Apprising Ministries continues to point out that syncretism, which is rooted in the love of self (cf. 2 Timothy 3:2), is really beginning to get out of hand within contemporary evangelicalism. Know nothing good will come of it.

It seems this truth from the Master has been forgotten — Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6). Notice we are to beware of false teachers, not turn to them.

Why? I’m glad you asked; because God has already told us — A little leaven leavens the whole lump (Galatians 5:9). It’s important to note the inspired Apostle Paul wrote that concerning the Galatian church and the Judaizers.

A few years ago I had told you that on page 13 of his book So, You Want To Be Like Christ? Essentials to Get You There (SYW) respected Bible teacher Chuck Swindoll makes some rather odd citations and recommendations.

In SYW, the pastor of the nondenominational megachurch Stonebriar Community Church, heartily endorses the work of Dallas Willard along with his spiritual twin, Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster.

You may know that, through their corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) masquerading as so-called Spiritual Formation, this dubious duo comprise key mentors of the neo-liberal cult in the Emerging Church.

However, it’s beyond question that the CSM of Foster-Willardism actually germinated in the so-called “Desert Fathers” and would then later blossom throughout various monastic traditions of apostate Roman Catholicism.

Swindoll informs us in SYW:

I came across Dallas Willard’s excellent work The Spirit of the Disciplines. Bedside reading it is not. This convicting piece of literature is not something you plop down on the sofa and read alongside People magazine. Willard’s words make you think. ((Charles Swindoll, So, You Want To Be Like Christ?: Eight Essentials to Get You There [Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005], 13.))

Sadly Swindoll, who ought to know better, calls Willard’s fables “excellent work.” Christian apologist Bob DeWaay completely dismantled the “disciplines” of Foster-Willardism when he reviewed Willard’s book:

Dallas Willard bases his entire spiritual disciplines book on his understanding of Matthew 11:29, 30,… The spiritual disciplines are not taught in Matthew 11:29, 30 (Willard’s primary proof test), and even Willard admits they cannot be found elsewhere in scripture…

Dallas Willard is excited to tell us that finally, through the lead of people like Richard Foster, we are having a revival of the use of spiritual disciplines… To hear evangelicals like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster tell us that we need practices that were never spelled out in the Bible to become more like Christ or to get closer to God is astonishing.

What is more astonishing is that evangelical colleges and seminaries are requiring their students to study practices that are relics of Medieval Rome, not found in the Bible, and closely akin to the practices of many pagan societies…

These ideas are more akin to Eastern Religion than Biblical Christianity… The idea of practicing spiritual disciplines was imported to the text, not found there. We live in an age of mysticism. People lust for spiritual reality and spiritual experiences.

The danger is that unbiblical practices will give people a real spiritual experience, but not from God. (source)

DeWaay is dead-on-target; this mythology of Foster-Willardism simply was not taught by Jesus Christ, nor was it taught by His Apostles. So we now have all the more reason to question the discernment of Chuck Swindoll here.

Especially so after Swidoll tells us in his SYW about “Richard Foster’s meaningful work Celebration of Discipline.” ((Charles Swindoll, So, You Want To Be Like Christ?: Eight Essentials to Get You There [Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005], 15.)) Here’s the correct view of Foster’s fables from Dr. Gary Gilley:

Celebration of Discipline alone, not even referencing Foster’s other writings and teachings and ministries, is a virtual encyclopedia of theological error.  We would be hard pressed to find in one so-called evangelical volume such a composite of false teaching.  These include faulty views on the subjective leading of God (pp. 10, 16-17, 18, 50, 95, 98, 108-109, 128, 139-140, 149-150, 162, 167, 182); approval of New Age teachers…; occultic use of imagination (pp. 25-26, 40-43, 163, 198);

open theism (p. 35); misunderstanding of the will of God in prayer (p. 37); promotion of visions, revelations and charismatic gifts (pp. 108, 165, 168-169, 171, 193); endorsement of rosary and prayer wheel use (p. 64); misunderstanding of the Old Testament Law for today (pp. 82, 87); mystical journaling (p. 108); embracing pop-psychology (pp. 113-120); promoting Roman Catholic practices such as use of “spiritual directors,” confession and penance (pp. 146-150, 156, 185); and affirming of aberrant charismatic practices (pp. 158-174, 198)…

Foster and company have taken many far afield in pursuit of mystical experiences that lead to a pseudo-Christianity that has the appearance of spirituality but not the substance. (Online source)

Well, I guess other than that Foster’s work is “meaningful.” In his SYW we will also see Chuck Swindoll quoting favorably from the book The Way of the Heart by the late Roman Catholic monk and mystic Henri Nouwen.

Let me now fill you in concerning Nouwen’s own practice of Contemplative/Centering Prayer, meditation in an altered state of consciousness, which is exactly what mystics mean while talking about “silence and solitude.”

In Dallas Theological Seminary Faculty Recommends Henry Nouwen With His Contemplative Prayer I told you that, from his books, Henry Nouwen—even today—remains a veritable superstar teacher of this spurious CSM.

Nouwen’s main claim to fame was teaching the practice of so-called “Christian” meditation aka CCP; transcendental meditation lightly sprayed with Christian terms. This is what he means by silence and solitude.

And this CCP was at the very heart of the spirituality of the mystic Henri Nouwen. His practice of it would ultimately lead him to teach universalism. Near the end of his life Nouwen would muse:

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

Swindoll quite obviously is familiar with Nouwen’s work because in his 2006 article The Depths Of God for the aforementioned Dallas Theological Seminary he would write:

In his book The Way of the Heart Henri Nouwen does a splendid job of analyzing the downside of what he calls “our wordy world.” (source)

In fact it’s a part of this same quote, which Swindoll introduces into his article, that appears on page 10 of SWY; just a bit before his citation of Dallas Willard mentioned earlier. But you say, “so what, that was years ago.”

True; it was. But just ten days ago the below appeared at the Insight for Living website, which is, “The Bible Teaching Ministry of Charles R. Swindoll.” We read:


If you follow that link back you will see this is an excerpt from a 2001 book by Chuck Swindoll; the devotion on page 31 to be exact:

So it appears that as early as 2001 Chuck Swindoll was already extolling the twisted teachings of universalist Roman Catholic Henri Nouwen. In fact, the rest of that devotional reads as contemplative as Nouwen himself.

The problem is, Swindoll ends up sowing confusion because he’s importing his own definitions into Nouwen’s teachings on CSM. Those of us who’ve studied the language of the mystics know solitude and silence means CCP.

Nouwen taught the alleged “inward journey” of meditation inherent within this spurious CSM. Essentially this mythology holds that those who practice CCP, meditation in an altered state of consciousness, meet God this way.

Let me point you to someone who knows Nouwen’s work much better that Chuck Swinsdoll. Nouwen biographer Wil Hernandez, who “teaches a course on the spirituality of Henri Nouwen at Fuller Theological Seminary” says:

This deep experience of ourselves captures the nature of our inward journey. Henri Nouwen himself embarked on what journalist Philip Yancey calls a form of “inward mobility” wherein “[h]e withdrew in order to look inward, to learn how to love God and be loved by God.” Such movement is best realized in the context of solitude. In solitude, we can pay closer attention to our inner self and consequently become present to our own experience…

Our inward ability to relate to and be at home with our own self is what enables us to live from the center of our existence and thereby relate with others in terms of who we are and not so much by what we do… Reaching into our inmost being connects us to the reality of our own soul—that mystical reality that Henri Nouwen simply calls the heart. ((Will Hernandez, Henri Nouwen: A Spirituality of Imperfection [Mahwah: Paulist Press, 2006], 22, emphasis mine. ))

The fact is, mystics absolutely reject sola Scriptura in favor of experiences they have in the solitude and silence of contemplative meditation. However, the genuine Christian faith doesn’t teach us to go on some journey inward.

Bob DeWaay is right when he explains:

The Bible nowhere describes an inward journey to explore the realm of the spirit. God chose to reveal the truth about spiritual reality through His ordained, Spirit-inspired, biblical writers. What is spiritual and not revealed by God is of the occult and, therefore, forbidden…

This sort of meditation is not meditating on what God has said, but uses a technique to explore the spirit world. In other words, it is divination. (source)

Mystics seek after an alleged “true self” supposedly “untouched by sin,” as Roman Catholic mystic Thomas Merton dreamed. ((See THOMAS MERTON AND THE GOSPEL COALITION BLOG.)) The Christian knows his true self is a hopeless sinner; so we look outward to Jesus on the Cross.

The fact is it’s past time for people like Chuck Swindoll, sowing confusion by pointing people to mystics, to repent.

Further reading