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Archive for the ‘Basics of Spiritual Formation’ Category

Much has been written showing that most contemplative practices within Spiritual Formation have been drawn from “other faith traditions.” “Other faith traditions” is a Spiritual Formation “code word” for other world religions – including the New Age movement.

The books and articles of so-called “Christian” contemplative writers are filled with references to contemplative practices from other world religions. Yet born again Christian readers are drawn to their writings, accepting and practicing them without question. For the life of me, I cannot understand how Christians who claim to be born again and Bible believing can accept these writers without question, incorporating their ungodly, nonchristian practices into their daily Christian faith and practices.

Following is an excerpt describing just a few examples of “Christian” contemplative writers referring to other world religions. The entire article by Carol Brooks, entitled “Contemplating the Alternative,” can be found here:

In fact quite a few of the major players in the contemplative prayer movement have incorporated Eastern Religions into Christianity. Although many think that people like Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating were devout Christians, the truth is that they were all Catholics who not only could not see through Rome’s foundational heresies, but promoted the integration of pagan practices such as Zen Buddhism and Hindu yoga with Christianity.

In the foreword to Thomas Ryan’s 1993 book, Disciplines For Christian Living, Henri Nouwen wrote:

The author shows a wonderful openness to the gifts of Buddhism, Hinduism and Moslem religion. He discovers their great wisdom for the spiritual life of the Christian and does not hesitate to bring that wisdom home.

While in his own book Pray to Live (p.19-28) he says the following about Thomas Merton:

Merton had encountered Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Taoism and Vedanta 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.

Other Evangelicals followed suit. In Celebration Of Discipline Richard Foster heartily endorses Tilden Edward’s book, Spiritual Friend, which says:

“This mystical stream [contemplative prayer and other monastic traditions] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality (and to that of Sufis Moslems)…this exchange, together with the more popular Eastern impact in the West through transcendental meditation, Hatha Yoga, the martial arts, and through many available courses on Eastern religions in universities, has aided a recent rediscovery of Christian apophatic mystical tradition.… [Pgs. 18 and 19]

While Contemplative Prayer is widely accepted as Christian, Eastern religions such Buddhism, Hinduism, Sufism and Occult/New Age devotees have long practiced an almost identical form of ‘prayer’, which however, does not mean the same thing to every person experiencing it, since what is considered sacred varies from group to group. The experience is therefore interpreted according to the beliefs and practices of the practitioner.

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Regarding Spiritual Formation, I must admit that I do know various people who are into it, who seem fairly orthodox/biblical otherwise. The danger, according to numerous discernment ministries, is that the core of Spiritual Formation is contemplative spirituality (also called contemplative prayer). And contemplative spirituality is made up of many different levels. Someone can start out at a level which appears to be “normal prayer”, then begin exploring numerous “deeper” levels of practices which are more dangerous.

I have never seen any biblical guidelines put forth by teachers of Spiritual Formation, explaining where to draw the line between what is biblical and what is dangerous.  Quite the contrary. Recently, on Spiritual Formation pioneer Richard Foster’s own website (www.renovare.us), there was a statement worded something like this: “We encourage you to explore contemplative practices from other  faith traditions [i.e. other world religions].” Scary stuff!

Few if any articles favoring Spiritual Formation will mention its dangerous aspects.

Now for some links:

1) Here is an article on its dangers, from Lighthouse Trails, one of the most thorough discernment websites critiquing Spiritual Formation:

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=695&zoom_highlight=spiritual+formation

2) An article on Foster et al, from another go-to discernment website for info on Spiritual Formation – Apprising Ministries:

http://apprising.org/2010/07/26/the-inward-journey-of-contemplativecentering-prayer/

3) Here is a blog I wrote that discusses its dangers. Actually, most of my blog quotes from a far longer article. Here’s my link:

https://davemosher.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/what-is-spiritual-formation-and-why-is-it-so-dangerous/

4) Now check out Richard Foster’s website, http://www.renovare.us. The website presents a number of principles of Spiritual Formation. For example, the following article describes various disciplines including Meditation:

http://www.renovare.us/SPIRITUALRENEWAL/PracticingLikeJesus/WhyPracticeLikeJesus/tabid/2518/Default.aspx

Foster has claimed elsewhere to be an “evangelical” Quaker. Yet reading between the lines here, it seems pretty obvious to me that Foster is extremely liberal. Plus, he endorses the interfaith movement (and practices from Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.):

And this is just scratching the surface of the dangers in Spiritual Formation.

For those who are still skeptical, take a look at the Nazarene Church denomination. It seems that of all evangelical denominations, this denomination is perhaps the most deeply ensnared in Spiritual Formation.  In recent years, the denomination has become dominated – even headed –  by individuals endorsing Spiritual Formation (and all its dangerous practices). And the denomination is literally being torn apart – countless concerned members and their families are leaving in search of denominations which are still biblical.  Check out this article (you will notice that Spiritual Formation is intrinsically tied with the Emerging Church movement):

http://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/nazarene-denomination-losing-its-way/

Bottom line – stay away from Spiritual Formation. It is impossible to separate its “safe” aspects from its dangerous contemplative prayer/contemplative spirituality practices.

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Spiritual Formation (SF) has been around for a long time. But it was not until the publication of Richard J. Foster’s book in 1978, entitled “Celebration of Discipline,” that SF started to catch on among evangelicals. Personally, I did not hear of SF until 1993, but in my nievety I never bothered to research it. When I finally researched it in 2010, I was shocked! Why is it that so many evangelical Christians have never heard of SF if it has been infiltrating evangelicalism since 1978? Perhaps because it is being “snuck” in via evangelical colleges, universities and seminaries.

So on to my point – what exactly is SF, and why is it so dangerous? There are many discernment articles on the Internet discussing this, but I will quote from just one at this time. The entire article can be found on the website of Hungry Hearts Ministries, at:

http://hungryheartsministries.com/id447.html

Here are some excerpts:

There is a movement advancing at lightning speed throughout the Body of Christ today. This movement promotes a spirituality that is corrupting believers from the simplicity found in Christ by weaving New Age—Occult precepts and practices into the very fabric of their life and faith….

Theological seminaries within literally every denomination are preparing graduates to facilitate this spirituality in the local churches through “Spiritual Formation” programs…  And graduates of these seminaries are trained to introduce certain spiritual disciplines into the lives and prayer habits of believers. When the term “spiritual discipline” is used, it is almost always referring to the incorporating of “contemplative spirituality” into the life of church members. Many churches are even introducing contemplative spirituality into children’s programs. Roman Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, Charismatics, along with non-Pentecostal evangelicals are being influenced, through almost identical Spiritual Formation programs that embrace an ungodly and unbiblical form of prayer called Contemplative Prayer. Contemplative prayer is, by far, the main practice promoted by Spiritual Formation programs…

Contemplative prayer is not prayer at all, but rather a “Christianized” form of unbiblical, eastern meditation which is nothing more than, TM—transcendental meditation. Spiritual Formation programs promoting the “Spiritual Discipline” of contemplative prayer along with various other occult practices are clearly forbidden in the scriptures.  Spiritual disciplines include, but are not limited to, yoga and labyrinth walking. These are also promoted, in addition to contemplative prayer, within the more liberal evangelical congregations. Do not assume your denomination has not already jumped on the contemplative bandwagon…

All who embrace contemplative spirituality, at some point, begin to hold the traditional beliefs of evangelical Bible-believing Christians in utter contempt—especially those concerning the importance of the written word of God and the importance of soul winning… All who embrace this spirituality begin losing their burden for soul-winning—although they seldom realize this is what is happening. Aggressive evangelism becomes discouraged and relationship evangelism is encouraged. That may sound good on the surface but denies the fact that it is the gospel of Jesus Christ—and nothing else—that is the power of God unto salvation. Again, do not think your fellowship is immune to this influence. Spiritual Formation programs are taking root within every denomination and within every belief platform of evangelical Christianity…

Believers should be alerted to the fact that the modern day contemplative spirituality, promoted within Protestant evangelical fellowships, descends from the Roman Catholic mystics (who in turn adopted it from eastern, non-Christian, belief systems).  Contemplative prayer cannot be fully embraced without referencing, at some point, the Roman Catholic mystics—Saint Teresa of Avila, Saint Ignatius, Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, The Desert Fathers (fathers of contemplative prayer) are just a few of the mystics. However, these may not be mentioned at first while introducing “Spiritual Disciplines” to non-Catholic evangelicals…

In more conservative denominations, the spiritual disciplines may be limited, for the time being, to contemplative prayer.  Among more liberal evangelicals, yoga, labyrinth walking and other occult practices may be, unapologetically, included in the “disciplines”…

One of the first observable fruits of contemplative spirituality is an ecumenical mindset which fails to discern important doctrinal differences between the Protestant and Roman Catholic religions. All, both Pentecostals and non-Pentecostals alike, who are experiencing paradigm shifts by means of these “disciplines,” become enamored with eastern culture. Both their words and writings are peppered with frequent references to the un-spirituality of the “western” church. Peace, peace, love, love and “Don’t Judge!” are becoming words of the day. But the same ones whose conversation is so liberally sprinkled with these also have no problem with criticizing—often viciously—those with more “traditional” beliefs. All contemplatives eventually experience a failure to understand why there are religious differences at all—between anyone in any religion—who is truly seeking God using any means. The prevailing attitude becomes, “Seek God. It doesn’t matter how you do it—just do it—he’ll accept you regardless.”  Bible believing Christians know this is simply not true. Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth and the only life…

It is a frightening fact that the list of evangelical, contemplative authors is growing daily.  The dangers of contemplative, experiential, spirituality are severe enough that Bible believing Christians should give anyone promoting these beliefs a very wide berth. When allowed to run its course, the end result of embracing this spirituality is a complete paradigm shift—not only away from the simplicity found in Christ, but altogether away from the fact that Jesus Christ is the only way, the only truth, and the only life…

As I mentioned, this is just one of many articles exposing Spiritual Formation. I will plan to revise this post by adding more links to introductory articles – DM

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