Aren't spiritual practices a good thing? After all, prayer, Bible study and other habits will help us grow in Christ, right? The following article (as well as others we've shared on Stand Up For The Truth), takes a hard look at the core of what Spiritual Formation is about and it's historical roots. The Emerging Church has long dabbled in contemplative spirituality, combining prayer with eastern meditation techniques. Apprising Ministries makes the case that neo-Gnosticism of spiritual disciplines formulated by Quaker mystic Richard Foster has been given a makeover for the post modern church by his friend Dallas Willard:
“Your prophets have seen for you false and deceptive visions; they have not exposed your iniquity to restore your fortunes, but have seen for you oracles that are false and misleading.” (Lamentations 2:14)
Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism As Spurious Spiritual Formation Breeds Deception
Following in this Apprising Ministries piece we’ll give you another look at where the kind of corrupt Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM), right now slithering into your local evangelical churches usually under the guise of Spiritual Formation, will eventually take everyone who partakes of these alleged “ancient practices” long enough to anger Jesus. For our example here we’ll take “radical” and “progressive [read: postliberal] evangelical Christian” Tony Campolo.
In doing so, let’s take a look at a couple of things he said in an interview at over at the interspiritual website Beliefnet, where a lot of folks associated with Emergence Christianity e.g. Emerging Church *ahem* theologian Tony Jones are now beginning to blog. If you don’t know, this is a website where their:
mission is to help people like you find, and walk, a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness.
Whether you’re exploring your own faith or other spiritual traditions, we provide you inspiring devotional tools, access to the best spiritual teachers and clergy in the world, thought-provoking commentary, and a supportive community… (Online source)
We at Beliefnet are acutely aware that for several millennia far greater minds, and holier souls, have struggled to help people meet their spiritual needs. Our mission is to try, with humility, to help you find and walk a spiritual path that provides comfort, inspiration, clarity, meaning, strength, and happiness. (Online source)
For the “Christian” who wishes to be accepted there, the bold above, translates into having to avoid anything controversial in their “inspiring devotional” message—most specifically the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And so you need to understand that what someone would then say will also have be so benign that the offense of the Cross is carefully edited out until nary a splinter of it is even left to find. In the following interview with Beliefnet Campolo will give us some *cough* “insights” gleaned from his experience practicing the “Christian” form of transcendental meditation called Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP).
Campolo begins by sharing some background about how he came to desire the practice of CSM:
during times of reflection I sensed that believing in Jesus and living out His teachings just wasn’t enough. There was a yearning for something more, and I found that I was increasingly spiritually gratified as I adopted older ways of praying—ways that have largely been ignored by those of us in the Protestant tradition. (Online source)
Now you need to understand that mystics of all stripes feel that worshiping God through His prescribed method of study in His inerrant and infallible Word—the Bible—as well as in conscious prayer just isn’t good enough for them. For those who are unregenerate unbelievers this wouldn’t be any surprise; however, now we are witnessing evangelical Christians also turning to their own individual methods, which are centered on the self as well. If you’d like a good scholarly Biblical look into this type of spiritual suicide I refer you to Contemporary Christian Divination: The False Claims and Practices of Christian Mystics by Bob DeWaay.
The CSM Of Spurious Spiritual Formation Always Attacks The Reformation
Here I will briefly unpack Campolo’s statement, “I adopted older ways of praying,” which are supposedly being “ignored” by those of us who adhere to the historic orthodox Christian faith. What mystics like Campolo and Emergent Church icon Rob Bell, who are trying to get us to buy into their dubious ”disciplines” of spurious CSM, are actually talking about will become a bit clearer for you as Campolo tells us:
Counter-Reformation saints like Ignatius of Loyola have become important sources of help as I have begun to learn from them modes of contemplative prayer. I practice what is known as “centering prayer,” in which a sacred word is repeated as a way to be in God’s presence. (ibid)
The “older ways of praying” then are drawn from romanticizing the ruminations of teachers in apostate Roman Catholicism, in this case Ignatius of Loyola, founder of a religious order within the Roman Catholic Church called the Jesuits. However, far from bring “ignored by” Bible-believing Christians, this spurious CSM was rightly rejected by the Protestant Reformers whom Jesus Himself had raised up to return His Church to a proper Christian spirituality.
Yes, you read that correctly; we are not saying spirituality is something to be afraid of at all. The key question would be: Is our approach to experiencing God according to the ways He prescribes in the Bible? And it is beyond question that Jesus Himself never practiced or taught CSM and neither did His Apostles. Undaunted by the facts Campolo goes on to tell us more about his own CSM practice of CCP:
I’ve got to push everything out of mind save the name of Jesus. I say His name over and over again, for as long as fifteen minutes, until I find my soul suspended in what the ancient Celtic Christians called a “thin place” — a state where the boundary between heaven and earth, divine and human, dissolves. You could say that I use the name of Jesus as my koan. (ibid)
Again we have an appeal to other apostates, which those in this postliberal Emergence Christianity rebellion against Sola Scriputura idealize and then just arbitrarily accept as Christians within their own current counter-Reformation. But how does Campolo know that his soul is “suspended” in some imaginary “thin place?” Answer: He doesn’t. Reality check: The Bible knows nothing of such a place; and, this “state” or “boundary” separating the “divine and human” actually harkens back to the classic idea within mysticism of some supposed “spark of the divine” within all mankind.
I have already covered this erroneous idea in Understanding the New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind. Campolo then continues, “Once I’ve entered ‘the thin place’ with its profound stillness, I ‘wait patiently for the Lord’ (Psalm 40:1) to invade me. In quietude, I surrender to an invasion of the Holy Spirit.” Again, how can Campolo be so sure that what he subjectively “feels” invading him really is God the Holy Spirit? He will answer below with the typical response of the existential [i.e. feelings-oriented] religious pragmatist:
When I am asked how I know that such mystical infillings of the Holy Spirit aren’t the result of simple “feel good” techniques that sometimes mark the ecstasies of New Age practitioners, I have an answer. I explain that these experiences generate within me an intensive passion for telling others about Jesus. Along with that powerful evangelistic drive, His Spirit also creates within me a compassion for the poor and oppressed, and I am driven to respond to their pleas for help and justice. (Online source)
On the surface this sounds good to those who haven’t researched these issues surrounding so-called “Christian” mysticism. However, of vital concern is: What are we telling people about Jesus with this “intensive passion” that generates a “powerful evangelistic drive,” which also creates such “compassion for the poor and the oppressed”? The fact is that everything Campolo has just said could have also come from e.g. someone in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons). So in reality it doesn’t actually prove anything.
As we leave this for now, in Tony Campolo To Enlighten Southern Baptists In Virginia and Baptist State Convention Of North Caroline (SBC) Points Us To Renovare International Conference you can see that more and more even within the SBC of mainstream “Protestant” evangelicalism are heading deeper into this neo-Gnosticism of “spiritual disciplines” supposedly rediscovered by Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster. His warped work is then given a veneer of scholasticism from his friend and spiritual twin Dallas Willard, who is himself an ordained Southern Baptist minister.
But here’s a sobering scene concerning all who persist long enough in this turning away from the sure anchor of Sola Scriptura in favor of a subjective spirituality. In a fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3:2 — men will be lovers of self, they will also inevitably receive a delusion from the Lord causing them to follow the false and deceptive visions from their own minds (see—Jeremiah 14:14) that will lead, in various ways, to ill-fated attempts at uniting all of mankind in order to create some kind of a “Global Family.” And the tragic fact is those who join them will actually think that it is the will of God.