On Saturday morning, Lighthouse Trails received an e-mail from a concerned parent whose child is attending Olivet Nazarene University. The parent told us that Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline is part of a required Freshman course. We have also discovered that Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative spirituality) is integrated in various aspects of the school including their Christian Education program, Practical Ministries, Youth Ministry, and the School of Theology. Thus we have added Olivet Nazarene University to our list of Christian schools that promote Spiritual Formation.
In addition to Richard Foster’s book, Henri Nouwen’s books are used in at least 4 courses. In two of those (CMIN 116, COMM 300), his contemplative promoting book In the Name of Jesusis used. This is the book that Kay Warren, Rick Warren’s wife, recommends saying it “hits at the heart of the minister . . . I highlighted almost every word.”1 It is in that book of Nouwen’s that he says:
Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love . . . For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required.2 (emphasis added)
In almost every school that promotes Spiritual Formation, Henri Nouwen is used. This is because the spirituality that Nouwen advocated for is the same spirituality that Spiritual Formation (contemplative) inhabits. When you think of where Spiritual Formation took Nouwen before the end of his life (after years of practicing mysticism), it is sobering to see the majority of Christian colleges and seminaries embrace him. In the last book he wrote, he stated:
Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.”3
What Nouwen says here illustrates the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality. It is not surprising to us that Olivet Nazarene University promotes Spiritual Formation. Most of the Nazarene universities do. We have documented this for years. If you want to see one of the most shocking signs of where evangelical Christian schools will end up, read our article Buddhist/Universalist Sympathizer Woos Nazarene Students at NNU and watch the video we link to of Dr. Jay McDaniel’s visit to Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho.
Nouwen’s influence is obvious at Olivet. The VP of Spiritual Lifelists Nouwen as one of his favorite authors. This of course could have a profound influence on many students. Parents, please remember, when you are looking for a college or university for your son or daughter to attend this coming fall, please check that school out carefully beforehand, and make sure your child understands what the underlying roots of contemplative and emerging spirituality are before they leave your home. It is by no means just Nazarene Universities that are being affected. This is happening in virtually every denomination to one degree or another.
1. Rick Warren quoting Kay Warren on the Ministry Toolbox (Issue #54, 6/5/2002, (http://web.archive.org/web/20081227044856/http://legacy.pastors.com/RWMT/?ID=54).
2. Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 2000), pp. 6, 31-32.
3. Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, Hardcover edition, 1998, p. 51.