Posts Tagged ‘J.P. Moreland’

Spiritual Formation—A Dangerous Substitute For the Life of Christ

Sometimes we think of spiritual formation as formation by the Holy Spirit. Once again. That’s essential. . . . But now I have to say something that may be challenging for you to think about: Spiritual formation is not all by the Holy Spirit. . . . We have to recognize that spiritual formation in us is something that is also done to us by those around us, by ourselves, and by activities which we voluntarily undertake . . .There has to be method.1—Dallas Willard

bigstockphoto.com (a monastery)

bigstockphoto.com

Aside from the fact that Spiritual Formation incorporates mystical practices into its infrastructure (remove the contemplative aspect and you don’t have “Spiritual Formation” anymore), Spiritual Formation is a works-based substitute for biblical Christianity. Let us explain.

When one becomes born again (“that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9-10), having given his or her life and heart over to Christ as Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ says He will come in and live in that surrendered heart:

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23)

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Colossians 1:27)

[I]f 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; emphasis added)

When God, through Jesus Christ, is living in us, He begins to do a transforming work in our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:18). Not only does He change us, He also communes with us. In other words, we have fellowship with Him, and He promises never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

This life of God in the believer’s heart is not something we need to conjure up through meditative practices. But if a person does not have this relationship with the Lord, he may seek out ways to feel close to God. This is where Spiritual Formation comes into play. Rather than a surrendered life to Christ, the seeking person begins practicing the spiritual disciplines (e.g., prayer, fasting, good works, etc.) with the promise that if he practices these disciplines, he will become more Christ-like.

But merely doing these acts fails to make one feel close to God—something is still missing. And thus, he begins practicing the discipline of silence (or solitude), and now in these altered states of silence, he finally feels connected to God. He now feels complete. What he does not understand is that he has substituted the indwelling of Christ in his heart for a works-based methodology that endangers his spiritual life. Dangerous because these mystical experiences he now engages in appear to be good because they make him feel close to God, but in reality he is being drawn into demonic realms no different than what happens to someone who is practicing transcendental meditation or eastern meditation. Even mystics themselves acknowledge that the contemplative realm is no different than the realm reached by occultists. To understand this more fully, please read Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing.

Bottom line, it is not possible to be truly Christ-like without having Christ inside of us because it is He who is able to change our hearts—we cannot do it without Him.

It is interesting to note that virtually every contemplative teacher has a common theme—they feel dry and empty and want to go “deeper” with God or “become more intimate” with God. But if we have Christ living in us, how can we go any deeper than that? How can we become more intimate than that? And if going deeper and becoming intimate were so important, why is it that none of the disciples or Jesus Himself ever told us to do this? As Larry DeBruyn states:

Why are Christians seeking a divine presence that Jesus promised would abundantly flow in them? . . . Why do they need another voice, another visitation, or another vision? Why are some people unthankfully desirous of “something more” than what God has already given to us? Why is it that some Christians, in the depth of their souls, are not seemingly at rest?2

Is There a “Good” Spiritual Formation?
One of the most common arguments we hear defending Spiritual Formation is that there is a “good” Spiritual Formation done without contemplative prayer. To that we say, we have never yet seen a Spiritual Formation program in a school or a church that doesn’t in some way point people to the contemplative mystics. It might be indirectly, but in every case, if you follow the trail, it will lead you right into the arms of Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and other contemplative teachers.

Think about this common scenario: A Christian college decides to begin a Spiritual Formation course. The instructor has heard some negative things about Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Brennan Manning, and he figures he will teach the class good Spiritual Formation and leave those teachers completely out. But he’s going to need a textbook. He turns to a respected institution, Dallas Theological Seminary, and finds a book written by Paul Pettit, Professor in Pastoral and Education Ministries. The book is titled Foundations of Spiritual Formation. The instructor who has found this book to use in his own class may never mention Richard Foster or Dallas Willard, but the textbook he is using does. Within the pages of Pettit’s book is Richard Foster, Philip Yancey, N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Thomas Aquinas, Lectio Divina, Ayn Rand, Parker Palmer, Eugene Peterson, J.P. Moreland, Klaus Issler, Bruce Dermerst, Jim Burns, Kenneth Boa and Brother Lawrence’s “practicing God’s presence.” You may not have heard of all these names, but they are all associated with the contemplative prayer movement and the emerging church.

Another example of this is Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Whitney is Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. While his book does not promote contemplative mysticism, he says that Richard Foster has “done much good”3 in the area of Christian spirituality.

Our point is that even if there is a sincere attempt to teach Spiritual Formation and stay away from the mystical side, we contend that it cannot be successfully accomplished because it will always lead back to the ones who have brought it to the church in the first place.

Spiritual formation is sweeping quickly throughout Christianity today. It’s no wonder when the majority of Christian leaders have either endorsed the movement or given it a silent pass. For instance, in Chuck Swindoll’s book So You Want to Be Like Christ: 8 Essential Disciplines to Get Your There, Swindoll favorably quotes Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Swindoll calls Celebration of Discipline a “meaningful work”4 and Willard’s book The Spirit of the Disciplines “excellent work.”5 In chapter three,”Silence and Solitude,” Swindoll talks about “digging for secrets . . . that will deepen our intimacy with God.”6 Quoting the contemplative poster-verse Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God,” Swindoll says the verse is a call to the “discipline of silence.”7 As other contemplative proponents have done, he has taken this verse very much out of context.

Roger Oakland sums it up:

The Spiritual Formation movement . . . 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. . . .

We are reconciled to God only through his “death” (the atonement for sin), and we are presented “holy and unblameable 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.8

What Christians need is not a method or program or ritual or practice  that will supposedly connect them to God. What we need is to be “in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:30) and Christ in us. And He has promised His Spirit “will guide [us] into all truth” (John 16:13).

In Colossians 1:9, the apostle Paul tells the saints that he was praying for them that they “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” He was praying that they would have discernment (“spiritual understanding”). He said that God, the Father, has made us “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (vs 12) and had “delivered us from the power of darkness [i.e., power of deception]” (vs. 13). But what was the key to having this wisdom and spiritual understanding and being delivered from the power of darkness? Paul tells us in that same chapter. He calls it “the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (vs. 26). What is that mystery? Verse 27 says: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

For those wanting to get involved with the Spiritual Formation movement (i.e., contemplative, spiritual direction), consider the “direction” you will actually be going.

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)

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2: 8-10)

To order copies of Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t), click here.

Endnotes:
1. Dallas Willard, “Spiritual Formation: What it is, and How it is Done” (http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=58).
2. Larry DeBruyn, “The Practice of His Presence”
3. Donald Whitney, “Doctrine and Devotion: A Reunion Devoutly to be Desired” (http://web.archive.org/web/20080828052145/http://biblicalspirituality.org/devotion.html).
4. Chuck Swindoll, So You Want to Be Like Christ: 8 Essential Disciplines to Get You There (Nashville, TN:W Publishing Group, a div. of Thomas Nelson, 2005), p. 15.
5. Ibid., p. 13.
6. Ibid., p. 55.
7. Ibid.
8. Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, op. cit., pp. 91-92.

This has been an extract from our booklet Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t). To order this booklet, click here.

Andy Stanley and “New” Christianity’s “Bibliolatry”

bigstockphoto.com

bigstockphoto.com

As we reported earlier this week, mega-church pastor (and son of Charles Stanley) says that Christian leaders need to “get the spotlight off the Bible.” Stanley may think he has come up with some unique idea and saying, but he hasn’t. It’s the same ol’ emerging talk that has been going on with emergent figures all along. For instance, Biola University professor J.P. Moreland once said that evangelical Christians are too committed to the Bible.

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,”  [Moreland] said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.” The problem, he said, is “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice.(source)

But just like Stanley’s statement isn’t going to upset most Christians and certainly isn’t going to ruffle any Christian leader feathers, Moreland’s absurd comments didn’t ruffle anything up either. In fact, he’s still a major influential voice in evangelical Christianity.

While Moreland gives examples such as non-charismatics who steer clear of any and all venues such as “impressions, dreams, visions, prophetic words, words of knowledge and wisdom,” there may be more behind his statements than meets the eye. This idea of “bibliolatry” (the idolizing of the Bible) did not originate with Moreland either. Contemplative Brennan Manning (who gets many of his ideas from mystics like Thomas Merton and William Shannon (Silence on Fire), once said this:

I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word—bibliolatry. God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book. I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants.”–Brennan Manning, Signature of Jesus, pp. 188-189

Without checking the further inferences of such statements, some may agree with Manning and Moreland solely on the idea that we should not worship a leather-bound book but rather the One of whom the book is about. But few “over-committed” Bible-believing Christians would argue with that. Christians who believe the Bible is the actual inspired word of God know that the Bible is not God Himself, but it is the Jesus Christ proclaimed in that Bible who is to be worshiped. But they also know that within the pages of the Bible are the holy words, ideas, and truths of God (and, in fact, the words are so inspired by God that it is called a two-edged sword). So for Moreland and Manning to suggest that these types of Christians don’t really worship God but rather pages in a book is a misrepresentation of Bible-believing Christians.

Emergent Scot McKnight is another who uses this term, bibliolatry. In his book A Community Called Atonement, McKnight says, “I begin with the rubble called bibliolatry, the tendency for some Christians to ascribe too much to the Bible” (p. 143).

Emerging spirituality figure Walter Brueggemann uses the term in his book Theology of the Old Testament (p. 574).

There may be a logical reason why these men condemn those who adhere to the Bible too strongly. All have something in common – they all promote  contemplative spirituality. And, as we have shown time and again, those who embrace the  contemplative spiritual outlook, often shift their focus from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical as Henri Nouwen suggested in his book In the Name of Jesus:

Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love . . .  For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required. (p. 32)

In Moreland’s book, The Lost Virtue of Happiness, he talks about rediscovering important spiritual principles that have been lost. In Faith Undone, Roger Oakland cites this book in explaining the problem of mysticism:

Two of the spiritual disciplines . . .  are “Solitude and Silence” (p. 51). The book says that these two disciplines are “absolutely fundamental to the Christian life” (p. 51). . . .  Moreland and Issler [co-author] state:

In our experience, Catholic retreat centers [bastions of mysticism] are usually ideal for solitude retreats . . . We also recommend that you bring photos of your loved ones and a picture of Jesus . . .  Or gaze at a statue of Jesus. Or let some pleasant thought, feeling, or memory run through your mind over and over again (pp. 54-55)….

Moreland and Issler provide tips for developing a prayer life. Here are some of the recommendations they make:

[W]e recommend that you begin by saying the Jesus Prayer about three hundred times a day (p. 90).

When you first awaken, say the Jesus Prayer twenty to thirty times. As you do, something will begin to happen to you. God will begin to slowly begin to occupy the center of your attention (p. 92).

Repetitive use of the Jesus Prayer while doing more focused things allows God to be on the boundaries of your mind and forms the habit of being gently in contact with him all day long (p. 93).

Moreland and Issler try to present what they consider a scriptural case that repetitive prayers are OK with God. But they never do it! They say the Jesus Prayer is derived from Luke 18:38 where the blind man cries out, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me,”(p.90) but nowhere in that section of the Bible (or any other section for that matter) does it instruct people to repeat a rendition of Luke 18:38 over and over. (from Faith Undone, pp. 117-119)

To be sure, the worship of leather and paper would be unscriptural and idolatrous, but we have never known or heard of a single case where a Christian advocates or practices Bible worship in that sense. As far as that goes, we have known countless Christians who respect (revere) the Bible as being the inspired Word of God; now if that were a point deserving criticism and condemnation, then we would necessarily need to place the apostle Paul under such scrutiny for having said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Was Paul a Bible worshiper? We know he was not. We also know that he never instructed anyone to repeat words or phrases from the Bible over and over for the purpose of achieving a “silence” (i.e., a mind-altering state). Such a practice is not taught anywhere in Scripture; hence, we propose that it is just such a practice that is a misuse of Scripture. Is it mere coincidence that in almost every case where someone uses the “bibliolatry” argument, that person also promotes contemplative prayer, a practice that cannot be supported through Scripture? And by downplaying scriptural authority, cannot the contemplative viewpoint be easier to promote within Christianity?

One last case in point about “bibliolatry” comes from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho  (NNU) where Dr. Jay McDaniel was invited to speak. McDaniel is a self-proclaimed “Christian” Buddhist sympathizer. When asked by a student at the lecture whether he believed that Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life,” McDaniel stated that if Jesus had meant to say that He himself was the way, the truth, and the life, it would have been egocentric and arrogant of Jesus – He only meant to point people in the right direction – letting go of ego and grasping love. McDaniel stated also that Buddhist mindfulness (eastern meditation) is just as truth filled  as doctrine and theology. He said there was an overemphasis in the church on doctrine calling it bibliolatry (idol worship of the Bible). (source) (click here to watch video of McDaniel lecture)

There is an attack on the Word of God. That’s no new thing–secular humanists, New Agers, and philosophers have attacked the Bible for centuries. But this attack of which we speak comes from within the ranks of Christianity out of the halls of highly respected universities, off the presses of successful Christian publishers, and out of the mouths of really popular Christian leaders.

What can we make of this idea of “bibliolatry”? The following statement offers some valid insight regarding this idea that Christians put too much emphasis on the Bible:

Today some are saying that the Bible is a lesser revelation than the Son and to make to much of it is to worship the Bible (bibliolatry). But if we do not make much of the Bible, then we cannot know much of the Son, for our only source of information about the Son (and hence about the Father) is through the Bible. Furthermore, if the Bible is not to be trusted,  then again, we cannot know truth about the Son . . . if the Bible is not completely true, we end up with either misinformation or subjective evaluation. Jesus Himself asserted that the Bible revealed Him (Luke 24:27, 44-45, John 5:39).. (A Survey of Bible Doctrine,Charles Ryrie, p. 17)

In summary, we find it rather odd that in a time in history when many churches are hardly even opening the Bible that Bible-believing Christians would be accused of focusing  too much on the Bible (what is it about the Bible these guys don’t like?). Our continual plea to all Christians is to be diligent in their study of the Scriptures and to be as the Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). We should also note that Jesus never corrected people for studying the Scriptures but rather for their lack of understanding them. Paul nailed it on the head when he said, “Study to show thyself approved unto God . . . rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Could this accusation of “bibliolatry” be nothing more than a smoke screen to further the contemplative agenda, which ultimately leads right to a one-world global religion that will declare all is God and God is in all.

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A Vital Question: Is There a “Good” Spiritual Formation?

Kariba Dam between Zambia and ZimbabweOne of the most common arguments we hear defending Spiritual Formation is that there is a “good” Spiritual Formation done without contemplative prayer. To that we say, we have never yet seen a Spiritual Formation program in a school or a church that doesn’t in some way point people to the contemplative mystics. It might be indirectly, but in every case, if you follow the trail, it will lead you right into the arms of Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and other contemplative teachers.

Think about this common scenario: A Christian college decides to begin a Spiritual Formation course. The instructor has heard some negative things about Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Brennan Manning, and he figures he will teach the class good Spiritual Formation and leave those teachers completely out. But he’s going to need a textbook. He turns to a respected institution, Dallas Theological Seminary, and finds a book written by Paul Pettit, Professor in Pastoral and Education Ministries. The book is titled Foundations of Spiritual Formation. The instructor who has found this book to use in his own class may never mention Richard Foster or Dallas Willard, but the textbook he is using does. Within the pages of Pettit’s book is Richard Foster, Philip Yancey, N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Thomas Aquinas, Lectio Divina, Ayn Rand, Parker Palmer, Eugene Peterson, J.P. Moreland, Klaus Issler, Bruce Dermerst, Jim Burns, Kenneth Boa and Brother Lawrence’s “practicing God’s presence.” You may not have heard of all these names, but they are all associated with the contemplative prayer movement and the emerging church.

Another example of this is Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Whitney is Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. While his book does not promote contemplative mysticism, he says that Richard Foster has “done much good”31 in the area of Christian spirituality.

Our point is that even if there is a sincere attempt to teach Spiritual Formation and stay away from the mystical side, we contend that it cannot be successfully accomplished because it will always lead back to the ones who have brought it to the church in the first place.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2: 8-10)

This is an excerpt from our booklet Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t), click here.

Letter to the Editor: Please Add William Jessup University to the Contemplative Colleges List—Introducing Students to Emerging Figures

Hello Lighthouse Trails:

Our daughter is a junior in high school and has been receiving college flyers in the mail from secular as well as “Christian” universities. She received the following flyer in a packet.William Jessup University flyer and have attached it as it mentioned “Spiritual Formation Groups” that are used to “reconcile issues surrounding faith.”

When our daughter first received information from this university several months ago, I looked up on your website to see if it was a school using questionable New Age ideas. I did not see anything on William Jessup University, so I kept an open mind and thought maybe this one might be OK. Apparently not, so I am sending you this information so you can possibly add it to your list.

Thank you for the great work you do to inform Christians.

A concerned parent

OUR COMMENTS:

Thank you for alerting us to the contemplative/emerging affinities of William Jessup University. According to the WJU website, the mission of the university states: “In partnership with the Church, the purpose of William Jessup University is to educate transformational leaders for the glory of God.” The 130 acre campus is located in Rocklin, California, and in 2014 the school had nearly 1400 students with growth having doubled in three years.1

As our reader above has stated, the school, unfortunately, has been integrating Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative spirituality) into the life of the students. For example, emergent-ideas promoter N.T. Wright will be speaking at the school on May 28th 2015. The lecture is being presented by WJU’s Bible & Theology Department.

Another example of the direction William Jessup University is going can be seen with a January 2015 William Jessup Chapel service that presented emergent activist Shane Claiborne. Claiborne is a disciple of Tony Campolo and shares his ideas and beliefs, many of which contradict Scripture. Not surprisingly, WJU’s chapel is titled Deeper Jessup Chapel. Deeper is a term often used in association with the contemplative prayer movement.

In another WJU chapel service this year,  Carl Medearis, author of Muslims, Christians, and Jesus spoke. According to a World Magazine article, Medearis is:

 . . . an advocate of several ideas associated with the “insider movement” . . . The movement generally questions the need for outward “conversion” to Christianity as long as someone has a personal relationship with Christ, and “contextualizes” Christian teaching and practice for Muslim cultures by finding common ground between the two.

What Medearis is advocating is called the “new” missiology. Roger Oakland discusses this new way of doing missions in his book Faith Undone: the emerging church—a new reformation or an end-time deception. Sad to see Medearis addressing students at William Jessup University. Most likely the founder of WJU would be dismayed to see the direction his school has gone. Other chapel speakers this year include bridger Francis Chan and contemplative proponent J.P. Moreland. It looks like students at William Jessup University are getting a dose full of “new” spirituality teachings during chapel. Needless to say, WJU is now being added to Lighthouse Trails’ Contemplative Colleges List.

Corban University (formerly Western Baptist College), a Former Non-Contemplative College, Teams Up with Mark Driscoll

Corban University of Salem, Oregon used to be called Western Baptist College. It used to be a Christian college that did not promote contemplative spirituality or the emerging church, and it used to be on the Lighthouse Trails “good” Christian colleges list (colleges that don’t promote Spiritual Formation). But that was then, and today is a new day for Corban University.

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailLighthouse Trails has watched the slow but steady change at Corban for the last several years, hoping it would not begin to fully engage in the Spiritual Formation movement. But a recent headline about Corban caught the attention of Lighthouse Trails editors who were compelled to respond. The headlines of that article read: “Corban University Signs Unique Partnership Agreement With Mars Hill Church.” In that article, it states:

Starting in the fall of 2014, Corban University of Salem, Ore. and Mars Hill Church will offer a 24-credit Bible certificate at the Mars Hill Bellevue, Wash. location. Classes are slated to begin in the fall of 2014.

The curriculum will include Bible and Theology Foundation, Ministry Skills Foundation, Introduction to Bible, Introduction to Theology, Christian Worldview and Apologetics, Biblical Spiritual Formation, Gospels, Bible Study Methods.

“We are anticipating a great, ongoing relationship with Mars Hill Church, pending approval of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities,” said Corban Provost Matt Lucas.

The article talks about the huge influence that Mars Hill (home to Mark Driscoll)  has with “15 locations in five different states, reaching millions around the world.” Mark Driscoll has been the topic of several LT articles because of his promotion of contemplative spirituality and other emerging beliefs (see our research links and video below documenting Driscoll’s mockery of biblical eschatology related to the last days and the Lord’s return).

Lighthouse Trails first became involved with Corban University (then Western Baptist) in 2002, when it was discovered that a summer youth theater day camp being held at Corban was introducing children attending the camp to visualization techniques. An editor at Lighthouse Trails arranged a meeting with three Corban professors to explain the concerns (it so happened that one of the LT editor’s children was attending that camp). At that time, the concerns by Lighthouse Trails were dismissed by the professors as erroneous. The LT editor took that opportunity to warn Corban professors that if they did not take a pro-active stand against the contemplative prayer movement and the emerging church and make sure all of their instructors understood the dangers, in time, the school would become an adherent to these heretical teachings.

Shortly after  A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen was released in the fall of 2002, Corban professor Dr. Robert Wright invited Ray to address his World Religions & Cults class. From that point on, Dr. Wright became a strong advocate for Yungen’s and Lighthouse Trails’ message and had Ray return on several subsequent years. At one point, Dr. Wright wrote an article about the emerging church, which LT carries to this day on the research site. In that article Dr. Wright called Ray Yungen a “competent researcher” of the New Age and mysticism and that “[t]he methods of contemplative prayer are the same as those used in Eastern religion.” Dr. Wright said that some “very popular authors in the evangelical church have latched on to contemplative prayer as a way to go deeper with God.” And then he names Richard Foster and Brennan Manning. Of contemplative prayer, Dr. Wright stated:

[T]he purpose of contemplative prayer is to enter an altered state of consciousness in order to find one’s true self, thus finding God. This true self relates to the belief that man is basically good. Christian proponents of contemplative prayer teach that all human beings have a divine center and that all, not just born again believers, should practice contemplative prayer.

Unfortunately, Lighthouse Trails began to notice that not all the faculty at Corban held to the same convictions that Dr. Wright did. For instance in 2007, in Corban Magazine in an article titled “Understanding the Emerging Church Movement,” a book co-authored by contemplative author J.P. Moreland, was recommended (see page 11).  The Corban article made several comments that indicated some at Corban did not have a good understanding of the emerging church movement. One comment, made by Corban professor Sam Baker, echoed contemplative J.P. Moreland. Baker stated: “The extreme of rationalism is that we worship the Bible instead of the God of the Bible.” J.P. Moreland, in a Christianity Today article, says that Christians are too committed to the Bible: “In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ.”

Also in that Corban article, Sam Baker suggests we must be careful not to “throw the baby out with the bath water” when it comes to the emerging church. In regard to “mystical ancient rites,” Baker said that “some people have found these practices to be beneficial to their faith.” He says that if the practices produce good results, then they have “merit.” However, as Lighthouse Trails has often pointed out, just because one’s intent is “good” does not legitimize practices that are clearly Hinduistic and New Age in nature. Baker says that the emerging church has “stirred believers’ interest in meditation.”

The following year after the Corban Magazine article came out, Lighthouse Trails learned that Corban had invited an emergent speaker, Dan Merchant (Lord Save Us From Your Followers) to speak. In a December 2008 LT article titled “Concerns Over ‘Lord Save Us From Your Followers’ Author Speaking at Corban College,”  it stated:

In Corban’s Winter 2008 magazine the following is stated: “Dr. Kent Kersey [Corban campus pastor] brought Dan Merchant and his documentary, Lord Save Us From Your Followers, to campus as a conversation-starter. The film takes a critical look at American Christianity.” A Corban news article titled “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers’ gets ‘followers’ thinking” explains that Merchant spoke at Corban’s chapel service and later answered questions students had. “Campus Pastor Kent Kersey hoped the film would ’cause discussions.’ He deemed the event successful, therefore, because many classrooms have been abuzz since Merchant’s presentation, not to mention the informal conversations taking place.” The article said that Kersey believed “the message of the movie paralleled the maxim of St. Francis of Assisi, Preach the Gospel.” On Kersey’s blog, he says Merchant’s message is “compelling” and perhaps through it God is trying to say something to Christians (Kersey’s blog post was removed from the Internet:  http://kentkersey.blogspot.com/2008/10/its-all-about-listening.html).

However, the gospel Dan Merchant is promoting may be a “different gospel” and “another Jesus” (II Cor. 11:4) than that of the Bible. In the last chapter of the book Lord Save Us From Your Followers titled “The sea refuses NO RIVER,” Merchant refers to the people he interviewed over the course of the last few years. They represent many different religious, sexual, and political persuasions, including atheists and practicing homosexuals. Calling them “wonderful children of God,” he adds: “I know we’re both children of God. If they don’t know it shouldn’t change anything for me and I know it doesn’t change anything for God.”

Back in 2008, if you typed the term “Spiritual Formation” into the Corban search engine, nothing would come up. Today, the term comes up around 30 times. One of the reasons is that when Corban became a university, they developed a Masters degree program with a concentration in Spiritual Formation. It’s in other places too, like the Major in Student and Family Ministry where TH463 Biblical Spiritual Formation is one of the courses. (Incidentally, there is no such thing as “Biblical” Spiritual Formation. Spiritual Formation is a term that is tied in with contemplative spirituality – just ask Richard Foster, a pioneer of the Spiritual Formation movement, if Spiritual Formation can exclude contemplative).

And today, a look at the Fall 2013 Corban textbook list is disheartening to say the least.  Professor Kersey is using Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence, John Franke’s Barth for Arm Chair Theologians (Barth’s ideas are highly favored by the emerging church) and Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity in TH413. You can’t get more emergent than Tickle and Borg. Borg actually denies basic tenets of the Christian faith such as the virgin birth and the deity of Christ. Tickle thinks Brian McLaren could be the next Luther. Professor Kersey also uses textbooks by John Piper, a contemplative advocate. At least one other course, IS202, is using a Piper book as well.

We did thankfully notice in the Fall 2013 textbook list that Dr. Wright is still using A Time of Departing in his World Religions & Cults Class at Corban. However, all of the books being used that are pro-contemplative, pro-emerging in other classes at Corban by other professors send a message loud and clear to Corban students that contemplative/emerging is OK. Another example is the Senior Seminar course where Professor Gilbert is using Dan Allender’s book Leading With a Limp. Allender resonates with Brian McLaren (McLaren is listed in the acknowledgements in Leading With a Limp). Gilbert also uses a book by Allender in the Group Dynamics course (To Be Told: God Invites You to Coauthor Your Future).

Corban professors may defend themselves and say they are just using these books to take the good from them and leave out the bad (following Baker’s injunction not to “throw out the baby with the bathwater”). But why do students have to be immersed in heresy to spot it? Wouldn’t reading the Word and biblically solid books do a better job? Why is it that after a decade Ray Yungen’s book is still confined to just one professor’s class? We know for a fact that a high percentage of Corban students are attending an extremely contemplative/emerging church in Salem, Oregon. These students are getting it from every direction. Do their parents, who are paying high dollars to get their children a Christian college education, realize what their kids are being exposed to at church and at college? Most of them, probably not.

The Corban Music Department has been affected by contemplative/emerging spirituality too. In MU403, a book by Constance Cherry titled The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services is being used as the textbook. Cherry is one of the faculty at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies (that should be called the Institute for EMERGING Worship Studies). The late Robert Webber was a foundational figure in building momentum for the emerging church.

We could give many other examples to show that contemplative/emerging has taken root at Corban University. A few more are: Biblical Leadership in Education using Phil Yancey’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew; BA593 using Peter Drucker’s The Effective Executive; Professor Baker in CM333 using contemplative Mark DeVries’ Sustainable Youth Ministry; CM641 using Bill Hybels Axiom; and CM501 using textbooks by contemplative Bruce Demarest (Seasons of the Soul and Four Views on Christian Spirituality).

Finally, we’ll look at a Corban class called Servant Leadership (a term largely used in the emerging church to liken Jesus to a good model or servant to follow rather than to a Savior from sin). In that particular class, a book titled The Servant: A Simple Story by James C. Hunter is the textbook. We could say many things about this book, but we’ll just point to the acknowledgements page where Hunter thanks emergent Tony Campolo and New Ager M. Scott Peck for their “skills in articulating some of the great truths of life” and “Simon, monk and archabbey librarian, St. Meinrad Monastery, St. Meinrad, Indiana for sharing “the ropes” of monastic life” with him. We find it astounding that Hunter’s book is the best Corban could do to teach students how to be good leaders. A book that thanks a Catholic Benedictine monastic monk, an emergent leader, and a New Ager for truths about life!

Lighthouse Trails editors find it nothing short of a tragedy that Corban has ended up in the contemplative minefield of Christian colleges. Now that they are partnering with Mark Driscoll, the descent into apostasy will no doubt be hastened more than ever.

Research Articles on Mark Driscoll (see video below):

Anti-Religion Jeff Bethke (from Driscoll’s church) Hits the News Again – New Book, Same Message: “Imagine No Religion”

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

COMPARISON: “New Spirituality” Leaders Reject and Ridicule the Second Coming of the Lord VERSUS Bible Prophecies Standing in Stark Contrast

Mark Driscoll and Liberty University Are Good Match – Both Promote Contemplative Spirituality

New Spiritual Disciplines From Ancient Roman Catholic Sources

by  Roger Oakland  

Promoters of the emergent conversation say we are on the verge of an era that promises renewed spiritual awareness. “Spiritual disciplines” are being touted as the avenue to a “spiritual reformation” that will take Christianity to a new and higher level of spirituality drawing all participants closer to God.

Books published by major Christian publishers written by well known authors are plentiful on this topic. For example, J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler are both professors at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in southern California. Moreland is professor of philosophy. Issler is professor of Christian education and theology. Navpress published a book they co-authored titled The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering the Disciplines of the Good Life. On the back cover, the following statement is made:

Authors J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler illustrate how we are happy only when we pursue a transcendent purpose – something larger than ourselves. This involves a deeply meaningful relationship with God through a selfless preoccupation with the spiritual disciplines. The Lost Virtue of Happiness takes a fresh look at the spiritual disciplines, offering concrete examples of ways you can make them practical and life transforming.

The title gives a good overview of what the book is about. Moreland and Issler believe they have rediscovered important spiritual principles that have been lost. If you follow these principles and they become part of your everyday Christian life, you can be transformed. Click here to read this entire article.

They Call It “Bibliolatry” (Bible Worship)- But Could it Be a Contemplative Smoke Screen?

In a article titled “How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It,” Biola University professor J.P. Moreland says that  evangelical Christians are too committed to the Bible. He states:

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,”  [Moreland] said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.” The problem, he said, is “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice.(source)

While Moreland gives examples such as non-charismatics who steer clear of any and all venues such as “impressions, dreams, visions, prophetic words, words of knowledge and wisdom,” there may be more behind his statements than meets the eye. This idea of “bibliolatry” (the idolizing of the Bible) did not originate with Moreland. Contemplative Brennan Manning (who gets many of his ideas from mystics like Thomas Merton and William Shannon (Silence on Fire), once said this:

I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word–bibliolatry. God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book. I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants.”–Brennan Manning, Signature of Jesus, pp. 188-189

Without checking the further inferences of such statements, some may agree with Manning and Moreland solely on the idea that we should not worship a leather-bound book but rather the One of whom the book is about. But few “over-committed” Bible-believing Christians would argue with that. Christians who believe the Bible is the actual inspired word of God know that the Bible is not God Himself, but it is the Jesus Christ proclaimed in that Bible who is to be worshiped. But they also know that within the pages of the Bible are the holy words, ideas, and truths of God. So for Moreland and Manning to suggest that these types of Christians don’t really worship God but rather pages in a book is a misrepresentation of Bible-believing Christians.

Scot McKnight is another who uses this term, bibliolatry. In his book A Community Called Atonement, McKnight says, “I begin with the rubble called bibliolatry, the tendency for some Christians to ascribe too much to the Bible” (p. 143).  Emerging spirituality figure Walter Brueggemann uses the term in his book Theology of the Old Testament (p. 574).

There may be a logical reason why these men condemn those who adhere to the Bible too strongly. All have something in common – they all promote contemplative spirituality. And, as we have shown time and again, those who embrace the  contemplative spiritual outlook, often shift their focus from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical as Henri Nouwen suggested in his book In the Name of Jesus:

Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love . . .  For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required. (p. 32)

In Moreland’s book, The Lost Virtue of Happiness, he talks about rediscovering important spiritual principles that have been lost. In Faith Undone, Roger Oakland cites this book in explaining the problem of mysticism:

Two of the spiritual disciplines . . .  are “Solitude and Silence” (p. 51). The book says that these two disciplines are “absolutely fundamental to the Christian life” (p. 51). . . .  Moreland and Issler [co-author] state:

In our experience, Catholic retreat centers [bastions of mysticism] are usually ideal for solitude retreats . . . We also recommend that you bring photos of your loved ones and a picture of Jesus . . .  Or gaze at a statue of Jesus. Or let some pleasant thought, feeling, or memory run through your mind over and over again (pp. 54-55)….

Moreland and Issler provide tips for developing a prayer life. Here are some of the recommendations they make:

[W]e recommend that you begin by saying the Jesus Prayer about three hundred times a day (p. 90).

When you first awaken, say the Jesus Prayer twenty to thirty times. As you do, something will begin to happen to you. God will begin to slowly begin to occupy the center of your attention (p. 92).

Repetitive use of the Jesus Prayer while doing more focused things allows God to be on the boundaries of your mind and forms the habit of being gently in contact with him all day long (p. 93).

Moreland and Issler try to present what they consider a scriptural case that repetitive prayers are OK with God. But they never do it! They say the Jesus Prayer is derived from Luke 18:38 where the blind man cries out, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me,”(p.90) but nowhere in that section of the Bible (or any other section for that matter) does it instruct people to repeat a rendition of Luke 18:38 over and over. (from Faith Undone, pp. 117-119)

To be sure, the worship of any leather-bound book would be unscriptural and idolatrous, but we have never known or heard of a single case where a Christian advocates or practices Bible worship. As far as that goes, we have known countless Christians who respect (revere) the Bible as being the inspired Word of God; now if that were a point deserving criticism and condemnation, then we would necessarily need to place the apostle Paul under such scrutiny for having said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Was Paul a Bible worshiper? We know he was not. We also know that he never instructed anyone to repeat words or phrases from the Bible over and over for the purpose of achieving a “silence” (i.e., a mind-altering state). Such a practice is not taught anywhere in Scripture; hence, we propose that it is just such a practice that is a misuse of Scripture. Is it mere coincidence that in virtually every case where someone uses the “bibliolatry” argument, that person also promotes contemplative prayer, a practice that cannot be supported through Scripture? And by downplaying scriptural authority, cannot the contemplative viewpoint be easier to promote within Christianity?

One last case in point about “bibliolatry” comes from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho  (NNU) where Dr. Jay McDaniel was invited to speak. McDaniel is a self-proclaimed “Christian” Buddhist sympathizer. When asked by a student at the lecture whether he believed that Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life,” McDaniel stated that if Jesus had meant to say that He himself was the way, the truth, and the life, it would have been egocentric and arrogant of Jesus – He only meant to point people in the right direction – letting go of ego and grasping love. McDaniel stated also that Buddhist mindfulness (eastern meditation) is just as truth filled  as doctrine and theology. He said there was an overemphasis in the church on doctrine calling it bibliolatry (idol worship of the Bible). (source) (click here to watch video of McDaniel lecture)

There is an attack on the Word of God. That’s no new thing–secular humanists, New Agers, and philosophers have attacked the Bible for centuries. But this attack of which we speak comes from within the ranks of Christianity out of the halls of highly respected universities and off the presses of successful Christian publishers, and it is being carried forth by those who gain access into the hearts of men and women through their use of contemplative spirituality.

What can we make of this idea of “bibliolatry”? The following statement offers some valid insight regarding this idea that Christians put too much emphasis on the Bible:

Today some are saying that the Bible is a lesser revelation than the Son. But if we do not make much of the Bible, then we cannot know much of the Son, for our only source of information about the Son (and hence about the Father) is through the Bible. Furthermore, if the Bible is not to be trusted,  then again, we cannot know truth about the Son . . . if the Bible is not completely true, we end up with either misinformation or subjective evaluation. Jesus Himself asserted that the Bible revealed Him (Luke 24:27, 44-45, John 5:39). (A Survey of Christian Doctrine, Ryrie, p. 17)

In summary, we find it rather odd that in a time in history when many churches are hardly even opening the Bible, that Bible-believing Christians would be accused of focusing  too much on the Bible. Our continual plea to all Christians is to be diligent in their study of the Scriptures and to be as the Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). We should also note that Jesus never corrected people for studying the Scriptures but rather for their lack of understanding them. Paul nailed it on the head when he said, “Study to show thyself approved unto God . . . rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Could this accusation of “bibliolatry” be nothing more than a smoke screen to further the contemplative agenda?

To understand more about the contemplative idea of moving from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical, read chapter 4, section 1 of Faith Undone, “Experience over doctrine” and chapter 3 pages 61-64 (about Nouwen) of A Time of Departing.


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