In 2006, Fox Entertainment released the Be Still DVD. The project was an infomercial for contemplative spirituality and featured several Christian figures such as Richard Foster, Beth Moore, Dallas Willard, Max Lucado, Calvin Miller, Henry Cloud, and Jan Johnson. In December 2007, the companion book, Be Still, was released with a heightened emphasis on contemplative spirituality. The book is filled with references and passages written by mystics and contemplative proponents, and a foreword by Dr. Henry Cloud makes comments that clearly show the true nature of this mystical spirituality.
The basic message of the Be Still DVD was You cannot really know God if you do not practice the art of going into the silence. That silence the DVD refers to is a special state of mind, different than normal prayer, and the DVD introduces an array of meditators, from a number of religious persuasions, to tell viewers about this state of silence. From one who promotes guided imagery (Katherine Brown Saltzman) to others who promote interspirituality, the DVD does not promote the biblical Gospel message, and Jesus Christ is rarely mentioned at all. The DVD explains that contemplative practice can be for anyone (not just Christians), and by practicing it we can become portable sanctuaries for God’s presence.
Richard Foster, one of the speakers in the new Fox Home Entertainment Be Still DVD, is highly regarded and well respected in much of the evangelical community. His book, Celebration of Discipline, has had a massive influence on Christendom for many years. And yet, Foster has a long history of drawing from spiritual wells that reflect eastern mystical beliefs. But with names such as Beth Moore and Max Lucado on the Be Still DVD label, most people will automatically trust the content of this program. This means that tens of thousands of people will be introduced to Richard Foster’s spirituality with a sense of security that what they are watching is biblically sound, relevant for their lives and accepted by those whom they have long trusted and looked up to.
In the foreword of the Be Still book, Cloud gives strong evidence that contemplative prayer is really what Lighthouse Trails is warning of. Cloud relates: “[S]tarting in the 1960s, Christians started thinking that only Eastern religions meditate.” He says that Christian practices like Scripture memorization, learning doctrine, and sharing prayer requests were taken to the “extreme and made the ‘spiritual life’ all about just the Bible.” He acknowledges the Bible is God’s Word, but says “it’s not the end of things.” Cloud then makes a curious statement: “Christians are finally reclaiming the ground Eastern religions took over in the 1960s.” In order to say that Christians are “reclaiming” the same “ground” means that what is being reclaimed is the same as what came before it (i.e., mysticism). In effect, he is saying that mantra-style meditation actually first belonged to Christianity (through the desert fathers), in the 1960s it was made popular in the Western world by eastern religions, and now Christianity is merely taking it back.
For those who may wonder if Cloud is actually referring to eastern-style meditation, he makes a clear case that this is exactly what he is referring to. Cloud says that the health benefits of New Age meditation are “created by God Himself.” He adds: “Research has found that when people enjoy the simple practice of getting out of the noise to focus and be still, very practical, physiological things happen. Their blood pressure changes, their brain waves change, their immune system is affected, their head clears.” He says that the difference between Christian meditation and New Age meditation is that in New Age meditation, meditators meditate to no one, and Christian meditation is addressed to a person (God). Thus, Cloud sees New Age meditation as physically beneficial but spiritually useless. But he does not denounce the practice itself of New Age meditation (the use of mantras), only that it doesn’t include God.
What is important to point out here is Cloud’s reference to what is called the Alpha state. Many New Age sources (Wicca, Silva Mind Control, etc.) make reference to the Alpha state, which is what Cloud means by “brain wave changes.” In meditation, the mind goes from the normal state (a waking state) to an altered state (the Alpha state). In effect, he makes our case that contemplative prayer is not traditional Christian meditation (thinking upon God and His precepts) but going into an altered state of consciousness through repetition (ie., mantra–focus on word, phrase or breath).
Interestingly, Beth Moore’s name does not appear anywhere in the Be Still book. And Philip Yancey (an avid admirer of Merton and Nouwen), who was not in the DVD project, is now in the book. It is uncertain whether Moore is distancing herself from the contemplative prayer movement. A few weeks after the DVD was released, her ministry issued a statement that said “there is no problem with its [the DVD] expression of Truth,” and “there is no problem with Beth’s participation in the Be Still video.”1 Lighthouse Trails spoke with Moore’s assistant on two separate occasions during this period of time, and she confirmed to us that Moore and her ministry did not see anything wrong with the contemplative prayer movement. We also sent a complimentary copy of A Time of Departing to Moore. Since that time, we have never heard from her ministry, nor, to our knowledge, has Moore made any statement retracting her support for the Be Still DVD or contemplative prayer. In addition, her book, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, points readers to Brennan Manning, suggesting that his contribution to “our generation of believers may be a gift without parallel” (p. 72) and that his book, Ragamuffin Gospel is “one of the most remarkable books” (p. 290) she has ever read. If Moore has read A Time of Departing, she will have read that Manning resonates with panentheistic figures like Basil Pennington and Beatrice Bruteau. It is Bruteau who said:
We have realized ourselves as the Self that says only I AM, with no predicate following, not “I am a this” or “I have that quality.” Only unlimited, absolute I AM. 2
Manning says that Bruteau is a “trustworthy guide to contemplative consciousness” (from Abba’s Child). If the reason Beth Moore is not in the Be Still book is because she is questioning or maybe even reversing her views on contemplative spirituality, for the sake of her admirers it is pertinent that Moore make a public declaration on where she stands on this issue. In view of Henry Cloud’s revealing pronouncements in the Be Still book, there doesn’t seem to be any other acceptable alternative. And as for the Be Still book and DVD, we hope Christians will see that contemplative spirituality cannot be equated with biblical Christianity.