After a request by a Lighthouse Trails reader to check into Southern Baptist Convention’s Gateway Seminary which has locations in five different US cities, Lighthouse Trails has added Gateway Seminary to the Lighthouse Trails Contemplative-Promoting College list. If you are not familiar with that list, it is a list of NOT recommended Christian colleges, universities, and seminaries. These schools all have one major thing in common. They all promote contemplative spirituality through their Spiritual Formation programs. So, in other words, these are schools that are not going to be biblically sound and will be a spiritual danger to students.
You can do some of your own research on Gateway Seminary by visiting this page that lists all their course’s syllabi: http://www.gs.edu/academics/course-syllabi/. But here is one example:
- In Gateway’s Dr. David Robinson’s Spiritual Formation course, his syllabus states: “This course is designed to explore and experience the concepts of Christian spiritual formation and the establishment of spiritual disciplines that foster continuous spiritual growth. Students will participate directly in specific spiritual disciplines.” Here’s the required textbooks for the course:
Benner, David G. The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery. DownersGrove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004.
Buchanan, Mark. The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. Nashville, TN:W Publishing Group, Div. of Thomas Nelson, 2006.
Willard, Dallas. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives. NewYork, NY: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1991.
That means if your future (or even present) pastor or youth pastor is studying at that school, he is going to get a hardy helping of the writings of contemplative prayer advocates. You see Dallas Willard was highly influenced by the Catholic contemplative prayer movement as is David Benner. And don’t be fooled by Mark Buchanan’s innocent sounding book title. His book is endorsed on the back cover by emerging figures Lauren Winner and Philip Yancey. And why wouldn’t they endorse the book?—It fits right in with what they believe. And his book is filled with the usual contemplative language and suspects.
You must remember, in the contemplative prayer movement, the whole objective is to convince people they must “stop thinking,” “rest the mind,” “still the soul,” “be still,” “turn off thoughts,” and so forth. What they are really talking about is putting the mind in neutral, so to speak, and thus going into an altered state of consciousness as prescribed in eastern meditation. Why? So one can “hear the voice of God.” What is this “voice of God” going to tell you? That you are “beloved,” “divine,” “I AM,” “a higher self,” “the true self”—oh yes, that you are God!! That’s what this whole movement is all about. Whether it’s Jesus Calling, The Shack, Purpose Driven, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, or Henri Nouwen, the message is coming across loud and clear, YOU’VE GOT TO HEAR THE VOICE OF GOD! This “hearing the voice of God” that happens during contemplative meditation is different than the legitimate prompting, leading, and guiding of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.
The problem contemplatives have run into in their idea of hearing the voice of God is a two-fold obstacle: the Word of God and our minds (our thoughts). So we have to turn the Bible into a meditation tool with things like lectio divina and then shut out those thoughts we have with meditation exercises. Then we can finally hear “the voice of God.” Remember what Brennan Manning said:
“The first step of faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer.” -From Signature of Jesus, Brennan Manning, p. 212 (page 198 in a later edition)
Lighthouse Trails has always said that contemplative and emerging are synonymous terms? Take a look at professor Robinson’s bibliography for his Spiritual Formation course at Gateway Seminary. It’s a “Cream of the Crop” who’s who in emerging contemplative spirituality. A few names in his list: Brian McLaren, Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Morton Kelsey, John of the Cross, Doug Pagitt, Eugene Peterson, and Teresa of Avila. These are the people from whom this professor is gleaning spiritual food. Not only are these all promoters of contemplative mysticism, most of them are panenthestic.
Another class from Gateway that is taking instruction from contemplative authors is Dr. Dallas Bivins’ Spiritual Formation class. Many of the same names as Robinson’s class, but add Kenneth Boa’s Handbook to Prayer to that. Boa, as Lighthouse Trails has documented in the past, is a strong advocate for contemplative spirituality.
Then there is Dr. Bob Bender’s Pastoral Counseling class at Gateway Seminary with a number of contemplative/emergent authors listed in the syllabus including Brian McLaren admirer Dan Allender (not to mention Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, David Benner, Larry Crabb, and others of similar caliber).
Robinson, Bivins, and Bender’s classes are part of Gateway’s Leadership Formation program. Scary to think of the kind of leaders Gateway is going to produce for the church.
Lest you think it’s just their Leadership Formation program that has serious problems, their Global Missions program is riddled with contemplative emergent influences as well. Other syllabi authors used by Gateway Seminary include emerging figures N.T. Wright, Alan Hirsch, Eddie Gibbs (see Faith Undone), Mark Driscoll, Bill Hybels, Sally Morgenthaler, Tim Keller, Catholic convert Peter Kreeft (listed under In Defense of the Christian Faith!), not to mention C. Peter Wagner. We think you get the point.
If you belong to the Southern Baptist Convention and are thinking of sending someone you care about to Gateway Seminary, we hope you will reconsider.
Here’s a closing piece of documentation we found from Gateway Seminary’s website. It’s an article written by Dr. Doran McCarty called “A Guide for Spiritual Formation Mentors.” In this article, McCarty talks about spiritual hunger. He says even Christians have this. This is typical of those who promote contemplative spirituality. Across the board, contemplatives insist that Christians feel dry, empty, want to go deeper, etc. We can’t think of one contemplative we have studied who has not indicated this. What has always puzzled us is this: If someone has had the new birth in Jesus Christ, which means he or she has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (God), how can we feel empty, dry, and needing to “go deeper”? Now one may feel this way if he or she has neglected time in the Word and in prayer but what contemplatives suggest is that even time in the Word and normal prayer are not enough – something more is needed. What they neglect to tell us is that while the Holy Spirit has been given to believers to nurture, convict, and guide us as we pray and study His Word, there is also a pseudo Holy Spirit (i.e., familiar spirits) that come to those who engage in mind-altering meditation. We know that contemplative prayer is wrong because mind altering or mantra meditation is forbidden in Deuteronomy 18:9-13, and Jesus instructed His disciples not to use such a prayer practice in Matthew 6:7. We also know contemplative prayer is wrong because the proven fruit of this practice is that it leads to a pantheistic or panentheistic spiritual outlook while the message of the Cross (the Gospel) becomes irrelevant as the participant grows to believe that we are already a part of God.
Now if we are in Christ, we do have the Holy Spirit with and in us, and He promises never to leave us. But those like McCarty have something else in mind. What caught our attention most in this article by McCarty is his reference to and quoting of panentheist Tilden Edwards (also co-founder of the Shalem Prayer Institute in Washington, DC). McCarty quotes Edwards referencing the “spiritual friend.” In Edwards’ book, Spiritual Friend, he says the following:
“This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.”—Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 18.
This is what Lighthouse Trails has been trying to warn the church about for nearly 15 years.
For those who are unsure as to how the majority of Christian schools ended up in this mess, please read our special report “An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited.” In that report, you will learn that largely due to accreditation associations (such as ATS, where Gateway Seminary is accredited) requiring Christian schools to have Spiritual Formation integrated into their schools if they want to be accredited (kind of a quazi-bribing situation, if you will) is why this is happening at such a fast rate. From nearly fifteen years of research, we estimate that over 90% of the Christian higher education institutions have brought in Spiritual Formation (aka contemplative spirituality). That’s called a spiritual crisis in modern-day Christianity and a gateway into apostasy.
If you are confused about what contemplative prayer is, please read this article by Ray Yungen: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=18192.