It is with deep concern that the following information is being presented to warn believers who are looking for a good Christian college to attend or in which to send their children.
Several years ago (2007), Lighthouse Trails posted an article about Prairie Bible Institute in Alberta, Canada that started out like this:
Prairie Bible Institute, a renown Bible college in Alberta, Canada, is showing strong signs that it is going in a contemplative direction. A concerned parent contacted Lighthouse Trails and told us about a Servant (the college magazine ministry) article that quoted New Age/goddess worshipper Sue Monk Kidd. Unfortunately, this is not the only indication that the college may be succumbing to contemplative spirituality.
Our article also stated:
[T]he college seems to be caught up in the wave of mystical spirituality that is sweeping through the evangelical church. For instance, on the Prairie Bible Institute website, Professor Ritchie White lists a collection of writers of whom he says “have shaped both my mind and my heart in significant ways.” Three of those are Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, and Annie Dillard, all of whom have contemplative orientations. Prairie music instructor Vernon Charter uses a textbook by the late emerging church leader, Robert Webber (see Faith Undone). Charter’s list of Supplementary Books includes emergent leader Dan Kimball (The Emerging Church) and other books by Webber.
In addition to White’s book lists, Prairie Christian Academy (a ministry of PBI) teacher and former PBI instructor Dr. Steven Ibbotson teaches on the spiritual disciplines and includes the discipline of “Silence and Solitude.”
Then in 2010, Lighthouse Trails received a letter from a reader explaining that the school was looking for a new president, and word was that this was going to help PBI get back on the right path. That letter stated:
I was wondering if you had ever been told about the alumni from Prairie Bible College who have converted to the Eastern Orthodox Church? One young woman, whose father is on senior staff at Prairie, converted to the Orthodox Church after being convinced by another recent convert. Also, another was a prominent student there (a Residence Assitant and on the Student Council leadership) also dabbles in Anglo-Catholicism and contemplative forms of prayer. These things were encouraged, apparently, by various professors and in most of their course books. This school is a hot bed for fostering seeds of Ancient Christian Mysticism, but is trying to make itself come across as being more conservative theologically with the recent resignation of President Dr. Jon Olhauser. I read your piece on Prairie already, but so much has developed since then, it would be good to research and publish again–something is really happening there and should be looked in to.
The new president turned out to be Mark Maxwell, grandson to the founder of the school. L.E. Maxwell. In a statement, soon after his appointment, Maxwell stated:
This is not about me. It’s about honouring the great tradition of a school that has for 88 years brought God’s Word to life around the world. At this point we need to focus time, attention, and resources on revitalizing our campus and rebuilding our Bible College program. We want to fill our dorms and classrooms by offering programs that will challenge and provide a foundation for life-long learning. Our constituency and churches can be a real help to us in communicating our renewed emphasis on Bible training. (source)
After Maxwell’s appointment to president of PBI, readers wrote to us and said let’s wait and see now if this new president can turn things around. So we waited. Five years to be exact. Then in February of 2015, Lighthouse Trails received the following letter:
Was looking for something else when I came across this. Haven’t checked what you have lately about Prairies Bible Institute but here is a bit of info to back up what you say, if you haven’t seen it already. They have been into emergent church for quite some time.Thanks for your continued diligence. E K. [The following sent to us by E.K. is a book review written by PBI’s Kelly Steffen (PBI Director of Student Development) in 2014. The book reviewed is by major contemplative figure Peter Scazzero:
“Recently one of my students came into my office with a gift. He said, ‘I have something for you that I think you will enjoy.’ The gift was a small devotional reading called, Daily Office: Remembering God’s Presence Throughout the Day by Peter Scazzero, published by Willow. This book was timely as it is something that I have been trying to incorporate into my daily life. Scazzero’s introduction begins with these words, ‘Most Christians today are struggling- especially when it comes to spending quiet time with God. You may be one of them. I thought… wow, he’s right, I do struggle and I am one of them. I better check what this devotional is all about.
“The word ‘Office,’ Scazzero suggests comes from ‘opus’ or work in Latin. He further articulates that ‘for the early church, the Daily Office was always the “work of God.” Each Office in the book has these elements: Silence, Stillness and Centering, Scripture, Devotional Reading, Question to Consider and Prayer. The Offices can be used in a group setting as well. The big idea says the author, is to create a rhythm of being with God.’
Well it has been a couple of weeks in the Daily Office. I have engaged in the Daily Office personally, with another student and unpacked a reading for my Impact Huddle- a regular meeting with my small group leaders. I have had a good time in the practice and presence of the Daily Office.
This book has rekindled rich times of Silence and Stillness, Scripture, Devotional Reading and Prayer. There have been times, mind you, that Scripture has sufficed on its own without the additional devotional tagged on the back. The big idea of rhythm is really the key. I heard today on the radio that latest research says, it takes twenty one days to form a habit. If your habit is not having a devotional life, may I suggest that the Daily Office may be a remedy that you want to check out.”
For an influential faculty member of Prairie Bible Institute to write such a review shows clearly that the school has delved into contemplative spirituality. To back up that statement, PBI also has a Spiritual Formation program. And the 2014 and 2015 textbook lists include books by Brian McLaren, Tim Keller, Richard Foster, John Stackhouse, N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight, Gary Thomas (Sacred Pathways where Thomas instructs readers to repeat a word for 20 minutes), Mark Yaconelli, and Catholic convert Peter Kreeft. There are also textbooks in the list that include social justice/new missiology themes throughout. Basically, PBI’s textbook lists are a who’s who of emergent/contemplative/new spirituality authors.
This week, to top this whole picture off, we received the following letter, giving a perfect example of the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality—interspirituality:
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
It has come to my attention that Prairie Bible Institute at Three Hills, Alberta, Canada has recently held an event inviting a Roman Catholic bishop to speak to faculty and students.
My husband and I were present when President Mark Maxwell publicly confessed to the school drifting away from its foundational biblical roots and and prayed a prayer of repentance, stating it would return to a greater emphasis on God’s Word. We were hopeful, and yet skeptical at the same time. It appears that the compromise is continuing as the involve themselves in the ecumenical movement.
Below is the link, with the details copied from their website.
Keep up the good work! Blessings in Christ,
From PBI’s website:
Hear the Cry of the Poor: Catholic and Evangelical Dimensions of a Gospel Response
Consider Lectures exist to inspire dialogue on a variety of topics and are open to our student body, our staff and faculty, and anyone else who would like to be inspired and challenged in their thinking. This spring, Prairie is pleased to host Bishop Henry as he shares insights on how Catholics and Evangelicals can find common ground in hearing and presenting a Gospel response to the needs of the poor.
Pope Francis recently called Catholics to participate in ecumenical initiatives with Evangelicals. While this is a new development, Bishop Henry’s visit comes as part of his ongoing commitment to developing constructive ecumenical relations with evangelicals. This can be seen in his ongoing relationship with the Calgary Evangelical Ministerial Association, his participation in the 2014 conference ‘Catholics and Evangelicals in God’s mission together’ hosted by Ambrose University College, and his continued work in promoting shared biblical values on key moral issues at the forefront of Canadian civic life.
The Most Reverend Fred Henry has been Bishop for the RC Diocese of Calgary since 1998. Prior to that he has held the position of Associate Professor of Theology and Philosophy at St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario and served as fourth Bishop of Thunder Bay from 1995 to 1998. In addition to his responsibilities in the Diocese of Calgary, Bishop Henry is a member of a number of commissions of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops related to education, healthcare and medical ethics.
LT CONCLUSION: For those parents and grandparents looking for a Christian college to send their young people to, Prairie Bible Institute is NOT a good choice. While the pickings are getting slimmer all the time with regard to Christian colleges, there are still schools out there that are not introducing their students to the likes of Brian McLaren, N.T. Wright, Peter Kreeft, Gary Thomas, Pete Scazzero etc. and which are not joining up with the Catholic Church to “present the Gospel to a dying world.” How can evangelicals and Catholics do that when the Catholic “Gospel” is not the Gospel according to the Word of God (see Ironside on What is the Gospel?). Prairie Bible Institute has done a great disservice to the body of Christ and has put young students in terrible harm’s way. PBI leadership needs to seriously re-evaluate the biblical foundation of their school. Interspirituality is not biblical.