Last week, a colleague sent a note to Lighthouse Trails asking us to review a sermon that Erwin Lutzer recently gave at Skip Heitzig’s Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque (New Mexico) Church. Lighthouse Trails has issued challenges and appeals to Erwin Lutzer on a number of occasions over the past ten years because of our concerns that as a major Christian leader (Pastor Emeritus (as of spring 2016) of Moody Church – the same church Dr. Harry Ironside and D.L. Moody pastored many years ago), Lutzer would lead many astray because of his written endorsement of Larry Crabb’s book, The Papa Prayer, that openly promotes “centering prayer.” An editor from Lighthouse Trails spoke personally on the phone with Lutzer in 2006 but to no avail.Moody Church
In 2009, Lighthouse Trails wrote an article titled “Erwin Lutzer’s Warning Falls Short.” This was written in response to a letter we received saying that Lutzer had been on Focus on the Family and spoken against the New Age. The person who wrote the letter to us suggested that Lutzer had come around and was now warning the church. We disputed this because neither Lutzer nor Focus on the Family gave any warning about the contemplative prayer movement (a “Christianized” version of the New Age) IN the church. Warning the church about the New Age out in the world and our culture but neglecting to warn that it had come into the church big time makes no sense (to date Focus on the Family continues to promote contemplative spirituality).
In 2012, Lighthouse Trails wrote, “The Moody Church of Chicago Welcomes Contemplative Advocate Larry Crabb As Guest Speaker,” showing that Lutzer had still not figured out or acknowledged the dangers of the contemplative prayer (i.e., Spiritual Formation) movement in the church. Crabb is a strong advocate for this spirituality. In fact, in a Christianity Today article, Crabb said he is moving from psychology to “spiritual direction” (another term for contemplative spirituality). For those who might question where Crabb really stands in regard to contemplative spirituality, you can read our article “Larry Crabb to Join Richard Foster’s Renovare Contemplative Conference – Christian Leaders Continue to Promote Crabb” and see this for yourself. You may find the following three quotes from that article helpful:
I’ve practiced centering prayer. I’ve contemplatively prayed. I’ve prayed liturgically . . . I’ve benefited from each, and I still do. In ways you’ll see, elements of each style are still with me.—Larry Crabb in The Papa Prayer, p.9
I’m glad that as a conservative evangelical who still believes in biblical inerrancy and penal substitution, I’ve gotten over my Catholic phobia, and I’ve been studying contemplative prayer, practicing lectio divina, valuing monastic retreats, and worshipping through ancient liturgy. I appreciate Bernard of Clairvaux’s provocative insights. I’m drawn to Brother Lawrence’s profoundly simple ways to practice God’s presence. I’m intrigued and enticed by Julian of Norwich’s mysterious appearings of Jesus.—Larry Crabb, Real Church, p. 41
I generally read books to stimulate my mind, but I read this one [The Papa Prayer] for my soul, and it has left an imprint that I believe will be with me for the rest of my life. In these pages you will be introduced to a new way of praying that will, I guarantee, change the way you think about prayer; and, best of all, you will actually be motivated to pray continually, joyfully, and purposefully. This is a book for all of us who want to pray more but don’t; for all of us who have been discouraged because our prayers have not been answered, and for those of us whose priorities in praying need to be redirected. It is also for those who have read many books on prayer and think they need not read another one! Read these pages and let God change your perspective and your heart.—Erwin Lutzer, from The Papa Prayer endorsement pages (emphasis added)
And now about the sermon Erwin Lutzer gave at Skip Heitzig’s Calvary Chapel Church (to listen to this sermon, see link below). We listened to Erwin Lutzer’s message at CC ALBQ from September 2016. He, of course, is a very eloquent speaker, and he talked about numerous issues that are on the hearts of many Christians in America today: Islam’s influence, homosexuality, immigration problems, public schools and our kids, the danger of technology on our kids, and same sex marriage. And certainly, what conservative-thinking Christian would argue about the threat these things have on our society. All that he said about these things is true. He told Christians we must love our enemies and look for opportunities to witness to an unbelieving lost world. Again, so true. And he did warn about other religions, especially Islam. He also warned about Rob Bell and his universalistic teachings.
But, and this is the crux of the matter from our standpoint, he did not in any form warn the church (and does not warn the church) of the apostasy that is growing within the church. In fact, he said that the church is “an island of righteousness in a sea of paganism.” Theoretically, that is what the church is supposed to be. But that is not what is happening today. Lutzer made no mention of the spiritual condition of the Christian church with regard to its move toward Rome, its watered-down seeker-friendly, purpose-driven, anti-Israel new gospel, and its allowing New Age mysticism and occultism (i.e., contemplative prayer through Spiritual Formation) to influence and in many cases take over most Christian colleges, seminaries, mission groups, and so forth.
What he DID say is that we should not attack false teachers because they are basically too powerful and rich (he said let’s help the ones being affected by them instead), and he said that we need the “spiritual disciplines” in order to survive this time period. He said the spiritual disciplines are “absolutely critical.” Ask any contemplative writer what spiritual disciplines are, and they will tell you they are practices in which you must enlist to be “Christ-like,” and those disciplines will ALWAYS include contemplative prayer and the “silence.” Just check out any book by Richard Foster, who basically coined the terms for the evangelical/Protestant church “spiritual disciplines” and “spiritual formation.” If you want to learn more about the dangers of spiritual formation and the spiritual disciplines, please read our article “Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation?,” which will help bring clarification.
And here lies the problem with the Christian leaders. Many of them will warn about the moral decline of America, but they will not warn the church of what is happening on the inside. Lutzer warned the church to prepare for persecution from the outside, but as most Christian leaders today, he is blind to the fact that a different kind of persecution is destroying the church – the persecution from our adversary (and his minions) which is seducing Christians into an idolatrous relationship with “another Jesus,” “another gospel,” and “another spirit.” A perfect example of this is Jesus Calling. A false Christ is speaking to millions of Christians daily through Sarah Young’s books, and to date, we have not heard one leader speak up against it. And did Lutzer even hint that there might be an epidemic within the church regarding the road to Rome? No. In fact, many Catholics would be very comfortable with his sermon and would even greatly resonate with it. No wonder, he boasts on his website that he graduated from Loyola University (a Jesuit school) without any disclaimer or injunction against the school’s beliefs.
This is another perfect example of Christian leaders asleep on the watch. They are warning the church of the titanic going down, but they have woefully neglected to warn the church that there are big leaks in the lifeboat. Lutzer talks of the importance of ministering to the lost, loving the lost, and hopefully leading the lost to Christ. But when new converts come into today’s church, what will we be bringing them into?
Erwin Lutzer and all the other highly influential Christian leaders today, who have millions of Christians listening and eating up their every word, have done a horrible injustice to the church (and ultimately to the lost world) by refusing to warn the church of wolves that have entered to devour and destroy from within.
Will Christians who are compromising their faith by enjoining themselves with pagan practices (Yoga, contemplative, centering prayer, channeling as in Jesus Calling, etc) and dancing a two-step with the Pope and Rome really be persecuted? Or will they, when the time comes, continue their compromising and bow down to Caesar? Time will tell, but if they follow the present course of most Christian leaders, the handwriting is on the wall.
Link to Erwin Lutzer’s sermon at Calvary Chapel Albuquerque: http://www.calvaryabq.org/teaching_player.asp?ServiceID=4113&q=audio.