The September 2006 issue of Christianity Today tells us ordained Southern Baptist minister Dallas Willard “is on a quiet quest to subvert nominal Christianity.” But with the kind of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM)—often called Spiritual Formation—espoused by Willard along with his co-conspirator the Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster, which always eventually leads its practioners to a denial of the Reformation and the acceptance of the apostate Roman Catholicism as a viable form of Christianity, the truth is that Willard and Foster have in actuality ended up on a quest to subvert true historic orthodox Christianity.

In fact, as you’ll see, this CT article does give us some very key information concerning Willard’s own humanistic approach to the Christian faith and why he is promoting The Cult of Guru Richard Foster. For example, “[Willard] teeters on the edge of openness theology,…but he doesn’t go as far as many openness adherents,…” We’re also told that Willard “didn’t think it made sense that you ‘got saved’ and were ‘stuck with it.’ ” By this Willard means there must be more than just waiting for Heaven, but even so, this is not exactly the most gracious thing one could say to his Creator for a gift none of us could ever deserve.

They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the Law or to the Words that the LORD Almighty had sent by His Spirit through the earlier prophets. So the LORD Almighty was very angry. (Zechariah 7:11)

Opposing Ideas Of What Is Falsely Called Knowledge

The fact is Biblical Christianity has never taught that personal salvation is all that matters, but with Willard’s statement above we glimpse the beginning of the usual misrepresentation of the Reformed Christian faith by those involved in this Emerging Church rebellion against the Bible. We have never said, “once saved; now you can just do whatever you want to.” However, these are the kinds of excuses deceivers like Willard will use when they reject Bible-based Christianity in order to create the supposed “need” for the core doctrine of so-called “Christian” mysticism within the postliberal cult of the Emergent Church.

The CT article A Divine Conspirator by Christine Scheller points out that Willard is known to many Christians from his book “The Divine Conspiracy (CHRISTIANITY TODAY’S Book of the Year in 1998).” But we also find out that God Himself personally announced to Willard:

“If you stay in the churches, the university will be closed to you; but if you stay in the university, the churches will be open to you.” He had no idea what this meant, because, at the time, the church was still the primary cultural authority.

However, as a young Baptist assistant pastor, he had become convinced he was “abysmally ignorant” of God and the soul. He decided to study philosophy, because he believed that “Jesus and his teachings and the philosophers and their teachings were addressing the same questions.”

And interestingly enough this working through the universities does lend itself quite well to the reeducation process that the original Cult of Liberal Theology—which eventually spawned the Emerging Church—itself employed. In his work The Cult of Liberalism Dr. Walter Martin explains:

And finally they had emptied the Gospel of all its content; they were simply using the outward shell so that they go on collecting money from the people and the churches; because they knew that if the people in the pew knew that they were apostate, they’d throw them out. So the strategy was hang on to the trust funds; hang on to the money we’ve got; hang on the properties we control, and we will gradually educate the laymen into this new approach to theology.

And then finally we will take control of everything. The gradual process of feeding you theological poison until you become immunized enough so that you don’t know what’s happening to you. And when you wake up to what’s happening to you, it’s too late they’ve got everything. (available through Walter Martin Religious InfoNet)

Rejecting The Penal Substitutionary Atonement

In her CT article Scheller also gives us further insight into Willard’s contention that ordinary people i.e. unregenerate mankind can become “disciples of Jesus.” We’re told:

[Willard’s] Arminian bent can be traced to the influence of his Methodist grandmother, but also to his failings as a young pastor. That’s when he began reading John Wesley and Charles Finney and aspiring to emulate them.

“Generally, what I find is that the ordinary people who come to church are basically running their lives on their own, utilizing ‘the arm of the flesh’—their natural abilities—to negotiate their own way,” he says, “They believe there is a God and they need to check in with him. But they don’t have any sense that he is an active agent in their lives. As a result, they don’t become disciples of Jesus.”

“They consume his merits and the services of the church….Discipleship is no essential part of Christianity today.” He says these problems are theologically grounded: “We don’t preach life in the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus as an existential reality that leads to discipleship and then character transformation.”

But what is missing here in this Charles Finney pelagian model for human failure is that the Person of God the Holy Spirit must first regenerate a genuine child of God, and it is the Lord Himself Who then transforms the born again Christian. Unfortunately all Willard is describing is the pitiful state of an evangelicalism that never renounced its humanism in the first place and which has been filling churches with more and more unregenerate people who think they are saved. You may also recall another “Christianity Astray” article The Emergent Mystique where Emergent Guru and Spiritual Director Brian McLaren brings out the growing influence of both Willard and Foster when he cites them as “key mentors in the Emergent Church.”

I covered this before in Brian McLaren and Vampire Christians, but what follows will give you a bit of perspective from his friend McLaren about how to perceive Dallas Willard’s concept of what he calls “Vampire Christians.” The version of the atonement we are talking about here is likely some kind of a hybrid between the moral influence and mystical atonement theories. It appears they combine this with a twist of Eastern Orthodox theosis to essentially say that the willingness of Jesus to be obedient to the Father and die on the Cross supposedly shows God’s great love for humanity.

Further Willard, Foster and McLaren seem to go on and say that Christ as God is now in union with all of mankind, and ala Emergent Church icon Rob Bell even with the cosmos itself, therefore this union with the Lord mystically elevates man’s soul even to the point of deifying it. You should also know that through their spurious CSM men like Willard and Foster and McLaren are likely believers in the supposed “divine spark” within mankind, which is a classic teaching of Gnosticism as well as of its ugly stepchild so-called “Christian” mysticism. For the interested reader I show you from the Bible why this is false in UnderstandingThe New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind.

For now though on the webite of Emergent Guru Brian McLaren we read:

Theory of Atonement

Could you elaborate on your personal theory of atonement? If God wanted to forgive us, why didn’t he just forgive us? Why did torturing Jesus make things better?

This is such an important and difficult question. I’d recommend, for starters, you read “Recovering the Scandal of the Cross” (by Baker and Green). There will be a sequel to this book in the next year or so, and I’ve contributed a chapter to it.

Short answer: I think the gospel is a many faceted diamond, and atonement is only one facet, and legal models of atonement (which predominate in western Christianity) are only one small portion of that one facet.

Dallas Willard also addresses this issue in “The Divine Conspiracy.” Atonement-centered understandings of the gospel, he says, create vampire Christians who want Jesus for his blood and little else. He calls us to move beyond a “gospel of sin management” – to the gospel of the kingdom of God. So, rather than focusing on an alternative theory of atonement, I’d suggest we ponder the meaning and mission of the kingdom of God. (Online source)

Tangible Deceptions Lead To Delusions Of Disciplines

Finally at the very end of this current CT article I have been discussing here we are further enlightened by some very telling information when we are told Willard had another direct interaction with God in an “early experience that set him on his life course.” It seems that while being prayed for:

Willard lost consciousness, later describing the experience as being enveloped in a cloud. A spiritual reality became tangible for Willard in that moment. (Online source)

Men and women, the result of this spiritual deception which “enveloped” Willard is now becoming even more “tangible” through the alleged “spiritual disciplines” he teaches with Quaker co-conspiratormystic Richard Foster. In the end, these mythical disciplines that Willard and Foster are pushing really consitute a new form of pietism. As such this spurious SF is actually working against the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ. What is more, along with Finney before them, Willard and Foster’s elevated view of mankind, as well as Willard’s open disdain for what he refers to as those “vampire Christians,” is now hindering the advance of the only Gospel that can save sinners.

And through the New Spirituality of a exceptionally misguided mysticism taught by men like Richard Foster and Dallas Willard—along with their friend Brian McLaren—what has now come emerging is indeed a new kind of “Christian” all together. One that had best be surgically removed from the Body of Christ before this spiritual cancer can spread any further.

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