For seven years, Lighthouse Trails has been writing about and reporting on contemplative spirituality and how it has entered the Christian church. When we first began, with the publication of A Time of Departing, and then with ongoing research, we soon became aware that contemplative was much more widespread than what we had initially suspected. It wasn’t just mainline Orthodox that was affected–it was also evangelical; even some of the most traditionally conservative were getting involved.
Today, in spite of the efforts of several good ministries, contemplative spirituality is moving full speed ahead. For those who understand the dangerous spiritual deception that goes along with this belief system, that will be unsettling to hear.
Knowing that the roots of contemplative lead ultimately to interspirituality, universalism, and panentheism (all of which negate the Gospel of Jesus Christ) should make any Bible believing Christian want to flee any notion of it. It has been the hope of Lighthouse Trails that if the true nature of contemplative was widely exposed, then many Christian leaders, pastors, and authors in churches, ministries, and organizations would at the very least turn away from showing any support or promotion of contemplative practices and the teachers of this mystical movement. It was also our hope that not only would these Christian leaders steer clear of any promotion of contemplative but that some would even publicly denounce contemplative spirituality and begin to warn the body of Christ about it.
Sad to say, there have been very few public warnings or denouncements of contemplative by leading pastors, leaders, and authors in the Christian world. And, to make matters worse, not only have there been virtually no warnings by popular and well-known leaders, many of them have actually promoted contemplative spirituality, either by promoting the practices themselves or by promoting key figures in the movement. Below are some examples that should cause concern.
Please understand, in listing these ministries, we are not trying to discredit them, but rather we are trying to bring to light a dark and occultic spirituality that has embedded itself within much of Christianity. Some have said that Lighthouse Trails is on a witchhunt, given we name so many. But the fact that we do name so many proves that we are not out to hurt or belittle individuals but rather to expose something that has affected these individuals and their many followers. If we thought for a moment that contemplative spirituality was just a minor doctrinal issue, we would not pursue this cause. But we believe that mysticism is the vehicle through which the world will eventually follow a false Christ. New Agers themselves admit that mysticism is the ground where all is one. Contemplatives admit this too.
These named below are Christian figures who have publicly promoted either mystics themselves or the mystical practices. If you are connected with any of these ministries, we hope you will contact them and ask them to reconsider their positions on contemplative.
RANDY ALCORN: On Alcorn’s website, under My Favorite Non-Fiction Books, he includes Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. Foster is the leading evangelical-type pioneer of contemplative spirituality (also known as the spiritual formation movement) and is considered to be a key player in the emerging church movement. 1 Alcorn has been a trusted name in Christian fiction.
Lighthouse Trails contacted Alcorn’s ministry and spoke with his assistant, who told us she spoke on Alcorn’s behalf when she said they saw nothing wrong with contemplative practices. She did agree to accept a copy of A Time of Departing and Faith Undone , which we have now sent, but said Randy Alcorn would likely not have time to read it. IMPORTANT UPDATE: On January 12, 2009, Randy Alcorn’s assistant contacted Lighthouse Trails and said that Randy has agreed to remove the recommendation to Foster. He did ask, however, that the following message be relayed to us: “[Randy] doesn’t believe in painting a broad brush over certain authors when we don’t agree with them in every area. For example, he has read three of Dallas Willard’s books, and while he doesn’t agree with him in certain areas, for the most part he found them to be very Christ-centered and biblical. So he strongly disagrees with the negative references to Willard in the books you sent.” Alcorn’s assistant said she “looked through” the books we sent, but did not say whether Alcorn saw them or not. P.S. A second contact from Randy Alcorn’s assistant to Lighthouse Trails on January 12th was made. We have been asked to post the following statement by Randy Alcorn:
“I do not give an overall endorsement for contemplative practices. There are many false and dangerous contemplative practices so it all depends on the context and what one is contemplating on. I do believe in meditating on Scripture and on our Lord, as this is explicitly commanded and commended.” — Randy Alcorn, 1/12/09
OUR COMMENT: For anyone who has any doubts as to whether Dallas Willard embraces mystical spirituality, please note that he wrote the foreword to Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Invitation to Silence and Solitude, in which Haley Barton encourages mantra-style (repeating a word or phrase) meditation. Haley Barton was trained at the interspiritual, panentheistic Shalem Institute in Washington DC, and today trains pastors and leaders in contemplative spirituality.
2ND COMMENT: We appreciate Randy Alcorn’s concern about “dangerous contemplative practices.” However, many people say that contemplative practices can be OK “depend[ing] on the context” and “what one is contemplating on.” Lighthouse Trails believes that even if the intent is to focus on Jesus and the Bible, there is never a time when the repeating of a word or phrase is safe … or biblical.
BILL RITCHIE, CROSSROADS CHURCH: Ritchie is pastor of a large Calvary Chapel church in Washington state. The church has begun what is called the “2009 Scripture Meditation Program.” In the January 4th Sunday bulletin, there was an explanation of the new program, giving a description of lectio divina where a passage of Scripture is isolated leading eventually to the isolation of a small phrase or a single word. This word or phrase is then “meditated” upon. This is classic lectio divina, a contemplative practice that is often a gateway to “deeper” meditation. (See an article on this please.) Note: Someone attending Crossroads contacted Lighthouse Trails about the bulletin; we then read the bulletin ourselves when it was posted online last week and confirmed what we were told. In view of the fact that Bill Ritchie calls The Shack (a book with New Age implications) “one of the most remarkable books I’ve read in years” and is introducing his large congregation to lectio divina, we believe our warning is warranted. 2
PATRICK HENRY COLLEGE: A faculty member at Patrick Henry College contacted Lighthouse Trails and said the school was no longer promoting Spiritual Formation. Prior to the current president, spiritual formation groups had been formed, in which books by contemplative authors were being studied. Those groups have been disbanded. However, we told the faculty member that a journal article on their website about labyrinths was showing too much favor toward labyrinths and would mislead readers/students into thinking the practice was acceptable by school administration. A weak disclaimer at the top of the article is inadequate in issuing a warning. The 2001 article by Kenneth Harper will most likely be read by many as it is easily accessed through the Online Global Journal of Classic Theology.
The PHC article rightfully identifies Dr. Lauren Artress as the one largely responsible for the present popularity of labyrinths. The article says that it was Artress’ “vivacious and winsome personality” that has played a role in the labyrinth explosion. What the article does not say though is that Artress believes the labyrinth is for the “transformation of human personality” and can accomplish a “shift in consciousness” 3 (see p. 68, Faith Undone). It also does not warn readers that Artress’ pastoral overseer is the “Reverend” Alan Jones at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. Jones has been addressed in many Lighthouse Trails articles because of his book Reimagining Christianity, in which he says the doctrine of the Cross is a vile doctrine (p. 168).
While Harper’s article does give some “cautionary notes” about the labyrinth, he “urges careful consideration of the labyrinth, and recommends its use in a Christian context.” This is to say that if the intent is right, then the means is acceptable. But this is faulty reasoning and can lead to spiritual deception. For those concerned about Patrick Henry’s insistence on leaving this article on their site, please read the article in full and draw your own conclusions.
AWANA: AWANA continues to sell and promote the book, Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation nearly one year after our report “Will Awana Recall Contemplative-Promoting Book?.” In this report, we show that the AWANA authors of the book (two AWANA executives), while giving some general (and too vague) caution to contemplative spirituality, confuse readers when they call Richard Foster’s book, Streams of Living Water an excellent overview of certain spiritual traditions, including contemplative. This is the book where Foster quotes panentheist Thomas Kelly as saying “within all” there is a “Divine Center” (p. 23). Basically, the two AWANA executives caution against contemplative if it is the ONLY spiritual tradition used but admit they believe it is ONE of the acceptable traditions.
CHUCK BALDWIN: In Baldwin’s “Recommended Reading for 2009” Baldwin does something interesting. He not only lists Madame Guyon as someone he “strongly” recommends and whose writings are “fantastic,” but he challenges those who would suggest she is a mystic. Thus, we feel we must list his recommendation as well. We emailed Baldwin this past week and offered him a copy of A Time of Departing but have not yet heard back.
A particular statement made by Guyon is very indicative of what contemplatives believe, and quoting it here can give a good example of the nature of mysticism. Guyon stated: “May I hasten to say that the kind of prayer I am speaking of is not a prayer that comes from your mind. It is a prayer that begins in the heart…. Prayer that comes out of the heart is not interrupted by thinking!” 4
This prayer of the heart that contemplatives such as Richard Foster teach is a “prayer” that eliminates distractions (thoughts) through meditative practices such as lectio divina, centering, ect. If a word or phrase is repeated or the breath focused upon, a type of self-hypnosis is achieved and the mind is rendered to a neutral state (the alpha state). But no where in Scripture are we instructed to produce a mystical state in order to hear God’s voice. On the contrary, < a href=”http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/divination.htm”>divination (seeking to contact the spirit world through self-induced mystical means)is strictly warned against.
Keep in mind that the “fruit” of practicing contemplative prayer is a change in spiritual outlook. That change comes in the form of believing that God is in all things. All the “great” mystics have believed this. It is the heart of Satan’s lie because if he can convince man that he is divine, then he can convince him he needs no Savior.
In a small obscure booklet Lighthouse Trails was given, written by Mrs. Jessie Penn-Lewis titled Life out of Death: A Brief Summary of Madame Guyon’s “Spiritual Torrents,” the last section of the book, after laying out the various stages of contemplative spirituality, is called “God All in All.” Here Mrs. Penn-Lewis tells readers that this “Divine Union” is the outcome of Guyon’s “contemplative prayer.” Penn-Lewis states: “Here all is God; God is everywhere, and in all things.” The Appendix following examines in further detail the “God in all.”
Penn-Lewis’ book was published in 1896. Several decades later, Thomas Merton echoed Guyon’s belief that God was in all things.
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 fall down and worship each other … At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, 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, 1989 edition, pp. 157-158)
And if Merton was right, then God the Father made a terrible mistake by sending His Son to die for our sins and to be a mediator between God and man (the only mediator) because there would be no need of it. Mystics believe this, which is why so many of them reject the Atonement.
What we have listed here are just a few examples of how contemplative continues to have its influence on Christianity. If we listed them all, this article would be the size of a large book. Please pray for these and other groups who are, to one degree or another, looking favorably upon the contemplative way; pray that eyes will be opened and a return to true biblical faith and practice will occur.