Posts Tagged ‘Ray Yungen’

Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, Richard Foster – Are We Wrong in Calling Them Emergent/Contemplative?

Recently, we were asked to give an account as to why Dallas Willard (d. 2013), Richard Foster, and John Ortberg were listed in Roger Oakland’s booklet How to Know When the Emerging Church Shows Signs of Emerging Into Your Church as part of the emerging church. 

We would first like to say that it is understandable how someone could take offense to these men being named in a booklet on the emerging church. All three have stated that they love Jesus and have often used Scriptures in their writings and lectures. So why say they are part of the emerging church?

Richard Foster and Dallas Willard

Richard Foster (l); Dallas Willard (r)

The Real Crux of the Matter

The real crux of this matter comes down to the contemplative prayer movement, which because it has its roots in panentheism (God in all) and interspirituality (all paths lead to God)  as we have been able to document in our writings these past many years, it is basically a synonym for the emerging church. In fact, without contemplative prayer, the emerging church would not have had the success (if you will) that it has had because contemplative prayer is the force that drives it. And given the fact that there are so many variables equal between the two, if someone is a proponent of contemplative prayer, we classify him as part of the emerging church. Many people mistakenly think that the emerging church would just be those of the caliber of Brian McLaren or Rob Bell. But we cannot agree with this at all. We believe the documentation we have gathered these past 15 years clearly shows that the two movements are one in the same.

That being said, one of the problems is that many Christians do not  understand what contemplative spirituality is. They believe that contemplative prayer is just prayer that contemplates (ponders) the things of God. Or that it is likened to a time of solitude (e.g., a quiet time with the Lord, perhaps sitting by a creek or turning off the radio). But contemplative prayer, as Richard Foster has very often made clear in his writings, is a practice that requires one to remove all distractions of the mind by practicing some type of mantric-like meditation (breath prayers, centering prayer, lectio divina, etc) and allowing the mind to enter a neutral state where all thought is gone. If contemplative prayer were just normal, but perhaps more focused, prayer, then why has there been so much differentiation in the church regarding it, whereas now through Spiritual Formation programs, countless Christian colleges and seminaries have brought contemplative spirituality into their schools?

If we could establish that this type of extra-biblical prayer is similar to an eastern-style meditation that Christians should not be engaged in, we would need to then look to see how this has entered the church and through whom. At this point, we would like to recommend two articles we have written that concisely explain and document 1) the roots of contemplative prayer and the connection between it and eastern style and occultic meditation, and 2) the significant role that Richard Foster has played in bringing contemplative spirituality into the evangelical church. Here are the links to those two articles: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=18192 and  http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17941. Each of the articles is filled with many quotes (none taken out of context) so that it isn’t just our opinion but is coming right from the sources themselves.

Dallas Willard and John Ortberg

Dallas Willard (l); John Ortberg (r)

Now, about Dallas Willard (John Ortberg is a disciple of Willard so we will not bring him into this letter for sake of not allowing this article to get too lengthy – see the end of this article for some Ortberg links).  What we have to say about Dallas Willard is really only going to be understood if one understands contemplative spirituality. Otherwise, we can show that Willard promotes contemplative spirituality, but if one does not realize what that term means, it may not mean much when we show Willard’s propensity for this mystical spirituality.

  1. In 1998, in the Journal of Psychology and Theology, Dallas Willard made the following statement: “Indeed, solitude and silence are powerful means to grace. Bible study, prayer and church attendance, among the most commonly prescribed activities in Christian circles, generally have little effect for soul transformation, as is obvious to any observer. If all the people doing them were transformed to health and righteousness by it, the world would be vastly changed. Their failure to bring about the change is precisely because the body and soul are so exhausted, fragmented and conflicted that the prescribed activities cannot be appropriately engaged, and by and large degenerate into legalistic and ineffectual rituals. Lengthy solitude and silence, including rest, can make them very powerful.” (Dallas Willard,Spiritual Disciplines, Spiritual Formation and the Restoration of the Soul,” Journal of Psychology and Theology, Spring 1998, Vol. 26, #1, pp. 101-109. Also available in The Great Omission, San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2006)

Dallas Willard and Richard Foster together believed that what the church needs more than anything else is Spiritual Formation. As Richard Foster himself has stated (see the Foster booklet), the term Spiritual Formation came from the Catholic Church long before evangelicals used the term. For those who will read our article explaining what Spiritual Formation is, they will be able to see that Spiritual Formation (or the Spiritual Disciplines) is the vehicle that brings contemplative prayer to the church. Based on what we have witnessed in the majority of Christian colleges and seminaries, this has been a very successful effort. http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=16176

  1. In 2004, Ruth Haley Barton wrote a book titled Invitation to Silence and Solitude. Dallas Willard wrote the foreword. Barton, who was trained at the New Age/panentheistic Shalem Prayer Institute in Washington, DC, also wrote the Spiritual Formation curriculum with John Ortberg for Willow Creek church after her training at Shalem. In Invitation to Silence and Solitude, Barton describes a wordless time of prayer that she calls the silence. “Take three long, deep breaths to help yourself settle into the silence.” (Kindle edition, Kindle location 689-690). It is very clear in her book that when she says silence, she is not talking about external silence; rather she is talking about stilling the mind so that there are no thoughts to distract us. Naturally, as humans, we cannot just turn off all thoughts. Our minds are thinking throughout our waking hours. The contemplative teaches that we must rid ourselves of these “distractions,” but we cannot do that without an aid. That aid is repeatedly saying a word or phrase (or focusing on the breath or an object)  for as much as 20 minutes (that’s how long author Gary Thomas tells readers to repeat their prayer word in his highly popular book Sacred Pathways):

    It is particularly difficult to describe this type of prayer in writing, as it is best taught in person. In general however, centering prayer works like this: Choose a word (Jesus or Father, for example) as a focus for contemplative prayer. Repeat the word silently in your mind for a set amount of time (say, twenty minutes) until your heart seems to be repeating the word by itself, just as naturally and involuntarily as breathing. (p. 185)

In Barton’s book, she references favorably several Catholic panentheistic mystics: Richard Rohr, Henri Nouwen, Basil Pennington, William Shannon, and others. For Dallas Willard to write the foreword to her book, he must have agreed with what she was writing in the book. He was a very learned, educated man (referred to as “one of today’s most brilliant Christian thinkers“) who must have known also who these mystics mentioned in her book were and what they believed.

  1. In fact, on Dallas Willard’s own website, there is a page of recommended resources. The page has been there for years and is still there today. http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp. Here is an archive of the same page in 2010: https://web.archive.org/web/20100314131254/http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp. On that page, which obviously was what Dallas Willard himself recommended, are the names of several contemplative mystics and advocates of mantric-like meditation.

One of the recommended books, written by Jan Johnson, is Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness. Like Barton, Johnson is a long-time highly influential promoter of contemplative prayer. In the book, which by the way favorably references several mystics such as Anglican priest Kenneth Leech and even some New Age type figures (e.g., Gerald May and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin), she says the following: “To listen to God requires experimentation and practice so that we develop ‘ears to hear’ . . .  Such practice involves Scripture study and meditation, prayer (especially contemplative prayer)”  (Kindle edition, Kindle Locations 399-400). Johnson also encourages breath prayers, lectio divina, and “practicing the presence.” Her book that Willard recommends is a primer on contemplative prayer; and in that book, for the more curious reader, she recommends her book When the Soul Listens where she states:

“Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.” (p. 16)

Johnson’s explanation of the initial stages of contemplative prayer leaves no doubt that “stilling” your thoughts means only one thing; she explains:

“In the beginning, it is usual to feel nothing but a cloud of unknowing. . . . If you’re a person who has relied on yourself a great deal to know what’s going on, this unknowing will be unnerving. (p. 120)

We have never heard of a prayer in the Bible that would cause us to feel “unnerving.” This is typical language of and explanation by contemplatives. We know that those who practice occultic or eastern style meditation will often have experiences that could be described as unnerving. Richard Foster says that before one practices contemplative prayer, it is wise to say prayers of protection.(Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, 1992, pp. 155-157.) But where in Scripture are we instructed to pray prayers of protection from prayer?

In addition to Dallas Willard recommending Jan Johnson on his website, he also recommends Richard Foster, to whom he was closely connected, and mystics Madame Guyon, Evelyn Underhill, Teresa of Avila (who levitated because of her meditation practices), Henri Nouwen (who after years of practicing mysticism came to the conclusion that Jesus is not the only path to God – see his book Sabbatical Journey, p. 51), Ignatius (The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius), and even Jungian occultist Agnes Sanford. How could Dallas Willard have Agnes Sanford’s occultic-promoting book The Healing Light on his website since at least as far back as 2004?! (https://web.archive.org/web/20041214164830/http://www.dwillard.org/resources/RecReading.asp).

How many unsuspecting, trusting individuals have come across Dallas Willard’s webpage on his site recommending these people and been drawn into the teachings promoted by them?

One Final Example

We could provide many other examples showing Dallas Willard’s connection and advocacy to the contemplative prayer movement. Even Rick Warren acknowledged this in his first book The Purpose Driven Church where he identified Richard Foster and Dallas Willard as key players in the movement (p. 127).  But we’ll leave you with this final example. We hope and pray those reading this article will read some of the documentation we have provided in the links we’ve included. The evidence is there for those who are willing to study this matter. Roger Oakland was correct in including these names in his booklet on the emerging church.

  1. Our final example has to do with Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, a book that remains highly popular in Christian circles.  On the back cover of the book is an endorsement by goddess worshiper Sue Monk Kidd. Although the book was written several years ago, her name remains on the back cover of the book along with the name of her book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter. It is in that book that Sue Monk Kidd says God is in everything, even human excrement (pp. 160-163)! And in speaking about mysticism in that book, Monk Kidd says:

    As I grounded myself in feminine spiritual experience, that fall I was initiated into my body in a deeper way. I came to know myself as an embodiment of Goddess…. Mystical awakening in all the great religious traditions, including Christianity, involves arriving at an experience of unity or nondualism. In Zen it’s known as samadhi…. Transcendence and immanence are not separate. The Divine is one. The dancer and all the dances are one. . . . The day of my awakening was the day I saw and knew I saw all things in God, and God in all things. (pp. 161-163, Dance of the Dissident Daughter)

Does Dance of the Dissident Daughter sound like a book that should be included on the back of a Christian book (The Spirit of the Disciplines)? Hardly! Dallas Willard is viewed as a great Christian scholar. But something is very amiss here. In addition to Monk Kidd’s endorsement on the back of The Spirit of the Disciplines, Willard favorably references inside the book panentheist Catholic monk Thomas Merton as well as Agnes Sanford. Although the book was originally published in 1988, we are referring to the 2009 Kindle edition, which was a mere eight years ago when Dallas Willard was still alive. In the book (see Bibliography), he has turned to the writings of numerous panentheistic mystics: Bernard of Clairvaux, The Cloud of Unknowing (a primer on contemplative prayer written by a Catholic monk centuries ago), The Desert Fathers, Harry Fosdick (who denied substitutionary atonement), Ignatius, Soren Kierkegaard, Thomas Merton, Meister Eckhart, New Ager M. Scott Peck, Agnes Sanford, and others. Untold numbers of Christians have read The Spirit of the Disciplines, and they have been introduced to the writings of these mystics whose ideas are interwoven in the pages of this book. Incidentally, on Dallas Willard’s website, it states that The Spirit of the Disciplines is a companion book to Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline (where Foster says, “we should all without shame enroll in the school of contemplative prayer”).

What we have presented here is not guilt by association but is guilt by promotion and proxy. It is our estimation that Dallas Willard and Richard Foster have done a terrible disservice to the body of Christ and to the work and furtherance of the Gospel. We hope those reading this will take the time to study this matter out.

Related Links:

Letter to the Editor: What About John Ortberg’s Fully Devoted Book? My Pastor Wants to Use it

David Jeremiah Opens Pulpit to Contemplative Advocate John Ortberg

“Tough Questions” with Dallas Willard . . . and His Contemplative Propensities

More on John Ortberg

 

 

 

“Is Lighthouse Trails Haters?”

LTRP Note: Recently, we sent out a Special Note to our readers asking you to pray for us as we have been undergoing extra pressures from forces that wanted to see Lighthouse Trails come to an end. While we can’t say that all pressure has been relieved, we can say that God has answered your prayers in a number of ways, mostly in that He lifted us up, encouraged us, and strengthened us. In addition, we were reminded, once again, that we (and all believers) are in a battle, and though we at times grow weary, we are assured through His Word that He will not leave us or forsake us, and He said in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” How grateful we are for those wonderful words of promise and hope.

We know there are those who believe Lighthouse Trails editors and authors are haters. Lately, we have been again made aware of this and were reminded of something that took place eight years ago. In May of 2009, we wrote an article titled “Calvary Chapel Termination Has Profound Implications.” The article was a special report detailing Calvary Chapel (CCOF) firing Chuck Smith’s brother, Paul Smith. Our article began with:

Lighthouse Trails regrets to report that on May 5th, Paul Smith, brother of Chuck Smith (the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement), was fired from his position in the Calvary Chapel (CCOF) organization during an unscheduled meeting that day. The motion to fire Paul Smith was made by board member Roger Wing and seconded by Chuck Smith’s son-in-law, Brian Broderson. Other board members affirmed the motion, and Paul Smith was dismissed.

Within hours of Paul Smith being fired, we talked to him, asking for permission to write the story. Paul had been working hard to keep the emerging church out of Calvary Chapel, but he was coming up against brick walls. Shortly after his dismissal, a youth event put on by Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa called Movement 2009 was scheduled to take place. Thousands of young people were expected to attend. The reason Paul was trying to intervene in the event was because Mike Erre, an influential emergent author, was the scheduled speaker. Lighthouse Trails had exposed Erre’s emergent leanings in a review of his book, Death by Church. However, Paul Smith was fired a few weeks before the event took place, which then prevented him from having any say in the matter.

Movement 2009 took place, and Mike Erre spoke to several thousand youth. During the event, one of the organizers of the event stood in front of the crowd and said that “the haters tried to stop us, but they didn’t.” We knew they were speaking about Lighthouse Trails (and probably Paul Smith). In response to this idea that Lighthouse Trails is “haters,” author and researcher Ray Yungen wrote a letter to our readers. In view of increased pressure on us lately, we wanted to repost Ray’s letter, answering the question, “Is Lighthouse Trails haters?”

“Is Lighthouse Trails Haters?”

By Ray Yungen

Recently, at a large Christian youth event, Lighthouse Trails was indirectly referred to as “haters” because of our articles and books exposing the emerging church movement. We realize that many people think ministries like Lighthouse Trails are mean-spirited, hateful, and derive pleasure from causing trouble for others.

On the contrary, what motivates and drives Lighthouse Trails is a sense of duty to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We see that being the issue at stake.

Right now, there is a struggle going on for what the church of the future will look like. Karl Rahner once said the Christian of the future will be a mystic or he or she will not exist at all. The question must be asked (and answered): Is this really a good thing? Will mysticism lead to a Christianity that is more vibrant and in harmony with the will of God?

When one looks at the writings of those such as Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, etc., one finds that this mysticism is rooted firmly in a spiritual understanding more in-tune with Buddhism and Hinduism that with the writings of the apostles in the Bible.

Thomas Merton said:

It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, … now I realize what we all are…. If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are … I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other…. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth…. This little point … is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody. (A Time of Departing, p. 59)

This is identical to what is called in New Age spirituality, the higher self. Over the last few decades there has been an ever-increasing number of individuals in Christianity that draw on and promote persons such as Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. The mission at Lighthouse Trails is to point out that if the church goes in the same mystical direction as these individuals, it will ultimately embrace the spiritual perceptions such as the one just stated. If that sounds implausible, take a look at the spiritual life of Sue Monk Kidd (author of The Secret Life of Bees).

Monk Kidd was at one time a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday school teacher. But after she was introduced to the writings of Thomas Merton, she branched out and began embracing contemplative practices and her spirituality dramatically changed. Eventually, it led her to say that God dwells in everything, even excrement and graffiti.

At Lighthouse Trails, we are not motivated by hate for people but rather by love and concern. We believe, with everything in us, that man’s only hope lies in Jesus Christ and the free gift of salvation offered to those who believe and accept it. And we also believe that contemplative/emerging spirituality leads man away from that Gospel not toward it. This is why we do what we do.

Ray Yungen
Lighthouse Trails author

Sorceries or Salvation—Which Will It Be?

Ray Yungen

By Ray Yungen

God’s Desire

Just what exactly is God’s desire for mankind? Does He want to send people to Hell? Does He want anyone to live eternally without Him? Scripture is very clear about this when it says:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)

God makes a strong plea to all people, giving them every opportunity to receive Him. It is God’s desire that none should perish eternally. That’s why He offered His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ—the only perfect sacrifice for mankind’s sin:

Therefore as by the offence of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Jesus] the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. (Romans 5:18)

What it comes down to is the preaching of the higher self (as taught in contemplative spirituality) versus the preaching of the Cross. The New Age says that God is the higher self in man—that God is just a meditation away.

Many people are turned off when they think Christian teaching says we are bad and worthless. But this is not an accurate depiction of Christianity. It may teach that man is bad  (i.e., sinful) (which is evident) but certainly not worthless. The fact that Christ died for the “ungodly” to “reconcile” them to God shows God’s love toward man. In contrast to karma, the Gospel of grace is better in that if you accept its provision, you are complete (perfect) in Christ Jesus.

This is why Christianity is so steadfast on these issues. If a belief system is not preaching the Cross, then it is not “the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18). If other ways are correct, then Christ died in vain, His blood shed unnecessarily.

A Warning and a Plea

It is very true that God loves mankind, so much so He sent His Son to save all who receive Him by faith. The Lord is very patient with man, and as “the day of the Lord” draws nearer and nearer, He continues beckoning humanity to Himself.

However, while God’s love, mercy, and patience are very enduring, His warnings about a great judgment coming upon the earth are to be taken very seriously. Those who refuse to bow their knee to Jesus Christ will suffer severe and eternal consequences—make no mistake, that day will come:

But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. (2 Peter 3:7)

Jesus said, in referring to His return “of that day and hour knoweth no man” (Matthew 24:36). But He also said that while we will not know the exact hour and day of His return, we should be watching for the signs of the coming tribulation period. Throughout the centuries, Christians generally thought they were living in a time when Christ’s return was imminent based on natural disasters, wars, upheaval, and prominent military leaders (e.g., Napoleon). But never in the history of humanity has occultism and mysticism been unleashed as it has now.

Many think that the New Age movement is only a fairly recent manifestation of the last few decades. But I believe that the words of the prophet Isaiah reveal that New Age spirituality was even around back then, although not called that. And he links this Ancient Wisdom in with the end of the age period. Isaiah issues a stern and fearsome warning:

Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth, if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail. Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee. (Isaiah 47:12-13)

The next verse describes the judgment that these will be subjected to:

Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame. (Isaiah 47:14)

And in Revelation 9:20-21, it discloses:

And the rest of the men which were not killed by these plagues yet repented not of the works of their hands, that they should not worship devils, and idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood: which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk: Neither repented they of their murders, nor of their sorceries.

The Book of Revelation explains that there are those who in the latter times “blasphemed the name of God” and “repented not to give him [God] glory” (Revelation 16:9) and again, “repented not of their deeds” (vs. 11).

These verses that speak of sorceries portray the “mystery of iniquity” (2 Thessalonians 2:7) that is being judged during the tribulation period because its adherents are claiming to be God, and they refuse to give Him the glory but rather take it upon themselves. This will be the ultimate test revealing who the real God is.

This word “sorceries” used in Revelation comes from the greek word pharmakaia. The word is translated into four meanings.:

1) the use or the administering of drugs
2) poisoning
3) sorcery, magical arts, often found in connection with idolatry and fostered by it
4) metaphorically the deceptions and seductions of idolatry

I want you to realize the significance of this. The Bible is clear that sorcery will be a pervasive practice, to the point of being epidemic during “the day of the Lord.” And this is what is now called the Ancient Wisdom by its proponents! The occultist Alice Bailey said that the Ancient Wisdom would be at the very root of her new vital world religion, which she proudly proclaimed would be universal.

Scripture is very clear that sorceries are practices that will be judged by God. Traditionally throughout the centuries, sorcery has been practiced by a very small number of persons (i.e., occult or kept secret). But now we have a virtual explosion of sorcery through various practices and pronouncements (Yoga, contemplative, meditation, Reiki, Oneness Blessing, etc). What I am talking about is a whole world like the psychic slave girl in the Book of Acts.

From Genesis to Revelation, the pages are filled with God’s warning to mankind when he refuses to acknowledge that the Lord is God and man is not. And throughout these pages are stories of those who mocked and scorned the warnings brought by God’s messengers. The apostle Peter referred to this scenario:

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. (2 Peter 3: 3-4)

Many people today believe that it is wrong to talk about and warn of an endtime, apocolyptic time period. Rather, they say, we should spend time meditating and employing our higher powers to reach happiness and enlightenment in life. We each have a choice to make. Do we seek after this consciousness, or do we humbly call upon the living God and accept His free gift of salvation and eternal life?

If you don’t already, I pray you will come to know the true Christ (Jesus Christ) before it is too late. I cannot emphasize enough the vital importance of understanding and believing the following verse:

I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. (John 10:9)

By saying this, Jesus made clear that it was by Him and not a mystical consciousness that we are saved. Let me leave you with this. Compare these four views below. I pray you will see the difference as I did so many years ago!

I AM GOD! This is THE most basic tenant of metaphysical spiritual understanding.1—A metaphysical teacher

You are God in a physical body.. . .You are all power. . . . You are all intelligence. . . . You are the creator.2—The Secret

[T]here is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:21-22)

He that hath the Son [not higher consciousness] hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. (1 John 5:12)

Many people have not grasped what “the gospel of your salvation” (Ephesians 1:13)  is all about—which can be summed up by the following verses:

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1:15)

But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one [Adam] many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. (Romans 5:15)

Salvation is having personal faith and trust in the person and finished work (sacrifice) of the Lord Jesus Christ. We have “peace with God” (Romans 5:1), are “forgiven” (Ephesians 5:4), and are “reconciled” to God (2 Corinthians 5:18) only by Him. That’s where our faith or trust is to be directed.

The notion of achieving Christ consciousness (as offered in the New Age) is just not compatible with being redeemed by Christ’s precious blood. The two just don’t mix. Romans 5:6 says:

For when we were yet without strength [spiritually impotent], in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

A consciousness can’t die for anyone—only a person can. If you “receive not the love of the truth,” as Scripture says, your eternal destination will be determined:

Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. (2 Thessalonians 2:9-11)

Endnotes:

1. “I AM,” Communicated through Kathy Wilson (The Light of Olympia Newspaper Vol. 1, Number 8, August 1988), p. 7.
2. Rhonda Byrne, The Secret, p. 164.

What Your Church Needs to Know Before Doing a Priscilla Shirer Study

The repetition [of a word or phrase] can in fact be soothing and very freeing, helping us, as Nouwen says, “to empty out our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God.”—Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens, p. 93

Years ago, I got a chance to meet Jan Johnson. . . . I was encouraged and redirected in so many ways. As a young woman trying to navigate the ins and outs of my relationship with the Lord, Ms. Jan spoke wisdom into my life that was extremely pivotal in my life—personally and in ministry.—Priscilla Shirer (emphasis added; http://www.goingbeyond.com/blog/wisbits; quoted in 2010 and still up on Shirer’s website)

Priscilla Shirer

This week, our office received a call from a woman who was concerned that her church is going to be doing a study using material by Priscilla Shirer. Our caller wanted to get some information she can show her pastor as to why her church should not be doing a Priscilla Shirer study. Because Priscilla Shirer is a contemplative proponent, we concur with our caller’s concerns. In John Lanagan’s booklet,  Beth Moore & Priscilla Shirer – Their History of Contemplative Prayer,Lanagan shows how both Moore and Shirer have been advocates of contemplative spirituality for quite some time. In that booklet, and this is what we want to focus on in this article, Lanagan discusses a woman named Jan Johnson. Because Priscilla Shirer embraces and has gleaned spiritually from Johnson, we need to take a closer look at what Johnson believes.

We first heard about Jan Johnson in Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing where Yungen explains:

Spiritual director Jan Johnson, in her book When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, is a perfect example of an evangelical Christian who endorses and promotes this practice [contemplative prayer]. She leaves no doubt about what this type of prayer entails:

“Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.” [emphasis added]

Johnson’s explanation of the initial stages of contemplative prayer leaves no doubt that “stilling” your thoughts means only one thing; she explains:

“In the beginning, it is usual to feel nothing but a cloud of unknowing. . . . If you’re a person who has relied on yourself a great deal to know what’s going on, this unknowing will be unnerving. [emphasis added] (Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 82.)

When Johnson talks about stilling the mind in order to experience God’s presence and hear His voice, she is referring to something that is universal with mystics—putting the mind into a neutral, altered state where one is not aware of the distractions around him. This inner stillness can only be achieved through some type of meditative practice (see Johnson’s quote at top of this article), which in the case of “Christian” mystics is contemplative prayer. For those of you unfamiliar with contemplative jargon, the “cloud of unknowing” is taken from a small book of the same name, written by an anonymous monk several hundred years ago. The book is a primer on contemplative prayer and in it instructs:

Take just a little word, of one syllable rather than of two . . .  With this word you are to strike down every kind of thought under the cloud of forgetting. (The Cloud of Unknowing)

This is describing a mantra-style practice, no different than that used in eastern meditation. It is interesting that Jan Johnson says the effect of this type of prayer is “unnerving.” Webster’s Dictionary defines unnerving as “inspiring fear.” This reminds us of another contemplative teacher, Richard Foster, who suggested that people pray prayers of protection before practicing contemplative prayer in order to avoid an evil encounter. But where in Scripture is prayer to God described as inspiring fear or something that needs prayers of protection first? Nowhere. That’s not how God’s Word defines prayer.

Jan Johnson

In Jan Johnson’s book, Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness, Johnson shows her resonance with a number of contemplative figures with quotes by and references to them.  One particular name that jumps out is New Age sympathizer Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Read a few quotes by Chardin and then ask yourself, why would a Christian author (Johnson) be drawn to someone with these views:

What I am proposing to do is to narrow that gap between pantheism and Christianity by bringing out what one might call the Christian soul of pantheism or the pantheist aspect of Christianity.—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 56

Now I realize that, on the model of the incarnate God whom Christianity reveals to me, I can be saved only by becoming one with the universe. Thereby, too, my deepest ‘pantheist’ aspirations are satisfied.—Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 128.

I believe that the Messiah whom we await, whom we all without any doubt await, is the universal Christ; that is to say, the Christ of evolution.—Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 95.

Johnson’s 2016 book Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-On Guide to Lectio Divina leads readers in lectio divina meditations. Lectio Divina is used today as a gateway practice into contemplative mystical prayer. In her book, Johnson provides a section titled  “Relax and Refocus (silencio)”  which is instruction to readers on how to get rid of mental distractions when trying to practice lectio divina:

Each exercise begins with brief guidance to slow down, quiet your inner self and let go of distracting thoughts. . . . focusing on God. A way to interrupt this [mental] traffic is to focus on being present in the moment by breathing in and out deeply— even overbreathing. It also helps to relax our body parts one by one: bending the neck, letting the arms go limp, relaxing the legs and ankles. Loosen each part from the inside out. This doesn’t mean you’re setting aside your mind— you’re redirecting your mind away from the busyness that often consumes you. Being present in the moment prepares you to wait on the still, small voice of God. If you are distracted, you may want to try the palms up, palms down method. Rest your hands in your lap, placing your hands palms down as a symbol of turning over any concerns you have. If a nagging thought arises, turn your hands palms up as a “symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord.” [Foster] If you become distracted at any time during meditation, repeat the exercise. (Meeting God in Scripture, Kindle version, Kindle location 102)

To back up her teaching on practicing contemplative meditation and finding that inner stillness of the mind, Johnson turns to several contemplative teachers in Meeting God in Scripture. Sadly, God and Scripture are not the only things readers are going to meet when they read this book by Johnson. They will also meet Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, and David Benner. Other books Johnson has written have the same caliber.  A few of those titles are:  Spiritual Disciplines Companion: Bible Studies and Practices to Transform Your Soul, Enjoying the Presence of God: Discovering Intimacy with God in the Daily Rhythms of Life, Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace, and Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice: Experiments in Spiritual Transformation (Willard and Johnson). She has written several others books which carry the same message: you’ve got to have the inner mental silence to really know God (something Beth Moore has said too—in the Be Still DVD).

We could give several more examples of Johnson’s embracing contemplative spirituality. You won’t find much that she has written that doesn’t include this element. In one article on her website titled “What Is Solitude & Why Do I Need It? or . . . Turn Up the Quiet,” she quotes panentheist Thomas Merton from his book New Seeds of Contemplation. Why does Jan Johnson keep referring to contemplative mystics in her writings? There can only be one answer to that question—because she resonates with them.

Conclusion

As noted at the beginning of this article, Priscilla Shirer “was encouraged and redirected in so many ways” when she met Jan Johnson. She added that Johnson “spoke wisdom into [Priscilla’s] life that was extremely pivotal in [her] life—personally and in ministry.” Shirer said these words in 2010 and has left them up on her website to this day. Obviously, she still feels this way about Johnson. In Shirer’s popular book 2006/2012 Discerning the Voice of God, she favorably quotes Jan Johnson twice from When the Soul Listens. Shirer also quotes contemplatives Joyce Huggett and Phil Yancey in Discerning the Voice of God. Shirer clearly has been influenced by Jan Johnson as she admits herself.

We’ll close with this: On Priscilla Shirer’s website, where she talks about meeting Jan Johnson, she also includes an article by Johnson who is quoting panentheist Catholic priest Richard Rohr (founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation) from his book Everything Belongs (meaning everything and everyone is part of God). Rohr’s spirituality would be in the same camp as someone like Episcopalian panentheist Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ). Rohr wrote the foreword to a book called How Big is Your God? by Jesuit priest (from India) Paul Coutinho. In Coutinho’s book, he describes an interspiritual community where people of all religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity) worship the same God. For Rohr to write the foreword to such a book, he would have to agree with Coutinho’s views. On Rohr’s website, he has an article titled “Cosmic Christ.” One need not look too far into Rohr’s teachings and website to see he is indeed promoting the same Cosmic Christ as Matthew Fox – this is the “christ” whose being they say lives in every human—this, of course, would nullify the need for atonement by a savior. Lighthouse Trails has written numerous times about Rohr as he is aggressively pushing his panentheistic mystical spirituality into the evangelical church. If everything you have read in this article has not persuaded you to steer clear of Shirer’s studies, then this should do it, hands down. The fact that she keeps the post about Rohr on her website should alarm all Bible-believing Christians and illustrates the spiritual affinity Priscilla Shirer is drawn to.

Before your church does a Priscilla Shirer study, please keep in mind the things you have read in this article. Contemplative prayer has roots in panentheism  (God is in all) and interspirituality (all paths lead to God) as you can read in Ray Yungen’s article “The Final Outcome of Practicing Contemplative Prayer: Interspirituality.” Do you really want your church influenced in any way by a spirituality that is so against the Cross? Are we saying Priscilla Shirer is necessarily against the Cross? No, but for someone who wrote a book on how to discern the voice of God, she sure isn’t showing any discernment in the voices that she herself is listening to and being persuaded by.

Lighthouse Trails Sends Out 5th Letter to 145 Christian Leaders

Lighthouse Trails began mailing out booklets and short letters to over 100 Christian leaders in the spring of 2016. This month we are mailing out the 5th letter along with two booklets – Yoga and Christianity: Are They Compatible? by Chris Lawson and A Serious Look at Richard Foster’s “School” of Contemplative Prayer by Ray Yungen. Our list of leaders’ names is now at 145. Below is the letter we are including with the two booklets.

Dear Christian Leader:

We can’t tell you how many Christians have contacted our office and told us that their churches are doing “Christian” Yoga. But according to one Hindu professor who e-mailed us a number of years ago, there is no such thing as “Christian” Yoga. He said Yoga is the heart of Hinduism. It would be like a Hindu saying he is going to hold a Hindu communion service. In Chris Lawson’s booklet that we have sent you, he explains what Yoga really is and why Christians should not practice Yoga.

We are also including an important booklet by Ray Yungen about the contemplative prayer movement that was initially introduced to the church via Richard Foster (author of Celebration of Discipline). We know that many people find “naming names” uncomfortable. We assure you, we have no animosity toward Mr. Foster himself, but we are compelled to warn the church about a dangerous and unbiblical practice that has taken a foothold in many of our seminaries, colleges, and churches.

We hope you will find these two booklets helpful in your ministry. Thank you for taking the time to study these matters.

Humbly in Christ,

The Editors at Lighthouse Trails Publishing

bigstockphoto.com

If you would like us to add the name of a leader to our Christian leaders list, please send the name and mailing address to us at: editors@lighthousetrails.com. Because of time restraints, we will not be able to add a name without an address. Plus, because we cannot send out these letters and booklets to every pastor in the country, we ask that you only submit names of pastors and/or church leaders who have written at least one book (you can check Amazon) thus moving him or her into a place of influence throughout the church at large.

We wish we could send booklets to every Christian pastor in North America. However, here is an idea given to us from one of our readers for anyone who feels compelled to reach the pastors in his or her denomination and/or state: Earlier this year, a woman from Mississippi who learned that we were sending out booklets to Christian leaders and pastors contacted us. She said she was burdened for Southern Baptist pastors in her state and asked us to put together a mailing of two booklets and a letter and mail it to every Southern Baptist pastor in Mississippi.  Our reader paid for the list (which we purchased for her), the booklets, the postage, and our labor. At her request, we sent each pastor a copy of 10 Scriptural Reasons Jesus Calling is a Dangerous Book by Warren B. Smith and 5 Things You Should Know About Contemplative Prayer by Ray Yungen. If you have a group you would like us to reach in this manner, please contact our office.

If you would like to view and/or print a list of the Christian leaders we are currently sending booklets and short letters to 3-4 times a year, click here. Perhaps you would like to pray for these men and women who, in total, influence millions and millions of people throughout the world. Incidentally, just because a name is on this list does not necessarily mean that leader is in deception. We have included a wide assortment of names in this list. There are many pastors and Christian leaders who may not be part of the deception but, for various reasons, are not aware of what is happening in the church today.

Note: Chuck Swindoll’s name is no longer on our list of Christian leaders as his ministry office requested we remove his name.

The Blood of the Saints

By Ray Yungen 
One of the main tenets of New Age thought is peace, goodwill, and the unity of all humanity. Remember, the Age of Aquarius is to be the Age of Oneness. In context with this idea, the New Age term cleansing is quite disturbing. A number of books make reference to those who are laggards when the New Age reaches its maturity. New Age leaders consider these resisters as eventually the only hindrance in allowing this global oneness to occur:

Remnants of the Fifth Root Race [untransformed humanity] will continue to survive in the initial stages of the new Cosmic Cycle, but unless they increase their awareness or consciousness to the Higher Mind and the tempo of spirituality, they will be removed from the Life Stream of the Race.1 (emphasis added)

Unity-motivated souls will respond to His [the New Age Messiah’s] call, their inner drive for spiritual world unity will synchronize with higher energy. People opposing the recognition of the Christ may struggle intensely, but it will not be prolonged. The Christ energy by then will be so strong people will be dealt with according to their own individualized karma and their ability and desire to assimilate this accelerated energy.2 (emphasis added)

The final appearance of the Christ will be an evolutionary event. It will be the disappearance of egocentric [lower self], subhuman man and the ascension of God-centered Man. A new race, a new species, will inhabit the Earth–people who collectively have the stature of consciousness that Jesus had.3 (emphasis added)

Even Alice Bailey herself, who personified New Age consciousness, backs what these previous quotes imply:

The new era is coming; the new ideals, the new civilization, the new modes of life, of education, of religious presentation and of government are slowly precipitating and naught can stop them. They can, however, be delayed by the reactionary types of people, by the ultra-conservative and closed minds…. They are the ones who can and do hold back the hour of liberation. A spiritual fluidity, a willingness to let all preconceived ideas and ideals go, as well as all beloved tendencies, cultivated habits of thought and every determined effort to make the world conform to a pattern which seems to the individual the best because, to him, the most enticing–these must all be brought under the power of death.4 (emphasis added)

If one understands the rationale behind these statements, then it becomes clear what they are talking about. Those who will accept the Christ consciousness can stay–those who won’t–must go. The quote about people’s “ability and desire” to assimilate the “Christ energy” as the determining factor in their fate is very thought provoking.

Barbara Marx Hubbard, a major New Age proponent and a supporter of Marianne Williamson’s Department of Peace efforts in Washington, DC says there must be a “selection process” for those “who refuse to see themselves and others as a part of God [Hubbard’s New Age God].” She states:

He [God] describes, therefore, the necessity of a “selection process” that will select out resistant individuals who “choose” not to evolve.5 (emphasis added)

Human must become Divine. That is the law.6

According to New Ager David Spangler, Satan is the angel of man’s “inner evolution.” Christians know Lucifer to be Satan, the Adversary, and 2 Thessalonians 2:9 informs us that Satan is the one who will empower the Antichrist. Those defying the Antichrist will really be defying Satan–and they will suffer dearly for it.

Persecution and death is predicted in the Bible for those who won’t fall into line during the Antichrist’s rule. The parallel between what the Bible says about this period and the statements above are striking. The following prophecies reveal what is in store for those who will preach the real Jesus Christ and the Gospel of the true kingdom during this time. Jesus said in Matthew 24:9:

Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.

“They” are the many who are coming in His name claiming to be “christs.” Revelation says of this period:

And when He had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held: And they cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, 0 Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?” (Revelation 6:9-10)

And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4)

The following verse lends credence that this will be on an individual spiritual basis:

And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. (Luke 21:16)

This implies that a family member or a friend may be turned over to be dealt with for their own good. It will be seen as an altruistic act.

This view would most likely infuriate anyone involved with or attracted to New Age spirituality. After all, nowhere do you find New Agers saying they are going to kill anybody. It is left rather vague about how anyone will be removed. But the following channeled words by Neale Donald Walsch’s “God” explain the rationale for what most people would consider outrageous and impossible. Listen to his “God”:

So the first thing you have to understand–as I’ve already explained to you–is that Hitler didn’t hurt anyone. In a sense, he didn’t inflict suffering, he ended it.7

There is no “death.” Life goes on forever and ever. Life is. You simply change form…. After you change form, consequences cease to exist. There is just Knowing.8

The real issue is whether Hitler’s actions where [were] “wrong.” Yet I have said over and over again that there is no “right” or “wrong” in the universe. Now your thought that Hitler was a monster is based on the fact that he ordered the killing of millions of people, correct? What if I told you that what you call “death” is the greatest thing that could happen to anyone–what then?… Shall we therefore punish Bre’r Fox for throwing Bre’r Rabbit into the briar patch?9

This is a very revealing statement. Traditional morality has been virtually turned on its head here. In other words, according to the higher consciousness that Walsch is in tune with, killing people could actually be doing them a favor! But would Walsch think this is profound higher wisdom if he himself was shivering sick and starving in a cattle car bound for Auschwitz. Would he have a smile on his face if he were stripped naked and herded into a gas chamber to face a gruesome, agonizing death. I think not!

