In PART ONE I began looking into the growing influence of the neo-liberal cult of the Emergent Church and its core doctrine of Contemplative Spirituality (CS) within the Southern Baptist Convention. Here I continue looking into Lifeway Christian Stores.

Who will stand up for Me against evildoers? Who will take his stand for Me against those who do wickedness? If the LORD had not been my help, My soul would soon have dwelt in the abode of silence. (Psalm 94:16-17, NASB)

The Broad Road Back To Rome

Whatever one thinks of the emerging church movement there can be no doubt that the so-called “spiritual disciplines” of CS, also known as Spiritual Formation, have been an integral part of this Emergent rebellion against the Word of God. There is also no doubt that these spiritual disciplines are also deeply rooted within the antibiblical monastic traditions of the apostate Church of Rome.

Charles Willis of the Baptist Press tells us in his February 10, 1999 story on the new “Lifeway vision statement”:

In presenting the new vision, LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. said, “It raises the bar as we commit ourselves to being agents of transformation in the world of the 21st century.”

The statement reads: “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.” (copy on file at AM)

Jim Shull, whom I mentioned in PART ONE is director of LifeWay Christian Stores’ corporate services department. He has said that Lifeway adheres to certain standards for their books and is not aware of any of them which contain theology not in line with the Bible.

I guess that would all depend on how one views the Reformation, the Emergent Church and Contemplative Spirituality. Let’s take for example Spiritual Master and Roman Catholic monk M. Basil Pennington (1931-2005). Pennington was also a very close friend with one of the golden Buddhas of Contemplative Spirituality Thomas Merton, himself a Trappist monk.

The Emergent Connection To Rome

As for a quick introduction for those who don’t know of this late “Spiritual Master” we go to Emergent theologian and National Coordinator for Emergent-US Tony Jones. In his book The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life which in fact teaches how one is to perform the above mentioned apostate and heretical “disciplines” of Contemplative Spirituality (also available at Lifeway HERE) Jones informs us:

Pennington, a Trappist monk is a leading authority on Centering Prayer [meditation]. A retreat leader, speaker and writer,…

Jones also tells us that Pennington’s “magnum opus” was Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form. If the scarlet warning flags aren’t flapping loudly in front of you yet just hang on a moment. You need to understand that absolutely none of this spiritual mumbo jumbo has anything whatsoever to do with what Dr. Walter Martin (1928-1989), an SBC minister and renowned authority on Comparative Religion, often called “the historic orthodox Christian faith.”

Now some of you may recall that last time I pointed out Jim Shull told me personally that “titles with questionable material” will be marked out and they “carry or will carry” a warning “Read with Discernment.” As of 11/14/06 I still have not seen this warning anywhere in my research at Lifeway’s website and so I decided to do a search there for M. Basil Pennington.

Here is what turned up:

Lectio Divina, M. Basil Pennington

This practical guide book for today’s Christian describes the time-tested method of praying with the Scriptures for wisdom and guidance and joy.

At the bottom of the page you’ll see a link “View Similar Products in” and under the subheading “Catholic” among the books you’ll find on the first page are:

The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence

The Lessons of Saint Francis: How to Bring Simplicity and Spirituality Into Your Daily Life by [Roman Catholic] John Michael Talbot, [founder of the monastic community the Brothers and Sisters of Charity] and Steve Rabey

True Self/False Self: Unmasking the Spirit Within, M. Basil Pennington

Do we have the courage to unmask our false self and enter into the Christian spirit of being our true-selves–images created to mirror the love-image of God?

The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self-Discovery by David G. Benner, foreword by M. Basil Pennington

Features & Benefits- Links between of God (sic) with knowledge of self- Shows how understanding yourself leads you to better discern God’s purposes for you- Shows how becoming more like Christ allows you to become more fully yourself- Written by a psychologist and spiritual director- Offers a biblical integration of psychology and spirituality

InterVarsity Press tells us that David G. Benner :

is Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Spirituality at the Psychological Studies Institute in Atlanta, Georgia. A psychologist, spiritual director and retreat leader, Benner has written and edited many books, including the Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling and Care of Souls. He is an executive editor of the journal Conversations.

Also by David G. Benner is a book called Aligning Our Hearts with the Heart of God with the foreword by Roman Catholic Thomas H. Green, Society of Jesus. And then finally we have:

Sundancer, M. Basil Pennington, Edward Hays

This original fable–with 24 full-color paintings–powerfully takes us to the heart of the Paschal Mystery. It lifts the veil on life’s most ancient riddle, touching at the core of all the great religious traditions as it speaks of life, death, resurrection and freedom. A beautiful gift, it is also an appropriate reflection piece for the terminally ill.

Emergent and Contemplative Meld Into Gnosticism

Space doesn’t allow a thorough critique of all of these works so I as I close this piece out I will draw your attention to a book by Pennington that even I had not heard of until I searched Lifeway for his books a couple of weeks ago. So I purchased a copy of True Self/False Self: Unmasking the Spirit Within (TSFS).

This false idea of some sort of divine “true self” within all people is a teaching found in Roman Catholicism, but it is actually a concept which has itself been borrowed from eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. In The Emergent “One” I also show you in great detail that in ancient Gnosticism condemned within the pages of the New Testament it was referred to as “the divine spark” which is supposed to be in all of mankind.

The whole phony mystic musing is expressed quite well in the following by Pennington’s friend the Mystic Monk Thomas Merton right here:

At the core of Thomas Merton’s spiritual writings is the search for the “true self” he foresaw…the source of the problem [we face] is that man “has become alienated from his inner self which 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.

Men and women, you must wake up. Whenever we start talking about spiritual masters and spiritual directors we have now left the realm of the genuine Christian faith which was once for all handed down to the saints. In Part Three I’ll go into this a little further and show you some of the teaching of this Spiritual Master M. Basil Pennington from his TSFS available from the SBC’s Lifeway Christian Stores. But for now let me take this idea of the “true self” all the way back to its very origin for you.

You just might be surprised to find out that it really does come from within the pages of the Bible itself. Look, it’s found in Isaiah 14:14 and is a quote which comes from the lips of the Devil himself: “I will make myself like the Most High.” And right now he’s gaining much ground toward that end even within the SBC…