Posts Tagged ‘Ray Yungen’
By Ray Yungen
The final outcome of contemplative prayer is interspirituality. If you have truly grasped the portrait I have tried to paint in my book and articles, you have begun to see what this term signifies. The focus of my criticism of mystical prayer must be understood in the light of interspirituality.
Just what exactly is interspirituality? The premise behind interspirituality is that divinity (God) is in all things, and the presence of God is in all religions; there is a connecting together of all things, and through mysticism (i.e., meditation) this state of divinity can be recognized. Consequently, this is a premise that is based on and upheld by an experience that occurs during a self-hypnotic trance linking one to an unseen world rather than to the sound doctrine of the Bible.
It is important to understand that interspirituality is a uniting of the world’s religions through the common thread of mysticism. Wayne Teasdale, a lay monk who coined the term interspirituality, says that interspirituality is “the spiritual common ground which exists among the world’s religions.”1 Teasdale, in talking about this universal church also states:
She [the church] also has a responsibility in our age to be a bridge for reconciling the human family . . . the Spirit is inspiring her through the signs of the times to open to Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Taoists, Confucians, and indigenous peoples. As matrix [a binding substance], the Church would no longer see members of other traditions as outside her life. She would promote the study of these traditions, seek common ground and parallel insights.2 (emphasis mine)
An article in my local newspaper revealed just how well received interspirituality has become in certain circles. One Presbyterian elder who was described as a “Spiritual Director” made it clear when she said:
I also have a strong interest in Buddhism and do a sitting meditation in Portland [Oregon] as often as I can. I considered myself ecumenical not only in the Christian tradition, but with all religions.3 (emphasis mine)
There is a profound and imminent danger taking place within the walls of Christianity. Doctrine has become less important than feeling, and this has led to a mystical paradigm shift. Sound doctrine must be central to this debate because New Ageism has a very idealistic side to it, offering a mystical approach to solve human problems. Everyone would like to have his or her problems solved. Right? That is the practical aspect I wrote about in the last chapter—a seemingly direct route to a happy and fulfilled life. However, one can promote the attributes of God without actually having God.
People who promote a presumably godly form of spirituality can indeed come against the truth of Christ. Then how can you be assured what you believe and practice is of God?
The Christian message has been clear from the beginning—God has sent a Savior. If man only had to practice some kind of mystical prayer to gain access to God then the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ was a fruitless, hollow endeavor.
Sound Christian doctrine comes from the understanding that mankind is sinful, fallen, and separated from God. Man needs a saving work by God! A teaching like panentheism (God is in everybody) cannot be reconciled to the finished work of Christ. How could Jesus be our Savior then? New Age constituents will say He is a model for Christ consciousness, but the Bible teaches He is the Savior of mankind. Therefore, panentheism cannot be a true doctrine.
The problem is that many well-intentioned people embrace the teachings of panentheism because it sounds so good. It appears less bigoted on God’s part. No one is left out—all are connected to God. There is a great appeal in this message. Nevertheless, the Bible does not teach a universal salvation for man. In contrast, Jesus said:
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. (Matthew 7:13-14)
Christ’s message is the polar opposite of these universalist teachings. Many people (even Christians) today think only a few really bad people will be sent to hell. But in Matthew, the words of Jesus make it clear that this just is not so.
While God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of the world, He did not say all would be saved. His words are clear that many would reject the salvation He provided. But those who are saved have been given the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18) making an appeal to those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 4:3). The Christian message is not samadhi, Zen, kundalini, or the contemplative silence. It is the power of the Cross!
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
Yes, perishing, and not just unaware of their true self.
In an opinion poll, the startling results describe how Americans actually view God. Spirituality and Health magazine hired a reputable pollster organization to gauge the spiritual beliefs of the American public. This national poll revealed that 84 percent of those questioned believed God to be “everywhere and in everything” rather than “someone somewhere.”4 This means panentheism is now the more popular view of God. If true, then a high percentage of evangelical Christians in America already lean towards a panentheistic view of God. Perhaps many of these Christians are fuzzy about the true nature of God.
How could this mystical revolution have come about? How could this perspective have become so widespread? The answer is that over the last thirty or forty years a number of authors have struck a deep chord with millions of readers and seekers within Christendom. These writers have presented and promoted the contemplative view to the extent that many now see it as the only way to “go deeper” in the Christian life. They are the ones who prompt men and women to plunge into contemplative practice. It is their message that leads people to experience the “lights” and the “inner adviser!”
1. Wayne Teasdale, “Mysticism as the Crossing of Ultimate Boundaries: A Theological Reflection” (The Golden String newsletter, http://clarusbooks.com/Teasdale.html, accessed 10/2009).
2. Wayne Teasdale, A Monk in the World (Novato, CA: New World Library, 2002), p. 64.
3. Jan Alsever quoted in Statesman Journal, January 27th, 1996, Religion Section.
4. Katherine Kurs, “Are You Religious or Are You Spiritual?” (Spirituality & Health Magazine, Spring 2001), p. 28.
By Ray Yungen
Contemplative advocates propose that there has been something vital and important missing from the church for centuries. The insinuation is that Christians have been lacking something necessary for their spiritual vitality; but that would mean the Holy Spirit has not been fully effective for hundreds of years and only now the secret key has been found that unlocks God’s full power to know Him. These proponents believe that Christianity has been seriously crippled without this extra ingredient. This kind of thinking leads one to believe that traditional, biblical Christianity is merely a philosophy without the contemplative prayer element. Contemplatives are making a distinction between studying and meditating on the Word of God versus experiencing Him, suggesting that we cannot hear Him or really know Him simply by studying His Word or even through normal prayer—we must be contemplative to accomplish this. But the Bible makes it clear that the Word of God is living and active, and has always been that way, and it is in filling our minds with it that we come to love Him, not through a mystical practice of stopping the flow of thought (the stillness) that is never once mentioned in the Bible, except in warnings against vain repetitions.
Thomas Merton said that he saw various Eastern religions “come together in his life” (as a Christian mystic). On a rational, practical level Christianity and Eastern religions will not mix; but add the mystical element and they do blend together like adding soap to oil and water. I must clarify what I mean: Mysticism neutralizes doctrinal differences by sacrificing the truth of Scripture for a mystical experience. Mysticism offers a common ground, and supposedly that commonality is divinity in all. But we know from Scripture “there is one God; and there is none other but he” (Mark 12:32).
In a booklet put out by Saddleback Church on spiritual maturity, the following quote by Henri Nouwen is listed:
Solitude begins with a time and place for God, and Him alone. If we really believe not only that God exists, but that He is actively present in our lives—healing, teaching, and guiding—we need to set aside a time and space to give Him our undivided attention.1 (emphasis mine)
When we understand what Nouwen really means by “time and space” given to God we can also see the emptiness and deception of his spirituality. In his biography of Nouwen, God’s Beloved, Michael O’ Laughlin says:
Some new elements began to emerge in Nouwen’s thinking when he discovered Thomas Merton. Merton opened up for Henri an enticing vista of the world of contemplation and a way of seeing not only God but also the world through new eyes. . . . If ever there was a time when Henri Nouwen wished to enter the realm of the spiritual masters or dedicate himself to a higher spiritual path, it was when he fell under the spell of Cistercian monasticism and the writings of Thomas Merton.2 (emphasis mine)
In his book, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic, Nouwen talks about these “new eyes” that Merton helped to formulate and said that Merton and his work “had such an impact” on his life and that he was the man who had “inspired” him greatly.3 But when we read Nouwen’s very revealing account, something disturbing is unveiled. Nouwen lays out the path of Merton’s spiritual pilgrimage into contemplative spirituality. Those who have studied Merton from a critical point of view, such as myself, have tried to understand what are the roots behind Merton’s spiritual affinities. Nouwen explains that Merton was influenced by LSD mystic Aldous Huxley who “brought him to a deeper level of knowledge” and “was one of Merton’s favorite novelists.”4 It was through Huxley’s book, Ends and Means, that first brought Merton “into contact with mysticism.”5 Merton states:
He [Huxley] had read widely and deeply and intelligently in all kinds of Christian and Oriental mystical literature, and had come out with the astonishing truth that all this, far from being a mixture of dreams and magic and charlatanism, was very real and very serious.6 (emphasis mine)
This is why, Nouwen revealed, Merton’s mystical journey took him right into the arms of Buddhism:
Merton learned from him [Chuang Tzu—a Taoist] what Suzuki [a Zen master] had said about Zen: “Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake and become aware.”7
Become aware of what? The Buddha nature. Divinity within all.That is why Merton said if we knew what was in each one of us, we would bow down and worship one another. Merton’s descent into contemplative led him to the belief that God is in all things and that God is all things. This is made clear by Merton when he said:
True solitude is a participation in the solitariness of God—Who is in all things.8
[Chuang Tzu] awakened and led him [Merton] . . . to the deeper ground of his consciousness.9
This has been the ploy of Satan since the Garden of Eden when the serpent said to Eve, “ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:4). It is this very essence that is the foundation of contemplative prayer.
In Merton’s efforts to become a mystic, he found guidance from a Hindu swami, whom Merton referred to as Dr. Bramachari. Bramachari played a pivotal role in Merton’s future spiritual outlook. Nouwen divulged this when he said:
Thus he [Merton] was more impressed when this Hindu monk pointed him to the Christian mystical tradition. . . . It seems providential indeed that this Hindu monk relativized [sic] Merton’s youthful curiosity for the East and made him sensitive to the richness of Western mysticism.10
Why would a Hindu monk advocate the Christian mystical tradition? The answer is simple: they are one in the same. Even though the repetitive words used may differ (e.g. Christian words: Abba, Father, etc. rather than Hindu words), the end result is the same. And the Hindu monk knew this to be true. Bramachari understood that Merton didn’t need to switch to Hinduism to get the same enlightenment that he himself experienced through the Hindu mystical tradition. In essence, Bramachari backed up what I am trying to get across in A Time of Departing, that all the world’s mystical traditions basically come from the same source and teach the same precepts . . . and that source is not the God of the Old and New Testaments. The biblical God is not interspiritual!
Evangelical Christianity is now being invited, perhaps even catapulted into seeing God with these new eyes of contemplative prayer. And so the question must be asked, is Thomas Merton’s silence, Henri Nouwen’s space, and Richard Foster’s contemplative prayer the way in which we can know and be close to God? Or is this actually a spiritual belief system that is contrary to the true message that the Bible so absolutely defines—that there is only one way to God and that is through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice on the Cross obtained our full salvation? In my book, A Time of Departing, I endeavored to answer these questions with extensive evidence and documentation showing the dangers of contemplative prayer.
If indeed my concerns for the future actually come to fruition, then we will truly enter a time of departing. My prayer is that you will not turn away from the faith to follow a different gospel and a different Jesus but will rather stay the course and finish the race, so that after having done all you can, you will stand.
Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. (Ephesians 6:13).
1. Henri Nouwen, cited in Saddleback training book, Soul Construction: SolitudeTool (Lake Forest, CA: Saddleback Church, 2003), p. 12.
2. Michael O’ Laughlin, God’s Beloved (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), p. 178.
3. Henri J.M. Nouwen, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1991, Triumph Books Edition), p. 3.
4. Ibid., pp. 19-20.
5. Ibid., p. 20.
7. Ibid., p. 71.
8. Ibid., pp. 46, 71.
9. Ibid., p. 71.
10 . Ibid., p. 29.
Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t) by the editors at Lighthouse Trails is our newest Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tract. The Booklet Tract is 16 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklet Tracts are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t), click here.
Is your church involved in a Spiritual Formation program? If so, you might want to ask the question, what exactly is Spiritual Formation? It’s a fair question, and one that, if not asked, could end up surprising you when your church changes in ways you never imagined.
A Christianity Today article states: “Spiritual Formation is in.” The article defines Spiritual Formation in this way:
Formation, like the forming of a pot from clay, brings to mind shaping and molding, helping something potential become something actual. Spiritual formation speaks of a shaping process with reference to the spiritual dimension of a person’s life. Christian spiritual formation thus refers to the process by which believers become more fully conformed and united to Christ.1
Such a definition would hardly send up red flags. But what this definition excludes is how this “process” of conforming and uniting to Christ takes place and who is eligible to participate in such a process.
The “how” is done through spiritual disciplines, primarily through the discipline of the silence. The silence is an altered state that is reached through a mantra-like meditation, breath prayers, or some other meditative practice. The idea behind it is that if you go into this silent state, you will eliminate distractions (thoughts) and be able to hear God’s voice. He in turn will transform you to be like Christ. The “who” (who can practice these disciplines and become like Christ) is anyone (according to Spiritual Formation pioneer Richard Foster and other proponents of Spiritual Formation). A Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim, even an atheist—anyone at all can benefit from the spiritual disciplines and become like Christ (the question is which Christ?).
Richard Foster, the “Father” of the Evangelical Spiritual Formation Movement
Now many evangelical seminaries offer programs in spiritual formation. Renovare, which Richard Foster and others founded in 1989 to cultivate spiritual formation (especially among evangelicals), today offers retreats and resources worldwide.2
In 1989, Richard Foster began an organization called Renovare, but eleven years earlier (1978) his book Celebration of Discipline first came out, and that has been a Spiritual Formation primer ever since. The following quote by Foster, written in a “pastoral letter” sheds light on the roots of Spiritual Formation (the Catholic Church) as well as how prolific it is today:
When I first began writing in the field in the late 70s and early 80s the term “Spiritual Formation” was hardly known, except for highly specialized references in relation to the Catholic orders. Today it is a rare person who has not heard the term. Seminary courses in Spiritual Formation proliferate like baby rabbits. Huge numbers are seeking to become certified as Spiritual Directors to answer the cry of multiplied thousands for spiritual direction.3
Countless evangelical leaders have gotten on Foster’s Spiritual Formation bandwagon. One example is Rick Warren who considers the Spiritual Formation movement to be a worthy wake-up call to the evangelical church:
From time to time God has raised up a parachurch movement to reemphasize a neglected purpose of the church. . . . [the] Spiritual Formation Movement. A reemphasis on developing believers to full maturity has been the focus . . . authors such as . . . Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have underscored the importance of building up Christians and establishing personal spiritual disciplines. . . . [this] movement has a valid message for the church . . . [it] has given the body a wake-up call.4
There are some who are deeply concerned about this movement. Author and missionary Roger Oakland expresses concern about this supposedly “valid message” and says Spiritual Formation came upon the church like an unsuspecting avalanche:
A move away from the truth of God’s Word to a mystical form of Christianity has infiltrated, to some degree, nearly all evangelical denominations. Few Bible teachers saw this avalanche coming. Now that it is underway, most do not realize it has even happened.5
Oakland explains how this paradigm shift has come about:
As the Word of God becomes less and less important, the rise in mystical experiences escalates, and these experiences are presented to convince the unsuspecting that Christianity is about feeling, touching, smelling, and seeing God. The postmodern mindset is the perfect environment for fostering Spiritual Formation. This term suggests there are various ways and means to get closer to God and to emulate him.6
So exactly what is Spiritual Formation, and what is its premise? In this booklet, we hope to answer these questions.
