what appears to be a sweeping phenomenon, Christian leaders are
embracing practices and a new spirituality that borrows from Eastern
mysticism and New Age philosophy. The changes are taking place
worldwide and involve many of the most popular evangelical leaders
including Rick Warren, Brian McLaren, Richard Foster, Tony Campolo,
and Eugene Peterson.
Rick Warren's Purpose-Driven Life, on Day Eleven, he encourages
people to practice "breath prayers" by repeating words
and phrases over and over in a mantra-style prayer, a practice
used centuries ago by a group of mystical monks known as the Desert
Fathers. This so-called "prayer" is identical to that
found in Hindu yoga and Zen Buddhism.
McLaren, leader of the emerging church movement has been caught
with his hands in the contemplative cookie jar too by endorsing
the back covers of some more-than-questionable books. One in particular, Reimagining Christianity by Alan
Jones says that the doctrine of the Cross is a vile doctrine.
Alan Jones is an interspiritualist and mystic in every sense of
the words. Take a look at the Living Spiritual
Teachers Project, in which Jones is involved. This group of
about twenty includes Zen and Buddhist monks, New Agers and even
Marianne Williamson and her Course in Miracles. The goal of this
group is to integrate other world religious beliefs into Christianity.
McLaren has also endorsed the back covers of Dave Fleming's The Seeker's Way and
Tony Campolo's Speaking My Mind, both of which believe
that Christianity is too limiting, and a union between other religions
is necessary. In Speaking My Mind, Campolo states: "[M]ysticism
[contemplative prayer] provides some hope for common ground between
Christianity and Islam." (p.149)
Dan Kimball, author
of The Emerging Church
(with forewords by Rick Warren and
Brian McLaren), encourages practices such as lectio divina, (p.
223) a form of mantra-style meditation and the use of labyrinths,
maze-like structures. Historically and in most labyrinths today,
a chanting prayer is used while walking the labyrinth with the
purpose of connecting to God or what many call Divinity. According
to most who promote labyrinths, it is not necessary to be a born-again
Christian to reach this inner Divinity.
author of Prayer of Jabez, does his part in bringing this
new spirituality into Christendom by accepting universalist Robert Schuller's invitation to speak at the Robert
Schuller Leadership Institute this past January. Bill Hybels,
senior pastor of Willow Creek and Foursquare President Jack Hayford
joined Wilkinson at this year's event. Incidentally, Hayford has
no problem placing his name on the cover of Richard Foster's Streams
of Living Water, in which Foster quotes universalist Thomas Kelly as saying all human beings have a
hopped on the band wagon too. A couple years ago they formed a
formal partnership with Youth Specialties, host of the National
Pastor’s Convention which brings in an array of New Age practices
from labyrinths, contemplative prayer and yoga. Last year Rick
Warren spoke immediately after the yoga workshop. This year
is incorporating into his Purpose-Driven Life youth ministry
speakers from Youth Specialties and the pro-contemplative Group
Ruth Haley Barton,
formerly of Willow Creek and trained at the very contemplative Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation
in Washington D.C., wrote Invitation to Solitude and Silence, and teaches contemplative prayer through her Transforming Center. Barton co-authored with John Ortberg Ordinary Day With Jesus, which
clearly instructs readers in mystical prayer practices. And as
if that were not enough to show Ortberg’s sympathies to this New Age spirituality, he will be speaking this
year at the National Pastor’s Convention where labyrinths, contemplative
prayer exercises, and yoga workshops will take place.
not think that the infiltration stops there—Eugene Peterson, author
of The Message, endorsed the back cover of Sue Monk Kidd’s
book, When the Heart Waits. Monk Kidd, once a conservative Baptist, began practicing contemplative
prayer and has now become a major promoter of the practice and
of feminine spirituality. When the Heart Waits clearly
shows her descent into this belief system. What was Peterson thinking
when he put his name on that book?
magazines such as Christianity Today, Charisma, Youth Worker Journal and Discipleship Journal find
nothing wrong with producing article after article written by
those who promote this Buddhist-style New Age spirituality. Last
October, Charisma magazine, carried an article called "Be
Still and Know" in which contemplative prayer is described
as a trance-like state of mind. According to Ray Yungen, author
of A Time of Departing, this trance-like state is an altered-state
of consciousness that the Bible warns about.
who have helped to propel contemplative spirituality include the
late Henri Nouwen who said he was uncomfortable with those who
said Jesus was the only way and Richard Foster who says we should
"all enroll in the school of contemplative prayer" (Celebration
of Discipline) but then warns us it could be so dangerous
that prayers of protection should be said first (Prayer: Finding
the Heart’s True Home). In Brennan Manning's Abba’s Child he tells readers that Dr. Beatrice Bruteau is a "trustworthy guide to contemplative consciousness."
What many may not realize when they read Abba's Child is
that Bruteau, founder of the
believes that God is in every human being and that we can reach
this Divinity through the conduit of contemplative prayer. According
to Bruteau, "We have realized ourselves
as the Self that says only I AM, with no predicate following,
not 'I am a this' or 'I have that quality.'
Only unlimited, absolute I AM." (A Song
That Goes On Singing - Interview with B.B.)
being redefined, reimagined and reinvented, and while many of these evangelical leaders seem to be rallying
behind this redefining, a growing number of Christian believers
are beginning to take notice, and a legitimate concern
mounts. Will evangelical leaders continue in the direction they
are heading or will there be an about-face and a return to the
simplicity and purity of the Christian faith? For the sake of
the gospel, may that be the case.