For many years, Lighthouse Trails has tried to warn the church about evangelical publishing houses that are releasing countless materials which promote and teach contemplative spirituality. One of the publishing companies that is at the forefront of this effort to bring the New Age/new spirituality practice of contemplative prayer into the church is InterVarsity Press which has a particular focus on young evangelicals. In light of this, our concerns have only heightened upon learning of InterVarsity’s “2030 Calling,” especially when we consider how contemplative spirituality is one of the most robust vehicles that lead young evangelicals into an anti-biblical, anti-moral, “progressive,” pro-emergent outlook.
What is Contemplative Prayer?
For those unfamiliar with the term “contemplative prayer,” it is a mystical prayer practice which uses repetition of a word or phrase to enter the “silence,” “stillness,” or so-called “sacred space” in order to, supposedly, hear the voice of God. In fact, contemplative proponents like Beth Moore say you cannot even be close to God without this inner stillness. However, as author and researcher Ray Yungen points out, it is a great deception for Christians to believe this is a safe and legitimate method of communing with God, and no where in Scripture are we admonished to do this. In actuality, though one’s intent may be to seek the Lord, practicing something that is virtually identical in method to eastern meditation practices such as Transcendental Meditation is dangerous and will get the same result as TM practitioners—and that is to reach a spiritually demonic realm. And as Yungen explains, the “fruit” of practicing contemplative prayer is interspirituality (all paths lead to God), panentheism (God is in all), and universalism (all are saved).
InterVarsity Press—A History of Promoting CP
Lighthouse Trails began tracking the contemplative propensities of InterVarsity Press (IVP) about 15 years ago.
In 2006, we examined the connection IVP had developed with the now defunct Conversations Journal (a “Forum for Authentic Transformation”). The Journal, founded by three contemplative advocates (Larry Crabb, Gary Moon, and David Benner) and promoted by many contemplative emergents such as Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, Richard Foster and Catholic mystic Basil Pennington, hoped to “transform” Christian believers into Christian mystics through contemplative prayer.
Also in 2006, we wrote an article that listed some of the books contemplative publishers had recently (at that time) published. InterVarsity’s list contained The Garden of the Soul by Keri Wyatt Kent, Sacred Companions by David Benner, Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton, Meditative Prayer by Richard Foster, and Solitude and Silence by Jan Johnson. These authors are some of the major heavyweights in the contemplative prayer (aka Spiritual Formation) movement, and IVP was right in the middle of this all-out effort to transform the church.
Over the next 14 years, Lighthouse Trails often included InterVarsity Press in articles and reports on contemplative spirituality in the church as IVP consistently continued publishing these materials. Today, Meditative Prayer by Foster and Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Barton are still on IVP’s book list. The following is from our booklet Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? just to give a small snapshot of what contemplative figures in the church today teach:
[In his book] Meditative Prayer, Foster says that the purpose of meditative prayer is to create a “spiritual space” or “inner sanctuary” through “specific meditation exercises” (p.9). Foster references several mystics in the book who can point the way to these exercises: Madame Guyon, Teresa of Avila, Francis de Sales, Henri Nouwen, and Thomas Merton. Foster breaks the contemplative process down into three steps. He says:
“The first step [into meditative prayer] is sometimes called “centering down.” Others have used the term re-collection; that is, a re-collecting of ourselves until we are unified or whole. The idea is to let go of all competing distractions until we are truly centered, until we are truly present where we are.”(p.9)
Foster suggests that practicing visualization methods helps us center down. In the second step of meditation, Foster suggests that mystic Richard Rolle experienced “physical sensations” (p.17) (kundalini) during meditation which perhaps we may or may not experience as well. (p.18) Step three of meditation, Foster says, is that of “listening” to God. Once the meditative exercises have been implemented and the “spiritual ecstasy” is reached, this entered realm is where the voice of God can be heard. (p.23) However, as any New Age meditator knows, this ecstatic state is an altered state of consciousness where everything is supposed to be unified and one with God. Foster acknowledges the interspiritual attribute linked to contemplative prayer when he states: “[Jesus] showed us God’s yearning for the gathering of an all-inclusive community of loving persons.” (p.5) Foster defines more of what he means by “all-inclusive” in his book Streams of Living Water when he says this “all-inclusive community” includes everything from a “Catholic monk” to a “Baptist evangelist.” (p.12)
InterVarsity Press Today
Today, you will find that InterVarsity Press has not just continued on the contemplative publishing path, it has embraced it wholeheartedly to the nth degree. IVP books feature everything from Enneagrams to labyrinths to many forms of meditation practices, and as is the “natural” course for those practicing contemplative prayer, IVP also includes a growing number of books and authors that promote social justice and all that goes with it including Critical Race Theory.
Thus, when we read about IVP’s goal for the year 2030 (“2030 Calling”), knowing that the main target is young evangelicals, we shudder. Here is the description of “2030 Calling”:
Longing for revival, we catalyze movements that call every corner of every campus to follow Jesus [the mystical contemplative “Jesus”] For over 75 years, InterVarsity has worked to establish witnessing communities on almost 700 campuses. But did you know that of the 2,500 US college campuses (with 1,000+ students), more than half have no known campus ministry presence? God has given InterVarsity the 2030 Calling, to reach all 2,500 campuses by the year 2030. To do this, we will start ministries on new campuses, mobilize millions to pray, and partner with other ministries and churches. (source, emphasis added)
The Mystics of Tomorrow
Catholic mystic and panentheist Richard Rohr (who is praised on the IVP website) said once that one of his publishers told him his biggest audience is young evangelical men. That would suggest that the future pastors, fathers, and leaders of the “Christian church” are going to be mystical meditators! So mystic Karl Rahner was right (as Ray Yungen often pointed out) when Rahner said, “The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will be nothing.” Did we mention that one of IVP’s authors, Ron Highfield wrote a book titled Great is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God, Barth and [Karl] Rahner: Toward an Ecumenical Understanding of Sin and Evil, God, Freedom & Human Dignity?
In the last chapter of Ray Yungen’s book, A Time of Departing titled “The Christian of the Future,” Yungen states:
Within the evangelical world, contemplative prayer is increasingly being promoted and accepted. As a result, it is losing its esoteric aspect and is now seen by many as the wave of the future. . . .
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. . . .
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 one book that is sold on IVP’s website (of which they are distributors, not the publishers) titled The Teenage Prayer Experiment Notebook by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, it states, “Each chapter of the book introduces a prayer practice, eg using labyrinths, Lego Bible modelling, prayer beads, prayer walking.” The book also includes a chapter titled “Breathing Meditations” and one on the meditative prayer exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits).
As InterVarsity Press races to reach millions and millions of young people by 2030 with its mystical message, please do what you can to educate and equip your children and grandchildren before they pick up an IVP book or attend an IVP meeting in college and have their lives and their spirituality turned upside down.