Posts Tagged ‘Leonard Sweet’

An Open Letter to Christian Leaders: Please Tell Us Where We Are Wrong

By the Editors at Lighthouse Trails

For over 11 years, Lighthouse Trails has been issuing a warning about a mystical spirituality, known as contemplative prayer, which is coming through the conduit of the Spiritual Formation movement. It has not been an easy road to travel on, but through the Word of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we saw this paradigm shift, which was affecting a large segment of the evangelical and Protestant church and lining up with biblical prophecy of a day coming when there will be great deception and many would fall away from the faith. We also became completely convinced that the roots of contemplative spirituality were based in panentheism (God in all), interspirituality (all paths lead to God), and universalism (everyone is united with God in spite of belief).

Once we saw this, we simply could not quit the work we had been called to do. Today, those convictions are stronger than ever, but the opposition or indifference we have encountered from the ranks of those widely known as leaders of the evangelical church has been stunning and sometimes unbelievable, especially in light of the fact that our only desire is to protect the message of the Cross from an opposite message that carries no hope of salvation or a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Looking back, it is hard for us not to see ourselves as a kind of David in his battle with Goliath. Lighthouse Trails is not a big ministry, at least as far as staff and resources go. If someone had told us 11 years ago that one day most major Christian ministries would know who we were and would resent, despise, or even hate us, we would not have believed it. You see, when we first began, we were under the impression that our warning was going to be welcomed by Christian leaders, and in fact, we thought that our own ministry could be short lived because once they were given the information and documentation about this great spiritual deception, they would take up the banner and run with it, and we would be able to go back to our lives before Lighthouse Trails began. After all, they were the ones who had the money, audience, credentials, and popularity to really make a difference. We had none of these things.

It wasn’t too long before we learned that the Christian leaders were not going to be receiving our message.

Opposition didn’t start right away. But then, that would make sense as we started at ground zero, with virtually no publishing experience and no readership. We had to take online college courses to learn how to build websites and design books. We sent out free copies of A Time of Departing (our launching book) to Christian radio stations, organizations, ministries, and pastors. One of these copies went to Rick Warren. Another to John MacArthur. One to Jerry Falwell, another to Focus on the Family, and on and on. From 2002 to 2006, we gave away over three thousand copies of A Time of Departing.  We heard back from several men and women, many of whom had Masters and Doctorate degrees who told us the book was right on the mark. Dr. Jim Diehl, for example, former General Superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, called one day and praised the book as “excellent” and “vital.” Chuck Smith spoke with one of our editors and said that our work was meaningful and important. John MacArthur told a staff member, who told us by phone, that he greatly appreciated the work we were doing. Rick Warren wrote us a personal note to tell us the book is a “hot topic” and has a place on his library bookshelf.

But then in 2005, we wrote a special report titled “Rick Warren Teams Up With New-Age Sympathizer Ken Blanchard!” It didn’t take too long after that report came out for us to know that we had crossed a line, and life was never going to be the same again. You can read more about those early years in two articles we wrote: one, “How Lighthouse Trails Began – Part One: “It was a dark and stormy night,” and two, “Lighthouse Trails, the Early Years – Part 2 – “A Hot Topic” That Just Wouldn’t Go Away.”  Warren B. Smith also documented some of the events in an entire chapter in his book A “Wonderful” Deception (chapter 5). Some of the things that took place were like elements out of a B-rated mystery novel like phone lines suddenly “out of order,” e-mails apparently being intercepted, being told by Saddleback that federal agents were investigating us because they thought we had broken into the Saddleback server, and so forth. We wondered what we had gotten ourselves into.

Over the course of the years, there have been many terrible and unkind things said about us in public venues. We’ll give you a brief rundown of some of these things that have been said. Prepare yourself – none of them have anything to do directly with our actual work. In fact, the one thing we have yet to see is any solid and biblical refutation of our work. It’s as if it’s always avoided. Everything is said, but no solid challenge is given.

So what are these terrible things said publically about Lighthouse Trails? Here’s an incomplete sampling: One  pastor, on a popular blog, said we were “like fleas on the back of a dog.” Then there was the time, on stage at a Calvary Chapel event with thousands of young people, where we were called “the haters.” Rick Warren’s former chief apologist said in an article that has been sitting on a high traffic Christian website for years that if we had the legal means we would torture and murder people. One well-known apologist coined the term “discernment divas” and first used it referring to one of the women writers at Lighthouse Trails in 2006. Then there were the generic name-calling terms like witch-hunters, freaks, fanatics, militant fundamentalists, and so forth. After a few years of this, we couldn’t help wonder why these highly qualified men (and sometimes women) had nothing qualified to say about our work.

We want to make one thing clear here. By telling our readers these things, we are not trying to gain sympathy. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We understand that in doing this kind of ministry, there is inevitably going to be strong reaction and defense tactics. No one wants to be criticized or challenged, especially leaders who have become accustomed to being followed, not being corrected.

What’s been frustrating about the name calling, however, is that we’ve been very open to receiving solid biblical refutation of the message we are proclaiming. In fact, we said from the very beginning of our ministry that all we really wanted was for the contemplative issue to come to the table, to be discussed, challenged, and considered. Eleven years ago, if one Googled the term “contemplative prayer,” virtually nothing came up on the first few pages of search results that was from a critiquing point of view. Mystical spirituality in the Christian church was being largely unchallenged.

As we learned of all the men who had great educational and theological credentials, we thought there would be some scholarly response and a taking hold of the torch, so to speak. We didn’t expect name calling, innuendos, sometimes downright lies (like the rumors that we often hear), and ad hominem and straw men arguments. That took us by surprise. And we began to wonder why this was happening. Was it possible, we asked ourselves, that some of these educated leaders couldn’t see the big picture of this deception? We just wanted some proof that we were wrong, some good solid biblical evidence that our conclusions were way off.

We got used to the name calling and over time, found some of it humorous (in a way); at least, we found it meaningless. It was the other accusations that got to us though, because we knew they were without merit (or evidence). One of the most common accusations against the research at Lighthouse Trails is that we take quotes out of context. And yet, and this is the truth, in all these years, we have not had one person actually give us an example of where we have done this. As a case in point, about 5 years ago, two educated men, both with doctorates from a higher learning institution in Canada, said that A Time of Departing was faulty because it took quotes out of context. We wrote to them in an amiable manner and asked if they could provide just one or two examples so that we could see where we went wrong. They did not produce one example. Lighthouse Trails has been meticulous about checking and double checking every quote in a book or article we publish to make sure that the intent of any particular author is not misconstrued or taken out of context. If someone did produce a legitimate example, we would speedily correct that. You see, it is not our intention to falsely accuse or villanize anyone. Taking quotes out of context is an accusation we take very seriously, and we take great efforts not to do that. And yet, we hear this often from our critics. But we are still waiting for an example.

The second most common accusation against us is that we use faulty and loose guilt by association reasoning. We have addressed this in many past articles, but we will say it again here: there is a difference between loose guilt by association and guilt by promotion or by proxy. What’s more, there is a legitimate guilt by association. The way our critics would have it, there is no such thing and it doesn’t matter who a person is associated with. But you won’t find backup in Scripture on that. On the contrary, consider all the verses that tell God-fearing people to keep good company, avoid standing with heretics or unruly people, keep oneself unspotted from the world, avoid the appearance of evil, and so forth.

One of the big issues that continuously surfaces is related to guilt by association. Those who accuse us of using guilt by association say that we call people contemplative or emerging proponents because they have been “associated” with a contemplative person. But, we have never done that. For instance, often we will challenge a big name leader for sharing a platform with contemplative and emergent figures. But we have never said that person was now a contemplative or emergent himself just for sharing the platform with one. An example of this is when we challenged Joel Rosenberg and Kay Arthur for attending Canada’s Breakforth contemplative-promoting conference and sharing the platform with emergents like Leonard Sweet and Tony Campolo. We never once said that now this makes Rosenberg and Arthur contemplatives or emergents themselves. No. The challenge we gave was that reputable, Bible-believing leaders should not give credibility to false teachers by standing on the same platforms or being at the same conferences.

Another case in point just occurred. We challenged John MacArthur for using a sermon for many years till present where he favorably quotes the late major contemplative pioneer Dallas Willard. The accusations started pouring in that we were calling MacArthur a contemplative proponent. But we never did. Our challenge was and is that by highly influential leaders favorably quoting false teachers, they inadvertently are giving credibility to that teacher and thereby lessening resistance from the Christian community at large to their message.

One last accusation that we want to address in this article is an accusation that comes primarily from a few popular public figures in the Calvinist/Reformed camp, and that is that all or most of the writing done at Lighthouse Trails is done by one woman (or a “discernment diva” as they  say – incidentally a diva is typically a self-centered, egotistical, arrogant woman (often a performer) who is domineering and rude to those around her. If you read our articles you’ll see this is not an accurate description of what we are trying to do that springs from a heart-felt love for people, which is the opposite of diva behavior). Three things on this issue: first, calling women who are believers in Christ “divas” is a derogatory and ungodly remark – period! Second, it isn’t true that most of the writing at Lighthouse Trails comes from just one person. Take a look at any of our e-newsletters, our blog, or our printed journals, and you will see  the names of many writers, both men and women. As you can see on our authors’ page, we currently use the writings of 11 women and 19 men. For anyone to say that our material is written by just one person appears to be a dishonest effort to minimize the value in the work of these 30 some writers.

Relating to the issue of women, as far as the accusation that women shouldn’t be in a ministry of this kind at all – all we can say to that is that if God can use a donkey, surely He can use a woman (Numbers 22:21-38). It is interesting to note that in the case of Balaam’s donkey, God used the donkey to warn and save Balaam’s life.  Is it so unthinkable that God would use women to warn of impending spiritual danger? To cry out to their brothers, of whom many have fallen asleep on the watch? Of all those labeled “discernment divas” whom we know, each of them is a loving mother, wife, and in some cases grandmother who has, not by her own choice, but by God’s apparent choice, accepted the role much like Balaam’s donkey. And remember, that donkey was struck several times by Balaam before God finally intervened – then Balaam’s eyes were opened, and he saw that the donkey’s efforts to warn him were legitimate.

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All of this that we have said in this article leads us to ask the question to Christian leaders, where have we gone wrong? Please tell us. Not by name calling or accusations without proof. If we have taken something out of context, please show us some examples of that. If have wrongly called someone a contemplative advocate or sympathizer, please tell us how. But all we ask is you present us with the documentation, the evidence. We only ask for the same standard to be applied to us that we have tried to use ourselves: honesty, accuracy, and Christian charity.

While we know we are all fallible, and as humans we don’t have a full understanding of the things of God according to Scripture, we, like others in the body of Christ, are attempting to walk a life that is honoring to God. We know we fail at that at times, and we are totally dependent on Him to lead us and strengthen us. We have attempted to report to Christians information that is pertinent to the health of the Christian church. If we have erred in our deductions and conclusions, then we want to be corrected. If we can be shown that our warning and work is faulty and against Scripture, we will apologize and even step down from this work.

We do not see ourselves as better than anyone else, and certainly we know we do not have the “qualifications” (from a human point of view) that would entitle us to be in any kind of authority over another (we do not even desire such authority). We have endeavored to stand beside our brothers and sisters, not above, not below. But because we believe so strongly that we are living in the days the Bible predicts will occur before the return of Christ where there will be a great falling away (of faith), we are gravely concerned that most of the Christian leaders seem to be either ignoring or going along with this major paradigm shift in the church at large. And while Lighthouse Trails is just a small ministry which could end at any time (as God sees fit) and certainly we have not come to the church with the splendor, finesse, support, or backing that most of the major Christian leaders have, we beseech these leaders to consider that God often uses the foolish things and weak things to speak His message (like Balaam’s donkey).

And so, if we are wrong, rather than using name calling, which is unprofitable, show us where we are wrong. If you, dear Christian leader, are  on the side of truth, then consider our warning. Maybe you don’t like our delivery, but if there is no solid evidence to prove us wrong, wouldn’t it be wise to humble yourselves and listen?

We have written this article, not as a means to defend ourselves but more so to defend our work.

The Quantum Christ: Entering the World AND the Church Through Popular New Age & Christian Leaders

by Warren B. Smith

Fritjof Capra

The New Age/New Spirituality is already heralding quantum physics as a “scientific” basis for their contention that God is not only transcendent but also immanent—“in” everyone and everything. Physicist Fritjof Capra’s 1975 best-selling book on quantum physics—The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism—was the first to present this proposed scientific/spiritual model to a mass audience. In it, Capra explains that he gained new spiritual insights through a mystical experience he had sitting on a beach in Santa Cruz, California in 1969:

Five years ago, I had a beautiful experience which set me on a road that has led to the writing of this book. I was sitting by the ocean one late summer afternoon, watching the waves rolling in and feeling the rhythm of my breathing, when I suddenly became aware of my whole environment as being engaged in a gigantic cosmic dance. . . . As I sat on that beach my former experiences [research in high-energy physics] came to life; I “saw” cascades of energy coming down from outer space, in which particles were created and destroyed in rhythmic pulses; I “saw” the atoms of the elements and those of my body participating in this cosmic dance of energy; I felt its rhythm and I “heard” its sound, and at that moment I knew that this was the Dance of Shiva, the Lord of Dancers worshipped by the Hindus.1

Commenting on his experience thirty years later, Capra writes that back in 1970 he “knew with absolute certainty that the parallels between modern physics and Eastern mysticism would someday be common knowledge.”2 In 1999, in a twenty-fifth anniversary edition of his book, Capra reflects on the fact that The Tao of Physics had sold more than a million copies over the years and had been translated into at least twelve languages:

What did The Tao of Physics touch off in all these people? What was it they had experienced themselves? I had come to believe that the recognition of the similarities between modern physics and Eastern mysticism is part of a much larger movement, of a fundamental change of worldviews, or paradigms, in science and society, which is now happening throughout Europe and North America and which amounts to a profound cultural transformation. This transformation, this profound change of consciousness, is what so many people have felt intuitively over the past two or three decades, and this is why The Tao of Physics has struck such a responsive chord.3

Capra adds:

The awareness of the unity and mutual interrelation of all things and events, the experience of all phenomena as manifestations of a basic oneness, is also the most important common characteristic of Eastern worldviews. One could say it is the very essence of those views, as it is of all mystical traditions. All things are seen as interdependent, inseparable, and as transient patterns of the same ultimate reality.4

