Posts Tagged ‘desert fathers’
By Ray Yungen
Catholic priest William Shannon in his book, Seeds of Peace, explained the human dilemma as being the following:
This forgetfulness, of our oneness with God, is not just a personal experience, it is the corporate experience of humanity. Indeed, this is one way to understanding original sin. We are in God, but we don’t seem to know it. We are in paradise, but we don’t realize it.1
Shannon’s viewpoint defines the basic underlying worldview of the contemplative prayer movement as a whole. One can find similar quotations in practically every book written by contemplative authors. A Hindu guru or a Zen Buddhist master would offer the same explanation. This conclusion becomes completely logical when tracing the roots of contemplative prayer. Let us look at the beginnings of this practice.
In the early Middle Ages, there lived a group of hermits in the wilderness areas of the Middle East. They are known to history as the Desert Fathers. They dwelt in small isolated communities for the purpose of devoting their lives completely to God without distraction. The contemplative movement traces its roots back to these monks who promoted the mantra as a prayer tool. One meditation scholar made this connection when he said:
The meditation practices and rules for living of these earliest Christian monks bear strong similarity to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East … the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery.2
Many of the Desert Fathers, in their zeal, were simply seeking God through trial and error. A leading contemplative prayer teacher candidly acknowledged the haphazard way the Desert Fathers acquired their practices:
It was a time of great experimentation with spiritual methods. Many different kinds of disciplines were tried, some of which are too harsh or extreme for people today. Many different methods of prayer were created and explored by them.3
Attempting to reach God through occult mystical practices will guarantee disaster. The Desert Fathers of Egypt were located in a particularly dangerous locale at that time to be groping around for innovative approaches to God, because as one theologian pointed out:
[D]evelopment of Christian meditative disciplines should have begun in Egypt because much of the intellectual, philosophical, and theological basis of the practice of meditation in Christianity also comes out of the theology of Hellenic and Roman Egypt. This is significant because it was in Alexandria that Christian theology had the most contact with the various Gnostic speculations which, according to many scholars, have their roots in the East, possibly in India.4
Consequently, the Desert Fathers believed as long as the desire for God was sincere–anything could be utilized to reach God. If a method worked for the Hindus to reach their gods, then Christian mantras could be used to reach Jesus. A current practitioner and promoter of the Desert Fathers’ mystical prayer still echoes the logical formulations of his mystical ancestors:
In the wider ecumenism of the Spirit being opened for us today, we need to humbly accept the learnings of particular Eastern religions … What makes a particular practice Christian is not its source, but its intent … this is important to remember in the face of those Christians who would try to impoverish our spiritual resources by too narrowly defining them. If we view the human family as one in God’s spirit, then this historical cross-fertilization is not surprising … selective attention to Eastern spiritual practices can be of great assistance to a fully embodied Christian life.5
Do you catch the reasoning here? Non-Christian sources, as avenues to spiritual growth, are perfectly legitimate in the Christian life, and if Christians only practice their Christianity based on the Bible, they will actually impoverish their spirituality. This was the thinking of the Desert Fathers. So as a result, we now have contemplative prayer. Jesus addressed this when he warned His disciples: “And when you pray, do not
use vain repetitions, as the heathen do.” (Matthew 6:7)
It should be apparent that mantra meditation or sacred word prayer qualifies as “vain repetition” and clearly fits an accurate description of the point Jesus was making. Yet in spite of this, trusted evangelical Christians have often pronounced that Christian mysticism is different from other forms of mysticism (such as Eastern or occult) because it is focused on Jesus Christ.
This logic may sound credible on the surface, but Christians must ask themselves a very simple and fundamental question: What really makes a practice Christian? The answer is obvious–does the New Testament sanction it? Hasn’t Christ taught us, through His Word, to pray in faith in His name and according to His will? Did He leave something out? Would Jesus hold out on His true followers? Never!
Understanding this truth, God has declared in His Word that He does not leave it up to earnest, yet sinful people, to reinvent their own Christianity. When Christians ignore God’s instructions in following Him they end up learning the way of the heathen. Israel did this countless times. It is just human nature.
The account of Cain and Abel is a classic biblical example of spiritual infidelity. Both of Adam’s sons wanted to please God, but Cain decided he would experiment with his own method of being devout. Cain must have reasoned to himself: “Perhaps God would like fruit or grain better than a dead animal. It’s not as gross. It’s less smelly. Hey, I think I will try it!”
As you know, God was not the least bit impressed by Cain’s attempt to create his own approach to pleasing God. The Lord made it clear to Cain that God’s favor would be upon him if he did what is right, not just what was intended for God or God-focused.
In many ways, the Desert Fathers were like Cain—eager to please but not willing to listen to the instruction of the Lord and do what was right. One cannot fault them for their devotion, but one certainly can fault them for their lack of discernment.
1. William Shannon, Seeds of Peace, p. 66.
2. Daniel Goleman, The Meditative Mind 1988, p.53.
3. Ken Kaisch, Finding God, p.191.
4. Father William Teska, Meditation in Christianity , p.65.
5. Tilden Edwards, Living in the Presence , Acknowledgement page.
A list of ancient mystics (taken from Chris Lawson’s A Directory of Authors: Three NOT Recommended Lists booklet)
Mystics from the past oftentimes favorably endorsed by “Christian” authors today
Middle Ages (Medieval Times) and Renaissance
Angela of Foligno (1248–1309)
Anthony of Padua (1195–1231)
Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153)
Catherine of Siena (1347–1380)
Desert Fathers, The
Hadewijch of Antwerp (13th century)
Henry Suso (1295–1366)
Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179)
Hugh of Saint Victor (1096–1141)
Jacopone da Todi (1230–1306)
Johannes Tauler (d.1361)
John of Ruysbroeck (1293–1381)
John Scotus Eriugena (810–877)
Julian of Norwich (1342–1416)
Mechthild of Magdeburg (1212–1297)
Meister Eckhart (1260–1327)
Richard of Saint Victor (d.1173)
Richard Rolle (1300–1341)
The Cloud of the Unknowing (anonymous, instruction in mysticism, 1375)
Theologia Germanica (anonymous, mystical treatise, late 14th century)
Thomas a’ Kempis (1380–1471)
Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)
Walter Hilton (1340–1396)
Renaissance, Reformation, and Counter–Reformation
Brother Lawrence (1614–1691)
Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1822)
George Fox (1624–1691)
Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556)
Jakob Böhme (1575–1624)
Jean Nicolas Grou (1731-1803)
John of the Cross (Juan de Yepes) (1542–1591)
Joseph of Cupertino (1603–1663)
Madame Guyon (1647–1717)
Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582)
Theophan the Recluse (1815–1894)
William Law (1686–1761)
Modern Era (19th—20th Century)
Alexandrina Maria da Costa (1904–1955)
Bernadette Roberts (1931–)
Berthe Petit (1870–1943)
Carmela Carabelli (1910–1978)
Domenico da Cese (1905–1978)
Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941)
Flower A. Newhouse (1909–1994)
Frank Laubach (1884–1970)
Frederick Buechner (1926–)
Karl Rahner (1904–1984)
Lúcia Santos (1907–2005)
Maria Pierina de Micheli (1890–1945)
Maria Valtorta (1898–1963)
Marie Lataste (1822–1899)
Marie Martha Chambon (1841–1907)
Martin Buber (1868–1965)
Mary Faustina Kowalska (1905–1938)
Mary of Saint Peter (1816–1848)
Mary of the Divine Heart (1863–1899)
Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1887–1968)
Pierina Gilli (1911–1991)
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881– 1955)
Simone Weil (1909–1943)
Soren Kierkegaard (1813–1855)
Thomas Merton (1915–1968)
Thomas Raymond Kelly (1893–1941)
Pope Francis and the Thomas Merton Connection by Ray Yungen is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract. The Booklet Tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklet Tracts are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Pope Francis and the Thomas Merton Connection, click here.
After writing this booklet at my publisher’s headquarters in Montana, I learned that the Parliament of the World Religions was taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah that same week. I decided to head down there, and with a media pass, was able to enter the conference. What I experienced at the conference has confirmed to me that Pope Francis is without question an ardent interspiritualist on the same page as Thomas Merton.—Ray Yungen
Pope Francis and the Thomas Merton Connection
In 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pope Francis the First. This new pope immediately began causing ripples in the Catholic Church with his statements on certain issues. He also caused many to take notice of his unpapal lifestyle such as living in a guesthouse with twelve others rather than living in the papal apartments like previous popes. He projects a down-to-earth image that denotes compassion and trust. He has been called the people’s pope, someone who is your friend, someone you can trust. But there are certain things about Pope Francis’ coming on the scene that are being ignored by the media and most people.
The first of these are the unusual circumstances that surrounded his election to the papacy. Pope Benedict resigned from his position as Pope. He is the first Catholic pope to do this since the 1400s. Popes do not resign but rather continue to be popes until they die. There was no obvious reason for Pope Benedict to resign. There was no scandal, nor no immediate health issue. (Two years into Pope Francis’ reign, Benedict is still alive.)
The second is the number of books about Pope Francis that have been released since he came on the scene. Previous popes had perhaps one or two books about them or by them. But books by or about Pope Francis are extremely prolific. You see them everywhere. Many of these books use descriptions such as revolution and hope.
The cover story in Christianity Today’s December 2014 issue proclaims: “Why Everyone is Flocking to Francis.” CT has its own idea of why “everyone” is drawn to the Pope. But if I am correct in my conclusions about contemplative spirituality and its outcome, then what is happening here is an occurrence that will affect the lives of millions of people, both Catholic and non-Catholic.
In his speech to the U.S. Congress on September 24th, 2015, Pope Francis praised four Americans he admired.1 One in particular stood out from the perspective of the spiritual future of the world—the Catholic monk, Thomas Merton. If you have been reading Lighthouse Trails literature for any length of time, you will know this reference by the pope is quite sobering and very significant. It is this situation that this booklet will be discussing.
Who is Thomas Merton? (1915-1968)
What Martin Luther King was to the civil rights movement and what Henry Ford was to the automobile, Thomas Merton is to contemplative prayer. Although this prayer movement existed centuries before he came along, Merton, a Trappist monk of the Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky, took it out of its monastic setting and made it available to, and popular with, the masses. I personally have been researching Thomas Merton and the contemplative prayer movement for over 20 years, and for me, hands down, Thomas Merton has influenced the Christian mystical movement more than any person of recent decades.
Merton penned one of the most classic descriptions of contemplative spirituality I have ever come across. He explained:
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race . . . now I realize what we all are. . . . If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are . . . I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. . . . At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth. . . . This little point . . . is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody. 2 (emphasis mine)
This panentheistic (i.e., God in everyone) view is similar to the occultic definition of the higher self.
In order to understand Merton’s connection to mystical occultism, we need first to understand a sect of the Muslim world—the Sufis, who are the mystics of Islam. They chant the name of Allah as a mantra, go into meditative trances, and experience God in everything. A prominent Catholic audiotape company promotes a series of cassettes Merton did on Sufism. It explains:
Merton loved and shared a deep spiritual kinship with the Sufis, the spiritual teachers and mystics of Islam. Here he shares their profound spirituality.3
To further show Merton’s “spiritual kinship” with Sufism, in a letter to a Sufi Master, Merton disclosed, “My prayer tends very much to what you call fana.”4 So what is fana? The Dictionary of Mysticism and the Occult defines it as “the act of merging with the Divine Oneness”5 (meaning all is one and all is God).
Merton saw the Sufi concept of fana as being a catalyst for Muslim unity with Christianity despite the obvious doctrinal differences. In a dialogue with a Sufi leader, Merton asked about the Muslim concept of salvation. The master wrote back stating:
Islam inculcates individual responsibility for one’s actions and does not subscribe to the doctrine of atonement or the theory of redemption.6 (emphasis added)
To Merton, of course, this meant little because he believed that fana and contemplation were the same thing. He responded:
Personally, in matters where dogmatic beliefs [the atonement]differ, I think that controversy is of little value because it takes us away from the spiritual realities into the realm of words and ideas . . . in words there are apt to be infinite complexities and subtleties which are beyond resolution. . . . But much more important is the sharing of the experience of divine light . . . It is here that the area of fruitful dialogue exists between Christianity and Islam.7 (emphasis mine)
Merton himself underlined that point when he told a group of contemplative women:
I’m deeply impregnated with Sufism.8
And he elaborated elsewhere:
Asia, Zen, Islam, etc., all these things come together in my life. It would be madness for me to attempt to create a monastic life for myself by excluding all these. I would be less a monk.9 (emphasis mine)
When we evaluate Merton’s mystical worldview, it clearly resonates with what technically would be considered traditional New Age thought. This is an inescapable fact!
Merton’s mystical experiences ultimately made him a kindred spirit and co-mystic with those in Eastern religions because his insights were identical to their insights. At an interfaith conference in Thailand, he stated:
I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian [mystical] traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own Christian traditions.10
Please understand that contemplative prayer alone was the catalyst for such theological views. One of Merton’s biographers made this very clear when he explained:
If one wants to understand Merton’s going to the East it is important to understand that it was his rootedness in his own faith tradition [Catholicism] that gave him the spiritual equipment [contemplative prayer] he needed to grasp the way of wisdom that is proper to the East.11
This was the ripe fruit of the Desert Fathers, the ancient monks who borrowed mystical methods from Eastern religion, which altered their understanding of God. This is what one gets from contemplative prayer. There is no other way to put it. It does not take being a scholar to see the logic in this.
Contemplative Prayer and The Expansion of the Catholic Church
The most obvious integration of this movement can be found in Roman Catholicism. Michael Leach, former president of the Catholic Book Publishers Association, made this incredibly candid assertion:
[M]any people also believe that the spiritual principles underlying the New Age movement will soon be incorporated—or rather reincorporated—into the mainstream of Catholic belief. In fact, it’s happening in the United States right now.12
Incorporating it is! And it is assimilating primarily through the contemplative prayer movement.
Contemplative leader Basil Pennington, openly acknowledging its growing size, said, “We are part of an immensely large community … ‘We are Legion.’”13 Backing him up, a major Catholic resource company stated, “Contemplative prayer has once again become commonplace in the Christian community.”14
William Shannon (a mysticism proponent and a sympathetic biographer of Thomas Merton) went so far as to say “contemplative spirituality has now widely replaced old-style Catholicism.”15 This is not to say the Mass or any of the sacraments have been abandoned, but the underlying spiritual ideology of many in the Catholic church is now contemplative in its orientation.
One of my personal experiences with the saturation of mysticism in the Catholic church was in a phone conversation I had with the head nun at a local retreat center who told me the same message Shannon conveys. She made it clear The Cloud of Unknowing (an ancient primer on contemplative prayer) is now the basis for nearly all Catholic spirituality, and contemplative prayer is now becoming widespread all over the world.
I had always been confused as to the real nature of this advance in the Catholic church. Was this just the work of a few mavericks and renegades, or did the church hierarchy sanction this practice? My concerns were affirmed when I read in an interview that the mystical prayer movement not only had the approval of the highest echelons of Catholicism but also was, in fact, the source of its expansion. Speaking of a meeting between the late Pope Paul VI and members of the Catholic Trappist Monastic Order in the 1970s, Thomas Keating, disclosed the following:
The Pontiff declared that unless the Church rediscovered the contemplative tradition, renewal couldn’t take place. He specifically called upon the monastics, because they lived the contemplative life, to help the laity and those in other religious orders bring that dimension into their lives as well.16
Just look at the official catechism of the Catholic church to see contemplative prayer officially endorsed and promoted to the faithful by the powers that be. The catechism firmly states: “Contemplative prayer is hearing the word of God … Contemplative prayer is silence.”17
The Merton Paradigm
A 2013 article from the UK news source The Telegraph states:
[Pope] Francis is a Jesuit and his long, arduous formation as a priest was founded on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.18
The Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities (AJCU) reaffirmed the pope’s “Ignatian spirituality,” stating that:
All Jesuits share the experience of a rigorous spiritual formation process marked by a transformative experience with the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. To think that the leader of the Catholic Church is one who follows in the tradition of Ignatius, whose life has been devoted to finding God in all things, and who is committed to the service of faith and the promotion of justice, fills me with great hope. This is a great day for the Jesuits and the worldwide Church.19
Harvey D. Egan, S.J., Professor Emeritus of Systematic and Mystical Theology at Boston College explains the following about St. Ignatius of Loyola:
Ignatius of Loyola . . . is one of the Christian tradition’s profoundest mystics and perhaps its greatest mystagogue [one who teaches mystical doctrines].20
Today, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius incorporate contemplative prayer practices. Considering that Ignatian spirituality compliments much of Thomas Merton’s spiritual outlook, it is not surprising that a Jesuit pope would say the following words to the U.S. Congress:
[Thomas Merton] remains a source of spiritual inspiration and a guide for many people. . . . Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church.21 (emphasis added)
The problem is that Merton did indeed open new horizons, but not in a good way. The horizons he opened were to “spiritual realities” that were at odds with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Rather, it reflected an interspiritual perception and even beyond that into the realm of the occult. In the book The Aquarian Conspiracy, the following information shows just how far Merton had crossed the line into realms that were spiritually dangerous.
In 1967, Barbara Marx Hubbard, a futurist moved by Teilhard’s vision evolving human consciousness, invited a thousand people from around the world . . . to form “a human front” to those who shared a belief in the possibility of transcendent consciousness. Hundreds responded, including . . . Thomas Merton.22
Even though Marx Hubbard was an outright occultist, Merton still was on board with her. There didn’t seem to be any hesitancy on his part to embrace what she referred to as transcendent consciousness. In a nutshell, transcendent consciousness is the very essence of the teaching of all the world’s mystical traditions that God is in all that exists. But consider the implications of such a belief: If God were in everything, including all people, as Merton and Hubbard believed, then there would be no need for Jesus to die for the sins of the world to reconcile man to God because man would already be divine.
The account that best illustrates what outcome this could have for Christianity is the story of Sue Monk Kidd who was a Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher in a small town in South Carolina. She would have been seen as an average Christian wife and mother. She gives a revealing description of her spiritual transformation in her book God’s Joyful Surprise: Finding Yourself Loved sharing how she suffered a deep hollowness and spiritual hunger for many years even though she was very active in her church. She sums up her feelings:
Maybe we sense we’re disconnected from God somehow. He becomes superfluous to the business at hand. He lives on the periphery so long we begin to think that is where He belongs. Anything else seems unsophisticated or fanatical.23
Ironically, a Sunday school co-worker handed her a book by Thomas Merton, telling her she needed to read it. Once Monk Kidd read it, her life changed dramatically.
In her third book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, not too many years after she wrote her first two books (which by the way were widely accepted in Christian circles, including a back cover endorsement by Moody Monthly magazine), there had been a dramatic change in her spiritual life as you can see in this narrative she wrote:
The minister was preaching. He was holding up a Bible. It was open, perched atop his raised hand as if a blackbird had landed there. He was saying that the Bible was the sole and ultimate authority of the Christian’s life. The sole and ultimate authority.
I remember a feeling rising up from a place about two inches below my navel. It was a passionate, determined feeling, and it spread out from the core of me like a current so that my skin vibrated with it. If feelings could be translated into English, this feeling would have roughly been the word no!
It was the purest inner knowing I had experienced, and it was shouting in me no, no, no! The ultimate authority of my life is not the Bible; it is not confined between the covers of a book. It is not something written by men and frozen in time. It is not from a source outside myself. My ultimate authority is the divine voice in my own soul. Period.24
Now Sue Monk Kidd worships the “Goddess Sophia” rather than Jesus Christ:
We also need Goddess consciousness to reveal earth’s holiness. . . . Matter becomes inspirited; it breathes divinity. Earth becomes alive and sacred. . . . Goddess offers us the holiness of everything.25
During his speech to the US Congress, Pope Francis said that Thomas Merton sowed peace in the “contemplative style.” But actually, Merton did something far different than sow peace; he sowed the actual belief systems of other religions as these two quotes below illustrate:
The God [Merton] knew in prayer was the same experience that Buddhists describe in their enlightenment.26
In other words, Merton found Buddhist enlightenment in contemplative prayer. Merton’s view that God is in every person is summed up in this statement:
During a conference on contemplative prayer, the question was put to Thomas Merton: “How can we best help people to attain union with God?” His answer was very clear: “We must tell them that they are already united with God. Contemplative prayer is nothing other than ‘coming into consciousness’ of what is already there.”27
Even influential Catholic leaders recognize this and refer to Merton as being a “lapsed monk” who “went ‘wandering in the East, seeking consolation, apparently, of non-Christian, Eastern spirituality.’”28
These new horizons by Thomas Merton that Pope Francis has found to be exemplar are going to lead to an even greater slide into interspirituality within Catholicism and even evangelical Christianity. In essence, those who are flocking to Pope Francis, as Christianity Today stated, are inadvertently flocking to Thomas Merton.
After writing this booklet at my publisher’s headquarters in Montana, I learned that the Parliament of the World Religions was taking place in Salt Lake City, Utah that same week. I decided to head down there, and with a media pass, was able to enter the conference. What I experienced at the conference has confirmed to me that Pope Francis is without question an ardent interspiritualist and on the same page as Thomas Merton. In one document I read (a letter written to all the conference participants by Archbishop Carlo Maria Bigano Vatican Ambassador to the U.S.), the Archbishop stated:
United to all of you in a bond of spiritual communion and in hope of increasing unity among all people of faith, the Holy Father offers his blessing and prayers as a pledge of strength and God.29 (emphasis added)
“Spiritual communion” is not referring to human kindness and respect to all people. This “spiritual communion” is where doctrines and beliefs are set aside, and a unity is established just as Thomas Merton suggested to the Sufi master (see page 5).
At the conference, I heard terms (in connection with the Pope, the Catholic Church, and all the world’s religions) such as “oneness,” “dialogue of fraternity,” and “he [Pope Francis] is a buddha” (said by a Buddhist monk); and the general consensus was that anyone who was not in favor of such a unity was spiritually wayward.
When Thomas Merton told the Sufi master that doctrine takes us away from the “spiritual realities” (a mystical state of oneness), he said “much more important is the sharing of the experience of divine light.” In other words, beliefs must be set aside, and in their place is a unity that can be reached through mysticism. All of the world’s major religions have a practice that offers this mystical state.
Just as Merton saw “fana” (Islamic mystical state) as one of the paths to spiritual unity, Pope Francis sees the various religions as one family. He is bringing Thomas Merton’s ideas of unity to the table of global unity among all humanity. Thomas Merton’s “contemplative style” (that Pope Francis referenced to Congress) saw no contradiction between Christianity and Buddhism; and Merton said he wanted to be the best Buddhist he could possibly be.30 When Pope Francis praised Thomas Merton (knowing full well the implications of this), he gave a green light for everyone to embrace interspirituality. And where there is interspirituality, there is no place for the Cross of Jesus Christ.
To order copies of Pope Francis and the Thomas Merton Connection, click here.
1. Pope Francis’ speech to the U.S. Congress in September 2015: http://time.com/4048176/pope-francis-us-visit-congress-transcript.
2. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Publishers, 1989), pp. 157-158.
3. Credence Cassettes magazine, Winter/Lent, 1998, p. 24.
4. M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Merton, My Brother (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1996), p. 115, citing from The Hidden Ground of Love), pp. 63-64.
5. Nevill Drury, The Dictionary of Mysticism and the Occult (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1985), p. 85.
6. Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), p. 109.
7. Ibid., p. 110.
8. Ibid., p. 69.
9. Ibid., p. 41.
10. William Shannon, Silent Lamp, The Thomas Merton Story (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992), p. 276.
11. Ibid., p. 281.
12. Michael Leach (America, May 2, 1992), p. 384.
13. M. Basil Pennington, Centered Living: The Way of Centering Prayer (New York, NY: Doubleday Publishing, Image Book edition, September 1988), p. 10.
14. Sheed & Ward Catalog, Winter/Lent, 1978, p. 12.
15. William Shannon, Seeds of Peace (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1996), p. 25.
16. Anne A. Simpson, “Resting in God” (Common Boundary magazine, Sept./Oct. 1997, http://www.livingrosaries.org/interview.htm), p. 25.
17. Catechism of the Catholic Church (Urbi et Orbi Communications, 1994), p. 652.
18. Charles More, “A New Pope, a New Primate and a New Life for Christianity” (The Telegraph, March 15, 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9932996/A-new-Pope-a-new-Primate-anda-new-life-for-Christianity.html).
19. From the AJCU website stated by John Hurley, JD (president Canisius College), “Statements on Pope Francis’ Election from Presidents of AJCU and Jesuit Institutions” (March 14, 2013 http://web.archive.org/web/20150325025014/http://www.ajcunet.edu/news-detail?TN=NEWS-20130314084452).
20. Harvey D. Egan, Soundings in the Christian Mystical Tradition (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2010), p. 227.
21. Pope Francis’ speech to the U.S. Congress in September 2015: http://time.com/4048176/pope-francis-us-visit-congress-transcript.
22. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy (Los Angeles, CA: J.P. Archer, 1980), p. 57.
23. Sue Monk Kidd, God’s Joyful Surprise (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1987), p. 56.
24. Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1996), p. 76.
25. Ibid., pp. 162-163.
26. Brian C. Taylor, Setting the Gospel Free (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing, 1996), p. 76.
27. Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1996, Revised Edition), p. 211.
28. Deborah Halter, “Whose Orthodoxy Is It? (National Catholic Reporter, March 11, 2005, http://natcath.org/NCR_Online/archives2/2005a/031105/031105a.php).
29. Can be read at: https://cadeioparliament.files.wordpress.com/2015/10/message-to-pwr.pdf.
30. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
To order copies of Pope Francis and the Thomas Merton Connection, click here.
LTRP Note: This series by Roger Oakland is one of the most significant stories we have ever covered. You will come to understand this as the rest of the series unfolds. If you have not read our articles/booklets The New Evangelization From Rome or Finding the True Jesus or The Jesuit Agenda, we encourage you to do so to help come up to speed on the Road to Rome issue. Considering the millions of Christians being influenced by Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven movement worldwide, what is happening here simply cannot be ignored.
By Roger Oakland
Understand the Times
What did he say? This is exactly the direction we predicted he would go! It will be crucial that skeptics hear and see this interview. These were my thoughts when I first watched the EWTN interview with Rick Warren and Raymond Arroyo provided by YouTube. April 11, 2014. The comments by Rick Warren in response to Arroyo’s questions from an interview that took place at Warren’s church in southern California were stunning. There is no room for doubt: Warren’s march towards ecumenical unity with Rome is becoming clearer and bolder as time passes.
The interview opened with the following question from Arroyo:
The Purpose Drive Life is the bestselling book in the world – 36 million plus copies. It’s been translated more than any book except the Bible. What is the key to that success? Why were so many people touched by that book and continue to be? 
Warren’s response to this question provides insight to two very important questions – the inspiration behind the book and the reason why it was written. His own words confirm that Roman Catholic mystics and their writings have been a strong influence on him personally and his ministry. This affinity associates him with the emerging church as well as numerous other statements he has made in the past. Warren responded:
You know, Ray, There is not a single new thought in Purpose Driven Life that hadn’t been said for 2,000 years. I’ve just said it in a fresh way. I said it in a simple way. When I was writing Purpose Drive Life it took me 7 months, 12 hours a day. I’d get up at 4:30 in the morning. I’d go to a little study. Start at 5 a.m. I was fasting til noon and I would light some candles and I would start writing and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. One of the things I did before I wrote the book was, um, I’d ask the question—How do you write a book that lasts 500 years? For instance, um, Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis, Practicing the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. Ok? The Desert Fathers, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila. All of these great, classic devotional works. Any one of them—I just realized that in order to be timeless you have to be eternal. Click here to continue reading.
Embracing Contemplative Shows Ill Effects at Moody Bible Institute in Ecumenical “Road to Rome” Event
For over seven years now, Lighthouse Trails has followed Moody Bible Institute’s continued promotion of contemplative spirituality. Although the organization has denied that they are promoting contemplative, the evidence has consistently existed. Those who have a good understanding of contemplative spirituality are aware of the inevitable outcome for followers of contemplative. This outcome is a change in spiritual attitude that leads to the following – ecumenism (a joining together of all religious traditions, in particularly Catholicism first, then Islam), interspirituality (all paths lead to God), panentheism (God is in all), and eventually universalism (all are saved, regardless of belief – thus no need for the Cross).
We had hoped that at some point leaders and professors at Moody would seriously examine the contemplative issue and come to the conclusion that they do not want to go in that direction. Sadly, the indications of that happening are non-existent, and the probability of the complete embracing of contemplative spirituality is fast increasing. A case in point occurred just this month when the school allowed an ecumenical/road to Rome event to take place on campus, where it was reported that over 300 people showed up, most of them being MBI students.
On December 3rd, emerging church figure John Armstrong (a convert from traditional evangelicalism to emerging) and Catholic priest Father Robert Barron spoke at a gathering at Moody Bible Institute. The event was presented by the Moody Student Theological Society. It was not broadcasted, and Moody’s website doesn’t seem to show anything about it so we have had to gather information from various other sources, including the Moody Student Theological Society’s Facebook page, which carries information about the event, which was called the “Evangelical and Catholic Ecumenical Dialogue.” (Photo from the “Dialogue”: 2nd from left: Litfin, next: Armstrong, next: Robert Barron)
We were first alerted to the ecumenical “dialogue” by a Lighthouse Trails reader, who stated:
Heads up to things stirring at Moody Bible Institute. (Also, please read this blog entry about it: http://www.revangelicalblog.com/blog1/?currentPage=3 from Dec. 4, titled, “Can We Learn from Rome? Maybe… (A Reflection on Ecumenical Unity). This is by that young man I have mentioned to you before, who rubs elbows with Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Jim Wallis, et. al.
The blog entry mentioned by the LT reader was written by a senior at Moody Bible Institute (MBI). On the post, he has this photo of the Vatican:
The MBI student states:
As I myself have been in the process of rediscovering the beauty of the ancient Christian tradition [contemplative] offered to us via the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and even Anglican versions of faith, I have also felt a tugging and noticed a trend of millennial evangelicals to convert to Catholicism- returning to Rome, if you will.
It is not our intention to draw attention to or scrutinize this student. Our issue is with MBI’s leadership and professors. We believe this and other students at Moody who are being drawn to contemplative . . . and Roman Catholicism . . . are merely reflecting the sympathies they have witnessed at Moody from professors and others in leadership. For instance, on John Armstrong’s website, he talks about his invitation to the “Evangelical and Catholic Ecumenical Dialogue” and points to one of the MBI professors:
Our dialogue tomorrow will begin with a welcome by a Moody student leader which will be followed by an introduction given by our moderator, Dr. Bryan Litfin (Ph.D. in the field of ancient church history at the University of Virginia). Dr. Litfin is a professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute. Bryan is also a first-rate patristics scholar and has often encouraged Christian dialogue as a part of his teaching. He is the author of Getting to Know the Church Fathers–An Evangelical Introduction (Brazos, 2007). Fr. Barron and I will each speak for about ten minutes and then we will field questions from the students.
It is interesting that Dr. Litfin was willing to moderate the event at MBI given that he is a Catholic convert to Protestantism. (correction: 11/16/15: we have learned that we were misinformed by our source, and Dr. Litfin was not a Catholic convert. In an e-mail to someone we know, he stated that he has always been an evangelical.) We decided to spend $13.99 to buy an e-book copy of Litfin’s book, Getting to Know the Church Fathers – an Evangelical Introduction. A better title for this book might be Why Evangelicals Should Not Think Too Lowly of the Catholic Church. Litfin says that the benefit of studying the “church fathers” is to “help us get in touch with the general thrust of the Christian faith” (Kindle Locations 389-390, Baker Publishing Group). But from Litfin’s book’s point of view, the benefit of studying the church fathers is to see some good in the Roman Catholic church. Here’s one example in Litfin’s book where he whitewashes and minimizes the heretical teachings of Roman Catholicism:
[M]any Catholic teachings must be understood as continuous historical developments out of earlier thought. For example, though the theology has changed from biblical times, the breaking of bread and drinking of wine in the Mass is an evolution of the love feasts of the early Christians, for whom the elements represented the Savior’s body and blood just as they still do for Catholics. Likewise, recitation of the Lord’s Prayer is an ancient habit still practiced today. And there are not a few doctrines held by the Roman Church which every orthodox Protestant would hold as well. (Endnote section, #20, (Kindle Locations 4084-4088).
The MBI student (mentioned above) goes on to say:
The Catholic Church offers much of what many millennial Protestants are longing for – liturgy, artistic expression, scholarship, ancient tradition, and a robust and deeply rooted theology [i.e., the Desert Fathers and contemplative spirituality]. Rome offers one, united Christian body with many stripes, styles, and theological variations contained within one communion. And with the Roman Catholic Churches recent moves for ecumenical unity with the Eastern church and a number of Protestant traditions, it seems to me that perhaps a return to Rome may be in some millennial Evangelicals future.
The MBI student expresses his own hope for the future:
My hope and prayer is that in the coming years, Evangelicals, Mainliners, Catholics, and Orthodox will find more and more common ground on which we can work together to expand the Kingdom of God. My prayer is that God would continue to cause us to rethink, reform, and renew our faith traditions and in so doing help us refine them to reflect more clearly the face of Jesus Christ- our common Lord and Savior.
When you consider that Moody has been promoting the contemplative tradition for so long and the Catholic Church uses contemplative prayer as a catalyst to bring in new converts, it makes perfect sense that a student attending Moody for three and a half years could say something like this.
In 2007, Moody posted a response to our criticisms that they were promoting contemplative. In that statement (which still sits on their site), they deny the allegations. But take a look at some of the related links we have provided below to see that indeed they have been promoting contemplative and continue to do so.
One person who would have been very upset about the recent “Evangelical and Catholic Ecumenical Dialogue” held at Moody is Harry Ironside, who was the pastor of the Moody Church (which also now promotes contemplative via its inclusion of sermons by contemplative/Spiritual Formation leader Larry Crabb ) from 1930-1948. He stated:
Every Roman Catholic priest will tell you that all the claims of the Church of Rome stand or fall with the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Mass. If the bread and wine used in the Sacrament of the Mass, when consecrated by the priest, are changed in some mysterious way into the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ so that the communicant receiving the bread actually takes into his mouth and eats and digests the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ-if this is true, then the Church of Rome is the true church of Christ and every one of us should be members of it. But if it is false, if it is absolutely opposed to the teaching of the Word of God, then the Church of Rome is an apostate church and every faithful believer should come out of her in order that he might not be held accountable for her sins.
It was because the great reformers of the sixteenth century saw this clearly and were assured in their own hearts that the doctrine of the Church of Rome in regard to the Eucharist or the Mass was absolutely opposed to the Word of God and was not only blasphemous but idolatrous, that they came out in protest against that apostate system and they won for us at tremendous cost of Christian blood the liberty that we now possess. And yet we, unworthy children of such worthy sires, are frittering away our liberty and we are allowing our children to be ensnared again by this evil system from which our fathers escaped with such tremendous effort. (From Ironside’s “The Mass Versus the Lord’s Supper”)
What is happening in the evangelical/Protestant church today is significant and utterly devastating. The contemplative issue has not at all been addressed by Christian leadership but rather the majority of Christian leaders have either embraced it or ignored it. To really understand where this is all going, consider these words by Ray Yungen who is talking about Thomas Merton here:
In a letter to a Sufi [Islamic mystic] Master, Merton disclosed, “My prayer tends very much to what you call fana.” So what is fana? The Dictionary of Mysticism and the Occult defines it as “the act of merging with the Divine Oneness.”
Merton saw the Sufi concept of fana as being a catalyst for Muslim unity with Christianity despite the obvious doctrinal differences. In a dialogue with a Sufi leader, Merton asked about the Muslim concept of salvation. The master wrote back stating:
“Islam inculcates individual responsibility for one’s actions and does not subscribe to the doctrine of atonement or the theory of redemption.”
To Merton, of course, this meant little because he believed that fana and contemplation were the same thing. He responded:
“Personally, in matters where dogmatic beliefs differ, I think that controversy is of little value because it takes us away from the spiritual realities into the realm of words and ideas … in words [doctrine] there are apt to be infinite complexities and subtleties which are beyond resolution…. But much more important is the sharing of the experience of divine light [i.e., contemplative] … It is here that the area of fruitful dialogue exists between Christianity and Islam.” (emphasis added – quoted from A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., pp. 59-60)
In other words, through mysticism, the world’s religions can come together and all can be one/unified. But, doctrines like the atonement, according to Merton, stand in the way and are “of little value.”
The Bible says in the last days there will be a harlot church. We are watching its formation right now; the tragedy is Christian leaders don’t even see it happening. And sadly, like so many other Christian campuses, Moody Bible Institute is falling into step with this apostasy.
If you have not read Roger Oakland’s recent article The New Evangelization From Rome or Finding the True Jesus Christ, we recommend you do to better understand the role that the Catholic church is playing in this apostasy.
Related Information/LT Coverage on Moody:
Letter to the Editor: How Does Lighthouse Trails Determine if a College Should Be on the Contemplative College List?
To Lighthouse Trails:
I was given your email info. by Stand Up For The Truth on Facebook.
There was some information (a list of colleges) they posted on Aug. 2 titled Christian Colleges That Promote Contemplative Prayer. Stand Up For The Truth told me that you were the researcher responsible for the information they posted & that I could contact you directly with my question. What I’m curious about is how you went about collecting the information to come to the conclusions you did & what exactly determines whether or not the colleges are practicing contemplative methods . . . did you give the different college administrations a questionnaire, or survey the students, or was there some other means by which you came to the conclusions you did to identify which colleges practice contemplative prayer? Any insight you can provide to back up the claims would be helpful. Thank you so much! ________
Thank you for your question. First, what we say on our Contemplative College list is “Christian Colleges that Promote Contemplative (i.e., Spiritual Formation).” So it may not be in every case that students are actually being initiated into the practice of contemplative meditation; but the school is promoting contemplative spirituality to the students.
As for how we collect our information, we have a number of different methods:
1) Most of the time when we write about a particular college or seminary, we were first contacted by a parent of a student attending or by alumni, who tell us they have experienced or witnessed firsthand the promotion of contemplative spirituality. This is usually what draws our attention to a school in the first place, which leads us to begin our research;
2) Our research begins on the school’s website, which will give us the majority of the information (book lists, syllabi, chapel schedules, recommended reading lists, mission activities, youth ministry outreaches, conferences and other events, retreats attended, associations, and so forth);
3) We also research on the Internet, which leads us to professor blogs and other information about the school that may not be on their website;
4) We often look at archived Internet cache files to see the school’s historical development of promoting contemplative;
5) We sometimes, but not always, speak directly either by e-mail or phone with professors and sometimes even college presidents. When this happens, we always offer to send that person a complimentary copy of A Time of Departing and/or Faith Undone. (Note: For those reading this post who are wondering if we are Scripturally obligated to contact a school before placing them on the list – i.e., a Matthew 18 situation – we would refer you to our statement on Matthew 18, which explains the difference between a private dispute between two believers and a public instance of teaching dangerous false doctrine.)
As for what gets a school on the list in the first place, it’s a variety of criteria. We don’t just put schools on the list if they are using the term “Spiritual Formation,” although in nearly every case (almost 100%), schools that are using that term are promoting contemplative spirituality to one degree or another. Some of the criteria includes the following. A particular school does not necessarily meet all the criteria but does in at least two areas:
1) Using the term Spiritual Formation (we also look for other “buzz” words such as missional, Christian spirituality, vintage Christianity, emerging, the silence, sacred space, etc.).
2) Using textbooks written by contemplative or emerging authors;
3) Bringing in contemplative/emerging speakers to chapel;
4) Having students attending contemplative retreats;
5) Recommended reading lists by professors, deans, chaplains, and presidents include contemplative/emerging authors;
6) Syllabi for courses include contemplative textbooks, recommended reading, and/or practicum experiences required for students that include the spiritual disciplines (which in nearly every case includes silence and solitude);
7) Sending students to conferences and other events where contemplative speakers will be teaching the students;
8) Professor blogs clearly identifying affinity toward contemplative/emerging spirituality;
9) We often look at library books being brought in. While this doesn’t necessarily mean the school is promoting contemplative, it does tell us that there is an interest);
10) If a school is promoting any of the following, this is a sure-tell indication that the school is a contemplative school: a) Henri Nouwen; b) the desert fathers; c) lectio divina; d) breath prayers; e) Ignatius practices; f) centering prayer; g) the labyrinth; h) Richard Foster or Dallas Willard; i) Ruth Haley Barton
11) If a school is accredited by ATS or ABHE, that is a strong indication that the school may be contemplative-promoting or at least beginning to head that way. Both associations require member schools to incorporate “Spiritual Formation” into their programs (see our special report).
12)Aside from textbooks, we look at other books in the bookstore, which tells us the students are being exposed to contemplative even if they are not being used in the classroom in that particular school.
This is not a comprehensive explanation of all we do, but for the most part, it covers the bases of how a school ends up on the list. There have been a few instances over the years (only 2 or 3) where a school landed on the list, and then later we learned that school had reversed going in the contemplative direction (perhaps after reading A Time of Departing or other similar material) and we thus removed the name from the list.
Here are some of the past articles we have written on Christian colleges going contemplative (you can use our search engine to find more):
4 Reasons Why Holman Publishers Should Not Have Inserted an Article by a Contemplative Author into Their King James Bibles
Recently, Lighthouse Trails learned that Holman Bible Publishers (the oldest Bible publisher in America) has inserted an article by a strong contemplative proponent into several of their King James Version Bibles (some of which Lighthouse Trails WAS carrying) including: the Ultra Thin Reference Bible, the Pocket-Sized Bible Classic, the Large Print Ultra Thin Bible, and the Personal Reference Bible. The article in the Bibles is titled, “Why You Should Read the King James Bible,” written by the late Calvin Miller (died 2012). This is a major issue, and let us tell you 4 reasons why we believe Holman should not have done this:
1. Calvin Miller is an advocate for contemplative/centering prayer. Ray Yungen discusses Miller in A Time of Departing:
In Into the Depths of God, [Calvin] Miller encourages readers to engage in centering prayer and explains it as a union between man and God:
“Centering is the merger of two ‘selves’—ours and his [God’s]. Centering is union with Christ. It is not a union that eradicates either self but one that heightens both” (p. 107).
Into the Depths of God is an exhortation in contemplative spirituality and is brimming with quotes by Thomas Merton and other contemplatives. Miller speaks of the “wonderful relationship between ecstasy [mystical state] and transcendence [God],” and says that “Ecstasy is meant to increase our desire for heaven” (p. 96) (A Time of Departing, p. 186).
Into the Depths of God is riddled with favorable quotes by and references to a number of contemplative mystics. In addition to Thomas Merton, there is Evelyn Underhill, St. John of the Cross, Esther de Waal, Kathleen Norris, Hildegard of Bingen, Annie Dillard, Bernard of Clairvaux, and St. Anthony (a Desert Father). In Miller’s newer book, The Disciplined Life, Miller again turns to the mystics. Miller also wrote The Path to Celtic Prayer (Celtic spirituality is another avenue through which contemplative is entering the evangelical church).
2. Secondly, Calvin Miller resonates with emergent teacher Marcus Borg. In Miller’s book, The Book of Jesus (2005), Marcus Borg writes an entire chapter for the book. Miller would never include an entire chapter of his own book if it was written by someone he did not resonate with. As Lighthouse Trails has revealed in past articles and books, Marcus Borg denies the tenets of the Christian faith including the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, and His atonement for sin. Roger Oakland discusses Borg in Faith Undone:
Borg explains in his book The God We Never Knew that his views on God, the Bible, and Christianity were transformed while he was in seminary:
“I let go of the notion that the Bible is a divine product. I learned that it is a human cultural product, the product of two ancient communities, biblical Israel and early Christianity. As such, it contained their understandings and affirmations, not statements coming directly or somewhat directly from God. . . . I realized that whatever “divine revelation” and the “inspiration of the Bible” meant (if they meant anything), they did not mean that the Bible was a divine product with divine authority.” (p. 125)
This attitude would certainly explain how Borg could say: “Jesus almost certainly was not born of a virgin, did not think of himself as the Son of God, and did not see his purpose as dying for the sins of the world” (p. 125) (from p. 196, Faith Undone).
There’s no possible way that Calvin Miller could have been familiar with Borg’s writings and not been aware of his blatantly anti-Gospel stance. This is a common problem that Lighthouse Trails has had in the past and continues to have that people we are critical of tend to resonate with those who are blatant in their New Age views, but they themselves appear to be relatively benign to the larger evangelical community (see Beware the Bridgers) (Also see a book review of one of Borg’s books.)
3. As we have shown above, Calvin Miller holds to contemplative persuasions. And yet, these Bibles have an article written by him within their pages. What this will do is point Bible readers to Miller and his writings and possibly even to Marcus Borg and his writings. To have Calvin Miller’s article in a Bible seems to be a terrible dichotomy: i.e., the Bible points people to the Gospel’s message of the Cross and man’s sinful state and need of a Savior while contemplative, as a movement, points people to man’s supposed divinity and diminishes the need for a Savior.
4. In view of Calvin Miller’s contemplative propensities, let’s briefly examine his article in the Holman Bibles, “Why You Should Read the King James Bible.” In the article, he lists three reasons why the KJV should be read: 1) it is the version your parents and grandparents read 2) it has literary and poetic strength and beauty, and 3) there is ease in memorizing verses in the KJV because of its “high literary resonance.” While these reasons all produce merit, the article seems to turn the KJV into more of a poetic book than the Word of God. While Lighthouse Trails is not in the category of what some call King James Only (in that that is the only version someone can get saved through), we do see it as a standard high above many of the Bible versions available today. Thus we have come to trust it more than others. We find it noteworthy of these two things: one, that emerging church figures (such as Phyllis Tickle who suggest it is a lovely book of poetic literature but not an authority in our lives and Tony Jones who minimizes the authority of the Bible as the Word of God) have done much to disregard the Bible as God’s inspired Word, and two, that the Holman Bibles include someone (Miller) who resonates with a man (Borg) who rejects the basic fundamentals of Christianity and Miller himself speaks of the poetic nature of the Bible.
Another Possible Ramification:
There are serious implications and possible ramifications regarding what is going on here. For instance, something many may not have considered: The King James Bible has no copyright on it because of its age. Bluntly put, anyone can do anything they want to that Bible and still call it the King James Bible. As an example, in some of Holman’s editions, they have changed the spelling of some words (e.g., Saviour to Savior). This might not seem like a big deal to some people, but how do we know what a particular publisher is changing and not changing? If they can change the spellings of words, they can also omit or change words and phrases. For instance, they could change or remove references to homosexuality (e.g., 1 Corinthians 6:9, Leviticus 18:22, Romans 1:27) or to the deity of Christ (e.g., Romans 9:5, Isaiah 40:3 – see more). While we do believe that the Lord will preserve and protect His Word, the “editing” of the Kings James Bible could become a free-for-all to emergent-leaning publishers.
Conclusion: Perhaps it would be a good idea to check inside your own Bibles and ones you are giving as gifts and make sure there are no articles written by contemplative and/or emerging authors. If any reading this feel compelled, here is the contact information for Holman Bible Publishers. If you do contact them, please ask them to remove the article by Calvin Miller in their Bible editions.
Note: Lighthouse Trails has put in two calls into Holman, but we have not yet heard back from anyone regarding this matter. Update: On the afternoon of April 8th, shortly after this article was posted, we received a phone call from someone who works at Holman Publishers. She is going to be passing this article onto the editorial department. We were told that LifeWay Resources is the parent company of B & H (Broadman & Holman).
Holman Bible Publishers
127 9th Avenue N
Nashville, TN 37234-0002
Emerging “Progressive” Spirituality: Joining the New Age with Christianity, and Christian Leaders Say OK
No one group understands emerging “progressive” spirituality as much as those in the New Age. That’s because it is their religion. So when the evangelical emerging church movement rose to the forefront, New Agers must have found it quite intriguing and most likely rewarding to see their belief system finally take root in Christianity.
In the book, As Above, So Below, written by Ronald S. Miller and the editors of New Age Journal, the authors appropriately name the first chapter “The Emerging Spirituality.” Now some may say, “Oh, they might call it that, but it isn’t the same as the Emerging Church ala McLaren, Jones, Kimball, Pagitt, etc. That’s an entirely different ball game.” Well, let’s take a look at this chapter in the New Age book. The chapter, “The Emerging Spirituality” starts off with a story about Jesus and Moses. That would certainly throw a few people–only Christians talk about Jesus, right? The book then quotes New Ager Joan Borysenko who explains the significance of the story they relate:
Like the Jesus of this story, . . . many of us lose touch with our own indwelling Divine nature-the unlimited creative potential of love the real Jesus assured us could literally move mountains.
The book goes on to say that the problem with most people is they have forgotten who they really are, don’t know their purpose or reason for existing and just need to reach higher to grasp their utmost potential. It sounds just like some of our most popular evangelical leaders. And like many emerging church leaders, the book says we need to get away from “automatized programs” and have a wake up call. The book tells us that this “wake up call” comes in the form of the metaphysical (mysticism), the “esoteric core of all the world’s spiritual traditions.” This mirrors what Rick Warren (who promotes the emerging church and its spirituality) said in his first book, the Purpose Driven Church, where he praised the “Spiritual Formation” movement which he sees as God’s way of bringing “believers to full maturity.” Warren said that the movement had a “valid message for the church” and gave “the body of Christ a wake-up call” (pp. 126-127). The problem is that the Spiritual Formation movement draws on the same mystical techniques as found in the New Age movement, (eg., mantra-like prayers, breath prayers). In Warren’s book, he touts Richard Foster and Dallas Willard as icons of the Spiritual Formation movement. When Warren says maturity, it implies that the church has been immature because of its mystical deficiency. At other times, Rick Warren has stated that his “new reformation,” an idea that New Agers share, would incorporate those from different religious traditions. Warren may use the name of Jesus quite often, but the overall concept implies that faith in Jesus is not really necessary to bring peace into the world, and this is exactly the thing the New Age teaches.
As Above, So Below (a primer for the New Age) says that “we possess a hidden higher self, the spark of divinity within the soul” (p. 3). Once again, we can turn to emerging/contemplative leaders within Christianity to see they are saying the same thing. Anyone who has read Brennan Manning will recognize the term higher self. And in Max Lucado’s book, Cure for the Common Life, Lucado talks about the “divine spark” that is in each person. And we could give numerous other examples of contemplative emerging authors and leaders who talk like this, even though they name the name of Jesus. So the New Age teaches a higher self and a “spark of divinity” within the soul of every person, and so do Christian leaders.
Miller’s book says that mysticism is the “highest common factor” (p. 2) that links all religions together. He adds that we can practice this mysticism and still remain in our own religion. That’s exactly what Thomas Merton came to believe when he spoke with Dr. Bramachari,1 a Hindu monk who told him he didn’t have to leave the Christian tradition to be the best Buddhist he could be. Tony Campolo, another emerging/contemplative evangelical saw this common factor and suggested this very thing in his book, Speaking My Mind:
Beyond these models of reconciliation, a theology of mysticism provides some hope for common ground between Christianity and Islam. Both religions have within their histories examples of ecstatic union with God … I do not know what to make of the Muslim mystics, especially those who have come to be known as the Sufis. What do they experience in their mystical experiences? Could they have encountered the same God we do in our Christian mysticism?” (pp. 149-150)
Ronald Miller sounds very much like many of today’s emerging leaders when he says: “The modern age requires that we use our newly gained wisdom to transform the world (p. 7).” It is alarming to hear him say that mysticism (i.e., meditation) is the catalyst for “planetary healing,” naming various ecological and social problems facing the world today. Because some of the most influential Christian leaders and organizations today are promoting contemplative spirituality with one hand and working towards global transformation and unity on the other, we believe they are going in the same direction and with the same vehicle (mysticism) as the New Age. And when one realizes that the philosophy behind the New Age is panentheism (God in all) and that it totally negates the gospel message of Jesus Christ, then it is easier to see why it is so disturbing to see Christians promoting the emerging church and contemplative spirituality. For those readers who may be skeptical of our assertions, As Above, So Below has an entire chapter devoted to contemplative spirituality (chapter 3) and its vital place in its panoply of respected New Age practices. And yet that chapter makes reference to some of the same authors that Christians are now adhering to: Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, the Desert Fathers, Julian of Norwich, and Martin Buber (Buber is quoted by Max Lucado on the divine spark). The fact is, Miller makes our point for us as no one else could.
1. Henri J.M. Nouwen, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1991, Triumph Books Edition)