In answer to an e-mail we received this past week asking if Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS is a contemplative school, we responded:
As to your concern whether contemplative is being taught at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS, the sad truth is the seminary is promoting contemplative spirituality. Here are a few links from their site to show this. Incidentally, Reformed Theological Seminary has several campuses, and it appears that the campuses are essentially teaching and promoting the same things. Based on our findings, we have added Reformed Theological Seminary to our “Contemplative Colleges” list.
Below are just a few examples of the many found at Reformed Theological Seminary. It is worth noting that RTS is accredited by Association of Theological Schools, which LT wrote about recently because of the ATS’s requirement that accredited schools incorporate “spiritual formation” into the lives of students. See our article: An Epidemic of Apostasy – Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited.
RTS Recommended Reading List – The list, many of which are required, not just recommended, reading, includes contemplative/emerging advocates such as Henri Nouwen, David Benner, Larry Crabb, Dan Allender, Eugene Peterson, and John Eldredge.
1. Classics of Personal Devotion (Charlotte campus) (2HT508) – Richard Foster’s highly contemplative book, Devotional Classics (which includes authors such as Thomas Merton, Teresa of Avila, and Madame Guyon), is one of the texts used for this Reformed Theological Seminary course. At the Orlando campus, the same course is being taught by Jon Davis, vicar of the Church of the Incarnation (Episcopal) in Oviedo, Florida and director of Canterbury Retreat and Conference Center. Listed for reading are: Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, Julian of Norwich, The Cloud of Unknowing, Donald Miller (Blue Like Jazz), and Anne Lamott. This course is part of Reformed’s Master of Divinity Program and is listed on page 18 of their 2011-2013 Catalog.
2. Spiritual Formation for Leaders (2DM802) (Orlando campus) – Taught by Steve Childers, President and CEO of Global Church Advancement, the course includes reading Richard Foster’s two books, Celebration of Discipline and Spiritual Classics as well as books by John Eldredge and Dallas Willard.
3. Ministry Leadership for the Long Haul (2DM858) – Taught by Bob Burns, required and recommended reading list contains the following contemplative authors: Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Peter Scazzero, Gary Thomas, Kenneth Boa, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, Daniel Goleman (scientist who studies and promotes Buddhist meditation), Eugene Peterson, Henri Nouwen, and several others. These here listed are all on the Lighthouse Trails Top 100 Contemplative Evangelical Proponents.
4. RTS KDMin: Next Generation Discipleship (Atlanta campus) with Professor Eric Larson uses books written by emerging church authors Mike Yaconelli, Mark DeVries, and Doug Fields
5. Introduction to Pastoral and Theological Studies uses material from the late contemplative/emerging figure, Robert Webber (influential in closing the gap between the Roman Catholic Eucharistic adoration and the evangelical church – see chapters 5 & 8 of Faith Undone) for teaching the course. Webber is also being used in the Worship 2PT 526/01 course. These two courses are taught by Reggie Kidd, who “Provides doctoral level instruction on classical liturgy and “sacred actions” for contemporary worship leaders at the Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies.
6. In the 2006 and 2007 syllabi for RTS’s PSY630 Psychology in Relation to Theology I, they used the contemplative practice of lectio divina and the labyrinth. While this was a few years ago, it shows that contemplative spirituality has been coming into RTS for some time. The 2011 syllabus for Psychology in Relation to Theology is taught by Chuck DeGroat (who has served at RTS as director of spiritual formation). DeGroat turns to emerging figure (and supporter of Brian McLaren) Dan Allender and centering prayer advocate, Larry Crabb to teach his students. DeGroat’s book, Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness, further illustrates DeGroat’s contemplative/emerging propensities as he points readers to those such as Thomas Merton, Gerald May, Henri Nouwen, and Parker Palmer (all these have New Age type affinities).
Conclusion: The above is just a sampling of how Reformed Theological’s is embracing contemplative spirituality and the emerging church. When trying to find reasons for RTS’s lack of discernment, one should not overlook the President of RTS, Don Sweeting. On his personal blog, he speaks favorably of the “new” Calvinists (such as Mark Driscoll), saying that their movement is “cooperative” and “seems focused on the gospel,” when in actuality this so-called “new” Calvinism promotes contemplative spirituality (Driscoll being a prime example of this) as well as other New Spirituality beliefs.