Recently we received the following letter from a Lighthouse Trails reader regarding Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. Presently, Cedarville U. is one of the schools Lighthouse Trails names on its Colleges That Promote Contemplative Spirituality (i.e., Spiritual Formation) list.
To Lighthouse Trails:
We think we have some good news concerning Cedarville. A new president was installed [this summer], Dr. Thomas White. He SEEMS to be a good one, as we listened to the welcome he sent out to students. He said he wants to see biblical worldviews taught in every classroom and in every degree program, academics at the highest level possible combined with a passion for the Great Commission, and ministering around the world by sharing the Gospel along with physical needs, but realizing that the Gospel is the greatest need. He asked for prayers for wisdom and promised to do all he can to make sure that every decision is honoring to the Lord. We also heard in another clip that he said EVERYTHING should be filtered through the Word of God. Some of these things were most likely stated by the last president, but he and others were obviously not living up to them.
John Purple has resigned. I believe you’ve dealt with him, as well as Carl Ruby, who resigned this past semester. I was told that the past president had spoken highly of [The Circle Maker]. We hope and pray that a new day has dawned at the school, at least for a while. We shall see.
Thanks again. We are so grateful for your ministry.
Concerned and Hopeful
Lighthouse Trails first wrote about Cedarville University in 2006 in an article titled, “Cedarville University – Heading Down the Contemplative Road?.” In that article, we pointed out that Cedarville’s president at that time, Dr. Bill Brown, had a resource page for students in which he was recommending books by Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Philip Yancey, and New Ager James Redfield (author of The Celestine Prophecy). Our next article (a year and a half later), “Cedarville University Bringing Emerging Church Activist to Campus,” reported that Cedarville was hosting an evening with emerging church leader Shane Claiborne. Lighthouse Trails spoke with Cedarville’s Dean for Student Life at that time, John Purple and told him about our concerns with the Claiborne invitation (e.g., Claiborne’s close affinity with McLaren, Jim Wallis, Mark Scandrette, and Rob Bell). Our 2008 article also stated:
Lighthouse Trails also spoke with CU’s Vice President Carl Ruby. He said he visited the Lighthouse Trails Research website and was very fond of many of the people we critique. Given the fact that all of the names we critique promote eastern-style mysticism and given the fact that Ruby has no reservations about having Claiborne speak, we should be very concerned about the welfare of CU students. However, a closer look at Cedarville reveals that the school is being influenced by New Age/contemplative/emerging spirituality.
A week after we sent out that article, we posted one titled “Cedarville University Cancels Shane Claiborne Event.” Because of pressure coming from parents, students, and others who contacted the school, Shane Claiborne would not be speaking to Cedarville students. But two years later (2010), they would bring in a mentor of Shane Claiborne, Jim Wallis (founder of SoJourners) as we reported in our article “Cedarville University to Host Emerging Leader Jim Wallis in “Biblical” Response to Poverty.” It was apparent that Cedarville’s attraction to emerging figures hadn’t gone away. Wallis’ magazine, SoJourners, is a media outlet for mystics, socialists, liberals, emerging leaders, and New Age proponents.
So where is Cedarville at today with regard to all this? Well, here is what we found:
1) While Dr. Bill Brown is no longer president, the school has left his Recommended Book list (with McLaren, Redfield, and Yancey) up on their website. Perhaps an oversight, but one we hope the new president can rectify; think of how many students have come across that page over the past several years. We wonder how many of those students then turned to McLaren and Redfield and learned that God is in everything (Redfield) and that the atonement is “false advertising” for God (McLaren) or that homosexuality really isn’t that bad (Yancey).
2) In a 2011 Torch magazine issue (Cedarville’s publication), the theme for that issue was titled “Tuning Out the Noise” (code words for contemplative spirituality) and is basically an entire infomercial for contemplative prayer. Lots of contemplative buzz words in the issue accompany an article written by Richard Swenson titled “Living Inside the Margin.” Torch mentions one of Swenson’s book’s The Overload Syndrome, which turns to Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, and a number of other contemplatives for advice. In another article in that issue written by Cedarville professor Milt Becknell, “Health in Mind, Body, and Spirit,” Becknell refers to Dr. Kenneth Pelletier, who is a New Spirituality/New Age meditation proponent. Another article, “God Alone,” written by two Cedarville University women, talk about how they attended a retreat at the Catholic Gethsemani Abbey in Kentucky ( the launching pad for bringing contemplative into mainstream Christianity a few decades ago – see Gethsemani Encounter). Touting Dallas Willard and Brennan Manning, the two women give some basic instructions on lectio divina and encourage “the silence” (you can read that article on pages 20-23 of the issue). According to Cedarville’s website, one of the women, Kim Ahlgrim, is still on staff at Cedarville as the Associate Dean of Academic Enrichment, and the other woman, Debby Stephens, is a board trustee of Cedarville. To cap off the contemplative-promoting issue of Torch, a list of “Digging Deeper” Books includes titles by Ruth Haley Barton, Keri Wyatt Kent, Dan Allender, Lynne Babb, and Priscilla Shirer – all proponents of contemplative spirituality.
3) A Spiritual Formation course (BEGE-1720) is taught at Cedarville by a number of different professors. One of the professors is using Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline, another is using John Ortberg’s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, and one is using Donald Whitney’s book on the spiritual disciplines. Although Whitney says he rejects mysticism, he gives honor to Richard Foster when he said that Foster’s work has “done much good.” For Cedarville to use these books shows that Cedarville links Spiritual Formation with Foster and Willard (rightfully so, for these two are the pioneers of the evangelical Spiritual Formation movement). This is why we wonder why people try to say that there is a “good” kind of Spiritual Formation, when there is only one kind – the contemplative interspiritual kind.
4) In BEGE 3760, two professors are using Mark Driscoll’s book Death By Love. Driscoll is a pro-contemplative with a number of emergent affinities in his teachings.
5) In WSHP 1010 (Worship), a book titled The Complete Worship Leader is being used for the textbook. That book, written by Kevin Navarro, turns to several contemplatives (see bibliography) to develop his teachings on worship: Richard Foster, Robert Webber, Dallas Willard, Ken Blanchard, Eugene Peterson, Henri Nouwen, Marva Dawn, and Sally Morgenthaler – all contemplative meditation advocates.
6) In BECE 1000 (Orientation to Bible Ministries), the textbook used is One Life by emerging authors, Scot McKnight and Gabe Lyons, and in BECE 2400 (Interpreting and Teaching the Bible), Andy Stanley’s Communicating for a Change and Bruce Wilkinson’s Seven Laws of the Learner are both used. Remember, Wilkinson is known for his God’s Dream idea (talked about in A “Wonderful” Deception by Warren B. Smith).
7) In BENT 4110 (Biblical Studies, New Testament), the course is using a book(s) by N.T. Wright, a favorite mentor of emergent.
8) In the BEPT courses (Practical Theology), James Wilhoit’s Spiritual Formation as if the Church Mattered and a book by Timothy Keller (who teaches contemplative at his church, Redeemer Presbyterian) are used.
9) In BETH courses, textbook authors include N.T. Wright, ancient future author, the late Robert Webber, and Bruce Demarest (Satisfy Your Soul – a book that is filled with the mystics).
10) In Cedarville’s G92 Immigration Conference in 2011, Shane Claiborne (Cedarville just can’t get away from him) and Jim Wallis were part of the speaker line up. If you haven’t read our booklet tract titled, They Hate Christianity But Love (Another) Jesus, it would be a good time to do so if you want to understand the implications of the Claiborne/Wallis attraction.
As you can see, Cedarville University has been dancing with the devil and his contemplative/emergent beliefs for quite some time. The question is, will the new president, Thomas White, be able to turn things around? That, of course, will depend on whether he even wants to turn things around, and that won’t happen if he doesn’t understand the true nature behind the contemplative prayer movement and the emerging church. If he doesn’t know that a panentheistic mystical paradigm shift is happening to the Christian church right now (as Ray Yungen has so meticulously shown in his research), we fear he may allow Cedarville to continue down its present course.
We have no personal animosity against Cedarville or any of the names we have mentioned above, but because we realize how significant this issue is, we cannot leave it unchallenged. Take a look at the photo from Cedarville that we have posted in this article. Professors at colleges have captive audiences in their students. Parents better make sure that the people who hold their children in this thought and idea captivity for four years of their lives are doing it for the Gospel and the truth of the Word of God and not for a dangerous, often subtle, false gospel. Berit Kjos, her book How to Protect Your Child From the New Age and Spiritual Deception, documents the well-thought out agenda to take over and change the minds of the youth in North America. Sadly, most Christian higher education institutes have succumbed to this very agenda, namely the New Spirituality.