This weekend, the Break Forth Conference is taking place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Emergent/contemplative Tony Campolo is sharing the speaking platform with Kay Arthur, Josh McDowell, and Jack Hayford. (see poster) It is our hope that Kay Arthur and Josh McDowell will warn those attending that they should steer clear of contemplative and emergent spirituality, which might be presented at the conference if Tony Campolo’s recent book, Letters to a Young Evangelical, is any indication. In the book, which is a collection of letters to young believers, Campolo states: “[T]he West had severed itself from an ancient, magical form of religiosity and replaced it with a modern worldview in which religion was reduced to that which is rational and ethical (p.10).” He adds that he is seeking to become an “actualized Christian” where:
“[I]ntimacy with Christ has developed gradually over the years, primarily through what Catholic mystics call “centering prayer.” Each morning, as soon as I wake up, I take time–sometimes as much as a half hour–to center myself on Jesus. I say his name over and over again to drive back the 101 things that begin to clutter up my mind the minute I open my eyes. Jesus is my mantra, as some would say. The constant repetition of his name clears my head of everything but the awareness of his presence. By driving back all other concerns, I am able to create what the ancient Celtic Christians called “the thin place.”… After a while, an inner stillness pervades (p. 26).”
He later reiterates: “Having an intimate relationship with Christ is at the core of being an Evangelical.” He explains there are three things to consider: 1. “Centering prayer,” 2. “Contemplative Bible study” (lectio divina), and 3. “spiritual disciplines.”
Campolo says he “learned about this way of having a born-again experience from reading the Catholic mystics, especially The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola” who developed “a ‘oneness’ with God,” through contemplative practices. Campolo says that when the Reformation took place, we “left too much behind (p. 31)” and that “some Catholic saints” helped to deepen his prayer life.
As with other contemplatives, Campolo had deep mystical experiences from practicing this mantra-style prayer: “When I rise after engaging in this centering kind of prayer, I sense a fullness in my soul (p.31)” and “something happens to me that is strange and blessed (p. 33).”
In Campolo’s book, Speaking My Mind, he suggests that the bond between Christianity and Islam is a mystical state. This idea is actually at the very heart of the New Age that teaches that all things are connected together and the realization that universal oneness comes through practicing meditation.
If Josh McDowell and Kay Arthur are going to be doing “Christian” conferences with Tony Campolo, we hope they will tell the conference attendees that contemplative spirituality does not truly make one more intimate with God, regardless of the high feelings and emotions it may produce.