Archive for the ‘Contemplative Spirituality’ Category

Letter From Dallas Theological Seminary to Lighthouse Trails Reader Reveals “Required” Spiritual Formation

A Lighthouse Trails reader sent Lighthouse Trails a copy of a letter he recently received from Dallas Theological Seminary. DTS has consistently said the school does not promote the” bad” Spiritual Formation, but we have reported on a number of occasions that the Spiritual Formation taught and promoted at DTS IS contemplative spirituality (which is bad). As we have maintained since the inception of Lighthouse Trails – there is no “good” Spiritual Formation as it always leads to the mystics and puts practitioners in harm’s way. DTS is no exception. Our reader (who is a DTS alumni) told us he has been receiving update letters from DTS for years, and this is the first time he has seen them actually mention Spiritual Formation in an alumni letter. You can read an enlarged version of the letter by clicking on the letter below.

One thing to note about this letter is the following statement: “Most students are required to be part of a spiritual formation small group of six to eight students who meet weekly for two years.” This lines up with the special report Lighthouse Trails released in 2013 titled “An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited,”  which shows how many, if not most, Christian colleges, seminaries, and universities must include Spiritual Formation into their students’ lives if the schools want to receive accreditation from “distinguished” accrediting organizations. Dallas Theological Seminary was mentioned in that report:

What do Abilene Christian University, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Bethel Seminary, Biola Seminary, Briercrest College and Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, Moody Theological Seminary & Graduate School, Multnomah Biblical Seminary, Regent College, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and around 240 other seminaries and colleges throughout North America all have in common? They are all accredited or in the process of being accredited through the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).

As you can see here, https://www.ats.edu/member-schools/member-school-list#D, DTS is included on ATS’s member school list. On the ATS website, Letter from Dallas Theological Seminary Promoting Spiritual Formationthe term “spiritual formation” shows up over 540 times on its search engine (https://www.ats.edu/search/google/%22spiritual%20formation%22). The term “Christian formation” (another term for Spiritual Formation) shows up over 440 times.

If you would like to learn more about how accreditation organizations are requiring Spiritual Formation, please read our report. 

Hundreds of Protestant Scholars and Pastors Sign “Reforming Catholic Confession,” But Can the Church Trust This Document?

Hundreds of Protestant and evangelical scholars, pastors, and theologians have signed a document called “Reforming Catholic Confession”  to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, which will be commemorated on October 31, 2017. According to Dr. Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama, who co-chaired the Confession’s steering committee, “a significant motivating factor of the Confession’s participants is to call the Church to spiritual renewal.”1 In reviewing the “Reforming Catholic Confession” and the signatories, Lighthouse Trails has observed a few things, which lead us to ask, “Can the church trust the “Reforming Catholic Confession”?

To begin with, the majority of the hundreds of initial signatories either promote the contemplative prayer movement (a movement that has its roots in Catholic mysticism and panentheism and is drawing Protestants in that direction) directly themselves or represent institutions or denominations that do.

This promotion of contemplative spirituality includes the Confession’s co-chair, Dr. Timothy George.  For example, in a 2014 article titled “Not Just For Catholics”  on Beeson Divinity School’s website, written by George, he expresses his admiration for Catholic practices such as the contemplative Lectio Divina. George is also the general editor for a series called the Reformation Commentary on Scripture (published by InterVarsity Press) that boasts of including Catholic writers in its collection of commentaries. While the “Reforming Catholic Confession” claims to be trying to strengthen the Protestant church and its unique mission separated from the Catholic Church, how can we trust a document whose co-chairman does not even understand the serious reasons Christians must be separated from the Roman Catholic Church? We know Timothy George cannot understand this for if he did, he would certainly not, as the general editor, allow the writings of Catholic writers in a commentary series on Scripture. On the Beeson Divinity School website, George is described as  “active in Evangelical–Roman Catholic Church dialogue.”

Leith Anderson, president of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), is another signatory of the “Reforming Catholic Confession.” Anderson was a pioneer of the emerging church movement as described in Roger Oakland’s book Faith Undone, which quotes Anderson saying he is hoping for a paradigm shift within the church:

The only way to cope and be effective during this period of structural change in society is to change some of the ways we view our world and the church. It is what some call a paradigm shift—a new way of looking at something. Such a shift will allow us to view our changing world with new perspective. It is like a map. Old maps from 1950 may have sufficed before the construction of interstate highways and the expansion of major cities, but new maps are needed now. Likewise, we need a paradigm shift for the future.2 (emphasis added)

It was Leith Anderson, Rick Warren, and Bill Hybels who were instrumental in helping Bob Buford (under the inspiration of Peter Drucker) launch the emergent church (then called Terra Nova) around 1998 with a group of young pastors: Doug Pagitt, Dan Kimball, Mark Driscoll, and Brian McLaren. Things have never been the same since, which leads us to ask the question: Is the “Reforming Catholic Confession” (which uses the word “catholic” over 30 times) another step in this emergent paradigm shift that Leith Anderson longed for twenty years ago where “a new way of looking at something [the church]” comes into play? Those who have studied the emergent/emerging church in the scope of Scripture know it is a definite road to Rome with its ecumenical, interspiritual, and mystical elements leading the way.

Other institutions that are represented in the signatures of the “Reforming Catholic Confession” are some of the most blatant contemplative-promoting Christian colleges and universities out there. And when we say contemplative, remember, we mean on a path to Rome: Wheaton College, Fuller Theological Seminary, Biola University, Bethel College, Regent University, Asbury University, Andrews University, Denver University, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Calvin Institute of Christian Worship. Other schools represented in the document are also contemplative promoting: Dallas Theological Seminary, Liberty University, Moody Bible Institute, Baylor University, Cornerstone University, and Westmont College. We’ve only named a few of the institutions that are represented on the signature list that promote contemplative spirituality (i.e., the emergent church). As we stated, it is the majority of them that do.

Several denominations are also represented in the “Reforming Catholic Confession” such as the Evangelical Free Church of America (and as of more recent years is now an advocate for contemplative spirituality). And don’t think that these signatures representing these groups are insignificant non-influential back-room members. For instance, the man from the Evangelical Free Church of America who signed the document is Rev. Greg Strand whose title is the Executive Director of Theology & Credentialing for the denomination. Not to mention that the president of that denomination, Rev. Kevin Kompelien, also signed the Confession.

Dr. Timothy George, co-drafter of the ecumenical Manhattan Declaration

Worth pointing out, John Stonestreet of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview is also a signatory of the Confession. Some may remember when Chuck Colson co-authored the Manhattan Declaration in 2009. Lighthouse Trails wrote about this in our article titled “Manhattan Declaration: ‘Perhaps Millions’ Being Led Toward the New Age/New Spirituality.” Here is a statement from the Manhattan Declaration:

We are seeking to build a movement—hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of Catholic, Evangelical and Eastern Orthodox Christians who will stand together.

The connection between the Manhattan Declaration (by the way, Brian McLaren was one of the original signers too) and the “Reforming Catholic Confession” is not just that John Stonestreet is a signer. Timothy George was very involved with the Manhattan Declaration as well. He was one of the four drafters of it!

It stands to reason, based on evidence, that the “Reforming Catholic Confession” is just an extension of the Manhattan Declaration’s goal to “build a movement” of Catholics, Evangelical and Orthodox Christians “who will stand together.” It seems naïve at best, deceiving at worst, to come out with this new document and claim that it is an effort to renew the Christian church, when in fact it has all the earmarks of helping to bring the “lost brethren” back into the fold of the “Mother Church,” whether the drafters or signatories realize it or not.

The “Reforming Catholic Confession” lists several doctrinal characteristics that define Protestantism such as the Trinity, baptism, the virgin birth, the deity of Christ (all of which, incidentally, the Catholic Church would say they believe in too). When it came to the category “the Lord’s Supper,” there was quite a bit of wordage, but the words “do this in remembrance” were not used while the words “the faithful” (the Catholic Church’s name for practicing Catholics) was used twice in that section. This may seem like a moot point to those who may not understand the significant difference between the Catholic Mass with the sacrament of the Eucharist and the Protestant “Lord’s supper” (i.e., communion service), which in Scripture Christians are instructed to “do this in remembrance” of Jesus Christ. We find it troubling that the “Reforming Catholic Confession” presented a vague and obscure description of this practice that has so separated Roman Catholicism from biblical Christianity for so many centuries that those who opposed the idea that Jesus was actually in a wafer were burned at the stake by the Catholic Church (see Foxe’s Book of Martyrs for documentation on papal persecutions).3 In one section of the Confession, it states: “it is particularly to be regretted that the early Protestant Reformers were unable to achieve an altogether common mind, in particular as concerns the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper.” But the Confession, again, is vague and never truly defines the biblical practice of the Lord’s Supper.

We find it  a little unnerving when the Confession states that we should go from reformation to “reforming catholic.” Perhaps the authors of the Confession are not implying that Protestants should now call themselves by that name, but vagueness and the oft used word catholic leaves speculation to the imagination. And when the Confession states, “We believe that what unites us is far greater than what divides us,” it is reminiscent of words Pope Francis said less than 12 months ago. In an article titled “Pope Stresses to Lutherans: What Unites Us Far Greater Than What Divides Us,” the Catholic pope told the ecumenical gathering of 1000 Lutherans:

The apostle Paul tells us that, by virtue of our baptism, we all form the single Body of Christ. The various members, in fact, form one body. Therefore, we belong to each other and when one suffers, all suffer; when one rejoices, we all rejoice. We can continue trustfully on our ecumenical path, because we know that despite the many issues that still separate us, we are already united. What unites us is far greater than what divides us. (emphasis added)

According to the article, Pope Francis said,  “Lutherans and Catholics are on a journey from conflict to communion.” By the indications of the “Reforming Catholic Confession,” Lutherans may not be the only ones heading into communion with the Catholic Church.

Conclusion

If your denomination or the college that your children or grandchildren attend is represented in the list of signatories of the “Reforming Catholic Confession,” perhaps it’s time to reconsider the direction your family may be getting pulled into. Today, we are witnessing apostasy and delusion on a grand scale. To turn a blind eye to doctrines that were formerly of paramount importance and now waning to insignificance may have disastrous results.

Endnotes:

  1. https://www.christianpost.com/news/over-250-protestant-leaders-sign-reforming-catholic-confession-on-essentials-of-christian-faith-198747/page2.html.
  2. Leith Anderson, A Church for the 21st Century (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1992), p. 17.
  3. We recommend the edition by Lighthouse Trails as many of the other editions by other publishers have removed Foxe’s writings on papal persecutions.

Other noteworthy organizations represented in the “Reforming Catholic Confession”:

Calvary Chapel Lexington Kentucky

Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Wycliffe College

Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary

Westminster Seminary

National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

Hope College

Grace College and Seminary

The Village Church

Harvest Bible Chapel

Institute on Religion and Democracy

Reformed Theological Seminary

Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission

Houghton College

Corban University

Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

A Rose By Any Other Name OR A Deception By Any Other Name – It’s All the Same

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

This is from a circulating email from Prairie [formerly Prairie Bible Institute or PBI in Three Hills Alberta].

It sounds so good, but I suspect it is dangerous.

S. ____

Email Our Reader Received from Prairie:

What’s NEW for our upcoming year
New Student Orientation begins tomorrow! This time of year campus is filled with a joyful buzz. As we begin the 2017/2018 school year, we have a lot to be thankful for and want to share what is new at Prairie.

