Cincinnati Christian University (and Seminary) Added to Contemplative Colleges List

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Lighthouse Trails has now added Cincinnati Christian University (and Cincinnati Christian Seminary) in Ohio to its list of Christian colleges that are promoting contemplative spirituality and Spiritual Formation. The school began in 1924 and was founded on the “Restoration Movement.” Wikipedia has an interesting description of the history of that movement here. On a website called The Christian Restoration Association, it explains that leaders in the movement wanted to just call themselves Christians and stay away from any denominational boundaries. The site states: “The uniqueness of this group lies in its desire to restore the church of the New Testament, not in its form of dress, mode of transportation, or in the language spoken or read, but in its doctrines, ordinances, and faith.” Unfortunately, Cincinnati Christian University (birthed from that movement) has attached itself to the contemplative prayer movement. Perhaps leaders at CCU do not realize that contemplative spirituality does not line up with the “doctrines, ordinances, and faith” of the Bible. The CRA website lists seven other higher learning schools associated with their group. Of those, one of them, Hope International University in Fullerton, CA, is also on our Contemplative Colleges list.

As with all of the other schools on the Lighthouse Trails Contemplative Colleges list, Cincinnati Christian University has incorporated Spiritual Formation into their school and seminary. For instance, in their PMN 502 03 – SPIRITUAL FORMATION course (taught by Professor Rick Lowry), the following textbooks are being used:

Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline
Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways
Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart
Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus
Calvin Miller, The Table of Inwardness
Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines
John Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted
Calvin Miller, Into the Depths of God

Professor Rick Lowry’s “course objectives” are stated in his syllabus as:

1.       Become acquainted with the broad field of ancient and contemporary literature in the area of spiritual formation.
2.       Be exposed to the classic spiritual disciplines and encouraged to initiate the process of a personal practice of these disciplines in their daily walk with Christ.
3.       Be equipped to effectively teach the information on the spiritual disciplines to those in their sphere of influence.
4.       Be made aware of the reality of spiritual warfare in the context of spiritual formation.

The first three objectives are evidence that the class is going to glean spiritual “insights” from the contemplative authors it will be turning to. Point 4 is quite interesting when you think about Richard Foster’s warning to those practicing contemplative prayer that they need to pray prayers of protection first. We certainly couldn’t agree more with Professor Lowry that with contemplative prayer comes spiritual warfare (but we see it in a much different light that he most likely does). We believe that the realms entered during contemplative meditation are occultic and are dangerous.

In PMN 502 Spiritual Formation at CCU, Professor Mark Miller teaches it. Miller is using textbooks by Ruth Haley Barton and Dallas Willard and says he expects students to do the following: “During the course a variety of different traditions for formation will be introduced; the student will be expected to interact respectfully with these traditions to the point of appropriate application to their own spiritual formation” (emphasis added). If students are expected to interact with Ruth Haley Barton’s “tradition,” they will actually be interacting with the tradition of panentheistic contemplative mystics such as Thomas Keating, whom Barton admits had a lot to do with her own spirituality (see our report on Barton).

In PMN 502(02) – SPIRITUAL FORMATION (Professor David Roadcup), the near exact same books and objectives are listed as in Professor Lowry’s class. Also see PMN 502 Spiritual Formation (2011) taught by Professor Bill Weber who used many of the same textbooks as these other professors. 

These  instances tell us that contemplative is not isolated to just one professor at CCU but is  integrated into the school system.

To back up that assumption, here are a few more examples of where we found contemplative “signs.” 1) On this page for general career information, Richard Foster is quoted (here). In a 2008 e-newsletter, Ruth Haley Barton is given as a resource on page 4 (though a disclaimer – “not necessarily completely endorsed by the CCA” (Center for Church Advancement – part of CCU) is given. Also in this newsletter, it announced that Calvin Miller (a strong contemplative advocate) was scheduled to be a speaker at their Preaching Summit that year. This tells us that contemplative spirituality has been coming into CCU for quite a few years. We must make note of something else here to show how subtle spiritual deception is. In this newsletter from 2008, on page 2, point #6, a book named Reveal: Where are you? is referenced. That book came out of Willow Creek a few years ago when Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor at Willow Creek came out with a very highly publicized statement saying that Willow Creek was repenting from many of the seeker friendly methods they had used. But when Lighthouse Trails researchers looked further into this, we realized that in actuality, Willow Creek was becoming more contemplative and more emerging than before. What appeared to be repentance (meaning going toward the Lord and biblical truth) was the opposite. We wrote about this situation in our article, “No Repentance from Willow Creek – Only a Mystical Paradigm Shift.”

There are other CCU courses where contemplative/emerging authors are being used as well. For instance, in 2011 in the PIC 516 Urban Ministry course, Professor Bill Weber used a textbook titled Social Justice Handbook (with a who’s who of the emerging social justice movement: McLaren, Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo, Shane, Claiborne, etc.). In 2012, in PMN 625 Creativity in Preaching & Teaching by Professor Gary Johnson, books by Calvin Miller and Andy Stanley are used.  In PMN 652 Seminar in Leadership,  instructors are using a textbook, Replenish, by contemplatives Lance Witt and John Ortberg. Lance Witt (a Saddleback pastor) once told Lighthouse Trails that he taught a mantra-like prayer practice to those attending his studies.

One last example here showing the direction that Cincinnati Christian University is going. At a CCU event, Youth Ministry Summit 2013, the key note speaker was Chap Clark, part of an organization called Sticky Faith (from Fuller University). The Sticky Faith website is packed with contemplative resources as you can see here, including a webcast with contemplative pioneer Mark Yaconelli who told Lighthouse Trails once that he does teach a mantra-style prayer to youth, and his book Contemplative Youth Ministry would back that up (see our research on Yaconelli and his book). Chap Clark was himself part of Youth Specialties, a leading voice in the emerging church movement for many years and is senior editor of Youth Worker Journal (a publication that has historically promoted contemplative spirituality and the emerging church). On the Youth Worker website, you can find everything from book  recommendations for people like atonement rejector Alan Jones and goddess worshipper Sue Monk Kidd to articles encouraging practicing lectio divina and so forth.

It is clear, as we have shown, that Cincinnati Christian University (and Seminary) is drawn to authors and teachers who promote a contemplative mystical spirituality. As we mentioned in our new Booklet Tract, “An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited,”  CCU is accredited through Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), which requires member schools to incorporate Spiritual Formation into their school program. Apparently, CCU has no problem complying.



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