I’ve practiced centering prayer. I’ve contemplatively prayed. I’ve prayed liturgically . . . I’ve benefited from each, and I still do. In ways you’ll see, elements of each style are still with me.—Larry Crabb in The Papa Prayer, p.9
I’m glad that as a conservative evangelical who still believes in biblical inerrancy and penal substitution, I’ve gotten over my Catholic phobia, and I’ve been studying contemplative prayer, practicing lectio divina, valuing monastic retreats, and worshipping through ancient liturgy. I appreciate Bernard of Clairvaux’s provocative insights. I’m drawn to Brother Lawrence’s profoundly simple ways to practice God’s presence. I’m intrigued and enticed by Julian of Norwich’s mysterious appearings of Jesus.—Larry Crabb, Real Church, p. 41
I generally read books to stimulate my mind, but I read this one [The Papa Prayer] for my soul, and it has left an imprint that I believe will be with me for the rest of my life. In these pages you will be introduced to a new way of praying that will, I guarantee, change the way you think about prayer; and, best of all, you will actually be motivated to pray continually, joyfully, and purposefully. This is a book for all of us who want to pray more but don’t; for all of us who have been discouraged because our prayers have not been answered, and for those of us whose priorities in praying need to be redirected. It is also for those who have read many books on prayer and think they need not read another one! Read these pages and let God change your perspective and your heart.—Erwin Lutzer, from The Papa Prayer endorsement pages
On April 3rd, Richard Foster’s Renovare organization will be presenting the Formation for Whole Life conference in Houston, Texas.
According to several sources, including Rick Warren,1 Christianity Today,2 and Lighthouse Trails, Richard Foster is a key player in the contemplative prayer movement (aka: Spiritual Formation movement). Speakers at this year’s Renovare conference include contemplative figures Ruth Haley Barton,3 Mark Scandrette,4 Richard Foster, and Kyle Strobel.5 Joining the team of speakers will be Larry Crabb, a popular evangelical author and speaker, who years ago switched from a psychology focus to a focus on Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer).6
While it is not surprising to see Larry Crabb sharing a platform with other contemplatives, what is troubling is that Crabb continues to receive acceptance by Christian leaders. In 2011, Crabb spoke to the student body at Liberty University. In 2012 and 2013, he spoke at the Billy Graham Training Center. In 2012, he was invited to Moody Church (the church once pastored by Harry Ironside and D.L. Moody, now pastored by Erwin Lutzer)—7 (click here to see video of that Sunday).
During that 2012 “sermon” by Larry Crabb at Moody Church, Crabb introduced Jesus as more of an example or model to us (one that we can be like) than a Savior to us. This is the crux of the contemplative/emerging message. This is where Spiritual Formation comes in. Since to be truly Christ-like is not possible without Christ in us (born-again), the contemplatives turn to the disciplines (with the emphasis on the mystical), and this gives them the illusion of being close to God (the mystical experience produces this euphoric feeling). Crabb’s conclusion was that we need to search for our own “center[s].” His psychology-filled, Scripture-starving sermon at Moody did not point to Jesus Christ and His magnificence but rather pointed to how the attributes of God can make us a great community having great relationships. This is the focus of the emergent church where personal salvation is set aside for great relationships and community social justice.
Lighthouse Trails editors spoke with Erwin Lutzer a number of years ago expressing concern about his endorsement in Larry Crabb’s book, The Papa Prayer, where Crabb praised the role that “centering prayer” (i.e., mantra-type meditation) had in his life. In that phone conversation, Lutzer asked us to please remember to love all the brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. He felt this was more important than criticizing others and naming names, and he said that we (Lighthouse Trails) may not really be qualified to identify spiritual deception within the church.8
In a 2012 article Lighthouse Trails wrote regarding Larry Crabb’s spiritual affinities, we stated:
Perhaps one of the most sure-tell indicators of where Larry Crabb’s spiritual sympathies lie and why he’s not a good match for Dwight L. Moody’s church can be found in a book Crabb wrote the foreword to. The book, Sacred Companions (written by David Benner), heartily recommends a plethora of contemplative mystics: Thomas Keating, Henri Nouwen, Basil Pennington, Richard Foster, John of the Cross, Gerald May, John Main, Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, Alan Jones and several others. Many of these are panentheistic (God is in all), universalist (all are saved), and interspiritual (all paths lead to God). Ray Yungen talked about Benner’s book in the first edition of A Time of Departing. Yungen stated:
“[C]ontemplative prayer stands on the threshold of exploding worldwide. Dr. Larry Crabb . . . has written the foreword to a book [Spiritual Companions] that expounds on the future of spiritual direction in the evangelical church. . . . It is safe to assume then that we are looking at a contemplative approach. With that in mind, Dr. Crabb predicted [in Sacred Companions]: ‘The spiritual climate is ripe. Jesus seekers across the world are being prepared to abandon the old way of the written code for the new way of the Spirit.’” (ATOD, 1st ed., p. 137)
As Lighthouse Trails has often said, when Christian pastors and leaders endorse or share platforms with those who are teaching serious heresy (contemplative negates the Gospel itself with panentheistic/universalisitic/interspiritual roots),9 this not only sends a confusing message to the body of Christ, it actually puts many in harm’s way. Isn’t it time for Christian leaders who name the name of Jesus Christ to stop promoting contemplative advocates?
1. In The Purpose Driven Church (pp. 126-126), Rick Warren calls the Spiritual Formation movement a “valid message for the church” that has “given the body of Christ a wake-up call.” He identifies Richard Foster and Dallas Willard as key players in the SF movement.See chapter 8 of A Time of Departing for this documentation: http://www.lighthousetrails.com/atodch8.pdf.
2. In a 2008 Christianity Today article titled “The Future Lies in the Past,” Richard Foster is credited with the “birth of the ancient-future movement” (i.e, contemplative/Spiritual Formation movement): http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/february/22.22.html.
4. Mark Scandrette is addressed in Faith Undone by Roger Oakland: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=1614.
6. Christianity Today, “A Shrink Gets Stretched.”