the Glory-be prayers. These repetitive prayers are usually said before or after mid-week Masses.

Jesus said, when asked about how to pray, to only pray to God (not Mary or saints or angels) and to not repeat the same prayers over and over again like the pagans “for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

Six different Psalms tell us to sing a new song unto the Lord, but not one tells us to chant. Now Psalm 136 is unique in that it uses the refrain “his mercy endureth for ever,” but this is not a chant in that each refrain is a response to a different statement. So, unlike the psalms, the Catholic uses endless repetition out of guilt (in doing penance) or to be heard by God or from the sense that the Taizé songs are sung to allow participants to go into mind-altering trance-like states.

Taizé Worship Practices Similar to New Age Meditation

Sadly, many of the spiritual experiences occurring during Taizé worship services are similar to what takes place during New Age meditation. The following quote is from Lacy Clark Ellman, author of the New Age website, A Sacred Journey. Her quote is from “Inside the Taizé Community: An Interview with Brother Emile.” The processes (i.e., techniques) she mentions are reminiscent of many transformative occult practices. Regarding Taizé worship, Ellman explains:

Singing their [Taizé monks] chants left me transported—centering me, bringing me peace, and thus opening me up to the Sacred. I’ve been known to describe it as the perfect combination of the contemplative and charismatic—the words simple and liturgical in nature, with the repetition making space for the Sacred Guide to enter. . . .

Instead of trying to facilitate an experience with bright lights and catchy songs, the [Taizé] brothers invite visitors into their own experience—a rhythmic practice of chants, reading, and [meditative] silence in languages found across the globe. They didn’t explain what was going on or how to participate, apart from a board that displayed which song was to be sung next.3 (emphasis added)

The problem with this explanation is that occultists (shamans, sorcerers, witches, etc.) and New Age practitioners around the globe are receiving similar experiences, in varying forms, through spirit contact via spiritualism, séances, channeling, etc. So too, non-Christians enter varying levels of voluntary and involuntary possession states using this same process.

Instead of encouraging Christian worship settings that provide for a clear understanding of sound biblical preaching and teaching of the Bible, Taizé worship services provide a fast track to spiritual experience via unbiblical forms of prayer, meditation, and silence. In many cases, they bypass the Bible altogether. In settings like this where anything goes—chanting, centering down to enter “the silence,” lengthy repetitive singing, and meditative/altered states—any form of spirit contact can occur.

Considering these things, it is of utmost importance that Christians heed this biblical warning:

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. (1 Timothy 4:1)

When people are not being taught the Bible and warned about the dangers of false doctrine and non-biblical practices, they will inevitably, in mystical Taizé type settings, end up under the influence of deceiving spirits. As the above passage describes, strong delusion will overtake them. This is no small problem as it is running rampant in the church throughout the world.
The true Christian has only one option at this point, and that is to obey Scripture and separate from those who bring teachings contrary to the Word of God.

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18; emphasis added)

(This is an excerpt from Chris Lawson’s book Taizé: A Community and Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

Endnotes:

1. The Cornilo Churches, UK (http://www.cornilochurches.org.uk/taiz.htm).
2. The Contemplative Network, “Prayer With the Songs of Taizé (http://www.contemplative.net/prayer-with-songs-taize-t-1_43.html).
3. “Inside the Taizé Community: An Interview with Brother Emile” (http://www.asacredjourney.net/2013/08/taize).

Letter to the Editor: Husband Brought Home This Contemplative Book From Conference – “The Spiritual Formation of Leaders”

The Spiritual Formation of Leaders by Chuck MillerDear Lighthouse Trails,

I want to thank you again and possibly alert you on another author you should watch. Recently, my husband went to a pastor’s conference and brought a book back home titled The Spiritual Formation of Leaders by Chuck Miller, Ed. D.

Immediately I saw the title, the bells went of in my head, and sure enough, going through it, it has quotes from Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton et. al. Looking through also, the author talks of a soul room, listening to God speak to you from all around you. Chapter 7 is titled “What exactly happens in the Soul Room? – Leadership: Moving from Management to Mystery.”

I must say, immediately I saw the book’s title, I became uncomfortable. These books look so good, so endearing and people are genuinely seeking how they can grow in Christ. If not for Lighthouse, I may not have known the treacherous path we would have been walking. As for me, since 2011, I have decided it’s Sola Scriptura. Away with especially new “Christian” books.

Thank you Lighthouse, and God bless you.

T. U.

LTRP Note: In addition to Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, and Thomas Merton, The Spiritual Formation of Leaders also contains quotes by and references to numerous other contemplative/emergent figures: New Age sympathizers Steven Covey and Parker Palmer, contemplatives John Ortberg, John Eldredge, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, as well as emergents N.T. Wright, Robert Webber, Klaus Issler, and Eugene Peterson.

One of the books that Chuck Miller quotes from is Richard Foster’s Meditative Prayer. Here are a few quotes from that book to help illustrate our concerns about using the writings of contemplative authors:

“We will discover how the imagination can aid us in our task and consider the three major steps into meditative prayer.” (p. 3)

“In the fullness of time Jesus came and taught the reality of the kingdom of God and demonstrated what life could be like in that kingdom. He showed us God’s yearning for the gathering of an all-inclusive community of loving persons with himself as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.” (emphasis added, p. 5)

“To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart.” (quoting Russian mystic Theophan the Recluse, p. 7)

“I am because HE IS.” (p. 20)

“[A] third step in meditative prayer, which is the prayer of listening.” (p. 21)

Quoting from numerous mystics and panentheists, Foster says, “The great masters [mystics] of the interior life [meditative life] are overwhelmingly uniform in their witness to this reality [“an inward attentiveness to the divine Whisper”  p. 22].” (p. 22)

To describe meditative prayer, Foster uses words such as “spiritual space,” “inner sanctuary,” “Eucharistic feast,” “centering down,” “re-collection,” “divine breathings,” “rhythm of the Spirit,” “prayer of quiet,” “divine Center,” “spiritual ecstasy.”

 

Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, Richard Foster – Are We Wrong in Calling Them Emergent/Contemplative?

Recently, we were asked to give an account as to why Dallas Willard (d. 2013), Richard Foster, and John Ortberg were listed in Roger Oakland’s booklet How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging Into Your Church as part of the emerging church. 

We would first like to say that it is understandable how someone could take offense to these men being named in a booklet on the emerging church. All three have stated that they love Jesus and have often used Scriptures in their writings and lectures. So why say they are part of the emerging church?

Richard Foster and Dallas Willard

Richard Foster (l); Dallas Willard (r)

The Real Crux of the Matter

The real crux of this matter comes down to the contemplative prayer movement, which because it has its roots in panentheism (God in all) and interspirituality (all paths lead to God)  as we have been able to document in our writings these past many years, it is basically a synonym for the emerging church. In fact, without contemplative prayer, the emerging church would not have had the success (if you will) that it has had because contemplative prayer is the force that drives it. And given the fact that there are so many variables equal between the two, if someone is a proponent of contemplative prayer, we classify him as part of the emerging church. Many people mistakenly think that the emerging church would just be those of the caliber of Brian McLaren or Rob Bell. But we cannot agree with this at all. We believe the documentation we have gathered these past 15 years clearly shows that the two movements are one in the same.

That being said, one of the problems is that many Christians do not  understand what contemplative spirituality is. They believe that contemplative prayer is just prayer that contemplates (ponders) the things of God. Or that it is likened to a time of solitude (e.g., a quiet time with the Lord, perhaps sitting by a creek or turning off the radio). But contemplative prayer, as Richard Foster has very often made clear in his writings, is a practice that requires one to remove all distractions of the mind by practicing some type of mantric-like meditation (breath prayers, centering prayer, lectio divina, etc) and allowing the mind to enter a neutral state where all thought is gone. If contemplative prayer were just normal, but perhaps more focused, prayer, then why has there been so much differentiation in the church regarding it, whereas now through Spiritual Formation programs, countless Christian colleges and seminaries have brought contemplative spirituality into their schools?

If we could establish that this type of extra-biblical prayer is similar to an eastern-style meditation that Christians should not be engaged in, we would need to then look to see how this has entered the church and through whom. At this point, we would like to recommend two articles we have written that concisely explain and document 1) the roots of contemplative prayer and the connection between it and eastern style and occultic meditation, and 2) the significant role that Richard Foster has played in bringing contemplative spirituality into the evangelical church. Here are the links to those two articles: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=18192 and  http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17941. Each of the articles is filled with many quotes (none taken out of context) so that it isn’t just our opinion but is coming right from the sources themselves.

Dallas Willard and John Ortberg

Dallas Willard (l); John Ortberg (r)

Now, about Dallas Willard (John Ortberg is a disciple of Willard so we will not bring him into this letter for sake of not allowing this article to get too lengthy – see the end of this article for some Ortberg links).  What we have to say about Dallas Willard is really only going to be understood if one understands contemplative spirituality. Otherwise, we can show that Willard promotes contemplative spirituality, but if one does not realize what that term means, it may not mean much when we show Willard’s propensity for this mystical spirituality.

  1. In 1998, in the Journal of Psychology and Theology, Dallas Willard made the following statement: “Indeed, solitude and silence are powerful means to grace. Bible study, prayer and church attendance, among the most commonly prescribed activities in Christian circles, generally have little effect for soul transformation, as is obvious to any observer. If all the people doing them were transformed to health and righteousness by it, the world would be vastly changed. Their failure to bring about the change is precisely because the body and soul are so exhausted, fragmented and conflicted that the prescribed activities cannot be appropriately engaged, and by and large degenerate into legalistic and ineffectual rituals. Lengthy solitude and silence, including rest, can make them very powerful.” (Dallas Willard,Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation and the Restoration of the Soul,” Journal of Psychology and Theology, Spring 1998, Vol. 26, #1, pp. 101-109. Also available in The Great Omission, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2006)

Dallas Willard and Richard Foster together believed that what the church needs more than anything else is Spiritual Formation. As Richard Foster himself has stated (see the Foster booklet), the term Spiritual Formation came from the Catholic Church long before evangelicals used the term. For those who will read our article explaining what Spiritual Formation is, they will be able to see that Spiritual Formation (or the Spiritual Disciplines) is the vehicle that brings contemplative prayer to the church. Based on what we have witnessed in the majority of Christian colleges and seminaries, this has been a very successful effort. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=16176

  1. In 2004, Ruth Haley Barton wrote a book titled Invitation to Silence and Solitude. Dallas Willard wrote the foreword. Barton, who was trained at the New Age/panentheistic Shalem Prayer Institute in Washington, DC, also wrote the Spiritual Formation curriculum with John Ortberg for Willow Creek church after her training at Shalem. In Invitation to Silence and Solitude, Barton describes a wordless time of prayer that she calls the silence. “Take three long, deep breaths to help yourself settle into the silence.” (Kindle edition, Kindle location 689-690). It is very clear in her book that when she says silence, she is not talking about external silence; rather she is talking about stilling the mind so that there are no thoughts to distract us. Naturally, as humans, we cannot just turn off all thoughts. Our minds are thinking throughout our waking hours. The contemplative teaches that we must rid ourselves of these “distractions,” but we cannot do that without an aid. That aid is repeatedly saying a word or phrase (or focusing on the breath or an object)  for as much as 20 minutes (that’s how long author Gary Thomas tells readers to repeat their prayer word in his highly popular book Sacred Pathways):

    It is particularly difficult to describe this type of prayer in writing, as it is best taught in person. In general however, centering prayer works like this: Choose a word (Jesus or Father, for example) as a focus for contemplative prayer. Repeat the word silently in your mind for a set amount of time (say, twenty minutes) until your heart seems to be repeating the word by itself, just as naturally and involuntarily as breathing. (p. 185)

In Barton’s book, she references favorably several Catholic panentheistic mystics: Richard Rohr, Henri Nouwen, Basil Pennington, William Shannon, and others. For Dallas Willard to write the foreword to her book, he must have agreed with what she was writing in the book. He was a very learned, educated man (referred to as “one of today’s most brilliant Christian thinkers“) who must have known also who these mystics mentioned in her book were and what they believed.

  1. In fact, on Dallas Willard’s own website, there is a page of recommended resources. The page has been there for years and is still there today. http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp. Here is an archive of the same page in 2010: https://web.archive.org/web/20100314131254/http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp. On that page, which obviously was what Dallas Willard himself recommended, are the names of several contemplative mystics and advocates of mantric-like meditation.

One of the recommended books, written by Jan Johnson, is Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness. Like Barton, Johnson is a long-time highly influential promoter of contemplative prayer. In the book, which by the way favorably references several mystics such as Anglican priest Kenneth Leech and even some New Age type figures (e.g., Gerald May and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin), she says the following: “To listen to God requires experimentation and practice so that we develop ‘ears to hear’ . . .  Such practice involves Scripture study and meditation, prayer (especially contemplative prayer)”  (Kindle edition, Kindle Locations 399-400). Johnson also encourages breath prayers, lectio divina, and “practicing the presence.” Her book that Willard recommends is a primer on contemplative prayer; and in that book, for the more curious reader, she recommends her book When the Soul Listens where she states:

“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.” (p. 16)

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. (p. 120)

We have never heard of a prayer in the Bible that would cause us to feel “unnerving.” This is typical language of and explanation by contemplatives. We know that those who practice occultic or eastern style meditation will often have experiences that could be described as unnerving. Richard Foster says that before one practices contemplative prayer, it is wise to say prayers of protection.(Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, 1992, pp. 155-157.) But where in Scripture are we instructed to pray prayers of protection from prayer?

