EVANGELICALS TURNING TO CATHOLIC “SPIRITUALITY”
Updated and enlarged July 30, 2008 (first published January 4, 2001) (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, firstname.lastname@example.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article) –
Everywhere we look evangelicals are turning to Roman Catholic styles of contemplative spirituality (which in many cases were borrowed from pagan sources), such as ritualistic rote prayers, chanting, meditation, mindless centering prayer, the use of prayer beads, the Stations of the Cross, lectio divina, labyrinths, and “the daily office.”
The cover story for the February 2008 issue of Christianity Today was “The Future Lies in the Past,” and it describes the “lost secrets of the ancient church” that are being rediscovered by evangelicals. The ancient church in question happens to be the Roman Catholic, beginning with the so-called “church fathers” of the early centuries.
The article observes that many young evangelicals dislike both “traditional” Christianity” and the seeker sensitive churches. Traditional Christianity is described as too focused on “being right,” too much into “Bible studies” and “apologetics materials.” Instead, the young evangelicals are lusting after “a renewed encounter with a God” that goes beyond “doctrinal definitions.” This, of course, is a perfect definition of mysticism. It refers to experiencing God beyond the boundaries of Scripture.
Christianity Today recommends that evangelicals “stop debating” and just “embody Christianity.” Toward this end they should “embrace symbols and sacraments” and dialogue with “Catholicism and Orthodoxy”; they should “break out the candles and incense” and pray the “lectio divina” and learn the Catholic” ascetic disciplines” from “practicing monks and nuns.”
Christianity Today says that this “search for historic roots” will lead “to a deepening ecumenical conversation, and a recognition by evangelicals that the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are fellow Christians with much to teach us.”
This is a no holds barred invitation to Catholic mysticism, and it will not lead to light but to the same darkness that has characterized Rome throughout its history, and it will lead beyond Rome to the paganism from which Rome originally borrowed its “contemplative practices.”
The January 2001 issue of Christianity Today contained a lengthy description by Mennonite pastor Arthur Boers of his visit to four ecumenical religious communities—Taize, Lindisfarne, Iona, and Northumbria--and HIS INCREASING LOVE FOR LITURGICAL PRACTICES. Boers testifies: “About two decades ago, on a whim, I bought a discontinued book by a famous Catholic priest. As a convinced evangelical Anabaptist, I was skeptical. But I was also curious. As it turned out, this book became the starting point in my recovery of a fuller prayer life through the daily office.”
THE TAIZE APPROACH
The mystical movement is strongly influenced by Taizè (pronounced teh-zay). This is a religious community that was formed in southeastern France during World War II by Roger Schutz, a Swiss Protestant pastor who went by the name of “Brother Roger” and who led the community until his death in 2005. Its goal is to work for world peace and ecumenical unity.
The Taizé monastic order includes some 100 allegedly “celibate brothers” from different countries and denominations, including Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Reformed.
While the Taizé community itself is very small, the Taizé philosophy has influenced churches throughout the world. Tens of thousands of congregations in the U.S. and elsewhere hold Taizé prayer services and sing Taizé songs.
Taizé is a major force for non-doctrinal ecumenism. Each year tens of thousands of people make a pilgrimage to Taizé. These include Protestants, Baptists, Catholics, Jews, Buddhists, and others. The Roman Catholic connection is very strong. Schutz participated in the Second Vatican Council, and Pope John Paul II visited Taize in October 1986. In 2006, at John Paul II’s funeral, Schutz was given Eucharistic communion by the hands of Joseph Ratzinger, who a few days later became Pope Benedict XVI. Since Schutz’s death (he was stabbed to death by a deranged woman during a Taizé service), the organization has been led by a Roman Catholic priest named Alois Loeser.
The Taizé services are non-dogmatic and non-authoritative. There is no preaching. “It does not dictate what people must believe. No confessions of faith are required. No sermons are given. No emotional, evangelical-style testimonials are expected. Clergy are not required.” Schutz described the philosophy of Taizé as, “Searching together--not wanting to become spiritual masters who impose; God never imposes. We want to love and listen, we want simplicity” (“Taizé,” Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Sept. 20, 2002).
Taizé’s non-doctrinal ecumenical Christianity is fueled by mysticism. A “shadowy medieval” atmosphere is created with the use of such things as candles, icons, and incense (Vancouver Sun, April 14, 2000). The goal is to bring the “worshipper” into a meditative state, “to a place beyond words, a place of just being.” There is a lot of repetition, with “one-line Taizé harmonies repeated up to 15 times each.”
Schutz taught that truth is found through mysticism. In 1995 he told a group of 100,000 young people in Paris, “We have come here to search, or to go on searching through silence and prayer, to get in touch with our inner life” (Brother Roger, 90, Dies,” New York Times, Aug. 18, 2005).
Taize is heavily involved in the same social-justice issues that are popular with youth today in secular society (e.g., environmentalism, AIDS).
The Taizé philosophy is spreading quickly throughout evangelicalism.
A DESCRIPTION OF ONE OF THE CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICES
To illustrate how unscriptural and spiritually dangerous the contemplative practices are we will look at the most popular one called Centering Prayer.
Centering prayer is also called centering down. It involves quieting the mind and emptying it of conscious thoughts about God with the objective of entering into a non-verbal experiential communion with God in the center of one’s being and thereby achieving direct revelation from God.
Thomas Merton, one of the modern fathers of centering prayer, claims that “the simplest way to come into contact with the living God is to go to one’s center and from there pass into God” (Finding Grace at the Center, p. 28).
Here is how he describes it:
“Then we move in faith to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, dwelling in creative love in the depths of our being. This is the whole essence of the prayer. ... All the rest of the method is simply a means to enable us to abide quietly in this center, and to allow our whole being to share in this refreshing contact with its Source” (Finding Grace at the Center, 2002, p. 32).
“... savor the silence, the Presence...” (p. 35).
“As soon as we move in love to God present in our depths, we are there ... we simply want to remain there and be what we are” (p. 39).
“We might think of it as if the Lord Himself, present in our depths, were quietly repeating His own name, evoking His presence and very gently summoning us to an attentive response. We are quite passive. We let it happen” (p. 39).
“... to enter into our Christ-being in the depths” (p. 42).
“... we want immediate contact with God Himself, and not some thought, image, or vision of him...” (p. 42).
“... open yourself interiorly to the mystery of God’s enveloping presence” (p. 48).
“... interior silence is the proximate goal of this prayer” (p. 52).
“... our theme is the center, that is, the place of meeting of the human spirit and the divine Spirit” (p. 80).
The practice is called “this union, this face-to-face encounter” (p. 15), “passive meditation” (p. 20), “a fourth state of consciousness” (p. 34), “savoring the silence” (p. 35), “this nothing” (p. 49), “the deep waters of silence” (p. 52), “deep tranquility” (p. 54).
The practice of centering prayer requires entering into a non-thinking mode. Basil Pennington said: “In a meditation like Centering Prayer, you leave the rational mind and emotions behind, open yourself to rest in the Divine. St. Thomas Aquinas says, ‘Where the mind leaves off, the heart goes beyond’” (interview with Mary NurrieStearns published on the Personal Transformation website, http://www.personaltransformation.com/Pennington.html).
In The Signature of Jesus, Brennan Manning says centering prayer requires three steps.
The first step is to quiet down and “stop thinking about God” (p. 212).
The second step is to choose a “sacred word” and “without moving your lips, repeat the word inwardly, slowly, and often” (p. 218). The word might be “love” or “God” or something else. This is to be done until the mind is dwelling upon that one word without distraction and is carried by that practice into a non-thinking communion with God at the center of one’s being. The mantra is the key to entering the non-thinking mode. Ray Yungen explains:
“When a word or phrase is repeated over and over, after just a few repetitions, those words lose their meaning and become just sounds. ... After three or four times, the word can begin to lose its meaning, and if this repeating of words were continued, normal thought processes could be blocked, making it possible to enter an altered state of consciousness because of hypnotic effect that begins to take place. It really makes no difference whether the words are ‘You are my God’ or ‘I am calm,’ the results are the same” (A Time of Departing, p. 150).
The mantra, or repetition of a word, produces a mindless hypnotic state. The actual meaning of the word quickly becomes lost to the mind, and that is the objective. The mantra allows the practitioner to put aside thinking in order to reach an altered state of consciousness called “the silence place” in which one allegedly experiences God directly.
Practitioners of eastern religions recognize the power of the mantra in entering this state. Deepak Chopra, for example, says:
“A mantra ... has little or no meaning to distract us. Therefore it is an easier vehicle for going inward than prayer or verbal contemplation” (How to Know God, p. 94).
Amazingly, Chopra, who is a New Age Hindu who believes in the divinity of man, recommends the ancient Catholic contemplative manual The Cloud of Unknowing. He considers the centering prayer techniques to be the same as Hindu yoga.
“There is no doubt that people resist the whole notion of God being an inner phenomenon. ... Yet its importance is stated eloquently in the medieval document known as ‘The Cloud of Unknowing,’ written anonymously in the fourteenth century. ... The writer informs us that ANY THOUGHT IN THE MIND SEPARATES US FROM GOD, because thought sheds light on its object. ... Even though the cloud of unknowing baffles us, it is actually closer to God than even a thought about God and his marvelous creation. We are advised to go into a ‘cloud of forgetting’ about anything other than the silence of the inner world. For centuries this document has seemed utterly mystical, but it makes perfect sense once we realize that THE RESTFUL AWARENESS RESPONSE, WHICH CONTAINS NO THOUGHTS, is being advocated. ...
“We aren’t talking about the silence of an empty mind ... But the thought takes place against a background and nonthought. Our writer equates it with KNOWING SOMETHING THAT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE STUDIED. The mind is full of a kind of knowing that could speak to us about anything, yet it has no words; therefore we seek this knowingness in the background” (Chopra, How to Know God, 2000, pp. 94, 95, 98).
In this same book, Chopra says, “I believe that God has to be known by looking in the mirror” (p. 9). Thus Chopra is describing meditative methods whereby the individual can allegedly come into contact with his “higher self” or divinity, yet he is using Catholic mysticism to get there! And the same manual, The Cloud of Unknowing, is one of the most popular manuals among contemplative evangelicals. Chopra says that mantra-induced mind-emptying centering prayer techniques result in non-verbal revelation.
This is a loud warning to those who have ears to hear.
Richard Foster says repetitious prayers such as “breath prayers” “BIND THE MIND” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 124).
Tricia Rhodes, in her book The Soul at Rest, which is “a step-by-step journey of learning contemplative prayer, suggests:
“Make every effort to stop the flow of talking going on within you--to slow it down until it comes to a halt” (The Soul at Rest, 1996, p. 28).
The third step is to return one’s mind to the sacred word when distractions come. Manning suggests ending the session by quoting the Lord’s Prayer in a rote manner. He recommends two 20-minute centering sessions per day.
The result of centering prayer is supposed to be mystical knowledge obtained through communion with God in one’s being.
“For in this darkness we experience an intuitive understanding of everything material and spiritual without giving special attention to anything in particular” (The Cloud of Unknowing, chapter 68).
“To know God in this way is to perceive a new dimension to all reality” (Finding Grace at the Center, p. 60).
“... we learn that our willingness to listen in silence opens up a quiet space in which we can hear His voice, a voice that longs to speak and offer us guidance for our next step” (Ruth Barton, “Beyond Words,” Discipleship Journal, Sept-Oct. 1999).
Christian and secular bookstores have begun carrying many books promoting “this pre-Reformation form of spirituality.” These include The Cloister Walk, Book of Hours, The Soul Aflame, Evensong, A Book of Daily Prayer, The Divine Hours, and The Prayer Book of the Medieval Era. There are books by an assortment of Catholic “saints” and mystics, including GREGORY OF SINAI and JOHN OF THE CROSS (early desert monastics who believed salvation is by works), TERESA OF AVILA (who had visions of Mary), JULIAN OF NORWICH (who walled herself off from society for 20 years in a tiny cell), IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA (the founder of the Jesuits who were at the forefront of the brutal Counter-Reformation Inquisition), AUGUSTINE (who claimed that baptism takes away an infant’s sin and claimed that Mary did not commit sin), MADAME GUYON (who experienced what she thought was union with the essence of God), THOMAS MERTON (a Catholic Trappist monk who called himself a Buddhist and died in Thailand on a pilgrimage to Buddhist shrines), BASIL PENNINGTON (who taught that man shares God’s divine nature), THOMAS KEATING (who promotes occultic kundalini yoga), John Michael Talbot (who prays to Mary and calls Buddhist and Hindu gurus “our brothers and sisters”), and HENRI NOUWEN (who taught that all people can be saved “whether they know Jesus or not”). You will also find The Cloud of Unknowing, which was written by an unknown 14th century Catholic monk who taught that the meditation practitioner can find union with God by emptying the mind of thoughts.
SOUTHERN BAPTIST CONVENTION
Contemplative practices have infiltrated the Southern Baptist Convention at every level.
Contemplative mysticism has spread to its seminaries. On a visit to Golden Gate Theological Seminary in February 2000, I noticed that most of the required reading for the course on “Classics of Church Devotion” are books by Roman Catholic authors: Spiritual Exercises by Ignatius of Loyola, The Cloud of Unknowing by an unknown 14th century Catholic monk, New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton, Confessions of Saint Augustine, The Imitation of Christ by Thomas Kempis, Selected Works of Bernard of Clairvaux, and The Interior Castle by Teresa of Avila.
Contemplative mysticism is promoted by influential pastors. Consider RICK WARREN of Saddleback Church, who is doubtless the most influential of all Southern Baptist pastors. He frequently quotes from Roman Catholics to promote meditation, centering prayer, and other forms of contemplative spirituality. In The Purpose Driven Church and The Purpose Driven Life, Warren advises his readers to “practice his presence” as per Brother Lawrence (of the Roman Catholic Carmelite Order) and to use “breath prayers” as per the Benedictine monks. Warren quotes from John Main (Catholic monk who believes that Christ “is not limited to Jesus of Nazareth, but remains among us in the monastic leaders, the sick, the guest, the poor”); Madame Guyon (a Roman Catholic who taught that prayer does not involve thinking); John of the Cross (who believed the mountains and forests are God); and Gary Thomas (who defines Centering Prayer as “a contemplative act in which you don’t do anything”). Warren quotes from Mother Teresa and Henri Nouwen, who believed that men can be saved apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ. Nowhere does Warren warn his readers that these were dangerous false teachers.
Warren recommends mystic Richard Foster (The Purpose Driven Church, pp. 126-127) and states that the contemplative movement will help bring the church into “full maturity” and that it “has had a valid message.”
Richard Foster builds his contemplative practices unequivocally upon ancient Catholic monasticism. Foster recommends Ignatius of Loyola, Teresa of Avila, Francis of Assisi, Augustine, Julian of Norwich, Brother Lawrence, Dominic, John of the Cross, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Madame Guyon, Thomas à Kempis, Catherine Doherty, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas, Alphonsus de Liguori, Bernard of Blairvaux, Nenri Nouwen, John Main, Thomas Merton, John Michael Talbot, and others. There is no warning of the fact that these Catholic mystics trusted in a works gospel, venerated Mary, worshipped Christ as a piece of consecrated bread, believed in purgatory, and scores of other heresies.
Contemplative mysticism is also promoted by state associations affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention.
The Grand Valley Baptist Association of Grand Junction, Colorado, has the following contemplative books on its recommended list: Prayerwalking by Steven Hawthorne and Graham Kendrick, The Celtic Way of Evangelism by George Hunter, and Red Moon Rising by Peter Greig and Dave Roberts. Greig, the founder of the 24/7 prayer movement, is a strong promoter of Roman Catholic contemplative practices.
SpiritLines Newsletter, a publication of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, unabashedly promotes Roman Catholic mysticism. The newsletter is the voice of the BSCNC’s Office of Prayer for Evangelization & Spiritual Awakening, which is led by Windy Minton Edwards (a “Spiritual Formation Coach”). Consider the themes of recent issues: November 2007, Christian Meditation; September and October 2007, Spiritual Retreats; March 2007, Silence. The May 2008 issue recommended With Open Hands by Henri Nouwen, Spiritual Direction and Meditation by Thomas Merton, Call to the Center by Basil Pennington, Beginning Contemplative Prayer by Kathryn Hermes, and other materials by Roman Catholic contemplatives.
The January 2008 issue of SpiritLines recommended a “Five-Day Intensive Centering Prayer Retreat” at St. Francis Springs Prayer Center, Stoneville, NC. Retreat Leaders were Joan Ricci Hurst and Paul Supina. Hurst is on the staff of Contemplative Outreach, an organization committed to the philosophy of Catholic monk and interfaith guru Thomas Keating.
SpiritLines also recommended “The Gathering Pilgrimage” at Living Waters Catholic Reflection Center, Maggie Valley, NC. This June 2008 retreat was led by Liz Ward and promoted a wide variety of Catholic contemplative practices. Ward was formerly on the board of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, which was founded by an Episcopal priest named Tilden Edwards. He was deeply involved in interfaith dialogue and was particularly drawn to Buddhism. He even said that Jesus and Buddha were good friends (“Jesus and Buddha Good Friends,” Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation Newsletter, winter 2000).
In the book Spiritual Friend (1980), Edwards said that the contemplative prayer movement is “THE WESTERN BRIDGE TO FAR EASTERN SPIRITUALITY” (p. 18).
That is exactly right, and many Southern Baptists are walking on that bridge.
The Regular Baptists (GARBC) are also strolling on the contemplative bridge. Lighthouse Trails reports that contemplative teachers Jennifer Kennedy Dean and Larry McKain are scheduled to speak at the General Baptist Mission and Ministry Summit, July 28-30, 2008. Dean’s book Heart’s Cry: Principles of Prayer promotes silent contemplative practices and visualization. She says that this creates the setting “in which God can reveal to us His secrets” (p. 128). McKain is the founder and Executive Director of New Church Specialties, which is associated with New Church University. “The University is using books by an array of contemplative and or/ emerging authors to train these leaders. Some of these are: Leonard Sweet, Brian McLaren, Steven Covey, leadership guru John Maxwell, mystic proponent Jim Collins, contemplative/emerging proponent Rick Warren, and New Age meditation proponent Ken Blanchard” (“Is General Baptist Ministries Going Toward Contemplative,” Lighthouse Trails, July 11, 2008).
The General Baptist Mission’s web site encourages churches to seek “renewal and refocus through New Church University training.” Lighthouse Trails reports:
“[We] spoke with General Baptist Ministries director, Dr. Steven Gray, and we asked him to describe the relationship between New Church Specialties and GBM. He told us that a ‘partnership’ between the two organizations had been formed. He did state that even though the New Church University is using McLaren and Sweet’s books, the General Baptist Ministries is not. But he did acknowledge that GBM is recommending books by Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. ...
“While GBM may not currently be using the recommended teachings of Leonard Sweet in their training, the General Baptist partnership with McKain and the University gives a green light to GBM churches to explore Sweet's and Blanchard’s materials. It is Leonard Sweet who has stated that ‘the power of small groups is in their ability to develop the discipline to get people in-phase with the Christ consciousness and connected with one another’ (p. 147). So one can only wonder, is this Christ consciousness what some General Baptists will ultimately find? If they turn to Sweet, the answer is yes. We pray and hope that General Baptist Ministries will reconsider their partnership with New Church Specialties and also their affinity with Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and other contemplatives. Otherwise they may end up with a kind of thinking that brought Ken Blanchard to say: ‘Buddha points to the path and invites us to begin our journey to enlightenment. I ... invite you to begin your journey to enlightened work’ (What Would Buddha Do at Work) or Richard Foster to say, ‘We should all without shame enroll in the school of contemplative prayer’ (Celebration of Discipline, p. 13).”
On August 31, 2003, I made a research visit to the Vineyard Fellowship in Anaheim, California, and the speaker, a Vineyard pastor, preached a message on contemplative prayer. He described it as “gazing at length on something” and as “coming into the presence of God and resting in the presence of God,” as lying back and floating “in the river of God’s peace.” The speaker described sitting on a couch “in the manifest presence of Jesus.” He quoted St. John of the Cross, “It is in silence that we hear him.” He recommended the writings of Thomas Merton, who promoted the integration of Zen Buddhism with Christianity. The Vineyard speaker described personal revelations that he has allegedly received from God, claiming that on one occasion Jesus said to him, “Come away, my beloved,” and he obeyed by staying in a monastery. He used several Catholic “saints” as examples of the benefit of contemplative prayer, and there was no warning whatsoever about their false gospel, their blasphemous prayers to Mary, or any other error. In fact, he recommended that his listeners “read the lives of the saints.” He mentioned St. Catherine of Siena and said that Christ appeared to her and placed a ring on her finger signifying her marriage to Him, thus giving credence to this fable. He mentioned “St. Anthony,” one of the fathers of the deeply unscriptural Catholic monasticism. Anthony spent 20 years in isolation, and after that, according to the Vineyard pastor, the “saint’s” ministry was characterized by “signs and wonders.”
CHRISTIAN ROCK FESTIVALS
One of the seminars advertised for the annual Cornerstone Festival in Bushnell, Illinois, June 30 - July 3, 2005, was “Pilgrimage: Creativity & Contemplative Prayer” led by Debra Strahan. The official program said: “Debra will be speaking daily at the Prayer Tent on traditional methods of prayer and the part creativity and art expression plays in breathing life into worship. She will speak on Lectio Divina, or praying the Scriptures, with an accompanying workshop using beads as a tool for concentration. Also there will be direction in processing and meditating on the installation pieces in the Pilgrimage.”
BILL HYBELS AND WILLOW CREEK COMMUNITY CHURCH
Bill Hybels and the Willow Creek Community Church have jumped onboard the mystical bandwagon, and Willow Creek is not only one megachurch that is located west of Chicago; it is also a network of more than 12,000 churches that hold the same philosophy. The fall 2007 issue of Willow magazine featured “Rediscovering Spiritual Formation” by Keri Wyatt Kent. It is a glowing recommendation for mystical practices, including monastic communities. She cites Richard Foster and other contemplative mystics. While noting that some conservatives are suspect of the new mysticism, she says that the practices have largely become mainstream.
Willow Creek’s Leadership Summit in August 2006 introduced Jim Collins to the 70,000 participating Christian leaders. Since 1982 he has been a disciple of New Ager Michael Ray. That year Collins took Ray’s Creativity in Business course, which “takes much of its inspiration from Eastern philosophy, mysticism and meditation techniques” and promotes tapping into one’s inner wisdom. It describes an “inner person” called “your wisdom keeper or spirit guide” that “can be with you in life” (“Willow Creek Leadership Summit Starts Today,” Lighthouse Trails, Aug. 10, 2006). Collins wrote the foreword to Ray’s 2005 book The Highest Goal: The Secret that Sustains You in Every Minute, which claims that man is divine and recommends Hindu mind emptying meditation. The book quotes Hindu gurus Ram Dass, Jiddu Krishnamurti, and Swami Shantananda. Yet Collins calls it “the distillation of years of accumulate wisdom from a great teacher.” Following is a quote from the book:
“I attended a meditation-intensive day at an ashram [Hindu spiritual center] to support a friend. As I sat in meditation in what was for me an unfamiliar environment, I suddenly felt and saw a bolt of lightning shoot up from the base of my spine out the top of my head. It forced me to recognize something great within me ... this awareness of my own divinity” (Michael Ray, The Highest Goal, p. 28; the foreword is by Jim Collins; quoted from “Willowcreek Leadership Summit Starts Today,” Aug, 10, 2006, Lighthouse Trails).
Again we are reminded that the evangelical-emerging church contemplative movement has intimate and growing ties with the New Age.
The very influential Chuck Swindoll is also centering down. In his book So, You Want to Be Like Christ? he promotes contemplative practices, favorably citing Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Dallas Willard. He calls Foster’s work Celebration of Discipline “meaningful” and has an entire chapter on “Silence and Solitude.” There is no warning that Foster builds his contemplative practice upon Catholic monasticism, with its false sacramental gospel, veneration of Mary and the Host, purgatory, outrageous ascetism, extra-scriptural revelations, etc.
Dave and Deborah Dombrowski of Lighthouse Trails describe their efforts to warn Swindoll:
“In September 2005, we were informed that Chuck Swindoll was favorably quoting Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster on his Insight For Living program. We contacted Insight for Living and spoke with Pastor Graham Lyons. We shared our concerns, then later sent A Time of Departing [by Ray Yungen] to him and also a copy to Chuck Swindoll. In a letter dated 10/3/05 from Pastor Lyons, we were told, ‘With his schedule I doubt he will read it.’ We are sorry that Chuck Swindoll has time to read Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster but no time to read A Time of Departing, especially in light of the fact that thousands of people will read Chuck Swindoll’s book, listen to his broadcasts and now believe that the contemplative authors are acceptable and good. Incidentally, Swindoll quoted these men, not just a few times, but many times throughout the book.”
David Jeremiah, in his 2003 book Life Wide Open: Unleashing the Power of a Passionate Life, quotes many mystics favorably, including Sue Monk Kidd (goddess worshipper), Peter Senge (Buddhist), and Catholic “saint” John of the Cross.
Seven years before Jeremiah quoted favorably from Kidd, she published The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, describing her journey from a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher to a goddess worshipper via the path of contemplative prayer.
“As I grounded myself in feminine spiritual experience, that fall I was initiated into my body in a deeper way. I came to know myself as an embodiment of Goddess. ... The day of my awakening was the day I saw and knew I saw all things in God, and God in all things” (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, 2002 edition, p. 161, 163).
Lighthouse Trails reports: “Jeremiah’s church, Shadow Mountain, encourages their men to become involved with contemplative spirituality. Currently, Pastor John Gillette of Shadow Mountain encourages the use of Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline. In 2006 Jeremiah signed on with Ken Blanchard and Laurie Beth Jones in the Lead Like Jesus conference. Jeremiah’s 2006 book, Captured by Grace, discusses Henri Nouwen and includes endorsement by Ken Blanchard” (“David Jeremiah Quotes New Ager,” Lighthouse Trails, Nov. 19, 2007).
PRAIRIE BIBLE INSTITUTE
“In Mosaic (a Prairie student run paper that shows how the students at Prairie have been very affected by contemplative/emerging spiritualities) in a December 2006 article titled ‘The Arrogance of the Evangelical Church,’ Morgan Mosselman (listed as the Commissioner of Spiritual Life and officer of the Prairie Student Union in the 2005-2006 Chapel handbook) suggests we can ‘learn from our Catholic friends’ in the area of spiritual life. Mosselman then favorably refers to a man named Simon Chan. Chan is described as ‘the world’s most liturgically minded Pentecostal.’ His book Liturgical Theology is a primer for the Catholic Eucharist and other Catholic means of spirituality. In that same issue of Mosaic, there is an article by contemplative writer Lauren Winner (Girl Meets God). And in other issues, regular columnists write about and quote from other mysticism proponents such as Erwin McManus. Prairie Bible Institute’s textbook lists have authors that include contemplative proponent John Ortberg, mystic promoter Jim Collins, and Richard Foster's colleague, Dallas Willard (Renovation of the Heart). They also have textbooks by Ruth Haley Barton (trained at the interspiritual Shalem Institute), as well as Gary Thomas (Sacred Pathways where he says to repeat a word or phrase for twenty minutes) and Rick Warren, both whom avidly promote contemplative” (“Will Prairie Bible Institute Ignore Contemplative Problem?” Lighthouse Trails, Nov. 18, 2007).
RADIO BIBLE CLASS
The June 6, 2006, entry for the Radio Bible Class’s Our Daily Bread is built around the book The Return of the Prodigal Son by the late Roman Catholic Henri Nouwen. Not only was Nouwen a Roman Catholic priest but, as we have already documented, he believed that men could be saved apart from Jesus Christ.
J.P. Moreland and Klaus Issler, professors at Biola, have coauthored The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering the Disciplines of the Good Life (NavPress, 2006). Consider the following quotes:
‘Go to a retreat center that has one of its purposes the provision of a place for individual sojourners. Try to find a center that has gardens, fountains, statues, and other forms of beautiful artwork. In our experience, Catholic retreat centers are usually ideal for solitude retreats. … We also recommend that you bring photos of your loved ones and a picture of Jesus… Or gaze at a statue of Jesus. Or let some thought, feeling, or memory run through your mind over and over again” (The Lost Virtue of Happiness, pp. 54-55).
“We recommend that you begin by saying the Jesus Prayer about three hundred times a day. ... When you first awaken, say the Jesus Prayer twenty to thirty times. As you do, something will begin to happen to you. God will begin to slowly occupy the center of your attention” (The Lost Virtue of Happiness, pp. 90, 92).
The Navigators have been promoting contemplative spirituality since the mid 1980s. The January/February 1984 issue of Discipleship Journal featured an article by Richard Foster entitled “Listening to the Great Silence.” It taught Catholic meditative prayer. The May-June 2002 issue of Discipleship Journal had an article on lectio divina by Catholic Benedictine Monk Luke Dysinger.
These examples only begin to give an idea of how widely the contemplative practices have spread within evangelical and Baptist circles.
Beth Moore, a Southern Baptist who is influential with a broad spectrum of evangelical women, is also on the contemplative bandwagon. She joined Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and other contemplatives on the Be Still DVD, which was published in April 2008 by Fox Home Entertainment. Shortly after it was released she issued a retraction of sorts, but she soon retracted her retraction. In a statement published on May 26, 2008, Moore’s Living Proof Ministries said: “We believe that once you view the Be Still video you will agree that there is no problem with its expression of Truth” (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/bethmoorestatement.htm).
To the contrary, the very fact that it features Richard Foster and Dallas Willard are serious problems!
Lighthouse Trails issued the following discerning warning:
“In the DVD, there are countless enticements, references and comments that clearly show its affinity with contemplative spirituality. For instance, Richard Foster says that anyone can practice contemplative prayer and become a ‘portable sanctuary’ for God. This panentheistic view of God is very typical for contemplatives. ... The underlying theme of the Be Still DVD is that we cannot truly know God or be intimate with Him without contemplative prayer and the state of silence that it produces. While the DVD is vague and lacking in actual instruction on word or phrase repetition (which lies at the heart of contemplative prayer), it is really quite misleading. What they don’t tell you in the DVD is that this state of stillness or silence is, for the most part, achieved through some method such as mantra-like meditation. THE PURPOSE OF THE DVD, IN ESSENCE, IS NOT TO INSTRUCT YOU IN CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER BUT RATHER TO MAKE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HUNGRY FOR IT. The DVD even promises that practicing the silence will heal your family problems. ... THIS PROJECT IS AN INFOMERCIAL FOR CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE, and because of the huge advertising campaign that Fox Home Entertainment has launched, contemplative prayer could be potentially introduced into millions of homes around the world.
“[On the DVD Moore says], ‘... if we are not still before Him [God], we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.’ ... [But is] it not true that as believers we come to Him by grace, boldly to His throne, and we call Him our friend? No stillness, no mantra, no breath prayer, no rituals. Our personal relationship with Him is based on His faithfulness and His love and His offer that we have access to Him through the blood of Jesus Christ, and not on the basis of entering an altered state of consciousness or state of bliss or ecstasy as some call it” (“Beth Moore Gives Thumbs Up to Be Still DVD,” http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/bethmoorethumbsup.htm).
In her book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things (2002), Moore recommends contemplative Roman Catholics Brother Lawrence and Brennan Manning.
Of Manning she says that his contribution to our generation “may be a gift without parallel” (p. 72) and calls Ragamuffin Gospel “one of the most remarkable books” (p. 290). She does not warn her readers that Manning never gives a clear testimony of salvation or a clear gospel in his writings, that he attends Mass regularly, that he believes it is wrong for churches to require that homosexuals repent before they can be members, that he promotes the use of mantras to create a thoughtless state of silent meditation, that he spent six months in isolation in a cave and spends eight days each year in silent retreat under the direction of a Dominican nun, that he promotes the dangerous practice of visualization, that he quotes very approvingly from New Agers such as Beatrice Bruteau (who says, “We have realized ourselves as the Self that says only I AM ... unlimited, absolute I AM”) and Matthew Fox (who says all religions lead to the same God), and that he believes in universal salvation, that everyone including Hitler will go to heaven. (For documentation see “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics” in our new book Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Glue.)
If Moore truly wants to disassociate herself from the contemplative movement, that would be a simple matter. Let her issue a statement renouncing Richard Foster and Brennan Manning and their Roman Catholic contemplative friends and unscriptural practices. But don’t hold your breath, dear readers!
LABYRINTHS ARE INCREASING IN POPULARITY AMONG EVANGELICALS TODAY
Even though labyrinths have their roots in pagan “spirituality” and Roman Catholic Church, they are increasing in popularity among evangelicals today.
On October 13, 2007, Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisburg, Virginia, dedicated its new labyrinth. It was the fulfillment of a 15-year dream by Wendy Miller, professor of spiritual formation (“Following the Path of Prayer,” Mennonite Weekly Review, Oct. 24, 2007).
The Weatherly Heights Baptist Church (Southern Baptist) in Huntsville, Alabama, has a permanent labyrinth of stones on its grounds. Simpson University in Redding, California, associated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, has a labyrinth. Bethany Mennonite Church, Bridgewater Corners, Vermont, has a labyrinth in its lawn. Michele Hershberger, chair of the Bible department at Hesston College (Mennonite) uses labyrinths. The latter contacted me and protested that they do not use their labyrinth for any pagan or Roman Catholic purposes, but the fact remains that this is the background of the practice. There is not a hint of support for such a thing in the New Testament Scriptures.
The labyrinth is a circular pattern with a path that winds its way to the center and which is used as a tool for prayer and meditation. Used by pagan religions for thousands of years, the labyrinth was borrowed from paganism and “Christianized” by the Roman Catholic Church as part of its desperate search for spirituality apart from the Bible.
God forbids His people to adopt things from the devil’s program and to associate with pagan things such as pagan meditation practices and labyrinths.
“Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen...” (Jeremiah 10:2).
“And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:15-17).
“Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 3:3-4).
EVANGELICALS TURNING TO CATHOLIC “SPIRITUALITY”