Fritjof Capra then describes the union of mysticism and the new physics as the “new spirituality” that is “now being developed by many groups and movements, both within and outside the churches.” As an example of how this “new spirituality” is moving into the church, he refers to one of Leonard Sweet’s “role models” and “heroes”—Matthew Fox:

On the other hand, I also believe that our own spiritual traditions will have to undergo some radical changes in order to be in harmony with the values of the new paradigm. The spirituality corresponding to the new vision of reality I have been outlining here is likely to be an ecological, earth-oriented, postpatriarchal spirituality. This kind of new spirituality is now being developed by many groups and movements, both within and outside the churches. An example would be the creation-centered spirituality promoted by Matthew Fox and his colleagues.5

A perfect example of Capra’s reference to how this quantum “new spirituality” is being developed in churches is exemplified by Margaret Wheatley’s appearance at the Leadership Network’s May 2000 “Exploring off the Map” conference with Leonard Sweet and others. As described in the previous chapter, Wheatley first encountered the “new science” in Fritjof Capra’s book The Turning Point, as noted in the updated introduction of her book Leadership and the New Science:

I opened my first book on the new science—Fritjof Capra’s The Turning Point, which describes the new world view emerging from quantum physics. This provided my first glimpse of a new way of perceiving the world, one that comprehended its processes of change, its deeply patterned nature, and its dense webs of connections.6

To further illustrate how pervasive this quantum spirituality has become in the church, consider an organization called VantagePoint3. This South Dakota-based group has developed a three-phase “spiritual formation” program called The VantagePoint3 Process (or L3), which incidentally is being used by a growing number of churches across North America. In the first phase—“Emerging Leaders”—a quote and summation of Margaret Wheatley is used to teach one of the points in that phase. The curriculum quotes Wheatley from her book Leadership and the New Science and emphasizes her view on “relationship” and “interconnection.”7 The fact that this program points to Wheatley demonstrates yet another way that quantum physics and quantum spirituality is already in the church. It is worth noting that this curriculum uses Galatians 3:27-28 to partially summarize what Wheatley has to say. But while Galatians 3 speaks of “Christ Jesus,” Wheatley’s quantum “Christ” is the universal “Christ” of quantum “oneness.” VantagePoint3’s use of Wheatley to teach about “Christ” is a perfect example of what Fritjof Capra described as this new spirituality being developed within the churches.

The VantagePoint3 Process also cites materials by Leonard Sweet, Peter Senge, and Ken Blanchard. All three were featured with Wheatley at the “Exploring off the Map” conference organized by Bob Buford and Leadership Network.

Another example of how quantum physics has already entered the church is through the ministry of Annette Capps—the daughter of best-selling author and charismatic pastor Charles Capps. There are over 100,000 copies of Annette Capps’ booklet Quantum Faith in print. In the booklet, she presents a Christian faith compatible with the so-called “scientific” principles of quantum physics and as such is also compatible with the so-called “scientific” principles of the New Age/New Spirituality. She even refers readers to New Age leader Gary Zukav’s book The Dancing Wu Li Masters—An Overview of the New Physics.8 In her booklet, she writes:

As I studied the theories of quantum physics, I was reminded of a prophecy given by my father, author and teacher Charles Capps, “Some things which have required faith to believe will no longer require faith, for it will be proven to be scientific fact.”9

Obviously, authors like Gary Zukav and Fritjof Capra have had a huge influence not only in the world, but also in the church. Capra, a New Age physicist and Aquarian conspirator, is mentioned frequently in Marilyn Ferguson’s book The Aquarian Conspiracy.10 In addition, countless books and articles have been written about the quantum aspects of the “new science” and the “new spirituality” since the publication of Capra’s The Tao of Physics and The Turning Point. Gary Zukav and his writings on quantum physics were praised and featured years ago by Oprah Winfrey on the Oprah Winfrey Show.11 William Young’s best-selling book The Shack is just the latest in a long line of books that deal directly or indirectly with quantum physics and quantum spirituality. And like Margaret Wheatley’s book Leadership and the New Science but on a much larger scale, Young’s book is also having great influence by subtly introducing quantum physics and quantum spirituality into the church. To top this off, a New Age movie on quantum physics [What the Bleep Do We Know] has greatly influenced many people and has already become an underground cult classic. (taken from A “Wonderful” Deception, pp.167-171)

1. Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism (Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1999), p. 11.
2. Ibid., p. 323.
3. Ibid., pp. 324-325.
4. Ibid., p. 330.
5. Ibid., p. 341.
6. Margaret J. Wheatley, Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World (San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Inc., 3rd ed., 2006), pp. 3-4, brought to my attention by Discernment Research Group.
7. Emerging Leaders: Relational Foundations of Leadership (Sioux Falls, SD, Vantage Point3, 2006,, p. 52; this information provided by Jennifer Pekich.
8. Annette Capps, Quantum Faith (England, AR: Capps Publishing, 2003, 2007), p. 4, booklet brought to my attention by Larry DeBruyn.
9. Ibid., p. 6.
10. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy, op. cit., pp. 145, 149-150, 152, 172, 261, 374.
11. Gary Zukav’s first appearance on Oprah was in October 1998. This propelled his book The Seat of the Soul to the top of the New York Times best-seller list for two years.

Will Cedarville University Turn Around With New President? – Challenge May be Big

Recently we received the following letter from a Lighthouse Trails reader regarding Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. Presently, Cedarville U. is one of the schools Lighthouse Trails names on its Colleges That Promote Contemplative Spirituality (i.e., Spiritual Formation) list.

To Lighthouse Trails:

We think we have some good news concerning Cedarville.  A new president was installed [this summer], Dr. Thomas White.  He SEEMS to be a good one, as we listened to the welcome he sent out to students.  He said he wants to see biblical worldviews taught in every classroom and in every degree program, academics at the highest level possible combined with a passion for the Great Commission, and ministering around the world by sharing the Gospel along with physical needs, but realizing that the Gospel is the greatest need.  He asked for prayers for wisdom and promised to do all he can to make sure that every decision is honoring to the Lord. We also heard in another clip that he said EVERYTHING should be filtered through the Word of God.  Some of these things were most likely stated by the last president, but he and others were obviously not living up to them.

John Purple has resigned.  I believe you’ve dealt with him, as well as Carl Ruby, who resigned this past semester.  I was  told that the past president had spoken highly of [The Circle Maker].  We hope and pray that a new day has dawned at the school, at least for a while. We shall see.

Thanks again.  We are so grateful for your ministry.

Concerned and Hopeful


Lighthouse Trails first wrote about Cedarville University in 2006 in an article titled, “Cedarville University – Heading Down the Contemplative Road?.”  In that article, we pointed out that Cedarville’s president at that time, Dr. Bill Brown, had a resource page for students in which he was recommending books by Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Philip Yancey, and New Ager James Redfield (author of The Celestine Prophecy).  Our next article (a year and a half later), “Cedarville University Bringing Emerging Church Activist to Campus,” reported that Cedarville was hosting an evening with emerging church leader Shane Claiborne. Lighthouse Trails spoke with Cedarville’s Dean for Student Life at that time, John Purple and told him about our concerns with the Claiborne invitation (e.g., Claiborne’s close affinity with McLaren, Jim Wallis, Mark Scandrette, and Rob Bell).  Our 2008 article also stated:

Lighthouse Trails also spoke with CU’s Vice President Carl Ruby. He said he visited the Lighthouse Trails Research website and was very fond of many of the people we critique. Given the fact that all of the names we critique promote eastern-style mysticism and given the fact that Ruby has no reservations about having Claiborne speak, we should be very concerned about the welfare of CU students. However, a closer look at Cedarville reveals that the school is being influenced by New Age/contemplative/emerging spirituality.

