Posts Tagged ‘Interspirituality’

Mysticism Takes the Place of Christianity – Hostility Against Believers Will Grow

This week, two items on the Internet were brought to our attention, both of which may seem to be unrelated to each other but in actuality have a connection that we find to be an eerie reminder of the days in which we live.

The first item is a Tweet written earlier this week by Lynne Hybels (wife of the mega church founder of Willow Creek, Bill Hybels). The Tweet stated:

Lynne Hybels (photo taken from http://www.evangelicalsforsocialaction.org/reconciliation-and-dialogue/beyond-balance-taking-sides-with-palestinian-and-israeli-peacemakers/)

As many of you may know, Lynne Hybels is part of the emergent church and someone who has proven herself to be against the nation of Israel. If someone were to ask us what are two of the main characteristics of the emerging church, we would say mysticism and an anti-Israel sentiment. It is interesting to note that Hybels says she lost the Christianity of her youth 25 years ago – that would mean she left her old Christianity around 1991, about 16 years after her husband started Willow Creek Church. What did she exchange Christianity for?—Contemplative mysticism, a spirituality that has its roots in panentheism and interspirituality. While Lynne Hybels speaks of being affected by the brokenness of the world, she doesn’t understand that the very spirituality she has embraced is actually a New Age spirituality that rejects Christ as Savior and whose “God” is not a compassionate god that cares for “the brokenness of the world.” This New Age god believes that Hitler did the Jews a favor by killing them as you can see in the quotes below taken from Neale Donald Walsch’s Conversations With God:

The real issue is whether Hitler’s actions were “wrong.” Yet I have said over and over again that there is no “right” or “wrong” in the universe. A thing is not intrinsically right or wrong. A thing simply is.

Now your thought that Hitler was a monster is based on the fact that he ordered the killing of millions of people, correct? . . . Yet what if I told you that what you call “death” is the greatest thing that could happen to anyone—what then?

So the first thing you have to understand—as I’ve already explained to you—is that Hitler didn’t hurt anyone. In a sense, he didn’t inflict suffering, he ended it.

The mistakes Hitler made did no harm or damage to those whose deaths he caused. Those souls were released from their earthly bondage, like butterflies emerging from a cocoon. (These quotes are extracted from one of Warren B. Smith’s booklets where you can get the original sources.)

The New Age god also says that those who oppose this interspiritual New Age, mystical belief system are like a cancer that needs to be excised out of the Earth. The following excerpt from an article one of our editors wrote in 2015 explains:

[A] chapter in Revelation . . . says, “And in her was found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth” (Revelation 18:24). May I point out once again that mysticism (or occultism) connects one with a spirit world inhabited by demons posing to be angels of light. The occultist Alice Bailey, under the influence of her spirit guides, predicted that while New Age style meditation will be promoted and propelled by the apostate Christian church, Christians who will not forsake the fundamentals of the faith will be seen as being in the way of bringing in this Age of enlightenment–an age of peace where everyone sees his or her own divinity and oneness with all things. New Age leader Barbara Marx Hubbard suggests that these resisters of the new world/new reformation will be like a cancer that needs to be excised out of the earth. She calls this elimination the “Selection Process.”1 Now I ask, what can be more hypocritical and diabolical than to think that the annihilation of godly people will bring about peace?

This brings us to the second item that was brought to our attention this week—a review written on the Lighthouse Trails Facebook page. The review was written a couple months ago, but we did not see it until this week. The review states:

From what I’ve read you [Lighthouse Trails] twist what people of faith say and believe! You also do what many others do and that is take the scriptures and make them say what you believe or want them to say to back up your presuppositions! I believe you are dangerous to the gospel and will severely weaken anyone who listens to you! When I think of you I think that freedom of speech for you and yours should be revoked for the safety of the people! I cannot bid you farewell because I believe with everything in me that you are a new disease that needs to be wiped out! Thank God you’re in America the land of the free! (Michael)

We find the connection in these two different posts (Hybels and Michael) lies in the hostility toward Christians that is represented in both. In Hybel’s Twitter post, she is trying to show a distinction between traditional Christianity (what she grew up with) and what she considers a better more advanced and compassionate belief system that she now embraces. In other words, the old Christianity had nothing to offer her and in fact, had no compassion. Our reviewer, Michael, has taken his anger toward Lighthouse Trails (representing traditional, biblical Christianity) to the point of saying we are a disease (cancer?) that should be wiped out.

If you are a Bible-believing, born again Christian, then you will understand that there has been hostility toward believers since the inception of the church. All but one of the disciples were murdered for their faith as have been countless other believers over the last two thousand years. What is it that the world hates about true Christians? What is our crime against humanity? We love the Lord Jesus Christ, we believe He died for the sins of mankind and offers salvation for those who put their trust in Him, we believe He gave us the Bible as His Word to us, and we truly care about the souls of men and where they will spend eternity. And yet, the world rejects us, and the hostility toward us will only increase. And the fast-growing use of mystical practices will expedite those hostilities because the source of those practices is against Christ and His people.

Related Information:

The Unacknowledged War and the Wearing Down of the Saints

How to Prepare for Hard Times and Persecution

Unity in an Anti-Christian World?

Brian McLaren Wants End Time Believing Christians Robustly Confronted

(2006) Purpose Driven Resisters – Must Leave or Die

Christian University Graduate Agrees—Celebration of Discipline/Richard Foster Bypass the Cross—As CoD Soon Celebrates 40-Year Anniversary!

40th Anniversary edition of Celebration of Discipline to be released in 2018, which is the 40th anniversary of CoD.

Just as Lighthouse Trails was about to issue a post this week about Celebration of Discipline’s (by Richard Foster) 40-year anniversary announcement (that we received by e-mail this month), we received the following e-mail from a Christian university graduate:

Three years ago this past September, I began my studies at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario. Right away, for one class, we were asked to study one author in particular whom I had never heard of, Richard Foster and his book Celebration of Discipline. I went online to do research and came across your website, and found your analysis of Foster to be spot on. As I read Foster, I realized he had completely bypassed the role of the Cross in bringing man into relationship with God, and instead substituted what he calls the “spiritual disciplines.” This is of course heresy.

For nearly sixteen years, Lighthouse Trails has tirelessly tried to warn the church about contemplative spirituality and how it entered the church in the first place largely through Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline.

The following is a repost of a prior article we wrote about Celebration of Discipline. It would be a good idea to ask your own pastor if he has ever read Celebration of Discipline and if he has, what does he think. And if he has not read the refutation A Time of Departing and is willing to do so, Lighthouse Trails will gladly send him a complimentary copy of it.

First published in 1978, Celebration of Discipline has had a massive influence on today’s Christianity. Unfortunately, the influence has helped to saturate the church with mystical contemplative prayer and the New Age. Most likely, your pastor has a copy of this book sitting on his library shelves. He may even have it sitting on his desk for easy reach and reference. Richard Foster, a Quaker and the founder of an organization called Renovare (meaning renewal), wrote the book, and even he may have had no idea the impact this book would have. But decades later, it is still being read, and in fact, Christian leaders and organizations continue promoting the book.

Foster said in the book, that we “should all without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer” (p. 13, 1978 ed.). In other books and writings of Foster’s, he makes it very clear that this “contemplative prayer” is the eastern-style mantra meditation to which mystic monk Thomas Merton adhered. In fact, Richard Foster once told Ray Yungen (author of A Time of Departing) that “Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people” (at a conference in Salem, OR in the 90s).

Thomas Merton, who said he was “impregnated with Sufism” (Merton and Sufism, p. 69) and wanted to “become as good a Buddhist” as he could be (David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West”), believed that “God’s people” lacked one thing—mysticism, and this is to what they needed “awakening.” Of Merton, Foster says: “Thomas Merton has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.” (Spiritual Classics, p. 17) And yet, Thomas Merton once told New Age Episcopal priest Matthew Fox that he felt sorry for the hippies in the 60s who were dropping LSD because all they had to do was practice the mystical (contemplative) stream to achieve the same results. (Interview) We couldn’t agree with him more. Both altered states are the same, but we differ from Merton and Foster in conclusions outcome—we know neither leads to God.

Listed under “excellent books on spirituality,” in some editions of Celebration of Discipline, Foster says of panentheist Tilden Edwards’ book Spiritual Friend that it helps “clear away the confusion and invites us to see that we do not have to live the spiritual life in isolation.” And yet, Tilden Edwards, founder of the “Christian”/Buddhist Shalem Institute in Washington, DC, said that contemplative spirituality was the “Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality”(Spiritual Friend, p. 18). On the Shalem Institute website you can find numerous quotes, references, articles, and recommendations to panentheism, universalism, interspirituality, New Age, and Eastern thought.

In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster tells us “we must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation” (COD, p.13.) He goes on to say that the “masters of meditation beckon us.” Just prior to that remark, he quotes Carl Jung and Thomas Merton.

Celebration of Discipline has helped to pave the way for Thomas Merton’s panentheistic belief system. It has opened the door for other Christian authors, speakers, and pastors to bring contemplative spirituality into the lives of millions of people. The late Henri Nouwen, a popular contemplative who also followed the teachings of Thomas Merton, made a telling statement towards the end of his life:

I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God (emphasis added – Sabbatical Journey, p. 51).

Essentially, the fruit of years of practicing mysticism by Nouwen was a departure from believing the Cross was the only way to salvation. This is the fruit of contemplative spirituality.

Today, countless ministers and ministries are promoting and endorsing Celebration of Discipline. If they really knew what Foster’s “celebration” was all about, we think many of them would race away from the teachings of Thomas Merton and Richard Foster and back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Note: If your pastor or someone you know has a copy of Celebration of Discipline or quotes Richard Foster, be sure and give him a copy of Ray Yungen’s new booklet A Serious Look at Richard Foster’s “School” of Contemplative Prayer. Also, want to know what Spiritual Formation is (and its dangers), read this: Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t

Quotes by Richard Foster:

“Spend some time this week listening to contemplative music designed to quiet you, settle you, deepen you. (Compact discs and tapes from the Taize community, John Michael Talbot, and the Monks of Weston Priory are especially helpful).” Renovare’s Perspective Newsletter

“We now come to the ultimate stage of Christian experience. Divine Union…. Contemplatives sometimes speak of their union with God by the analogy of a log in a fire: the glowing log is so united with the fire that it is fire.” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 159)

“Christians . . .  have developed two fundamental expressions of Unceasing Prayer. The first . . .  is usually called aspiratory prayer or breath prayer. The most famous of the breath prayers is the Jesus Prayer. It is also possible to discover your own individual breath prayer. . . . Begin praying your breath prayer as often as possible.” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 122) [LT Note: Remember, Rick Warren promoted breath prayers in The Purpose Driven Life.]

Brian McLaren, You Have Missed the Boat With Your “All-Inclusive Reformation”—Homosexuals and Feminists: Yes; The Bible and White Christian Men: No

As groups around the world celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation with highly ecumenical events and speeches, Brian McLaren, once likened to Luther,1 has outlined his view of what the next reformation will look like in an article he wrote on November 1, 2017 titled, “The Last Reformation … and the Next Reformation.”  A disgruntled former evangelical Christian, McLaren says that the first reformation was led by white European men whose belief of an inerrant Bible was “papal authority with paper authority.” In contrast, McLaren says the next reformation will be much different:

The last reformation is associated with one “great man”–Martin Luther. He was joined by other “great men” – all white and European. The next reformation will be associated not with one “great man” but with many diverse people–especially women and people of color. The contribution of Liberation Theology, Black Theology, Feminist/Eco-Feminist/Womanist/Queer and related theologies will be as central to the next reformation as white European theology was to the last reformation.2

Photo: a 2-second clip from a YouTube video of Brian McLaren (2014); used in accordance with the US Fair Use Act. (source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfL76BnO3g0)

This, of course, is what McLaren has been hoping would occur for a very long time.

McLaren’s public beginnings on this emergent “progressive” anti-Christianity path began back in the late 90s when men Bob Buford, Peter Drucker, Rick Warren, and Bill Hybels put their heads together and came up with a way to raise up a group of young men, get them into the lime light, and bring the new spirituality into the church through them. They succeeded, and most don’t even realize they were the initial driving force. What brilliance! If you have never read about this time period, it’s worth doing so. We’ve put together a PDF of chapter 2 of Roger Oakland’s book Faith Undone, which describes the early days of the emerging church and McLaren’s role in that.

Rick Warren has his own ideas and hopes for a new reformation. He’s been talking about it for years. The following quotes illustrate some similarities between Brian McLaren’s new reformation and Rick Warren’s:

Who’s the man of peace in any village—or it might be a woman of peace—who has the most respect, they’re open and they’re influential? They don’t have to be a Christian. In fact, they could be a Muslim, but they’re open and they’re influential and you work with them to attack the five giants. And that’s going to bring the second Reformation.3

Warren predicts that fundamentalism, of all varieties, will be “one of the big enemies of the 21st century.” “Muslim fundamentalism, Christian fundamentalism, Jewish fundamentalism, secular fundamentalism – they’re all motivated by fear. Fear of each other.”4

Today there really aren’t that many Fundamentalists left; I don’t know if you know that or not, but they are such a minority; there aren’t that many Fundamentalists left in America … Now the word “fundamentalist” actually comes from a document in the 1920s called the Five Fundamentals of the Faith. And it is a very legalistic, narrow view of Christianity.5

As for Brian McLaren, he is convinced that it is white European Christian men who are the source of corruption in the church, and even in the world. In his article, he uses the term “white Christian supremacy” to refer to white Christian men saying they “naturally led” the “genocide” of the Holocaust and the nuclear war. He believes if there can just be a reformation that is made of everyone else (no matter what their beliefs are), then we will have a truly pure reformation that will change the entire world and make “Christianity” what it should be. But, like other emergent teachers, McLaren threw out the Bible as the actual Word of God, and in so doing, has embraced and clung for dear life to ideologies that try to explain why there is evil in the world. The only thing McLaren can come up with is it must be white Christian European males. McLaren has become so deceived in his rejection of biblical truth that he actually believes this, and with a passion. He rejects Christianity now because he believes it is a “white man’s religion.” He cannot see that man’s heart is sinful and full of deceit, and it has nothing to do with color or status. While we know there have been great atrocities and abuses done at the hands of white men, there have also been great atrocities and abuses done at the hands of non-white men. McLaren believes the problems and sufferings of this world are because men of one color – white – are more wicked than any other race of people. Tragically, many will believe his new reformation theology and will turn against the God of the Bible altogether and join forces with an all-inclusive god of this world. That god, however, cannot save one single soul. He cannot give lasting peace, and he cannot give eternal life. McLaren hates the fact that the Jesus Christ of the Bible says, “no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6) and “narrow is the way” that leads to life (Matthew 7:14).

The reformation leaders from over 500 years ago tried to separate themselves from what they saw as a false corrupted Christianity (Roman Catholicism). And that was a good thing. Many of them paid a high price to stand for truth; for many, even their lives. But there were groups that formed after the reformation that created their own forms of “Christianity,” and many of those groups became corrupt as well. But that is not the church (the body of Christ). The church is made up of people, starting with the very first Christians described in the New Testament, who name the name of Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, who become born again through His Spirit, and who have the mind of Christ because they are born again in Him. While some of them may belong to different groups and denominations, they know in their hearts that their first allegiance is to God. This body of Christ has been in existence since the beginning of the church after Jesus Christ was crucified and rose from the dead. It consists of both men and women, rich and poor, and of many different skin colors and from many different nations. Those distinctions merely describe the outer shell of these believers. The important distinction that separates them from the entire world is that they are sealed through the Holy Spirit in Christ (Ephesians 1:13; Ephesians 4:30). They have been translated from the kingdom of darkness (sin) into the kingdom of light (Jesus Christ) (Colossians 1:13). Because they have the Spirit of God living in them, they do not hate, they do not despise someone because of the color of his skin, and they pray for the lost knowing that God loves them and wishes for all to come to repentance and the knowledge of Him; and while they may attend various denominations, they first are Christians, born again and sanctified through Jesus Christ. Though not perfect by any means and can succumb to their flesh and sin, they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who convicts them of sin, gives them power from on high to walk righteously, and cleanses them from all sin. After reading this article by Brian McLaren, we must seriously doubt that he has ever seen or entered this Kingdom of Jesus Christ (who said, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

Tragically, Brian McLaren and those like him have missed the boat and are sinking in a mire of lostness, always seeking, but never finding, and taking anyone with them who will follow. Equally tragic are the many Christian leaders and pastors who somewhere along the line jumped into that quagmire of deception because they were tempted by that evil one who offered them popularity, wealth, and lust in exchange for a truth and discipleship that costs dearly.

Brian McLaren, truth isn’t about white men or black men. Yes, there are racists, and people of color have often been victim to them. But that is because of sin, sin in the hearts of men who became cold, callous, and wicked from the hardness of their hearts. But you Brian McLaren have chosen to walk on a path that is also cold, callous, and wicked. You have been kept from truth because your eyes have been on this world rather than on an invisible world that is far above anything you can imagine. You think your neo-political, anti-Christian, pro-gay, environmental, anti-Bible rhetoric is going to save the world. You are wrong, dear sir. Truth does not lie on the path you are venturing on. Nor does it lie in any man-made institution. It is found in the pages of a book that God gave us, along with His Spirit, to show us the way to One Man Who has invited all to come unto Him and believe on Him. You think that your “progressive” relevant, emergent talk is so far above those who simply believe in a simple Gospel. You have swung to the other side of the pendulum, and you are just as off as those on the opposite side.

Endnotes:

  1. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=3665.
  2. Brian McLaren, “The Last Reformation  . . . and the Next Reformation” (Patheos, November 1, 2017, http://www.patheos.com/blogs/brianmclaren/2017/11/last-reformation-next-reformation/#o77FxR1O0HGLI2ws.99)
  3. Rick Warren quoted in “Myths of the Modern Megachurch” (Pew Forum on Religion, 2005, http://www.pewforum.org/2005/05/23/myths-of-the-modern-megachurch/).
  4. Rick Warren quoted in “The Purpose Driven Pastor” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 2006, http://web.archive.org/web/20060116060443/http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/living/religion/13573441.htm)
  5. Rick Warren speaking at the Pew Forum on Religion, 2005, http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/pewreligion.htm).

 

 

 

“Rick Warren, Calif. Bishop Hail Unity as Model for Evangelicals and Catholics to Follow”

LTRP Note: The following is posted for informational and research purposes and not as an endorsement of the source or the content.

“[Rick] Warren noted that union between the two traditions [Catholic and Protestant] can open the eyes of nonbelievers as well.”

“A Pew Research Center survey, released last month during the 500th anniversary year of the Reformation, showed that Catholics and Protestants today are not as divided on theological issues as they were centuries ago.”

2-second still shot from YouTube video of Bishop Vann and Rick Warren – September 2017; used in accordance with the US Fair Use Act.

By Stoyan Zaimov
The Christian Post

Megachurch pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church and California Roman Catholic Bishop Kevin Vann recently opened up about their years-long friendship and cooperation as a model for evangelicals and Catholics around the world to follow.

Crux Now shared an interview on Thursday, which was conducted by Pia de Solenni, a lay Catholic theologian and chancellor of the Orange County diocese, where Vann explained that his friendship with Warren began five years ago when they met at his installation.

“In the months and years that followed, I discovered the blessing of sharing the concerns of ministry with Rick, talking about our homilies and what we were both studying, and praying together. Our relationship has also been blessed to include Kay, his wife,” Vann explained.

“Also, Rick’s staff at Saddleback and our staff at the Diocese began to get to know each other through various meetings, sharing not only our common love for the Lord, but also our love for the Church, fellowship, and praying together.” Click here to continue reading.

Related Information:

 Rick Warren’s Dangerous Ecumenical Pathway to Rome And How One Interview Revealed So Much

RNS: UK’s Biggest Christian Festival to Showcase Islam

Attendees gather during the 2016 Greenbelt Festival at Boughton House in Northamptonshire, England. Photo courtesy of Greenbelt Festival

By Catherine Pepinster
Religion News Service

LONDON (RNS) — Greenbelt, the biggest Christian festival in the United Kingdom, will feature Muslim worship for the first time this year.
The decision by organizers of the annual festival — which began more than 40 years ago as a gathering that drew about 1,500 young people — has stirred some controversy, according to organizers.

Now Greenbelt draws a much larger crowd of about 20,000 over the August Bank Holiday weekend, Aug. 25-28, and offers not only music but also theological discussion and opportunities to work on social justice issues. While it sprung from evangelical Christians, in recent years Greenbelt  has expanded to include a much wider range of participants, including an occasional Muslim speaker. Click here to continue reading.

Related Reading

Chrislam – The Blending Together of Islam & Christianity by Mike Oppenheimer

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

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

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

Priscilla Shirer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jan Johnson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

Letter to the Editor: Obama and World Leaders Ringing in Reformation Summer 2017 in Germany

To Lighthouse Trails:

Obama, Chancellor [of Germany] Angela Merkel, and Melinda Gates [Bill Gates’ wife]  all attended and spoke at the Protestant assembly in Germany, Kirchentag, which rings in the beginning of Reformation Summer 2017. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, two additional Imams, a number of rabbis, and a Jewish author spoke as well. Reformation Summer 2017, which Kirchentag is ringing in, is a celebration and commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation in Germany and Europe, and it is ecumenical. (https://r2017.org/en) German Protestant Kirchentag is an ecumenical and interfaith event, despite its name.

Article: “Obama and Makgoba to visit Germany for 500th Reformation anniversary”
“On 25 May the former U.S. President and Chancellor Angela Merkel will engage in a conversation on the topic of “Being Involved in Democracy: Taking on Responsibility Locally and Globally”. Kirchentag President Christina Aus der Au and Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm, EKD Council chair, will moderate the discussion at the Brandenburg Gate. The event is being jointly sponsored and planned by the Kirchentag and the Obama Foundation.

Heinrich Bedford-Strohm invited President Obama in May 2016 to visit Germany for the Reformation anniversary. Bedford-Strohm: “President Barack Obama’s attending the Kirchentag in Berlin, which will ring in the Reformation Summer, underlines the international character of our 500th anniversary celebrations. The churches form a global civil society network of over two billion Christians. Together, as people of faith, we live from the firm hope for a better world. Anyone who is pious also has to be politically minded. I am looking forward to enthusiastic debates during the Reformation Summer 2017.”

Christina Aus der Au is also delighted about the two prominent participants in the Kirchentag. “The United States is strongly marked by the Reformation and its historical impact. At the same time, the Protestant churches and communities there have developed in their own way. President Obama and Chancellor Merkel have said that their dedication as politicians is also an expression of their Christian faith. The Kirchentag movement lives from people who work for justice and solidarity on the basis of their faith. It will be really interesting to hear what the two of them say to us Christians in Europe.” https://www.kirchentag.de/english/programme/obama_and_makgoba.html

Article: “The Kirchentag church festival – the highpoint of the Reformation anniversary year”
“From 24 to 28 May 2017, under the banner ‘You see me’, you are encouraged to open your eyes to your fellow man and look more deeply into everyday life.”
“The Kirchentag is not just for Protestants, of course. People of all faiths and nationalities are very much welcome to attend and to play their part, and wherever possible the festival programme has been made barrier-free.”

“Take the opportunity to discuss topics like peace, tolerance and diversity with your fellow man.
https://www.germany.travel/en/news/the-kirchentag-church-festival-the-highpoint-of-the-reformation-anniversary-year-229825.html

Article: “Obama in Berlin for landmark church assembly”
“Former US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in front of tens of thousands of people before the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin on Thursday to discuss God, faith and the state of the world.”

“Former US president warned of succumbing to nationalism and a closed world – an apparent reference to US President Donald Trump.”

“In this new world we live in, we can’t isolate ourselves, we can’t hide behind a wall,” he said before the gate that once separated East and West Berlin.”

“Those attending include Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba, Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque Sheik Ahmed el-Tayyib, philanthropist Melinda Gates, German singer and songwriter Max Giesinger, German climate change researcher Ottmar Edenhofer, UN envoy Staffan de Mistura and Israeli author Amos Oz.”  http://www.dw.com/en/obama-in-berlin-for-landmark-church-assembly/a-38961665

Theme of Kirchentag: “You See Me”
“The 36th German Protestant Kirchentag in Berlin and Wittenberg has the theme “You see me” from Genesis chapter 16, verse 13.” “General secretary Ellen Ueberschär points out: “Seeing starts relationships, not only with God but also in the co-existence of all humans. Being looked at by God is the foundation of man’s dignity as a creation of God. The story of Hagar that the topic stems from is referenced both in the New Testament and in the Hadiths, the collection of Muhammad’s sayings. ‘You see me’ is a sentence that expresses recognition, appreciation and attention beyond its biblical context.”

“I wish for a Kirchentag full of awareness: aware of people without regard, in a city where rich and poor are far apart; aware also of those who don’t believe in God or believe differently, here in Germany’s East and in a city full of cultural and ideological contrast; aware and alert for a church that changes because it needs to change.”

– Under full list of topics, here are some listed:
“New start towards the future common good
Ecumenical service on Ascension Day
Spiritual Centre
Centre on the Church of the Future
Centre Barrier free Kirchentag
Theme day on Reforming the ecumenical movement – thinking Reformation ecumenically
Theme day on What is mission? Having faith in a pluralist world
Long night of the religions during the Kirchentag
Centre on Jews and Christians
Centre on Muslims and Christians
Theme day: Interreligious-theological women’s base faculty
Panel series on Peace
Panel series on Sustainable development goals – Germany, a developing country
Panel series on Consequences of climate change (in Potsdam)
Centre for Reformation and Transformation – Ecumenical Perspectives (English-speaking)”
https://www.kirchentag.de/english/programme/theme_topics.html

Programme for Kirchentag Webpage:
“Bible studies or large concerts, Taizé worship or socio-political panel discussions – the events are as varied as its visitors.”
https://www.kirchentag.de/english/programme/programme_book.html

PDF File of Complete Programme:
Some of the topics from this programme are:
Ecumenical Opening Service
The Long Road to Women’s Ordination
Feminists in All Religions
Unite! Strategies against Fundamentalism
Climate Impact and Poverty
Reformation anniversary as “Christusfest?”
In Search of a Christology that is Not Anti-Jewish
One World?
Ecumenical Voices on the Third Reformation
Incense of Music
Interreligious work for peace
Strategies for peace and prophetic witness
Messy church in the United States
Liturgy goes Carribean
The Peacemakers: Texts by Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa, the Dalai Lama, et al.
Tolerance and Peaceful Co-existence
A Safe Europe in a Better World
Taking greater responsibility for peace
Hate Speech
Religious Freedom or Hate Speech – Worldwide Challenges for LBGT+
Climate Change calls for a New Theology
Orthodox Vespers in Ecumenical Communion
Do we need different churches?
Christianity and Korean Confucianism
Seventy years of partition plan, 50 years of occupation: Israel and Palestine – the irresolvable conflict?
I have learned to speak to God
(De)radicalisation through religion
Queer and religious?!: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim positions
Transhuman revolution: The self-invention of the immortal human
Sustainable Development and the churches in South Africa
Meissen unites: Celebrating the Eucharist interdenominationally
Feidman plays the Beatles
https://www.kirchentag.de/fileadmin/dateien/zzz_NEUER_BAUM/English/DEKT36_International_Programme.pdf

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby (Senior Bishop and Principal Leader of the Church of England) tweets about Obama at Kirchentag:
“Grateful to spend time with @BarackObama, Chancellor #Merkel and Christian leaders at #Kirchentag in Berlin today. #dekt17”


AND
“Thank you @BarackObama and Chancellor #Merkel for sending these messages to the people of #Manchester when we met in Berlin today.”

Molly


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