O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Galatians 3:1-3)

Contemplative Mysticism In The Reformed Camp

A large part of my mission here since the Lord raised up Apprising Ministries as an online apologetics and discernment work in 2005 is to cover trends developing within the church visible. It happens to be my opinion that we are living in a time where a tsunami of apostasy—likely driven by 1 Peter 4:17  judgments—is rapidly heading toward the mainstream of, largely pretending to be Protestant, evangelicalism. Sadly, we’re watching the Reformation being undone as more and more people embrace corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism; particularly within the sinfully ecumenical Emerging Church.

While the above is happening, one of the trends that’s developing is a neo-Reformed neo-Calvinism, which I began touching upon a while back e.g. in Confusion Concerning Calvinist Spirituality? As I said 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 estimation, there’s very good reason for concern because these people are rapidly growing in popularity and influence, particularly so within the younger sector of the Reformed Camp; blessed as they are by Dr. John Piper, who’s seen by some 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 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 confirm 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]

Reformed Protestants Encouraging Counter Reformation Roman Catholic Mysticism

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]

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, that chapter 9 is a veritable ode of praise for contemplatives. And below we have more reason for concern with Mark Driscoll and his emerging neo-Calvinist Acts 29 Network recommending corrupt contemplative practices of the very CSM which flowered in the anti-biblical monastic traditions of apostate Roman Catholicism and is counter Sola Scriptura.

The first picture below is from page 93 of On Church Leadership (A Book You’ll Actually Read) by Mark Driscoll where he presents a Sample Church Membership Covenant. Notice Driscoll recommends that members of a Acts 29 church promise they will “maintain” the “practice of spiritual disciplines”; and we’ve just seen above that Driscoll himself appears to openly, and unqualifiedly, recommend people who teach contemplative spiritual disciplines of spurious CSM such as guru Richard Foster:

Before one attempts to bring in the supposedly “safe” version of these so-called disciplines taught, for example by Donald Whitney, I will tell you that I’m in complete agreement with pastor Bob DeWaay when he says in Donald Whitney And Spiritual Disciplines: Spirituality Without Boundaries:

[Whitney] has blended beliefs and ideas from various sources into a program that promises to sanctify those who follow it. That he has done so can easily be shown from his opening chapter on “spiritual disciplines.” He writes:

This book examines the Spiritual Disciplines of Bible intake, prayer, worship, evangelism, service, stewardship, fasting, silence and solitude, journaling, and learning. This is by no means, however, an exhaustive list of the Disciplines of Christian living. A survey of other literature on this subject would reveal that confession, accountability, simplicity, submission, spiritual direction, celebration, affirmation, sacrifice, ‘watching,’ and more also qualify as Spiritual Disciplines. (Whitney: 17)

Notice he states, “and more.” It is not a minor claim. This more exposes the fundamental flaw in Whitney’s thinking that leads him and his followers astray. The practices that purport to sanctify Christians qualify as “open source.” There are no boundaries. Some of those listed above are from the Bible, but many are not. We do not find new scriptural sanctifying practices from a survey of “other literature.” I have done such a survey and have written a CIC article about it entitled “Contemporary Christian Divination.”[5] Can just any practice invented by someone in a “Christian” context actually move people closer to God and be legitimate and truly sanctifying? If not, what criteria would Whitney give to determine the boundaries of valid versus invalid practices? He has provided no such criteria.  (Online source)

While we do progress in sanctification there are no “disciplines” that put God in a position that He must reward us for our efforts, which is at the heart of this CSM fad. And one would wonder why Mark Driscoll would recommend for “Further Reading on Church Leadership” The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene Peterson, another champion of spurious CSM:

So Driscoll and Peterson think we need to return “to the art of spiritual direction”; the question you need to ask is, why. The late Roman Catholic mystic monk Thomas Merton whom I mentioned a moment ago, whose own devotion to the practice of the CCP of CSM led him to become more like the Buddha than the Christ as you can see in Thomas Merton And The Buddhas, tells us that the:

original, primitive meaning of spiritual direction suggests a particular need connected with a special ascetic task, a peculiar vocation for which a professional formation is required. In other words, spiritual direction is a monastic concept. It is a practice which was unnecessary until men withdrew from the Christian community in order to live as solitaries in the desert. [6]

As I showed you in Move Over Pastors For Spiritual Directors/Gurus pastor Larry DeBruyn, of Guarding His Flock Ministries, informs us:

Spiritual director appears to mimic the role of an eastern religious guru who tries to affect the spirituality of others in either one-on-one or small group settings. As [Alice] Fryling states, “People throughout the Christian church, including those of an evangelical orientation, are experiencing again the gifts that God gives to his people through the loving listening and the gentle guidance of spiritual directors.” So what is the Bible believing Christian to think of this so-called gift of spiritual director?

We should know first of all, that among the lists of gifts in the New Testament (Romans 12:5-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28-31; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:9-10), there is no spiritual gift of spiritual director.

Second, the central gifts for the church’s edification are those of “teacher” and “pastor-teacher.” The risen and ascended Christ gave these gifts to the body of Christ so that it might come to, “the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . . That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive . . .” (Ephesians 4:11-14)…

I fear that the gift of so-called spiritual director is just another guru-gimmick which sources spirituality in religious opinions, teachings, and practices that are utterly foreign to Holy Scripture, and such a source of spirituality will not promote the unity of faith amongst believers, as does the legitimate gift of pastor-teacher, but a diversity of beliefs revealing that all the spiritual directors and listeners are being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” (Online source)

The key question then becomes: Why would someone who is actually a Reformed Protestant pastor want to encourage people back toward this kind of slavish religious bondage in the spurious spirituality that quite literally flowered in the Counter Reformation movement of the apostate Roman Catholic Church?


[1], accessed 7/21/10.
[2], accessed 7/21/10.
[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] Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction And Meditation [Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1960], 11, emphasis mine.

See also: