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Archive for the ‘Evangelical Mysticism’ Category

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My good friend Manny Silva posted this blog, in which he exposed the dangerous Quaker contemplative practice of “centering down.”

I’m sure many in what has become the “Emerging/Emergent” Evangelical Friends denomination see no problem with centering down. Plus the Evangelical Friends use the WordAction curriculum, which as Manny describes is starting to tout centering down.

Beware The Leaven Coming Into Your Church Curriculum

Posted on April 2, 2012 by reformednazarene

Colossians 2:8-12 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Reflecting God
is an adult Sunday School journal with daily devotionals written for each month by various writers, prepared by the WordAction company.  It is not only prepared for Nazarenes but also for churches that are in the Wesleyan tradition.  They state that: “WordAction is the world’s leading provider of Wesleyan Sunday School lessons and curriculum for children, youth, and adult Sunday School, as well as a leading provider of small group resources and devotional material for family or personal daily devotional times.”

I have read these lessons many times, and have used this or similar curriculum books in teaching Adult Sunday school classes.  For the most part, it has solid reliable material.  However,  a friend alerted me to this particular lesson, which I had not seen.  I am working on another edition that a good friend also sent me a few months ago to review.  So now its time for a word of warning, and a word of serious caution.  The caution is this: WordAction may possibly be gearing up to slowly start promoting contemplative spirituality practices that are at the core of the spirituality of the emergent church movement.

Here is an excerpt from the Feb 8 lesson titled Center Down (and for those who don’t understand this yet, I will explain what this means:

“The Quakers quiet their hearts and spirits before God when they gather for worship through a meditative state they call “centering down.”  When they rest in the Lord and “wait” on him, they believe that he will bring understanding, direction, and peace.”

In addition to serving God, Brother Lawrence, the author of the book “The Practice of the Presence of God,” advises that we stay in touch with him.  He said, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God.  Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”

This is a blatant promotion of mysticism!  And I point out the elitist-like last sentence that suggests that only those special people who practice and experience contemplative prayer will truly understand God!  This is the mindset of the mystics, that they are special.  My friends, I have come to the point in my last three years researching that anyone using the word EXPERIENCE must at least be scrutinized as to what he means by it when he uses the word!  It more often than not means an experience that is outside the bounds of Scriptural teaching.  Please remember this.  It is essentially a type of experience whose goal is to reach some kind of union with God.  And please note again what they said: “they believe.”  Not, “Scripture says”.

First of all, the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) are a religious group that claims to be Christian, and they promote a weird doctrine that we have some sort of “Inner Light” within us.  The founder was George Fox, who at a young adult age, had a strong mystical experience.  He became convinced that “person requires no spiritual intermediary but can receive direct understanding and guidance through one’s own “inward light,” which is supplied by the Holy Spirit.” (Source)  He believed that everyone has a divine spark within them that can respond directly and personally to God.

The Inner Light, according to respected Quaker author Howard Brinton, “can be reached only by ‘centering down,’ to use an old Quaker phrase: that is, by concentrating our attention on the inward side of life where the soul’s windows open toward the Divine.…” (Brinton, 1953). “Centering down” means turning away from ego-driven pursuits, from selfish individual concerns, and allowing oneself to be moved by a spiritual intelligence greater than one’s everyday consciousness.  (Source: Paths of Learning.net)

Their most famous member today is perhaps Richard Foster, the modern day guru of contemplative spirituality, who believes that anyone (not just Christians) can be a “portable sanctuary for God”; who recommends contemplative prayer but at the same time warns that we need to pray a prayer of protection before participating; and also warns that novices should not do it.

So when they promote centering down, they are promoting a practice that is part and parcel the same as the practices of Eastern mysticism.  Here is a description of the Quakers’ practice of centering down, as explained by the Rev. Sue Annabrooke Jones on her website:

Meeting actually begins when all are joined in that silent “waiting upon God” that the Quakers call “centering down.” With mind and body stilled, members sit in deep contemplative silence together for one hour, each person attuned to his or her own inward light.
During a meeting someone may feel moved to speak. When this happens, it comes from a deep religious experience and a conviction that this experience must be shared. This spoken ministry, which is usually brief and simple, requires no response, and is intended as meditative seed for everyone else in the group. This unique cross-fertilization component distinguishes Quaker meditation from other forms of meditation which, even when practiced in a group, remain ultimately a solo activity.
  (Source: CosmicLotus.org)

Is this a biblically sound practice that belongs now in a Nazarene holiness publication?

And then there is Brother Lawrence. Who is Brother Lawrence?  He was a 17th century monk who “developed a technique–mostly through inspiration and intuition–which leads to results akin to those developed by the continued practice of either Zen or mindfulness meditation.” (Source: Lighthouse Trails)

He was part of the Carmelite Order, which was run by the very contemplative Teresa of Avila, another monastic practictioner who was also influenced by Jewish Kabbalic mysticism.  His “practicing the presence of God” as he coined it leaves much question as to how this can be verified as real or not.  It is not because it is too subjective, and leaves a wide open door for anything to be conjured up in ones imagination.

In his document, “Evangelicals Turning To Catholic Spirituality”, David Cloud describes the epidemic that is racing through the evangelical world, which is one of embracing more and more the monastic Eastern mysticism of the Desert fathers and early “church fathers”, although this clearly does not include the real early church fathers, i.e. the apostles themselves.  You will not find anything close to this that they ever wrote about in Scripture.  However, in this report by Cloud, you will clearly be disturbed by seeing some well known names of today who have favorably promoted some of these practices.  It is what it is, and we have to deal with the facts.

In Scripture, we are told that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  (Gal 5:9).  Satan attacks us from within, after he slips into our churches in disguise, often through the undiscerning and sometimes well meaning minds of many Christians.  I consider this an attack upon the church, even if the rest of this curriculum book is on solid ground.  We cannot allow Satan to grab a foothold in any way in our church literature, just as we cannot allow him to gain a foothold in our universities, churches and pulpits.

So beware, you have been warned to watch what you read, and judge it by the word of God.  Nowhere in Scripture are we taught to “practice the silence” and “wait for God to speak.”   Reflecting God is a wonderful sounding title, but this particular lesson truly does not reflect God, but rather subtly reflects the doctrines of demons being promoted in our denomination today.  Do not tolerate this for one second.  Do not compromise a bit on any of this.  This is being sent to the publishers of WordAction, so that hopefully with this warning, they will take great care that they are not becoming complicit in the infiltration of ungodly teachings in our Christian books.  No excuse will be acceptable for this.  I pray it was a mistake that will not be repeated.  But if so, it will be exposed again for what it is.

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More and more Protestant churches are practicing Ash Wednesday. Why?

The postmodern (Emerging, Emergent and Emergence) movements are growing by leaps and bounds within the Protestant denominations. Many postmodern Protestant denominations (mainline/liberal as well as evangelical) are getting increasingly involved in Spiritual Formation (which quotes many Catholic mystics), as well as Ash Wednesday, Lent, Advent, and other liturgical “holy days” first practiced in Roman Catholicism.

My point is, more and more Protestant churches are “giving in” to Catholic teachings and practices, not vice versa. Which brings us to the five solas. Protestant church leaders, who have traditionally held to the five solas, are presenting more and more practices from Catholicism, which does not hold to the five solas. As a Protestant who believes the five solas are the true teachings of God’s Word, I find this very troubling.

Here is a helpful Wikipedia article, which mentions the various Protestant views of the five solas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_solas

Now on to a discussion of Ash Wednesday itself.  Regarding Ash Wednesday and Lent as times for true repentance, there are certainly many Catholics (and Protestants) who do not truly repent during these times. Why else the huge popularity of Mardi Gras the day before Ash Wednesday? In fact, there is an entire Catholic “Carnival” period between Christmas and Ash Wednesday: http://www.americancatholic.org/features/mardigras/ In light of this, it seems to me many Catholics are not truly repentant during Ash Wednesday and Lent – they are just playing church and/or trying to get to Heaven by “good works” and abstaining during Ash Wednesday and Lent.

