A while back Apprising Ministries ran a piece called Ravi Zacharias Answers “Can A Person Live A Sincere Christian Life As A Homosexual?” [1] Within it you can hear, via a YouTube clip [2], the well-respected Protestant evangelical apologist, Ravi Zacharias, say, “One of the greatest saints of recent memory was Henri Nouwen.” For those who may not be aware, Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) was a Roman Catholic monk, and remains to this day a veritable superstar teacher of neo-Gnostic Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM).

So, in light of Zacharias’ statement, the question then becomes: Do “great saints” really teach universalism, as did this apostate Roman Catholic Priest? You see, Nouwen wrote:

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. [3]

Nouwen also taught that God already exists in all human beings, which is the classic fantasy found in every shade of contemplative mysticism. He said:

Still, when we remain faithful to our discipline [of Contemplative/Centering Prayer], even if it is only ten minutes a day, we gradually come to see—by the candlelight of our prayers—that there is a space within us where God dwells and where we are invited to dwell with God…

One of the discoveries we make in [meditative] prayer is that the closer we come to God, the closer we come to all our brothers and sisters in the human family. God is not a private God. The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is also the God who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being. [4]

For a Biblical refutation of this patently false teaching, with its inherent denial of the one of the effects of the Fall, we refer you to Understanding the New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind. [5]

But what is of further concern, as it pertains to Ravi Zacharias, is a letter sent to Apprising Ministries from one of our readers. They had written to Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) about Zacharias’ glowing praise of the apostate (at best) Nouwen. And what makes this of particular interest to me is that I happen to be one whom God, in His mercy and sovereignty, chose to regenerate and deliver away from the religious bondage of the apostate Roman Catholicism believed by this great “saint.”

What is more, the Lord would even see fit to call me to the unspeakable privilege of being one of His pastor-teachers. Now, in the aforementioned letter, RZIM simply dismisses outright the results of my own personal study into CSM, which the reader had pointed them to. And this is why I now believe it’s very important for the Body of Christ to be able to see for itself the official RZIM position concerning Roman Catholic mystic Henri Nouwen and the spurious CSM with which he was involved.

For the entire text of the letter from RZIM’s “Speaking Team/Associate Writer,” Margaret Manning, I refer the interested reader to the Apprising Ministries’ piece, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Defend Universalist Henri Nouwen and Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism. [6] In closing this out, I’m simply going to quote Manning as she states the position of Ravi Zacharias and RZIM concerning Nouwen and CSM. Unfortunately Manning begins with obfuscation of the issue when she says:

With regards to Henri Nouwen, as an apologetics ministry, we would urge you to read Nouwen for yourself and then make up your mind as to Christian commitment. I would recommend you begin with his excellent book, The Return of the Prodigal Son. With regard to Ravi quoting Nouwen or anyone else, you should know that it does not mean that we agree with every statement the author has ever written or spoken; rather, we believe that the book will, on the whole, be helpful to readers.

In the first place, it needs to be understood here that as a Roman Catholic monk Nouwen not only rejected Sola Scriptura but also the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ. Even so, RZIM recommends we read the Roman Catholic Nouwen and then make up our minds “as to Christian commitment.” But the question that needs to be asked here is: Why would supposedly Protestant evangelical RZIM even want to recommend that we read for our Christian edification writings from someone who denied Christ’s Gospel in the first place?

Men and women, it’s well past time to finally understand that no matter what kind of warm fuzzies people like Nouwen might give you, we really aren’t going to find a whole lot of actual “Christian” commitment from people who are not even in Christ Jesus to begin with. We’re also told by RZIM that to quote someone “does not mean that we agree with every statement” or teaching by those quoted. But this is already readily acknowledged anyway.

Instead, the real problem here is the fact that we’re being sent on a rabbit trail by Manning of RZIM, because the Apprising Ministries’ reader who sent the letter isn’t even referring to a quote of Nouwen by Zacharias at all. The reader was actually expressing a quite proper Christian concern over Zacharias saying: “One of the greatest saints of recent memory was Henri Nouwen.” And I sure hope RZIM is sharp enough to see that this certainly goes well beyond simply citing Nouwen for a mere source quote. It is to call Nouwen a Christian.

Finally, Manning goes on to give us RZIM’s position concerning CSM. But in doing so, she also reveals the ignorance of the average evangelical about this corrupt spirituality of the Counter Reformation within the Church of Rome, as well as its primary vehicle, Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP), which is really transcendental meditation lightly sprayed with Christian terminology:

Henri Nouwen is often associated with contemplative prayer or spirituality. Contemplation, or contemplative prayer has been practiced throughout the church for millenia [sic] beginning in the early monastic movements of both the Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Byzantine) Church. To “contemplate” is simply another term for the Hebrew understanding of “meditating” on God’s word, and simply another way to pray. Contemplative prayer and spirituality as it is being recovered in Christian worship and devotional life, is simply that—a recovery of ancient practices and teachings from church history.

Note above that RZIM essentially confirms that Nouwen was indeed recognized for teaching CCP when they tell us, “Henri Nouwen is often associated with contemplative prayer or spirituality.” There’s a very good reason for this. Nouwen really was himself a personal practitioner of CCP in addition to his being a premier instructor of it. 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.

There is also just enough truth in the following statement to be eternally dangerous—“contemplative prayer has been practiced throughout the church for millennia [sic] beginning in the early monastic movements of both the Western (Catholic) and Eastern (Byzantine) Church.” It was; but what Manning of RZIM doesn’t tell you is that CCP was never practiced or taught by Jesus Himself or His Apostles, which is why we do not find it in Holy Scripture.

As one can see in my earlier article, Origin of Contemplative/Centering Prayer, [7] the truth is that CCP originated in the eastern desert, circa 350 AD, through hermits known today as “the desert fathers and mothers.” They in turn gleaned this version of so-called “Christian” meditation from their interspiritual dialogues with Buddhists, Hindus, and Sufis. It was John Cassian, the father of semi-pelagianism, who would then adapt the meditation of CCP from these hermits and bring it back to the western church where it would later fester and grow within the anti-biblical monastic traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.


[1] https://www.apprising.org/2008/09/ravi-zacharias-on-can-a-person-live-a-sincere-christian-life-as-a-homosexual/, 1/17/09.
[2] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qkCkXU0e75k, beginning at 6:05.
[3] Henri J.M. Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, (Crossroad Publishing Company: New York, NY, 1998), 51.
[4] Henri J.M. Nouwen, Here And Now, (Crossroad Publishing Company: New York, NY, 2006), 24, 25.
[5] https://www.apprising.org/2008/08/understanding-the-new-spirituality-god-indwells-mankind-2/, 1/17/09.
[6] https://www.apprising.org/2008/12/ravi-zacharias-international-ministries-defend-universalist-henri-nouwen-and-contemplative-spirituality/, 1/17/09.
[7] https://www.apprising.org/2008/04/origin-of-contemplativecentering-prayer/, 1/17/09.