LAUNCHING NEW CHRISTIAN FORMATION PROGRAM
Centered on keeping company with Jesus and being reshaped by his Spirit, students in the Christian Formation program will become more deeply rooted in the Scriptures and the process of discipleship. We will celebrate the launch of this program on September 15, 2017.

Online: http://prairie.edu/Bible-College/Christian-Formation

Comments by Lighthouse Trails:

Lighthouse Trails has researched and reported on Prairie Bible Institute a number of times over the past several years (e.g. our article: “COLLEGE ALERT: Letters to Lighthouse Trails Prove Prairie Bible Institute (Alberta) Has Gone Emergent”) And even though school leadership has, at times, insisted they were not contemplative or emergent, every time we have observed them, we have come to the same conclusion – that’s exactly what they are.

“Christian Formation” is just another term for Spiritual Formation or Spirituality. It is rooted in contemplative spirituality. In Prairie’s description for the Christian Formation program, it says students will: “Engage with Christians of the past that have thought deeply about Christian growth and formation” (emphasis added). Which Christians of the past? (Or the present?)

We can gain some insight into who PBI is turning to for spiritual guidance by looking at PBI’s current textbook list for 2017. These may or may not be books being used in PBI’s Christian Formation program, but they are books being used in the school. One thing we’ve learned over the years, when  a school is immersed in contemplative spirituality, it isn’t just in the Spiritual Formation program; rather, it is integrated throughout the school.

We would consider all of these authors as part of the emergent church and/or outside the scope of biblical Christianity.

This Day: Collected and New Sabbath Poems by Wendell Berry

The Transforming Friendship by James Houston and Dallas Willard

Lifesigns : Intimacy, Fecundity, and Ecstasy in Christian Perspective by Henri Nouwen

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek – Annie Dillard

The Secret : What Great Leaders Know and Do by Ken Blanchard

The Pastor: A Memoir by Eugene Peterson

Communicating for a Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication by Andy Stanley

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas (references about a dozen times a tantric sex author)

Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster

Taking Your Soul to Work (foreword by Eugene Peterson)

Being Well When We are Ill: Wholeness And Hope In Spite Of Infirmity (Living Well) by Marva Dawn

The Core Realities of Youth Ministry by Mike Yaconelli

Youth Ministry 3.0: A Manifesto of Where We’ve Been, Where We Are and Where We Need to Go by Mark Oestreicher (Marko – former Youth Specialties president)

If you are not familiar with these names, you can do a search on our research site and find information.

 

 

Sound the Trumpet in the Midst of Apostasy – The Enemy is in the Camp

By David Dombrowski
Lighthouse Trails Editor

Over the past decade and a half, we have watched with a mixture of surprise and sadness at how an apostate church has materialized before our eyes. It all began for us here at Lighthouse Trails when we met Ray Yungen in 2000. Though we were not publishers back then, he shared with us his manuscript for  A Time of Departing, which spoke of a coming apostasy in the form of mystical practices and “spiritual disciplines.” Stirred by the content of that book, we agreed to help him find a publisher. But, at the time, we never imagined how relevant and prophetic that book would be nor how quickly this apostasy would flourish in the mainstream churches. Today, it is even difficult to find a church that has not been compromised by some form of eastern-style mystical practice or emerging church philosophy. Now e-mails and letters pour into our office telling how readers who either just discovered us or were at one time skeptical of our warnings are now shocked to see that these things have entered their churches.

How did all this happen, and how did it happen so quickly? We think this can partly be explained by what we discovered years ago. After meeting with Ray, we felt compelled to help him find a publisher for his book, but after contacting a number of Christian publishing houses, we soon learned that they were only looking for books that could sell well—and that meant books considered non-controversial and by well-known authors. At that point, we prayerfully decided to start our own publishing house. But just the lack of interest that we saw in the publishers was indicative of what was to happen in the church.

Whether we realize it or not, there is tremendous spiritual warfare taking place in our world today. In numerous instances, we are hearing stories of young people going to Christian colleges only to have their spiritual lives shipwrecked. They may have been safer in secular colleges. At the same time, we know of countless numbers of Christians who have no church to go to because the ones that are available have abandoned the simplicity of the Gospel for a universal emerging “spirituality.” These believers are now witnessing the apostasy and are looking to ministries like ours for encouragement and help. In many cases, the only encouragement we can offer these people is to assure them that they are not alone in what they see.

As singer/songwriter Trevor Baker sings in his song The Lonely Road, committed Christians may have to endure much loneliness or isolation in the future for lack of genuine fellowship.

Please remember that while Jesus said we cannot know the day or the hour of His return, He also instructed us to observe the seasons. In saying this, Jesus was sharing a principle that is both profound and very simple:

 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. (Matthew 24: 32-33)

In other words, Jesus was saying that various things must occur before He returns, and when they do occur, we can know that His coming is near. Today, the stage is being set for the fulfillment of these events described in Matthew 24, and in fact, things are moving at a highly accelerated rate. While the church has slept, tares have been sown into God’s wheat field (Matthew 13:25). The apostasy that we see in the church today is the result of Satan sowing these “tares” in the church.

As we have watched events unfold in the apostate church in recent years, it has been very sobering to see how nearly identical its intents and actions are to that of the New Age movement in moving toward a one-world global order. As you are reading this, religious leaders are shaking hands with political figures in bringing about a more highly evolved society. Alice Bailey, who had much to do with the development of the New Age movement, with all its occult practices and mysticism, predicted that this movement rather than having to move around the church would move through it. In fact, she saw the church as helping to propel the world into this higher level of consciousness.1 Sadly, we are hearing almost daily of highly respected Christian leaders with large followings who are now embracing the writings of mystics and contemplative authors. Perhaps they do not realize that the contemplative prayer and mysticism they are now passing on to their followers is no different than the occult practices of Alice Bailey with a new twist. And as long as the name of “Jesus” is used, everything is O.K., they think.

Looking again at the fig tree, we can see that more fruit is developing and getting heavier. Also, as Rick Warren points out (and promotes), we will see a blending of religious, political, and economic forces as future events unfold. Unity will be a key to the future and will be an increasing theme as the world awaits the Antichrist. Considering that we are even now moving toward a one-world order, let us look at our fig tree whose fruit is already there and beginning to get ripe; the events we already see, only to increase, are:

The unifying of the world’s religious thought where eastern-style mystical practice to include yoga, contemplative prayer, and healing practices like Reiki are joining east with west.

The Purpose Driven P.E.A.C.E. Plan where political, economic, and religious forces are being brought together to form a unified effort.

Plans for a global currency paving the way to the use of the “mark.”

The accelerating significance of the United Nations leading toward a confederation of nations.

Increasing interest in the world finding a Christ figure who can solve the world’s economic and political problems and unite the world in peace.

Increasing moral decay throughout the world to include abortion, violence, pandemic divorce, the dissolution of the family unit, homosexuality, and pedophilia.

Increasing hatred toward born-again believers.

The growth of a spirit of Anti-Semitism throughout the world including in much of the organized Christian church today.

Increased natural disasters to include earthquakes, weather phenomena, and possible volcanic activity.

Intensifying of wars and rumors of war and man-made disasters.

Increased skepticism about the Lord’s return to include an abandonment of biblical prophecy.

The appearance of false christs culminating in the appearance of the Antichrist. As a result of mystical practices, to include contemplative prayer, people are already being conditioned to seeing themselves as having a “divine center” where the “Christ” or “I am” resides. Man has become divine.

An increasing curiosity and dependence on signs and wonders rather than the Word of God. Of special significance today are Mary apparitions and Eucharistic wonders, which point people to another Jesus of another gospel. Signs and wonders will be seen in the future as the final proof of truth holding sway over many people. This will make it possible for the Antichrist to lead the whole world in a grand delusion as he will be a master at performing signs and wonders.

Let us pause to look at our fig tree again; I see a couple more figs developing there. One of them is called “the bridgers” and the other is called “the silencers.” Unfortunately, both of these figs are growing on the same branch—and the branch has a name on it – it says, “the church.” This is odd because these two figs look putrefied, yet they are growing on a branch that looks very healthy.

You may remember a number of years ago a radio interview between LT editor Deborah Dombrowski and radio host Ingrid Schlueter. The title of this broadcast was“Beware The Bridgers: Orthodoxy Is More Than A Doctrinal Statement.”    This program talked about the emergence of what one might call a welcoming committee within the church where things God considers foul and unclean are invited in. Oddly enough, it is not the dissenters in the church who are doing this, as would have been the case fifteen or so years ago, but our pastors and Christian leaders—many of whom have had very large followings and been respected as being both conservative and of sound doctrine. But the problem is that these leaders are now gleaning from the writings of New Age, occultic, or mystical authors and quoting them to their followers, oftentimes with a word of recommendation if not persuasion to buy these writings and read them in their entirety. We won’t take time here to discuss God’s view on these things, but if you are curious, you might want to pause to look at Deuteronomy 18:9-14. The question is, why are pastors and respected Christian leaders promoting mystics and occultists? And we use the word “promoting” because this is more than the occasional slip of quoting someone for their clever or witty anecdote. These leaders are both bringing the nail and driving it in. However, in many cases these leaders are obscure as to whether they practice these things themselves; they seem content enough in bringing their followers to the bait, then leaving their followers to fend for themselves. Ingrid Schlueter coined the term “the bridgers” because these leaders in their obscurity seem quite innocent, yet due to their positions of respect and large followings, they are wittingly or unwittingly pulling large numbers of otherwise conservative followers into  a trap that these followers would  not have ventured to on their own accord. In other words, these bridgers are introducing the more conservative flock to what the Bible calls an abomination.

Then there is the other fig called “the silencers” that we looked at a moment ago, and it is getting larger. It too looks putrefied though it is on a healthy looking branch labeled “the church.” This fig represents those in the church who regard themselves as having a special corner, and almost elitist attitude, on discernment. While they proclaim their humility, they also pride themselves as having the educational credentials and biblical know-how to steer the church on a straight course. They speak of the embarrassment other ministries are to the body of Christ who are not deemed worthy to hold the compass. A case in point was brought to our attention when two men stood before an audience and proceeded to praise each other as the purveyors of sound wisdom, discernment, and biblical scholarship. Then, in turn they engaged in a joint attack of verbally punching down those they deemed unworthy of discerning the things of God. This ganged venture began when one of them made reference to “housewives and home-school moms” who have no business interfering in things they know nothing about. One referred to such women as “discernment divas” saying that their “greatest ability for [discernment] is not some rational understanding of doctrinal truths but an ability to use a really sharp tongue.”  Both men on the stage maintained that such things belong to men of wisdom, like themselves. By the way, the one who said this is said to be the “right-hand man” to one of the most popular and looked up to Christian figures today.

After the program, however, this same man, in realizing that he had put his foot in his mouth–figuratively speaking—proceeded to try to remedy the matter lest there be an influx of home-schooling moms and irate husbands knocking at the door. He attempted to remedy the matter by pointing out that he did not mean all home-schooling moms but two in particular—namely Ingrid Schlueter of Crosstalk and Lighthouse Trails Publishing’s Deborah Dombrowski.2 Hoping to put out the spot fires he started, he referred to these women as discernment divas, then proceeded to provide his own derogatory definition of the term.

