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

Right Back To The Dark Ages

A main focus of the online apologetics and discernment ministry Apprising Ministries has been covering the rise in popularity within Protestant evangelicalism of practicing corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) ala Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster—and his spiritual twin Dallas Willard. It’s a rapidly spreading—and very dangerous—fad; and if left unchecked by spiritually timid evangelical leaders, at the very least CSM is going to be the cause of much division within the church visible, and at its worst it will blur doctrinal distinctives to the point of laying foundation for a Global Religion. 

My research shows that as far back as the early 80’s even conservative evangelical seminaries were using—in a positive way—Foster’s magnum opus Celebration of Discipline, which Dr. Gary Gilley rightly calls a virtual encyclopedia of theological error. However, Foster and Willard’s speculative so-called spiritual disciplines were really given a boost under the guise of spurious Spiritual Formation (SF) by the sinfully ecumenical Emerging Church aka Emergent Church; now a full blown neo-liberal cult—an Emerging Church 2.0—pushing its new form of postmodern Progressive Christianity as “big tent” Emergence Christianity.

In his The Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines containing a scholarly refutation of Willard’s book The Spirit of the Disciplines Bob DeWaay is absolutely correct when he reminds us:

The spiritual disciplines that are supposedly necessary for spiritual formation are not defined in the Bible. If they were, there would be a clear description of them and concrete list. But since spiritual disciplines vary, and have been invented by spiritual pioneers in church history, no one can be sure which ones are valid…

Willard offers a discussion of each of these, citing people like Thomas Merton, Thomas a Kempis, Henri Nouwen, and other mystics. We are told that practices like solitude and silence are going to change us, even though the Bible does not prescribe them… Willard’s approach is works oriented and man-centered; it was created by spiritual innovators who mostly did not find their practices in the Bible. (Online source)

There’s no way to refute what DeWaay has just said because it’s simply beyond question that practices of CSM can be traced to heretical hermits in the desert of Egypt; and then this antibiblical ascetism of so-called disciplines would flower in the monastic traditions of apostate Roman Catholicism. CSM proponents likely bristle at my language; well good, maybe it’ll shake a few out of their comfortable contemplation. As I’ve read numerous books, etc. by many CSM advocates over these past 6 years, and I’ve noticed over and over and over again that even they admit their practices extend from “the desert fathers and mothers” circa third century. You’re about to see a couple of examples below.

Consider the following from Thomas Merton, the revered CSM Golden Buddha, who had forgotten more about this stupid approach to Christian spirituality than Foster and Willard will ever know. And tragically, Merton’s disgusting idolatry becomes quite evident in Thomas Merton And The Buddhas; the truth is, his devotion to the practice of CSM made Merton more like the Buddha than the Christ. In his book Spiritual Direction & Meditation, while explaining where the need for “spiritual directors” i.e. gurus like Foster would arise, the mystic monk Thomas Merton tells us:

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…

For the ordinary member in the primitive Christian community there was no particular need of personal direction in the professional sense. The bishop, the living and visible representative of the apostle who had founded the local Church, spoke for Christ and the apostles, and, helped by the presbyters, took care of all the spiritual needs of his flock.[1]

You should now be able to see that these hermits were already in opposition to what our Lord told His Christians we must be doing — Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (John 20:21). So, if today’s perpetrators of this CSM/SF—a romanticized Romanism—within evangelicalism e.g. like the Elvis of the EC Rob Bell can make the case that Christ Jesus and His Apostles spent their lives living “as solitaries” in secluded caves somewhere out in a desert then we would have indeed rediscovered what some call “ancient/future” Christianity; but, well, they can’t.

And as I previously pointed out e.g. in The Terminology Trap Of “Spiritual Formation” these practices of CSM cannot be made “safe” because they did not originate with Protestants; nor do we then get to redefine these centered-on-the-self musings of hermits and Roman Catholic monks and mystics. Here, in order to try and show you what’s at stake, I’ll use as an illustration Lectio Divina (means “sacred reading”), which is becoming all the rage now within Protestant circles. Though it has since ceased publication, consider the fact of Focus On The Family And Brio Mag Encouraging Lectio Divina as they were giving away:

The Message//Remix: SOLO (NavPress)
Known as “an uncommon devotional,” this Bible devotional revolves around lectio divina, or “divine reading,” an ancient approach to exploring Scripture updated for today’s students.

CSM Leads You Away From Proper Christian Spirituality As It Did The Church Of Rome

Or consider what I first showed you in Disciplines To Deception In Southern Baptist Convention concerning a ten page source paper called Spiritual Disciplines: Pathway to Christian Maturity (SDPCM) that originated with the Georgia Baptist Convention (SBC), which we can also find e.g. under Discipleship Resources of the State Board of Missions of the Alabama Baptist Convention (SBC) right here. Keep in mind now, we’re not talking individual churches here; no, this involved at least two state conventions of the SBC—allegedly the largest Protestant denomination in the United States—both recommending SDPCM.

