The theme for this year—“Seeking Wisdom from Above” (James 3:17)—is based on the beautiful summary of godly wisdom: “Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”1
The University website also states: “As an evangelical Christian university, APU affirms the supremacy of Christ in all areas of life.” Although the school claims to be “evangelical” and “affirms the supremacy of Christ,” the university has invited Protestant-turned-Catholic Jay Budziszewski to be the key note speaker at this year’s conference. Evangelicalism and Catholicism have traditionally been at opposite poles in the past with regard to certain doctrines such as justification by faith alone, the role of Mary (Catholicism adheres to Mary being a co-redemptor with Christ) and the Catholic belief that the elements during communion (the Eucharist) are the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ (see Another Jesus). Largely due to the influence over the past decade of the emerging church, the contemplative prayer (i.e., spiritual formation) movement, and the Purpose Driven movement, there has been a blurring of these essential doctrinal lines within the evangelical and Protestant church.
In April of 2009, Lighthouse Trails wrote an article titled: “Concerned Family Asks Legitimate Questions of Church Leaders.” The article was about a family whose teen age son, a student at Calvary Chapel’s Costa Mesa High School, was handed a copy of a book by Jay Budziszewski as a reading assignment for one of his classes. Our article explained:
Susan [the mother of the teen] learned that her son’s class was asked to read a book titled How to Stay Christian in College by J. Budziszewski. The students were to do a book report on the book, and then the class would study it in the following weeks.
Susan made a quick call to Lighthouse Trails and asked what we knew about this author. We had not heard of him, but quickly learned that J. Budziszewski (pronounced Boo-jee-shef-ski) was an author and professor who had converted in 2004 from Protestantism to Catholicism. We also learned he was a proponent of contemplative practices. He is a featured professor on contemplative-promoting Focus on the Family’s TrueU.org online university, telling students to practice lectio divina as a form of meditation.2
It seemed quite ironic that someone who had left the Christian faith to follow contemplative Catholicism wrote a book to instruct high school students how to remain Christian while in college, when he had converted away from evangelical Christianity. And knowing that a Calvary Chapel high school was using this book was troubling. Interestingly, the first person Budziszewski quotes in How to Stay Christian in Collegeis Lutheran-turned-Catholic priest, the late Richard John Neuhaus, who many would consider a friend in the emergent/Catholic conversation.
We believe that parents sending their children to Azusa Pacific University need to be aware of the Common Day of Learning this year. Many Christian parents have sent their children to Christian colleges and universities (and Christian high schools) with the hope that these schools will help further develop the spiritual lives of their children. But the sad fact is many Christian schools today are influencing students with a mystical, contemplative spirituality that if embraced will take students more toward a Hinduistic view of God than a biblical view of God. Just read the documentation in A Time of Departing or Faith Undone to understand this.
After we posted the 2009 article about Calvary Chapel using Budziszewski’s book in class, Dr. Budziszewski wrote a letter to Lighthouse Trails. He gave us permission at that time to post it. In order to explain the spirituality we are concerned about and in view of Budziszewski’s upcoming speaking engagement at Azusa Pacific University, we are reposting his letter to us and our comments below that.
From January 2010:
On January 7th, Lighthouse Trails received the following e-mail from a professor, J. Budziszewski (Boo-je-shef-skee), who was discussed in one of our 2009 articles. Professor Budziszewski has given us permission to post his email. Below his email is our response to him. . . .
While it may be possible that Professor Budziszewski is not aware of the nature of contemplative spirituality, he nevertheless is promoting it. And it is important to understand that lectio divina is an entry point into stronger forms of contemplative mystical prayer, and warning about it is completely in line with biblical injunctions about dangerous practices. Lectio divina isa practice, which involves mantric-like repetition and focus of words and phrases (usually from the Bible) and is directly related to the contemplative spirituality of which Lighthouse Trails is opposed to. As one definition describes the practice of lectio divina, “lectio divina begin[s] with deep, cleansing breaths and reciting a chosen phrase or word over and over to help free the mind.” In Tony Jones’ book, Divine Intervention: Encountering God Through Lectio Divina, Jones instructs: “[R]epeat the word or phrase over and over in your mind, almost like a mantra (p. 72).
Letter from Professor Budziszewski to Lighthouse Trails – His comments in bold black:
Your article contains several erroneous statements about my beliefs and teachings, which are already being quoted on other websites. In a spirit of truth, I ask you to correct them before they go viral. Here is the inaccurate paragraph:
“Recently we reported on Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa’s high school in which a teacher there asked his class to read, review, and study How to Stay Christian in Collegewritten by Protestant-turned-Catholic J. Budziszewski . The book has references in the back of some editions to mystic emergent Tony Jones, and Budziszewski himself is a proponent of contemplative prayer practices. Our article “Concerned Family Asks Legitimate Questions of Christian Leaders” illustrates what many families are going through in trying to protect their children and teens from spiritual deception. Christian parents must realize that the souls of their youth are at stake.”
1. “The book has references in the back of some editions to mystic emergent Tony Jones.” I have never read the works of Mr. Jones, have no idea what they are about, and have certainly never referred to them. Authors have no control over advertisements placed in the backs of their books by the publishers. [Our note: In our original article, we stated the following: Lighthouse Trails quickly obtained a copy of How to Stay Christian in College, and much to our dismay saw full page advertisements at the back of the book for books by Tony Jonesand Eugene Peterson. We could understand why Budziszewski’s publisher would place ads for Jones, a major advocate for mystical practices, in the back of Budziszewski’s book. But we could not understand how Calvary Chapel could bring this into their school.]
2. “Budziszewski himself is a proponent of contemplative prayer practices.” By “contemplation,” the author [Lighthouse Trails] means New Age mental practices, which I have consistently opposed. I have never encouraged Christians to work themselves up into altered states of consciousness.
Please notice that the author[Lighthouse Trails] has not discovered anything offensive to the Gospel in the actual contents of the book. [Our note: In actuality, as noted in our original article, the first person Budziszewski favorably quotes in How to Stay Christian in College is Lutheran-turned-Catholic priest, the late Richard John Neuhaus, who many would consider a friend in the emerging church/Catholic “conversation.”]
Professor Depts. of Government and Philosophy
University of Texas at Austin
Our response to Professor Budziszewski:
Thank you for your email sharing your concerns about our article.
In answer to your concerns, when we mentioned Tony Jones’s book being offered at the back of the book, this was not to associate you with his book but rather to question why a Christian high school would give their students a book that was advertising someone teaching a spirituality that completely negates the Gospel. We put the blame of this point to the high school, not you. I do think we made that clear in the article.
Secondly, we said that you are a proponent of contemplative prayer practices. We documented this in our original article with your Ask the Professor column (Focus on the Family) where you encourage the use of lectio divina, which is a contemplative practice. By contemplative, we are referring to the spirituality that Thomas Merton, Thomas of Aquinas, Teresa of Avila, etc. would resonate with. And we actually believe that in its very essence it is the same as that of New Age or eastern-style meditation. Practicing contemplative prayer frequently leads to a panentheistic view of God, as it did with Merton, Nouwen, and many others. It is the reason that Henri Nouwen (who had been a proponent of this type of mysticism), at the end of his life, came to the conclusion that he wanted to help people find their own path to God, be it Jesus or any other (see http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=1355 for citations).
It is for this reason that we do not think Christian schools should use any book whose author encourages contemplative spirituality, which you do. I do not mean to be disrespectful, but perhaps you do not understand the serious implications of the present spiritual formation movement that completely adheres to the spirituality of Thomas Merton, who stated the following:
“It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, … now I realize what we all are … If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are. I suppose the big problem would be that we would bow down and worship each other…. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth….This little point … is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody.” (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pp. 157-158)
Merton also told Matthew Fox that he felt sorry for the hippies in the 60s who were dropping LSD because they could practice contemplative and get the same effect (altered states). Merton knew it was the same thing.
We are convinced that contemplative spirituality is indeed very dangerous to the Gospel and is of the same nature as New Age or eastern-style mysticism. For example, one of the leading teachers and proponents of contemplative prayer in the world, Catholic priest Thomas Keating of Contemplative Outreach, says that many people doing contemplative prayer experience kundalini awakening.* Check out that word on the Internet for its meaning. And Richard Kirby, an Anglican mystic, said: “The meditation of advanced occultists is identical with the prayer of advanced mystics; it is no accident that both traditions use the same word for the highest reaches of their respective activities: contemplation” (samadhi in yoga).**
One of the leading teachers of contemplative prayer in Germany, Willigis Jaeger, said that the contemplative tradition is an esoteric practice on par with Zen, Yoga, and Sufism (Islamic mysticism). (from his book Search for the Meaning of Life)
These are proponents and teachers of the practice that are saying contemplative is New Age. In essence, they would agree with us, only from the opposite perspective.
Jay, we mean you no harm. This is not in any way meant to be an attack on you as a person. But we believe this mystical paradigm that has come into so much of evangelical Christianity does not line up with Scripture or the Gospel, and as believers we are compelled to defend this Gospel.
In closing, I would like to add two things. First, if you would like us to post your letter to us so readers can see your side of it, we will do this. Secondly, we would like to send you a complimentary copy of A Time of Departing, which addresses this issue, if you will allow us.
Lighthouse Trails editors
*Keating said this in the foreword of Philip St. Romain’s book, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality.
** Richard Kirby, The Mission of Mysticism, p. 7.
A final commentary by LT:In closing, we would like to state that “Christian” contemplation (i.e., contemplative prayer) is in nature the same as New Age or eastern-style meditation as Keating, Romain, etc. state. Therefore, it is obvious that “Christian’ contemplative is NOT Christian. An article we featured a number of years ago, written by a Hindu professor reiterates this, and it would be worthwhile to read it: “There is No Christian Yoga”by Yogi Bama Prem.
And lastly, we want to bring your attention to an article that just came out in Christianity Today. The article, titled “Journey to the Center,” illustrates how dangerous the new mystical spirituality really is. It features a woman, Joanna Quintrell, a formerly-traditional Christian who decided to seek out those in the New Age after “hearing” a message from God with the words: Journey Center: Christ-centered spirituality, healing, and wholeness. She began attending a New Age fair and did meet a New Age woman, with whom she formed a friendship. As the Christian woman continued attending the New Age fair, her views began to change as she “found out that Jesus was already there.” Soon after, Quintrell began a program at her church teaching contemplative prayer and spiritual formation. Eventually, she became convinced that “Christ” was a bridge between the various spiritualities. Today, Quintrell is no longer working with that church but helped to start a center called Journey Center in Santa Rosa California, which is an interfaith contemplative center that offers opportunity for many meditative practices including yoga, therapeutic touch, and a labyrinth. Specifically, one of those practices is lectio divina, again making our point that lectio divina is part of this mystical realm.
It is sad to note that the Christianity Todayarticle, written by staff writer Tim Stafford, shows no negative reaction to what happened to this woman but writes in a nuetral or even affirming manner. Another example of how the new spirituality has infiltrated the evangelical church.
Note about Budziszewski and lectio divina: Professor Budziszewski also promotes lectio divina in his book, Ask Me Anything (Book 2) where he tells readers that in prayer, some forms of prayer are “too limited,” and that we should draw from the “riches of Christian traditions of prayer and meditation” (p. 99). He then suggests to readers that they try Stations of the Cross or the “spiritual exercise called lectio divina.”
To date, Professor Budziszewski has not acknowledged whether we can send him a complimentary copy of A Time of Departing.
Note about Azusa:As of today’s date, the term “spiritual formation” shows up over 600 times on Azusa’s search engine, the school promotes the use of the labyrinth, recommends books by contemplatives such as David Benner, Richard Foster, Adele Alhberg Calhoun, and Henri Nouwen, and has an Interim Director in the Doctor of Ministry Program who served alongside Brian McLaren at McLaren’s former church.
Read Castles in the Sand, a novel that addresses the dangers of lectio divina and contemplative spirituality.