Archive for the ‘Contemplative Organizations’ Category

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

 

 

 

Letter to the Editor: Popular Group Publishing’s Vacation Bible School Curriculums Promoting Contemplative/Emergent Ideas

LTRP Note: Group Publishing has been listed as a contemplative publisher on the LT Research site for many years. Just take a look at this 1999 article in the Group Publishing archives written by contemplative pioneer Mark Yaconelli to see an example of their early efforts. This particular article is one that is discussed in Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing.

bigstockphoto.com

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I have been hearing about a number churches using Group Publishing’s Vacation Bible School curriculums this year, including my own.  The four 2017 Protestant versions are:  Maker Fun Factory, Passport to Peru, Rome, and Campout.  My church will be using Campout.  Thankfully, someone at our church read through the curriculum and noticed there is no mention of sin, which is the reason why we need our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The discerning individual who noticed the omission is now rewriting some parts of the VBS curriculum in order to teach more sound theology to our church’s children.  The Campout curriculum, instead of focusing on what Jesus did on the cross as the sacrifice for man’s sin, focuses on how “Jesus’ life showed God’s love.”  I have since been researching more about Group Publishing, and I came across a few things.

Group Publishing also makes a Catholic version of its Protestant VBS curriculum(s), and apparently the company has been doing this at least since 2009, according this article:  http://baptistbulletin.org/the-baptist-bulletin-magazine/is-your-vbs-taking-a-vacation-from-the-gospel/ .  Here is a link to the Totally Catholic Maker Fun Factory (2017):  http://vbs.osv.com/totally-catholic-maker-fun-factory and Totally Catholic Shipwrecked (2018):  http://vbs.osv.com/totally-catholic-shipwrecked.

Group Publishing is also hosting two conferences this year, KidMin Children’s Ministry Conference in September and the Future of the Church Summit in October.  Two of the five speakers at KidMin are Max Lucado and Mark Batterson [The Circle Maker author], both of whom promote contemplative spirituality.  Spiritual formation, which is Roman Catholic mysticism based in eastern spiritual practices, will also be a key component of this conference.  A session on  “Spiritual Formation in Families” will be led by Luz Figueroa during the conference, and here is a description of that session:

“Spiritual formation is the process of being transformed into the image of Christ for the sake of others. What does it take for children to experience God and spiritual growth? And what implications and applications does that have on families? Just because we know it’s the responsibility of parents to be the nurturers of their children’s faith doesn’t mean they have the tools for the job. Spiritual formation is a family matter as children respond to the spiritual formation reflected by the adults who influence them. In this session, you’ll deepen your desire to grow in Christ and consent more freely to the love of God infiltrating your home and ministry context. You’ll also learn how to help children and families live in ways that are increasingly attentive to God, oneself, and others.

  • Consider your personal spiritual formation to discover a fresh approach that seeks transformation—not just education.
  • Explore the important roles of spirituality and formation in relation to the home and church.
  • Explore and understand transformative learning.
  • Experience how as we willingly open ourselves to the transformative movement of the love of God, we open ourselves to the world around us.
  • Discover spiritual practices that will help parents move from the goal of good behavior to creating a compelling faith future for their children.
  • Review 12 spiritual practices that can be implemented at church and at home.”

Click on Family Ministry to see the “Spiritual Formation in Families” session description:  https://www.group.com/category/training-and-events/conferences/kidmin-conference/sessions.do

Group Publishing is additionally organizing a Future of the Church Summit in October.  Leaders of World Vision and World Relief will be speaking among others.  Three of seven topics that will be discussed are:
–   “The Future of Disciple-Making – Explore a new paradigm for the church’s work in discipleship—moving from four-week classes to lifestyle transformation.”
–   “Surprising Paths for Growth in the Church – Discover refreshing forms of ministry that work with those who are done with church as we know it.”
–   “The Next Reformation -Some have noted that the church goes through a major transformation every 500 years. This year marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation. So, what’s next?”
https://www.group.com/category/training-and-events/training/future-of-the-church-summit.do

Not only is Group Publishing teaching a watered down Gospel and another version of Jesus, they are also promoting Roman Catholic mysticism through conferences and leading discussions on how the church needs to adopt new paradigms, new ministries, new ways of doing things with the stated purpose of being more effective, rich, relevant, and meaningful.  Many, many churches are unknowingly using these VBS curriculums to teach their children about Jesus and the Bible, but the theology of the publishing group and the theology presented in the VBS curriculums are clearly compromised.

M.P.

Letter to the Editor: Concerned About Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministry’s Adult Coloring Exercise

To Lighthouse Trails:

I love your ministry and know that I’m talking to the choir when I say this, but it is mind blowing to me how widespread occultism has become.  That said, I stumbled upon the following FREE offer from Charles Stanley’s In Touch Ministries.  All I can say is “WOW!” https://www.intouchcanada.org/sharedjoy

May God bless and protect you and your ministry.

M.S.

LTRP Note: While some reading this letter to the editor may think that what Charles Stanley’s ministry is presenting here is safe and benign, and while these coloring bookmarks are not the actual mandala drawings that Lighthouse Trails has written about in the past (and published a booklet on by Lois Putnam), one of the key elements in the mandala coloring books  is the hundreds of very small mostly circular coloring spaces. In the picture on the right of the In Touch coloring bookmarks, which was sent to us from our reader, there are hundreds of tiny oval sections to be colored. The purpose of the hundreds of tiny spaces in the mandala coloring books is to help the participate relax and meditate. While In Touch’s instructions (“Color inside the lines, or venture beyond them—whatever helps you reconnect with your creativity!”) do not suggest relaxing and meditating, we find it disconcerting that In Touch’s instructions to reconnect with your creativity coupled with the hundreds of tiny coloring sections is too reminiscent of the New age mandala coloring exercises (suggesting that the purpose of the In Touch coloring exercise goes beyond the scope of just making an attractive bookmark).

Because our society (and the church) is being enticed to meditate at virtually every turn, we urge our readers to carefully consider the activities they and their families are getting involved with. As our reader above stated occultism has become widespread.

As for the coloring activity, are we saying that it is occultic for an adult to color a picture. Of course not. But our adversary (the devil) has many deceptive schemes to woo and seduce, and we believe he can and is using coloring to do this very thing.

We have witnessed In Touch’s interest in contemplative/emerging ideas for a number of years, and this seemingly harmless and innocent coloring activity may be just another fascination with it.

Below are some quotes from a website titled “Creative Development for Women”:

The Benefits of Colouring Mandalas
“The Big Girls Little Colouring Book is a connection to life, a free flowing celebration of creativity and vivid imagination.”
“Colouring mandalas is fun & relaxing! Time spent with the book is “me time”, a welcome break from every day routine. It is a personal playground where you get to play, experiment with new ideas, discover forgotten dreams and become immersed in your imagination. It is a form of meditation that is deeply relaxing and rejuvenating.”

What is a mandala?

“The word is a Sanskrit word that means circle. The circle is at the centre of life, planet earth is circular, the cells in my body are mandalas as are my eyes, ears, nose and mouth.”

“Creating with mandalas returns me to the circle and creates a portal to the deeper self. Mandalas are a medium to connect with my subconscious mind and colouring them reconnects me with my inner wise woman and my inner artist.”

How does this connect to your creative spirit?
“Colouring mandalas together generates a culture of creativity amongst women and inspires us. It is unifying and generates synergy that nourishes the soul.”

Taizé Community – A Lifelong Commitment to Celibacy

By Chris Lawson

Photo: Alamy.com; used with permission; under copyright.

(From Chris Lawson’s 2017 book Taizé—A Community and Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

One of the primary characteristics of the all-male Taizé Community is the vow of celibacy that each Taizé Community monk commits to—for life. The Taizé website has published the complete vow, beginning with the following text:

After a time of preparation, a new brother in the Taizé Community makes his lifelong commitment. Here are the words used to express this commitment. . . .

Will you, in order to be more available to serve with your brothers, and in order to give yourself in undivided love to Christ, remain celibate?

I will.1

This vow of celibacy required of the “brothers” in the Taizé Community is the same type of commitment required by Buddhist, Hindu, and Roman Catholic priests and nuns. While the vow of celibacy that these community members commit themselves to may appear pious and spiritual, the Bible does not require one to remain single and “celibate” in order to serve God and receive His blessings. Not only that, it can put one into a harmful snare that can lead to much destruction as the Bible warns.

Researcher and author Mike Oppenheimer presents one serious concern with this requirement of celibacy:

Why is there sexual immorality in a church? Very often it is because someone who burns with passion needs to be married. Paul answers this in 1 Corinthians 7:2-3: “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.”

Look at what has happened when priests are frustrated in something God commands is good. Because they have forbidden the priests to marry, the Catholic Church has a high percentage of improper sexual conduct, including sexual molestation of children. This is not to impugn specifically the Roman Catholic Church. There are other churches and groups as well that forbid people to marry and make men or women remain single when they are unable to successfully do so.

In the Bible, the qualifications of a priest or bishop do not forbid being married. The Greek word for bishop is episkopos and is translated in different Bibles using the same word as elder, presbyter, bishop, [or] priest. Titus 1:5-6 instructs these men to be married and to raise godly children.2

This is not to say that sexual molestation (especially of children) only takes place in groups that do not allow/encourage heterosexual marriage. We know that allowing heterosexual marriage does not per se solve the issue of abuse. For example, Frank Houston (a leader of the predecessor group to Hillsong in Australia) was married but was known to have sexually molested children.3

Sadly, the brothers of Taizé willingly restrict themselves from a lifetime of marital intimacy, blessing, and pro-creation. God’s Word speaks very clearly about the origin and practice of “the forbidding of marriage”:

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 [demons]; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5; emphasis added)

Further implications of Taizé’s vow of celibacy can include the hundreds of thousands of young people who come to the community and witness this unbiblical practice. How many have desired to follow in the Taizé brothers’ footsteps only later to find themselves in situations that bring them shame and disgrace because they could not live a life where God had never called them?

Endnotes:

1. “A Life Long Commitment” (http://www.taize.fr/en_article6.html).
2. Mike Oppenheimer, “Marriage and the Priesthood” (http://www.letusreason.org/rc20.htm).
3. Australian Government’s Royal Commission on Child Abuse (see several documents regarding Frank Houston’s sexual abuse activities: http://childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/search?searchtext=frank+houston+&searchmode=anyword). Also see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2785983/You-never-forget-moment-dad-s-paedophile-Hillsong-s-Brian-Houston-tells-devastating-10-seconds-realised-father-Frank-paedophile.html. Also see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2785983/You-never-forget-moment-dad-s-paedophile-Hillsong-s-Brian-Houston-tells-devastating-10-seconds-realised-father-Frank-paedophile.html.

Letter to the Editor: Brian Brodersen’s Creation Fest Coming Out of the Contemplative Closet

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

You may recall previous e-mails from me about the state of some Calvary Chapel fellowships here in the UK. It would appear that the majority are maintaining links with Brian Brodersen’s new CCGN including our pastor. I made mention that our pastor is very unhappy with organizations such as yourselves and questions your ability to be truly discerning. He wrote an article criticizing people whom he says have “isolated themselves” and others from the body of Christ by doing something he calls “association fallacy.” He then quotes Proverbs 25:18 “A man who bears false witness against his neighbour is like a war club, or a sword or a sharp arrow.”

The association fallacy occurs when a person is misrepresented because of their relation to some other person. This is a form of false witness, they say. My view is that he is making an excuse for his continued involvement with Brian Brodersen; and to emphasize the point, he is one of the main speakers at this years Creation Fest in Cornwall. He has stated to me that he considers Brodersen a close friend [see LT statement about guilt by association below].

The evidence for Mr Brodersen is increasingly not good and to let you know, Creation Fest, (director Brian Brodersen) is sponsoring an event at Truro Cathedral on May 28th, called “Thy Kingdom Come.”1  This event includes “Taize Reflection” [see Taizé article below],  Lectio Divina, Labyrinth Walking, Prayer Stations, Breath Prayers, Sitting in Silence and Symbolic (ritualistic) body movements, hand signs etc-called “prayer games.” You can also download from the Creation Fest site the “official common worship app” from the Church of England.

My leader wishes to meet up with me again as I have been vocal in our local church about a growing number of issues of which he is not happy. Calvaries in the UK have a leadership style in that “what the leader says goes, and you either have to agree or get out.” I have been accused of being divisive and undermining the church!

I guess you already have a lot of the details regarding Brian Brodersen, but he is clearly a man that should  be avoided in my view. I am convinced that, in fact, my leader is himself unable to discern what is going on the church today. I would be interested in your thoughts. Keep up the good work. It is a pity I don’t live in the States close to say Chris Quintana’s fellowship.

God bless

________________

Related Information:

“Reconciliation” — A “Theological Theme” at Taizé
(100,000 young people visit Taizé, France every year. Chris Lawson unveils the dangerous truth about Taizé in his new book.)

BOOKLET: How to Know if You Are Being Spiritually Abused or Deceived—A Spiritual Abuse Questionnaire

Rick Warren and Brian Brodersen Prove: “A Photo Is Worth A Thousand Words”

Brian Brodersen and Greg Laurie’s “Bigger Picture of Christianity”

For several screenshots of Creation Fest’s website, click here.

Guilt by Association: While Lighthouse Trails has been accused at times of practicing “guilt by association,” our critics fail to understand that there is something called guilt by promotion, which is a very valid form of argument. If someone is promoting another person (quoting or referencing him or her in his books or talks, etc.), then he is guilty of “guilt by promotion,” not just by association. But even guilt by association has its validity. We are told in Scripture not to be associated with those who are unruly or who teach false doctrines* (e.g. 1 Timothy 6:3-6): otherwise it gives credence to that false teaching. This idea of “association fallacy” is, we believe, an effort by some to free themselves to hang out with whom they wish without being challenged for it. But this is not the way a Christian leader or pastor should behave. We believe that if a leader or pastor is associating himself with a false teacher, it is because he resonates with that teacher. An exception to this would be if the leader or pastor is ignorant of what the teacher believes or teaches, but even then, once he himself has become aware, he is responsible and can no longer claim “I didn’t know.”

*See Warren B. Smith’s new booklet/article on Sound Doctrine.

 

“Reconciliation” — A “Theological Theme” at Taizé

By Chris Lawson
(From his 2017 book, Taizé—A Community of Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

In a book titled A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship, and Reconciliation (with a foreword by Desmond Tutu), author Jason Brian Santos says that the “three prominent theological themes of Taizé are reconciliation, freedom and trust.”1

Taizé Community

In explaining “reconciliation,” Santos says that Brother Roger [founder of Taizé community in France]  did not want any particular “theology” at Taizé because that would hinder the “reconciliation” between those of different religious persuasions. Santos describes Brother Roger’s ecumenical vision:

As the community developed and new brothers joined Brother Roger, it became apparent that genuine ecumenism would be one of the most significant challenges the community would face. After all, for over four hundred years estrangement had existed between Protestants and Catholics. But for the young Swiss theologian, it was four hundred years too many. Brother Roger understood all of humanity to be reconciled to God in and through Christ. . . . all are equal in Taizé; the community becomes a living example of reconciliation. . . .

This, to a large degree, is why the Taizé chants were birthed to help bring young people from different Christian traditions together in a unified expression of prayer.2

Bearing in mind that these “unified expression[s] of prayer” are largely mystical repetitive chants and other contemplative practices (e.g., lectio divina, centering prayer), the words of the Catholic contemplative monk, Thomas Merton, come to mind. Merton once described a conversation he had with a Sufi (Islamic mystic) leader who told Merton there could be no fellowship between those of different religions as long as doctrines (he referred then to the “doctrine of atonement or the theory of redemption”3) stood in the way. Merton assured him that while doctrines such as these were a barrier, there could be unity of spirit in the mystical realm.4 This is what Brother Roger was proposing for Taizé.

Jason Brian Santos, who spent time at Taizé researching the community, sums up Taizé’s view of reconciliation:

When Christ made all things new, he restored in us the image of God. Moreover, this image was restored in all of humanity. As a consequence, when we see our neighbor we ought to see the image of God; we ought to see Christ.5 (emphasis added)

Webster’s Dictionary defines “reconciliation” as “the act of reconciling, or the state of being reconciled; reconcilement; restoration to harmony; renewal of friendship.”6

To the Catholic Church, this reconciliation means something very different from the idea of two friends reconciling after a disagreement or estrangement. Rather, it sees the “reconciliation” between Catholics and Protestants as the reabsorption of Protestants into the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, as an institution, has always seen Protestants as “the lost brethren,” so the only feasible reconciliation is to bring them back. The papacy and the Roman hierarchy will only be fully satisfied when they have fully assimilated the Protestant church into its system on its terms.

In Roger Oakland’s book, The Good Shepherd Calls, he discusses the “Roman Catholic Ecumenical Delegation for Christian Unity and Reconciliation.”7 Oakland explains the efforts being made by both the Catholic Church and leaders in the Protestant church to eradicate the barriers that keep the Catholics and the Protestants from becoming one church. There is every reason to believe that Taizé desires this very same thing. And with 100,000 people coming to Taizé every year, they very well may see this union take place sooner than later.

An online promotional piece for Jason Brian Santos’ book A Community Called Taizé by his publisher, InterVarsity Press, asks the question, “Why have millions of young people visited an ecumenical monastic community in France?”8 Like the emerging-church movement with its sensory-driven mystical contemplative practices, momentum is picking up rapidly in ecumenical movements worldwide. But why has the Taizé Community in particular grown so much in recent years? One apparent answer is that several popes and many Protestant groups have heartily promoted and endorsed it. While it is being touted as a place of reconciliation through love, certainly there is more going on than meets the eye.

Endnotes:
1. Jason Brian Santos, A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation (IVP Books, 2008, Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 1366.
2. Ibid.
3. Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), pp. 109-110.
4. Ibid.
5. Jason Brian Santos, op. cit.,
6. http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/Reconciliation.
7. Roger Oakland, The Good Shepherd Calls: An Urgent Message to the Last-Days Church (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, Inc, 2017), p. 131.
8. “Why have millions of young people visited an ecumenical monastic community in France?” (InterVarsity Press website: https://web-beta.archive.org/web/20100104080925/https://www.ivpress.com/title/ata/3525-look.pdf).

Letter to the Editor: AWANA Now Teaching Children to Hear the Voice of God

LTRP Note: Today, the church is “reaping the fruit” of nearly 40 years of Spiritual Formation influence (since Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline was released in 1978). Lighthouse Trails has warned its readers on a number of occasions about the direction AWANA children’s club is going with regard to contemplative spirituality (i.e., Spiritual Formation) (see links below). In the letter to the editor (below our note), you can see that AWANA is now teaching children to “listen to God” (the goal in contemplative prayer).

We thought AWANA clubs purpose was to teach children the Word of God through memorization. Since when did they take it upon themselves to teach children to listen to God’s voice in two-way conversations during prayer? Is this not a gateway into Christian mysticism?

Regardless of what one believes about hearing God’s voice outside of Scripture, how is it AWANA’s place to teach children to engage in possibly dangerous “conversations”? Will they also be teaching children about discerning of spirits (that is, testing the spirits – 1 John 4:1-6) and that there are demonic spirits that are “speaking” to people? We hope so. AWANA is supposed to be teaching children the Word of God, helping children to store up God’s Word in their hearts. They now want to teach them how to take part in subjective mystical experiences. Remember, this is coming from an organization that has been promoting Spiritual Formation for several years. How can we trust them to teach children this? Will it not surely be slanted by proponents of contemplative spirituality?

Those who disagree with our posting this about AWANA are certainly entitled to that. But we have been researching AWANA for several years, and we believe this “listening to God” theme is just another stepping stone into dangerous mystical spirituality. Are we saying we do not believe in the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life? No. But we do not believe that there is some kind of taught art (i.e., technique, method, system) in listening to God’s voice as so many in the church are promoting today, just as we do not believe that Christians are supposed to go into a silent state of mind so they can really hear God. If these “practices” were so important to God and so essential to us, why aren’t they taught in the Bible? When the disciples wrote the New Testament, there is nothing to indicate that they sat in stillness entering some sort of sacred space and then began a kind of channeled writing. No. Rather, God inspired them through His Holy Spirit and led them to write the things they did.

Obviously, the parent who contacted us and wrote the letter to the editor is very concerned. And we are too. If you have children or grandchildren who participate in AWANA, we strongly urge you to examine all AWANA literature and teaching tools carefully as well as discuss your concerns with your children’s AWANA leaders, and make sure they understand the dangers of contemplative spirituality.

The big emphasis in today’s church is, “Hear God’s Voice!” It’s all about feel-good and mystical experiences. It is a great tragedy that the focus isn’t on “Know God’s Word” and allow the Lord through His Holy Spirit to work in our lives.

Jesus said, “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17).
Dear Lighthouse Trails:

Thanks for warning us about AWANA.  I have been keeping an eye on their materials thanks to you.  AWANA’s new T&T book Mission: Evidence of Grace is coming out in July 2017.  Here are some quotes from “Section 4.2: Prayer” in the Student Handbook.

“Ask your friend to have a conversation, but keep talking and don’t let the other person speak … Ask how it felt when you wouldn’t stop talking.”

“Ask a parent or guardian: “Have you ever been friends with someone who did all the talking when you were together?  How did you feel when this happend [sic]?”

“God wants us to have a relationship with Him.  One way this relationship grows is when we talk to God and listen to God.  This is called prayer.”  (Emphasis added.)

“To have a relationship with another person, you have to communicate—to talk with each other.  The same is true of your relationship with God.”

“It is important to remember that a conversation involves two people talking.  We need to make sure that we are taking time to listen to God speak to us too.” (Emphasis added.)

“When you pray do you listen, as well as talk to God?”

You can download the sample at

http://awanatt.org/assets/files/EOG_Handbook-Sample_ESV.pdf

–Tammy

Related Information:

If you want to understand contemplative prayer and Spiritual Formation, read the following booklets: 5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer  and  Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why It Shouldn’t)

2007 – Special Alert: Awana Embraces Contemplative

2012 – Revisting Awana’s Move Toward Contemplative – And Another Look at “Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation

2016 – A History of AWANA’s Contemplative Track Record and the Implications of Their New CEO

 


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