Lighthouse Trails has been following Cedarville University since 2006 when we wrote an article titled “Cedarville University – Heading Down the Contemplative Road?” Since then, Lighthouse Trails has written several others articles having watched this Christian school head down the contemplative/emerging path. In 2013, Cedarville University got a new president, and we wrote an article titled “Will Cedarville University Turn Around With New President? – Challenge May be Big.” In that article, we stated:
Cedarville University has been dancing with the devil and his contemplative/emergent beliefs for quite some time. The question is, will the new president, Thomas White, be able to turn things around? That, of course, will depend on whether he even wants to turn things around, and that won’t happen if he doesn’t understand the true nature behind the contemplative prayer movement and the emerging church. If he doesn’t know that a panentheistic mystical paradigm shift is happening to the Christian church right now (as Ray Yungen has so meticulously shown in his research), we fear he may allow Cedarville to continue down its present course.
In the fall of 2015, Lighthouse Trails received two letters regarding Cedarville University. The first letter was from a concerned parent who was looking for a Christian college for her daughter. The letter gives us reason to remain concerned about Cedarville University.
“Co-incidentally,” Lighthouse Trails received a second letter from another person shortly after receiving the one below. In the second letter, we were challenged to remove Cedarville from our contemplative colleges list.
That second letter prompted us to contact Cedarville University, which led to a phone conversation with an academic dean at Cedarville. We shared our concerns that Cedarville students may still be getting contemplative teachings at the school. The dean allowed us to share documentation, in particular regarding a book being used in Cedarville’s Spiritual Formation course titled Grasping God’s Word, in which lectio divina is taught. The dean was gracious to us in his responses and agreed to allow us to send him some materials including Ray Yungen’s book on contemplative prayer, A Time of Departing. While we have not heard back from the dean, we are hopeful that the information we shared with him will bear much fruit in the future of Cedarville University.
Letter to the Editor #1 –
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
As we were doing our due diligence in searching for a college, my daughter and I were sitting in on a class [in April of 2014] at Cedarville University. I was so thankful to be there that day as the professor was teaching on Lectio Divina [from the book Grasping God’s Word]. I did confront the professor after the class was over and wasn’t surprised when he became very defensive. I was saddened to see Grace College on the ‘bad’ list. We have looked at the example given and other resources identified and am constantly checking for other things that are being taught or happening on campus.
Being aware of the contemplative movement, we have been very proactive in teaching our daughter to also be aware and to test everything. It is a battle, and I see many fall deep into it. I have directed many of my friends to your site in regards to the contemplative movement and also in searching for “christian” colleges for their kids. Sadly when they do come back to me they come back with a defense of why “meditation” is good and why the college they are choosing is a good place. This leads me to believe their own churches are either not teaching against or are teaching for the contemplative movement. Fortunately for me, my church has made us aware and are teaching against it.
Thank you again for keeping us aware. It is overwhelming for me sometimes to follow all the links you provide, but I am thankful for them and persevere to be informed.
After doing some research, Lighthouse Trails learned that the textbook being used that day in April 2014 to teach lectio divina is a book titled Grasping God’s Word by J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays (see pages 231-234). The book also favorably references a number of contemplative mystics. For instance, on footnote #10 of chapter 12, it states:
For more on prayer, see Richard J. Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home; Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life; and Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?
Such recommendations in a book being used in the Spiritual Formation course at Cedarville University is sad news, to be sure.
To further substantiate our reader’s concerns that contemplative spirituality is being promoted at Cedarville, the following courses at Cedarville are using textbooks by contemplative/emerging authors:
- Biblical Leadership (6210): John Maxwell
- Personal Evangelism (2400): Timothy Keller (contemplative advocate)
- Discipleship (3410): James Wilhoit and Dallas Willard (Spiritual Formation book)
- Orient to Bible Ministries (1000): Scot McKnight (emergent)
- Grasping God’s Word being used in some of the Spiritual Formation courses at Cedarville
Letter to the Editor #2:
Dear Lighthouse Trails:
After having a daughter graduate from Cedarville University, I was really disturbed when I received their alumni magazine and it was filled with articles on spiritual formation and contemplative prayer. I received it when Dr. Brown was president of the university. He has moved on partly because of the heat he received for allowing this unbiblical trash to enter the university. Dr. White is now the president and this trash has been removed. Please, for the integrity of your research organization, will you call and verify this information and write about it in your newsletter. Cedarville University is one of the few universities that holds to a seven-day creation and has received negative attention for their out-spoken position against same-sex marriage. People do change and so do institutions. If you are going to name names it is up to you to update and verify your research. Cedarville University deserves a second look and for their name to be taken off the list of universities that teach contemplative teachings.
Thank you for your consideration, R.C.
Of course, if a school that has been going in that direction stops and no longer promotes the Spiritual Formation paradigm, we would be overjoyed. A few things we need to point out:
We see that they still offer at least one Spiritual Formation course in their Bible minor program. One of the professors who teaches it is Dan Estes. https://www.cedarville.edu/Academics/Biblical-and-Theological-Studies/Faculty-Staff/Estes-Daniel.aspx. After receiving your letter, we did speak with Dr. Estes regarding the Spiritual Formation course at Cedarville. He e-mailed us a copy of the syllabus to assure us that he is not using any contemplative promoting books. He did say that there are several other professors who also teach Spiritual Formation at Cedarville, and he couldn’t be sure what they are using to teach the class. He told us we would need to talk to one of the deans of theology who won’t be available until after Thanksgiving. While we cannot say that this course is promoting contemplative spirituality since we haven’t seen all the syllabi or spoken with all the professors, we maintain that when that term is used, it will always directly or indirectly point to the writings of the mystics. After all, the term itself comes from the writings of Catholic mystics and was brought into the evangelical church largely through the contemplative pioneer, Richard Foster, who at one time observed:
“When I first began writing in the field in the late 70s and early 80s the term “Spiritual Formation” was hardly known, except for highly specialized references in relation to the Catholic orders. Today it is a rare person who has not heard the term. Seminary courses in Spiritual Formation proliferate like baby rabbits. Huge numbers are seeking to become certified as Spiritual Directors to answer the cry of multiplied thousands for spiritual direction” (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=16176).
Something we are wondering, if the old president of Cedarville (Dr. Brown) left partly because of the heat he was taking for promoting contemplative/emerging, then why wasn’t there a statement made by the new president saying they were not going to go in that direction anymore. And what happened to the professors who were pushing for this? One of the staff who was promoting contemplative in Cedarville’s magazine The Torch, Kim Ahlgrim, is still on staff (http://www.cedarville.edu/Offices/Academic-Enrichment/Staff.aspx). Were they able to convince her that she was going in the wrong direction, or is she possibly teaching this to students on the side? This is a question that is worthy of being answered by Cedarville.
In our current updating research on Cedarville, we found that they still have on their website the 2011 issue of their publication Torch titled Tuning Out the Noise. This issue is an infomercial for contemplative prayer. If the school is now against contemplative, why leave this issue posted for students and others to access? Kind of like leaving the poison on the counter. You can read our 2013 article for more information about that issue.
On one webpage of Cedarville’s site, they are announcing that they received a 2015 award from the very contemplative/emergent magazine Worship Leader Magazine. While we can’t say that just because they received this award from the magazine that Cedarville is endorsing the magazine or inadvertently contemplative/emerging. However, we struggle understanding why they would post the magazine’s name and recognition if they are now against the contemplative prayer/emerging church movement. And on the Cedarville website, they state:
“Worship Leader [Magazine] is a subscription-only magazine for worship leaders and organizations around the country. It is highly respected as the premier worship magazine in America. A typical issue includes recommendations about the newest worship music, Christian books, movies and articles about how to be a great leader and worshipper of God.”
No warning by Cedarville here; almost an invitation to subscribe to Worship Leader Magazine. But if students do subscribe to the magazine, they are going to get hearty helpings of contemplative/emerging spirituality. In October of this year, on the Worship Leader website, they have an article that recommends the contemplative practice of lectio divina. The article states: “We could do a lectio divina reading of the biblical text, or use any one of several other Ancient/Future ways of engaging with it; anticipating that the God behind the story will be encountered as we do that.”
We would truly like to take Cedarville University off the Lighthouse Trails Contemplative Colleges list. But before that can happen, the concerns above need to be addressed and corrected. We also would like to know if the teachers who were formerly pro-contemplative have had a change of heart. Sadly, when even just one or two professors at a Christian college adhere to this spirituality, it can affect the entire school. Lighthouse Trails does not post the names of contemplative promoting colleges to be spiteful or mean. We do it because we genuinely care about students, especially the young ones, who are being led down a very spiritually dangerous road.