For over seven years now, Lighthouse Trails has followed Moody Bible Institute’s continued promotion of contemplative spirituality. Although the organization has denied that they are promoting contemplative, the evidence has consistently existed. Those who have a good understanding of contemplative spirituality are aware of the inevitable outcome for followers of contemplative. This outcome is a change in spiritual attitude that leads to the following – ecumenism (a joining together of all religious traditions, in particularly Catholicism first, then Islam), interspirituality (all paths lead to God), panentheism (God is in all), and eventually universalism (all are saved, regardless of belief – thus no need for the Cross).
We had hoped that at some point leaders and professors at Moody would seriously examine the contemplative issue and come to the conclusion that they do not want to go in that direction. Sadly, the indications of that happening are non-existent, and the probability of the complete embracing of contemplative spirituality is fast increasing. A case in point occurred just this month when the school allowed an ecumenical/road to Rome event to take place on campus, where it was reported that over 300 people showed up, most of them being MBI students.
On December 3rd, emerging church figure John Armstrong (a convert from traditional evangelicalism to emerging) and Catholic priest Father Robert Barron spoke at a gathering at Moody Bible Institute. The event was presented by the Moody Student Theological Society. It was not broadcasted, and Moody’s website doesn’t seem to show anything about it so we have had to gather information from various other sources, including the Moody Student Theological Society’s Facebook page, which carries information about the event, which was called the “Evangelical and Catholic Ecumenical Dialogue.” (Photo from the “Dialogue”: 2nd from left: Litfin, next: Armstrong, next: Robert Barron)
We were first alerted to the ecumenical “dialogue” by a Lighthouse Trails reader, who stated:
Heads up to things stirring at Moody Bible Institute. (Also, please read this blog entry about it: http://www.revangelicalblog.com/blog1/?currentPage=3 from Dec. 4, titled, “Can We Learn from Rome? Maybe… (A Reflection on Ecumenical Unity). This is by that young man I have mentioned to you before, who rubs elbows with Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Jim Wallis, et. al.
The blog entry mentioned by the LT reader was written by a senior at Moody Bible Institute (MBI). On the post, he has this photo of the Vatican:
The MBI student states:
As I myself have been in the process of rediscovering the beauty of the ancient Christian tradition [contemplative] offered to us via the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and even Anglican versions of faith, I have also felt a tugging and noticed a trend of millennial evangelicals to convert to Catholicism- returning to Rome, if you will.
It is not our intention to draw attention to or scrutinize this student. Our issue is with MBI’s leadership and professors. We believe this and other students at Moody who are being drawn to contemplative . . . and Roman Catholicism . . . are merely reflecting the sympathies they have witnessed at Moody from professors and others in leadership. For instance, on John Armstrong’s website, he talks about his invitation to the “Evangelical and Catholic Ecumenical Dialogue” and points to one of the MBI professors:
Our dialogue tomorrow will begin with a welcome by a Moody student leader which will be followed by an introduction given by our moderator, Dr. Bryan Litfin (Ph.D. in the field of ancient church history at the University of Virginia). Dr. Litfin is a professor of theology at Moody Bible Institute. Bryan is also a first-rate patristics scholar and has often encouraged Christian dialogue as a part of his teaching. He is the author of Getting to Know the Church Fathers–An Evangelical Introduction (Brazos, 2007). Fr. Barron and I will each speak for about ten minutes and then we will field questions from the students.
It is interesting that Dr. Litfin was willing to moderate the event at MBI given that he is a Catholic convert to Protestantism. (correction: 11/16/15: we have learned that we were misinformed by our source, and Dr. Litfin was not a Catholic convert. In an e-mail to someone we know, he stated that he has always been an evangelical.) We decided to spend $13.99 to buy an e-book copy of Litfin’s book, Getting to Know the Church Fathers – an Evangelical Introduction. A better title for this book might be Why Evangelicals Should Not Think Too Lowly of the Catholic Church. Litfin says that the benefit of studying the “church fathers” is to “help us get in touch with the general thrust of the Christian faith” (Kindle Locations 389-390, Baker Publishing Group). But from Litfin’s book’s point of view, the benefit of studying the church fathers is to see some good in the Roman Catholic church. Here’s one example in Litfin’s book where he whitewashes and minimizes the heretical teachings of Roman Catholicism:
[M]any Catholic teachings must be understood as continuous historical developments out of earlier thought. For example, though the theology has changed from biblical times, the breaking of bread and drinking of wine in the Mass is an evolution of the love feasts of the early Christians, for whom the elements represented the Savior’s body and blood just as they still do for Catholics. Likewise, recitation of the Lord’s Prayer is an ancient habit still practiced today. And there are not a few doctrines held by the Roman Church which every orthodox Protestant would hold as well. (Endnote section, #20, (Kindle Locations 4084-4088).
The MBI student (mentioned above) goes on to say:
The Catholic Church offers much of what many millennial Protestants are longing for – liturgy, artistic expression, scholarship, ancient tradition, and a robust and deeply rooted theology [i.e., the Desert Fathers and contemplative spirituality]. Rome offers one, united Christian body with many stripes, styles, and theological variations contained within one communion. And with the Roman Catholic Churches recent moves for ecumenical unity with the Eastern church and a number of Protestant traditions, it seems to me that perhaps a return to Rome may be in some millennial Evangelicals future.
The MBI student expresses his own hope for the future:
My hope and prayer is that in the coming years, Evangelicals, Mainliners, Catholics, and Orthodox will find more and more common ground on which we can work together to expand the Kingdom of God. My prayer is that God would continue to cause us to rethink, reform, and renew our faith traditions and in so doing help us refine them to reflect more clearly the face of Jesus Christ- our common Lord and Savior.
When you consider that Moody has been promoting the contemplative tradition for so long and the Catholic Church uses contemplative prayer as a catalyst to bring in new converts, it makes perfect sense that a student attending Moody for three and a half years could say something like this.
In 2007, Moody posted a response to our criticisms that they were promoting contemplative. In that statement (which still sits on their site), they deny the allegations. But take a look at some of the related links we have provided below to see that indeed they have been promoting contemplative and continue to do so.
One person who would have been very upset about the recent “Evangelical and Catholic Ecumenical Dialogue” held at Moody is Harry Ironside, who was the pastor of the Moody Church (which also now promotes contemplative via its inclusion of sermons by contemplative/Spiritual Formation leader Larry Crabb ) from 1930-1948. He stated:
Every Roman Catholic priest will tell you that all the claims of the Church of Rome stand or fall with the doctrine of the real presence of Christ in the Mass. If the bread and wine used in the Sacrament of the Mass, when consecrated by the priest, are changed in some mysterious way into the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ so that the communicant receiving the bread actually takes into his mouth and eats and digests the body, blood, soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ-if this is true, then the Church of Rome is the true church of Christ and every one of us should be members of it. But if it is false, if it is absolutely opposed to the teaching of the Word of God, then the Church of Rome is an apostate church and every faithful believer should come out of her in order that he might not be held accountable for her sins.
It was because the great reformers of the sixteenth century saw this clearly and were assured in their own hearts that the doctrine of the Church of Rome in regard to the Eucharist or the Mass was absolutely opposed to the Word of God and was not only blasphemous but idolatrous, that they came out in protest against that apostate system and they won for us at tremendous cost of Christian blood the liberty that we now possess. And yet we, unworthy children of such worthy sires, are frittering away our liberty and we are allowing our children to be ensnared again by this evil system from which our fathers escaped with such tremendous effort. (From Ironside’s “The Mass Versus the Lord’s Supper”)
What is happening in the evangelical/Protestant church today is significant and utterly devastating. The contemplative issue has not at all been addressed by Christian leadership but rather the majority of Christian leaders have either embraced it or ignored it. To really understand where this is all going, consider these words by Ray Yungen who is talking about Thomas Merton here:
In a letter to a Sufi [Islamic mystic] Master, Merton disclosed, “My prayer tends very much to what you call fana.” So what is fana? The Dictionary of Mysticism and the Occult defines it as “the act of merging with the Divine Oneness.”
Merton saw the Sufi concept of fana as being a catalyst for Muslim unity with Christianity despite the obvious doctrinal differences. In a dialogue with a Sufi leader, Merton asked about the Muslim concept of salvation. The master wrote back stating:
“Islam inculcates individual responsibility for one’s actions and does not subscribe to the doctrine of atonement or the theory of redemption.”
To Merton, of course, this meant little because he believed that fana and contemplation were the same thing. He responded:
“Personally, in matters where dogmatic beliefs differ, I think that controversy is of little value because it takes us away from the spiritual realities into the realm of words and ideas … in words [doctrine] there are apt to be infinite complexities and subtleties which are beyond resolution…. But much more important is the sharing of the experience of divine light [i.e., contemplative] … It is here that the area of fruitful dialogue exists between Christianity and Islam.” (emphasis added – quoted from A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., pp. 59-60)
In other words, through mysticism, the world’s religions can come together and all can be one/unified. But, doctrines like the atonement, according to Merton, stand in the way and are “of little value.”
The Bible says in the last days there will be a harlot church. We are watching its formation right now; the tragedy is Christian leaders don’t even see it happening. And sadly, like so many other Christian campuses, Moody Bible Institute is falling into step with this apostasy.
If you have not read Roger Oakland’s recent article The New Evangelization From Rome or Finding the True Jesus Christ, we recommend you do to better understand the role that the Catholic church is playing in this apostasy.
Related Information/LT Coverage on Moody: