J. P. Moreland is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot (Biola) School of Theology and a faculty member at David Noebel’s Summit Ministries 1. He has written numerous books and has spoken at over 200 colleges. He has many academic credentials and honors such as: Outstanding Young Men of America, 1981 and Senior Class Professor of the Year, Biola University, 1992-93. But Moreland has another credential that is not being discussed in evangelical circles – he promotes contemplative and emerging spirituality.
In Moreland’s 2007 book, Kingdom Triangle, subtitled: Recover the Christian Mind, Renovate the Soul, Restore the Spirit’s Power, Moreland says there are three components needed in Christianity, both collectively and individually. He says that these three “essential ingredients” are for the “maturation of the Evangelical community” (p. 13).
It doesn’t take too long into Kingdom Triangle to realize that the second element of this maturing process is “spiritual formation.” On the Acknowledgments page, Moreland thanks John Coe, the director for Biola’s Institute for Spiritual Formation. Moreland says that Coe guided him “into spiritual formation and the inner life.” Coe’s program offers a menagerie of contemplative spirituality courses, retreats, etc.
To support Moreland’s emphasis on spiritual formation, he has asked contemplative leader Dallas Willard to write the foreword for the book; and in fact Moreland calls Willard the mentor he has had for 25 years (p.13). Given Willard’s immense affinity with contemplative spirituality, this long term mentorship would explain Moreland’s belief that spiritual formation is essential for the Christian community.
In chapter 6 of Kingdom Triangle, Moreland plunges into discussion about the “true self” and the “false self.” He echoes Thomas Merton and Martin Buber, both who had strong mystical propensities, and who believed we could attain to our true self (a perfect self) through mystical practices. Moreland encourages the writings (and practices) of St. Ignatius Loyola, (p. 156), saying such practices will help us to “cultivate the ability to discern the divine components” within us. This follows the course of thinking that Thomas Merton had – that divinity is already within, and mystical practices help us to realize what is already there. That is why 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 bow down and worship each other…. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth….This little point … is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, pp. 157-158)
Roger Oakland discusses Ignatius Loyola in Faith Undone: “Ignatius founded the Jesuits with a goal to bring the separated brethren back to the Catholic Church. He and his band of ruthless men would do everything possible to accomplish this goal.” (p. 116) The Metamorpha website (see Willard, Foster, Coe videos there) says that the “imagination is key in Ignatian prayer…. Ignatian meditation involves several key spiritual disciplines: lectio divina, Ignatian contemplation, reminiscence, and the examination of consciousness (notice: not conscience).”
Moreland tells readers that a “treasure of deep, rich knowledge of the soul” can be found in the writings of the Desert Fathers, Henri Nouwen, and Richard Foster, (p. 153). Of course, all three of these sources ultimately point followers to eastern-style meditation. A four-part series Moreland did for Focus on the Family (click here to read further substantiates that Moreland is embracing contemplative spirituality where he suggests that “Catholic retreat centers are usually ideal for solitude retreats.”
Moreland describes the third element to this triangle for Kingdom living in his preface when he says that this is the time in history where evangelicals can “show our culture the way forward” and that prior to now, Christians were not ready to “lead our culture to higher ground” (p. 12). He continues: “Signs indicate we are gaining momentum and may well be ready to manifest our Lord’s true character [through spiritual formation] in a way appropriate to the crisis of our age… Tools for spiritual formation are available as never before in my lifetime.”
As for Moreland’s third element of his Kingdom triangle, Moreland says that the Kingdom of God or “gospel of the Kingdom” (p. 172) can only come about on the earth through signs, wonders, and miracles – thus his title: “Restoration of the Kingdom’s Miraculous Power.” Knowing that Moreland’s 2nd leg in his three-legged triangle is encapsulated with contemplative spirituality, which would empower this signs and wonders Kingdom he describes, is more than alarming. If indeed the realm that contemplative meditators enter is one filled with familiar (demonic) spirits, then signs and wonders that follow these excursions, would be on the same plane.
Moreland wraps up his book by stating that many believers (whom he refers to as “sojourner[s] in the Way of Jesus] are bored and do not sense God’s presence in their lives. He says the answer this is to have the Kingdom Triangle “at the very heart of the new revolutionary movement gaining momentum day by day” (p. 196). Moreland concludes:
As you enter more and more deeply into progress in the way of Jesus, the Kingdom Triangle must be a the core of your life and (your church’s) strategy. The first leg provides a thoughtful sense of truth, knowledge, and direction to this approach to life; the second leg gives passion to the journey and allows one to lay aside baggage that gets in the way; the third leg provides the faith and confidence to risk more and more for God and expect him to actually be a coworker in the only sensible life plan available. This is what our culture needs… Don’t waste your life being preoccupied with things that don’t really matter. Join me in the revolution. This is your opportunity. Seize it and rejoice in it (p. 199).
This kind of rhetoric that we are on the brink of a massive spiritual awakening doesn’t sound much different than what New Agers say today. In a newsletter Lighthouse Trails received on January 18th from New Age write Gary Zukav, Zukav expresses a similar vision:
A great change is washing over us, around us, and through us. A new human consciousness is being born in millions of individuals, one by one…. We are pioneers in uncharted terrain, participating through our changing inner experiences in the birth of a new humanity. The great change … offers potential not previously available to us. Our perception is expanding beyond the limitations of the five senses…. From this new perspective, a multisensory perspective, we are not separate from anything or anyone, … and each individual is responsible for how he or she will respond to his or her experiences….
It is for each of us to decide how long we will choose to see ourselves as helpless innocents who are at the mercy of our experiences before we move into a new, more accurate understanding of ourselves as the creator of them. As we change our experiences from angry to supportive, jealous to caring, impatient to patient, and frightened to loving, we change the world around us…. From the emerging multisensory perspective, each individual is responsible for what he or she contributes to the world, regardless of what others contribute to it…. When will you begin the journey that will take you there?
It is our hope that those reading this article can begin to connect the dots: as society (and unfortunately much of Christianity at large) becomes more and more mystically oriented, the vehicle for large scale deception is being provided. As the Bible warns about, in the days prior to Jesus Christ’s second coming, there will be a great falling away through doctrines created by demons. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” I Timothy 4:1