J. P. Moreland is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot (Biola) School of Theology. He has written numerous books and has spoken at over 200 colleges. He has many academic credentials and honors such as: Outstanding Young Men of America, 1981 and Senior Class Professor of the Year, Biola University, 1992-93. But Moreland has another credential that is not being discussed in evangelical circles – he promotes contemplative spirituality.
Last year, in an article titled “Focus on the Family Continues its Dive into Contemplative,” Moreland was discussed. On the FOF website, he wrote a four-part article titled “How Spiritual Disciplines Work.” (1) Part III of Moreland’s article is called Solitude and Silence as Spiritual Disciplines. Moreland writes a disclaimer for the article stating:
As we dive into the disciplines of solitude and silence, I need to make a very important qualification. While some of the things in this article may, at first, sound like something you’d hear from a New Age guru, these ideas are, in fact, based on Scriptural principles and practices.
Moreland is concerned that his instructions may sound New Age or Eastern. We have noticed that usually when something sounds New Age or Eastern, that’s because it is. There is no instance in the Bible where Jesus or the apostle Paul made such a disclaimer, nor did they ever sound that way.
In Part II of Moreland’s article he says, “A spiritual discipline is a repetitive practice.” Moreland favorably references contemplative-promoter Dallas Willard to describe the importance of silence and solitude. He adds: “People are coming to see that repeated bodily practice in the form of spiritual exercises/disciplines is at the heart of spiritual transformation ” (Part II). Moreland says, “Catholic retreat centers are usually ideal for solitude retreats,” which are bastions for contemplative spirituality.
In Faith Undone, Roger Oakland addresses Moreland’s instructions on repetitive prayer. Oakland quotes Moreland from his book The Lost Virtue of Happiness where Moreland tells readers to say the “Jesus Prayer” three hundred times a day. His new release, Kingdom Triangle, should be viewed with caution. Dallas Willard wrote the foreword, and in an Amazon book review, the reviewer states:
On page 159, Dr. Moreland encourages the reader to participate in an unbiblical form of meditation which is more akin to the religious practices of Yoga and Eastern mysticism than orthodox Biblical Christianity where he details a 2-step process first alluded to in the Lost Virtue of Happiness book. In step one, he tells the reader to “[f]ocus the center of your attention on your physical heart muscle.”(2)
Moreland recommends Richard Foster and Henri Nouwen, which makes sense – he co-authored a book with Dallas Willard ten years ago; thus, he has been dancing in contemplative circles for sometime.
While it is quite obvious that Moreland is a promoter of contemplative prayer, what isn’t so clear is how Christian ministries are viewing Moreland as a trustworthy source. For instance, in the recent Summit Ministries (Dr. David Noebel) student conference, Moreland was a featured speaker. (3) And in an apologetics book on the emerging church, Reclaiming the Center, Moreland was a contributing writer. That book is being recommended by Christian colleges, even ones that have in the past said no to contemplative, such as Corban College in Salem, Oregon. (4)
Our concern is that contemplative spirituality will further seep into Christianity through the acceptance of Moreland’s spiritual disciplines. The fact that he has spoken at over 200 colleges, shows that his audience is largely the younger generation. Corban College’s promotion of his book as well as Summit’s student conference are points in fact. Once again, Satan is going after the minds of the youth. But it is tragic when it happens through respected ministries. We pray and hope that Summit Ministries and Corban College will make clear statements to their students that Moreland’s repetitive prayer instructions are unbiblical and dangerous.
Some people might criticize us for coming on so strong against organizations like Summit and Corban. But we are compelled to do so. What we are concerned about is that ministries that have not gone the contemplative way but have been reticent to strongly stand against it and speak out against it often have succumbed to it. If we truly believe that contemplative spirituality (i.e., mysticism) is the driving force behind a great falling away, then boldness is absolutely required, and to do less could have serious implications.
Note: Lighthouse Trails has listed Corban College as a Christian college that does not promote spiritual formation (contemplative). You may view that list by clicking here.
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