Lee Strobel is one of the most well-read Christian authors today. He is also one of the conference speaking teachers for Veritas Evangelical Seminary (co-founder Norm Geisler ), which is located on the Calvary Chapel Bible College grounds in California. Strobel is also a strong supporter of his son’s (Kyle Strobel) very contemplative ministry called Metamorpha. On the Metamorpha website, Lee Strobel islisted as a “supporter” of Metamorpha. Strobel’s public support of Metamorpha will bring much attention to Kyle’s ministry and in turn pointing many unsuspecting people toward contemplative spirituality. Certainly having his father listed as a “supporter” will give much credibility in the eyes of many Christians to Kyle Strobel’s work. Incidentally, also on the Metamorpha site, it lists InterVarsity Press as a “sponsor” of Metamorpha, and Biola’s Institute of Spiritual Formation is named as a “partner.”1 To give even more recognition to his son’s organization, Lee Strobel mentions Metamorpha, the book by his son, on his own website)
Kyle Strobel grew up at Willow Creek Church and later studied at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology, where he received 2 Masters Degrees. Today, he is helping to pave the contemplative way by touting the works and practices of mystics, contemplatives, and emergents. Metamorphais called “an online community for Christian spiritual formation” and lists several contemplative practices, including repetitive prayers, lectio divina, and Ignatian exercises. Recommended books on the site are a who’s who of contemplative prayer proponents such as Dallas Willard, Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Adele Calhoun, Thomas Kelly, and several others.
In an article on Metamorpha, specific instruction for Ignatian exercises (named after St. Ignatius of Loyola) is given. In the Metamorpha article, it says that the “imagination is key in Ignatian prayer…. Ignatian meditation involves several key spiritual disciplines: lectio divina, Ignatian contemplation, reminiscence, and the examination of consciousness (notice: not conscience).”2
A video on Metamorpha by Richard Foster titled “What role do the ancient Christians play in life of believers today?” is quite revealing.3Foster lists several ancient mystics as those we should turn to for spiritual direction. One he named is Jean Pierre de Caussade (from the 1700s), a mystic and the author of Abandonment to Divine Providence.4Foster also names panentheist Thomas Kelly who Foster quotes in one of his books as saying there is a divine center in every person (see Streams of Living Water). Foster also tells readers to practice meditation exercises such as lectio divina.
There is no question that Kyle Strobel is following the contemplative path. He resonates with numerous mystics whom Lighthouse Trails has critiqued in the past, as well as emergents like Leonard Sweet and Dan Kimball. It is hard to know whether his interest for the mystical began at Willow Creek or Biola – both promote it. But in his book, Metamorpha Kyle gives credit to Biola professor and contemplative advocate John Coe for helping him come to his present spiritual understanding (see footnote section of Metamorpha where Coe is mentioned several times for his contribution in Kyle’s life). Coe is the founder of Biola’s Institute of Spiritual Formation where contemplative prayer is openly promoted.
One of the mystics Kyle recommends is Thomas Merton. The following three quotes are very indicative of Merton’s spiritual affinities and should not be ignored:
“I’m deeply impregnated with Sufism.” Thomas Merton, The Springs of Contemplation, p. 266
“And I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own traditions, because they have gone, from the natural point of view, so much deeper into this than we have.” Quote by Merton from the book, Lost Christianity by Jacob Needleman
“Isn’t it a pity that people are going into LSD to have spiritual experiences, when we have a tradition in the Church [contemplative prayer] which no one knows anything about?” Read the Interview in which Matthew Fox quoted Merton.
In 2009, Relevant magazine asked Kyle to name ten books he believes “all Christians should read.” 5Two of them are written by Henri Nouwen (who Kyle calls a “prophet”), one by Brother Lawrence, and one by Thomas a’ Kempis – all three had mystical propensities. He also includes Karl Barth in his list of “should read” books, calling Barth (who rejected biblical inerrancy) ” the most important modern theologian.”
Conversations Journal is also named on the Metamorpha website, as a “partner”. Conversations Journal offers articles by some of the most blatant eastern-style mysticism teachers including Brian McLaren, Richard Rohr, Basil Pennington, and Tilden Edwards.6 It was Tilden Edwards who said: “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality” (Spiritual Friend, p. 18), and Basil Pennington who said:
We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and capture it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible … Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices. (Finding Grace at the Center , pp. 5-6, Keating/Pennington, from A Time of Departing)
It seems a paradox that Lee Strobel is a “supporter” of an extremely contemplative ministry and yet also a speaker for conferences at Veritas Evangelical Seminary, which carries a statement on its website that states it rejects contemplative spirituality.7 How can this be so? If Lee Strobel supports contemplative spirituality, why is he teaching students on the Calvary Chapel campus at Veritas? Both Veritas and Calvary Chapel 8 have made statements in the past that they reject contemplative mystical spirituality. But by including a contemplative supporter for teaching, doesn’t that neutralize those previous statements, and doesn’t it further confuse matters for the body of Christ?