Archive for the ‘Contemplative Practices’ Category

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

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

 

 

 

Is Your Child or Grandchild Heading to Christian College This Fall? – 9 Things You Should Do Before He Goes

Concept Of College EducationFall is quickly approaching, and by now, if you have a child or grandchild who is going to attend Christian college this year, he or she is most likely enrolled and ready to go. As Lighthouse Trails has reported over the last several years, the majority of evangelical/Protestant colleges, seminaries, and universities are now, to varying degrees, integrating contemplative spirituality and emerging ideologies into the lives of their students. With this in mind, you might consider doing the following nine things so that you and your child can know what to expect in that school and how to deal with it:

1. First, see if that school is on our contemplative colleges list. Sadly, this list is continually growing.

2. Ask the school for a current textbook list (you may e-mail it to Lighthouse Trails so we can analyze the list for you). Usually textbook lists will also give the authors’ names as well as titles of books.

3. Search your particular college’s website to see if it has spiritual formation programs. You can type words into college website search engines (such as this one at Moody Bible Institute) such as: Nouwen, “spiritual formation,” “lectio divina,” Shane Claiborne, “Christian formation,” etc.

4. Find out who will be speaking at student chapels.

5. Ask for a syllabus for each class your student is enrolled in.

6. After getting the textbook list, the chapel speaker list, the search engine results, and the class syllabi, refer to our Directory of Authors to see if any names from the school are in that directory.

7. Make sure your child is educated on what  contemplative prayer, spiritual formation, and emerging church really mean. They should read at least one of the following LT books: A Time of Departing, Faith Undone, Castles in the Sand. You as a parent or grandparent should read An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited as well. If you do not have one of those books on hand or if you or your child or grandchild cannot afford to buy one of them, please let us know, and we will send a copy to your child complimentary.

8. Contact the school chaplain and ask some good questions. It is often the school chaplain or campus pastor who decides who is going to be invited to speak at chapels and also is often in charge of Spiritual Formation activities outside of class.

9. Find out which church your child will be attending while in school. Many, many times, the majority of students of a particular college go to the same church, and many, many times, that church is pro-contemplative, pro-emerging.

If your child or grandchild is not yet enrolled in a college, then this list will put you  in a better position to help him or her make a decision on where to attend. If your child or grandchild is already enrolled for this fall, then this list will help you help your child be better equipped and prepared for the road ahead.

Here is our growing list of Christian schools that ARE promoting contemplative and/or emerging: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/Colleges.htm. And here is a small list we have put together of schools that are thus far NOT going in that direction: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/collegesgood.htm.

Some of our past articles on Christian colleges:

Baylor University Professors Using Meditation and Mantras to “Help” Students

Letter to the Editor: Liberty University Offering Yoga Classes . . . AGAIN!

“Christian Palestinianism” & Emergents Lynn Hybels and Jim Wallis Come to Multnomah University For “Justice” Conference

Faith Baptist Bible College & Seminary “Crossed Off” “Good” College List – Hopefully Temporarily

Letter to the Editor: Saddened by Christian & Missionary Alliance and Ambrose University Continuing Plunge into Contemplative

The “New” Emerging Theology Breeds Atheism in a Generation of Young People

In Need of a Pastor for Your Church? Try Looking at NON-Contemplative Colleges

Teresa of Avila Comes to Christian College

More articles in our Contemplative Colleges category.

A Further Unveiling of Assemblies of God Resolution 3 & the Serious Implications

Also see Part 1: “Commentary: Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel ” and Part 2: “Dr. George Wood Responds to Lighthouse Trails Article on AoG Resolution 3 and Israel”

By Cedric Fisher
Truth Keepers

When I wrote my commentary on July 28th about the Assemblies of God Resolution 3, which will be voted on during the 57th Assemblies General Council (August 7-11th) in Anaheim, California, I was quite unprepared for the firestorm that ensued.(1) I was especially surprised by George Wood’s response.(2)

