For at least the past six years now online apologetics and discernment ministries like Lighthouse Trails Research, as well as here at Apprising Ministries, have warning about the sinfully ecumenical [i.e. Reformation repudiating] Emergent Church aka the Emerging Church.

Sadly, it’s now grown into a neo-liberal cult operating within evangelicalism infecting it with their new postmodern form of Progressive Christian quasi-universalism under their spiritual circus “big tent” Emergence Christianity.

Here’s the heart of the matter: The EC would prove to be a Trojan Horse where Satan has been able to off-load his ne0-Gnostic mystic corruption Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM), an infestation of which is now becoming pandemic within the very heart of the church visible.

If you didn’t know what effect this neo-liberal cult is having upon the visible Christian community, then I strongly suggest that you make the time to actually look at the evidence I’ll bring before you in Mainstream Evangelicalim Embracing Contemplative Mysticism and In Touch Magazine Of Charles Stanley Promoting Contemplative New Monasticism.

Then I want you to tell me wherever in the proper Biblical doctrine Reformation theology do we find “Protestant” CSM ala that supposedly “discovered” by Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster, and now perpetrated as supposed Spiritual Formation with an able assist from his spiritual twin SBC minister Dallas Willard? Answer: We don’t.

Now you have the proper vantage point from which to survey the battlefield before I bring you down into the fray that’s being caused by Letter from Focus on the Family: Takes Lighthouse Trails with a “healthy dose of salt” & defends contemplative Gary Thomas where Focus on the Family (FOF) writes:

We appreciate the time you took to share an excerpt from a publication by another organization, “exposing” various authors including marriage expert Gary Thomas. By coming to us with your concerns you have expressed a vote of confidence that we do not take lightly.

In return, we would mention that we are familiar with the group [Lighthouse Trails Research] you’ve quoted; it’s not the first time we’ve heard such allegations, it probably won’t be the last, and we take whatever we hear from that quarter with a healthy dose of salt. (Online source)

O please; can you say, patronizing. Well let’s just see, shall we, what “allegations” were made by “that quarter,” which FOF needs to take with such “a healthy dose of salt.” LHT enjoins us:

To read some of these “excerpt[s]” that FOF is referring to, please read our article, Serious Concerns for Focus on the Family Marriage Conference. (Online source)

In a textbook example of the Biblical proverb — The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him (Proverbs 18:17), from FOF we’re going to also see a tired old—and very worn out—rug under which to sweep conveniently any criticism:

FOF: We would emphasize that featuring someone on our radio broadcast or as an event speaker, or highlighting certain of their books on our online resource center, should not necessarily be construed as a “blanket endorsement” by our ministry of that individual’s entire body of work. (Online source)

To which LHT responds:

Our Comment: Gary Thomas has not been featured on one radio broadcast or one event – he is a regularly featured author/speaker at FOF, and his books have been sold there for years. (Online source)

With the background established, let’s look at the LHT piece in question Serious Concerns for Focus on the Family Marriage Conference. There we find:

Gary Thomas tells readers to repeat a word for 20 minutes and points them to a tantric sex advocate, but still Focus on the Family keeps Thomas for speaking and for his books.

On February 28, 2009, Focus on the Family will present to churches across North America the “Focus on Marriage” conference in a “LIVE simulcast.” Focus has invited Gary Thomas to help train married couples attending the event.

Thomas, also strongly promoted by Rick Warren, has several popular books covering topics such as marriage, parenting, and spirituality. Unfortunately, he is a proponent of contemplative prayer.

In his book, Sacred Pathways, Thomas instructs readers:

It is particularly difficult to describe this type of prayer in writing, as it is best taught in person. In general however, centering prayer works like this: Choose a word (Jesus or Father, for example) as a focus for contemplative prayer. Repeat the word silently in your mind for a set amount of time (say, twenty minutes) until your heart seems to be repeating the word by itself, just as naturally and involuntarily as breathing. (p. 185)

(link to article on meditation) Thomas’ contemplative propensities take him (and readers) into an area that could have significant ramifications on countless families. (Online source)

No big surprise Purpose Driven Pope Rick Warren would get mentioned in this regard. Since my concern here is the propensity of Gary Thomas to push CSM, I’m going to leave aside his book on marriage and instead focus in your attention upon his book Sacred Pathways, which I mentioned previously e.g. in Mark Driscoll And Contemplative Idolatry to give you futher example of how far CSM has slithered into the church visible.

From my personal copy I had already discussed SP in more depth in Mark Driscoll And Neo-Reformed New Calvinist Contemplative Spirituality where I told you that Thomas shares with his readers a form of “mantra meditation,” which is traced to Dom (father) John Main (1926-1982). It’s important to note that 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”; not upon Scripure, but using a “holy phrase” also known as a mantra to enter into an altered state of consciousness (see—video below). Just so you know, in 1975 Main “began the first meditation groups at his monastery in London and, later, in Montreal.”[1] For more on John Main I refer you to Who Is John Main?

In closing this out, for now, I’ll bring you back to SP by Gary Thomas; because the fact is, chapter 9 happens to be a veritable ode of praise for sola Scriptura-repudiating contemplative mystics. Thomas dreams the following mythology about mystics telling us 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.[2]

Thomas then continues on with his romanticizing of mystics as he tells 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”[3]; 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 Jesuits, the militantly pro-Roman Catholic Church mystic group 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 more popular.”[4]; he speaking here of the crown jewel of CSM, , a form of meditation in an altered state of consciousness commonly known as Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP).

You should know that CCP was never practiced or taught by Jesus; nor was it practiced or taught by His Apostles, but rather, it orginated with 4th century desert hermits in Egypt. Sure, all of this romancing of mystics sounds quite pious; however, in reality it’s a classic case of seeking individual, personal, experience with God, which by nature is highly subjective. As you’ll see in John MacArthur: Existential Neo-Orthodoxy Denies Sola Scriputra, even though Dr. MacArthur is speaking back in 1994, his assessment is right-on-target for too much of today’s evanjellyfish community:

[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.[5]

I wonder, do you think that FOF will MacArthur’s words with a healthy dose of salt too; figures to get pretty sour out that way. After-all though, MacArthur’s a respected elder in the Christian community and hardly an “ODM.” 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 corrupt core, it ends up a denial of the doctrine of original sin and creates A Narcissistic Nightmare As Christianity. I find it rather odd that FOF, who would likely tell us they are Protestants in line with Reformation theology, would be so quick to recommend this kind of Counter Reformation spirituality to their supporters and to the evangelical families influenced by this well-respected ministry.

As a former Roman Catholic, whom in His mercy and grace the Lord delivered from its spiritual bondage into the glorious liberty of the sons of God, as well as one who’s been in the ministry fields of apologetics and Comparative Religion for 23+ years I can tell you that CSM flowered in the antibiblical monastic traditions within apostate Roman Catholicism. Then through long centuries, as leaven, it would work its way throughout the theology of the Church of Rome eventually leading to the Protestant Reformation in the first place.

Years ago Dr. Walter Martin (1928-1989), an evangelical Christian apologist and cult expert of no little renown warned of the leaven of ecumenical liberalism, as I’m doing now. People didn’t listen then; and frankly, I don’t expect them to now. No, my prediction is that the majority of pretending to be Protestant evangelicals will march right along with the fools that are within Focus on the Family, and as good little dupes, they’ll end up right back in religious bondage at home in Rome.

Don’t say you weren’t told…

End Notes:

[1], accessed 7/7/11.

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

[3] Ibid., 182-189.

[4]. Ibid., 189.

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

See also: