Donald Whitney

Ministry 127, a blog operated by Lancaster Baptist Church of Lancaster, California (pastored by Paul Chappell and home of West Coast Baptist College), glowingly recommends Donald Whitney’s book Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health. The reviewer, Cary Schmidt, who was Associate Pastor at Lancaster at the time, says, “Every page was intensely scriptural, very articulate, and powerfully inspiring regarding the healthy Christian life.” 

What Schmidt fails to say is that Donald Whitney, a New Evangelical Southern Baptist Calvinist, is a bridge to some extremely dangerous things. He has some sound and helpful things to say, like any prominent New Evangelical, but the truth is mixed with error and he has no solid boundaries, having rejected “separatism.” 

By this glaring omission and by recommending Whitney so highly, Schmidt and Lancaster Baptist are helping people to cross the bridges that Whitney has built. 

Lancaster is doing the same thing with literature that they are doing with music. They are messing around with the wrong stuff. It is the same “soft separatism” that destroyed Highland Park Baptist Church which we describe in the free eBook
Biblical Separatism and Its Collapse. By dabbling around with New Evangelical writings and adapting contemporary worship music they are building bridges to great spiritual dangers and many of their young people, adult church members, and followers will doubtless cross these bridges. 

(See the video presentations “
The Transformational Power of Contemporary Worship Music” and “The Foreign Spirit of Contemporary Worship Music,” which are available from Way of Life Literature,

Returning to the bridges that have been built by Donald Whitney, we will mention three.


First, Whitney’s book
Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is a bridge to contemplative mysticism, and these are the most spiritually treacherous waters that exist. What Whitney touches on lightly in Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, he covers in some detail in Spiritual Disciplines.

Though Whitney himself emphasizes the supremacy and authority of Scripture, he favorably and repeatedly quotes mystics Richard Foster and Dallas Willard who have moved far beyond biblical simplicity. 

Richard Foster is praised as follows at the very beginning of Whitney’s book by J.I. Packer, author of the Foreword:

“Ever since Richard Foster rang the bell with his
Celebration of Discipline (1978), discussing the various spiritual disciplines has become a staple element of conservative Christian in-talk in America. This is a happy thing” (J.I. Packer, Foreword, Spiritual Disciplines by Donald Whitney, p. 9).

A happy thing? What a foolish statement by a man who was alleged to be a great biblicist. It reminds us of the terrible deceptiveness of the apostasy of these last days and how that it has permeated “evangelicalism.” 

Packer was deceived by his ecumenical affiliations, just as God’s Word warns in 1 Corinthians 15:33. By 1989 he was making statements such as the following: 

“[The charismatic movement] must be adjudged a work of God. ... Sharing charismatic experience ... is often declared ... to unify Protestants and Roman Catholics at a deeper level than that at which their doctrine divides them. This, if so, gives charismaticism great ecumenical significance” (
Calvary Contender, July 15, 1989).

Packer signed the heretical 1994 “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document. Thus it is no surprise that he thought the spread of Richard Foster’s Catholic mysticism was “a happy thing.” 

Apparently Donald Whitney thinks the same thing or he would not have printed Packer’s statement prominently in his book.

Later in his book, Whitney himself praises Richard Foster and his “great contribution,” as follows: 

“Richard Foster’s
Celebration of Discipline has been the most popular book on the subject of the Spiritual Disciplines in the last half of the twentieth century. The great contribution of this work is the reminder that the Spiritual Disciplines, which many see as restrictive and binding, are actually the means to spiritual freedom. He rightly calls the Disciplines the ‘Door to Liberation’” (Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, p. 22).

When one pastor inquired as to why Whitney quoted Foster, he replied that “since it was not an academic book, I didn’t want the emphasis to be critical” and that he wrote the book before Foster founded the ecumenical Renovarè and “tipped his hand on some other matters” (review of
Spiritual Disciplines on Amazon by Tim Challies, Feb. 7, 2005). 

That this is a smokescreen is proven by five facts: 

(1) Foster founded Renovarè in 1988, three years before Whitney published the first edition of
Spiritual Disciplines. (2) Foster’s 1978 book Celebration of Discipline, which is repeatedly cited by Whitney, is filled with the promotion of dangerous Roman Catholic mystics--such as Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, Benedict of Nursia, Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Meister Eckhart, Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Thomas Merton--as well as their heretical practices, such as breath prayer, centering prayer, “entering the silence,” even out-of-body experiences. In other words, Foster had “tipped his hand” for all to see by the late 1970s. (3) In later editions of his book (2001, 2012) Whitney has not removed the references to Foster or warned his readers about the man’s heresies in spite of the fact that he has been challenged on this point. This is something he could have done if he were truly concerned about this matter and if he cared about the influence his recommendation could have on his readers. (4) Whitney hasn’t even pretended to justify his recommendation of Dallas Willard, who is at least as dangerous as Richard Foster. 

Further, as we have documented in
What Is the Emerging Church? Willard believes that “it is possible for someone who does not know Jesus to be saved” (“Apologetics in Action, “Cutting Edge magazine, Winter 2001). He rejects the infallible inspiration of Scripture, saying, “Jesus and his words have never belonged to the categories of dogma or law, and to read them as if they did is simply to miss the point” (The Divine Conspiracy, p. xiii). Willard is confused about salvation, asking the strange question, “Why is it that we look upon salvation as a moment that began our religious life instead of the daily life we receive from God” (The Spirit of the Disciplines). He rejects the traditional gospel of Christ’s blood atonement (The Divine Conspiracy, pp. 44, 49). In The Spirit of the Disciplines, which promotes Roman Catholic-style contemplative mysticism, Willard includes the endorsement of Sue Monk Kidd, a New Age “goddess.” (See “From Southern Baptist to Goddess Worship” at the Way of Life web site.) Willard promotes the Catholic-Buddhist-Universalist Thomas Merton and an assortment of heresy-laden mystic “saints.” Willard claims that God is not concerned about doctrinal purity. In fact, he says that God loves theologians of all types.

This is a man that Whitney quotes repeatedly and favorably.

Further, Whitney himself recommends the practices of “the medieval [Catholic] mystics,” which is one of the cardinal errors that Foster-Willard are guilty of (p. 65). Consider the following statement that Whitney cites with complete approval from Carl Lundquist:

“‘The medieval mystics wrote about nine disciplines clustered around three experiences: purgation of sin, enlightenment of the spirit and union with God. ... Today Richard Foster’s book,
Celebration of Discipline, lists twelve disciplines--all of them relevant to the contemporary Christian...’ If Lundquist is right, as I believe he is...” (Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines, pp. 65. 66).

It is unconscionable that Whitney doesn’t warn his readers that these mystics were committed to Rome’s damnable sacramental gospel and venerated Mary and that their “disciplines” were pathetic attempts by spiritually-blind men and women to find light in the midst of gross darkness.  

Further, Whitney promotes the practice of silence, journaling, and spiritual direction. 

The “silence” recommended by Whitney is not merely to get alone with God and His Word in a quiet place. He writes: 

“Other times silence is maintained not only outwardly but also inwardly so that God’s voice might be heard more clearly,” and, “The worship of God does not always require words, sounds, or actions” (Whitney,
Spiritual Disciplines, p. 184). 

Whitney quotes A.W. Tozer as follows: 

“Stay in the secret place till the surrounding noises begin to fade out of your heart and a sense of God’s presence envelopes you ... Listen for the inward Voice till you learn to recognize it” (Whitney,
Spiritual Disciplines, p. 199, quoting from The Best of A.W. Tozer, 1978, pp. 151-152).

This is blind and dangerous mysticism, and Whitney misuses Scripture to prove the alleged importance of this “silence,” such as Jesus praying alone and Paul in Arabia and Moses in the desert. None of these cases support the practice of sitting in silence and trying to hear “God’s voice” internally apart from simply meditating on Scripture. 

To be alone with God in a quiet place and to meditate on His Word is NOT the same as sitting in silence and trying to hear God’s voice internally. One is scriptural and profitable; the other is mystical and dangerous. 

The great danger of contemplative mysticism, which is sweeping through evangelicalism and the Southern Baptist Convention and is now nearing the borders if IFB churches, is that it puts the practitioner in danger of being loosed from the anchor of the Bible and put in touch with deceiving spirits. It has often led to a radical ecumenical mindset and even beyond to universalism and panentheism and idolatry.

See the following reports in the “Contemplative Mysticism” section of the Articles Database at the Way of Life web site, --

“Contemplative Practices Are a Bridge to Paganism”
“Contemplative Spirituality and the New Age”
“Contemplative Spirituality Dancing with Demons”
“Evangelicals Turning to Contemplative Mysticism”
“Richard Foster: Evangelicalism’s Mystical Spark Plug”
“Silence vs. The Silence”


Second, Whitney is a bridge to Reformed theology with its error pertaining to God’s election and its Augustinian allegoricalism and replacement theology which confuses Israel with the church. 

Whitney continually quotes the “Puritans” and recommends meditating on their writings as a devotional practice (“Do You Thirst for God?” 2001, p. 9). 

It is no surprise that a Southern Seminary professor would make such a recommendation, but it 
is a recipe for being captured by the heresy of Reformed theology. It is the type of thing that lies at the root of the growth in the popularity of Reformed theology among students at some IFB schools, such as Central, Detroit, Maranatha, Northland, and Bob Jones. There is much biblical soundness and spiritual wisdom in these writings, but there are also great dangers. Years ago, when I visited the BJU bookstore and saw the slew of Puritan writings being promoted, I knew that there was going to be a problem with Calvinism among the students, and this has proven to be true. A survey taken in 2005 of “young fundamentalists” (mostly from Bob Jones University, Maranatha Baptist Bible College, and Northland Baptist Bible College) found that 58% held a Calvinist view of election and 48% agreed that “John Piper’s ministry has been a help to me.”

Whitney recommends Piper in the highest manner, quoting him frequently. He says, “John Piper’s writings are a burning blend of spirit and truth” (“Do You Thirst for God?” 2001, p. 9).

In fact, Piper’s writings are a subtle and confusing mixture of truth and error, and Piper has become a bridge to the very dangerous Rick Warren. (See the free eBook
John Piper and Christian Hedonism at the Way of Life web site,


Third, Whitney is a bridge to the very dangerous world of New Evangelicalism. 

He quotes from New Evangelical writers continually and in the most favorable manner, such as William Barclay, Elisabeth Elliot, Philip Yancey, and Jerry Bridges. 

In typical New Evangelical fashion he even quotes liberals such as Elton Trueblood without a hint of warning.

He even cites Billy Graham, the Prince of New Evangelicalism, as an example of true godliness and the wise practice of spiritual disciplines. “Through that time of solitude and the spiritual perspective he gained that night, Billy Graham was shaped into the man the world has known since” (Whitney,
Spiritual Disciplines, p. 191).

(For extensive documentation of the dangers of modern evangelicalism, see
The Treacherous Waters of the Southern Baptist Convention and Evangelicalism,” a free eBook available at the Way of Life web site, 

In some ways, “conservative evangelicals” like Donald Whitney and Ed Stetzer are more dangerous than the Richard Fosters and Dallas Willards and Rick Warrens, because they are bridges to the treacherous spiritual waters represented by the latter names. They are bridges because they blatantly and presumptuously refuse to practice biblical separation and instead of reproving heretics in no uncertain terms they recommend their writings. 

IFBaptists who are careless about separating from such things as “conservative” evangelicals and contemporary music are building bridges to the bridge-builders.

Two of the reasons why we are warning that most independent fundamental Baptists will be emerging within a generation is that ignorance of the issues is so rampant and the separatism that is practiced is so soft and ineffective. 

See the free eBooks
Why Most Independent Baptists Will Be Emerging and Biblical Separatism and Its Collapse, available at Way of Life Literature,