Apprising Ministries has been tracking the influx of corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM), which arrived inside the wall of the mainstream of evangelicalism within the Trojan Horse of the Emerging Church.

In our 6+ years along the Internet Front I’ve observed CSM a la neo-Gnostics like Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster and his spiritual twin Dallas Willard slithering deeply into the church.

Here’s a case in point. In a March 1, 2012 post at ostensibly Protestant evangelical Dallas Theological Seminary we read:


That would be Roman Catholic mystic priest Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) whom DTS faculty member Michael Lawson apparently considers “essential” for DTS grads going into Christian service for God’s people.

And if you like, you can purchase Nouwen’s book right at the DTS bookstore:


As you can see, the subtitle is: Reflections On Christian Leadership. The trouble is, there’s no evidence that Henri Nouwen was a Christian. Wouldn’t it be better to turn to actual Christian sources to learn about leadership?

I would offer, yes. What we do know about Nouwen is his lifelong practice of CSM turned him into a universalist:

Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.[1]

This is the rotten fruit of Henri Nouwen’s so-called “Christian” leadership. In fact, it’s in direct contradiction with what Jesus Himself said:

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
(John 14:6)

1) To enter God’s house one must know Jesus, and 2) there is only this one way, period:

“let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10-12)

Another thing we know about Henri Nouwen is—even today—from his books, he remains a leading teacher of spurious CSM; in particular the practice of “Christian” meditation in an altered state of consciousness.

It’s called, interchangably, Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP); and is truly transcendental meditation lightly sprayed with Christian terminology. This CCP was at the very heart of the teachings of the mystic Henri Nouwen.

So we’re not surprised in his In The Name Of Jesus when we come to the chapter “The Discipline: Contemplative Prayer.” Nouwen muses:

To live a life that is not dominated by the desire to be relevant but is instead safely anchored in the knowledge of God’s first love, we have to be mystics. A mystic is a person whose identity is deeply rooted in God’s first love.[2]

In the previous chapter Nouwen tells us this “first love” of God is “unconditional and unlimited love” because “God is love and only love.”[3] Like all mystics Nouwen distorts the nature of God until he/she/it becomes a mush god.

Space doesn’t allow a full discussion so I’ll just tell you that mystics receive a delusion where they feel they’re “bathed in love” and one with all creation. As panentheists they believe all things are in God and He in all things.

What they’re actually experiencing is a fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3:2 — people will be lovers of self. While this encompasses the arrogant in love with themselves, I believe the primary meaning is as lovers of mankind itself.

As you’ve already seen, in Nouwen’s CSM we lose the justice of God and replace it with a form of universalism. It is hostile to the Gospel. So, why would at least one faculty member of DTS want to expose graduates to this?

Nouwen continues:

If there is any focus that the Christian leader of the future will need, it is the discipline of dwelling in the presence of [God]… This is the discipline of contemplative prayer… Contemplative prayer keeps us home, rooted, and safe,… Contemplative prayer deepens in us the knowledge that we…already belong to God,…[4]

You need to know that “dwelling in the presence” of God is CSM-speak for the practice of CCP; aka “wordless prayer.” CSM advocates like Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster will tell you that “silence” is God’s language.

That Nouwen means all people “already belong to God” is clear from the earlier quote re. everyone finding “his or her own way to God.” It wasn’t an isolated idea. Consider also the following from Nouwen:

One of the discoveries we make in [meditative] prayer is that the closer we come to God, the closer we come to all our brothers and sisters in the human family. God is not a private God. The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is also the God who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being.[5]

However, the proper Christian spirituality of sola Scriptura where we experience God in His Word and in prayer recognizes the Lord has spoken to us in Holy Scripture. If you want to hear from God, then read  your Bible.

In closing this, for now, what Nouwen says next is a recipe for spiritual disaster:

Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen again and again to the voice of [God]… For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required.[6]

Can you see this is antithetical to sola Scriptura, which is why Roman Catholic mysticism was rejected by God’s Reformers. The key question is: If CCP is so important, why didn’t Christ Jesus or His Apostles teach it?

I encourage you to make the time to examine this: The Origin Of Contemplative/Centering Prayer. There you’ll see contemplatives themselves tell you that CSM and its CCP actually originated with the schismatic “desert fathers.”

We should be concerned that DTS would be recommending this book by apostate (at best) mystic Henri Nouwen.

End notes:

[1] Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey [New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1998], 51, emphasis mine.

[2] Henri Nouwen, In The Name Of Jesus: Reflections On Christian Leadership [New York: Crossroad Publishing, 1989], 42.

[3] Ibid., 38, emphasis mine.

[4] Ibid., 42, 43.

[5]  Henri Nouwen, Here and Now: Living In The Spirit [New York: Crossroad Publishing, 2006], 25, emphasis mine.

[6] In The Name, op. cit., 47.

See also: