They are filled with influences from the east,… (Isaiah 2:6, NASB)

Protestantism Returning To Dark Ages?

Apprising Ministries began looking into this question in Confusion Concerning Calvinist Spirituality? Therein I followed up a tip from a reader concerning The Village Church (TVC) where Matt Chandler, a professing Calvinist, is pastor. Let me be crystal clear here; I am well aware of pastor Chandler’s current situation with his battling a malignant brain tumor, and of course, I’m praying the Lord will heal him quickly and completely. As you’ll see, the aforementioned article was actually written back in April of last year.

He is undoubtedly a brother; and in no way should this be perceived as an attack upon Matt Chandler, or for that matter, anyone else. AM is already on record e.g. in Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism Creeps Closer…To Your Church concerning a key component hidden within the Trojan Horse of the egregiously ecumenical Emerging Church aka Emergent Church with its Emergence Christianity (EC) de-formation of the Christian faith—a cult of Liberalism 2.0 now firmly within the walls of mainstream evangelicalism.

What the EC has been busy doing is blurring doctrinal lines through their core doctrine of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) taught by Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster along with his spiritual twin and Southern Baptist minister Dallas Willard. I’ve pointed out before that as far back as 2004 EC guru Brian McLaren told you that that Foster and Willard were “key mentors” of the EC, and their whole shtick is spreading spurious CSM under the guise of so-called Spiritual Formation, which has been used in evangelical seminaries for years now.

And, as I said in Dangers Of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism: Lectio Divina, a few years ago I began following a trail that was initially cut by the online apologetics and discernment ministry Lighthouse Trails Research (LTR) years before. LTR has long been exposing the rise in popularity within Protestant evangelicalism of practicing the neo-pietistic “spiritual disciplines” i.e. asceticism-lite of CSM. You need to know this a rapidly spreading—and very dangerous—fad; and if left unchecked, it’s soon going to be the cause of much division within the church visible.

First of all, CSM flowered within the antibiblical monastic traditions of apostate Roman Catholicism (anyone remember the Reformation?) and this type of SF, sweeping throughout evangelicalism, is rooted within the spurious spirituality of the Counter Reformation e.g. such as that advanced by figures like Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the militantly pro-Roman Catholic Church spiritual Gestapo Unit known as the Jesuits. But it’s these kinds of very wrong approaches to proper Christian spirituality that would cause Jesus to raise up His Reformers in the first place. 

Returning now more specifically to TVC, which is aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention, as I investigated what the reader had told me I did a search in the Recommended Books at the TVC website—which they tell us “have challenged and helped us as a staff in our faith and in our ministry work.” I will say I did find it quite odd that we would find the following books by Richard Foster:

 Celebration of Discipline, Streams of Living Water and The Challenge of the Disciplined Life. (Online source)

Having read Streams of Living Waters (SoLF) myself I will tell you that in his fine book A Time for Departing Ray Yungen is correct in his discussion below concerning the vision the Quaker mystic claims to have received from God, which Foster shares beginning on page 273 of his SoLF, about a “deep conviction that…a great new thing is coming.” Incidently, and in fairness, where the Roman Catholic mystic Meister Eckhart’s “great underground river” would include all religions eventually flowing to God, Foster’s  “streams of living waters” do appear to be limited just to so-called “Christian” faith traditions.

With this in mind, concerning Foster’s “revelation”—he’s allegedly gleaned from the Lord Himself through his practice of CSM—Yungen tells us:

Richard Foster emanates his hoped-for vision of an “all inclusive community” that he feels God is forming today. He sees this as “a great, new gathering of the people of God.” On the surface this might sound noble and sanctifying, but a deeper examination will expose elements that line up more with Alice Bailey’s vision [of the New Age] than with Jesus Christ’s. Foster prophesies:

I see a Catholic monk from the hills of Kentucky standing alongside a Baptist evangelist from the streets of Los Angeles and together offering up a sacrifice of praise. I see a people.

The only place in “the hills of Kentucky” where Catholic monks live is the Gethsemane Abbey, a Trappist monastery. This also, coincidentally, was the home base of Thomas Merton (130). 

Corrupt Fruit Of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism Leads To A False Form Of Unity 

However, as nice as the idea of these streams coming together may sound, this prophesy flows in direct opposition to the doctrines of grace one like Chandler would say he believes. So the question that needs to be examined here is: Why would the staff of a Reformed pastor, who refers to himself as a Calvinist, even want us reading a likely unregenerate—and unquestionably highly ecumenical—Quaker mystic to learn about Christian spirituality? Yet, in addition to the Quaker (when were they ever evangelicals?) Richard Foster, the Spiritual Life section of TVC also has three other contemplative “classics” as well: 

The Imitation of Christ by Roman Catholic mystic Thomas a Kempis
The Practice of the Presence of God by Roman Catholic monk “Brother” Lawrence 
The Ragamuffin Gospel by apostate mystic Brennan Manning, a real fav of the EC

Then there’s three books by Philip Yancey who’s a rather squishy seemingly semi-pelagian, at best. I’ll tell you in no uncertain terms, as a pastor-teacher myself, there’s absolutely no way I would willingly expose my sheep to those authors. Now, being that he’s a direct descendant of the man-centered semi-pelagian (at best) Church Growth Movement (CGM), we’re not at all surprised that Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren has actually been pushing for the practice of CSM in mainstream evangelicalism for some time now. But this kind of thing by The Village Church staff only serves to make faded lines even more blurry within Reformed circles.

At this point it’s important to note that Warren’s upcoming Radicalis conference in February 2009 at his Saddleback Church, is about to shove forward a CSM guru by the name of Peter Scazzero, who has close ties to the CGM flagship Willow Creek Association. And here’s where the cloudy waters within Calvinist circles are becoming muddied even further with this highly subjective CSM, which is really antithetical to Sola Scriptura. For you see, one of the speakers for Radicalis will be Reformed pastor Mark Driscoll; and we also note that among the Recommended Websites at Chandler’s TVC is Mark Driscoll’s Acts 29 Network.

In closing this for now, I’ll point you to Mark Driscoll IS a Contemplative Proponent at From the Lighthouse blog of LTR who informs us that:

Coming up in 2010, Driscoll has been invited by Rick Warren to speak at the Radicalis conference.  

Although Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Fellowship in Seattle Washington, is said to have denounced certain aspects of the emergent church, Driscoll is a proponent of the main element behind the emerging church – contemplative prayer. (Online source)

If you don’t know Contemplative/Centering Prayer, the crowning jewel of CSM, is meditation in an altered state of consciousness i.e. transcendental meditation lightly sprayed with Christian terms. LTR then goes on:

Presently, on Driscoll’s website, The Resurgence (see whois info) is an article titled “How to Practice Meditative Prayer.” The article is written by an Acts 29 (Driscoll’s network of churches) pastor, Winfield Bevins. A nearly identical article on Driscoll’s site, also by Bevins, is titled Meditative Prayer: Filling the Mind. Both articles show a drawing of a human brain. In this latter article, Bevins recognizes contemplative mystic pioneer Richard Foster:

What do we mean by meditative prayer? Is there such a thing as Christian meditation? Isn’t meditation non-Christian? According to Richard Foster, “Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind. Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind” (Celebration of Discipline). Rather than emptying the mind we fill it with God’s word. We must not neglect a vital part of our Judeo-Christian heritage simply because other traditions use a form of meditation. (Online source)

And finally LTR brings out:

The Bevins’ reference to Richard Foster is not the only contemplative marker on Mark Driscoll’s site . In an article written by Driscoll himself, ironically titled Obedience, Driscoll tells readers to turn to Richard Foster and contemplative Gary Thomas. Driscoll states: 

If you would like to study the spiritual disciplines in greater detail … helpful are Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster, and Sacred Pathways, by Gary Thomas…

As for Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Pathways (the one Driscoll recommends), Thomas tells readers to repeat a word for 20 minutes in order to still the mind. This is the basic principle in all Eastern and occultic methods. (Online source)

Lord willing, another time I’ll talk further the “mantra meditation” encouraged by Thomas and apparently recommended by Driscoll, but for now let’s consider the fact that we’ve just seen Foster’s magnum opus Celebration of Discipline recommended favorably by Calvinist pastors. And so for your prayerful consideration I will leave you with the following dead-on-target assessment of Foster’s warped work taken from the excellent Mysticism series by Dr. Gary Gilley:

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 (see 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). (Online source)

See also: