Posts Tagged ‘george wood’
Lighthouse Trails has now sent out its 4th letter since early 2016 to over 130 prominent Christian leaders. Along with the letter, we included a copy of the booklet we publish, The Shack and Its New Age Leaven plus a news brief we released recently. Both the booklet and the news brief are written by former New Age follower Warren B. Smith. Here is the letter we wrote to the leaders introducing the material:
Dear Christian Leader:
Please find enclosed one of our booklets titled The Shack and Its New Age Leaven by Lighthouse Trails author Warren B. Smith along with a short news brief we released on March 9th. As you probably know, The Shack movie came out this month, which no doubt will bring renewed interest in the book, The Shack. When you read this booklet and the news brief, we hope you will understand our sense of urgency given that many Christian leaders and pastors are now endorsing The Shack. In William Paul Young’s newest book, Lies We Believe About God, he once again openly rejects biblical tenets of the Christian faith.
We hope you will read and prayerfully consider the content of both the booklet and the news brief.
Sincerely in Christ,
The Editors at
Lighthouse Trails Publishing, Inc.
The letters and booklets were mailed out from our office in Montana on March 13th. You can read the news brief we included by clicking here. And here is the link to the content of the booklet we sent.
Since we began sending out letters and booklets to Christian leaders in early 2016, we have received the following responses:
Short letters of thanks from the ministry offices of: Chuck Missler, Nancy DeMoss, Tony Evans, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, and Beth Moore
Notes of thanks personally signed by Tim Tebow, Kay Arthur, George Wood (Assemblies of God General Superintendent)
A letter of thanks via e-mail from Ben Kinchlow’s ministry manager (Kinchlow is the founder of Americans for Israel and former 700 Club host)
An e-email from the office of Chuck Swindoll telling us to stop sending booklets (we have since removed his name from our list).
It is our hope and prayer that many of the leaders on our list will take a few moments to read the material we sent out on The Shack.
If you would like us to add the name of a leader to our Christian leaders list, please send the name and mailing address to us at: email@example.com. Because of time restraints, we will not be able to add a name without an address. Plus, because we cannot send out these letters and booklets to every pastor in the country, we ask that you only submit names of pastors and/or church leaders who have written at least one book (you can check Amazon) thus moving him or her into a place of influence throughout the church at large.
We wish we could send booklets to every Christian pastor in North America. However, here is an idea given to us from one of our readers for anyone who feels compelled to reach the pastors in his or her denomination and/or state: Last month, a woman contacted us from Mississippi who learned that we were sending out booklets to Christian leaders and pastors. She said she was burdened for Southern Baptist pastors in her state and asked us to put together a mailing of two booklets and a letter and mail it to every Southern Baptist pastor in Mississippi. Our reader paid for the list (which we purchased for her), the booklets, the postage, and our labor. At her request, we sent each pastor a copy of 10 Scriptural Reasons Jesus Calling is a Dangerous Book by Warren B. Smith and 5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer by Ray Yungen. If you have a group you would like us to reach in this manner, please contact our office.
If you would like to view and/or print a list of the Christian leaders we are currently sending booklets and short letters to 3-4 times a year, click here. Perhaps you would like to pray for these men and women who, in total, influence millions and millions of people throughout the world. Incidentally, just because a name is on this list does not necessarily mean that leader is in deception. We have included a wide assortment of names in this list. There are many pastors and Christian leaders who may not be part of the deception but, for various reasons, are not aware of what is happening in the church today.
Letter to the Editor: Mixed Bag of Speakers at Assemblies of God General Conference to Include Rick Warren, Priscilla Shirer, Circle-Making Mark Batterson
Dear LHT editors:
My parents attend an Assemblies of God church, and I try to keep up to date on what is going on. I left the denomination years ago, but they are struggling to stay. I just looked up the events for 2017 and wasn’t too shocked to find good old Rick Warren as a speaker as well as Mark Batterson (The Circle Maker) and others who I am not familiar with, but who seem to be part of the large megachurch mindset. Here is the link: General Council 2017 | Anaheim, CA
Also if possible if you could add Joanna Weaver to your list of books to stay away from. I am so grieved that churches just don’t want to listen. They refuse to expose error and embrace false teachers through books. They pick out the nuggets. It doesn’t matter if the author got her info from mystics, contemplatives, and flat out heretics from the NAR movement. :(
God bless you all and we will be praying for your ministry.
LTRP Comments: Dr. George Wood, who is the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God church, is one of the leaders Lighthouse Trails is sending booklets to a few times a year.1 Thus far, he has received 5 booklets from LT: 10 Scriptural Reasons Jesus Calling is a Dangerous Book, 5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer, Rick Warren’s Dangerous Ecumenical Pathway to Rome, Setting Aside the Power of the Gospel for a Powerless Substitute, and Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation (And Important Reasons Why it Shouldn’t). On December 22, 2016, Lighthouse Trails editors received a short letter from Dr. Wood acknowledging receipt of the last two. It is our hope he will read the booklets and consider the information provided in them. As with many other denominations today, the Assemblies of God is heavily promoting contemplative spirituality.
Letter to the Editor: Assemblies of God Pastor Disheartened by Direction AOG and Other Denominations Are Going
To Lighthouse Trails:
Well, here we go again! I was surprised, though not shocked, to see Dr. Wood, our General Superintendent, endorsing “The Son of God,” in one of the videos you mentioned in your latest e-newsletter. Dr. Wood is showing a greater propensity toward ecumenism. When I first learned of his appearance at BYU, I stated to my wife, I wonder if and when Dr. Wood would move toward embracing the Roman Catholic Church and lo, and behold, out comes his endorsement of “The Son of God” produced by a New Age Roman Catholic. You have to wonder who else the A/G, with Dr. Wood’s blessing, will come alongside of in the future – perhaps Muslims, or Hindus, or who knows. This is getting embarrassing and heartbreaking to me as an ordained A/G minister in this fellowship for over 30 years.
We have seen in the past other A/G leaders endorsing such questionable things as “Evangelicals and Catholics Together,” and “A Christian Response to ‘A Common Word Between Us and You.’” There is, within the A/G, what I perceive to be a subtle, but certain movement toward an ecumenical attitude. Dr. Wood has stated that in this 100th year of the formation of the A/G, that our founding forefathers would be proud to see how far we have come and how well we are doing. But my personal view is that our founding forefathers would “turn over in their graves” at what has happened. It is becoming clearer to me that the A/G as well as Foursquare, Calvary Chapel, Nazarenes, et al are no longer being “led by the Spirit,” but are being led with a faith in, to quote Samuel Chadwick, “…. the world and the flesh than in the Holy Ghost, and things will get no better till we get back to His realized presence and power.” To that I say a hearty, AMEN.
Once again, I want to thank you for your wonderful ministry of exposing the deception that is flooding the church world. It’s coming so fast that it’s becoming more and more difficult to keep up. But with ministries such as yours, we’re keeping informed and warning this congregation to avoid “sticking their heads in the sand.” We must pray fervently for a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit in such a manner that it cannot be viewed as anything but the hand of God and not the hand of man.
A Disheartened Assemblies of God Pastor
LTRP Note: After we posted this morning’s article “More Evidence and a Final Plea as Assemblies of God Conference with Ruth Haley Barton Begins August 5th,” we received the e-mail below from an Assemblies of God pastor.
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I just finished reading your latest article on the Ruth Haley Barton fiasco that has infiltrated the A/G. Once again, the assessment of this situation is very well presented. Unfortunately, I have no reason to believe that the A/G will make any changes to their schedule with regard to Ms. Barton.
I just received a copy of an article that was published in the Charisma magazine with Dr. Wood as the cover story. You might want to get a copy of that issue just for information sake. To say that I was disheartened would be an understatement. My spirit was grieved at the future direction being articulated by Dr. Wood. I can assure you that, in my conversations with a few other A/G clergy, this is not going well at all. True, there is a major effort by our leadership at the General Council level and the District level, to train younger pastors using this new mindset of the A/G. This Charisma magazine was sent out to every A/G minister and its impact and influence on the up and coming new leaders is going to be substantial.
It is my personal conviction that the A/G will be going in the direction of most mainline denominations by embracing a message and a method of ministry that will bring the A/G to the level of being nothing more than a civic organization. I base this on current activities such as the embracing of the likes of Ruth Haley Barton as well as emergent leaders like Mark Batterson, Mark Driscoll et al. Of course Dr. Wood’s personal relationship with Rick Warren has so infiltrated the A/G and its thinking that it’s hard to imagine that ever changing. . . . True, the 16 tenets of faith will probably remain in tact, at least I hope so. However, the emphasis now is on marketing the church in the same way that corporations market their services. Having been involved in the corporate world for ____ years, I speak from personal experience.
However, we will continue to pray for our leaders that the conviction of the Holy Spirit will bring them to their senses.
___________ (Assemblies of God Pastor)
More Evidence and a Final Plea as Assemblies of God Conference with Ruth Haley Barton Begins August 5th
On August 5th-9th, the Assemblies of God will be holding their 2013 General Council conference titled Believe. Lighthouse Trails has written a number of times about the upcoming conference since April of this year. At the end of this report, we have listed the links to those past reports. Basically, our concern has focused on the fact that contemplative pioneer Ruth Haley Barton is one of the speakers at this year’s AOG event. We have given ample evidence to show why there is cause for concern, and we have explained the serious implications of the Barton invitation. Today, we are issuing one final plea to AOG leadership regarding this matter. The information in today’s report is vital.
Before we begin, no one should think that this is the first time AOG leadership has promoted a contemplative/emerging author. This has been an ongoing problem for sometime (although the Barton invitation is probably the most pronounced). For example, there are several instances within the Assemblies of God seminary that show an affinity toward contemplative spirituality and the emerging church. And the Gospel Publishing House (the publishing arm of AOG) website sells a number of books from authors in the emerging/contemplative camp.
Incidentally, on the Network for Women in Ministry website (that’s the AOG women’s group responsible for inviting Ruth Barton to this year’s General Council conference), a “Suggested List for Further Reading” offers Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (where he says “we should all, without shame, enroll in the school of contemplative prayer”), Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Foster (his primer on contemplative prayer), a book by Henri Nouwen, and a book called The Contemporaries Meet the Classics on Prayer, which includes writings by many contemplative proponents: Nouwen, Foster, Marjorie Thompson, Brother Lawrence, Calvin Miller, Dallas Willard, Mother Teresa, Evelyn Underhill, and Thomas Merton.
Now, onto the information we are compelled to share in this report. It may seem trivial to some at first, but if you read through this report, we think you will see the significance.
In Ruth Haley Barton’s book Invitation to Solitude and Silence (the book where Barton acknowledges Thomas Keating’s influence in her life), Barton quotes the late Catholic priest William Shannon from his book Silence on Fire (the biography of Thomas Merton). Shannon states:
Wordless prayer … is humble, simple, lowly, prayer in which we experience our total dependence on God and our awareness that we are in God. Wordless prayer is not an effort to “get anywhere, ” for we are already there (in God’s presence). It is just that we are not sufficiently conscious of our being there.1 (emphasis added)
Shannon’s comment here is the typical statement by mystics of all religious backgrounds, i.e., that God is already inside each one of us (all mankind), and we just need to become aware of it. It is a panentheistic view. We can illustrate this further when Shannon says:
The contemplative experience is neither a union of separate identities nor a fusion of them; on the contrary, separate identities disappear in the All Who is God.2
Shannon, founder of the International Thomas Merton Society, did not believe in the biblical view of God as we will show below. When he speaks of “separate identities disappear[ing],” he means that there is only one identity – God and that God and man are mutually the same. This is classic Buddhism or Hinduism. In A Time of Departing, Ray Yungen addresses Shannon’s panentheistic beliefs:
[In William Shannon’s book, Silence on Fire], he relates the account of a theological discussion he once had with an atheist groom for whom he was performing a wedding ceremony. He told the skeptical young man:
“You will never find God by looking outside yourself. You will only find God within. It will only be when you have come to experience God in your own heart and let God into the corridors of your heart (or rather found God there) that you will be able to ‘know’ that there is indeed a God and that you are not separate from God.”
This advice is no different from what any New Age teacher would impart to someone who held an atheistic point of view. You want God? Meditate! God is just waiting for you to open up. Based on Shannon’s own mystical beliefs, he knew this was the right approach. He alluded to this by explaining that the young man would find enlightenment if he would look in the right place or use the right method.3
In Shannon’s book, Seeds of Peace, he reiterates this same view:
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.4 (emphasis added)
You will find this mindset in contemplative teachers across the board. This being in God has nothing to do with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through faith. Shannon isn’t saying this to born-again Christians. This union with God is a blanket declaration for all of mankind, with or without a Savior. We are all in God.
Shannon contrasts the spirituality of devotion (placating God with good works) with “contemplative spirituality,” the latter where God is identified as “the ground of all being”5 and the core of everything there is (man is naturally connected with God). Contemplative mystics, such as Shannon and Merton, teach that all you have to do to find this union with God is use the mystical technology which connects you with your “true self” (i.e, your own divinity). Bernard of Clairvaux, contemplative mystic from ages past, said that God is “the stone in the stones and tree in the trees.”6 In other words, God exists in everything and is the essence of what we see – there is no distinction between God and His creation. We know from Scripture, however, that this untrue. Isaiah 42:8 declares, “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another.” Yungen points out, “Creation can reflect God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3), but it can never possess God’s glory. For that to happen would mean God was indeed giving His glory to another.”7 Paul, the apostle, solidifies the distinction between God and creation when he warns of those who worship the creature (creation) rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).
What this boils down to is this: In the writings of these mystics – the ones Ruth Haley Barton admires, quotes, and gleans from – there is nothing promoting the Gospel or the message of the Cross. Rather, a cosmic “Christ,” which revolves around a panentheistic, interspiritual outlook, is uplifted and glorified. There is nothing truly Christian about the teachings of Merton, Keating, Shannon, and Tilden Edwards. And let us make something clear – these mystics don’t hide their propensities. It isn’t in some secret code or subtle message. On the contrary, they are forthright and bold about their stance.
If these mystics whom Barton admires are so open about their views, how is it she is drawn to them so consistently in her own spiritual walk? No doubt, she has read their books, so she must know what they really stand for. A lover of God’s Word would not be drawn to those who reject the message of the Cross. That’s right, reject. In Silence on Fire, the very book from which Barton quotes William Shannon, Shannon says:
This [the traditional biblical view] is a typical patriarchal notion of God. He is the God of Noah who sees people deep in sin, repents that He made them and resolves to destroy them. He is the God of the desert who sends snakes to bite His people because they murmured against Him. He is the God of David who practically decimates a people. . . . He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased. This God whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger. This God does not exist.8 (emphasis added)
You see, overall, the contemplatives reject the notion that God sent His Son to a violent death as a penalty for OUR sins. While they may say that Jesus was a good example of servanthood, they reject His death as an atonement for others. This anti-atonement view is pervasive among the mystics.9 That is because you cannot have it both ways: you cannot have a Gospel of salvation through the death of a Savior for man’s sins and also say that God exists in all things and that man is divine. It just won’t work. The mystics and New Agers know that – but how ironic – the Christian leaders don’t!
Listen to another man who trained Barton – Tilden Edwards, co-founder of the Shalem Prayer Institute:
It is such an innocent, intuitively discerning mind that helps make the Eastern guru and the Desert Abba “master” [the intuitively discerning mind is the contemplative state]. Where intimate Source [inner divinity] radiates among non-Christians then surely we must be dealing with the “other sheep” (Matthew 10:16) manifesting the cosmic Christ.10
In other words, in this contemplative state, the East and the West meet. The word “cosmic” often carries with it a silly childish connotation (remember, baby boomers who grew up with Buck Rogers and his cosmic ray gun). But here the word cosmic or cosmos carries a deeper meaning where the “cosmic Christ” is not an individual – it is a consciousness, and it can only be grasped in the meditative state.
We’ll leave you with this question: Is it not utterly amazing (and almost unbelievable) that Ruth Haley Barton has gained access to the hierarchy of the Assemblies of God denomination, where the General Superintendent, Dr. George Wood, insinuated that those under him should not consider the evidence that Lighthouse Trails provided. But, just because someone tells others not to listen doesn’t change the facts. Either they are true, or they aren’t true; and ignoring the facts doesn’t make them go away.
[B]e not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2 – emphasis added)
1. Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, p 39.
2. William Shannon, quoted in The Message of Thomas Merton, p. 200.
3. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, pp. 31-32, quoting William Shannon in Silence on Fire, p. 99.
4. William Shannon, Seeds of Peace, p. 66.
5. Thomas Merton, The Hidden Ground of Love, p. 570.
6. Joseph Chu-Cong, The Contemplative Experience, Joseph Chu-Cong, p. 3.
7. Yungen, A Time of Departing, p. 31.
8. (Shannon, Silence on Fire, pp. 109-110.
9. See Roger Oakland’s chapter, “Slaughterhouse Religion” in Faith Undone. You can read the PDF for free here.
10. Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 169.
Our past reports on the Barton/AOG issue:
LTRP Note: This an update to our previous articles regarding Assemblies of God’s invitation of contemplative leader Ruth Haley Barton to their 2013 General Council conference. Please see the links at the bottom of this page for a chronological listing of articles relating to this matter.
“Will Assemblies of God Leaders Ignore Contemplative Evidence?”
By the Editors at Lighthouse Trails
In the course of attempting to provide evidence to the leaders of Assemblies of God as to the nature of Ruth Haley Barton’s spirituality, AG General Superintendent Dr. George Wood has issued both public and private statements. This past week we received an e-mail from an Assemblies of God pastor, which included an e-mail the pastor received from Dr. Wood about the Ruth Haley Barton controversy. We are posting Dr. Wood’s e-mail to the AG pastor for two reasons: first, the pastor gave us permission, saying he was very concerned about his denomination; and second, Dr. Wood’s e-mail to the AG pastor brings further clarification to his earlier public statements.
The following is Dr. Wood’s e-mail to an AG pastor. This is an extract that includes all parts pertaining to the issue at hand. We have removed a few personal comments:
The group of women who invited Ruth Barton is the Credentialed Women In Ministry, not the Women’s Ministry Department. The task force for our Credentialed Women in Ministry is led by a volunteer, Dr. Jodi Detrick. You have noted her prior response to Lighthouse Trails (LT). I gave direction to not respond to further LT posts.
I have looked at what LT has said. I have also read Ruth Barton’s book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Ministry. Quite honestly, it is one of the best books I’ve ever ready on breaking away from the busy-ness of ministry to seek the presence of God. She uses the life of Moses as a template for how we need to desire the Presence of the Lord above all else. I encourage you to read it and judge for yourself. I also note that Ruth Barton’s books are published by InterVarsity Press, a solid evangelical publisher. . . .
Barton talks about how Moses, despite the heavy responsibilities he bore, treasured most his fellowship with God, his taking time to listen to God. Near the end of her book, she talks about how we often think it unfair that for one rash act of striking the rock twice, Moses was told by God he could not enter the Promised Land. However, this is the same Moses who wanted to see God face to face, and instead God said, “You can only see the back of me.” In denying Moses entry into Canaan, Barton pointed out a fact I had not thought of – Moses’ great desire in his life was to see God face to face, so in denying him entry into the Promised Land God responded to a deeper yearning within Moses. Instead of giving him the Promised Land, God let Moses come into the Promised Presence. That one insight was so helpful to me in ministering to [a] dying friend. And, it helps me in my life with all the responsibilities of this office to make sure I keep my attention and focus on His Presence more than I do all the things that belong to my present duties.
As I read books, I find that usually I don’t agree 100% with everything an author has said; but I take the one or few things I don’t agree with and measure it against the vast amount of profit I gain from the insights of the author. If people are looking for something to pick at, they can always find it.
Basically it boils down to this: I trust the people I know and whose ministry I know. I don’t hold equal weight with people I don’t know. I don’t know LT. They are not in our Fellowship. But, I do know the women who serve on our task force for Credentialed Women in Ministry. They are women of God and have proven fruitfulness in ministry. They invited Ruth Barton and I trust their spiritual discernment and judgment.
Finally, the Credentialed Women in Ministry event at General Council is not a main session. It is their separate event. I believe the credentialed women in our Fellowship who attend also will have sufficient discernment as to whether the ministry of Ruth Barton is beneficial to them or not. If she ministers along the themes of the book I mentioned above, then there will be real profit for those who come. The event is not for lay women, but for credentialed women. Possibly some minister’s wives will attend as well.
The first thing we want to clarify is this: We understand Dr. Wood is a man who is in a position of high leadership. It is not our intention to put ourselves above Dr. Wood nor is it our intention to humiliate or embarrass anyone. We are attempting to present our material in an attitude of humility and godliness, and we do not mean for this to be a show of disrespect by any means.
That said, our hearts are greatly troubled by Dr. Wood’s apparent unwillingness to openly address the evidence we have presented. The fact is, in each of his statements so far, he has not brought up the issue at hand at all. He does not even try to refute it, almost as if he doesn’t believe it, or believes that it is completely irrelevant.
As to the suggestion that he made that he would not listen to Lighthouse Trails because he does not know us, this is not a valid argument. It would be like this scenario: a neighbor you have never met comes running over to your house, crying out that a nearby dam is reported to have been breached and you must evacuate. But you say to yourself, I don’t know that neighbor, and I don’t like the way he approached me. So you go back in your house, and you close your door. In other words, if someone has documentation, even though it may at first sound implausible, one has an obligation to check it out and see if it is valid.
In addition to the points of evidence we have presented on our previous statements about this situation (see links below), we have the following to add. We pray that Dr. Wood and other Assemblies of God pastors and leaders would consider these things.
As we pointed out earlier, by Ruth Barton’s own admission, her spirituality was shaped by Thomas Keating. To show why this is so significant, and where it can lead, another individual who was spiritually shaped by Thomas Keating was Catholic monk and interspiritual activist Wayne Teasdale. (Teasdale writes about it in his book, The Mystic Heart). Of Keating, he states:
I owe so much to so many people everywhere, particularly those who have influenced my spiritual growth [and then he names Thomas Keating – p. xxi].
Eastern meditation has inspired Christian forms of contemplation like Thomas Keating’s Centering Prayer (p. 32).
[M]onastics have carried the primary responsibility for this significant, mystical interfaith work. They have deeply assimilated Hinduism, Zen, Taoism and other forms of Buddhism, notably the Theravadan and Tibetan traditions. Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating, both Trappists, are two leading figures in this development (p. 39).
Few have contributed more to interspirituality in our time than Keating (p. 41).
The point here, which is really quite obvious, is that Teasdale saw contemplative Christianity as being aligned with Eastern meditation, and he recognized that Thomas Keating had the same goals. Teasdale also acknowledged Keating’s contribution to his own spiritual “growth.” And so does Ruth Haley Barton. This is absolutely a point that cannot be overlooked or ignored.
To emphasize the spiritual infrastructure of Teasdale’s (and Keating’s) spirituality, listen to what Teasdale has to say in The Mystic Heart:
* It was during my college years that my first mystical experiences occurred. . . . The divine completely took me over. . . . I couldn’t think, analyze, remember, imagine, or speak (p. 225).
* For many years I have been intensely aware of the divine as a breathing presence that surrounds me, is within me, and takes me into itself. . . . Whenever I am aware of it, there is no mistaking it for something else. I immediately know who it is (p. 226).
* I began to appreciate and value other traditions. I discovered that Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Sufism, the Kabbalah, Hasidism did not take me away from my faith, but augmented my deep commitment to Christian contemplation. I became impassioned in my interest in these traditions (emphasis added, p. 236).
* Interspirituality, and the intermystical life it entails, recognizes the larger community of humankind in the mystical quest. . . . To leave out any spiritual experience is to impoverish humanity. Everything must be included (p. 236).
What Teasdale is describing here is the effect that happens to virtually every leader of the contemplative prayer movement (e.g., Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Richard Rohr, etc.). You usually won’t hear such blatant statements by the contemplatives in the evangelical camp (e.g., Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Brennan Manning, and Ruth Haley Barton), but they betray any sense of opposition by their sympathy, promotion, endorsement, and referencing of these panentheistic teachers.
On Ruth Barton’s website, she gives a disclaimer that she does not agree with everything her mysticism teachers taught her. So, what did she take from them? That is very clear – meditation. And like her evangelical kindred companions in the contemplative prayer movement (Foster, Willard, etc.) , they say contemplative meditation is different than Eastern or New Age meditation. We addressed this in our last report with overwhelming evidence that the realm entered during contemplative meditation is the same as the realm entered during New Age and Eastern meditation (i.e., an occultic presence is the result, not the presence of God).
Here is the controversy: These interspiritual mystics (Teasdale, Keating, Tilden Edwards, etc.) do not adhere to the biblical tenet that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. They believe that all religions can lead to God. So how can we take something from them that will improve or enhance our Christianity, give us more intimacy with God, or bring us into His presence when the very essence of Christianity (i.e., Jesus Christ is the only Savior of mankind and one must believe on Him to be saved) is rejected by these teachers? The Christ they worship is the cosmic Christ (i.e., the divine in all things). And this fundamentally negates the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
In Sacred Rhythms, Ruth Barton says that “all of us are in God” (p. 409). Barton does not specify between all Christian believers who are in God and all humanity. If Barton means all of humanity is with God, she would be right in line with all of the leaders she quotes in the contemplative prayer movement. One of the things that causes us to believe this could be the case is that on that same page she says this, she has a quote by contemplative teacher Basil Pennington who believes that the soul of all humanity is the Holy Spirit (Centered Living, p. 104).
Based on her affinity with all these writers, at some point Barton began to embrace and absorb their views to the degree that she quotes from them and acknowledges that she has grown spiritually from them.
If we want to understand where contemplative spirituality will lead someone, all we have to do is look at Sue Monk Kidd. She was once a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher. She started reading Thomas Merton and doing what Barton refers to as “simple prayers.” After she had practiced contemplative prayer for a while, listen to what happened to Monk Kidd in her own words:
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. (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 76).
This is not the presence of God giving Sue Monk Kidd a “current” that her skin “vibrated with.” With the Holy Spirit, the result would be the opposite of what happened to her. The Holy Spirit would lead someone to cling to God’s Word, not repel it. Even still, Richard Foster used Monk Kidd as a favorable example in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home as someone who uses contemplative prayer (along with Thomas Merton and Basil Pennington).
What we are trying to get across here is that the entire contemplative movement is spiritually corrupt – its roots and its adherents. When you examine this, you have to come to the conclusion that this is not a Christian movement. Some contemplative proponents say they are merely taking back what was hijacked by the New Age or Eastern religion, but that is preposterous, and there is no evidence in Scripture to back up the idea that a mantra-type meditation is either needed or required in order to be in the presence of God. When we are born again, we are inhabited by God’s Spirit. Being born again through faith in Jesus Christ is both a prerequisite and a guarantee that we are in His presence and have fellowship with God. There is no esoteric path into the presence of God! When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He warned against praying “vain repetitions as the heathen do” (Matthew 6:7), but the contemplatives teach the opposite of Jesus’ warnings to their own hurt and the hurt of the many who follow them.
Ray Yungen, the author of A Time of Departing, has been examining this issue for nearly thirty years now. It was he who brought this to the attention of Lighthouse Trails 11 years ago. Yungen began to see the connection between contemplative spirituality and Eastern mysticism when he was introduced to the teachings of Richard Foster and learned that Foster was a disciple of Thomas Merton. It was Merton who said he was “deeply impregnated with Sufism”* (Islamic mysticism). Is it possible that a good Christian can be indwelled by the same spirit as Muslim mystics who reject the Gospel, which is the foundation for biblical Christianity.
In order for the Assemblies of God leadership to neutralize our objections, they would have to explain a way our evidence. Keep in mind that basically all of our evidence springs from people who are promoters and practitioners of contemplative prayer. None of the evidence comes from those who are hostile toward it. So we are presenting first-hand documentation that is not taken out of the context in which the writers say it.
If this warning is ignored and Ruth Haley Barton is allowed to speak at the upcoming General Council conference of the Assemblies of God, we would suggest that people ask her what she thinks of Thomas Merton. Most likely, she will say she doesn’t agree with everything he wrote, but generally he has a lot to teach us (like Richard Foster, who once told Ray Yungen that Merton was trying to awaken God’s people). But the very thing that Merton has to teach us (or awaken us to) is the very thing that caused him to be heretical. What he has to teach us is how to enter the silence, but it is an ungodly silence.
In this latest response from Dr. George Wood, he says that Ruth Barton’s book, Strengthening the Soul of Your Ministry, is the best book he has ever read on entering the presence of God. And yet, the majority of people Barton quotes or references in the book have the theological perspective that dovetails with Eastern religion -Teresa of Avila, Gerald May, Parker Palmer, Buddhist sympathizer Peter Senge, Richard Rohr – quoted twice, atonement rejector Alan Jones, Elizabeth Dryer, Tilden Edwards, Wayne Muller, Thomas Merton, Rosemary Dougherty, and Henri Nouwen. This book that Dr. Wood speaks so highly of is a who’s who of outright mystics.
There may have been a time in some of these people’s lives when they would have rejected or ignored Eastern religious thought and meditation, but at some point, they allowed themselves to be lured into meditative practices and the “presence” those practices bring with them rather than relying on a relationship with Jesus Christ that is genuine through the Word of God and sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
In 1992, Newsweek magazine did a cover story called “Talking to God,” which made a clear reference to contemplative prayer:
[S]ilence, appropriate body posture and, above all, emptying the mind through repetition of prayer—have been the practices of mystics in all the great world religions. And they form the basis on which most modern spiritual directors guide those who want to draw closer to God.
Ruth Haley Barton has often talked about a time in her life a number of years ago when she was feeling empty and far from God. She said she had exhausted all her Protestant avenues of help and turned to a non-Protestant spiritual director (suggesting that she probably turned to someone in the Catholic church). This is what led Barton to embrace the kind of drawing closer to God of which the Newsweek article speaks.
It is worth noting that the Newsweek article said that most mainstream denominations (e.g., United Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran) and Catholic groups had now embraced mystical prayer. But today, it is becoming widespread in the traditional evangelical camp as well.
Ray Yungen makes this observation:
It is amazing to me how Newsweek clearly observed this shift in the spiritual paradigm over [twenty] years ago, while many Christians (including most prominent leaders) still live in abject ignorance of this change. Are the teachings of the practical Christian mystic actually being assimilated so well that even our pastors are not discerning this shift?
Dr. Wood, for the sake of the 65 million members worldwide in the Assemblies of God, it is not good to ignore the evidence if you think you can refute it.
* As quoted in Merton and Sufism by Baker and Henry, p. 69, citing Merton speaking at a women’s retreat at the Gethsemani monastery in Kentucky in 1968 (the year of his death).
Three weeks ago, just a little more than a week after Lighthouse Trails posted its first article on April 15th regarding the situation with Assemblies of God inviting contemplative activist Ruth Haley Barton to speak at their 2013 General Council conference, AOG General Superintendent George Wood made a video while in Israel. This video clearly appears to be a response to the issue (he was in Israel from April 11-23) and is being brushed aside by the leader of the Assemblies of God as “criticism” of minor doctrinal issues from people on the Internet. We will let the video speak for itself. You may see our coverage links below the video. Since creating this video, we hope that Dr. Wood has had a chance to read our May 13th article showing the evidence that the contemplative issue is no minor doctrinal issue. If you cannot see the video below, click here: http://player.vimeo.com/video/64909891.