“The Christian of the future will be a mystic or he will be nothing.”—mystic Karl Rahner
With the Asbury “revival” spreading into various other colleges and universities (and even churches), and with so much talk about revival today, one question that needs to be asked is, what kind of Christian will the majority of today’s Christian institutions produce through their revivals and their discipling of these recipients? Given that most, if not all, of the schools that are picking up on Asbury’s recent “revival” have been on the Lighthouse Trails contemplative-promoting college list for a number of years, we are compelled to examine how this contemplative influence will define the framework of the “fruit” of today’s college “revivals.”
For those who are unfamiliar with the term contemplative spirituality (aka Spiritual Formation), we will explain briefly. Contemplative spirituality is founded on and rooted in a mystical-based belief that God dwells in all people; but as contemplative pioneer and Catholic monk Thomas Merton said, God’s in there (in each person), but most just don’t realize it. Thomas Merton is long gone, but books like emergent church leader Leonard Sweet’s Nudge: Awakening Each Other to the God Who’s Already There keep Merton’s panentheistic message going. How do we awaken this realization that God is already in each person? Through contemplative prayer. The practice itself involves repeating a word or phrase (or focusing on the breath/breath prayers) for a number of minutes until basically the mind is put into neutral (an altered state of consciousness), and as the contemplative teaching goes, once that “silent space” is reached, the participant can now hear the voice of God who will show him through esoteric experiences that God is at one with him. Contemplative teachers like Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline author) say that anyone can practice this prayer method (even atheists and Buddhists) and get the same result of oneness with divinity. Those who are very familiar with the Bible know there is nowhere in Scripture that supports this New Age mystical practice.
How does this tie in with today’s Christian colleges and universities? In our 2013 report (updated in 2022), Epidemic of Apostasy: How Christian Colleges Must Incorporate “Spiritual Formation” to Become Accredited, we not only explain but also document how the majority of Christian higher education schools (seminaries, universities, colleges) have incorporated Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative spirituality) into the lives of their students and their schools to varying degrees.
It is easy to prove two things: first, that contemplative spirituality is a New Age-type spiritual belief system that negates the Gospel because if God is already in every human being, there was no point in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross to save humanity because humanity would already be divine and not need saving.
Second, this New Age-type spiritual belief system has infiltrated most Christian colleges and universities.
If some reading this are not sure why we equate contemplative spirituality with the term Spiritual Formation, we recommend reading our article, “Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t).” In a nutshell, Spiritual Formation teachers say that Spiritual Formation “refers to the process by which believers become more fully conformed and united to Christ.”1 But a closer look (which we have done extensively for 21 years) shows that this “process” through which the Spiritual Formation movement operates draws its energy and life from contemplative prayer. In other words, remove contemplative prayer from the current Spiritual Formation movement, and you won’t have a movement anymore. It would be like removing the Eucharist and the Mass from the Catholic Church and you wouldn’t have a Roman Catholic Church anymore.
The “Fruit” of Becoming a Contemplative College
One of the things we find interesting about the current “wokeism” movement that is infecting numerous Christian colleges and universities today is that we often hear some news source or pastor or other Christian figure ask, “How did all these schools become woke so fast.” What much of the church leadership is not doing is “connecting the dots.” One of the “fruits” of a school going contemplative is “wokeism.” Some of the other “fruits,” (which actually help define “Christian wokeism”) of the contemplative movement are:
- A move from a biblical creation view to a more humanistic evolutionary opinion. This explains why so many young people attending contemplative schools come away four years later as atheists, leaving behind the faith of their youth and their parents.
- Moving away from an exclusive view that Jesus is the only door to salvation and embracing a more inclusive idea that all paths lead to God.
- A spiritual outlook that takes on Buddhist and/or New Age-type characteristics.
- Changing morality views from a conservative stance to a more liberal stance (which spills over into the political arena as well – e.g., abortion).
- A relaxed, even embracing, view on homosexuality and other sexual deviances.
- Social justice taking the place of biblical true justice.
- Dismissing the idea that Israel and the Jews have a significant role in Bible prophecy for the endtimes which often leads to antisemitic sympathies.
- A diminishing view on the inerrancy of the Bible.
Basically, when a school goes contemplative, in time, they will begin to embrace many of the “fruits” listed above including wokeism, and parents and some faculty will be scratching their heads wondering how in the world this happened when all along the process started a few decades ago. It really has been a success story for the devil because very few schools, very few pastors, and very few Christian leaders have ever addressed the problems and serious error of the contemplative movement and either promoted it or remained silent. An example of promoting it is Rick Warren who began promoting it in his 1995 book, The Purpose Driven Church and continued promoting it in The Purpose Driven Life (two books which have influenced millions). As for those who have remained silent, it’s a known fact that remaining silent on critical issues is all it takes for evil to prosper.
There may be skeptics who see the list above and say, “prove it.” Well, we believe we have with the ongoing, industrious efforts of 21 years of providing documentation, articles, booklets, lectures, books, and news stories that back up everything on this list. And, if you examine any Christian school that is now “woke,” that school will have an historical acceptance of Spiritual Formation.
The Outcome of a Contemplative “Revival” May Shock Many Conservative Evangelicals
So given that the schools that are currently experiencing an overflow of the Asbury “revival” are also Spiritual Formation-advocating institutions, what could be the potential outcome of such a revival? Instead of thousands of young people coming to or returning to a biblical faith, very possibly what will happen is thousands of young people will become contemplative mystics and follow in the footsteps of their contemplative leaders, pastors, and professors. And before you know it, they will be trying to imitate mystics such as Catholic contemplative panentheist Richard Rohr. That’s not far-fetched. Afterall, one of Rohr’s publishers told him that his biggest readership is young evangelical men.2 And today, there are now countless “evangelical” pastors and authors who indeed are following in the footsteps of Rohr (e.g., Tim Mackie and Tyler Staton) hoping to raise up a generation of young contemplative mystics. Some may remember our 2018 article “YWAM—Wants Every YWAMer to Practice Contemplative Prayer!”
If what we are saying is true about the “fruit” of contemplative prayer, certain evangelical leaders and pastors, who are hoping to raise up a generation of conservative-minded young people and repeat what happened in the 1970s with the Jesus movement, may be in for a rude awakening when the generation of young people who might be the result of a contemplative revival end up quite differently than what they had hoped for. And instead of strengthening and increasing biblical faith and morality in this country, these seemingly naïve pastors and leaders may actually be aiding and abetting the opposite outcome. Rather than raising up a generation of biblical Christians, it may raise up a zealous generation with the characteristics listed above.
Before Christian pastors and leaders get too excited about supposed revival happening in Christian colleges and universities, and reminiscing over the ’70s Jesus movement through films like Jesus Revolution, isn’t it time they step up to the plate, admit their mishap in ignoring a critical situation that has now gotten completely out of hand? Isn’t it time they denounce contemplative spirituality/Spiritual Formation and call it for what it is? Or have too many of them already tasted the esoteric “delights” of mystical ecstasy themselves that pied pipers like Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and Richard Rohr have tantalized the evangelical church with? If that is the case, and if we are facing another twenty years of contemplative spirituality holding hostage the church, then Karl Rahner, who is quoted in the beginning of this article, will be right, and the Christian of the future will indeed “be a mystic or he will be nothing” as far as contemplatives are concerned. And if that happens, then a generation of mystics will indeed come into play.
1.Evan Howard, Three Temptations of Spiritual Formation (Christianity Today, 12/9/2002)
(photo from istockphoto.com; used with permission)
I am a little confused about the colleges on that “becoming unfaithful to God” list (my thought about it).
Is Asbury on that list? Or did you mean that other “contemplative Christian” colleges are seeking to tie into the revival at Asbury?
Thank you so much for your ministry! God bless you, every one. 🙂
The past behavior of colleges with revival only speaks to their need for true revival, not proof that the revival is a false one. Dead churches need reviving. A true revival is not a reward for good behavior, but a remedy for hungry repentant hearts.
I am concerned about churches tying into the You Version app of Bobby Gruenewald and Craig Groeschel. They promote the contemplative study of Rick Hamlin’s “Even Silence Is Praise” as well as John Piper’s studies. Both Gruenewald and Groeschel are NAR false apostles.
One of the reasons for me and my family had to leave our A/G church . This practice is the gateway to evil spirits entering your thoughts process. This is being promoted by Bethel Redding church in California. A very subtle way for a great division in our locale evangelical churches. When you’re not well studied in the word of God you can fall into error. We are living in the age of great deception as Jesus warned us in Matt. 28. In these last days we are living in test the spirits to see whether they be from God or Satan.
Seems the “covenant with death” continues to be established… but it will not stand.
Isaiah 28:14 Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem.15 Because ye have said, We have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves:16 Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste.17 Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.18 And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it.
T. I. Miller
It’s very true that the most effective lie of the devil was that he doesn’t exist.
Central to the success of the great delusion is the belief that it will happen somewhere in the distant future.
The OT is riddled with stories of God deliberately putting individuals and the nation of Israel to the test.
Dont think for a second that God is incapable of putting the Church to the test.
Its seems blatantly obvious to todays Watchmen that the delusion/apostasy is in full swing today.
Without malice I say that millions are blind to this reality because they desperately cling to Amillinialism.
No worry be happy for the church will overcome the world, their eschatology proves it.
Apostate teachers of God’s Holy Word will not see a Revival happening in their Church. Many say “God is in all of man”. This is not in the Bible. Salvation is of The Lord. I’m sure many people in these churches are confused. The Woke World seems to begin with President Obama. And was continued by President Biden. So how have they been doing? Both have taken away the most powerful Military Army in the world. Billions of dollars given to Ukrainian government. Vaccine’s to depopulate our country. We will be a 3rd world nation soon? Are they against Christianity? Yes. Are we praying Christians? The Lord wants us to watch for His Coming. Are we. Pray and Preach the Gospel to all you know. Even so,Come Lord Jesus.!
I have enough faith in God to believe that no matter how it started, who started it or what the intention, He will use this to draw to Him those whose hearts are open and hungry. Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing, yes, but please remember Who really runs the show. And never be the wolf because the consequences are eternal and hot and stinky.