Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Mystics’

(revised 11/11/13)

http://www.flickr.com/photos/elizaio/5485585137/
CAPTION:  Soren [Gordhamer], Congressman Tim Ryan, and Jon Kabat-Zinn discuss Mindfulness, Politics and Society: Extending into the World
[at the Wisdom 2.0 Conference 2011]

Among the fifty states, Ohio could hardly be considered the most liberal, or the most anti-Christian, or the most New Age state. Yet, for whatever reason, a young Congressional Representative from Ohio – Tim Ryan – has become a darling of New Agers. Why? Because he has become a strong advocate of New Age/Buddhist “mindfulness” (also called “mindfulness meditation”). I am especially concerned that he is pushing this practice for public schools – including preschools and grade schools.

A number of New Agers are endorsing Ryan’s new book A Mindful Nation. Ryan is also pushing legislation that will increase the practice of mindfulness in public schools.  Other  New Agers championing mindfulness in public schools are Jon Kabat-Zinn and Goldie Hawn.

http://www.today.com/moms/goldie-hawn-helps-kids-get-zen-smart-837758
CAPTION: Rep. Tim Ryan, D-OH, practices meditation with kids at Robert Coleman Elementary School in Baltimore.

So when and how did Ryan get involved in mindfulness (also called “mindfulness meditation”)? Check out excerpts from this interview (I have emphasized certain points by bolding in orange, and inserted comments [in brackets in bolded orange].

Q: Why did you write this book?

A: The book came out of my going around the county to meet scientists studying mindfulness; teachers using it in schools; health care practitioners implementing it in our health care system; our military using it to treat veterans and build mental resilience. And I thought the world needed to see what they are doing. They are pioneers in what will be the next great movement in the United States: the movement of mindfulness.

Q: When did your interest in mindfulness start?

A: It started a long time ago. My grandparents and my mom prayed the rosary a lot, and later in life I had a priest friend of mine teach me centering prayer, based on Father Thomas Keating’s work. That led to practicing different kinds of meditation off and on as I got older.

Q: And when did you begin to consistently practice meditation?

A: I had been running extremely hard with my job and traveling across Ohio and the country to help Democrats take back the House in 2006, and then there was the presidential election. I was 35 and I thought, “I’m going to be burned out by the time I’m 40. I really need to jump-start my meditation practice.” Two days after the presidential election, I spent five days at a retreat [led by mindfulness “guru” Jon Kabat-Zinn] in increasing levels of silence. It reminded me of how I felt when I played sports: being in “the zone” with mind and body grounded in the present moment.

Q: And you continue to meditate every day?

A: Yes, 40 to 45 minutes every morning before I leave the house and go out into the world…

After some discussion of “Washington politics”, the interview continues as follows:

Q: Because of mindfulness’ Buddhist roots, a lot of people think it’s a religious practice. How does your meditation relate to your Catholic faith?

A: If you love your neighbor and are compassionate, are you automatically a Christian? Practicing present-moment awareness does not entail joining any religion or accepting any belief system. [Yes it does – the core of mindfulness is a New Age/Buddhist worldview.] As a Catholic, I find mindfulness helps me participate in my religion more wholeheartedly. If you are praying the rosary, participating in the rituals at Mass or listening to the priest preach, you will actually be paying attention! Whatever your religion is, it can enhance the experience of participating in that religion. What’s more beautiful than that?

Q: There do seem to be some Buddhist concepts in your book, such as the interconnectedness of all beings. Has meditation made you more interested in Buddhist philosophy?

A: I love studying different religions. For me, learning and drawing from the different religious traditions is essential to being a good public servant. And the connections between our various religious traditions become our public ethic; they tie us together.

And in a 2012 article originally posted here, a Buddhist website asks Youngstown, Ohio Congressional Representative (D) Tim Ryan:

How have you helped introduce mindfulness in the education system?

Ryan replies:

About three years ago [2009] I got a million dollars to put social and emotional learning and mindfulness in two school districts in Ohio, and the teachers have responded in a wonderful way. In the Warren City School District they just added another fifty teachers—the teachers who were in the program spoke so highly about it that other teachers wanted to do it too. The programs we’re running also have a parental component. Parents are learning how teachers are talking to the kids about being aware of their emotions. This makes a connection with the families. Mindfulness is not a silver bullet. But there’s nothing else right now cutting against the huge influx of information and technology coming at our kids. We want to give kids the ability to choose what they put their attention on. I’ve seen it in my own district— parents and teachers love it.

FOR FURTHER READING

List of Google hits on [“Tim Ryan” “centering prayer” “mindfulness”]

Christian discernment articles critiquing Ryan

Stand Up for the Truth!, U.S. Congressman Advocates Mindful Meditation as Solution to Global Conflict – followed by links to a number of additional Christian discernment articles

Lighthouse Trails Research, Ohio Congressman Tim Ryan’s Meditation Crusade – Hopes to Influence Other Congress Members (and All Americans)

Religious (but not necessarily Christian) articles mentioning Ryan’s motives and Catholic background

Lisa Joan Reardon, Mindfulness and Centering Prayer (08/06/12)

Ohio congressman Tim Ryan on a mission to bring meditation to the masses

Buddhist articles favoring Ryan

Politically Aware: A Q&A with Congressman TIM RYAN

Congressman Tim Ryan to talk “A Mindful Nation” at InsightLA fundraiser, June 4 [2012]

Secular articles favoring Ryan

CASEL, Congressman Tim Ryan, U.S. Representative, 17th District, Ohio
Mary Utne O’Brien Award for  Excellence in Expanding the Evidence-Based Practice of Social and Emotional Learning in the Area of Policy

Tim Ryan, Ohio Congressman, Shares His Mindfulness Vision For The Country – Arianna Huffington, editor of the Huffington Post, graduated from the New Age University of Santa Monica mentioned in this article

Washington was making Rep. Tim Ryan sick … until he found mindfulness

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Why is it that so many Christians today are turning to heretical Emerging/ Emergent teachings? And why is it that when they are confronted, they refuse to heed the Truth, instead hardening their hearts?

Years ago, I heard a pastor condemning occultish habits (such as watching movies like “Ghost” and “Field of Dreams”). Although I am a born again Christian, at that time I considered such movies as “entertainment” and “containing Christian themes.” I had watched “Ghost” recently, and “Field of Dreams” several nights before. After hearing the pastor, my eyes were opened, my heart was softened, I repented and immediately quit watching these New Ageish movies.

Yet, when Emerging/Emerging people are confronted concerning similar occultish practices (such as Spiritual Formation’s contemplative spirituality) they harden their hearts. I think this hardness results from a combination of deluding spirits, one’s sinful nature, etc. – and the fact that most Emerging/Emergents don’t really know the Lord as their Saviour.

I believe we are approaching the  Apostasy/Falling Away of the End Times. Consider this verse:

“Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition” (II Thess. 2:3)

Could this “falling away” be the postmodern (Emerging/Emergent/Emergence) movement? Apparently many think so – Googling [“apostasy” “falling away” “Emergent”] brought up many hits.

My Facebook Friend John Henderson provides some insights on these issues in an article which I have reposted below. Click here for the original source of John’s article. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

When God Sends Deluding Spirits—The Mystery of Iniquity
by John Henderson on Wednesday, November 7, 2012 at 8:54am

I was asked why it is that so many people are fooled so easily in politics and religion.  Is there an answer as to why the man-on-the-street interviews by TV comedians reveal an amazing disconnect with reality?  I know they edit out sensible responses for effect, but they still have enough stupid stuff to produce a segment.

A traditional Wesleyan holiness Christian recently asked on Facebook for material to share with pastors who claim to be evangelical but are still toying with teachings of those who promote the emergent error.  This Christian man said they were “Emerging pastors who say things like: ‘We hold to the essential doctrines of the Christian faith. Yes, we quote McLaren, Sweet, etc. but there is a lot they say that we don’t agree with doctrinally.’”  His bewilderment is justifiable and my response was: “You might keep in mind that they are playing with semantics [they had claimed to be emerging rather than emergent]. There is no difference. They have learned to blend the lingo of biblical thought with their error so it sounds more gospel. They are just as much into it as anything. I think it is Proverbs that talks about taking fire into the bosom, etc. You still get burned.”

That reference is Proverbs 6:27-28.  It refers to committing adultery with a prostitute but is certainly applicable in this context.  After all, following anti-biblical error is spiritual adultery with the whore of heresy.

“Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?  Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?”

It is not possible to believe some truth and some error and there still be truth.  Truth is not truth if it is diluted with false doctrine.  I would be more successful finding a good tomato sandwich in a garbage can than I would in finding truth slathered with error’s doctrines.

There is no doubt in my mind that we in the church, as well as in the entire world, have turned a sharp corner towards massive delusion.  It has always been in our midst but the winds of delusional aberrations have fanned the flames of error into an uncontrollable fire that is spreading faster than Hurricane Sandy spread flames that destroyed more than 100 homes on Staten Island in a matter of mere moments.

2 Timothy 3:13 – “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.”

1 Timothy 4:1-3 – “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron….”

2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 – “For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

It is bad enough in politics when it is merely “secular” but far worse when people who should know better follow blindly after this delusion. It is a delusion that once was chosen under the influences of satanic allurements.  Now it is being sent by the hand of God to damn those who have chosen to be damned.  Their sin of delusion has spun out of their control and God now directs it to its ultimate destination.  In a real sense, they asked for it and they are now getting what they asked for but they are unable to control its consequences.  Thy made the choices and He delivers the results.

Hurricane Sandy provides other examples of this.  I think of two.  One woman who rode out the storm was almost taken away but barely survived.  She told a reporter that the reason she remained behind was that it wasn’t this bad last year.  Another woman tragically lost her two young sons, ripped right out her arms, because she waited too long to try to escape the storm.

Hurricane Katina had a tragic story as well.  A group decided to ride out the storm in some sort of club or bar on the beach in a partying spirit.  Searchers never found them and assumed they had been washed out to sea.

The “hurricane” of God’s judgment is on its way.  The Bible’s “meteorologists” (prophets) tell us plainly of its path and conditions.  As in Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” we are plainly told to flee from the City of Destruction—from the wrath soon to come.  A few pay attention and flee to the Cross but most ignore it, blindly presuming that somehow they will be alright in the end.  That may be the doctrine of a Rob Bell Universalist, but it is not the message of the Scriptures.  While the false teachers of emergent heresy smoothly lull souls into waiting for Hell, the storm stays on his track and gets closer by the moment.  It cannot be stopped, diverted, delayed, or explained away.  It can only be ignored to fatal peril.

The title of this article indicates that God is sending this delusion.  It has arrived at the point that God no longer just allows deception to present itself.  He pushes it along because He has been so completely ignored, misrepresented, and outright denied that He is turning His back on rebellious mankind and is turning loose of the restraints that have held it back.  False teachers wade about in the blowing gales and floods of demonic onslaughts saying that everything will be okay, that it is not as bad as it seems and has been reported.  And people believe them in astounding numbers.

The same Christian I mentioned above [at the beginning of this article] sent me a reply that should be shared here in part:

“I’m starting to view all Emerging/Emergents ‘through a new lense.’ Specifically, they ALL oppose Fundamentalism and the Fundamentals of 1910-1915. The new Nazarene book that [a discernment ministry] mentioned – Square Peg – seems representative of their almost violent opposition to Fundamentalism.”  He may have been referencing another comment about a student at a Nazarene university who had been disciplined for objecting to a professor’s orders to exclude references to “emergent” on the school’s website announcing an upcoming guest emergent/missional speaker at the university.  The student had objected on the grounds of its being disingenuous.

Proverbs 6:15 – “Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy.”

Proverbs 29:1 – “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”

Read Full Post »

(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…

Read Full Post »

(revised 02/18/15)

Granted, A.W. Tozer said and wrote many wonderful things, and has been quoted by various discernment ministries.  But – did you know there is a great amount of controversy over Tozer? Specifically, Tozer quoted Catholic mystics profusely.

Different ODMs (online discernment ministries) feel differently about Tozer:

1) Dave Hunt, for example, gives a great description of “the Tozer controversy” –  then concludes that Tozer is acceptable.

2) Ken Silva of Apprising.org and Christian Research Network provides biblical quotes from Tozer from time to time. [I would agree with Silva that Tozer did make a number of biblically sound statements. But “a little leaven (Tozer’s mystic leanings) leaveneth the whole lump” (I Cor. 5:6).]

“Iggy,” an Emerging/Emergent heretic, blogs here regarding Silva’s affinity for quoting Tozer. Very interesting – an Emerging/Emergent heretic criticizing an ODM for quoting a Christian mystic. If “Iggy” had done a bit more research, he would have uncovered Silva’s statements regarding his position on Tozer. Following is Silva’s disclaimer regarding Tozer (I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets]):

I read almost all of the works of A.W. Tozer early in my relationship with Jesus Christ; while he did quote Roman Catholic mystics in a postive light, he condemned the false gospel of the Roman Catholic Church and considered it apostate. Unfortunately, Tozer’s mystic bent—though there’s no evidence that he practiced mysticism—and his pietistic teaching of a “deeper life” have tarnished his legacy to the point that I can only recommend his work with this qualification.

And in the following excerpt, Silva further explains his position on Tozer (click here for the entire original text of Silva’s article). I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets]. Now on to Silva’s comments:

Emerging Mysticism in New Evangelicalism (Part Two)

… No one is arguing that spending time alone with God is a bad idea for the regenerated Christian, nor am I saying it is necessarily wrong to spend time alone with the Lord silently contemplating in wondrous amazement just Whom it is that dwells within you. And this is what men like A.W. Tozer are talking about when they refer to being in silence before God. Unfortunately in a more innocent spiritual climate Tozer unwisely gave some credence to these so-called “Christian” mystics.

As one who has read much from Tozer and from the current “mystics” I can tell you with assurance that Tozer was not involved in the same type of contemplative prayer/mediation that is being encouraged by many leaders in the Emerging Church movement. You will see when this series moves along that the easiest way to tell those who practice the type of neo-pagan mystic “disciplines” encouraged in the EC from those who simply silently spend time in God’s presence is the message that each will come away with.

In closing this piece we take as examples Emergent spiritual director Brian McLaren and A.W. Tozer. The result thus far for McLaren as he’s practiced his friend Richard Foster’s version of mysticism has been his emerging message that the Christian faith should become “a welcome friend to other religions of the world.” While Tozer, more of a “mystic” than I comfortable with [so in essence Silva provides biblical quotes from Tozer from time to time although he is not comfortable with Tozer’s mysticism], came forth from his moments of “silence” with the message that “the task of the Church is to spread New Testament Christianity throughout the world.”

Undoubtedly these messages from McLaren and Tozer did not come from the same Spirit. The purpose of this study is to show you that the meditation practiced in the emerging mysticism in new evangelicalism most certainly does not lead to a mystical union with the one true and living God of the Bible.

3) I found these comments in a Puritan Board forum here:

A.W. Tozer the Mystic?

Posted 04-01-2005 by heartoflesh, Puritanboard Junior:

A group of us, led by our pastor and the assistant pastor, have been meeting at a restaurant on Wednesday evenings going through A.W. Tozer’s “The Pursuit of God”. I really like Tozer, and although I assume he was Arminian in his theology, he seemed to have a great grasp of the glory of God.

I’ve been told that Tozer was a “modern-day mystic”, but I’m not sure what is meant by this. His writings do sometimes appear to be like those of a man who possesed some sort of extra-biblical, subjective revelation. Is this what is meant?

Our next book is going to be Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God, which I’ve been told was one of Tozer’s favorite reads. I really don’t know anything about this fellow, Brother Lawrence, only that he was a monk.

To be honest, I’m starting to smell a rat. I’ve recently become aware of the subject of Contemplative Prayer, and how it is sweeping the church. I’m afraid I’m going to get a little bit punchy if the discussion starts to veer in the direction of special prayer practices– breath prayers, breathing exercises, “quieting the mind”, “palms up/palms down”, etc. Nothing has been brought up yet, but I’m ready to put in my 2 cents if it does.

Anyway, back to Tozer. I’ve never read anything by him where he suggests any such techniques, or claims any special mystical knowledge, so I guess I’m trying to figure out why he would be classified as a mystic.

Any ideas?

Rick Larson
Seeking new church home. Currently worshipping at South Suburban EV Free Church, Apple Valley, MN.

Response, posted 04-02-2005 by openairboy, Inactive User:

Rick,

To my knowledge, Tozer doesn’t promote any such techniques. He, especially early on in my Christian life, was instrumental in helping me love God through “Knowledge of the Holy” and “The Pursuit of God”. Another article that is a must read, I believe, is his “The Old Cross and the New”. He says in a page and a half what others try to say in books. It is a stroke of genius.

The mystic? Yes, he is a bit of mystic due to his readings and influences, but I don’t believe in a negative way. The following is a quote from Snyder’s “In Pursuit of God”:

Tozer’s hunger for God led him to study the Christian mystics. Their knowledge of God and absorbing love for him profoundly attracted Tozer. They were spirits kindred to his own. ‘These people know God, and I want to know what they know.’ But at the same time, the Bible remained absolutely central.

‘Once’, Martyn Lloyd-Jones recalled, ‘Dr. Tozer and I shared a conference years ago, and I appreciated his ministry and his fellowship very much. One day he said to me: ‘Lloyd-Jones, you and I hold just about the same position on spiritual matters, but we have come to this position by different routes.’ ‘How do you mean?’ I asked. ‘Well,’ Tozer replied, ‘you came by way of the Puritans and I came by way of the mystics.’ And, you know,’ said Lloyd-Jones, ‘he was right.’

With anyone there are caveat’s, but I strongly recommend Tozer for the simple fact of his love for God and how his works stir that in my soul and those I know that have spent time with him.

openairboy

Posted 04-02-2005 by heartoflesh, Puritanboard Junior:

I actually re-perused my copy of “The Pursuit of the Holy” today to see if I could find anything that matched up with blatant mysticism, of the type I’ve been studying about in today’s Contemplative Prayer movement. The only thing that I found minutely questionable was when he quotes from the author of “The Cloud of Unknowing” on pg. 19:

“Again, he recommends that in prayer we practice a further stripping down of everything, even of our theology. “For it sufficeth enough, a naked intent direct unto God without any other cause than Himself….lapped and folden in one word, for that thou shouldest have better hold thereupon, take thee but a little word of one syllable: for so it is better than of two, for even the shorter it is the better it accordeth with the work of the Spirit. And such a word is this word GOD or this word LOVE”

Of course, the Contemplative Prayer movement takes it lead from just this very practice— repeating a word such as “love” or “Jesus” over and over until one enters into “the Presence”. Even the title of the work “The Cloud of Unknowing” betrays the mystical intent of the writer. The gist is that we must enter the presence by UN-knowing, as opposed to meditating on an objective reality, i.e., the Scriptures.

I don’t believe Tozer practiced this, in fact, on pg. 76 he writes:

“It is important that we get still to wait on God. And it is best that we get alone, preferable with our Bible outspread before us…..Then the happy moment when the Spirit begins to illuminate the Scriptures, and that which had been only a sound, or at best a voice, now becomes an intelligible word, warm and intimate and clear as the word of a dear friend”.

To summarize: I can only assume that Tozer had an appreciation for the mystics, for their devotion, but that this appreciation didn’t translate into his following their practices.

4) Tom Riggle takes a more critical view of Tozer, presenting a number of points that others quoted here did not touch upon. Click here for the entire list of Riggle’s blogs critiquing Tozer.

5) The Just the BOOK blogsite has many blogs criticizing A.W. Tozer’s quoting of “Christian” mystics.

To his credit, Tozer was a prolific writer – see the list of books in his Wikipedia article. Unfortunately, it appears he made a habit of quoting mystics throughout his various books.

In conclusion, here is my take on “the Tozer controversy” while I do more research: I admire Tozer and view him as a wonderful man of God. but I see no need for Tozer (or any other born again Christian) to quote Catholic (aka nonchristian) mystics – period. There are many biblically sound, born again Christians he could have quoted instead to make his points.  (C.H. Spurgeon and D.L. Moody are a few names that come to mind.)

Tozer does indeed seem to have been a wonderful, born again Christian. However, by quoting Catholic mystics, Tozer (and others) set a dangerous precedent. Since Tozer’s passing, followers of Richard Foster and company have claimed Tozer himself was a “Christian mystic” due to his quoting of Catholic mystics. Whether Tozer truly was a Christian mystic to the degree of a “Richard Foster” is highly doubtful. Nonetheless, by quoting Catholic mystics, Tozer did give the impression he was sympathetic to Christian mysticism.

Addendum:  A.W. Tozer was not alone in quoting Catholic mystics. Many writers in the Wesleyan Holiness tradition have quoted Catholic mystics, for various reasons, dating clear back to John Wesley himself. (All of these writers innocently set a dangerous precedent for Spiritual Formation people today to quote Catholic mystics.) Consider this excerpt from an article by M. James Sawyer:

[Wesley’s] doctrine of Sanctification was not traditional Arminianism. Wesley was also heavily influenced by the mystics. [J.I.] Packer has observed that he superimposed:

“on the Augustinianism of the Anglican prayer book and the heaven aspiring High Church moralist in which he was reared a concept of perfection . . . that he had learned from the Greek Patristic sources. “Macarius the Egyptian” . . . and Ephraem Syrus were chief among these. There idea of perfection was not of sinlessness, but of an ever deepening process of all around moral change. To this idea Wesley then added the lesson he had learned form those whom he called the “mystic writers” (a category including the Anglican William Law, the Roman Catholics Molinos, Fenelon, Gaston de Renty, Francis de Sales, and Madame Guyon, the Lutheran Pietist Francke, and the pre-Reformation Theologia Germanica)…  (Keep in Step with the Spirit, p. 134)

I need to study John Wesley and other born again Catholic-quoters more, to determine exactly why they felt the need to quote Catholic mystics at all. Regarding the quoting of Catholic mystics by Tozer, Wesley and many other wonderful, born again men of God of his time, I would summarize the enigma this way. It seems to me that born again Christians quoted the “Christian” sayings of Catholic mystics (while overlooking the nonchristian sayings of Catholic mystics). Emergent mystics such as Richard Foster, on the other hand, quote the heretical sayings of Catholic mystics (while ignoring the “Christian” sayings of Catholic mystics).

FOR FURTHER READING

Google hits for search on [“Tozer” “mystic”]  – Some links say Tozer was a Christian mystic and support him; others say Tozer was a Christian mystic and critique him; yet others say Tozer was not a Christian mystic.

James Stuart Bell, Compiler, From the Library of A. W. Tozer: Selections From Writers Who Influenced His Spiritual Journey (much of this book is viewable online)

Gilley, Gary, review of A Passion for God, the Spiritual Journey of A.W. Tozer by Lyle Dorsett “Tozer’s endorsement and love for Catholic mystics is problematic. While not agreeing with all their theology, Tozer truly believed that mystics such as Bernard of Clairvaux, Peter Abelard, Frederick Faber, Jeanne Guyon, Meister Eckhart and Thomas Merton knew something about intimacy with God that the evangelical world had missed. Much of Tozer’s methodology for seeking God was shaped not by Scripture, but by the mystics. Even his natural tendency to remain aloof from people was justified by Thomas á Kempis’ brand of Christianity, not the Bible (p. 183).”

Harris, Lynn (1992). The Mystic Spirituality of A.W. Tozer. Edwin Mellen Pr. ISBN 0-7734-9872-9
– The Amazon reader reviews of this book provide further insights into Tozer’s theology, as well as his rationale for quoting Catholic Mystics. Note – I assume this book is not written from a born again Christian perspective.

Snyder, James L. The Life of A.W. Tozer: In Pursuit of God – The Authorized Biography (many pages viewable online). See especially Ch. 13 (starting on p. 153), entitled “Mystic and Prophet.”

Sola Scriptura Ministries, “The Very Best of A.W. Tozer” (online pdf document)

Stanford, Miles J. Dr. A.W. Tozer. This online article mentions several famous Christian writers and preachers who were influenced by Tozer, particularly in his views regarding the Holy Spirit.

Tozer, A.W. The Christian Book of Mystical Verse (1963).
summary of book and list of chapters; provides some of the names Tozer quotes
Amazon description of the book; provides more of the names Tozer quotes

Was A.W. Tozer a Mystic?  – includes many links for further research

Wegter, Jay. Taking Every Thought Captive: A Critique of the Higher Life Movement.
– This online article mentions Tozer and many others. The author presents a good discussion of the pros and cons of the Higher Life movement (also called the Keswick movement). I identify with parts of this movement; I label myself as “born again, separatist fundamentalist Wesleyan Holiness”. I define “fundamentalist” as holding to the Fundamentals of 1910-1915. I also admire separatist fundamentalist groups such as Independent Fundamentalist Baptists; prior to New Evangelicalism, nearly all Wesleyan Holiness denominations were separatist fundamentalist.

A list of Christian mystic works quoted by Tozer (I am providing this info for research purposes not as recommendations); click here for the original source of the following list and intro:

James L. Snyder wrote The Life of A.W. Tozer: In Pursuit of God. In his book, Snyder mentions 34 Christian mystical books and works recommended by A.W. Tozer.  I’ve added links to all those offered by ChristianBooks.com so you can explore them further…

[Note – this article (broken link) describes how Tozer himself compiled the following list of “Christian” mystic works. Again it boggles my mind that, as a Christian who claimed to be born again, Tozer could recommend or at least quote all of the following. At best, he was undiscerning and encouraging an ecumenical mindset; at worst he was deceptive]

I have rearranged the original list in alphabetical order by author:

Lancelot Andrews
Private Devotions

Anonymous
The Cloud of Unknowing

Anselm of Canterbury
Proslogion in Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works

Athanasius
On the Incarnation

Saint Augustine
Confessions of St. Augustine

Bernard of Clairvaux
On the Love of God
Song of Songs
Both in On the Love of God and Other Selected Writings

Berdardeno de Laredo
The Ascent of Mt. Zion

Jakob Boehme
Way to Christ (read online)

Brother Lawrence
The Practice of the Presence of God

Miguel de Molinos and others
A Guide to True Peace
Miguel de Molinos: The Spiritual Guide

De Sales
Introduction to the Devout Life

de Tourville
Letters of Direction

Meister Eckhart
Talks of Instruction

Fredrick Faber
Poems

Francois Fenelon
Christian Perfection in The Complete Fenelon

Walter Hilton
The Goad of Love
Walter Hilton: The Scale of Perfection

John of the Cross
Ascent of Mount Carmel – St. John and the Cross
Dark Night Of The Soul

Juliana of Norwich
Sixteen Revelations of Divine Love in Encounter with God’s Love: Selected Writings of Julian of Norwich

Thomas Kelly
A Testament of Devotion

Thomas a Kempis
The Imitation of Christ

Nicholas of Cusa
The Vision of God

Richard Rolle
Amendment of Life

Lorenzo Scupoli
Spiritual Combat: How to Win Your Spiritual Battles & Attain Peace

Heinrich Suso
The Book of Eternal Wisdom

Johannes Tauler
Johannes Tauler: Sermons

Gerhard Tersteegren
Hymns
The Quiet Way

Thomas Traherne
Centuries of Meditations

Jan van Ruysbroeck
The Adornment of the Spiritual Marriage

Issac Watts
Poems

Read Full Post »

 

(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.

Read Full Post »

(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.

Read Full Post »

Ray Yungen has put out various books, videos, Internet articles, etc. exposing the heresies of Spiritual Formation, with its New-Ageish core of contemplative prayer (also called contemplative spirituality).

Following is a two-part YouTube series of Yungen speaking on contemplative prayer/ contemplative spirituality:

And here is a YouTube video in which Yungen discusses “Contemplative/ Centering Prayer and Emergent Church.”

Click here for Ray Yungen’s website.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: