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—Taizé, 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 TAIZÉ APPROACH
The mystical movement is strongly influenced by Taizé(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).
This is blind mysticism loosed from the authority of Scripture.
In fact, Taizé’s non-doctrinal ecumenical Christianity is fueled by mystical practices. 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).
Taizé is heavily involved in the same social-justice issues that are popular with youth today in secular society (e.g., environmentalism, AIDS, African poverty, anti-nuclear proliferation, military disarmament).
The Taizé philosophy is spreading quickly throughout evangelicalism.
RICHARD FOSTER: THE CONTEMPLATIVE SPARK PLUG
More than any other individual, Richard Foster has spread Roman Catholic and Pagan mysticism throughout Protestant and Baptist churches.
Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline, which has sold more than two and a half million copies, was selected by Christianity Today as one of the top ten books of the 20th century.
He grew up among the Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends), was trained at George Fox College, has pastored Quaker churches, and has taught theology at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and at George Fox College.
The Quaker connection is important, because one of their doctrines is direct revelation via an “inner light.” This is defined in a variety of ways, since Quakerism is very individualistic and non-creedal, but it refers to a divine presence and guidance in every man. There is an emphasis on being still and silent and passive in order to receive guidance from the inner light.
Quaker founder George Fox claimed that he received the doctrine of the inner light without help from the Scriptures (The Journal of George Fox, revised by John Nickalls, 1952, pp. 33-35).
This is an unbiblical and very dangerous idea that opens the door for every sort of heresy. The Scripture is able to make the man of God perfect; obviously, then, nothing more is needed (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
It is easy to see how the Quaker philosophy paved the way for Foster to accept Catholic mysticism. It did this by its emphasis on an “inner light” and its tendency not to judge things in an exacting manner by Scripture.
Other Quakers have followed the same path, and some, like Mary Conrow Coelho, have followed it all the way to the New Age. Conrow believes in evolution, the oneness of the universe, and the unity of man with God, and she traces her New Age mysticism to deep third generation Quaker roots and its inner light teaching:
“The adults in our Quaker community spoke often of the Inner Light, the seed of God, the indwelling Christ. [Thomas Kelly] said, ‘It is a Light within, a dynamic center, a creative Life that presses to birth within us’” (“Of Leadings and the Inner Light: Quakerism and the New Cosmology,” http://www.thegreatstory.org/QuakerMetarelig.html).
(Richard Foster quotes Thomas Kelly favorably and frequently in his books, and the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible quotes Kelly as saying: “Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center.”)
Foster advocates Roman Catholic mysticism with absolutely no qualms, building his contemplative practices unequivocally upon this heretical foundation.
He recommends Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, Benedict of Nursia, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Genoa, Julian of Norwich, Brother Lawrence, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Madame Guyon, Thomas à Kempis, Catherine Doherty, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas, Hildegard of Bingen, Francis de Sales, Alphonsus de Liguori, Bernard of Clairvaux, John Henry Newman, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, G.K. Chesterton, Andrè Louf, Henri Nouwen, Dorothy Day, Karl Rahner, John Main, Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, Brennan Manning, John Michael Talbot, and many others.
Foster’s recommendation of these Catholic mystics is not half-hearted. In the introduction to the 1998 edition of Celebration of Discipline, he says that they taught him spiritual depth and substance (pp. xiii, xiv), and he calls them “Devotional Masters of the Christian faith.” Of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, Foster says, “... it is a school of prayer for all of us” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 59).
There is no warning of the fact that these mystics trusted in a works gospel, venerated Mary, worshipped Christ as a piece of consecrated bread, believed in purgatory, honored the pope as the head of all churches, and held scores of other heresies. (For extensive documentation of this see our book Contemplative Mysticism, chapters “A Description of Catholic Monastic Asceticism” and “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics.”)
Foster promotes centering prayer, visualization, guided imagery, mantras, silence, walking the labyrinth, Carl Jung’s interpretation of dreams, channelling the light of Christ, healing of memories, direct experiential communion with God, even out-of-body experiences. (See “Richard Foster: Evangelicalism’s Mystical Sparkplug” at the Way of Life web site.)
In 1988 Foster founded RENOVARÉ (pronounced ren-o-var-ay), which has a radical ecumenical thrust. Its objective is “to work for the renewal of the Church of Jesus Christ in all her multifaceted expressions.” Its slogan is “Christian in commitment, international in scope, ecumenical in breadth.” Renovaré’s ministry team represents men and women “from Mennonite to Methodist, Roman Catholic to Church of God in Christ, Assembly of God to American Baptist.”
Foster describes the breadth his ecumenical vision in these words:
“God is gathering his people once again, creating of them an all-inclusive community of loving persons with Jesus Christ as the community’s prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant. This community is breaking forth in multiplied ways and varied forms. ... I SEE A CATHOLIC MONK FROM THE HILLS OF KENTUCKY STANDING ALONGSIDE A BAPTIST EVANGELIST FROM THE STREETS OF LOS ANGELES and together offering up a sacrifice of praise. I see a people” (Streams of Living Water, 2001, p. 274).
At the October 1991 Renovaré meeting in Pasadena, California, Foster praised Pope John Paul II and called for unity in the Body of Christ” (CIB Bulletin, December 1991).
Richard Foster believes he is promoting a true spiritual revival within Christianity, but he is the blind leading the blind. His mysticism has brought him into contact with demons masquerading as angels of light and ministers of righteousness. His writings are an exceedingly dangerous mixture of truth and error. Pastors and teachers need to warn their people to stay away from him, for “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).
A DESCRIPTION OF ONE OF 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).
Centering prayer is an attempt to enter 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, 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 a popular manual 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).
THE SPREAD OF CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER
Contemplative prayer is sweeping through evangelicalism. The following are a mere few examples of how widely it is being promoted. It is difficult, in fact, to find an influential evangelical leader who is not promoting contemplative prayer.
Lighthouse Trails maintains an extensive directory of individuals, influential churches, Bible colleges and seminaries that have capitulated to the contemplative movement. See Lighthousetrailsresearch.com.
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 often find The Cloud of Unknowing in Christian bookstores, 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.
The Regular Baptist (NOT the 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.”
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.
Consider ED YOUNG, SR., a two-time president of the SBC and pastor of one of the largest Southern Baptist congregations (Second Baptist in Houston). One of his staff members (since October 2010), GARY THOMAS, has written a book on contemplative prayer entitled Thirsting for God: Spiritual Refreshment for the Sacred Journey, in which he promotes Roman Catholic mystics such as Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Madame Guyon, Brother Lawrence, and Ignatius of Loyola (founder of the Jesuits), calling them “precious Christian brothers and sisters” and “spiritual soul mates.” Ed Young recommends Thomas in the highest manner, saying: “If Gary Thomas writes a book, you need to read it. It’s as simple as that. He has incredible insight into spiritual truths and is able to make those truths graspable for all audiences” (Garythomas.com). (See “Dr. Ed Young Promoting Contemplative Spirituality,” Apprising Ministries, July 14, 2011).
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 across that bridge.
Bill Hybels and Willow Creek
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 asceticism, 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 ofDiscipleship 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 theBe 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. As of 2011 she has done no such thing.
Mark Driscoll and Acts 29
Contemplative mysticism has also infiltrated the Mars Hill Church of Seattle, Washington, where the senior pastor is Mark Driscoll, and the associated Acts 29 church planting network. In an article entitled “Obedience,” Driscoll recommends Celebration of Disciplineby contemplative guru Richard Foster andSacred Pathways by Gary Thomas.
Driscoll’s web site also features an article entitled “Meditative Prayer: Filling the Mind” by Winfield Bevins, an Acts 29 pastor. Bevins, too, recommends Foster and claims that “Christian” contemplative practices are different from their “pagan” counterparts in that “Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind,” whereas “Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind.” Lighthouse Trails refutes this error as follows:
“Bevins has got this very wrong, as does Richard Foster. Contemplative proponents say that, while the method practiced by Christian contemplatives and eastern-religion mystics may be similar (repeating a word or phrase over and over in order to eliminate distractions and a wandering mind), the Christian variety is ok because the mind isn’t being emptied but rather filled. But in essence, both are emptying the mind (i.e., stopping the normal thought process). That is where the contemplatives say making a space for God to fill” (“Mark Driscoll Is a Contemplative Proponent,” Lighthouse Trails, Dec. 21, 2009).
John Piper is also on the contemplative bandwagon. At the 2012 Passion Conference in Atlanta, Piper encouraged the use of Lectio Divina, or at least something similar and equally dangerous.
“The theme of the conference was ‘Jesus, speak to me.’ In a very dramatic voice, he read slowly from the book of Ephesians. In his slow, breathy manner, he concluded by reading Paul’s final greetings found in chapter 6, verses 21-24. As he concluded, he closed his Bible and his eyes as he softly said, ‘Be quiet, and ask the Lord to speak to you.’ Silence fell over the auditorium as thousands waited to hear God speak to them.
“What was going on is called Lectio Divina, which is a mystic Roman Catholic monastic practice of Scripture reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation that supposedly promotes communion with God. The focus is ‘not a theological analysis of biblical passages, but to view them with Christ as the key to their meaning.’ ... Madame Guyon, a 17th century Catholic mystic promoter of Lectio Divina, said, ‘The content of what you read is no longer important. The scripture has served its purpose; it has quieted your mind; it has brought you to him ... you are not there to gain an understanding of what you have read; rather you are reading to turn your mind from the outward things to the deep parts of your being’” (Robert Congdon, New Calvinism’s Upside-Down Gospel, pp. 18, 19).
Pastor Tim Keller of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church gives the following dangerous contemplative instruction:
“Go into silence, placing yourself in the presence of God with the words, ‘Here I am.’ As distractions come to mind let them go by, imagining they are boats floating down a river. Let the current take the distractions away. Don’t follow the distractions. Gently return to God repeating, ‘Here I am.’ Let the current of God’s Spirit carry you. What is this like for you?” (“Revisiting: Embrace Your Inner Monk,” featuring Tim Keller, August 6, 2010, thereforemedtraveler.wordpress.com).
Max Lucado threw his hat into the contemplative ring with the publication ofCure for the Common Life. In this dangerous book he promotes the Buddhist-Catholic monk Thomas Merton who taught panentheism and universalism.
Merton was “a strong builder of bridges between East and West” (Twentieth-Century Mystics, p. 39). The Yoga Journal made the following observation:
“Merton had encountered Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Taoism and Vedanta [Hinduism] many years prior to his Asian journey. MERTON WAS ABLE TO UNCOVER THE STREAM WHERE THE WISDOM OF EAST AND WEST MERGE AND FLOW TOGETHER, BEYOND DOGMA, IN THE DEPTHS OF INNER EXPERIENCE. ... Merton embraced the spiritual philosophies of the East and integrated this wisdom into [his] own life through direct practice” (Yoga Journal, Jan.-Feb. 1999, quoted from the Lighthouse Trails web site).
Merton was a student of Zen master D.T. Suzuki and Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. The titles of Merton’s books include Zen and the Birds of the Appetite and Mystics and the Zen Masters. Merton said: “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity. The future of Zen is in the West. I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can” (David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West,” Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969 - web article no longer available).
Merton adopted the heresy that within every man is a pure spark of divine illumination and that men can know God through a variety of paths:
“At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God. It is like a pure diamond blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody. I have no program for saying this. It is only given, but the gate of heaven is everywhere” (Soul Searching: The Journey of Thomas Merton, 2007, DVD).
Merton said that monks of all religions are “brothers” and are “already one.” At an interfaith meeting in Calcutta, India, in 1968, sponsored by the Temple of Understanding, Merton said:
“I came with the notion of perhaps saying something for monks and to monks of all religions because I am supposed to be a monk. ... My dear brothers, WE ARE ALREADY ONE. BUT WE IMAGINE THAT WE ARE NOT. And what we have to recover is our original unity. What we have to be is what we are” (“Thomas Merton’s View of Monasticism,” a talk delivered at Calcutta, October 1968, The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, 1975 edition, appendix III, p. 308).
Merton used the terms God, Krishna, and Tao interchangeably.
In June 2009 I visited the Abbey of Gethsemani, where Merton lived and where he is buried. Many books were on display that promote interfaith unity. These include Zen Keys by Thich Nhat Hanh, Bhagavad Gita(Hindu scriptures), Buddhists Talk about Jesus and Christians Talk about Buddha,Meeting Islam: A Guide for Christians, andJesus in the World’s Faiths.
For Lucado to quote Merton and to refer to him in a positive way is inexcusable and is evidence that he has made a total commitment to contemplative mysticism, regardless of what lame excuses he might make.
Lucado also quotes New Age mystic Martin Buber’s The Way of Man. Lucado promotes Buber’s New Age heresy that every man has a “divine spark.” He further quotes Catholic “saint” Thomas Aquinas, Eugene Peterson, and Richard Foster, the most prominent popularizer of Catholic mysticism today.
Lucado tries to package Catholic contemplative mysticism as an innocent and Scriptural evangelical practice. He even says it is not “mystical,” but this is false as we have proven in our book Contemplative Mysticism.
Philip Yancy promotes the contemplative movement in his book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (2006, updated 2010) He quotes the Buddhist-Catholic monk Thomas Merton, goddess worshiper Sue Monk Kidd, pantheist Meister Eckhart, David Steindl-Rast (who denies the substitutionary atonement of Christ), and Richard Rohr (who worships as New Age “cosmic” Christ). Yancy also quotes Catholic “saint” Teresa of Avila and the heretical Catholic contemplative text The Cloud of Unknowing, which promotes a mindless communion with “God.”
The following is excerpted from “Veritas Seminary Conference Teacher,” Lighthouse Trails, May 5, 2011:
“Lee Strobel is one of the most well-read Christian authors today. ... Strobel is also a strong supporter of his son’s (Kyle Strobel) very contemplative ministry called Metamorpha. On the Metamorpha website, Lee Strobel is listed as a ‘supporter’ of Metamorpha. Strobel’s public support of Metamorpha will bring much attention to Kyle’s ministry and in turn pointing many unsuspecting people toward contemplative spirituality. Certainly having his father listed as a ‘supporter’ will give much credibility in the eyes of many Christians to Kyle Strobel’s work. Incidentally, also on the Metamorpha site, it lists InterVarsity Press as a ‘sponsor’ of Metamorpha, and Biola’s Institute of Spiritual Formation is named as a “partner.” To give even more recognition to his son’s organization, Lee Strobel mentions Metamorpha, the book by his son, on his own website. ... Metamorpha is called ‘an online community for Christian spiritual formation’ and lists several contemplative practices, including repetitive prayers, lectio divina, and Ignatian exercises. Recommended books on the site are a who’s who of contemplative prayer proponents such as Dallas Willard, Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Adele Calhoun, Thomas Kelly, and several others. ... There is no question that Kyle Strobel is following the contemplative path. He resonates with numerous mystics whom Lighthouse Trails has critiqued in the past, as well as emergents like Leonard Sweet and Dan Kimball. ... in his book, Metamorpha Kyle gives credit to Biola professor and contemplative advocate John Coe for helping him come to his present spiritual understanding. Coe is the founder of Biola’s Institute of Spiritual Formation where contemplative prayer is openly promoted. ... It seems a paradox that Lee Strobel is a ‘supporter’ of an extremely contemplative ministry and yet also a speaker for conferences at Veritas Evangelical Seminary, which carries a statement on its website that states it rejects contemplative spirituality. How can this be? If Lee Strobel supports contemplative spirituality, why is he teaching students on the Calvary Chapel campus at Veritas? Both Veritas and Calvary Chapel have made statements in the past that they reject contemplative mystical spirituality. But by including a contemplative supporter for teaching, doesn’t that neutralize those previous statements?”
Three issues of Charles Stanley’s In Touchmagazine have featured contemplative mysticism.
In the October 2011 issue Stanley promotes meeting God in “the silence,” where the contemplative is to “do nothing but make yourself available to the Lord” and “sense His presence.
“... solitude is a deliberate choice to spend time with God and give Him your undivided attention. ... My first suggestion is to find a silent place that’s free from distractions. Once you’re there, the next step is to DO NOTHING but make yourself available to the Lord, In that moment, God is not necessarily expecting you to read through a prayer list or study a devotional. Simply invite Him to meet with you in the stillness and speak to you through His Word, however He chooses. Depending on your point of need, He may speak words of encouragement or instruction, or simply surround you with His love. Don’t be discouraged if SENSING HIS PRESENCE doesn’t happen right away. With time you’ll EXPERIENCE IT in ways that are transforming and unforgettable. ... Solitude helps us develop an abiding sense that He’s there with us every step of the way, guiding our conversations and activities. ... most importantly through solitude we become intimate with God, and nothing in this world compares with knowing Him deeply” (“Ask Dr. Stanley,” In Touch, Oct. 2011).
What Stanley is recommending is not biblical meditation; it is blind mysticism that is borrowed from Rome’s dark monastic past. Stanley is not explaining how to get alone with God without distractions and study and meditate on Scripture and pray. He is explaining how to sit in silence and DO NOTHING and expect God to meet me in that context. When he mentions God speaking through “His Word,” he is not referring to Scripture but through an experience. To seek an “experience” with God is the opposite of walking by faith (which comes only through God’s Word the Bible, Romans 10:17) and is a recipe for spiritual delusion. If I were to follow Charles Stanley’s recommendation to seek God in “the silence” and expect Him to reveal Himself to me in some experiential way, how would I know that it is God that is speaking? The Bible warns repeatedly about the danger of being deceived by the devil, who transforms himself into an angel of light (e.g., 2 Corinthians 11; 1 Peter 5:8). God’s Word instructs the believer to be sober and vigilant against spiritual deception at all times. Every thought and experience must be carefully tested by Holy Scripture.
A January 2011 In Touch article entitled “The Craft of Stability: Discovering the Ancient Art of Staying Put” by Cameron Lawrence recommends the contemplative monastic community Rutba House which is the home of contemplative author Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. In Touch admits that Rutba’s principles are borrowed from St. Benedict’s “rule of life” (“Contemplative Spirituality Lands on Charles Stanley’s In Touch Magazine ... Again,” Lighthouse Trails Blog, June 20, 2011). That should be reason enough to reject Rutba House, but In Touch has only praise. The In Touch article endorses Wilson-Hartgrove even though his books teach Roman Catholic contemplation and are praised by emergent heretics such as Brian McLaren, Phyllis Tickle, Tony Campolo, and Richard Rohr, all of whom deny the traditional Bible doctrine of the blood atonement and believe that it is possible to be saved apart from personal faith in Christ. In his book The Wisdom of Stability, Wilson-Hartgrove promotes the Catholic-Buddhist Thomas Merton and New Age Catholics Teilhard de Chardin and Joan Chittister (who says we must become “in tune with the cosmic voice of God”).
In January 2010 In Touch published an article by Joseph Bentz about two contemplative proponents, Anne Lamott and Sara Miles, the latter being a practicing lesbian who has lived with her lesbian partner for many years (“Letter to Charles Stanley,” Lighthouse Trails, Jan. 18, 2010). In a 2007 interview with theSan Francisco Chronicle, Miles said that “the Bible is a collection of documents that is remade every time somebody reads it” and ridiculed the idea that we can say “the Bible says this or that thing is good or bad.”
Donald Whitney is a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and his bookSpiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is a bridge to contemplative mysticism.
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 Renovaré 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 Renovaré 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.
Moody Press and Moody Radio
In 2011 Moody Press published Prayers for Today: A Yearlong Journey of Contemplative Prayer. It is based on the writings of Catholic mystics such as Thomas Aquinas, Teresa of Avila, Mother Teresa, and Meister Eckhart, theological modernist Harry Fosdick, and other heretics.
In November 2011, Moody Bible Institute’sMidday Connection radio program featured Adele Ahlberg Calhoun as a guest, and Moody host Anita Lustrea recommends Calhoun in her book What Women Tell Me. “Lustrea tells how she met Calhoun during a course calledGrowing Your Soul (Calhoun is co-director and founder of the program) and how Calhoun taught her some of the contemplative ‘spiritual disciplines’ p. 125” (“Spiritual Disciplines Handbook,” Lighthouse Trails, July 2, 2012). Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us is a primer on contemplative mysticism. Calhoun enthusiastically recommends Roman Catholic mystics such as Ignatius Loyola, St. Benedict, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, Richard Rohr, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, David Steindl-Rast, William Meninger, and M. Basil Pennington. In the Acknowledgement’s page, she says that “their ideas, voices and examples have shaped my own words and experience of the disciplines.” Not only did these mystics hold to a false gospel, which is under the divine curse of Galatians 1, but some of them were panentheists and universalists.
Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, founded by the late Jerry Falwell and currently led by his son, has been moving into the realm of contemplative prayer for several years.
In February 13, 2007, Lighthouse Trails reported that David Wheeler’s courseFoundations In Youth Ministry II uses Mark Yaconelli’s book Contemplative Youth Ministry.
“Yaconelli, the son of the late Mike Yaconelli (founder of Youth Specialties), is a strong advocate for contemplative. On Mark Yaconelli's website, under Practices and Processes, Yaconelli lays out some ‘guidelines’ for centering prayer and recommends Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington, both of whom promote panentheism (God is in all things and people). In another course by Dr. Wheeler, he is using a book by Doug Fields (Saddleback Youth Pastor)” (“Liberty University Uses Contemplative/Emergent Textbooks,”Lighthouse Newsletter, Feb. 13, 2007).
The course Evangelism and Christian Life has a “Course Bibliography” that is “a who’s who of contemplative prayer (Foster, Willard, Warren, and Boa, etc.).”
Cornerstone University has been promoting Roman Catholic contemplative prayer since at least 2005. In 2006, the school’s Spiritual Formation resources page and recommended reading list included such dangerous authors as Brian McLaren, Donald Miller, Richard Foster, Jim Wallis, Brennan Manning, Robert Webber, and Dallas Willard.
Brian McLaren was a chapel speaker in 2005, in spite of the fact that he does not believe that the Bible is the infallibly inspired Word of God and does not believe in the traditional biblical doctrine of Christ’s blood atonement, among many other heresies.
Cornerstone University was founded in 1941 as the Baptist Bible Institute at Wealthy Street Baptist Church under the pastorate of the fundamentalist leader David Otis Fuller. The school’s name was changed to Cornerstone in 1994 in conjunction with a change in direction, though it remained in the orb of the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches.
In the early 2000s the school’s stance on music changed. In 2004 it lifted its 63-year ban on dancing. Ashley Reiman, one of the student leaders who worked to have the ban rescinded, told the Grand Rapids Press, “I’m so pumped. I think it’s great. I love dancing.” Ashley got into trouble with the school two years ago when she “went clubbing in Florida” on Spring Break.
Joseph Stowell was president of Moody Bible Institute until 2008, when he took the presidency of Cornerstone University. He also works with Radio Bible Class.
Stowell is a promoter of Roman Catholic contemplative prayer. In a February 2012 blog (RenewRefreshRefocus) he recommended Leighton Ford’s The Attentive Life.
Following is a review of this dangerous book:
“[Ford] equates his attentive practices with centering prayer as explained by Roman Catholic mystic Thomas Keating, ‘We wait quietly in God’s presence, perhaps repeating a ‘sacred word,’ [mantra] and let go of our thoughts. ... Centering prayer is not so much an exercise of attention as intention’ (p. 179; cp pp. 11-13, 24, 129, 176, 190).
“Secondly, the methods recommended for the attentive life come primarily from Roman Catholic mysticism: the Benedictine Prayer Hours, monasticism (p. 21), labyrinths (pp. 51-52), lectio divina (pp. 65, 93-96), use of spiritual directors (p. 66), praying the Jesus Prayer (p. 77), centering prayer (pp. 129, 176, 179), the examen (p. 197), Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises (p. 197), with a dose of Quakerism (p. 26, 124) and Celtic ‘thin places and prayers,’ thrown in (pp. 159, 211).
“Finally, virtually all of Ford’s spiritual heroes are mystic: Douglas Steere (a Quaker), G.K. Chesterton, Julian of Norwich, Henri Nouwen, Simone Weil, Gregory Nazianzus, Vincent Donovan, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, Eugene Peterson, St. Fursey, Lesslie Newbigin, Dallas Willard, Jesuit poet Gerald Manley Hopkins, Anthony Bloom, Kierkegaard, fourth century monk John Cassian, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, Alice Fryling, St. Francis, Hilary of Tours, Marcus Loane (Archbishop of Sydney, Australia), Carlo Carletto, David Steindl-Rast, Bishop A. Jack Dain, Quaker Thomas Kelly, Hwee Hwee Tan and Catherine of Siena.
“In addition, Ford makes strange statements that border on pantheism (p. 91), describes God as ‘pure energy’ (p. 177) rather than Spirit and talks about being able to see Christ in our faces (pp. 194-196).
“To say all of this is disturbing is an understatement. What little value might be contained in The Attentive Life is completely negated by the unbiblical practices and teachings found throughout this book. It is astounding that a man who once preached the gospel of Christ could have drifted so far” (Gary Gilley, review of Leighton Ford’s The Attentive Life, June 5, 2009, Lighthouse Trails).
LABYRINTHS INCREASING IN POPULARITY AMONG EVANGELICALS
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).
This is only the latest example of how the Pagan-Catholic labyrinth is gaining in popularity among evangelical Protestants and Baptists.
The June 1, 2004, issue of The Mennonitefeatured an article on labyrinths. Marlene Kropf, who teaches at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Indiana, promotes labyrinths. Bethany Mennonite Church, Bridgewater Corners, Vermont, has a labyrinth in its lawn. The church’s female pastor uses it as a “personal prayer discipline.” Michele Hershberger, chair of the Bible department at Hesston College, uses labyrinths.
Simpson University in Redding, California, has a labyrinth. This school is associated with the Christian and Missionary Alliance.
Other schools with labyrinths are Eastern University, Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, San Francisco Theological Seminary, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, Lancaster Theological Seminary, Northwestern University, Manchester College, Eden Seminary, Phillips Theological Seminary in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Abilene Christian University.
Even some Southern Baptist churches are building labyrinths. The Weatherly Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville, Alabama, built a permanent labyrinth of stones on its grounds in 2004.
The labyrinth is a circle with a twisting path that winds its way to the center and which is used for prayer and meditation. The International Labyrinth Society says it is a “tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation.”
Used by pagan religions for centuries before the coming of Christ, the labyrinth was “Christianized” by the Roman Catholic Church as part of its desperate search for spirituality apart from the Bible.
Native Americans called it the Medicine Wheel; Celts called it the Never Ending Circle; it is called the Kabala in mystical Judaism . The most famous labyrinth was built into the floor of the Roman Catholic Chartres Cathedral in France in the 13th century. It has been duplicated at the Riverside Church in New York City and Grace Cathedral (Episcopal) in San Francisco, both hotbeds of theological liberalism and New Age philosophy.
The three stages of the labyrinth testify to its paganism. (This description of the stages is from the Grace Cathedral web site.) The stages are Purgation (“a time to open the heart and quiet the mind”), Illumination (“a place of meditation and prayer”), Union (“joining God, your Higher Power, or the healing forces at work in the world”).
Lauren Artress, a canon at Grace Cathedral, founded Veriditas, The World-Wide Labyrinth Project, with the goal “to facilitate the transformation of the Human Spirit.” Observe that Human Spirit is capitalized, testifying to the New Age view that man finds divinity within himself. Artress says that she discovered the labyrinth in 1991 through Jean Houston’s Mystery School Network, a psychic New Age organization.
The following quote by Houston leaves no doubt as to her philosophy:
“As we encounter the archetypal world within us, a partnership is formed whereby we grow as do THE GODS AND GODDESSES WITHIN US” (http://skepdic.com/houston.html). Exercises at her Mystery School Network “include psychophysical work, psychospiritual exploration, creative arts, energy resonance, movement and dance, altered states of consciousness, ritual and ceremony, high drama, high play and mutual empowerment.”
Artress says: “My passion for the labyrinth has never let up! I think this is because I get so much from it. I also can teach everything I want to teach through the labyrinth: meditation, finding our soul assignments, unleashing our creativity, spiritual practice, psycho-spiritual healing; you name it! .... IT HAS THE EXACT COSMIC RHYTHMS EMBEDDED WITHIN IT. I sense that THIS DESIGN WAS CREATED BY GREAT MASTERS OF SPIRIT, who knew the pathway to integrating mind, body and spirit” (Interview with Arts and Healing Network, September 2003).
It is obvious that the labyrinth is an effective tool for New Age meditation, and as such its usage is exploding. There are more than 125 in Ontario alone.
The labyrinth is even being adopted by psychologists for mental health care. St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario, has two labyrinths.
That the same pagan-derived practice would be adopted by evangelicals is a loud testimony of evangelicalism’s apostasy and its frightful communion with “doctrines of devils.”
There is nothing like a labyrinth in the New Testament Scriptures. When Jesus taught His disciples how to pray in Matthew 6, He did not even hint at a labyrinth-type prayer. Rather His instructions were very straightforward and simple:
5 And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.
9 After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
14 For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
God forbids His people to adopt things from the devil’s program and to associate with pagan things such as labyrinths.
“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).
THE FRIGHTFUL STORY OF SUE MONK KIDD
The story of Sue Monk Kidd is loud warning of the dangers of flirting with contemplative mysticism and highlights the evil of those who who are promoting this type of thing to the unwary.
Kidd is a very popular writer. Her first two novels, The Secret Life of Bees (2002) and The Mermaid Chair (2005), have sold more than 6 million copies and the first one is being produced as a movie. She has also written two popular books on contemplative spirituality:God’s Joyful Surprise (1988) and When the Heart Waits (1990).
She was raised in a Southern Baptist congregation in southwest Georgia. Her grandfather and father were Baptist deacons. Her grandmother gave devotionals at the Women’s Missionary Union, and her mother was a Sunday School teacher. Her husband was a minister who taught religion and a chaplain at a Baptist college. She was very involved in church, teaching Sunday School and attending services Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday. She was even inducted into a group of women called the Gracious Ladies, the criterion for which was that “one needed to portray certain ideals of womanhood, which included being gracious and giving of oneself unselfishly.”
When Kidd was 30, a Sunday School co-worker gave her a book by Thomas Merton.
She should have known better than to read such a book and should have been warned by her brethren, but the New Evangelical philosophy has created an atmosphere in which the reading of a Catholic monk’s book by a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher was acceptable. The unscriptural thinking goes like this: Who are we to judge what other people read, and who is to say that a Roman Catholic priest might not love the Lord?
Kidd began to practice Catholic forms of contemplative spirituality and visit Catholic retreat centers and monasteries.
“... beginning in my early thirties I’d become immersed in a journey that was rooted in contemplative spirituality. It was the spirituality of the ‘church fathers,’ of the monks I’d come to know as I made regular retreats in their monasteries. ... I thrived on solitude, routinely practicing silent meditation as taught by the monks Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating. ... For years, I’d studied Thomas Merton, John of the Cross, Augustine, Bernard, Bonaventure, Ignatius, Eckhart, Luther, Teilhard de Chardin, The Cloud of Unknowing, and others” (pp. 14, 15).
Of Merton’s autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, which she read in 1978 for the first of many times, she says,
“My experience of reading it initiated me into my first real awareness of the interior life, igniting an impulse toward being ... it caused something hidden at the core of me to flare up and become known” (Kidd’s introduction toNew Seeds of Contemplation, 2007, pp. xiii, xi).
Of Merton’s book New Seeds of Contemplationshe says, “[It] initiated me into the secrets of my true identity and woke in me an urge toward realness” and “impacted my spirituality and my writing to this day.”
Merton communicated intimately with and was deeply affected by Mary veneration, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sufism, so it is not surprising that his writings would create an appetite that could lead to goddess worship.
In The New Seeds of Contemplation, Merton made the following frightening statement that shows the great danger of Catholic mysticism:
“In the end the contemplative suffers the anguish of realizing that HE NO LONGER KNOWS WHAT GOD IS. He may or may not mercifully realize that, after all, this is a great gain, because ‘God is not a what,’ not a ‘thing.’ This is precisely one of the essential characteristics of contemplative experience. It sees that there is no ‘what’ that can be called God” (p. 13).
What Catholic mysticism does is reject the Bible as the sole and sufficient and perfect revelation of God and tries to delve beyond the Bible, even beyond thought of any kind, and find God through mystical “intuition.” In other words, it is a rejection of the God of the Bible. It says that God cannot be known by doctrine and cannot be described in words. He can only be experienced through mysticism. This is a blatant denial of the Bible’s claim to be the very Word of God.
This opens the practitioner to demonic delusion. He is left with no perfect objective revelation of God, no divinely-revealed authority by which he can test his mystical experiences and intuitions. He is left with an idol of his own vain imagination (Jeremiah 17:9) and a doctrine of devils.
Kidd’s own first two books were on contemplative spirituality.
The involvement in Catholic contemplative practices led her to the Mass and to other sacramental associations.
“I often went to Catholic mass or Eucharist at the Episcopal church, nourished by the symbol and power of this profound feeding ritual” (Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 15).
There is an occultic power in the mass that has influenced many who have approached it in a receptive, non-critical manner.
She learned dream analysis from a Jungian perspective and believed that her dreams were revelations. One recurring dream featured an old woman. Kidd concluded that this is “the Feminine Self or the voice of the feminine soul” and she was encouraged in her feminist studies by these visitations.
She determined to stop testing things and follow her heart, rejecting the Bible’s admonition to “prove all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
“I would go through the gate with what Zen Buddhists call ‘beginner’s mind,’ the attitude of approaching something with a mind empty and free, ready for anything, open to everything. ... I would give myself permission to go wherever my quest took me” (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 140).
She rejected the doctrine that the Bible is the sole authority for faith and practice. In church one day the pastor proclaimed this truth, and she describes the frightful thing that happened in her heart at that moment:
“I remember a feeling rising up from a place about two inches below my navel. ... It was the purest inner knowing I had experienced, and it was shouting in me no, no, no! The ultimate authority of my life is not the Bible; it is not confined between the covers of a book. It is not something written by men and frozen in time. It is not from a source outside myself. My ultimate authority is the divine voice in my own soul. Period. ... That day sitting in church, I believed the voice in my belly. ... The voice in my belly was the voice of the wise old woman. It was my female soul talking. And it had challenged the assumption that the Baptist Church would get me where I needed to go” (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, pp. 76, 77, 78).
She came to believe in the divinity of man.
“There’s a bulb of truth buried in the human soul that’s ‘only God’ ... the soul is more than something to win or save. It’s the seat and repository of the inner Divine, the God-image, the truest part of us” (When the Heart Waits, 1990, pp. 47, 48).
“When we encounter another person ... we should walk as if we were upon holy ground. We should respond as if God dwells there” (God’s Joyful Surprise, p. 233).
She began to delve into the worship of ancient goddesses. She traveled with a group of women to Crete where they met in a cave and sang prayers to “the Goddess Skoteini, Goddess of the Dark.” She says, “... something inside me was calling on the Goddess of the Dark, even though I didn’t know her name” (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 93).
Soon she was praying to God as Mother.
“I ran my finger around the rim of the circle on the page and prayed my first prayer to a Divine Feminine presence. I said, ‘Mothergod, I have nothing to hold me. No place to be, inside or out. I need to find a container of support, a space where my journey can unfold’” (p. 94).
She finally came to the place where she believed that she herself is a goddess.
“Divine Feminine love came, wiping out all my puny ideas about love in one driving sweep. Today I remember that event for the radiant mystery it was, how I felt myself embraced by Goddess, how I felt myself in touch with the deepest thing I am. It was the moment when, as playwright and poet Ntozake Shange put it, ‘I found god in myself/ and I loved her/ I loved her fiercely’” (The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, p. 136).
“To embrace Goddess is simply to discover the Divine in yourself as powerfully and vividly feminine” (p. 141).
“I came to know myself as an embodiment of Goddess” (p. 163).
“When I woke, my thought was that I was finally being reunited with the snake in myself--that lost and defiled symbol of feminine instinct” (p. 107).
She built an altar in her study and populated it with statues of goddesses, Jesus, a Black Madonna -- and a mirror to reflect her own image.
“Over the altar in my study I hung a lovely mirror sculpted in the shape of a crescent moon. It reminded me to honor the Divine Feminine presence in myself, the wisdom in my own soul” (p. 181).
Kidd’s book The Dance of the Dissident Daughter ends with the words, “She is in us.”
According to this book, Kidd’s daughter, too, has accepted goddess worship.
Sue Monk Kidd is quoted by evangelicals such as David Jeremiah (Life Wide Open), Beth Moore (When Godly People Do Ungodly Things), and Richard Foster (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home). Kidd’s endorsement is printed on the back of Dallas Willard’s bookThe Spirit of the Disciplines. She wrote the foreword to the 2006 edition of Henri Nouwen’s With Open Hands and the introduction to Thomas Merton’s New Seeds of Contemplation.
God forbids His people to associate with heretical and pagan things such as meditation practices and labyrinths and monks and monasteries and Mary worship and the Mass. To break down the walls of separation from error is an exceedingly dangerous thing.
“Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen...” (Jeremiah 10:2).
“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
“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).
“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
“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).
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