But incredibly, Walsch was one of the featured speakers in The Secret, which swept the Western world in popularity. In The Secret, Walsch is described as a “modern-day spiritual messenger”10 and his Conversations with God books including the one from which the previous quotes about Hitler were taken) are called “groundbreaking.”

Could there have been the same spiritual component to Hitler’s persecution of humanity in Europe? Most likely. Consider the following evidence. The swastika, the main symbol of Nazism, is an age-old Hindu symbol that is still found on many temples throughout India. The word is not even German, but Sanskrit-Svastika–meaning “that which is excellent.”11 A New Age book has described its meaning as representing “the final stage in which the chakra is active, developed, opened, and energized by awakened kundalini energy.”12 Thus, the very banner of Nazism stood for the energy that underlies the whole New Age movement. New Agers even acknowledge this. David Spangler makes reference in one of his books to “…the Nazi movement, which had many roots in occultism.”13 The swastika symbol was also prominently displayed on Madame Blavatsky’s personal brooch, in exactly the same style as the Nazi one (tilting at an angle to the right) decades before the Nazi Party was even formed. One can also see the parallel between Nazism and the Ancient Wisdom in the Hindu caste system, with its Brahmin (aryan) caste and its lower untouchable caste. The Nazis also took the term Aryan-literally, the worthy race–from Hinduism.14 The word has nothing to do with ancient Germany as many believe, but is a Hindu word meaning noble or superior.

Related Articles:

The Eerie Silence of a Silent Church  by Warren B. Smith

John Foxe (1517-1587) and His Book of Martyrs – An Introduction
Notes:
1. Donald Yott, Man and Metaphysics, (New York, NY: Sam Weiser, Inc., 1980), p. 58.
2. John Davis and Naomi Rice, Messiah and the Second Coming, (New York, NY: Sam Weiser, Inc., 1980), p. 152.
3. John White, “The Second Coming” (New Frontier Magazine, December 1987), p. 45.
4. Alice Bailey, The Externalization of the Hierarchy, Section II – The General World Picture.
5. Warren Smith, False Christ Coming: Does Anybody Care? (Mountain Stream Press), p. 16, citing Barbara Marx Hubbard, Conscious Evolution: Awakening the Power of Our Social Potential (Novato, CA: New World Library, 1998), pp. 240, 267.
6. Ibid., p. 19, Smith citing Marx Hubbard from The Revelation (Novato, CA: Nataraj Publishing, 1995), p. 233.
7. Neale Donald Walsch, Conversations with God, Book 2 (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Road Publishing Company, Inc., 1997), p. 56.
8. Ibid., p. 40.
9. Ibid., p. 36.
10. Rhonda Byrne, The Secret (New York, NY: Atria Books and Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words Publishing, First Atria Books/Beyond Words hardcover edition, 2006), p. 197.
11. Geoffrey A. Barborka, Glossary of Sanskrit Terms (Buena Park, CA: Stockton Trade Press, Point Loma Publications, 1972), p. 64.
12. Zachary E Lansdowne, Ph. D., The Chakras and Esoteric Healing (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc., First Indian edition: Delhi, 1993), p. 114.
13. David Spangler, Emergence: The Rebirth of the Sacred (New York, NY: Dell Publishing Company, 1984), p. 159.
14. Geoffrey A. Barborka, op. cit., p. 15.

Why One Should Not Glean From Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s Prayer Studies

By Lois Putnam

On a recent Sunday morning a vivacious older lady stood in front of a congregation, of what can only be termed a solid gospel preaching, mission minded church, and announced to the women that all should sign up for its newest Bible study program that would begin shortly.  Touting both Set Apart, and Living a Praying Life she stated that the author –Jennifer Kennedy Dean–was also part of the National Day of Prayer.

At my seat –I was writing down the information–for I knew my immediate assignment as a discerning Christian was, as Acts 17:11 instructs, to look into Dean to see if all she’s taught and written stands up to scripture.  In short, “Should one glean or be learning from this writer Jennifer Kennedy Dean?”

So that very afternoon I began my investigation.  And it wasn’t long into my research that I found “red flags flying!”   So what was it that made me know that Dean, and her numerous books were  something that I should not be buying into, nor following?  Let me explain!

Dean’s “The Praying Life Foundation” Web Page 

I.  Dean’s All About “Listening Prayer” Article

Checking out Dean’s web page: “The Praying Life Foundation”–her bio, blog, articles, store, and more– soon gave me pause.  For under Dean’s store was a section titled “Free.”  Clicking onto that I found many Dean articles.  Immediately, my eye caught the title: “Listening Prayer.”  Knowing that this was a meditative practice that uses a mantra or repetitive phrase to clear one’s mind so one can “hear God’s voice” as one sits in silence I read the five pages carefully.
http://www.prayinglife.org/free/  Scroll down to find article.

Did Dean support this unscriptural prayer method?  Indeed, Dean did! For Dean began her article by saying, “Spoken prayer will not reach its potential unless it is grounded in listening prayer.  In listening prayer spoken prayer is born.”  And Dean champions going into “the silence”* when she says of the Lord, “He wants us to know his secrets, but his secrets come wrapped in silence.” (p.1)
*  The Silence:  “Absence of normal thought.”  (A Time of Departing: Glossary-p.205) Click here to continue reading.

(Lois Putnam is a Lighthouse Trails author with two booklets released thus far.)

 


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