As Rick Warren moves ahead toward his global peace agenda, working with virtually anyone or any group who rallies behind him, he has moved to the forefront of evangelical leaders who are propagating the contemplative prayer movement (i.e., spiritual formation). In essence, he has become an evangelist for contemplative spirituality. For those who realize that contemplative (that is mystical meditation) is the driving force behind the kingdom-now, heaven-on-earth emerging church movement, this is an alarming deduction.
As has been carefully documented since A Time of Departing first brought to the light Rick Warren’s involvement and promotion of contemplative, Warren has consistently shown support for and resonance with contemplative leaders and authors and their mystical practices. This week is no exception. In his Ministry Toolbox newsletter (issued to hundreds of thousands of pastors and church leaders around the world), Warren directs readers to Metamorpha, “an online community for Christian spiritual formation.”1 Warren’s newsletter describes Metamorpha as “a place for deeper, more authentic, and more relevant conversation about the Christian faith.” Unfortunately, Metamorpha is actually a place where mysticism is heralded and exalted. With video features by mystic proponent Richard Foster, and others of the same caliber such as David Benner, Dallas Willard, and Biola University’s own contemplative professor John Coe (director of Biola’s Institute for Spiritual Formation), Metamorpha is proclaiming their message loud and clear – mysticism is essential to the Christian life.
While Rick Warren seems to play a kind of “Catch me if you can” with the body of Christ, going virtually unnoticed and unchallenged by nearly every major Christian leader and organization, his dare devilish fellowship with those who blatantly promote New Age mysticism (such as Warren’s recent invitation to Ken Blanchard to Saddleback) seems to be picking up momentum.
One of the videos on Metamorpha is Jan Johnson, who wrote the book When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer. Johnson states:
Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.(p. 16) … In the beginning, it is usual to feel nothing but a cloud of unknowing…. If you’re a person who has relied on yourself a great deal to know what’s going on, this unknowing will be unnerving(p. 120).
When Johnson speaks of the cloud of unknowing she is referring to a book written centuries ago by a monk called The Cloud of Unknowing, which is a primer on contemplative mysticism.
Metamorpha lists several contemplative exercises, one which instructs readers to repeat one phrase over and over for 10 minutes.2 In an article on the site, instruction for Ignatian exercises (named after St. Ignatius of Loyola) is given. Of Ignatius, Roger Oakland states: “Ignatius founded the Jesuits with a goal to bring the separated brethren back to the Catholic Church. He and his band of ruthless men would do everything possible to accomplish this goal.” (Faith Undone, p. 116) In the Metamorpha article, it says that the “imagination is key in Ignatian prayer…. Ignatian meditation involves several key spiritual disciplines: lectio divina, Ignatian contemplation, reminiscence, and the examination of consciousness (notice: not conscience).”3
A video on Metamorpha by Richard Foster titled “What role do the ancient Christians play in life of believers today?” is quite revealing.4 Foster lists several ancient mystics as those we should turn to for spiritual direction. One he named is Jean Pierre de Caussade (from 1700s), a mystic and the author of Abandonment to Divine Providence.5 Foster also names panentheist Thomas Kelly who Foster quotes in one of his books as saying there is a divine center in every person. Foster also tells readers to practice meditation exercises such as lectio divina.
For those who still have doubts that Rick Warren meant what he said in the 90s in his first book, Purpose Driven Church, his promotion this week of Metamorpha should dispel all questions. In that book, Warren said that the spiritual formation movement was vital and needed for the church. He said Richard Foster and Dallas Willard were key players in that movement (p. 126). Now today, he still embraces the spirituality of Richard Foster who has been teaching the heresy of mysticism since his 1978 book Celebration of Discipline and who emulates the late panentheist Thomas Merton.
Incidentally, in Warren’s rendezvous with mysticism in this week’s newsletter, he includes Pete Scazzero. You may remember the November 2006 book alert on Scazzero’s book, Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, the book featured on Warren’s site this week. It is really quite astounding that Warren has featured this book. Look at the partial list of who is in Scazzero’s book:
St. Theresa Avila
Kieran Kavanaugh, editor of John of the Cross
Thomas Merton(Trappist monk and interspiritualist)
Daniel Goleman(scientist who studies and promotes Buddhist meditation)
M. Scott Peck
The Sayings of the Desert Fathers
Dan Allender (AAAC)
Larry Crabb (Papa Prayer)
Tony Jones, The Sacred Way
Tilden Edwards (panentheist founder of Shalem Institute)*
These names all have one thing in common – their embracing of mysticism. Scazzero’s book is a who’s who of Eastern style meditation.
As incredible as it is, Purpose Driven Life and Celebrate Recovery are saturating evangelical churches across the globe in nearly every denomination, and Rick Warren’s efforts to bring the contemplative emerging paradigm to the forefront of Christianity are succeeding, and most Christians don’t even see it happening.
*Note: Most of the authors listed above can be found on the Lighthouse Trails Research site. Just go to the search engine and type in the needed name.
Related to Rick Warren’s Pastor.com website and his Ministry Toolbox newsletter:
Pastors.com: Misleading Pastors into Interspirituality Via Contemplative Prayer