For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

Creating Your Own Way To Worship God

Apprising Ministries has shared some concern about this New Calvinism as expressed e.g. by Matt Chandler and particularly Mark Driscoll, founder of Acts 29 Network, in recent posts such as Acts 29 Network And Reformed Counter Reformation Spirituality? and Acts 29 Pastor Matt Chandler On Being A Reformed Charismatic.

In my assessment there’s very good reason for concern as these people are rapidly growing in popularity and influence within the younger sector of the Reformed Camp; being blessed as they are by Dr. John Piper, who’s seen as a “pioneer” of this New Calvinism. [1]

Then in Spiritual Disciplines According To Martin Luther I connected some more of the dots for you concerning the Acts 29 Church Planting Network itself where you heard from Darren Patrick, its own Vice President, that they are a “neo-Reformed” section of the Emerging Church. Let me be perfectly clear: Acts 29 is most certainly not heretical in its basic theological beliefs. The concern here is the recommendation of a key component that was hidden within the Trojan Horse of the sinfully ecumenical Emergent Church (EC) and its new “big tent” progressive/liberal de-formation of the Christian faith they call Emergence Christianity.

This EC—a neo-liberal cult now firmly entrenched within the walls of mainstream evangelicalism—has long been busy now blurring doctrinal lines through their core doctrine of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) as taught by Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster along with his spiritual twin and Southern Baptist minister Dallas Willard. And I’ve clearly shown you that Acts 29 recommends Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline (CoD), a seminal source for spurious spirituality which Dr. Gary Gilley of Think On These Things Ministries calls “an encyclopedia of theological error.”

In Calvinist Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism? I pointed you to Mark Driscoll IS a Contemplative Proponent at From the Lighthouse blog of Lighthouse Trails Reseach (LTR); and while we wouldn’t necessarily agree with all of their conclusions, they do remind us that back in February of this year Driscoll was a featured speaker, along with CSM teacher Peter Scazzero, at the Radicalis conference put on by Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church. LTR also informs us that:

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 (CCP), 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)

I previously pointed out in Who Is John Main? this form of “mantra meditation” encouraged by Thomas, and apparently also recommended by Driscoll, is traced to Dom (father) John Main (1926-1982). Main was a Roman Catholic priest and monk of the Order of Saint Benedict (OSB); he’s also universally known by those in the so-called “contemplative tradition” as the man who rediscovered “the practice of pure prayer, or Christian meditation,” using a “holy phrase” also known as a mantra. In 1975 Main “began the first meditation groups at his monastery in London and, later, in Montreal.” [2]

Earlier in John Main: Indian Swami A Holy Man Of God I showed that in his book The Sacred Way  (SW) Tony Jones, a leading progressive/liberal theologian in the Emerging Church, recommends Moment of Christ: The Path of Meditation (MoC) by John Main under the category of “meditation” in his suggested “Resources.” And Jones confirms for us that, “Main combined Christian teaching with Hindu meditation to form a mantra-meditation” [3]. Jones also tells is in SW:

At the end of the 20th century, Benedictine monk John Main pioneered a Christian form of meditation that was influenced by his study with a Hindu master. He taught a form of meditation using the word maranatha (Aramaic for “Come, Lord”) as a mantra. Sitting cross-legged, the meditator chants (either aloud or silently) “ma-ra-na-tha” for 20 minutes daily. The teachings of Brother Main and others became so popular that the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a letter to all Catholic bishops in 1989, entitled “Some Aspects of Christian Meditation” to guide the bishops in their leadership of churches that were using meditation [4]

You should also know that John Main, every bit a mystic monk ala CSM Golden Buddha Thomas Merton, is one of the “classic” writers featured in a book called Spiritual Classics (SC), which is edited by no less an authority on CSM than the Guru of Contemplation Richard Foster along with Roman Catholic mystic Emilie Griffin. Main’s supposed “spiritual classic” in SC is actually a section on “The Meaning of Silence”; i.e. it’s the meditation of CCP Main teaches in his book MoC—just recommended above by Tony Jones. In the introduction to Main’s piece in SC we’re told that:

Dom John Main understood well the value of both silence and solitude… Always drawn to religion and the spiritual life, Main rediscovered meditation while living in the Far East… Influenced by the fifth-century writings of John Cassian, Main learned the ancient Christian discipline of the prayer of silence… In the following selection, an essay taken from his book Moments of Christ: The Path of Meditation, Father John is not just teaching us a style of praying… Silence is a path into the reality of the universe, where God is in charge and we are not,… [5]

Your Authentic, True, And Sinful Self Is Actually What Has Separated You From God

So now you have a much better idea of what Gary Thomas, recommended by neo-Reformed New Calvinist Mark Driscoll, is leading his readers into in his book Sacred Pathways (SP). As I’ve said before, I happen to have SP and the fact is, chapter 9 is a veritable ode of praise for contemplatives; speaking of which, Thomas tells us that they:

simply want to bathe in the ocean of love God has for his children, while the rest of us seem unfortunately content to experience that love drop by drop. [6]

Thomas then continues on with his romanticizing of mystics as he tell us about the “Acts of Contemplatives,” which he calls “many forms of prayer and activities that contemplatives can make use of in addition to general contemplative prayer.” Next Thomas goes through “The Jesus Prayer,” “Secret Acts of Devotion,” “Dancing Prayer,” “Centering Prayer” (it’s the same as Contemplative Prayer), “Prayer of the Heart,” “Stations of the Cross,” and finally “Meditative Prayer,” which you’ll see mystics also refer to as “the silence” and/or “wordless prayer” [7]; but, the truth is, it’s nowhere taught in Scripture.

