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Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual Disciplines’

(revised 11/16/13)

Malone University Spiritual Formation Department recently posted the following Chapel schedule – showing its increasing promotion of Evangelical Friend  Richard Foster’s Spiritual Formation/ Contemplative Spirituality heresies.

Click here [broken link – article no longer online] for the original site of this chapel schedule. I have emphasized certain points by bolding, and inserted comments in [brackets].

Home / Office of Spiritual Formation / Chapel Information / Chapel Schedule

Chapel Schedule

alkfdj Click here for a printable list of chapels, so that you can plan for those you’d like to attend or check off those you’ve already gone to.

The Spring semester traditionally features several Signpost Series chapels. The purpose of the Signpost Series is to invite guests to speak about how they integrate their faith with their specific area of expertise or academic discipline. This gives us a wider perspective on how the Christian faith is woven into all areas of life – academics, relationships, politics, media, sport, etc.

Chapels have different emphases, based on the day of the week. Tuesday chapels are “Community Worship,” featuring worship of God through prayer, Scripture, sermon and song. Wednesday chapels are “Convocation,” which includes a variety of topics, artistic presentations, lectures and guest interviews. Friday chapels are “Spiritual Formation,” featuring teaching on Christian spiritual disciplines and practice of those disciplines together in the Sanctuary.  See the Friday dates below to find out which disciplines will be addressed and what they encompass — work cited: Spiritual Disciplines Handbook by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. [Click here to read Amazon info, and click here to view many pages online. This book is extremely heretical and extremely dangerous theologically. I can’t believe Malone University – which once held to a staunchly fundamentalist Wesleyan Holiness theology ala its predecessor Cleveland Bible College – is allowing this book to be endorsed and cited. Click here, here and here for discernment ministry exposes of the book and its author/compiler.]  Evening chapels include a variety of speakers and topics in a workshop format.

Malone Chapels are held Tuesdays (10:30-11:10 a.m.), Wednesdays (10:05-10:45 a.m.) and most Fridays (10:05-10:45 a.m.) in the Sanctuary of the Johnson Center for Worship and the Fine Arts. Evening chapels vary in time and location.

Chapels will begin Tuesday, January 15.

Tuesday, January 15, 10:30 a.m.: University Chaplain Randy Heckertsue nicholson

Wednesday, January 16, 10:05 a.m.:  Suzanne Nicholson, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biblical Studies, “Who is Jesus?”

Friday, January 18, 10:05 a.m.: Pastor Stan Hinshaw, Lead Pastor of Canton First Friends Church, “Why do spiritual disciplines matter?” www.firstfriends.org/leadership/pastoral-team [With all due respect, many pastors in the Evangelical Friends denomination have been warned about the heresies and dangers of  Spiritual Formation/Contemplative Spirituality – yet they continue to spread these occultish practices. I believe God will someday judge them accordingly, if they do not repent. “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (see Luke 12:47-48).]

Tuesday, January 22, 10:30 a.m.: Jeff Leon, Malone Life Coach, sharing the Gospel and kicking off the Signpost Series

Wednesday, January 23, 10:05 a.m.: Jeff Leon, Signpost Series

Friday, January 25, 10:05 a.m.: Celia King, Director of Service Learning; Discipline: TBA.

Tuesday, January 29, 10:30 a.m.: University Chaplain Randy Heckert

terry thomas Tuesday, January 29, 7-9 p.m. in Silk Auditorium (MH): Terry Thomas, Ph.D., Professor of Biblical Studies at Geneva College, “How to Read the Bible” workshop. Students should attend from 7-9 p.m. www.geneva.edu/object/faculty_terry_thomas

Wednesday, January 30, 10:05 a.m.: The Quaker Testimonies – understanding peace-making, simplicity, integrity and equality. www.esr.earlham.edu/support/comprehensive-case/the-vine/the-quaker-testimonies [Earlham is a school administered by the Friends United Meeting denomination. FUM is non-evangelical i.e. not born again. A close reading of this and other pages on their website will make this obvious.]

Friday, February 1, 10:05 a.m.: Director of Spiritual Formation Linda Leon; Discipline: Slowing – a spiritual discipline which helps us to savor the moment and curbs our addiction to busyness, hurry and workaholism.

Tuesday, February 5, 10:30 a.m.: Rev. Saleem Ghubril, Exec. Dir. of The Pittsburgh Promise,saleem ghubril “Loving and Serving Our Neighbor,” Signpost Series.   www.pittsburghpromise.org/about_staff.php

Wednesday, February 6, 10:05 a.m.: Rev. Saleem Ghubril, Signpost Series

Friday, February 8, 10:05 a.m.: Resident Directors Stacy Utecht and Mike Hansen; Discipline: Pilgrimage – walking while keenly aware of God’s presence.

Tuesday, February 12, 10:30 a.m.: University Chaplain Randy Heckert

Wednesday, February 13, 10:05 a.m.: Ash Wednesday Service (understand Ash Wednesday via www.christianity.about.com/od/holidaytips/qt/whatisashwednes.htm)

Friday, February 15, 10:05 a.m.: University Chaplain Randy Heckert; Discipline: Silence and Solitude – freeing oneself from addiction to noise and entering into time alone with God.

diana swoopeTuesday, February 19, 10:30 a.m.: Rev. Diana Swoope, Ph.D., Arlington Church of God, “Faith and Civility in Culture,” Signpost Series www.arlingtonchurch.org/content_about_us/swoope.htm

Wednesday, February 20, 10:05 a.m.: Singer and speaker Justin McRoberts, www.justinmcroberts.com

Friday, February 22, 10:05 a.m. Student Director of Spiritual Formation Avery Linn; Discipline: Fasting – to let go of an appetite in order to seek God on matters of deep concern for ourselves and others.bob book

Tuesday, February 26, 10:30 a.m.: Annual Senior Preacher chapel featuring Bob Book and James Talbert

Tuesday, February 26, 7-8 p.m. in JC Memorial Chapel: Tom Willett, musician, author and entertainment industry executive speaking on “Faith and Creativity,” Signpost Series. www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Willett james talbert

Wednesday, February 27, 10:05 a.m.: Departmental Convocation (students attend convocation at various campus locations TBA)

Friday, March 1, 10:05 a.m.: Chapel Worship Coordinator Tim Longbrake; Discipline: Music – understanding music as a way to worship God.

No chapels this week – Spring Break!

Tuesday, March 12, 10:30 a.m.: University Chaplain Randy Heckert

Wednesday, March 13, 10:05 a.m.: Theological panel with guests Steve Moroney, Ph.D.,   Bryan Hollon, Ph.D.,  and Woolman Lecturer Eleanore Stump, Ph.D.

celia king Friday, March 15, 10:05 a.m.: Celia King, Director of Service Learning: Discipline: Writing as Soul Care – writing and reflecting on God’s presence and activity in, around and through me.

Tuesday, March 19, 10:30 a.m.: Annual Excellence Chapel, including staff/faculty awards

Tuesday, March 19, 7-8 p.m., JC Memorial Chapel: evening chapel with Spiritual Formation staff Tim Longbrake and Linda Leon

Wednesday, March 20, 10:05 a.m.: Faith and Expression – panel of guests representing literature, music, theatre and the visual arts; featuring poet and author Julia Kasdorf, Signpost Series. www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/362

No Friday chapel this week due to the Air Band setup in the JC Sanctuary.

Tuesday, March 26, 10:30 a.m.: Exploring Worship chapels focused on Passion Week. Student may choose from three JC locations (same options will be given today and tomorrow). Watch for more information to come.  (What is Passion Week?
See http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2007/03/FAQ-Christian-Holidays-During-Holy-Week.aspx).

Wednesday, March 27, 10:05 a.m.: Choose a different option from yesterday.

No Friday chapel this week due to Easter Break.eric hehman

Tuesday, April 2, 10:30 a.m.: Football head coach Eric Hehman, “Faith and Sport,” Signpost Series

Wednesday, April 3, 10:05 a.m.: Rev. Alistair Begg, Senior Pastor of Parkside Church, www.truthforlife.org

Friday, April 5, 10:05 a.m.: Director of Spiritual Formation Linda Leon; Discipline: Meditating on the Names of God – contemplating names and titles for God which express His character, presence and authority.

Tuesday, April 9, 10:30 a.m.: University Chaplain Randy Heckert

Wednesday, April 10, 10:05 a.m.: Alumni Career Chapel (students attend chapel at various campus locations TBA)

Friday, April 12, 10:05 a.m.: Resident Director Kat Gritter; Discipline: Prayer of Examen – to notice both God and our God-given desires throughout the day.

This will be the final Friday chapel of the semester.

jj heller Tuesday, April 16, 10:30 a.m.: Musician JJ Heller, www.jjheller.com

Tuesday, April 16, 7-8 p.m., Stewart Room (BCC): evening chapel with Spiritual Formation staff Tim Longbrake and Linda Leon

Final Chapel: Wednesday, April 17, 10:05 a.m.: Senior Chapel, an annual tradition organized by the senior class representatives

FOR FURTHER RESEARCH (Correspondence, etc.)

Clips of various Spring 2013 chapel sessions

Following is a list of contacts in Malone’s Spiritual Formation Dept.; click here for the original list.

Pastor Randy Heckert

University Chaplain
330.471.8280
eurpxreg+znybar+rqh

Randy

Pastor Randy Heckert

University Chaplain
330.471.8280
eurpxreg+znybar+rqh

linda

Linda Leon

Director of Spiritual Formation
330.471.8442
yyrba2+znybar+rqh

 Celia

Celia King

Director of Service-Learning
330.471.8632
pxvat+znybar+rqh

   Edee

Edee Putnam

Support Person
330.471.8441
rchganz+znybar+rqh

Jessica

Tim Longbrake

Graduate Assistant/Chapel Worship Coordinator                                       330.471.8493
tlongbrake@malone.edu

Jeff

Jeff Leon

Spiritual Formation Volunteer
330.327.5565
woyrba+znybar+rqh

tanya

Tanya Hershberger

Spiritual Formation Volunteer
330.588.8828
oygurefuoretre+znybar+rqh

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I came cross this excellent blog by Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries. Click here for the original source of this blog, which I am reposting below:

RICHARD FOSTER SAYS BIBLE RELIABLE GUIDE DESPITE “INCONSISTENCIES”

By on Apr 18, 2012 in AM Missives, Current Issues, Features, Richard Foster

Apprising Ministries has long been warning you about the danger of listening to neo-Gnostics like Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster.

For years now Foster, along with his his spiritual twin Dallas Willard, has been teaching corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) under the guise of so-called Spiritual Formation.

But what we’re actually dealing with is really a romanticized version of Roman Catholic Counter Reformation spirituality, which is itself essentially a neo-Gnosticism.

What it’s not, is evangelical Protestant Christianity; and worse, this highly subjective CSM is truly hostile to the proper Christian spirituality of sola Scriptura. I’ll explain what I mean; first, in her piece Jesus The illuminated Illuminator today Christian Research Network contributor Marsha West is right when she says:

Contemporary Christianity is following “every wind of doctrine” in spite of the fact that Scripture warns about taking this route. Self-professed Christ followers no longer “endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions” (2 Tim. 4:3). Regrettably, many believers have embraced neo-Gnosticism. (Online source)

No, that’s not pleasant to hear; unfortunately, the truth often isn’t easy to listen to. Is this the kind of thing a woman ought to say? It is at this critical time when men are apparently too busy going from conference to conference speaking to each other about nothing to notice the living room of the visible church is on fire.

Then via GotQuestions.org West correctly informs us:

Christian Gnosticism is the belief that one must have a “gnosis” (from Greek “Gnosko,” to know) or inner knowledge which is mystical knowledge obtained only after one has been properly initiated. Only a few can possess this mystical knowledge, limiting the number of those “in the know”. … As such it is as false and heretical as the Gnosticism of the first century and needs to be roundly condemned for the heresy that it is. (Online source)

We have a vivid example of this as more and more bow before the silly superstitions of Foster-Willardism. Prior to the promotion of this dubious duo through the sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church aka the Emerging Church this neo-Gnosticism was confined to the mainline denominations, which it helped to mortally wound.

Sadly, now we have a plethora of neo-Gnostic fools who, through their practice of CSM, have now convinced themselves they are the truly enlightened ones. So deluded, they truly do believe that they’re receiving special revelation from God while they use a form of meditation in an altered state of consciousness commonly known as Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP).

Here’s a couple of examples of the fetid fruit of this CSM and CCP from Richard Foster himself. The first is from a 2005 piece in Quaker Life called The With God Life: An Interview with Richard Foster.  While hawking The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible, which had just come out, the Quaker mystic tells us how the experience-oriented Quakers subjectively approach God “in the gathered silence.”

That’s CSM-speak for the practice of CCP. And while explaining this to us Foster also reveals that apparently he personally does not hold to the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture:

“The Immanuel Principle is ultimately cosmic,” according to Foster. “We are to reign with God and be with God forever and forever. In the past God worked first directly, then indirectly with his people. Since Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection, God works both directly and indirectly. Quakers in the gathered silence experience God both directly and indirectly.”

I noticed that the focus on the with-God life circumnavigates inconsistencies found in Scripture and differing opinions about theology. By looking at how God revealed himself to people throughout Biblical history negates all those arguments. “You bypass it all,” stated Foster.

You put your focus on how God has been with a person and what does that say to me, now? What are their strengths and weaknesses and how does that apply to me? It’s all about developing charact — character [sic] that goes on into the future where we will reign with God and be with God eternally. (Online source, emphasis mine)

Did you catch that; you focus on how you subjectively think particular passages/verses of the Bible apply to you. However, the Bible isn’t about you. Then, according to Richard Foster, the infallible and inerrant Bible seems to have “inconsistencies” that his “with-God life” helps him to “circumnavigate.” Foster’s practice of CSM supposedly allows him to negate and then ”bypass” all the “differing opinions about theology.”

Why can they say that? Well, because he and his fellow neo-Gnostics like Dallas Willard would appear to have convinced themselves that they have gleaned superior direct gnosis (means knowledge) from God Himself through their practice of the so-called “spiritual disciplines” of CSM—most specifically the TM-lite of CCP.

Foster also informs us that:

Dallas Willard understands Quaker thinking about as well as anybody,” Foster acknowledged. “I had him do a study once on George Fox and his insights just blew me away.” (Online source)

If you didn’t know, George Fox is the heretical mystic who founded the original Quaker sect. Right in lock-step with classic mysticism, which believes God indwells all of mankind, Fox taught his myth as “the Inner Light.” I covered this foundational fable in great depth previously in Contemplating The Inner Light Of The Quakers.

Now we can consider Richard Foster’s teaching in the video below, which is a segment from GET A LIFE!: The With-God Life. In this clip Foster is talking about the “zoe-life [aka the supposed with-God life] that we receive from God” which “will accomplish its work; sustaining us, and moving us inevitably forward into Christlikeness.”

However, the “we” Foster is talking about here is not restricted to Christians; as a practicing Quaker, Foster is speaking of “the Inner Light”—which they teach is Christ—within all of mankind as he says:

This is a life! Powerful; irrepressible, self-sustaining, life—a with-God life. You see, this zoe is built into the very DNA of who we are as beings created in the image of God. It is an inward principle, and it will do its work. (:41-1:13)

Quite obviously, this would have to include all of mankind because each of us is created in the image of God. So what you’ll hear Foster teaching below ends up as classic Quaker doctrine, which is itself, right in line with Gnostic mysticism with its fantasy of “the divine spark” of God they believe is already within all of mankind.[1]

Since this isn’t the subject of this piece, here I’ll simply tell you that in John 14:6 Jesus explains to us that He is zoe. And the Bible teaches one receives the gift of zoe [aka eternal life] only by God’s grace alone; through faith alone, in Christ’s finished work on the Cross alone. In other words, by believing the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name.

Concerning our topic of Foster’s low view of Scripture, he spends some time talking about how supposedly this with-God life “flows from God through scripture and into the thirsty wasteland of the human soul.” Then at 7:09 into the video the Quaker mystic tells us “very specifically about the role of the Bible in all of this.”

First Foster sets up, and then knocks down, a couple of straw men; i.e. things those of us who adhere to sola Scriptura do not actually teach. Afterward Foster says:

Let me share with you what the Bible is. The Bible is a most reliable guide into this zoe life. You see, the Bible is God’s book; no one owns it, but God. And God has so superintended the writing of Scripture that it serves as a most reliable guide for our own spiritual formation. So you see, the purpose of the Bible is, as a most reliable guide into the zoe life that God intends for you and for me. (8:20-9:10)

Right in line with classic Quakerism, and in what he said above in the aforementioned interview, Quaker mystic Richard Foster has essentially told us that his experience in CSM will trump what the Bible says because it’s merely ”a most reliable guide.” You see, for these supposedly “enlightened” [read: deluded] neo-Gnostics, the Bible is merely a, and not the, most reliable guide in Christian spirituality, which is counter to sola Scriptura.

Today I sound the warning again: Those following people like Richard Foster had better wake up soon…

________________________________________________________________________________
End notes:

1. I refute this idea biblically in Understanding The New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind.

See also:

“CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE” BY RICHARD FOSTER AN ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THEOLOGICAL ERROR

IS DALLAS WILLARD A CHRISTIAN?

9 MARKS: INTERVARSITY PRESS SEEMS ADRIFT

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(revised 11/24/12)

I came across this excellent blog exposing the heresies of Quaker founder George Fox and contemplative Evangelical Friend Richard Foster.

Note – I have attempted to comply with the author’s copyright guidelines (listed at the bottom of this repost). I have gone through the repost and trimmed it down to excerpts, rather than reposting the entire blog. I found it  difficult to trim down – so much of the blog verifies what I have been writing about the Quakers, George Fox and Richard Foster in my other blogs. (In this repost I am hoping to add links to my pertinent blogs.) Thank you so much for your blog, Churchmouse Campanologist!

Following is my repost. Click here for the original site of this blog, in its entirety. I am emphasizing certain points in this repost by bolding in orange, and inserting comments [in orange with brackets].

Fuller Theological Seminary alums: Richard Foster

November 30, 2010

  Richard Foster is one of today’s leaders of spiritual formation.  Much has been written about the various forms of ‘Christian’ meditation, which have been sweeping America over the past several years.

From small acorns do mighty oaks grow.  Who would have imagined that a small non-profit started in 1988 and called Renovaré would have shaken so many Protestant denominations to their foundations?

Richard Foster is a Quaker — a member of the Religious Society of Friends [actually Foster was a member of the Evangelical Friends Church International denomination. Yet, he feels very comfortable associating with all nonchristian Quaker groups] — who put Renovaré and spiritual formation into play.  He earned his Bachelor’s degree at George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, and his Doctorate of Pastoral Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary.

George Fox’s spirituality

First, a word about George Fox and the Quakers.  If Fox were a young man today, he no doubt would have been a follower of Foster’s and an adherent of spiritual formation.  Fox lived between 1624 and 1691 — a tumultuous time in England.  When Fox came of age, Oliver Cromwell had beheaded Charles I,  then the Interregnum took place, the English Civil War followed and Charles II ushered in the Restoration in 1660.  To say that tensions were running high during Fox’s life would be an understatement.

Fox grew up with Puritan preachers.  As such, he was well versed in the King James Bible. But, like many Calvinist renegades throughout the past few centuries (e.g. Charles Taze Russell, founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses) the absolute doctrines of Calvinism upset him, particularly predestination.

Pastor Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries took a closer look at Fox’s mindset.  He read A History of Christianity and discovered (quote below is from the book, emphases are Silva’s):

For four years he suffered severe spiritual depression induced by the spectacle of human suffering,…and by the doctrine of predestination which he heard expounded from Puritan pulpits. By temperament a mystic, he was eager for direct and unhindered access to God

Eventually (1647) the light broke. He came to feel Christ could speak to “his condition,”… He believed that God is love and truth and that it is possible for all men so to open their lives to Him… [Fox] would follow and have others follow the Inner Light” (Vol. II, p. 822, emphasis mine).

What this meant was that Fox ended up rejecting sola Scriptura.  Sound familiar?  And so it goes today in the emergent church and in an increasing number of evangelical churches.

Quaker belief

Quakers believe that this Inner Light is present in everyone.  You can even see that reflected in the comments on the forum on QuakerInfo.com.  They don’t quote a lot of Scripture verses but rely on more secular or generically spiritual sayings or poems.  Some meetinghouses are more politically than religiously oriented.  There also appear to be three strands of Quaker practice — including an evangelical one. [Actually there are more “strands” – following are three of the larger ones.] Forum participant John writes:

Some examples:

Liberal Quaker – non-Christ centered … generally politically liberal, theologically liberal. [They “believe” in Christ as Lord and Teacher.]

Evangelical Quaker – Christ centered … generally politically mixed, running from liberal to conservative, theologically conservative. [This has changed since Richard Foster came on the scene in the 1970s. Today I would describe the Evangelical Friends aka EFCI as theologically “progressive evangelical”/Emerging/Emergent, since the leadership refuses to stop promoting Foster and other contemplatives/Emergings/Emergents. Granted, Evangelical Quakers/Evangelical Friends still refer to Christ as Lord and Saviour – although I wonder how many Evangelical Friends today are truly born again.]

Conservative Quaker – Christ centered … politically liberal on some issues (i.e. peace and non-violence), and politically conservative on others (limited government), theologically very conservative. [Theologically conservative perhaps in their manner of dress, but they don’t profess to be born again. They – like the Liberal Quakers above –  “believe” in Christ as Lord and Teacher.]

‘Are Quakers Protestant?’

QuakerInfo.com tells us (emphases mine below):

It is quite clear from reading the works of early Friends that they did not identify with the Protestant movement. They considered the Protestant churches of their day, as well as the Roman Catholics, to be apostate. They felt that Protestants had lopped off some of the false branches of Catholicism, but did not challenge the root of apostasy. Insofar as Catholicism and Protestantism were different, early Friends would often in discourse on a topic point out what they felt were the incorrect views of Catholics and the separate incorrect views of the Protestants on the issue.

The early Friends considered themselves “primitive Christianity revived” – restoring true Christianity from the apostasy which started very early. They were not interested in reforming an existing church, but rather freshly expressing the truth of a Christianity before any institutional church took strong hold.

There were a number of differences early Friends had with Protestants of their day. Some of the key differences were:

    • The Protestants replaced the authority of the church with the authority of the Bible. Friends, while accepting the validity of the scriptures and believing in the importance of the faith community, gave first place to the Spirit of Christ. Pointing to the prologue of the Gospel of John, they viewed Christ, not the Bible, as the Word of God. The scripture was secondary, a declaration of the fountain rather than the fountain itself. (See also Friends (Quakers) and the Bible.)
    • The Protestants replaced liturgy with a sermon as the center of worship. Friends center worship in the divine presence. Even though Friends disdain outward liturgy, in some sense Quaker worship may be closer to Catholic than Protestant in nature. Both Catholics and Quakers believe in the actual presence of Christ in worship, for Catholics centered in the host and for Quakers spiritually. (See also Friends (Quaker) Worship.)
    • The Protestants were continually disturbed by an inner sense of guilt and original sin, and often felt they were choosing between sins. Quakers balanced the concept of original sin with the idea that redemption and regeneration could actually free humans from sin.

Today:

much of Society of Friends has become more mainstream and tends to identify with some of the movements among Protestants. At the same time, some of the key Quaker understandings have become increasingly accepted among many Protestants in the last century. The pentecostal and charismatic movements, which have become a very large part of the Protestantism and have also impacted Catholicism, have some similarities with the early Quaker movement.

Shades of universalism

Ken Silva read more about George Fox’s experience in ‘the well-respected Handbook Of Denominations In The United States (HoD) from Mead and Hill’ (emphases below are Silva’s):

After failing to find satisfactory truth and peace in the churches of his time, Fox discovered what he sought in a direct personal relationship with Christ:

“When all my hopes in [churches] were gone… I heard a voice which said, ‘That is the Inner Voice, or Inner Light, based upon the description of John 1:9: ‘the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (KJV)’ ”

“This voice,” Fox maintained, “is available to all and has nothing to do with the ceremonies, rituals, or creeds over which Christians have fought. Every heart is God’s altar and shrine.” (140,141, emphasis mine).

Let’s be honest.  If you were to ask any number of people about a) having a direct personal relationship with Christ or b) if everyone is part divine or can come equally to God, you’d receive a surprisingly positive response to both.  The question then is — are these in accordance with the Bible?  No, they are not.

Silva warns us (emphases mine):

this false idea of an inner light, or a “divine spark,” is a very key issue to grasp before one can come to understand the root of the flawed semi-pelagian “gospel” preached by much of mainstream evangelicalism within which Foster has now become a major player. I cover this spiritually fatal idea of “a spark of the divine” allegedly inside all of mankind further in The Emergent “One” and Understanding the New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind.

So in closing this for now I tell you in the Lord that this musing is actually classic Gnostic mysticism, which itself has already been condemned within the pages of the New Testament. Particularly in the Book of Colossians as well as in 1 John we find the Apostles dealing with Gnosticism. And again concerning all of this messed mysticism the Lord warns us through His chosen vessel Peter — In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up (2 Peter 2:3).

Foster’s Celebration of Discipline

Foster’s most notable work is his 1978 book, Celebration of Discipline, wherein he explores mystical and Quaker practices. Christianity Today named it as one of the top 10 of the 20th century.  Pastor Gary Gilley of Southern View Chapel observes (emphases mine):

Celebration of Discipline alone, not even referencing Foster’s other writings and teachings and ministries, is a virtual encyclopedia of theological error. We would be hard pressed to find in one so-called evangelical volume such a composite of false teaching. These include faulty views on the subjective leading of God (pp. 10, 16-17, 18, 50, 95, 98, 108-109, 128, 139-140, 149-150, 162, 167, 182); approval of New Age teachers (see Thomas Merton below); occultic use of imagination (pp. 25-26, 40-43, 163, 198); open theism (p. 35); misunderstanding of the will of God in prayer (p. 37); promotion of visions, revelations and charismatic gifts (pp. 108, 165, 168-169, 171, 193); endorsement of rosary and prayer wheel use (p. 64); misunderstanding of the Old Testament Law for today (pp. 82, 87); mystical journaling (p. 108); embracing pop-psychology (pp. 113-120); promoting Roman Catholic practices such as use of “spiritual directors,” confession and penance (pp. 146-150, 156, 185); and affirming of aberrant charismatic practices (pp. 158-174, 198).

Gilley adds:

… the dust jacket of this edition assures us “that it is only by and through these practices that the true path to spiritual growth can be found” … If spiritual growth is dependent upon the spiritual disciplines described in Foster’s book, should not we have expected to find this truth in the Scriptures? Why did God reveal them, not to the apostles but to apostate Roman Catholic mystics, and then to Richard Foster as he studied the mystics and used occultic techniques of meditation? We need to tread very carefully through this spiritual minefield. If this is in fact one of the ten best books of the twentieth century, I am not too anxious to read the other nine.

He concludes:

No one is calling for a purely intellectualized faith devoid of practice and experience. What those who draw their cue from Scripture and not mystics are calling for is a Christian faith, experience and practice that is rational, intellectual, makes sense, and most importantly is solidly grounded on the Word of God. Foster and company have taken many far afield in pursuit of mystical experiences that lead to a pseudo-Christianity that has the appearance of spirituality but not the substance.

Renovaré

The verb is Latin for ‘to renew’.  Since Foster founded this organisation in 1988, it has expanded around the world.

After the success of Celebration of Discipline, Foster received many public speaking invitations.  Audiences, particularly in the evangelical world, were highly receptive to the book’s subject matter and wished to know more.  In 1986, Foster withdrew from active ministry to pursue a means for teaching people how to live the disciplines the book explores.  He launched Renovaré two years later.

The non-profit organisation has taken on an ecumenical membership from a variety of Protestant denominations as well as from the Roman Catholic Church.  In fact, it is now headed by an Anglican Franciscan, Christopher Webb.  Foster remains a member of Renovaré’s board and its ministry team.

Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs and John MacArthur’s Grace to You Ministries shared his own impressions of Foster with Ken Silva (emphases mine):

I met Foster almost 25 years ago when we were both slated to teach seminars at a couple of writers’ conferences. At the time, he was teaching at Friends University in Wichita, which is a small college founded by Quakers and happens to be where my Mom got her degree in the early 1960s. So we had some things in common and spent quite a bit of time talking. He is a capable writer and a very likable person.

But in my opinion, he is not an evangelical. He does not seem to have any clear understanding of the gospel or the atonement. That’s why his emphasis is all about “spirituality” and “spiritual disciplines” and various things the worshiper must do, with virtually no emphasis on what Christ has done for sinners. I’ve read several of Foster’s books and have never even seen him mention the cross as a propitiation for sins.

Moreover, he blends all kinds of works-based approaches to spirituality, which he borrows from diverse “Christian” traditions and even from other religions’ mystical and superstitious practices. In my estimation, all of that puts him far outside the pale of orthodoxy. Although he occasionally makes quotable remarks and valid observations, he is by no means a trustworthy teacher.

Nonetheless, Foster’s disciplines are pervasive.

From Calvinists to the Nazarenes

Silva researched Foster’s effect on various churches and found that a new generation of Calvinists were on board.

In 2009, John Piper interviewed Matt Chandler of The Village Church, who gave Piper his impressions of being ‘a pastor, a Calvinist and a Complementarian’.  Silva found it ‘odd’ that

in a search for Richard Foster in the Recommended Books of The Village Church, “that have challenged and helped us as a staff in our faith and in our ministry work”, we find his books Celebration of Discipline, Streams of Living Water, and The Challenge of the Disciplined Life

And so I have to wonder: Why would a Calvinist pastor and his staff be recommending to anyone these books by a highly ecumenical Quaker mystic whose whole sorry shtick is reintroducing the unsuspecting to the apostate Sola Scriptura-denying and spurious spirituality of the Counter Reformation within the medieval Roman Catholic Church?

Mark Driscoll, controversial pastor of the Mars Hill Fellowship in Seattle, also advocates spiritual disciplines and contemplative practices.  Lighthouse Trails Research discovered (emphases mine):

In an article written by Driscoll himself, ironically titled Obedience, Driscoll tells readers to turn to Richard Foster and contemplative Gary Thomas. Driscoll states:

If you would like to study the spiritual disciplines in greater detail … helpful are Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster, and Sacred Pathways, by Gary Thomas.

And:

Presently, on Driscoll’s website, The Resurgence … is an article titled “How to Practice Meditative Prayer.” The article is written by an Acts 29 (Driscoll’s network of churches) pastor, Winfield Bevins. A nearly identical article on Driscoll’s site, also by Bevins, is titled Meditative Prayer: Filling the Mind. Both articles show a drawing of a human brain. In this latter article, Bevins recognizes contemplative mystic pioneer Richard Foster:

What do we mean by meditative prayer? Is there such a thing as Christian meditation? Isn’t meditation non-Christian? According to Richard Foster, “Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind. Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind” (Celebration of Discipline). Rather than emptying the mind we fill it with God’s word. [Foster is misleading here – his form of meditation is indeed emptying the mind since it’s derived from Eastern meditation, albeit using “Christian” methods. I’m sure neurological studies would show that Foster’s meditation produces altered states of consciousness with Alpha brain waves – as does occult Eastern meditation.] We must not neglect a vital part of our Judeo-Christian heritage simply because other traditions use a form of meditation.

Meanwhile, Manny Silva at Reformed Nazarene does an excellent job in exposing false teachers to members of the Church of the Nazarene.

On November 14, 2010, he blogged about the possibility of Nazarene youth groups being influenced by Renovaré.  He writes about two Christian youth ministries already working with young adult Nazarene members — Barefoot and YouthFront — which wish to partner with Renovaré (emphases mine)…

… the third part of this alliance is Renovare, an organization founded by Richard Foster, perhaps the most influential person today in leading many evangelicals directly to and over the cliffs, right into the abyss of spiritual formation (certainly a more palatable and innocent-sounding phrase than contemplative spirituality, or “Christianized transcendental meditation”, or maybe “occultic prayer practices.”  I have also documented much of Richard Foster’s unbiblical practices and ideology, and it is maddening that he has such an influence in a denomination that preaches holiness and faithfulness to God’s written word, and long ago ironically moved away from experiential-based spirituality in rejecting the hyper-charismatic movement.

[The last sentence above from my personal friend Manny best describes the denomination (particularly Ohio Yearly Meeting aka EFC-ER) prior to the 1970s. Foster started gaining an Evangelical Friends foothold in the early 1970s in Northwest Yearly Meeting, then got a deathgrip on the entire denomination in 1978 with his bestselling Celebration of Discipline. From 1978 on, the Evangelical Friends have gone downhill into contemplative and Emerging/Emergent teachings. Amazing, and tragic, how times have changed for the Evangelical Friends and other Evangelical denominations.

 Just a comment on Manny’s statement that the EFCI “long ago ironically moved away from experiential-based spirituality in rejecting the hyper-charismatic movement.” I don’t know about the other Regions/Yearly Meetings of the EFCI, but EFC-ER put out a statement in 1970 forbidding the open speaking of tongues during services. Ironically, today EFC-ER’s Malone University is becoming increasingly open to IHOP teachings. Again, a huge change from yesteryear. Interestingly, IHOP and other Third Wave Pentecostal groups incorporate Foster’s contemplative practices – as well as overlap with the Emerging/Emergent movements.]

Why Christians are unhappy

Manny Silva reminds Nazarenes what experimentation in religious practices can do not only to individuals but to a denomination as a whole (same link as above):

… we seem to be continuing down this road, making more and more alliances with organizations that have a veneer of truth. And so I ask again, since there is some truth there, does that make it okay to join with them?  Is there any more doubt as to where our denomination is heading, my friends?  Are we fooling ourselves and thinking that these are just minor aberrations in the whole scheme of things?

What does it say to you, then, that NTS, our main seminary for training pastors for the future, is clearly holding hands with these groups, and promoting them? Remember NTS’s promotion of the Spiritual Formation Retreat just before General Assembly?  Remember the Prayer Room at General Assembly with the Richard Foster book?  Or the Richard Foster/Renovare event at Point Loma Nazarene University? Or Trevecca Nazarene University’s prayer labyrinth? Remember the promotion of contemplative practices on the NTS website, for pre-teens?  …  Either our leadership is totally in the dark about these (and many more that I have not mentioned), or they know of it, and are saying nothing specific to the questions many have put to them.

Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), host of the White Horse Inn, national radio broadcast, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine.  In ‘What’s Wrong and Right about the Imitation of Christ’, he offers these observations of contemplative Christianity (emphases mine):

It would be a travesty simply to lump together medieval mysticism, the Anabaptist tradition, Quakers, Pietism, and Protestant liberalism. Nevertheless, there is a common thread running through these diverse movements-a theology of works-righteousness that emphasizes:

    • Christ’s example over his unique and sufficient achievement;
    • The inner experience and piety of believers [and nonbelievers] over the external work and Word of Christ;
    • Our moral transformation over the Spirit’s application of redemption;
    • Private soul formation over the public ministry of the means of grace.

… Let’s leave the final word to Martin Luther, as recorded in Tabletalk (emphases mine):

Yet all these seeming holy actions of devotion, which the wit and wisdom of man holds to be angelical sanctity, are nothing else but works of the flesh… 

Is the same true of our contemplative friends among the laity?  Please exercise caution in your Christian practices.  Is what you are doing in the Bible, particularly the New Testament? If not, avoid it. Rely not on Christian bookstores, errant pastors or sensation-seeking friends.  Instead, be Berean.

End of series

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 PAGAN PRAYER BEADS AND PAGAN ROSARY BEADS
In recent years, a prayer tool called the “Pearls of Life” has become more common, particularly in the Emerging/Emergent Church movements. The Pearls of Life are an ecumenical Lutheran prayer beads/rosary. Unfortunately, the Pearls of Life (like every kind of prayer beads/rosaries) has occultic pagan origins and is used in an occultic contemplative way.

Before looking at prayer beads/rosaries in general, let’s look at the Pearls of Life. My first thoughts upon hearing about this were:

1) The Pearls of Life seem to be a Protestant version of the Catholic rosary (which is occultic and idolatrous). Many of the heresies of the Rosary will also be heresies of the Pearls of Life.

2) Both the Pearls of Life and the Catholic rosary involve ritual (which is occultic).

3) I assume the Pearls of Life, like the Catholic rosary, are viewed as a “means of grace.” They both involve salvation by works (people falsely believe they can get to Heaven by doing works).

Let’s look at the invention of the Pearls of Life. I found the following excerpt here. Note – throughout this blog, I am emphasizing certain points by bolding, and inserting comments in [brackets].

“This site is about Pearls of Life – an ecumenical rosary from Sweden. For better description there is a basic book of Pearls of Life by Martin Lönnebo [if he is heretical, his invention the Pearls of Life will be heretical], which you can order from a Swedish Publishing company VERBUM.

Martin Lönnebo, Lutheran emeritus bishop in Sweden, was considering what could help us in praying, what a person needs when he/she is distressed, how the church could support young parents to pray with their children… And he made a conclusion that a rosary could be a practical device for these purposes, and also a help in spiritual training [perhaps he was thinking of Richard Foster’s occultic Spiritual Formation], which he finds even more important than physical or mental training.

He named the rosary “Frälsarkransen”, which means “The Wreath of Christ” (the name is in Norway and in Denmark “Kristuskransen”). He wanted to emphasise the meaning of silence in prayer. Praying is not only speaking in words, it is being in front of God, with empty hands, listening. Just being. Seeing and touching the beads ease to concentrate and remember the most important things in life…”

And following are excerpts providing more details, found here:

The “Pearls of Life” (in Swedish, they are known as frälsarkransen, which means “the lifebuoy”) were invented by Bishop Martin Lönnebo of the Church of Sweden [in 1996]… Bishop Martin had long been interested in the spirituality of the Eastern Church and fascinated by the mixture of formality and informality in Orthodox worship, with its candles and icons and prayer beads, and he set about designing what became a “prayer bracelet”. After trial and error, he finally decided on a set of eighteen beads in which he summarised the message of the Christian faith.

Bishop Martin wanted a tangible means of communicating that faith, and from his studies of eastern spirituality he knew something of the ways in which beads are used as aids to prayer in world religions. In Islam, a rope of 33 beads enables Muslims to focus their prayers on the 99 Beautiful Names of God. there are similar aids to Hindu and Buddhist devotion. In Western Christianity the Rosary holds pride of place. It has a whole literature devoted to it, mostly by Roman Catholic writers, but with significant contributions from Anglican writers such as Austin Farrer and from the Methodist Neville Ward. In the Eastern Church ropes of “prayer knots” are an aid for those who wish to fulfil St Paul’s injunction to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), running through the rhythms of the Jesus Prayer.

Martin Lönnebo’s “Pearls of Life” are very different from the Rosary. There is no single prescribed way of using them as there is for the Rosary. They are, Bishop Martin insists, “a lifebelt not fetters”. Those who have sufficient leisure can work their way in prayer round the bracelet. In other circumstances it may be more appropriate to focus on a single bead or group of beads. They aren’t only a way of praying. They can also be used as a framework for teaching. The beads can be linked to stages in the life of Jesus, as well as opening up Christian experience. In the Church of Sweden, and in North Germany, they are widely used as an aid to catechesis. Our partner diocese of Växjö (which is, incidentally, immediately south of Bishop Martin’s former diocese of Linköping) has used it for some years now as a basis for preparing young people for their confirmation. Their great advantage is that they are discreet, and they are portable. They can be carried in a handbag or a pocket or they can be worn, like any bracelet, on the wrist.

The “Pearls of Life” are a means of developing prayer, deepening faith and broadening understanding. Some who use them do so at the beginning or end of the day. Some find them a helpful framework for a prayerful reflection on the events of the day that has just passed. Others like to focus on particular beads on particular days (for example, the Resurrection pearl on a Sunday)…

So what is the problem with prayer beads/rosaries? The problem is, they are a contemplative aid. Thus all Christian-based prayer bead/rosaries are occultic. It doesn’t matter whether they are Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Anglican or whatever – they all work the same way.

I found additional excerpts here, which describe the specific dangers of all prayer beads/rosaries.  (Although this article mainly discusses Tony Campolo, it also includes some very insightful info about prayer beads/rosaries):

To enter this “spiritual realm” [of Richard Foster’s contemplative prayer/contemplative spirituality] it is essential for the participant to empty the mind of all thoughts, as well as lay aside Biblical notions on sin, Jesus Christ, grace and salvation. There are a host of web sites aimed at Christians [there are more than 78,000 such sites on the topic]. Advocates suggest that instead of a “sacred word” you could use the Stations of the Cross as a labyrinth tool for prayer, or Anglican Prayer Beads. These prayer methods are closely akin to the Tibetan Buddhist Prayer Wheel [which can be purchased on line for $25 ~ free shipping]. Just think of it: For only $25 you can contact God!

All of these “methods” to be employed in our prayer lives are intended to make us feel good about God ~ any God. And if we feel good about him, he obviously feels good about us. An ELCA web site tells us: “When most people think of prayer beads the Roman Catholic Rosary is most likely to come to mind – or perhaps Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu Prayer beads. Eastern Orthodox prayer ropes or beads are also very popular. But, the use of prayer beads is increasing among people of many faith traditions,…”
 
Through contemplative prayer in its various forms and practices we readily find the connection between Catholics, Buddhists, Lutherans, Moslems, Episcopals, Hindus and Evangelicals.
 
The ELCA [Evangelical Lutheran Church of America] site goes on to say that the “use of prayer beads creates a rhythm that discourages distractions and focuses attention so that the one who prays can more readily move into God’s presence.”
 
The Bible-believer wants to know: Where is the God of the Bible in all this? Is He equally present in all religions, able to be contacted by Moslems and Buddhists in the same way that a Christian comes to know Him through Jesus Christ? And what about Jesus? Did He need to die? Why, if God can be contacted using a method, what did Jesus’ death do for us?…

See also this detailed Wikipedia article, describing the occultic, contemplative use of prayer beads/rosaries in a number of world religions.

The book Praying with Beads by Nan Lewis Doerr and Virginia Stem Owens (pp. vii-ix) also discuss the pagan history of prayer beads/rosaries. Click here to read online.

FOR FURTHER READING

Heresies of the Catholic rosary

Detailed Catholic article explaining and endorsing the Catholic rosary

Wikipedia article on the Catholic rosary

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Since posting this blog (which includes a repost about David Crowder’s contemplative practices and Catholic-leaning mysticism), I’ve read additional bits and pieces here and there about  Crowder’s contemplative and Emergent heresies. I decided to peruse Amazon.com, to see what I could find in Crowder’s own writings.

It didn’t take long to find what I was looking for. One of Crowder’s books is Praise Habit: Finding God in Sunsets and Sushi (Experiencing God). It is immediately apparent  that the youthful, loved-by-youth Crowder is one of many poster children for occultish Spiritual Formation/Contemplative Spirituality, as well as the Emerging/Emergent movements.

Consider these quotes from Amazon.com. And these were found before I even clicked on Amazon’s “Read Inside” feature!

First, consider Amazon’s book description:

Praise is something we are, not something we do. Musician David Crowder redefines our perspective of God and helps us develop a habit of praising Him by reflecting on targeted psalms from The Message//REMIX.

Ideal for teens and those who love the beauty and music of the Psalms.

The above sounds okay – except for the reference the Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrase. This should be a huge red flag.

In the Reader Comments, Crowder’s heresies become really evident. Consider this excerpt from the Reader Comments, by Amos M. Rawley (April 27, 2007):

Crowder uses the ancient practice of “Lectio Divina”, which he later explains. This method consists of reading Scripture not to try and pull things out of it, but rather slowly reading through a passage of Scripture, chewing it up, and just being quiet and meditating on what you just heard. Breathe it in slowly, absorb the perfume of God’s Word, let it settle in on you. Then, after some time, when settled, write your own response.

Crowder examines 21 different Psalms from the Old Testament (starting w/ Ps. 1 and ending w/ Ps. 150) in Lectio Divina style. In each of these very short chapters, he starts by writing the Psalm for the reader. All Psalms are taken from Eugene Peterson’s “The Message Remix”. This was for me reading these 21 Psalms in a new light than ever before. And the view was breathtaking. (I’m buying a Psalm book in “The Message” now, because I was so taken aback.)

After the Psalm, the reader will find Crowder’s own “lectio divina” on that Psalm. Crowder is an extremely unique writer and an amazing communicator.

[Following is a quote from his Psalm 29 “lectio divina”]: “”Let the knowledge of His transcendence bring us back to life. Let it flow like blood to sleeping limbs, and feel them tingle as they awake in awe. Shake life back into your legs and let them carry you running with wind and thunder. Shake life back into your chest and let your heart beat in pounding reverence. Let praise come face to the ground, trembling with life an awareness that we are found by a holy God.”

– pg. 70, on Psalm 29

Does a nun have to decide what to wear in the morning? No, she just puts on her habit… day in, and day out. And so should we, our Praise Habit, until it becomes “habit”ual.

On the back cover is a reference to Psalm 64:10; “… Good-hearted people, make praise your habit.” There’s a brief, three paragraph synopsis of the book, starting out, “Praise is something we are, not something we do.” This first of Crowder’s books is, on the back cover, recommended by Donald Miller (Blue Like JazzTo Own A DragonThrough Painted Desserts) and Brian McLaren (pastor, author of A New Kind of Christian, voice for the today’s emergent church). [Note – Miller and McLaren are just a few of the contemplatives and Emergents who recommend- and are recommended by – Crowder.]

Note – I plan to add more comments on the heresies of David Crowder. This is just the tip of Crowder’s deadly theological iceberg.

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(blog under construction)

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

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

Beware The Leaven Coming Into Your Church Curriculum

Posted on April 2, 2012 by reformednazarene

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter The Ecumenical Quaker Swami Richard Foster

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

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(revised 01/30/15)

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

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

The Unholiness of the Renovaré Brotherhood’s “Holiness”

Posted by Tom Lessing on July 9, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

What is Renovare?

Here are a few facts about “Renovaré”:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So, what is holiness anyway?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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[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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(revised 10/05/12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baseline: The “Sanctification Gap”

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

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

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

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

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

Challenge and Hunger

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

Jumping the Barriers

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

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

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

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

Building Bridges

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

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

Crossing the Rubicon—to visit

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

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

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

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

What Was Recovered, And What It Meant

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

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

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

Hitting a Wall

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

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

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

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

A Cloud The Size of a Man’s Fist

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

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

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

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

NOTES

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

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

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

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

5 Hatch, Democratization.

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

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

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

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