Lighthouse Trails has watched in dismay over the past few years as Charles Stanley’s In Touch magazine has made the decision to promote contemplative/emergent names. When our editors picked up a copy of the August 2013 issue and saw a feature article written by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, we decided to call In Touch Ministries to find out who was responsible for the content in the magazine. Sadly, the response we received from the editorial department at In Touch left us with a sinking feeling that the evangelical church has been seduced and there was no turning back.
We’ll talk about the phone call in a minute but first a look at Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove.
In June of 2011, Lighthouse Trails free lance writer Mike Stanwood wrote “Contemplative Spirituality Lands on Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine . . . Again.” In this article, it was revealed that in the January 2011 In Touch magazine issue, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove was featured in an article written by In Touch Managing Editor Cameron Lawrence. That article, titled “The Craft of Stability: Discovering the Ancient Art of Staying Put,” highlighted the “ intentional Christian community” at the Rutba House (Wilson-Hartgrove’s home) and their “daily prayer routine.” The In Touch article stated that Rutba House is an evangelical community rooted in the Protestant tradition and that Wilson-Hartgrove is an ordained Baptist minister, yet it also reported that Rutba’s community principles are borrowed from Benedictine monks and that all of their efforts are based on St. Benedict’s “rule of life.”
In Stanwood’s article, he points out that Wilson-Hartgrove is part of the “New Monasticism” movement within the emerging church. To help you understand just how serious this situation is with Charles Stanley and his ministry, read this following section of Stanwood’s article:
Wilson-Hartgrove is most recently known for co-authoring Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals with new monastic activist Shane Claiborne. Other books he has authored may also fall into the emerging/contemplative category. For example, one such book called New Monasticism: What It Has to Say to Today’s Church (1) has been endorsed by mystic proponents Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Tony Campolo, and Catholic priest and centering prayer advocate Richard Rohr. The mystics resonate with the “new monasticism” – this is plain to see.
On the surface, the new monasticism may look OK with its many good works of helping the poor and the needy. But the underlying belief system does not line up with biblical doctrine; rather it is about establishing an all-inclusive kingdom of God on earth now where individual salvation is replaced with a community salvation for the whole world. Atonement has less emphasis on Jesus Christ as the only atonement for man’s sins and instead becomes an at-one-ment where all of creation is “being” saved by coming together as one (and yes, seeing the divinity of man). This is the kind of “atonement” that McLaren, Tickle, and Rohr would resonate with.
It is important to see that they don’t just resonate with the good works coming out of the new monasticism; born-again Christians have been performing good works by helping the poor and needy for centuries and continue to do so. While this new monasticism supposedly distinguishes itself by its good works, in reality it is mysticism and the foundational beliefs of mysticism (i.e., panentheism, kingdom now, etc) that distinguish it. And it is that element that Tickle, McLaren, and Rohr embrace.
Additional resources on Wilson-Hartgrove’s website include a DVD called Discovering Christian Classics: 5 Sessions in the Ancient Faith of Our Future, a five-week study with contemplative advocate Lauren F. Winner (Girl Meets God) for high school or adult “formation.” A description of this DVD states:
“You will discover the meaning of conversion and prayer from the Desert Fathers and Mothers; how to love from the sermons of St. John Chrysostom; St. Benedict’s Rule of Life and how it became one of the foundations of Western Christian spirituality; how to have an intimate relationship with God according to The Cloud of Unknowing; and what it means to ‘pick up your cross” in the Imitation of Christ by Thomas A. Kempis.’”
Another book Wilson-Hartgrove has authored, called The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture, refers readers to the wisdom of Lao-tzu, the desert monastics, Thomas Merton, Benedictine spirituality, panentheist and interspiritualist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, and Benedictine nun Joan Chittister.
In a Beliefnet interview one year ago, Wilson-Hartgrove shared how “we need the wisdom of those who’ve gone before us.” This wisdom he is referring to comes not from the Bible, but from the contemplative “Benedictines (who) taught us to start the day with common prayer.”1
After seeing what is at the core of Wilson-Hartgrove’s spiritual wisdom, it is not surprising to learn that he recently made an appearance at the [very emergent] Wild Goose Festival .2 According to an article in the Christian Post, the Wild Goose Festival was a “four-day revival camp in North Carolina featuring music, yoga, liberal talk and embracing of gays and lesbians.”
The fact is, anyone who is drawn to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, as Wilson-Hartgrove is, has got to be following a different spirit and another gospel or at the very least greatly deceived. Chardin, who is attributed to the term “cosmic Christ,” did not hide the fact in his writings that he believed, not in the Christ of the Bible, but a christ consciousness in every human being.
While we do not challenge Wilson-Hartgrove’s sincerity or concern for the poor and needy, we must challenge his consistent promotion of contemplative mystics and emergent leaders, and he certainly does not seem like a proper fit with In Touch Ministries, that is unless In Touch is going emerging. The reason we say this about Wilson-Hartgrove’s sincerity has to do with the phone call we had with two editors of the editorial staff of In Touch magazine on July 24, 2013. One of the editors we spoke with was Cameron Lawrence, the Editor in Chief (and also the one who wrote the 2011 In Touch article featuring Wilson-Hartgrove). Lawrence asked us if we had ever spoken with Wilson-Hartgrove personally, suggesting that he was a sincere man who lived out the Gospel by helping the needy. We answered him by stating that the issue at hand was not a private matter but rather a public issue because Wilson-Hartgrove is a public figure (books, conferences, articles, etc). We said that it did not matter what he might say in a private conversation, but it did matter what he was teaching others. And it mattered greatly that In Touch was promoting him.
When we spoke with Cameron Lawrence, we told him we wanted to know who was responsible for putting the article by Wilson-Hartgrove in the magazine to which he told us “the entire editorial staff” made the decision. We asked him if he would be interested in seeing some of our documentation to which he answered, “I have been on the Lighthouse Trails website, and I didn’t find it helpful.” The other editor we spoke with, who wished to remain anonymous, said it sounded like we were on a “witch hunt” to which we responded, “No, we are part of a Gospel-protection effort.”
At times like this, it is difficult not to become discouraged by the lack of interest in Christian intelligentsia and leadership regarding the contemplative/emerging issue. What more can we say to show them what seems so obvious to ourselves and many other Bible believing contenders of the faith? A number of years ago, when the Be Still DVD (a contemplative infomercial) came out and we saw Charles Stanley’s name in the credits as someone who supported the DVD, we contacted his ministry and spoke with a personal assistant. He accepted our offer for a free copy of A Time of Departing but said that Charles Stanley would be too busy to read it.
If the mystics whom Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove gravitates to are right, then Jesus’ words that He is the only Way to the Father are wrong. You can’t have it both ways. The opposite view – the contemplative – is that God is in all things, including all people. This is what all mystics believe, across the board. And if that were true, then the need for a Savior would vanish, and there wouldn’t be any need for “one way” to God because man is already indwelled with God and a part of God.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6
1. New Monasticism & The Emergent Church: FS Talks with Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove: http://blog.beliefnet.com/flunkingsainthood/2010/06/new-monasticism-the-emergent-church-fs-talks-with-jonathan-wilson-hartgrove.html.
2. Learn more about the Wild Goose Festival here: Left-Leaning ‘Wild Goose’ Festival Draws Ire of Evangelicals