Over the past year, Lighthouse Trails has written articles regarding Moody Bible Institute’s move toward contemplative. Today, Moody’s public relations person, Lindsay Crystal, telephoned Lighthouse Trails and said that they were sending us an email and posting a more detailed version of that email on their website in their News section. Their online email may be viewed by clicking here.
In summation, Moody states that they agree that according to our definition of contemplative spirituality, it is wrong. Our definition states:
A belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in mysticism and the occult but often wrapped in Christian terminology; the premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all).
Their email states that they do not endorse this type of spirituality. They say that although they use books by contemplatives authors in their courses, it does not necessarily mean they adhere to the teachings of these authors. They say they are using these books to possibly discuss the errors of these books and authors. But this defense is contrary to evidence in their ministries and on their web sites that show they are promoting these authors and their teachings.
Midday Connection, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute, is featuring an author (and a guest on their show) who promotes contemplative spirituality, Keri Wyatt Kent. Wyatt Kent is a writer for Willow Creek Community Church and often speaks on spiritual formation. Her recent book, Listen: Finding God in the Story of Your Life (published by the emerging/contemplative promoting publisher, Jossey-Bass), teaches readers to “listen” to God through “spiritual practices,” including the practice of silence. The author quotes extensively throughout the book both contemplatives and New Agers, including Henri Nouwen, M.Scott Peck, Sue Monk Kidd, Anne Lamott, Julia Cameron, Rick Warren, Richard Foster, Ruth Haley Barton, and Eugene Peterson.
When Midday Connection (MBI ministry) was recently asked about their obvious promotion of Wyatt Kent and of contemplative spirituality, they stated that they were committed to spiritual formation and named “solid guests” like Larry Crabb and Dallas Willard who were teaching people “spiritual disciplines.” They said they were just “re-stating some old truths in new ways.” It makes sense that they would use Larry Crabb as an example of these “new ways.” Crabb, in the foreword of a book (Sacred Companions) by contemplative-promoting David Benner, said that it was time to get rid of the old written code and replace it with new ways of practicing spirituality. Even still, it is surprising that Moody would call Larry Crabb and Dallas Willard “solid guests … “who recognize the need to teach people spiritual disciplines.” We know that spiritual disciplines, according to Crabb and Willard, include the silence (i.e., contemplative).
Moody Conferences (another ministry of MBI) has a list of several speakers they use at their various conferences. One of them, Dan Allender (Mars Hill Graduate School) promotes contemplative spirituality and the emerging church. Another speaker, [the late] Robert Webber, has [had] the Ancient-Future Worship ministry and is a strong promoter of the emerging church. In an upcoming conference presented by Webber, he includes Brian McLaren as a speaker.
Unfortunately, Moody’s promotion of contemplative doesn’t stop there. In the July 2006 issue of Moody Publisher’s magazine, Today in the Word, there is favorable mention of Gary Thomas’ book, Sacred Pathways, (in which Thomas recommends repeating a word or phrase for 20 minutes) and Habits of a Child’s Heart: Raising Your Kids with the Spiritual Disciplines by Valerie Hess. On Amazon, it states that Hess’s book is based on Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.
Moody Bible Institute Graduate School has joined in too — there is a Department of Spiritual Formation, (p. 14) and a Master of Arts Degree in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship (MASF/D). A number of contemplative authors are used in these programs (Nouwen, Benner, Willard, Foster, etc.).
While it may seem that Moody has just recently come to the contemplative table, that is not actually so. In 1987, Moody Monthly wrote an endorsement for Sue Monk Kidd’s book, God’s Joyful Surprise. In this book, one of Monk Kidd’s earlier books, she unfolds her journey into contemplative spirituality, largely from reading Thomas Merton and other contemplative authors. Once a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher, today she promotes neo-paganism and goddess worship. This is what Moody Monthly wrote on the back cover of God’s Joyful Surprise nearly two decades ago:
Carefully avoiding a how-to approach [Kidd] suggests some disciplines for cultivating an interior quietness and a richer personal experience of God’s love. Her writing, well-balanced by the wisdom of writers like Brother Lawrence, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Henri Nouwen is alive with humorous anecdotes. (more on this )
The email from Moody Bible Institute states that it “does not promote contemplative spirituality.” However, the facts indicate that MBI does promote it. To say they reject eastern mysticism but then turn around and employ and promote the spirituality and teachings of contemplative teachers is contradictory at best and disastrous at worst. So the real question is, is the spirituality of “Christian” contemplatives (those named in this article) truly Christian, biblical spirituality, or is it no different than eastern spirituality that is taught in Hinduism and other religions which base their premise on pantheism (God is all) and panentheism (God is in all)? If the latter is true then MBI and its students are heading for serious detriment.
Is MBI prepared to issue a public statement saying that the spirituality of Henri Nouwen, Gary Thomas, Larry Crabb, Dallas Willard, Sue Monk Kidd, Dan Allender, Keri Wyatt Kent, and the other contemplative leaders that it uses to teach students is anti-biblical, dangerous to the spiritual well-being of practitioners, and should be avoided and warned against at all costs? Is MBI prepared to recant its promotion of these teachers and their contemplative proclivities? If not, then we fear that MBI will continue down this path with results that will mislead many unsuspecting students and place them in harm’s way.
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