…but they mixed with the nations and learned to do as they did. (Psalm 106:35)

Via Contemplativa—Drink Up Deception

At Apprising Ministries you will have heard me talking more and more about the new spirituality which has now slithered its way deep into mainstream evangelicalism from its den in the neo-liberal cult of the Emerging Church. The fact is this also a neo-Gnostic spirituality that’s most pointedly on display in the misguided mysticism at the heart of the new big tent form of Progressive Christianity now being spread by the Emergent Church, a Liberalism 2.0 called Emergence Christianity that EC guru Brian McLaren begins laying out in his latest book A New Kind of Christianity.

The most dangerous aspect of the new spirituality is this idea of some supposed “spiritual disciplines,” which must be performed in order to more fully “experience” God. Space does not allow a discussion of “the deeper life” that orthodox Christians such as A.W. Tozer would speak of, but we are clearly not talking about the same thing—nor am I necessarily endorsing it. Here I am simply discussing the heterodox practices culled from so-called “Christian” mystics that they in turn adopted from Eastern religions and then passed off as consistent with the historic orthodox Christian faith.

Tony Jones, heretical progressive/liberal “theologian in residence” at the EC church of his universalist pastor/friend Doug Pagitt, having written extensively on the subject is to be considered a primary source concerning these messed-up mystic practices. In his book The Sacred Way (SW), Jones provides us with a list of what he refers to as “Contemplative Approaches to Spirituality.” These spiritual disciplines/practices would be: “Silence and Solitude, Sacred Reading, The Jesus Prayer, Centering Prayer, Meditation, The Ignatian Examen, Icons, Spiritual Direction, and The Daily Office.” [1]

It should also be noted that those who are following the blind guides in the Emerging Church will insist that these disciplines are not necessarily all the same. However, the truth is that most of these particular practices are indeed aligned with what Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster—one of the leading “authorities” on this Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM)—refers to in his classic book on the subject Celebration of Discipline (CoD) as “The Inward Disciplines.” [2]  And it also needs to be noted that Foster’s spiritual twin, Southern Baptist minister Dallas Willard, teaches the same.

With this in mind then, with “Silence and Solitude,” “The Jesus Prayer,” and “Centering/Contemplative Prayer,” we are now involved with what even Foster himself calls “The Discipline of Meditation.” [3] Here is the most important point to understand with all the talk in the evangelical community today about Contemplative/Centering Prayer: The practice of this type of meditation is virtually identical to that practiced in Eastern religions such as Zen Buddhism and the transcendental meditation of Hinduism. This becomes readily apparent as Jones tells us:

As a Christian practice [meditation is] inextricably bound up with…silence, the Jesus Prayer, and Centering Prayer,… Further, it’s linked with the recent popularity in the West of Eastern religions, resulting in books with such titles as Christian Zen and Christian Yoga. While this makes some Christians nervous, others revel in the fact that God is revealed in all truth, no matter the religion of origin. [4]

Since Jones himself has now introduced the book Christian Zen (CZ) by the late William Johnston, a priest of apostate Roman Catholicism who wrote “numerous articles on Zen and Christianity, [and] on mysticism East and West,” let us turn to it. In this book Johnston “suggests techniques of Zen meditation” will “heighten Christian meditation.” In fact, Johnson “discovered in Zen a pool of quiet energy which transforms the Western intellectualized experience of meditation into a full-bodied, intuitive communion with God” (front flap). Johnson further enlightens us as he says:

Turning to Christian mystics,…[h]ere are men and women whose meditation (or contemplation) is more akin to that of the Zen Masters… [Thomas] Merton, too, belongs to the same tradition, and that is why he has such sympathy for Zen. [5]

Foster, who considers Merton to be one of his own mentors, then tells us what happens in this meditation “is that we create the emotional and spiritual space which allows Christ to construct a sanctuary in the heart.” And Foster is telling the truth when he writes that meditation “opens the door.” [6] It is what inevitably comes through that open door which is the concern of this particular work. As we progress with this you will come to understand the dangerous spiritual reality about what Foster tells us concerning the eventual effect that arrived at through the meditation “of this kind [which] transforms the inner personality.” Indeed, it does.

West Meets East In Meditation

In CoD Foster does make the attempt to distance his brand of “Christian” meditation from Zen and Hinduism when he says:

there are those who assume it is synonymous with the concept of meditation centered in Eastern religions. In reality, the two ideas stand worlds apart. Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind.” [7]

The problem is this just isn’t true as you have seen from CZ and from what Tony Jones himself admits in SW. As a matter of fact on page 73 of SW Jones tells that the late M. Basil Pennington was “one of the Trappist monks who has developed the modern practice of Centering Prayer.” Among the “resources” that Jones recommends is Pennington’s book Centering Prayer: Renewing An Ancient Christian Prayer Form (CP). You will also find it interesting to note that in CoD Foster personally recommends another book called The Living Testament: The Essential Writings of Christianity Since the Bible, which just happens to be edited by Pennington and one Alan Jones—another name that should be familiar to those following this work.

We should find it of concern, as well as quite revealing in CP, when Pennington tells us that in “recent years” there has been “a significant number” of people who have been “turning to the East” in search of wisdom.” [8] In Pennington’s view this is a return to the ways of early Christian mystics who also headed “toward the East in search of wisdom.” While discussing the meaning of the words meditation and contemplation it becomes obvious that what Pennington writes about in CP is the same type of meditation as that practiced by what he refers to as “our brothers and sisters in the Hindu tradition.” [9]

The genuine Christian has no “brothers and sisters” among practicing Hindus and/or Muslims who are faithful to the Qur’an; although you will also hear this kind of spiritual adultery coming out of the mouths of mystics like Emergent Evangelical Prophet Tony Campolo and his disciple Shane Claibourne, a hugely popular icon of the Emergent Church:

Islam is much more gracious towards evangelical Christians who are faithful to the New Testament, than Christians are towards Islamic people who are faithful to the Koran. The Islamic faith will ask, “Are you faithful to the book that you have?” Mohammad was very understanding that there was great truth in Christianity. He differed with us in that he felt he had a more complete truth, and Islam would hold to that, but Mohammad contended that we would ultimately be judged in terms of the truth that we had at our disposal.

I think there are Muslim brothers and sisters who are willing to say, “You live up to the truth as you understand it. I will live up to the truth as I understand it, and we will leave it up to God on judgment day.” (Online source)

But this kind of universal foolishness is the direct result of the deception which comes when one continually practices this unbiblical form of transcendental meditation for the Christian (see—2 Thessalonians 2:9-12). So it should not come as a great surprise then as I show you that this form of Centering/Contemplative Prayer, or so-called “Christian” meditation, really is nothing more than transcendental meditation lightly sprayed with Christian terminology.

The Awful Evil Influence Of Thomas Merton

This is why there is such a grave danger in the practice of this neo-pagan Gnostic Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism which has been spreading like a spiritual wildfire through the Church of our Lord for years now, particularly in Young Adult and Youth ministries. And the most prominent purveyor of this so-called “Christian” mysticism is Richard Foster, whom I mentioned earlier. A member of the The Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers) Foster is quite familiar with mysticism and very well versed in “the silence” aka meditation, and none other than Emergent guru Brian McLaren himself calls Foster and his disciple Dallas Willard “key mentors” in the Emerging Church.

Obviously, their whole shtick is spreading sinfully ecumenical spurious spirituality as so-called Spiritual Formation. In his fine series called Mysticism, which I highly recommend, Dr. Gary Gilley did great job whittling down this massive subject to its most important elements. Regarding Richard Foster’s work Gilley brings out just how deeply Foster was influenced by Roman Catholic mystic monk Thomas Merton:

Foster cites and/or quotes Merton on at least nine separate occasions in Celebration of Discipline, yet Merton was not a Christian as far as we can tell. He was a twentieth-century Roman Catholic who had so immersed himself in Buddhism that he claimed he saw no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity and intended to become as good a Buddhist as he could.

But despite his doctrinal views and New Age leanings Foster considers Merton’s Contemplative Prayer, “A must book,” and says of Merton, “[He] has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.” Merton wrote, “If only [people] could see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed…. I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other.” ( Online source )

Mystic Monk Merton’s Message

The above quote from Merton comes from his Conjectures Of A Guilty Bystander. In this book Merton also denies the doctrine of original sin when he says at, “the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth.” [10] Here’s some more information on the theology that Thomas Merton “received” as a result of his years of practicing transcendental meditation. The following comes from Merton’s Message off  The Merton Institute For Contemplative Living a website favorable to this deceased heretic:

He takes people into deep places within themselves… At the core of Thomas Merton’s spiritual writings is the search for the “true self” and our need for relationship with God, other people and all of creation… Merton believes that we must discover God as the center of our being. It is in this center that all things tend and where all of our activity must be directed.

Merton’s writings were prophetic; they highlight the major issues that confronted society…the growing alienation of humanity…the source of the problem is that man “has become alienated from his inner self which is the image of God.”… 
 [The solution] requires a social conversion,… The first step in this turning is a transformation of consciousness. Thomas Merton is a preeminent guide to us in this first step and…is a spiritual master whose influence crosses generations and religious affiliations. (Online source)

For more on “true self” I refer you to The Real Truth About Your Evil “True Self”. But of course Merton’s mystic musings would cross “religious affiliations”; certainly there is no mention of the inherent sin nature of man, or the need for being regenerated, or of the Cross of Christ as the only real solution for mankind’s sin. Because what we have just read from a website promoting Merton’s ill-fated works could be agreed upon by virtually anyone from any spiritual background, and this is precisely my point. It is exactly this same message of New Age spirituality that comes through the “transformation of consciousness” to all those who practice this transcendental meditation long enough to anger God until He finally abandons them to their reprobate mind. [11]

Contemplative Spirituality And Mystic Meditation

What is happening here with men like Richard Foster, and others who teach and practice this neo-pagan Gnostic new spirituality, is they are equivocating with words i.e. using postmodern Humpty Dumpty language. The goal of CSM, which as I have shown you is actually meditation for the “Christian” every bit as consistent as that practiced in Zen, is clearly spelled out here in Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience. Meditation, we are told, consists of any “of the various disciplines of mind and body that enable one to achieve higher states of consciousness.” And further, exactly as in Merton’s mystic Message above, we see “the goal toward which [meditation] is applied is the transformation of consciousness.” [12]

And it is precisely this “transformation of consciousness” that is a major source of concern in my work right now at AM. What makes the Emergent Church so very dangerous spiritually to your youth now within mainstream evangelicalism is that we have quite questionable “theologians” such as Foster, Tony Jones, and Brian McLaren—as well as practioners and Emerging Church pastors like Rob Bell and his friend Doug Pagitt—molding the impressionable minds of young people who are simply not equipped to see through this non-Christian neo-pagan CSM. For that matter it seems we have very few leaders within the evangelical camp itself who appear capable of recognizing just how deeply the Devil has now penetrated into the Church of our Lord all over again with his repainted Gnosticism.

In this generation it has become critical that the American Christian Church repent of virtually ignoring the spiritual side of our relationship with the one true and living God as revealed in the Bible. Men and women, to be a born again Christian—by God’s grace alone; through faith alone; in Christ’s finished work on the Cross alone—is to be indwelt by God Himself. And since Jesus of Nazareth—the LORD God Almighty Himself in human flesh—explains that God is Spirit, then it logically follows that we’re going to have to be involved in a spiritual life. Just as we see people “possessed” by demons (fallen angels) in the Gospels, so it is that we who have been regenerated are quite literally to be possessed ourselves by God (see—John 14:17; 1 Corinthians 6:19; Ephesians 5:18).

And the sooner we get over our fear of this the better, because what has happened now in our pagan “postmodern” nation is that some people have been quickened by God to become spiritually hungry for more of Him, which is a good thing. However, at the same time Satan has now rushed into this vacuum with his new, but really very old, spirituality. As difficult as it is, we need to pray for a balance between a very real dead orthodoxy within much of the contemporary Christian church and the proper spirituality rooted in Sola Scriptura. Tragically this has now given rise to a postevangelicalism and the Emerging Church, which are both rooted in a neo-orthodox, and highly subjective, “experience interprets Scripture” approach to the Bible that has rapidly coalesced into what is becoming the Ecumenical Church of Deceit.


1. Tony Jones, The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life [Grand Rapids: Zondervan/YS, 2005], 5.  
2. Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth [New York: HarperCollins, 1998], 12.
3. Ibid., 15.
4. Jones, Sacred Way, 79, 80, emphasis mine.
5. William Johnston, Christian Zen: A Way of Meditation [Bronx: Fordham University Press, 1997], 25.
6. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 20.
7. Ibid.
8. M. Basil Pennington, Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form [New York: Doubleday, 1980], 15.
9. Ibid., 20.
10. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander [New York: Doubleday, 1966] , 158.
11. See—Romans 1:18-32.
12. Rosemary Guiley, Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience [New York: HarperCollins, 1991], 355, emphasis mine)

See also: