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This report is excerpted from our book Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond, which is available in print and eBook editions from Way of Life Literature, http://www.wayoflife.org.  

Richard Foster’s writings have been at the forefront of the contemplative movement since the 1970s. No one has done more than this man to spread contemplative mysticism throughout Protestant and Baptist churches. 

Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline, which has sold more than two and a half million copies, was selected by Christianity Today as one of the top ten books of the 20th century. (For this review I obtained multiple editions of Celebration of Discipline, plus three other books by Foster.)

The Quaker Connection

He grew up among the Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends), was trained at George Fox College, has pastored Quaker churches, and has taught theology at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas, and at George Fox. One website calls him “perhaps the best known Quaker in the world today.”

The Quaker connection is important, because one of their peculiar doctrines is direct revelation via an “inner light.” This is defined in a variety of ways, since Quakerism is very individualistic and non-creedal, but it refers to a divine presence and guidance in every man. There is an emphasis on being still and silent and passive in order to receive guidance from the inner light. Other terms for it are “light of God,” “light of Christ,” “inward light,” “the light,” “light within,” “Christ within,” and “spirit of Christ.” 

George Fox used the expression “that of God in everyone.” In his journal Fox said, “I was glad that I was commanded to turn people to that inward light, spirit, and grace, by which all might know their salvation, and their way to God; even that divine Spirit which would lead them into all Truth, and which I infallibly knew would never deceive any” (The Journal of George Fox, revised by John Nickalls, 1952, p. 35).

Another prominent Quaker, Robert Barclay, called this “the light of the heart” and said “there is an evangelical and saving Light and grace in all.” 

Isaac Pennington said, “There is that near you which will guide you; Oh wait for it, and be sure ye keep to it.”

The inner light teaching is said to be based on John 1:9 — “That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.” Yet this verse does not say that there is a divine light in every man. It merely says that Christ gives light to every man. The epistle of Romans tells us more about this. There is the light of creation (Romans 1:20), the light of conscience (Romans 2:14-16), and the light of Scripture (Romans 3:2). When men respond to the light that they have, they are given more light (Acts 17:26-27). 

Because of the fall, man’s heart is darkened and foolish (Rom. 1:21; Eph. 4:18). 

The inner light teaching was exalted above reliance on the Bible. Martin Meeker says, “… the early Quakers’ reliance on the Bible as a source of spiritual knowledge and inspiration was secondary to their belief in the Inner Light as the primary path to salvation and communication with God” (The Doctrine of the Inner Light).

George Fox would say to his listeners:

“You will say, Christ saith this and the Apostles say this, but what canst thou say? Art thou a child of Light and hast thou walked in the Light, and what thou speakest, is it inwardly from God?”

Fox claimed that he received the doctrine of the inner light without help from the Scriptures (The Journal of George Fox, revised by John Nickalls, 1952, pp. 33-35).

In a bold rejection of the principle of the Bible as the sole authority for faith and practice, influential Quaker teacher William Barclay said,

“Nevertheless, because they [the Scripture] are only a declaration of the fountain, and not the fountain itself, therefore THEY ARE NOT TO BE ESTEEMED THE PRINCIPAL GROUND OF ALL TRUTH AND KNOWLEDGE, NOR YET THE ADEQUATE PRIMARY RULE OF FAITH AND MANNERS. Yet because they give a true and faithful testimony of the first foundation, they are and may be esteemed a SECONDARY RULE, subordinate to the Spirit, from which they have all their excellency and certainty” (Barclay, An Apology for the True Christian Divinity, “The Third Proposition: Concerning the Scriptures”).

This is an unscriptural and very dangerous position that opens the door for every sort of heresy. It is a recipe for spiritual delusion. The Scripture is able to make the man of God perfect; obviously, then, nothing more is needed (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The Spirit never leads contrary to the Scripture. The Bereans were commended for testing every teaching by the Scripture (Acts 17:11), not by their “inner light.” 

The early Quakers misinterpreted 2 Corinthians 3:6, claiming that the “letter” referred to the Scripture in general.

“Along these lines, we might note that early Quakers tended to give an expansive reading of 2 Cor. 3:6, which states that God has made us ‘ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ This verse, if ‘letter’ is taken to mean ‘Scripture,’ obviously places strong limits on the use of Scripture while extending preference to Spirit, at the very least. One thus is not surprised that it is a favorite of early Quakers, appearing as an allusion in the postscript of the Letter from the Elders of Balby, cherished by many contemporary Friends” (Stephen Angell, “Opening the Scriptures, Then and Now,” QUEST, Fall-Winter 2007-2008). 

If the “letter” of 2 Corinthians 3:6 refers to the Scripture in general, it would mean that Paul was exalting “the Spirit” above the Scripture. It would mean that the Scripture is not the sole authority for faith and practice, but it is only one authority and that men are free to follow their inner lights. 

This is a gross misinterpretation of the passage. In truth, 2 Corinthians 3 contrasts the Law of Moses with the Gospel of Grace, the Old Covenant with the New. 

2 Corinthians 3:7 leaves no doubt about this, which tells us that the “letter” that killeth is “the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones.” That refers, of course, to the Law of Moses given on Mt. Sinai. It was a covenant of death because it requires of fallen sinners what they cannot perform, which is perfect holiness. It was not given to provide a way of salvation but to show men their sinful, lost condition (Romans 3:19-20). 

To interpret the “letter” of 2 Corinthians 3:6 as a reference to the Scripture in general also contradicts the fact that verse 11 says the “letter” has been “done away.” Obviously the Scripture has not been done away with, but the Law of Moses has. Its purpose was to act as a “schoolmaster” to lead men to Christ and once it performs that glorious function its work is finished (Galatians 3:24-25). 

It is easy to see how the Quaker philosophy paved the way for Foster to accept Catholic mysticism. It did this by its emphasis on an “inner light” and its emphasis on seeking revelation directly from God and having direct experiences of God and its tendency not to judge things in an exacting manner by the Bible.

Other Quakers have followed the same path, and some, like Mary Conrow Coelho, have followed it all the way to the New Age. Conrow believes in evolution, the oneness of the universe, and the unity of man with God, and she traces her New Age mysticism to deep third generation Quaker roots and its inner light teaching:

“The adults in our Quaker community spoke often of the Inner Light, the seed of God, the indwelling Christ. [Thomas Kelly] said, ‘It is a Light within, a dynamic center, a creative Life that presses to birth within us'” (“Of Leadings and the Inner Light: Quakerism and the New Cosmology,” http://www.thegreatstory.org/QuakerMetarelig.html). 

(Richard Foster quotes Thomas Kelly favorably and frequently in his books, and the Renovaré  Spiritual Formation Bible quotes Kelly as saying: “Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctuary of the soul, a holy place, a Divine Center.”)

From its inception Quakerism was a heretical movement that downplayed the Bible and exalted personal revelation, and Richard Foster is a product of that heresy even though he is on the “evangelical” side of Quakerism. 

In this context, it is not surprising to find him promoting Roman Catholic mystics who exalted Catholic tradition and mystical revelations above Scripture. 

Salvation Not Clear

One thing that is glaring in its absence from Foster’s books on spiritual living is a clear biblical testimony of salvation and a clear exhortation for his readers to be born again. 

When he does mention salvation, he speaks of it in a confused manner. 

He says, for example, that reconciliation has already been achieved in Christ.

“In some mysterious way, through shedding his blood Jesus took into himself all the evil and all the hostility of all the ages and redeemed it. He reconciled us to God, restoring the infinitely valuable personal relationship that had been shattered by sin” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 42).

This fits with universalism of Quakerism, but it is a heresy. Though the redemption price has been paid by Christ, sinners are not reconciled until they individually put their faith in the gospel and are born again (John 3:16, 18, 36). Jesus taught that most men will not be saved (Mat. 7:14).

Foster also speaks of salvation as a process.

“One more thing is needed, namely, our response of repentance–not just once but again and again. Martin Luther declares that the life of the Christian should be one of daily repentance” (Prayer, p. 42). 

We must understand that the previous statement is made in the context of a discussion of salvation. Foster makes no clear distinction between the one repentance for salvation (Acts 17:30; 2 Peter 3:9) and continual repentance for sanctification (2 Cor. 12:21). Foster’s statement describes either universalism or sacramentalism, but it is not the once-for-all new birth doctrine of the New Testament. 

Further, Foster describes salvation in terms of an emotional experience and in association with baptism. In Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Foster tells of a non-Christian who attended one of his contemplative seminars. Part way through the course the following event transpired.

“Throughout the weekend the Spirit of God rested tenderly upon the entire group, so much so that on Sunday afternoon this same gentleman asked quietly, ‘Would you pray for me that I might know Jesus the way you know Jesus?’ What were we to do? None of the normal responses seemed appropriate. We waited in silence. Finally one young man stood up and gently placed his hands on the man’s shoulders. I have never forgotten his prayer. I felt like taking off my shoes–we were on holy ground. Strange as it may seem, he prayed a commercial. He described a popular advertisement of the day for NesTea in which different people, sweltering from the summer sun, would fall into a swimming pool with a thirst-quenching sense of ‘ahhh!’ on their faces. He then invited this man to fall into the arms of Jesus in the same way. The gentleman suddenly began to weep, heaving deep sighs of sorrow and grief. We watched in reverent wonder as he received the gift of saving faith. It was a tender, grace-filled moment. Later he shared with us how the prayer touched a deep center in his past relating to his baptism as a child” (pp. 48, 49). 

While it is true that the Bible describes salvation in terms of drinking and eating of Jesus, the scene described by Foster is confusing at best. What was this man trusting? What was he receiving? He mentions his infant baptism. Had he come to believe that his baptism had brought him into a saving relationship with God that he was only now learning to enjoy? What Jesus was he trusting? What gospel? What was the nature of his faith? The Bible warns that the devils believe in God. Only a certain kind of faith is saving faith. Foster doesn’t clarify any of this. His doctrine of salvation is exceedingly murky at best. When the unbeliever asked the group to pray for him, why didn’t they share with him the gospel? They didn’t need to pray about what to say. They didn’t need to hesitate. Jesus has already commanded us to preach the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15). Why did they preach a NesTea commercial rather than the gospel? 

And while we are talking about Richard Foster and the gospel, if he believes the true gospel of the grace of Christ without works, why does he constantly and uninhibitedly promote Catholic mystics who hold to a sacramental gospel? If he doesn’t believe Rome’s gospel of process salvation, why does he never warn about it plainly? 

Personal salvation is foundational to prayer and Christian living. It is criminal to write books on these subjects for broad public consumption and not make salvation absolutely clear. 

Roman Catholic Mysticism

Foster advocates Roman Catholic mysticism with absolutely no qualms, building his contemplative practices unequivocally upon this heretical foundation. 

He recommends Ignatius of Loyola, Francis of Assisi, Benedict of Nursia, Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Genoa, Julian of Norwich, Brother Lawrence, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, the anonymous author of The Cloud of Unknowing, Madame Guyon, Thomas à Kempis, Catherine Doherty, Meister Eckhart, Thomas Aquinas, Hildegard of Bingen, Francis de Sales, Alphonsus de Liguori, Bernard of Clairvaux, John Henry Newman, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, G.K. Chesterton, André Louf, Henri Nouwen, Dorothy Day, Karl Rahner, John Main, Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, Brennan Manning, John Michael Talbot, and many others. 

Foster’s recommendation of these Roman Catholic mystics is not half-hearted. In the introduction to the 1998 edition of Celebration of Discipline, he says that they taught him spiritual depth and substance (pp. xiii, xiv), and he calls them “Devotional Masters of the Christian faith.” Of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, Foster says, “… it is a school of prayer for all of us” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 59). 

There is no warning of the fact that these mystics trusted in a works gospel, venerated Mary, worshipped Christ as a piece of consecrated bread, believed in purgatory, and scores of other heresies. (For extensive documentation of this see the chapters “A Description of Catholic Monastic Asceticism” and “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics.”)

Bible Not Sole Authority

Like his Roman Catholic friends, Foster’s foundational error is in not exalting the Bible as the sole authority for faith and practice. Nowhere in Celebration of Discipline or Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home does he instruct his readers that the Bible alone is God’s infallible revelation and that everything must be carefully tested by it. This should be the very starting point for books on Christian spirituality and worship, but it is glaring in its absence. Foster encourages his readers to find revelation beyond Scripture through meditation, dreams, and personal prophecies. 

Foster describes how Francis of Assisi found spiritual guidance. When he was puzzled as to whether he should devote himself exclusively to contemplative practices or also to engage in preaching missions (which is plainly answered in Scripture), he sent word to two “trusted friends” and accepted their replies as the very will of God. Foster says that Francis “was seeking a method that would open the gates of heaven to reveal the mind of Christ, and he took it as such” (Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 1978, pp. 154, 155). Nowhere does Foster chide Francis of Assisi for depending on the word of man rather than the Scripture. 

Neo-Orthodox Approach to Scripture

Foster’s approach to Scripture is a neo-orthodox, existentialist one. It is not by accident that he quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer frequently and non-critically. (He also quotes the other two fathers of neo-orthodoxy, Karl Barth and Emil Brunner.)

“This is not a time for technical word studies, or analysis, or even the gathering of material to share with others. … Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, ‘… just as you do not analyze the words of someone you love, but accept them as they are said to you, accept the Word of Scripture and ponder it in your heart, as Mary did. That is all. That is meditation'” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 26). 

Yet the Bible is not merely a love letter. It is much more. It is the infallible Word of God, and we are commanded to “analyze” it. “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries exposes the error of Foster’s approach:

The idea expressed above by Bonhoeffer of accepting Scripture subjectively as spoken to you is completely in line with the flawed view of the text of the Holy Scripture spread by neo-orthodox theologian Karl Barth. In neo-orthodoxy the Scripture only becomes the Word of God when the Holy Spirit illuminates it. We can sum up this wrong idea this way: ‘The Bible is a divine mailbox in which we receive letters from Heaven.’ But no, it isn’t. The Bible itself–in full–is the letter, the message, from God.

In his book Reckless Faith Dr. John MacArthur hits the target dead on as he shows why neo-orthodoxy is a perfect fit for contemplative mysticism as well as why it’s a necessity for it to flourish:

‘Neo-orthodoxy is the term used to identify an existentialist variety of Christianity. Because it denies the essential objective basis of truth–the absolute truth and authority of Scripture–neo-orthodoxy must be understood as pseudo-Christianity. … Neo-orthodoxy’s attitude toward Scripture is a microcosm of the entire existentialist philosophy: the Bible itself is not objectively the Word of God, but it becomes the Word of God when it speaks to me individually. …

‘Thus while neo-orthodox theologians often sound as if they are affirming traditional beliefs, … they relegate all theology to the realm of subjective relativism. … 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, or other purely subjective means’ (MacArthur, Reckless Faith) (Ken Silva, “Contemplative Mysticism in the Southern Baptist Convention,” April 30, 2008, http://www.apprising.org/archives/2008/04
/contemplative_m.html). 

Instead of seeing the Scripture as divinely inspired and profitable in every part as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says, and therefore studying it diligently in order to rightly divide it as 2 Timothy 2:15 commands, neo-orthodoxy sees the Scripture as inspired only as it speaks to me experientially through a mystical approach. 

Foster’s School of Contemplative Mysticism

Foster invites his readers to “enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 13), promoting thoughtless centering prayer, visualization, guided imagery, the repetition of mantras, silence, walking the labyrinth, even out of body experiences. 

Foster says, “Christian meditation is an attempt to empty the mind in order to fill it” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 15). 

Apparently Foster got some criticism for this statement, because in the next edition of Celebration of Discipline he omitted it and tried to contrast Eastern meditation with Christian meditation with the following words:

“Eastern meditation is an attempt to empty the mind; Christian meditation is an attempt to fill the mind. The two ideas are quite different” (Celebration of Discipline, 1988, p. 20). 

This sounds nice and tidy, but it contradicts the practice of Catholic contemplation. In reality, both Eastern meditation and Catholic meditation are an attempt to empty the mind in order to arrive at a transcendental experience. Consider the following quotes from the mystics that Foster heartily recommends:

Thomas Merton: “… the deepest level of communication is not communication, but communion. IT IS WORDLESS. IT IS BEYOND WORDS, AND IT IS BEYOND SPEECH, and it is BEYOND CONCEPT” (The Asian Journal of Thomas Merton, 1975 edition, p. 308).

The Cloud of Unknowing: “I URGE YOU TO DISMISS EVERY CLEVER OR SUBTLE THOUGHT no matter how holy or valuable. Cover it with a thick cloud of forgetting because in this life only love can touch God as He is in Himself, never knowledge” (chapter 8).

John Main: “Recite your prayer-phrase [mantra] and gently listen to it as you say it. DO NOT THINK ABOUT ANYTHING. As thoughts come, simply keep returning to your prayer-phrase. In this way, one places everything aside” (The Teaching of Dom John Main: How to Meditate, Meditation Group of Saint Patrick’s Basilica, Ottawa, Canada).

Teresa of Avila: “All that the soul has to do at these times of quiet is merely to be calm and MAKE NO NOISE. BY NOISE I MEAN WORKING WITH THE INTELLECT to find great numbers of words and reflections with which to thank God. … in these periods of quiet, the soul should repose in its calm, and learning should be put on one side” (The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself, chap. 15, pp. 106, 107, 108).

Foster’s attempt to set Catholic contemplation apart from pagan mysticism cannot be sustained.

Foster encourages his readers to go deep into their inner world of silence and explore it:

“[W]e must be willing to go down into the recreating silences, into the inner world of contemplation. In their writings, all of the masters of meditation strive to awaken us to the fact that the universe is much larger than we know, that there are vast unexplored inner regions that are just as real as the physical world we know so well. They tell us of exciting possibilities for new life and freedom. They call us to the adventure, to be pioneers in this frontier of the Spirit” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 13).

Amazingly, he says that these practices are not only for believers but also for unbelievers.

“We need not be well advanced in matters of theology to practice the Disciplines. Recent converts–for that matter people who have yet to turn their lives over to Jesus Christ–can and should practice them” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 2).

Since the contemplative practices are supposed to enable the practitioner to commune with Christ within himself, how could an unsaved person “practice them”? This is evidence of Foster’s Quaker belief in an “inner light” in every man. 

Some might protest that I have only focused on the more controversial parts of Foster’s teaching and have ignored the truth contained therein. I will admit that Foster’s books contain some true insights about traditional biblical prayer that in another context could be helpful, but this is ruined by his promotion of Catholic mysticism, Jungian dream interpretation, healing of memories, and other heresies. Anyone that uses his writings is in imminent danger of being snared by error.

And though he does give many lessons about traditional biblical prayer, he considers this a shallow level of Christian living. To reach the truly “deep” levels, he urges believers to aspire to move beyond normal conversational prayer. He quotes C.S. Lewis: 

“I still think the prayer without words is the best–if one can really achieve it. … [But to] pray successfully without words one needs to be ‘at the top of one’s form'” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 156).

In reality, contemplative practices are beyond the bounds of Scripture and are completely “off the deep end.”

