by Ray Yungen
Biola University, the traditional virtual bedrock of conservative Christian higher education, has opened itself to influences that would have its founders turning over in their graves. This Fall, at Biola’s Christian Spirituality Soul Care series, contemporary Protestant mystic Ruth Haley Barton will be a featured speaker. Ms. Barton is a graduate of the Shalem Institute, founded by Tilden Edwards who believes Buddhist mysticism can enliven the spiritual life of the Christian. The Shalem Institute is the embodiment of all the heresies that Lighthouse Trails has been warning about since its inception. For Ms. Barton to successfully have completed the course in Spiritual Formation without any type of discomfort or protest indicates that she sees nothing wrong with Shalem’s bent towards Buddhist/Hindu spirituality. This is apparent in her method of reaching God and is the classic modality that all world mystics use to reach their respective divinities. Ms. Barton repeats the words “Here I am” over and over again for a period of time to induce a thoughtless state. To have Ruth Haley Barton speak with authority at an institution of Biola’s background and history would be in essence no different than having Tilden Edwards himself speak there, a man who said that contemplative prayer was the bridge between Christianity and Far Eastern spirituality. If this Soul Care series is the shape of things to come at Biola, it would not be beyond the realm of possibilities that one day Biola would resemble the Shalem Institute!
Note: After her training at Shalem, Ms. Barton became the Associate Director for Spiritual Formation at Willow Creek and helped to develop their Spiritual Formation curriculum. Since then she has started the Transforming Center, where pastors and leaders are trained in the art of contemplative spirituality.
Biola’s Soul Care series includes other speakers who heartily promote contemplative prayer, including Dallas Willard.