Not many children of God in Nigeria will be familiar with the terms “contemplative spirituality” or “spiritual formation”. Yet, increasingly many are being introduced into these concepts, without actually being aware of their origin, and quite importantly, their ultimate destination. A few others would have learnt “wonderful” aspects of these practices, after which they swallow the entire concept line, hook, and sinker – just as intended by the purveyors of these dangerous concepts. It is elementary that any deception worth its salt would be packaged within at least 90% innocuous and probably useful materials.
Christians of our generation owe the Lighthouse Trails Research (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/) an immense gratitude for their painstaking efforts to clearly and patiently expose the great evil lurking behind the nice-sounding concepts of Contemplative spirituality. This massive and highly loaded site is set up specifically to alert the Church about the deadly threat creeping in into the Church from Eastern mysticism. As overall strategy, these new age gurus seek to draw Christians to occult practices rooted in Eastern mysticism under a veneer of Christian terminologies. The Bible talks about the devil turning himself to an angel of light in order to deceive! (2 Cor. 11:14)
What can be so dangerous about ‘meditation’? Of course the Bible encourages us to “meditate” on the word of God, and one doesn’t need a Gbile Akanni retreat to appreciate the spiritual value of ruminating over spiritual, and even every day, matters – as Isaac was reportedly doing while awaiting the arrival of Rebecca, as recorded in Genesis 24:63
The problem is that midway into such excursions into spiritual formation/contemplative spirituality, the definitions change! Furthermore, as people are encouraged to trust their “fresh experiences” more than “stale words of Scriptures”, key Christian doctrines become suddenly “non essentials” and disposable. The rest of the story is sadly all too common. We have cited several instances in previous editions of Church Arise! - with the key point being that this is the major route facilitating interfaithism and through which the predicted end-time apostasy is taking roots. Please try and meditate on this point!
Many Christians naively think that when folks from the Spiritual Formation movement speak of meditation, they are referring to the use of our minds to ruminate again and again over the gems in God’s infallible word. The truth of the matter however, is that new agers and mystics mean something quite opposite, teaching that meditation should involve shutting out the mind and entering a state called “the silence” – gateway to apparently limitless interaction with the spirit world. As explained by The Lighthouse, “the silence” is nothing other than the well-known “altered states of consciousness”. The Lighthouse further explains that “the premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all). Common terms used for this movement are "spiritual formation," "the silence," "the stillness," "ancient-wisdom," "spiritual disciplines," and many others.
The clear danger in entering altered states of consciousness (also achievable through many other means, including drugs, e.g. hallucinogenic “God’s tea” - see vol 8 No 1; or even microchip implant – see vol 13 no 5) has been discussed in previous editions of Church Arise!. Such a state effectively gives demonic entities opportunity to take over the mind of the deceived.[How these entities manifest depend on the background and expectations of the persons involved – as ufos/extra-terrestrial aliens, ‘angels of light’, counselors, spirit guides, ascended masters, dead relatives, etc – see vol 7 No 3]. Altered state of consciousness has attained an epidemic proportion in our generation and is on display in various situations – ranging from shamanism, various mediumistic possessions in ‘traditional’ religions (Sango, Osun, etc), through “spiritual churches” like Olumba’s Brotherhood of Star and Cross or TB Joshua’s Synagogue, etc; But evidently, the last bus stop this movement is headed for, is the Bible-believing Evangelical Church.
Hence, the need to sound again these rather unpalatable but very necessary alerts and warnings. Obviously, those that would be used by the devil to infiltrate the Church have to be respected and possibly idolized charismatic leaders. Otherwise, infiltration simply won’t work. However, infiltration and consequent apostasy in the Church during the end times, is a recurring theme not only in Bible prophecy (e.g. 2 Thess 2:3, 1 Jhn 2:18), but is a well-articulated strategy of the devil. The mystic and occult prophet Alice Bailey is considered the mother of the modern New Age Movement. She was the chief channeler for the demon Djwhal Khul, (the Tibetan Master), who dictated through her nearly 20 books. In the 1957 volume, The Externalisation of the Hierarchy. Djwhal Khul (through Alice Bailey) revealed the key strategies that the spiritual dark forces known as the “Hierarchy” hope to use to reveal or externalize themselves in the physical world.
One key strategy expressed is that the Christian Church would be infiltrated, and with its message modified, be transformed as an instrument for the Universal Religion of the 21st Century. According to Alice Bailey: “there will appear the Church Universal, and its definite outlines will appear towards the close of this century… the Christian church in its many branches can serve as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplished… the church as a teaching factor should take the great basic doctrines and (shattering the old forms in which they are expressed and held) show their true and inner spiritual significance. The prime work of the church is to teach, and teach ceaselessly, preserving the outer appearance in order to reach the many who are accustomed to church usages. Teachers must be trained; Bible knowledge must be spread; the sacraments must be mystically interpreted, and the power of the church to heal must be demonstrated.”(Alice Bailey, The Externalization of the Hierarchy, 1957, Lucis Publishing.) [Appendix A in One World Religion by Gary Kah]
All these we see unfolding all around us today, exactly as predicted!
In the United States (arguably still the spiritual capital of Biblical Christianity), the currently acknowledged most popular and most influential pastor is Rick Warren. Unfortunately, his utterances, associations, and deeds over the recent years (see past editions of CA!) fits perfectly the Pauline description of “seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived.” (2 Tim 3:13.)
