I’ve pointed out previously that as a general rule, and a courtesy, we do not publish email without the permission of the sender. However at the same time, all email sent to AM and Christian Research Network is considered the property of Apprising Ministries so we may indeed publish unsolicited email for the purposes of edification.

The one below is published by permission of its author:

Pastor Ken,

You’ve directed a lot of your attention to identifying the contemplative practices coming from the “emerging church” people (and rightly so), but what about the “Silence and Solitude” (chapter 10 in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life)?  Most conservative churches have this book in their library and/or for sale in their bookstore. Prof. Whitney still promotes ‘silence and solitude’.  He also promotes a method of prayer (praying through scripture), in which you meditate on every word in a verse and pray about whatever pops into your mind as you contemplate that word.

He teaches this in the book, as well in seminars. If I remember he is the head of a ‘Spiritual Formation’ discipline/program at his seminary.  I’m not saying that he actively promotes contemplative mysticism (he will speak against it), but some of what he has written appears to head in that direction. Whitney taught his ‘praying through Scripture’ method at the 2008 Personal Freedom Outreach Conference on Biblical Discernment.  Gary Gilley told me that he attended this session and that he did not think it was biblical. 

Whitney teaches it in his book “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life” (so it’s not new to him).  I listened to Whitney’s interview with Mark Dever in which he stated that of the two (Foster and Willard) he was probably closer to Willard.  He did discuss some contemplative methods and said that they were wrong, but he never linked Foster or Willard to them.  I listened to a March 2009 interview with Whitney where he was promoting ‘silence and solitude’ (and thus his book).  It really seems that he has not changed his position on any of this. 

In the book he teaches that the ‘Spiritual Disciplines” are channels of grace and that the Lord expects them of us.  They are the “scriptural ways” that we discipline ourselves for godliness, according to him.  Some of the Spiritual Disciplines (so identified in the book) include: “watching”, spiritual direction, simplicity, confession, journaling, sacrifice, affirmation, celebration…  I looked up “watching” and it is definitely linked to contemplative mysticism, as is ‘spiritual direction’.  Again, thanks for addressing the subject.

A  pastor I know used to work with John MacArthur and I think he met Whitney there. It’s been my experience that most of those who know him give him a larger ‘benefit of doubt’, as it were.  They don’t seem to want to take his writing at face value and/or to read him critically.  I responded to one of Al Mohler’s blogs one time outlining some of the problems I have with Whitney’s teaching/writing.  I didn’t get a response. 

I also forwarded Bob DeWaay’s article/review to Tom Schreiner and Bruce Ware at SBTS.  Dr. Schreiner was nice enough to respond.  I think he fell into the, “I know him and he’s a nice guy, so I don’t think he’s teaching that” camp.  He did admit that he had not read “Spiritual Disciplines…” in a number of years, and that he might have some problems with it now, that he didn’t have when he read it before.  He also said that he didn’t have the time to read it right now with the amount of attention that it would need to do it right.  Dr. Ware never responded.

Hello AM Reader,

Thank you for contacting Apprising Ministries. Above you ask about Donald Whitney. May I publish your email; it would give me another opportunity to point people to articles at AM where Whitney’s been discussed e.g. these below:



You are correct, these are valid concerns and need to be brought to light.


Ken Silva, pastor-teacher

The basic issues underlying the concerns raised above have also been addressed within recent AM articles such as Protestant Contemplative Spiritual Director N. Graham Standish, Move Over Pastors For Spiritual Directors/Gurus, and Corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism Gaining Ground In Evangelicalism. I’ve said before that I’m a former Roman Catholic whom God, through His grace alone, by faith alone, in Christ alone, delivered me from apostate Roman Catholicism into the glorious liberty of the sons of God.

So this issue of the increasing inroads into mainstream evangelicalism made by corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) ala Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Fosterand his spiritual twin Dallas Willard—who are spreading this spurious Spiritual Formation hits close to home. It’s beyond question that CSM, and it’s main vehicle of Contemplative/Centering Prayer—which is actually meditation in an altered state of consciousness—flowered in the antibiblical monastic traditions of the Roman Catholic Church.

Now you have the proper background as you read the following by Dr. Gary Gilley, pastor of Southern View Chapel, is adapted from Mysticism – Part 2 of his excellent 5 part series Mysticism, which is also used with permission:

Medieval mysticism has managed to survive within small pockets of Roman Catholicism for centuries but has gone largely unnoticed by evangelicals. It is true that a few groups, such as the Quakers, have always kept some aspect of mysticism within range of evangelical awareness, and elements of mystical practices have actually thrived in charismatic circles right down to the ranks of Fundamentalism. But classical mysticism was virtually unknown in Evangelical circles until 1978 when Quaker minister Richard J. Foster published Celebration of Discipline, the Path to Spiritual Growth. Hailed by Christianity Today as one of the ten best books of the twentieth century and voted by the readers of that magazine as the third most influential book after the Bible, Celebration of Discipline has blown the doors off evangelicals’ understanding of spirituality.

What Foster has done, in essence, is reintroduce to the church the so-called “masters of the interior life” as he likes to call the Medieval mystics. He declares that they alone have discovered the key to true spiritual life and slowly, over the last few years, convinced multitudes that he is right. It seems to me that Foster’s recipe for Christian living has been simmering in the pot for over two decades but as of late has caught fire. New forces and new players have popularized Foster’s ideas to a new set of Christians and it seems to be rapidly taking hold. This is due to the efforts of organizations such as Youth Specialties, numerous Bible colleges, and a rash of books and speakers, all introducing mystical practices and theology to our young people and our young ministers. Many of these, having grown up in churches that no longer major on the teaching of Scripture and are thus lacking biblical discernment, are easy prey for spiritual sounding techniques, especially those that promise such personal and life changing encounters with God. Before we look into the disciples of Foster, we should first get a good overview into Foster’s key teachings.

Celebration of Discipline alone, not even referencing Foster’s other writings and teachings and ministries, is a virtual encyclopedia of theological error. We would be hard pressed to find in one so-called evangelical volume such a composite of false teaching. These include faulty views on the subjective leading of God (pp. 10, 16-17, 18, 50, 95, 98, 108-109, 128, 139-140, 149-150, 162, 167, 182); approval of New Age teachers…[e.g. Thomas Merton]; occultic use of imagination (pp. 25-26, 40-43, 163, 198); open theism (p. 35); misunderstanding of the will of God in prayer (p. 37); promotion of visions, revelations and charismatic gifts (pp. 108, 165, 168-169, 171, 193); endorsement of rosary and prayer wheel use (p. 64); misunderstanding of the Old Testament Law for today (pp. 82, 87); mystical journaling (p. 108); embracing pop-psychology (pp. 113-120); promoting Roman Catholic practices such as use of “spiritual directors,” confession and penance (pp. 146-150, 156, 185); and affirming of aberrant charismatic practices (pp. 158-174, 198).

However, all of these are minor in comparison to the two main thrusts of Foster’s book and ministry… Foster introduces to the unsuspecting reader literally dozens of mystics, some from the Christian tradition, some not. Many of these, he assures us, have traveled to depths of spiritual experience that we moderns cannot even imagine. Foster wants us to know that these individuals knew the secrets to an encounter with God. If only we would follow their pattern we too could enjoy what they enjoyed… As concerning as many of Richard Foster’s teachings and mentors are, far more disturbing are the two main thrusts of his spiritual formation system. The first is his use of what he calls the “Spiritual Disciplines.” The second is closely related, but deserves its own paper. I speak of what is called [Contemplative/Centering Prayer], which is rapidly becoming the rage throughout much of evangelicalism, especially among the youth. (Online source)

See also: