Posts Tagged ‘tilden edwards’
An Appendix on the Al Mohler Situation: “The Contemplative Christian (The Christian of the Future?)”
LTRP Note: In view of our recent post on Albert Mohler who promoted the book The Benedictine Option (a book that encourages contemplative prayer practices), we are posting this article by Ray Yungen from his book A Time of Departing so readers who are unfamiliar with the contemplative prayer movement can gain better understanding.
By Ray Yungen
Within the evangelical world, contemplative prayer is increasingly being promoted and accepted. As a result, it is losing its esoteric aspect and is now seen by many as the wave of the future. One can’t help but notice the positive exposure it is getting in the Christian media these days. In Today’s Christian Woman, a popular and trusted Christian magazine, feature titles make the appeal to draw closer to God. The author of one such article says, “Like a growing number of evangelicals, I’ve turned to spiritual direction because I want to know God better.”1 But without exception, every person she cites is a dedicated contemplative, one being Ruth Haley Barton, author of Invitation to Solitude and Silence. Barton was trained at the Shalem Institute (founded by panentheist Tilden Edwards); and in fact, that organization was featured in the article as a resource for the reader. However, considering the content of many statements on the Shalem Institute website, how could Shalem even be listed as a resource for Christians? Listen to a few:
In Christianity and other traditions that understand God to be present everywhere, contemplation includes a reverence for the Divine Mystery, “finding God in all things,” or “being open to God’s presence, however it may appear.”2
[Thomas] Merton taught that there is only one way to develop this radical language of prayer: in silence.3
The rhythm of the group includes . . . chanting, two periods of sitting in silence separated by walking meditation, and a time for optional sharing.4
In another magazine article, Ruth Haley Barton, who incidentally is the former Associate Director of Spiritual Formation at Willow Creek Community Church, echoes Southern Baptist-turned-goddess worshiper Sue Monk Kidd in many ways, including the general malaise or condition of the human soul. Barton recounts:
A few years ago, I began to recognize an inner chaos in my soul . . . No matter how much I prayed, read the Bible, and listened to good teaching, I could not calm the internal roar created by questions with no answers.5
The following scenario Barton relates could be the wave of the future for the evangelical church if this movement continues to unfold in the manner it already has:
I sought out a spiritual director, someone well versed in the ways of the soul . . . eventually this wise woman said to me . . . “What you need is stillness and silence so that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.” . . . I decided to accept this invitation to move beyond my addiction to words.6
By “addiction to words,” she means normal ways of praying. She still uses words, but only three of them, “Here I am.” This is nothing other than the Cloud of Unknowing or the prayer of the heart.
Like Richard Foster, Barton argues that God cannot be reached adequately, if at all, without the silence. In referring to 1 Kings 19 when Elijah was hiding in a cave, Barton encourages:
God loves us enough to wait for us to come openly to Him. Elijah’s experience shows that God doesn’t scream to get our attention. Instead, we learn that our willingness to listen in silence opens up a quiet space in which we can hear His voice, a voice that longs to speak and offer us guidance for our next step.7
What Barton fails to mention here is that Elijah was a valiant defender of the belief in the one, unique God—Yahweh (as seen in his encounter with the 450 prophets of Baal), and he never went into an altered state of silence in his personal encounter with God.
Barton is no longer teaching at Willow Creek. She left there to start the Transforming Center and now teaches pastors and other Christian leaders spiritual formation. Hers is just one of many avenues through which contemplative prayer is creating a new kind of Christian, possibly the Christian of the future.
1. Agnieszka Tennant, “Drawing Closer to God”(Today’s Christian Woman, September/October 2004, Vol. 26, No. 5), p. 14. Published by Christianity Today International, Carol Stream, Illinois.
2. Shalem Institute, “What Does Contemplative Mean?” (Shalem Institute About Shalem page, http://web.archive.org/web/20050204190729/http://shalem.org/about.html#contemplative).
3. Ann Kline, “A New Language of Prayer” (Shalem Institute newsletter, Vol. 29, No. 1, Winter 2005, http://web.archive.org/web/20060930230219/http://www.shalem.org/publication/newsletter/archives/2005/2005_winter/article_04).
4. Shalem Institute website, General Events, “Radical Prayer: A Simple Loving Presence Group” (http://www.shalem.org/programs/generalprograms/groupsevents_folder; no longer online—on file at LT).
5. Ruth Haley Barton, “Beyond Words, Issue #113, September/October, 1999, http://web.archive.org/web/20060628075740/http://www.navpress.com/EPubs/DisplayArticle/1/1.113.13.html), p. 35.
7. Ibid., pp. 37-38.
By Ray Yungen
The Bible says that in the last days, many will come in Christ’s name. If one examines the “prophecies” of occulist Alice Bailey, one can gain insight into what the apostle Paul called in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 the falling away. Bailey eagerly foretold of what she termed “the regeneration of the churches.”1 Her rationale for this was obvious:
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 may be accomplished.2
In other words, instead of opposing Christianity, the occult would capture and blend itself with Christianity and then use it as its primary vehicle for spreading and instilling New Age consciousness! The various churches would still have their outer trappings of Christianity and still use much of the same lingo. If asked certain questions about traditional Christian doctrine, the same answers would be given. But it would all be on the outside; on the inside a contemplative spirituality would be drawing in those open to it.
In wide segments of Christianity, this has indeed already occurred. One Catholic priest alone taught 31,000 people mystical prayer in one year. People are responding to this in large numbers because it has the external appearance of Christianity but in truth is the diametric opposite. This has all the indications of the falling away of which the apostle Paul speaks.
Note this departure is tied in with the revelation of the “man of sin.” If he is indeed Bailey’s “Coming One,” then both Paul’s prophecy and Bailey’s prophecy fit together perfectly—but indisputably from opposite camps and perspectives.
This is very logical when one sees, as Paul proclaimed, that they will fall away to “the mystery of iniquity” (2 Thessalonians 2:7). The word mystery in Greek, when used in the context of evil (iniquity), means hidden or occult!
This revitalization of Christianity would fit in with Bailey’s “new and vital world religion”3—a religion that would be the cornerstone of the New Age. Such a religion would be the spiritual platform for the “Coming One.” This unity of spiritual thought would not be a single one-world denomination but would have a unity-in-diversity, multicultural, interfaith, ecumenical agenda. Thomas Merton made a direct reference to this at a spiritual summit conference in Calcutta, India when he told Hindus and Buddhists, “We are already one, but we imagine, we are not. What we have to recover is our original unity.”4
One can easily find numerous such appeals like Merton’s in contemplative writings. Examine the following:
The Christian is not to become a Hindu or a Buddhist, nor a Hindu or Buddhist to become a Christian. But each must assimilate the spirit of the others.5 —Vivekananda
It is my sense, from having meditated with persons from many different [non-Christian] traditions, that in the silence we experience a deep unity. When we go beyond the portals of the rational mind into the experience, there is only one God to be experienced.6—Basil Pennington
The new ecumenism involved here is not between Christian and Christian, but between Christians and the grace of other intuitively deep religious traditions.7—Tilden Edwards
What is happening to mainstream Christianity is the same thing that is happening to business, health, education, counseling, and other areas of society. Christianity is being cultivated for a role in the New Age. A spirit guide named Raphael explains this in the Starseed Transmissions:
We work with all who are vibrationally sympathetic; simple and sincere people who feel our spirit moving, but for the most part, only within the context of their current belief system.18 (emphasis mine)
He is saying that they “work,” or interact, with people who open their minds to them in a way that fits in with the person’s current beliefs. In the context of Christianity, this means that those meditating will think they have contacted God, when in reality they have connected up with Raphael’s kind (who are more than willing to impersonate whomever they wish to reach so long as these seductive spirits can link with them).
This ultimately points to a deluded global religion based on meditation and mystical experience. New Age writer David Spangler explains it the following way:
There will be several religious and spiritual disciplines as there are today, each serving different sensibilities and affinities, each enriched by and enriching the particular cultural soil in which it is rooted. However, there will also be a planetary spirituality that will celebrate the sacredness of the whole humanity in appropriate festivals, rituals, and sacraments. . . . Mysticism has always overflowed the bounds of particular religious traditions, and in the new world this would be even more true.9
What we are warning about is not some unprovable conspiracy theory. In fact, far from it. In March of 2016, Newsweek magazine put out a special edition called “Spiritual Living.” This glossy publication presented page after page of pure Alice Bailey spirituality. The entire issue was devoted to the mystical perception that man is divine:
The key to positive change—both internal and external—is present in everyone, and it also exists all around us. Whether through meditation, energy healing or a full-on spiritual awakening, you can transcend the physical world to better your mind, body and soul.10
That may sound kind of benign, but numerous articles in the magazine promote the idea of spirits that can indwell people. If this had been put out by the National Enquirer, then this could be dismissed as nothing more than sensationalistic or exaggerated. But Newsweek is one of the oldest and most respected news magazines in the world. When they make this kind of an effort, then we need to sit up and take notice that Alice Bailey’s religion has now come to the forefront of mainstream society. What this means according to those who are sympathetic with this is that if we are to be “spiritual,” we need to partake of Alice Bailey’s “new vital world religion.” Sadly, more and more churches are doing just that.
1. Alice Bailey, Problems of Humanity (New York, NY: Lucis Publishing, 1993), p. 152.
2. Alice Bailey, The Externalization of the Hierarchy (New York, NY: Lucis Publishing, 1976), p. 510.
3. Alice Bailey, Problems of Humanity, op. cit., p. 152.
4. Joel Beversluis, Project Editor, A Source Book for Earth’s Community of Religions (Grand Rapids, MI: CoNexus Press, 1995, Revised Edition), p. 151.
5. Swami Vivekananda’s “Addresses at the Parliament of Religions” (Chicago, September 27, 1893, http://www.interfaithstudies.org/interfaith/vivekparladdresses.html, accessed 12/2005).
6. M. Basil Pennington, Centered Living (New York, NY: Image Books, 1988), p. 192.
7. Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1980), p. 172.
8. Ken Carey, The Starseed Transmissions (A Uni-Sun Book, 1985 4th printing), p. 33.
9. David Spangler, Emergence: The Rebirth of the Sacred (New York, NY: Dell Publishing Co., New York, NY, 1984), p. 112.
10. Newsweek magazine, Special Edition: Spiritual Living, March 2016, p. 7.
Southern Baptist’s Gateway Seminary Added to Contemplative-Promoting College List – A Gateway to Apostasy
After a request by a Lighthouse Trails reader to check into Southern Baptist Convention’s Gateway Seminary which has locations in five different US cities, Lighthouse Trails has added Gateway Seminary to the Lighthouse Trails Contemplative-Promoting College list. If you are not familiar with that list, it is a list of NOT recommended Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries. These schools all have one major thing in common. They all promote contemplative spirituality through their Spiritual Formation programs. So, in other words, these are schools that are not going to be biblically sound and will be a spiritual danger to students.
You can do some of your own research on Gateway Seminary by visiting this page that lists all their course’s syllabi: http://www.gs.edu/academics/course-syllabi/. But here is one example:
- In Gateway’s Dr. David Robinson’s Spiritual Formation course, his syllabus states: “This course is designed to explore and experience the concepts of Christian spiritual formation and the establishment of spiritual disciplines that foster continuous spiritual growth. Students will participate directly in specific spiritual disciplines.” Here’s the required textbooks for the course:
Benner, David G. The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery. DownersGrove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
Buchanan, Mark. The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. Nashville, TN:W Publishing Group, Div. of Thomas Nelson, 2006.
Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. NewYork, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1991.
That means if your future (or even present) pastor or youth pastor is studying at that school, he is going to get a hardy helping of the writings of contemplative prayer advocates. You see Dallas Willard was highly influenced by the Catholic contemplative prayer movement as is David Benner. And don’t be fooled by Mark Buchanan’s innocent sounding book title. His book is endorsed on the back cover by emerging figures Lauren Winner and Philip Yancey. And why wouldn’t they endorse the book?—It fits right in with what they believe. And his book is filled with the usual contemplative language and suspects.
You must remember, in the contemplative prayer movement, the whole objective is to convince people they must “stop thinking,” “rest the mind,” “still the soul,” “be still,” “turn off thoughts,” and so forth. What they are really talking about is putting the mind in neutral, so to speak, and thus going into an altered state of consciousness as prescribed in eastern meditation. Why? So one can “hear the voice of God.” What is this “voice of God” going to tell you? That you are “beloved,” “divine,” “I AM,” “a higher self,” “the true self”—oh yes, that you are God!! That’s what this whole movement is all about. Whether it’s Jesus Calling, The Shack, Purpose Driven, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, or Henri Nouwen, the message is coming across loud and clear, YOU’VE GOT TO HEAR THE VOICE OF GOD! This “hearing the voice of God” that happens during contemplative meditation is different than the legitimate prompting, leading, and guiding of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.
The problem contemplatives have run into in their idea of hearing the voice of God is a two-fold obstacle: the Word of God and our minds (our thoughts). So we have to turn the Bible into a meditation tool with things like lectio divina and then shut out those thoughts we have with meditation exercises. Then we can finally hear “the voice of God.” Remember what Brennan Manning said:
“The first step of faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer.” -From Signature of Jesus, Brennan Manning, p. 212 (page 198 in a later edition)
Lighthouse Trails has always said that contemplative and emerging are synonymous terms? Take a look at professor Robinson’s bibliography for his Spiritual Formation course at Gateway Seminary. It’s a “Cream of the Crop” who’s who in emerging contemplative spirituality. A few names in his list: Brian McLaren, Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Morton Kelsey, John of the Cross, Doug Pagitt, Eugene Peterson, and Teresa of Avila. These are the people from whom this professor is gleaning spiritual food. Not only are these all promoters of contemplative mysticism, most of them are panenthestic.
Another class from Gateway that is taking instruction from contemplative authors is Dr. Dallas Bivins’ Spiritual Formation class. Many of the same names as Robinson’s class, but add Kenneth Boa’s Handbook to Prayer to that. Boa, as Lighthouse Trails has documented in the past, is a strong advocate for contemplative spirituality.
Then there is Dr. Bob Bender’s Pastoral Counseling class at Gateway Seminary with a number of contemplative/emergent authors listed in the syllabus including Brian McLaren admirer Dan Allender (not to mention Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, David Benner, Larry Crabb, and others of similar caliber).
Robinson, Bivins, and Bender’s classes are part of Gateway’s Leadership Formation program. Scary to think of the kind of leaders Gateway is going to produce for the church.
Lest you think it’s just their Leadership Formation program that has serious problems, their Global Missions program is riddled with contemplative emergent influences as well. Other syllabi authors used by Gateway Seminary include emerging figures N.T. Wright, Alan Hirsch, Eddie Gibbs (see Faith Undone), Mark Driscoll, Bill Hybels, Sally Morgenthaler, Tim Keller, Buddhist sympathizer and Catholic convert Peter Kreeft (listed under In Defense of the Christian Faith!), not to mention C. Peter Wagner. We think you get the point.
If you belong to the Southern Baptist Convention and are thinking of sending someone you care about to Gateway Seminary, we hope you will reconsider.
Here’s a closing piece of documentation we found from Gateway Seminary’s website. It’s an article written by Dr. Doran McCarty called “A Guide for Spiritual Formation Mentors.” In this article, McCarty talks about spiritual hunger. He says even Christians have this. This is typical of those who promote contemplative spirituality. Across the board, contemplatives insist that Christians feel dry, empty, want to go deeper, etc. We can’t think of one contemplative we have studied who has not indicated this. What has always puzzled us is this: If someone has had the new birth in Jesus Christ, which means he or she has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (God), how can we feel empty, dry, and needing to “go deeper”? Now one may feel this way if he or she has neglected time in the Word and in prayer but what contemplatives suggest is that even time in the Word and normal prayer are not enough – something more is needed. What they neglect to tell us is that while the Holy Spirit has been given to believers to nurture, convict, and guide us as we pray and study His Word, there is also a pseudo Holy Spirit (i.e., familiar spirits) that come to those who engage in mind-altering meditation. We know that contemplative prayer is wrong because mind altering or mantra meditation is forbidden in Deuteronomy 18:9-13, and Jesus instructed His disciples not to use such a prayer practice in Matthew 6:7. We also know contemplative prayer is wrong because the proven fruit of this practice is that it leads to a pantheistic or panentheistic spiritual outlook while the message of the Cross (the Gospel) becomes irrelevant as the participant grows to believe that we are already a part of God.
Now if we are in Christ, we do have the Holy Spirit with and in us, and He promises never to leave us. But those like McCarty have something else in mind. What caught our attention most in this article by McCarty is his reference to and quoting of panentheist Tilden Edwards (also co-founder of the Shalem Prayer Institute in Washington, DC). McCarty quotes Edwards referencing the “spiritual friend.” In Edwards’ book, Spiritual Friend, he says the following:
“This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.”—Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 18.
This is what Lighthouse Trails has been trying to warn the church about for nearly 15 years.
For those who are unsure as to how the majority of Christian schools ended up in this mess, please read our special report “An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited.” In that report, you will learn that largely due to accreditation associations (such as ATS, where Gateway Seminary is accredited) requiring Christian schools to have Spiritual Formation integrated into their schools if they want to be accredited (kind of a quazi-bribing situation, if you will) is why this is happening at such a fast rate. From nearly fifteen years of research, we estimate that over 90% of the Christian higher education institutions have brought in Spiritual Formation (aka contemplative spirituality). That’s called a spiritual crisis in modern-day Christianity and a gateway into apostasy.
If you are confused about what contemplative prayer is, please read this article by Ray Yungen: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=18192.
Ruth Haley Barton, founder of The Transforming Centre, was trained at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation which teaches: “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.” —Tilden Edwards, Shalem Founder
Barton, who could not find peace or direction in her Baptist roots or through reading the Bible and praying, found fulfillment through spiritual direction. Now she incorporates a blend of Eastern and Roman Catholic contemplative spirituality and monastic practices in her retreats and books on practicing the presence of God in the silence and sacred rhythms of prayer. Lately she has been very instrumental in leading entire Protestant and Anabaptist church congregations and their leaders into these same practices through spiritual direction and discernment seminars.
This year, the Mennonites have once again brought in Ruth Haley Barton to help them make decisions in the silence regarding some very important upcoming issues that include LGBTQ and anti-Israel BDS resolutions. How tragic to see an entire church delegation over looking all that is necessary in their discernment process (the Bible), thereby shunning to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) in seeking guidance from an apprentice of Thomas Merton and Tilden Edwards. To read the rest of this article and for endnote material, click here.
More Evidence and a Final Plea as Assemblies of God Conference with Ruth Haley Barton Begins August 5th
On August 5th-9th, the Assemblies of God will be holding their 2013 General Council conference titled Believe. Lighthouse Trails has written a number of times about the upcoming conference since April of this year. At the end of this report, we have listed the links to those past reports. Basically, our concern has focused on the fact that contemplative pioneer Ruth Haley Barton is one of the speakers at this year’s AOG event. We have given ample evidence to show why there is cause for concern, and we have explained the serious implications of the Barton invitation. Today, we are issuing one final plea to AOG leadership regarding this matter. The information in today’s report is vital.
Before we begin, no one should think that this is the first time AOG leadership has promoted a contemplative/emerging author. This has been an ongoing problem for sometime (although the Barton invitation is probably the most pronounced). For example, there are several instances within the Assemblies of God seminary that show an affinity toward contemplative spirituality and the emerging church. And the Gospel Publishing House (the publishing arm of AOG) website sells a number of books from authors in the emerging/contemplative camp.
Incidentally, on the Network for Women in Ministry website (that’s the AOG women’s group responsible for inviting Ruth Barton to this year’s General Council conference), a “Suggested List for Further Reading” offers Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (where he says “we should all, without shame, enroll in the school of contemplative prayer”), Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Foster (his primer on contemplative prayer), a book by Henri Nouwen, and a book called The Contemporaries Meet the Classics on Prayer, which includes writings by many contemplative proponents: Nouwen, Foster, Marjorie Thompson, Brother Lawrence, Calvin Miller, Dallas Willard, Mother Teresa, Evelyn Underhill, and Thomas Merton.
Now, onto the information we are compelled to share in this report. It may seem trivial to some at first, but if you read through this report, we think you will see the significance.
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). 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.1 (emphasis added)
Shannon’s comment here is the typical statement by mystics of all religious backgrounds, i.e., that God is already inside each one of us (all mankind), and we just need to become aware of it. It is a panentheistic view. We can illustrate this further when Shannon says:
The contemplative experience is neither a union of separate identities nor a fusion of them; on the contrary, separate identities disappear in the All Who is God.2
Shannon, founder of the International Thomas Merton Society, did not believe in the biblical view of God as we will show below. When he speaks of “separate identities disappear[ing],” he means that there is only one identity – God and that God and man are mutually the same. This is classic Buddhism or Hinduism. In A Time of Departing, Ray Yungen addresses Shannon’s panentheistic beliefs:
[In William Shannon’s book, Silence on Fire], he relates the account of a theological discussion he once had with an atheist groom for whom he was performing a wedding ceremony. He told the skeptical young man:
“You will never find God by looking outside yourself. You will only find God within. It will only be when you have come to experience God in your own heart and let God into the corridors of your heart (or rather found God there) that you will be able to ‘know’ that there is indeed a God and that you are not separate from God.”
This advice is no different from what any New Age teacher would impart to someone who held an atheistic point of view. You want God? Meditate! God is just waiting for you to open up. Based on Shannon’s own mystical beliefs, he knew this was the right approach. He alluded to this by explaining that the young man would find enlightenment if he would look in the right place or use the right method.3
In Shannon’s book, Seeds of Peace, he reiterates this same view:
This forgetfulness, of our oneness with God, is not just a personal experience, it is the corporate experience of humanity. Indeed, this is one way to understanding original sin. We are in God, but we don’t seem to know it. We are in paradise, but we don’t realize it.4 (emphasis added)
You will find this mindset in contemplative teachers across the board. This being in God has nothing to do with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through faith. Shannon isn’t saying this to born-again Christians. This union with God is a blanket declaration for all of mankind, with or without a Savior. We are all in God.
Shannon contrasts the spirituality of devotion (placating God with good works) with “contemplative spirituality,” the latter where God is identified as “the ground of all being”5 and the core of everything there is (man is naturally connected with God). Contemplative mystics, such as Shannon and Merton, teach that all you have to do to find this union with God is use the mystical technology which connects you with your “true self” (i.e, your own divinity). Bernard of Clairvaux, contemplative mystic from ages past, said that God is “the stone in the stones and tree in the trees.”6 In other words, God exists in everything and is the essence of what we see – there is no distinction between God and His creation. We know from Scripture, however, that this untrue. Isaiah 42:8 declares, “I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another.” Yungen points out, “Creation can reflect God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3), but it can never possess God’s glory. For that to happen would mean God was indeed giving His glory to another.”7 Paul, the apostle, solidifies the distinction between God and creation when he warns of those who worship the creature (creation) rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).
What this boils down to is this: In the writings of these mystics – the ones Ruth Haley Barton admires, quotes, and gleans from – there is nothing promoting the Gospel or the message of the Cross. Rather, a cosmic “Christ,” which revolves around a panentheistic, interspiritual outlook, is uplifted and glorified. There is nothing truly Christian about the teachings of Merton, Keating, Shannon, and Tilden Edwards. And let us make something clear – these mystics don’t hide their propensities. It isn’t in some secret code or subtle message. On the contrary, they are forthright and bold about their stance.
If these mystics whom Barton admires are so open about their views, how is it she is drawn to them so consistently in her own spiritual walk? No doubt, she has read their books, so she must know what they really stand for. A lover of God’s Word would not be drawn to those who reject the message of the Cross. That’s right, reject. In Silence on Fire, the very book from which Barton quotes William Shannon, Shannon says:
This [the traditional biblical view] 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.8 (emphasis added)
You see, overall, the contemplatives reject the notion that God sent His Son to a violent death as a penalty for OUR sins. While they may say that Jesus was a good example of servanthood, they reject His death as an atonement for others. This anti-atonement view is pervasive among the mystics.9 That is because you cannot have it both ways: you cannot have a Gospel of salvation through the death of a Savior for man’s sins and also say that God exists in all things and that man is divine. It just won’t work. The mystics and New Agers know that – but how ironic – the Christian leaders don’t!
Listen to another man who trained Barton – Tilden Edwards, co-founder of the Shalem Prayer Institute:
It is such an innocent, intuitively discerning mind that helps make the Eastern guru and the Desert Abba “master” [the intuitively discerning mind is the contemplative state]. Where intimate Source [inner divinity] radiates among non-Christians then surely we must be dealing with the “other sheep” (Matthew 10:16) manifesting the cosmic Christ.10
In other words, in this contemplative state, the East and the West meet. The word “cosmic” often carries with it a silly childish connotation (remember, baby boomers who grew up with Buck Rogers and his cosmic ray gun). But here the word cosmic or cosmos carries a deeper meaning where the “cosmic Christ” is not an individual – it is a consciousness, and it can only be grasped in the meditative state.
We’ll leave you with this question: Is it not utterly amazing (and almost unbelievable) that Ruth Haley Barton has gained access to the hierarchy of the Assemblies of God denomination, where the General Superintendent, Dr. George Wood, insinuated that those under him should not consider the evidence that Lighthouse Trails provided. But, just because someone tells others not to listen doesn’t change the facts. Either they are true, or they aren’t true; and ignoring the facts doesn’t make them go away.
[B]e not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2 – emphasis added)
1. Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, p 39.
2. William Shannon, quoted in The Message of Thomas Merton, p. 200.
3. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, pp. 31-32, quoting William Shannon in Silence on Fire, p. 99.
4. William Shannon, Seeds of Peace, p. 66.
5. Thomas Merton, The Hidden Ground of Love, p. 570.
6. Joseph Chu-Cong, The Contemplative Experience, Joseph Chu-Cong, p. 3.
7. Yungen, A Time of Departing, p. 31.
8. (Shannon, Silence on Fire, pp. 109-110.
9. See Roger Oakland’s chapter, “Slaughterhouse Religion” in Faith Undone. You can read the PDF for free here.
10. Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 169.
Our past reports on the Barton/AOG issue:
I want to assure you, for what it’s worth, that I bear Richard Foster no personal animosity. My reason for writing this testimony is that with the rising tide of critical input my book may bring, I want to clarify why
I am doing this type of activity.
It has come to my attention that some view the current controversy regarding Richard Foster as stemming from a misunderstanding of his statement “we of the new age” in the first edition of Celebration of Discipline. This is not the case. The real issue lies in his statement where he encourages, “we should all, without shame, enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer”1 and also in his statement that “Christianity is not complete without the contemplative dimension.”2
It is from these comments and this viewpoint that opposition to Foster flows. If he were to understand why this is so, his sense of having his reputation falsely impaired would be greatly tempered. In Portland, Oregon there is a large New Age bookstore. It is entirely devoted to New Age spirituality. Every Eastern mystical and metaphysical topic under the sun is found there. Interestingly enough, there is quite a sizable section devoted to contemplative prayer with Thomas Merton having a whole shelf devoted just to him. Why would a bookstore of this nature devote valuable space to a topic that purports to be Christian? That is, from my perspective, a legitimate question.
May I suggest the reason is that the Christian mystical tradition shares a sense of profound kinship with the Eastern mystical tradition. I believe there is ample evidence to back this claim up. Look at the following quotes from leading contemplative figures; the answer is inescapable.
1. Thomas Merton: “I think I couldn’t understand Christian teaching the way I do if it were not in the light of Buddhism.”3
2. Henri Nouwen: Nouwen wrote that his solitude and the solitude of his Buddhist friends, would “greet each other and support each other.”4
3. Basil Pennington: “We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age old wisdom of the East and ‘capture’ it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible. 5
4. Morton Kelsey: “You can find most of the New Age practices in the depth of Christianity [Christian church tradition].”6
5. Tilden Edwards: “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.”7
6. Alice Bailey: “None other than Alice Bailey, the famous occult prophetess who coined the term New Age, made this startling pronouncement: ‘It is, of course, easy to find many passages which link the way of the Christian Knower [mystic] with that of his brother in the East. They bear witness to the same efficacy of method.’”8
7. In The Lay Contemplative fourteen centers listed in the back of the book openly proclaim their Hindu-Buddhist connections, including Shalem Prayer Institute.
I could easily provide page after page of similar quotes from numerous contemplative sources. That is why New Renaissance Books features a section on contemplative prayer. That is why opposition from others and myself has come forth. There is no misconstruing of realities here. Tilden Edwards knew what he was saying when he said that contemplative prayer is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.
To put it in a nutshell, I believe Richard Foster advocates a prayer movement that indeed can be proven to have strong links to Eastern mysticism. And incidentally, this prayer method does not have its origins with the Desert Fathers, as some believe, but rather dates back much further, probably as far back as the early days of mankind.
To proclaim to be evangelical in every aspect but to say, “Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people” as Foster said personally to me at a conference in November of 1994 is a contradiction of major proportions. It is an oxymoron to try to lump biblical Christianity and Thomas Merton together.
To list in the back of Celebration of Discipline Tilden Edward’s book, Spiritual Friend, as an “excellent book on spirituality” is unthinkable.9 Tilden Edwards sees no problem mixing Christianity and Buddhism. Yet the Apostle Paul says you can’t sit at both tables. It cannot be done. To do that is to abandon Jesus Christ. So someone who understands the preaching of the Cross would never be comfortable promoting someone who believes as Tilden Edwards does, especially in print. If one really does believe in a Biblical evangelical statement of faith, [such as Foster’s] then wouldn’t that person be repelled by such compromise? And to say the least, wouldn’t it certainly draw a lot of confusion to those that recognize this? If someone with a public profile ardently promotes another person, such as when Foster says Thomas Merton has “priceless wisdom”10 for the spiritual life of the Christian, won’t those listening think he approves of or at the very least overlooks Merton’s serious heretical stands and perhaps then desire to follow Merton, thus possibly falling into Merton’s spiritual errors?
If Foster could put himself in the shoes of we who are confused by his position, surely he can understand why we see such a contradiction. I once heard a pastor quote Woody Allen saying that he (Woody) wasn’t afraid to die; he just didn’t want to be there when it happened. For someone to make an issue with this pastor, because he used a quote from Woody Allen, would be ludicrous because that is simply guilt by association. But if the same pastor, in a serious tone, said that Woody Allen had great spiritual understanding and everyone should listen to him to gain insight, that no longer is benign, and it now becomes guilt by promotion—two different terms with two significantly different principles. Guilt by mere association is weak; guilt by promotion is strong.
May I briefly address just three more points? The comment made that Lighthouse Trails Publishing erroneously labeled Foster a disciple of Thomas Merton because he never met him personally is not accurate, and here is why. In checking with two prominent dictionaries, the word disciple does mean anyone who is an adherent of someone’s teachings or school of religion (American Heritage Dictionary and Webster’s). According to both of these reliable resources, personal contact is not a stipulation. The fact that Foster quotes Merton 13 times in Celebration of Discipline is just further proof that he does indeed adhere to Merton’s teachings. And we could list a number of other references to back up that assertion. I would like to also make an observation about the view that the New Age movement is only a few decades old. The term itself may indeed be fairly recent but the actual practices and beliefs involved are thousands of years old. For instance, the slave girl mentioned in Acts 16 was in effect a New Ager. The term itself was taken from astrology making reference to the Aquarian age in which humanity is supposedly going to realize its inner divinity. Hence, anyone who engages in these mystical practices is associated with this view, even though they may have lived centuries ago. It’s not the term; it’s the practices that are at issue here.
Since Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen mystically perceived the divine in everyone, this in effect made them New Agers. Frankly, we see Foster as someone who is promoting Eastern mysticism by way of proxy,11 and he is apparently afraid to come out of the mystical closet. His affinity with those who clearly stand for heretical and non-biblical approaches to God, however, have opened that closet door.
Ray Yungen, author of A Time of Departing
1. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline (1978 ed.), p. 13.
2. Interview with Richard Foster, Lou Davies Radio Program (Nov. 24, 1998, KPAM radio, Portland, Oregon).
3. Frank X. Tuoti, The Dawn of the Mystical Age (Crossroad Publishing Co. New York, NY 1997), p. 127.
4 Henry Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey (Crossroad Publishing Company, New York, NY 1998), p. 20
5 M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, Thomas E. Clarke, Finding Grace at the Center (St. Bede’s Pub. Petersham, MA 1978), pp. 5-6.
6 “In the Spirit of Early Christians”(Common Boundary magazine, Jan./Feb. 1992), p. 19
.7 Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend (Paulist Press, New York, 1980), p. 18.
8 Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd ed.), p. 34 quoting Alice Bailey , From Intellect to Intuition (Lucis Publishing Co., New York, NY 1987, 13th printing), p. 193.
9 Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, A Brief Bibliography of Recent Works, back of book
10 Richard Foster and James Bryan Smith, Devotional Classics ( Harper San Francisco, 1993), p. 61
11 By Proxy: To represent another.
SPECIAL REPORT: Assemblies of God “Believe” Conference Makes Bold Move – Brings in Contemplative Key Player Ruth Haley Barton
Update Note: For some articles written about this issue that came out after the article below, click here.
This August, in Orlando, Florida, the Assemblies of God USA will be presenting their General Council Conference, which takes place every two years. The title of this year’s event is “BELIEVE.” Scheduled to speak to “women in ministry” on one of the nights is Ruth Haley Barton. This is a bold move that the Assemblies of God is making because Barton is a major player in bringing contemplative mystical (i.e., mantra-based) prayer into the evangelical church.
The mission statement for the conference is “Believe we are on the cusp of an unparalleled Spiritual awakening.”1 On the conference website, it states:
GENERAL COUNCIL is the Assemblies of God’s largest gathering. It takes place every two years bringing church leaders together from all around the world.2
It also says that the event will inspire encounters with God, shape the Assemblies of God movement, and enhance [AOG leaders] “skills and be inspired to advance the kingdom of God.”
While the Assemblies of God denomination has been going in the contemplative direction for some time, especially within the AOG theological seminary, to bring a major contemplative player in as a speaker to the movement’s main leadership conference illustrates how much AOG has absorbed contemplative spirituality over the last few years especially.
As a little background, in 2005, Lighthouse Trails addressed the issue of contemplative coming into AOG when we discussed Professor Earl Creps, director of the Doctor of Ministry at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Creps is probably one of the earliest figures within the AOG movement to bring contemplative into AOG. In one document titled “Leading Others and Myself,” Creps lists a number of New Spirituality, emerging church and contemplative proponents as people he turns to.3 A 2006 LT article, “Assemblies of God: Committed to Spiritual Formation, Contemplative and Emerging,” stated:
If Assemblies of God Theological Seminary is any indication, then AOG is heading straight towards contemplative spirituality and the emerging church. Earl Creps . . . is a heavy proponent of both contemplative and emerging. In his course syllabi over the last five years, Creps has classes with titles such as “Leading the Emerging Church” and “Models of Ministry in the Emerging Church.” Syllabus reading materials include those from Henri Nouwen, Brian McLaren, Ken Blanchard, Dan Kimball, . . . and Leonard Sweet. A visit to Creps’ “Spiritual Adventures” blog gives a hearty helping of emergent discussion. In one blog, Creps tries to show how there might be a union between Pentecostalism and the emerging church [i.e. contemplative], saying the relationship is “gaining some traction.”
As in most cases now, contemplative starts coming into a denomination through seminaries, colleges, and universities, and in time reveals itself in the main body of that movement. That is now what is happening with AOG bringing in Ruth Haley Barton to the General Council event this year where AOG leaders from around the world will be participating.
For those who have followed Lighthouse Trails, you will know that Barton was trained at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington, DC where she, according to her own words, was “under the guidance of Tilden Edwards, Rosemary Dougherty and Gerald May.” On Ruth Haley Barton’s Transforming Center website, she enthusiastically acknowledges being trained there, but the site gives a vague and almost oxymoronic disclaimer saying: “While she values all that she has gained from the teachers and institutions in which she has studied, this does not imply endorsement of everything taught in these environments.”4 (emphasis added)
We could talk about the beliefs of Tilden Edwards, Rosemary Dougherty, and Gerald May, but we have in other articles that can be looked up on our research site and read. Basically, these teachers are contemplative mystics who adhere to panentheism and universalism. It was Edwards who said that, “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality (Spiritual Friend, p. 18). In other words, contemplative spirituality draws all religions together in unity under the common denominator of mysticism.
Who is Ruth Haley Barton?
After Barton finished her training at the Shalem Institute, she became the Associate Director of Spiritual Formation at Willow Creek Community Church and co-authored (with John Ortberg) a Spiritual Formation curriculum for Willow Creek. In time, Ortberg moved on to become pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian in California, and Barton left to found the Transforming Center, which claims to train thousands of pastors and leaders in the contemplative way. She has written a number of books – virtually all having the core message that you gain intimacy with God through the silence (that is her predominant message). Some of these books are: Invitation to Solitude and Silence (foreword by Dallas Willard), Sacred Rhythms, Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership, and one of her more recent ones Pursuing God’s Will Together: A Discernment Practice for Leadership Groups.
So what is it exactly that Barton teaches? In a Christianity Today article titled “Drawing Closer to God,” Barton describes the practice of contemplative prayer, saying, “Ask for a simple prayer to express your willingness to meet God in the silence . . . a simple statement . . . such as ‘Here I am. . . . ’ Help yourself return to your original intent by repeating the prayer that you have chosen.”
In Barton’s popular book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, she goes into more depth:
• Identify your sacred space and time. Explore all the possibilities for a time and physical space in which you can be alone on a regular basis (p. 40).
• Begin with a modest goal, especially if silence is a new practice for you. Ten, fifteen or twenty minutes of time spent in actual silence is realistic, depending on such factors as your personality, pace of life, reliance on words and activity (p. 41).
• Settle into a comfortable yet alert physical position (p. 41).
• Ask God to give you a simple prayer that expresses your openness and desire for God. Choose a prayer phrase that expresses your desire or need for God these days in the simplest terms possible. It is best if the prayer is not more than six to eight syllables so that it can be prayed very naturally in the rhythm of your breathing. Pray this prayer several times as an entry into silence and also as a way of dealing with distractions. Distractions are inevitable, so when they come, simply let them go by like clouds floating across the sky. Help yourself return to the prayerful intent by repeating the prayer you have chosen. Use your prayer phrase for as long as it captures what is most true about your heart’s desire for God, and link it with a body posture that also helps you express your spiritual desire (pp. 41-42).
In regard to Barton’s disclaimer on her website, she can say that she does not endorse everything she was taught at Shalem Institute, but the fact of the matter is what she just described above is the essence of what Shalem believes and teaches. Everything they teach stems from this mystical prayer. Perhaps she is implying that she does not adhere to their panentheistic (God in all) and universalist (all are saved) views, but that would be ironic because these are the things that are produced by practicing contemplative prayer. Ray Yungen calls them the “fruit” of contemplative prayer. In A Time of Departing, Yungen discusses Shalem and its role in Barton’s spiritual life. He includes a quote found on Shalem’s website to show the underlying roots of Shalem’s ultimate goal:
In Christianity and other traditions that understand God to be present everywhere, contemplation includes a reverence for the Divine Mystery, “finding God in all things,” [panentheism] or “being open to God’s presence, however it may appear. (5)
Yungen shares his concerns about Ruth Haley Barton:
“[Barton] echoes [goddess worshipper] Sue Monk Kidd in many ways, including the general malaise or condition of the human soul. Barton recounts:
A few years ago, I began to recognize an inner chaos in my soul . . . No matter how much I prayed, read the Bible, and listened to good teaching, I could not calm the internal roar created by questions with no answers. (“Beyond Words“)
“The following scenario Barton relates could be the wave of the future for the evangelical church if this movement continues to unfold in the manner it already has:
I sought out a spiritual director, someone well versed in the ways of the soul . . . eventually this wise woman said to me, . . . “What you need is stillness and silence so that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.” . . . I decided to accept this invitation to move beyond my addiction to words (“Beyond Words”)
“By ‘addiction to words’ [Barton] means normal ways of praying. She still uses words, but only three of them, ‘Here I am.’ This is nothing more than the Cloud of Unknowing or [Henri Nouwen’s] prayer of the heart. Like Richard Foster, Barton argues that God cannot be reached adequately, if at all, without the silence. In referring to I Kings 19 when Elijah was hiding in a cave, Barton encourages:
“What Barton fails to mention here is that Elijah was a valiant defender of the belief in the one, unique God – Yahweh (as seen in his encounter with the 450 prophets of Baal), and he never went into an altered state of silence in his personal encounter with God.” (A Time of Departing, 2nd. ed., pp. 172-173)
Those reading this who are skeptical about what we are saying may be asking, “What’s so wrong about repeating a word or phrase and going into an altered state of silence?” To this we answer, this state of silence is the same state that occultists and Eastern meditation practitioners enter when practicing transcendental meditation (TM). We can prove this by the words of one of the men who trained Ruth Haley Barton – Gerald May (from Shalem Institute). May wrote the foreword to a book titled Zen for Christians. In that book, he says the following:
I began to explore Eastern religions . . . I was taking my spiritual business elsewhere. Or so I thought. What surprised me, eventually, was that my foray into Buddhism led me in a kind of circle, back to my Christian roots. Over time, Buddhist practices [meditation] somehow revealed to me the rich resources of Christian contemplative tradition that had been there all along . . . I was not alone in that experience. . . [Those on the contemplative road] in their searching, many turned toward the East and experienced exactly what I had – an eventual discovery of deep nourishment [Eastern enlightenment] within their own original traditions. The phenomenon happened so frequently that we gave it a name: “pilgrimage home.”
May was correct in stating that so-called “Christian” contemplative prayer is the same as Buddhist meditation. As one adherent admitted, “The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics” (Kirby, Mission of Mysticism, p. 7). Who are the “advanced mystics”? There are plenty of them, names you probably know: Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, and to that list we add Ruth Haley Barton.
Consider this: On Barton’s website, she sells books by Catholic priest and contemplative activist Richard Rohr. In addition, she quotes him (in a prominent spot) in her recent book Pursuing God’s Will Together from his book, Everything Belongs. Typical of other contemplatives, such as Thomas Merton, Rohr believes that everything is connected together and that all is divine (thus, everybody belongs to the kingdom of God). In his 2011 book, Falling Upward, Rohr implies that we all are “immaculate conception[s]” (p. ix). If these things are true, then there was no need for Jesus Christ to die on the Cross for the sins of mankind. We would not need a Savior because we would already be divine ourselves. In truth, contemplative spirituality is the antithesis of the Gospel. That is why there are countless mystics who claim to know God (or Jesus) but will have nothing to do with the Cross.
In a YouTube teaching video by Barton, she tells viewers, “You have nothing to lose and a whole lot to gain [if you follow her instructions],” but we say you have everything to lose and nothing to gain if you go down the contemplative path. Sadly, instead of being on the “cusp of an unparalleled Spiritual Awakening,” it appears that the Assemblies of God is going to be losing “a whole lot” in the days to come as they further open themselves to the contemplative “silence” and the spiritual deception that accompanies it. Our warning here is to be taken seriously. William Shannon, Thomas Merton’s biographer, validated our concern when he made the following observation:
If one wants to understand Merton’s going to the East it is important to understand that it was his rootedness in his own faith tradition [Catholicism] that gave him the spiritual equipment [contemplative prayer] he needed to grasp the way of wisdom that is proper to the East. (Silent Lamp, p. 281)
This is what Tilden Edwards meant by the bridge to Far Eastern spirituality. Merton didn’t become a Buddhist; rather he grasped the way that “is proper to the East.” That is how Merton, as a Catholic monk, could say, “I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.”* In other words, while you don’t become a Buddhist, you absorb the Buddhist view into your Christianity. This is the underlying herald cry of the contemplative prayer movement, and it is something that can never be reconciled with the message of the Cross.
The ironic thing is that the Assemblies of God has traditionally held to the biblical view of the end times whereas contemplative spirituality lines up with a universal world religion, which will encompass all humanity and unite under the man of sin. There has never been anything on the scene before that would allow a universal religion that appeals to people on a broad scale. But first people have to hook up to the common factor and binding agent of this one-world religion, and that is contemplative prayer!
*David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).