I came across an excellent article by Craig Portwood exposing the pagan origin of Ash Wednesday.  Click here for the original text of this article. In my repost below, I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

“The pagan origin of Ash Wednesday”
by Craig Portwood

It’s not mentioned in the Bible. None of the apostles observed it. Nowhere are Christians commanded to keep it. It was not even officially practiced until nearly 1000 years after Christ’s resurrection. Like so many other non-biblical “Christian” customs, it has pagan roots. It’s a sad fact that modern Christianity has appropriated so many customs from the practice of the heathens, that one might wonder if it should still be called Christianity.

The early Pagan origins of Ash Wednesday

[The following drawing may appear irreverent, but I am including it anyway  to illustrate how unbiblical the practice of Ash Wednesday is. Throughout the Old Testament, God condemned Israel for borrowing a number of  “trivial” pagan practices from its neighbors. I believe our sinless Lord Jesus, knowing the pagan origin of “ashes on the forehead,” would have refused to take part in this sinful practice.]

This ritual “imposition of the ashes” is purportedly in imitation of the repentant act of covering oneself in dust and ashes. The marking of believers on Ash Wednesday is done in combination of another extra-biblical routine called “Lent.” Despite Christ’s command to his followers to abstain from the practice of disfiguring their faces during fasting, it has become a regular practice. He also told us to wash our faces during a fast.

The practice of putting ashes on one’s forehead has been known from ancient times. In the Nordic pagan religion, placing ashes above one’s brow was believed to ensure the protection of the Norse god, Odin. This practice spread to Europe during the Vikings conquests. This laying on of ashes was done on Wednesday, the day named for Odin, Odin’s Day. Interestingly enough, according to Wikipedia, one of Odin’s names is Ygg. The same is Norse for the World Ash. This name Ygg, closely resembles the Vedic name Agni in pronunciation.

The Norse practice which has become known as Ash Wednesday was itself, drawn from the Vedic Indian religion. Ashes were believed to be the seed Agni , the Indian fire god. It is from this name that the Latins used for fire, ignis. It is from this root word that the English language got the words, ignite, igneous and ignition. Agni was said to have the authority to forgive sins. Ashes were also believed to be symbolic for the purifying blood of the Vedic god Shiva, which it is said had the power to cleanse sins.

Lent

Lent is a period of 40 days preceding the observance of Easter, where the observers are expected to fast or cease from having the use of some other “luxury.” Like the majority of modern, so-called Christian practices, its beginning can be traced to heathen practices.
In his book The Two Babylons, Alexander Hislop observed:

Let any one only read the atrocities that were commemorated during the ‘sacred fast’ or Pagan Lent, as described by Arnobius and Clemens Alexandrinus, and surely he must blush for the Christianity of those who, with the full knowledge of all these abominations, ‘went down to Egypt for help’ to stir up the languid devotion of the degenerate church, and who could find no more excellent way to ‘revive’ it, than by borrowing from so polluted a source; the absurdities and abominations connected with which the early Christian writers had held up to scorn. That Christians should ever think of introducing the Pagan abstinence of Lent was a sign of evil; it showed how low they had sunk, and it was also a cause of evil; it inevitably led to deeper degradation. Originally, even in Rome, Lent, with the preceding revelries of the carnival, was entirely unknown….

In the early 19th century, German explorer Alexander von Humboldt noted the practice among the pagans in Mexico, being held in the spring. His account states:

Three days after the vernal equinox…began a solemn fast of forty days in honour of the sun.

A Lent of forty days was also commemorated in Egypt. According to by English scholar John Landseer, in his Sabean Researches (1823), an Egyptian Lent of forty days was held in honor of Osiris.

There is a spiritual signature which bears witness to the spirit of these traditions. It is called Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday or Mardi Gras. It is the custom of living it up to get our fill of all the enjoyment the world has to offer before setting off to “Church” in mock repentance on Ash Wednesday. Such celebrations are an indication of the spirit behind the facade.

[Click here for the Wikipedia article on Ash Wednesday. And click here for the Wikipedia article on Mardi Gras, which includes a description of the “Carnival” time period between Christmas and Mardi Gras.]

The Truth

Christ made it plain in John 4:23-24:

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

To be sure, those who observe modern “Christian” practices are religious. They may have personal conviction, but they are missing a vital element of the faith. They are lacking truth.

Mark 7:7

Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

The Bible tells us in chapter 9 of the book of Hebrews, that we are made clean by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. No amount of ritual or work of the hand of man can accomplish this.

1st Peter 1:13-16 tells us:

Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance: But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

The word holy means set apart, different from the rest. If we keep traditions which are not of God, how can we be holy? From what then are we different if we do as they do?

Not everyone has the conviction nor the courage to be set apart from the rest of the world. The sad truth is that mainstream Christianity lost her way, having fallen into apostasy long ago. This apostate tradition is continued by priests, pastors and preachers, ordained not by God in the power of the Holy Spirit, but by men in the spirit of the world.

And their followers wouldn’t have it any other way.

© 2010 Craig Portwood

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Open Letter to the Pastor of Community Emergent Church

by John Henderson on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 at 12:40pm

[NOTE:  This is not an actual letter but represents reality as it exists in many modern church environments]

Dear Pastor:

     I am deeply perplexed about the direction you are taking our church in your promotion of the many principles of the emergent church movement.  Maybe I just don’t understand or am not all that willing to go through change.  Perhaps you can enlighten me.

My family and I have been members here for many years we raised our children in this church.  It has been the most important thing in our family’s life for a very long time.  We started coming here after being visited by Pastor Jim.  He was canvassing the neighborhood and came to our door.  It was a simple introduction.  He handed us a small tract with information about the church on one side and a short gospel message on the other.  Pastor Jim invited us to the services and then did something we were not expecting from a typical church visitor.  He asked if he could tell us more about Jesus Christ.  Of course, we agreed.  Before Pastor Jim left, he had given us the story of salvation we deeply had wanted to hear but didn’t realize ourselves how much we needed and wanted the Savior.  That, more than anything else, brought us to this church.

We have had several wonderful pastors since then and seen great revivals over the years.  Our church grew because of it.  Somehow, before you came, I sensed a drift among us.  We became more program-focused than evangelism-committed.  We went through “church growth” programs and had many motivational speakers come our way.  In fact, we stopped scheduling revivals with regular evangelists like we used to do and replaced all of that with conferences of some sort or the other.  It was all very exciting but something important always seemed be missing.  I think our life was draining from us—the life that comes through prayer and obedience to the simple gospel.

By the time you arrived and began to initiate the emergent practices among us, we were ripe for the picking.  There were some among us who were more alert and courageous than I who raised questions.  I watched as you and your staff dealt with them rather indifferently and insensitively until they felt forced to go elsewhere.  Those were people who had been a significant part in the grown of our church but suddenly they were out of place.  Those of us who remained gathered a little closer together to fill in the vacancies and kept going with what remained.

When someone on your staff suggested what we needed was to start fellowshipping with those of other “faiths”, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was all that wise, especially when I learned it had nothing to do with winning them to Christ but just hoping to get them to start coming to our church to help fill the empty places.  They were being told they could keep their false ideas about Jesus and be just fine in our non-judgmental fellowship.  I think someone brought up the word postmodern and I had to look it up to see what it meant.

It wasn’t long until you were telling us we needed to walk something called a labyrinth.  It seems it was some sort of adaptation from a Hindu practice whereby we were instructed to walk a prescribed maze of sorts, and pause at pre-determined points and utter some sort of prayer or contemplate on something spiritual.  I went along with it, but felt increasingly uncomfortable because there seemed to be every sort of presence except that of Jesus.

Then you told us we needed to engage in something you called centering prayer.  You told us we should look deeply within until we found ourselves and discovered God.  Well, I looked deeply within but all I found was a wicked, rebellious heart.  I found myself alright but God wasn’t there.

You took a group of us off to a nearby monastery where a group of monks and nuns hosted us and walked us through a method of contemplative prayer.  They were very cordial and nice people and seemed very committed and they were very appealingly aesthetic.  I returned home with a sense of an unusual experience but still felt I had not really met Jesus there.  Maybe I expected too much or had the wrong experience.

