Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11, ESV)

Could A New Postmodern Form Of Calvinism Be Emerging?

In a little bit of a follow-up to Acts 29 Pastor Matt Chandler On Being A Reformed Charismatic here at Apprising Ministries I point you to the Resurgence blog of the Acts 29 Network of Mark Driscoll.

There under Recommended Reading: Coaching & Leadership Development, Leadership Development Pastor at Mars Hill Church Dave Kraft shares that which is recommended for Faith:

(Online source)

Let’s leave aside the Arminian A.W. Tozer; notice this leading organization of what’s being called New Calvinism is recommending books by sinfully ecumenical Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster, the leading purveyor of corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM), along with his spiritual twin and Southern Baptist minister Dallas Willard. Know this; what Foster teaches, Willard also teaches, and pastor Bob DeWaay of the excellent online apologetics and discernment ministry Critical Issues Commentary quite correctly lists them as “key proponents of mysticism.” [1]

Seriously, New Calvinism couldn’t find any better authors in the Reformed camp to teach us about the important topic of faith in Reformation theology? Now consider the following from Dr. Gary Gilley, who also has an fine online apologetics and discernment ministry called Think On These Things Ministries, concerning so-called spiritual disciplines that Foster supposedly recovered and taught in his magnum opus Celebration of Discipline:

The Disciplines recommended by Foster, as well as his whole spiritual formation system, are derived from the mystics.  His list of recommended spiritual masters is witness to this:  Ignatius of Loyola (p. 66); Teresa of Avila (p. 166); Jeremy Taylor; William Law; Dallas Willard (pp. 24, 80, 153); Henri Nouwen (pp. 64-65, 110); Father Anthony of Sourozh (p. 77); Phoebe Palmer (p. 114); Gregory the Great (p. 115); Hildegard of Bingen (p. 115); Francis of Assisi (pp. 115, 166, 168); Aimee Semple McPherson (p. 115); John Wimber (p. 115); David Yonggi Cho (p. 115); Brother Lawrence (pp. 126, 166); Flannery O’Conner (p. 126); Walter Rauschenbusch (p. 128); John Woolman (pp. 149ff); Julian of Norwich (p. 166); Mother Teresa (pp. 192-196) and Soren Kierkegaard (pp. 189-190)…  (Online source)

More than enough reason for very serious concern; especially when people who claim to adhere to Reformation theology then also encourage the younger sector, whom they are particularly popular with, to embrace the spurious spirituality of e.g. Ignatius of Loyola. For actual history shows us that Ignatuis of Loyola founded the Jesuits who were functioning during the Reformation, on order of the Pope, as a militantly pro-Roman Catholic Church spiritual Gestapo Unit. Let’s also keep in mind here that Richard Foster’s spiritual teachings are watered-down enough that he’s even included with the Living Spiritual Teachers Project alongside New Age mystics like Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson and even The Dalai Lama.

Yet as of today Foster’s books are still recommended at The Village Church, the Acts 29 church where Matt Chandler is pastor:

(Online source)

Turning To Those Who Are Opposed To Sola Scriptura For Proper Christian Spirituality?

First of all, I find myself wondering when were Quakers ever Protestant evangelicals; their mytic founder George Fox rejected Reformation theology, particularly Sola Scriptura. In his Richard Foster—Celebration of Deception pastor Bob DeWaay tells us about “a glowing cover story about Evangelicalism’s recent embrace of medieval Roman Catholic mysticism entitled The Future lies in the Past” in the February 2008 edition of Christianity Astray magazine. Then DeWaay notes:

The article traced the beginning of the movement as follows: “The movement seems to have exploded in a 24-month period in 1977-1978, which saw the publication of Richard Foster’s bestselling Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth and Robert Webber’s Common Roots: A Call to Evangelical Maturity.”

The article views Foster as one who continues to guide the movement: “From Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, and living practicing monks and nuns, they [those going back to Roman Catholic mysticism] must learn both the strengths and the limits of the historical ascetic disciplines. So Foster was instrumental in starting a movement that is still growing 30-plus years later. (Online source)

Foster’s brand of CSM first rooted within the now nearly dead mainline denominations; as a pastor-teacher myself, I encourage you to begin examining the fruit it’s been producing through these years. It’s also an incontrovertible fact that Foster and Willard were key mentors of the neo-liberal cult of the Emerging Church [2], and their whole shtick is spurious CSM, so the wise person is also going to examine the fruit it’s been producing there. As far as I’m concerned, it’s beyond question for those with eyes that see, that there’s a very serious blurring of important doctrinal lines going on today within largely pretending to be Protestant evanjellyfish; not to mention an ever increasing ecumenicism aggressively spearedheaded by this same Emergent Church.

I also shared this before from 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)

As one who personally holds to the 5 Solas of the Reformation I say this is, at the very least, a rather odd collection of spiritual skubalon for men who adhere to Reformation theology to be helped by and/or to recommend. DeWaay also shares some very pertinent information in his Foster critique:

The irony about this particular CIC regarding Foster’s 1978 book is that in 1978 I myself was living in a Christian community committed to practicing much of what he promotes in Celebration of Discipline (even though we had not learned it from him directly). So I am not criticizing a practice about which I know nothing (or one in which I have no experience). I am criticizing a practice I foolishly allowed to deceive me for a significant portion of my early Christian life.

When it comes to being deceived by mysticism, I have had abundant involvement. The only way I escaped it was through discovering and adopting the Reformation principle of sola scriptura. In this article I will show that Foster’s “journey inward” is unbiblical and dangerous. I will show that most of the spiritual disciplines that he calls “means of grace” are no means of grace at all—but a means of putting oneself under spiritual deception. (Online source)

Very serious business; the point we make here is this: Does God set the boundaries around the way we approach Him in worship, i.e. what Reformation theology refers to as the means of grace, or do we as His creation get to set our own? To clear up any possible confusion I’m personally not addressing whether or not one is a cessationist or would consider themselves charismatic; my point is, the recommendation of e.g. Richard Foster’s works appear to reveal a lean within this New Calvinism toward Counter Reformation spirituality. And that runs counter to what the Reformers taught concerning Sola Scriptura.

Within Acts 29 it also seems to be leading toward a decrease of Bible study in favor of the pietism which results from CSM with its confusion of Law and Gospel. As an example consider the below from Mike Crowe, “responsible for the development of new Community Group leaders” for the Midtown Campus of Sojourn Community Church, an Acts 29 church in Louisville, KY. In the combox of a post entitled Getting Ready For Sunday: How To Prepare For Sojourn Gathered, May 16, 2010 a reader asks:

Where does the purpose of “Learners” come into this church? Small group is not Bible study and the sermons coast over the scriptures. (Online source)

Crowe responds:

The biblical concept of “learning” goes beyond what we often equate with it – study or the accumulation of knowledge. Biblical learning involves learning to follow Jesus, as an apprentice (or a disciple),… Thus, discipleship = apprenticeship. That means it’s no less than but much, much more than studying the Bible or attending classes…

That means the key discipleship question then isn’t necessarily how much Bible we’re getting but whether or not we’re responding to what we receive with repentance, faith, and a joyfully obedient heart. No matter whether we’re going verse-by-verse through an entire book or getting a birds-eye view of the whole so that we have a better idea how the whole of Scripture fits together as God’s redemptive story (both of which are helpful means to studying and understanding the Bible), the goal is obedience to the Lord in response to what the Lord teaches us. (Online source)

Unfortunately, and using the kind of argumentation I often see posited in Emergent Church circles, above Mike Crowe erects a straw man; no one is arguing that we should study the Bible apart from a willingness to obey what we learn, the issue centers upon the fact that the study of Scripture is an actual means of grace. Yet this kind of de-emphasis upon study of the revealed word of God, coupled with the encouragement in Acts 29 churches to read books by authors who are, in very fact, actually hostile to Reformation theology certainly seems to be at odds with those who would call themselves Calvinists.

In closing this for now, it’s not over, here are two examples of where CSM has led Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. First we have Foster from a 2005 piece in Quaker Life called The With God Life: An Interview with Richard Foster.  The following comes while hawking The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible, which had just come out; the Quaker mystic tells us how the experience-oriented Quakers subjectively approach God “in the gathered silence.” This is mystic-speak for the primary vehicle of CSM, meditation in an altered state of consciousness, which is also known as Contemplative/Centering Prayer.

And while explaining this to us Foster also reveals that he personally does not hold to the verbal plenary inspiration of Scripture:

“The Immanuel Principle is ultimately cosmic,” according to Foster. “We are to reign with God and be with God forever and forever. In the past God worked first directly, then indirectly with his people. Since Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection, God works both directly and indirectly. Quakers in the gathered silence experience God both directly and indirectly.”

I noticed that the focus on the with-God life circumnavigates inconsistencies found in Scripture and differing opinions about theology. By looking at how God revealed himself to people throughout Biblical history negates all those arguments. “You bypass it all,” stated Foster. “You put your focus on how God has been with a person and what does that say to me, now? What are their strengths and weaknesses and how does that apply to me? It’s all about developing charact — character that goes on into the future where we will reign with God and be with God eternally. (Online source, emphasis mine)

We bring to your attention this is not at all in line with Reformation theology; and it is highly existential and very subjective, which brings us nicely to Foster’s spiritual twin Dallas Willard. In an earlier AM post Is Dallas Willard A Christian? I embed a segment of the Fighting for the Faith program of Christian apologist Chris Rosebrough from Pirate Christian Radio. At 07:22 therein you’ll hear Willard share his law-based non-gospel as he muses, “Now, I believe that everyone who deserves to be saved will be saved no matter where they are or what they do.” Where’s that taught in Scripture you may ask? Answer: Nowhere.

And Willard then goes on flatly contradicting God’s Word in the Bible when he opines:

It’s so important to understand that God is not biased about these matters [being saved and devout] and He is open and in touch with everyone in the world, and for all who seek them with all of their heart—and that is defined in terms of coming to love Him, and not just have the right beliefs about Him—but coming to love Him, and loving their neighbor as themselves.

Being that Willard is a minster, as am I (for now), in the Southern Baptist Convention I can tell you the above is not in accord with the SBC’s revered The Baptist Faith & Message, let alone being in line with Reformation theology; and it sure isn’t biblical theology. [3] However, I can tell you from years of studying the subject of mysticism that longtime practitioners of transcendental meditation, even the TM-lite of so-called Christian contemplative aka centering prayer, will eventually come to believe that mankind is basically good and is already indwelt by God; precisely as did Quaker founder George Fox. [4]


1., accessed 5/26/10.
2., accessed 5/26/10.
3. e.g. Romans 3:10-12.
4. The teaching of “the Inner Light,” i.e. Christ, dwelling within all men by Fox is a variant of what one normally sees—even within Christian mysticism—referred to as “a spark of the divine” or “a divine spark”; this is thought to be the literal presence of God, which mystics believe is already within all of mankind, whether he is regenerate or not. Shane Hipps, co-teaching pastor with Rob Bell at Mars Hill Bible Church, recently taught this as you can see in Rob Bell And Shane Hipps Teaching Mysticism. I refute this heretical teaching, which negates the doctrine of regeneration, from the Bible in Understanding the New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind.

See also: