Posts Tagged ‘richard rohr’
NEW BOOKLET: Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next
NEW BOOKLET: Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next by Gregory Reid is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet. The Booklet is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklets are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next, click here.
Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next
By Gregory Reid
Deception—A Progressive Disease
The church has opened the door to the New Age. What started out as just a crack has now become a wide open door. In just a few short decades, the walls of biblical discernment have been so completely torn down that not only do the majority of church goers seem completely oblivious to the deception that has entered, many of the church’s leaders are actually promoting the various avenues through which the New Age/New Spirituality has come in. This is exactly what Theosophist leader Alice Bailey predicted would be part of the New Age infiltration into the church:
The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination [New Age thought] may be accomplished.1
This paradigm shift has been underway for some time. It probably began to get a real foothold in our present time with Norman Vincent Peale’s “Power of Positive Thinking” theology, quickly adapted by Rev. Robert Schuller who was really the first modern “megachurch” and “seeker friendly” church pastor. The ideas of these two men were once considered an aberration from mainstream Christian doctrine. But here we are decades later, and seeker friendly and power of positive thinking has become the norm and goes unchallenged. The crack into Bible-based evangelical churches had begun to open just a little . . .
Fast forward: In the last three decades, we have opened our doors to things like the holy laughter movement, barking like dogs and oinking like pigs (calling it the “anoinking of the Spirit”), and worse. A number of leaders challenged these things, but its promoters did not repent.
Eventually came spiritual formation, “be still” meditation, breathing techniques, “Christian” Yoga, “the sacred feminine,” labyrinths, and most recently circle making—all an extension of exotic and pagan religions, eastern mysticism, and Buddhist/Hindu tools to reach “the divine within.” These began to creep into church media, books, music, sermons, seminars, and movies. Even Catholic priest and mystic Thomas Merton came to be revered by many evangelicals though he was a man who once said he intended “to become as good a Buddhist as [he] can;”2 and the writings of the late Catholic mystic Henri Nouwen continue influencing millions of evangelicals, even though his spirituality led him to deny that Jesus was the only way to the Father by the end of life.3
The door opened a little wider . . . where were the watchmen? Where were the shepherds? Even pastors were welcoming these things. And as these heretical movements crept in, the Word of God began to become an addendum to our lives, a devotional nicety but not central in our walk with Jesus, and no longer our final determination of truth.
Slowly, the poison seeped into our ranks . . . one book, one DVD, one conference, one movie at a time. Everyone ignored the subtle twisting of the Word of God in Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis, hailing it as “groundbreaking.” And indeed, it was, but not in a good way. His next book, The Sex God raised a few eyebrows, but youth pastors everywhere still adored him, emulated him, and bought glasses and cool clothes to look just like him in an attempt to “relate to youth.” Millennial youth pastors began diluting (or just plain dismissing) the Word of God and preparing little mini-messages to justify their increasingly party-like youth-group atmosphere which was strong on entertainment and weak on the Word of God.
Then Rob Bell wrote Love Wins, denying Hell and proclaiming universalism—the idea that everyone gets saved. Today, he is sharing platforms with Oprah Winfrey and with New Age guru Deepak Chopra at conferences with titles like “The Seduction of Spirit.”4 Some seducing is going on, that’s for sure!
When Bell was finally exposed as being truly a non-evangelical false teacher, I heard nothing but cricket sounds from all those who formerly sang his praises. But by then, everyone was off chasing the next big thing anyway, the next bestseller, the next circle-making, ear-tickling, Scripture-diluting fiasco. We had formed a pattern of going after the latest “it,” or hottest speaker, or bestselling book, and then when it turned out the thing or person was exposed as fraudulent, in error, or full of deception, almost no one took responsibility for originally supporting or promoting them in the first place—least of all the Christian media and those who peddled their products.
I could give countless examples where Christian leaders and pastors promoted someone who was espousing anti-biblical views, and then later when the wrongness became publicized, these same Christian leaders and pastors did nothing to rectify the damage they did in pointing thousands, if not millions, in the wrong direction. No words of regret, no humility, no warnings to what they should have seen in the first place—just silence . . . until the next big thing came along.
Rarely do people say, “we were wrong.” Rarely do leaders say, “We were in error.” And because of that, unrepentant error in discernment has led to greater and greater error, because deception is a progressive disease.
The more error we receive and engage in, the more the ability to discern goes numb and then finally dies altogether. The church has stepped through the door of deception, and now one step at a time, the descent down the stairway to spiritual destruction is underway.
Few seemed alarmed that Roma Downey had no sooner graduated from a New Age college when she began work on her and her husband’s television series The Bible or that she has never renounced her New Age beliefs.5 And in fact, the highest levels of leadership in the church gave her a pass on those issues because, they said, the benefits of how it would reach people outweighed the theological or doctrinal problems. Downey’s movies have been sprinkled with gnostic teachings; and, to be honest, by the time these concerns were raised, certain denominations and groups had invested far too much money in promoting the movies to retract, recall product, and publicly repent at that point. In the end, I believe financial concerns were more important than truth.
The Shack—A Temporary Fix
By the time the book The Shack came around, we had already been prepped through years of “felt need” theology, experiential-based faith, and cherry-picking Scriptures we liked while ignoring the ones we didn’t.
As the Internet grew, I began to understand the power of the appeal to our emotions. More than once, I had seen almost an entire five to ten-minute video on some issue and found myself in tears before I found out at the end that not only was it not a Christian video and did not have a Christian message, but it was produced by people who represented a view that was unbiblical, New Age, and worse. I got emotionally hooked before I learned the truth. Those without a biblical foundation of truth stay hooked. Basically, they get seduced. They have become addicted to being seduced and need the next sensually induced, carnally-inspired fix because that is what has become the foundation of their “faith,” and they have come to believe they can’t get by without it.
People loved The Shack because it replaced the God of the Bible (which deep down they possibly didn’t feel comfortable with because His ways are beyond our understanding and bad things happen, and it upsets our sunshine version of Christianity) and gave them a God who made them feel good, who took the God of the Bible and said, “That’s not really God, this is what God is like . . .” and gave them a diluted, false version of Father, Son, Holy Spirit, and a dose of Sophia, Greek goddess of “wisdom.”
I was sure that anyone with even a modicum of discernment would throw the book in the trash. I had underestimated how wide the door of deception had opened. I lost friends that were pastors who were furious at me for questioning the book. One pastor railed at me, “I haven’t had a relationship with God for years, but now I have my ‘Papa’ back! You can’t take that from me!”
Nothing jarred me more than seeing grown men of God just abandoning clear truth because something tugged their heart, justifying the scriptural butchering by saying, “It’s just fiction; it’s not the Bible!” I confronted someone on this the other night. “What about the satanic Necronomicon. Can I read it? It’s just fiction. Can I read pornography? It’s just fiction.” They thought that a bit extreme. Of course it was. My point was, what was their criteria, where was their own event horizon they were not willing to cross because it was just too obviously wrong? How much Scripture bending or ignoring would they accept and justify as OK because it was “just fiction” before they had enough and said no more?
The genius of The Shack is how cleverly it has clothed itself in a loose and nebulous garment of Scriptures—just enough to justify the complete butchering of the true nature of God and morph Him into a Trinitarian hybrid god that represents whatever will make you feel better about your horrible tragedies and “great sadness.”6 The fact is, though, God will not appear as whatever we want. One person said, “God appeared as a fiery bush, but I know he’s not a bush!” But He did not appear as a bush. He appeared in a bush. God will not appear as Shiva, Buddha, or Sarayu, because He says, “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:14). We can say God is like a rock, but we cannot say God is like Baal. It’s not about imagery; it is about the nature and character of God. And The Shack gives a false representation of both of these.7
Look, I get it. I’ve suffered innumerable losses my entire life, and every one of us at some point cries out, “WHY, GOD?” And in those moments, people either reject Him as uncaring, or call upon His name wherein He brings us into His Kingdom, and we learn to trust Him in the midst of, sometimes in spite of, tragedies that seem to have no reason.
We may find ourselves once again crying out in pain, “Why God!?”
He has answered this in His Word. It’s called having faith, trusting Him, and knowing He loves us.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. (Psalm 18:30)
Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God. (1 John 3:1)
The Shack is a quick fix to feeling better, a panacea, a spiritual drug that allows you to embrace a conception of God that may temporarily take away the pain but leaves you with an open door to deception because it is not the God of the Word. It is not the real thing! And the Jesus it presents is not the real Jesus.
Is The Shack the God portrayed in Scripture? Is God a woman? Is Jesus a clumsy Jewish kid? Is the Holy Spirit a Japanese girl named after a Hindu river? Is the judge of our lives Sophia? Is everyone saved? Is Jesus just the best way to the Father, as the book suggests, or is He what the Bible says—the only way?
“But they’re just parables! Stories! It’s not the Bible!” some argue. So is it acceptable to distort the truth in the guise of fiction just to make a point? How is that ever acceptable? The Shack presents a God who does not judge, one who can change, and one who suggests Jesus is simply a better way to God, not the only way. But feeling has trumped truth, and the book has become a multi-million bestseller. To simplify the responses I have heard, “Don’t confuse me with biblical facts. It makes me feel good!”
It did not bother leaders and publishers that Young’s second book, Eve—a “reimagining” of the Adam and Eve story—was laced with kabbalistic themes and occultic, gnostic fairy tales. “It’s just a story.” The door opened wider. . . .
You see, Satan keeps pushing the goalpost deeper and deeper into the center of the church, and every time he sees no resistance, he is emboldened and takes it to “the next level.”
In March of 2017, The Shack movie was released. People seem just as fascinated with the movie as they are with the book. But I notice one difference—those who support The Shack appear to be much angrier at those with questions than before. “You’re so judgmental!” “Who do you think you are?” “You must be looking for a book deal or something.” “You’ll never lead anyone to Christ, and I doubt if you ever did before.” I’ve had it all thrown at me with the release of the movie as I have tried to reason it out with folks. And I have come to realize that the level of deception has gone so deep that not only are people willing to embrace a lie and ignore the error, but worse—they see themselves as loyal Christian believers while at the same have no problem promoting a story by a man who claims that everyone is “in Christ” already. And you cannot reason with that level of delusion. It’s gone beyond the intellectual. It’s now in the realm of “seducing spirits” (1 Timothy 4:1).
A Church Enamored with New Age Mysticism
Universalism—the “all paths lead to God” religion—is exactly what is needed to turn millions of proclaiming Christians into participants of the one-world antichrist mystery religion that Alice Bailey wrote about and all Luciferian world leaders are counting on.
We did not accept Rob Bell’s universalism. But now we are willing to ignore William Paul Young’s. That is the malignancy of deception unchecked.
The Shack movie comes at a time when eastern meditation techniques are being welcomed wholeheartedly into the public educational system under the guise of “mindfulness.”8 Mindfulness is a Buddhist technique of detachment, leading practitioners to realizing the “divine within,” which eventually supposedly leads to Nirvana—nonexistence. North American children, as young as pre-school age, are being taught how to meditate and do Yoga to reach this Nirvana state.
This eastern meditation paradigm shift is occurring in the church as well via contemplative prayer and the “spiritual disciplines.”9 In 2017, several “Christian” books came on the scene promoting meditation and mindfulness practices under the guise of “devotional” books and “adult coloring books.” One book on contemplative meditation is The Wired Soul: Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconnected Age by Tricia McCary Rhodes. Her book “reintroduces us to the classic disciplines of Scripture reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation.”10 Rick Warren was promoting Rhodes book, The Soul at Rest: A Journey into Contemplative Prayer, as far back as 2003 on his website that stated:
This book is a quiet-time companion for those who hunger for a greater intimacy with God. It offers fresh insight into little understood aspects of prayer and introduces a step-by-step journey of learning contemplative prayer.11
The site referred to Tricia Rhodes as “one of our favorite authors on contemplative prayer.”12 In The Soul at Rest, Rhodes gives instruction on contemplative prayer:
Take deep breaths, concentrating on relaxing your body. Establish a slow, rhythmic pattern. Breathe in God’s peace, and breathe out your stresses, distractions, and fears. Breathe in God’s love, forgiveness, and compassion, and breathe out your sins, failures, and frustrations. Make every effort to “stop the flow of talking going on within you—to slow it down until it comes to a halt.”13
Rick Warren’s promotion of her book in 2003 helped to make a solid place for Rhodes in the evangelical church, and today she, along with so many others like her, is securely wedged in, all the while presenting a panentheistic (i.e., God in all) eastern-style meditation belief system to an unsuspecting church that’s proved itself to have little or no discernment. Does that bother Rick Warren or any of the others who endorsed her? Do they feel the need to warn the church about an author they promoted to millions of people? The answer to that is a resounding no!
So, the church just keeps on going further on the path to the New Age goal of “east meets west,” where we all become one under a false one-world religion and we all recognize the “Christ spirit” or godhood in each other.
Tragically, young Christians are perhaps the biggest target of Satan. The emerging church got the ball rolling and convinced millions of church-going young people that their parents way of seeing Christianity was old fashioned, colonial, and ineffective. And emerging church leaders had the perfect tool to get a hold of the minds of the youth—meditation. It started back in the late nineties and is in full swing today. A 2013 book titled, God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God by Canadian pastor Ken Shigematsu, is being used in Christian youth groups. According to the publisher, Zondervan, the book “draws on both eastern and western perspectives in writing and speaking.”14 Those are buzzwords for introducing a mixing of eastern religion thought processes with Christianity. The book is packed with quotes by and references to numerous mystics such as Thomas Merton and Basil Pennington. Catholic priest and panentheist Richard Rohr is a major advocate for mystical prayer. He said in an interview that his publisher told him his biggest audience is young evangelical men!15 Are Christian leaders and pastors shocked that their young people are being taught by mystics, panentheists, universalists, etc? Apparently not.
All of this is producing Christian minds that are malleable, soft, undiscerning, half-drugged, feeling good, and completely open to the power of suggestion from . . . whoever, and whatever. That is what eastern meditation techniques do. You empty your mind, “turn off distractions,” enter your “sacred space,” and accept that whatever comes must be good and right and from God.
The High Price of Having Our Ears Tickled
The church has become an entity seeking to have her ears tickled. Christians are seeking to feel better about their painful lives. Seeking to be successful, happy, and prosperous. What is it you seek? Step right up folks . . . we’ve got everything for you right now.
Everything except the whole truth of the Word of God, the way of the Cross, the power of the blood to save and heal and forgive, the altar of God where we come to be broken and changed, healed, and set free. Everything which made the Gospel powerful has and is being systematically removed by the enemy of our souls—not because it is not powerful, but because we no longer wish to humble ourselves, bow to its holiness and its truth. The church has exchanged the truth for a lie.
We are seeing the “fruit” of nearly thirty years of dumbing-down and de-prioritizing the Word of God, giving it a mini-place in our lives while shiny things and baubles and the newest “move” catch our attention and send us off on a fruitless quest for the next experience. It’s no wonder young Christians are falling for it so rapidly—their parents and grandparents have had no discernment and therefore could hardly lead and warn the younger generation of spiritual deception. The seed of the Word of God has corporately fallen on stony ground, without depth, where it grows up quick, shrivels, and dies.
I know I am very passionate about this, reluctant to even use the word passionate, so overused it is in today’s “New Spirituality.” However, I have every reason to be this way. I grew up in the occult—a world of delusions, lies, and darkness. When I tried to turn to New Age thought to dispel the darkness—turning to Hinduism, Buddhism, and becoming an avid follower of Paramahansa Yogananda in my little bedroom devouring his every word as “truth”—I ended up deceived, wrecked, and in utter darkness, even though some of it temporarily numbed my pain and made me “feel good.”
I understand many of these Christians who are so emotionally bound to The Shack and Jesus Calling that they have thrown caution to the wind and ignored the dangerous reality that in fact promotes unbiblical lies. I was a universalist when I got saved. I didn’t know what the Word of God said. I still believed all paths led to God! I was totally brainwashed. Then came this “mean man,” this “judgmental Christian” Bible study leader who dared to get out the Word of God and without holding back challenged me about my beliefs. This “judgmental, mean man” saved my spiritual life. (I thank God for Dave; may his memory be blessed!) I needed a hard word to break through the lies.
In all my dealings with everything from Rob Bell to The Shack, I understand that simple logic and reason isn’t working with people who are emotionally invested in the teachers or the stories. People need a wake-up call, and that may not feel good or seem loving. But I cannot apologize for my approach because I see that in the end, The Shack is not just a book or a movie but a game-changer that is extinguishing some of the last lights of discernment out of the hearts of who knows how many thousands (even millions) of believers. I know how they feel. I have been there. And I thank God that someone cared enough to hurt me with the truth. When a house is burning down and people are asleep inside, one cannot afford to meekly whisper, hoping the people hear. You have to shout at the top of your lungs, “Get out, quickly!” In dealing with these new delusions, it may be necessary to jar people awake.
Jesus said in Matthew 24 that all of this would happen. Paul said, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1). The great falling away is at hand. But a remnant will remain faithful. I can only pray humbly not to be one who falls for the lies in a moment of vulnerability, or weakness, or pain or giving up, for we are all vulnerable, and it’s only by the grace of God we can stand. That is where I understand the motto of the French foreign legion that a friend shared with me: “If I falter, straighten me out. If I stumble, pick me up. If I retreat, shoot me.” Blunt, but as a spiritual warrior, it resonates in my heart. None of us is exempt from having to diligently guard against the lies of this age, outside and inside the church.
These progressive deceptions over the last few decades have been just the build-up to the next great delusion, which could be the final one. God help us to turn away from the slow poisoning taking place in the church through breath-prayers, eastern meditation, mindfulness, Yoga, etc. God help us to surrender our soulish ways of perceiving God based on a book written by a wounded man, William Paul Young —unhealed from abuse and bitter church hurts—whom those seeking to make a profit have promoted regardless of his spiritual fragility and woundedness—a man who rejected the God of the Bible for a god who would somehow ease his pain—one that eases your pain as it kills your soul. The Shack is the spiritual Jack Kevorkian of our age.
Pray for William Paul Young, that God would pull him out of this most dangerous and deadly strange fire. Pray for the multitudes who are believing lies. And may God deal with those mercenaries and moneychangers who care more about what sells and profits them than about the care and protection of the flock of God.
Alice Bailey’s plans are about to come to full fruition. The greatest lie is just around the corner.
Stay strong, saints. “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. (Luke 21:28)
To order copies of Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next, click here.
1. Alice Bailey, The Externalization of the Hierarchy (Lucis Publishing Companies), p. 510.
2. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
3.Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1998), p. 51.
5. See Greg Reid’s booklet/article: Confused by an Angel: The Dilemma of Roma Downey’s New Age Beliefs. Online at http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=16968 or order from Lighthouse Trails.
6. Chapter four of The Shack is titled “The Great Sadness,” and the term is frequently used throughout The Shack.
7. See The Shack and Its New Age Leaven by Warren B. Smith. Online at http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=12290 or order from Lighthouse Trails.
8. Kris O’Donnell, “Mindfulness, Meditation Techniques Being Used in Public School Classrooms Across County on 750,000 Students” (Ivanhoe Newswire, http://www.ksat.com/health/mindfulness-meditation-techniques-being-used-in-classroom).
9. Visit the Lighthouse Trails Research blog for extensive information on contemplative spirituality and the “spiritual disciplines”: www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog or request their bi-monthly research journal mailed to homes and offices.
10. Tricia McCary Rhodes, The Wired Soul: Finding Spiritual Balance in a Hyperconnected Age (from the publisher’s description, found on the NavPress website where the book is being sold: https://navresources.ca/product_details.php?item_id=5458).
11. Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox, (September 3, 2003, http://web.archive.org/web/20081227031846/http://legacy.pastors.com/RWMT/?ID=118).
12. Rick Warren’s Ministry Toolbox (February 18, 2004, http://web.archive.org/web/20081227044251/http://legacy.pastors.com/RWMT/?ID=142).
13. Tricia Rhodes, The Soul at Rest (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1996), p. 28.
14. Ken Shigematsu, God in My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013); from Zondervan’s website: http://www.zondervan.com/god-in-my-everything.
15. “The Cosmic Christ with Richard Rohr” (http://podcast.theliturgists.com/e/episode-35-the-cosmic-christ-with-richard-rohr/).
To order copies of Progression to Deception: How New Age Influence is Destroying the Church—One Step After the Next, click here.
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I read the story behind Lighthouse Trails a couple of times, and it hit me that we are going to reach only a fraction of evangelical believers because the movement has progressed so much farther into Contemplative Spirituality (CS) than I had realized. I became aware of CS five years ago, so when I read that Ray Yungen wrote his book (which I am re-reading currently) in 2002, it occurred to me that the battle is nearly won by the forces of evil. Out of all the people I have tried to reach, only two have been receptive to my warning. Of course, your ministry can reach many more than any one individual. Jesus told us we would see this apostasy in the end.
I sent the link for your story of LHT to a friend, who said she had the very same reaction I had—that is, CS has infiltrated the Church more than she realized and that she felt it is too late. Neither she nor I will give up on trying to warn believers—if only a few have their eyes opened, we will have done what Jesus commands.
I do wish you would do some research on Pastor Brian Zahnd, my former pastor. His church went emergent, and he is deep into Contemplative Spirituality. He teaches seminars on Contemplative Prayer at Word of Life Church in St. Joseph, MO. He is now taking his prayer school on the road. And like Roger Oakland says, he’s on the “road to Rome.” He is currently writing his sixth book. https://brianzahnd.com/books/
If you were to read his blog and his Twitter account, you’d see just how far he has gone into apostasy. https://twitter.com/BrianZahnd
He has said he is a friend of Eugene Peterson. He quotes Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, and many other CS authors and “theologians” on Twitter. One tweet said: “The future of Christianity belongs to the Thomas Merton kind of Christian, not the heirs of Jerry Falwell.”
Recently he had a reply to one of his tweets from Ann Coulter, so he is not an unknown.
He has jettisoned the OT (though he says not, but then he says he’s not Emergent) and is against substitutionary atonement.
I sent my current pastor your booklet on Brennan Manning and got no response. So I guess I’ll be looking for a new church again.
May God bless you in your vital work.
Lighthouse Trails Comments: As Ruth has perceived, Brian Zahnd is a mystic. If you asked him if he was, he would proudly tell you yes. He’s not ashamed of it. His book Water to Wine tells of his mystical experiences and the outcome of those experiences. It’s in that book that Zahnd made the Merton/Falwell quote. Here is a little more of that quote:
The way forward is far less political and far more mystical. A generation ago the great Catholic theologian Karl Rahner famously predicted, “The devout Christian of the future will either be a ‘mystic’, one who has ‘experienced’ something, or he will cease to be anything at all.” The future of Christianity belongs to the Thomas Merton kind of Christian, not the heirs of Jerry Falwell. This should be seen as a welcome change. It is only our false hopes that are being disappointed in the death of Christendom. (Zahnd, Brian. Water To Wine: Some of My Story (Kindle Locations 1606-1610). Spello Press. Kindle Edition)
During the course of our author Ray Yungen’s adult life, he studied the New Age, occultism, and mysticism, their connection to each other, and their influence in the world and in the church. He frequently mentioned Karl Rahner’s quote that the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will be nothing. That is how the mystics view their belief that a Christian must engage in mystical practices if he really wants to be spiritual. They believe these practices will produce esoteric experiences that if practiced by enough of mankind, the earth and the world can be saved. They believe that real love and a change of heart can only come from these experiences. The mystics believe that this mystical transformation can happen to anyone, of any belief, of any religion, or of no religion at all. That’s because it isn’t about Jesus Christ (though they may say they like him) and man realizing he is a sinner in great need of a Savior. It can’t be about that—that would take away from the mystic’s belief that divinity dwells in all people and in all things. Though a bit obscure in the following quote by Zahnd, he puts it this way:
Love all of God’s creation, both the whole of it and every grain of sand. Love every leaf, every ray of God’s light. Love animals, love plants, love each thing. If you love each thing, you will perceive the mystery of God in things. Once you have perceived it, you will begin tirelessly to perceive more and more of it every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an entire, universal love. (Zahnd, Brian. Water To Wine: Some of My Story (Kindle Locations 1897-1900). Spello Press. Kindle Edition, emphasis added)
As Ray Yungen often pointed out, the “fruit” of contemplative prayer (which Zahnd refers to over 40 times in the book) is interspirituality (all paths lead to God) and panentheism (God in all). Zahnd explains in his book that when he moved from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical, he became interspiritual:
When I was converted from sectarian to eclectic [mystical], I obtained a passport that allowed me to travel freely throughout the whole body of Christ. In my theological travels I have discovered a Christianity that has both historical depth and ecumenical width. Now I can’t imagine not being able to access all the great contributors to contemporary Christian thought. Orthodox thinkers like Kallistos Ware and David Bentley Hart. Catholic thinkers like Richard Rohr and William Cavanaugh. Anglican thinkers like Rowen Williams and N.T. Wright. Mainline thinkers like Walter Brueggemann and Eugene Peterson. Without them my Christianity would be horribly impoverished. (Zahnd, Brian. Water To Wine: Some of My Story (Kindle Locations 459-463). Spello Press. Kindle Edition)
Water to Wine is filled with interspiritual statements like the one above. Using words such as “tribalism,” he says we must get rid of this notion that traditional (biblical) Christianity is more true or right than other religious traditions. Just prior to the statement above, Zahnd quoted Thomas Merton saying:
If I can unite in myself the thought and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and the Latin Fathers, the Russian with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians… If we want to bring together what is divided, we cannot do so by imposing one division [doctrine] upon the other. If we do this, the union is not Christian. It is political and doomed to further conflict. We must contain all the divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them in Christ. (Kindle Locations 454-459, quoting Merton’s Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, Colorado Springs, CO: Image Books, 1968, 14).
You may recall when Thomas Merton spoke via letter with a Sufi master (an Islamic mystic) and told him that doctrinal differences needed to be laid aside, and we must turn to esoteric experiences as a common ground for unity and fellowship between all . He actually used the Cross as an example of one of those doctrines that had to be laid aside. (Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism, Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999, p. 109)
While Zahnd’s book is filled with examples of his “new life” as a mystic, we’d like to bring out just one more point about Zahnd because it reveals some insight that affects a huge percentage of today’s Christian culture, and it is the person who initially pointed the way for Zahnd to become a mystic. You will know the name. Most likely, your own pastor has read at least one of his books. Read what Zahnd has to say:
On a summer afternoon I was at home browsing my bookshelves. I was deliberately looking for a book that would “give me a breakthrough.” I couldn’t settle on anything. So I prayed, “God, show me what to read.” And I sensed…nothing. I went downstairs feeling a bit agitated and slumped into a chair. Within a minute or two my wife, Peri, walked into the room, handed me a book and said, “I think you should read this.” She knew nothing of my moments ago prayer, but she had just handed me a book, and told me to read it. This was my Augustine-like “take and read” moment. It sent chills down my spine. Somehow I knew it was the answer to my prayer. The book was Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy. The strange thing was Peri had not read this book and had no more idea who Dallas Willard was than I did. (As I said, I was embarrassingly ignorant of the good stuff.) Neither of us were sure how the book had even made its way into our house. But, oh my, was it ever an answer to prayer! The next day I was flying somewhere and I took out the book providentially given to me by an angel. I began to read. And my life changed forever. Hyperbole? No. Stone cold fact. Reading Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy was like having a door kicked open in my mind. It opened my eyes to the kingdom of God. And the kingdom of God is, well, everything! In his foreword to The Divine Conspiracy, Richard Foster writes: “The Divine Conspiracy is the book I have been searching for all my life. Like Michelangelo’s Sistine ceiling, it is a masterpiece and a wonder… I would place The Divine Conspiracy in rare company indeed: along-side the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and John Wesley, John Calvin and Martin Luther, Teresa of Avila and Hildegard of Bingen, and perhaps even Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo. If the parousia tarries, this is a book for the next millennium.” That’s exactly what I needed! Augustine and Aquinas for the twenty-first century! Dallas Willard was my gateway to the good stuff. Directly or indirectly reading Willard led me to others: N.T. Wright, Walter Brueggemann, Eugene Peterson, Frederick Buechner, Stanley Hauerwas, John Howard Yoder, René Girard, Miroslav Volf, Karl Barth, Hans Urs von Balthasar, David Bentley Hart, Wendell Berry, Scot McKnight, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, and so many more. (Kindle Locations 116-133)
Sadly, the spirituality that Brian Zahnd found in those authors cannot save souls and does not point to the Cross of redemption through Jesus Christ. Like so many mystics before him, Zahnd has discarded the idea that Christianity is dualistic in that it is separate from all other belief systems (and that there is a right and wrong, true and false, good and bad, etc), and the doctrines that the mystics so readily dismiss are the very framework of our Christian faith. Within those rejected doctrines is the doctrine of the Cross that says man is not divine and he desperately needs a Savior who is just one Person, Jesus Christ who died a violent death on behalf of mankind. He took our place. To reject dualism (two sides) is to reject the Cross. The contemplative emergent Episcopal bishope Alan Jones illustrated this in his book Reimagining Christianity. In Roger Oakland’s book, Faith Undone, Oakland states:
[Alan] Jones carries through with this idea that God never intended Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross to be considered a payment for our sins:
“The Church’s fixation on the death of Jesus as the universal saving act must end, and the place of the cross must be reimagined in Christian faith. Why? Because of the cult of suffering and the vindictive God behind it.”
“The other thread of just criticism addresses the suggestion implicit in the cross that Jesus’ sacrifice was to appease an angry God. Penal substitution [the Cross] was the name of this vile doctrine.” (Faith Undone, Lighthouse Trails, 2007, p. 193, quoting Alan Jones, Reimagining Christianity, Hoboken, NJ: Wiley and Sons, 200, pp. 132, 168)
Jones calls the doctrine of the Cross a “vile doctrine,” similar to Brian McLaren who said the doctrine of the Cross and Hell are “false advertising” for God.* Brennan Manning did the same thing when he said that the God who exacted the last drop of his blood to appease His anger for our sins does not exist. (Above All, Manning, p. 58) Brian Zahnd says it this way:
Over time I began to see the cross in a much deeper way—not as a mere factor in an atonement theory equation, but as the moment in time and space where God reclaimed creation. I saw the cross as the place where Jesus refounded the world. Instead of being organized around an axis of power enforced by violence, at the cross the world was refounded around an axis of love expressed in forgiveness. (Water To Wine, Kindle Locations 305-308, emphasis added)
It’s a perfect ploy of Satan to get people to stop believing in that atonement. Remember, our adversary hates the atonement. And once a person begins down that road of mystical experiences, entering esoteric realms (really demonic realms), Satan will even allow that mystic to think he has become a fully evolved enlightened person who loves everyone and everything. All the while that person, who is being seduced by familiar spirits, is moving further and further away from the only path God has provided for salvation. And he will share this “mystical revolution” with as many people as he can. This is what happened with all the “great” mystics, and tragically, it appears to have happened to Brian Zahnd and who knows how many other evangelical pastors.
* Interview by Leif Hansen (The Bleeding Purple Podcast) with Brian McLaren, January 8th, 2006); Part 1: http://bleeding purple podcast .blog spot.com/2006/01/brian-mclaren-interview-part-i.html; Part II: http://bleeding purple pod cast. blog spot.com/2006/01/interview-with-brian-mclaren-part-ii.html).
LTRP Note: The Shack movie is about to be released. Millions of Americans will go to theaters to watch the movie. Most likely, the majority of them will be church goers and proclaiming Christians since The Shack book is vetted as a Christian story. Recently, a church contacted Lighthouse Trails and ordered 300 copies of Warren B. Smith’s booklet The Shack and Its New Age Leaven. If you have family, church members, pastors, and friends who might be considering attending this movie, please pick up some copies of the booklet and pass them out. As you can see from the piece below by Lighthouse Trails author Lois Putnam, William Paul Young resonates with panentheists (God is IN all), and we know from our research that The Shack resonates with this concept too. Please do what you can to warn everyone you know. The false “Christ” of The Shack has big plans to deceive many. If you can’t afford to buy the booklet, you can print the content from our blog; but we believe this very inexpensive booklet is a better way to go (in a published bound format, it helps give credibility to the material and the source).
By Lois Putnam
Catholic priest and panentheist mystic Richard Rohr (along with co-author mystic emergent Mike Morrell) recently wrote the book The Divine Dance: The Trinity and Your Transformation. William Paul Young wrote its foreword. Inside, its dedication says: “From Richard Rohr: To all unsuspecting folks who do not know they are already within the ‘Divine Flow'” [i.e., panentheism]. In the foreword, Young says, “May we feel within us the eternal life of Jesus reaching through our hands–to heal, to hold, to hug–and celebrate the bread of our Humanity, the sanctity of the Ordinary, and Participation in the Trinity.”
Other endorsers include Rob Bell, Brian D. McLaren, and a host of others. As Lighthouse Trails Research points out in “In Case You Still Aren’t Sure About the Shack and Its Author,” perhaps Young’s “Twenty Books Everyone Should Read” will convince you otherwise. Click onto the article here: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17684
And Young, continuing his close association with Rohr, will join him and Cynthia Bourgeault in April 6-8, 2017 to take part in a program titled: “Trinity: The Soul of Creation” in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Its online descriptive ad reads, “Rohr, Bourgeault, and Young believe the Trinity . . . has the capacity to change everything. We already participate within this dance whether we realize it or not [that God is in everyone]. But when we consciously engage in loving communion, we open ourselves to being transformed at the deepest levels. Bring your heart, mind, and body to this . . . conversation. Join an ecumenical and inter-faith gathering, moving together through reflective experiences, including contemplative prayer, music, movement (Yoga, Tai Chi Chin, and walking meditation), group and individual processing. …” To read Lois Putnam’s entire article on The Shack, click here.
Note: Cynthia Bourgeault is a name we know well at Lighthouse Trails. Ray Yungen spoke of her to us often. She is an Episcopal priest who is a devoted advocate for everything contemplative. Here is a list of some of her books to prove our point.
When you consider that Catholic contemplative mystic Richard Rohr once said in an interview that his publisher told him his largest audience was young evangelical Christians, and when you know what Rohr truly believes in and stands for, how can mature Christians stand by and say nothing? Our Christian leaders not only remain quiet on these issues, they help promote people like Rohr by quoting them in their books and sermons and then blame traditional biblical Christianity for being the cause of so many young people leaving the faith. But young evangelicals (like your children and grandchildren) are walking away from true Christianity and into the arms of anti-biblical emergents because Christian leaders, pastors, colleges, seminaries, and para-church organizations are pointing them in that direction.
If you are wondering what Richard Rohr is really all about, consider this: In October of this year, Rohr is participating in an event called SAND16 US (standing for Science and Nonduality). Nonduality is a New Age term basically meaning there is no good and evil, no right or wrong, thus, all is one, all is God (which is why New Ager Neale Donald Walsch said that even Hitler will go to heaven). Rohr was invited to speak at SAND 16 US because New Agers resonate with him. Sharing the platform with Rohr will be over 100 other New Agers including Matthew Fox (The Coming of the Cosmic Christ), Deepak Chopra, Ken Wilber, and Larry Dossey.
The occulist Alice Bailey said that man’s “age of enlightenment” (when he realizes he is God) would come to the world through the Christian church not around it. We are witnessing this very thing today. Young evangelicals may be Satan’s greatest target right now. You may have raised your children in a biblically sound home, but now they are being devoured by wolves thanks to leaders we have trusted for way too long. Isn’t it time to call them out and hold them responsible for what is happening to young Christians and to the face of Christianity?
Watkin’s Mind Body Spirit Magazine released its 2016 top 100 most spiritually influential people alive today. If you have been reading Lighthouse Trails for some time, you will recognize several names. One thing all of these names have in common is an affinity toward mysticism. Sadly, a number of these New Ager/New Spirituality names have had significant influence, either directly or indirectly, on the Christian church in the last several years: e.g. Thomas Keating, Richard Rohr, Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way), Pope Francis, Rhonda Byrne (The Secret), and Rob Bell. Click here to read how Watkin’s determined who should be on the list.
2016 Spiritual 100 list at a glance:
|1 Dalai Lama||35 Thomas S. Monson||68 Ajahn Brahm|
|2 Pope Francis||36 Gary Snyder||69 Gary Zukav|
|3 Desmond Tutu||37 Alex Grey||70 Anita Moorjani|
|4 Eckhart Tolle||38 Pema Chödrön||71 Tony Robbins|
|5 Deepak Chopra||39 Francis Chan||72 Robert Bly|
|6 Paulo Coelho||40 Mooji||73 William Bloom|
|7 Alice Walker||41 Vandana Shiva||74 Michael Bernard|
|8 Rhonda Byrne||42 Rob Bell||Beckwith|
|9 Alejandro Jodorowsky||43 Amma – Sri Mata||75 James Redfield|
|10 Oprah Winfrey||Amritanandamayi Devi||76 James van Praagh|
|11 Matthew Fox||44 Iyanla Vanzant||77 Fritjof Capra|
|12 Louise L. Hay||45 Rowan Williams||78 Tara Brach|
|13 Jaggi Vasudev||46 Neale Donald Walsch||79 Mark Nepo|
|14 Graham Hancock||47 Ali al-Sistani||80 Steve Taylor|
|15 Arianna Huffington||48 Julia Cameron||81 Starhawk|
|16 Elizabeth Gilbert||49 Byron Katie||82 Huston Smith|
|17 Ram Dass||50 Robert Thurman||83 Caroline Myss|
|18 Robin Sharma||51 Bruce Lipton||84 Adyashanti|
|19 Sri Sri Ravi Shankar||52 Dan Millman||85 Richard Saul Wurman|
|20 Karen Armstrong||53 Jack Canfield||86 David Frawley|
|21 Jon Kabat-Zinn||54 Prem Rawat||87 Seyyed Hossein Nasr|
|22 Marianne Williamson||55 Dadi Janki||88 Thomas Keating|
|23 Martin Seligman||56 Brian Weiss||89 Richard Gere|
|24 Rupert Sheldrake||57 Daisaku Ikeda||90 Gangaji|
|25 Sam Harris||58 Richard Bandler||91 Elaine Pagels|
|26 Richard Bach||59 Richard Rohr||92 Lee Carroll|
|27 Thomas Moore||60 Clarissa Pinkola Estés||93 Lynne McTaggart|
|28 Don Miguel Ruiz||61 Gregg Braden||94 Mantak Chia|
|29 Esther Hicks||62 David Steindl-Rast||95 Sogyal Rinpoche|
|30 Justin Welby||63 Stanislav Grof||96 Malala Yousafzai|
|31 Andrew Weil||64 Doreen Virtue||97 Shakti Gawain|
|32 James Lovelock||65 Thich Nhat Hanh||98 Michael A. Singer|
|33 Ken Wilber||66 Jack Kornfield||99 Sharon Salzberg|
|34 Daniel Goleman||67 David Deida||100 Claudio Naranjo|
Click here to read how Watkin’s determined who should be on the list.
LTRP Note: Lighthouse Trails began publishing Booklet Tracts nearly three years ago. Our first booklet was Ray Yungen’s 5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer. Ray has now updated and expanded this booklet with new information that is vital to our warning about contemplative prayer. The updated, expanded Booklet Tract is 18 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 new edition. To order copies of the updated expanded edition of 5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer, click here. This booklet also has two appendices: “A Few Common Terms” and “Christian Mystics of the Past.”
By Ray Yungen
It is fair to say there has been a mystical revolution throughout the Western world over the last forty years. Whereas mysticism was once uncommon within mainstream society, it has now become accepted and normal. Going by the law of the market, any reasonable person could deduce this from the number of bookshelves devoted to eastern mysticism and New Age thought in virtually all major bookstore outlets (e.g., Barnes and Noble and the now defunct Borders). The Borders bookstore in my hometown in Oregon offered 65 shelves to these subjects; a few decades earlier, B. Dalton bookstore had only five shelves on mysticism. Another indicator of the popularity of mysticism was the success of talk-show host Oprah Winfrey. Over the course of twenty some years, she introduced literally tens of millions of readers and viewers to the mystical life.
Many people may not know that there has been a “Christian” element to this phenomenon of mysticism known as contemplative prayer or centering prayer. This form of mystical prayer has entered the Christian church primarily through spiritual formation programs. Despite the actual practice being centuries old, going all the way back to the desert fathers in the middle ages, it has only recently struck a chord with many people within the numerous branches or denominations that make up the panoply of Christianity.
It would be prudent for those who want to enter into this practice to really understand the dynamics of what this really entails. Christians may expect that they are going to have a deeper encounter with the God of the Bible or lead richer fuller spiritual lives, but the reality may be radically different. In this booklet, you are going to read quotes , not from critics or opponents of contemplative prayer but rather champions and teachers of contemplative prayer that show the true nature of what this movement actually is spiritually grounded in. I want to say at the onset that these quotes are not skewered or taken out of context. They accurately illustrate the mindset of the particular author.
1. The Compatibility of New Age and Eastern Thought with Contemplative Prayer
New Agers and those practicing Eastern religion regard contemplative prayer as part of their own movement. The following excerpts are from New Age and Eastern thought proponents:
It’s important to note that, throughout the history of Christianity, Christian mystics have displayed an unusual openness to the wisdom of non-Christian philosophy and religion. In other words, Christian mysticism seems, from the beginning, to have had an intuitive recognition of the way in which mysticism is a form of unity that transcends religious difference.1—Carl McColman, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism (emphasis added)
The East does not represent a culture or a religion so much as the methodology [meditation] for a achieving a larger, liberating vision. In that sense, the “East” has existed in Western mystical traditions [i.e., contemplative prayer].2—Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy
Individual religions have various names for the esoteric paths that can bring us step by step to these experiences. In Mahayana Buddhism, there are the paths of the Tibetans or the way of Zen. . . . In Hinduism, there are the different forms of yoga. In Islam, there is Sufism. In Judaism, there is the teaching of the Cabala. In Christianity, there is contemplation. All of these can lead people to the ultimate level, to cosmic consciousness.3—Willigis Jäger, Searching for the Meaning of Life (emphasis added)
The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics: it is no accident that both traditions use the same word for the highest reaches of their respective activities—contemplation.4—from the book, Richard Kirby, The Mission of Mysticism
Kundalini has long been known in Taoist, Hindu, and Buddhist spirituality.”5 “Since this energy [Kundalini occultic energy] is also at work today in numerous persons who are devoting themselves to contemplative prayer, this book is an important contribution to the renewal of the Christian contemplative tradition.6—Thomas Keating, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality (emphasis added)
2. Major Proponents of Contemplative Prayer Advocate Eastern Religion
One of the outstanding characteristics of the contemplative prayer movement is what is known as interspirituality. In effect, this means you stay in your present religion but you absorb the spiritual perspective of those within Eastern thought. For instance, in Henry Nouwen’s book, Pray to Live, he describes contemplative proponent Thomas Merton as being heavily influenced by Hindu monks.7 Consider the following quotes:
[Thomas] Merton had encountered Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Taoism and Vedanta many years prior to his Asian journey. Merton was able to uncover the stream where the wisdom of East and West merge and flow together, beyond dogma, in the depths of inner experience. . . . Merton embraced the spiritual philosophies of the East and integrated this wisdom into [his] own life through direct practice. 8—from Yoga Journal magazine
[T]he author [Catholic priest Thomas Ryan] shows a wonderful openness to the gifts of Buddhism, Hinduism and Muslim religion. He discovers their great wisdom for the spiritual life of the Christian and does not hesitate to bring that wisdom home.9—Henri Nouwen, from the foreword of Disciplines For Christian Living (emphasis added)
This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality . . . It is no accident that the most active frontier between Christian and Eastern religions today is between contemplative Christian monks and their Eastern equivalents. Some forms of Eastern meditation informally have been incorporated or adapted into the practice of many Christian monks, and increasingly by other Christians.10—Tilden Edwards, founder of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, in Spiritual Friend
3. The Method in Contemplative Prayer Identical to the Method Used in New Age and Eastern Thought
The hallmark of contemplative prayer is found in such phrases as waiting for God in silence, stilling your thoughts, seeking God’s presence in the silence, and advancing in inward stillness, all with the characteristic of stopping the normal flow of thought. Many promoters of contemplative prayer would reject this being the result of using a mantra but many more accept this as being true.
Those who have practiced Transcendental Meditation may be surprised to learn that Christianity has its own time-honored form of mantra meditation. The technique, called Centering Prayer, draws on the spiritual exercises of the Desert Fathers, the English devotional classic, The Cloud of Unknowing, and the famous Jesus Prayer. . . . Reliance on a mantric centering device has a long history in the mystical canon of Christianity.11—Editors from New Age Journal, As Above, So Below
The techniques [Herbert] Benson teaches–silence, appropriate body posture and above all, emptying the mind through repetition of prayer—have been the practices of mystics in all the great world religions. And they form the basis on which most modern spiritual directors guide those who want to draw closer to God. . . . Silence is the language God speaks . . . says Thomas Keating who taught ‘centering prayer’ to more than 31,000 people in just one year. Keating suggests that those who pray repeat some “sacred word,” like God or Jesus.12—“Talking to God,” Newsweek magazine
Nonverbal prayer involves learning how to become silent inside. I first learned about nonverbal prayer as a part of other religious traditions. I did not know that it also has a long history in the Christian tradition (even though I had gone to a first-rate seminary; I do not know if it was not taught or if I missed it). It intrigued me. I learned about the use of mantras as a means of giving the mind something to focus and refocus on as it sinks into silence. I was thus delighted to learn later that the Christian tradition not only knows the practice of nonverbal prayer but also includes mantras.13—Marcus Borg, The God We Never Knew
The twentieth century, which has seen so many revolutions, is now witnessing the rise of a new mysticism within Christianity. . . . For the new mysticism has learned much from the great religions of Asia. It has felt the impact of yoga and Zen and the monasticism of Tibet. It pays attention to posture and breathing; it knows about the music of the mantra and the silence of samadhi. . . . Now what I say of Zen is true also of Christian mysticism. It also leads to an altered state of consciousness where all is one in God.”14 —William Johnston, The Mystical Way
Without in any way betraying his faith, the Christian can deepen his contemplation of divine mysteries through Hindu ways of prayer.15—Kathleen Healy, Entering the Cave of the Heart
Do not reflect on the meaning of the word; thinking and reflecting must cease, as all mystical writers insist.16—Willis Jäger, Contemplation: A Christian Path
The repetition [of a word or phrase] can in fact be soothing and very freeing, helping us, as Nouwen says, “to empty out our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God.”17—evangelical author, Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens
4. Finding the “God” Within
It is important to note here that the purpose of contemplative prayer is to enter an altered state of consciousness in order to find one’s true self, thus finding God. This true self relates to the belief that man is basically good. Christian proponents of contemplative prayer teach that all human beings have a divine center and that all, not just born-again believers, should practice contemplative prayer. The belief is that in the heart of man we find God (i.e., that we are God).
The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is the same as the one who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being.18—Henri Nouwen from his book Here and Now
We [all humanity] bear this divine core within us. Zen calls it “essential nature”; yoga calls it “atman”; Christians call it “eternal life, the kingdom of God, or heaven.” . . . The Divine, which he [Jesus] called the Father, pulsates through us, just as it pulsated through him.19—Willigis Jäger, Search for the Meaning of Life
[Even people] who have yet to turn their lives over to Jesus Christ—can and should practice them [spiritual disciplines].20—Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
When God grows up for us, a different kind of relationship—if it can be called a relationship—is called for. No longer are we two separate beings who interact across the distance that we imagine to lie between beings. We are now related to God as the body is to the breath. Essentially, we are one.21—Brian C. Taylor, Setting the Gospel Free
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. 22—Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
[O]ccultism is defined as the science of mystical evolution; it is the employment of the hidden [i.e. occult] mystical faculties of man to discern the hidden reality of nature, i.e. to see God as the all in all.23—Richard Kirby, The Mission of Mysticism
5. Contemplative Spirituality Has Become Attractive to Those in the Evangelical Church
Despite the theological barriers that have existed between Catholicism and the evangelical church, evangelicals have become more and more receptive to the Catholic contemplative tradition. These barriers have more or less come down over the last few decades, and an increasing number of evangelicals are seeking out spiritual directors and spiritual formation programs which are the conduits into the realm of this mystical paradigm.
Some very popular authors who have been accepted by the evangelical church are activists regarding contemplative prayer as a way to go deeper with God. These authors have written and taught prolifically on contemplative prayer.
[W]e should all without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer.24
Thomas Merton has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood . . . his interest in contemplation led him to investigate prayer forms in Eastern religion . . . [he is] a gifted teacher.25
God’s hope for humanity is that one day we will all recognize that the divine dwelling place is all of creation. Christ comes again whenever we see that matter and spirit co-exist. This truly deserves to be called good news.26
[O]ne of my publishers . . . told me that right now my single biggest demographic is young evangelicals—young evangelicals. Some of my books are rather heavy. I’m just amazed.27
Ruth Haley Barton
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.28
In Ruth Haley Barton’s book Invitation to Solitude and Silence (the book where Barton acknowledges Thomas Keating’s influence in her life), Barton quotes the late Catholic priest William Shannon from his book Silence on Fire (the biography of Thomas Merton). In that book, Shannon states:
Wordless prayer . . . is humble, simple, lowly, prayer in which we experience our total dependence on God and our awareness that we are in God. Wordless prayer is not an effort to “get anywhere, ” for we are already there (in God’s presence). It is just that we are not sufficiently conscious of our being there.29 (emphasis added)
Adele Ahlberg Cahoun
Adele Ahlberg Calhoun is the author of The Spiritual Discplines Handbook: Practices That Conform Us, a primer on contemplative and centering prayer. The following two quotes from her book clearly express her views:
Meditation is not simply a discipline of Eastern religions and New Age gurus. Meditation rests at the core of Judaeo-Christian spirituality; it’s an invitation to apprehend God.30
Take your time, and when a word “lights up” for you stop and attend. Let the word or phrase roam around in your mind and heart. . . . When your mind wanders, gently bring it back and continue your meditation.31
What illustrates Ahlberg Calhoun’s spiritual sympathies even more is a list of “tutors” she includes at the back of the book. Some of these are Basil Pennington, Henri Nouwen, Richard Rohr, Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross, and Julian of Norwich, all of which absorbed interspiritual and panentheistic characteristics due to their contemplative practices. Many evangelical leaders, including Rick Warren, recommend or endorse The Spiritual Disciplines Handbook.On the book’s publisher’s website (InterVarsity Press), you will find an endorsement for the book by the popular pastor Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian of NYC, who says of Calhoun’s handbook:
I have long profited from Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s gifts in the field of spiritual development, and I am delighted that she has compiled her experience with spiritual disciplines into book form. I highly recommend it and I look forward to using it as a resource at our church.32
A simple method of contemplative prayer (often called centering prayer . . .) has four steps . . . choose a single sacred word . . . repeat the sacred word inwardly, slowly, often.33
In an interview, Brennan Manning recommended William Shannon’s book, Silence on Fire and Thomas Keating’s book on centering prayer, Open Mind, Open Heart. In Silence on Fire, Shannon denounces the atonement and the biblical God in the following manner:
This is a typical patriarchal notion of God. He is the God of Noah who sees people deep in sin, repents that He made them and resolves to destroy them. He is the God of the desert who sends snakes to bite His people because they murmured against Him. He is the God of David who practically decimates a people . . . He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased. This God whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger. This God does not exist.34 (emphasis added)
The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart . . . This way of simple prayer . . . opens us to God’s active presence.35
The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is the same as the one who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being.36
During a conference on contemplative prayer, the question was put to Thomas Merton: “How can we best help people [not just Christians] to attain union with God?” His answer was very clear. We must tell them that they are already united with God. Contemplative prayer is nothing other than coming into consciousness of what is already there.37—stated by Brennan Manning in his book The Signature of Jesus
I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity . . . I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.38
The Bible reveals that in the heart (center) of man our true self is not “God” but rather sinful and wicked:
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. (Matthew 15: 18,19)
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man. (Mark 7: 21-23; emphasis added)
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
The Bible also clearly warns against repetitive prayer and also tells us we cannot find God unmediated (i.e., without Christ).
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. (Matthew 6:7)
For there is one God, and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)
It is ironic that in the last century more Christians have died for their faith in other countries than have died in past centuries combined. Many of these Christians have departed from Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism to meet their executioners. What would these martyrs of the faith say to us if they could speak of our current western practice of intermingling Christianity with Eastern religion and the occult? The Bible warns against such mixture:
Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devil: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils. (1 Corinthians 10: 21)
Jesus never taught his disciples techniques to attain oneness with God, but rather spoke of Himself as the Way. In fact, the entire New Testament was written to dispute the idea that people can reach God through religious efforts and reveals that Jesus Christ is the only answer. In conclusion, the contemplative movement is founded on the following false premises*:
The heart of man is basically good and (it has a divine center). vs. The heart of man is wicked—A DENIAL OF THE SIN NATURE
Man can find God through his own efforts regardless of what religion he has embraced. vs. Jesus referred to Himself as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.— A DENIAL OF THE ATONEMENT
God is delighted by chanting and similar methods of meditative prayer. vs. Jesus said that He isn’t.—A DENIAL OF GOD’S PERSONAL NATURE
With false premises as these, the conclusions can only be erroneous. The Bible creates the proper understanding and balance of 1) man as sinful, 2) needing a redeemer, 3) with whom he can have an abundant life.
Perhaps the most misguided view of all in the contemplative prayer movement is summed up in the following quote by a biographer of Thomas Merton:
Nor should Christians delude themselves with the idea that the grace of God is monopolized by any particular structure of belief. God isn’t obeying the traffic lights of any religious system.39
But this is not true. God did create an organism called the body of Christ, and to enter, you have to believe something very specific. If you understand the objective of true Christianity, you will clearly see that the opinion stated in the quote above contradicts the message of the Cross, which is the essence Christianity. You cannot reconcile the statement above with the following verse:
. . . that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7)
*Note: * In philosophy, every “argument” must have a premise and a conclusion, but if your premises are false, it will inevitably lead you to a false conclusion.
To order copies of the updated expanded edition of 5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer, click here.
1. Carl McColman, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Road Publishing Company, 2010), p. 63.
2. Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy (Los Angeles, CA: J.P. Tarcher, 1980), p. 368.
3.Willigis Jäger, Searching for the Meaning of Life (Liguori, MO: Triumph Books, 1995), p. 31.
4. Richard Kirby, The Mission of Mysticism (London, UK: SPCK, 1979), p. 7.
5. Philip St. Romain, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality: A Pathway to Growth and Healing (New York, NY: Crossroad, 1995). This excerpt is in the Foreword by Thomas Keating; page 7.
7. Henri Nouwen, Pray to Live (Fides Publishers, 1972), pp. 19-28.
8. Michael Torris (Yoga Journal magazine; January/February; 1999).
9. Thomas Ryan, Disciplines For Christian Living (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1993). This excerpt written in the Foreword by Henri Nouwen; p. 2.
10. Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1980), pp. 18-19.
11.Ronald S. Miller, Editor of New Age Journal, As Above So Below (New York, NY: Tarcher/Putnam, 1992), p. 52.
12. Kenneth L. Woodward, “Talking to God” (Newsweek, January 6, 1992), p. 44.
13. Marcus Borg, The God We Never Knew (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1997), p. 125.
14. William Johnston, The Mystical Way: Silent Music and the Wounded Stag (HarperCollins,1993), Foreword, p. 336.
15. Kathleen Healy, Entering the Cave of the Heart (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1986), p. 9.
16. Willigis Jäger, Contemplation: A Christian Path (Liguori, MO: Triumph Books, 1994), p. 31.
17. Jan Johnson, When The Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1999), p. 93.
18. Henri Nouwen, Here and Now (New York, NY: Crossroad, 1994), p. 22.
19.Willigis Jäger, Search for the Meaning of Life, op. cit., pp. 243, 245.
20. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1988), p. 2.
21. Brian C. Taylor, Setting the Gospel Free (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing, 1996), p. 77.
22. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Publishers, 1989), pp. 157-158.
23. Richard Kirby, The Mission of Mysticism, op. cit., p. 6.
24. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, 1978 edition), p. 13.
25. Richard Foster, Spiritual Classics (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 2000), p. 17.
26. Richard Rohr, “The Eternal Christ in the Cosmic Story” (National Catholic Reporter, 2009, http://www.thefreelibrary.com/The+eternal+Christ+in+the+cosmic+story.-a0214894722).
27. Kristen Hobby, “What Happens When Religion Isn’t Doing Its Job: an interview with Richard Rohr, OFM” (Presence: An International Journal of Spiritual Direction, Volume 20, No. 1, March 2014), pp. 6-11.
28. Ruth Haley Barton, “Beyond Words:Experience God’s presence in silence and solitude” (Discipleship Journal, Vol. 113 1999).
29. William Shannon, Silence on Fire (New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1995 edition), pp. 109-110.
30. Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, Kindle Edition), Kindle Locations 2050-2051.
31. Ibid., Kindle Locations 2071-2072.
32. Timothy Keller, InterVarsity Press website: http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/review/code=7697.
33. Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus; (Multnomah Books, 1994), p. 218.
34. William Shannon, Silence on Fire, op. cit., pp. 109-110.
35. Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1991), p. 81.
36. Henri Nouwen, Here and Now, op. cit., p. 22.
37. Brennan Manning, The Signature of Jesus, op. cit., p. 211; citing William H. Shannon, Silence on Fire (1991 edition), p. 22.
38. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
39. James Forest, Thomas Merton: A Pictorial Biography (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1980), p. 81.
To order copies of the updated expanded edition of 5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer, click here.
To Lighthouse Trails:
In March 2015, we were at a small Calvary Chapel in ________________. Our pastor needed to relocate so we were without a regular pastor for many months.
Since we were unable to find a satisfactory Calvary Chapel pastor, we were extremely anxious as to what our next step should be. Someone knew of a C&MA [Christian & Missionary Alliance] District Superintendent who mentioned he could come talk to us as a congregation. When he came, he was extremely nice and personable and exuded confidence and kindness.
We were all extremely excited, and when we looked at their statement of beliefs we were relieved to find they were very close to Calvary Chapels. They soon provided us with a temporary pastor who would take over our congregation until we could be matched with the perfect pastor.
I had been attending this church for over four years and teaching a women’s Bible study for about three years. At different times during the Bible study, I taught on the emergent church and showed videos such as Wide is the Gate 1, 2, and 3 on the dangers of these emergent teachings. A lot of the women alienated themselves from me because I criticized Beth Moore and her teachings and Priscilla Shirer.
At some point, I began to see, through Lighthouse Trails, a few things on the Alliance and its ties with the emergent church and spiritual formation. As I really began to dig, I was horrified. I called four C&MA seminaries to ask them if they offered classes on Spiritual Formation. I was told very enthusiastically, yes they offered many classes in Spiritual Formation. When I called Simpson University, I was even told that if I wanted to dig deeper into that sort of thing, they recommended Bill Johnson’s [Bethel Church] School of the Supernatural.
I approached our three elders with all this information: two of the elders were very dismissive, saying I was just reading “ranting blogs” and that they knew C&MA to be a very reputable denomination. One elder and about four of the women were very interested and seem to be quite alarmed. They did their own research and agreed it was a scary situation.
Then this past Saturday, we all met in one of the women’s houses including the one elder and had a two-hour meeting discussing the situation and that something needed to change, that maybe we should develop a home church or at least take back our church.
Sunday came around and our new pastor called a meeting of our transition board, which mostly consists of myself and the other eight or nine people I had told. He had been informed that I had some problems with the Alliance and the emergent church, so he focused on me and was very kind and very nice and asked me what the problem was. When I told him what I had read, he said that the emergent church was very evil and that Alliance was aware of it and they were fighting it. When I asked him why they were teaching Spiritual Formation in their colleges and seminaries, he said they were educating students about the dangers of it. He then mentioned someone that he was friends with named Timothy Keller. I asked him did he think Timothy Keller was a good teacher and a good pastor, and he said absolutely. I then asked him how he could say that when Pastor Keller was bringing in the emergent church full blown into his Presbyterian Church?
Our new pastor then told me that the best way to fight these kind of things was to be relevant to the culture and to bring all these things in to the church and let the false teachers teach alongside the true teachers of the Gospel and that the Gospel would prevail. He said in a place like New York where Timothy Keller pastors, you have to be relevant to the population; and teaching things like yoga, contemplative prayer, and lectio divina was necessary to bring people in, and then you could present the Gospel, and they would be saved. When I told him that was not biblical that we were told to flee from false teachers and have nothing to do with them, he told me that was my interpretation of the Bible.
The new pastor then told me I was needed in the congregation because I had such an acute sense of discernment that he needed me in the church, Yeah Right! I told him I was sorry that with the name Alliance over the front door, I couldn’t, in good conscience, attend the church. His whole demeanor changed like a mask came over his face, and he said “OK, then I will be addressing your women’s Bible study Wednesday.” When I asked him why, he said, “I don’t want these women just left and abandoned. I told him I would be there Wednesday to say goodbye to finish the class. He then looked at me since I had stood up and looked around at the other people who were there and said, “we have things to discuss—you can go now.” I said OK and I left.
Even though all those people in that living room meeting 28 hours earlier had been against him, by the time he was done talking, they were all either neutral or on his side. Not one person said a word in defense of what I was saying.
All last night, I was disturbed. I was sad, and I felt lonely. Had I done the wrong thing? Was I sure this was what God wanted? I know that sounds silly looking at it from the outside, but it’s just the way it played out in my head. When I tried to call a couple of those people, they didn’t even want to talk to me. And then, I just happened to get in the mail a booklet from Lighthouse Trails that I had ordered about a week earlier called A Serious Look at Richard Foster’s “School” of Contemplative Prayer. I knew a lot of the information from previous researching, except where it mentioned Richard Rohr. It rang a bell, so I Googled his name with C&MA. I came up with so much information, and after reading that booklet, it was like the blinds fell off my eyes again. With a rush of relief, I suddenly knew I had done the right thing.
Thank you Lighthouse Trails for being there for the people like us that feel like a speck of sand on a huge beach trying to get our message out to the rest of the sand.
God bless you and again thank you, thank you, thank you.
Information on Richard Rohr:
Excerpt on Richard Rohr from Ray Yungen’s book on Richard Foster:
Without a doubt, Catholic priest Richard Rohr is one of the most prominent living proponents of contemplative prayer today. His organization, The Center for Contemplation and Action, is a bastion for contemplative spirituality. And like our other contemplative prayer “school” masters, he has been embraced by numerous popular evangelical authors. Richard Foster, for example, had Rohr on an advisory board for a 2010 book Foster edited titled 25 Books Every Christian Should Read: A Guide to the Essential Devotional Classics.22
Rohr has essentially become the new Thomas Merton to an entirely new generation of evangelical Christians. In an interview, Rohr said:
[O]ne of my publishers . . . told me that right now my single biggest demographic is young evangelicals—young evangelicals. Some of my books are rather heavy. I’m just amazed.23
Rohr’s statement is correct about young evangelicals. A case in point is an organization called IF: Gathering. The leaders of IF are dynamic energetic women who hold large conferences geared primarily toward young evangelical women. While these women may be sincere in what they are trying to do, they promote figures such as emergent leaders Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, as well as Richard Rohr. Lighthouse Trails has published a booklet on IF that I encourage you to read to understand the full scope of this growing women’s movement.24
To further understand the significance of this, Rohr is a prominent champion for the idea of a global religion that would unify the world. He says that “religion needs a new language.”25 And that language to bring about this one-world religion is mysticism (i.e., contemplative prayer)! Rohr stated:
Right now there is an emergence . . . it’s coming from so many different traditions and sources and parts of the world. Maybe it’s an example of the globalization of spirituality.26
This view ties in perfectly with the emerging church’s perspective that is so popular among younger evangelicals today. It’s no wonder that Richard Rohr and emerging church leaders (such as Brian McLaren) are so supportive of each other and endorse each other’s books.
In echoing Merton and Nouwen, Rohr also advocates the concept of dharmakaya. This is the recurring theme of the “school” of contemplative prayer. Rohr states:
God’s hope for humanity is that one day we will all recognize that the divine dwelling place is all of creation. Christ comes again whenever we see that matter and spirit co-exist. This truly deserves to be called good news.27
To dispel any confusion about what Rohr is saying, he makes it clear in the same paragraph what he means by God dwelling in all creation. He uses a term that one finds throughout contemplative literature, which signifies that Christ is more of an energy than a personal being. Rohr explains the term “cosmic Christ,” telling readers that everything and everyone belongs to God’s kingdom.28 That’s even the name of one of his books, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer.
In his 2011 book, Falling Upward, Rohr implies that we (humanity) are all an “immaculate conception.”29 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. (for footnotes and source, click here)