Your messages have been filled with a lot of talk about something you frequently call spiritual formation.  Your definitions and descriptions of spiritual formation sound very evangelical but the spiritual (Christ-like) substance is simply not there.  You speak often of the presence of the Holy Spirit—as if we would not notice ourselves that He was present—but, frankly, I just have not noticed.  I know I have not backslidden and have often been aware of the Spirit’s presence in past services at our church.  What you say is His presence resembles nothing like I once knew of His presence among us.

You told us that we needed to enter into some sort of deep silence; something you said was a method of praying whereby we became so silent that we could hear God speaking to us.  About all I ever heard was the ringing in my ears, but God never spoke to me that I could tell.  Maybe I was being too focused on being silent that I never heard Him.  I do remember, however, the other times I would go to Him in earnest prayer and sometimes could not even express myself but I knew He was listening and answering my prayers.  I was never in some sort of silent trance or anything like that and was always keenly aware of communion with Him. I always went away from that very strengthened in my soul.   It worked very well for me but that silence thing was a complete failure except it seemed to me at times there were spirits I could not recognize trying to say things to me that did not resemble what I knew about the God of the Bible.

I have noticed lately that you have been teaching us things we once rejected in this church.  Pastor Jim led my spouse and me to the Lord in our living room that day he visited and he used the Bible an awful lot.  He answered all of our questions and objections by opening up his Bible and showing us the answers right there in its pages.  But you are now saying to us that not all of the Bible is inspired—only those parts that pertain to salvation.  Was Pastor Jim wrong to tell us it was every bit as inspired as any other part?  Also, what parts pertain to salvation and what parts do not?

You mentioned in one of your recent sermons that Adam and Eve were not actually real, that the creation story was actually a fable.  Why is it in the Bible if that is true?  Why does Luke trace the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam if it is a mere fable of some sort?  You added that the idea of creation evolution is more scientifically accurate.  How do you know that?  Is not “science” itself replete with errors and more subjective interpretation than irrefutable “facts”?

Pastor, there are many more questions I would like to ask, and perhaps we could discuss them openly at some point.  I have one very important question, however, that I must ask.  Are you really a born-again Christian?  If you say you are, why would you discredit so many things the Bible teaches—things that your very salvation must hinge on in order to be validated?  Why would you embrace postmodern and new age concepts that offer no proof of anything they promote while the Word of God stands as its own proof?  Why would you embrace any of that over what the Bible teaches?  If you are really so convinced of all of that stuff, why are you here?  Isn’t there somewhere you could be where you would be better received and we could just be left here to go our simple ways by believing the Bible and holding to those old-fashioned “traditions” that have identified us all these years?

I am sure there are many others just as I who long for those old days, as it were, when you heard prayer in the house of God instead of partying; where there were revival meetings once more instead of special topic study groups; where sinners were convicted for their sins, repented, and were converted at our altars instead of being coddled in their sins because they felt misunderstood and mistreated.  I am sure there are many such as I who long to once more walk into any of our churches and know we will hear the gospel sung, preached, and prayed.

Oh, well, none of this may ever change for the better.  It might get even worse until Jesus comes again in judgment.  I just thought I would ask in case you or anyone else cared.

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In other blogs, I have written about Spiritual Formation pioneer Richard Foster and his background in the EFCI (Evangelical Friends Church International) denomination.

Discernment writer Ken Silva provides this additional info, regarding Richard Foster and Quaker founder George Fox. (Click here for the entire text of Silva’s expose.) Note: I have inserted some comments in [brackets].

… now that the Devil has established his “deep ecumenical” beachhead of CMS through his ECoD within our Lord’s Church they just needed to find themselves a leader who also happens to be an ecumenical contemplative. Ah, this brings us to the Guru of Contemplative Spirituality Richard Foster. Foster, who is a member of the Religious Society of Friends, aka the Quakers, [actually Foster belonged to the Evangelical Friends denomination as I mentioned above; why Foster did not join with “Inner Light-based” Hicksite Friends or the  liberal Friends General Conference is puzzling – unless Foster purposely remained among evangelicals to lead evangelicals astray]  is even touted by the Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren as a leader within the evangelical church itself as I showed you in Rick Warren Guilty For Endorsing The Cult Of Guru Richard Foster And His Reimagined Gnostic Mysticism.

You may recall one of my previous articles on Foster called Who Is Richard Foster? In it I clearly show that the Quakers are as ecumenical a bunch as can possibly be found, and I further point out that mysticism is a key component of their worship. I’d add apostate as well, but I for one, am not so sure that the Quakers were ever actually in the faith to begin with.  [Perhaps Ken Silva is not aware that Ohio Yearly Meeting (Gurneyite), which eventually joined the EFCI, was biblically sound between approx. 1854-1965; in fact, in 1877 and 1879 they condemned George Fox’s Inner Light teaching.] So for our purposes here let me just share a couple of interesting highlights from an entry of the Society of Friends (Quakers) in Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience (HEMPE).

I also happen to find it interesting that this particular book is published by HarperSanfrancisco who just happens to publish Richard Foster. HEMPE informs us that the Quakers were “founded about 1650 in England by George Fox.” And that the:

Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, as it is commonly called, stresses a personal, almost mystical knowledge of God and the workings of the Lord’sinner lightwithin all people… At about age twenty, George Fox,…began suffering religious misgivings and spiritual longings. He consulted with various Anglican and Puritan ministers and priests, but they dismissed him as slightly deranged. Fox felt entirely alone until 1647, when at the age of twenty-three he heard a voice saying, “There is one, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition” (556, emphasis mine).

This is exactly where George Fox and the Quakers who would follow him jumped track because HEMPE goes on to inform us that “[i]mmediately after, Fox received the first of four insights.” It is so-called insight number four that most concerns this work as we are told:

Fox’s fourth insight was that faith is based solely on firsthand knowledge of Christ as living, personal reality, not on logic, reasoning, historical reporting, or even Scripture. This empirical proof came to be called the Quaker Way: the idea that worshippers need not consult preachers or the Bible to receive knowledge of the Holy Spirit – the so-calledinner light of Christpresent in every human heart (ibid., emphasis added).

Here we have the agreement in Fox’s theology with classic Gnostic mysticism. Gnostics also taught that there was an inner light in man which they referred to as “a divine spark within” every human being. I cover this fallacy further in Understanding the New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind. If this isn’t bad enough it now gets worse as HEMPE points out that in 1652 Fox “prayed at a place called Pendle Hill” and then “he received a vision explaining his mission to show Christ in the Present Tense as a personal Being.” Following this vision “Fox met with a group of Seekers who, overcome with his message, converted” (ibid.). And yikes, based on all the negative response at the original Slice of Laodicea website to one of my previous—and quite Biblically sound missives—Take Off The Gloves, I would shudder to think what might have happened to Fox if he had been around today.

Enter The Ecumenical Quaker Swami Richard Foster

Seriously however, this previous information is critical for you to understand the highly ecumenical theological background from which Richard Foster himself comes emerging…

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(revised 01/30/15)

I stumbled across the folllowing blog which addresses a number of issues I have written about. Namely, Quaker George Fox’s “Inner Light” heresy, universalism, Spiritual Formation, the Renovare Spiritual Formation Study Bible, etc.

I am providing excerpts from the blog below. Click here [broken link] for the entire original text of this blog. As of 01/30/15  I found this blogsite run by Tom Lessing, but could not find his 2009 article presented below. I am emphasizing certain points by bolding, and inserting comments in [brackets]. I have also corrected the grammar in a few places to make the excerpts more readable.

The Unholiness of the Renovaré Brotherhood’s “Holiness”

Posted by Tom Lessing on July 9, 2009

Adherents to the Emergent Church have an uncanny ability to tell their congregants what to do without explaining what they really have in mind. They have the knack to use biblical terminology very skillfully and expertly but often fail to elucidate the biblical meaning of the words they hit to and fro like a little ping-pong ball. “Holiness” is one of these words. I encountered this again in one of Stephan Joubert’s regular contributions on e-church under the title “No Steroids for Holiness.”Although it may be a very clever post-modernish title it wreaks of heresy from the very outset, especially when one takes into account who it was who coined the witty little maxim. But allow me to use Stephan’s own words:

You can’t cheat your way to holiness. Or can you? Presently, I am at the Renovare Conference in San Antonio, Texas where the theme is “The Jesus Way.” Yesterday evening I listened to one of my spiritual heroes, Eugene Peterson. In his fine presentation he stressed that there are no spiritual steroids for holiness. You have to live a holy life, one day at a time (emphasis added).

