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Posts Tagged ‘Dallas Willard’

Below I’ve reposted Ken Silva’s blog re: a great testimony by an Episcopalian. I especially like the expose of Dallas Willard, who was once an Evangelical Friends (EFCI) co-pastor with Richard Foster – and Foster’s mentor in heretical, occultish Spiritual Formation. Willard downplays and criticizes the gospel of salvation, of “the Blood and the Cross.” Check out this excerpt, in which Brian McLaren refers to Willard’s book The Divine Conspiracy:

Atonement-centered understandings of the gospel, [Willard] says, create vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else. He calls us to move beyond a “gospel of sin management” – to the gospel of the kingdom of God. So, rather than focusing on an alternative theory of atonement, I’d suggest we ponder the meaning and mission of the kingdom of God. – Brian McLaren (Online source)[emphasis mine]

[For some anti-Cross views of Brian McLaren’s, an Evangelical Friends adjunct professor, see the Endnotes below.]

Dallas Willard, Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Tony Campolo, and other Emergents have been making the rounds of the Evangelical Friends (EFCI) as well as many other evangelical denominations. (Richard Foster is retired I think.)

For years, pastors in the EFCI and many other evangelical denominations have been New Evangelical/Emerging – often DOWNPLAYING/OMITTING the gospel message of “the Blood and the Cross” (except perhaps during Easter time) so they don’t turn off unsaved “seekers” and send them scurrying off to “less offensive” churches.

Willard, McLaren, Sweet, Campolo, and other Emergents seem to be drawing New Evangelical/Emerging pastors (in the EFCI and elsewhere) further into apostacy, to become mainline/liberal/Emergent, to actually CRITICIZE the gospel message of “the Blood and the Cross.” Scary – and blasphemous.

Back to Ken Silva’s blog. The testimony giver proceeds to describe Episcopalian coworkers as follows:

I went to work for an Episcopal church shortly after college… I think I finally understand how they think, how they can put so much emphasis on the kingdom of God (which they define as service to others) and virtually ignore the sinful conduct rampant here (‘wedding’ reception for a gay couple here next week). These people, my co-workers and friends, believe in an inner light, a True Self (I remember that term from class) that is intimately connected to the Divine. Everyone has this light, so we are all a part of God. As such, there is no need for a substitutionary penal atonement (i.e. the cross) because there is no separation to atone for.

This teaching sounds almost identical to the teaching of the various non-evangelical Quaker denominations. Interesting.

I have reposted Ken Silva’s entire blog below. Click here for the original site of this blog.

AM TESTIMONY RE. CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY/MYSTICISM

By on Sep 13, 2012 in AM Missives, Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism, Current Issues, Features

One who is taught the word must share all good things with the one who teaches.(Galatians 6:6)

In the interest of showing that things are not all bad, may the Lord be praised as a reader of Apprising Ministries shares the following encouraging testimony of God’s faithfulness:

Thank you for your website. I have been using it to further my personal study for some time now. It has truly been a blessing.

I was raised in a Bible-believing church and home, saved as a child and a missionary as a teenager, so I was first exposed to this sort of emerging spirituality when I went to work for an Episcopal church shortly after college. The lead priest there (along with several others) routinely teaches courses covering all kinds of mysticism and contemplative spirituality. He invited me to attend one of his classes, so I did.

Nothing he taught in that class made me feel comfortable, although I couldn’t put my finger on a reason. Several times in my notes, I wrote, “What about the cross?” Nearly two years have passed and I still couldn’t figure out why this place, my workplace, makes my spirit uneasy. The people here are loving and kind, they do great acts of service in the community. Yet there is something missing.

Today I read your article Brian McLaren and Evangelical Panentheism and this quote you referenced made it all begin to click:

Dallas Willard also addresses this issue in The Divine Conspiracy. Atonement-centered understandings of the gospel, he says, create vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else. He calls us to move beyond a “gospel of sin management” – to the gospel of the kingdom of God. So, rather than focusing on an alternative theory of atonement, I’d suggest we ponder the meaning and mission of the kingdom of God.

I think I finally understand how they think, how they can put so much emphasis on the kingdom of God (which they define as service to others) and virtually ignore the sinful conduct rampant here (‘wedding’ reception for a gay couple here next week). These people, my co-workers and friends, believe in an inner light, a True Self (I remember that term from class) that is intimately connected to the Divine. Everyone has this light, so we are all a part of God. As such, there is no need for a substitutionary penal atonement (i.e. the cross) because there is no separation to atone for.

It follows, then, that the only “sins” we commit are those that do harm to others (ergo, to God), which is why they can, without so much as a flinch, condone homosexuality but at the same time condemn those (like me) who fail to practice “tolerance” because we insist that there are such thing as moral absolutes. It is also why they can place acts of service (e.g. to the poor – extremely important here) above acts of evangelism (which display intolerance of others’ belief systems).

Contrast this with my understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is that we are born sinners, are separated from God, and are in need of a Savior to reconcile us to Him. I do believe in a “Punitive Father” but one who only punishes when rejected after repeated attempts to redeem us – and even then it is less punishment than letting us have our own way. To those that call out to Him, He is merciful and loving and wants to show us the boundlessness of His grace – but only to those who accept His gift of salvation.

As I said, I’d been searching for nearly two years for a way to wrap my mind around what seems to be a warped – but strangely appealing – theological view. Your article made it fall into place for me. Thank you so much for your faithful service to God through your website.

Further reading

ENDNOTES

Dallas Willard and Brian McLaren both have Evangelical Friends connections. And both have an anti-Cross theology. Check out this excerpt regarding McLaren, in this blog by Ken Silva. Silva writes:

… This would then be a credible explanation for McLaren’s own personal hedging whenever he’s asked about the Gospel:

Theory of Atonement

Could you elaborate on your personal theory of atonement? If God wanted to forgive us, why didn’t he just forgive us? Why did torturing Jesus make things better?

This is such an important and difficult question. I’d recommend, for starters, you read “Recovering the Scandal of the Cross” (by Baker and Green). There will be a sequel to this book in the next year or so, and I’ve contributed a chapter to it.

Short answer: I think the gospel is a many faceted diamond, and atonement is only one facet, and legal models of atonement (which predominate in western Christianity) are only one small portion of that one facet.

Dallas Willard also addresses this issue in “The Divine Conspiracy.” Atonement-centered understandings of the gospel, he says, create vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else. He calls us to move beyond a “gospel of sin management” – to the gospel of the kingdom of God. So, rather than focusing on an alternative theory of atonement, I’d suggest we ponder the meaning and mission of the kingdom of God. (Online source)

 

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(revised 01/10/14)


(image source: http://provoketive.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/hearing_from_god-500×250.jpg)

I mean no disrespect to the late Dallas Willard. But the truth is, he was a major heretical impetus to Richard Foster’s writing of the bestselling, heretical Celebration of Discipline.  Willard’s false teachings (as well as those of Foster, etc.) need to be exposed for what they were/are.

A number of articles have been written about the “Inner Light/Inward Light” heresy of George Fox and the Quakers. I too am researching this; I have written blogs about Quaker heresies here, as well as reposting the articles and blogs of others.

As Evangelical Friends co-pastors, Richard Foster and his Spiritual Formation mentor Dallas Willard taught the Quaker concepts of 1) the Inner Light (the light of Christ in every man), 2) direct revelation/immediate revelation/illumination, etc. Of course these teachings have been around for centuries (at least since the Gnostics I think). Many “non-evangelical” Quakers today believe in a “hybrid” of the Quaker Inner Light teachings and New Age beliefs (Christ consciousness, the inner voice, etc.).

So how exactly do “Inner Light” Quakers believe God speaks to us? Let me illustrate. Suppose a Spiritual Director were to say to a nonchristian (who has never heard the gospel of salvation), “Go sit on top of a mountain, cross your legs and hold your hands up praising God.  Engage in contemplative prayer, empty your mind, and then God can speak to you.” (Remember, this person has never heard the gospel, never read the Bible, has no concept of the Trinity, the Atonement, etc.) According to the Inner Light teaching, Christ is already in every man. (This is some mysterious presence of Christ – not the Holy Spirit.) So the person would supposedly receive direct revelations from God via the presence of Christ within him. Then – when he finally reads a  Bible – it will line up with the direct revelations he received from God. The main problem here: the Inner Light teaching does NOT view God’s Word the Bible as the primary way in which God “speaks” to us. 

I came across an excellent article by Gary Gilley. His article critiques the “hearing God’s voice” teaching of Dallas Willard  – Richard Foster’s former Evangelical Friends (EFCI)  co-pastor and heretical mentor in Spiritual Formation. Gilley’s article has been reposted on some other major discernment websites. I have reposted his article below; click here for Gilley’s original article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets]. And I have made a few grammatical corrections, such as underlining the titles of books.

Note – Willard was just one of many who taught/is teaching the heresy of “hearing God’s voice”. Justin Taylor writes here:

Books like Dallas Willard’s Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God and Bill Hybels’s The Power of a Whisper: Hearing God, Having the Guts to Respond and Henry and Richard Blackaby’s Hearing God’s Voice continue to popularize the idea that a true relationship of intimacy with God requires ongoing private and personal revelations as a normative part of the Christian life.[emphasis mine-DM]

Now on to Gilley’s article:

“Hearing God, Developing a Conversational Relationship With God”
Written by Gary Gilley


(image source: http://images.betterworldbooks.com/159/Hearing-God-9781596440555.jpg)

Hearing God was previous published by Regal (1984), then by Harper (1993), and finally InterVarsity (1999) under the tital [sic] of In Search of Guidance. This updated and expanded edition is published under the Formatio wing of InterVarsity Press which offers numerous books promoting spiritual formation and “Christian” mysticism. At the heart of both spiritual formation and mysticism is God speaking beyond the pages of Scripture. For this reason Hearing God is an important book, written by one of the premiere leaders within the movement. That Willard is merely updating the same message he delivered nearly 30 years ago shows that the spiritual formation movement has not changed its basic teachings. And what are they? In essence, that we can live “the kind of life where hearing God is not an uncommon occurrence” (p. 12), for “hearing God is but one dimension of a richly interactive relationship and obtaining guidance is but one facet of hearing God” (p. 13). In other words, the maturing Christian should expect to hear the voice of God, independent from Scripture, on a regular basis and that voice will reveal God’s individual, specific will for his life. Such individual communication from the Lord, we are told, is absolutely essential because without it there can be no personal walk with God (pp. 26, 31, 67). And it is those who are hearing from God today who will redefine “Christian spirituality for our time” (p. 15).

This premise leads to a very practical problem, however, one Willard will address throughout the book in many ways. The problem is, how does one know that he has really heard from God? Could he not be confusing his own thoughts, or even implanted thoughts from Satan (pp. 235-237), with the voice of God? This is even more problematic because Willard believes that while God can speak audibly or use dreams and visions, normally His voice will come as a “still small voice” heard only within our own hearts and minds. In fact, so vital is this “still small voice” that the author devotes his largest chapter to exploring what it means (chapter 5, pp. 114-153). Yet in all of his discussion on the topic, it never seems to dawn on Willard that the original “still small voice” to Elijah (1 Kings 19:12-18) was in fact an audible voice, not an inward impression or thought.

Since Willard believes that God normally speaks to us through an inner, inaudible, subjective voice (p. 130) and that it is possible that God is speaking and we do not even know it (pp. 118-120), how can we be certain when God is speaking to us? In answer Willard boldly informs us that we can only learn the voice of God through experience (pp. 9, 19, 21, 63, 143). He clearly states, “The only answer to the question, how do we know whether this is from God? is By experience” (p. 218) (emphasis his). The author will use the word “experience” over 130 times, and equivalents hundreds of times more. The mechanics of learning the voice of God is detailed on pages 217-251 but ultimately it all boils down to experience. And until we have the experience it will apparently be necessary for those who have themselves supposedly heard from God to guide us. Without such help we may not be able to detect the voice of God (p. 221). Never mind that the Scriptures never tells us how, nor supplies techniques, to know when God is speaking, nor does the Bible ever tell us that we need to learn the voice of God. This is all pure fabrication on Willard’s part. As a matter of fact every time God speaks in Scripture it is through an audible voice, never through an inner voice, impressions or feelings, and that includes Elijah’s still small voice. Willard is advocating a form of communication from God never found in the pages of Scripture; he then elevates this inner voice to the very essence of our relationship with God. He attempts to prove this not only through his own experience but also by the examples of others such as Ken Taylor, George Fox, Teresa of Avila, St. Francis, Henri Nouwen and many others (see pp. 23-27). Willard attempts to intimidate his readers as well by telling them that God’s communication in this way to early Christians was a normal experience (pp. 70, 119) (which it wasn’t), that if we are not hearing from God it may be that we are out of tune with Him (p. 90), and that the Bible and the church are inadequate for developing a personal relationship with God (pp. 140, 186).

Willard teaches many theological errors as well. For example, as might be expected the author has a low view of Scripture. He believes the Bible is God’s inspired written word given to “provide us with a general understanding of God to inspire and cultivate a corresponding faith” (p. 87). But if we want to find out what God is saying to us personally we must go beyond the Bible (p. 218). Further Willard warns us of what he calls “Bible deism,” which is the view that God communicates to us today through Scripture alone (p. 142). As a matter of fact the Bible may prove a deadly snare: “We can even destroy ourselves by Bible study; specifically, by the study of Paul’s epistles” (p. 187). And even if the Bible is inerrant in the original texts it “does not guarantee sane and sound, much less error-free, interpretations” (p. 185). Willard clearly has a postmodern understanding of Scripture (i.e. it can never be rightly understood apart from God’s present-day communications) (p. 185). In conjunction with this view of Scripture is the idea (wrongly drawn from Luke 17:7-10) that an obsession to obey God “may be the very thing that rules out being the kind of person that He calls us to be” (p. 14).

Willard teaches a number of other deviate ideas including:

• God plans His life around us (p. 47).

• We become the royal priesthood of God when we have learned to hear from God (pp. 69-71).

• Similarly we become the temple of God through the same means (p. 76).

• As well, we do not start the Christian life as the slave of God, we become His slave in time through a maturing process (p. 77).

• Based on Colossians 1:19-29 he believes the resolution of the world’s problems, although finalized at Christ’s return, begins now (p. 75).

• The gospel is not reconciliation to God by faith but, “The good news that the kingdom rule of God is available to humankind here and now” (p. 202, cf. pp. 203-204).

In order to learn to hear the subjective voice of God, Willard recommends the use of lectio divina, which is custom made for this imaginative endeavor. As a result a co-writer provides six lectio exercises to pave the way (pp. 48-51, 104-105, 132-133, 165-166, 208-209, 247-250). The ultimate goal in all of this is to have the mind of Christ (pp. 71-72) which means to Willard that “we understand what God is doing so well that we often know exactly what God is thinking and intending to do” (p. 71).

The danger of Willard’s imaginative teachings on hearing from God through an inner voice can hardly be exaggerated. Rather than turning people to the inspired authoritative Scriptures for God’s word today, Willard turns us toward the subjective, unreliable self. The result is a people who believe they have heard from God even as they turn from the Word of God itself.

FOR FURTHER READING

Amy Spreeman, God told me to tell you…

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[blog under construction – I have written a number of related blogs which I will be linking to this blog]

George Fox’s Universalist “Inner Light” teaching has had a deadly effect on Evangelicalism over the years. Two of the most recent big names who seem to have no problem with George Fox’s teaching on this are Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Foster and Willard both played a huge part in popularizing Spiritual Formation, with its occultish spiritual discipline of contemplative prayer/contemplative spirituality. Interestingly, Foster and Willard co-pastored an Evangelical Friends church, and Foster actually grew up in the Evangelical Friends. Yet Foster and Willard both seem as equally comfortable with non-evangelical universalist Quakers.

I came across the following article, written by Quaker univeralist Samuel J. Chadwick. In the article, he makes a case for uniting Universalism with evangelical Christianity via George Fox’s universalist Inner Light/Inward Light teaching. I do not approve of this article. I am merely providing this article in its entirety to show how destructive George Fox’s Inner Light/Inward Light teaching has been to Evangelicalism. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [bracketing].

The entire article is also found here.

The Inward Light: How Quakerism Unites Universalism and Christianity, by Samuel D. Caldwell

We are all well aware of the long-standing tension in the Religious Society of Friends between Christianity and Universalism. Each pole of this historic tension has had its partisans over time. The Quaker Universalist Fellowship represents one pole of the contemporary debate. Evangelical Friends International [renamed Evangelical Friends Church International] is an example of a group that represents the other. Each side of the debate claims that its own view of Quakerism is the true one, and each side feels that the other side’s position is a negation of its own. Typically, the debate is cast in logically exclusivist terms: if one position is true, then the other must of necessity be false; both cannot possibly be true at the same time.

For my part, I have never accepted the terms in which the debate has been cast. It is my own view that Quakerism is neither exclusively Christian, as some Quaker Christians would have it; nor is it exclusively Universalist, as some Quaker Universalists would have it. The fact is Quakerism has always been a powerful amalgamation of both. My thesis is that not only is it possible to be both Christian and Universalist at the same time, but it has always been the very essence and peculiar genius of Quakerism to join the two in holy matrimony! I wish to explain how this is so.

Let me start with the Universalist side of the equation. What many Christian Quakers fail to understand or accept about the Quaker approach to Christianity is that it is Universalist to the core. Universalism is thoroughly embedded in the Quaker perspective precisely because it is intrinsic to our most central and distinctive religious insight: the principle of the Inner Light.

It is helpful to remind ourselves of the essential core of this important insight. Historically, it is this: God gives to every human being who comes into the world a measure of the divine spirit as a Living Witness and a Light to be inwardly guided by. Those who learn to heed the promptings of this Light within them come to be “saved” – that is, they come into fullness and wholeness of life and right relationship with God, themselves, and one another.

Those who resist, ignore, or otherwise deny the workings of this pure spirit within them, though they make a profession of faith, are “condemned” – that is, they become alienated from God, from themselves, and from one another. The chief end of religious life, therefore, is to hearken to and act in accordance with the promptings of the Inner Light in one’s life.  This description closely parallels George Fox’s original “opening” concerning the Light in 1648, as recorded in his Journal (Nickalls edition, p. 33).

A number of important characteristics of the Light can be readily inferred from this description. First, this Light is “divine” or “supernatural.” That is, it pertains to God and God’s activity. Numerous Friends, among them George Fox and Robert Barclay, have been urgent in cautioning us against confusing the Inner Light with such natural phenomena as reason or conscience, both of which are physically and socially conditioned. Rather, they have emphasized that the Light is God’s eternal and indwelling power resident within our mortal frames, there to enlighten and inform the natural reason and conscience with truth of a higher order.

This Light is personal. It is no mindless, purposeless, undifferentiated force or power. It is the mind and will of God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah – who indwells our souls. To claim, as we do, that we are led or taught by the Light is to accept by inference that the power by which we are led or taught is capable of actively leading or teaching us. This requires a personal or theistic conception of the Spirit, which Friends have traditionally held.

This Light is saving. It is the instrument or means by which we are drawn into fullness and wholeness of life and right relationship to God, ourselves, and one another. It is not primarily through the mechanism of assent to certain theological propositions, however heartfelt, nor by participation in certain established rituals, however sincere, that one comes to be “saved” in Quaker faith and practice; it is chiefly through the operation of this Saving Light in human hearts – in the hearing and doing of the Living Word as inwardly revealed in the course of common life.

This Light is eternal. It was before time, is now, and will be forevermore. As the writer of John says, “in the beginning was the Word.” Friends have always identified the Inner Light with this “logos” or Eternal Word [Evangelical Friends however, say, as the book of John says, that this Logos is Jesus Christ the Son of God, not the Inner Light]. It is by this Eternal Light and Word that all of the saints and sages down through the ages have known and spoken the Truth. It is by this Light that the Holy Scriptures of the ages have been written (and must be read). It is by this Light that whatever is true, good, and beautiful has been brought forth in human community over time. This Light is and has always been the source and fountain of all human creativity.

This Light is resistible. It is not an inevitable force or automatic power; it can be resisted, ignored, or otherwise denied in the human heart. To quote C. S. Lewis, “God does not ravish; He only woos.” Although we receive this Light freely and from birth, we are free to choose whether or not and how to respond to its promptings. As someone once remarked, “We are predestinated and foreordained to decide for ourselves!”

This Light is persistent. The Light never ceases to make its Living Witness within each and every human heart, even when it is resisted. Although stubborn resistance and persistent disobedience may greatly dim its luminosity, the Light can never be fully extinguished within us. This is the unfailing love and mercy of God which passes all understanding.

This Light is pure. It is utterly infallible and perfectly good. Although we may err in our discernment of the Light’s witness within us, for any and all who turn to it in humility of heart, the Light is an inerrant guide to truth and wisdom. And, because it is the pure love of God within us, this Light is completely good and trustworthy.

This Light is ineffable. It defies complete and accurate description. Like much in the realm of spirit, the Light cannot be completely understood, but it can be experienced and known.

Lastly, and perhaps most important to the present discussion, this Light is unequivocally universal. It is freely given by God to each and every human being who comes into the world, regardless of race, sex, nationality, philosophical orientation, religious creed, or station in life. It is the divine birthright and inheritance of all, not the privileged possession of a few. To paraphrase the scripture, it is the Good News of God “preached to every creature under heaven” (Colossians 1:23).

Now it can readily be seen from these characteristics that the Quaker concept of the Inner Light is radically universalist in its thrust. As such, it offers a strong challenge to many of the exclusivist assumptions of conventional Christian faith. Here is where the tension between Christianity and Universalism in Quakerism begins to be felt.

It is hard to overstate, for instance, how radically different the Quaker view of salvation is from the popular Christian conception. According to our understanding of the Inner Light, any person of whatever religious persuasion, who turns in sincerity of heart to the Divine Light within, and lives in accordance with its promptings, will be saved. All of God’s children, Christians and non-Christians alike, have equal access to salvation through the Light.

This view constitutes an outright denial of the exclusivist Christian assumption that salvation comes only to those who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and participate in certain established rituals of the Church. One need not be a professing Christian, in other words, to be saved; and many who are professing Christians are (apparently) not saved.

Similarly, Quaker Universalism challenges the now-prevalent evangelical Christian view that the Holy Spirit “comes into one’s heart,” presumably from outside, at the moment of conversion. Friends have testified throughout their history that this Holy Spirit is already resident as a Divine Seed in every human heart, waiting to be decisively accepted and nurtured through attentive obedience in daily life. This difference in viewpoint explains the real distinction between Quaker “convincement” and evangelical “conversion. ”

[Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI) today tends to explain away this Inner Light as being the Holy Spirit.  This is in direct contradiction to a statement made in 1877-1879 by one of its own regions, the Ohio Yearly Meeting (Gurneyite) – now the EFC-ER. The Ohio Yearly Meeting (Gurneyite) was the only Quaker yearly meeting ever to condemn George Fox’s Inner Light teaching. Also, the EFCI’s definition of the Inner Light as the Holy Spirit flies in the face of the previous paragraph, which explains clearly that the Inner Light is vastly different from the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit.]

Salvation and conversion are not the only fronts on which Quaker Universalism challenges conventional Christianity. From the beginning, for instance, Friends have vociferously challenged the fundamentalist Christian assumption that the Bible is the Word of God, insisting instead that the Holy Spirit, the Christ Within, is the Word of God. The Bible is a declaration of the fountain; it is not the fountain itself The fountain is Christ, the Living Word. George Fox argued disarmingly that, if the Bible were really the Word of God, then one could buy and sell the Word of God and carry it around in one’s pocket!

In a similar vein, the Quaker doctrine of “continuing revelation,” which says that God continues to reveal Truth to those who have ears to hear, directly challenges the fundamentalist Christian belief that God’s revelation was completed when the books of the biblical canon were finalized by the Church.

Quaker Universalism also challenges the conventional Christian definition of the Church, insisting that the Church is not a building. Nor is it an identifiable group of confessing Christians. It is, rather, the universal fellowship of all those persons, of whatever background or persuasion, who know and live in accordance with the Living Witness of God’s Light within them. Unlike the standard Christian definition, the Quaker definition of the Church embraces non-Christians, and even theoretically excludes professing Christians who have no real inward, life-changing experience of God. [Now this is a contradiction if every I’ve seen one. How can any non-Christian ever have a “real inward, life-changing experience of God”?]

These few examples should make it clear how deeply-rooted and fundamental the Universalist perspective is in Quakerism, and how profoundly, in turn, this perspective affects the Quaker approach to Christianity – so much so that Quakerism takes a strongly prophetic stance over and against a number of widely accepted interpretations of Christian faith.

It should also be clear, however, that Quaker Universalism, as we have described it here, has little or nothing to do with that brand of eclectic, humanist philosophy called “universalism” that is so prevalent in liberal Quaker circles today. This sort of pseudo-universalism – “pseudo” because it bears a superficial resemblance to Quaker Universalism, but is really contrary to it in a number of crucial ways – poses such an insidious threat to the true Quaker view that I would like to spend a few moments describing in more detail how the two are different.

[I must admit, in the following paragraphs, the author does a good job of condemning “pseudo-universalism” – what I would call Unitarian Universalism.]

While Quaker Universalism is strongly religious in content and devotional in orientation, pseudo-universalism typically maintains a pronounced philosophical detachment from all religious traditions (especially, as we shall see, from Christianity). Unlike Quaker Universalism, which calls for a faith commitment to a specific religious path, pseudo-universalism teaches non-adherence to any particular religion at all, referring a kind of smorgasbord approach to religious ideas instead.

Quaker Universalism acknowledges the differences between the major religions of the world, but calls them all to the same universal standard of Truth: the Living Witness of God within. Pseudo-universalism often ignores, trivializes and obfuscates the real differences between world religions, claiming that “all religions are essentially the same.” In effect, it denies all religions by affirming all equally and embracing none.

While Quaker Universalism is a specific religious path that leads the seeker toward transformation and salvation, pseudo-universalism institutionalizes seeking and is highly suspicious of finding in religious life. Partly because it considers the major religions of the world to be primitive (and therefore false?), and partly because it is highly intellectual in orientation, pseudo-universalism discourages the sort of existential faith commitment that is essential for real spiritual growth and transformation. It offers no genuine spiritual path of its own, while discouraging its adherents from embarking on any established path.

Because it is a view of religion and not a religion itself, and because it accepts no particular religious tradition as normative, pseudo-universalism has within it no principle whereby it can discriminate between what is true and what is false in any particular religious view. To what standard, for instance, would pseudo-universalism appeal regarding a membership application from an avowed practitioner of the religion of Satanism? Quaker Universalism, on the other hand, is founded on the premise that there is one true principle of discernment, and that is the Inner Light. In addition, as we shall see momentarily, although Quaker Universalism radically challenges Christianity at many points, it also has historically accepted Jesus Christ and the gospel tradition as normative for faithful living. [Yes and no. Quaker Univeralists profess Jesus as “Teacher and Lord,” but not as “Lord and Saviour.” In another blog, I quoted a liberal Friends General Conference fellow who sang, “I’m not a Christian but I’m a Quaker, I’ve got Christ’s Inner Light but he’s not my Saviour.” What an abomination.]

Lastly, while Quaker Universalism is firmly rooted in the Christian tradition (albeit not always comfortable with it), pseudo-universalism often acts as a smoke screen for anti-Christian sentiment. In my conversations with Friends who have been influenced by this kind of universalism, I frequently encounter significant discomfort with, if not open hostility to, Christians and the Christian faith. This, of course, is in direct contradiction to their own professed principles. To this sort of universalist, it seems, all religions are equal except Christianity!

Perhaps you have heard of H. L. Mencken’s famous definition of a “puritan” as someone who is obsessed with the fear that somehow, somewhere, someone is having fun? The pseudo-universalist is one who is obsessed with the fear that somehow, somewhere, someone has “gotten religion,” especially the Christian religion.

As you can see, the two types of universalism, while similar on the surface, are as different as night and day. It is easy to see why pseudo-universalism is uncomfortable with the practice of Christianity. The two are philosophically incompatible. True Quaker Universalism, however, has a uniquely symbiotic relationship with Christianity. And this brings us to the Christian side of the equation.

If I did not make the Christian party happy with my remarks on Quaker Universalism, it is certain that I will not make the Quaker Universalist party happy with my remarks on Christianity. As we have seen, Christian Quakers have to accept the fact that Quakerism is radically universalist in its interpretation of Christianity. Universalist Quakers, on the other hand, have to accept the fact that Quakerism is radically Christian in its interpretation of Universalism. For, the truth is that, despite its somewhat testy relationship with conventional Christianity, Quakerism is and always has been decidedly Christian.

We have already sketched how the Quaker view of Christianity is distinctively Universalist. How is the Quaker view of Universalism distinctively Christian? It is really quite simple: Friends have always identified the Inner Light with the living Christ. Christ, in Quaker theology, is the Light [but non-evangelical Quakers do not believe that we are saved by accepting Christ as our Saviour]. “There is One, even Christ Jesus, that can speak to thy condition,” said the voice to George Fox at the moment of his convincement [notice again that the author uses the term “convincement” – which is vastly different from “conversion”]. And this Christ Jesus, Fox perceived and subsequently preached, was the Eternal Risen Christ, the Light of the World, come to teach all people who would hear his voice, not just professing Christians. To be Quaker is to be a follower of Christ, Who witnesses Within each one of us as we walk through life.

This strict equivalency of Christ with the Inner Light is the key to understanding how it is that Christianity and Universalism are so inextricably bound together in Quaker faith and practice. Not only is it possible to be both Christian and Universalist at the same time; it is the very essence and peculiar genius of Quakerism to marry the two in one powerful synthesis through the doctrine of the Inner Light. In the final analysis, the Quaker doctrine of the Inner Light is really a radically Universalist interpretation of the Christian doctrine of the Holy Spirit. To be Quaker is, therefore, to be radically Christian.

As a result of this unique marriage that Quakerism has effected, the quintessentially exclusivist text of the Christian faith – “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes unto the Father except by me” (John 14:6) – is transformed into a powerful Universalist message for the whole world. Friends have witnessed for 350 years that the Light of Christ Within is indeed the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to God except by it. This Light is the universal, saving, eternal, personal, resistible, persistent, and pure witness of God within every human heart, and no one is excluded from partaking of its riches. As a friend of mine is fond of saying, “Christ has returned, and everyone is invited to the reception!”

And, how fortunate for both Christianity and Universalism that Quakerism has joined them together. Fully embedded in the context of Christianity, Quaker Universalism is richly informed by all of the pregnant imagery and profound meaning of the Judeo-Christian tradition and the transforming story of Jesus Christ. In the Quaker synthesis, Christianity saves Universalism from the vapid sterility of mere abstraction. Universalism, in turn, saves Christianity from the spiritual poison of religious parochialism and exclusivity. The two not only complement each other, they are essential to one another.

In the end, the marriage metaphor we have been using is not very satisfactory, for it implies a kind of voluntary association that is not applicable here. The union of Christianity and Universalism in Quakerism is one of mutual entailment – more like two sides of one coin than like a marriage. Friends on both sides of the discussion need to face the fact that divorce is out of the question. Quakerism is, by definition, both Universalist and Christian at the same time.

After reading the above defense of Quaker universalism – and the damage the Inner Light teaching has done to evangelical Christianity – how could any member of the Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI) accept or fellowship with non-evangelical universalist Quaker denominations?

Amazingly, the EFCI is proud of its Quaker ecumenism with all non-evangelical Quaker groups. If we dig beneath the surface, we find that non-evangelical Quakers have many ungodly beliefs and practices – everything from universalist Quakers to LGBT Quakers to atheist Quakers to Buddhist Quakers.

There is no way around it. To insist on ecumenism with non-evangelical Quaker groups is, in essence, to endorse the heresies of these non-evangelical Quaker groups. Leaders in the EFCI who insist on Quaker ecumenism know very well the heresies of these non-evangelical groups, yet they still proclaim “let the conversation continue.” What an abomination!

Edward Mott, one of my favorite fundamentalist Evangelical Friends, warned against Quaker ecumenism. Tragically, Quakers eventually ignored the warnings of Mott and others, developing ecumenical ties with non-evangelical Quakers. Click here for my blog about Edward Mott, in which I included the following quote:

“Edward Mott, who was a leading minister and teacher in [Northwest Yearly Meeting] for many years earlier in [the twentieth century], strongly and bitterly opposed any moves toward ecumenical contacts or fellowship among what were then much more fragmented groups of Friends. In his memoir, Sixty Years of Gospel Ministry, published in the late 1940s, he insisted, as he had for decades, that such efforts “cannot have the blessing of the Lord upon them.” In fact, he insisted that “The attempt to fellowship and work with unbelievers [which is what he considered other Friends to be–Ed.] spells death. Any conclusion to the contrary is ruinous to all concerned.”

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Update:  I have made an attempt to “tone down” most of my blogs about Evangelical Friends/Quakers, to not be so hurtful to my many friends in the EFCI (and EFC-ER). Yet when I see what is going on, I still feel compelled to speak out. Read on.
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I stumbled across this interview with Spiritual Formation founder Richard Foster. I was especially interested in Foster’s connections with the Evangelical Friends, now the EFCI (Evangelical Friends Church International) denomination.

I am providing some excerpts below, which provide further details concerning Foster’s early connections with Evangelical Friends.  I am emphasizing some points by bolding, and inserting comments in [brackets]. Click here for the original article.

A Life Formed in the Spirit
Interview by Mark Galli, with Richard Foster. posted 9/17/2008

Thirty-one years ago, not many evangelicals thought much of the “spiritual disciplines,” and when they did, they thought of them negatively—as one more form of works righteousness. That began to change substantially 30 years ago, with the publication of Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster [in 1978]. This book, arguably more than any other, introduced evangelicals not only to the disciplines, but also to the wealth of spiritual formation writing from the medieval and ancient church. Today you are almost as likely to hear an evangelical talk about Thomas à Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ as Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life.

The idea for Celebration grew in the heat of pastoral work, as Foster explains below. The church of his youth supported him financially and in prayer as he made his way through college (George Fox) and seminary (Fuller)…

(The full story of the publication is told in the introduction to the [second] edition of Celebration.)
[Christianity Today] Senior managing editor Mark Galli sat down with Foster in his home in Colorado to talk about the genesis of his lifelong work in spiritual formation, and how the disciplines have shaped him personally.

Let’s begin at the beginning of your spiritual formation: How did you become a Christian?

My conversion came as a young teenager, early high-school years. Youth for Christ was prominent in that, as well as a local congregation, Alameda Friends Church in Garden Grove in Orange County, Southern California. This is pre-Robert Schuller days…

What were the key influences in your early Christian faith?

One was a youth pastor at that church…

A second was Bonhoeffer and his writings, especially The Cost of Discipleship

How did you start to become interested in spiritual formation in a more focused way?

My first church out of [Fuller Seminary] was a Friends church in San Fernando Valley in Southern California, with between 55 and 80 people on Sunday mornings. Dallas Willard and his wife attended there—she was the organist, and he led singing. Dallas also taught classes at the church, material that eventually became The Divine Conspiracy.

In that little church, when I taught, people might come, but when Dallas taught, they brought their tape recorders. And I did too! I cancelled all adult Sunday school classes when he taught.

We not only had teaching, but we would also visit in homes…

I don’t know exactly why—I instinctively went to the old writers. I just felt like Augustine’s Confessions and Teresa’s Interior Castle—this was real meat…

You were conceiving of pastoral work primarily as spiritual formation, which would have been pretty unusual at the time.

God was gracious. We were there doing what we could do and fumbling around and learning and growing and teaching and trying it. All the stuff that later came out in Celebration of Discipline, we were doing it all. And we had really good experiences and we had failures, too. I tried to get the congregation to have experiences of fasting. I never was very good at that. People would always have headaches from caffeine withdrawal. I found it was much better for just a few of us to try things out and see what we learned and go from there.

We were a small congregation. Dallas once told me that I should really be glad that that was the case, because we could experiment with all these things. And also, we were far removed from the powers. We weren’t a significant anything…

Writing has been a large part of your spiritual formation work. When did you first start writing for publication?

Writing emerged early on in my ministry. At the time, I never told anybody about this, not even Carolyn. I was too embarrassed about it. But I began to think about it. Churches in those days would often have a midweek newsletter. In that newsletter I would write an essay. It was a teaching, a 500-word essay every week…

I began writing for magazines, initially anonymously as John Q. Catalyst. I did maybe 50 or 60 little articles that way for publications like Quaker Life, and one for Moody Monthly

Throughout the interview, Richard Foster treads lightly, conveniently failing to mention the occult, New Age-ish aspects of contemplative prayer/contemplative spirituality.  He mentions the disciplines of fasting and of solitude, but hardly a word about contemplative prayer.  I assume that, by the time this interview took place (2008), Foster had received a great deal of backlash regarding contemplative prayer practices. This could be why Foster skirted this issue in his interview.

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