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Posts Tagged ‘Spiritual Formation’

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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(revised 01/10/14)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now on to Gilley’s article:

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


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

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

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

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

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

Willard teaches a number of other deviate ideas including:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOR FURTHER READING

Amy Spreeman, God told me to tell you…

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In researching Quakerism and the Evangelical Friends, I’ve come across a number of discernment articles revealing how Spiritual Formation pioneer (and Evangelical Friend) Richard Foster has promulgated the heretical “Inner Light” teaching of Quakerism’s founder George Fox.

In the following blog by Ken Silva, which I have reposted, Foster once again is exposed as teaching this Quaker “Inner Light” heresy. Click here for Silva’s original post.  Now on to the repost:

RICHARD FOSTER: THE BIBLE A RELIABLE GUIDE DESPITE INCONSISTENCIES

By on Mar 18, 2010 in AM Missives, Current Issues, Dallas Willard, 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.

It’s not evangelical Protestant Christianity; and worse, this highly subjective CSM is truly hostile to the proper Christian spirituality of Sola Scriptura. Here’s a couple of examples from Foster. 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.”

And while explaining this to us Foster also reveals that 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 that goes on into the future where we will reign with God and be with God eternally. (Online source, emphasis mine)

According to Richard Foster the infallible and inerrant Bible has “inconsistencies” that, as one of the new Gnostics, his “with-God life” helps him ”circumnavigate.” Foster’s practice of CSM supposedly allows him to negate and then ”bypass” all the “differing opinions about theology” because, well obviously, he and his fellow neo-Gnostics like Willard have gleaned superior direct gnosis (means knowledge) from God through their CSM:

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 and, right in lock-step with classic mysticism which believes God indwells all of mankind, taught of “the Inner Light.” Now we can consider 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 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 as the image of God. (:41-1:00)

What you’ll hear Foster teaching is classic Quaker doctrine, which is itself, right in line with classic Gnostic mysticism with its fantasy of “the divine spark” of God within all of mankind. [1] Since this isn’t the subject of this piece I’ll simply tell you that in John 14:6 Jesus tells us that He is zoe and the Bible teaches one receives the gift of zoe [aka eternal life] is given only by God’s grace alone; through faith alone, in the finished work on the Cross of Christ Jesus 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, after talking about how supposedly this with-God life “flows from God through scripture and into the thirsty wasteland of the human soul,” at 7:09 into the video the Quaker mystic talks “very specifically about the role of the Bible in all of this.” First he sets up, and then knocks down, a couple of straw men, i.e. things those of us who adhere to Sola Scriptura are not actually teaching. 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, 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 what he said above in the aforementioned interview, Quaker mystic Richard Foster has just told us that his experience in CSM will trump what Scripture says because it’s merely ”a most reliable guide”; but for these neo-Gnostics, the Bible simply is not the most reliable guide as in the proper Christian spirituality of Sola Scriptura. Those following people like Richard Foster had better wake up soon…

________________________________________________________________________________
Endnotes:

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

See also:

CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY OF RICHARD FOSTER ROOTED IN THE EASTERN DESERT AND THOMAS MERTON

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

“INWARD JOURNEY” ESPOUSED BY RICHARD FOSTER IS A FORM OF DIVINATION

IS DALLAS WILLARD A CHRISTIAN?

CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY/MYSTICISM (CSM) OF SPIRITUAL FORMATION IS RECKLESS FAITH

THE TERMINOLOGY TRAP OF “SPIRITUAL FORMATION”

9 MARKS: INTERVARSITY PRESS SEEMS ADRIFT

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(revised 06/06/14)

I grew up in the Evangelical Friends denomination (now known as the EFCI), during a time period in which it was much more biblically sound. Yes, between the years of 1854-1965, many Evangelical Friends aka Gurneyite Friends held a born again, biblically sound separatist fundamentalist Wesleyan Holiness theology – particularly in Ohio Yearly Meeting (OYM). Never once did I hear the terms Inner Light, direct revelation, etc. in the church services of Ohio Yearly Meeting. My fondest memories are of a small OYM church where we:

* heard regular altar calls
* sang gospel hymns such as “The Old Rugged Cross” and “There is a Fountain Filled with Blood”
* attended Wednesday night prayer meetings where many old saints of God prayed fervently on their knees

Unfortunately, like myself, Richard Foster also grew up in the Evangelical Friends denomination. And he latched on to the contemplative teachings of heretical Quaker founder George Fox. Foster’s bestseller Celebration of Discipline came out in 1978; it was eagerly welcomed by Evangelical Friends. And the rest is history. Along with Eugene Peterson, Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet and many other Emerging/Emergents,  Foster has wrought immeasurable damage to the Evangelical Friends and most other evangelical denominations. (I’m not sure who is more culpable – these Emerging/Emergent pioneers, or the Evangelical Friends denominational leaders who have welcomed them with open arms.)

What exactly are the heresies of Richard Foster, and why are they so dangerous? And what is the connection between the heresies of Foster and the heresies of Quakers? Ken Silva explains the connection in the article I’ve reposted below. Click here for Silva’s original article.

RICHARD FOSTER AND QUAKER BELIEFS

By on Oct 22, 2008 in AM Missives, Current Issues, Features, Richard Foster

Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds. (Jeremiah 14:14, NASB)

Richard Foster Is Not An Evangelical Christian He Is A Quaker

This well-documented piece from Apprising Ministries is designed primarily as a reference article as it concerns The Cult of Guru Richard Foster. Founder of Renovare “Christian Roshi” Richard Foster is not an evangelical Christian; but rather, he is a Quaker:

Richard J. Foster (Quaker) — Richard is the founder of RENOVARÉ and author of six books including Celebration of Discipline, PRAYER: Finding the Heart’s True Home, and Streams of Living Water which effectively promote personal spiritual renewal. From his base near Denver, Colorado, where he and Carolynn, his wife, live, Richard travels throughout the world, speaking and teaching on the spiritual life. (Online source).

Next this from QuakerInfo.com:

Perhaps the best known Quaker in the world today is Richard J. Foster, although many are at most dimly aware that he is associated with the Religious Society of Friends. He is clearly one of the leading contemporary writers and speakers on Christian spirituality. While maintaining his ties with Friends, Foster deliberately speaks to a much broader audience.

Richard Foster grew up among Evangelical Friends. In adult life, he has been a Friends pastor and a professor of theology at Friends University among the many positions he has held. In his books and speaking, he frequently makes reference to Quaker historical figures and his own Quakerism. (Online source)

And then the interspiritual website Spirituality & Practice website, which lists Foster among their “Living Spiritual Teachers” such as Marcus Borg, Deepak Chopra, and the Dali Lama, also confirms the above:

Richard J. Foster is the founder of RENOVARÉ, an international, ecumenical Christian organization working for the renewal of the Church of Jesus Christ in all her multifaceted expressions. Members are dedicated to following the powerful movement of the Spirit of God by bringing together the best spiritual treasures of several great Christian streams of faith and witness… Foster is an Evangelical Friend, one of the Quaker groups.
(Online source)

With the “Evangelical” Quakers we are again dealing with a reinterpretation of what is meant by evangelical. I’ll show you what I mean from the website of the Evangelical Friends Church International (EFCI). They tell you they are “evangelical,” and in their mind they are. However, in the “History” section of EFCI we read:

The Friends Church, originally called the “Religious Society of Friends” began in England under the leadership of George Fox… His spiritual experience led him to witness to what he called the “Inner Light” of Christ (the Holy Spirit) that dwells in the hearts of ordinary people

Through the years many changes have occurred, producing differences among various groups of Friends. Some groups maintain “quiet meetings” [without pastors or musical instruments]. Evangelical Friends Church International [EFCI] churches have forms of worship similar to other Protestant denominations. However, like Fox their focus remains an individual, personal relationship with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. (Online source, emphasis mine)

If you go back and just read the hightlighted within that section above it will show you where one needs to focus to see through the EFCI redefined evangelical double-speak. I cover this in excruciating detail in Contemplating the Inner Light of the Quakers (Pt. 2) so all I’m going to do here is draw your attention to a couple of key points as it concerns the warped theology of Richard Foster. To be a Quaker is to follow the movement—regardless of what window dressing you may later add to, or subtract from, it—begun through George Fox in England in the mid-1640s, as allegedly the restoration of genuine Christianity.

The Personal Revelation From God To George Fox Of “Inner Light”

Men and women, George Fox is the bad tree that all other flavors of Quakerism branch out from. But you need to understand that Fox was heretical; he was not an evangelical or even an orthodox Christian in the first place; and he flatly rejected the essential doctrine of Sola Scriptura. The absolute fact is that Fox focused on “individual, “personal” revelation outside of Scripture, which becomes crystal clear through the following entry from his own journal:

I heard a voice which said, “There is one, even Jesus Christ, that can speak to thy condition”: and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy. Then the Lord did let me see why there was none upon the earth that could speak to my condition, namely, that I might give Him all the glory; for all are concluded under sin, and shut up in unbelief, as I had been, that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence, who enlightens, and gives grace and faith and power. Thus when God doth work, who shall let it?

And this I knew experientially. My desires after the Lord grew stronger, and zeal in the pure knowledge of God, and of Christ alone, without the help of any man, book, or writing. For though I read the Scriptures that spake of Christ and of God, yet I knew Him not, but by revelation, as He who hath the key did open, and as the Father of Life drew me to His Son by His Spirit…

Now when the Lord God and His Son Jesus Christ sent me forth into the world, to preach His everlasting gospel and kingdom, I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation, and their way to God; even that divine Spirit which would lead them into all Truth, and which I infallibly knew would never deceive any.  (Online source)

Note here that Fox is claiming God spoke to him directly’ and this apart from any “book, or writing,” and what is more he “infallibly knew” this revelation was of the Holy Spirit. Ah—one would have to say this doesn’t exactly give anybody much room to disagree, eh. “Thus saith George”—oops, make that God; or um, maybe it really was just George after all? Had you been one of the ones Fox approached with this revelation how would you have known if what he claimed was of God or not? Hint: B-i-b-l-e.

The well-respected Handbook Of Denominations In The United States (HoD) from Mead and Hill informs us that the Quakers date “from the late 1650’s in England” and “ the Society of Friends, or Quakers, is an unconventional but esteemed Protestant body.” *heavy sigh* Well, that all depends on how we define “Protestant.” As a matter of fact Bill Samuel, the Quaker who runs the aforementioned Quaker Info.com, has a most *ahem* enlightening piece that asks “Are Quakers Protestant?” where some interesting information comes…well, emerging:

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… 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. (Online source)

Does any of that ring, O I dunno, a Rob Bell? In any event, as we return to HoD we’re told the Quakers are unique because “they affirm the ‘Inner Light,’ the spiritual nerve center that God has placed in every person.” And in addition “classical Friends deny the validity of clergy, liturgy, and sacraments” (140, emphasis mine). HoD then gives us a further historical background:

The Society of Friends began with the vision of George Fox (1624-91), a British seeker after spiritual truth and peace during the turmoil of the English Civil War and its aftermath. 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)

Well, it’s about time for you to awaken from your snooze now because Richard Foster is teaching the same stupid doctrine of ol’ “Inner Light” George Fox who was so special to the LORD God Almighty that He would even have personal chats with him. In fact, Foster’s been teaching his apostate refried Roman Catholic and Quaker mysticism in your evangelical seminaries for years so now he’s got plenty of evangelical pastors as his deluded disciples—maybe even yours.

Next time I’ll document—again—what this doctrine of the Inner Light actually is. But for a little preview we’ll turn to a book called The Living Testament: The Essential Writings of Christianity Since the Bible (TLT). In fact the reason I went and acquired a copy of TLT is because it’s even recommended by Guru Foster himself in his classic textbook of ascetic-lite neo-pietism Celebration of Discipline.

TLT was edited by M. Basil Pennington, Alan Jones, and Mark Booth. A couple of these men—Spiritual Master M. Basil Pennington and Living Spiritual Teacher Alan Jones—should be quite recognizable to those of you familiar with my writings on the postliberal cult of the Emergent Church and its core doctrine of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism. While discussing their entry George Fox: Epistles to the New World and to Friends Everywhere in TLT we’re told:

George Fox (1624-1691) was the founder of the Society of Friends (Quakers). He preached reliance on the “Inner Light”, the Holy Spirit watching from within; in this he represented a development of the Puritan “spirit mystic” tradition. He believed that everyone has a divine spark within that can respond directly and personally to God. His plain open style has a peculiar force in enthusiasm and moral earnestness.
(379,380, emphasis mine)

But as you’ll see in more depth next time 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).

See also:

WHO IS RICHARD FOSTER?

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

PRAYER: JESUS VS. RICHARD FOSTER

RICHARD FOSTER AND CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM: A POWERFUL ECUMENICAL BOND

DELUSIONS OF DALLAS WILLARD

SPIRITUAL FORMATION IS PIETISM REIMAGINED

ROB BELL IN A NUTSHELL: CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM

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Before I present Ken Silva’s article, I want to present some background from my own experiences with Quakers. I grew up in what today is called the EFCI (Evangelical Friends Church Intl.), traditionally known as Gurneyite Friends. I thank the Lord that, between approximately 1854-1965, Gurneyite Friends held a born again, biblically sound Wesleyan Holiness theology – particularly in Ohio Yearly Meeting.

Unfortunately, the Evangelical Friends/Gurneyite Friends never completely broke away from the heretical heritage of the Quakers. I would estimate that from approximately 1930 on, Evangelical Friends leaders behind the scenes were increasingly pushing for more relations with non-evangelical (aka heretical) Quaker denominations.  These Evangelical Friends leaders were very hesitant to point out the history and heresy of George Fox’s “Inner Light” teaching (perhaps for fear of alienating nonevangelical Quaker denominations). Even today, Evangelical Friends professors and pastors paint George Fox  as a born again, biblically sound evangelist. This, despite the fact that Fox’s own writings show he was a heretical “Christian mystic.”

Only in recent years, after reading articles like the following by Ken Silva, did I realize just how heretical and nonchristian my own Quaker ancestors had been (prior  to 1854).

I would note that today the Quakers (both evangelical and nonevangelical denominations) vary widely in theology. Evangelical Friends speak very little of the Inner Light; many newer members have never even heard the term. Yet as we know, the Evangelical Friends have fallen head over heals in love with Spiritual Formation’s Richard Foster, who grew up, pastored and taught in the Evangelical Friends denomination.

I find it very odd that Foster chose to preach and teach among Evangelical Friends. His heretical teachings line up much more closely with two other major Quaker denominations, both considered nonevangelical: 1) the moderate Friends United Meeting (FUM) which nonetheless has many Christian universalists, and 2) the liberal Friends General Conference (FGC).

I’m sure Richard Foster fancies himself as walking in the footsteps of George Fox. It’s obvious in his various writings that Foster loves Fox’s “Inner Light” teaching. So what exactly did George Fox mean by the “Inner Light”, and why is this heresy so dangerous? Ken Silva explains, in his article reposted below. Click here for the original site of Silva’s article.

CONTEMPLATING THE INNER LIGHT OF THE QUAKERS (PT. 2)

By on Aug 25, 2008 in Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism, Features, Richard Foster

We now continue this examination of the history of the Quakers and their core doctrine of the Inner Light that is allegedly within all of mankind and which supposedly was “revealed” by God to their founder George Fox. In Part One I opened with testimony concerning current Quaker beliefs from author and mystic Dr. Mary Conrow, a third generation member of The Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers). We also got further corroboration through an article by Friend Anne K. Riggs which as of today (5/5/06) is found at the official Friends website Quaker.org.

Shedding Light On Quaker Origins

Dr. Riggs by the way is also co-editor of QUEST: Quaker Ecumenical Seminars in Theology. I then showed that the contemplative spirituality currently taught by Quaker Richard Foster is so consistent with the mysticism of New Age teachers and the meditation of Zen Masters that he is listed (as of 5/5/06) at the Living Spiritual Teachers Project among an odd assortment of heretics and unbelievers.

The New Encyclopedia Britannica brings out that the term “Quaker,” according to founder George Fox came to be applied to this group “because we bid [people] tremble at the word of God.” In addition however, it is “likely that the name, originally derisive, was also used because many early Friends, like other religious enthusiasts, themselves trembled [i.e. quaked] in their religious meetings and showed other physical manifestations of religious emotion” (9/838). This is confirmed in New Religions: A Guide while Richard Hoskins is teaching about a sect of “healers and ‘spiritual’ leaders” from the Dominican Republic called “The Ngunzist movement.” Hoskins tells us the “Ngunzists are often called trembleurs because of their ecstatic shaking (rather like the origin of the term Quakers) (55,emphasis mine).

Next, from his fine work Christianity Through The Centuries (CTTC) noted Church historian Dr. Earle Cairns tells us that:

The Quakers appeared on the English religious scene during the chaotic period of the Civil War and the Commonwealth. They set aside the doctrines of an organized church and the Bible as the sole and final revelation of God’s will in favor of the doctrine of the Inner Light, by which they meant that the Holy Spirit can give immediate and direct knowledge of God apart from the Bible (381, emphasis mine)

The well-respected Handbook Of Denominations In The United States (HOD) from Mead and Hill adds that the Quakers date “from the late 1650’s in England” and “ the Society of Friends, or Quakers, is an unconventional but esteemed Protestant body.” The Quakers are unique because “they affirm the ‘Inner Light,’ the spiritual nerve center that God has placed in every person.” As we saw in Part One as well “classical Friends deny the validity of clergy, liturgy, and sacraments” (140, emphasis mine). HOD then gives us a further historical background:

The Society of Friends began with the vision of George Fox (1624-91), a British seeker after spiritual truth and peace during the turmoil of the English Civil War and its aftermath. 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).

In World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present we find out further it was in the wake of “the struggle” within various religious sects following the Reformation that:

Quakerism was born. These “seekers,” [sound familiar?] as they called themselves, abandoned all traditional Christian outward forms – ministry, creeds, sacraments, liturgy, systems of theology – and waited in silence, meditating on the Bible until they felt the “inner light” of God dawning within them and the Holy Spirit to speak. In their small communities they stressed the comradely life of love and works or charity inspired by the mystical experience of Christ through the Spirit (445, emphasis mine)

The Divine Spark Emerges In The Inner Light

Christian researcher Ray Yungen shares an interesting bit of information about the Quaker Guru of Contemplation Richard Foster with us in A Time of Departing when he asks:

Just how influential has Foster become in Christian circles? For certain, his effect on the evangelical church cannot be overestimated. In a 1993 poll by Christianity Today, the magazine revealed that Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding The Heart’s True Home, was the number one most popular books with its readers. Astoundingly, this is the same book that well-known New Ager Rosemary Ellen Guiley has on her suggested reading list in the back of her book, The Miracle of Prayer (80).

Guiley is also the author of Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience (HEMPE) published by HarperSanFrancisco, the company that also happens to publish Foster himself. It should strike us as odd that a “Christian” sect should be found in such a secular publication devoted to spiritualism. And yet Guiley tells us in HEMPE that Quaker theology “stresses a personal, almost mystical knowledge of God and the workings of the Lord’s ‘inner lightwithin all people.” And Fox himself taught:

faith is based solely on firsthand knowledge of Christ as a 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-called “inner light of Christpresent in every human heart (556, emphasis mine).

This idea in Quaker theology that every man has this alleged “Inner Light” is further corroborated in GREAT RELIGIONS of the World which tells us that Fox “insisted that the ‘light of Christ’ glimmered in all men” (375, emphasis mine) We’ll be coming back to this “inner light” that is supposed to glimmer “in every human heart,” but first, in his classic two volume set A History Of Christianity (AHOC) the great historian Kenneth Scott Latourette adds a bit more background information about the person through whom the Quakers originated:

Their founder was George Fox (1624-1691). Of humble birth, from boyhood he had heard Puritan preaching and had acquired an intimate familiarity with the text of the English Bible… 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)

The True Light Of Holy Scripture

The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. (John 1:9-10)

As we get set to shed additional light on the unique Quaker doctrine of the “Inner Light” we need to remember that George Fox was a seeker and a mystic by nature, well versed in the Scriptures, and a man who chose to rebel against solid Biblical preaching. This is actually not too unlike what we see leaders within the Emergent Church doing today. Fox apparently didn’t like the fact that God instituted an authority structure within the local church so he decided to seek the Lord on his own terms. And sure enough Fox finally hears what he wanted to hear all along as he tells us “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)” (HOD, 141). Not only that but this seducing spirit allows for Fox’s defiance of authority as well as he is told that this Inner Light “is available to all and has nothing to do with the ceremonies” of the local church. Then in the mystic tradition of classic Gnosticism Fox hears that all mankind has a spark of divinity because every human being “is God’s altar and shrine” (141).

This above information is extremely important to understand regarding the spiritual excesses of the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers). Now you should be able to see an aberrant view of mysticism is already rooted in the base theology of the Quakers. Their founder George Fox, who was himself prone to mysticism, wished for a “personal” approach “to God” that ended up being “apart from the Bible.” As such Fox began with his theology already turned backward by believing that it is man who seeks after God and as a result the Scriptures were forced to take a back seat to his own way of approaching the Lord. We need to carefully consider the above information. Fox is seeking a “direct” and “mystical experience” with God. Admirable yes, but it is the LORD God Almighty–the glorious and transcendent Creator of the universe–Who set the prescribed means of interacting with us through conscious prayer and His Words in Holy Scripture.

I will show you more about this “Inner Light” below, but notice that Fox was “eager” long enough while waiting “in silence” until “the light broke.” And he finally received his mystic delusion that “it is possible for all men” to “open their lives” to God. As I said, the “experience” of George Fox shoved the Truth of the Bible into a secondary place in favor of this mystical view that it is possible that “all men” are capable of opening themselves up to God. Clearly this would appear to be a reaction on his part to the strong Biblical “Puritan preaching” which assisted him in acquiring “an intimate familiarity with the text of the Bible.” For you see Fox has absolutely no excuse for missing this critical Truth from God’s Word:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.(Psalm 14:1-3)

And it’s not like this is some obscure passage the Puritans latched onto but is open to various interpretations, because it appears again in Psalm 53 below almost verbatim:

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good. God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one (vv.1-3).

We aren’t able to escape this absolute Truth concerning the actual nature of mankind in the New Testament either. O the sappy sentimentality of new evangelicalism just loves to focus on the goodness of God and to tell us that He sent Jesus to meet our every need and to solve all of our problems. However, as I will continue to say, Christ Jesus of Nazareth is the Creator–the dreadful and awful–holy and majestic LORD God Almighty standing upon His planet. And concerning the fallen nature of humankind the Master unequivocally tells his Own disciples – “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:11)

And then Jesus even clarified what He meant by “though you are evil” as He says – “For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly” (Mark 7:21-23). Why you’d almost have to think our Creator is trying to get a point across to self-centered and arrogant mankind when later the inspired Apostle Paul is led by God the Holy Spirit to pick up those very same passages in the Psalms mentioned earlier:

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one (Romans 3:10-12)

You won’t hear all of this preached by e.g. by men like Joel Osteen in The Ecumenical Church of Deceit, but the bottom line in all this simply couldn’t be any clearer than Ecclesiastes 7:20 – There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. Ah, that is except – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One (1 John 2:1). So tragically, because George Fox denied this clear teaching from God’s Word, two major and spiritually fatal flaws emerged in his theology. Out went the Pastoral Epistles for God’s prescribed method of spiritual leadership within His local churches; and instead of objectively judging all experience by Holy Scripture, “the Quaker way” became proper understanding of the Bible would be determined by subjective mystical experience in “the Inner Light.”

And it is this very same mortal theological wound of interpreting the text of the Bible by the spiritual experiences a given person may have that is also central to the postmodern approach of the Emergent Church, of which Richard Foster is unquestionably “a key mentor.” I’ve already pointed out that Foster considers mystic Teresa of Avila as one of “the great writers of the devotional life.” You will come to see that even this is also consistent with Quaker theology and interestingly enough, on the page prior to the coverage of the Quakers by Dr. Cairns in CTTC is a short piece about a mystic movement within “the Roman Catholic Church during the seventeenth century” that would come to be known as “Quietism.”

The Inner Light Reveals The Global Family

I now draw your attention to the fact that “the Inner Light” just happened to be a core teaching of this Quietism. Dr. Cairns informs us that this theological view within the Church of Rome:

emphasized an immediate intuitional approach to God by the passive soul opening itself to the influence of the inner light. It was a reaction to the emphasis on the rationalization of dogma. [Sound familiar?] Forerunners of the Quietists were Ignatius Loyola; the godly Charles Borromeo (1538-84), cardinal and archbishop of Milan; Teresa of Avila (1515-82); and Francis de Sales (1567-1622) of France… These mystics of the Counter-Reformation were succeeded by the Quietists of the seventeenth century. (ibid., 380, emphasis mine)

You can see that Teresa of Avila was prominent among those who influenced what would itself become a “quiet” reformation within the Roman Catholic Church and would end up bringing it further and further away from Biblical doctrine in favor of this mystic superstition. George Fox and the Quakers would somewhat parallel this quiet decent into the mystical silence of demonic deception. It’s a trap as old as the Garden of Eden where the Devil promises good will come to men who follow him in opposition to what God has said in the Bible. There have been mystical approaches to God virtually since the time of the Fall and the LORD God Almighty has already told us that rather than “emptying” our minds of all thought we are instead to – “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

In AHOC Latourette also supplies another key piece of information in understanding the deadly flaw which has emerged from the theology of Fox when he brings out that “Fox and other Quakers insisted that every man who comes into the world is illuminated by an inner light which is Christ” (Ibid., p. 981, emphasis mine). Men and women, here we glean some critical insight into why we are seeing the reemergence of interest in Contemplative/Centering Prayer (meditation) within new evangelicalism. This above view by “Fox and other Quakers” is also indicative of the inevitable result of the practice of this “Christian” mysticism as well. Can you see it: If this alleged Inner Light is already within every man then we don’t have to risk persecution as we stand for the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because now we will have opened the door to a universalism which negates any real need for anyone to have to be “born again.”

And here we have uncovered the reason why so many professing Christians today can believe that all religions should be friends now and seek our common ground as we work together to usher in “the kingdom” of God’s Global Peace. Take an honest look at the warped and toxic theology of men like Richard Foster, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, Alan Jones, Steve Chalke and even the Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren–all men involved to one degree or another in the practice of contemplative spirituality. You see no bold stance on their part that the only way any human being anywhere upon God’s planet can ever be saved from an eternity of conscious torment in a literal place our Creator called Hell is personal faith in Jesus Christ of Nazareth and His vicarious penal substitutionary atonement on the Cross. In fact, you will see in my article “Evangelicals” Attacking The Atonement it is actually quite the contrary.

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(revised 03/31/15)

NOTE – In the past, I have reposted entire articles by David Cloud. Recently I read David Cloud’s statement at the bottom of his articles, giving permission to repost excerpts from his articles. Thus, I have taken nearly all of my reposted David Cloud articles offline. However, I am leaving this repost online for now, since it is directly tied to a primary purpose of my blogs: exposing Richard Foster and other apostate teachers in my former, “birthright” denomination the Evangelical Friends. The following article by David Cloud is excellent.

The more I read about Evangelical Friend Richard Foster, the more I am ashamed of the Evangelical Friends denomination (EFCI). For the life of me, I cannot understand why this denomination accepts and endorses Foster’s Spiritual Formation, with its occultish contemplative teachings.

The EFCI was formed in 1965 (as the EFA aka Evangelical Friends Alliance) from various Friends Yearly Meetings which had a (relatively) biblically sound, Wesleyan Holiness theology at the time. Yet today the EFCI continues to sink deeper and deeper into Spiritual Formation and Emerging/Emergent teachings.

Note: click here for a Google.com listing of my other blogs mentioning Richard Foster.

Below I have reposted Independent Fundamentalist Baptist David Cloud’s article exposing the heresies of Evangelical Friend Richard Foster. Click here for Bro. Cloud’s original article. In my repost, I have emphasized certain points by bolding and inserted comments in [brackets].

RICHARD FOSTER: EVANGELICALISM’S MYSTICAL SPARKPLUG
October 8, 2008 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service)

The following is excerpted from our new book Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond, which is available from Way of Life Literature. If it is not yet available through the online catalog, it can be ordered by phone or e-mail with a credit card.
___________________

Richard Foster’s writings have been at the forefront of the contemplative movement since the 1970s. No one has done more than this man to spread contemplative mysticism throughout Protestant and Baptist churches.

Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline, which has sold more than two and a half million copies [as of 2008], was selected by Christianity Today as one of the top ten books of the 20th century. (For this review I obtained multiple editions of Celebration of Discipline, plus three other books by Foster.)

The Quaker Connection

He grew up among the Quakers  (the Religious Society of Friends)[specifically, Foster grew up in the Evangelical Friends denomination, which is the only evangelical aka born again Quaker denomination], was trained at George Fox College [now George Fox University], has pastored Quaker churches [technically Evangelical Friends churches], and has taught theology at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and at George Fox. One website calls him “perhaps the best known Quaker in the world today.”

The Quaker connection is important, because one of their peculiar doctrines is direct revelation via an “inner light.”  This is defined in a variety of ways, since Quakerism is very individualistic and non-creedal, but it refers to a divine presence and guidance in every man. There is an emphasis on being still and silent and passive in order to receive guidance from the inner light. Other terms for it are “light of God,” “light of Christ,” “inward light,” “the light,” “light within,” “Christ within,” and “spirit of Christ.”

George Fox used the expression “that of God in everyone.” In his journal Fox said, “I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation, and their way to God; even that divine Spirit which would lead them into all Truth, and which I infallibly knew would never deceive any” (The Journal of George Fox, revised by John Nickalls, 1952, p. 35).

Another prominent Quaker, Robert Barclay, called this “the light of the heart” and said “there is an evangelical and saving Light and grace in all.”

Isaac Pennington said, “There is that near you which will guide you; Oh wait for it, and be sure ye keep to it.”

The inner light teaching is said to be based on John 1:9 — “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Yet this verse does not say that there is a divine light in every man. It merely says that Christ gives light to every man. The epistle of Romans tells us more about this. There is the light of creation (Romans 1:20), the light of conscience (Romans 2:14-16), and the light of the Scripture (Romans 3:2). When men respond to the light that they have, they are given more light (Acts 17:26-27).

Because of the fall, man’s heart is darkened and foolish (Rom. 1:21; Eph. 4:18).

The inner light teaching was exalted above reliance on the Bible. Martin Meeker says, “… the early Quakers’ reliance on the Bible as a source of spiritual knowledge and inspiration was secondary to their belief in the Inner Light as the primary path to salvation and communication with God” (The Doctrine of the Inner Light).

George Fox would say to his listeners:

“You will say, Christ saith this and the Apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?”

Fox claimed that he received the doctrine of the inner light without help from the Scriptures (The Journal of George Fox, revised by John Nickalls, 1952, pp. 33-35).

This is an unscriptural and very dangerous position that opens the door for every sort of heresy. The Scripture is able to make the man of God perfect; obviously, then, nothing more is needed (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The early Quakers misinterpreted 2 Corinthians 3:6, claiming that the “letter” referred to the Scripture in general.

“Along these lines, we might note that early Quakers tended to give an expansive reading of 2 Cor. 3:6, which states that God has made us ‘ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ This verse, if ‘letter’ is taken to mean ‘Scripture,’ obviously places strong limits on the use of Scripture while extending preference to Spirit, at the very least. One thus is not surprised that it is a favorite of early Quakers, appearing as an allusion in the postscript of the Letter from the Elders of Balby, cherished by many contemporary Friends” (Stephen Angell, “Opening the Scriptures, Then and Now,” QUEST, Fall-Winter 2007-2008).

If the “letter” of 2 Corinthians 3:6 refers to the Scripture in general, it would mean that Paul was exalting “the Spirit” above the Scripture. It would mean that the Scripture is not the sole authority for faith and practice, but it is only one authority and that men are free to follow their inner lights.

This is a gross misinterpretation of the passage. In truth, 2 Corinthians 3 contrasts the Law of Moses with the Gospel of Grace, the Old Covenant with the New.

2 Corinthians 3:7 leaves no doubt about this, which tells us that the “letter” that killeth is “the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones.” That refers, of course, to the Law of Moses given on Mt. Sinai. It was a covenant of death because it requires of fallen sinners what they cannot perform, which is perfect holiness. It was not given to provide a way of salvation but to show men their sinful, lost condition (Romans 3:19-20).

To interpret the “letter” of 2 Corinthians 3:6 as a reference to the Scripture in general also contradicts the fact that verse 11 says the “letter” has been “done away.” Obviously the Scripture has not been done away with, but the Law of Moses has. Its purpose was to act as a “schoolmaster” to lead men to Christ and once it performs that glorious function its work is finished (Galatians 3:24-25).

It is easy to see how the Quaker philosophy paved the way for Foster to accept Catholic mysticism. It did this by its emphasis on an “inner light” and its tendency not to judge things in an exacting manner with the Bible.

Other Quakers have followed the same path, and some, like Mary Conrow Coelho, have followed it all the way to the New Age. Conrow believes in evolution, the oneness of the universe, and the unity of man with God, and she traces her New Age mysticism to deep third generation Quaker roots and its inner light teaching:

“The adults in our Quaker community spoke often of the Inner Light, the seed of God, the indwelling Christ. [Thomas Kelly] said, ‘It is a Light within, a dynamic center, a creative Life that presses to birth within us’” (“Of Leadings and the Inner Light: Quakerism and the New Cosmology,” http://www.thegreatstory.org/QuakerMetarelig.html).

(Richard Foster quotes Thomas Kelly favorably and frequently in his books, and the Renovarè Spiritual Formation Bible quotes Kelly as saying: “Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center.”)

From its inception Quakerism was a heretical movement that downplayed the Bible and exalted personal revelation, and Foster is a product of that heresy even though he is on the “evangelical” side of Quakerism.

In this light it is not surprising to find him promoting Roman Catholic mystics who exalted their tradition and mystical revelations above the Scripture.

Salvation Not Clear

One thing that is glaring in its absence from Foster’s books on spiritual living is a clear biblical testimony of salvation and a clear exhortation for his readers to be born again.

When he does mention salvation, he speaks of it in a confused manner.

He says, for example, that reconciliation has already been achieved in Christ.

“In some mysterious way, through shedding his blood Jesus took into himself all the evil and all the hostility of all the ages and redeemed it. He reconciled us to God, restoring the infinitely valuable personal relationship that had been shattered by sin” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 42).

This is not true. Though the redemption price has been paid, sinners are not reconciled until they individually put their faith in the gospel (John 3:16, 18, 36).

Foster also speaks of salvation as a process.

“One more thing is needed, namely, our response of repentance–not just once but again and again. Martin Luther declares that the life of the Christian should be one of daily repentance” (Prayer, p. 42).

We must understand that the previous statement is made in the context of a discussion of salvation. Foster makes no clear distinction between the one repentance for salvation (Acts 17:30; 2 Peter 3:9) and continual repentance for sanctification (2 Cor. 12:21). Foster’s statement describes either universalism or sacramentalism, but it is not the once-for-all new birth doctrine of the New Testament.

Further, Foster describes salvation in terms of an emotional experience and in association with baptism. In Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Foster tells of a non-Christian who attended one of his contemplative seminars. Part way through the course the following event transpired.

“Throughout the weekend the Spirit of God rested tenderly upon the entire group, so much so that on Sunday afternoon this same gentleman asked quietly, ‘Would you pray for me that I might know Jesus the way you know Jesus?’ What were we to do? None of the normal responses seemed appropriate. We waited in silence. Finally one young man stood up and gently placed his hands on the man’s shoulders. I have never forgotten his prayer. I felt like taking off my shoes–we were on holy ground. Strange as it may seem, he prayed a commercial. He described a popular advertisement of the day for NesTea in which different people, sweltering from the summer sun, would fall into a swimming pool with a thirst-quenching sense of ‘ahhh!’ on their faces. He then invited this man to fall into the arms of Jesus in the same way. The gentleman suddenly began to weep, heaving deep sighs of sorrow and grief. We watched in reverent wonder as he received the gift of saving faith. It was a tender, grace-filled moment. Later he shared with us how the prayer touched a deep center in his past relating to his baptism as a child” (pp. 48, 49).

While it is true that the Bible describes salvation in terms of drinking and eating of Jesus, the scene described by Foster is confusing at best. What was this man trusting? What was he receiving? He mentions his infant baptism. Had he come to believe that his baptism had brought him into a saving relationship with God that he was only now learning to enjoy? What Jesus was he trusting? What gospel? What was the nature of his faith? The Bible warns that the devils believe in God. Only a certain kind of faith is saving faith. Foster doesn’t clarify any of this. His doctrine of salvation is exceedingly murky at best. When the unbeliever asked the group to pray for him, why didn’t they share with him the gospel? They didn’t need to pray about what to say. They didn’t need to hesitate. Jesus has already commanded us to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). Why did they preach a NesTea commercial rather than the gospel?

And while we are talking about Richard Foster and the gospel, if he believes the true gospel of the grace of Christ without works, why does he constantly and uninhibitedly promote Catholic mystics who hold to a sacramental gospel? If he doesn’t believe Rome’s gospel of process salvation, why does he never warn about it plainly?

Personal salvation is foundational to prayer and Christian living. It is criminal to write books on these subjects for broad public consumption and not make salvation absolutely clear.

Roman Catholic Mysticism

Foster advocates Roman Catholic mysticism with absolutely no qualms, building his contemplative practices unequivocally upon this heretical foundation.

He recommends Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, Benedict of Nursia, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Genoa, Julian of Norwich, Brother Lawrence, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Madame Guyon, Thomas à Kempis, Catherine Doherty, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas, Hildegard of Bingen, Francis de Sales, Alphonsus de Liguori, Bernard of Clairvaux, John Henry Newman, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, G.K. Chesterton, Andrè Louf, Henri Nouwen, Dorothy Day, Karl Rahner, John Main, Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, Brennan Manning, John Michael Talbot, and many others.

Foster’s recommendation of these Roman Catholic mystics is not half-hearted. In the introduction to the 1998 edition of Celebration of Discipline, he says that they taught him spiritual depth and substance (pp. xiii, xiv), and he calls them “Devotional Masters of the Christian faith.” Of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, Foster says, “… it is a school of prayer for all of us” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 59).

There is no warning of the fact that these mystics trusted in a works gospel, venerated Mary, worshipped Christ as a piece of consecrated bread, believed in purgatory, and scores of other heresies. (For extensive documentation of this see the chapters “A Description of Catholic Monastic Asceticism” and “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics.”)

Bible Not Sole Authority

Like his Roman Catholic friends, Foster’s foundational error is in not exalting the Bible as the sole authority for faith and practice.  Nowhere in Celebration of Discipline or Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home does he instruct his readers that the Bible alone is God’s infallible revelation and that everything must be carefully tested by it. This should be the very starting point for books on Christian spirituality and worship, but it is glaring in its absence. Foster encourages his readers to find revelation beyond Scripture through meditation, dreams, and personal prophecies.

Foster describes how Francis of Assisi found spiritual guidance. When he was puzzled as to whether he should devote himself exclusively to contemplative practices or also to engage in preaching missions (which is plainly answered in Scripture), he sent word to two “trusted friends” and accepted their replies as the very will of God. Foster says that Francis “was seeking a method that would open the gates of heaven to reveal the mind of Christ, and he took it as such” (Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 1978, pp. 154, 155). Nowhere does Foster chide Francis of Assisi for depending on the word of man rather than the Scripture.

Neo-Orthodox Approach to Scripture

Foster’s approach to Scripture is a neo-orthodox, existentialist one. It is not by accident that he quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer frequently and non-critically. (He also quotes the other two fathers of neo-orthodoxy, Karl Barth and Emil Brunner.)

“This is not a time for technical word studies, or analysis, or even the gathering of material to share with others. … Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, ‘… just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation’” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 26).

Yet the Bible is not merely a love letter. It is much more. It is the infallible Word of God, and we are commanded to “analyze” it. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries exposes the error of Foster’s approach:

The idea expressed above by Bonhoeffer of accepting Scripture subjectively as spoken to you is completely in line with the flawed view of the text of the Holy Scripture spread by neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth. In neo-orthodoxy the Scripture only becomes the Word of God when the Holy Spirit illuminates it. We can sum up this wrong idea this way: ‘The Bible is a divine mailbox in which we receive letters from Heaven.’ But no, it isn’t. The Bible itself–in full–is the letter, the message, from God.

In his book Reckless Faith Dr. John MacArthur hits the target dead on as he shows why neo-orthodoxy is a perfect fit for contemplative mysticism as well as why it’s a necessity for it to flourish:

‘Neo-orthodoxy is the term used to identify an existentialist variety of Christianity. Because it denies the essential objective basis of truth–the absolute truth and authority of Scripture–neo-orthodoxy must be understood as pseudo-Christianity. … Neo-orthodoxy’s attitude toward Scripture is a microcosm of the entire existentialist philosophy: the Bible itself is not objectively the Word of God, but it becomes the Word of God when it speaks to me individually. …

‘Thus while neo-orthodox theologians often sound as if they are affirming traditional beliefs, … they relegate all theology to the realm of subjective relativism. … Mysticism is perfectly suited for religious existentialism; indeed, it is the inevitable consequence. The mystic disdains rational understanding and seeks truth instead through the feelings, the imagination, personal visions, inner voices, private illumination, or other purely subjective means’ (MacArthur, Reckless Faith) (Ken Silva, “Contemplative Mysticism in the Southern Baptist Convention,” April 30, 2008, http://www.apprising.org/archives/2008/04/contemplative_m.html).

Instead of seeing the Scripture as divinely inspired and profitable in every part as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, and therefore studying it diligently in order to rightly divide it as 2 Timothy 2:15 commands, neo-orthodoxy sees the Scripture as inspired only as it speaks to me experientially through a mystical approach.

Foster’s School of Contemplative Mysticism

Foster invites his readers to “enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 13), promoting thoughtless centering prayer, visualization, guided imagery, the repetition of mantras, silence, walking the labyrinth, even out of body experiences.

Foster says, “Christian meditation is an attempt to empty the mind in order to fill it” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 15).

Apparently Foster got some criticism for this statement, because in the next edition of Celebration of Discipline he omitted it and tried to contrast Eastern meditation with Christian meditation with the following words:

“Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind. The two ideas are quite different” (Celebration of Discipline, 1988, p. 20).

This sounds nice and tidy, but it contradicts the practice of Catholic contemplation. In reality, both Eastern meditation and Catholic meditation are an attempt to empty the mind in order to arrive at a transcendental experience. Consider the following quotes from the mystics that Foster heartily recommends:

Thomas Merton: “… the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. IT IS WORDLESS. IT IS BEYOND WORDS, AND IT IS BEYOND SPEECH, and it is BEYOND CONCEPT” (The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, 1975 edition, p. 308).

The Cloud of Unknowing: “I URGE YOU TO DISMISS EVERY CLEVER OR SUBTLE THOUGHT no matter how holy or valuable. Cover it with a thick cloud of forgetting because in this life only love can touch God as He is in Himself, never knowledge” (chapter 8).

John Main: “Recite your prayer-phrase [mantra] and gently listen to it as you say it. DO NOT THINK ABOUT ANYTHING. As thoughts come, simply keep returning to your prayer-phrase. In this way, one places everything aside” (The Teaching of Dom John Main: How to Meditate, Meditation Group of Saint Patrick’s Basilica, Ottawa, Canada).

Teresa of Avila: “All that the soul has to do at these times of quiet is merely to be calm and MAKE NO NOISE. BY NOISE I MEAN WORKING WITH THE INTELLECT to find great numbers of words and reflections with which to thank God. … in these periods of quiet, the soul should repose in its calm, and learning should be put on one side” (The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself, chap. 15, pp. 106, 107, 108).

Foster’s attempt to set Catholic contemplation apart from pagan mysticism cannot be sustained.

Foster encourages his readers to go deep into their inner world of silence and explore it:

“[W]e must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation. In their writings, all of the masters of meditation strive to awaken us to the fact that the universe is much larger than we know, that there are vast unexplored inner regions that are just as real as the physical world we know so well. They tell us of exciting possibilities for new life and freedom. They call us to the adventure, to be pioneers in this frontier of the Spirit” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 13).

Amazingly, he says that these practices are not only for believers but also for unbelievers.

“We need not be well advanced in matters of theology to practice the Disciplines. Recent converts–for that matter people who have yet to turn their lives over to Jesus Christ–can and should practice them” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 2).

Since the contemplative practices are supposed to enable the practitioner to commune with Christ within himself, how could an unsaved person “practice them”? This is evidence of Foster’s Quaker belief in an “inner light” in every man.

Some might protest that I have only focused on the more controversial parts of Foster’s teaching and have ignored the truth contained therein. I will admit that Foster’s books contain some true insights about traditional biblical prayer that in another context could be helpful, but this is ruined by his promotion of Catholic mysticism, Jungian dream interpretation, healing of memories, and other heresies. Anyone that uses his writings is in imminent danger of being snared by error.

And though he does give many lessons about traditional biblical prayer, he considers this a shallow level of Christian living. To reach the truly “deep” levels, he urges believers to aspire to move beyond normal conversational prayer. He quotes C.S. Lewis:

“I still think the prayer without words is the best–if one can really achieve it. … [But to] pray successfully without words one needs to be ‘at the top of one’s form’” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 156).

In reality, contemplative practices are beyond the bounds of Scripture and are completely “off the deep end.”

Visualization

Foster encourages the exceedingly dangerous practice of guided imagery and visualization:

“The inner world of meditation is most easily entered through the door of the imagination. We fail to today to appreciate its tremendous power. The imagination is stronger that the conceptual thought and stronger than the will. … In his autobiography C. G. Jung describes how difficult it was for him to humble himself and once again play imagination games of a child, and the value of that experience. Just as children need to learn to think logically, adults need to REDISCOVER THE MAGICAL REALITY OF THE IMAGINATION. …

“Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises constantly encouraged his readers to VISUALIZE THE GOSPEL STORIES. Every contemplation he gave was designed to open the imagination. He even included a meditation entitled ‘application of the senses,’ which is an attempt to help us utilize all five senses as we picture the Gospel events. His thin volume of meditation exercises with its stress on the imagination had tremendous impact for good upon the sixteenth century.’ …

“Take a single event like the resurrection, or a parable, or a few verses, or even a single word and allow it to take root in you. Seek to live the experience, remembering the encouragement of Ignatius of Loyola to apply all our senses to our task. … As you enter the story, not as a passive observer but as an active participant, remember that since Jesus lives in the Eternal Now and is not bound by time, this event in the past is a living present-tense experience for Him. Hence, YOU CAN ACTUALLY ENCOUNTER THE LIVING CHRIST IN THE EVENT, BE ADDRESSED BY HIS VOICE AND BE TOUCHED BY HIS HEALING POWER. It can be more than an exercise of the imagination; IT CAN BE A GENUINE CONFRONTATION” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, pp. 22, 23, 26).

Note that Foster recommends Carl Jung, who followed a demonic spirit guide, as well as Ignatius of Loyola, who founded an organization dedicated to blind obedience to the pope at the very height of the murderous Inquisition. The “spirit realm” to which these men connected through meditative practices was the realm of darkness.

Foster recommends Loyola’s practice of visualizing a personal encounter with Jesus, which is presumptuous foolishness. We don’t even know what Jesus looks like and we are not supposed to. Faith is simply believing God’s Word (Romans 10:17). Faith is not putting oneself into the biblical account and letting one’s imagination run wild.

(For more about visualization and the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises see “Ignatius of Loyola” in the chapter “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics.”)

Interpretation of Dreams

Foster promotes the interpretation of dreams, which is not surprising in light of his recommendation of Carl Jung.

“In learning to meditate, one good place to begin is with our dreams, since it involves little more than paying attention to something we are already doing. … If we are convinced that DREAMS CAN BE A KEY TO UNLOCKING THE DOOR TO THE INNER WORLD, we can do three practical things. First, we can specifically pray, inviting God to inform us through our dreams. … Second, we should begin to record our dreams. … That leads to the third consideration–how to interpret dreams. The best way to discover the meaning of dreams is to ask. ‘You do not have, because you do not ask’ (Jas. 4:2). … Benedict Pererius, a sixteenth-century Jesuit, suggested that the best interpreter of dreams is the ‘…person with plenty of experience in the world and the affairs of humanity, with a wide interest in everything human, and who is open to the voice of God’” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, pp. 23, 24).

Though God did speak from time to time to the prophets of old in dreams, the New Testament does not encourage God’s people to seek revelation in dreams nor does it instruct us in how to interpret dreams. Foster takes James 4:2 out of context applying it to the interpretation of dreams, though it has nothing to do with such a thing. He quotes a Jesuit heretic who held a false gospel of sacramentalism. The fact is that we do not need dream revelations for we have the perfect and sufficient “voice of God” in the Scriptures. It is “a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” (2 Peter 1:19).

Dream interpretation is one of the things that led Sue Monk Kidd astray as she pursued the contemplative path. She came to believe that God was speaking to her through weird dreams, and those dreams led to self-deification and goddess worship! (See “Sue Monk Kid” in the chapter “Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics.”)

Communing Face to Face with God in Outer Space [astral projection]

Foster even urges the contemplative practitioner to commune face to face with God the Father.

“A fourth form of meditation has as its objective to bring you into a deep inner communion with the Father where you look at Him and He looks at you” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 27).

Foster says that this amazing feat can be accomplished via visualized out of body experiences [astral projection].

“In your imagination, picture yourself walking along a lovely forest path. … When you are able to experience the scene with all your senses, the path breaks out onto a lovely grassy knoll. Walk out into the lush large meadow encircled by stately pines. After exploring the meadow for a time, lie down on your back looking up at blue sky and white clouds. IN YOUR IMAGINATION ALLOW YOUR SPIRITUAL BODY, SHINING WITH LIGHT, TO RISE OUT OF YOUR PHYSICAL BODY. Look back so that you can see yourself lying in the grass and reassure your body that you will return momentarily. IMAGINE YOUR SPIRITUAL SELF, ALIVE AND VIBRANT, RISING UP THROUGH THE CLOUDS AND INTO THE STRATOSPHERE. Observe your physical body, the knoll, and the forest shrink as you leave the earth. Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator. Rest in His presence. Listen quietly, anticipating the unanticipated. NOTE CAREFULLY ANY INSTRUCTION GIVEN … Do not be disappointed if no words come; like good friends, you are silently enjoying the company of each other. When it is time for you to leave, audibly thank the Lord for His goodness and return to the meadow. Walk joyfully back along the path until you return home FULL OF NEW LIFE AND ENERGY” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, pp. 27, 28).

Foster thus claims that the believer can go into outer space and receive direct revelation from Almighty God! Who needs the Bible and who needs faith when we can actually meet Christ in the center of our being, talk face to face with God the Father, and have personal revelations from Almighty God?

(The previous passage was dropped out of subsequent editions of Celebration of Discipline, but to my knowledge Foster has never renounced the practice. My e-mail to him about this was not answered.)

This technique is occultic. It is exactly what I was taught by Hindu gurus in the early 1970s.

In Out on a Limb New Ager Shirley MacLaine describes an out of body journey to the moon that follows the same playbook!

Consider the following description of what Brian Flynn was taught when he was training to be a psychic before his conversion to Jesus Christ:

“Carolyn then instructed us to lie on the floor, close our eyes and imagine we were lying in a field of wildflowers on a beautiful summer’s day. The wind was calm, and the smell of flowers awakened our senses. As we were lying in the field, she asked us to now leave our bodies and look down upon ourselves. Carolyn then guided us to raise our souls to the heavens and to leave our earthly bodies behind. When we reached what we believed to be the outer edges of the universe she told us to ask for a message from the universe and what we needed to know at this time. ‘Listen to the voice inside you. Ask what it is you need to know to help you release the burdens you carry,’ she said softly” (Flynn, Running against the Wind, 2005, p. 50).

There is no significant difference between the psychic practice and Foster’s so-called contemplative practice. When we go outside the realm of the Bible we put ourselves in the way of spiritual harm and deception.

Other Occultic Practices

Foster recommends other occultic practices.

One is channeling the light of Christ through visualization. Consider his description of how he taught visualizing prayer to a little boy:

“Imagination opens the door to faith. If we can ‘see’ in our mind’s eye a shattered marriage whole or a sick person well, it is only a short step to believing that it will be so. … I was once called to a home to pray for a seriously ill baby girl. Her four-year-old brother was in the room and so I told him I needed his help to pray for his baby sister. … He climbed up into the chair beside me. ‘Let’s play a little game,’ I said. ‘Since we know that Jesus is always with us, let’s imagine that He is sitting over in the chair across from us. He is waiting patiently for us to center our attention on Him. When we see Him, we start thinking more about His love than how sick Julie is. He smiles, gets up, and comes over to us. Then let’s both put our hands on Julie and when we do, Jesus will put His hands on top of ours. WE’LL WATCH AND IMAGINE THAT THE LIGHT FROM JESUS IS FLOWING RIGHT INTO YOUR LITTLE SISTER AND MAKING HER WELL. Let’s pretend that the light of Christ fights with the bad germs until they are all gone. Okay!’ Seriously the little one nodded. Together we prayed in this childlike way and then thanked the Lord that what we ‘saw’ was the way it was going to be” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 37).

This is not biblical prayer; it is occultism. Mind Science practitioners and New Agers have promoted this type of thing for a century.

Biblical prayer is not the attempt to accomplish something through the power of our minds. It is talking to God and asking Him to accomplish things. There is a vast difference between these two practices, as vast as the difference between God and the Devil.

Foster recommends that parents pray for their sleeping children after this fashion:

“Imagine the light of Christ flowing through your hands and healing every emotional trauma and hurt feeling your child experienced that day. Fill him or her with the peace and joy of the Lord. In sleep the child is very receptive to prayer since the conscious mind which tends to erect barriers to God’s gentle influence is relaxed” (Celebration of Discipline, p. 39).

There is not the hint of support in Scripture for this practice. To attempt to bypass “the conscious mind” is occultism.

Foster’s descent into occultism is further evident by his recommendation of “flash prayers” and “swish prayers”:

“Flashing hard and straight prayers at people is a great thrill and can bring interesting results. I have tried it, inwardly asking the joy of the Lord and a deeper awareness of His presence to rise up within every person I meet. Sometimes people reveal no response, but other times they turn and smile as if addressed. In a bus or plane we can fancy Jesus walking down the aisles touching people on the shoulder and saying, ‘I love you…’ Frank Laubach has suggested that if thousands of us would experiment with ‘swishing prayers’ at everyone we meet and would share the results, we could learn a great deal about how to pray for others. … ‘Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean which defies resistance’” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 39).

This depicts prayer as an occultic entity rather than a simple communication addressed to God.

Foster also recommends a practice called “palms up, palms down.” The practitioner is instructed first to hold his palms down in order to “release” his worries and concerns, such as anger, lack of finances, or fear of an upcoming event.

“Whatever it is that weighs on your mind or is a concern to you, just say, ‘palms down.’ Release it. YOU MAY EVEN FEEL A CERTAIN SENSE OF RELEASE IN YOUR HANDS” (Celebration of Discipline, 1998, p. 31).

Then the practitioner is to turn his palms up in order to “receive from the Lord.”

“Perhaps you will pray silently: ‘Lord, I would like to receive your divine love for John, your peace about the dentist appointment, your patience, your joy.’ Whatever you need, you say, ‘palms up.’”

There is not a hint of support for such a thing in Scripture, but this practice is found in New Age and pagan religions.

Palms up, palms down is used in walking the labyrinth (http://www.lessons4living.com/three_fold_path.htm).

It is used in Nia Technique to channel energy fields (http://www.nianow.com/teachers/continuingedu/sharingthejoy/0606/t_tip.html).

It is used in Tai Chi to manipulate the flow of the occultic chi energy (http://groups.ku.edu/~kungfu/instructions/instructions.htm).

Sufi dervishes hold one palm up and one palm down while whirling in order to channel their mystical experiences. I have observed this in Turkey.
Union with God

Foster has adopted the contemplative doctrine of union with God. To the question, “What is the goal of Contemplative Prayer?” Foster answers:

“To this question the old writers answer with one voice: UNION WITH GOD. … Bonaventure, a follower of Saint Francis, says that our final goal is ‘union with God,’ which is A PURE RELATIONSHIP WHERE WE SEE ‘NOTHING’” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, 1992, p. 159).

The “old writers” are old Catholic writers, but the Bible nowhere describes or encourages such a practice. The believer’s complete relationship with God is an accomplished fact in Christ.

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:6-10).

We receive Christ by faith in the gospel, and Paul says that we are to walk in Him in the same way. It is a walk of faith. We walk “from faith to faith” (Romans 1:17). God gives the believer many wonderful “experiences” along the way, but we are not to seek after experiences; we are to be content with knowing Christ by faith.

The believer is complete in Christ and his “union” with Christ, is an accomplished fact. It is not something we have to pursue through mysticism.

Further, the believer’s relationship with Christ in this world is not an experience of “seeing nothing.” It is, rather, an experience of knowing the Saviour through faith in His written Word and through the power of the indwelling Spirit. It is an objective, mindful experience. As former Catholic priest Richard Bennett says, “Seeing ‘nothing’ [is] just an Evangelical rehashing of Catholic irrational superstitious myth.”

Promoting Heretics

God’s Word commands us to mark and avoid those who cause divisions contrary to the apostolic faith (Romans 16:17), but Foster ignores this and draws his material from a bewildering assortment of heretics.

The following are just a few of the many examples we could give of the man’s disturbing, dangerous, and unbiblical habit of quoting heretics in the most recommending manner.

For a starter, as we have noted, he asks his readers to join hands with Catholic “saints” and mystics (all of whom are committed to a gospel of works and many of whom are pantheists, panentheists, and universalists). (See the chapter “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics” for studies on Francis of Assisi, Benedict of Nursia, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, Catherine of Genoa, Julian of Norwich, Brother Lawrence, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Madame Guyon, Thomas à Kempis, Meister Eckhart, Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux, Karl Rahner, John Main, Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, Brennan Manning, John Michael Talbot, and others cited by Foster.)

Foster quotes ALPHONSUS DE LIGUORI (he spells his name Luguori) at least three times in Celebration of Discipline (1978, pp. 132-134). Liguori was one of the greatest worshippers of Mary the Roman Catholic Church has ever produced. His book The Glories of Mary (1750) is a simply blasphemous. Note the following quotations:

“… though the sinner does not himself merit the graces which he asks, yet he receives them, because this Blessed Virgin asks and obtains them from God, ON ACCOUNT OF HER OWN MERITS” (The Glories of Mary, edited by Eugene Grimm, Brooklyn: Redemptorist Fathers, 1931, p. 73).

“IT WAS THEN BY THIS GREAT OFFERING OF MARY THAT WE WERE BORN TO THE LIFE OF GRACE; WE ARE THEREFORE HER VERY DEAR CHILDREN, SINCE WE COST HER SO GREAT SUFFERING” (p. 59).

“This was revealed by our Blessed Lady herself to St. Bridget, saying, ‘I am the Queen of heaven and the Mother of Mercy; I AM THE JOY OF THE JUST, AND THE DOOR THROUGH WHICH SINNERS ARE BROUGHT TO GOD” (p. 43).

“Let us, then, have recourse, and always have recourse, to this most sweet Queen, IF WE WOULD BE CERTAIN OF SALVATION … LET US REMEMBER THAT IT IS IN ORDER TO SAVE THE GREATEST AND MOST ABANDONED SINNERS, who recommend themselves to her, that Mary is made the Queen of Mercy” (pp. 43,44).

Foster heavily promotes the Catholic Trappist monk THOMAS MERTON recommending many of his books and quoting from him frequently, at least 15 times in Celebration of Discipline, not giving the slightest warning about the man. Foster says that Merton “has done more than any other twentieth century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood” (Spiritual Classics, pp. 17, 21). He calls Merton’s Contemplative Prayer “a must book” and What Is Contemplation “an excellent introduction to contemplative prayer for everyone.” In Meditative Prayer, Foster gushes that “Merton continues to inspire countless men and women.” Foster includes an entire chapter by Merton in his book Spiritual Classics.

Foster does not tell his readers that Merton was at the forefront of interfaith dialogue, that he claimed to be both a Buddhist and a Catholic, that he had powerful mystical experiences while meditating before Buddha idols, and that he was a universalist. Nowhere did Merton say that Buddhists and Hindus and Sufis worship false gods or that they are hell-bound because they do not believe in Jesus. When writing about Zen Buddhists, Merton always assumed that they were communing with the same “ground of Being” that he had found through Catholic monasticism.

Foster recommends the universalist mystic MEISTER ECKHART, quoting him at least two times in various editions of Celebration of Discipline and saying, “Today Eckhart is widely read and appreciated, not so much for his theological opinions as for his vision of God” (Spiritual Classics, p. 206). How can Eckhart have had a proper vision of God when he believed that God is everything and that man is divinity?

Foster recommends the universalist DOROTHY DAY. He has an entire chapter by and about her in his book Spiritual Classics. Day wrote:

“Going to the people is the purest and best act in Christian tradition and revolutionary tradition [she is referring to Marxism] and is the beginning of world brotherhood. Never to be severed from the people, to set out always from the point of view of serving the people, not serving the interests of a small group or oneself. … It is almost another way of saying that we must and will FIND CHRIST IN EACH AND EVERY MAN, when we look on them as brothers” (Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness).

Foster promotes KARL RAHNER. There is a chapter by him in Spiritual Classics. Yet he believed in evolution and in salvation apart from faith in Christ. He spoke of the “anonymous Christian,” referring to an individual who unconsciously responds to God’s grace operating in the world, though he might even reject the gospel.

Foster promotes Benedictine priest JOHN MAIN, saying that he “understood well the value of both silence and solitude” and he “rediscovered meditation while living in the Far East” (Spiritual Classics, p. 155). Indeed, he did. Main learned meditation from a Hindu guru! Main combined Catholic contemplative practices with yoga and in 1975 began founding meditation groups in Catholic monasteries based on this syncretism.

Foster recommends HILDEGARD OF BINGEN. There is an entire chapter by her in Spiritual Classics. She had wild-eyed visions and wrote as the direct mouthpiece of God, yet her prophecies taught Catholic heresies, including the veneration of Mary. One of her songs was entitled “Praise for the Mother.”

Foster recommends AGNES SANFORD, saying, “I have discovered her to be an extremely wise and skillful counselor in these matters” and calls her book The Healing Gifts of the Spirit “an excellent resource” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 136, footnote 1). Foster includes an entire chapter by Sanford in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home and another chapter by her in Spiritual Disciplines. Sanford delved deeply into New Thought, Jungian psychology, and other dangerous fields. She said that she got her doctrine that there is a “spiritual body” within the physical body from New Thought teacher Emmet Fox (Sealed Orders, p. 115), who also believed that man is God. Sanford was a universalist and the founder of the dangerous field of healing of memories. She taught healing through meditation, visualization, and positive confession. She said that if she spilled hot oil on her hand in the kitchen, she would confess: “I’m boss inside of me. And what I say goes. I say that my skin shall not be affected by that boiling fat, and that’s all there is to it. I see my skin well, perfect and whole, and I say it’s to be so” (The Healing Light, p. 65). (For more about Sanford see the report “Agnes Sanford” at the Way of Life web site.)

Foster recommends MARTIN MARTY, who wrote the foreword to Streams of Living Water. Yet Marty is a relativist and a modernist who denies the divine inspiration of the Bible and eternal judgment in hell. Marty supports abortion and the ordination of homosexuals, and in an interview with Playboy in 1974 he recommended adultery in some situations.

Foster quotes HARVEY COX, who repudiates the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith and has described himself as a fellow traveler of the Hare Krishna movement.

Foster also quotes sympathetically and non-critically from the psychoanalyst CARL JUNG who rejected the Bible as mythical and communicated intimately throughout his life with a spirit guide.

Foster even recommends New Age mystics. He quotes MARTIN BUBER, who rejected the God of the Bible and the fall of man and believed that God is found through interaction with human society and non-doctrinal mysticism. Buber believed that the Bible is largely mythical.

Foster quotes ELIZABETH O’CONNOR, who was a universalist and praised the Hindu guru Krishnamurti. O’Connor believed that Christ has saved all of mankind and is creating a new world through social-justice action. There is no need for individuals to be saved; they are already children of God and merely need to find God’s will for their lives and see “the divine life throbbing in the whole of the world” (O’Connor, “Each of Us Has Something Grand to Do,” Faith At Work magazine, Nov.-Dec. 1979).

Foster recommends the writings of DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 62; Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 33; Spiritual Classics, p. 156, 251-260). He was a universalist who built the UN Chapel in 1952 as a New Age meditation center. There is a six-and-a-half ton block of iron ore in the center of the room, the polished top of which is lit by a single beam of light from the ceiling. The light depicts “divine wisdom,” and the block depicts an empty altar representing “God worshipped in many forms” (http://www.aquaac.org/un/sprtatun.html). The iron ore also represents the metal from which weapons are made and the New Age hope that through the power of meditation world peace can be achieved. Hammarskjöld said, “… we thought we could bless by our thoughts the very material out of which arms are made.”

Foster recommends PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN. He includes a chapter by him in Spiritual Disciplines. Teilhard taught that God is the consciousness of the universe, that everything is one, and that everything is evolving in greater and greater enlightenment toward an ultimate point of perfection. He called this perfection CHRIST and THE OMEGA POINT. Teilhard spoke much of Christ, but his christ is not the Christ of the Bible. For this reason, Teilhard is a favorite with New Agers.

Foster also recommends the writings of pagan mystics LAO-TSE of China (founder of Taoism XE “Taoism” ) and ZARATHUSTRA of Persia (founder of Zoroastrianism) (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 62).

These are only some of the heretics that Foster quotes and recommends in his books!

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).

Renovarè: Foster’s ecumenical program

In 1988 Foster founded RENOVARÈ (pronounced ren-o-var-ay), which is Latin, meaning “to make new spiritually.” This is an ecumenical organization that promotes spiritual renewal through contemplative exercises, charismatic practices, and other things.

Renovarè’s ecumenical thrust is radical. Its objective is “to work for the renewal of the Church of Jesus Christ in all her multifaceted expressions.” Its slogan is “Christian in commitment, international in scope, ecumenical in breadth.” Renovarè’s ministry team represents men and women “from Mennonite to Methodist, Roman Catholic to Church of God in Christ, Assembly of God to American Baptist.”

Foster describes the breadth his ecumenical vision in these words:

“God is gathering his people once again, creating of them an all-inclusive community of loving persons with Jesus Christ as the community’s prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant. This community is breaking forth in multiplied ways and varied forms. …

“I see a Catholic monk from the hills of Kentucky standing alongside a Baptist evangelist from the streets of Los Angeles and together offering up a sacrifice of praise. I see a people” (Streams of Living Water, 2001, p. 274).

In his book Streams of Living Water Foster “celebrates the great traditions of the Christian faith.” These are contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical, and incarnational, claiming that all are “true streams flowing from the fountain of Jesus Christ.” In emerging church fashion, he believes that these “traditions,” which represent diverse and contradictory doctrines and practices, are “complementary” and needed.

At the October 1991 Renovarè meeting in Pasadena, California, Foster praised Pope John Paul II and called for unity in the Body of Christ” (CIB Bulletin, December 1991).

In Renovarè Foster works closely with Dallas Willard . Willard attended Foster’s Quaker church in the 1970s, and today he is one of Renovarè’s Ministry Team members. [Actually Willard was Foster’s assistant pastor at a California Evangelical Friends church. Foster states in his intro to Celebration of Discipline – at least an early edition – that Willard was being even more knowledgable about Spiritual Formation and gave Foster the ideas for his book.] The  Renovarè web site in March 2008 advertised an upcoming “conversation” between Willard and Foster.

Willard says that “it is possible for someone who does not know Jesus to be saved” (“Apologetics in Action,” Cutting Edge magazine, winter 2001, vol. 5 no. 1, Vineyard USA, http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=14).

Anti-Dispensationalism/Kingdom Gospel

Foster calls Dispensationalism a “heresy” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 46, footnote). Thus, he believes that Christians are building the kingdom of God today and that Christ’s coming is not imminent.

Dallas Willard believes the same thing. In his book The Divine Conspiracy he preaches a “kingdom gospel” that downplays the centrality of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. (He calls it a “theory.”) The apostle Paul said that if anyone preaches a different gospel than the one given to him by God he is accursed (Galatians 1:6-9). Paul’s gospel is plainly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, and it is not a kingdom gospel. It is the gospel of personal salvation through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

We have refuted the kingdom gospel error in What Is the Emerging Church, which is available from Way of Life Literature.

Accepting the Catholic Mass

Foster allows for Rome’s abominable doctrine that the consecrated wafer of the Mass is actually the body of Christ. He says it doesn’t matter to him what one believes about the “eucharist”:

“Christian people of honest heart have long differed over how the life of Christ is mediated to us through the Communion feast. Complicated words are used to make important distinctions: transubstantiation, consubstantiation, memorial, and the like. … I have no desire to unsettle the convictions of any person, irrespective of the tradition by which he or she is able to enter fully into the Communion service” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 112).

Foster’s position sounds sympathetic and kind, but it is blantant disobedience to God’s Word, which commands us to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The apostle Paul received directly from the Lord the teaching that the Lord’s Supper is a memorial (1 Cor. 11:23-25). Christ is not “mediated” through the Lord’s Supper in any sense, and we are not authorized to allow heresies and private doctrines not supported by Scripture. Foster refuses to exercise this obligation. He is willing to allow his Catholic readers to believe that a piece of bread becomes Christ through priestly hocus pocus and that it is perfectly acceptable to pray to this piece of bread and to venerate it as Jesus, which is what all of his Catholic mystic friends do.

The Pentecostal-Charismatic Connection

Foster is closely associated with the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement. He believes this movement has wonderful and important things to offer to the “body of Christ” and he accepts some of the most radical charismatic practices, including spirit slaying, holy laughter, and spiritual drunkenness. He calls these things the “prayer of the heart” but they are actually doctrines of devils.

“Another expression of the Prayer of the Heart” is what is sometimes referred to as ‘resting in the Spirit.’ It is the experience of being taken up by the Spirit’s power in such a way that the individual loses consciousness for a time. Some enter a trancelike state; others lie quietly on the ground or floor. …

“‘Holy laughter’ is still another expression of the Prayer of the Heart. The joy of the Spirit seems to simply well up within a person until there is a bursting forth into high, holy, hilarious laughter. It sometimes is given to the individual in personal prayer, but more frequently it comes upon the gathered community. That is as it should be, for laughter is, after all, a communal experience. To the uninitiated it might appear that these people are drunk, and so they are–with the Spirit” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, pp. 138, 139).

See the book The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements: History and Error for a biblical refutation of these practices. This is available from Way of Life Literature.

Healing of Memories

Foster believes in the heresy of the “healing of memories,” which he doubtless learned from the aforementioned Agnes Sanford.

“My first experience was with a man who had lived in constant fear and bitterness for twenty-eight years. He would wake up at night, screaming and in a cold sweat. He lived in constant depression, so much so that his wife said that he had not laughed for many years.

“He told me the story of what had happened those many years before that had caused such a deep sadness to hang over him. He was in Italy during the Second World War and was in charge of a mission of thirty-three men. They became trapped by enemy gunfire. With deep sorrow in his eyes, this man related how he had prayed desperately that God would get them out of that mess. It was not to be. He had to send his men out two by two and watch them get killed. Finally in the early hours of the morning he was able to escape with six men–four seriously wounded. He had only a flesh wound. He told me that the experience turned him into an atheist. Certainly, his heart was filled with rage, bitterness, and guilt.

“I said, ‘Don’t you know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lives in the eternal now, can enter that old painful memory and heal it so that it will no longer control you?’ He did not know this was possible. I asked if he would mind if I prayed for him–NEVER MIND THAT HE WAS AN ATHEIST; I would have faith for him. He nodded his consent. Sitting beside him with my hand on his shoulder, I invited the Lord Jesus to go back those twenty-eight years and walk through that day with THIS GOOD MAN. ‘Please, Lord,’ I asked, ‘draw out the hurt and the hate and the sorrow and set him free.’ Clmost as an afterthought I asked for peaceful sleep to be one of the evidences of this healing work, for he had not slept well for all those years. ‘Amen.’

“The next week he came up to me with a sparkle in his eyes and a brightness on his face I had never seen before. ‘Every night I have slept soundly, and each morning I have awakened with a hymn on my mind. And I am happy … happy for the first time in twenty-eight years.’ His wife concurred that it was so. That was many years ago, and the wonderful thing is that although this man has had the normal ups and downs of life since then, the old sorrows have never returned. He was totally and instantaneously healed” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 205).

The bottom line is that this experience is strictly and profoundly unscriptural. There is not a hint of such a thing taught in the Bible.

Some are impressed with the results of such practices, but if the only standard for the truth of a practice is its effectiveness, then we are left with no certain standard, because the devil can imitate many “spiritual” things. Psychics and psychoanalysists have produced the same results that Foster achieved with his “healing of memory prayer.” Note that he does not say that the man was scripturally born again through this experience. He just became happy, and the manipulation of the emotions is easily within the realm of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Foster’s Interfaith Activities

Foster is involved in the LIVING SPIRITUAL TEACHERS PROJECT, a group that associates together Roman Catholics, liberal Protestants, Zen Buddhist monks and nuns, universalists, occultists, and New Agers. Members include the Dalai Lama, who claims to be the reincarnation of an advanced spiritual entity; Marianne Williamson, promoter of the occultic A Course in Miracles; Marcus Borg, who believes that Jesus was not virgin born and did not rise from the grave; Catholic nun Joan Chittister, who says we must become “in tune with the cosmic voice of God”; Andrew Harvey, who says that men need to “claim their divine humanity”; Matthew Fox, who believes there are many paths to God; Alan Jones, who calls the gospel of the cross a vile doctrine and says there is no absolute authority; and Desmond Tutu, who says, “… because everybody is a God-carrier, all are brothers and sisters.”

God’s Word unequivocally reproves Foster’s activity with the commandment, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

Conclusion

Richard Foster believes he is promoting a true spiritual revival within Christianity, but he is the blind leading the blind. His writings are an exceedingly dangerous mixture of truth and error. Pastors and teachers need to warn their people to stay away from him, for “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).
__________________

This report is excerpted from our new book Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond, which is available from Way of Life Literature. If it is not yet available through the online catalog, it can be ordered by phone or e-mail with a credit card.

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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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