Have you noticed the little ink spots in Stephan’s declaration of holiness?

[The Spiritual Formation definition of  “holiness” is quite different from the born again, biblical Christian definition. For those in Spiritual Formation, “holiness” basically means proficiency in practicing the spiritual disciplines, particularly occultish contemplative prayer/contemplative spirituality. And one usually learns these contemplative techniques from a Spiritual Director who sympathizes with Catholicism in some way. The Spiritual Director, in my mind, acts as sort of a “guru”, a “master teacher”, an “expert” in Spiritual Formation.

Conversely, for the born again, biblically sound Christian, “holiness” means “personal holiness” – obeying the commandments of God’s Word the Bible (the 66 books of the Canon), dying to sin, living for Christ in purity, etc. One passage that describes this is Romans 12:1-2:1) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2) And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”]

What is Renovare?

Here are a few facts about “Renovaré”:

Renovaré is a movement within the Emergent church that was started in 1988 by Richard Foster, a Quaker theologian. [Although Foster has been  an Evangelical Friend, preaching and teaching in the EFCI, his writings betray him as a nonchristian with positions akin to  those of nonchristian, non-evangelical Quaker denominations.] The [nonchristian, non-evangelical] Quakers’ theology is based on the belief that everyone (believers and unbelievers) have an “inner light” which can lead them to truth while they wait and listen to its subjective leading, particularly with the assistance of contemplative practices such as “the silence” and “centering prayer.” Paul Lacout, in Quaker Faith and Practice, described a “silence which is active” causing the Inner Light to “glow.” Their complete reliance on the leading of the inner light has just about ousted the objectivity of God’s Word and its clear-cut doctrines. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Stephan Joubert pledges not to return to the Bible and the church but to advance forward to God (the inner light that guides all of mankind into the Truth).

As soon as you begin to tamper with biblical doctrine, heresy becomes your way and not as the Renovaré brotherhood claims “The Jesus Way.” The Quakers’ assertion that believers and unbelievers have an “inner light” substantiates their equally heretical belief in Universalism. George Fox and Robert Barclay as well as other respected leaders in the Quaker movement hold to the lie that all people are already saved from sin or will eventually be saved from it, the reason being that the Light is within everyone and nobody will therefore be cast into hell. Then there are those within the Quaker movement, such as the Quaker Universalist Group, who believe that it is unnecessary to have any faith in Jesus Christ. [According to Quaker Universalists] people of other faiths or no faith at all have no need of salvation because they already have Light within them… 

What does the Word of God teach us about the Light?

John 3:19-21 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God (emphasis added).

Isaiah 8:20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them (emphasis added).

Richard Foster, the author of the Renovaré study Bible, endorses many Universalists and pantheists. Here are some of the revealing things they have said in their books:

“The Inner Light, the Inward Christ, is no mere doctrine, belonging peculiarly to a small religious fellowship, to be accepted or rejected as a mere belief. It is the living Center of Reference for all Christian souls and Christian groups – yes, and of non-Christian groups as well” Thomas Kelly:A Testament of Devotion.

“It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, … now I realize what we all are …. If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are … I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other … At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth … This little point… is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody. Thomas Merton: Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander

Asia, Zen, Islam, etc., all these things come together in my life. It would be madness for me to attempt to create a monastic life for myself by excluding all these. I would be less a monk. Rob Baker & Gray Henry: Merton and Sufism.

The common denominator between Merton’s brand of Christianity and other religions is mysticism, in particular Buddhism. Stephan Joubert’s spiritual excursion to the Renovaré Conference in San Antonio, Texas is consequently no coincidence. He is merely strengthening his affiliation with his brothers and sisters who are extending a hand of brotherly affection to religions such as Buddhism, and affirming his agreement with Rob Bell who said that truth may also be found in other religions such as Buddhism. When Merton could no longer resist the mystic appeal, he intended to turn his back on Christianity. Guess who advised him to remain a Christian? No! You’re wrong. It was not a concerned Christian but a Hindu swami named Dr. Bramachari. He assured Merton that he could find the very same mysticism within the ranks of the Christian mystics. (Henri J M Nouwen: Contemplative Critic). Dr. Bramachari seems to be far better informed than most Christians of Paul’s warning in II Corinthians and seems to know that Merton can do more damage within the ranks of Christianity if he remains therein stead of becoming a converted Buddhist or Hindu.

II Corinthians 11:13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Merton affirmed that he could incorporate these mystical traditions into his own Christian tradition if he practiced tolerance of and an openness to Buddhism, Hinduism and other Asian mystical religions. Richard Foster’s entire philosophy is based on Merton’s and others’ contemplative spirituality and their efforts to bridge the gap between Western and Far Eastern spiritualities. Why would someone like Foster who claims to follow The Jesus Way endorse and follow Merton’s heresies? The underlying reason is to forge a new Christianity which gullibly utilizes Christian terminology, such as The Jesus Way and holiness, and gathers together every conceivable religious persuasion under a single umbrella called mysticism, simply because “everyone has the Inner Light.” Roger Oakland asks a similar question in his book Faith Undone:

Why would someone who claims to be a Christian as Foster does, after reading and understanding Merton’s position on East­ern religion, promote his ideas? Foster knows the kind of prayer Merton stood for was different from biblical prayer. He admits that Merton’s prayer lined up with that of Zen masters and Bud­dhist monks. And yet he said, “Merton continues to inspire count­less men and women.” [i]

Stephan Joubert  is obviously one of the countless men and women who have been inspired to follow in the Jesus Way of spurious disciples such as Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson and Thomas Merton. The Renovaré Spiritual Formation Study Bible which was released in 2005 has impacted many people to strive for a [so-called] renewal in the church. Besides Foster, editors included Dallas Willard, Walter Brueggemann, and Eugene Peterson…

[Blogger Tom Lessing then lists a number of heresies in the Renovaré  Spiritual Formation Bible, mostly dealing with prophecy. To read his excellent critique of the Renovaré  Spiritual Formation Bible, click here [broken link] for the entire original blog. Now for the rest of Tom Lessing’s blog…]

So, what is holiness anyway?

Holiness, in a nutshell, is to be like your Creator and Saviour.

I Peter 1:15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.

In practice it means that God’s children should talk, think and act completely different from what our world system expects its citizens to do. It comes down to separateness, severance, apartness from the world system and everything it advocates and stands for. The idea of separateness is seen throughout the Bible. Let’s ponder the following verses from Scripture.

Mark 10:34-36 Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.

II Corinthians 6:17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,

If you proclaim to be a Christian who follows The Jesus Way you dare not associate with false teachers and preachers. Holiness also means to separate yourself from them. It is impossible to plead holiness (without steroids) while you associate with people whose false teaching God hates, to such an extent that He said through the mouth of His disciple Paul:

Galatians 1: 8 and 9 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Here are a few verses that warn us not to associate with false teachers and preachers.

II John 1:10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

Revelation 18:4 And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.

II Timothy 3:5-14 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was. But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience, Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; (emphasis added).

I have pleaded with you many times before, Stephan, and I want to do so here again: Repent of your disastrous way which is clearly NOT The Jesus Way and definitely NOT the way of holiness. It is the way that leads to destruction. You are misleading many people in South Africa. Please stop playing with fire and repent!


[i] Richard Foster, Devotional Classics, op. cit., p. 61.

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(revised 10/05/12)

Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson, and James Houston were early promoters of Spiritual Formation. In my research, I was surprised to learn that Spiritual Formation was around long before Richard Foster’s classic Celebration of Discipline (published in 1978).

I am providing excerpts from an article by Chris Armstrong, which I found to be both insightful and shocking. Click here for the original source of the article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding and entered comments in [brackets].

Note – observe below how these four pioneers of Spiritual Formation spin the history of fundamentalism and “born again” evangelicalism to sound like something negative.

The Rise, Frustration, and Revival of Evangelical Spiritual Ressourcement (Journal of Spiritual Formation & Soul Care 2009, Vol. 2, No. 1, 113–121)
Chris Armstrong, Bethel Seminary (St. Paul, MN)

It started in the 1950s and 1960s. It “broke out” in 1978, with the publication of Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline. But today, evangelicalism’s recovery of spiritual traditions from past centuries—led by such popularizers as Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Eugene Peterson, and James Houston—seems to have reached an impasse. What opened evangelicals to the riches of spiritual tradition? Why has this movement seemingly stalled out? Are there grounds for hope that it will soon move forward again? [Stalled out? Not moving forward? They’re wrong on this I think – I see more and more youth, especially, getting involved in occultish contemplative practices.]

There is no denying that by the time Foster’s Celebration hit bookstores in 1978, the conciliatory, culture-engaging “New Evangelicals” (represented by the National Association of Evangelicals [NAE], Christianity Today, and Fuller and Gordon-Conwell) had already begun to initiate themselves into the world of traditional Christian spirituality. They were using contemplative prayer techniques, attending retreats, sitting under spiritual directors, and reading Catholic and Orthodox books.

This new openness emerged out of two decades of radical change and barrier-crossing within evangelicalism. The Age of Aquarius saw evangelicals hungering for genuine spiritual experience [key word – “spiritual” – this is far different from genuine “Christian” experience]. If this meant breaking out from the narrow biblicism and constrictive intellectual boundaries of their fundamentalist roots, then so be it.  They sought a deeper Christian wisdom both about what makes disciples truly Christ-like and, simply, about what makes people tick. [The author seems to be admitting that New Evangelicalism – with its ungodly ecumenical, anti-fundamentalist mindset – opened the door for occultish, New Age-ish Spiritual Formation. He even uses the blatantly New Age term “Age of Aquarius.”]

Baseline: The “Sanctification Gap”

Among the leaders of this movement to Christianity’s spiritual taproots we find four men: James Houston grew up Plymouth Brethren in England, taught for years at Oxford University, led in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, and then in 1970 was called to Vancouver, British Columbia to become the founding principal of a new evangelical graduate school: Regent College. Eugene Peterson, raised Pentecostal, attended a holiness college and then served for decades as pastor of a Baltimore-area Presbyterian church before joining Houston at Regent and penning his famous Bible paraphrase, The Message. Dallas Willard, Southern Baptist by upbringing and ordination, trained in philosophy, has taught for decades in that field at the University of Southern California, and has written an acclaimed series of books on the spiritual life. Richard Foster took a new-minted doctorate from Fuller to the pastorate of a small evangelical Friends church in Southern California, where he met and was influenced by Willard, and now leads an interdenominational ministry in the area of spirituality.

In recent interviews with these four men, each spoke of both the historical rise and the current stagnation [again, I don’t think there is a “stagnation”] of this impulse toward traditional spirituality. In their own journeys through the ferment of the 1960s, each had discovered what they were looking for in the historical spiritual traditions of the Christian faith. Each one eagerly began to teach that the spiritual resources of the past are a much-needed medicine, potent to heal us from a serious disease. This is the disease Gordon-Conwell historian Richard Lovelace labeled “the sanctification gap.”1 Bluntly, it is the dismal failure of American evangelicals to mature spiritually—a failure with roots in early twentieth-century fundamentalism. [Oh really – so is he saying “spirituality” is more crucial than “holiness”?]

The movement represented by Foster’s Celebration was one of reaction. The fundamentalist movement of the 1920s–1950s had dedicated itself to defending important doctrines such as the divinity and personal return of Christ against liberal modifications. In so doing, it had come to identify the Christian life with cognitive belief. [Fundamentalism is more more than cognitive belief – it is the Truth of God’s Word.] What that meant, says Willard, is that “if you believe the right things, you go to heaven when you die—and in the meantime, there’s not much to do.” Discipleship, or growth in spiritual things, took a back seat. This was one seed of the “sanctification gap” in fundamentalism’s evangelical progeny.

Another seed was fundamentalism’s essential pragmatism. D. L. Moody’s cry echoed down the decades: “This world is like a wrecked vessel. . . . God puts a life-boat in my hands and says ‘Rescue every man you can.’”2 A rescue mission allows precious little time to engage in contemplation or protracted disciplines. This unreflective pragmatism was intensified both by fundamentalism’s inherited anti-traditionalism and its dispensational eschatology. If elite theology grounded in the traditions of the historic church served only to confound the ordinary believer and lead them away from spiritual vitality,3 and if the world is not our home and it is only getting worse and worse until the Rapture,4 then why delve into historical documents or work through arcane disciplines? [As the author states later in this article, “disciplines” includes contemplative practices.]

Along with this anti-traditionalist pragmatism, a theological misunderstanding about the nature of grace also contributed to the loss of healthy spiritual formation among evangelicals. Foster likes to quote Willard on this: “Many people are not only saved by grace, they are paralyzed by it.” In other words, from its fundamentalist beginnings evangelicalism has been infected with a kind of “cheap grace” theology—a misunderstanding of Reformation teaching that has tagged all moral effort as works-righteousness. By these lights, grace is only for forgiveness from guilt; it has nothing to do with spiritual growth.  Says Willard, “all you have to do is open the pages of the New Testament and you see that this is far, far from the truth.” [Oh really?  I don’t see occultish contemplative practices in the New Testament.]

Challenge and Hunger

In 1947, NAE co-founder and future Christianity Today editor Carl F. H. Henry sounded the alarm with his Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism. Evangelicals could no longer deny the stark reality: the character of professing Christians was misshapen. Willard recalls that as early as the 1950s, younger Christians especially ransacked their fundamentalist heritage and found little there to satisfy their hunger for teachings and practices that would address not just salvation and the hereafter, but spiritual depth, integrity, and personal growth in the here-and-now. The search took some to the religions of the East. Others stuck it out within Christianity but went beyond evangelicalism. The desire was to find “some kind of spiritual reality—not just some sort of performance from the church.” … Peterson remembers his Presbyterian church in suburban Maryland: “I can’t tell you how many people came to me and said, ‘Pastor, don’t ask me to do anything.’ And I’d say, ‘Take as long as you’d like.’ …

Jumping the Barriers

The solution to all of this was not immediately obvious. Blocking the way back to traditional spiritual resources was the problem of evangelicalism’s deep-rooted anti-traditionalism [anti-Catholicism?],5 which continues today. “Americans in particular,” remarks Foster, “jump from the early church of the Book of Acts, to us today. For a few, there may be a little blip at the Reformation, but that’s it. And they miss that whole wonderful sense of the communion of saints.”

Second, there were the seemingly insurmountable barriers between Protestants and Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Such explicitly Catholic practices as monasticism, spiritual direction, and contemplative prayer were beyond the pale for most mid-twentieth-century evangelicals. Almost all practices and beliefs that dated from before the Reformation— including all the great spiritual resources of the medieval and early churches—seemed somehow “Catholic,” too, though of course they are the heritage of all Christians 6 [but just because heresies are part of church history, does not mean born again Christians should take part in them].

How were these barriers to the classical spiritual disciplines overcome? First, printed material from the older traditions trickled through: Willard remembers his own discovery of the Methodist-published Upper Room daily devotional guides during the 1960s, excerpting everyone from Augustine to Jeremy Taylor. These were printed in the millions. Another key disseminator of classical Christian spirituality was A. W. Tozer, the Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor and author who quoted freely from many great medieval and early church “saints.” Peterson discovered Tozer as a teenager in the late 1940s and early 1950s, and says, “I got my taste for the nature of the holy life from him.”

For all but a few evangelicals, such writings would have been off-limits were it not for the breakdown of traditional denominational barriers. It is hard for us to remember now how radical a change this “opening” was, because we do not remember today how unyielding denominational boundaries once were…  But by the late 1950s, “people were beginning to understand,” Willard recalls, “that what the particular denomination prescribed for their members was not necessarily what Christ prescribed.”

Building Bridges

A number of trends built bridges across denominations: First, in America’s increasingly mobile social environment, people were frequently meeting members of other denominations and thinking “These people are OK!” Second, the charismatic movement arose in the late 1950s, the Holy Spirit giving gifts that made it clear, as Willard puts it, that “I’m over here where you thought I was not.” Third, Billy Graham was unapologetically committed to working with all Christians. “He would be seen,” says Willard, “around the world preaching in all kinds of contexts, including Eastern Orthodox, and at first there was great criticism of him for doing this—even from the New Evangelicals.” His example, however, opened “a kind of practical ecumenism” among evangelicals—the upside of a breakdown of Protestant denominations whose effects we are still seeing today.

The downside of this breakdown is that despite the anti-traditionalist tendencies of the old fundamentalists, their denominations had taught some helpful spiritual practices. “If you said, for example, in the 30s and 40s, that you were a Baptist,” says Foster, “it meant certain things about the way you approached the Bible—your study, evangelism, and so forth. You look back at the history read by Baptists—some of those great pietist people, Lottie Moon, David Brainerd, Jonathan Edwards—you’d read that stuff, and there was practice that these folks did in their lives.” Willard reminds us that the United Methodist Church still to this day has a Book of Discipline, enjoining such practices as Christian conference, Scripture memorization, and fasting. [I’m surprised that Foster and Willard did not mention George Fox’s Quaker mysticism here. In this blog, for example, both Foster and Willard laud Quaker mysticism – including Fox’s Inner Light heresy.] But increasingly, as denominations became less important in the life of individual Christians, the remnant of historical spirituality built into their structures was lost.

Crossing the Rubicon—to visit

What took the place of this denominational spirituality was at first “just nice evangelistic church services” (Willard)—lacking the kind of rigor and maturity embodied in the term “discipleship.” Committed evangelicals who recognized that lives were not changing in their churches increasingly began to peer across the Great Divide into Catholic traditions. [I just don’t get it –  why would Willard, Foster, etc. think that spiritual disciplines are more beneficial for Christian growth than evangelistic services, Bible study, etc.?] Willard, who attended a Southern California Evangelical Friends church pastored by the young, fresh-from-Fuller Richard Foster [actually Willard co-pastored with Foster and outshined Foster in his contemplative prowess], remembers that in the late 1960s, Foster discovered “a little Catholic nun who played the guitar and sang,” and invited her to perform at their church. “A lot of [Evangelical Friends] people were worried by this, because they had been raised in opposition to Catholicism.  Some people, though, were touched.”

In fact, the door to Catholic spirituality was opened for American Protestants by a number of events and influences. 1960 saw the election of America’s first Roman Catholic president. Vatican II opened the windows of ecumenical dialogue. Henri Nouwen came into the consciousness of lay evangelicals, opening up the desert tradition to them. The charismatic movement crossed confessional boundaries too.

By the 1970s, evangelical Protestants began going on retreats at monasteries where they experienced Catholic spirituality on the ground. [Nazarenes have told me that their denomination was going on such retreats BEFORE 1970; I wonder how many additional denominations were  going on these retreats before 1970.] They would come back refreshed, Willard remembers [so obviously Willard took part in these], and others would worry about their orthodoxy. An evangelical speaker at one of the movement’s better-known colleges [what speaker and what college?] exemplified the confusion: “Why are all these people going to Catholic monasteries,” he asked, “when we have all these good books here?” The truth was supposed to take care of everything. The trouble was, it did not.

The trend of engagement with Catholic spirituality continued, and of course Foster’s 1978 Celebration would become a great part of that. Nor did the trend stop with the Catholic Church. Though the defection of Campus Crusade leaders in the 1960s to Orthodoxy [Greek Orthodox, etc.] was more an isolated event than a bellwether, Willard says that today, “I constantly find pastors who discover the Philokalia—the great treasure on the Christian life of the Greek and Russian church—and people wallow in the riches of it.”

What Was Recovered, And What It Meant

What, then, has really been “recovered” by those who have found sustenance in historical Christian spirituality[i.e. primarily Catholic mysticism]? Willard offers this theological definition of the term “spiritual disciplines”: “Doing what we can do with our body, mind, spirit [interesting – these three terms are also used by New Agers], to receive from God power or ability to do what we cannot do by human effort.” Peterson offers a different slant, less focused on activities that we do or perform: “There’s a certain learned passivity about the spiritual life that is hard to program and hard to make popular. People who give leadership in spiritual direction [Spiritual Directors], the good ones, that’s basically what they’re doing: they’re trying to train us and teach us how not to be in control of our lives; to enter into what God is doing already.”

Of course, for most of us, experience has preceded definition. “People would experiment with solitude or silence,” says Willard, “and they would find themselves becoming less angry, or no longer contemptuous.” A quick check with the gospels would reveal these practical values, hidden there in plain sight. Discipleship, which for many evangelicals had meant nothing more than a certain kind of evangelism or Bible memorization [sorry to tell you this, Foster and company, this is true Christianity], would suddenly come into focus as “a way of living with Jesus so that the fruit of the spirit begin to work their way into our system” (Foster).

A key element of the evangelical recovery of spirituality has been the return to history [i.e. a return to the reading of Catholic mystics, primarily]. As models for imitation, the “communion of saints” is an untapped power among Protestants. This is what Foster describes as he first encountered such figures as A Kempis, Saint Patrick, Francis, Teresa, and Augustine—and among these, Protestants such as Bonhoeffer and Hudson Taylor, his heroes as a young man. Foster describes his encounter: “I saw a vision for a way of life that can produce a truly good person—that is, a person penetrated throughout by love, a person who can see everything in the light of God’s overriding governance for good, a person who can stand in the most difficult of circumstances, a person who has the power to overcome evil and do what’s right.”

Hitting a Wall

Despite the popularity of such [primarily Catholic mystic] historical resources since the 1970s, the evangelical move toward spiritual ressourcement [Spiritual Formation] seems to have stalled out [supposedly]. Discipline requires, by definition, submission. Still marked by the antitraditionalism and pragmatism of their fundamentalist roots, evangelicals seem by and large unwilling to submit their spiritual growth to anything that looks like a mediating practice or tradition. They start from the assumption of unmediated access to the throne of God [this is no assumption – born again evangelicals DO have access to the throne of God via prayer] and rush ahead in fevered activism. Evangelical leadership is not helping. Foster observes that the ABCs of evangelical ministry are still “attendance, buildings, and cash” [does Foster really believe that is all that evangelicals are doing?] rather than the basics of discipleship [Spiritual Formation]. True, many evangelicals have been opened to the riches of Christian spiritual tradition, but we have barely scratched the surface.

At its heart, the failure seems one of theological formation. Evangelical theological education has in many ways, reflects Houston, “failed as an educative process for the soul.” Overwhelming the crucial impulse to spiritual formation has been the tendency of many evangelical seminarians to “play to the gallery of academia—seeking intellectual respectability.” [I disagree with this assessment – there are very few Christian colleges and seminaries today that are not teaching Spiritual Formation with its occultish contemplative prayer/contemplative spirituality practices.] In other words, modern evangelical seminaries are still engaged in the famous medieval debate between the mystic Bernard of Clairvaux and the scholastic Peter Abelard: “Is knowledge for knowledge’s sake or for the love of God?” The burden of their response seems to have fallen on Abelard’s side.

The fault is not often that of the students. A syndrome of disconnection between theology and spirituality marks most seminary programs. Willard observes, “most of the programs of spiritual formation in evangelical seminaries remain outside the theology departments, marginalized from the mainstream of seminary life and thought.” As a result, although evangelical seminarians have dabbled in the “spiritual classics,” their theology has not caught up to their practice. Spiritual formation teachings have not been rooted in theological understandings about who God is and how we relate to him.

Emblematic of this disconnect is the fact that the most notable champions of evangelical spiritual ressourcement have come from outside the theological guild. Foster and Peterson are pastors, Willard a philosopher, and Houston a geologist. We owe them much, but without theologians willing to embrace broader definitions [broader definitions? – there is only one definition] of “being saved”—definitions that go beyond “going to heaven” to the “living out” of a graced life on earth—spirituality would seem destined to languish, an orphan among the disciplines of our seminaries.

A Cloud The Size of a Man’s Fist

Yet, there is a glimmer of change. We see it in Wheaton College’s Sixteenth Annual Theology Conference, held in April of 2007. Under the guidance of the late Robert Webber, this annual meeting of evangelical theologians took as its theme “The Ancient Faith for the Church’s Future.” The tone was set by the call for papers, which rejoiced that “one of the most promising developments among evangelical Protestants is the recent ‘discovery’ of the rich biblical, spiritual, and theological treasures to be found within the early church.” Evangelicals, it said, are beginning to “reach back behind the European Enlightenment for patterns and models of how to faithfully read Scripture, worship, and engage a religiously diverse culture.”

The titles of some of these papers indicate this awakening. Paul Kim examined “Apatheia and Atonement: Christology of Cyril of Alexandria for the Contemporary Grammar of Salvation”; Darren Sarisky explored “Basil of Caesarea on Theological Exegesis”; John Witvliet advocated for “Recovering the Genius of Ancient Liturgical Forms and Patterns: Some Instructive Fourth Century Models of Prayer and Liturgical Catechesis”; Bradley Nassif looked to “The Ecumenical Councils (C.E. 325–787): The Untamable Life of the Spirit in the Orthodox Reception of Truth.”

The energy of these and other papers indicates an evangelical trend not just among scholars but also among graduate students. Conference presenter D. H. Williams, author of the illuminating Evangelicals and Tradition (2005), testified to the recent upsurge of evangelical commitment to the theological study of patristics (the study of the “church fathers” in the first seven centuries of the church): “Who would have thought, a decade ago, that one of the most vibrant and serious fields of Christian study at the beginning of the twenty-first century would be the ancient church fathers? There has been an opening of new avenues, especially among free-church Protestants, by the almost overnight popularity of bishops and monks, martyrs and apologists, philosophers and historians who first fashioned a Christian culture 1500 years ago.”7 One is reminded of Thomas Oden’s observation, “The sons and daughters of modernity are rediscovering the neglected beauty of classical Christian teaching. It is a moment of joy, of beholding anew what had been nearly forgotten, of hugging a lost child.”8

Admittedly, these signs still amount to a cloud the size of a man’s fist on evangelicalism’s theological horizon. But could the evangelical movement toward traditional spiritual disciplines [primarily Catholic mysticism] be poised to receive a much-needed theological makeover? Is evangelical theology about to catch up with evangelical spiritual practice?…

NOTES

1 Richard Lovelace, “The Sanctification Gap,” Theology Today 29:4 (January, 1973): 363–369.

2 D. L. Moody, “The Gospel Awakening” (Chicago: Fairbanks and Palmer, 1885), 667.

3 See Nathan Hatch, Democratization of American Christianity (Yale University Press, 1991) and Richard Hofstadter, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life (Vintage, 1966).

4 See the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.

5 Hatch, Democratization.

6 On the history of evangelicalism’s anti-Catholicism, see Mark Noll and Caroline Nystrom, Is the Reformation Over?: An Evangelical Assessment of Contemporary Roman Catholicism (Baker Academic, 2008).

7 D. H. Williams, “Similis et Dissimilis: Gauging our Expectations of the Early Fathers,” paper given at the Sixteenth Annual Wheaton Theology Conference, April 12–14, 2007. Note that this and other papers from the conference have been published in Ancient Faith for the Church’s Future, ed. Mark Husbands and Jeffrey P. Greenman (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008). My brief review of that book may be found at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/booksandresources/reviews/alexandriawheaton.html.

8 Thomas Oden, After Modernity . . . What? (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 14.

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I have been searching for quotes from biblically sound Quakers. More specifically, Quakers in the Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends, from the years 1854 (the Gurneyite Schism) through 1965. Members of Ohio Yearly Meeting also referred to themselves as Gurneyite Friends, Orthodox Friends, Holiness Friends, and more recently, Evangelical Friends.

I came across the Ohio Yearly Meeting’s 1877 and 1879 statements condemning George Fox’s teaching of the “Inner Light.” Following are a few excerpts. I have emphasized certain points by bolding and [bracketing]:

The Meeting of Ministers and Elders of Ohio Yearly Meeting in 1877, “was brought into deep exercise and travail concerning unsound and mystical views and expositions which appear here and there in certain of our members, in opposition to the plain Scriptural doctrines of man’s darkness and deadness in sin by nature, and his redemption therefrom by the Lord Jesus Christ… it was concluded that a non-acceptance of this doctrine is a manifest disqualification for the station of Minister or elder…

We do not believe that there is any principle or quality in the soul of man, innate or otherwise, which, even though rightly used, will ever save a single soul; but that it pleased God, by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believed; and the Holy Spirit is sent to convince the ungodly of sin, who, upon repentance towards God, and faith in Jesus Christ who died for us, are justified by his blood; and we repudiate the so-called doctrine of “Inner Light,” or “the gift of a portion of the Holy Spirit in the soul of every man,” as dangerous, unsound, and unscriptural.

In 1879 the following minute was added:

“… [To teach the Inner Light] is to imply that a capacity to receive salvation, is a portion of salvation, and that Light in the heart from Christ, however dim, is actually Christ Himself… It is a dangerous mysticism which knows no distinction between a Principle or an Influence, and Deity himself, continually confusing the two…”

Source: Minutes of the Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends, 1879, pp. 28-30

I have access to additional resources – mainly by Edward Mott – discussing the OYM position against the Inner Light teaching. I have had some strong favorable feedback, expressing interest in reading more about the OYM position. I hope to place more of these OYM writings online.

Interesting – Holiness/Evangelical Friends back in 1877 condemning the “Inner Light” teaching. Yet today it seems that many members of the EFCI (Evangelical Friends Church International), especially outside the EFC-ER, see no problem associating with non-evangelical Quakers. These evangelical Friends seem to be condoning (or at least accomodating) “unsound and mystical views and expositions” including the “Inner Light” teaching. I, on the other hand, believe very strongly that we should separate ourselves from Quakers who hold such ungodly, antibiblical teachings.

Click here for my more recent blog on this, entitled “Quaker beliefs re: the “Inner Light” and salvation.”

By the way, I could not help but notice the 1877-1879 references to the “mystic” teachings of George Fox (considered one of the earliest Protestant mystics).

Interestly, Richard Foster introduced Spiritual Formation (via his book Celebration of Discipline) while pastoring an Evangelical Friends church. In essence, Richard Foster is a “modern Christian mystic”, following in the path of George Fox. (However, unlike George Fox, Foster incorporates practices from many other “faith traditions”/world religions, not just Quakerism.)

Regarding the teachings of Foster and other modern Christian mystics – why is it that the EFCI (like so many other evangelical denominations today) is not condemning the teachings of Spiritual Formation? Members of  the EFCI who hold to Spiritual Formation know that it includes the Spiritual Disciplines. And they take part in numerous practices under the discipline of contemplative prayer/contemplative spirituality. Do they not realize that these contemplative prayer/ contemplative spirituality practices are inherently mystic/ New Age-ish/occultish? God help the EFCI!

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I have been seeing numerous references to Catholic mysticism when researching Spiritual Formation, the Emergent/Emerging Church, and occult Contemplative Spirituality.

Another quasi-Christian stream of mysticism is Quaker mysticism. Yet Quaker mysticism is not nearly as “popular” as Catholic mysticism.  Even Spiritual Formation pioneer Richard Foster (who has labeled himself a Quaker) – has quoted Catholic mystics much more often than Quaker mystics.

There is also another, more recent quasi-Christian stream of mysticism: evangelical mysticism – A.W. Tozer, etc. This stream also is not nearly as popular as Catholic mysticism.

I Googled the following search strings – here are my results (I’m sure there are overlapping results, as well as results which are not actually relevant):

[“Richard Foster” “Catholic mystics”] – about 10,500 results
[“Richard Foster” “Quaker mystics”] – about 94 results
[“Richard Foster” “evangelical mystics”] – about 483  results

[“Spiritual Formation” “Catholic mystics”] – about 2,590 results
[“Spiritual Formation” “Quaker mystics”] – about 66 results
[“Spiritual Formation” “evangelical mystics”] – about 87 results

[“Emerging Church” “Catholic mystics”] – about 12,000 results
[“Emerging Church” “Quaker mystics”] – about 60 results
[“Emerging Church” “evangelical mystics”] – about 487 results

[“Emergent Church” “Catholic mystics”] – about 3,330 results
[“Emergent Church” “Quaker mystics”] – about 47 results
[“Emergent Church” “evangelical mystics”] – about 204  results

[“Contemplative Spirituality” “Catholic mystics”] – about 10,000 results
[“Contemplative Spirituality” “Quaker mystics”] – about 61 results
[“Contemplative Spirituality” “evangelical mystics”] – about 28 results

[“centering prayer” “Catholic mystics”] – about 10,500 results
[“centering prayer” “Quaker mystics”]  – about 82 results
[“centering prayer” “evangelical mystics”]  – about 26 results

[“labyrinth” “Catholic mystics”] – about 9,630 results
[“labyrinth” “Quaker mystics”] – 8 results
[“labyrinth” “evangelical mystics”] –  about 6 results

[“occult” “Catholic mystics”] – about 11,900 results
[“occult” “Quaker mystics”] – about 6 results
[“occult” “evangelical mystics”] –  about 120 results

[“New Age” “Catholic mystics”] – about  13,800 results
[“New Age” “Quaker mystics”] – about 72 results
[“New Age” “evangelical mystics”] –  about 197 results

[“heretical” “Catholic mystics”] – about 11,300 results
[“heretical” “Quaker mystics”] –  about 37  results
[“heretical” “evangelical mystics”] –  about 280 results

[“false teachings” “Catholic mystics”] – about 1,090 results
[“false teachings” “Quaker mystics”] –  3 results
[“false teachings” “evangelical mystics”] –  about  35  results

[“apostasy” “Catholic mystics”] – about 11,800 results
[“apostasy” “Quaker mystics”] – 10 results
[“apostasy” “evangelical mystics”] –  about 285 results

Other Christian writers have also made the connection between Catholic mystics and Quaker mystics. For example, Ken Silva refers to Spiritual Formation’s “so-called “spiritual disciplines” largely culled from heretical Roman Catholic and Quaker mystics.” His great article on this can be found at:

http://apprising.org/2008/08/28/meditating-on-contemplativecentering-prayer/

All Catholic mystics are dangerous. But undoubtedly the most dangerous Catholic mystic is Thomas Merton. Merton makes no apology for his hybrid Catholic/Buddhist worldview. And Merton introduced Hindu-based “centering prayer” to Catholics and Protestants alike. See the following exposes of Merton and his followers:

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/merton.htm
http://www.apostasyalert.org/Merton.htm

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(revised 12/25/13)

I would like to make a plea to all born again, godly Christians. Please, please, please, SEPARATE yourself from any schools or churches which teach Spiritual Formation (SF)/Contemplative Prayer(CP), and which tout postmodern (PM)(Emerging/ Emergent/Emergence) teachings. LEAVE. Run as far away as you can, as fast as you can. And don’t let any so-called Christians – evangelical or otherwise – drag you down into these heresies. Look to the Truth of God’s Word alone, and stand strong on it.

In order to resist this End Times onslaught of SF/CS and PM teachings, we need to separate ourselves from these teachings. And we need to study what God’s Word says regarding “straying from the Truth” and “how to avoid straying from the Truth.” So here goes…

Throughout biblical history, it seems that godly people have always fallen by the wayside. Or, as Paul wrote, “made shipwreck of their faith” (I Tim. 1:19). They have always had a tendency to sin, first dabbling in disobedience (including the occult), then compromising their godly beliefs and falling away from their trust in God. The very first example, of course, was when Satan tempted Eve. He lied to her, saying, “hath God said…?” (Gen. 3:1, KJV) If Eve had turned her back on Satan (separated from him and ran away), he would not have had a chance to tempt her.

I found this passage in Deuteronomy to be relevant regarding SF/CP and PM teachings:

9) When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. 10) There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. 11) Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. 12) For all that do these things are an abomination unto the LORD: and because of these abominations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee. 13) Thou shalt be perfect with the LORD thy God. 14) For these nations, which thou shalt possess, hearkened unto observers of times, and unto diviners: but as for thee, the LORD thy God hath not suffered thee so to do. (Deut. 18:9-13, KJV).

How much more direct can God’s Word get? God specifically warns us to avoid/separate ourselves from all occult practices. No matter what those in SF/CP and PM tell you, they are (either knowingly or unknowingly) getting involved in occult practices. So, avoid these individuals!!

Of course, the above-mentioned passage in Deuteronomy lists only some of the occult practices which God specifically forbids. [I will plan to list additional forbidden practices as I locate the Bible passages.]

Individuals involved in SF/CP and PM teachings might respond that they are NOT engaging in occult practices. They may insist that they are practicing centering prayer, the labyrinth, etc. in a “Christian” way. This is impossible!! Suppose they were presented with an Ouija board. Could they use the Ouija board in a “Christian” way? Of course not! In the same way, it is impossible to use centering prayer, the labyrinth, and all other inherently occult contemplative practices in a “Christian” way. And evangelicals practicing CP almost always become more open, eventually, to more blatantly occult practices. Several are mentioned in the Deuteronomy passage above: horoscopes (“observers of times”), and, attempting to contact one’s guardian angel who is actually a demonic impersonator (“a consulter with familiar spirits”).

Another point – evangelicals into SF/CP and PM teachings admire the writings of numerous Catholic mystics. (Once they “get into” Catholicism mysticism, they may eventually move on to studying Hindu mysticism, Buddhist mysticism, etc.) But even Catholicism, taken by itself, is full of occult practices such as idol worship and contact with the dead. I will add links to articles exposing occultism within Catholicism, as I locate them. In regards to my original point: all born again Christians should SEPARATE themselves from Catholicism entirely, since Catholicism is so rife with occult practices.

Occultism is demonic, and it is inseparable from mysticism. All those involved in mysticism – whether it be evangelical mysticism, Catholic mysticism, Hindu mysticism, Buddhist mysticism, the New Age movement, or whatever – are engaging in blatantly demonic rebellion against the Lord our God. We as born again, biblically sound Christians are truly engaged in a spiritual battle against all those involved in any kind of CP/mysticism. Remember Ephesians Chapter 6?

10) Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11) Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12) For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. 13) Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14) Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; 15) And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16) Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. 17) And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: 18) Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints… (Eph. 6:10-18, KJV)

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Following are some serious questions to ask all your pastors, professors, etc. who are teaching Spiritual Formation, Emergent Church concepts, and Contemplative Spirituality.  Although addressed to Mennonite Brethren, the questions can be posed to leaders of any denomination. Click here for the entire blog.

Now for the questions:

Isn’t it time for some important questions to be asked of those in leadership? Here are a few ideas:

Do you actually think it’s biblical to return to Roman Catholic practices?

Do you actually believe that the first century church practiced contemplative spirituality?

Have you forgotten why you call yourself Mennonites?

Do you think that under the circumstances it might be more appropriate to change your name in keeping with other emerging terms (un-christian, new kind of Christian, re-imagining, etc.) and call yourselves un-Mennonites, ex-mennonites, or post-Mennonites?

Do you honestly believe it is spirituality beneficial to promote Jesuit spirituality and practice the prayer methods of Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits whose oath is to the Vatican?

Do you honestly think that it is beneficial to endorse Benedictine rules and rhythms to the people under your leadership?

Are you concerned that so many in your churches and seminaries are spewing forth the language and terminology of the emerging church and Roman Catholic mystics?

Have you forgotten your first love, Jesus Christ?

Do you realize or care that there are many concerned biblical Christians who have had to leave their beloved churches because of these teachings which you have condoned and promoted?

Will your Bible seminaries ever make the cut for this list?

Are you even aware that you are you teaching a mixture of truth and error?

Do you teach the difference between the holy and profane?

Or are you leading your sheep down the ecumenical path to Babylon?

Are you teaching discernment or the acceptance of neo-monasticism and emerging church theology?

Are you willing to take your stand on God’s Word or do you back away from controversy?

Are you protecting the sheep from the wolves?

Do you worry at all about leading those under your headship astray?

Are you at all concerned about your accountability to God?


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