Posts Tagged ‘contemplative prayer’

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.

Letter to the Editor: Even Good Churches Being Affected by Contemplative Authors

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. (2 Corinthians 11:3)

Dear Lighthouse Trails,

A picture of Dallas Willard and John Ortberg

I visited a church in my area for the first time today. When I looked online at the church’s doctrines before my visit, the doctrines looked very biblically sound. The church’s site clearly states that the pastor preaches from the Bible verse by verse, and he did. With all of the faithfulness to the Word of God that I observed, I was very surprised to glance at some bookshelves, which was the church library for this small church, and see one of Dallas Willard’s books on the shelf! I didn’t get a chance to look through the other books, but I wish I had now for the purposes of this letter. The pastor even attended Bob Jones University, which I know you have listed as not being contemplative. These contemplative books clearly seem to be getting into the hands of pastors and Christians everywhere. A pastor’s seminary and even an individual’s denomination doesn’t seem to dictate who is reading them. As I was thinking about my experience today and doing some research on your site, I found this list of The Top 50 “Christian” Contemplative Books – A “NOT RECOMMENDED Reading List” and 25 Christian “Bridgers” to Them and am planning to share this list with the pastor from the church I visited today and others. I pray that more Christians will realize that many popular authors and teachers are leading the church toward a new, mystical spirituality and away from traditional, biblical Christianity. I pray that Christians will take heed, compare every teaching and practice of men to the Word of God, and warn others so that more know will know what is happening today within the Church.

A Lighthouse Trails reader

LTRP Note: The list of authors mentioned above can be found in Chris Lawson’s more comprehensive booklet titled, A Directory of Authors (Three NOT Recommended Lists), which can be printed directly from our blog (scroll to bottom for Print Button) or bought in booklet format.

Letter to the Editor: Former New Age Follower Shares Vital Information With Her Pastors and Church Leaders

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

Several years ago, I learned that our church was planning to do a labyrinth walk.  A pattern had been set up in one of the rooms, and stations were placed along the path at which to perform rituals and meditate. From my experience in the New Age prior to becoming a Christian, I knew this was something Christians should not be doing.  I found information on the Internet about the background and purpose of the labyrinth, which I presented to our pastor.

Some years later, I came across Warren Smith’s book, Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Life.  It caught my attention, as our church was studying, The Purpose-Driven Life. As I read the book, I could see that quotations used were by New Age or non-Christian people.  Also, the statement that “God is in everything and everyone” is not true.

At the same that I was made aware of this book, I was hearing about contemplative prayer being practiced. This was done by sitting in silence for up to half an hour in order to hear from God, perhaps chanting a word over and over in order to make your mind go blank.  I had done this when I was in New Age in order to develop ESP (extrasensory perception ).  It was called “transcendental meditation,” and, I found out, would attract demons. I made a presentation to the elder board, along with another lady, to inform them of the error in contemplative practices.

It was not long after that my husband and I left that church and found one that was not doing The Purpose-Driven Life or contemplative prayer.

A few years later, we returned to that former church, which, by then, had a new pastor who was preaching directly from the Word.  As there was still some material being used promoting contemplative prayer, I used some information I had received from The Berean Call (stating that the study of psychology could lead to the  practice of contemplative prayer) to present to the pastor.  As that was exactly what had happened to me, I shared my experience with  him.  Through our Women’s leader, who is aware of the deception, I have been able to give out booklets from Lighthouse Trails, which she shares with the staff and ladies of the congregation.

Although I have not always known the result of sharing this information, I believe it has made the pastors more aware of the deception that is occurring in evangelical churches today.

Lynda

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

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

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

Priscilla Shirer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

“Reconciliation” — A “Theological Theme” at Taizé

By Chris Lawson
(From his 2017 book, Taizé—A Community of Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

In a book titled A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship, and Reconciliation (with a foreword by Desmond Tutu), author Jason Brian Santos says that the “three prominent theological themes of Taizé are reconciliation, freedom and trust.”1

Taizé Community

In explaining “reconciliation,” Santos says that Brother Roger [founder of Taizé community in France]  did not want any particular “theology” at Taizé because that would hinder the “reconciliation” between those of different religious persuasions. Santos describes Brother Roger’s ecumenical vision:

As the community developed and new brothers joined Brother Roger, it became apparent that genuine ecumenism would be one of the most significant challenges the community would face. After all, for over four hundred years estrangement had existed between Protestants and Catholics. But for the young Swiss theologian, it was four hundred years too many. Brother Roger understood all of humanity to be reconciled to God in and through Christ. . . . all are equal in Taizé; the community becomes a living example of reconciliation. . . .

This, to a large degree, is why the Taizé chants were birthed to help bring young people from different Christian traditions together in a unified expression of prayer.2

Bearing in mind that these “unified expression[s] of prayer” are largely mystical repetitive chants and other contemplative practices (e.g., lectio divina, centering prayer), the words of the Catholic contemplative monk, Thomas Merton, come to mind. Merton once described a conversation he had with a Sufi (Islamic mystic) leader who told Merton there could be no fellowship between those of different religions as long as doctrines (he referred then to the “doctrine of atonement or the theory of redemption”3) stood in the way. Merton assured him that while doctrines such as these were a barrier, there could be unity of spirit in the mystical realm.4 This is what Brother Roger was proposing for Taizé.

Jason Brian Santos, who spent time at Taizé researching the community, sums up Taizé’s view of reconciliation:

When Christ made all things new, he restored in us the image of God. Moreover, this image was restored in all of humanity. As a consequence, when we see our neighbor we ought to see the image of God; we ought to see Christ.5 (emphasis added)

Webster’s Dictionary defines “reconciliation” as “the act of reconciling, or the state of being reconciled; reconcilement; restoration to harmony; renewal of friendship.”6

To the Catholic Church, this reconciliation means something very different from the idea of two friends reconciling after a disagreement or estrangement. Rather, it sees the “reconciliation” between Catholics and Protestants as the reabsorption of Protestants into the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, as an institution, has always seen Protestants as “the lost brethren,” so the only feasible reconciliation is to bring them back. The papacy and the Roman hierarchy will only be fully satisfied when they have fully assimilated the Protestant church into its system on its terms.

In Roger Oakland’s book, The Good Shepherd Calls, he discusses the “Roman Catholic Ecumenical Delegation for Christian Unity and Reconciliation.”7 Oakland explains the efforts being made by both the Catholic Church and leaders in the Protestant church to eradicate the barriers that keep the Catholics and the Protestants from becoming one church. There is every reason to believe that Taizé desires this very same thing. And with 100,000 people coming to Taizé every year, they very well may see this union take place sooner than later.

An online promotional piece for Jason Brian Santos’ book A Community Called Taizé by his publisher, InterVarsity Press, asks the question, “Why have millions of young people visited an ecumenical monastic community in France?”8 Like the emerging-church movement with its sensory-driven mystical contemplative practices, momentum is picking up rapidly in ecumenical movements worldwide. But why has the Taizé Community in particular grown so much in recent years? One apparent answer is that several popes and many Protestant groups have heartily promoted and endorsed it. While it is being touted as a place of reconciliation through love, certainly there is more going on than meets the eye.

Endnotes:
1. Jason Brian Santos, A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation (IVP Books, 2008, Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 1366.
2. Ibid.
3. Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), pp. 109-110.
4. Ibid.
5. Jason Brian Santos, op. cit.,
6. http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/Reconciliation.
7. Roger Oakland, The Good Shepherd Calls: An Urgent Message to the Last-Days Church (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, Inc, 2017), p. 131.
8. “Why have millions of young people visited an ecumenical monastic community in France?” (InterVarsity Press website: https://web-beta.archive.org/web/20100104080925/https://www.ivpress.com/title/ata/3525-look.pdf).

Lighthouse Trails Sends Out 5th Letter to 145 Christian Leaders

Lighthouse Trails began mailing out booklets and short letters to over 100 Christian leaders in the spring of 2016. This month we are mailing out the 5th letter along with two booklets – Yoga and Christianity: Are They Compatible? by Chris Lawson and A Serious Look at Richard Foster’s “School” of Contemplative Prayer by Ray Yungen. Our list of leaders’ names is now at 145. Below is the letter we are including with the two booklets.

Dear Christian Leader:

We can’t tell you how many Christians have contacted our office and told us that their churches are doing “Christian” Yoga. But according to one Hindu professor who e-mailed us a number of years ago, there is no such thing as “Christian” Yoga. He said Yoga is the heart of Hinduism. It would be like a Hindu saying he is going to hold a Hindu communion service. In Chris Lawson’s booklet that we have sent you, he explains what Yoga really is and why Christians should not practice Yoga.

We are also including an important booklet by Ray Yungen about the contemplative prayer movement that was initially introduced to the church via Richard Foster (author of Celebration of Discipline). We know that many people find “naming names” uncomfortable. We assure you, we have no animosity toward Mr. Foster himself, but we are compelled to warn the church about a dangerous and unbiblical practice that has taken a foothold in many of our seminaries, colleges, and churches.

We hope you will find these two booklets helpful in your ministry. Thank you for taking the time to study these matters.

Humbly in Christ,

The Editors at Lighthouse Trails Publishing

bigstockphoto.com

If you would like us to add the name of a leader to our Christian leaders list, please send the name and mailing address to us at: editors@lighthousetrails.com. Because of time restraints, we will not be able to add a name without an address. Plus, because we cannot send out these letters and booklets to every pastor in the country, we ask that you only submit names of pastors and/or church leaders who have written at least one book (you can check Amazon) thus moving him or her into a place of influence throughout the church at large.

We wish we could send booklets to every Christian pastor in North America. However, here is an idea given to us from one of our readers for anyone who feels compelled to reach the pastors in his or her denomination and/or state: Earlier this year, a woman from Mississippi who learned that we were sending out booklets to Christian leaders and pastors contacted us. She said she was burdened for Southern Baptist pastors in her state and asked us to put together a mailing of two booklets and a letter and mail it to every Southern Baptist pastor in Mississippi.  Our reader paid for the list (which we purchased for her), the booklets, the postage, and our labor. At her request, we sent each pastor a copy of 10 Scriptural Reasons Jesus Calling is a Dangerous Book by Warren B. Smith and 5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer by Ray Yungen. If you have a group you would like us to reach in this manner, please contact our office.

If you would like to view and/or print a list of the Christian leaders we are currently sending booklets and short letters to 3-4 times a year, click here. Perhaps you would like to pray for these men and women who, in total, influence millions and millions of people throughout the world. Incidentally, just because a name is on this list does not necessarily mean that leader is in deception. We have included a wide assortment of names in this list. There are many pastors and Christian leaders who may not be part of the deception but, for various reasons, are not aware of what is happening in the church today.

Note: Chuck Swindoll’s name is no longer on our list of Christian leaders as his ministry office requested we remove his name.


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