John Lanagan of My Word Like Fire Ministries has recently compiled some key quotes from key leaders in Contemplative Prayers and Spiritual Formation; and he shows how these quotes and leaders are affirmed and endorsed unto the Evangelical Church.by Pastor Rick Warren We cite a few of these quotes:
First, Gary Thomas describes what exactly is meant by contemplative/centering prayer: “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
Brennan Manning and Tricia Rhodes, other top notches, add some practical details. According to Manning in his best selling Ragamuffin Gospel: “[T]he first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer … simply return to listening to your sacred word. Gently return your mind to your sacred word.” (p. 212, 218)
And from Rhodes: “Take deep breaths, concentrating on relaxing your body. Establish a slow, rhythmic pattern. Breathe in God’s peace, and breathe out your stresses, distractions, and fears. Breathe in God’s love, forgiveness, and compassion, and breathe out your sins, failures, and frustrations. Make every effort to “stop the flow of talking going on within you—to slow it down until it comes to a halt.’” (emphasis added)
Contrasting these well-known age-long new age mystic practices with Biblical meditation, Lanagan explains: “In biblical meditation, a repetitive word or chant is never used, the mind never ceases being active, and there is never an altered state of consciousness. Thus, one does not enter what is known as the silence.” Check our previous link of eastern meditation to catholic and Islamic repetitive chants in Vol 9 No 3
Pastor Rick Warren obviously understands Biblical meditation, as he demonstrated in a recent attempt to blunt the growing criticism of his supports for eastern meditation. For example he said: “So when the Bible says meditate it’s not talking about zone-out in some psychic, New Age trance, or put your mind in neutral and contemplate your navel….” (see Lanagan’s article). But the problem is, even as Rick Warren is rightly describing biblical meditation with one side of his mouth, he also finds it necessary, due to a number of other considerations, to affirm and endorse those who spearhead new age meditation, with the other side of his mouth
For instance, of Gary Thomas (first cited above), Rick Warren states: “I think highly of his work … he tells them [readers] how they can make the most of their spiritual journeys. He places an emphasis on practical spiritual exercises.”. And concerning Tricia Rhodes book, Rick Warren writes: “This book is a quiet-time companion for those who hunger for a greater intimacy with God. It offers fresh insight into little understood aspects of prayer and introduces a step-by-step journey of learning contemplative prayer.” Manning’s Ragamuffin Gospel is listed on Rick Warren’s website, under “Must Read Books.” Lighthouse Trails points out that “It is this very book that reveals Manning’s true affinity with contemplative spirituality. In the back of the book Manning makes reference to Basil Pennington saying that Pennington’s methods will provide us with “a way of praying that leads to a deep living relationship with God.” However, Pennington doesn’t hide his believe that his prayer methods are based on Eastern mysticism. Advocating that Christians “should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and ‘capture’ it for Christ”, Pennington writes that “Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible. Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices.( http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/pennington.htm).
And so, through such “a little-to-the-right, a little-to-the-left” panderings, Rick Warren manages to build fanatical supports on both sides of the divide. Especially from those who put “tolerance” and “unity” far above Truth and sound doctrine. This method is further demonstrated in recent weeks, by Rick Warren under his Daniel Plan. Here, to teach and mentor Christians on the supposedly secular subject of well living, Warren has engaged as resource persons, well known and outspoken New Age teachers who are guaranteed to bring in the subject of eastern mysticism into the business now and then in subtle or even not so subtle manner. It’s like asking Pastors William Kumuyi and Enoch Adeboye to come deliver a week-long mathematics seminar at a mosque; and pretending to believe the audience will somehow be left unexposed to Jesus Christ!
The dangers lurking behind Spiritual Formation, are best demonstrated by showing some of the “fruit” of Contemplative Prayer. As the Lord said, “By their fruits you shall know them”.
As shown by Lanagan, many of those who enter the silence frequently end up believing in pantheism or panentheism. (defined previously above) A prime example was Sue Monk Kidd who started off as a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher, but after being introduced to Thomas Merton, had her whole spiritual outlook changed. She eventually became a worshipper of the goddess Sophia, saying that God is even in excrement.”
Another famous example is contemplative spirituality practictioner, Miller who wrote in his book (Blue Like Jazz) “For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained” (p. 115).
In his last book, father of spiritual formation, Henri Nouwen, writes: “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.”—From Sabbatical Journey, page 51, 1998 Hardcover Edition
Leonard Sweet gives an apt summary of where the movement is headed for: “Mysticism, once cast to the sidelines of the Christian tradition, is now situated in postmodernist culture near the center.… In the words of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Jesuit philosopher of religion/dogmatist Karl Rahner, “The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will be nothing.” [Mysticism] is metaphysics arrived at through mindbody experiences. Mysticism begins in experience; it ends in theology.” (Quantum Spirituality, p. 76).
PS: Most of these quotes above are taken from Ray Yungen’s book, A Time of Departing. and Faith Undone.by Roger Oakland These two books are highly recommended. They show clearly the destination anyone who delves into Spiritual Formation is headed for. The transformation won’t happen overnight, but the destination is sure.
LifeWay Stores Drops “Warning” Labels on Emergent Books –
Meanwhile according to a Christianity Today article, LifeWay Christian Stores (resource department for Southern Baptist Convention) has decided to discontinue its “Read with Discernment” labels program. In the program which began in 2007, readers are alerted that certain books they were about to buy may contain ideas, such as Spiritual Formation which are not mainstream Christianity. Lifeway now says the program ”have kind of become irrelevant”, but the truth is probably closer to the observation made by Lighthouse Trails. “We realize that for them to remove all contemplative aspects of their store, their shelves might be sparsely filled unless they turned to biblical publishers.” The problem with much of organized Christianity today is that the cost is too high and the loss financially too great to make these changes. But the eternal cost of NOT doing what is right is far greater, and the implications could be staggering (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=5769)