Posts Tagged ‘Henri Nouwen’

Chuck Swindoll’s Ministry Says Stop Sending Lighthouse Trails Booklets

Since early 2016, Lighthouse Trails has been sending out short letters and topical booklets that we publish to dozens of Christian leaders in America. Thus far, we have received a few responses, usually short notes from the ministry office thanking us for sending the materials. This week, we received an e-mail from Chuck Swindoll’s ministry telling us to remove him from our list and to no longer send him materials.  The e-mail stated:

Please remove Chuck Swindoll and Insight for Living Ministries at PO Box 5000, Frisco, Texas 75034, from Lighthouse Trails Publishing’s mailing list.

As a not-for-profit ministry, we strive to use every penny wisely and imagine that you do too.  Because of the time and effort required to process the huge amount of correspondence we receive, we respectfully request that you remove our organization from your mailing list.  This may also help you save some printing and postage costs.  Thank you for taking the time to update your records.  We sincerely appreciate your prompt assistance with this matter.

While we do not want to be presumptuous in thinking that busy successful Christian leaders would even want to give Lighthouse Trails a moment of their time, we do find it disconcerting (though not really surprising) that Chuck Swindoll has refused our booklets. Swindoll is discussed in Lighthouse Trails articles partly because of a book he wrote titled So You Want to Be Like Christ: Eight Essential Disciplines to Get You There (see Ray Yungen’s article below).   It’s a sad state of affairs when leaders have the time to read Henri Nouwen, Mother Teresa, Richard Foster, and Dallas Willard, and other contemplative authors but not enough time to read  material that questions the contemplative prayer movement.

Nevertheless, at their request, we will remove Chuck Swindoll’s name from our leader’s list. But this does not remove him or other Christian leaders from being responsible for what they are doing and teaching or from having to answer one day to the one Who judges all things.

We told Chuck Swindoll’s office that we would let our readers know of its request.


So You Want to Be Like Christ
by Ray Yungen

Charles (Chuck) Swindoll has a popular radio program called Insight for Living. In a September 2005 radio broadcast, Swindoll favorably quoted Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster. But it wasn’t until I saw Swindoll’s 2005 book So You Want To Be Like Christ: Eight Essentials to Get You There that I realized Swindoll had been influenced by contemplative authors. In the book, Swindoll quotes Richard Foster and Henri Nouwen, as well as Eugene Peterson and Dallas Willard. He states that he “sensed a genuine need … for the cultivation of intimacy with the Almighty.”1 He says, “There is a deep longing among Christians and non-Christians”2 for intimacy with God and that intimacy with God should be our goal, and “discipline is the means to that end.”3 Chapter three of Swindoll’s book is called “Silence and Solitude.” In it, he tells readers there are “secrets … that will deepen our intimacy with God,”4 so we can see “what others miss.”5 As he attempts to explain what these secrets are, he refers to the Scripture so often quoted by contemplatives, Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.” He goes on to say:

As we continue our journey toward intimacy with the Almighty, Psalm 46:10 calls us to the discipline of silence…. What happens when you and I commit ourselves to periods of absolute, uninterrupted silence?6

Swindoll refers to an interview between Mother Teresa (a contemplative and interspiritualist) and former anchorman Dan Rather where she explains to Rather the concept of the silence. Swindoll then exhorts his readers to “discover its secrets for yourself.”7 Yet he avoids describing the actual method of contemplative prayer, saying, “You’re on your own with this one,” referring to it as “the mystery of godliness”8 (which actually is a reference in the Bible to the deity of Jesus Christ, not the silence, I Timothy 3:16). He brings the proverbial horse right to the water by favorably quoting [Richard] Foster, Nouwen, and [Dallas] Willard throughout the book.

Swindoll goes so far as to imply that without the silence we cannot really know God, [stating]:

Sustained periods of quietness are essential in order for that [becoming like Christ] to happen … I encourage you to experience this for yourself.9

He finally quotes from Henri Nouwen’s, The Way of the Heart and then reflects, “I do not believe anyone can ever become a deep person [intimate with God] without stillness and silence.”10

This is really quite a misleading statement. It is not the silence that draws us closer to God and allows us to become a “deep person” as Swindoll and the contemplatives insist. Scripture clearly teaches that it is only through the blood atonement of Jesus Christ that we can gain access to Him. We cannot add or take away from that. When we are born again, we are as united to Him as we will ever be. Atonement by the blood is the only direct and truly genuine means of meeting with God. The Old Testament speaks of the “mercy seat” wherein the Lord says “there I will meet with you” (Exodus 25:22). How awesome! A Holy God meets with man, but only when there is blood to atone for man. Hebrews 10:19-22, a clear reference to the Old Testament passage says that Jesus, the sacrificial Lamb, is the fulfillment. When Jesus died, the curtain was torn apart, signifying that now in Christ (the new covenant), the Holy Place, God’s presence is open to ALL who believe. We do not need to go into a meditative, self-induced state [as Nouwen suggests in his writings] to be in God’s presence.

Some may say that Swindoll is only referring to a quiet time away from the hustle and bustle of life when he speaks of silence. If that were the case, then why does he differentiate between silence and solitude? He refers to solitude as getting away from it all, an external quietness, and makes it clear that silence is an internal stillness like Henri Nouwen described in The Way of the Heart.

While at this point, Swindoll does not actually teach mantras or altered states, his promotion and extensive quoting of contemplatives gives every indication that he is moving toward the contemplative camp. Typically, those who begin following the teachings of the authors I have warned about, and begin promoting the silence, continue steadily on a downward spiral into outright mysticism and deception. It is vital to understand that Nouwen’s book The Way of the Heart is a virtual primer on the practice of contemplative prayer. For instance, in the 2005 radio broadcast, Swindoll read a portion of The Way of the Heart where Nouwen makes reference to the silence of the mind contrasting it with regular silence as in not speaking. (This has been an excerpt from A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., pp. 190-192)

QUOTES FROM SWINDOLL’S BOOK:

“So you want to be like Christ? Me too. But that kind of godliness won’t just happen … Disciplining ourselves will require the same kind of focused thinking and living that our Master modeled.” Introduction

“Let’s commit ourselves to these eight spiritual disciplines.” Introduction

“Henri Nouwen … longed to get away from all those words … So how do we pull it off? How, in a world bent on distracting us from growing deeper? … How do you and I become more godly? … The word is discipline. The secret lies in our returning to the spiritual disciplines.” p. 9, 10.

“I have sensed a genuine need–in my own life–for the cultivation of intimacy with the Almighty…. God requires spiritual disciplines … essential in our pursuit of godliness. … I came across Dallas Willard’s excellent work The Spirit of the Disciplines.” p. 12

“Richard Foster’s meaningful work Celebration of Discipline …” p. 15

“Discipline. This is the means for having intimacy with God. … Discipline is control gained by enforced obedience. It is the deliberate cultivation of inner order. So how are intimacy and discipline connected? … Discipline is the means to that end.” p. 21

In September 2005, Lighthouse Trails was informed that Chuck Swindoll was favorably quoting Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster on his Insight For Living program. We contacted Insight for Living and spoke with Pastor Graham Lyons. We shared our concerns, then later sent A Time of Departing to him and also a copy to Chuck Swindoll.

In a letter dated 10/3/05 from Pastor Lyons, we were told, “With his schedule I doubt he will read it.” We are sorry that Chuck Swindoll has time to read Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster but no time to read A Time of Departing, especially in light of the fact that thousands of people will read Chuck Swindoll’s book, listen to his broadcasts, and now believe that the contemplative authors are acceptable and good.

Notes:
1.Charles Swindoll, So You Want To Be Like Christ? (Nashville, TN: W Publishing Group, a div. of Thomas Nelson, 2005), p. 12.
2. Ibid., p. 14.
3. Ibid., p. 21.
4. Ibid., p. 55.
5. Ibid.
6. Ibid., p. 61.
7. Ibid., p. 62.
8. Ibid.
9. Ibid., p. 63.
10. Ibid., p. 65.

 

Remembering the Enticing Appeal of Richard Foster and Beth Moore’s Be Still Film

Be Still DVD

Be Still DVD

In 2006, a DVD film was released by Fox Entertainment called Be Still. Lighthouse Trails wrote extensively about it at the time, warning our readers that the DVD was an infomercial for contemplative prayer. Recently, a caller who very much understood the deceptive dynamics of the contemplative prayer (i.e., Spiritual Formation) movement, reminded us about the film, and we e-mailed her a copy of all the transcripts (we had transcribed the entire film in 2006). The film includes Richard Foster, Buddhist-sympathizer Catholic convert Peter Kreeft, Dallas Willard, Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Michelle McKinney Hammon, Max Lucado, and Calvin Miller. You can read some of our previous coverage here.

You can be sure that in the last 10 years since Be Still was released, the contemplative prayer movement has grown by leaps and bounds, and we have no doubt that this film has had a lot to do with this spread.

Below we have posted portions of the transcript from three of the segments (there were six altogether) of the Be Still film. You may need to read between the lines to understand the message that is being promoted because the film was  a seductive and enticing infomercial to draw people into the practice of contemplative prayer without coming right out and saying what contemplative prayer really entails. (After all, viewers could get specific instructions later by reading the writings of these people in the film). For those not familiar with the contemplative prayer movement, it may be a good idea to read this article by Lynn Pratt, “So You Want to Practice Contemplative Prayer? What’s Wrong With That?”

Within these quotes, the italicized words are added by LT for emphasis.

“Contemplative Prayer: The Divine Romance Between God and Man”

Narrator:

We live in  frenzied chaotic world under a constant siege of business and noise. The weapons of mass distraction are everywhere. We are bombarded by millions of advertisements daily. The Christian community is not exempt. We were designed to experience fullness of joy, yet many only experience fullness of schedule. Where can we go to find rest and peace?

Be still and know that I am God. We find peace in God’s presence. We get to know God better through prayer. Prayer is relationship and two-way communication with God. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. But how can we experience abundance if we don’t learn to slow down? We need to stop and quiet ourselves to spend time in real relationship with God.

Contemplation is different from other types of Christian prayer. Contemplative prayer involves less telling God what we want to happen in our lives and more listening for God’s call to us in our heart through Scripture. As we develop the inward attentiveness to God’s divine whisper, we begin to experience His presence more throughout the day.

“What is Contemplative Prayer?”

 Richard Foster, author “Prayer”:

Contemplative prayer is listening prayer. It is attentiveness. You know how our children will talk with us and sometimes we wish that they would just listen to us. Now, that’s what contemplative prayer is. It’s being all ears to what the Father has to say to us.

[French Catholic mystic] Nicholas Grou said, “O Divine Master, teach me this mute language which says so much.” That’s the idea. It’s very simple, isn’t it? That we become attentive to God. God’s interested in us, what we have to say. We learn to become interested  in what God has to say to us.

Priscilla Shirer, author of “He Speaks to Me: Preparing to Hear the Voice of Go”:

Most of my prayer time is filled up with what I’m saying to Him, as opposed to just being quiet and actually giving him an opportunity to speak to me. And of course I’ve thought about hearing the voice of God all my life, and I’ve thought about wanting to hear Him, but it never occurred to me that I needed to consciously go into His presence with my mouth closed, giving Him an opportunity to get a word in edgewise.  And so I’ve just begun in my prayer life over the past year of my life to make a conscious effort to be in a time of prayer, and yes, to speak to Him, but to consciously say, okay, I’m done talking now, because I’m just gonna sit here in the stillness and wait to see what it is that you want to say to me.

Dallas Willard, PhD.,former  Director, School of Philosophy, USC:

It is somewhat like, uh, the story of electricity with Benjamin Franklin. And actually, we know now that electricity’s everywhere. I mean, our blood cells wouldn’t work without electricity. But it was Franklin who made the effort to contact it, as it were. So the famous story about the kite in the electric storm, and the current running down the line and jumping the gap and causing the spark and so on. And of course it’s a wonder that the old fellow wasn’t killed on the spot with it, because lightning has been doing that for a long time.

Buddhist-sympathizer Catholic convert, Peter Kreeft:

It’s easy to allegorize it. The key is Franklin’s own ego. And the sky is God. And the electricity is grace and the kite line is prayer. And he’s sending himself up to God in order to get charged.

Jerry Shirer:

When my son and I, Jackson, when we play sports or when we play baseball or when he kicks the ball, I always want to try to instruct him on how to do it and what to do. This is how you do it, Son. You do it this way. Well, it hit me. Where Jackson doesn’t want to be with me to receive instruction necessarily. He just wants to be in my presence. And that was the amazing thing. He goes, “You know, Dad, don’t—I don’t need your instructions. I don’t need this. Dad, I’m just happy just being with you.” You know? And that was the thing for me. And that just, you know, made me understand my relationship with Christ. It’s not about me speaking or saying, Lord, this is what I want. He goes, “Jerry, just spend time with Me.”

Richard Foster:

Contemplative prayer can be experienced everywhere, in small groups of people, when you’re alone, when you’re at work, in all kinds of situations. You take a passage of Scripture, a very simple passage, and you simply lean into the passage and you allow the Lord to teach you.

Narrator:

Churches, small groups and individuals around the world have structured a spiritual life around the practice of Christian contemplation.

“Historical Overview”

Dallas Willard:

Very interesting that even Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, thought the highest human good was contemplation. But he thought it was contemplation of truth, not contemplation of God. Still, he was onto something big. And it was later on the Christians came along because Aristotelian contemplation turned out not really to do a lot for people. But Augustine, for example, corrected Aristotle and taught that it was God that we contemplate, because He is the only final good and we lift our minds and hearts to Him through Christ, and that gives us the kind of life-giving joy and sufficiency that Aristotle understood to be true happiness.

Beth Moore:

One of the lives that has affected me deeply is Saint Augustine, that after wrestling with God for such a long time, and God just chasing him and hunting him down, I remember thinking to myself, I want to be that way about God. When God’s hunting me down, I wanna slow down and be caught by Him. If He’s chasing me, I want Him to catch me. And that’s what God did with Saint Augustine. And he knew the fiery passion of God’s love, not just a God of the law, but a God of the heart, a God that chases the heart of man, to pick up all its pieces and make it whole.

Peter Kreeft, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College:

[The mystic] Kierkegaard, probably the greatest Protestant Christian mind of all time, said many times something like this—This is almost the last page of his journal shortly before he died. He said, “If I could prescribe only one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence. Because even if the word of God were proclaimed in its fullness, it would not be heard. There is too much noise. So begin with silence.”

Narrator:

The stresses we live with are so invasive, we begin to believe we’re nothing but these things. We believe they have the power to define who we are and how we live. We must learn to desire a oneness with God that transcends all these things.

“The Need for Contemplative Prayer”

Max Lucado, Pastor, Author, “Cure for the Common Life”:

You know, people are in such a hurry all the time. I talked to a man recently who had completed 60 ironman triathlons. And the guy’s in his 60s. I said, What’s the secret? He said, “Start slow and taper down.” That’s my new motto in life. He said, “Everybody gets out on these races, and they start running as hard as they can, and they wear out. They can’t finish.” He said, “The secret’s to start slow and taper down.” I thought, you know, that’s right. Cause really in life, we start slow. And Jesus said, “Anybody who would know the kingdom of God needs to come like a child.” Children start slow, in our parent’s lap, at our mother’s breast, sleeping a lot, thinking a lot, learning a lot, but then somewhere along the line we think we gotta ratchet up. And so, yeah, I think it’s time to slow it all down a little bit.

Priscilla Shirer:

I’m reminded of Matthew, chapter 17, during the Transfiguration, Jesus was there with Peter, James and John and it says that God called out from the heavens, God the Father, called out from the heavens. And here’s Jesus standing in front of them with His face shining. And I mean, they are just amazed at what they are seeing and God the Father calls out and says, “This is My Son whom I love, and I am well pleased.” And this is the command that God the Father gives. He says, “Listen to Him.” Here’s Jesus in all of His glory, and the one thing the Father says that He’s, we’re supposed to do is listen to Him. And so, if that’s the one command that God the Father would give at this point, at this incredible point in biblical history, that we listen to Him, then I think we oughta be making some time to come aside from our busyness and listen to what it is that our Father has to say to us.

Calvin Miller, Professor, Author, “Into the Depths of God”: [Miller is a proponent of Marcus Borg who openly denied many tenets of the Christian faith.]

One of the great things that silence does, it gives us a new concept of God. God is not just somebody there to hear us, a doting grandfather who puts his arms around us and says, “Honey, I’ll see what I can do for you.” God is an activist. That’s why I believe in praying the Scriptures. When you open up the Bible and you pray the Scriptures back to God, you’re experiencing something really wonderful, and what you’re experiencing is, you’re reading back to the Author of the Word of God His own words. Now I’m not, I’m not a great writer. But when somebody says to me, “I read your book,” that’s a great gift to give me.

Beth Moore:

God’s Word is so clear that if we are not still before Him, we will never truly know, to the depths of the marrow in our bones, that He is God. There has got to be a stillness. We’ve got to have a time to sit before Him and just know that He is. We live in such an attention-deficit culture, and we’re so entirely over stimulated, so much coming at us at once, one image after another, that if we are not careful, we are going to lose the art of meditation, to just sit before God and know His peace, that He really is in control, and that nothing is happening that’s not being sifted through His fingers, and He is God upon the throne.

Richard Foster:

The wonderful thing about contemplative prayer is that it can be found everywhere, anywhere, any time for anyone. [Foster believes that contemplative prayer is for anyone, not just believers in Christ.] We become a portable sanctuary, so that we are living our life, wherever it is, aware of the goodness of God, the presence of God.

Tim Lundy:

If there ever was an age that the church—and a time period when the church needed the practice of solitude and silence, it’s now. We live in the information age. And I love it. I love the technology. I love the opportunities it gives us. But I also recognize that every day there’s hundreds of emails. We’re connected to a world wide web. We have cell phones. We, whether we’re in a car, or on an airplane or at our home, somebody can be in contact with us. And all those are great resources, but if in the middle of it we don’t stop, if we don’t get silent and practice that and be alone with God, all that becomes just a drain on us. And so the very people you’re trying to connect with and minister to, you have no energy for.

Dallas Willard:

Now because silence is such a radical thing, and it does mean that you give up control of your situation, you can see what a tremendous impact that would have on the American church, in their services, in their meetings of various kinds. Suppose they practice silence in some of their meetings. That would actually give a place for God to break in. And who knows, He might have something to say even to a committee meeting, if they would be silent long enough. It would mean that, for example, the pastors and the leaders in the services would not feel like they have to control everything, that again, God is in control. And that’s the way God is. He more or less waits for us to get tired of running things and then He’s glad to help.

Katherine A. Brown-Satzman, [promotes guided imagery] Executive Director, UCLA, Healthcare Ethics Center:

And in the process of that, physiologically, everything begins to shift. Blood pressure comes down. Breathing changes. Our mind quiets. And we can actually get to this state of where our body can heal in a much better way, because it’s not fighting all of this, right? It’s not amped up.

“Fear of Silence”

Dallas Willard:

If silence is a condition of this experience, a lot of people really are not going to undertake it. It’s very difficult to get anyone to be silent. And I think it’s because in silence they really do surrender their control over how they appear. One of the things we do in talking is to adjust our appearance. And to abandon that as a project is really major. So we keep jabbering. You go to the ordinary church service, you can hardly find 15 minutes of silence. But silence is one of the great spiritual disciplines. And in fact you’re not going to get very far in contemplative prayer unless you know how to be silent. And by that I mean that you really are comfortable with it and you’re practiced in it.

Narrator:

Christian meditation is the practice of being in the presence of God. Its ultimate goal is to seek only God and receive His guidance and grace.

Richard Foster:

Let me give just a little example of contemplative prayer for an individual. I was using Scripture—one of the Psalms, a brief Psalm, like recently I used Psalm 9. And first I would read it through, just out loud to myself, and just become aware of the texture of the Psalm. And then I’d do a second reading. And there I would highlight whatever passage  seemed to strike me in any way—a phrase or a sentence. And then I would do a third reading, and there I’m coming—I’m reading only the highlighted passages, and I look for any phrase, any sentence that speaks particularly to my condition. And that particular day, Psalm 9, the passage was, Be gracious to me, O Lord. Isn’t that wonderful? And I was going through some difficult time, and it was so helpful then, for the entire day, to utilize that particular passage. Be gracious to me, O Lord. Whatever I’m doing, whatever work it is, whatever situation with the children or with my wife or whatever—Be gracious to me, O Lord. See? That’s contemplative prayer.

LT: [Richard Foster is describing lectio divina here; but while he’s trying to make contemplative prayer sound very innocent here, we know from years of studying his writings, that he believes contemplative prayer to be much more than just picking out a passage of Scripture and thinking about it throughout the day. He and other contemplative figures teach that in order to go into the contemplative stillness, that special word or phrase needs to be repeated over and over to help eliminate thoughts and distractions.]

“The Difference Between Eastern and Christian Meditation”

Tim Lundy:

What I see in Christian meditation—it’s not escape from the world. It’s an escape to something and to someone. And so it’s an opportunity to stop, and you’re getting away from the world, but you’re moving toward God and connecting with Him.

Dallas Willard:

The loss of self that is meant in the Eastern traditions, really does mean that the individual dissolves. And that solves the problems of desire and passion, which is the curse of human life on that view of things. See, the Christian and Jewish teaching, and for that matter the Islamic teaching, is that the distinctness of the individual is a good thing. And that God has intended that and means to preserve it. So the response to the human condition is not the disappearance of desire but the dominance of love.

Beth Moore:

That’s the difference with meditation. We’re not just speaking to our inner selves. We’re not just speaking to a more positive thought process that day. We pray to the God of the universe, the king of all creation, is my Abba, Father. That’s who I’m talking to. And when I have that kind of attitude—that I’m talking to somebody that really can change my circumstances, that really can change my heart, that really can empower me to be different than I’d be, to do what I cannot do, to know what I cannot possibly know—I’m gonna tell you something—My approach is gonna be transformed. I’m not just talking, I’m not just trying to get my head together, I’m talking to someone. And I happen to be talking to the God of the universe.

LT: [What Beth Moore and Dallas Willard are saying here is that the method is the same but the intent is different; but we say that if the method is the same, you are going to get the same results. As Ray Yungen has said, two people can jump out of a ten story building with one saying “fly, fly,” and the other saying “fall, fall,” but the results will be the same.]

Narrator:

There’s a peace that surpasses understanding. We know that stress will always be there, but we ground our hearts in such oneness with God that His power can transform our lives.

“How God Speaks Through Scripture”

Richard Foster:

Learning to distinguish the voice of God from just human voices within us comes in much the same way that we learn any other voice. You know, there’s a tone to a voice. Satan pushes and condemns. God draws and encourages. And we can know the difference. And then there’s a spirit in a voice, isn’t there? Remember it was said of Messiah that He would not break a bruised reed nor quench a smoldering wick. You see, Jesus would never snuff out the smallest hope, never crush the needy. And that’s  the spirit that we look for in the voice of God. And then, third,  there’s the content of the voice. And in the final analysis, that is the most clear evidence. You see, the voice of God, the Davar Yahweh, is always consistent with the way God has spoken in the past. And so Scripture, then, becomes a primary means by which we understand God speaking to us today. It will always be consistent with the way He has spoken in the past.

LT: [Satan comes as an angel of light and his ministers as ministers of righteousness. This “test” by Richard Foster is very flawed.]

Mark Brewer:

Sometimes the longest distance in our spiritual journey is that 18 inches from our head getting it down into our heart. And the power of this contemplative prayer, this inner life, is it takes the knowledge which is all the facts and figures, and it makes it wisdom by applying it.

LT: [What contemplatives mean when they say from the head to the heart is what contemplative Henri Nouwen meant when he said: “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 [doctrine] to the mystical is required.” (from Nouwen’s book, In the Name of Jesus)]

Calvin Miller:

Can you think about how God must feel when a Christian comes into His presence reading the 23rd Psalm? Lord, You are my shepherd. You make me lie down in green pastures. You lead me beside still waters, all for Your name’s sake. I think when we say those things back to God, as the author of those words, He’s delighted. And the silence confirms that we are people, and we’re talking and God’s listening. But the best times are when God starts talking and we’re quiet enough to hear Him.

Beth Moore:

Second Timothy 3 tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed, and that means that every single word on that paper has come fresh out of the mouth of God. What I try to remember every single time I read Scripture is that it still has the warmth of God’s breath on it. You can’t separate the words of God from the mouth of God, or you’ve just got sterile words sitting on a page. God’s Word is different than that. It’s the very word out of His mouth. Therefore it comes with fresh breath. Because it’s eternal, that means time is not attached to it. So it’s as fresh today to me as it was the day it came out of His mouth and onto the paper. That’s the way I look at it.

LT: [According to this statement by Beth Moore, without the contemplative aspect, the Word of God is “sterile.” We are not taking what she said out of context. This is totally typical of the contemplative mindset. Remember what she said above, without the stillness, you can’t really know God. She also says that “you can’t separate the word of God from the mouth of God,” but the Bible says in Psalm 138:2 that God’s Word is magnified above His name, so surely His Word is magnified above His “breath.” If you stop and really think about what she is saying here, you will see how distorted this thinking is.

Narrator:
The practice of contemplative prayer can be a vital part of our everyday lives. But we must make time for it.

“The Fruit of Contemplative Prayer”

Beth Moore:

A true lover of God once spoke about practicing God’s presence. To me, that’s such a part of contemplative prayer. That we are able to absorb the reality, that as we commune with God through prayer, that He is with us, that His Spirit, for those of us who are in Christ, fills us, that we are drawn near to Him, that our souls find rest in Him, that we’ll realize that it’s not just words on a page, but it’s the presence of God, the voice out of His mouth, that calms us, or perhaps stirs us, gives us peace or perhaps brings us into a holy passion, that we respond to His presence.

Calvin Miller:

But if we don’t do it, all we are is an inner wrangling that never ceases. We move from hassle to hassle to hassle. One may stick a little Jesus in here or there, but without the silence, there’s no healing. There’s no healing.

From the segment called “Cloud of Witnesses: Contemplative Figures Throughout History”

Beth Moore, Author “A Heart Like His”:

You know one of the things that time gives us is that it erases the lines between so many different sections of the people of God. Because many years later it doesn’t matter any longer that this person was of this practice in the Christian faith and this person of another. Time somehow blurs those lines, and we are profoundly moved by the historical narratives of all of their lives of so great a cloud of witnesses that we can look back on and see what kept them running the race, what kept them running toward the face of Christ at the end of that finish line.

Dr. Mark Brewer, Pastor, Bel Air Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles:

Through the ages a lot of us as Christians think that the Holy Spirit’s been on sabbatical since the first century and now He just showed up. But He’s been very active in the lives of all of His people. I think of some of the desert fathers—they called themselves God’s athletes in the third and fourth century. They left this corrupt Roman Empire to go and to seek God and they made what they called this holy place for God. That’s why they fasted and why they lived such simple lives, was so the Lord could encounter them.

Richard Foster, Author, “Prayer”:

[The mystic] Madame Guyon was a French lady of the 17th century. She had children. She had an ordinary life experience. But she learned, you see, how, in that, to live with God. Her book, “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ,” is one of the sweetest little books on contemplative prayer. And she wrote it for people who couldn’t read themselves. Her book was meant to be read to them.

Richard Foster:

[Mystic] Teresa of Avila was a Spanish lady in the 16th century, a contemporary with [panentheist] Saint John of the Cross. An incredible leader, administrator. A woman of immense skill and ability and a woman of deep prayer.

Jerry Root, PhD, Professor, Wheaton College:

One of my favorite stories relates to the medieval contemplative Julian of Norwich. She was from England. And she claimed to have had revelation from God and she wrote about it shortly after she had these experiences. She was in her early 20s. Twenty-five years later she wrote about it again. She hadn’t had a new experience with God, revealing Himself to her, but she wrote about it 25 years later, having allowed 25 years of contemplation to inform what this meant to her. There’s one story that occurs in both accounts. She said that God spoke to her and told her to pick up a chestnut. She picked it up and God spoke to her and said, “All the great truths can be found even in a chestnut. God made it. God sustains it. God loves it.”

And I think all of the great contemplative writers have present application, if we’ll look for it.

[The mystic] Evelyn Underhill would be a relatively modern contemplative. She died in the early 1940s. At Oxford University you had to be a male to teach, until Evelyn Underhill came along. She was the first woman given lecture-wide status throughout the university. She was towering intellect. She wrote 39 books on Christian spirituality [i.e., contemplative spirituality] and philosophy of religion. And Evelyn Underhill tells a great story about a friend of hers who had been to Scotland, to the island of Iona. Iona is an island that’s sacred for the Scots because it’s where Columba first brought Christianity to Scotland. Every Scot needs to make the pilgrimage to Iona sometime in their life because the roots of Scottish Christianity are there. Well, Underhill’s friend had been to Scotland and had been to Iona, and when she returned her Scottish gardener said to her, “Where did you go for your vacation?” And Underhill’s friend said, “I’ve been to Iona.” And he says, “Oh, Iona’s a thin place.” She said, “What do you mean?” He said, “It’s a thin place because there’s not much between God and Iona.”

And all of life, properly looked at, in some senses, is a thin place. Everywhere we look, in a world made by God, a world inhabited by God, God is calling us to worship Him. . . . There’s another medieval contemplative named Brother Lawrence. He was responsible for the book “Practicing the Presence of God.” Many people don’t realize that Brother Lawrence was a pot scrubber in a monastery. He wasn’t a full-fledged monk. He was a brother who would come in and scrub pots for the monks so that they could spend their time in prayer. And it was while he was washing pots at a kitchen scullery that he practiced the presence of God. In essence, Brother Lawrence would tell us the kitchen’s a thin place. Scrubbing pots is a thin place. All of life—especially the struggle of life—is a thin place. God wants to meet us in those places.

Dallas Willard:

Brother Lawrence’s experiences were rather different. They involve some things that are quite like this type of prayer. But for example, a major experience for him was viewing a tree that had lost its leaves in the winter and was all stripped bare, and the realization that this tree still had life in it, and that this life would flourish again in the spring. His sense of that seemed to bring him into a kind of unity with that life that he began to practice. And of course, he had a very lowly, menial position, caring for the kitchen and the needs of the monastery. So he learned then to see God in all things.

Richard Foster:

Brother Lawrence, in his wonderful book, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” said, “Those who have the gale…” He means the wind. “…of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.” Isn’t that wonderful, that we can move forward in our spiritual life even when we’re sleeping? I often try, as I am entering sleep, to just give my life to God—my heart, my mind, my thinking, my dreams, whatever they might be. And then you wake up in the morning and you’ve advanced in the Spirit. You see, that’s part of contemplative prayer as well.

From the segment, Alone With God:

Woman:

Find a simple and quiet place where you can be comfortable for about 20 minutes. But you don’t want to get so comfortable that you miss your intimate time with God because you’ve fallen asleep. If I’m in bed, I prop up on a pillow and try to sit up as straight as possible, not in the counting sheep position.

Take a few deep breaths. Begin to relax and slow yourself down. As you inhale, think of the Holy Spirit breathing life and peace into your body. And as you exhale, remember the verse that says to cast all your cares upon Him.

 

 

 

 

 

Christianity is Missing Out on Something Vital – Is This True?

By Ray Yungen

Contemplative advocates propose that there has been something vital and important missing from the church for centuries. The insinuation is that Christians have been lacking something necessary for their spiritual vitality; but that would mean the Holy Spirit has not been fully effective for hundreds of years and only now the secret key has been found that unlocks God’s full power to know Him. These proponents believe that Christianity has been seriously crippled without this extra ingredient. This kind of thinking leads one to believe that traditional, biblical Christianity is merely a philosophy without the contemplative prayer element. Contemplatives are making a distinction between studying and meditating on the Word of God versus experiencing Him, suggesting that we cannot hear Him or really know Him simply by studying His Word or even through normal prayer—we must be contemplative to accomplish this. But the Bible makes it clear that the Word of God is living and active and has always been that way, and it is in filling our minds with it that we come to love Him, not through a mystical practice of stopping the flow of thought (the stillness) that is never once mentioned in the Bible, except in warnings against vain repetitions in the New Testament and divination in the Old Testament.

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton (the man who inspired Dallas Willard and Richard Foster) said that he saw various Eastern religions “come together in his life” (as a Christian mystic). On a rational, practical level, Christianity and Eastern religions will not mix; but add the mystical element and they do blend together like adding soap to oil and water. I must clarify what I mean: Mysticism neutralizes doctrinal differences by sacrificing the truth of Scripture for a mystical experience. Mysticism offers a common ground, and supposedly that commonality is divinity in all. But we know from Scripture “there is one God; and there is none other but he” (Mark 12:32).

In a booklet put out by Saddleback Church on spiritual maturity, the following quote by Henri Nouwen is given:

Solitude begins with a time and place for God, and Him alone. If we really believe not only that God exists, but that He is actively present in our lives—healing, teaching, and guiding—we need to set aside a time and space to give Him our undivided attention.1

Henri-Nouwen

Henri Nouwen

When we understand what Nouwen really means by “time and space” given to God, we can also see the emptiness and deception of his spirituality. In his biography of Nouwen, God’s Beloved, Michael O’ Laughlin says:

Some new elements began to emerge in Nouwen’s thinking when he discovered Thomas Merton. Merton opened up for Henri an enticing vista of the world of contemplation and a way of seeing not only God but also the world through new eyes. . . . If ever there was a time when Henri Nouwen wished to enter the realm of the spiritual masters or dedicate himself to a higher spiritual path, it was when he fell under the spell of Cistercian monasticism and the writings of Thomas Merton.2

In his book, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic, Nouwen talks about these “new eyes” that Merton helped to formulate and said that Merton and his work “had such an impact” on his life and that he was the man who had “inspired” him greatly.3 But when we read Nouwen’s very revealing account, something disturbing is unveiled. Nouwen lays out the path of Merton’s spiritual pilgrimage into contemplative spirituality. Those who have studied Merton from a critical point of view, such as myself, have tried to understand what are the roots behind Merton’s spiritual affinities. Nouwen explains that Merton was influenced by LSD mystic Aldous Huxley who “brought him to a deeper level of knowledge” and “was one of Merton’s favorite novelists.”4 It was through Huxley’s book, Ends and Means, that first brought Merton “into contact with mysticism.”5 Merton states:

 He [Huxley] had read widely and deeply and intelligently in all kinds of Christian and Oriental mystical literature, and had come out with the astonishing truth that all this, far from being a mixture of dreams and magic and charlatanism, was very real and very serious.6

This is why, Nouwen revealed, Merton’s mystical journey took him right into the arms of Buddhism:

 Merton learned from him [Chuang Tzu—a Taoist] what Suzuki [a Zen master] had said about Zen: “Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake and become aware.”7

Become aware of what? The Buddha nature. Divinity within all.

That is why Merton said if we knew what was in each one of us, we would bow down and worship one another. Merton’s descent into contemplative led him to the belief that God is in all things and that God is all things. This is made clear by Merton when he said: “True solitude is a participation in the solitariness of God—Who is in all things.8

Nouwen adds: “[Chuang Tzu] awakened and led him [Merton] . . . to the deeper ground of his consciousness.”9

This has been the ploy of Satan since the Garden of Eden when the serpent said to Eve, “ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:4). It is this very essence that is the foundation of contemplative prayer.

In Merton’s efforts to become a mystic, he found guidance from a Hindu swami, whom Merton referred to as Dr. Bramachari. Bramachari played a pivotal role in Merton’s future spiritual outlook. Nouwen divulged this when he said:

Thus he [Merton] was more impressed when this Hindu monk pointed him to the Christian mystical tradition. . . . It seems providential indeed that this Hindu monk relativized [sic] Merton’s youthful curiosity for the East and made him sensitive to the richness of Western mysticism.10

Why would a Hindu monk advocate the Christian mystical tradition? The answer is simple: they are one in the same. Even though the repetitive words used may differ (e.g. Christian words: Abba, Father, etc. rather than Hindu words), the end result is the same. And the Hindu monk knew this to be true. Bramachari understood that Merton didn’t need to switch to Hinduism to get the same enlightenment that he himself experienced through the Hindu mystical tradition. In essence, Bramachari backed up what I am trying to get across, that all the world’s mystical traditions basically come from the same source and teach the same precepts . . . and that source is not the God of the Old and New Testaments. That biblical God is not interspiritual!

Evangelical Christianity is now being invited, perhaps even catapulted into seeing God with these new eyes of contemplative prayer. And so the question must be asked, is Thomas Merton’s silence, Henri Nouwen’s space, and Richard Foster’s contemplative prayer the way in which we can know and be close to God? Or is this actually a spiritual belief system that is contrary to the true message that the Bible so absolutely defines—that there is only one way to God and that is through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice on the Cross obtained our full salvation? If indeed my concerns for the future actually come to fruition, then we will truly enter a time of departing.

For more about Ray Yungen’s work, visit: www.atimeofdeparting.com.

Endnotes:

1.. Henri Nouwen, cited in Saddleback training book, Soul Construction: Solitude Tool  (Lake Forest, CA: Saddleback Church, 2003), p. 12.

2. Michael O’ Laughlin, God’s Beloved (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), p. 178.

3. Henri J.M. Nouwen, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1991, Triumph Books Edition), p. 3.

4. Ibid., pp. 19-20.

5. Ibid., p. 20.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., p. 71.

8. Ibid., pp. 46, 71.

9. Ibid., p. 71.

10 . Ibid., p. 29.

Letter to the Editor: Ministry Ventures Brings Contemplative Influence to Pregnancy Pro-Life Center

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I work at my local pregnancy help center as Client Services Director. I have been following you for years and am thankful for your warnings. When I first started reading your material I would have never thought I would need the information to guard my own spiritual life. Sadly I had to leave a church because leaders were involved in Mystic Catholicism. Friends have read and praised Jesus Calling and The Circle Maker.

Then mysticism began to creep in at the life-affirming ministry where I work. The pro-life ministry is indeed in a spiritual battle. Where else would Satan rather be but in the mist of something as horrific as abortion? First, some months ago, one of the major supporting organizations for pregnancy help centers suggested in an e-mail we read The Circle Maker for spiritual growth and encouragement. I immediately sent an e-mail back warning against such a suggestion. The writer actually called me the very next day to apologize. She stated she would be more careful in the future, but ended by defending the author of The Circle Maker.

More recently something more disturbing to me has occurred.

An organization called Ministry Ventures has introduced silent retreats for ministry executive directors and board members.  In an audio interview, Boyd Baily mentions Henri Nouwen, praising his writings. He describes bowing down before an old monk during a silent retreat although he is not Catholic.

This breaks my heart. We in the pro-life ministry need to depend on God for victory. However, it seems, we are now pleasing the Devil.

Please can you address this issue to help me warn others in the ministry? Ministry Ventures can be found on Facebook where there are links to their writings and audios. Here is a link to the audio I spoke of.

https://ministryventures.org/view/channels/prayer

Thank you for your help.

Darcy (not real name)

LTRP Comments: In this audio session (see link above), Ministry Ventures co-founder, Boyd Bailey, says he was introduced to Fil Anderson several years ago (8:10 min mark) while at a “silent retreat” at a monastery. Fil Anderson is the author of Running on Empty: Contemplative Spirituality for Overachievers. Lighthouse Trails wrote about Anderson’s contemplative persuasions and his being trained at the panentheistic Shalem Institute in our 2013 article “Shalem-Trained Contemplative Fil Anderson Member of Samaritan’s Purse “Spiritual Care Team.”

On the Ministry Ventures website, it lists dozens of Christians ministries which are receiving guidance and training from Ministry Ventures. MV states: “Since 1999 Ministry Ventures has been partnering with faith-based nonprofit ministries to help them go Further, Faster!” Unfortunately, if Ministry Ventures is being influenced by contemplatives, it will no doubt pass this influence onto the ministries who come to them for help. A few of these ministries listed are Baptist Medical & Dental Mission, a number of pregnancy centers, Child Evangelism Fellowship of Hawaii, Chinese Pastors Fellowship, Christian Grandparenting Network, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, (FCA), Fellowship of Christian Peace Officers, andTeen Challenge of South Florida.

Letter to the Editors: Why Aren’t People Seeing What We See?

To Lighthouse Trails:

Thank you for all that you do. I would love it if you would write an article on what we can do and how we should do it to let people know what is happening in the church today. One of my questions is why are they not seeing what we are seeing? Are they not true believers? What’s the big picture here? Do you think that all these movements will eventually merge? Are we just alarmists?  I have friends who are involved in either Bethel Redding or contemplative prayer. Very few seem interested or believe me when I tell them that this stuff is not biblical. Most won’t check into it, or if they do, they either don’t agree with what they read or think the website is too harsh or unloving (some websites do seem unkind in the way that they come across).

I have been admonished by a number a people that I am wrong,  just want to be right, question why I am worrying about what others do, or am too extreme or pharisaical (by some believers that are far more mature and Bible literate than I am). I have been told to stop looking on the Internet because that is unreliable and have been laughed at for doing so. My former pastor even told me to stop.

My Christian friends are constantly posting on Facebook about Bethel, contemplative prayer, or blatant New Age stuff as well as Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, and Hillsong. Very few seem to be concerned about all the strange manifestations and theology coming out of Bethel or that contemplative prayer is not something most of us ever heard about or practiced until a few years ago, yet they are OK with it.

I just read Exodus 32 (golden calf) the other day. I was struck by the similarity between what happened then and is happening now. The people were tired of waiting for Moses to come back (Jesus to return) and made their own god. Did they think they were worshiping the God who brought them out of Egypt? Aaron had let them get out of control and so were made a laughing stock to their enemies.  Do you think this could be an illustration of what is happening, or am I off base here?

Even two of our Christian radio stations are not safe anymore. Much of the music is Bethel Music , Hillsong, or like-minded groups. The Fish radio station has John Tesh, who is actually promoting eastern meditation. K-Love has Francis Anfuso from the Rock of Roseville (A Bethel-linked local church) doing daily short messages on hundreds of K-Love stations nationwide (though the messages that I have heard do seem to be biblical).

We left a church we loved two years ago when they started to embrace Bethel teachings about healings. The seemingly biblical church we are at now plays Bethel music and I believe is going to be teaching contemplative prayer soon. The pastor is preaching about silence and solitude and mentioned a quote from Henri Nouwen last week as well as spiritual formation. Several church’s we had visited it appears are now teaching contemplative prayer in classes and retreats. It would be wonderful if Roger Oakland and Warren Smith will be able to have a conference here someday, it is very needed.

K. __

Related Information:

 BOOKLET: The New Age Propensities of Bethel Church’s Bill Johnson

BOOKLET: “I JUST HAD A VISION!”

BOOKLET: The Perfect Storm of Apostasy – An Introduction to the Kansas City Prophets and Other Latter-Day Prognosticators

 

 

Celebration of Discipline – 38 Years of Influence! – Probably On Your Pastor’s Bookshelf

celebrationFirst published in 1978, Celebration of Discipline has had a massive influence on today’s Christianity. Unfortunately, the influence has helped to saturate the church with mystical contemplative prayer and the New Age. Most likely, your pastor has a copy of this book sitting on his library shelves. He may even have it sitting on his desk for easy reach and reference. Richard Foster, a Quaker and the founder of an organization called Renovare (meaning renewal), wrote the book and even he may have had no idea the impact this book would have. But 38 years later, it is still being read, and in fact, Christian leaders and organizations continue promoting the book.

Foster said in the book, that we “should all without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer” (p. 13, 1978 ed.). In other books and writings of Foster’s, he makes it very clear that this “contemplative prayer” is the eastern style mantra meditation to which mystic monk Thomas Merton adhered. In fact, Richard Foster once told Ray Yungen (author of A Time of Departing) that “Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people” (at a conference in Salem, OR).

Thomas Merton, who said he was “impregnated with Sufism” (Merton and Sufism, p. 69) and wanted to “become as good a Buddhist” as he could be (David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West”), believed that “God’s people” lacked one thing . . . mysticism and this is to what they needed “awakening.” Of Merton, Foster says: “Thomas Merton has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.” (Spiritual Classics, p. 17) And yet, Thomas Merton once told New Age Episcopal priest Matthew Fox that he felt sorry for the hippies in the 60s who were dropping LSD because all they had to do was practice the mystical (contemplative) stream to achieve the same results. (Interview) We couldn’t agree with him more. Both altered states are the same, and neither lead to God.

Listed under “excellent books on spirituality,” in some editions of Celebration of Discipline, Foster says of Tilden Edwards’ book, Spiritual Friend that it helps “clear away the confusion and invites us to see that we do not have to live the spiritual life in isolation.” And yet, Tilden Edwards, founder of the Christian/Buddhist Shalem Institute in Washington, DC, said that contemplative spirituality was the “Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality”(Spiritual Friend, p. 18). On the Shalem Institute website you can find numerous quotes, references, articles, and recommendations to panentheism, universalism, interspirituality, New Age, and Eastern thought.

In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster tells us “we must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation” (COD, p.13.) He goes on to say that the “masters of meditation beckon us.” Just prior to that remark, he quotes Carl Jung and Thomas Merton.

Celebration of Discipline has helped to pave the way for Thomas Merton’s panentheistic belief system. It has opened the door for other Christian authors, speakers, and pastors to bring contemplative spirituality into the lives of millions of people. The late Henri Nouwen, a popular contemplative who also followed the teachings of Thomas Merton, made a telling statement towards the end of his life:

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 (emphasis added – Sabbatical Journey, p. 51).

Today, countless ministers and ministries are promoting and endorsing Celebration of Discipline. If they really knew what Foster’s “celebration” was all about, we think many of them would race away from the teachings of Thomas Merton and Richard Foster and back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Note: If your pastor or someone you know has a copy of Celebration of Discipline or quotes Richard Foster, be sure and give him a copy of Ray Yungen’s new booklet A Serious Look at Richard Foster’s “School” of Contemplative Prayer. Also, want to know what Spiritual Formation is (and its dangers), read this: Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t

Looking for a Christian College for Your Child in 2016 – Better Be Careful!

Spring 2016 is almost here, which means parents will be diligently helping their college-age children search for Christian colleges, seminaries, and universities for enrollment for this coming fall. As many of you know, Lighthouse Trails has been researching Christian colleges for 14 years. Three years ago, we published a report called An Epidemic of Apostasy, which revealed that the majority of Christian colleges, seminaries, and universities had begun to incorporate contemplative spirituality (through Spiritual Formation programs) into their schools. The report showed how much of this was happening because accreditation associations were requiring schools to include Spiritual Formation in the lives of their students if they wanted to be accredited. 

We are reposting our report below (which is also in booklet format). We include in the report a list of many of the Christian schools that are including Spiritual Formation in the lives of their students. This is not a complete list. Lighthouse Trails is adding new schools to this list as we learn of their contemplative propensities. To see updates to this list, visit: www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/Colleges.htm. We also have a small list of Christian schools that are not promoting Spiritual Formation at: www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/collegesgood.htm.

Before deciding on a Christian school, please check out the school carefully and ask God to give you wisdom and guidance. As we have shown in our report, there is an agenda taking place to incorporate a mystical spirituality into the very heart of Christian education. It can be subtle, but it always deceptive and dangerous.

Note: We first published this report in 2013. In this 2016 update, we have discovered that almost all the links we have provided in our endnote section below have been removed by the institutions we are discussing. We have been able to replace some of them with cache files, but some have gone into obscurity.

By the Editors at Lighthouse TrailsZemanta Related Posts Thumbnail

Spiritual Formation: A movement that has provided a platform and a channel through which contemplative prayer is entering the church. Find spiritual formation being used, and in nearly every case, you will find contemplative spirituality and its “pioneers” such as Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and Henri Nouwen. Spiritual Formation is based on “spiritual disciplines” that can be practiced by people of any faith to make them more “Christ-like.” Rebirth through Jesus Christ and regeneration through the Holy Spirit are not essential. Rather it is a works-based “theology” that has strong roots in Roman Catholicism and ancient paganism.1

Contemplative Spirituality: A belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in mysticism and the occult but often wrapped in Christian terminology. The premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all). Common terms used for this movement are “spiritual formation,” “the silence,” “the stillness,” “ancient-wisdom,” “spiritual disciplines,” and many others.2

What do Abilene Christian University, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Bethel Seminary, Biola Seminary, Briercrest College and Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, Moody Theological Seminary & Graduate School, Multnomah Biblical Seminary, Regent College, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and around 240 other seminaries and colleges throughout North America all have in common?3 They are all accredited or in the process of being accredited through the Association of Theological Schools (ATS).4

What do Cincinnati Christian University, Columbia International University, Briercrest College & Seminary, Hope International University, Moody Bible Institute, Prairie Bible College and about 90 other colleges and seminaries throughout North America all have in common? They are all accredited through the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE).5

What do the two accreditation organizations—Association of Theological Seminaries and Association for Biblical Higher Education—have in common? Both associations require schools that wish to be accredited to include Spiritual Formation within the school’s infrastructure. Just what exactly does that mean for these 350 some seminaries and Bible colleges? Well, it means that if they want to receive and maintain their accreditation, they are going to have to incorporate Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative spirituality) into the lives of their students.

This would certainly answer, in large part, a question that Lighthouse Trails has had—how is it that contemplative spirituality has become so widespread so quickly within Christian colleges and seminaries over the past decade?

We were told, when we contacted ATS, that “Each school and tradition approaches this [Spiritual Formation] in a different way.” In other words, how one school defines “Spiritual Formation” may differ from how another school defines it, they say. Yet, both accreditation associations have made it very clear that they are speaking of contemplative spirituality when they are speaking of Spiritual Formation. That’s easy to prove. A look around their websites and in their handbooks shows clear signs of the contemplative emphasis.

Take the “Additional Resources for Seminary Presidents” 18-page handbook, for instance, from ATS.It recommends books by mysticism advocates Jim Collins (Good to Great), Daniel Goleman (author of The Meditative Mind), Peter Drucker, contemplative mystic Henri Nouwen, Buddhist sympathizer Peter Senge (recommending his book The Fifth Discipline (the 5th discipline meaning meditation), contemplative advocate Dorothy Bass, and Catholic nun and Buddhist zen practitioner Rose Mary Dougherty (part of the panentheistic Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation in Washington, DC); and there are numerous other “Spiritual Formation/contemplative” advocates in the list of “Additional Resources for Seminary Presidents.”6

In the ATS Handbook under “Assessing Outcomes in the Master of Divinity Program,” where it talks about assessing students progress, it states:

The Master of Divinity degree program standard requires that students be educated in four areas: (1) Religious Heritage, (2) Cultural Context, (3) Personal and Spiritual Formation, and (4) A Guide for Evaluating Theological Learning Capacity for Ministerial and Public Leadership . . . The MDiv standard requires each school to address the four areas.7

The ATS is determined that Spiritual Formation is integrated through all four of these areas:

However, the standard indicates that achievement and formation in these four areas should be integrated: “Instruction in these areas shall be conducted so as to indicate their interdependence with each other and with other areas of the curriculum, and their significance for the exercise of pastoral leadership.”

Integrated outcomes result from an integrated curriculum and instructional strategies.8

The Spiritual Formation/contemplative focus at the Association for Biblical Higher Education is as troubling as it is at ATS. In the ABHE Programmatic Standards handbook, it states under Curriculum—Essential Elements: “[A]n accredited graduate program is characterized by . . . A learning environment that cultivates critical thinking, theological reflection, spiritual formation, and effective leadership/ministry practice.”9

That might sound vague, but the 2011 ABHE Leadership Development Conference helps clarify ABHE’s view of Spiritual Formation. Session 1 was titled: Student Spiritual Formation—Principles, Processes, Issues, Resources & Assessment.10 This session was presented by Todd Hall of Biola University, a school that has clearly come out on the side of contemplative spirituality. Hall co-authored a book with contemplative advocate Dr. John Coe, who is the director of Biola’s Institute of Spiritual Formation; Hall also teaches Spiritual Formation at the Institute, which turns to the ancient mystics for spiritual understanding.

It is interesting to note the following in the conference literature:

Todd also developed the Spiritual Transformation [a contemplative term] Inventory (STI), a measure of Christian spirituality that is being used in national assessment projects conducted by the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU), Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), and Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI).11

In other words, when it says “a measure of Christian spirituality that is being used” to assess students at Christian schools, it means that assessment is made under the lens of contemplative spirituality. Students are assessed to see if they are properly absorbing their spiritual disciplines ala Spiritual Formation.

ABHE’s Council of Reference members list also indicates a contemplative agenda. Members include J.P. Moreland (whom Lighthouse Trails has critiqued for his contemplative advocacy) and contemplative musician Michael Card.12

Students who oppose or resist contemplative spirituality aren’t going to find success in these 350 theological Spiritual Formation-driven schools. According to the ATS Handbook, “direct evidence of students reaching stated goals is needed.”13 In a section titled Quality Assurance Expectations, it explains again that students will be expected to “provide evidence” that they are being transformed into their view of spirituality:

[T]heological schools are required to provide evidence that students in general reach stated learning outcomes. 14

In the summer of 2010, Moody Bible Institute, accredited through ABHE, took part in ABHE’s Assessment and Accountability Project. A report on this project explains in depth the criteria for assessing the outcomes of student success. The four areas are Biblical, Transformational, General/Experiential, and Missional (Transformational, Experiential, and Missional are terms used frequently by contemplative/emerging advocates). The “suggested assessments” include ABHE Spiritual Formation Assessment.15 The report explains that students will need to “demonstrate the knowledge of specific spiritual disciplines.”16

Incidentally, the ABHE Spiritual Formation Assessment is given every year whereas some other programs at ABHE are only assessed every three years. Clearly, ABHE intends to see Spiritual Formation thriving at these accredited member schools. One of the ways they will do this is through the influence of Henri Nouwen. In the Winter 2010 ABHE Journal is an article titled: “Hospitable Teaching, Redemptive Formation, and Learning Mobility: A Spirituality of Teaching Based upon the Writings of Henri J.M. Nouwen” by Neal Windham.17 Nouwen’s idea of hospitality and redemption incorporated mystical practices, universalism, and an interfaith reconciliation.

Anyone who thinks that Moody Bible Institute is not going to succumb to the pressure from ABHE to implement a full Spiritual Formation program at Moody is not looking at the obvious here. Already Moody has a Master of Arts in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship. By the way, the report we mentioned—ABHE’s Assessment and Accountability Project—is on Moody’s website. In the past, Moody has condemned Lighthouse Trails for our efforts to warn them because they were veering toward contemplative/emerging figures.18 What shall they say now? They HAVE incorporated Spiritual Formation (that is, contemplative spirituality). In the spring of 2013, Lighthouse Trails issued a special report titled “Concerns Grow as Moody Presses Forward Down Contemplative Path.”19

One other case in point, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School has been accredited by ATS since the 1970s. It went through an assessment by ATS in 2010 and passed. That is partly because Trinity now has a Spiritual Formation emphasis.20 Some may argue that just because a school uses the term Spiritual Formation doesn’t mean they are going contemplative. But in virtually every case we have ever examined, if a school is using that term, they are using the writings of the contemplative mystics.

As for Trinity, so are they. In their 2012-2013 catalog, they list some recommended authors for incoming seminary students for “excellent background.”21 Among those authors is Henri Nouwen and the mystic monk Brother Lawrence. This means that incoming students are being introduced, before they even get started, to contemplative writers. Trinity also has on this recommended reading list Lesslie Newbigin, a Scottish writer and Bishop who is looked to for insights by emerging church figures because of his sympathetic and embracing views of postmodernism (i.e., emerging). Of Newbigin, emerging church leader Brian McLaren says: “I see my work very much in line with Newbigin’s.”22 Trinity has at least one course, DE 5740, that is called Spiritual Formation. And in a student chapel service in October 2010, contemplative pioneer, the now late Dallas Willard was the guest speaker.23 Willard is aligned with Richard Foster, and both men have had a major influence in bringing contemplative spirituality into the evangelical church.

The future of Christian theological schools is bleak. In many cases, they are the most dangerous places for Christians to be, from a biblical point of view. Already scores of them are implementing contemplative spirituality, via Spiritual Formation programs, into the lives of their students. And remember, these students are the evangelical/Protestant church’s future pastors, youth pastors, Sunday school teachers, professors, missionaries, and leaders. Thanks to ATS and ABHE, there’s little doubt that a growing number of Christian seminaries and colleges will join the ranks of contemplative-promoting schools. Consider the following by some of the people who are recommended on the resource list at ATS. This will illustrate the severity of this epidemic of apostasy.

Henri Nouwen: “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.”24

Daniel Goleman: “The meditation practices and rules for living of these earliest Christian monks [the Desert Fathers] bear strong similarity to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East . . . the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery.”25 Note: Goleman’s book advocates Tantric sex, Kundalini, T.M., and other deep occultic meditative practices.

Rose Mary Dougherty: A description of Dougherty from the Shalem Institute: A Zen student for a number of years, Rose Mary was called forth as a dharma holder in the lineage of the White Plum Asanga in 2004, becoming a dharma heir in 2006. As a sensei, she teaches Zen meditation in various settings and assists people in integrating contemplative presence and just action in their lives.26

If you know someone who is attending a seminary or Christian college that is accredited by ATS or ABHE, the quotes above are a representation of what that person may be getting rather than the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

To order copies of An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited, click here.

Endnotes:
1. From the www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com website.
2. Ibid.
3. http://web.archive.org/web/20140130120553/http://www.ats.edu/member-schools.
4. http://www.ats.edu.
5. http://web.archive.org/web/20140106040431/http://abhe.org/pages/NAV-Directory.html.
6. http://web.archive.org/web/20130513171021/http://www.ats.edu/LeadershipEducation/documents/presidents/PresHndbkWebResources.pdf.
7. http://web.archive.org/web/20140124194154/http://docs.ats.edu/uploads/accrediting/documents/handbook-section-8.pdf.
8. Ibid, (A.3.1.1.3), p. 8.
9. http://web.archive.org/web/20120417114212/http://www.abhe-sln.org/opac/programmatic_standards.pdf, p. 9.
10. http://www.abhe.org/images/11.CSDO_Program.pdf. (link removed)
11. Ibid., p. 3. (link removed)
12. http://web.archive.org/web/20111013005613/http://abhe.org/pages/NAV-Council.html.
13. ATS Handbook (http://web.archive.org/web/20130415015005/http://www.ats.edu/Accrediting/Pages/HandbookofAccreditation.aspx), p. 9, Section 8.
14.http://web.archive.org/web/20130513124327/http://www.ats.edu/Accrediting/Documents/Handbook/HandbookSection8.pdf, p. 46.
15. http://www.academia.edu/609666/Association_for_Biblical_Higher_Educations_Assessment_and_Accountability_Project_for_Summer_2010, p. 7.
16. Ibid., p. 17.
17. http://web.archive.org/web/20120220032221/http://www.abhe-books.com/ABHEJournal/2010ABHEBibleicalHigherEducationJournal.htm.
18. http://www.moodyministries.net/crp_NewsDetail.aspx?id=7080.
19. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11846.
20. http://divinity.tiu.edu/student-life/spiritual-formation.
21. http://divinity.tiu.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/4/2013/05/TEDS12-13catalog.pdf, p. 188.
22. http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/blog/q-r-newbigin.html.
23. http://web.archive.org/web/20120119110125/http://blogs.tiu.edu/sojourn/2010/10/29/dr-dallas-willard.
24. Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1998), p. 51.
25. Daniel Goleman, The Meditative Mind (Los Angeles, CA: Tarcher/Putnam Inc., 1988), p.53.
26. http://www.shalem.org/index.php/about-us/people/senior-fellows/rose-mary-dougherty-ssnd.

To order copies of An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited, click here.

APPENDIX

Christian Schools That Are Promoting Spiritual Formation and Contemplative Spirituality

Note: Lighthouse Trails has done research on every one of the schools below.

Abilene Christian University—Abilene, TX

ACTS Seminaries of Trinity Western University—British Columbia, CA

Alberta Bible College–Calgary, Alberta, CA

Ambrose University—Calgary, Alberta, CA

American Christian College & Seminary—Oklahoma City, OK

Anderson University—Anderson, IN

Anderson University—Anderson, SC

Ashland Theological Seminary—Ashland, OH

Assemblies of God Theological Seminary—Springfield, MO

Azusa Pacific University, Haggard School of Theology—Azusa, CA

Baptist Theological Seminary of Southern Africa—Johannesburg, ZA

Barclay College—Haviland, KS

Baylor University—Waco, TX

Beeson Divinity School—Birmingham, AL

Belmont University—Nashville, TN

Bethel Seminary—San Diego, CA St. Paul, MN, East Coast campus

Bethel University—St. Paul, MN

Biblical Theological Seminary—Hatfield, PA

Biola University—La Mirada, CA

Briercrest Bible College— Caronport, Saskatchewan, CA

Bryan College—Dayton, TN

California Baptist University—Riverside, CA

Calvin College—Grand Rapids, MI

Campbell University—Buies Creek, NC

Campbellsville University—Campbellsville, KY

Canadian Mennonite University—Winnipeg, Manitoba, CA

Carey Institute—Vancouver, British Columbia, CA

Cedarville University—Cedarville, OH

Christian Theological Seminary—Indianapolis, IN

Christian University (GlobalNet); ministry of RBC Ministries (online)

Cincinnati Bible Seminary—Cincinnati, OH

Corban University—Salem, OR

Colorado Christian University—Lakewood, CO

Columbia Theological Seminary (Presbyterian)—Decatur, GA

Cornerstone University—Grand Rapids, MI

Dallas Theological Seminary—Dallas, TX

Drew University—Madison, NJ

Duke Divinity School (Duke University)—Durham, NC

Eastern Mennonite Seminary—Harrisonburg, VA

Eastern University—St. Davids, PA

Emmanuel Bible College—Kitchner, Ontario, CA

Emmanuel School of Religion—Johnson City, TN

Fresno Pacific University—Fresno, CA

Fuller Theological Seminary—Pasadena, CA

George Fox University Seminary—Newberg, OR

Gordon College—Wenham, MA

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary—South Hamilton, MA

Grace Theological Seminary—Winona Lake, IN

Grand Canyon College—Phoenix, AZ

Greenville College—Greenville, IL

Harding School of Theology—Nashville, TN

Harding University—Searcy, AR

Hope College—Holland, MI

Hope International University—Fullerton, CA

Houghton College—Houghton, NY

Indiana Wesleyan University—Marion, IN

John Brown University—Siloam Springs, AR

John Wesley College—Pretoria, ZA

Lancaster Bible College—Lancaster, PA

LeTourneau University—Longview, TX

Liberty University—Lynchburg, VA

Lincoln Christian University—Lincoln, IL

Lipscomb University—Nashville, TN

Luther Rice Seminary/University—Lithonia, GA

Malone College—Canton, OH

Mars Hill Graduate School—Bothell, WA

Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary—Fresno, CA

Messiah College (Brethren in Christ Church)—Mechanicsburg, PA

MidAmerica Nazarene University—Olathe, KS

Milligan College—Milligan College, TN

Montreat College—Montreat, NC

Moody Bible Institute—Chicago, IL

Mount Vernon Nazarene—Mt. Vernon, OH

Multnomah University—Portland, OR

Nebraska Christian College—Papillion, NE

New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary—New Orleans, LA

Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lombard, Chicago, Rockford, IL

Northeastern Seminary—Rochester, NY

Northern Seminary—Lombard, IL

Northpark University & Northpark Theological Seminary—Chicago, IL

Northwest Nazarene University—Nampa, ID

Northwestern College—Orange City, IA

Northwestern College (University of Northwestern)—St. Paul, MN

Nyack College—Nyack, NY

Oklahoma Christian University—Oklahoma City, OK

Oklahoma Wesleyan University—Bartlesville, OK

Olivet Nazarene University—Bourbonnais, IL

Oral Roberts University—Tulsa, OK

Pacific Rim Christian College—Honolulu, HI

Palm Beach Atlantic University—Palm Beach, FL

Pepperdine University—Malibu, CA

Phoenix Seminary—Phoenix, AZ

Prairie College of the Bible—Three Hills, Alberta, CA

Providence College and Seminary—Otterburne, Manitoba, CA

Reformed Theological Seminary—Several locations in U.S.

Regent College—Vancouver, British Columbia, CA

Rockbridge Seminary—Springfield, MO

Rocky Mountain College—Calgary, Alberta, CA

Rolling Hills Bible Institute—Rolling Hills Estates, CA

Samford University—Birmingham, AL

Shorter College—Rome, GA

Simpson University—Redding, CA

Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary—Wake Forest, NC

Southeastern University—Lakeland, Fl

Southwest Baptist University—Bolivar, MO

Spring Arbor University—Spring Arbor Township, MI

Talbot Seminary (Biola)—La Mirada, CA

Taylor Seminary/Taylor College—Edmonton, Alberta, CA

Taylor University—Upland, IN

Toccoa Falls College—Toccoa Falls, GA

Trevecca Nazarene University—Nashville, TN

Trinity International University—Deerfield, IL

Trinity Western University—Langley, British Columbia, CA

Tyndale University College & Seminary—Toronto, Ontario, CA

Vanguard University—Costa Mesa, CA

Western Seminary—Portland, OR; Sacramento, San Jose, CA

Western Theological Seminary—Holland, MI

Westmont College—Santa Barbara, CA

Wheaton College Graduate School, Wheaton, IL

Whitworth University—Spokane, WA

William Carey Institute —Vancouver, British Columbia, CA

* This is not a complete list. Lighthouse Trails is adding new schools to this list as we learn of their contemplative propensities. To see updates to this list, visit: www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/Colleges.htm. We also have a small list of Christian schools that are not promoting Spiritual Formation at: www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/collegesgood.htm.

An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited, click here.


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