Visualization

Foster encourages the exceedingly dangerous practice of guided imagery and visualization:

“The inner world of meditation is most easily entered through the door of the imagination. We fail today to appreciate its tremendous power. The imagination is stronger that the conceptual thought and stronger than the will. … In his autobiography C.G. Jung describes how difficult it was for him to humble himself and once again play imagination games of a child, and the value of that experience. Just as children need to learn to think logically, adults need to REDISCOVER THE MAGICAL REALITY OF THE IMAGINATION. … 

“Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises constantly  encouraged his readers to VISUALIZE THE GOSPEL STORIES. Every contemplation he gave was designed to open the imagination. He even included a meditation entitled ‘application of the senses,’ which is an attempt to help us utilize all five senses as we picture the Gospel events. His thin volume of meditation exercises with its stress on the imagination had tremendous impact for good upon the sixteenth century.’ …

“Take a single event like the resurrection, or a parable, or a few verses, or even a single word and allow it to take root in you. Seek to live the experience, remembering the encouragement of Ignatius of Loyola to apply all our senses to our task. … As you enter the story, not as a passive observer but as an active participant, remember that since Jesus lives in the Eternal Now and is not bound by time, this event in the past is a living present-tense experience for Him. Hence, YOU CAN ACTUALLY ENCOUNTER THE LIVING CHRIST IN THE EVENT, BE ADDRESSED BY HIS VOICE AND BE TOUCHED BY HIS HEALING POWER. It can be more than an exercise of the imagination; IT CAN BE A GENUINE CONFRONTATION” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, pp. 22, 23, 26).

Note that Foster recommends Carl Jung, who followed a demonic spirit guide, as well as Ignatius of Loyola, who founded an organization dedicated to blind obedience to the pope at the very height of the murderous Inquisition. The “spirit realm” to which these men connected through meditative practices was the realm of darkness. 

Foster recommends Loyola’s practice of visualizing a personal encounter with Jesus, which is presumptuous foolishness. We don’t even know what Jesus looks like and we are not supposed to. Faith is simply believing God’s Word (Romans 10:17). Faith is not putting oneself into the biblical account and letting one’s imagination run wild. 

(For more about visualization and the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises see “Ignatius of Loyola” in the chapter “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics.”)

Interpretation of Dreams

Foster promotes the interpretation of dreams, which is not surprising in light of his recommendation of Carl Jung.

“In learning to meditate, one good place to begin is with our dreams, since it involves little more than paying attention to something we are already doing. … If we are convinced that DREAMS CAN BE A KEY TO UNLOCKING THE DOOR TO THE INNER WORLD, we can do three practical things. First, we can specifically pray, inviting God to inform us through our dreams. … Second, we should begin to record our dreams. … That leads to the third consideration–how to interpret dreams. The best way to discover the meaning of dreams is to ask. ‘You do not have, because you do not ask’ (Jas. 4:2). … Benedict Pererius, a sixteenth-century Jesuit, suggested that the best interpreter of dreams is the ‘…person with plenty of experience in the world and the affairs of humanity, with a wide interest in everything human, and who is open to the voice of God'” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, pp. 23, 24). 

Though God did speak from time to time to the prophets of old in dreams, the New Testament does not encourage God’s people to seek revelation in dreams nor does it instruct us in how to interpret dreams. Foster takes James 4:2 out of context applying it to the interpretation of dreams, though it has nothing to do with such a thing. He quotes a Jesuit heretic who held a false gospel of sacramentalism. The fact is that we do not need dream revelations for we have the perfect and sufficient “voice of God” in the Scriptures. It is “a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed” (2 Peter 1:19).

Dream interpretation is one of the things that led Sue Monk Kidd astray as she pursued the contemplative path. She came to believe that God was speaking to her through weird dreams, and those dreams led to self-deification and goddess worship! (See “Sue Monk Kid” in the chapter “Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics.”)

Communing Face to Face with God in Outer Space

Foster even urges the contemplative practitioner to commune face to face with God the Father. 

“A fourth form of meditation has as its objective to bring you into a deep inner communion with the Father where you look at Him and He looks at you” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 27).

Foster says that this amazing feat can be accomplished via visualized out of body experiences.

“In your imagination, picture yourself walking along a lovely forest path. … When you are able to experience the scene with all your senses, the path breaks out onto a lovely grassy knoll. Walk out into the lush large meadow encircled by stately pines. After exploring the meadow for a time, lie down on your back looking up at blue sky and white clouds. IN YOUR IMAGINATION ALLOW YOUR SPIRITUAL BODY, SHINING WITH LIGHT, TO RISE OUT OF YOUR PHYSICAL BODY. Look back so that you can see yourself lying in the grass and reassure your body that you will return momentarily. IMAGINE YOUR SPIRITUAL SELF, ALIVE AND VIBRANT, RISING UP THROUGH THE CLOUDS AND INTO THE STRATOSPHERE. Observe your physical body, the knoll, and the forest shrink as you leave the earth. Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator. Rest in His presence. Listen quietly, anticipating the unanticipated. NOTE CAREFULLY ANY INSTRUCTION GIVEN … Do not be disappointed if no words come; like good friends, you are silently enjoying the company of each other. When it is time for you to leave, audibly thank the Lord for His goodness and return to the meadow. Walk joyfully back along the path until you return home FULL OF NEW LIFE AND ENERGY” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, pp. 27, 28).

Foster thus claims that the believer can go into outer space and receive direct revelation from Almighty God! Who needs the Bible and who needs faith when we can actually meet Christ in the center of our being, talk face to face with God the Father, and have personal revelations from Almighty God?

(The previous passage was dropped out of subsequent editions of Celebration of Discipline, but to my knowledge Foster has never renounced the practice. My e-mail to him about this was not answered.)

This technique is occultic. It is exactly what I was taught by Hindu gurus in the early 1970s. 

In Out on a Limb New Ager Shirley MacLaine describes an out of body journey to the moon that follows the same playbook! 

Consider the following description of what Brian Flynn was taught when he was training to be a psychic before his conversion to Jesus Christ:

“Carolyn then instructed us to lie on the floor, close our eyes and imagine we were lying in a field of wildflowers on a beautiful summer’s day. The wind was calm, and the smell of flowers awakened our senses. As we were lying in the field, she asked us to now leave our bodies and look down upon ourselves. Carolyn then guided us to raise our souls to the heavens and to leave our earthly bodies behind. When we reached what we believed to be the outer edges of the universe she told us to ask for a message from the universe and what we needed to know at this time. ‘Listen to the voice inside you. Ask what it is you need to know to help you release the burdens you carry,’ she said softly” (Flynn, Running against the Wind, 2005, p. 50).

There is no significant difference between the psychic practice and Foster’s so-called contemplative practice. When we go outside the realm of the Bible we put ourselves in the way of spiritual harm and deception.

Other Occultic Practices

Foster recommends other occultic practices. 

One is channeling the light of Christ through visualization. Consider his description of how he taught visualizing prayer to a little boy:

“Imagination opens the door to faith. If we can ‘see’ in our mind’s eye a shattered marriage whole or a sick person well, it is only a short step to believing that it will be so. … I was once called to a home to pray for a seriously ill baby girl. Her four-year-old brother was in the room and so I told him I needed his help to pray for his baby sister. … He climbed up into the chair beside me. ‘Let’s play a little game,’ I said. ‘Since we know that Jesus is always with us, let’s imagine that He is sitting over in the chair across from us. He is waiting patiently for us to center our attention on Him. When we see Him, we start thinking more about His love than how sick Julie is. He smiles, gets up, and comes over to us. Then let’s both put our hands on Julie and when we do, Jesus will put His hands on top of ours. WE’LL WATCH AND IMAGINE THAT THE LIGHT FROM JESUS IS FLOWING RIGHT INTO YOUR LITTLE SISTER AND MAKING HER WELL. Let’s pretend that the light of Christ fights with the bad germs until they are all gone. Okay!’ Seriously the little one nodded. Together we prayed in this childlike way and then thanked the Lord that what we ‘saw’ was the way it was going to be” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 37).

This is not biblical prayer; it is occultism. Mind Science practitioners and New Agers have promoted this type of thing for a century. 

Biblical prayer is not the attempt to accomplish something through the power of our minds. It is talking to God and asking Him to accomplish things. There is a vast difference between these two practices, as vast as the difference between God and the Devil.

Foster recommends that parents pray for their sleeping children after this fashion:

“Imagine the light of Christ flowing through your hands and healing every emotional trauma and hurt feeling your child experienced that day. Fill him or her with the peace and joy of the Lord. In sleep the child is very receptive to prayer since the conscious mind which tends to erect barriers to God’s gentle influence is relaxed” (Celebration of Discipline, p. 39). 

There is not the hint of support in Scripture for this practice. To attempt to bypass “the conscious mind” is occultism. 

Foster’s descent into occultism is further evident by his recommendation of “flash prayers” and “swish prayers“:

“Flashing hard and straight prayers at people is a great thrill and can bring interesting results. I have tried it, inwardly asking the joy of the Lord and a deeper awareness of His presence to rise up within every person I meet. Sometimes people reveal no response, but other times they turn and smile as if addressed. In a bus or plane we can fancy Jesus walking down the aisles touching people on the shoulder and saying, ‘I love you…’ Frank Laubach has suggested that if thousands of us would experiment with ‘swishing prayers’ at everyone we meet and would share the results, we could learn a great deal about how to pray for others. … ‘Units of prayer combined, like drops of water, make an ocean which defies resistance'” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 39). 

This depicts prayer as an occultic entity rather than a simple communication addressed to God. 

Foster also recommends a practice called “palms up, palms down.” The practitioner is instructed first to hold his palms down in order to “release” his worries and concerns, such as anger, lack of finances, or fear of an upcoming event. 

“Whatever it is that weighs on your mind or is a concern to you, just say, ‘palms down.’ Release it. YOU MAY EVEN FEEL A CERTAIN SENSE OF RELEASE IN YOUR HANDS” (Celebration of Discipline, 1998, p. 31).

Then the practitioner is to turn his palms up in order to “receive from the Lord.” 

“Perhaps you will pray silently: ‘Lord, I would like to receive your divine love for John, your peace about the dentist appointment, your patience, your joy.’ Whatever you need, you say, ‘palms up.'”

There is not a hint of support for such a thing in Scripture, but this practice is found in New Age and pagan religions. 

Palms up, palms down is used in walking the labyrinth (http://www.lessons4living.com/three_fold_path.htm). 

It is used in Nia Technique to channel energy fields (http://www.nianow.com/teachers/continuingedu/
sharingthejoy/0606/t_tip.html).

It is used in Tai Chi to manipulate the flow of the occultic chi energy (http://groups.ku.edu/~kungfu
/instructions/instructions.htm). 

Sufi dervishes hold one palm up and one palm down while whirling in order to channel their mystical experiences. I have observed this in Turkey.


Union with God

Foster has adopted the contemplative doctrine of union with God. To the question, “What is the goal of Contemplative Prayer?” Foster answers: 

“To this question the old writers answer with one voice: UNION WITH GOD. … Bonaventure, a follower of Saint Francis, says that our final goal is ‘union with God,’ which is A PURE RELATIONSHIP WHERE WE SEE ‘NOTHING'” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, 1992, p. 159). 

The “old writers” are old Catholic writers, but the Bible nowhere describes or encourages such a practice. The believer’s complete relationship with God is an accomplished fact in Christ. 

“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him: Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving. Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power” (Colossians 2:6-10).

We receive Christ by faith in the gospel, and Paul says that we are to walk in Him in the same way. It is a walk of faith. We walk “from faith to faith” (Romans 1:17). God gives the believer many wonderful “experiences” along the way, but we are not to seek after experiences; we are to be content with knowing Christ by faith. 

The believer is complete in Christ and his “union” with Christ, is an accomplished fact. It is not something we have to pursue through mysticism. 

Further, the believer’s relationship with Christ in this world is not an experience of “seeing nothing.” It is, rather, an experience of knowing the Saviour through faith in His written Word and through the power of the indwelling Spirit. It is an objective, mindful experience. As former Catholic priest Richard Bennett says, “Seeing ‘nothing’ [is] just an Evangelical rehashing of Catholic irrational superstitious myth.” 

Promoting Heretics

God’s Word commands us to mark and avoid those who cause divisions contrary to the apostolic faith (Romans 16:17), but Foster ignores this and draws his material from a bewildering assortment of heretics. 

The following are just a few of the many examples we could give of the man’s disturbing, dangerous, and unbiblical habit of quoting heretics in the most recommending manner. 

For a starter, as we have noted, he asks his readers to join hands with Catholic “saints” and mystics (all of whom are committed to a gospel of works and many of whom are pantheists, panentheists, and universalists). (See the chapter “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics” for studies on Francis of Assisi, Benedict of Nursia, Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Loyola, Catherine of Genoa, Julian of Norwich, Brother Lawrence, Dominic, Catherine of Siena, John of the Cross, Madame Guyon, Thomas à Kempis, Meister Eckhart, Hildegard of Bingen, Bernard of Clairvaux, Karl Rahner, John Main, Mother Teresa, Thomas Merton, Brennan Manning, John Michael Talbot, and others cited by Foster.)

Foster quotes ALPHONSUS DE LIGUORI (he spells his name Luguori) at least three times in Celebration of Discipline (1978, pp. 132-134). Liguori was one of the greatest worshippers of Mary the Roman Catholic Church has ever produced. His book The Glories of Mary (1750) is simply blasphemous. Note the following quotations:

“… though the sinner does not himself merit the graces which he asks, yet he receives them, because this Blessed Virgin asks and obtains them from God, ON ACCOUNT OF HER OWN MERITS” (The Glories of Mary, edited by Eugene Grimm, Brooklyn: Redemptorist Fathers, 1931, p. 73).

“IT WAS THEN BY THIS GREAT OFFERING OF MARY THAT WE WERE BORN TO THE LIFE OF GRACE; WE ARE THEREFORE HER VERY DEAR CHILDREN, SINCE WE COST HER SO GREAT SUFFERING” (p. 59). 

“This was revealed by our Blessed Lady herself to St. Bridget, saying, ‘I am the Queen of heaven and the Mother of Mercy; I AM THE JOY OF THE JUST, AND THE DOOR THROUGH WHICH SINNERS ARE BROUGHT TO GOD” (p. 43).

“Let us, then, have recourse, and always have recourse, to this most sweet Queen, IF WE WOULD BE CERTAIN OF SALVATION … LET US REMEMBER THAT IT IS IN ORDER TO SAVE THE GREATEST AND MOST ABANDONED SINNERS, who recommend themselves to her, that Mary is made the Queen of Mercy” (pp. 43,44).

Foster heavily promotes the Catholic Trappist monk THOMAS MERTON, recommending many of his books and quoting from him frequently, at least 15 times in Celebration of Discipline, not giving the slightest warning about the man. Foster says that Merton “has done more than any other twentieth century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood” (Spiritual Classics, pp. 17, 21). He calls Merton’s Contemplative Prayer “a must book” and What Is Contemplation “an excellent introduction to contemplative prayer for everyone.” In Meditative Prayer, Foster gushes that “Merton continues to inspire countless men and women.” Foster includes an entire chapter by Merton in his book Spiritual Classics. 

Foster does not tell his readers that Merton was at the forefront of interfaith dialogue, that he claimed to be both a Buddhist and a Catholic, that he had powerful mystical experiences while meditating before Buddha idols, and that he was a universalist. Nowhere did Merton say that Buddhists and Hindus and Sufis worship false gods or that they are hell-bound because they do not believe in Jesus. When writing about Zen Buddhists, Merton always assumed that they were communing with the same “ground of Being” that he had found through Catholic monasticism.

Foster recommends the universalist mystic MEISTER ECKHART, quoting him at least two times in various editions of Celebration of Discipline and saying, “Today Eckhart is widely read and appreciated, not so much for his theological opinions as for his vision of God” (Spiritual Classics, p. 206). How can Eckhart have had a proper vision of God when he believed that God is everything and that man is divinity? 

Foster recommends the universalist DOROTHY DAY. He has an entire chapter by and about her in his book Spiritual Classics. Day wrote:

“Going to the people is the purest and best act in Christian tradition and revolutionary tradition [she is referring to Marxism] and is the beginning of world brotherhood. Never to be severed from the people, to set out always from the point of view of serving the people, not serving the interests of a small group or oneself. … It is almost another way of saying that we must and will FIND CHRIST IN EACH AND EVERY MAN, when we look on them as brothers” (Dorothy Day, The Long Loneliness). 

Foster promotes KARL RAHNER. There is a chapter by him in Spiritual Classics. Yet he believed in evolution and in salvation apart from faith in Christ. He spoke of the “anonymous Christian,” referring to an individual who unconsciously responds to God’s grace operating in the world, though he might even reject the gospel.

Foster promotes Benedictine priest JOHN MAIN, saying that he “understood well the value of both silence and solitude” and he “rediscovered meditation while living in the Far East” (Spiritual Classics, p. 155). Indeed, he did. Main learned meditation from a Hindu guru! Main combined Catholic contemplative practices with yoga and in 1975 began founding meditation groups in Catholic monasteries based on this syncretism.

Foster recommends HILDEGARD OF BINGEN. There is an entire chapter by her in Spiritual Classics. She had wild-eyed visions and wrote as the direct mouthpiece of God, yet her prophecies taught Catholic heresies, including the veneration of Mary. One of her songs was entitled “Praise for the Mother.” 

Foster recommends AGNES SANFORD, saying, “I have discovered her to be an extremely wise and skillful counselor in these matters” and calls her book The Healing Gifts of the Spirit “an excellent resource” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 136, footnote 1). Foster includes an entire chapter by Sanford in his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home and another chapter by her in Spiritual Disciplines. Sanford delved deeply into New Thought, Jungian psychology, and other dangerous fields. She said that she got her doctrine that there is a “spiritual body” within the physical body from New Thought teacher Emmet Fox (Sealed Orders, p. 115), who also believed that man is God. Sanford was a universalist and the founder of the dangerous field of healing of memories. She taught healing through meditation, visualization, and positive confession. She said that if she spilled hot oil on her hand in the kitchen, she would confess: “I’m boss inside of me. And what I say goes. I say that my skin shall not be affected by that boiling fat, and that’s all there is to it. I see my skin well, perfect and whole, and I say it’s to be so” (The Healing Light, p. 65). (For more about Sanford see the report “Agnes Sanford” at the Way of Life web site.)

Foster recommends MARTIN MARTY, who wrote the foreword to Streams of Living Water. Yet Marty is a relativist and a modernist who denies the divine inspiration of the Bible and eternal judgment in hell. Marty supports abortion and the ordination of homosexuals, and in an interview with Playboy in 1974 he recommended adultery in some situations. 

Foster quotes HARVEY COX, who repudiates the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith and has described himself as a fellow traveler of the Hare Krishna movement. 

Foster also quotes sympathetically and non-critically from the psychoanalyst CARL JUNG who rejected the Bible as mythical and communicated intimately throughout his life with a spirit guide. 

Foster even recommends New Age mystics. He quotes MARTIN BUBER, who rejected the God of the Bible and the fall of man and believed that God is found through interaction with human society and non-doctrinal mysticism. Buber believed that the Bible is largely mythical. 