Remember that when Ruth Haley Barton (who is a powerful advocate for the New Age practice of contemplative prayer) was invited to speak at the AoG General Council in 2013, Dr. Wood defended the decision.(3) Furthermore, he has never expressed any public reluctance or regret in inviting Rick Warren (who promotes unity with the Catholic Church and contemplative practices) to speak at previous General Councils or this upcoming one. Rick Warren is also a signer of “A Common Word” Christian Response, a document where Christian leaders ask for forgiveness from “the All-Merciful One” (a Muslim term for Allah) and essentially say that the Christian God and Allah are the same God.(4) While Dr. Wood has been blasé and silent about Rick Warren, Mark Batterson (creator of the Circle Maker heresy),(5) and Priscilla Shirer(6) (popular contemplative speaker and author) speaking at the 57th General Council, he lost his composure regarding my commentary about Resolution 3. What was he so frantic about? Why did he expose himself as imperious and acerbic? Dr. Wood’s reaction indicates there might be more to the story. After further research, I believe there is indeed behind-the-scenes information that needs to be brought forth.

 Replacement Theology Activists and Their View of Israel

During this past week, after my commentary was released by Lighthouse Trails, I have spent hours digging through the Internet, reading documents, and talking to people, some of whom have had first-hand experience within AoG regarding the matters at hand. As a result, I have come to the conclusion that the Assemblies of God denomination is dangerously compromised with so-called “justice and peacemakers” that adhere to Replacement Theology (Supersessionism).(7) These “peacemakers” are in virtually every position of influence in the AoG including leadership at the national level, universities, colleges, seminaries, and missions. Their basic belief can be summed up as follows: The Israeli claim to Palestine as a Jewish State by divine right is incorrect, and their continued enforcement of this claim is unjust.

Resolution 3 (R3) is being supported by Replacement Theology activists (as has been documented in my previous commentary, in the pursuing response article by Lighthouse Trails, and will be further documented in this article). In essence, the resolution is anti-Zionist, which in itself stems from the age-old spirit of hatred for the Jews). Whether these activists realize this or not, this is disguised anti-Semitism.

Dr. David Reagan of Lamb and Lion Ministries explains:

Anti-Zionism is just anti-Semitism in new, sophisticated clothes. Whereas anti-Semitism sought to drive out the Jews from the lands where they lived, anti-Zionism refuses to accept their right to live in their own land.(8)

Of course, most Replacement Theology activists will not admit their true views about Israel publicly. Instead, they declare that they love and support Israel and even go there often. However, just as in secular politics, one has to read between the lines and decipher the doublespeak. In reality, they do not love and support the Israel that presently exists. They are, in deeds (and with words in certain venues), adamantly opposed to present-day Israel.

If they loved and supported Israel, they would not be involved in a mission to force her into conformity with something she is not (and something that would eventually destroy her). Furthermore, they would not deny her genetic heritage and legacy and attempt to erase her from eschatology. Last, they would not be teaching anti-Semitism, as some of them are, to unsuspecting generations of younger professing Christians.

What they truly love and support is a futuristic and completely transformed “Israel”—an “Israel” that does not yet exist. It is a model they have concocted to agree with their “peace” plan. They arrogantly believe that Israel does not know what’s best for her and that they must steer the nation into its peaceful destiny.

Their commitment is as saying, “I love and support you, but not as you are. You must change.” That is commitment with conditions, which is not love and support at all. It is coercion and extortion. Those conditions include kowtowing to Muslim and especially Palestinian demands. Capitulating to those requirements would indeed change Israel to meet the approval of her “fair-weather friends” in denomination leadership, and tenured at colleges and universities. But there is nothing to gain from such a commitment and much to lose.

While this is not God’s plan according to His Word, these “pacifists” alter, remove, replace, reinterpret, and otherwise manipulate God’s Word to conform with their definition of “justice and peacemaking,” one of their popular buzz phrases.