In addition to Dallas Willard recommending Jan Johnson on his website, he also recommends Richard Foster, to whom he was closely connected, and mystics Madame Guyon, Evelyn Underhill, Teresa of Avila (who levitated because of her meditation practices), Henri Nouwen (who after years of practicing mysticism came to the conclusion that Jesus is not the only path to God – see his book Sabbatical Journey, p. 51), Ignatius (The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius), and even Jungian occultist Agnes Sanford. How could Dallas Willard have Agnes Sanford’s occultic-promoting book The Healing Light on his website since at least as far back as 2004?! (https://web.archive.org/web/20041214164830/http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp).

How many unsuspecting, trusting individuals have come across Dallas Willard’s webpage on his site recommending these people and been drawn into the teachings promoted by them?

One Final Example

We could provide many other examples showing Dallas Willard’s connection and advocacy to the contemplative prayer movement. Even Rick Warren acknowledged this in his first book The Purpose Driven Church where he identified Richard Foster and Dallas Willard as key players in the movement (p. 127).  But we’ll leave you with this final example. We hope and pray those reading this article will read some of the documentation we have provided in the links we’ve included. The evidence is there for those who are willing to study this matter. Roger Oakland was correct in including these names in his booklet on the emerging church.

  1. Our final example has to do with Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, a book that remains highly popular in Christian circles.  On the back cover of the book is an endorsement by goddess worshiper Sue Monk Kidd. Although the book was written several years ago, her name remains on the back cover of the book along with the name of her book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. It is in that book that Sue Monk Kidd says God is in everything, even human excrement (pp. 160-163)! And in speaking about mysticism in that book, Monk Kidd says:

    As I grounded myself in feminine spiritual experience, that fall I was initiated into my body in a deeper way. I came to know myself as an embodiment of Goddess…. Mystical awakening in all the great religious traditions, including Christianity, involves arriving at an experience of unity or nondualism. In Zen it’s known as samadhi…. Transcendence and immanence are not separate. The Divine is one. The dancer and all the dances are one. . . . The day of my awakening was the day I saw and knew I saw all things in God, and God in all things. (pp. 161-163, Dance of the Dissident Daughter)

Does Dance of the Dissident Daughter sound like a book that should be included on the back of a Christian book (The Spirit of the Disciplines)? Hardly! Dallas Willard is viewed as a great Christian scholar. But something is very amiss here. In addition to Monk Kidd’s endorsement on the back of The Spirit of the Disciplines, Willard favorably references inside the book panentheist Catholic monk Thomas Merton as well as Agnes Sanford. Although the book was originally published in 1988, we are referring to the 2009 Kindle edition, which was a mere eight years ago when Dallas Willard was still alive. In the book (see Bibliography), he has turned to the writings of numerous panentheistic mystics: Bernard of Clairvaux, The Cloud of Unknowing (a primer on contemplative prayer written by a Catholic monk centuries ago), The Desert Fathers, Harry Fosdick (who denied substitutionary atonement), Ignatius, Soren Kierkegaard, Thomas Merton, Meister Eckhart, New Ager M. Scott Peck, Agnes Sanford, and others. Untold numbers of Christians have read The Spirit of the Disciplines, and they have been introduced to the writings of these mystics whose ideas are interwoven in the pages of this book. Incidentally, on Dallas Willard’s website, it states that The Spirit of the Disciplines is a companion book to Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline (where Foster says, “we should all without shame enroll in the school of contemplative prayer”).

What we have presented here is not guilt by association but is guilt by promotion and proxy. It is our estimation that Dallas Willard and Richard Foster have done a terrible disservice to the body of Christ and to the work and furtherance of the Gospel. We hope those reading this will take the time to study this matter out.