Foster quotes ELIZABETH O’CONNOR, who was a universalist and praised the Hindu guru Krishnamurti. O’Connor believed that Christ has saved all of mankind and is creating a new world through social-justice action. There is no need for individuals to be saved; they are already children of God and merely need to find God’s will for their lives and see “the divine life throbbing in the whole of the world” (O’Connor, “Each of Us Has Something Grand to Do,” Faith At Work magazine, Nov.-Dec. 1979). 

Foster recommends the writings of DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 62; Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 33; Spiritual Classics, p. 156, 251-260). He was a universalist who built the UN Chapel in 1952 as a New Age meditation center. There is a six-and-a-half ton block of iron ore in the center of the room, the polished top of which is lit by a single beam of light from the ceiling. The light depicts “divine wisdom,” and the block depicts an empty altar representing “God worshipped in many forms” (http://www.aquaac.org/un/sprtatun.html). The iron ore also represents the metal from which weapons are made and the New Age hope that through the power of meditation world peace can be achieved. Hammarskjöld said, “… we thought we could bless by our thoughts the very material out of which arms are made.”  

Foster recommends PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN. He includes a chapter by him in Spiritual Disciplines. Teilhard taught that God is the consciousness of the universe, that everything is one, and that everything is evolving in greater and greater enlightenment toward an ultimate point of perfection. He called this perfection CHRIST and THE OMEGA POINT. Teilhard spoke much of Christ, but his christ is not the Christ of the Bible. For this reason, Teilhard is a favorite with New Agers. 

Foster also recommends the writings of pagan mystics LAO-TSE of China (founder of Taoism) and ZARATHUSTRA of Persia (founder of Zoroastrianism) (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 62).  

These are only some of the heretics that Foster quotes and recommends in his books! 

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).

Renovaré: Foster’s ecumenical program

In 1988 Foster founded RENOVARÉ (pronounced ren-o-var-ay), which is Latin, meaning “to make new spiritually.” This is an ecumenical organization that promotes spiritual renewal through contemplative exercises, charismatic practices, and other things. 

Renovaré’s ecumenical thrust is radical. Its objective is “to work for the renewal of the Church of Jesus Christ in all her multifaceted expressions.” Its slogan is “Christian in commitment, international in scope, ecumenical in breadth.” Renovaré’s ministry team represents men and women “from Mennonite to Methodist, Roman Catholic to Church of God in Christ, Assembly of God to American Baptist.” 

Foster describes the breadth of his ecumenical vision in these words:

“God is gathering his people once again, creating of them an all-inclusive community of loving persons with Jesus Christ as the community’s prime sustainer and most glorious inhabitant. This community is breaking forth in multiplied ways and varied forms. …

“I see a Catholic monk from the hills of Kentucky standing alongside a Baptist evangelist from the streets of Los Angeles and together offering up a sacrifice of praise. I see a people” (Streams of Living Water, 2001, p. 274).

In his book Streams of Living Water Foster “celebrates the great traditions of the Christian faith.” These are contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice, evangelical, and incarnational, claiming that all are “true streams flowing from the fountain of Jesus Christ.” In emerging church fashion, he believes that these “traditions,” which represent diverse and contradictory doctrines and practices, are “complementary” and needed.  

At the October 1991 Renovaré meeting in Pasadena, California, Foster praised Pope John Paul II and called for unity in the Body of Christ” (CIB Bulletin, December 1991).

In Renovaré Foster works closely with Dallas Willard. Willard attended Foster’s Quaker church in the 1970s, and today he is one of Renovaré’s Ministry Team members. The Renovaré web site in March 2008 advertised an upcoming “conversation” between Willard and Foster. 

Willard says that “it is possible for someone who does not know Jesus to be saved” (“Apologetics in Action,” Cutting Edge magazine, winter 2001, vol. 5 no. 1, Vineyard USA, http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=14).

Anti-Dispensationalism/Kingdom Gospel

Foster calls Dispensationalism a “heresy” (Celebration of Discipline, 1978, p. 46, footnote). Thus, he believes that Christians are building the kingdom of God today and that Christ’s coming is not imminent. 

Dallas Willard believes the same thing. In his book The Divine Conspiracy he preaches a “kingdom gospel” that downplays the centrality of the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ. (He calls it a “theory.”) The apostle Paul said that if anyone preaches a different gospel than the one given to him by God he is accursed (Galatians 1:6-9). Paul’s gospel is plainly stated in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, and it is not a kingdom gospel. It is the gospel of personal salvation through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.

We have refuted the kingdom gospel error in What Is the Emerging Church, which is available from Way of Life Literature.

Accepting the Catholic Mass

Foster allows for Rome’s abominable doctrine that the consecrated wafer of the Mass is actually the body of Christ. He says it doesn’t matter to him what one believes about the “eucharist”:

“Christian people of honest heart have long differed over how the life of Christ is mediated to us through the Communion feast. Complicated words are used to make important distinctions: transubstantiation, consubstantiation, memorial, and the like. … I have no desire to unsettle the convictions of any person, irrespective of the tradition by which he or she is able to enter fully into the Communion service” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 112).

Foster’s position sounds sympathetic and kind, but it is blatant disobedience to God’s Word, which commands us to earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3). The apostle Paul received directly from the Lord the teaching that the Lord’s Supper is a memorial (1 Cor. 11:23-25). Christ is not “mediated” through the Lord’s Supper in any sense, and we are not authorized to allow heresies and private doctrines not supported by Scripture. Foster refuses to exercise this obligation. He is willing to allow his Catholic readers to believe that a piece of bread becomes Christ through priestly hocus pocus and that it is perfectly acceptable to pray to this piece of bread and to venerate it as Jesus, which is what all of his Catholic mystic friends do.

The Pentecostal-Charismatic Connection

Foster is closely associated with the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement. He believes this movement has wonderful and important things to offer to the “body of Christ” and he accepts some of the most radical charismatic practices, including spirit slaying, holy laughter, and spiritual drunkenness. He calls these things the “prayer of the heart” but they are actually doctrines of devils.

“Another expression of the Prayer of the Heart is what is sometimes referred to as ‘resting in the Spirit.’ It is the experience of being taken up by the Spirit’s power in such a way that the individual loses consciousness for a time. Some enter a trancelike state; others lie quietly on the ground or floor. …

“‘Holy laughter’ is still another expression of the Prayer of the Heart. The joy of the Spirit seems to simply well up within a person until there is a bursting forth into high, holy, hilarious laughter. It sometimes is given to the individual in personal prayer, but more frequently it comes upon the gathered community. That is as it should be, for laughter is, after all, a communal experience. To the uninitiated it might appear that these people are drunk, and so they are–with the Spirit” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, pp. 138, 139). 

