A while back a reader of Apprising Ministries tipped me to the website of Grand Valley Baptist Association in Grand Junction, CO where Director of Missions Kent Shirley lists his Recommended Reading for Pastor & Staff. What I found there would lead me to write Southern Baptist Convention Embraces Gnostic Mysticism on 10/23/06.

Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? (Galatians 3:3)

The Concern Is Growing

Following that article I heard from a number of Southern Baptists pastors who were also concerned about these issues and that would lead to SBC Embraces Emergent Church and Contemplative Spirituality. In that 10/24/06 article I show some of the books available at Lifeway Christian Stores , “A division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.”

During my research I came across an article on the blog of Lighthouse Trails Research called Lifeway Stores Says OK to New Age Sympathizing Authors. Now please note carefully that, “This article or excerpt is from Lighthouse Trails http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/on October 3, 2006 @ 2:45 pm.” This is a good couple of weeks before my two articles referenced above.

Here is the letter that caught my eye:

Dear LifeWay:

I am a member of the Hispanic Evangelical Missionary Church in Brooklyn, NY. We are currently studying from a series of discipleship books from your ministry. I was on your website and was shocked to see that you carry books from New Age sympathizers such as, Thomas Keating, Ken Blanchard, Leonard Sweet, & Henri Nouwen. I didn’t look for others for I think this was enough. It certainly casts a shadow of doubt on your leadership’s discernment. There are a few articles on www.LightHouseTrailsResearch.com having to do with these above mentioned authors which I think you’ll find interesting and hopefully alarming. Many “Christian” bookstores are selling New Age books without considering the impact it will have on new or ignorant believers. Sadly, very few are willing to pull these books from their shelves. Please do take this seriously for the Lord our God will judge us.

In Christ,


In researching Contemplative Spirituality I have also written about Living Spiritual Teacher Thomas Keating and Henri Nouwen (1932-1996), priests with the apostate Church of Rome. And as I have studied the neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church I have also written concerning the Quantum Spirituality of theologian Leonard Sweet. And as a Southern Baptist Pastor myself I was most interested to see what “Lifeway’s” response would be:

Dear Arcangel,

Thank you for your email of September 27, expressing your concern that we list books by Thomas Keating, Ken Blanchard, Leonard Sweet, and Henri Nouwen on our web site, www.lifewaystores.com. I am pleased to respond.

Our vision statement at LifeWay Christian Stores is, “As God works through us, we will help people and churches know Jesus Christ and seek His Kingdom by providing biblical solutions that spiritually transform individuals and cultures.” We have product standards and will not knowingly carry a book containing unbiblical material. We have not carried many Christian Booksellers Association best-sellers because they contained unsound doctrines. We want our customers to be able to trust every product we list to be biblically-based and theologically sound, so we screen the products that are listed on our web site and exclude ones that do not conform to our standards. As I am sure you are aware, the Internet contains countless sites, full of information on virtually any subject. However, much of the information is opinion. One can find a full range of subjective evaluations of popular Christian authors on various sites. Obviously, they cannot all be accurate because they sometimes contradict each other. We use sites like the one you mentioned in our research, but we do not agree with all their assessments. To address your specific concerns, I will comment on each author you mentioned:

Thomas Keating–He has written books on contemplative prayer, but this does not make him a New Age sympathizer. Meditation is a biblical concept. See Psalm 19:14, Psalm 104:34, Psalm 1:2, and Psalm 119:15. Should Christians abandon this biblical practice just because New Agers have adopted it?

Ken Blanchard–He became a Christian late in life after he established a reputation as one of the best authorities on leadership in America. He is now using his writing and speaking opportunities to develop Christian leaders. His critics have used the “guilt by association” charge which, in many cases, is not valid. He has admitted endorsing some books that are clearly inconsistent with Evangelical Christian theology, and he regrets that. However, in our opinion, that does not invalidate his positive work for the cause of Christ including his recent books on Christian leadership.

Leonard Sweet–He has been associated with the emergent church. Some believe that invalidates his ability to write books acceptable to Evangelical Christians. However, should we exclude books that equip pastors and other Christians learn about trends in theology and culture in order to be equipped to deal with these issues in their churches or other organizations? You mentioned discernment. We do not want to decide for these Christian leaders by excluding books that may be extremely helpful to them and their congregations. We trust their ability to discern how best to use the material they find in these resources.

Henri Nouwen–He was a deeply spiritual and gifted writer about the Christian faith, but he was not a New Age sympathizer. My pastor has quoted him from the pulpit, and our church is definitely not New Age.

Thank you for visiting our web site, for studying discipleship books provided by our ministry, and for taking the time to write to express your concerns about these vitally important issues. I hope you can see that we work very hard to ensure that the products we list are in harmony with our vision statement and product standards. As such, they are biblically-based and theologically sound. With some 100,000 books in our database, our customers could not expect to agree with every thought in every book, but they should not encounter material that is inconsistent with basic tenets of the Christian faith. I hope this information is helpful and encouraging to you.


Jim Shull
LifeWay Christian Stores

“Books That May Be Extremely Helpful”

I found this to be a rather startling answer and even a defense of Contemplative/Centering Prayer so I decided to see if there had been any change in Shull’s views and I then wrote him myself on 11/09/06:

Dear Jim,

As an ordained SBC minister and pastor of Connecticut River Baptist Church (SBC), as well as president of its internet outreach Apprising Ministries, I wondered if you would be willing to take a moment and answer a couple of questions about books currently available at Lifeway Christian Stores. By way of further introduction I also serve as pastoral advisor and contributor to the website Slice of Laodicea as well as being a featured columnist for Christian Worldview Network so I do represent a bit of readership.

I am currently researching Spiritual Formation within our SBC and in doing so have noted some books that sent up red flags for me personally. From Faith Defenders website, which is Dr. Robert Morey’s ministry, I was led to an article on the website of Lighthouse Trails Research here: http://www.fromthelighthouse.com/blog/index.php?p=243&more=1&c=1

After intense personal study of the Emergent Church and its core doctrine of Contemplative Spirituality (aka Spiritual Formation) for this past year, and as a former Roman Catholic who works closely with my friend and former RCC priest Richard Bennett of http://www.bereanbeacon.org/, I know that the kind of meditation taught e.g. by Thomas Keating originated with the Desert hermits in the east circa 400AD. It then flowered through the monastic traditions of Rome and would become “Contemplative Prayer.”

In that letter on Lighthouse’s website Acangel Osasio did not address Richard Foster and so I would like to know the official position concerning Lifeway offering his “Celebration of Discipline” in its catalog. And I ask if you might also be willing to address Lifeway offering materials by Brian McLaren, who denies the inerrancy of Scripture and the substitutionary atonement, and Rob Bell who also denies the inerrancy of the Bible, teaches an atonement quite close to universalism and an eschatology with much in line with hyper-preterism.

Before I proceed further in my writings on this important issue coming into my own convention I wanted to extend you the courtesy of asking you if the opinions stated in your letter to Ocasio still reflect the current views of Lifeway Christian Stores. Please know I do not wish to argue with you about it. It’s just that being trained under Dr. Walter Martin (SBC) I want to make sure I have my facts straight before I write any more on this issue later today.

Dr. Martin often said that as Christians there will be those times when we will just have to “agree to disagree agreeably.” This may have to be one of those times. Jim, I sincerely do appreciate your time in answering a concerned pastor within our Southern Baptist Convention. If your positions haven’t changed you could actually quickly respond by simply personalizing Ocasio’s letter to this inquiry.

Thank you in advance for your attention to what I consider an important matter within the SBC.

Sincerely in Christ,

Ken Silva
Connecticut River Baptist Church
Apprising Ministries
Ezekiel 3:7-14

Are We Going To Have To Try And Nail Down Some Jell-O?

Jim Shull did answer me later that day but his email now carry a disclaimer which does not allow me to reprint it and so I will paraphrase his quite disappointing, and seemingly rather evasive, answer. He explains that the website carries over “100,000 titles.” According to Shull it has been Lifeway’s “intent that any product we stock and promote should be consistent with historical evangelical theology.”

Further he says there is a “third-party distributor” through which “some additional titles can be found.” He states these are for people who wish to research and study “material that helps them understand and develop responses to the diversity of religious thought in a postmodern world.” Shull then points out that “titles with questionable material” will be marked out and they “carry or will carry” a warning “Read with Discernment.” As of this writing I have not seen this warning anywhere.

He states that Lifeway has a wide range of readership they supply but that the “prayer” is that these readers examine books “under the magnifying glass of scripture” and to be discerning as they read them. He closes the letter by expressing his appreciation for the chance to “clarify our position on this critical issue.” Although I’m not sure I would agree he has clarified much to do with my actual questions regarding specific books. In fact, Shull doesn’t refer to any of the authors I asked him about.

While I had been waiting for this reply I had gone to Lifeway’s site looking to see if I could find a particular book by Contemplative Thomas Keating, which had suddenly disappeared after my article on 10/24/06, so I left this question:

Name: Rev. Ken Silva
Email: apprising@hughes.net

I was wondering if someone might be able to tell me why the books by Thomas Keating, and particularly “Open Mind, Open Heart: The Contemplative Dimension of the Gospel,” seem to no longer be available?

As I go to the link I had saved and it simply says: “Sorry, product
information is not available for this product. (ISBN 0826414206)”

This doesn’t exactly say it isn’t available but still gives as the ISBN number while stating information isn’t available.

I would appreciate someone getting back to me regarding this. Thank you in advance for your time.

Again it was Jim Shull who answered me and thanked me for asking about books by Thomas Keating. He then explained that titles by Keating “are not available” from the website of Lifeway Christian Stores. However, as one can see from Ocasio’s letter and my article of 10/24/06 books by Keating were available but now they aren’t.

As this progresses you will see that I have great reason for concern that the influence of the Emergent Church and its core doctrine of Contemplative Spirituality is indeed spreading within the once conservative Southern Baptist Convention which at last check still claims to be a Protestant denomination. So in line with the opening text the question now becomes: Why would we wish to place ourselves back under the bondage of apostate Rome?