The Merton Effect
When Richard Foster told research analyst and author Ray Yungen that “Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people,”7 what he meant was that Thomas Merton saw one element missing within Christianity—the mystical element. Merton had learned from a Hindu swami named Dr. Bramachari that one could obtain mystical properties from Catholic mystics like the Desert Fathers and didn’t need to leave one’s own tradition to do it.8 But Merton realized that most Christians didn’t know about this. So, he set out to bring mysticism (i.e., contemplative prayer) to the Catholic and Christian world. However, Merton died a sudden early death in 1968 and was unable to accomplish his goal. But somewhere between 1968 and 1978, Richard Foster picked up the mantle of Thomas Merton and carried it forward.* Now today, untold numbers of churches (and millions of people) are going forth with Thomas Merton’s (and Richard Foster’s) message of Spiritual Formation. To understand the true nature of Spiritual Formation, consider the following quotes by Thomas Merton, Richard Foster’s mentor:
I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.9
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race . . . now I realize what we all are. . . . If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are . . . I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. . . . At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth. . . . This little point . . . is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody.10 (emphasis mine)
I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian [mystical] traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own Christian traditions.11
The most important need in the Christian world today is this inner truth nourished by this Spirit of contemplation . . . Without contemplation and interior prayer the Church cannot fulfill her mission to transform and save mankind.12
This “Spirit of contemplation” is what fuels the Spiritual Formation movement. Merton believed that God dwelled in all people and that we are, in fact, all a part of God. Richard Foster has done much to carry forward Merton’s message through the Spiritual Formation movement. The question you must ask yourself is, do you believe what Merton said? If not, then Spiritual Formation does not belong in your church or in your family’s spiritual structure.
In essence, Spiritual Formation is carrying on the Hindu message of: God is in all things (panentheism), and God is all things (pantheism). If such a message is true, then the Gospel message of Jesus Christ—that man is sinful, that he is heading for eternal destruction because of sin, and that he needs a Savior—would become null and void.
Richard Foster’s Meditative Prayer
For more insight into the backbone of Spiritual Formation, let us turn to a small book Richard Foster wrote called Meditative Prayer. Foster says that the purpose of meditative prayer is to create a “spiritual space” or “inner sanctuary” through “specific meditation exercises”13 Foster references several mystics in the book who can point the way to these exercises: Madame Guyon, Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, Henri Nouwen, and Thomas Merton. Foster breaks the contemplative process down into three steps. He says:
The first step [into meditative prayer] is sometimes called “centering down.” Others have used the term re-collection; that is, a re-collecting of ourselves until we are unified or whole. The idea is to let go of all competing distractions until we are truly centered, until we are truly present where we are.14
Foster suggests that practicing visualization methods helps us center down. In the second step of meditation, Foster suggests that mystic Richard Rolle experienced “physical sensations”15 (kundalini) during meditation which perhaps we may or may not experience as well.16 Step three of meditation, Foster says, is that of “listening” to God. Once the meditative exercises have been implemented and the “spiritual ecstasy” is reached, this entered realm is where the voice of God can be heard.17 However, as any New Age meditator knows, this ecstatic state is an altered state of consciousness where everything is supposed to be unified and one with God. Foster acknowledges the interspiritual attribute linked to contemplative prayer when he states: “[Jesus] showed us God’s yearning for the gathering of an all-inclusive community of loving persons.”18 Foster defines more of what he means by “all-inclusive” in his book Streams of Living Water when he says this “all-inclusive community” includes everything from a “Catholic monk” to a “Baptist evangelist.”19
Two Spiritual Formation Practices:
Oftentimes, Richard Foster has made favorable reference to the practice of lectio divina, which is being heralded in many Christian settings as a Christian, biblical practice. People are persuaded to believe that repeating words and short phrases of Scripture over and over again is a deeper way to know God. They believe that since it is Scripture being repeated (and not just any words), then this validates the practice and that this sacred reading is sacred because it is the Bible being used. But Foster himself proves that it has nothing to do with Scripture. It’s the repetition that is effective, not the words. He states:
[L]ectio divina includes more than the Bible. There are the lives of the saints and the writings which have proceeded from their profound [mystical] experiences.21
Foster obliterates the supposed premise of lectio divina by saying this. That is because as a meditation proponent, he knows that meditation has nothing to do with which words are repeated over and over; it is the repetition itself that puts one into an altered state. Thus whether you say “Jesus,” “Abba,” “Buddha,” or “OM,” it produces exactly the same effect.
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius
The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are named after the founder of the Catholic Jesuit Order and have typically been used by Catholics. However, according to one source, “[b]eginning in the 1980s, Protestants have had a growing interest in the Spiritual Exercises. There are adaptations that are specific to Protestants which emphasize the exercises as a school of contemplative prayer.”22 Traditionally, Ignatian Spirituality is practiced in a retreat center setting usually with the assistance of a spiritual director. As with other Spiritual Formation exercises, it is believed that if the Ignatian exercises are practiced, the practitioner can conquer self and become more Christ-like (this is why Ignatian Spirituality is often included in Spiritual Formation programs).
When the Catholic church elected their new pope (Pope Francis), a statement was issued from the AJCU (Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities) reaffirming the pope’s “Ignatian spirituality,” stating that:
All Jesuits share the experience of a rigorous spiritual formation process marked by a transformative experience with the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.23
Spiritual Formation—A Dangerous Substitute For the Life of Christ
Sometimes we think of spiritual formation as formation by the Holy Spirit. Once again. That’s essential. . . . But now I have to say something that may be challenging for you to think about: Spiritual formation is not all by the Holy Spirit. . . . We have to recognize that spiritual formation in us is something that is also done to us by those around us, by ourselves, and by activities which we voluntarily undertake . . .There has to be method.24—Dallas Willard
Aside from the fact that Spiritual Formation incorporates mystical practices into its infrastructure (remove the contemplative aspect and you don’t have “Spiritual Formation” anymore), Spiritual Formation is a works-based substitute for biblical Christianity. Let us explain.
When one becomes born again (“that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9-10), having given his or her life and heart over to Christ as Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ says He will come in and live in that surrendered heart:
Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)
Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23)
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Colossians 1:27)
[I]f the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (Romans 8:11; emphasis added)
When God, through Jesus Christ, is living in us, He begins to do a transforming work in our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:18). Not only does He change us, He also communes with us. In other words, we have fellowship with Him, and He promises never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).
This life of God in the believer’s heart is not something we need to conjure up through meditative practices. But if a person does not have this relationship with the Lord, he may seek out ways to feel close to God. This is where Spiritual Formation comes into play. Rather than a surrendered life to Christ, the seeking person begins practicing the spiritual disciplines (e.g., prayer, fasting, good works, etc.) with the promise that if he practices these disciplines, he will become more Christ-like.
But merely doing these acts fails to make one feel close to God—something is still missing. And thus, he begins practicing the discipline of silence (or solitude), and now in these altered states of silence, he finally feels connected to God. He now feels complete. What he does not understand is that he has substituted the indwelling of Christ in his heart for a works-based methodology that endangers his spiritual life. Dangerous because these mystical experiences he now engages in appear to be good because they make him feel close to God, but in reality he is being drawn into demonic realms no different than what happens to someone who is practicing transcendental meditation or eastern meditation. Even mystics themselves acknowledge that the contemplative realm is no different than the realm reached by occultists. To understand this more fully, please read Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing.
Bottom line, it is not possible to be truly Christ-like without having Christ inside of us because it is He who is able to change our hearts—we cannot do it without Him.
It is interesting to note that virtually every contemplative teacher has a common theme—they feel dry and empty and want to go “deeper” with God or “become more intimate” with God. But if we have Christ living in us, how can we go any deeper than that? How can we become more intimate than that? And if going deeper and becoming intimate were so important, why is it that none of the disciples or Jesus Himself ever told us to do this? As Larry DeBruyn states:
Why are Christians seeking a divine presence that Jesus promised would abundantly flow in them? . . . Why do they need another voice, another visitation, or another vision? Why are some people unthankfully desirous of “something more” than what God has already given to us? Why is it that some Christians, in the depth of their souls, are not seemingly at rest?25
Dallas Willard and the “Fruit” of Spiritual Formation
As we mentioned earlier, Rick Warren identified Dallas Willard as a key player in the Spiritual Formation movement. Willard’s book The Spirit of the Disciplines has become a classic within the movement. The book is filled with references to and quotes by numerous contemplative mystic figures including universalists and interspiritualists (e.g., Nouwen, Merton, Meister Eckhart, George Fox) as well as some names that would fall in the New Age/New Spirituality camp (e.g., Agnes Sanford and M. Scott Peck). And in the bibliography, there is The Cloud of Unknowing, (an ancient primer on contemplative prayer), the Desert Fathers, atonement denier Harry Fosdick, Ignatius of Loyola, Carl Jung, the mystic philosopher Soren Kierkegaard, Evelyn Underhill, and Teresa of Avila. All of these names are in Willard’s book for one reason only—because he resonates with their spiritual viewpoints. And while The Spirit of the Disciplines was released back in the late 80s, Willard maintained his affinity with most of these figures. On his website, many of these names are recommended as viable resources for spiritual growth.
A Lighthouse Trails article titled “The ‘New’ Emerging Theology Breeds Atheism in a Generation of Young People” tells about a young man who after sitting under Dallas Willard for four years at university declared himself an atheist. We asked the question, how could a young man raised in a solid Christian home change his views so drastically? It happened, and it is happening to countless young people who are sitting under the feet of bridgers—people like Dallas Willard who point their protégées to panentheists, universalists, and mystics. Another young man, whom we came across who was looking for answers, found them by turning to Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. Listen to what he found:
I bumped into the classic spiritual disciplines while taking a course called “Dynamics of Christian Life” in my second year of Bible school. One of our textbooks was The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. The course and textbook only touched on the actual disciplines, but the concept captivated me. The following spring, I found a copy of Richard Foster’s spiritual classic Celebration of Discipline in a used bookstore. Opening it and discovering each discipline [including the contemplative] detailed chapter by chapter, I felt a profound sense of joy and excitement. I’d found a real treasure.26
Later, this young man became a free-lance writer for the emergent organization, Youth Specialties. Listen to where the spirituality of Dallas Willard and Richard Foster led him:
I built myself a prayer room—a tiny sanctuary in a basement closet filled with books on spiritual disciplines, contemplative prayer, and Christian mysticism. In that space I lit candles, burned incense, hung rosaries, and listened to tapes of Benedictine monks. I meditated for hours on words, images, and sounds. I reached the point of being able to achieve alpha brain patterns, the state in which dreams occur, while still awake and meditating.27
For those not familiar with what the “alpha brain patterns” are, here are two descriptions:
Mystical states of consciousness happen in the alpha state . . . The Alpha State also occurs voluntarily during light hypnosis, meditation, biofeedback, day dreaming, hypnogogic and hypnapompic states.28
Alpha is the springboard for all psychic and magical workings. It is the heart of witchcraft.29
And from Richard Foster himself:
If you feel we live in a purely physical universe, you will view meditation as a good way to obtain a consistent alpha brain wave pattern.30
What happened to Perschon and others like him is tragic. And we just cannot fathom the idea that not only will Willard’s influence continue on long after he has been gone from this planet (he died in 2013), but Christian leaders who should understand the dynamics of this movement will continue promoting him.
Is There a “Good” Spiritual Formation?
One of the most common arguments we hear defending Spiritual Formation is that there is a “good” Spiritual Formation done without contemplative prayer. To that we say, we have never yet seen a Spiritual Formation program in a school or a church that doesn’t in some way point people to the contemplative mystics. It might be indirectly, but in every case, if you follow the trail, it will lead you right into the arms of Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and other contemplative teachers.
Think about this common scenario: A Christian college decides to begin a Spiritual Formation course. The instructor has heard some negative things about Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Brennan Manning, and he figures he will teach the class good Spiritual Formation and leave those teachers completely out. But he’s going to need a textbook. He turns to a respected institution, Dallas Theological Seminary, and finds a book written by Paul Pettit, Professor in Pastoral and Education Ministries. The book is titled Foundations of Spiritual Formation. The instructor who has found this book to use in his own class may never mention Richard Foster or Dallas Willard, but the textbook he is using does. Within the pages of Pettit’s book is Richard Foster, Philip Yancey, N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Thomas Aquinas, Lectio Divina, Ayn Rand, Parker Palmer, Eugene Peterson, J.P. Moreland, Klaus Issler, Bruce Dermerst, Jim Burns, Kenneth Boa and Brother Lawrence’s “practicing God’s presence.” You may not have heard of all these names, but they are all associated with the contemplative prayer movement and the emerging church.
Another example of this is Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Whitney is Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. While his book does not promote contemplative mysticism, he says that Richard Foster has “done much good”31 in the area of Christian spirituality.
Our point is that even if there is a sincere attempt to teach Spiritual Formation and stay away from the mystical side, we contend that it cannot be successfully accomplished because it will always lead back to the ones who have brought it to the church in the first place.
Spiritual Direction with Spiritual Directors
Basically, the term “spiritual direction” is part of the contemplative prayer movement (i.e., Spiritual Formation movement). Contemplative teachers say that one must have a “spiritual director” to “teach” or guide him or her how to enter into the silence of contemplative prayer. The spiritual director will provide books and resources by contemplative authors and direct his or her student on how to implement these authors’ spiritual practices. Ruth Haley Barton, a contemplative advocate who teaches thousands of pastors and Christian leaders about Spiritual Formation said this about her own spiritual director:
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.32
A Christianity Today article, “Got Your Spiritual Director Yet?,”33 confirms two things, one that spiritual direction is contemplative, and two that it is on its way to becoming an integral part of evangelical Christianity. The article explains that popular Christian author Larry Crabb changed his views. Once a believer in psychology, he switched to spiritual direction. He is just one of many who have done this.
The article credits contemplatives (mystics) such as John Cassian and Ignatius of Loyola for getting spiritual direction into the church and suggests that we can learn more about it from Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson, and Dallas Willard.
In Ruth Haley Barton’s* book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Barton admits that panentheist Catholic priest Thomas Keating helped her to understand the contemplative idea of “the true self” (man’s divinity):
The concept of the true self and the false self is a consistent theme not only in Scripture but also in the writings of the church fathers and mothers. Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen (particularly Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart) and Father Thomas Keating are contemporary authors who have shaped my understanding of this aspect of the spiritual life.34
Merton, Nouwen, and Keating believe that man can attain to his “true self” (perfect self) through mystical practices. This is actually the crux of the Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer) movement, that man realizes his divinity through mystical experiences.
Spiritual formation is sweeping quickly throughout Christianity today. It’s no wonder when the majority of Christian leaders have either endorsed the movement or given it a silent pass. For instance, in Chuck Swindoll’s book So You Want to Be Like Christ: 8 Essential Disciplines to Get Your There, Swindoll favorably quotes Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Swindoll calls Celebration of Discipline a “meaningful work”35 and Willard’s book The Spirit of the Disciplines “excellent work.”36 In chapter three,”Silence and Solitude,” Swindoll talks about “digging for secrets . . . that will deepen our intimacy with God.”37 Quoting the contemplative poster-verse Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God,” Swindoll says the verse is a call to the “discipline of silence.”38 As other contemplative proponents have done, he has taken this verse very much out of context.
Roger Oakland sums it up:
The Spiritual Formation movement . . . teaches people that this is how they can become more intimate with God and truly hear His voice. Even Christian leaders with longstanding reputations of teaching God’s word seem to be succumbing. . . .
We are reconciled to God only through his “death” (the atonement for sin), and we are presented “holy and unblameable and unreproveable” when we belong to Him through rebirth. It has nothing to do with works, rituals, or mystical experiences. It is Christ’s life in the converted believer that transforms him.39
What Christians need is not a method or program or ritual or practice that will supposedly connect them to God. What we need is to be “in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:30) and Christ in us. And He has promised His Spirit “will guide [us] into all truth” (John 16:13).
In Colossians 1:9, the apostle Paul tells the saints that he was praying for them that they “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” He was praying that they would have discernment (“spiritual understanding”). He said that God, the Father, has made us “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (vs 12) and had “delivered us from the power of darkness [i.e., power of deception]” (vs. 13). But what was the key to having this wisdom and spiritual understanding and being delivered from the power of darkness? Paul tells us in that same chapter. He calls it “the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (vs. 26). What is that mystery? Verse 27 says: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”
For those wanting to get involved with the Spiritual Formation movement (i.e., contemplative, spiritual direction), consider the “direction” you will actually be going.
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel. (Colossians 1:21-23)
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2: 8-10)
To order copies of Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t), click here.
1. Even Howard, Three Temptations of Spiritual Formation (Christianity Today, 12/9/2002)
3. Richard Foster, “Heart to Heart: On Christian Spiritual Formation” (Renovare, May 2003, http://blog.renovare.org/2003/05/20/heart-to-heart-on-christian-spiritual-formation).
4. Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), p. 126.
5. Roger Oakland, Faith Undone (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails, 2007), pp. 90-92.
7. Richard Foster to Ray Yungen at a seminar in Salem, Oregon in the 1990s.
8. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails, 2006, 2nd ed., 5th and later printings), p. 199.
9. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
10. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Publishers, 1989), pp. 157-158.
11. William Shannon, Silent Lamp, The Thomas Merton Story (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992), p. 276.
12. Thomas Merton, Contemplative Prayer (New York, NY: Image Books, Doubleday Pub., 1989), pp. 115-116. (These 4 Merton quotes are originally cited by Ray Yungen in A Time of Departing).
13. Richard Foster, Meditative Prayer (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, 1983), p. 9.
15. Ibid., p. 17.
16. Ibid., p. 18.
17. Ibid., p. 23.
18. Ibid., p. 5.
19. Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water ( (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1st HarperCollins Paperback ed., 2001), p. 12.
20. Berit Kjos, How to Protect Your Child From the New Age & Spiritual Deception (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails, 1st Lighthouse Trails ed., 2013), p. 267.
21. Richard Foster, Meditative Prayer, op. cit., p. 25.
24. Dallas Willard, “Spiritual Formation: What it is, and How it is Done” (http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=58).
25. Larry DeBruyn, “The Practice of His Presence” (http://herescope.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-present-of-his-presence.html).
26. Mike Perschon, “Disciplines, Mystics and the Contemplative Life” (http://web.archive.org/web/20070206150740/http://www.youthspecialties.com/articles/topics/spirituality/desert.php).
28. Dr. Andre Eggelletion, as told by Dr. Lee Warren, B.A., D.D.
29. Laurie Cabot, Power Of The Witch, (New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing, 1989), p. 183.
30. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1998 ed.), p. 22.
31. Donald Whitney, “Doctrine and Devotion: A Reunion Devoutly to be Desired” (http://web.archive.org/web/20080828052145/http://biblicalspirituality.org/devotion.html).
32. Ruth Haley Barton, “Beyond Words” (Discipleship Journal, Issue #113, September/October, 1999, http://www. navpress.com/EPubs/DisplayArticle/1/1.113.13.html), p. 35.
33. Chris Armstrong and Steven Gertz, “Got Your Spiritual Director Yet?” (Christianity Today, April 1, 2003, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/aprilweb-only/4-28-51.0.html).
34. Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence (Downer Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2004), p. 160.
35. Chuck Swindoll, So You Want to Be Like Christ: 8 Essential Disciplines to Get You There (Nashville, TN:W Publishing Group, a div. of Thomas Nelson, 2005), p. 15.
36. Ibid., p. 13.
37. Ibid., p. 55.
39. Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, op. cit., pp. 91-92.
To order copies of Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t), click here.
To better understand the Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer movement, read A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen.
Editor’s Note: As we continue on with our coverage regarding evangelical leaders and their ecumenical moves toward Roman Catholicism, we once again wish to state that we bear no animosity toward individual Catholics, but we are compelled to challenge these leaders on their compromise of the Christian faith according to Scripture.
As Lighthouse Trails has been reporting on over the past number of months, evangelical church leaders are coming out of the woodwork like never before in showing their willingness to unite with and give credibility to the Catholic Church.
In March of this year, we posted Roger Oakland’s report on charismatic leader Kenneth Copeland’s open embracing of the Roman Catholic church (see “The Unification of Hyper-Charismatics and the Catholic Church”). In that article, Oakland stated:
[H]ow close we are to the unification of Rome with “Charismatic evangelicals” and eventually all religions. This is something that Understand The Times has been predicting for some years as the present Pope Francis and the last two Popes, Pope Benedict and Pope John Paul, have been active in promoting the New Evangelization.
The purpose of the New Evangelization is to promote the Roman Catholic gospel by reaching out to all religions as well as the separated brethren and introducing them to the Eucharistic Christ.
Oakland’s report includes a video clip of Kenneth Copeland and Tony Palmer (an evangelical “evangelist” for the Catholic Church who was recently killed in a motorcycle accident). This video is worth watching and will help show how far the evangelical church has gone on the road to Rome. In the video, Palmer who was speaking at Copeland’s church told the congregation that he was coming in “the spirit of Elijah” similar to that of John the Baptist. As you watch this video, you will see that the “spirit” in which Palmer was coming was what he called “reconciliation” (meaning Protestants reconciling with the “Mother” church). Incidentally, Catholic priest Henri Nouwen put much emphasis on this type of “reconciliation,” and as Ray Yungen showed in A Time of Departing, Nouwen used the means of contemplative mysticism to remove the walls between biblical Christianity and Roman Catholicism.
Also in March, we posted a short piece titled “A Picture Says a Thousand Words,” which showed a banner from Ambrose University that stated “Catholics and Evangelicals in God’s Mission Together” (just one of many examples where Christian colleges are showing an affinity with Roman Catholicism.
Back in February of this year, we posted “A Word of Caution: Ecumenical-Backed Movie, “Son of God,” May Send Subtle New Age/Roman Catholic Messages.” We issued this warning about the Son of God movie because of the New Age/Roman Catholic influence that the producers Mark Burnett and Roma Downey would have on the making of the film. In fact, Downey stated clearly that her intention in making the movie was to “bring people together.”1 We know that means to break down the barriers between Christianity and Catholicism. And yet, many popular evangelical leaders gave raving endorsements of the film (e.g., Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, Rick Warren, Erwin McManus, Pat Robertson, Luis Palau, and others).
Last December, Moody Bible Institute showed its favor toward Rome, which you can read about in our article “Embracing Contemplative Shows Ill Effects at Moody Bible Institute in Ecumenical “Road to Rome” Event.” This photo to the left shows some of those who were involved with the event. While it was a student-led event, a professor from Moody helped to moderate it (interesting because he is a convert from Catholicism to Protestantism).
Then in May of this year, we posted Roger Oakland’s 5-part series on Rick Warren’s interview on a Catholic television network where Warren admitted: he is influenced by Catholic mystics, calls Pope Francis “our Pope,” and tells how he and his wife Kay turn to Catholic ceremonies for comfort and encouragement.
Most recently, in August of this year, we posted “Is Beth Moore’s “Spiritual Awakening” Taking the Evangelical Church Toward Rome?” making a number of different points to show that Beth Moore is showing more and more signs of heading toward Rome including a video where she illustrates on stage that she considers Roman Catholicism on par with Protestant Christianity. That article also showed James Robison’s strong propensity toward Roman Catholicism.
Now, Lighthouse Trails has learned that at the August 15-17 2014 gathering called “Three Rivers Festival of Hope” in Pittsburgh, PA, Franklin Graham (who led and organized the event) brought in Catholic Bishop David Zubik to give the opening prayer on stage with the large audience. During the bishop’s prayer, he acknowledged his belief that Protestants and Catholics are all part of the same church. While Graham’s public stand against homosexual marriage and his work to help the poor and needy is commendable, his giving a thumbs up to Roman Catholicism is moving the church closer and closer to complete apostasy. While we know that Graham’s father, Billy Graham, allowed Catholic counselors at his own crusade meetings (which sadly set a precedent), it’s a big jump to give a Catholic priest the platform at an evangelical event to lead in an ecumenical prayer that puts Catholicism on par with Protestant Christianity.
In a newspaper article advertising the Franklin Graham event, it states:
Bishop David Zubik said the festival dovetails with calls by recent popes to a “new evangelization,” bringing back cradle Catholics who drifted or became estranged from the faith.
“We felt as long as there was a Catholic component to this particular crusade, we wanted to be a part of it,” Bishop Zubik said.
Those who respond to Rev. Graham’s invitation to make a decision for Christ, and who identify as Catholic, will be given the opportunity to go to Epiphany Church — adjacent to the Consol Energy Center — for the sacrament of reconciliation, or confession.
“We’re right next door,” Bishop Zubik said.
Bishop Zubik said Catholics don’t share all of Rev. Graham’s controversial political statements but added: “That’s not what this is all about. The whole point is to bring people back to Jesus.” (source)
The question we have at Lighthouse Trails is, which Jesus is Franklin Graham sending these people to when he sends them to the Catholic Church for the sacrament? We believe the answer to that is “another” Jesus as the Bible warns will happen (2 Corinthians 11:4).
According to one article, nearly 26,000 people showed up to the Graham revival meeting with around 1700 coming forth to commit or recommit their lives to Jesus.
In an article written by Bishop Zubik titled “The Church Evangelizing!,” Zubik expresses his support for the papacy’s “New Evangelization” program that Roger Oakland has warned about in his books Another Jesus: the new evangelization and the eucharist christ and Faith Undone. In the article by Zubik, he states: “As Catholics, we invite others ‘to come to Jesus’ not only at events in stadiums, but to come to Him in the sacraments, most especially the Eucharist” (p. 8). Ironically, the Catholic Church as a whole holds the official position of “closed communion,” which means that only converts to Catholicism can legitimately partake in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Many evangelicals do not understand what the Catholic church teaches about the “sacraments” and the “Eucharist.” They do not realize that the Catholic belief is that Jesus Christ is actually in the wafer and his blood in the wine, and this “transubstantiation” takes place only when a Catholic priest prays over the bread and the wine. This continual re-crucifying of Christ is the benchmark of Catholic Church doctrine to the point of martyring those who would not accept that Jesus Christ was in a wafer (see Foxe’s story about a woman who was burned at the stake for refusing to accept the Catholic belief on the Eucharist.)
This woman, Mrs. Prest, gave up her life because she understood that the Catholic “Gospel” is a religion of works based on participation in the Eucharist and the other sacraments. According to Catholic doctrine, salvation is never certain because it is based on earning something that was meant to be free as opposed to the clear statement of the Bible that we can have full assurance of salvation in that it is based on grace through faith alone in the perfect, one-time sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. The Christian Gospel cannot be reconciled with the Sacrament of the Eucharist, but many are deceived into thinking they are one and the same thing merely because they are both focused on the Cross. But a gift that is earned is no longer a gift; in short, the free gift of salvation has been rendered useless by turning it back into a system of works. If you have not read Roger Oakland’s article and booklet The New Evangelization From Rome: Finding the True Jesus Christ, we urge you to do so as it lays out the Bible Gospel versus the Catholic “Gospel.”
Another aspect of the Catholic “Gospel” that shouldn’t be ignored can be seen on an interesting video (see video) on YouTube of a man who is being interviewed who tried to go into the Franklin Graham meeting but was denied access because he was carrying a statue of Mary, and security guards would not allow him to bring the statue in. What is worth noting is that this Catholic man states that the way to truly know God or Jesus is through Mary and that she will actually even usher in world peace and the second coming of Christ.
Frankly, what is the point of keeping a statue of Mary out of the Graham crusade but allowing a Catholic bishop to give the opening prayer? Perhaps Franklin Graham does not realize that embracing Catholicism cannot be a smorgasbord where you pick and choose which elements you want. Catholicism has a whole plethora of anathemas for those who differ on various unscriptural doctrinal points.
Lest you think that the Catholic Church’s “New Evangelization” program is only trying to reach “backslidden” Catholics, we need to ask the question, Who is the Catholic Church’s “New Evangelization” program trying to reach? The answer: Everyone! As Bishop Zubik states in his article: “Pope Francis has made it clear that our witness [for the Catholic Church] must be to and for everyone—to each other as fellow Catholics, active or not, as well as to other Christians, to non-Christians and to nonbelievers.”
While we believe that at least part of the motivation for these evangelical leaders to join forces with the Catholic church is politically and morally motivated to “help bring America back to God,” we believe this unifying for the sake of political and moral issues is going to backfire on the evangelical church as the Catholic papacy and leadership (including the Jesuits) are using these issues to “bring back the lost brethren to the Mother Church.” And the question that must be asked is, if this united ecumenical body of evangelicals and Catholics is successful in bringing in a new White House administration that holds to traditional moral values, will the compromise of Christian faith by evangelicals be able to be reversed and separation of the two different belief systems be restored? Not likely considering the level of spiritual deception the evangelical church is at today. In essence, a paradigm shift has already taken place. And what will happen if the ecumenical evangelical/Catholic effort is unsuccessful in bringing in a morally conservative White House administration in the next election in 2016? We can be sure that the now-very-blurred lines that have in the past distinguished evangelical Christianity from other belief systems will erode all together because unrepentant compromise never produces good fruit but only leads to further compromise. Rather, the foothold that Satan presently has will throw the door wide open for the making of a totally corrupt and apostate church.
For those evangelical/Protestants who believe we have much in common with the Catholic Church and can unify with it, consider these statements, which Warren B. Smith cited in his book “Another Jesus” Calling. They are taken from the 1994 Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is the official source for all Roman Catholic doctrine today. After reading these quotes, can any Bible-believing Christian say they share the same faith as Roman Catholicism?:
“Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God’s grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ.” (#795)
“For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” (#460)
“The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” (#460)
Finally, what is it that we as Christians should hope for? For those who hope to see the church at large turn around from the apostasy that is upon her, there will be great disappointment. The Bible indicates such a falling away is going to happen. Our purpose should not be to hope that all of this will turn around but rather that those who have ears to hear and eyes to see will comprehend the times in which we live and remain steadfast in the faith and to the truth of the Gospel, which God has committed to us.
For biblical believers in Jesus Christ who see this taking place and refuse to become part of this apostasy, they will find themselves on the outside looking in, but when that day comes (and it’s not far off), it will be the safest place to be.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.(1 Corinthians 15:58)
by Ray Yungen
If you have ever wondered why New Age authors and their teachings are creeping past many Christians, then maybe the definition of creeping might help. The term means: slowly advancing at a speed that is not really apparent until you look back over a long time period. For instance, creeping inflation is not noticed in the short term, but when one looks back over twenty to thirty years, it is shocking. A meal that cost two dollars in 1970 now may cost eight dollars—however, the increase moved so slowly that the impact was diminished.
This same kind of movement has happened within our society and has gradually become mainstream. What was once seen as flaky is normal today—even useful. This trend is impacting evangelical Christianity at only a slightly lesser degree than secular society. The reason for the slight variance is that many, perhaps most, Christians have not yet grasped, or come to terms with, the practical mystic approach that New Age proponents have already incorporated into the secular world, as well as Christendom.
A mystical pragmatism is growing particularly fast through various New Age healing techniques. One such procedure is called Reiki (pronounced ray-key), a Japanese word that translates to Universal Life Energy or God energy. It has also been referred to as the radiance technique. Reiki is an ancient Tibetan Buddhist healing system, rediscovered by a Japanese man in the 1800s, that only recently has come to the West.