“But,” they insist, “we must have world peace.” And as Rick Warren has often said, we must do “whatever it takes” to accomplish that peace.(9)

But at what price? Alliance with haters of Israel? The sacrifice of truth? The price of twisting God’s Word to disenfranchise His chosen people? Will the price be a massive assault of many armies on the nation of Israel? If the latter occurs, supporters of false peace will soon realize Who they were offending.

What Are These “Justice and Peacemakers” Really About?

What exactly are these “justice and peacemakers really about? And what are some of their tactics? Let’s take a look at a couple of the individuals involved in this so-called “justice and peacemaking” movement who have influenced the Assemblies of God.

Consider Paul Alexander, author of Peace to War: Shifting Allegiances in the Assemblies of God. Alexander was a Pneuma Book Award finalist chosen by The Society for Pentecostal Studies, a bastion of Replacement Theology. He edits the Pentecostals, Peacemaking, and Social Justice book series. His bio says he is a Pentecostal “peacemaker and justice seeker” originally from Kansas. He was a Missions major at Southwestern Assemblies of God University, has a M.Div. from the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, and a doctorate from Baylor University. He is currently professor of Christian ethics and public policy at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University and the director of public policy for Evangelicals for Social Action.(10)

Alexander founded Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice (PCPJ) with the mission “to encourage, enable, and sustain peacemaking and justice–seeking as authentic and integral parts of Pentecostal–Charismatic Christianity.”(11) If you wish to see a glimpse of the next generation of Pentecostals and charismatics that are now rising to leadership, check out PCPJ’s Facebook page.(12)

Alexander also edited the book, Christ at the Checkpoint: Theology in the Service of Justice and Peace, commissioned and written by Palestinian Christians. In the Series Preface, Alexander writes, “We understand that peace and justice are not separate concerns but different ways of talking about and seeking Shalom—God’s salvation, justice and peace.”(13) Alexander and his associates, the Palestinian Christians, believe that Israel does not have biblical heritage or a right to their land. Christ at the Checkpoint conferences, sponsored by Bethlehem Bible College featuring speakers such as emergent progressive leaders Lynne Hybels(14) and Tony Campolo,(15) have a distinct anti-Israel political agenda.

According to various sources, Bethlehem Bible College is steeped in Replacement Theology that encourages sympathy for the Palestinians. For example, a 2014 NGO Monitor article titled “U.S., U.K., Netherlands Fund Anti-Israel ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ Conference,” said of the 2014 conference that Christ at the Checkpoint “seeks to advance the Palestinian nationalist agenda within Evangelical Christian churches, while simultaneously reviving theological anti-Semitic themes such as replacement theology.”(16)

And an article in the Jerusalem Post stated of Bethlehem Bible College:

The school has a deeply entrenched anti-Israel position, demonstrated through statements and publications of leaders associated with the school.(17)

Map of Middle East. Green indicates Muslim countries; Red is Israel

However, Alexander calls his book a “book of love.” He declares, “The Palestinian Christians who organized the conference at which these essays were presented are motivated by their love for God, love for Israelis, and love for their fellow Palestinians.”(18)

Alexander is no longer affiliated with the Assemblies of God. He was dismissed as a licensed AoG minister in 2014 for his changed views on homosexuality and acceptance of gay marriage.(19)But his dismissal had nothing to do with his anti-Israel efforts, which had begun long before 2014. So while the AoG was right in dismissing him for his pro-homosexual views, they apparently saw nothing wrong with his activism against Israel a number of years before that.

“This Land is . . . Your Land?”—The Dilemma of Ross Byars, R3’s Foremost Author

This brings me to J. Ross Byars, the apparent foremost author of Resolution 3. Byars is co-founder of the Jerusalem School of Bethlehem, of which students are predominantly Muslim. While the school focuses on giving Muslim youth a good education, “justice and peacemaking” is a major theme. Byars is known as an advocate of Replacement Theology. His rewrite of Woody Guthrie’s song “This Land is Your Land” leaves no doubt as to his position on Israel. Below are a few stanzas of this rewritten song:

It’s not just our land,
it’s also your land,
from the Rafah crossing
to the Northern Highland.
From the sandy seashore
to the tumbling Jordan,
this land is made for you and me. . . .
from the bubbling springs of Dan,
to Beersheba’s desert sand.
From the walls of the city,
to the snows of Hermon,
this land is made for you and me.(20)

You can watch a video of students at Jerusalem School of Bethlehem singing Byars rendition of the American song here: http://www.cppi.co/proactivities.html. Peter Yarrow (of the 60s singing group Peter, Paul, and Mary) is leading the group (also we have posted all the lyrics below this article).