A week after we sent out that article, we posted one titled “Cedarville University Cancels Shane Claiborne Event.” Because of pressure coming from parents, students, and others who contacted the school, Shane Claiborne would not be speaking to Cedarville students. But two years later (2010), they would bring in a mentor of Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis (founder of SoJourners) as we reported in our article “Cedarville University to Host Emerging Leader Jim Wallis in “Biblical” Response to Poverty.”   It was apparent that Cedarville’s attraction to emerging figures hadn’t gone away. Wallis’ magazine, SoJourners, is a media outlet for mystics, socialists, liberals, emerging leaders, and New Age proponents.

So where is Cedarville at today with regard to all this? Well, here is what we found:

1) While Dr. Bill Brown is no longer president, the school has left his Recommended Book list (with McLaren, Redfield, and Yancey) up on their website. Perhaps an oversight, but one we hope the new president can rectify; think of how many students have come across that page over the past several years. We wonder how many of those students then turned to McLaren and Redfield and learned that God is in everything (Redfield) and that the atonement is “false advertising” for God (McLaren) or that homosexuality really isn’t that bad (Yancey).

2) In a 2011 Torch magazine issue (Cedarville’s publication), the theme for that issue was titled “Tuning Out the Noise” (code words for contemplative spirituality) and is basically an entire infomercial for contemplative prayer. Lots of contemplative buzz words in the issue accompany an article written by Richard Swenson titled “Living Inside the Margin.” Torch mentions one of Swenson’s book’s The Overload Syndrome, which turns to Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, and a number of other contemplatives for advice. In another article in that issue written by Cedarville professor Milt Becknell, “Health in Mind, Body, and Spirit,” Becknell refers to Dr. Kenneth Pelletier, who is a New Spirituality/New Age meditation proponent. Another article, “God Alone,” written by two Cedarville University women, talk about how they attended a retreat at the Catholic Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky ( the launching pad for bringing contemplative into mainstream Christianity a few decades ago – see Gethsemani Encounter). Touting Dallas Willard and Brennan Manning, the two women give some basic instructions on lectio divina and encourage “the silence” (you can read that article on pages 20-23 of the issue). According to Cedarville’s website, one of the women, Kim Ahlgrim, is still on staff at Cedarville as the Associate Dean of  Academic Enrichment, and the other woman, Debby Stephens, is a board trustee of Cedarville.  To cap off the contemplative-promoting issue of Torch, a list of “Digging Deeper” Books includes titles by Ruth Haley Barton, Keri Wyatt Kent, Dan Allender, Lynne Babb, and Priscilla Shirer – all proponents of contemplative spirituality.

3) A Spiritual Formation course (BEGE-1720) is  taught at Cedarville by a number of different professors. One of the professors is using Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline,  another is using John Ortberg’s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, and one is using Donald Whitney’s book on the spiritual disciplines. Although Whitney says he rejects mysticism, he gives honor to Richard Foster when he said that Foster’s work has “done much good.” For Cedarville to use these books shows that Cedarville links Spiritual Formation with Foster and Willard (rightfully so, for these two are the pioneers of the evangelical Spiritual Formation movement). This is why we wonder why people try to say that there is a “good” kind of Spiritual Formation, when there is only one kind – the contemplative interspiritual kind.

4) In BEGE 3760, two professors are using Mark Driscoll’s book Death By Love. Driscoll is a pro-contemplative with a number of emergent affinities in his teachings.

5) In WSHP 1010 (Worship), a book titled The Complete Worship Leader is being used for the textbook. That book, written by Kevin Navarro, turns to several contemplatives (see bibliography) to develop his teachings on worship: Richard Foster, Robert Webber, Dallas Willard, Ken Blanchard, Eugene Peterson, Henri Nouwen, Marva Dawn, and Sally Morgenthaler – all contemplative meditation advocates.

6) In BECE 1000 (Orientation to Bible Ministries), the textbook used is One Life by emerging authors, Scot McKnight and Gabe Lyons, and in BECE 2400 (Interpreting and Teaching the Bible), Andy Stanley’s Communicating for a Change and Bruce Wilkinson’s Seven Laws of the Learner are both used. Remember, Wilkinson is known for his God’s Dream idea (talked about in A “Wonderful” Deception by Warren B. Smith).

 7) In BENT 4110 (Biblical Studies, New Testament), the course is using a book(s) by N.T. Wright, a favorite mentor of emergent.

8) In the BEPT courses (Practical Theology), James Wilhoit’s Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered and a book by Timothy Keller (who teaches contemplative at his church, Redeemer Presbyterian) are used.

9) In BETH courses, textbook authors include N.T. Wright, ancient future author, the late Robert Webber, and  Bruce Demarest (Satisfy Your Soul – a book that is filled with the mystics).

10) In Cedarville’s G92 Immigration Conference in 2011, Shane Claiborne (Cedarville just can’t get away from him) and Jim Wallis were part of the speaker line up. If you haven’t read our booklet tract titled, They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus, it would be a good time to do so if you want to understand the implications of the Claiborne/Wallis attraction.

As you can see, Cedarville University has been dancing with the devil and his contemplative/emergent beliefs for quite some time. The question is, will the new president, Thomas White, be able to turn things around? That, of course, will depend on whether he even wants to turn things around, and that won’t happen if he doesn’t understand the true nature behind the contemplative prayer movement and the emerging church. If he doesn’t know that a panentheistic mystical paradigm shift is happening to the Christian church right now (as Ray Yungen has so meticulously shown in his research), we fear he may allow Cedarville to continue down its present course.

We  have no personal animosity against Cedarville or any of the names we have mentioned above, but because we realize how significant this issue is, we cannot leave it unchallenged. Take a look at the photo from Cedarville that we have posted in this article. Professors at colleges have captive audiences in their students. Parents better make sure that the people who hold their children in this thought and idea captivity for four years of their lives are doing it for the Gospel and the truth of the Word of God and not for a dangerous, often subtle, false gospel. Berit Kjos, her book How to Protect Your Child From the New Age and Spiritual Deceptiondocuments the well-thought out agenda to take over and change the minds of the youth in North America. Sadly, most Christian higher education institutes have succumbed to this very agenda, namely the New Spirituality.  

Related Material:

An Afternoon with a Spiritual Formation Professor at a North American Bible School

An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited



NEW BOOKLET TRACT: They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus

They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus – How Conservative Christians Are Being Manipulated and Ridiculed, Especially During Election Years written by the Editors at Lighthouse Trails is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The booklet tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail.  Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus, click here. There is also an Appendix in the booklet that summarizes news articles to show a definite effort to alter the sociopolitical views of conservative Bible-believing Christian adults and their young adult children during a presidential election year.

They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus“They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus – How Conservative Christians Are Being Manipulated and Ridiculed, Especially During Election Years”

In 2008, which was an election year, books, videos, broadcasts, and news articles were pouring into mainstream America with a guilt-ridden message that basically manipulated conservative Christians into thinking that either they shouldn’t vote because “Jesus wouldn’t vote,” or they shouldn’t vote on morality issues such as abortion or homosexuality. Suddenly, all over the place, there was talk about “destroying Christianity,” or “liking Jesus but not the church,” or “Jesus for president” (suggesting that maybe we could get Him on the ballot but certainly we shouldn’t vote for anyone already on the ballot). It all sounded very noble to many. After all, everybody knows there is so much political corruption in high government and certainly as much hypocrisy within the walls of many proclaiming Christian leaders and celebrities.

This special report by Lighthouse Trails is not going to attempt to answer the question, “Should a Christian vote?” But we hope to at least show that things are not always as they seem, and what may appear “noble” and good may not be so at all.

In January of 2012, another election year, a young man, Jefferson (Jeff) Bethke, who attends contemplative advocate Mark Driscoll’s church, Mars Hill in Washington state, posted a video on YouTube called “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.” Within hours, the video had over 100,000 hits. Soon it reached over 14 million hits, according to the Washington Post, one of the major media that has spotlighted the Bethke video (hits as of May 2013 are over 25 million).
The Bethke video is a poem Bethke wrote and recites in a rap-like fashion his thoughts and beliefs about the pitfalls of what he calls “religion” but what is indicated to be Christianity. While we are not saying at this time that Bethke is an emerging figure, and while some of the lyrics in his poem are true statements, it is interesting that emerging spirituality figures seem to be resonating with Bethke’s message. They are looking for anything that will give them ammunition against traditional biblical Christianity. They have found some in Bethke’s poem. Like so many in the emerging camp say, Bethke’s poem suggests that Christians don’t take care of the poor and needy. While believers in Christ have been caring for the needy for centuries, emerging figures use this ploy to win conservative Christians (through guilt) over to a liberal social justice “gospel.” Emerging church journalist Jim Wallis (founder of Sojourners) is one who picked up on Bethke’s video. In an article on Wallis’ blog, it states:

Bethke’s work challenges his listeners to second guess their preconceived notions about what it means to be a Christian. He challenges us to turn away from the superficial trappings of “religion,” and instead lead a missional life in Christ.1

What the article is talking about when it says “preconceived notions” is Christianity according to the Bible. Emerging figures accept some of it but find to accept all of it is too restricting. Many of them call themselves “red letter Christians,” supposing to mean they adhere to all the red letters that Jesus said; but they have actually chosen which red letters they adhere to—they don’t accept them all. For instance, they dismiss red letters that refer to there being a hell for those who reject Jesus Christ as Lord, God, and Savior. When the word missional is used, this doesn’t mean traditional missionary efforts to evangelize the world. It means to realize that all of humanity is saved and being saved along with all of creation and that the means of salvation didn’t take place in a one-time event (the Cross) but is an ongoing procedure that occurs as people begin to realize they are all connected to one another and can bring about a Utopian society through this interconnectedness. Such emerging buzz words like missional fool a lot of people though.

Incidentally, if you’ve never read the article we posted in the summer of 2010 regarding Jim Wallis and Sojourners, “Sojourners Founder Jim Wallis’ Revolutionary Anti-Christian “Gospel” (and Will Christian Leaders Stand with Wallis?)” we highly recommend it.2 But be warned—you may find it quite disturbing when you read what the agenda behind the scenes really is.

The rally call to throw out Christianity but keep “Jesus” isn’t a new one—we’ve heard it many times before from various emerging contemplatives. Futurist Erwin McManus once said in an interview:

My goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ . . . Some people are upset with me because it sounds like I’m anti-Christian. I think they might be right.3

And, of course, there is Dan Kimball’s book, They Like Jesus But Not the Church. In a book review of Kimball’s book, Lighthouse Trails stated that the book should really be called They Like (Another) Jesus But Not the Church, the Bible, Morality, or the Truth.4 Kimball interviews several young people (one is a lesbian) who tell him they “like and respect Jesus” but they don’t want anything to do with going to church or with those Christians who take the Bible literally. Kimball says these are “exciting times” we live in “when Jesus is becoming more and more respected in our culture by non-churchgoing people.”5 He says we should “be out listening to what non-Christians, especially those in their late teens to thirties, are saying and thinking about the church and Christianity.”6

According to Kimball, it is vitally important that we as Christians be accepted by non-Christians and not thought of as abnormal or strange. But in order to do that, he says we must change the way we live and behave. Kimball insists that “those who are rejecting faith in Jesus” do so because of their views of Christians and the church.7 But he makes it clear throughout the book that these distorted views are not the fault of the unbeliever but are the fault of Christians, but not all Christians, just those fundamentalist ones who take the Bible literally, believe that homosexuality is a sin, and think certain things are wrong and harmful to society . . . and actually speak up about these things.

Perhaps what is most damaging about Dan Kimball’s book is his black and white, either or reasoning (the very thing he accuses Christians of). He makes it very clear that you cannot be a Christian who takes the Bible literally and also be a humble, loving, thoughtful person. They are two different things, according to Kimball. There is no such thing as a loving, humble Christian who takes the Bible literally. His book further alienates believers in a world that is already hostile to those who say Jesus is the only way to salvation, the Bible should be taken literally, homosexuality is a sin, and we are called out of this world to live righteously by the grace of God.

Brian McLaren, the emerging church’s early pioneer, resonates with these ill feelings toward the Christian faith when he states:

I must add, though, that I don’t believe making disciples must equal making adherents to the Christian religion. It may be advisable in many (not all!) circumstances to help people become followers of Jesus and remain within their Buddhist, Hindu, or Jewish contexts.8

Roger Oakland deals with this “we love Jesus but hate Christianity” mentality in his book Faith Undone. Listen to a few quotes Oakland includes in that book:

For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained.9—Don Miller, Blue Like Jazz

They [Barbarians] see Christianity as a world religion, in many ways no different from any other religious system. Whether Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, or Christianity, they’re not about religion; they’re about advancing the revolution Jesus started two thousand years ago.10—Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way

New Light embodiment means to be “in connection” and “information” with other faiths. . . .  One can be a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ without denying the flickers of the sacred in followers of Yahweh, or Kali, or Krishna.”11–Leonard Sweet

I happen to know people who are followers of Christ in other religions.12–Rick Warren

I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity. . . . I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.13–Thomas Merton

Allah is not another God … we worship the same God. . . . The same God! The very same God we worship in Christ is the God . . . the Muslims–worship.14–Peter Kreeft

Roger Oakland relates a story from the Book of Acts:

“[T]he apostle Paul had been arrested for preaching the Gospel. He was brought before King Agrippa and given the opportunity to share his testimony of how he became a Christian. He told Agrippa that the Lord had commissioned him to preach the Gospel and:

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18)

“Agrippa continued listening and then said to Paul, ‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian (vs. 28).’ Paul answered him:

I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost, and altogether such as I am, except these bonds. (vs. 29)

“If Paul had been following the emerging mentality, he would have told Agrippa, “No need to become a Christian. You can remain just as you are; keep all your rituals and practices, just say you like Jesus.” In actuality, if Paul had been practicing emerging spirituality, he wouldn’t have been arrested in the first place. He would not have stood out, would not have preached boldly and without reservation, and he would not have called himself a Christian, which eventually became a death sentence for Paul and countless others.”15

It’s hard to believe there was not at least some political agenda in this storm of “we love Jesus but not the church or Christianity” especially witnessed in election years. And we believe this agenda was aimed particularly toward young people from evangelical conservative upbringings who had joined the emerging church movement. In a CBS Broadcast, anchorman Antonio Mora suggests there may have been over twenty million participants in the emerging church movement in the United States alone by 2006.16 Even half that number would be enough to change the results of a presidential election.

Some may contend that Jefferson Bethke’s song doesn’t have any political message at all—it’s just about hypocrisy of religious people. But interestingly, in the very first few lines of the song, Bethke raps:
“What if I told you getting you to vote Republican, really wasn’t his [Jesus’] mission? Because Republican doesn’t automatically mean Christian.”

Could there be some message here that Bethke is trying to relay? Is it just to tell people that just because they are Republican doesn’t mean they are Christian? Surely not. A fourth grader could reason that out. It’s difficult not to believe there is some other message here that just happens to be taking place on an election year.

Just consider some of the things that were said by evangelical and emerging figures during the 2008 presidential election year. And think about what you are hearing today. A lot of people love the messages being sent out by people like Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus, and let’s not forget Frank Viola and George Barna’s book, Pagan Christianity, where they condemn church practices like pastors, sermons, Sunday School, and pews, but say nothing about spiritual deception that has come into the church through the contemplative prayer movement. These latter two figures (Viola and Barna) give readers a feeling that they should hate Christianity but just love Jesus. But what Jesus are these voices writing, singing, and rapping about? It may be “another Jesus” and “another gospel” (2 Corinthians 11:4).

As the world is gradually (but not too slowly anymore) heading toward a global government and global religion, it is becoming more and more apparent that this global society will be one where “tolerance” is the byword for everything other than biblical Christianity. And what better way to breed hatred toward biblical Christians than to say “we love Jesus but hate the church” (i.e., Christians and Christianity)? Perhaps they have forgotten what Jesus said:

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. (John 15: 18-19)

I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. (John 17:14)

This report we have written may produce more questions than answers regarding things like politics, voting, the role of Christians in the world, the view the world has of Christians, and so forth. But while we have not answered such questions, we hope we have shown that indeed things are not always as they seem and that often what seems right may actually be from a deceiving angel of light and those who appear good may actually be only false ministers of righteousness.

And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness. (2 Corinthians 11: 14-15)

To order copies of They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus, click here.

1. Matthew Santoro, “Viral: ‘Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus’” (God’s Politics blog, January 11, 2012,
2. M. Danielsen, “Sojourners Founder Jim Wallis’ Revolutionary Anti-Christian “Gospel” (and Will Christian Leaders Stand with Wallis?)”  (
3. “Pastor, noted author takes uncivil approach in new offering Book seeks to uproot ‘Christianity’ to return to its roots” (Christian Examiner,
4. “They Like Jesus, But Not the Church (or They Like (Another) Jesus But Not the Church, the Bible, Morality, or the Truth)”  (
5. Dan Kimball, They Like Jesus But Not the Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), p. 12.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid., p. 19.
8. Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy ((Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), p. 293.
9. Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz (Nashville, TN: Zondervan, 2003), p. 115.
10. Erwin McManus, The Barbarian Way (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005),p. 6.
11. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality (Dayton, OH: Whaleprints, First Edition, 1991), p. 130.
12. Rick Warren, “Discussion: Religion and Leadership,” with David Gergen and Rick Warren (Aspen Ideas Festival, The Aspen Institute, July 6, 2005,; for more information:
13. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
14. Peter Kreeft, Ecumenical Jihad (San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 1996), pp. 30, 160.
15. Roger Oakland, Faith Undone (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007), pp. 180-181.
16. Cited from Faith Undone, from chapter 1; taken from Antonio Mora, “New Faithful Practice Away from Churches” (CBS Broadcasting, July 10, 2006).

To order copies of They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus, click here.

Brian McLaren Asks For Money For: “broad-based, diverse, and deep Christian movement”

LTRP Note: Brian McLaren, one of the original “Terra Nova” emergent leaders, is asking followers to send substantial amounts of money for a mystery project that McLaren says will go toward a “broad-based, diverse, and deep Christian movement.” Lighthouse Trails has done extensive research on Brian McLaren for nearly 10 years. Please refer to the links below this article for some of that research or type  “Brian McLaren” into one of our two search engines. McLaren has had a major influence in the social, political, and religious sectors of the Western world.

“Brian McLaren ask for significant cash for mystery project”

By Amy Spreeman

On his blog [on May 22, 2013], Brian McLaren is making a mysterious appeal for money. Not just a few dollars, but big, bodacious financial support from those with deep pockets.

What’s it for? Brian won’t say, but if you want to contribute, you could email him at a special “happy to help” address and let him know you’re rich, and he’ll get back to you by this weekend.

He explains that his calling as a “movement person” has been supporting broad-based movements that embody a “Christ-like ethos and leads to Christ-like action for the good of the world.” But he leaves out the part where he denies the substitutionary atonement of the cross and what Christ did to fully pardon our sins.

What I’m looking for is a team of partners to join me in a generous and strategic impulse.

If you believe in the kinds of things I write, say, and do, and would like to join me in making a significant financial investment over the next three years – to help a broad-based, diverse, and deep Christian movement rise to the next level, I am hoping we can come together in a joint project. Click here to continue reading.

Related Information:

Brian McLaren’s views on Heaven, Hell, and the Cross (an interview)

Brian McLaren – Rethinking the Second Coming of Jesus Christ

Everything Must Change! says Brian McLaren

Brian McLaren: Hoping Obama Will Be Our Next President

BOOK REVIEW: Brian McLaren’s New Book: Finding Our Way Again

Brian McLaren’s Hope for the Future – The Minds of Your Grandchildren

Book Review on McLaren’s book: The Secret Message of Jesus by Berit Kjos

**The New Missiology – Doing Missions Without the Gospel by Roger Oakland **



Want Your Child to Become an Atheist? – Send Him to LeTourneau University in Texas (or Any Other Contemplative/Emergent School For That Matter)

That headline may seem a bit overboard or shocking at first glance, but this is what is happening in many of the Christian colleges, seminaries, and universities to kids who start off as Christian and four years later are proclaiming to be now atheist. At Letourneau University, this happened to the son of a  family that Lighthouse Trails has known for years. When their son graduated from Letourneau, he said he no longer believed he was a Christian. Rather, he said he is now an atheist.

And this is not the first time that Lighthouse Trails has heard such a tragic story.

So when a Lighthouse Trails reader contacted us recently asking what we thought about Letourneau University, we provided this parent (who is looking for a Christian school for his college-age child to attend) with the following information:

1. Here you can see that they brought in Biola University’s Mr. Contemplative himself to speak to the students:

2. Here the school turns to contemplative mystic Adele Ahlberg Calhoun to help teach students how to fast:

3. In this example, you can see the student chapel schedule where they have emergent author Mark Scandrette speaking to the students: You will find Scandrette‘s name mentioned in Roger Oakland’s book, Faith Undone. Scandrette is connected with an organization called Imagine,(, and would be inline with the spirituality of New Age sympathizer, Leonard Sweet. Scandrette‘s book, Soul Graffiti, is a primer in emergent theology.

4. You can also see on the Letourneau chapel schedule, chapel’s focusing on the contemplative practice of lectio divina as well as chapel’s led by contemplative advocate Mindy McGuire (, John Coe (heads up the Spiritual Formation department at Biola).

5. One particular chapel at Letourneau (December 2012) was titled “Spiritual Disciplines in Other Cultures.” The title alone makes us shudder. In this video of that chapel service, you can see various students sharing. One young man talks about how Thomas Merton changed his entire spiritual outlook:

6. Letourneau is also promoting the contemplative/emergent message through their Impact Retreat for students: In the 2012 retreat, Aubrey Spears, an Anglican pastor, was the speaker. In this pdf,, are the sermon notes for one of the talks Dr. Spears presented during the retreat. Spears tells students, as is typical of most contemplative teachers, that you cannot really mature spiritually without “slowing down” or having the stillness. He then proceeds to teach the students various forms of contemplative prayer.  If you read the back of this pdf, you will see that Spears turns to emergent/contemplative figures such as Phyllis Tickle, John Ortberg, Marva Dawn, Calvin Miller, Dorothy Bass,Eugene Peterson, and Henri Nouwen.

Some may be asking right now, why would following contemplative authors turn a Christian student into a proclaiming atheist? Well, consider this: Contemplative prayer is panentheistic at its roots (God is in all things). If one comes to believe that everyone and everything is divine or that God or divinity is in all things, including all humans, then the message of the Cross (man needing a Savior because of his sin) and the message of a personal Creator who loves man begin to lose their significance and meaning. And once that happens, is it possible there is a short gap between panentheism and atheism? Both reject the idea of a personal God.

Think about what happens to a young person who has been raised in a Christian home, then ends up in a “Christian” college, and begins getting indoctrinated with emergent teachings by men and women who use Christian terminology and even Scriptures (out of context) to basically knock down everything that child learned in his Christian home. And because most Christian parents today are not equipping their children to recognize and resist spiritual deception (probably because the parents have no idea what spiritual deception even looks like because it isn’t talked about in most churches), they are literally throwing their children to the wolves.

How we wish the family we know who sent their son to Letourneau would have asked Lighthouse Trails about that school four years ago. But, like so many other Christians today, they underestimated the wiles of the devil, and now their beloved son is in the clasp of deception.

If you are looking for a Christian college for your child, do two things: First, make sure your child understands the underlying agenda and teachings of contemplative/emerging spirituality; and second, find a college that at least has some understanding of (and resistance to) the contemplative/emergent issue. Here is one alternative: We know that school has a president who is aware of these dangers and is committed to keeping them out. It may not have the prestige that some of these other bigger schools have, but at least a student will more likely still be a Christian when he or she graduates. And isn’t that worth everything!

If you have a high school or college age student, we recommend he or she read Castles in the Sand and that you as parents read A Time of Departing and Faith Undone. Then sit down together as a family and discuss these things until you feel confident that your child gets it. Please realize that all the work you have done over the past 18 years of that child’s life can be undone in just a few terms at a contemplative/emerging college. We have talked to many many parents over the last 11 years who have shared their tragic stories with us.

Note: Needless to say, Letourneau University is now on our Contemplative Colleges list.

Related Articles:

Rob Bell to Teach Teens That Christian Beliefs About Hell are ‘Misguided and Toxic’


An Epidemic of Apostasy – Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited



SPECIAL REPORT: Assemblies of God “Believe” Conference Makes Bold Move – Brings in Contemplative Key Player Ruth Haley Barton

Update Note: For some articles written about this issue that came out after the article below, click here.

This August, in Orlando, Florida, the Assemblies of God USA will be presenting their General Council Conference, which takes place every two years. The title of this year’s event is “BELIEVE.” Scheduled to speak to “women in ministry” on one of the nights is Ruth Haley Barton. This is a bold move that the Assemblies of God is making because Barton is a major player in bringing contemplative mystical (i.e., mantra-based) prayer into the evangelical church.

The mission statement for the conference is “Believe we are on the cusp of an unparalleled Spiritual awakening.”1 On the conference website, it states:

GENERAL COUNCIL is the Assemblies of God’s largest gathering. It takes place every two years bringing church leaders together from all around the world.2

It also says that the event will inspire encounters with God, shape the Assemblies of God movement, and enhance [AOG leaders]  “skills and be inspired to advance the kingdom of God.”

While the Assemblies of God denomination has been going in the contemplative direction for some time, especially within the AOG theological seminary, to bring a major contemplative player in as a speaker  to the movement’s main leadership conference illustrates how much AOG has absorbed contemplative spirituality over the last few years especially.

As a little background, in 2005, Lighthouse Trails addressed the issue of contemplative coming into AOG when we discussed Professor Earl Creps, director of the Doctor of Ministry at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Creps is probably one of the earliest figures within the AOG movement to bring contemplative into AOG. In one document titled “Leading Others and Myself,” Creps lists a number of New Spirituality, emerging church and contemplative proponents as people he turns to.3  A 2006 LT article, “Assemblies of God: Committed to Spiritual Formation, Contemplative and Emerging,” stated:

If Assemblies of God Theological Seminary is any indication, then AOG is heading straight towards contemplative spirituality and the emerging church. Earl Creps . . . is a heavy proponent of both contemplative and emerging. In his course syllabi over the last five years, Creps has classes with titles such as “Leading the Emerging Church” and “Models of Ministry in the Emerging Church.” Syllabus reading materials include those from Henri Nouwen, Brian McLaren, Ken Blanchard, Dan Kimball, . . .  and Leonard Sweet. A visit to Creps’ “Spiritual Adventures” blog gives a hearty helping of emergent discussion. In one blog, Creps tries to show how there might be a union between Pentecostalism and the emerging church [i.e. contemplative], saying the relationship is “gaining some traction.”

As in most cases now, contemplative starts coming into a denomination through seminaries, colleges, and universities, and in time reveals itself in the main body of that movement. That is now what is happening with AOG bringing in Ruth Haley Barton to the General Council event this year where AOG leaders from around the world will be participating.

For those who have followed Lighthouse Trails, you will know that Barton was trained at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington, DC where she, according to her own words, was “under the guidance of Tilden Edwards, Rosemary Dougherty and Gerald May.” On Ruth Haley Barton’s Transforming Center website, she enthusiastically acknowledges being trained there, but the site gives a vague and almost oxymoronic disclaimer saying: “While she values all that she has gained from the teachers and institutions in which she has studied, this does not imply endorsement of everything  taught in these environments.”4 (emphasis added)

We could talk about the beliefs of Tilden Edwards, Rosemary Dougherty, and Gerald May, but we have in other articles that can be looked up on our research site and read. Basically, these teachers are contemplative mystics who adhere to panentheism and universalism. It was Edwards who said that, “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality (Spiritual Friend, p. 18). In other words, contemplative spirituality draws all religions together in unity under the common denominator of mysticism.

Who is Ruth Haley Barton?

After Barton finished her training at the Shalem Institute, she became the Associate Director of Spiritual Formation at Willow Creek Community Church and co-authored (with John Ortberg)  a Spiritual Formation curriculum for Willow Creek. In time, Ortberg moved on to become pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian in California, and Barton left to found the Transforming Center, which claims to train thousands of pastors and leaders in the contemplative way. She has written a number of books – virtually all having the core message that you gain intimacy with God through the silence (that is her predominant message). Some of these books are: Invitation to Solitude and Silence (foreword by Dallas Willard), Sacred Rhythms, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, and one of her more recent ones Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups.

So what is it exactly that Barton teaches? In a Christianity Today article titled “Drawing Closer to God,” Barton describes the practice of contemplative prayer, saying, “Ask for a simple prayer to express your willingness to meet God in the silence . . .  a simple statement . . .  such as ‘Here I am. . . . ’ Help yourself return to your original intent by repeating the prayer that you have chosen.”

In Barton’s popular book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, she goes into more depth:

• Identify your sacred space and time. Explore all the possibilities for a time and physical space in which you can be alone on a regular basis (p. 40).

• Begin with a modest goal, especially if silence is a new practice for you. Ten, fifteen or twenty minutes of time spent in actual silence is realistic, depending on such factors as your personality, pace of life, reliance on words and activity (p. 41).

• Settle into a comfortable yet alert physical position (p. 41).

• Ask God to give you a simple prayer that expresses your openness and desire for God. Choose a prayer phrase that expresses your desire or need for God these days in the simplest terms possible. It is best if the prayer is not more than six to eight syllables so that it can be prayed very naturally in the rhythm of your breathing. Pray this prayer several times as an entry into silence and also as a way of dealing with distractions. Distractions are inevitable, so when they come, simply let them go by like clouds floating across the sky. Help yourself return to the prayerful intent by repeating the prayer you have chosen. Use your prayer phrase for as long as it captures what is most true about your heart’s desire for God, and link it with a body posture that also helps you express your spiritual desire (pp. 41-42).

In regard to Barton’s disclaimer on her website, she can say that she does not endorse everything she was taught at Shalem Institute, but the fact of the matter is what she just described above is the essence of what Shalem believes and teaches. Everything they teach stems from this mystical prayer. Perhaps she is implying that she does not adhere to their panentheistic (God in all) and universalist (all are saved) views, but that would be ironic because these are the things that are produced by practicing contemplative prayer. Ray Yungen calls them the “fruit” of contemplative prayer. In A Time of Departing, Yungen discusses Shalem and its role in Barton’s spiritual life. He includes a quote found on Shalem’s website to show the underlying roots of Shalem’s ultimate goal:

In Christianity and other traditions that understand God to be present everywhere, contemplation includes a reverence for the Divine Mystery, “finding God in all things,”  [panentheism] or “being open to God’s presence, however it may appear. (5)

Yungen shares his concerns about Ruth Haley Barton:

“[Barton] echoes [goddess worshipper] Sue Monk Kidd in many ways, including the general malaise or condition of the human soul. Barton  recounts:

 A few years ago, I began to recognize an inner chaos in my soul . . . No matter how much I prayed, read the Bible, and listened to good teaching, I could not calm the internal roar created by questions with no answers. (“Beyond Words“)

“The following scenario Barton relates could be the wave of the future for the evangelical church if this movement continues to unfold in the manner it already has:

I sought out a spiritual director, someone well versed in the ways of the soul . . . eventually this wise woman said to me, . . . “What you need is stillness and silence so that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.” . . . I decided to accept this invitation to move beyond my addiction to words (“Beyond Words”)

“By ‘addiction to words’ [Barton] means normal ways of praying. She still uses words, but only three of them, ‘Here I am.’ This is nothing more than the Cloud of Unknowing or [Henri Nouwen’s] prayer of the heart. Like Richard Foster, Barton argues that God cannot be reached adequately, if at all, without the silence. In referring to I Kings 19 when Elijah was hiding in a cave, Barton encourages:

God loves us enough to wait for us to come openly to Him. Elijah’s experience shows that God doesn’t scream to get our attention. Instead, we learn that our willingness to listen in silence opens up a quiet space in which we can hear His voice, a voice that longs to speak and offer us guidance for our next step. (“Beyond Words”)

“What Barton fails to mention here is that Elijah was a valiant defender of the belief in the one, unique God – Yahweh (as seen in his encounter with the 450 prophets of Baal), and he never went into an altered state of silence in his personal encounter with God.” (A Time of Departing, 2nd. ed., pp. 172-173)

Those reading this who are skeptical about what we are saying may be asking, “What’s so wrong about repeating a word or phrase and going into an altered state of silence?” To this we answer, this state of silence is the same state that occultists and Eastern meditation practitioners enter when practicing transcendental meditation (TM).  We can prove this by the words of one of the men who trained Ruth Haley Barton – Gerald May (from Shalem Institute). May wrote the foreword to a book titled Zen for Christians. In that book, he says the following:

 I began to explore Eastern religions . . . I was taking my spiritual business elsewhere. Or so I thought. What surprised me, eventually, was that my foray into Buddhism led me in a kind of circle, back to my Christian roots. Over time, Buddhist practices [meditation] somehow revealed to me the rich resources of Christian contemplative tradition that had been there all along  . . . I was not alone in that experience. . .  [Those on the contemplative road] in their searching, many turned toward the East and experienced exactly what I had – an eventual discovery of deep nourishment [Eastern enlightenment] within their own original traditions. The phenomenon happened so frequently that we gave it a name: “pilgrimage home.”

May was correct in stating that so-called “Christian” contemplative prayer is the same as Buddhist meditation. As one adherent admitted, “The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics” (Kirby, Mission of Mysticism, p. 7). Who are the “advanced mystics”? There are plenty of them, names you probably know: Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, and to that list we add Ruth Haley Barton.

Consider this: On Barton’s website, she sells books by Catholic priest and contemplative activist Richard Rohr. In addition, she quotes him (in a prominent spot) in her recent book Pursuing God’s Will Together from his book, Everything Belongs. Typical of other contemplatives, such as Thomas Merton, Rohr believes that everything is connected together and that all is divine (thus, everybody belongs to the kingdom of God). In his 2011 book, Falling Upward, Rohr implies that we all are “immaculate conception[s]” (p. ix). If these things are true, then there was no need for Jesus Christ to die on the Cross for the sins of mankind. We would not need a Savior because we would already be divine ourselves. In truth, contemplative spirituality is the antithesis of the Gospel. That is why there are countless mystics  who claim to know God (or Jesus) but will have nothing to do with the Cross.

In a YouTube teaching video by Barton, she tells viewers, “You have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain [if you follow her instructions],” but we say you have everything to lose and nothing to gain if you go down the contemplative path. Sadly, instead of being on the “cusp of an unparalleled Spiritual Awakening,”  it appears that the Assemblies of God is going to be losing “a whole lot” in the days to come as they further open themselves to the contemplative “silence” and the spiritual deception that accompanies it.  Our warning here is to be taken seriously. William Shannon, Thomas Merton’s biographer, validated our concern when he made the following observation:

If one wants to understand Merton’s going to the East it is important to understand that it was his rootedness in his own faith tradition [Catholicism] that gave him the spiritual equipment [contemplative prayer] he needed to grasp the way of wisdom that is proper to the East. (Silent Lamp, p. 281)

This is what Tilden Edwards meant by the bridge to Far Eastern spirituality. Merton didn’t become a Buddhist; rather he grasped the way that “is proper to the East.” That is how Merton, as a Catholic monk, could say, “I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.”* In other words, while you don’t become a Buddhist, you absorb the Buddhist view into your Christianity. This is the underlying herald cry of the contemplative prayer movement, and it is something that can never be reconciled with the message of the Cross.

The ironic thing is that the Assemblies of God has traditionally held to the biblical view of the end times whereas contemplative spirituality lines up with a universal world religion, which will encompass all humanity and unite under the man of sin. There has never been anything on the scene before that would allow a universal religion that appeals to people on a broad scale. But first people have to hook up to the common factor and binding agent of this one-world religion, and that is contemplative prayer!


*David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).


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