By the time we get halfway down page 3 of this paper, we’re going to learn Lectio Divina from the “insightful book, The Sacred Way,” by heretical “gay affirming” EC progressive/neo-liberal theologian Tony Jones. If you don’t know, Jones is “theologian in residence” at the church of his equally heretical quasi-universalist pastor Doug Pagitt, and both are part of the unholy trinity in the Emergent Church along with Living Spiritual Teacher and Emerging Church guru Brian McLaren. Despite the fact that Tony Jones is peddling spiritual cyanide crippling the faith of your young the SBC’s SDPCM tells us:

(Online source)

Measuring Jones’ work by the proper yardstick of the Bible shows he is far from anything close to insightful; in fact for one studying for a doctorate at uber-liberal Princeton Theological Seminary, in my opinion, his thinking process reveals itself to be remarkably shallow. In his work over-all, Jones is simply regurgitating old debunked arguments from what cult expert Dr. Walter Martin (1928-1989), someone who was actually insightful, labeled the original Cult of Liberal Theology. It comes as no surprise to those of us who’ve done our homework that CSM has contributed much to the current horrific state of mortally wounded mainline Protestantism.

You need to understand that CSM is making huge inroads into the mainstream of the evangelical camp; as you can see evidenced e.g. in Priscilla Shirer Points Us To Richard Rohr, New Calvinism’s Mark Driscoll Encourages Contemplative Spiritual Disciplines?, and Tim Keller Also Promoting Mystic Guru Peter Scazzero. Earlier in Rick Warren Now Openly Promoting Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism I showed you that Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren himself brought in CSM guru Peter Scazzero to his Radicalis conference at Saddleback Church this past February. This, even though in the Contemplative Spirituality section of Scazzero’s website under under Pete’s Reading Picks there are books by Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, the apostate Brennan Manning, and Roman Catholic monks “Brother” Lawrence and Henri Nouwen.

“America’s pastor” Rick Warren and his Saddleback staff themselves have now given this corrupt Counter Reformation spirituality of spurious CSM a big boost within the mainstream of the evangelical community by placing their “Protestant” blessings upon it, which is plainly obvious e.g. in Saddleback Church Rick Warren, And Spiritual Disciplines, Staff Of Saddleback Church Recommend Mystic Henri Nouwen, and Steve Gladen, Saddleback Church Small Groups, And Quaker Mystic Spirituality. In closing this out, for now, we return to the specific subject of Lectio Divina and a December 2006 article called Emerging worship: Moving beyond only preaching and singing by EC pastor Dan Kimball in the Ministry Toolbox at Pastors.com of Rick Warren, where Kimball recommends Lectio Divina to evangelical pastors.

Having mentioned Tony Jones above, it’s also interesting to note that in his book Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations, under “Helpful Books” Kimball also recommends:


Under Via Contemplativa: Contemplative Approaches To Spirituality Tony Jones informs us that contemplative approaches to spirituality:

grew out of the reflections and writings of the Desert Fathers. John Cassian (c.360-c.430) came from the West and made a pilgrimage to the desert to learn the ways of contemplative prayer … Cassian was deeply influenced by his time in the desert, and he wrote his book The Conferences about his conversations with the Desert Fathers to acquaint Western Christians with their teachings. [3]

If John Cassian had to make “a pilgrimage” from the West “to learn the ways” of these Eastern hermits and then go on “to acquaint Western Christians” with these “contemplative approaches,” it becomes obvious here that the West had no contemplative tradition from the beginning; in other words, this self-centered—and highly speculative approach to spirituality was not taught or practiced by Jesus or by His Apostles or their own immediate disciples. Lord willing, another time I’ll talk further about Lectio Divina itself, which certainly does involve Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP)—meditation in an altered state of consciousness—the main vehicle of CSM aka “silence.” Here the focus is to provide documentation for you concerning the rapid spread of these practices within evangelicalism.

So in that regard, I’ll leave you now with the following from leading EC spokesman Dan Kimball still online at Pastors.com, a very popular website of Rick Warren, which is frequented by mainstream evangelical obstensibly Protestant pastors and youth ministers. And should it suddenly disappear, the entire webpage has been saved and is on file here at AM:

(Online source)

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[1] Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction & Meditation [Collegeville: The Liturgical Press], 11, emphasis mine.

[2] Dan Kimball, Emerging Worship: Creating Worship Gatherings for New Generations [Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2004], 235.

[3] Tony Jones, Soul Shaper: Exploring spirituality and contemplative practices in youth ministry [Grand Rapids: Zondervan/Youth Specialties, 2003], 073, emphasis mine.

See also: