Posts Tagged ‘focus on the family’

Tantric (i.e., Contemplative) Sex and Christianity—A Match NOT Made in Heaven

photo by bigstockphoto.com; used with permission.

photo by bigstockphoto.com; used with permission.

The Bible says we live in a “crooked and perverse” world and that as believers we are to “shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). The closer we move toward the “end of the age” (Matthew 24), the darker and more perverse the world becomes. Global peace plans, inter-faith movements, emergent spiritualities, and other carnal-induced plots will not help the world’s woes. Jesus said, “I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46). As the world moves further away from Jesus Christ, the darkness only grows. A person can never escape that darkness without Jesus Christ living in him or her … all these other attempts are futile.

The New Age movement has now permeated all areas of our society: the business world, healthcare, education, religion, and entertainment. Virtually nothing has been untouched by the tentacles of this occultic, meditation-driven spirituality, and it has entered the Christian church through contemplative prayer (i.e., spiritual formation). But there is another area that mysticism has united with … and that is the sexual realm. The marriage of the two is referred to as tantra (or tantric sex), and before you stop reading this article, thinking “What has sex got to do with exposing contemplative and the New Age?” we must tell you will all soberness, this mystical sexuality is growing faster by the day, and it may ultimately affect the lives of countless Christians. Why? Because Christianity at large is going in a mystical direction, thanks to countless Christian leaders and authors, and within the realms of these mystical states, many will be introduced to tantra.

We decided to write this article on tantra after a Christian woman contacted us and told us (after seeing tantra mentioned in a description of For Many Shall Come in My Name) that her Christian husband (who is in leadership in a large Christian movement) was being enticed with tantric sex.

Ray Yungen explains about tantra and its relevance today:

Tantra is the name of the ancient Hindu sacred texts that contain certain rituals and secrets. Some deal with taking the energies brought forth in meditation through the chakras and combining them with love-making to enhance sexual experiences.

Once completely off-limits to the masses of humanity, tantra, like all other New Age methodologies, is now starting to gain increasing popularity. A google search on the Internet shows 6,600,000 entries for the word tantra! This union of sexuality and Eastern spirituality is a perfect example to illustrate just how much the New Age has permeated our society as it has affected even the most intimate areas of people’s lives.

The potential to impact a very great number of people, especially men, was brought out in an article by a sex worker who incorporates “Tantric Bodywork” into her services. She paints a very sad portrait of the dynamics of the “enormous sex industry” in which millions of stressed and unhappy men seek out “erotic release” from women who are just as unhappy and stressed as their clients. She observes that there is a “culturally rampant phenomenon that spouses are disconnected from each other.”

To remedy this tragic interplay of exploitation, she has turned to Tantric Union to give her clients what she feels is not just sex but “union with the divine.” After she read a book called Women of the Light: The New Sacred Prostitute, she turned her erotic business
into a “temple.” Of this temple, she says it is:

…dedicated to being a haven of the sacred, a home for the embodiment of spirit, filled with altars, sacred objects, plants, art, dreamy sensual music, blissful scents. My space is home to Quan Yin [a Buddhist goddess], crystals blessed by the Entities of John of God [a Brazilian spirit channeler].

Now the “multitudes of men” who come to her get much more than they bargained for. In the past, wives and girlfriends needed only to worry about sexually transmitted diseases from cheating husbands and boyfriends, but now their men may instead bring home spiritual entities!

Most readers might think that tantra is something exceedingly obscure that would never attract average people. But the movie industry thinks otherwise. In a 2003 movie, Hollywood Homicide (starring Harrison Ford, one of the industry’s leading men), viewers were presented with a brief snippet of tantric sex in one scene where fellow police officers opened the locker of Ford’s rookie detective partner and out falls a book (which the camera focuses on) about tantra, revealing the side-kick’s spiritual/sexual affinities (incidentally, he also teaches yoga in the film). (For Many Shall Come in My Name, 2nd ed., pp. 115-116)

If Christians begin to incorporate their contemplative proclivities with their sexual lives (a Christian version of tantric sex), the results will be devastating to the church, and we predict sexual perversion will be more rampant than ever. Why? Because if the altered states of consciousness are truly demonic realms (as we believe they are) then tantric sex is another venue of the hidden darkness that Jesus spoke of.

These assertions may sound absurd and far-fetched to some readers, but evidence of the truth of this does exist. For instance, Henri Nouwen (who along with Thomas Merton is one of the top icons of the contemplative prayer movement), in his last book The Sabbatical Journey, favorably revealed how he listened to audio tapes on the seven chakras which is the basis for tantric sex (p. 20). Also in Nouwen’s book, he makes mention of his encounter with a homosexual mystic named Andrew Harvey, whom Nouwen referred to as his soul friend (spiritual mentor) and how much Harvey’s mysticism had touched him (p. 149). And yet Harvey’s mysticism includes the tantric element. In a 2007 conference (The International Conference on Sacred Sexuality), Harvey led a workshop called “Sexual Liberation, Tantra, and Sacred Activism” in which Harvey:

… show[s] that sexual liberation and Tantra are vital parts of the Divine Mother’s plan for the birth of a new humanity, since they make possible a profound and ecstatic contact with what Andrew calls Divine Eros – a tender passionate dynamic love-connection. True Tantric sexuality gives its’ practitioners access to extraordinary and unified energies which will form the base of a commitment to Sacred Activism.

Most Christians would have a hard time believing that tantric sex could enter the church. But it’s “closer to home” than most think. One of the most popular evangelical authors is promoting an author who wrote a book on tantric sex. Gary Thomas is a contemplative advocate. In his book, Sacred Pathways, Gary Thomas instructs readers:

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 Thomas’ book Sacred Marriage, Thomas introduces readers to a woman named Mary Anne McPherson Oliver and to her book Conjugal Spirituality. Thomas favorably references or quotes Oliver several times throughout Sacred Marriage. Who is Mary Anne McPherson Oliver and why should Christians be concerned about Gary Thomas’ promotion of this woman’s book, Conjugal Spirituality?

On the back of Oliver’s book, it states that “[r]eligious practice as we know it today remains, in effect, ‘celibate.’ Mary Anne Oliver proposes an alternative … she examines the spiritual dynamics of long-term relationship.”

You may be wondering, “What does that all mean?” To put it simply, Oliver believes that sexuality and spirituality go together and that couples are missing out because they have not incorporated the two but rather have practiced what she calls a celibate spirituality. But she is not just talking about spirituality – she is talking about mystical spirituality!

Oliver received her doctorate in mystical theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, and her book permeates with her mystical persuasions. She describes her “discomfort” regarding present views on sexuality and religion and says she hunted for answers by talking to monks, going on retreats and even spending an entire (“liturgical”) year at Taize, an ecumenical, meditation-promoting community in France. Eventually, she came to identify what she termed “conjugal spirituality” (p. 1).

Oliver says that “negative attitudes” and “walls” toward sex have inhibited people and says: “Although the walls are coming down, the separation of sex and spirituality which has been operative since the 4th century has yet to be completely eliminated” (p. 16).

What exactly is Oliver proposing couples do to remove these “walls”? Very clearly, her message to couples is to turn to mysticism. In dismay, she says that “spiritual counsellors and writers” have not begun to teach the “Upanishads [Hindu scriptures] and Tantric writings as the basis for moral theology for couples” and that “[s]ome still refuse to grant that mystical experience can be associated with erotic love” (p. 18). Oliver says that changes in mainstream theology have prepared the way for “the emergence of conjugal spirituality.” She adds: “An upsurge of interest in the spiritual life and a renaissance in mystical studies have widened the domain of spirituality” (p. 27).

This mysticism that Oliver encourages is experienced through “bodily exercises” that the couple practice together, “creating one’s spiritual space.” Listen to some of her instructions in what she describes as “intercourse on all levels of consciousness”:

1. “Center ‘that whole human reality which some people are beginning to call bodymind’” (p.85).
2. “Two basic movements in which each can contact the core energy of the other and experience the enlarging of the oval inhabited by the divine presence” (p. 91).
3. Yin and Yang movements
4. “Concentrate in the stillness and silence” (p. 93).
5. “Center yourselves.”
6. “Meditate using the five senses. Experience the circuit of energy circling slowly through the joined bodies” (p. 93).
7. “Focus a few minutes on the breath as a sign of the Spirit’s activity within yourself” (p.102).
8. “Repeat name or “I love you” as a mantra” (p. 102).

In Conjugal Spirituality, Oliver talks favorably about mystic Teilhard de Chardin’s Omega Point and the “Indian Tantric Yoga tradition … spoken of as kundalini potential energy” (p. 97). She describes public sexual ceremonies in which couples practice “Taoist visualizations and meditations, accompanied by breathing exercises” and talks of “[i]nvoking the gods and goddesses.” Oliver says that society may frown on such public displays of sexual mysticism at this time and couples may have to improvise until restrictions are lifted. She says that “sexual union celebrated [is] an eschatological sign of God’s kingdom where all will be one” (p. 101).

When Gary Thomas read Oliver’s book, he must have resonated with it. Otherwise he would not have referred to or quoted from it so many times (over a dozen times) in Sacred Marriage. This is not guilt by association, but rather guilt by promotion. Sacred Marriage has sold over 500,000 copies according to Gary Thomas’ website. This means that countless readers have been introduced to a tantric sex advocate!  This is a primary example of how tantric sex is coming into the church.

As believers who are to “shine as lights in the world,” we must flee the deeds of darkness and “become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” We cannot do this in our own strength, but Jesus Christ living inside us will enable us through His mercy and grace: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). (this article originally from our 2007 newsletter archive)

Further information on this topic:

Hindus critical & dismayed of “Hollywood types” describing Tantra as just sex

Trinity Western University Professor Promotes Tantric-like Spirituality – Serious Implications for Christianity

A Pastor Speaks Up: Mark Driscoll and the New “Sexual Spirituality”

Clearing Up Confusion: Warren B. Smith NOT Sharing Platform with Rick Warren at Restoring All Things Conference

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Lighthouse Trails author and contender for the faith Warren B. Smith

Lighthouse Trails received a call this week by a concerned reader who said he heard on his local Christian radio station that Warren Smith was going to be speaking with Rick Warren at an upcoming conference called Restoring All Things. The reader was understandably worried about this. We assured him that OUR Warren Smith (aka: Warren B. Smith) was not going to be speaking at a conference called Restoring All Things with Saddleback pastor, Rick Warren. We explained that there are two Warren Smiths who are both Christian writers.

The “other” Warren Smith who is going to be speaking with Rick Warren at the Restoring All Things conference is Warren Cole Smith. A few years ago, when it came to both men’s attention that there was another Warren Smith out there and that people were becoming confused, each decided to begin identifying himself with a middle name or initial. But in the case of this conference, at the time of this writing, there is no middle name for Warren Cole Smith on the Restoring All Things conference (see here).

Warren Cole Smith (speaker at the Restoring All Things conference with Rick Warren)

Warren Cole Smith (speaker at the Restoring All Things conference with Rick Warren)

Warren Cole Smith is vice president of World News Group (the publisher for World Magazine).  He wrote a book a few years ago titled A Lover’s Quarrel with the Evangelical Church, a book critiquing mega churches including Saddleback Church.

Warren B. Smith, a former New Age follower, is the author of several books including Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose Driven Church and “Another Jesus” Calling. He has been a strong and steady voice for many years now warning about the “new” spirituality that has entered the church.

Other speakers at the Restoring All Things conference include Jim Daly (president of now contemplative Focus on the Family), “new” spirituality leader Ed Stetzer, and John Stonestreet (works with Prison Fellowship and Chuck Colson Christian Center for Christian Worldview).

Letter to the Editor From a FORMER Contemplative: Focus on the Family’s “Father Gilbert’s Mysteries” Points Listeners to Contemplative Prayer

LTRP Note: This is perhaps one of the most significant letters we have ever received, not just because it exposes more of Focus on the Family’s contemplative propensities, but because it  shows the results (i.e., the “fruit”) of practicing contemplative prayer. This “fruit” is precisely why Lighthouse Trails has been crying out a warning for nearly 13 years.

We are grateful to this reader for sending us this letter describing his experience as a contemplative practitioner. We are thankful to the Lord for opening his eyes to the great deception he was in.

As for Focus on the Family, it has been promoting contemplative spirituality for several years (see below this letter for article links). Parents and grandparents, if your children and grandchildren are listening to the Focus on the Family drama CDs, including Adventures in Odyssey, they are being exposed to a dangerous spiritual view. We can’t emphasize that enough. As you read the following letter, realize that what happened to our reader because of his involvement in the “spiritual disciplines” of contemplative spirituality (i.e., Spiritual Formation), is happening to thousands and thousands of Christians today (a number that will eventually hit the millions, changing the entire face of Christianity as researcher Ray Yungen has so often said).

Dear Lighthouse Trails:
Recently, I was given the Father Gilbert Mysteries CD set (by Focus on the Family) from a friend to borrow. The following is a followup letter I sent to my friend regarding these CDs. I thought this letter might be useful to you and anyone else who might not be aware of the contemplative connections to this mystery series.

 

Hi XXXXXXXXX (names withheld for privacy),

Thanks for lending me the Father Gilbert Mysteries CDs. I listened to the first CD on the way home from your house. I found the story to be gripping, and it definitely held my interest. What especially caught my attention though, was what was said in the intro. to the second CD. In it, the narrator stated that Father Gilbert [an Anglican priest] had joined a monastery. While there, he studied “the classic spiritual disciplines of prayer and meditation.” At this point, I had to stop listening to the CD.

As you probably know, I was, for the first 25 years of my Christian life, deeply involved in the spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer that promised to help me become more “Christlike.” According to one web site, “Christian contemplative prayer or contemplation, which was practiced by innumerable monks and nuns (and now laypeople) from the times of the Desert Fathers to the present, goes deep within the heart to meet God, ever-present within, though without thoughts, words, or images, because he is beyond them.”

For me, this basically involved stilling my mind throughout the day and focusing on my moment by moment connection with Christ. Toward the last part of this period in my life, I even had a little hand counter, which I kept with me and which I would keep track of each time, through out the day, when I focused on God. This led me into times of deeper meditation where my mind would become increasingly still and quiet, to the point where my thoughts seemed to be vacuumed out of my mind, leaving me in a kind of raptured stillness.

During these experiences, I had what I believed at the time to be an actual physical sensation of God’s Presence. It was like I didn’t need to focus so much on the Bible anymore to know God because I was actually experiencing Him directly in these moments of contemplation. And in this experience, I felt God as a force or power that was flowing through all things.

It was then that I noticed a subtle change was beginning to take place in my concept of God. I began to feel deeply that God’s Presence was everywhere and in everything. And if God was in everything and as a result, in everyone, then the important thing was not what a person thought about God or believed about Him, but rather that they stilled their thoughts so they too could experience Him in the present moment, beyond thoughts. This began to trouble me though, because I began to realize that this was what I had once believed as a follower and practicer of New Age Eastern beliefs prior to becoming a Christian.

This led me to do some research online. There, I found that this new way of perceiving God which I was developing through my “spiritual discipline” actually had a name. It was called, panentheism—that God is in all things and all things are in God. I also found that this concept does not appear to line up with God’s Word… “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Romans 8:9.

Needless to say, about five years ago, I discontinued this spiritual practice and began to rest in the finished work of Christ which He accomplished at the Cross (Hebrews 10:10). I can’t begin to tell you how incredibly freeing and restful it has become to be able to say, with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me.” Gal. 2:20. And “But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” Romans 8:11

Paul (not real name)

Related Articles (most recent ones at top, older ones dating back to 2007 at bottom):

Letter From Focus on the Family Confirms Past Reports – They DO Promote Contemplative Spirituality

Focus on the Family Gives Bono a Platform – Another Example Where 2 +2 Don’t Add Up

Letter to the Editor: Saddened and Alarmed at Focus on the Family’s Promoting Contemplative Spirituality

Focus on the Family’s Adventures of Odyssey Has “Eugene” Going to a Monastery – Moody Radio Broadcasts Program

Letter from Focus on the Family: Takes Lighthouse Trails with a “healthy dose of salt” & defends contemplative Gary Thomas

Will Focus on the Family and The Truth Project Warn About “Unio Mystica,” “Oneness,” and Contemplative Prayer?

List of 50 Top Contemplative-Promoting Organizations Adds 8 Runner Ups

Focus on the Family: Helping to Bring About a Generation of Parent Mystics?

James Dobson Rightly Defends the Unborn, Challenges Obama – But Focus on the Family Still Defends Contemplative – “Please, Dr. Dobson, read this.”

Serious Concerns for Focus on the Family Marriage Conference

Why Focus on the Family Should Not Promote and Sell Gary Thomas’ Books

Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey – Promoting Contemplative?

Focus on the Family Once Again Says OK to Contemplative Prayer

 

A Few Words About “Spiritual Formation”

When I first began writing in the field in the late 70s and early 80s the term “Spiritual Formation” was hardly known, except for highly specialized references in relation to the Catholic orders. Today it is a rare person who has not heard the term. Seminary courses in Spiritual Formation proliferate like baby rabbits. Huge numbers are seeking to become certified as Spiritual Directors to answer the cry of multiplied thousands for spiritual direction.1 Richard Foster

What is spiritual formation, and what is its premise? According to Roger Oakland, spiritual formation came upon the church like an unsuspecting avalanche:

A move away from the truth of God’s Word to a mystical form of Christianity has infiltrated, to some degree, nearly all evangelical denominations. Few Bible teachers saw this avalanche coming. Now that it is underway, most do not realize it has even happened.

The best way to understand this process is to recall what happened during the Dark Ages when the Bible became the forbidden book. Until the Reformers translated the Bible into the language of the common people, the great masses were in darkness. When the light of God’s Word became available, the Gospel was once again understood.

I believe history is repeating itself. As the Word of God becomes less and less important, the rise in mystical experiences escalates, and these experiences are presented to convince the unsuspecting that Christianity is about feeling, touching, smelling, and seeing God. The postmodern mindset is the perfect environment for fostering spiritual formation. This term suggests there are various ways and means to get closer to God and to emulate him. Thus the idea that if you do certain practices, you can be more like Jesus. Proponents of spiritual formation erroneously teach that anyone can practice these mystical rituals and find God within. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ is not a prerequisite. In a DVD called Be Still, which promotes contemplative prayer, Richard Foster said that contemplative prayer is for anyone and that by practicing it, one becomes “a portable sanctuary” for “the presence of God.”2 Rather than having the indwelling of the person of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, spiritual formation through the spiritual disciplines supposedly transforms the seeker by entering an altered realm of consciousness.

The spiritual formation movement is widely promoted at colleges and seminaries as the latest and the greatest way to become a spiritual leader. It teaches people that this is how they can become more intimate with God and truly hear His voice. Even Christian leaders with longstanding reputations of teaching God’s word seem to be succumbing. In so doing, many Christian leaders are frivolously playing with fire, and the result will be thousands, probably millions, getting burned.

It isn’t going into the silence that transforms a person’s life. It is in accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and allowing Him to change us, that transformation occurs. (Faith Undone, pp. 90-92)

To understand spiritual formation, all one needs to do is understand the spirituality of Richard Foster. Lighthouse Trails has documented his beliefs through A Time of Departing and Faith Undone, as well as through numerous articles on the Lighthouse Trails Research site. In this particular article, let us turn to a small book Richard Foster wrote called Meditative Prayer. Foster says that the purpose of meditative prayer is to create a “spiritual space” or “inner sanctuary” through “specific meditation exercises” (p. 9). Foster references several mystics in the book who can point the way to these exercises: Madame Guyon, Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, Henri Nouwen, and Thomas Merton. Foster breaks the contemplative process down into three steps. He says:

The first step [into meditative prayer] is sometimes called “centering down.” Others have used the term re-collection; that is, a re-collecting of ourselves until we are unified or whole. The idea is to let go of all competing distractions until we are truly centered, until we are truly present where we are.

Foster suggests that practicing visualization methods help us center down (p. 17). In the second step of meditation, Foster suggests that mystic Richard Rolle experienced “physical sensations” (see kundalini info) during meditation which perhaps we may or may not experience as well (p. 18). Step three of meditation, Foster says, is that of “listening” to God. Once the meditative exercises have been implemented and the “spiritual ecstasy” is reached, this entered realm is where the voice of God can be heard (p. 23). However, as any New Age meditator knows, this ecstatic state is an altered state of consciousness where everything is supposed to be unified and one with God. Foster acknowledges the interspiritual attribute linked to contemplative prayer when he states: “[Jesus] showed us God’s yearning for the gathering of an all-inclusive community of loving persons” (p. 5). Foster defines more of what he means by “all-inclusive” in his book Streams of Living Water when he says this “all-inclusive community” includes everything from a “Catholic monk” to a “Baptist evangelist.”3 In other writings, he says that contemplative prayer (and its results) are for everyone and anyone (see Be Still DVD).

Interestingly, Foster discusses the practice of lectio divina in his book, which is being heralded in many Christian settings as a Christian, biblical practice. People are persuaded to believe that repeating phrases and words of Scripture over and over again is a deeper way to know God. They believe that since it is Scripture being repeated (and not just any words), then this validates the practice and that this sacred reading is sacred because it is the Bible being used. But Foster himself proves that it has nothing to do with Scripture. It’s the repetition that is effective, not the words. He states: “[L]ectio divina includes more than the Bible. There are the lives of the saints and the writings which have proceeded from their profound [mystical] experiences” (p. 25). Foster obliterates the supposed premise of lectio divina by saying this. That is because as a meditation proponent he knows that meditation has nothing to do with which words are repeated over and over; it is the repetition itself that puts one into an altered state. Thus whether you say Jesus, Abba, Buddha, or OM, it produces the same effect.

Just in case there is any doubt in the reader’s mind, Richard Foster tells readers to study Thomas Merton for a deeper understanding of meditation, calling his book, Contemplative Prayer a “powerful analysis of the central nature of contemplative prayer.”

Spiritual formation is contemplative spirituality, and it is sweeping quickly throughout Christianity today. If a college, a seminary, a church, or an organization (like Focus on the Family) wants spiritual formation, may they keep in mind, they will get eastern meditation and the occultic realms that accompany it.

And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel. (Colossians 1:21-23)

As Roger Oakland states:

We are reconciled to God only through his “death” (the atonement for sin), and we are presented “holy and unblamable and unreproveable” when we belong to Him through rebirth. It has nothing to do with works, rituals, or mystical experiences. It is Christ’s life in the converted believer that transforms him. (Faith Undone)

Notes:
1. “Spiritual Formation: A Pastoral Letter”

2. Richard Foster, Be Still DVD (Fox Home Entertainment, 2006), section titled “Contemplative Prayer.”

3. Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1998), p. 273.

 

50 Top Organizations With a Significant Role in Bringing Contemplative Spirituality to the Church

From 10 years of research at Lighthouse Trails Research Project, we have found the following fifty organizations to have had a significant role in bringing contemplative spirituality into the evangelical/Protestant church. If you do not know or understand the implications of this, we urge you to educate yourself as soon as possible.

Note: We have not listed any colleges or seminaries in this list. To see our list of contemplative promoting schools, click here. This list below is in conjunction with our recent list of Christian leaders: 100 Top Contemplative Proponents Evangelical Christians Turn To Today.

1.  Acts 29 Network

2. American Association of Christian Counselors

3.  American Bible Society 

4.  Association for Biblical Higher Learning

5.  Association of Theological Schools (ATS)

6.  Baker Books (Emersion)

7.  Bible.org

8. Boundless Webzine (FOF)

9.  Breakforth (Canada)

10.  Center for Action and Contemplation

11.  Christian Classics Ethereal Library (CCEL)

12.  Christian Missionary Alliance

13.  Christianity Today

14. Emergent Village

15. Evangelical Lutheran Church of America

16.  Focus on the Family

17.  Group Magazine

18. Henri Nouwen Society

19.  IHOP-KC

20.  Intervarsity Press

21.  Kairos School of Spiritual Formation

22.  Conversations Journal

23. Leadership Network

24.  Lifeway Resources

25.  Mennonite Brethren

26.  Mennonite Church, USA

27. Metamorpha

28.  National Worship Conference

29. NavPress

30.  New Church Specialties

31. Presbyterian Church USA

32.  Relevant Magazine

33.  Renovare

34. Robert E. Webber Institute for Spiritual Studies

35. Saddleback Church

36.  Sojourners

37.  Spiritual Directors International

38.  Teen Mania

39.  The Church of the Nazarene

40. The Ooze

41. The Purpose Driven Movement

42.  The Upper Room

43. Thomas Nelson Publishers

44.  Transforming Center

45.  Wesleyan Church

46.  Willow Creek Association

47.  Worship Leader Magazine

48.  Youth Ministry & Spirituality Project

49. Youth Specialties

50. Zondervan

Note: You can get information on any of these organizations using our search engines on both our blog and research site. 

Letter to the Editor: Saddened and Alarmed at Focus on the Family’s Promoting Contemplative Spirituality

LTRP Note: The following letter to the LT editor and the response this person received from Focus on the Family is used with permission from our reader. Important to note that FOF’s response is similar to the response FOF was giving back in 2006 (when we received a letter from them) when asked why they were promoting Richard Foster and Gary Thomas and where they stood regarding contemplative spirituality in general. In comparison, the 2011 response from FOF is more detailed than the 2006 letter from the same FOF staff member (Tim Masters from the Executive Office) but is essentially saying the same thing. Worth noting, the arguments that Masters gives in defense of contemplative prayer have been scripturally refuted by Lighthouse Trails authors, showing how contemplative advocates have taken Bible verses and used them out of context. We have given references to a number of those refutations below.

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I just wanted to thank you for all the work you put into getting the truth out.  I look forward to every single newsletter and have learned so much from you all – and continue to!  Without you I’m afraid I’d be as misguided about contemplative prayer as most christians are.

Also I’d like to thank you for your alert about Focus on the Family.  After reading in the newsletter about their attempt to sell this lie to kids I promptly quit giving financially to them and explained to them why.  I’d like to forward you the email response I received from them.  It saddened and alarmed me.  More and more well known names in christianity are promoting this lie  – many actually claiming that they’re not doing it!  Please read this email I received from FOF.

Thank you again and I join with you in praying against this lie.  (name withheld)

Letter from Focus on the Family –

Dear Friend: Thank you for writing to Focus on the Family.  It was good of you to contact us with your candid concerns about our ministry’s involvement with what has sometimes been called “contemplative prayer.”  Thoughtful, honest feedback like yours is always welcome here at Focus headquarters.  We’re happy to have this opportunity to respond to the thoughts you’ve shared.

While we appreciate your input, we also feel bound to inform you that you are mistaken on a couple of different fronts.  To begin with, your assertion that Focus on the Family is “promoting” contemplative prayer and spirituality is neither fair nor accurate.  Yes, we have occasionally referenced speakers and authors who deal with subjects of this nature – individuals such as Richard Foster, Larry Crabb, and Beth Moore.  But none of this, in our opinion, amounts to “promoting” contemplative prayer.  The truth of the matter is that we have far too much else on our plate to become involved in any such activity.  The heart of our outreach is practical family ministry.

That said, we also find it hard to understand why any particular method of prayer should be regarded as “a dangerous deviation from sound Bible practices.”  After all, there are probably as many different ways of praying as there are people offering prayers.  Besides, there is nothing unbiblical or anti-Christian about solitude, silence, and contemplation.  Far from it!  After all, it was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire that the Lord spoke to Elijah, but rather in the “still, small voice” of intimate, personal communion (1 Kings 19:12) [see our note below on 1 Kings 19:12*].  David highlights the value of this type of spiritual discipline in Psalm 4:4, where he writes, “Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still.”  Another Psalmist similarly represents the Lord as exhorting His people to “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  And Jesus Himself, who lived and breathed the Old Testament Scriptures, often retired to quiet, secluded spots in the wilderness or on the mountain where He could converse with His Father apart from the noise and distraction of the crowd (see Mark 1:35).  In time, His disciples learned to follow His example in this regard.

On the basis of this firm biblical foundation, a strong tradition of Christian contemplation and mysticism has grown up within the church over the past 2,000 years – a tradition that has nothing whatsoever to do with “dangerous” New Age spirituality.  Many of the early church fathers of the first three centuries of the Christian era – men like Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory Nazianzus, Basil of Caesarea, John Chrysostom, and Anthony of Egypt – were contemplatives who had mystical experiences in prayer.  It is even possible to trace this strain of spirituality to the apostles themselves:  Peter, for example, who saw visions on the roof of the house of Simon the Tanner (Acts 10:9-16), or Paul, who speaks of having been “caught up to the third heaven” where he “heard inexpressible words which it is not lawful for a man to utter” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4), or John, whose encounter with the risen Christ while “in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day” gave us the Book of Revelation (Revelation 1:9).[see “Does God Sanction Mystical Experiences?“]  In our view, it’s not the form or style of such experiences, nor the methods or techniques of prayer that precede them, that should determine their legitimacy, but rather their content and the degree to which they either do or do not bring glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. [See our article on Intent.]

We hope this reply has clarified our perspective for you.  Thanks again for caring enough to contact us.  Don’t hesitate to let us know if we can be of any further assistance.  God bless you.

 Timothy Masters

Focus on the Family

LTRP Notes:

* The following explanation about I Kings 19:12 is from Ray Yungen’s book, A Time of Departing.

Question: Isn’t I Kings 19:12 an example of when contemplative prayer is condoned in Scripture? Elijah heard a “still, small voice.” Isn’t that referring to the silence?

Answer:This passage in no way indicates that Elijah was practicing a mantra exercise. On the contrary, it was the prophets of Baal who “called on the name of Baal from morning even till noon, saying, ‘O Baal, hear us!” (I Kings 18:26). Now Elijah was in a cave, not to practice contemplative prayer, but to hide from Jezebel’s threat to take his life. Also, his encounter with God was something he did not initiate but God initiated Himself, thereby emphasizing that Elijah was not practicing a mantra. If anything, from his conversation with God, we might conclude that he was also hiding from his ministry and God Himself, as he was feeling hopeless.

Related Stories:

Letter from Focus on the Family: Takes Lighthouse Trails with a “healthy dose of salt” & defends contemplative Gary Thomas

Letter to Editor: Does Beth Moore Still Promote Contemplative Prayer?

Serious Concerns for Focus on the Family Marriage Conference

Focus on the Family’s Adventures of Odyssey Has “Eugene” Going to a Monastery – Moody Radio Broadcasts Program

Dear Lighthouse:

Thank you for that article from Dave Dombrowski on Sounding the Trumpet. I had my radio on KMBI (Moody) and they had Eugene [from Focus on the Family’s Adventure’s in Odyssey] going to a monastery to experience “silence.” I have heard this episode in the past. It is episode # 366.

http://www.odysseyscoop.com/episodes/Episodes_1996.htm#AIO366

Sincerely, B.K.

Note from Lighthouse Trails: In January of 2007, we posted the following:

On January 9th [2007], Focus on the Family’s Adventures in Odyssey (their program for children) presented a show called “Solitary Refinement.” Much like the recent Fox Home Video production, Be Still, “Solitary Refinement” is an infomercial for Contemplative Spirituality. Talking about going to monasteries to learn the disciplines of silence and solitude, getting rid of distractions and thoughts in order to hear God, the program makes references throughout that encourage children to practice the “spiritual disciplines,” with a particular emphasis on the disciplines of silence and solitude. Anyone who has been researching and studying the contemplative prayer movement will understand the message in this presentation.

The original air date of this Adventures in Odyssey episode was 1996. This means that 11[now 15] years ago, long before contemplative spirituality (i.e., Spiritual Formation) had become mainstream in Christianity, as it has today, Focus on the Family was already heading in this direction. Now over a decade later, they are reintroducing the episode to a new generation of children. Interestingly though, it first aired several years after Rick Warren said that the Spiritual Formation movement was a vital and needed wake up call to the body of Christ (see Purpose Driven Church).

If your children listen to the Adventures in Odyssey, we encourage you to monitor this show as it may introduce your children to non-biblical spirituality.

Click here to listen to this episode: http://www.oneplace.com/ministries/adventures-in-odyssey/listen/solitary-refinement-231583.html

Related Stories:

Letter from Focus on the Family: Takes Lighthouse Trails with a “healthy dose of salt” & defends contemplative Gary Thomas

Focus on the Family Promotes Contemplative Authors

Keri Wyatt Kent Continues Leading Women Toward Contemplative – Moody Bible Institute Helps

Moody Bible Institute Responds to Lighthouse Trails


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