This past week we posted an article titled “Radio Bible Class Promoting Contemplative/Emerging Philip Yancey in Easter Booklet – Implications Not Good.” We received the following Letter to the Editor on January 29th by a Lighthouse Trails reader. We appreciate all those who write in, and we believe our response to this reader is important in further understanding that a very large number of Christian organizations, including Radio Bible Class, are becoming more and more contemplative-based. We believe it is a serious matter. And untold numbers of people reading the material from such organizations are often oblivious to the changes taking place. We beseech our readers to search out the facts to find the truth in the matter. We hope our statement below, which has documentation so you can see for yourself that what we are saying is true, will be of assistance.
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
Your article on contemplative/emerging and RBC seems to be out of date. The links to other articles do not work. I have been an avid user of ODB by RBC for many years, but since your last mention of RBC in 2008, I have [not] witnessed any use of or mentioning of contemplative spirituality or the ideas of it mentioned in ODB. While I am not a fan of Yancey, who still writes on occasion in ODB, I’ve seen no leanings in that direction. Perhaps Mart DeHaan listened and is holding everyone accountable. I do notice that Marty’s name appears less and less in writings on RBC.
Joe (name changed)
We believe we can show you that Radio Bible Class has incorporated the writings of Philip Yancey (click here to read our research on Yancey’s contemplative/emerging proclivities) in more than just an occasional instance. Regarding the 2013 Easter booklet that our article talks about, it was written by Philip Yancey (it didn’t just have a couple quotes by him).
While it is true that we have not written about Radio Bible Class since 2008, your assumption that they are no longer (or have greatly diminished) promoting contemplative authors is incorrect. We wish you were correct. There is nothing we like more than to see an organization that is heading in the contemplative way to stop, turn around, and move away from it. We don’t see that often, and when we do, we truly rejoice. In the case of RBC, we don’t see this happening. Since you said some of our links from 2008 are broken, we are providing new updated information to show that RBC continues their downward direction into contemplative spirituality.
FIRST: Current instances where RBC is using Yancey’s writings. (note: there were so many instances where Yancey’s writings have been used in the last three years, we couldn’t list them all. For those who wish to, you can do a search on the RBC site to find others.)
2010 – An interview between RBC and Yancey discussing Yancey’s book, Prayer: Does it make a difference? This primer on contemplative prayer is filled with Yancey’s references to some of the most heavy weight contemplative mystics and books including Thomas Merton (who believed God was in everybody), Henri Nouwen (who believed there was more than one path to God), New Age writer Gerald May, atonement denier Alan Jones’s book, Soul Making: the desert way of spirituality, mystic Meister Eckhart, emerging figure Walter Brueggemann, atonement denier Harry Emerson Fosdick’s book The Meaning of Prayer, Karl Barth, Soren Kierkegaard, and we could go on. To think that RBC would highlight Yancey’s Prayer book is almost too much to ponder.
2011 – RBC Associate Director of Church Ministries, Roy Clark, writes a spotlight for Yancey’s book, Prayer: Does it make a difference?. This is listed under RBC’s Resources for Your Ministry. Clark says he “found [his] prayer life invigorated by reading this and other of Yancey’s books.” That’s not very encouraging to hear when you think of the great influence that RBC has on so many. They are taking their readers right into the arms of contemplative mysticism.
2012 – Philip Yancey on Our Daily Bread
THE CONTEMPLATIVE PROPENSITIES OF RBC’S CHRISTIAN UNIVERSITY: For further evidence that RBC has been promoting contemplative spirituality we’d like to draw your attention to an RBC offshoot. While we all want to believe that organizations that we have looked to for many years for biblical instruction and integrity just couldn’t be going in the wrong direction, the truth is many of them today are. And RBC is one of those that has been going in this direction far longer than most realize. Case in point, in 1998, RBC founded the Christiancourses.com that provides Christian educational resources. That arm of RBC is still in active operation today.
Some of the early organizations that helped to form this RBC offshoot with RBC are Willow Creek, Youth Specialties, John Maxwell, and a number of other groups that Lighthouse Trails calls contemplative and/or emerging. Later RBC began an offshoot of Christiancourses.com called Christian University GlobalNet. Lighthouse Trails called CUGN while writing this article, and we were told that RBC heads up both Christiancourses.com and Christian University GlobalNet.
Of course, and probably needless to say, Philip Yancey is one of the instructors at CUGN. That is because he is an integral part of RBC. Another instructor is the contemplative advocate Larry Crabb. In Crabb’s book, The Papa Prayer, he tells readers how much he has benefited from practicing “centering prayer,” as is documented in the Lighthouse Trails article, “Trusted Evangelical Leaders Endorse The Papa Prayer by Larry Crabb!.”
On the RBC-run Christiancourses.com website, they offer a Spiritual Formation program. One of the CURRENT Spiritual Formation courses, “Discipleship in Community: Spiritual Formation and the Church,” is taught by John Lillis of Bethel Seminary in San Diego, California. Bethel is a major advocate of contemplative spirituality and is on the Lighthouse Trails “Contemplative Colleges” list. In Lillis’ syllabus on the RBC Christiancourses.com site, Lillis says that two of the course objectives are: 1) to: “understand the basic mystic teachings of Christian spirituality, which have developed through the history of the Church”; and 2)to “Recognize the influences of mystical spirituality in contemporary ideas relating to spiritual formation.” Textbooks used in the course include books by Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, and Thomas Merton, all contemplative mysticism proponents. Lillis tells students that they cannot pass the class unless they can prove they have “realistically sought to apply” “the principles of the course” to their lives. However, we contend that if students apply the “principles” of Thomas Merton to their lives, they may do what Merton did and that is “become impregnated with Sufism”1 (Islamic mysticism) and “become as good a Buddhist”2 as they can be. Not exactly what RBC founder M.R. DeHaan had in mind!
To give one last example (at this time) of how RBC is promoting contemplative/emerging spirituality through its university classes, consider another one of their Spiritual Formation courses, this one taught by Gordon T. Smith (“Foundations of Spiritual Formation II: The Disciplines of Life“). To make a long story short, Smith espouses the contemplative/emerging viewpoint. In one of his books, Transforming Conversion: Rethinking the Language and Contours of Christian Initiation (yes, the title is a dead give away), Smith includes various contemplative/emerging figures (e.g., Robert Webber, Thomas Merton, Eugene Peterson, N.T. Wright, Karl Barth). Smith’s basic message in the book is that evangelicals need to move away from the idea that salvation is a “punctiliar” experience (happening at a point in time; i.e., the born-again experience – a term Smith uses 20 times in the book) and must see it more as a journey (something we can attain to). This is essentially the message of the emerging church, that salvation is something humanity matures into through social justice, good works, unity, and community. It devalues the idea of individual repentance and conversion through being born-again into Jesus Christ. Please read Faith Undone if you do not understand this concept. Gordon T. Smith’s book, Courage and Calling: Embracing your God-given potential is more of the same emerging spirituality. In that book, Smith praises Buddhist sympathizer Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, saying Senge’s book, “identif[ies] the kinds of practices and perspectives that enable individuals to thrive within organizations” (Kindle Location 3205). The “fifth discipline” of which Senge speaks is meditation.
RBC has a lot more influence and reach than most people realize. Sadly, Our Daily Bread and other RBC publications are drawing countless people toward contemplative spirituality, and most do not even realize it.
1. Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), p. 69, ), as quoted from A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen, p. 60.
2. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969), as quoted from A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen, p. 77.