Great Saints Entrenched In Apostasy And Teaching Counter Reformation Spirituality

Apprising Ministries now continues our look at some of the issues raised in a letter from the ministry of Ravi Zacharias that was sent to us by an AM reader where RZIM firmly defends a statement by Zacharias where he emphatically states, ““One of the greatest saints of recent memory was Henri Nouwen.” For more detail and the complete text of this letter from Margaret Manning, “Speaking Team/Associate Writer” for RZIM, we refer you to the AM piece Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Defend Universalist Henri Nouwen and Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism.

In the previous Ravi Zacharias, Henri Nouwen and Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism, designed as an illustration concerning how uncritical acceptance of “Evangelical Untouchables” like Ravi Zacharias is a major reason why this apostasy is accelerating, we also began to walk you through this RZIM letter with its very serious fallacies. By the way, this is not to say that there’s nothing of value in the ministry of Ravi Zacharias, rather, it’s a reminder that none of us should be considered above reproach and our teachings ought to be tested by Scripture.

Now those familiar with that Part One will have seen cited sections of the letter quite literally heaping praises from RZIM upon apostate (at best) Roman Catholic priest Henri Nouwen (1932-1996); who being a Roman Catholic monk, not only rejected Sola Scriptura but also the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ as well. In addition Nouwen was without a doubt a very well-known teacher of Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP)—transcendental meditation lightly sprayed with Christian terminology—which is at the heart of corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM).

I’ll have more on that next time so for now we draw to your attention that RZIM essentially confirms Nouwen was recognized for teaching CCP when they tell us, “Henri Nouwen is often associated with contemplative prayer or spirituality.” And there’s a very good reason for this; it’s because Nouwen was a personal practitioner as well as a premier instructor of CCP. In fact the RZIM statement is even a bit misleading in that it says Nouwen “is often” classified as being one involved with CSM as if there was some kind of doubt about this fact.

Well if you know anything about e.g. professional baseball, in the world of CSM, Nouwen would be akin to a superstar like Babe Ruth whose popularity transcends that of their sport into a household name not unlike how Nouwen—as a Roman Catholic mystic—is now revered even within apostatizing evangelicalism. Here’s a couple of quick examples demonstrating how deeply this contemplative has penetrated the mainstream of Christianity. In his Critical Issues Commentary article The Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines: A Critique of Dallas Willard and The Spirit of the Disciplines Bob DeWaay tells us about his “friend and co-worker Ryan Habbena who went back to seminary to finish his masters degree.”

DeWaay explains in a footnote this happened “during the summer of 2005 at Bethel Theological Seminary in Arden Hills, MN,” which is allegedly a Baptist seminary. He then goes on to share Habbena’s “experience in his own words”:

I recently took a seminary course on the book of Luke. It was a summer intensive and was one of only two classes being offered at the time. About midway through the week, while the class was steeped in trying to discern the intent and significance of the book of Luke, we began to hear the echoes of mystic chanting coming through the walls.

As it turned out, the other class being offered was parked right next to ours. The paper thin walls were carrying the choruses of a class exploring the life and teachings of Catholic mystic Henry Nouwen. We proceeded, trying to concentrate on studying the Scriptures while tuning out the chants that were carrying on next door. (Online source)

Next we’ll turn to the “Renovare Resource For Spiritual Renewal” Devotional Classics, which happens to edited by Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster. Under “The Prayer-Filled Life (The Contemplative Tradition)” is included a selection from Nouwen about the preliminary stage as one is preparing themselves for the “discipline” of so-called “Christian” meditation entitled “Bringing Solitude Into Our Lives.”

Then there’s also the Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (SDH) by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun. Spiritual Guru Ruth Haley Barton, formerly of Willow Creek Church who is founder of the Tramsforming Center and who handles the spiritual direction for the Zondervan National Pastors Conference each year, tells us of SDH: “I love this book! Adele has provided a treasure trove of spiritual disciplines that will your soul,…” (Back cover). Why SDH is even a recommended resource on so-called “spiritual disciplines” by the Saddleback Church of Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren (Online source).

Among its source works SDH also draws from Henri Nouwen’s contemplative classic The Way of the Heart, which concerns the CCP of apostate desert hermits idealized romantically as “the Desert Fathers and Mothers” by CSM addicts.  For those who don’t know Calhoun is she’s:

currently copastor, with her husband, Doug, of Redeemer Community in Wellesley, Massachusetts. She was formerly pastor of spiritual formation at Christ Church in Oak Brook, Illinois…[as well as a] trained spiritual director,… (Online source

“Pastor” Calhoun’s acknowledgements in SDH is a veritable who’s who of spurious spirituality including Nouwen and Foster, Ignatius of Loyola, Dallas WillardPhyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr, Teresa of Avila“and many more.” Calhoun then informs us that, “Their ideas, voices and examples have shaped my own words and experiences of the disciplines” (10). Among the disciplines we’re instructed about are such CSM staples as “Breath Prayer,” “Contemplation[,] to wake up to the presence of God in all things [panentheism],”Labyrinth Prayer,” “Meditation,” and CCP itself. 

Also in the AM piece Henri Nouwen Helped by “Meditation” we have already pointed you to a book called Meditation: A Simple 8-Point Program for Translating Spiritual Ideals Into Daily Life. There on the back cover of Meditation Nouwen tells us, “This book helped me a great deal.” The main point being that if someone like Nouwen, so often called to testify as a expert spiritual witness in other people’s writings for support of the meditation of CCP, is helped by this book then we’re sure that the author of Meditation must really know their subject matter.

We  have previously said that the truth is Eknath Easwaran surely does know enough about a form of transcendental meditation to have actually founded The Blue Mountain Center of Meditation. Easwaran is known as “the originator of passage meditation” as well as for supposedly being “an authentic guide to timeless wisdom” (Online source). And we uncover the basic spiritual message of his book Meditation, which Nouwen says “helped me a great deal,” when Easwaran keys us in on “the great discovery,” which he says is found “in profound meditation” (25).

The Inward Journey Ala Zen Buddhism As Opposed To Looking Outward To The Cross

Finally in establishing Nouwen’s own involvement in CSM/CCP beyond any reasonable doubt we have this from “the Henri Nouwen Society (HNS) at HenriNouwen.org:

The purpose of the Henri Nouwen Society is to foster the spirituality of solitude, community and compassion that was embodied in the life and teaching of Henri Nouwen. (Online source)

As I pointed out before “solitude,” in the lingo of CSM, is another way CSM practitioners allude to preparation for CCP—their form of meditation—which they will also sometimes refer to as “wordless prayer.” And although it does include this aspect, for those in CSM, solitude is not simply being alone. Now concerning Nouwen’s spirituality we’re also told by HNS, “Henri Nouwen was a spiritual thinker, a synthesist and one of the first in our time, along with Thomas Merton, to consciously develop a “theology of the heart” (Online source).

We’ll unpack what Nouwen means when he talks about the “heart” in moment. However, here you need to understand that Roman Catholic Trappist monk Thomas Merton (1915-1968) is one of the most highly prized Golden Buddhas of this spurious CSM and was himself a leading instructor of CCP. At this point we’ll also consider the following testimony from Joann Nesser of HNS concerning her own involvement with CCP. Nesser is one of the Society’s “spiritual directors” who tells us she was trained at Shalem Institute, which is the infamous interspiritual organization of CSM teacher Tilden Edwards:

I am a graduate of the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation, have an MA in Pastoral Theology and Ministry from Luther Seminary in St. Paul, MN and a D. Min. in Spiritual Direction.  I have taught contemplative prayer and spiritual formation at retreats, churches and conferences in the U.S., Europe and Africa. I am the author of Prayer: Journey from Self to God; Prayer: Journey into Reality and Contemplative Prayer: Attending to Prayer When the Well Runs Dry to be released in fall 2007.  After reading his books for years, by happy chance I was able to spend a week retreating at Dayspring with Henri. (Online source)   

Also among these supposed spiritual directors—a term that originated in the antibiblical monastic tradtions of apostate Roman Catholicism—you’ll see Wil Hernandez:

I graduated with a Ph.D. in Practical Theology with a special concentration in Spirituality from Fuller Theological Seminary. I am a trained counselor and a certified spiritual director who holds a private practice in Southern California. In addition, I teach courses and conduct retreats all year round on Henri Nouwen and his writings. Paulist Press has released two books on Nouwen that I have written titled Henri Nouwen: A Spirituality of Imperfection (2006) and Henri Nouwen and SoulCare: A Ministry of Integration (2008). (Online source

Now it certainlydoesn’t come as any great shock that more bad theology would come out of Fuller Theological Cesspool Seminary home of the semi-pelagian (at best) Church Growth Movement steeped in the love of self (see—2 Timothy 3:2). And should funding and time allow AM to stay online much longer I’ll be writing more concerning the following; but for our purposes here, as it relates to Nouwen and CCP, I’ll just bring out a couple of things from Henri Nouwen: A Spirituality of Imperfection by “certified spiritual director” Wil Hernandez. 

Although I don’t think this was his intent Dr. Hernandez does help us to better understand Nouwen’s humanistic approach to theology (i.e. love of self) by reminding us of a “phenomenon” which began happening “during the 1950s.” One that would “define the prevailing ethos of American culture” and become known as “the ‘therapeutic revolution'” (9). Hernandez also tells us that as this was going on “a marked shift” was also “taking place in the religious arena—from what sociologist Robert Wuthnow terms ‘a spirituality of dwelling’ to a spirituality of seeking.'”

Interesting to note how similar this kind of terminology really is e.g. to that used by those enthralled with Purpose Driven pragmatist Rick Warren and/or with the postliberal Emerging Church rebellion against Sola Scriptura. Then Hernandez shows us how  Nouwen himself fits into this very wrong philosophical and psychological [read: unregenerate and pelagian] approach to Christian theology:

It was in the mid-1960s, during the early stages of this brewing alliance between psychology and spirituality that Henry Nouwen first surfaced on the American scene. His influential presense slowly gained a foothold in the early part of the 1970s. As a newly trained psychologist and theologian with a concern for melding psychology and theology, Nouwen’s cultural timing could not have been better. Within the religious landscape of America, Henri Nouwen, without question, already had an eager audience… (ibid.)

Completely consistent with 2 Timothy 4:3 we’ve no reason to doubt that there were many willing ears just itching to be  tickled by Nouwen. But since our concern is his involvement with CSM here I’ll simply share with you that a little further on in his chapter “Journey Inward,” which is CSM-speak for CCP, Hernandez informs us that in his “Living in the Center Enables Us to Care”:

Henry Nouwen declares that from God’s perspective, our true identity as his children is one that is defined by himself and is hidden in the center of our being from where we must live. (20)

You’re about to see that the above itself appears to have been developed from the following idea by the aforementioned mystic monk Merton in his book Conjectures Of A Guilty Bystander:

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. (158, emphasis mine)

This type of psycho-babble is also quite reminiscent of Norman Vincent Peale disciple Robert Schuller as well. In fact Hernandez himself even sounds like something straight out of Schueller’s Self-Esteem: The New Reformation in his agreement with counselor Ray Anderson that the “recovery of the self, Anderson adds, is what is promised in the Gospel” (20). But you should be able to see this is in contradiction to Scripture and a pelagian view of the fall. In addition this false teaching is also right in line with CSM speculations about our alleged good “true self” as opposed to our bad “false self.” For a more in-depth discussion on that I will refer you to The Real Truth About Your “True Self”.

And this leads us into what Nouwen meant by his use of the “heart” in his writings. Hernandez explains that the “deep experience of ourselves” in CCP:

captures the nature of our inward journey. Henri Nouwen himself embarked on what journalist Philip Yancey calls a form of “inward mobility” wherein “[h]e withdrew in order to look inward, to learnn how to love God and be loved by God.” Such movement is best realized in the context of solitude [i.e. meditation]. In solitude, we can pay close attention to our inner self and consequently become present to our own experience… reaching inside our inmost being connects us to the reality of our own soul—that mystical reality that Henri Nouwen simply calls the heart.

What other scholars tend to distinguish as “soul,” “self,” “spirit,” or “will,” Nouwen preferred to lump together in his uncluttered thinking as the “heart”… The challenge [of CSM], therefore, is for us to connect deeply within our own hearts and there discover who we really are. The inward journey [of CCP], then, as it was for Nouwen, is a heart-centered movement into one’s innermost self—a journey of self-discovery toward wholeness. (22, emphasis his)

In closing this for now perhaps for the first time the light may have just come on as to why advocates of this spurious CSM have far more affinity with Zen Buddhism than they do with proper Biblical theology. You see, through meditation the Buddhist looks within toward self-perfection while the regenerated Christian is taught by God to look outside himself to the Cross of Jesus Christ, which is the only real hope the human being has to be saved from his spiritually dead “true” self. For you see, in Scripture there is no distinction between some supposed true/good self and a false/bad self within mankind—there’s only wicked.

As it is written  — The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV). And under the direct inspiration of God the Holy Spirit the Apostle Paul wrote:

For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 

For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. (Romans 7:14-25, NASB)

Men and women, this is the reality of mankind’s authentic self i.e. his true nature, And when one is regenerated by the Holy Spirit the above should be his own reaction as well while the Lord helps him journey within to see just who he is apart from the grace of God in Christ. But what is shocking is the amount of professing evangelical “Protestants” who believe the quasi-Buddhist lies of CSM teachers like Henri Nouwen. And Lord willing, another time we’ll give you the actual facts related to Contemplative/Centering Prayeras opposed to RZIM’s skewed and romanticized revisionist history.

But for now, with RZIM praising these stupid speculations of Henri Nouwen and his spiritually bankrupt CSM we now have very good reason to want to take a much closer look at what Ravi Zacharias himself teaches concerning the nature of mankind.

See also:








The smoldering ash heap of Ravi Zacharias Ministries.