Bible Study Fellowship, a ministry of Bible studies that has been around for over 50 years, is utilized by many Bible believing Christians. On the BSF website, it states: “In all, there are over 1,000 BSF classes with 200,000 class members in 38 nations across six continents! Over 800 of the classes are held in the U.S.”
Recently, a number of BSF supporters/participants contacted Lighthouse Trails with concerns that the organization may be becoming influenced by contemplative sources, most likely unbeknownst to many or most of BSF board of directors and Bible Study teachers. In the May 2010 issue of the BSF magazine, a book list includes three contemplative proponents: contemplative pioneer Dallas Willard, emerging proponent Dan Allender, and Pastor Timothy Keller of Redeemed Presbyterian in New York.
BSF does give a disclaimer on their magazine stating: “The books listed do not necessarily represent the BSF point of view in their entirety but are recommended to challenge your thinking and enlarge your understanding of the world and the church”; however, as we have explained before in other articles, regardless of such disclaimers, recommending heretical teachers is just that, and it can have serious repercussions. Pointing to Dallas Willard can potentially lead readers into the arms of Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen; and that goes the same for Keller and Allender. On Willard’s website, some of the mystics he resonates with and recommends are Teresa of Avila (see Castles in the Sand), Henri Nouwen, St. Ignatius of Loyola, Richard Foster, Madam Guyon, and Jan Johnson – all proponents of a mantra-style meditation.
Worth noting, on a second page of the four page BSF May 2010 magazine, in an editorial article by BSF executive director, Susan Rowan, Rowan quotes Eugene Peterson’s The Message, which has proven to be a most untrustworthy paraphrase of God’s Word. Additionally, Peterson himself is a strong proponent of contemplative spirituality, is one of the main endorsers of The Shack, and embraces the spirituality of Sue Monk Kidd, who worships the goddess Sophia.1
Lighthouse Trails contacted the BSF office, but was unable to reach anyone. If you are using BSF material or know of someone who does, we urge you to contact the organization and beseech them to reconsider their promotion of contemplative-promoting authors. While a mere quote by The Message and a few book recommendations may seem trivial to some, we know from experience that typically when a ministry or organization opens the door, even ever so slightly, to contemplative resources, it is just a matter of time before the organization becomes influenced with it. In Ms. Rowan’s article, she says that “BSFers are proving that they are fully engaged with Jesus Christ and His work.” If contemplative spirituality (i.e., spiritual formation and the new spirituality) reorient this ministry, they will become “engaged” with the mystics, and we know the Bible says we cannot serve both God and man. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24
When one looks through the websites of Christian colleges, organizations, churches, and ministries, one can easily see that contemplative has indeed had a significant presence. Lighthouse Trails’ very existence is to point out that we believe what II Thessalonians refers to as the falling away from real Christianity to a false mystical “Christianity.” When we look at the statements and beliefs of Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, this is glaringly apparent.
Bible Study Fellowship International
19001 Huebner Rd
San Antonio, Texas 78258