Lighthouse Trails received an e-mail this past weekend informing us that David Jeremiah (pastor of Shadow Mountain Community Church) invited major contemplative writer, John Ortberg, to his church’s Summer Bible Conference this past Sunday evening.
To Lighthouse Trails:
Below is an excerpt from Dr Jeremiah’s weekly email, speaking about the Sunday evening guest speaker and that speaker’s passion about “spiritual formation.”
At 6:00 pm on Sunday evening, John Ortberg will be our guest speaker for our Summer Bible Conference. John is passionate about “spiritual formation,” which is how people become more like Jesus. His teaching brings Scripture alive and invariably includes practical applications and warm humor. John is the author of many books, including “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat,” and “The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Growth for Ordinary People,” and his latest book, “The Me I Want To Be.” John is Senior Pastor at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, a 4,000-member church in Northern California with campuses in Menlo Park, Mountain View, and San Mateo.
As you can see from this brochure, http://www.shadowmountain.org/Content/HtmlImages/Public/Documents/General/SummerBibleConference/SBC_2012.pdf, it is true that John Ortberg spoke at Shadow Mountain Community Church on August 19th. John Ortberg has been a major contemplative advocate for many years. It was he and Ruth Haley Barton (trained at Shalem Institute) who put together the spiritual formation (i.e., contemplative prayer) curriculum for Willow Creek a number of years ago. What’s more, in a book that Barton and Ortberg co-authored, An Ordinary Day with Jesus, they tell readers to practice lectio divina (what they describe as a slow meditative practice) and to repeat a word in a mantra-like fashion. They also include panentheist Tilden Edwards (along with other contemplatives) in their additional resources section of that book. It was Edwards who stated that contemplative prayer is the bridge that unites Christianity with “Far Eastern spirituality” (Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 18). Edwards co-founded the Shalem Institute in Washington, DC. Just to illustrate to you the nature of Tilden Edwards and Shalem’s spirituality, New Age teacher Eckhart Tolle will be a speaker at a Shalem event this coming October.
John Ortberg is listed in the Lighthouse Trails Top 100 Contemplative Proponents list and for good reasons. Another case in point, in Ortberg’s book, God is Closer Than You Think, Ortberg quotes favorably from contemplatives such as Anne Lamott, Annie Dillard, Gary Thomas (Sacred Pathways), Brother Lawrence, interspiritualists Tilden Edwards (Shalem Institute), Thomas Kelly (Divine Center in all), Jean Pierre de Caussade, Frederick Buechner, Meister Eckhart as well as Thomas Merton. He also quotes contemplative Dallas Willard.
In his book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted (see book review), Ortberg quotes favorably the following contemplative/mysticism advocates:
In Ortberg’s more recent book, The Me I Want to Be, he maintains his propensity toward the contemplative by favorably quoting Henri Nouwen and Catholic priest Richard Rohr. Rohr is the founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation and has done much to propel contemplative spirituality. Here is an excerpt from Rohr’s website, just to give you an example of the spirituality that Rohr embraces:
In this exciting, extended weekend conference, spiritual masters Thomas Keating, OSCO, and Richard Rohr, OFM, put together in specific and practical ways the ancient, perennial, and Christian tradition of “now” teaching.
Each in their gifted style help listeners connect the dots between Scripture, the desert Mystics, the Benedictine and Franciscan traditions, the Buddhist masters, and other contemporary teachers.1
The fact that Ortberg has included Rohr in a 2009 book shows that he is going deeper and deeper into the contemplative mindset.
This isn’t the first time that John Ortberg has been a speaker at Shadow Mountain. He spoke there in 2009, for one. And on the Shadow Mountain Small Groups resources page, Ortberg is on the list of recommended reading. By the way, contemplatives Gary Thomas (who says to repeat a word for 20 minutes in his book, Sacred Pathways), Pete Scazzero (Emotionally Healthy Spirituality), Philip Yancey, and Brian McLaren-advocate Dan Allender are also on that list.
Lighthouse Trails has been challenging David Jeremiah because of his burgeoning affinity toward the contemplative for some time. We first brought this out in our critique of his book Life Wide Open where he references and quotes favorably a number of mystical writers including goddess worshipper, Sue Monk Kidd and Buddhist sympathizer Peter Senge. Life Wide Open continues on the market (and on Jeremiah’s website in study guide and CD format), even though Jeremiah was given information about the serious problems with his book. To date, we know of no public statement by Jeremiah recanting the information in that book or of having it removed from the market (the publisher is Thomas Nelson).
To add to this dilemna, in David Jeremiah’s book, Captured by Grace, he discusses (in a positive manner) Henri Nouwen and includes an endorsement by New Age meditation advocate Ken Blanchard (who wrote the foreword to What Would Buddha Do at Work?). We find Jeremiah’s reference to Nouwen troubling, especially in view of Jeremiah’s 1995 book, Invasion of Other Gods, where he wrote about the dangers of New Age meditation and actually exposes the chakras, something that Henri Nouwen was drawn to (see Sabbatical Journey, p. 20)! Six years ago, Lighthouse Trails wrote “David Jeremiah Proposes ‘Major Paradigm Shift’ For His Church” with concerns about Jeremiah’s draw toward Erwin McManus.
Skeptics may say, “so, what’s the big deal if David Jeremiah invites contemplatives to his church and frequently quotes and references contemplative authors?” When you consider the spiritual disaster taking place because of contemplative spirituality’s panentheistic, interspiritual roots (a charge adequately backed up in our book, A Time to Departing) (especially considering how popular Christian leaders are promoting it) , it simply cannot be ignored. And the fact that Jeremiah and other leaders go virtually unchallenged or unquestioned indicates that most evangelical Christians have no clue about the ramifications of contemplative spirituality. The names of the individuals we have made reference to throughout this article are part of a movement. And this movement, as we have proven for over a decade, is anti-Christian, anti-gospel, and anti-Christ, which can be summed up in Tilden Edward’s observation that contemplative spirituality is the bridge between Christianity and far eastern spirituality. A Christian is suppose to carry the Gospel to those practicing far eastern spirituality, not build spiritual bridges through the common denominator of mysticism. Edwards absorbed Buddhist mystical perceptions and actually taught classes on it. Christians who value the Gospel should take a close look at what is behind that which is being promoted in our pulpits today. John Ortberg is advocating something that has never been a part of biblical Christianity but instead springs from the tradition of the Desert Fathers and not from the Bible.