Under that section Meditative Prayer Thomas goes into a short spiel about Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the militantly pro-Roman Catholic Church mystic group the Jesuits who, on orders of the Pope, functioned very much like a spiritual Counter Reformation Gestapo Unit during the Protestant Reformation. Thomas though tells that “The Spiritual Exercises, [of Ignatius of Loyola] helped make mental prayer [means CCP] more popular” [8]; even though it was never practiced or taught by Jesus; nor was it practiced or taught by His Apostles; it orginated with third century desert hermits in Egypt.

Concerning Ignatius of Loyola, Jesuit scholar J. William Harmless—professor of historical theology and patristic studies at Creighton Universitywhich is itself a Jesuit school—informs us in his book Mystics:

I myself belong to one of these mystical communities, the Society of Jesus [Jesuits], founded in 1540 by a flamboyant Basque mystic, Ignatius of Loyola (1492-1556). Every Jesuit at least twice in his life must go through Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises. The Exercises (to vastly simplify it) requires that one undergo a thirty-day silent [means meditating] retreat in which one converses only with a spiritual director.

During that month, one prays a minimum of five hours a day using a wide variety repertoire of prayer forms. The most famous is what Ignatius called contemplatio,… Jesuit mystical spirituality cannot be written down; it is, at its very core, oral… I realized that Jesuit spirituality, like Zen [Buddhist] spirituality, is a lamplight transmitted generation to generation, orally, from teacher to disciple. [9]

Quite pious-sounding but in reality a classic case of seeking individual, personal, experience with God, which by nature is highly subjective; and, as you’ll see in John MacArthur: Existential Neo-Orthodoxy Denies Sola Scriputra, Dr. MacArthur is right-on-target when he says that:

[Contemplative Spirituality aka] Mysticism is perfectly suited for religious existentialism; indeed, it is the inevitable consequence. The mystic disdains rational understanding and seeks truth instead through the feelings, the imagination, personal visions, inner voices, private illumination, of other purely subjective means. Objective truth becomes practically superfluous.

Mysticial experiences are therefore self-authenticating; that is, they are not subject to any form of objective verification. They are unique to the person who experiences them. Since they do not arise from or depend upon any rational process, they are invulnerable to any refutation by rational means… Mysticism is therefore antithetical to discernment. It is an extreme form of reckless faith. [10]

In closing this out, for now, you should understand that what this CSM ends up producing is a sappy, centered on the self, psycho-babble form of Christianity as these mystics “go within” themselves in search of “an authentic self” aka some supposed “true self.” However, at its very core, it ends up a denial of the doctrine of original sin. I find it rather odd that people, who would tell us they are Protestants in line with Reformation theology, would be so quick to recommend this kind of Counter Reformation spirituality to their church planters and to the younger section of evangelicals influenced by this New Calvinism.

Following now is an actual section from Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius from its online version at the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) Oregon:


Let the following Rules be observed.

First Rule
. The first: All judgment laid aside, we ought to have our mind ready and prompt to obey, in all, the true Spouse of Christ our Lord, which is our holy Mother the Church Hierarchical.

Second Rule
. The second: To praise confession to a Priest, and the reception of the most Holy Sacrament of the Altar once in the year, and much more each month, and much better from week to week, with the conditions required and due.

Third Rule
. The third: To praise the hearing of Mass often, likewise hymns, psalms, and long prayers, in the church and out of it; likewise the hours set at the time fixed for each Divine Office and for all prayer and all Canonical Hours.

Thirteenth Rule
. To be right in everything, we ought always to hold that the white which I see, is black, if the Hierarchical Church so decides it, believing that between Christ our Lord, the Bridegroom, and the Church, His Bride, there is the same Spirit which governs and directs us for the salvation of our souls. Because by the same Spirit and our Lord Who gave the ten Commandments, our holy Mother the Church is directed and governed. (Online source, emphasis mine)

The fruit of Counter Reformation spirituality; Christ has set us free, why return to a yoke of slavery?


1., accessed 5/29/10.

2., accessed 5/29/10.

3.  Tony Jones, Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life [Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Emergent YS, 2005], 215, emphasis mine.

4.  Ibid., 80, emphasis mine.

5.  Richard Foster, Emilie Griffin, Spiritual Classics [San Francisco: Harper One, 2000], 155, emphasis mine.

6.  Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000], 182.

7.  Ibid., 182-189.

8.  Ibid., 189.

9.  William Harmless, Mystics [New York: Oxford University Press, 2008], 240, 241.

10. John MacArthur, Reckless Faith: When The Church Loses Its Will To Discern [Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994], 27, 28.

See also: