Kyle Strobel, son of prolific Christian author, speaker, and teacher, Lee Strobel, grew up at Willow Creek Church and later studied at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology. Today, he is helping to pave the contemplative way by touting the works and practices of mystics, contemplatives, and emergents. Kyle’s website ministry Metamorpha is called “an online community for Christian spiritual formation,” listing several contemplative practices, including repetitive prayers, lectio divina, and Ignatian exercises. Recommended books on the site list a who’s who of contemplative mysticism proponents such as Dallas Willard, Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Adele Calhoun, Thomas Kelly, and several others.
In an article on Metamorpha, specific instruction for Ignatian exercises (named after St. Ignatius of Loyola) is given. In the Metamorpha article, it says that the “imagination is key in Ignatian prayer…. Ignatian meditation involves several key spiritual disciplines: lectio divina, Ignatian contemplation, reminiscence, and the examination of consciousness (notice: not conscience).”1
A video on Metamorpha by Richard Foster titled “What role do the ancient Christians play in life of believers today?” is quite revealing.2 Foster lists several ancient mystics as those we should turn to for spiritual direction. One he named is Jean Pierre de Caussade (from the 1700s), a mystic and the author of Abandonment to Divine Providence.3 Foster also names panentheist Thomas Kelly who Foster quotes in one of his books as saying there is a divine center in every person (see Streams of Living Water). Foster also tells readers to practice meditation exercises such as lectio divina.
There is no question that Kyle Strobel is following the contemplative path. He resonates with numerous mystics whom Lighthouse Trails has critiqued in the past, as well as emergents like Leonard Sweet and Dan Kimball. It is hard to know whether his interest for the mystical began at Willow Creek or Biola – both promote it. But in his book, Metamorpha he gives credit to Biola professor John Coe for helping him come to his present spiritual understanding. Coe is the founder of Biola’s Institute of Spiritual Formation where contemplative prayer is openly promoted.
Some may be wondering why Lighthouse Trails is issuing this statement about Kyle Strobel who is not too well known yet. We do so because his father, Lee Strobel, is one of the most well known Christian figures today, and this connection will bring much attention to Kyle’s ministry, in turn pointing many unsuspecting people toward contemplative spirituality. We believe a warning is necessary and warranted.
One of the mystics Kyle recommends is Thomas Merton. The following three quotes are very indicative of Merton’s spiritual affinities and should not be ignored:
“I’m deeply impregnated with Sufism.” Thomas Merton, The Springs of Contemplation, p. 266
“And I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own traditions, because they have gone, from the natural point of view, so much deeper into this than we have.” Quote by Merton from the book, Lost Christianity by Jacob Needleman
“Isn’t it a pity that people are going into LSD to have spiritual experiences, when we have a tradition in the Church [contemplative prayer] which no one knows anything about?” Read the Interview in which Matthew Fox quoted Merton.
Earlier this year, Relevant magazine asked Kyle to name ten books he believes “all Christians should read.” 4 Two of them are written by Henri Nouwen (who Kyle calls a “prophet”), one by Brother Lawrence, and one by Thomas a’ Kempis – all three had mystical propensities.
As a final note, on the Metamorpha site, InterVarsity Press is named as a “sponsor” of Metamorpha, Lee Strobel is named as a “supporter,” and Biola’s Institute of Spiritual Formation is named as a “partner.”5
Conversations Journal is also named as a “partner.” Conversations Journal offers articles by some of the most blatant eastern-style mysticism teachers including Brian McLaren, Basil Pennington, and Tilden Edwards, the latter two are known panentheists.6 It was Tilden Edwards who said: “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality” (Spiritual Friend, p. 18), and Basil Pennington who said:
We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and capture it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible … Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices. (Finding Grace at the Center , pp. 5-6, Keating/Pennington)