Posts Tagged ‘jonathan wilson-hartgrove’

Another Episode with In Touch Magazine – A Puzzle That Isn’t Fitting Together

Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine has been the subject of several Lighthouse Trails articles because of the magazine’s continued propensity toward contemplative/emergent people. Just this past summer, our most recent article, “Sad News About Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine,” reported how the August 2013 issue of In Touch featured Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove of the “New Monasticism” emerging church movement. Now in the November 2013 issue, In Touch magazine is featuring an article about an ecumenical interfaith organization that is largely Catholic influenced and was, in fact, the very organization where Henri Nouwen spent the last decade of his life. What’s the big deal about that? some may ask. Well, it is a big deal when you stop and consider the implications. Charles Stanley is seen as the quintessential evangelical Bible teacher by millions. He is trusted, respected, and looked to for understanding of the biblical Gospel. So when his organization starts down a path that promotes contemplative spirituality, the emerging church, and yes, Roman Catholicism – there is a big problem.

In the November 2013 issue is an article written by Benjamin Dolson titled “Our Table.” It is a story about L’Arche, an organization that began in the 60s to offer an alternative living style for intellectually-handicapped people. The work itself is certainly not what we contest as it has removed needy people out of institutions and into a more viable living situation. We are not here to condemn the work being done at the L’Arche communities from a humanitarian point of view. But why does an evangelical ministry feel the need to continually point its followers to organizations or people that do not line up with the biblical Gospel. As Lighthouse Trails has documented scripturally for several years, the contemplative prayer movement and Roman Catholicism are presenting a different “Gospel” than the one the Bible presents. The Roman Catholic “Gospel” is a justification by works gospel, and the contemplative prayer (i.e., Spiritual Formation) “Gospel” is one that has panentheistic and interspiritual roots.  And we should mention that the Catholic church is utilizing the contemplative prayer movement to draw in converts to Catholicism (as Ray Yungen explains in his article “Contemplative Spirituality – the Source of the Catholic Church’s Expansion“).

For those who may not realize just how Catholic L’Arche is, here is a statement posted on the L’Arche international website:

L’Arche was founded in a village in France in the Roman Catholic tradition. Generally the communities reflect the predominant faith tradition or traditions of the local population. Thus, with the foundations of the communities of Daybreak in Canada and Asha Niketan in India, the Federation became first ecumenical and then interfaith. Most communities today consider themselves as Christian, some are ecumenical, some identify as Anglican or Protestant, and the majority are Catholic in their practice. The four communities in India and the project in Bangladesh have an interfaith character. All communities of the Federation welcome people of any or no faith and seek to respect and support members in their particular faith choice.1 (emphasis added)
Translated, that last sentence means that L’Arche will help people of all religious beliefs to further develop that particular belief system in their own lives.
 
In a book written by L’Arche founder, Jean Vanier, titled Essential Writings (Modern Spiritual Masters series), it describes how he read Thomas Merton and practiced and was influenced by the spiritual exercises of Jesuit founder St. Ignatius.
 
While we do not condemn the people at L’Arche for their work with needy people, why is In Touch, a ministry that is supposed to be representing biblical Christianity, pointing its followers to this interfaith and ecumenical organization that has a strong Catholic background? 
 
As you may recall, Lighthouse Trails editors spoke with editors at In Touch this past summer but to no avail. We were told we were on a “witch-hunt” and that the information we provided was “not helpful.”
 
So, where does this leave untold numbers of Christians who read In Touch, of which some have contacted us expressing their concerns?  On the In Touch Ministries website, it reads:
The award-winning In Touch magazine has inspired and motivated readers for more than 25 years with resources to invigorate their faith including daily devotionals, in-depth Bible studies, insightful teaching from Dr. Stanley, and much more.
We don’t see how lifting up contemplative spirituality and Roman Catholic-prone organizations is going to “invigorate” Christian biblical faith. It is interesting to note that in the Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove article as well as this recent one on L’Arche, the emphasis in both articles is about helping the needy. We do not dispute and actually wholeheartedly believe that part of the Christian walk includes reaching out to the poor, hurting, and needy. This is a natural response for those who live and abide in Christ. But that is not the Gospel message. The Gospel is not about what we do (good works), but rather it is about what Jesus Christ has done for sinful man through his death on the Cross. The contemplative prayer movement traditionally teaches that man is already divine and contemplative prayer can help him find that divine self. Like contemplative icon Richard Rohr says, we are all the “immaculate conception[s]”  (i.e., sinless/divine – Rohr, Falling Upward, p. ix). In addition, leaders in the emerging church say that when the Reformation took place five hundred years ago, the reformation moved us too far away from the Catholic church. We need to come back together as one universal church, they say. If this were true, that would mean that all the believers who died standing against the Catholic church died in vain (read John Foxe’s story about a woman who died for such a cause.)
 
Breaking down the barriers between Catholicism and Protestantism opens up hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Protestants to interact with Catholic spiritual directors. Organizations such as Promise Keepers, while inspiring certain legitimate commitments (e.g. loving your wife and children), include a promise to tear down denominational walls, which specifically include the Roman Catholic Church. These Catholic spiritual directors have led people into the contemplative “silence.” This is exactly what happened to Ruth Haley Barton, a Protestant who was experiencing turmoil in her life. She went to a Catholic contemplative nun who directed her into the contemplative life. Today, Barton is a major figure in teaching contemplative prayer to pastors and church leaders.
 
There is an interesting sidebar in the In Touch article on L’Arche. It reads:
 
Communities of faith, of God’s reign, bring together into oneness those who by culture and by education are far apart. This is the body of Christ. This is the church.
What this is suggesting is an all-inclusive “community” (that certainly is the expanse of humanity), but if we say that the body of Christ is an all-inclusive church, then we are saying that there is no distinguishing between the various belief systems and religions.
 
Benjamin Dolson, the author of In Touch’s article, “Our Table,” is an editor for a group called The Burnside Writer’s Collective, a group of writers that promotes “social justice” and the emerging church. Their website features figures such as Jim Wallis and Shane Claiborne who promote a liberal social justice “Christianity.”  In our article “They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus: How Conservative Christians Are Being Manipulated and Ridiculed, Especially During Election Years, we document how some of these emergents are part of an effort to keep conservative Christians from voting – at all.  Is this just guilt by association that one of the In Touch contributing writers belongs to this group? We don’t think so. Jonathan Wilson-Grove (featured more than once in In Touch) falls in this category too. With all these articles in In Touch magazine featuring emergent names, it’s hard not to wonder if there is an underlying political agenda by In Touch editors.
 
While any hidden political agenda is only a guess at this point, one thing is for sure, In Touch editors are drawn to the contemplative/emergent persuasion as is much of current evangelical Christianity. There has been a subtle paradigm shift over the last twenty years, and this is something that is going to eventually change the message coming out of Charles Stanley’s In Touch ministry. Once he is passed or steps down (he is 81), as in the case of so many other ministries where the founder does not adequately equip his ministry to spot and remove spiritual deception, In Touch ministries could potentially become a leader for the emerging church movement.

In reading our article here, some may feel we are being too nit-picky and critical. After all, In Touch is talking about helping the needy. But if that reasoning is legitimate, then basically, as Christians, we are to embrace an anything-goes mentality (i.e.,  the church should embrace all “faith communities” without any protection over the Christian message of redemption). But the Bible so clearly and so frequently warns of beliefs that are contrary to the truth of Scripture. In writing this article about In Touch and L’Arch ecumenical interfaith communities, we are reminded of something Henri Nouwen said in the last book he ever wrote. We’ve quoted it often over the years because it shows very succinctly the “fruit” of contemplative mysticism, which Nouwen fully adhered to and practiced:

Today 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. —From Sabbatical Journey, page 51, 1998 Hardcover Edition

It boils down to this: Christian organizations like In Touch Ministries have been presenting themselves to their readers and supporters for many years as having a solid biblical message. Yet now, many of them appear to be changing course. Isn’t it only right and fair for them to come forward and tell their followers that they are no longer adhering just to biblical Christianity?

Does Charles Stanley know what has happened to his magazine? some may ask. We have no idea as he has remained absolutely silent on the situation. We’ve sent books, made phone calls, and we know there are LT readers who have contacted his ministry. But to date, we have never heard of any response. At least Focus on the Family has come right out and admitted that they see nothing wrong with the contemplative tradition. With  In Touch, we will just have to keep putting pieces of the puzzle together until a complete picture can be seen.

Sad News About Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine

Charles Stanley

Lighthouse Trails has watched in dismay over the past few years as Charles Stanley’s In Touch magazine has made the decision to promote contemplative/emergent names. When our editors picked up a copy of the August 2013 issue and saw a feature article written by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, we decided to call In Touch Ministries to find out who was responsible for the content in the magazine. Sadly, the response we received from the editorial department at In Touch left us with a sinking feeling that the evangelical church has been seduced and there was no turning back.

We’ll talk about the phone call in a minute but first a look at Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.

In June of 2011, Lighthouse Trails free lance writer Mike Stanwood wrote “Contemplative Spirituality Lands on Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine . . . Again.”  In this article, it was revealed that in the January 2011 In Touch magazine issue, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove was featured in an article written by In Touch Managing Editor Cameron Lawrence. That article, titled “The Craft of Stability: Discovering the Ancient Art of Staying Put,” highlighted the “ intentional Christian community” at the Rutba House (Wilson-Hartgrove’s home) and their “daily prayer routine.” The In Touch article stated that Rutba House is an evangelical community rooted in the Protestant tradition and that Wilson-Hartgrove is an ordained Baptist minister, yet it also reported that Rutba’s community principles are borrowed from Benedictine monks and that all of their efforts are based on St. Benedict’s “rule of life.”

In Stanwood’s article, he points out that Wilson-Hartgrove is part of the “New Monasticism” movement within the emerging church. To help you understand just how serious this situation is with Charles Stanley and his ministry, read this following section of Stanwood’s article:

Wilson-Hartgrove is most recently known for co-authoring Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals with new monastic activist Shane Claiborne. Other books he has authored may also fall into the emerging/contemplative category. For example, one such book called New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church (1) has been endorsed by mystic proponents Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Tony Campolo, and Catholic priest and centering prayer advocate Richard Rohr. The mystics resonate with the “new monasticism” – this is plain to see.

On the surface, the new monasticism may look OK with its many good works of helping the poor and the needy. But the underlying belief system does not line up with biblical doctrine; rather it is about establishing an all-inclusive kingdom of God on earth now where individual salvation is replaced with a community salvation for the whole world. Atonement has less emphasis on Jesus Christ as the only atonement for man’s sins and instead becomes an at-one-ment where all of creation is “being” saved by coming together as one (and yes, seeing the divinity of man). This is the kind of “atonement” that McLaren, Tickle, and Rohr would resonate with.

It is important to see that they don’t just resonate with the good works coming out of the new monasticism; born-again Christians have been performing good works by helping the poor and needy for centuries and continue to do so. While this new monasticism supposedly distinguishes itself by its good works,  in reality it is mysticism and the foundational beliefs of mysticism (i.e., panentheism, kingdom now, etc) that distinguish it. And it is that element that Tickle, McLaren, and Rohr embrace.

Additional resources on Wilson-Hartgrove’s website include a DVD called Discovering Christian Classics: 5 Sessions in the Ancient Faith of Our Future, a five-week study with contemplative advocate Lauren F. Winner (Girl Meets God) for high school or adult “formation.” A description of this DVD states:

“You will discover the meaning of conversion and prayer from the Desert Fathers and Mothers; how to love from the sermons of St. John Chrysostom; St. Benedict’s Rule of Life and how it became one of the foundations of Western Christian spirituality; how to have an intimate relationship with God according to The Cloud of Unknowing; and what it means to ‘pick up your cross” in the Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis.’”

Another book Wilson-Hartgrove has authored, called The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, refers readers to the wisdom of Lao-tzu, the desert monastics, Thomas Merton, Benedictine spirituality, panentheist and interspiritualist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Benedictine nun Joan Chittister.

In a Beliefnet interview one year ago, Wilson-Hartgrove shared how “we need the wisdom of those who’ve gone before us.” This wisdom he is referring to comes not from the Bible, but from the contemplative “Benedictines (who) taught us to start the day with common prayer.”1

After seeing what is at the core of Wilson-Hartgrove’s spiritual wisdom, it is not surprising to learn that he recently made an appearance  at the [very emergent] Wild Goose Festival .2 According to an article in the Christian Post, the Wild Goose Festival  was a “four-day revival camp in North Carolina featuring music, yoga, liberal talk and embracing of gays and lesbians.”

The fact is, anyone who is drawn to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, as Wilson-Hartgrove is, has got to be following a different spirit and another gospel or at the very least greatly deceived. Chardin, who is attributed to the term “cosmic Christ,” did not hide the fact in his writings that he believed, not in the Christ of the Bible, but a christ consciousness in every human being.

While we do not challenge Wilson-Hartgrove’s sincerity or concern for the poor and needy, we must challenge his consistent promotion of contemplative mystics and emergent leaders, and he certainly does not seem like a proper fit with In Touch Ministries, that is unless In Touch is going emerging. The reason we say this about Wilson-Hartgrove’s sincerity has to do with the phone call we had with two editors of the editorial staff of In Touch magazine on July 24, 2013. One of the editors we spoke with was Cameron Lawrence, the Editor in Chief (and also the one who wrote the 2011 In Touch article featuring Wilson-Hartgrove). Lawrence asked us if we had ever spoken with Wilson-Hartgrove personally, suggesting that he was a sincere man who lived out the Gospel by helping the needy. We answered him by stating that the issue at hand was not a private matter but rather a public issue because Wilson-Hartgrove is a public figure (books, conferences, articles, etc). We said that it did not matter what he might say in a private conversation, but it did matter what he was teaching others. And it mattered greatly that In Touch was promoting him.

When we spoke with Cameron Lawrence, we told him we wanted to know who was responsible for putting the article by Wilson-Hartgrove in the magazine to which he told us “the entire editorial staff” made the decision. We asked him if he would be interested in seeing some of our documentation to which he answered, “I have been on the Lighthouse Trails website, and I didn’t find it helpful.”  The other editor we spoke with, who wished to remain anonymous, said it sounded like we were on a “witch hunt” to which we responded, “No, we are part of a Gospel-protection effort.”

At times like this, it is difficult not to become discouraged by the lack of interest in Christian intelligentsia and leadership regarding the contemplative/emerging issue. What more can we say to show them what seems so obvious to ourselves and many other Bible believing contenders of the faith? A number of years ago, when the Be Still DVD (a contemplative infomercial) came out and we saw Charles Stanley’s name in the credits as someone who supported the DVD, we contacted his ministry and spoke with a personal assistant. He accepted our offer for a free copy of A Time of Departing but said that Charles Stanley would be too busy to read it.

If the mystics whom Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove gravitates to are right, then Jesus’ words that He is the only Way to the Father are wrong. You can’t have it both ways. The opposite view – the contemplative – is that God is in all things, including all people. This is what all mystics believe, across the board. And if that were true, then the need for a Savior would vanish, and there wouldn’t be any need for ”one way” to God because man is already indwelled with God and a part of God.

  Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6

Endnotes:
1.  New Monasticism & The Emergent Church: FS Talks with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove: http://blog.beliefnet.com/flunkingsainthood/2010/06/new-monasticism-the-emergent-church-fs-talks-with-jonathan-wilson-hartgrove.html.

2. Learn more about the Wild Goose Festival here: Left-Leaning ‘Wild Goose’ Festival Draws Ire of Evangelicals

Dear Dr. Charles Stanley, what are you trying to tell us? Are you a contemplative?

Is Charles Stanley trying to tell Christians something but doesn’t want to come right out and just admit, “Hey, I’m a contemplative, and I am using my In Touch magazine to let everybody know it.” A Lighthouse Trails January 2010 article titled “Letter to Charles Stanley: Is In Touch Getting Out-of-Touch With the True Gospel?,”   discussed the January 2010 issue of Stanley’s In Touch magazine, which included an article by Joseph Bentz. In that article, Bentz highlighted the spiritual journeysof two women. Bentz claimed both were converted to the Christian faith, however, each of the  women would fall in the ”new spirituality/New Age” camp. One of the women highlighted is Anne Lamott (Traveling Mercies). Most In Touchreaders are probably not familiar with any problems associated with her name.  But Lamott, mentioned in several Lighthouse Trails articles, reveals her true spiritual sympathies when she endorsed the back cover of the made-popular-by-Oprah book, Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book is about Gilbert’s search for spirituality, which took her to India and into eastern meditation. Her book is a virtual primer on New Age thinking. Lamott not only endorsed the back of her book but also has spoken with Gilbert at various events. Of Gilbert’s book, Lamott states: “This is a wonderful book, brilliant and personal, rich in spiritual insight.”1 Lamott hardly seems like one that In Touch should be promoting. 

In January 2010, Lighthouse Trails received a letter from a LT reader who, out of concern, wrote a letter to Charles Stanley about Joseph Bentz’ article. She stated:

[I] expressed my concerns that the two women Mr. Benz focuses on in the article, Anne Lamott and Sara Miles, both authors, by their own words, deeds, and indeed, lifestyles do not show a biblical conversion. In fact, the copies of interviews given by Lamott and Miles since their “epiphanies” which I am enclosing with this letter portray no such Christian conversion. In fact, Sara Miles is a lesbian in a 14+-year “marriage” relationship with her lesbian lover. Gay and proud of it she is. Your caller seemed surprised at that, even though it was mentioned in my previous letter, and you can read Ms. Miles own declaration of that fact and her other unbiblical beliefs in the enclosed materials. Anne Lamott, on the other hand, is braggadocios in the fact that in each of her books she uses the “F” word in describing her “conversion,” and states she was “F* by Jesus.”

Lighthouse Trails had hoped that once this situation was brought to Charles Stanley’s attention, he would retract the article and also publicly renounce the contemplative prayer/new spirituality movement. Sadly, no sign of this took place. Some Lighthouse Trails readers may remember our 2006 coverage of the Be Still DVD  where Beth Moore teamed up with contemplative Richard Foster in this Fox Entertainment infomercial for contemplative prayer. When the DVD was first released, we learned that the DVD stated at the end of it that Charles Stanley was one of the supporters of the project. Lighthouse Trails contacted both the producer of the film and Charles Stanley’s personal assistant. Fox told us that originally Stanley was going to narrate the film, but those plans changed, for undisclosed reasons, toward the completion of the project. Stanley’s assistant told us that they knew nothing about the contemplative prayer movement. The assistant told Lighthouse Trails that we could send a copy of A Time of Departingto them, but he did not think Charles Stanley would have enough time to read the book.

In June of 2011, Lighthouse Trails free lance writer Mike Stanwood wrote “Contemplative Spirituality Lands on Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine . . . Again.”  In this article, it was revealed that in the January 2011 In Touch magazine, a man named Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove was featured in an article written by In Touch Managing Editor Cameron Lawrence. The  article called “The Craft of Stability: Discovering the Ancient Art of Staying Put” highlights the “ intentional Christian community” at the Rutba House (Wilson-Hartgrove’s home) and their “daily prayer routine.” The In Touch article states that Rutba House is an evangelical community rooted in the Protestant tradition, and that Wilson-Hartgrove is an ordained Baptist minister. The In Touch article also reports that Rutba’s community principles are borrowed from Benedictine monks and that all of their efforts are based on St. Benedict’s “rule of life.”

In Stanwood’s article, he points out that Wilson-Hartgrove is part of the “New Monasticism” movement within the emerging church. So that you can understand just how serious this situation is with Charles Stanley and his ministry, read this following section of Stanwood’s article:

 

Wilson-Hartgrove is most recently known for co-authoring Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals with new monastic activist Shane Claiborne. Other books he has authored may also fall into the emerging/contemplative category. For example, one such book called New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church (1) has been endorsed by mystic proponents Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Tony Campolo, and Catholic priest Richard Rohr. The mystics resonate with the “new monasticism” – this is plain to see. While on the surface, the new monasticism may look ok with its many good works of helping the poor and the needy. But the underlying belief system does not line up with biblical doctrine; rather it is about establishing an all inclusive kingdom of God on earth now where individual salvation is replaced with a community salvation for the whole world. Atonement has less emphasis on Jesus Christ as the only atonement for man’s sins and instead becomes an at-one-mentwhere all of creation is “being” saved by coming together as one (and yes, seeing the divinity of man). This is the kind of “atonement” that McLaren, Tickle, and Rohr would resonate with. It is important to see that they don’t just resonate with the good works coming out of the new monasticism - born-again Christians have been performing good work by helping the poor and needy for centuries and continue to do so. While this new monasticism supposedly distinguishes itself by its good works,  in reality it is mysticismand the foundational beliefs of mysticism (i.e., panentheism, kingdom now, etc) that distinguish it. And it is that element that Tickle, McLaren, and Rohr embrace.

Additional resources on Wilson-Hartgrove’s website include a DVD called Discovering Christian Classics: 5 Sessions in the Ancient Faith of Our Future, a five-week study with contemplative advocate Lauren F. Winner (Girl Meets God) for high school or adult “formation.” A description of this DVD states:

You will discover the meaning of conversion and prayer from the Desert Fathers and Mothers; how to love from the sermons of St. John Chrysostom; St. Benedict’s Rule of Life and how it became one of the foundations of Western Christian spirituality; how to have an intimate relationship with God according to The Cloud of Unknowing; and what it means to “pick up your cross” in the Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis.”

Another book Wilson-Hartgrove has authored, called The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, refers readers to the wisdom of Lao-tzu, the desert monastics, Thomas Merton, Benedictine spirituality, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Benedictine nun Joan Chittister.

In a Beliefnet interview one year ago, Wilson-Hartgrove shared how “we need the wisdom of those who’ve gone before us.” This wisdom he is referring to comes not from the Bible, but from the contemplative “Benedictines (who) taught us to start the day with common prayer.” (2)

After seeing what is at the core of Wilson-Hartgrove’s spiritual wisdom, it is not surprising to learn that he recently made an appearance  at the Wild Goose Festival (3). According to an article in the Christian Post, the Wild Goose Festival  was a “four-day revival camp in North Carolina featuring music, yoga, liberal talk and embracing of gays and lesbians.”

This brings us to the most recent issue of In Touch (October 21011) titled “The Prayerful Life.” We received an e-mail this week by a LT reader (also an In Touch reader). Our reader stated: 

Just wanted to give you a heads up on Charles Stanley’s latest In Touch magazine. . . .   Many articles on prayer and peppered throughout are hints of spiritual disciplines, conversational prayer, sacred space, even a quote from Brother Lawrence, and Augustine of Hippo. On the back page with “Ask Dr Stanley” the question is  (p 48): Whats the difference between loneliness and solitude? And why is solitude so important?

Dr. Stanley’s answer: ”Loneliness is the anxious feeling of longing for a personal connection that isn’t presently possible or available.  But solitude is a deliberate choice to spend time with God and give Him your undivided attention.  From this perspective, solitude becomes something we look forward to.  As you spend time with your heavenly Father, the joy of His friendship defeats loneliness and paves the road for victorious living.  This is how Jesus met challenges on a daily basis.  Before ministering to the masses, He would spend focused time alone with the Father. (Mark 1:35)

“Still, many people shy away from solitude because  they’re not sure what to expect or how to go about it.  My first suggestion is to find a silent place that’s free from distractions. Once you’re there, the next step is to do nothing but make yourself available to the Lord, In that moment, God is not necessarily expecting you to read through a prayer list or study a devotional . Simply invite Him to meet with you in the stillness and speak to you through His Word, however He chooses.  Depending on your point of need, He may speak words of encouragement or instruction, or simply surround you with His love.  Don’t be discouraged if sensing His presence doesn’t happen right away.  With time you’ll experience it in ways that are transforming and unforgettable. 

Practicing the discipline of solitude is important to daily life because it calms our hearts in a demanding world and lightens the load on a busy schedule. With a deeper awareness of God, we find that what was previously overwhelming is now manageable.  Solitude helps us develop an abiding sense that He’s there with us every step of the way, guiding our conversations and activities.    

“Whatever the task, we can turn to the Lord and receive strength, creativity, and wisdom for every responsibility. This saves a lot of time and reduces stress, which also benefits our health. But most importantly through solitude we become intimate with God, and nothing in this world compares with knowing Him deeply.”

ANOTHER EXAMPLE:

On page  23,  an article called “Out of the Din, The necessity of silence” by [In Touch Managing Editor] Cameron Lawrence states: “From the churches early days, the discipline of keeping silence has been an important tool for growing in oneness with God.  The discipline of keeping silenceextends to every aspect of life. . . . But growing in Christlikeness requires we embrace silence as an essential component of our spiritual lives, not run from it . . . try setting aside just a few minutes each day, and gradually increase as you build endurance . . . eventually long periods of silence will become comfortable, and you will experience a deeper life with God in prayer.

On page 21,  ”Wordless Prayer”  by Tony Woodlief: “Jesus has a very special love for you” wrote a wistful [contemplative advocate] Mother Theresa” …. ” It’s not getting the words right that matters, its coming to Him. And what a shame to tarry before coming, or to quit His presence too soon, all because we cant find the “right” words.  Far better to whisper “please” or “help” or still better, “Jesus” over and over on our knees, than to not come to Him at all.”

While these references may appear somewhat benign to the reader who is not familiar with what contemplative spirituality is, these references are not only the language of contemplative mystics, they also allude to the idea that we cannot really know God (or hear from Him) unless we go into this silent state where we can remove thoughts (distractions) and then and only then hear the voice of God. The contemplative mindset is that we need to go into this self-induced state of silence because that is the only way we can hear the voice of God. So the Word of God and the Holy Spirit are no longer the avenues but rather repeating a word or phrase (the earmark of contemplative spirituality) to enter silence is. True, Charles Stanley himself has not come out (that we know of) and told his readers to repeat a word or phrase. But he is inadvertently pointing people to that by allowing In Touchto promote people like Anne Lamott, Sara Miles, Brother Lawrence, Mother Teresa, and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, as well as by using the language that has been primarily used by mystics. 

In our own evaluation of this most recent issue of In Touch magazine, in addition to what our reader above stated, we find other troubling aspects of the October issue, a few of which we are mentioning below:

Page 8:In Charles Stanley’s article titled “Conversation with God,” he states that “[i]ntimacy[with God] will not happen any other way” than to “experience His awesome presence.” We find this attitude with virtually every contemplative we have examined over the last ten years. 

Page 14:An article titled “The Attentive Life” features Leighton Ford’s book by the same name. We wrote about Ford (vice president of the Billy Graham Association) and his book in 2008stating:  “The book offers a collection of quotes by and references to some of the most prolific eastern-style meditation teachers, including Thomas Keating, David Steindl-Rast, Gerald May, Kathleen Norris, and atonement rejector and Episcopal priest Alan Jones (Reimagining Christianity). It is Steindl-Rast who suggested that the Gospel “gets in the way” between Christian and Buddhist dialogue.”  Leighton Ford wrote the foreword toPete Scazzero’s very contemplative book The Emotionally Healthy Church. Gary Gilley reviews Ford’s The Attentive Life and states:  ”First, he [Ford]  equates his attentive practices with centering prayer as explained by Roman Catholic mystic Thomas Keating, “We wait quietly in God’s presence, perhaps repeating a ‘sacred word,’ [mantra] and let go of our thoughts…. Centering prayer is not so much an exercise of attention as intention.”

Page 15: A sidebar in In TouchOctober 2011 features Frank Laubach, author of Letters of a Modern Mystic.

Page 19: An article titled “Seven Creative Ways to Pray as a Family” is written by contemplative advocate Mary DeMuth, author of Authentic Parenting in a Postmodern Culture(Harvest House). In the In Touch article, DeMuth tells readers to visit “prayer rooms – sacred spaces where you can experience different aspects of praying.” DeMuthtells readers to “[r]esearch online to find a prayer room near you.” Try this experiment: go to Google and type in “prayer room” and “sacred space.” One of the first entries you’ll come up with is http://www.stillpoint.org/SP/Home/index.cfm where a higher consciousness and New Age thought is promoted.

It does not seem out of place  to be questioning the direction that Charles Stanley’s ministry appears to be going. So we ask, “Just what are you trying to tell us Dr. Stanley?”

Related:

Mystical Spirituality Paradigm Saw Major Growth in 2009

Contemplative Spirituality Lands on Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine . . . Again

By Mike Stanwood
Free-Lance Writer and Defender of the Faith

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a writer, speaker, and activist who is a leader in the “New Monastic” movement. He lives in North Carolina at the Rutba House, a new monastic community.

Wilson-Hartgrove is most recently known for co-authoring Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals with new monastic activist Shane Claiborne. Other books he has authored may also fall into the emerging/contemplative category. For example, one such book called New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church (1) has been endorsed by mystic proponents Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Tony Campolo, and Catholic priest Richard Rohr. The mystics resonate with the “new monasticism” – this is plain to see. While on the surface, the new monasticism may look ok with its many good works of helping the poor and the needy. But the underlying belief system does not line up with biblical doctrine; rather it is about establishing an all inclusive kingdom of God on earth now where individual salvation is replaced with a community salvation for the whole world. Atonement has less emphasis on Jesus Christ as the only atonement for man’s sins and instead becomes an at-one-ment where all of creation is “being” saved by coming together as one (and yes, seeing the divinity of man). This is the kind of “atonement” that McLaren, Tickle, and Rohr would resonate with. It is important to see that they don’t just resonate with the good works coming out of the new monasticism - born-again Christians have been performing good work by helping the poor and needy for centuries and continue to do so. While this new monasticism supposedly distinguishes itself by its good works,  in reality it is mysticism and the foundational beliefs of mysticism (i.e., panentheism, kingdom now, etc) that distinguish it. And it is that element that Tickle, McLaren, and Rohr embrace.

Additional resources on Wilson-Hartgrove’s website include a DVD called Discovering Christian Classics: 5 Sessions in the Ancient Faith of Our Future, a five-week study with contemplative advocate Lauren F. Winner (Girl Meets God) for high school or adult “formation.” A description of this DVD states:

You will discover the meaning of conversion and prayer from the Desert Fathers and Mothers; how to love from the sermons of St. John Chrysostom; St. Benedict’s Rule of Life and how it became one of the foundations of Western Christian spirituality; how to have an intimate relationship with God according to The Cloud of Unknowing; and what it means to “pick up your cross” in the Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis.”

Another book Wilson-Hartgrove has authored, called The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, refers readers to the wisdom of Lao-tzu, the desert monastics, Thomas Merton, Benedictine spirituality, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Benedictine nun Joan Chittister.

In a Beliefnet interview one year ago, Wilson-Hartgrove shared how “we need the wisdom of those who’ve gone before us.” This wisdom he is referring to comes not from the Bible, but from the contemplative “Benedictines (who) taught us to start the day with common prayer.” (2)

After seeing what is at the core of Wilson-Hartgrove’s spiritual wisdom, it is not surprising to learn that he recently made an appearance  at the Wild Goose Festival (3). According to an article in the Christian Post, the Wild Goose Festival  was a “four-day revival camp in North Carolina featuring music, yoga, liberal talk and embracing of gays and lesbians.” (See the footnotes below for more information about this event.)

With a background like all of this, what many will find very surprising and disappointing, to say the least, is that on Wilson-Hartgrove’s  website  we learn that Wilson-Hartgrove was recently profiled in Charles Stanley’s In Touch magazine. The January 2011 article called “The Craft of Stability: Discovering the Ancient Art of Staying Put” written by Cameron Lawrence highlights the “ intentional Christian community” at the Rutba House and their “daily prayer routine.” The In Touch article states that Rutba House is an evangelical community rooted in the Protestant tradition, and that Wilson-Hartgrove is an ordained Baptist minister. The In Touch article also reports that Rutba’s community principles are borrowed from Benedictine monks and that all of their efforts are based on St. Benedict’s “rule of life.”

However, these two statements are completely contradictory: A “Protestant tradition” and “principles” “borrowed from Benedictine monks” completely contradict each other if we are talking about a biblical tradition when we say “Protestant tradition.” The contemplative beliefs promoted by Wilson-Hartgrove are not biblical.

Is this the kind of example of biblical Christian living that Charles Stanley’s readers have come to expect to see in his magazine? Unfortunately, this is not the first time an article promoting contemplative/emerging figures has emerged from the In Touch magazine. On January 18th, 2010, Lighthouse Trails reported in their article, “Letter to Charles Stanley: Is In Touch Getting Out-of-Touch With the True Gospel?”  that In Touch magazine carried an article written by Joseph Bentz. Bentz’s article  featured two women (both contemplative proponents, one a practicing lesbian). Bentz highlighted the spiritual journeys of these two women, whom Bentz claimed were both converted to the Christian faith. Both women today can be considered significant proponents of the new spirituality. In one article Lighthouse Trails wrote after Bentz’s article, it stated:

While we are not suggesting that Charles Stanley is a contemplative now because of the inclusion of this article, we believe it is a perfect example of a steady blending of contemplative and New Age to the point where eventually no one will notice the difference, and what will be known as Christianity will be mystical.

If this truly happens, then the observance of Leonard Sweet will be true:

Mysticism, once cast to the sidelines of the Christian tradition, is now situated in postmodernist culture near the center.… In the words of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Jesuit philosopher of religion/dogmatist Karl Rahner, “The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will be nothing.” [Mysticism] is metaphysics arrived at through mindbody experiences. Mysticism begins in experience; it ends in theology. (from p. 160, A Time of Departing, quoting Sweet from Quantum Spirituality, p. 76

It appears that ancient contemplative spirituality and those who promote it are no longer creeping into the church. They are in it! Through and through. As a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump (Galatians 5:9), this spiritual infiltration has become a commonly accepted component in so many once reputable and trusted ministries. This example of Charles Stanley’s ministry is one more reason why Christians need to be diligent to know the truth and defend God’s Word and not be ignorant of Satan’s devices (2 Corinthians 2:11).

NOTES:

(1) In this youtube interview, Wilson-Hartgrove talks about the concepts in his book; the new monastic movement, desert vision, desert fathers, and redistribution of wealth, here: Lesson #18 – Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove (New Monasticism) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUs0ojx-pM8

(2) New Monasticism & The Emergent Church: FS Talks with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove: http://blog.beliefnet.com/flunkingsainthood/2010/06/new-monasticism-the-emergent-church-fs-talks-with-jonathan-wilson-hartgrove.html

(3) Learn more about the Wild Goose Festival here:

Left-Leaning ‘Wild Goose’ Festival Draws Ire of Evangelicals


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