Related Links:

Letter to the Editor: What About John Ortberg’s Fully Devoted Book? My Pastor Wants to Use it

David Jeremiah Opens Pulpit to Contemplative Advocate John Ortberg

“Tough Questions” with Dallas Willard . . . and His Contemplative Propensities

More on John Ortberg

 

 

 

Letter to the Editor: Popular Group Publishing’s Vacation Bible School Curriculums Promoting Contemplative/Emergent Ideas

LTRP Note: Group Publishing has been listed as a contemplative publisher on the LT Research site for many years. Just take a look at this 1999 article in the Group Publishing archives written by contemplative pioneer Mark Yaconelli to see an example of their early efforts. This particular article is one that is discussed in Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing.

bigstockphoto.com

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I have been hearing about a number churches using Group Publishing’s Vacation Bible School curriculums this year, including my own.  The four 2017 Protestant versions are:  Maker Fun Factory, Passport to Peru, Rome, and Campout.  My church will be using Campout.  Thankfully, someone at our church read through the curriculum and noticed there is no mention of sin, which is the reason why we need our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The discerning individual who noticed the omission is now rewriting some parts of the VBS curriculum in order to teach more sound theology to our church’s children.  The Campout curriculum, instead of focusing on what Jesus did on the cross as the sacrifice for man’s sin, focuses on how “Jesus’ life showed God’s love.”  I have since been researching more about Group Publishing, and I came across a few things.

Group Publishing also makes a Catholic version of its Protestant VBS curriculum(s), and apparently the company has been doing this at least since 2009, according this article:  http://baptistbulletin.org/the-baptist-bulletin-magazine/is-your-vbs-taking-a-vacation-from-the-gospel/ .  Here is a link to the Totally Catholic Maker Fun Factory (2017):  http://vbs.osv.com/totally-catholic-maker-fun-factory and Totally Catholic Shipwrecked (2018):  http://vbs.osv.com/totally-catholic-shipwrecked.

Group Publishing is also hosting two conferences this year, KidMin Children’s Ministry Conference in September and the Future of the Church Summit in October.  Two of the five speakers at KidMin are Max Lucado and Mark Batterson [The Circle Maker author], both of whom promote contemplative spirituality.  Spiritual formation, which is Roman Catholic mysticism based in eastern spiritual practices, will also be a key component of this conference.  A session on  “Spiritual Formation in Families” will be led by Luz Figueroa during the conference, and here is a description of that session:

“Spiritual formation is the process of being transformed into the image of Christ for the sake of others. What does it take for children to experience God and spiritual growth? And what implications and applications does that have on families? Just because we know it’s the responsibility of parents to be the nurturers of their children’s faith doesn’t mean they have the tools for the job. Spiritual formation is a family matter as children respond to the spiritual formation reflected by the adults who influence them. In this session, you’ll deepen your desire to grow in Christ and consent more freely to the love of God infiltrating your home and ministry context. You’ll also learn how to help children and families live in ways that are increasingly attentive to God, oneself, and others.

  • Consider your personal spiritual formation to discover a fresh approach that seeks transformation—not just education.
  • Explore the important roles of spirituality and formation in relation to the home and church.
  • Explore and understand transformative learning.
  • Experience how as we willingly open ourselves to the transformative movement of the love of God, we open ourselves to the world around us.
  • Discover spiritual practices that will help parents move from the goal of good behavior to creating a compelling faith future for their children.
  • Review 12 spiritual practices that can be implemented at church and at home.”

Click on Family Ministry to see the “Spiritual Formation in Families” session description:  https://www.group.com/category/training-and-events/conferences/kidmin-conference/sessions.do

Group Publishing is additionally organizing a Future of the Church Summit in October.  Leaders of World Vision and World Relief will be speaking among others.  Three of seven topics that will be discussed are:
–   “The Future of Disciple-Making – Explore a new paradigm for the church’s work in discipleship—moving from four-week classes to lifestyle transformation.”
–   “Surprising Paths for Growth in the Church – Discover refreshing forms of ministry that work with those who are done with church as we know it.”
–   “The Next Reformation -Some have noted that the church goes through a major transformation every 500 years. This year marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation. So, what’s next?”
https://www.group.com/category/training-and-events/training/future-of-the-church-summit.do

Not only is Group Publishing teaching a watered down Gospel and another version of Jesus, they are also promoting Roman Catholic mysticism through conferences and leading discussions on how the church needs to adopt new paradigms, new ministries, new ways of doing things with the stated purpose of being more effective, rich, relevant, and meaningful.  Many, many churches are unknowingly using these VBS curriculums to teach their children about Jesus and the Bible, but the theology of the publishing group and the theology presented in the VBS curriculums are clearly compromised.

M.P.


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