Prairie Bible Institute, a renown Bible college in Alberta, Canada, is showing strong signs that it is going in a contemplative direction. A concerned parent contacted Lighthouse Trails and told us about a Servant (the college magazine ministry) article that quoted New Age/goddess worshipper Sue Monk Kidd. Unfortunately, this is not the only indication that the college may be succumbing to contemplative spirituality.
The issue of Servant carrying Monk Kidd’s quote (Issue 78) has a photo of Bill Hybels (Willow Creek) on the cover with a feature story by Philip Yancey. Both Hybels and Yancey are advocates for contemplative (i.e., spiritual formation). The quote (and a photo of her) by Monk Kidd (on page 9) is from her book, God’s Joyful Surprise (the quote is titled Meditation). This is an appropriate title because in God’s Joyful Surprise, Monk Kidd describes her spiritual transformation, which began after a co-worker handed her a copy of a book by the famous Catholic contemplative Thomas Merton – that’s when everything began changing for her. Once a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher, today Monk Kidd worships the goddess Sophia, says that God is in everything (even excrement), and promotes eastern-style meditation. In God’s Joyful Surprise, Monk Kidd states:
I am speaking of recognizing the hidden truth that we are one with all people. We are part of them and they are part of us … When we encounter another person, … we should walk as if we were upon holy ground. We should respond as if God dwells there. (pp. 228,232, also see A Time of Departing for more)
Monk Kidd now believes that God dwells in everything, even steam from soup and graffiti on a building – this is a natural outcome of contemplative prayer. That is because the altered state one goes into during meditation is an occultic realm, a realm where spiritual beings (demons) convince practitioners that divinity is in all.
If Prairie’s quote by Monk Kidd was just an isolated incident, perhaps they could be persuaded that such quoting puts students in harm’s way. But the college seems to be caught up in the wave of mystical spirituality that is sweeping through the evangelical church. For instance, on the Prairie Bible Institute website, Professor Ritchie White lists a collection of writers (http://instructor.prairie.edu/WhiteR/formative_authors.htm) whom he says “have shaped both my mind and my heart in significant ways.” Three of those are Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, and Annie Dillard, all of whom have contemplative orientations. Prairie music instructor Vernon Charter uses a textbook by the late emerging church leader, Robert Webber (see Faith Undone). Charter’s list of Supplementary Books includes emergent leader Dan Kimball (The Emerging Church) and other books by Webber. (See, http://instructor.prairie.edu/CharterV/Documents/Music%20History%20II/Music%20History%20II%20SYLL%2007.doc)
In addition to White’s book lists, Prairie Christian Academy (a ministry of PBI) teacher and former PBI instructor Dr. Steven Ibbotson teaches on the spiritual disciplines and includes the discipline of “Silence and Solitude.” (See, http://instructor.prairie.edu/StevenIbbotson/CMFX105/class3.htm)
Some may ask, “What’s the big deal if Prairie instructors and personnel promote Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, and others with contemplative affinities? And so what if their magazine Servant touts Philip Yancey, Bill Hybels, and Sue Monk Kidd? Is this really going to affect the students?” The answer to these questions may be partly found in the student-run newspaper, Mosaic. A paper “by the students and for the students,” Mosaic is an outcome of students who have been introduced to contemplative and emerging spiritualities. For instance, in a December 2006 article in Mosaic titled “The Arrogance of the Evangelical Church,” Morgan Mosselman (listed as the Commissioner of Spiritual Life and officer of the Prairie Student Union in the 2005-2006 Chapel handbook) suggests we can “learn from our Catholic friends” in the area of spiritual life. Mosselman then favorably refers to a man named Simon Chan. Chan is described as “the world’s most liturgically minded Pentecostal (See, http://www.christianvisionproject.com/2007/06/the_mission_of_the_trinity.html) His book, Liturgical Theology is a primer for the Catholic Eucharist and other Catholic means of spirituality.
In discussing the contribution that the Catholic church can give to evangelicals, Mosselman states:
The Catholic church has emphasized “spiritual fitness.” This is where we can and should be learning from the Catholic church!
Your Catholic friends can help you in applying the truths that you know. For instance, he or she will suggest meditating on your mortality, the practice of virtue, and
submission to a spiritual director … Yes, contemplation . . . that was a huge eye-opener for me, personally. God persistently led me from one Catholic writer to another, both ancient and modern (e.g., Brother Lawrence, Thomas Keating), in order to teach me this foundational spiritual discipline (which is simply the active practice of faith). To this day, I can scarcely think of any evangelical writers who give contemplation due justice â€“ with few notable exceptions, such as Richard Foster.
Of course, anyone who has studied contemplative knows that the spirituality of Thomas Keating is anti-biblical, pantheistic, and heretical. We cannot know who influenced Mosselman to go in this direction, but with Prairie pointing to the contemplatives they do, it surely didn’t help Mosselman to see the dangers of these men’s teachings. In that same issue of Mosaic, there is an article by contemplative writer Lauren Winner (Girl Meets God). And in other issues, regular columnists write about and quote from other mysticism proponents such as Erwin McManus.
For those who still may doubt whether Prairie is heading in the contemplative direction, a view at their textbook list is quite revealing. Remember, this isn’t a student-run newspaper – this is textbooks chosen by Prairie instructors. The list of authors includes contemplative proponent John Ortberg, mystic promoter Jim Collins, and Richard Foster’s colleague, Dallas Willard (Renovation of the Heart). But that is not all. They also have textbooks by Ruth Haley Barton (trained at the interspiritual Shalem Institute), as well as Gary Thomas (Sacred Pathways where he says to repeat a word or phrase for twenty minutes) and Rick Warren (both whom avidly promote contemplative).
If students at Prairie take the “Spiritual Formation and the Church” course, in which Ruth Haley Barton’s book is used, they may end sharing the same proclivities as Morgan Mossleman – There is no doubt Barton resonates with Thomas Keating. Keating’s mystical and New Age persuasions can be seen by going to Ken Wilber’s site (click here). Discerning Christians will quickly realize that the spirituality represented by Keating is not a spirituality that should be upheld at any Christian learning institution.
We pray that the faculty and staff at Prairie Bible Institute will repudiate and renounce the contemplative approach to Christianity … for the sake of the students who trust them and look to them for spiritual guidance and nourishment.
For more information on colleges and contemplative, click here.