The Reiki technique consists of placing the hands on the recipient and then activating the energy to flow through the practitioner and into the recipient. One practitioner describes the experience in the following way:
When doing it, I become a channel through which this force, this juice of the universe, comes pouring from my palms into the body of the person I am touching, sometimes lightly, almost imperceptibly, sometimes in famished sucking drafts. I get it even as I’m giving it. It surrounds the two of us, patient and practitioner.1
What is this “juice of the universe?” The answer is an important one, given by a renowned Reiki master who explains:
A Reiki attunement is an initiation into a sacred metaphysical order that has been present on earth for thousands of years . . . By becoming part of this group, you will also be receiving help from the Reiki guides and other spiritual beings who are also working toward these goals.2
While this is not widely advertised, Reiki practitioners depend on this “spirit guide” connection as an integral aspect of Reiki. In fact, it is the very foundation and energy behind Reiki. One Reiki master who has enrolled hundreds of other masters spoke of her interaction with the spirit guides:
For me, the Reiki guides make themselves the most felt while attunements are being passed. They stand behind me and direct the whole process, and I assume they also do this for every Reiki Master. When I pass attunements, I feel their presence strongly and constantly. Sometimes I can see them.3
A Christian’s initial response to this information might be, “So what? I don’t travel in those circles, so it does not concern me.” This nonchalant viewpoint would be valid except for the fact that Reiki is currently growing to enormous proportions and in some very influential circles. (It may even be in your local hospitals, schools, and youth organizations.) It is essential to know that many nurses, counselors, and especially massage therapists use Reiki as a supplement to their work. It is often promoted as a complementary service.
Even more significant are the numbers involved in this practice. Examine the following figures to catch just a glimpse of the growing popularity of Reiki. In 1998, there were approximately 33,000 Reiki listings on the Internet. Today that number, on some search engines, constitutes over 22,000,000 listings. In just ten years, that number has increased almost 700 fold! As I said in the first chapter of this book, there are now over one million Reiki practitioners in the U.S. One Reiki master delightfully noted this surge of interest when he stated:
Over the years, there has been a shift in the belief system of the general public, allowing for greater acceptance of alternative medicine. As a result, we are seeing a growing interest in Reiki from the public at large. People from all backgrounds are coming for treatments and taking classes.4
One very revealing statistic involves Louisville, Kentucky, where 102 people were initiated into Reiki in just a single weekend.5 This denotes a large number of people are drawn to Reiki in the Bible belt, traditionally a conservative part of America.
It is important to understand the way in which Reiki is presented to the public at large. Despite its underlying metaphysical foundation, when one reads the literature put out by Reiki practitioners it is not at all apparent. One Reiki master who runs a day spa repeatedly uses words like comfort and nurture in her brochure. Reiki is something that will give you pleasure. Another woman who is a professional counselor tells her potential clients that Reiki will give them deep relaxation and reduce pain. Again and again these same themes emerge from promotional literature on Reiki—relaxation, well-being, reduce illness, reduce stress, balance your mind, etc. How can one say that Reiki is bad when it claims to help people?
The reason for this level of acceptance is easy to understand. Most people, many Christians included, believe if something is spiritually positive then it is of God. A pastor friend of mine recounted a situation in which a Christian, who had some physical problems, turned to Reiki for comfort. When this pastor advised the man that Reiki fundamentally opposed the Christian faith he became furious and responded with the following defense, “How can you say this is bad when it helped me?” That is why I titled a chapter in my book “Discernment.” To discern is to “try the spirits” (1 John 4:1). If something is of God it will conform to the very cornerstone of God’s plan to show His grace through Christ Jesus and Him alone (Ephesians 2:7). Reiki, as I defined earlier, is based on the occult view of God.
This assessment of Reiki is beyond question. Every Reiki book I have ever seen is chock full of pronouncements that back up the point I am trying to make. In The Everything Reiki Book, the following clears up any doubt about Reiki’s incompatibility with Christianity:
During the Reiki attunement process, the avenue that is opened within the body to allow Reiki to flow through also opens up the psychic communication centers. This is why many Reiki practitioners report having verbalized channeled communications with the spirit world.6
What is even more disturbing is that the Reiki channeler may not even have control over this “energy” as the following comment shows:
Nurses and massage therapists who have been attuned to Reiki may never disclose when Reiki starts flowing from their palms as they handle their patients. Reiki will naturally “kick in” when it is needed and will continue to flow for as long as the recipient is subconsciously open to receiving it.7
Another such method is Therapeutic Touch. Like Reiki, it is based on the occultic chakra system, portrayed as the seven energy centers in the body aligned with spiritual forces. The seventh chakra identifies with the God-in-all view. Therapeutic Touch is widely practiced by nurses in clinics and hospitals. It is seen as a helpful and healing adjunct to nursing care.
If the connection between Reiki healing and other metaphysical practices can be seen, then we more fully understand why the following quote is one of the most powerful statements as to the true nature of contemplative prayer. A Reiki master in the course of promoting the acceptance of this method relayed:
Anyone familiar with the work of . . . or the thought of . . . [she then listed a string of notable New Age writers with Thomas Merton right in the center of them] will find compatibility and resonance with the theory and practices of Reiki.8
Reiki comes from Buddhism, and as one Merton scholar wrote, “The God he [Merton] knew in prayer was the same experience that Buddhists describe in their enlightenment.”9
This is why it is so important to understand the connection between the writings of Richard Foster and Brennan Manning with Merton. Promotion indicates attachment, and attachment indicates common ground. Something is terribly wrong when a Reiki master and two of the most influential figures in the evangelical church today both point to the same man as an example of their spiritual path. (To read more about Reiki and energy healing, read “The Truth About Energy Healing” by Ray Yungen.)
1. “Healing Hands” (New Woman Magazine, March, 1986), p. 78.
2. William Rand, Reiki: The Healing Touch (Southfield, MI: Vision Pub.,1991), p. 48.
3. Diane Stein, Essential Reiki (Berkley, CA: Crossing Press, 1995), p. 107.
4. William Lee Rand, “Reiki, A New Direction” (Reiki News, Spring 1998, http://www.reiki.org/reikinews/reikinewdir.html,, p. 4.
5. Reiki News, Winter, 1998, p. 5.
6. Phylameana lila Desy, The Everything Reiki Book (Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2004), p. 144.
7. Ibid., p. 270.
8. Janeanne Narrin, One Degree Beyond: A Reiki Journey into Energy Medicine (Seattle, WA: Little White Buffalo, 1998), p.xviii.
9. Brian C. Taylor, Setting the Gospel Free (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing , 1996), p. 76.
Editor’s Note: Lighthouse Trails bears no animosity toward Catholics. We have a genuine love and concern for them. However, we are obliged to speak up about the teachings of the Catholic Church, especially as we witness the “emerging” of Protestantism and Catholicism, which is taking place via Christian leaders today.
Anyone who has studied contemplative spirituality from a critical and biblical point of view for any length of time knows that those who practice contemplative prayer eventually begin to have propensities toward Catholicism. That makes sense given that the mystical prayer practice came out of the Roman Catholic monasteries (via Thomas Merton, Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, etc) and dates back as far as the ancient Catholic desert fathers. And it is a fact that the Catholic church is using contemplative prayer to “bring back the lost brethren to the Mother church.” In one article written by Ray Yungen titled “Contemplative Spirituality – the Source of the Catholic Church’s Expansion,” Yungen states:
I had always been confused as to the real nature of this advance in the Catholic church. Was this just the work of a few mavericks and renegades, or did the church hierarchy sanction this practice? My concerns were affirmed when I read in an interview that the mystical prayer movement not only had the approval of the highest echelons of Catholicism but also was, in fact, the source of its expansion.
If it is indeed true that practicing contemplative prayer can turn one’s eyes toward Romish thoughts and beliefs, then it would make sense that Bible-believing Christians would be greatly concerned about popular evangelical leaders who are promoting contemplative spirituality. One of those leaders (in fact the most popular Bible study leader in America according to a Christianity Today article), Beth Moore, has been a contemplative advocate for some time as we document in our 2008 article “Why We Say Beth Moore is a Contemplative Advocate.” And it isn’t just Lighthouse Trails who is saying that Beth Moore is connected to contemplative prayer. In fact, in 2010, Christianity Today came out with a cover story about Beth Moore and identified her as part of the contemplative prayer movement. So this point is really beyond debate. Moore’s own ministry has even admitted that they see nothing wrong with contemplative spirituality ala Richard Foster as we showed in our 2008 article (see link above).
With that said, we know that Beth Moore has been influenced strongly by Catholic contemplative mystic the late Brennan Manning as she admits in her book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things. Moore has also been a regular guest on James and Betty Robison’s show for a number of years now. The Robison’s have made statements in that show their comradeship to the Catholic church. For instance, in a May 2014 article written by James Robison on his website titled “Pope Francis on Life Today,” Robison states:
I believe in the importance of unity among those who know Christ, who profess to be “Christians.” . . . I believe there is an important spiritual awakening beginning in the hearts of those truly committed to Christ in the Protestant and Catholic communities. Is it possible that Pope Francis may prove to be an answer not only to the prayers of Catholics, but also those known as Protestants?
In that article by Robison, he made a reference to the recently deceased Anglican recruiter for the Catholic church, Tony Palmer. Robison stated: “One of his [the Pope] very best friends, Bishop Tony Palmer, whom we have supported in mission outreaches for years, shares the message that Pope Francis asked him to deliver to evangelicals and protestant believers” (emphasis added). In an article titled, “Protestants Who Don’t Unite With Catholics are Guilty of “Spiritual Racism” by Lighthouse Trails author, John Lanagan, Lanagan stated that Tony Palmer “claims he has been “consecrated” by Pope Francis to be a bridge for further unity among Protestants and Catholics.” Lanagan posted a video (see below) of Palmer wherein Palmer stated, “[t]he protest of Luther is over. And therefore now we are all living in a post-Protestant era…” (8:00 in video) and “The Protestants who disagree are suffering from “spiritual racism.” (8:40) Palmer, who claimed Pope Francis was his mentor, died a few weeks ago in a motorcycle accident.
“Spiritual awakening” is becoming a “mantra” within evangelical Christianity. Terms like One, Awaken, Awake, Great Awakening, Spiritual Awakening, are being broadcasted throughout Christianity today. While it is a good thing to desire true repentance and revival, how can leaders who embrace a mystical spirituality and who don’t understand spiritual deception (and are even participating in spiritual deception) help bring about true revival?
Beth Moore spoke at Robison’s Awake Now Conference in February of 2014, and she expressed her belief that God showed her there was a great spiritual awakening coming. Interestingly, Moore warned that audience of over 4000 people about those who would question this great awakening and “downpour”:
But we must be prepared in advance for scoffers. I will say that again. We must be prepared in advance for scoffers. And here’s the thing. The unbelieving world scoffing is not going to bother us that much. We’re used to them thinking that we are idiots. Can we just own that one? We’re used to it. Of course, they think that. We’ve got that one down. That’s not what’s going to bother us so much. What’s going to bother us, and I believe God is saying, “Get prepared for it so you know in advance it is coming” so when it does happen you’re not all disturbed and all rocked by it because it is going to come from some in our own Christian realm — our own brothers and sisters. We’re going to have people that are honestly going to want to debate and argue with us about awakening and downpours. What do you want here? They’re going to say, that’s not the way it should look. You know what, dude? I’m just asking you, are you thirsty?
Are you hungry? I can’t think of the way to the semantics to get it like you want it. But I will say to you, I’m just thirsty and I’m hungry. But there will be scoffers and they will be the far bigger threat, the one within our own brothers and sisters, our own family of God — far, far more demoralizing. And yes, it will come from bullies, and yes, it will come from the mean-spirited.
By saying these things, Beth Moore is setting the stage to marginalize discerning Christians who would question this great “spiritual awakening.” This is typical of a hyper-charismatic/Word of Faith mentality that teaches it is wrong to question a supposed move of God. It is also similar to New Age teachings that call “scoffers” a cancer that must be eliminated or Rick Warren’s teachings on how to deal with “resisters.” In other words, no one should dare challenge the leaders of this coming spiritual awakening.
An important question to ask is, does Beth Moore have the same propensities as James Robison when it comes to unity with the Catholic church to help bring about a great awakening? We believe the answer to that is “Yes!” We believe that partly because of her contemplative affinities; but also, take a look at this video clip of Moore where she identifies the Catholic Church as part of the community of Christian churches. As you watch this video, keep in mind how contemplatives become more and more ecumenical and interspiritual the longer they are engaged in contemplative spirituality.
Evangelical leaders are praying for a great spiritual awakening, and many, such as Moore, are predicting that it is coming. But as we asked when we wrote our analysis of Jonathan Cahn’s The Harbinger, what will such an awakening or revival look like? In our article, we stated the following:
We were trying to picture what America’s repentance might look like. We got a taste of it right after 9/11 when we witnessed a rallying call to an ecumenical interfaith patriotism; and as a result, America remained proud but there was no true repentance. So, given the state of the nation today, here is a list of what we can envision our national repentance might look like:
A Purpose Driven 40 Days of Repentance
or . . .
The Jonah Plan: Repent in 40 Days — with invitations for New Age speakers to come and instruct the church on how to repent.
A National Day of Mourning over our “Sins” as a Nation — where Buddhist monks, Muslims, Evangelicals, and Catholics will flock together to ask God for forgiveness for not being more united to the universal God.
A World-Wide Contemplative-Prayer Repentance Day — where all the major Christian leaders now promoting contemplative prayer will rally together with New Agers and Buddhists alike to meditate world-wide on that day, in “vibrationally sympathetic harmony,” in order to experience true “Oneness” with mankind, creation, and the god in all.
And we add to that list of pseudo-revivals a Beth Moore/James Robison kind of spiritual awakening that will include Pope Francis and the Catholic Church.
If this supposed coming awakening lines up with those who will be leading it, (e.g., Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Beth Moore, Bill Johnson, Kenneth Copeland, Ruth Haley Barton, etc.), then it will be an ecumenical, mystical move toward unity with not just the Roman Catholic church but with all faiths, and in order to bring about this kind of awakening, millions of people will have to go along with it.
While Beth Moore and other Christian leaders are closing the gap between Christianity and Catholicism, we should remember the saints who went before us and who paid with their blood when they stood faithfully for the Gospel and would not bend to the demands of the papacy (see Foxe’s story of Mrs. Prest as an example).
Note: So many Christians do not understand what the Catholic church teaches. Even many Catholics do not understand. If you have not read Roger Oakland’s book Another Jesus: the eucharistic christ and the new evangelization, it is imperative to understand why biblical Christianity is not equivalent to Roman Catholicism. To help make sure that all of our readers have a copy of this vital book, for the next few days, our bookstore will offer it for 75% off retail. This will make it $3.23 instead of $12.95 (plus shipping). Use this code: AJ-75 to get that discount (will expire 8/18).
New Spirituality for an Awakening Planet? by Berit Kjos
Lighthouse Trails authors Ray Yungen and Warren B. Smith will both be speaking at the 2014 Berean Call Summer Conference in Bend, Oregon on August 29-31. The conference is free but pre-registration is required. You may visit The Berean Call’s website at www.thebereancall.org/conference to register or call them at: 1-800-937-6638.
Also speaking at the conference will be Paul Wilkinson from the UK (featured in the DVD Exposing Christian Palestinianism).
This will be a wonderful time of learning, edification, and fellowship.
We hope you can make it to this important conference!