We must not forget the seriousness or the ramifications of what can happen when someone who is endeavoring to help the Body of Christ is knocked down, verbally or otherwise. Again, we are in a spiritual battle—very real, with its own victories and consequences.

The fact is that the darkness hates the light, and when you bring light where there is darkness it means exposure. We live in a corrupt world where not even the organized church is willing to have the light shine in the dark corners.

But we at Lighthouse Trails were founded on the principle that there is a growing body of believers who have heard God’s heart cry to repentance. It is our belief that repentance is meant to be a part of the Christian life, and as we become aware of our imperfections we endure rather than resist God’s refining process in our lives. When John wrote his letters to the seven churches, he did it with this in mind, but history tells us not all seven of them heeded his letters.

Here at Lighthouse Trails, we have endeavored to blow the trumpet over the years, sounding the call to repentance and to a return to the sound doctrine of the Bible. But many have become annoyed with the repeated blasts of the trumpet. All we can say to this is that the time is short, and we remember the words of Jesus when he said, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4). We will continue to sound the trumpet for as long as we can while doors of opportunity are still open.

Some will say that it is better for Christians to be silent and just let God take care of things. But it is through silence that the church in America has lost so much ground. Rather than helping the process, silence accelerates the work of the enemy. It was through silence that a man called Hitler was able to come to power and murder millions of innocent people.

Keep praying and do what you can to help sound the trumpet. The enemy forces are advancing; in fact, they are within our ranks.

I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken. (Jeremiah 6:17)

Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:12)

Notes:
1. See A Time of Departing for more information on Alice Bailey’s “revitalization” of the churches.
2. Though Deborah Dombrowski’s name was not mentioned, it was inferred by saying Lighthouse Trails Publishing

Taizé Worship – Growing in Popularity, But Roots Are in Mystical Monasticism

Taizé Worship Service

Taizé Community in France during a worship service (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons; copyright owner: Damir Jelic; used with permission)

By Chris Lawson
(Author of Taizé: A Community and Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

The worship practiced at Taizé has attracted many people from around the globe and from many different denominations. While many of the words found in Taizé worship music are words found in Scripture or words that do not necessarily contradict Scripture, the Taizé songs and worship services themselves are centered around contemplative, ecumenical, and oftentimes emergent spirituality themes. The emphasis is not on the teaching or exhortation of the Word of God but rather is to help participants “experience” God through sensory-focused music and singing. A church association in the UK describes the Taizé worship style as such:

The contemplative worship practices of the Taizé community are promoted at an annual international conference. Taizé worship is being incorporated in a wide variety of churches, both Protestant and Catholic and its pattern of devotion is emulated in other monastic communities around the world.

A Taizé worship service involves sung and chanted prayers, meditation, a period of silence, liturgical readings, and use of candles. There is no preaching. The style of prayer practiced at Taizé has attracted many worshippers from around the globe and from many different denominations.1

The main focus on the Taizé worship is the chanted prayers, meditations, and songs. However, the Bible warns against such practices:

[W]hen ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him. (Matthew 6:7-8)

The Contemplative Network, an online resource for those interested in meditative prayer practices, describes Taizé worship and prayer like this:

For those familiar with Taizé common prayer, but unfamiliar with Centering Prayer practices, they will discover that they grow from the same root of seeking to surrender the mind and heart to the intimate presence of God. They share the same spirit of ancient monastic traditions to open space to let the Word of God reverberate in all its dimensions. Those who have tasted of this open space during the silent period of a Taizé common prayer service may find themselves well disposed to explore related contemplative practices such as Lectio Divina and Centering Prayer.2

The Taizé worship is not based on the objective Word of God but rather offers spiritual experiences that are subjectively appealing to the flesh. In Scripture, we are instructed to build up the inner spiritual man and to resist the carnality of the flesh (Ephesians 3:16, Romans 8:1-16).

Jesus Christ instructed His disciples that they should not use repetitive prayers (chanting) like the heathen (New Agers, pagans, etc.) do. Anytime experience is given higher regard than God’s Word, it puts followers at risk of becoming victim to deception and even dangerous spiritual realms. Mystical and esoteric experiences are subjective, meaning they are not founded on anything solid or concrete. It is the Word of God (the Bible) that is to be our steering mechanism through life. Consider these verses that show the importance of the Word of God. You won’t find any verses giving credence to seeking after mystical experiences:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. (Psalm 119:9)

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:31-32)

Taizé Worship Influenced by Catholic Prayers

The repetitive Taizé songs are influenced by the Roman Catholic notion that a person needs to say a certain amount of repeated prayers in order for them to be enough (e.g., the Catholic works mentality—which dictates that one must do enough works to reduce the time in Purgatory).

An example in Roman Catholicism would be the Rosary—a droning repetition of the same set of prayers, something like this: six repetitions of Our Father, fifty repetitions of the Hail Marys, and three repetitions of the Glory-be prayers. These repetitive prayers are usually said before or after mid-week Masses.

Jesus said, when asked about how to pray, to only pray to God (not Mary or saints or angels) and to not repeat the same prayers over and over again like the pagans “for they think they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

Six different Psalms tell us to sing a new song unto the Lord, but not one tells us to chant. Now Psalm 136 is unique in that it uses the refrain “his mercy endureth for ever,” but this is not a chant in that each refrain is a response to a different statement. So, unlike the psalms, the Catholic uses endless repetition out of guilt (in doing penance) or to be heard by God or from the sense that the Taizé songs are sung to allow participants to go into mind-altering trance-like states.

