According to a press release from Liberty University (the largest evangelical university in the world), Jonathan Falwell has been named Vice-Chancellor for spiritual affairs at Liberty. His brother Jerry Falwell, Jr. is the current Chancellor at the school. Jonathan Falwell will be providing counsel and recommendations “on matters related to the doctrinal integrity of the university.”
Lighthouse Trails issued two reports in 2007 (one,two) and one report in 2008 regarding Liberty University’s possible leanings toward contemplative/emerging. These reports revealed that Liberty was using contemplative books in some of their classrooms and was using a number of contemplative/emerging books in their Center for Worship. One of those books is Rob Bell’s Velvet Elvis. 1 A disclaimer on Liberty’s website states: “The citation of these books on this website does not constitute an endorsement in part or whole of their contents by Liberty University, its faculty, staff or administration.” However, without specific warnings about these books (such as Bell’s embracing in Velvet Elvis of New Age mystic Ken Wilber), such disclaimers are too elusive to be of much benefit. Another book used is David Crowder’s contemplative-promoting book, Praise Habit (referring to the habits worn by Catholic nuns). In an interview with LifeTeen.com (a web site for Catholic teens), Crowder admits: “Much of the Catholic traditions and writings have been influential in my formation of faith … I’ve found much inspiration there.” But Liberty’s disclaimer says nothing about Crowder’s contemplative/Catholic affinities.
The following classes at Liberty have required students to read some of the most blatant contemplative/emerging authors:
Counseling 506 – Henri Nouwen
Evangelism 997 – John Maxwell, Andy Stanley, Rick Warren, Erwin McManus, Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson, CP Wagner,et.al.
Evangelism 101 – Richard Foster, Ken Boa
Path 610 (Spiritual Formation) – Richard Foster
MCCS 994 (Missions): Brian McLaren, Erwin McManus
Liberty University also carries on their website the Code of Ethics for the AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors) with the following statement:
Although rooted primarily in an orthodox evangelical biblical theology, this Code is also influenced (according to the paradigm offered by Richard Foster) by the social justice, charismatic-pentecostal, pietistic-holiness, liturgical, and contemplative traditions of Christian theology and church history.
Foster’s influence at Liberty can be seen, for one, in campus/teaching pastor Johnnie Moore, who favorably quotes Foster in an blog posting about getting rid of distractions and pausing the mind during prayer (a key selling point by contemplatives). Foster is a pioneer in the contemplative (i.e., ancient future) prayer movement, and is largely responsible for bringing the eastern-style mystical practices and spirituality of Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating into the evangelical church.
In August, Lighthouse Trails reported that Thomas Road Baptist Church (where Jonathan Falwell is Senior Pastor) was hosting the Innovate Church Conference featuring Rick Warren. 2 In view of Rick Warren’s strong promotion of contemplative and emerging spirituality (not to mention his significant promotion of Richard Foster), and the obvious propensity that Liberty has toward Foster’s books, it seems clear that Liberty University is in danger of becoming a contemplative institution.
We hope and pray that Jonathan Falwell will study the contemplative prayer and emerging church movements from a critical and Scriptural point of view and then work toward making Liberty University free from the dangerous influence these movements have on the Christian faith. If he follows in the footsteps of Rick Warren, he may end up leading Liberty University into the spirituality of people like Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. Ahlberg Calhoun’s book Spiritual Disciplines Handbook is one of the books Rick Warren uses to teach spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines at Saddleback. This book promotes mantra meditation, giving detailed instructions on several types of contemplative practices. In addition, the author quotes from many New Age sympathizers and New Age contemplatives. In the book, Ahlberg Calhoun encourages the use of centering prayer, breath prayers, contemplative prayer, labyrinths, palms-up, palms-down exercises, and recommends for further reading a who’s who of mystics. Those who embrace Purpose Driven teachings will ultimately be led in this direction and toward the spirituality of Henri Nouwen (who Rick Warren also strongly promotes). At the end of Nouwen’s life, after following mysticism for years, Nouwen came to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was not the only way of salvation. This view is the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality and negates the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
For more information:
Saddleback IS a Contemplative Church