In one verse, Byars postulates the concept that the Israelis and Palestinians are Arabs and their God is one:

So why these wars and fuss?
We’re you and you are us
We’re all one family,
this land’s one country.
We’re all Abram’s sons
Our God we serve is one,
Who made this land for you and me. (21)

Just hours before Lighthouse Trails released their response to George Wood’s comments about my first commentary,(22) Ross Byars called the office of Lighthouse Trails and spoke to one of its editors. He said that he is not anti-Israel but admitted he is for a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, saying that even Israel is for it. The LT editor responded by saying that Israel is not for it but is being coerced and forced into it.

The two-state solution. I explained the difference in versions of two-state agreements in the Lighthouse Trails response to George Wood:

Some evangelical leaders insist there is nothing wrong with the Two-State Solution. They claim that Israel advocates a Two-State Solution. If that were true, then it would have already occurred and we would not be having this controversy. There is a vast difference between the versions of Two-State Solutions. Israel’s version could be summed up as, “You leave us alone, and we’ll leave you alone.” Conversely, the Two-State Solution advocated by certain evangelicals is to moderate a resolution between Israel and Palestine that involves Israel giving up the West Bank, its biblical heritage as God’s Chosen People, and other untenable concessions. There is an effort to dismiss Israel from eschatology and brand it as just another sinful nation.(23)

Those who are advocating a two-state solution are overlooking something: they are assuming that once Israel falls into step with what the world is demanding of them, then the Muslims, Palestinians, and everyone else will now love Israel and be kind to her. But why would people think that is going to happen?! Israel and the Jews have been hated throughout history, long before there was the modern-day nation of Israel. Hitler didn’t need that as an excuse. There was no nation of Israel, but still he hated them, he killed them, and leaders and people around the world turned a blind eye while six million Jews were annihilated. Today, there are only fourteen million Jews on the Earth. Those who know (and believe) their Bibles know that God’s adversary, the devil, has a vehement hate for the Jews (and the nation of Israel) and will stop at nothing to destroy them. Those who think that Muslim terrorists and enemies are going to love Israel if they agree to a two-state solution are living in a deadly bubble of delusion.

“Justice and peacemaker” Murray Dempster (one of the supporters/authors of R3) is a professor at Southeastern and an adherent of Replacement Theology as was shown in both my earlier commentary and the Lighthouse Trails response to George Woods. An online article titled “Liberal Theology at Assemblies of God University?” reports on enthusiastic student support for anti-Semitism at Southeastern:

[One] week they invited Sami Awad, a pro-Palestine advocate to guest lecture. The lecture had very anti-Semitic comments and at one point it was mentioned that Israel did not have a right to exist. The discussion became very disturbing.(24)

Awad is a so-called “justice and peacemaker” and executive Director of Holy Land Trust. His father, Bishara Awad, is the founder of the Bethlehem Bible College that sponsors Christ at the Checkpoint conferences. At the 2012 Christ at the Checkpoint conference, Sami Awad, MC for the event, supported Dr. Manfred Kohl who condemned another speaker, Wayne Hilsden, for his “literal reading of scripture” (where Hilsden stated that the “physical return of the Jews to their ancient homeland is biblically mandated”). Kohl said of Hilsden, “the theology of fools who delight in their own idiocy.” Awad suggested that it “was time for Christians who use the Bible to support Israel’s restoration to stand before the security wall in Bethlehem and, similar to John F. Kennedy before the Berlin Wall, declare, ‘I am an idiot.’”(25)

These remarks are far from peaceful. They are arrogant, provocative, and reveal the true nature of these “justice and peacemakers.” For a comprehensive, well-documented, and compelling documentary on “Christian Palestinianism” and its implications on Israel, watch Caryl Productions film Exposing Christian Palestinianism.(26)

Are “Justice and Peacemakers” Being Honest About Their True Purpose?

Throughout Replacement Theology activists’ literature and speeches, one becomes aware of a constant supposed theme of love, justice, peacemaking, etc. Their definition of love is not credible though because they are not being honest. Their explanation of “justice and peacemaking” is based on Replacement Theology. Their two-state solution is based on the claim that Israel does not have a right to her land, that she stole it from the Palestinians who are lovingly practicing justice and peacemaking by allowing Israel to keep a small tract of it.

It is a great shame that professing Christians resort to the same tactics as secular politicians and hide their true intent to reach their goals. God’s Word declares, let your yea be yea and your nay be nay (Matthew 5:37).  It is clearly a godly directive for Christians to be forthright and honest with our words. Instead, Replacement Theology activists use subterfuge and doublespeak to inch their way into leadership and positions of influence. Once in power, they oppress and take advantage of the very ones who trusted them with their offices.

When Assemblies of God pastors and leaders vote this coming week on Resolution 3, I pray they will understand that if they vote for R3, they will be helping to pave the way to legitimize and unleash a hoard of RT activists on Israel. I beseech these leaders not to be deceived by tactics that are not forthright or according to God’s Word. In addition, to vote for R3 is a vote against Israel, and this can only bring judgment upon Assemblies of God and even the church at large because many other evangelical groups will eventually follow suit in the AoG decision.

Jesus Christ warned that end-times deception would be so clever that the very elect could be deceived if that were possible. The apostle Paul wrote that those who do not have a “love of the truth . . . God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11). As committed believers in Jesus Christ, we need to be on guard against deception, which works because it is comfortable, is convincing, and appeals to the carnal mind of nominal Christians. Do not be deceived, beloved!

Endnotes:

1.Commentary: Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel
2. Dr. George Wood Responds to Lighthouse Trails Article on AoG Resolution 3 and Israel
3. Assemblies of God General Superintendent Letter Responds to Lighthouse Trails Article – Defends Contemplative Spirituality
4. http://faith.yale.edu/common-word/common-word-christian-response
5. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=13869
6. See Beth Moore & Priscilla Shirer – Their History of Contemplative Prayer and Why War Room Should Not Have Used Them
7.  ISRAEL: REPLACING WHAT GOD HAS NOT
8. Dr. David R. Reagan, “The Evil of Replacement Theology: The Historical Abuse of the Jews by the Church,” Lion and Lamb Ministries, http://christinprophecy.org/articles/the-evil-of-replacement-theology/.
9.Time Magazine on Rick Warren’s New Global Reformation and PEACE Coalition
10. https://sojo.net/biography/paul-alexander
11. https://pcpjtest.wordpress.com/about/
12. https://www.facebook.com/pcpeacejustice/
13. Paul Alexander, Christ at the Checkpoint: Theology in the Service of Justice and Peace (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2012), Series Preface.
14. Jim Fletcher, “Lynne Hybel’s God” (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17590)
15. See “2010 Film ‘With God on Our Side’ – Championed by Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Brian McLaren & Steve Haas (World Vision) – Has Changed the Minds of Evangelicals”
16. Sean Savage, “NGO Monitor: U.S., U.K., Netherlands Fund Anti-Israel ‘Christ at the Checkpoint’ Conference” (http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/03/12/ngo-monitor-u-s-u-k-netherlands-fund-anti-israel-%E2%80%98christ-at-the-checkpoint%E2%80%99-conference/)
17. Tricia Miller, “Bethlehem Bible College—Purveyor of Anti-Israel Propaganda” (Jerusalem Post, October 26, 2014, http://www.jpost.com/Christian-News/Bethlehem-Bible-College-purveyor-of-anti-Israel-propaganda-379858)
18. Paul Alexander, Christ at the Checkpoint, op. cit., Preface.
19. https://www.onenewsnow.com/church/2014/02/17/ag-disciplines-pastor-who-departs-from-biblical-truth and http://www.evangelicalsforsocialaction.org/sexual-justice/esa-statement-on-the-dismissal-of-paul-alexander-by-the-assemblies-of-god.
20. http://www.cppi.co/proactivities.html
21. Ibid.
22. Dr. George Wood Responds to Lighthouse Trails Article on AoG Resolution 3 and Israel
23. Ibid.
24. Chelsen Vicari, “Liberal Theology at Assemblies of God University?” (Juicy Ecumenism: The Institute on Religion & Democracy blog, December 18, 2014, https://juicyecumenism.com/2014/12/18/squishy-theology-assembly-gods-southeastern-university).
25. Jan Markell, “‘Checked’ at the Checkpoint” (March 15, 2012, http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs019/1101818841456/archive/1109521345222.html).
26. This incredible film is available through Lighthouse Trails. Every church and church group should watch this film! (http://www.lighthousetrails.com/home/454-exposing-christian-palestinianism-dvd.html)

Appendix:

Transcript of Ross Byars rewrite of Woody Guthrie’s song, “This Land is Your Land.”

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway.
I saw below me that golden valley,
this land is made for your and me.
I roamed and rambled
and I followed my footsteps,
to the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts.
And all around me a voice was sounding,
this land is made for you and me.

Chorus

It’s not just our land,
it’s also your land,
from the Rafah crossing
to the Northern Highland.
From the sandy seashore to the tumbling Jordan,
this land is made for you and me.
As I was walking I saw a wall there.
A great big sign said, “Our people only.”
But on the other side it didn’t say “Nothing.”
Now that side is made for you and me.
In the towns and cities, at church and temple.
By shrine and mosque I saw the people
As they stood hating, and I stood crying,
“This land is made for you and me.”

Chorus

It’s not just our land, it’s also your land,
from the bubbling springs of Dan
To Beersheba’s desert sand.
From the walls of the city
To the snows of Hermon,
this land is made for you and me
Nobody living can ever stop us,
as we go walking our true peace highway
No wall or weapon can make us turn back,
‘cause this land is made for you and me.
So why these wars and fuss?
We’re you and you are us
We’re all one family, this land’s one country.
We’re all Abram’s sons
Our God we serve is one,
Who made this land for you and me

Chorus

It’s not just our land,
it’s also your land,
from the Rafah crossing
to the Northern Highland.
From the sandy seashore
to the tumbling Jordan.
This land is made for you and me.

Dallas Theological Seminary Not Contemplative? – New Evidence Shows Otherwise

Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) has always maintained that while they teach Spiritual Formation, they only teach the “good” kind and that they are not a school that promotes contemplative spirituality. Lighthouse Trails has always challenged these suppositions. In fact, it wasn’t that long ago when Lighthouse Trails editors had some correspondence with two different DTS faculty members (one a dean) who insisted that DTS was not promoting contemplative spirituality and that Lighthouse Trails should not include their name in our Contemplative College list or in our booklet An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited” that names several evangelical seminaries (including DTS) that promote contemplative spirituality.

One example of how DTS is promoting contemplative spirituality is through their textbook Foundations of Spiritual Formation written by Paul Pettit.  While instructors at DTS who use this book may or may not ever mention Richard Foster or Dallas Willard, the textbook by Pettit does. Within the pages of Pettit’s book is Richard Foster, Philip Yancey, N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Thomas Aquinas, Ayn Rand, Parker Palmer, Eugene Peterson, J.P. Moreland, Klaus Issler, Bruce Dermerst, Jim Burns, Kenneth Boa and Brother Lawrence’s “practicing God’s presence,” plus the practice of Lectio Divina. These are some of the heavy weights in the contemplative prayer movement. Paul Pettit teaches in DTS’s Spiritual Formation department. One course that uses Pettit’s book at DTS is Mentored Spiritual Formation. If DTS isn’t promoting the contemplative prayer movement, why use a textbook that includes teachers and writers who do?

There is more to this Spiritual Formation saga at Dallas Theological Seminary. Take a look at this page for the DTS Doctor of Ministry (DMIN) Spiritual Formation Cohort.  Scroll to the bottom of the page and see the names of the two faculty members for this program. One of them is Gail Seidel (you can view her professional credentials here and here.) Last month (June 2017), she wrote a blog article titled “Soul Noticing 101,” in which she  shows an obvious affinity for contemplative spirituality. She speaks, as all the contemplatives do, of Christians who feel depleted, tired, and neglected (which is how they convince people they need to do contemplative prayer).

Seidel quotes enthusiastically from several contemplatives in the article. One quote is by Cindy Caliguire. Lighthouse Trails wrote about Caliguire in 2009 because of her advocacy for contemplative prayer. The following is an excerpt from that article:

With all these contemplative connections, it’s no surprise that Soul Care founder Mindy Caliguire’s teaching sessions are also based on contemplative spirituality and the spiritual disciplines. This is clearly evident if one listens on-line to her sessions. Caliguire is a good speaker, and she does quote and reference the Bible, but for those who understand and recognize contemplative spirituality, it becomes obvious in listening to her that Caliguire is in that camp.

In Practicing Silent Prayer [a 2009 workshop at Willow Creek], Caliguire teaches about mantras, silence, and finding a quiet place undistracted. She also mentions that this kind of prayer is “difficult to do. In Practicing Solitude Part 1, she teaches on how to prepare an undistracted quiet place or retreat, and explains what things to bring to connect with God. Oddly, she recommends bringing an alternative Bible translation that is less familiar to you, a journal, and The Way of the Heart by Henry Nouwen. The following is from Nouwen’s book: “The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart … This way of simple prayer … opens us to God’s active presence” (p. 81).

DTS Magazine – low-resolution shot used in accordance with the US Fair Use Act for critical review

This “repetition of a single word” is intended to put the practitioner in an altered state of consciousness. Gail Seidel goes on to quote Dallas Willard from his book Renovation of the Heart (remember, Willard and Richard Foster are the two main pioneers in bringing contemplative spirituality into the church and were inspired to do so by Catholic mystic Thomas Merton). After quoting Willard, Seidel quotes psychotherapist and meditation advocate Thomas Moore from his book Care of the Soul. The book is actually endorsed inside the cover by New Age author Larry Dossey, and in a section at the back of Moore’s book for further recommended reading, he includes Carl Jung! According to the New Age website Spirituality & Practice, Moore is “a leading lecturer in the fields of archetypal psychology, mythology, and imagination” and a columnist for Spirituality & Health magazine. How can a faculty member at DTS be promoting such a book unless she is resonating with the author? She never gives any indication that she disagrees with any of these quoted figures; on the contrary.

After quoting Willard, Caliguire, and Moore, Gail Seidel continues on her contemplative-author escapade by quoting “spiritual director” Alice Fryling from her book Seeking God Together: An Introduction to Group Spiritual Direction. This book is a who’s who of contemplative, New Age, panentheistic mystics: Thomas Merton, Gerald May, Shalem Institute found Tilden Edwards, not to mention Henri Nouwen, Richard, Foster, and David Benner (all of whom you can read about in Ray Yungen’s A Time of Departing).

It cannot be ignored that one of two Spiritual Formation faculty members at Dallas Theological Seminary is so taken with so many hard-core contemplative prayer advocates. Dating back to 2010, in Seidel’s DTS Soul Care Lead Lab, she is recommending books by David Benner, Richard Foster, Ruth Haley Barton, Mindy Caliguire, Leighton Ford, Fil Anderson, Thomas Moore, and Dallas Willard (all contemplative teachers).

This brings us to the 2017 summer issue of DTS Magazine (see cover to the right) that one of our readers brought to our attention recently. There are a number of innuendos and hints (including the cover) of contemplative spirituality in this issue. But we will focus on one particular article written by Brandon Geilla titled “Patterns of Prayer: Ancient and Modern Tools for Reading Scripture and Communing with God,” which states:

Ancient words like liturgy can seem scary for modern, nondenominational evangelicals. Liturgy and words like lectionary, or guides like the Book of Common Prayer, often bring up feelings of empty ritual. Are they hollowed out forms of true Christian faith from which we broke away during the Reformation? We often believe so and we make subconscious vows to never return to dead habits.

Yet, this year—the 500th since the Reformation—looking back to more traditional roots of our Christian practice can prove fruitful for our spiritual growth. In the last several years, in fact, many articles have explored why millennials are returning to mainline, traditional denominations because of their formal liturgy. (emphasis added)

What the millennials are “returning” to is a mystical form of prayer developed by the Desert Fathers and other monastics. Geilla’s article elaborates on the “lectionary,” stating, “Within a more structured worship environment, people hear the Scriptures as part of a more multisensory, whole-body experience” (emphasis added). The article insinuates that DTS founder Lewis Sperry Chafer would approve of this “multisensory” kind of Christianity and stretches Chafer’s apparent willingness to work with those of other denominations into a willingness to embrace these liturgical sensory experiences as well. By the way, we believe the practices being recommended in this article have the potential to be like gateway drugs to full-blown contemplative prayer (in a similar way as lectio divina is used in the contemplative prayer movement). In fact, this article is a gateway article. For example, it quotes (and recommends) a man named Drew Dickens and a group he is part of called Abide. Dickens heads the spiritual formation department at Abide. The Abide website promotes meditation calling it  “Christian meditation.” But by the descriptions (such as it relieves stress), they are talking about something much different than meditating (pondering or thinking about) on Scripture. Abide links to a particular website to make their point that mediation is beneficial (when the world says meditation, it is not talking about reading Scripture and pondering on it – it’s talking about mantra-like meditation). Just take a look at some of the books on that site (that Abide recommends to view), and you will see clearly what Abide means by “meditation.” For an example of one of Abide’s mediation exercises, click here (but please use caution). The monotone woman’s voice is an earmark of New Age meditation exercises. In addition, she instructs the listener to breath in slowly and breath out slowly. For those who are familiar with New Age meditation, you will recognize the similarity.

The article by Brandon Geilla in DTS Magazine would never appear in a magazine that understood the dangers of contemplative prayer. Interestingly, Geilla favorably references Bishop Ray Sutton in his article, who was mentioned in a Lighthouse Trails article where we stated:

Bishop Ray Sutton of The Gathering is Dean of the Province and Ecumenical Affairs of the Anglican Church in North America and is involved in a number of ecumenical (road to Rome) activities. Sutton also advocates for the Catholic transubstantiation of the communion elements (a re-crucifixion of Christ) (click here and here for some more information on Sutton).

We know our critics, including those at DTS who defend the school no matter what, will say we are using guilt by association in our article to implicate DTS, but what it is guilty of is guilt by promotion and guilt by proxy. There’s a big difference! We do not believe these are isolated incidents at DTS. And it has not just started. Like others who have gone down the contemplative/emergent path, DTS started off slowly years ago building momentum over the years. At the very least, DTS needs to come clean and admit what they are doing for the sake of unsuspecting students who will later become pastors and teachers of today’s Christian church and will have been greatly influenced in a manner that does not align with the biblical Gospel.

What’s really troubling about Dallas Theological Seminary is that they deny they are promoting contemplative spirituality. Yet, one of two faculty members for their Spiritual Formation Cohort is gleaning heavily from outright contemplative mystics. At least with some schools, they admit that is what they are doing – it’s out in the open. But not so with DTS. Their hands are in the cookie jar, but they are denying it. What would their older Christian donors do if they knew the school has willfully entered a spirituality that negates the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Related Articles:

Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why It Shouldn’t)”

5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer”


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