by Mike Stanwood
Free-lance writer and researcher for the Gospel of Jesus Christ
This September 15th, Willow Creek Association began to distribute the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Church-wide study, as recently announced on Peter Scazzero’s website. (EHS and Willow Creek Partner to Spread the Journey
A link from Scazzero’s website to Willow Creek’s website shows the featured program offered by Willow Creek called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality church kit. (Click here.)
The churches that order this package will receive not only the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality book, group workbook, and teaching DVD, but also message transcripts, teaching notes, promotional materials, campaign training DVDs and CDs, and an eight session small group DVD for Sunday school or small group use.
Discerning Christians should be concerned as Scazzero’s book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality not only introduces readers to countless proponents of contemplative spirituality and mindfulness meditation, it also instructs them to practice the Daily Office as taught by Trappist monk James Finley. 1
The steps taught in this book (be attentive and open, sit still, sit straight, breath slowly and deeply, close your eyes or lower them to the ground–pg. 160, 213 Emotionally Healthy Spirituality) are no different than those practiced in other forms of meditation such as with Zen or Buddhism. In fact, any yogi will acknowledge that the purpose in sitting straight during meditation is to be comfortable for a long period of time in order to devote one’s energies to the practice of meditation and achieve peace of mind. Sitting with eyes closed helps enable the mind to detach itself from the outer world and go inward, to the inner self. This is where a thoughtless meditative state is reached. Alarmingly, these are the very steps that churches will be learning to practice in their Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Church-wide study kit purchased from Willow Creek Association.
This brings us to another book that is included in this Willow Creek church kit. It’s called the Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Daily Office by Peter Scazzero. Readers trying to purchase it on Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy website will be taken directly to Willow Creek’s website. The description there tells what it’s about:
In this groundbreaking devotional book, Peter Scazzero introduces the ancient spiritual discipline of the Daily Office. The basic premise is simple: We need to stop intentionally to be with God more than once a day so that “the practice of the presence of God” becomes a real possibility. Each day offers two Daily Officesâ€”–Midday and Midday/Evening.2
In addition to teaching the Daily Office on his website 3 (and see this youtube: “How to Use the Daily Office by Peter Scazzero” 4), Peter Scazzero also offers an invitation to something called The Rule of Life, which is based on The Rule of St. Benedict and monastic traditions of set times of prayer. 5
This is further evidenced on Peter Scazzero’s resource page where he recommends a link to The Divine Hours,6 a manual by emerging church advocate, Phyllis Tickle, for the ancient practice of fixed-hour prayer.
Is this the kind of spirituality that is healthy for Christians? It may be interesting to note that “emotionally healthy spirituality” is not a term coined only by Peter Scazzero. Zen meditation and yoga courses also promise the benefits of emotional and spiritual health through certain daily practices, as yoga teacher Swami Atma tells us:
Emotionally healthy spirituality is a universal approach to spiritual and religious life … Spirituality is concerned with becoming one with God or the true Self … The goal is not to be happy here and to go to heaven but to become one with God in this life and hereafter.–Swami Atma, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality
This underlying theme of “being true to yourself” or “knowing yourself” is used by many popular self-help authors today, and Peter Scazzero is no exception. The truth is, when men begin to look to themselves they tend to take their eyes off of God and turn to man made religion. (“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” 2 Timothy 3:5) While some may seem to find temporary emotional health benefits with self-realization techniques, relaxation and meditation exercises, there is no eternal salvation found in spirituality that it not based on the power of God, but on the practices of man.
In conclusion, Willow Creek Association is not bringing opportunity for emotional health by recommending Peter Scazzeroâ€™s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality resources to churches but rather is promoting and spreading a very unhealthy spirituality, one that potentially will lead participants down a dangerous path that leads away from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The following contemplative proponents are quoted and/or favorably referenced in Scazzero’s Emotionally Healthy Spirituality:
St. Theresa Avila
Kieran Kavanaugh, editor of John of the Cross
Thomas Merton(Trappist monk and interspiritualist)
Daniel Goleman(scientist who studies and promotes Buddhist meditation)
M. Scott Peck
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers
Dan Allender (AAAC)
Larry Crab (Papa Prayer)
Tony Jones, Sacred Way