Biola University Contacts Lighthouse Trails – Accuses of Libel

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On October 21st, someone from the Media Relations department at Biola University contacted Lighthouse Trails because of articles we have posted about Biola’s promotion of contemplative spirituality. The person, who asked not to be identified in our articles, said that statements Lighthouse Trails has made are libelous. Upon asking for examples of libelous statements, none were given. Biola’s media person did say that our definition of contemplative spirituality (eastern-style mysticism) is not what they mean by contemplative.

To supplement our previous articles (see links at bottom) and to show that Biola is indeed promoting and introducing students to contemplative mystical spirituality, the following links are provided. Please also refer to the many links provided through the articles at the bottom of this statement.

Spiritual Formation at Talbot School of Theology:

Prayer Seminar (TTSF 705) with lectio divina, recollection, centering prayer, Jesus Prayer (all of these fit the contemplative prayer model)

Practicums in contemplative prayer

TTSF 532 – Developmental Spirituality & Contemplative Prayer with emphasis on mystic St. John of the Cross (a panentheist)

TTSF 531 – History & Traditions of Christian Spirituality: Experiential projects in several mystical streams and traditions

*Note: The Spiritual Formation department at Talbot is instructed by several contemplative proponents including director, John Coe and J.P. Moreland.

The Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care: This is a new publication put out by Talbot (Biola). The inaugural issue has an article by Dallas Willard. In fact, Willard permeates Biola’s Spiritual Formation program. Willard emulates mystics such as Richard Foster and Henri Nouwen. He helped to launch Foster’s Renovare Spiritual Formation Study Bible (filled with contemplative references), wrote the foreword to mantra-proponent Ruth Haley Barton’s book Invitation to Solitude and Silence, and is extremely influential in the spiritual formation movement.

Perhaps one of the strongest influences at Biola for contemplative spirituality is Biola’s professor of philosophy J.P. Moreland. On Biola’s newspage it announces the recent award given to Moreland for his book Kingdom Triangle: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power.1 Lighthouse Trails issued a book review on this book in January, and we encourage all who are concerned about Biola to read it. His book identifies what Moreland calls one of three needed elements for the church — spiritual formation. In the book, Moreland says he has drawn from the life of Dallas Willard for 25 years. In chapter 6 of Kingdom Triangle, Moreland includes discussion about the “true self” and the “false self.” He echoes Thomas Merton and Martin Buber, both who had strong mystical propensities, and who believed we could attain to our true self (a perfect self) through mystical practices. Moreland encourages the writings (and practices) of St. Ignatius Loyola, (p. 156), saying such practices will help us to “cultivate the ability to discern the divine components” within us. This follows the course of thinking that Thomas Merton had – that divinity is already within, and mystical practices help us to realize what is already there. That is why Merton said,

It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, … now I realize what we all are … If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are. I suppose the big problem would be that we would bow down and worship each other…. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth….This little point … is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pp. 157-158)

With the influence of Willard and Moreland, and other contemplative proponents at Biola, we believe this school is in trouble, and many of the staff and students do not even realize it because they don’t understand the nature of contemplative spirituality. As an example of just where this belief system will take Biola, take this into consideration. On Dallas Willard’s website, he names several figures who are examples of people we should follow and learn from. Three of those are women, all whom had mystical propensities, one of whom even levitated during mystical experiences. These women are: Teresa of Avila (who levitated), Evelyn Underhill (author of Mysticism: A Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness), and Madame Guyon. It was Guyon who said that during the contemplative state she came to realize that God was in everything (from Experiencing The Depths of Jesus Christ p. 4]).

Willard also recommends Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, and Jan Johnson, all whom have written favorably about a mantric-style meditation.

Willard and Moreland resonate with the mystics – and they have brought these affinities to Biola. Lighthouse Trails will continue to report on these matters with the hope of warning students who are being caught in a deceptive snare, often unknowingly. If Biola is going to accuse Lighthouse Trails of libel, perhaps it would be a good idea if their staff and professors brought themselves up to speed on what contemplative spirituality is and how it is affecting the halls of their institution and the minds of their students.

Related Articles on Biola:

Biola University Student Reports on Contemplative Chapel Services -Warns Parents to Avoid Biola

The Shape of Things to Come: Biola University Embraces Contemplative Spirituality

Student Concerned Over Biola’s Contemplative/Emerging Focus

Respected Ministries Say OK to Contemplative J.P. Moreland

Also researchers should check out Biola’s Institute of Spiritual Formation.