In my work for Christ here at Apprising Ministries you will have heard me talk much lately about the new spirituality that has slithered its way into new evangelicalism. This neo-pagan Gnostic spirituality is most pointedly on display in the misguided mysticism of the Emergent Church. Yes, I am fully aware that people involved in this highly schismatic movement prefer to be known as the Emerging Church, but no longer emerging this cultic group has now fully emerged from the shadows on the outskirts of the evangelical camp.

Via Contemplativa

The most dangerous aspect of the new spirituality is this idea propounded by the EC of spiritual disciplines/practices which they insist must be performed in order to more fully “experience” God. Space does not allow a discussion of “the deeper life” that orthodox Christians such as A.W. Tozer would speak of, but we are clearly not talking about the same thing. Here I am discussing the heretical practices culled from so-called “Christian” mystics that they in turn borrowed from Eastern religions and then passed off as consistent with the historic orthodox Christian faith.

Emergent Church theologian Tony Jones, who is the National Coordinator for Emergent-US, is to be considered a primary source concerning these mystic practices having written extensively on the subject. In his book The Sacred Way (SW), Jones provides us with a list of what he refers to as “Contemplative Approaches to Spirituality.” These “spiritual disciplines” would be: “Silence and Solitude, Sacred Reading, The Jesus Prayer, Centering Prayer, Meditation, The Ignatian Examen, Icons, Spiritual Direction, and The Daily Office.” (5)

It should also be noted that those who are following these blind guides in the EC will insist that these areas are not all the same. However, the truth is that most of these “practices” are indeed aligned with what Richard Foster, one of the leading “authorities” on the contemplative spirituality, refers to as “The Inward Disciplines” in his classic book on the subject Celebration of Discipline (COD). (12) In fact with “Silence and Solitude,” “The Jesus Prayer,” and “Centering/Contemplative Prayer,” we are involved with what even Foster himself calls “The Discipline of Meditation.” (15)

Here is the most important point to understand with all the talk in the evangelical church today about contemplative prayer: The practice of this type of meditation is virtually identical to that practiced in eastern religions such as Zen Buddhism and the transcendental meditation of Hinduism. This becomes readily apparent as Jones tells us:

As a Christian practice [meditation is] inextricably bound up with…silence, the Jesus Prayer, and Centering Prayer,… Further, it’s linked with the recent popularity in the West of Eastern religions, resulting in books with such titles as Christian Zen and Christian Yoga. While this makes some Christians nervous, others revel in the fact that God is revealed in all truth, no matter the religion of origin. (SW, 79,80, emphasis mine)

Since Jones has now introduced the book Christian Zen (CZ) by the late William Johnston, a Roman Catholic priest who wrote “numerous articles on Zen and Christianity, [and] on mysticism East and West,” let’s turn to it. In this book Johnston “suggests techniques of Zen meditation” will “heighten Christian meditation.” In fact Johnson “discovered in Zen a pool of quiet energy which transforms the Western intellectualized experience of meditation into a full-bodied, intuitive communion with God” (front flap). Johnson further enlightens us as he says:

Turning to Christian mystics,…[h]ere are men and women whose meditation (or contemplation) is more akin to that of the Zen Masters… [Thomas] Merton, too, belongs to the same tradition, and that is why he has such sympathy for Zen. (25)

Foster, who considers Merton to be one of his own mentors, then tells us what happens in this meditation “is that we create the emotional and spiritual space which allows Christ to construct a sanctuary in the heart.” And Foster is telling the truth when he writes that meditation “opens the door.” (COD, 20) It is what inevitably comes through that open door which is the concern of this particular work. As we progress with this you will come to understand the dangerous spiritual reality about what Foster tells us concerning the eventual effect that arrived at through the meditation “of this kind [which] transforms the inner personality.”

West Meets East In Meditation

In COD Foster does make the attempt to distance his brand of “Christian” meditation from Zen and Hinduism when he says:

there are those who assume it is synonymous with the concept of meditation centered in Eastern religions. In reality, the two ideas stand worlds apart. Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind.” (Ibid., 20)

The problem is this just isn’t true as you have seen from CZ and from what Tony Jones himself admits in SW. As a matter of fact on page 73 of SW Jones mentions that M. Basil Pennington is “one of the Trappist monks who has developed the modern practice of Centering Prayer.” Among the “resources” that Jones recommends is Pennington’s book Centering Prayer: Renewing An Ancient Christian Prayer Form (CP). You will also find it interesting to note that in COD Foster personally recommends another book called The Living Testament: The Essential Writings of Christianity Since the Bible, which just happens to be edited by Pennington and one Alan Jones–another name that should be familiar to those following this work.

We should find it quite revealing in CP as Pennington tells us that in “recent years” there has been “a significant number” of people who have been “turning to the East” in search of wisdom.” (15) In Pennington’s view this is a return to the ways of early Christian mystics who also headed “toward the East in search of wisdom.” While discussing the meaning of the words meditation and contemplation it becomes obvious that what Pennington writes about in CP is the same type of meditation as that practiced by what he refers to as “our brothers and sisters in the Hindu tradition.” (20)

The Influence Of Thomas Merton

So it should not come as a great surprise then as I show you that this form of Centering/Contemplative Prayer, or so-called Christian meditation, is really nothing more than transcendental meditation lightly sprayed with Christian terminology. This is why there is such grave danger in the practice of Gnostic contemplative spirituality that has been spreading like a spiritual wildfire through the Church of our Lord for a few years now. And perhaps the most prominent purveyor of this so-called “Christian” mysticism is Richard Foster, whom I mentioned earlier. A member of the Society of Friends (the Quakers) Foster is quite familiar with mysticism and well versed in “the silence” aka meditation, and none other than Brian McLaren calls Foster a “key mentor” in the Emergent Church.

In his fine series called Mysticism, which I highly recommend, Gary Gilley did great job whittling down this massive subject to its most important elements. Regarding Richard Foster’s work Gilley brings out just how deeply Foster was influenced by mystic Thomas Merton:

Foster cites and/or quotes Merton on at least nine separate occasions in Celebration of Discipline, yet Merton was not a Christian as far as we can tell. He was a twentieth-century Roman Catholic who had so immersed himself in Buddhism that he claimed he saw no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity and intended to become as good a Buddhist as he could.

But despite his doctrinal views and New Age leanings Foster considers Merton’s Contemplative Prayer, “A must book,” and says of Merton, “[He] has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.” Merton wrote, “If only [people] could see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…. I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.”

Merton’s Message

The above quote from Merton comes from his Conjectures Of An Guilty Bystander. In this book Merton also denies the doctrine of original sin when he says at, “the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth.” (158) Here’s some more information on the theology that Thomas Merton “received” as a result of his years of transcendental meditation. The following comes from Merton’s Message off The Thomas Merton Foundation a website favorable to this deceased heretic:

He takes people into deep places within themselves… At the core of Thomas Merton’s spiritual writings is the search for the “true self” and our need for relationship with God, other people and all of creation… He concludes that we must discover God as the center of our being to which all things tend…

Merton’s interests were prophetic,…he foresaw…the source of the problem [we face] is that man “has become alienated from his inner selfwhich is the image of God.” [The solution] requires a social conversion,… The first step in this turning is a transformation of consciousness and Thomas Merton is a preeminent guide to us in this first step…[and] a spiritual master whose influence crosses generations and religious affiliations.

Of course it would cross “religious affiliations” because there is no mention of the inherent sin nature of man, or the need for being regenerated, or of the Cross of Christ as the only real solution for sin. What we have just read from a Site sympathetic to Merton could be agreed to by virtually anyone from any spiritual background, and this is precisely my point. It is exactly this same message of New Age spirituality that comes through the “transformation of consciousness” to all those who practice this transcendental meditation long enough to anger God until He finally abandons them to their reprobate mind. (see–Romans 1:18-32)

Contemplative Meditation

What is happening here with men like Richard Foster and others who teach and practice this Gnostic new spirituality is simply equivocation with words. The goal of contemplative spirituality, which is actually meditation for the “Christian” every bit as consistent as that practiced in Zen, is clearly spelled out here in Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience. Meditation we are told consists of any “of the various disciplines of mind and body that enable one to achieve higher states of consciousness.” And further, exactly as in Merton’s Message above, we see “the goal toward which [meditation] is applied is the transformation of consciousness.” (355, emphasis mine)

And it is precisely this “transformation of consciousness” that is a major source of concern in my work right now at AM. What makes the Emergent Church so very dangerous spiritually is that we have quite questionable “theologians” like Foster, Tony Jones, and Brian McLaren molding the impressionable minds of young people who are simply not equipped to see through this non-Christian neo-pagan spirituality. For that matter it seems, we have very few leaders within the evangelical church itself who appear capable of recognizing just how deeply the Devil has penetrated into the Church of our Lord with his Gnosticism all over again.

In this generation it has become critical that the Church repent of virtually ignoring the spiritual side of our relationship with the one true and living God as revealed in the Bible. Men and women, to be a born again Christian–by God’s grace alone; through faith alone; in Christ alone–is to be indwelt by God Himself. And since Jesus of Nazareth–the LORD God Almighty Himself in human flesh–explains that God is Spirit, then it logically follows we are going to have to be involved in a spiritual life. As we see people “possessed” by demons (fallen spirits) in the Gospels, so we who have been regenerated are to be possessed by God. (see–John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 5:18)

And the sooner we get over our fear of this the better, because what has happened now in our pagan nation is that people have become spiritually hungry for more of God which is a good thing. However, Satan has now rushed into this vacuum of spirituality created by a dead orthodoxy in the contemporary Christian Church with his new spirituality within the new evangelicalism that has rapidly become The Ecumenical Church of Deceit.