Two years ago, Lighthouse Trails posted an article titled “Christian Colleges and Seminaries in More Trouble Than Ever as Many Plunge Into Emergent Spirituality.” As Christian parents are preparing to send their high-school graduate kids to Christian colleges and universities this coming fall, we hope that article (posted below) will provide a desperately needed warning. And in fact, now that contemplative schools have turned “woke” and progressive, that warning is more needed than ever. You may send your sweet child of faith to one of these schools only to watch in horror as his or her faith is turned upside down in a short period of time, and he or she may come home during a semester break and tell you the words you never thought you would hear, “Hey Mom and Dad, I am now an atheist, and I don’t believe what the Bible says anymore!”
For nearly 18 years, Lighthouse Trails has been reporting on the slide that evangelical colleges, universities, and seminaries have been taking into the contemplative/emergent/ecumenical river. It would be great if we could say there’s been a real turn around and things at these colleges are getting better. It would be great if we could say that your college-age child is safe in most Christian colleges today. And it would be great if we could say that these schools have realized the error of their ways and have made dramatic efforts to get back on the biblical course. Unfortunately, we cannot say any of these things because they simply are not true.
We were once again reminded of how far off the track evangelical schools have gone when earlier this month we received an e-blast from Christianity Today announcing a 50%-off tuition special for qualifying students to Seattle Pacific University. That will sound very enticing to parents who are looking for Christian education for their college-age children at affordable rates. But let’s take a glance at what these children will be introduced to if they attend Seattle Pacific University:
At SPU’s Center for Biblical and Theological Education, students will be introduced to various forms of contemplative spirituality, and faculty members are being trained to pass them on. For instance, in a 2019 faculty retreat syllabus, the list of activities at the retreat include lectio divina, praying with icons, sabbath keeping, Ignatian Spirituality, and Prayer of Examen. At the upcoming 2020 Winter Discernment Weekend, prospective students will be introduced to “Guided Prayer” and Lectio Divina. “Spiritual Formation” and contemplative spirituality are integrated throughout the spiritual infrastructure of SPU. Faculty Staff Bulletins are peppered with recommendation and accolades for Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and numerous other hard-core mystics and panentheists.
In addition to the heavily contemplative element at SPU, you will find promotion for all things emergent such as “critical race theory” (a Marxist-leaning ideology) and the so-called “social-justice gospel” (with recommendations for social justice leaders such as Shane Claiborne and SoJourners).
For anyone who understands contemplative spirituality, these things we are sharing won’t come as a surprise because contemplative prayer is the gateway ‘drug,” so to speak, to all things emergent, socialist, Marxist, New Age, and anti-morality. And if there is one thing we hope to get across in this article, it is this: A very large number of Christian higher education institutions are now exhibiting signs that they are being influenced and directed by emergent ideologies; and many of these same schools are the ones we warned about years ago as they started down the contemplative path; the inevitable “fruit” of contemplative prayer is a drastic change in spiritual outlook (i.e., no longer resembling biblical Christianity; i.e., now emergent).
Lancaster Bible College in PA, one of the schools that has been on the Lighthouse Trails Contemplative College List for several years, continues down the contemplative path going deeper and deeper into the emergent world. For a convincing example, their Formational Leadership Master of Arts Degree program is taught by contemplative/emergent/Replacement Theology/New Missiology leader Wayne Cordiero. (More information on this program).
Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho continues incorporating emergent believes into the lives of its students. Some of our readers may remember our 2010 story titled “Buddhist/Universalist Sympathizer Woos Nazarene Students at NNU.” Most Nazarene universities had already been seduced by Catholic contemplative mystic Brennan Manning by then, and so bringing in a Buddhist/universalist sympathizer to NNU was just following contemplative protocol, which they have continued to do.
A few examples of NNU’s current status are the following: In the THEO4900 Religion Capstone course, The Living Reminder by Catholic mystic Henri Nouwen is one of two required textbooks. A graduate course titled COUN6594A Mindfulness Approaches uses Mindfulness and Psychotherapy for its textbook. Another graduate course (YCFM6730 Missional Ministry) uses these four textbooks— Celtic Way of Evangelism, Future Faith, Kingdom Come, and Creating a Missional Culture. In Creating a Missional Culture, the author introduces the reader to Jurgen Moltmann, Karl Barth, Marcus Borg, and several others of the same caliber (these three men are heroes of the emergent movement). In these NNU textbooks, you find the path to emergent, “progressive,” socialist, New Age “Christianity”—something that has become the hallmark for Nazarene universities today. If you attend a Nazarene church, and that church is looking for a new pastor, it would be a good idea to find out how much of his seminary/university training rubbed off on him because you can be sure, he’ll be bringing it to your church.
In 2013, we released our special report titled An Epidemic of Apostasy – How Christian Seminaries Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited, documenting how contemplative spirituality was entering the Christian colleges at an alarming rate. Fast forward to today, and many of these schools are hardly recognizable from where they were at just seven years ago.
In this relatively short article, we have provided examples of just three schools. But we could give countless more of other schools that began opening their doors to the contemplative element, and now are becoming full-fledged emergent schools.
When we started warning about the contemplative movement entering the church through the evangelical colleges, seminaries, and universities back in the early part of this present millennium, our warnings were brushed off and dismissed by many Christian leaders. Today, some of these same leaders are being vocal against the left-leaning, anti-God, socialistic condition of this country. But they either don’t realize or don’t care that the early contemplative pioneers that they embraced twenty plus years ago brought in that very same mindset into the church through contemplative prayer. And now, as older pastors are retiring or passing away, the new younger pastors, trained in the colleges and seminaries, have become evangelists for this anti-Gospel, anti-biblical worldview.
The Calvinist Factor
For the editors at Lighthouse Trails, and for many of our readers, we are not surprised that this paradigm shift has occurred. We have witnessed the terrible apathy and indifference by Christian leaders and many pastors for nearly 18 years. Not only has there been apathy and indifference, but there has been hostility and anger. Just last week, a pastor in Oregon who had been placed on our Christian leaders and pastors booklet mailing list (at the request of one of our readers) called and told us to remove him from the list. He then proceeded to list off about a dozen adjectives to describe us including pugnacious, slanderous, and hateful.
We were curious about this pastor’s church and checked it out on the Internet. It was a Calvinist-promoting church. One reason we have experienced a new level of anger by some pastors and leaders is because of the book we published in 2018 warning about Calvinism (Calvinism: None Dare Call it Heresy). And this brings us to something that needs to be said in this article with regard to the direction evangelical colleges, universities, and seminaries have headed: Many Christian colleges and universities are now embracing or are in the process of embracing Calvinism and Reformed Theology.
This presents a different set of serious problems, in one respect. But as we have stated in other articles, and wholeheartedly believe based on what we have observed, many young people trained in or drawn into Calvinism end up emergent or leaving the faith altogether (such as in the case of the recent departure from the faith by I Kissed Dating Goodbye author Josh Harris).
Aside from the colleges that have historically been Calvinist and Reformed (e.g., The Master’s Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Calvin College), new ones are continually getting on board with Calvinism. A perfect example of this is Bob Jones University (historically the antithesis of a Calvinist school), which now has a Calvinist president. And then there is Southern Baptist Convention. We estimate that as many as half of the Southern Baptist colleges and universities are now Calvinist leaning. One caller, who is a longstanding SBC member that has been in leadership positions, told us that almost all the SBC universities are now Calvinist or Calvinist influenced. A 2007 Christian Post article titled “Calvinism on the Rise” stated: “Nearly 30 percent of recent SBC seminary graduates now serving as church pastors indicate they are Calvinists.” This statistic was based on data presented at the 2006 SBC “Building Bridges: Southern Baptists and Calvinism” conference. We believe that percentage is much higher today because of the increase in Calvinism in the schools. And if our theory is right that many young Calvinists will eventually become emergent or defect the faith (sometimes because they cannot handle the dismal beliefs of John Calvin and Calvinism and sometimes because they haven’t found a personal relationship with Christ through Calvinism), then the outcome is going to be disastrous.
Either way you look at it, Christian/evangelical colleges, universities, and seminaries are in trouble. And if they are in trouble, then so are our churches because the schools are producing today’s and tomorrow’s pastors and leaders.
Our exhortation to parents and grandparents is to carefully and prayerfully choose the schools your children and grandchildren will attend. The pickings are getting slimmer every day, but your choices can potentially have eternal consequences or eternal blessings. Please don’t take it lightly.
Editor’s Note: If you know of a young person who attends or who plans to attend a Christian college, university, or seminary, please consider asking him or her to read Castles in the Sand or A Time of Departing. If you cannot afford to get one of these books, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will send a free copy for you to give to that college-age person. If you are wondering why we have so much concern about this, read an article we wrote in 2013 titled “Want Your Child to Become an Atheist? – Send Him to LeTourneau University in Texas (or Any Other Contemplative/Emergent School For That Matter).” It’s a true story, and tragically, it is happening too often.
2022 Note: Since writing the above article in 2020, we have posted several letters to the editor from parents and grandparents regarding their personal experiences with children attending Christian schools:
(Photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission; design by Lighthouse Trails)