Taizé Worship Practices Similar to New Age Meditation

Sadly, many of the spiritual experiences occurring during Taizé worship services are similar to what takes place during New Age meditation. The following quote is from Lacy Clark Ellman, author of the New Age website, A Sacred Journey. Her quote is from “Inside the Taizé Community: An Interview with Brother Emile.” The processes (i.e., techniques) she mentions are reminiscent of many transformative occult practices. Regarding Taizé worship, Ellman explains:

Singing their [Taizé monks] chants left me transported—centering me, bringing me peace, and thus opening me up to the Sacred. I’ve been known to describe it as the perfect combination of the contemplative and charismatic—the words simple and liturgical in nature, with the repetition making space for the Sacred Guide to enter. . . .

Instead of trying to facilitate an experience with bright lights and catchy songs, the [Taizé] brothers invite visitors into their own experience—a rhythmic practice of chants, reading, and [meditative] silence in languages found across the globe. They didn’t explain what was going on or how to participate, apart from a board that displayed which song was to be sung next.3 (emphasis added)

The problem with this explanation is that occultists (shamans, sorcerers, witches, etc.) and New Age practitioners around the globe are receiving similar experiences, in varying forms, through spirit contact via spiritualism, séances, channeling, etc. So too, non-Christians enter varying levels of voluntary and involuntary possession states using this same process.

Instead of encouraging Christian worship settings that provide for a clear understanding of sound biblical preaching and teaching of the Bible, Taizé worship services provide a fast track to spiritual experience via unbiblical forms of prayer, meditation, and silence. In many cases, they bypass the Bible altogether. In settings like this where anything goes—chanting, centering down to enter “the silence,” lengthy repetitive singing, and meditative/altered states—any form of spirit contact can occur.

Considering these things, it is of utmost importance that Christians heed this biblical warning:

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)

When people are not being taught the Bible and warned about the dangers of false doctrine and non-biblical practices, they will inevitably, in mystical Taizé type settings, end up under the influence of deceiving spirits. As the above passage describes, strong delusion will overtake them. This is no small problem as it is running rampant in the church throughout the world.
The true Christian has only one option at this point, and that is to obey Scripture and separate from those who bring teachings contrary to the Word of God.

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18; emphasis added)

(This is an excerpt from Chris Lawson’s book Taizé: A Community and Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

Endnotes:

1. The Cornilo Churches, UK (http://www.cornilochurches.org.uk/taiz.htm).
2. The Contemplative Network, “Prayer With the Songs of Taizé (http://www.contemplative.net/prayer-with-songs-taize-t-1_43.html).
3. “Inside the Taizé Community: An Interview with Brother Emile” (http://www.asacredjourney.net/2013/08/taize).

Letter to the Editor: Husband Brought Home This Contemplative Book From Conference – “The Spiritual Formation of Leaders”

The Spiritual Formation of Leaders by Chuck MillerDear Lighthouse Trails,

I want to thank you again and possibly alert you on another author you should watch. Recently, my husband went to a pastor’s conference and brought a book back home titled The Spiritual Formation of Leaders by Chuck Miller, Ed. D.

Immediately I saw the title, the bells went of in my head, and sure enough, going through it, it has quotes from Brennan Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton et. al. Looking through also, the author talks of a soul room, listening to God speak to you from all around you. Chapter 7 is titled “What exactly happens in the Soul Room? – Leadership: Moving from Management to Mystery.”

I must say, immediately I saw the book’s title, I became uncomfortable. These books look so good, so endearing and people are genuinely seeking how they can grow in Christ. If not for Lighthouse, I may not have known the treacherous path we would have been walking. As for me, since 2011, I have decided it’s Sola Scriptura. Away with especially new “Christian” books.

Thank you Lighthouse, and God bless you.

T. U.

LTRP Note: In addition to Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, and Thomas Merton, The Spiritual Formation of Leaders also contains quotes by and references to numerous other contemplative/emergent figures: New Age sympathizers Steven Covey and Parker Palmer, contemplatives John Ortberg, John Eldredge, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, as well as emergents N.T. Wright, Robert Webber, Klaus Issler, and Eugene Peterson.

One of the books that Chuck Miller quotes from is Richard Foster’s Meditative Prayer. Here are a few quotes from that book to help illustrate our concerns about using the writings of contemplative authors:

“We will discover how the imagination can aid us in our task and consider the three major steps into meditative prayer.” (p. 3)

“In the fullness of time Jesus came and taught the reality of the kingdom of God and demonstrated what life could be like in that kingdom. He showed us God’s yearning for the gathering of an all-inclusive community of loving persons with himself as its prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant.” (emphasis added, p. 5)

“To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart.” (quoting Russian mystic Theophan the Recluse, p. 7)

“I am because HE IS.” (p. 20)

“[A] third step in meditative prayer, which is the prayer of listening.” (p. 21)

Quoting from numerous mystics and panentheists, Foster says, “The great masters [mystics] of the interior life [meditative life] are overwhelmingly uniform in their witness to this reality [“an inward attentiveness to the divine Whisper”  p. 22].” (p. 22)

To describe meditative prayer, Foster uses words such as “spiritual space,” “inner sanctuary,” “Eucharistic feast,” “centering down,” “re-collection,” “divine breathings,” “rhythm of the Spirit,” “prayer of quiet,” “divine Center,” “spiritual ecstasy.”

 

Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, Richard Foster – Are We Wrong in Calling Them Emergent/Contemplative?

Recently, we were asked to give an account as to why Dallas Willard (d. 2013), Richard Foster, and John Ortberg were listed in Roger Oakland’s booklet How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging Into Your Church as part of the emerging church. 

We would first like to say that it is understandable how someone could take offense to these men being named in a booklet on the emerging church. All three have stated that they love Jesus and have often used Scriptures in their writings and lectures. So why say they are part of the emerging church?

Richard Foster and Dallas Willard

Richard Foster (l); Dallas Willard (r)

The Real Crux of the Matter

The real crux of this matter comes down to the contemplative prayer movement, which because it has its roots in panentheism (God in all) and interspirituality (all paths lead to God)  as we have been able to document in our writings these past many years, it is basically a synonym for the emerging church. In fact, without contemplative prayer, the emerging church would not have had the success (if you will) that it has had because contemplative prayer is the force that drives it. And given the fact that there are so many variables equal between the two, if someone is a proponent of contemplative prayer, we classify him as part of the emerging church. Many people mistakenly think that the emerging church would just be those of the caliber of Brian McLaren or Rob Bell. But we cannot agree with this at all. We believe the documentation we have gathered these past 15 years clearly shows that the two movements are one in the same.

That being said, one of the problems is that many Christians do not  understand what contemplative spirituality is. They believe that contemplative prayer is just prayer that contemplates (ponders) the things of God. Or that it is likened to a time of solitude (e.g., a quiet time with the Lord, perhaps sitting by a creek or turning off the radio). But contemplative prayer, as Richard Foster has very often made clear in his writings, is a practice that requires one to remove all distractions of the mind by practicing some type of mantric-like meditation (breath prayers, centering prayer, lectio divina, etc) and allowing the mind to enter a neutral state where all thought is gone. If contemplative prayer were just normal, but perhaps more focused, prayer, then why has there been so much differentiation in the church regarding it, whereas now through Spiritual Formation programs, countless Christian colleges and seminaries have brought contemplative spirituality into their schools?

If we could establish that this type of extra-biblical prayer is similar to an eastern-style meditation that Christians should not be engaged in, we would need to then look to see how this has entered the church and through whom. At this point, we would like to recommend two articles we have written that concisely explain and document 1) the roots of contemplative prayer and the connection between it and eastern style and occultic meditation, and 2) the significant role that Richard Foster has played in bringing contemplative spirituality into the evangelical church. Here are the links to those two articles: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=18192 and  http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17941. Each of the articles is filled with many quotes (none taken out of context) so that it isn’t just our opinion but is coming right from the sources themselves.

Dallas Willard and John Ortberg

Dallas Willard (l); John Ortberg (r)

Now, about Dallas Willard (John Ortberg is a disciple of Willard so we will not bring him into this letter for sake of not allowing this article to get too lengthy – see the end of this article for some Ortberg links).  What we have to say about Dallas Willard is really only going to be understood if one understands contemplative spirituality. Otherwise, we can show that Willard promotes contemplative spirituality, but if one does not realize what that term means, it may not mean much when we show Willard’s propensity for this mystical spirituality.

  1. In 1998, in the Journal of Psychology and Theology, Dallas Willard made the following statement: “Indeed, solitude and silence are powerful means to grace. Bible study, prayer and church attendance, among the most commonly prescribed activities in Christian circles, generally have little effect for soul transformation, as is obvious to any observer. If all the people doing them were transformed to health and righteousness by it, the world would be vastly changed. Their failure to bring about the change is precisely because the body and soul are so exhausted, fragmented and conflicted that the prescribed activities cannot be appropriately engaged, and by and large degenerate into legalistic and ineffectual rituals. Lengthy solitude and silence, including rest, can make them very powerful.” (Dallas Willard,Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation and the Restoration of the Soul,” Journal of Psychology and Theology, Spring 1998, Vol. 26, #1, pp. 101-109. Also available in The Great Omission, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2006)

Dallas Willard and Richard Foster together believed that what the church needs more than anything else is Spiritual Formation. As Richard Foster himself has stated (see the Foster booklet), the term Spiritual Formation came from the Catholic Church long before evangelicals used the term. For those who will read our article explaining what Spiritual Formation is, they will be able to see that Spiritual Formation (or the Spiritual Disciplines) is the vehicle that brings contemplative prayer to the church. Based on what we have witnessed in the majority of Christian colleges and seminaries, this has been a very successful effort. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=16176

  1. In 2004, Ruth Haley Barton wrote a book titled Invitation to Silence and Solitude. Dallas Willard wrote the foreword. Barton, who was trained at the New Age/panentheistic Shalem Prayer Institute in Washington, DC, also wrote the Spiritual Formation curriculum with John Ortberg for Willow Creek church after her training at Shalem. In Invitation to Silence and Solitude, Barton describes a wordless time of prayer that she calls the silence. “Take three long, deep breaths to help yourself settle into the silence.” (Kindle edition, Kindle location 689-690). It is very clear in her book that when she says silence, she is not talking about external silence; rather she is talking about stilling the mind so that there are no thoughts to distract us. Naturally, as humans, we cannot just turn off all thoughts. Our minds are thinking throughout our waking hours. The contemplative teaches that we must rid ourselves of these “distractions,” but we cannot do that without an aid. That aid is repeatedly saying a word or phrase (or focusing on the breath or an object)  for as much as 20 minutes (that’s how long author Gary Thomas tells readers to repeat their prayer word in his highly popular book Sacred Pathways):

    It is particularly difficult to describe this type of prayer in writing, as it is best taught in person. In general however, centering prayer works like this: Choose a word (Jesus or Father, for example) as a focus for contemplative prayer. Repeat the word silently in your mind for a set amount of time (say, twenty minutes) until your heart seems to be repeating the word by itself, just as naturally and involuntarily as breathing. (p. 185)

In Barton’s book, she references favorably several Catholic panentheistic mystics: Richard Rohr, Henri Nouwen, Basil Pennington, William Shannon, and others. For Dallas Willard to write the foreword to her book, he must have agreed with what she was writing in the book. He was a very learned, educated man (referred to as “one of today’s most brilliant Christian thinkers“) who must have known also who these mystics mentioned in her book were and what they believed.

  1. In fact, on Dallas Willard’s own website, there is a page of recommended resources. The page has been there for years and is still there today. http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp. Here is an archive of the same page in 2010: https://web.archive.org/web/20100314131254/http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp. On that page, which obviously was what Dallas Willard himself recommended, are the names of several contemplative mystics and advocates of mantric-like meditation.

One of the recommended books, written by Jan Johnson, is Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness. Like Barton, Johnson is a long-time highly influential promoter of contemplative prayer. In the book, which by the way favorably references several mystics such as Anglican priest Kenneth Leech and even some New Age type figures (e.g., Gerald May and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin), she says the following: “To listen to God requires experimentation and practice so that we develop ‘ears to hear’ . . .  Such practice involves Scripture study and meditation, prayer (especially contemplative prayer)”  (Kindle edition, Kindle Locations 399-400). Johnson also encourages breath prayers, lectio divina, and “practicing the presence.” Her book that Willard recommends is a primer on contemplative prayer; and in that book, for the more curious reader, she recommends her book When the Soul Listens where she states:

“Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.” (p. 16)

Johnson’s explanation of the initial stages of contemplative prayer leaves no doubt that “stilling” your thoughts means only one thing; she explains:

“In the beginning, it is usual to feel nothing but a cloud of unknowing. . . . If you’re a person who has relied on yourself a great deal to know what’s going on, this unknowing will be unnerving. (p. 120)

We have never heard of a prayer in the Bible that would cause us to feel “unnerving.” This is typical language of and explanation by contemplatives. We know that those who practice occultic or eastern style meditation will often have experiences that could be described as unnerving. Richard Foster says that before one practices contemplative prayer, it is wise to say prayers of protection.(Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, 1992, pp. 155-157.) But where in Scripture are we instructed to pray prayers of protection from prayer?

In addition to Dallas Willard recommending Jan Johnson on his website, he also recommends Richard Foster, to whom he was closely connected, and mystics Madame Guyon, Evelyn Underhill, Teresa of Avila (who levitated because of her meditation practices), Henri Nouwen (who after years of practicing mysticism came to the conclusion that Jesus is not the only path to God – see his book Sabbatical Journey, p. 51), Ignatius (The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius), and even Jungian occultist Agnes Sanford. How could Dallas Willard have Agnes Sanford’s occultic-promoting book The Healing Light on his website since at least as far back as 2004?! (https://web.archive.org/web/20041214164830/http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp).

How many unsuspecting, trusting individuals have come across Dallas Willard’s webpage on his site recommending these people and been drawn into the teachings promoted by them?

One Final Example

We could provide many other examples showing Dallas Willard’s connection and advocacy to the contemplative prayer movement. Even Rick Warren acknowledged this in his first book The Purpose Driven Church where he identified Richard Foster and Dallas Willard as key players in the movement (p. 127).  But we’ll leave you with this final example. We hope and pray those reading this article will read some of the documentation we have provided in the links we’ve included. The evidence is there for those who are willing to study this matter. Roger Oakland was correct in including these names in his booklet on the emerging church.

  1. Our final example has to do with Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, a book that remains highly popular in Christian circles.  On the back cover of the book is an endorsement by goddess worshiper Sue Monk Kidd. Although the book was written several years ago, her name remains on the back cover of the book along with the name of her book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. It is in that book that Sue Monk Kidd says God is in everything, even human excrement (pp. 160-163)! And in speaking about mysticism in that book, Monk Kidd says:

    As I grounded myself in feminine spiritual experience, that fall I was initiated into my body in a deeper way. I came to know myself as an embodiment of Goddess…. Mystical awakening in all the great religious traditions, including Christianity, involves arriving at an experience of unity or nondualism. In Zen it’s known as samadhi…. Transcendence and immanence are not separate. The Divine is one. The dancer and all the dances are one. . . . The day of my awakening was the day I saw and knew I saw all things in God, and God in all things. (pp. 161-163, Dance of the Dissident Daughter)

Does Dance of the Dissident Daughter sound like a book that should be included on the back of a Christian book (The Spirit of the Disciplines)? Hardly! Dallas Willard is viewed as a great Christian scholar. But something is very amiss here. In addition to Monk Kidd’s endorsement on the back of The Spirit of the Disciplines, Willard favorably references inside the book panentheist Catholic monk Thomas Merton as well as Agnes Sanford. Although the book was originally published in 1988, we are referring to the 2009 Kindle edition, which was a mere eight years ago when Dallas Willard was still alive. In the book (see Bibliography), he has turned to the writings of numerous panentheistic mystics: Bernard of Clairvaux, The Cloud of Unknowing (a primer on contemplative prayer written by a Catholic monk centuries ago), The Desert Fathers, Harry Fosdick (who denied substitutionary atonement), Ignatius, Soren Kierkegaard, Thomas Merton, Meister Eckhart, New Ager M. Scott Peck, Agnes Sanford, and others. Untold numbers of Christians have read The Spirit of the Disciplines, and they have been introduced to the writings of these mystics whose ideas are interwoven in the pages of this book. Incidentally, on Dallas Willard’s website, it states that The Spirit of the Disciplines is a companion book to Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline (where Foster says, “we should all without shame enroll in the school of contemplative prayer”).

What we have presented here is not guilt by association but is guilt by promotion and proxy. It is our estimation that Dallas Willard and Richard Foster have done a terrible disservice to the body of Christ and to the work and furtherance of the Gospel. We hope those reading this will take the time to study this matter out.

Related Links:

Letter to the Editor: What About John Ortberg’s Fully Devoted Book? My Pastor Wants to Use it

David Jeremiah Opens Pulpit to Contemplative Advocate John Ortberg

“Tough Questions” with Dallas Willard . . . and His Contemplative Propensities

More on John Ortberg

 

 

 


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