As we begin to follow up now on Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Contunues Asserting Henri Nouwen A Great Christian Saint, for more background, I refer new people who are just discovering this issue to that post and to those which are listed below. But what’s important to keep in mind here is that I happen to be one whom God, in His mercy and sovereignty, chose to regenerate and then deliver from the religious bondage of apostate Roman Catholicism.

Unfortunately as we head into this new year we will have to come to grips with the fact that we are living in a time of increasing 1 Peter 4:17 judgments to come upon the American Christian Church. And this particular issue is a shining example of rapidly expanding apostasy within mainstream evangelicalism. Please note here that I am not at all saying Ravi Zacharias, or anyone else at RZIM, is apostate. However, in the bigger picture of American evangelicalism the lust for success and for numbers has created an interesting parallel to Israel and Saul in the Old Testament.

As I was explaining via email to an AM reader this morning, it’s sad that men like Rick Warren and Rob Bell are kind of like Saul in the Old Testament. You may recall the time when, just like the world around them, Israel also wanted a King rather than simply allowing God to be their Ruler. Well, as the American Christian Church would embrace the Church Growth Movement, vomited out of Fuller Theological Cesspool Seminary, somewhere along the line it decided it would rather have “success” and peace with the world than to truly follow Christ.

What; did you really think it was simply a coincidence Warren and Bell both studied at Fuller? And right now the current fad is so-called Spiritual Formation, which is actually a repacked version of the “Christian” mysticism of Roman Catholic Counter Reformation apostates (at best) such as Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the spiritual Gestapo unit the Jesuits, and messed mystic nun Teresa of Avila. With that in mind the following from How Spiritual Formation Became Popularized at Herescope proves very interesting:

Recently some tidbits about the history of “spiritual formation” came to our attention while reading John E. Ashbrook’s excellent critique of neo-evangelicalism in his 1992 book The New Neutralism II(Here I Stand Books). Sure enough, this false doctrine — like so many others — originated at Fuller Theological Seminary, where it became established. Once it found a comfortable home at Fuller, the doctrine quickly spread across neo-evangelicaldom… (Online source)

Sure; just another coincidence…or… just maybe another fulfillment of God giving people what they want. American evangelicalism, as it morphed into neo-evangelicalism—good ol’ arrogant American business savvy, aka humanism, combined with good ol’ American Deism—dominion theology works better without God getting in the way—desires a Christian utopia on earth so the Lord grants them some new Sauls for another fulfillment of men who — therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them (1 John 4:5).

Food for thought as we watch evangelicalism circle up their wagons and head on back to embrace the apostate Roman Catholic Church by following the quasi-Eastern spirituality of  Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic “Roshi” Richard Foster. Former Fuller professor Foster’s mystic musings are then given a pseudo-scholastic spin from his spiritual twin ordained Southern Baptist minister Dallas Willard. So perhaps this is why RZIM nows feels the time is right to come out of the closet to let us know they also embrace Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM).

We see below in the letter from Margaret Manning of RZIM what appears to be a negative reference to “various ‘watch’ groups” who would dare question a dubious decision like that. And as I said before, unfortunately RZIM is still equivocating with words as they go on defending Ravi Zacharias’ claim that Roman Catholic monk Henri Nouwen (1932-1996)—a superstar of CSM—”One of the greatest saints of recent memory.” This absolutely does not involve Zacharias using a mere source quote; rather, it’s a clearcut statement that he fully accepts Nouwen as a regenerated Christian.

So it’s now become very important for readers to see for themselves what the official RZIM position on Roman Catholic mystic and apostate (at best) Henri Nouwen is, as well as that concerning CSM itself. Now the first key issue we must come to grips with would be that as a Roman Catholic priest obviously Nouwen’s alligience was to Rome, and as such, he rejected Sola Scriptura outright. In fact to embrace CSM, and it’s beyond question that Nouwen was a very well-known teacher of its corrupt Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP), one has to reject the final authority of God’s Word.

And as a result of his practice of this silent, wordless, “prayer” in an altered state of consciousness Nouwen’s own highly subjective personal “experience” in the deceptions of CCP—transcendental meditation lightly sprayed with Christian terms—would finally lead him to write the following:

Today I personally believe that Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her way to God. (Sabbatical Journey, 51)

Lovely sentiment perhaps but hardly compatable with the historic orthodox Christian faith that Ravi Zacharias is an apologist for. Not to mention it’s also a soul-damning lie. However those of us who have studied CSM, rooted as it is in a 2 Timothy 3:2 love of the self, can tell you this is precisely where it eventually leads its practioners. Now interestingly enough the main doctrine of demons of CSM is that God already indwells all of mankind. And this “divine spark,” or “spark of the divine within,” was actually Satan’s own boast — “I will make myself like God” (Isaiah 14:14).

You should also know that CCP is the primary vehicle of CSM and it is not at all a form of Biblical prayer; but rather, it begins as an attempt to Christianize an Eastern form of meditation and originated with desert hermits already living an antibiblical lifestyle. While their intentions of not being soiled by the world were possibly pure the fact remains Jesus tells us that He has sent His Church into the world just as the Father had sent Him. And neither Christ nor His Apostles sheltered themselves away from the world in caves or deserts.

Which now brings us around to the letter from RZIM where we will see again a very sad case of their either being unwilling, or in ignorance unable, to exercise spiritual discernment. As we close this for now AM presents the letter again in its entirety as a vivid illustration of the prevailing opinion of CSM; right now, in pretending to be “Protestant” evangelicalism today. Next time we’ll look at sections of the letter and correct the misinformation put forth below by Margaret Manning of RZIM

Dear AM Reader,

Thank you for your recent email. I appreciate your writing to me, and I am happy to clarify my use of Augustine and Luther with regards to what is being called “contemplative prayer” for lack of a better term. But, first, let me help you to understand how I define “contemplative prayer” and why I would include these two church fathers as “contemplatives.” As I have understood contemplative practices within Christianity throughout the history of the church, what is being discussed and understood here goes back to the monastic tradition of the Church. The monastics marked their days with prayers throughout the day as a part of their corporate worship (the marking of the hours), as well as focused on devoted times of private prayer. Both, Augustine and Luther practiced prayer in this kind of monastic tradition – of course Luther was an Augustinian priest, and part of an Augustinian monastery founded in honor of St. Augustine. Had the Catholic Church not excommunicated him, he would have remained within the Catholic (meaning “whole”) church.

Of course, there is a tradition of “Christian mystics” who focused on the more “ecstatic” experiences with God, much like our contemporary charismatic traditions focus on today – the more experiential and supernatural gifts of the Spirit. St. John of the Cross, St. Francis of Assisi, Theresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and many others are a part of this more “mystical” tradition. But, this is not the same as Eastern practices of meditation that are practiced by Buddhists, and that many are alleging are making their way into the Christian church. I also believe that many misunderstand Luther’s Reformation as a complete repudiation of everything that had gone before in the Catholic church. Luther had many specific critiques about the Catholic Church – and they were serious, indeed. But, he did not repudiate many of the devotional practices that he would have been nurtured on and practiced himself.

In saying this, what is being termed “contemplative spirituality” or “contemplative prayer” today is simply this desire to recover these ancient practices of prayer and Christian devotion. There may very well be groups out there who are combining Eastern and Western practices of contemplation – the Eastern versions focusing more on a sense of “emptying oneself” which we would not agree with. But, this is not the case with all who are trying to recover these practices for their daily devotional life. As I described to Mr. Silva, and to others who have asked, the word in Hebrew for “meditate” has the sense of “chewing” on the word. The ancient practice of Lectio Divina for example, is exactly this – it involves taking a passage of Scripture and having it read two or three times, and then reflecting on what is being heard through the Scripture. This is what the Bible speaks of when it talks of “hiding God’s word in our heart” and “meditate on God’s Word day and night.” It’s not simply memorizing verses, although that surely is a part of meditation. But, it is also taking those words from Scripture and allowing them to do their transformative work in our hearts and lives so that we come to reflect the character and person of Christ more and more.

As an organization, RZIM is not in any way connected to, or endorsing the “contemplative spirituality movement.” We quote widely and broadly in our writings, and in our messages. We use quotes that enhance an argument, or advance a point, and while we have been accused of endorsing wholesale or carte blanche what that author or speaker stands for, that is simply not the case. We quote from Nietzsche and Ghandi – and yet no one is accusing us of being atheist or Hindu supporters. We quote from Oscar Wilde – and yet we are not being accused of supporting debauchery or supporting the homosexual lifestyle. Why is it then, if we quote from Henri Nouwen, or Richard Foster, for example, are we being accused of being in cahoots with “contemplative spirituality?” I’m not saying this is what you are doing in asking your questions of me, but Mr. Silva and others have made this claim. I would encourage you to examine our Vision and Mission Statements on our website: www.rzim.org and then decide, if in fact, we are not committed to biblical Christianity.

Now, to directly address your concerns, I did not cite Martin Luther to say that he is in support of “contemplative spirituality” but rather to note what he does say, and how he does describe prayer. This is exactly what I wrote: I would encourage you to examine the writings on prayer in Martin Luther, for example. See his works, “The Table Talk of Martin Luther”, “The Sermons of Martin Luther” (specifically “Epistle Sermon, Fourth Sunday in Advent”), and his “Treatise on Good Works.” I’m simply citing these works as examples of Luther’s views on prayer – views and writings that have been cited in the works of individuals like Richard Foster. So, if Foster is citing Luther couldn’t it be the case that Luther has some excellent things to say about the practice of prayer? In the same way, many authors have cited St. Augustine as having said, “True, whole prayer is nothing but love.”

I did an extensive Google book search for exactly where Augustine said this, and found – to my surprise – that the direct quote is that “Prayer is love.” Thomas Hardy has written a book called, St. Augustine on Prayer which seems to be a compilation of manuscripts from many of Augustine’s sermons that talk about prayer as love. It is also Augustine who said, “Love, and do as you please.” Why would Augustine say this? Because, Augustine understood what the Lord said when he summed up all the Law and the Prophets in the command: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and the second is like unto it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31). If we love, as God desires us to love, then we can do as we want because proper love will lead to the fulfillment of the law. See 1 Corinthians 13: 1-8 for Paul’s words on this, as well.

But, even with citing that Augustine said this about prayer, why is this a problem? What is wrong with prayer not simply being the words we pray to God, but also being the offering of our very lives in worship and service, in love, to the God who made us, and to the world which so desperately needs the gospel message? There are many wonderful Christian individuals in this world who have no language skills – or who are not able to have coherent thoughts either through profound mental handicaps or through mental illness – are we going to say that the only way they can “properly” pray is through words? Of the Holy Spirit it is said that he offers prayers “with groanings too deep for words” (Romans 8:26-27). There are many times in my own prayer life that words are not able to express what I want to express to the Lord – is this, then, contemplative prayer as it is being defined by various “watch” groups? I do not believe that it is.

I trust this answer will clarify your concerns. If it does not, I would encourage you to write to me again and discuss this further. Most important, however, is that you examine our website, and the ministry of Ravi Zacharias for over twenty-five years now. He has been, and continues to be a faithful witness to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – giving “reasons for the hope that is in us” – to skeptics, cynics and seekers alike.

Sincerely in Christ,

Margaret Manning

Speaking Team/Associate Writer

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