Dear Lighthouse Trails:
I am writing to you to in the hope you might be able to give me information about Spiritual Direction as our Church is becoming involved with it. As a Spiritual Director this person is a member of The Australian Network of Spiritual Directors (ANSD) and of Spiritual Directors International (SDI). After reading the brochure I am concerned about the direction it may lead us as it talks about contemplative reflection and interconnectedness of all things and also seeks to encourage ecumenism and inter faith dialogue etc.
Hoping you might be able to help me with this. Thank you for all the work you are doing in warning Christians about the many deceptions we can encounter. Keep up the good work that God has entrusted you to do. __________
Basically, the term “spiritual direction” is part of the contemplative prayer movement. Contemplative teachers say that one must have a “spiritual director” to “teach” or guide him or her how to enter into the silence of contemplative prayer. The spiritual director will provide books and resources by contemplative authors and direct his or her student on how to implement these authors’ spiritual practices. Ruth Haley Barton, a contemplative advocate who teaches thousands of pastors and Christian leaders about spiritual formation said this about her own spiritual director:
I sought out a spiritual director, someone well versed in the ways of the soul . . . eventually this wise woman said to me, . . . “What you need is stillness and silence so that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.” . . . I decided to accept this invitation to move beyond my addiction to words.1 (emphasis added)
As for Spiritual Directors International (SDI), we consider them the leading association for spiritual directors in the world. Ray Yungen discusses SDI in his book, A Time of Departing:
To underscore the scope and reach of the contemplative prayer movement let’s look at the numbers put out by an organization called Spiritual Directors International (SDI). On their website this group gives ample evidence of what their practices are. In one national conference, the following was presented:
“This workshop offers an opportunity to study and experience the [spiritual] director’s role in a person’s move into the beginning and early stages of contemplative prayer, silence, and openness to new sorts of praying.”
One of the objectives of SDI is “Tending the holy around the world and across traditions.” A 2008 membership list showed 652 Episcopalians, 239 Presbyterians, 239 Methodists, 175 Lutherans, and a whopping 2,386 Roman Catholics; counting another forty or so “traditions,” the total was 6648. To show the nature of just what they mean by “across traditions,” the list included Buddhist, Gnostic Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Siddha Yoga, and even Pagan/Wiccan.2 [Today, the figure is 10,000 spiritual directors.]
On the SDI website, it states the following:
[SDI] has become one of the most significant and forward looking ecumenical and multi-faith spiritual organizations in the world today. (emphasis added)
It’s important to understand that “muliti-faith” and spiritual direction (contemplative spirituality) go hand in hand. As we have stated in the past, the “fruit” of contemplative prayer is interspirituality.
A Christianity Today article, “Got Your Spiritual Director Yet?,” confirmed two things, one that spiritual direction is contemplative, and two that it is on its way to becoming an integral part of evangelical Christianity. The article explains that popular Christian author Larry Crabb changed his views. Once a believer in psychology he switched to spiritual direction. He is just one of many who have done this.
The article credits contemplatives (mystics) such as John Cassian and Ignatius of Loyola for getting spiritual direction into the church and suggests that we can learn more about it from Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson, and Dallas Willard. As Rick Warren stated in his book, The Purpose Driven Church, Foster and Willard are key players in the Spiritual Formation movement, but while Warren says that this movement is a “valid message for the church”3 that has “given the body of Christ a wake-up call,”4 we say it is a terrible seduction for the church.
Incidentally, SDI is listed in our “50 Top Organizations With a Significant Role in Bringing Contemplative Spirituality to the Church”; needless to say, we strongly recommend a church not become involved with it or with “spiritual direction” i.e., contemplative spirituality.
To further illustrate our concerns, SDI has a book titled Tending the Holy: Spiritual Direction Across the Traditions. When it says “across the traditions,” it means across all the world’s religious traditions. The book is filled with quotes by and references to mystics from the world’s largest religions (e.g., Swami Muktananda, Swami Rama, A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Sri Chinmoy, and Maharishi Mahesh Yogi). Thus “tending the holy” infers that the holy (or God) is in all the various religions (i.e., interspirituality), even ones that reject the preaching of the Cross.
For those wanting to get involved with the spiritual formation movement (i.e., contemplative, spiritual direction), consider the “direction” you will actually be going. Not toward biblical Christianity and the Jesus of the Bible but rather toward an ecumenical, interfaith spirituality that excludes salvation which comes solely through the sacrifice on the Cross made by Jesus Christ. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. This SDI poster for an event taking place in 2014 says it all.
We are reminded of a June 2013 article we did titled “Concerns Grow as Moody Presses Forward Down Contemplative Path, ” where it reports how Moody’s radio host Anita Lustrea graduated with a 2-year degree in Spiritual Direction recently from the Christos Center for Spiritual Formation. One of the teachers for the Christos 2-year certificate program is Joann Nesser, who is a member of Spiritual Directors International and served on the SDI Coordinating Council for 6 of the early formative years. (source) In looking at the photos above of the interspiritual line up of speakers for the SDI 2014 conference, one cannot help wonder if these are the faces of the “new” Christianity that has surfaced and looks like it is here to stay.
1. Ruth Haley Barton, “Beyond Words”(Discipleship Journal, Issue #113, September/October, 1999, http://www. navpress.com/EPubs/DisplayArticle/1/1.113.13.html, p. 35.
2. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails, 2nd ed. 2006), p. 41; information taken from the Spiritual Directors International website—”Demographics of our Learning Community.”
3. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Church (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), p. 127.