See the book The Pentecostal-Charismatic Movements: History and Error for a biblical refutation of these practices. This is available from Way of Life Literature.

Healing of Memories

Foster believes in the heresy of the “healing of memories,” which he doubtless learned from the aforementioned Agnes Sanford.

“My first experience was with a man who had lived in constant fear and bitterness for twenty-eight years. He would wake up at night, screaming and in a cold sweat. He lived in constant depression, so much so that his wife said that he had not laughed for many years. 

“He told me the story of what had happened those many years before that had caused such a deep sadness to hang over him. He was in Italy during the Second World War and was in charge of a mission of thirty-three men. They became trapped by enemy gunfire. With deep sorrow in his eyes, this man related how he had prayed desperately that God would get them out of that mess. It was not to be. He had to send his men out two by two and watch them get killed. Finally in the early hours of the morning he was able to escape with six men–four seriously wounded. He had only a flesh wound. He told me that the experience turned him into an atheist. Certainly, his heart was filled with rage, bitterness, and guilt. 

“I said, ‘Don’t you know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who lives in the eternal now, can enter that old painful memory and heal it so that it will no longer control you?’ He did not know this was possible. I asked if he would mind if I prayed for him–NEVER MIND THAT HE WAS AN ATHEIST; I would have faith for him. He nodded his consent. Sitting beside him with my hand on his shoulder, I invited the Lord Jesus to go back those twenty-eight years and walk through that day with THIS GOOD MAN. ‘Please, Lord,’ I asked, ‘draw out the hurt and the hate and the sorrow and set him free.’ Almost as an afterthought I asked for peaceful sleep to be one of the evidences of this healing work, for he had not slept well for all those years. ‘Amen.’

“The next week he came up to me with a sparkle in his eyes and a brightness on his face I had never seen before. ‘Every night I have slept soundly, and each morning I have awakened with a hymn on my mind. And I am happy … happy for the first time in twenty-eight years.’ His wife concurred that it was so. That was many years ago, and the wonderful thing is that although this man has had the normal ups and downs of life since then, the old sorrows have never returned. He was totally and instantaneously healed” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 205). 

The bottom line is that this experience is strictly and profoundly unscriptural. There is not a hint of such a thing taught in the Bible. 

Some are impressed with the results of such practices, but if the only standard for the truth of a practice is its effectiveness, then we are left with no certain standard, because the devil can imitate many “spiritual” things. Psychics and psychoanalysists have produced the same results that Foster achieved with his “healing of memory prayer.” Note that he does not say that the man was scripturally born again through this experience. He just became happy, and the manipulation of the emotions is easily within the realm of the world, the flesh, and the devil.

Foster’s Interfaith Activities

Foster is involved in the LIVING SPIRITUAL TEACHERS PROJECT, a group that associates together Roman Catholics, liberal Protestants, Zen Buddhist monks and nuns, universalists, occultists, and New Agers. Members include the Dalai Lama, who claims to be the reincarnation of an advanced spiritual entity; Marianne Williamson, promoter of the occultic A Course in Miracles; Marcus Borg, who believes that Jesus was not virgin born and did not rise from the grave; Catholic nun Joan Chittister, who says we must become “in tune with the cosmic voice of God”; Andrew Harvey, who says that men need to “claim their divine humanity”; Matthew Fox, who believes there are many paths to God; Alan Jones, who calls the gospel of the cross a vile doctrine and says there is no absolute authority; and Desmond Tutu, who says, “… because everybody is a God-carrier, all are brothers and sisters.”  

God’s Word unequivocally reproves Foster’s activity with the commandment, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). 

Conclusion

Richard Foster believes he is promoting a true spiritual revival within Christianity, but he is the blind leading the blind. His writings are an exceedingly dangerous mixture of truth and error. Pastors and teachers need to warn their people to stay away from him, for “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).

 

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Roman Catholic Asceticism
Dec 26, 2013

December 26, 2013 (David Cloud, Fundamental Baptist Information Service, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061, 866-295-4143, fbns@wayoflife.org; for instructions about subscribing and unsubscribing or changing addresses, see the information paragraph at the end of the article)

The following is from the book CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM: A POWERFUL ECUMENICAL BOND. Contemplative mysticism, which originated with Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox monasticism, is permeating every branch of Christianity today, including the Southern Baptist Convention. In this book we document the fact that Catholic mysticism leads inevitably to a broadminded ecumenical philosophy and to the adoption of heresies. For many, this path has led to interfaith dialogue, Buddhism, Hinduism, universalism, pantheism, panentheism, even goddess theology. One chapter is dedicated to exposing the heresies of Richard Foster: “Evangelicalism’s Mystical Sparkplug.” We describe the major contemplative practices, such as centering prayer, visualizing prayer, Jesus Prayer, Lectio Divina, and the Labyrinth. We look at the history of Roman Catholic Monasticism, beginning with the Desert Fathers and the Church Fathers, and document the heresies associated with it, such as its sacramental gospel, rejection of the Bible as sole authority, veneration of Mary, purgatory, celibacy, asceticism, allegoricalism, and moral corruption. We examine the errors of contemplative mysticism, such as downplaying the centrality of the Bible, ignoring the fact that multitudes of professing Christians are not born again, exchanging the God of the Bible for a blind idol, ignoring the Bible’s warnings against associating with heresy and paganism, and downplaying the danger of spiritual delusion. In the Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics we look at the lives and beliefs of 60 of the major figures in the contemplative movement, including Benedict of Nursia, Bernard of Clairvaux, Brother Lawrence, Catherine of Genoa, Catherine of Siena, Dominic, Meister Eckhart, Francis of Assisi, Madame Guyon, Hildegard of Bingen, Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Keating, Thomas a Kempis, Brennan Manning, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Basil Pennington, John Michael Talbot, Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Lisieux, and Dallas Willard. The book contains an extensive index. 482 pages. Contemplative Mysticism is available in print and eBook formats, http://www.wayoflife.orgRoman Catholic Asceticism

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Rome’s Desert Fathers and mystic “saints” practiced extreme asceticism. Many doubtless put themselves into an early grave. Hildegard’s “strict practices of fasting and self-punishment, resulted in a lifetime of health problems and migraine headaches” (Talbot, The Way of the Mystics, p. 55). John of the Cross so abused his body that, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, “twice he was saved from certain death by the intervention of the Blessed Virgin.”

After a study of the desert monastics, we tend to agree with Edward Gibbon, the famous historian of the Roman Empire. He described the typical desert monk as a “distorted and emaciated maniac … spending his life in a long routine of useless and atrocious self-torture, and quailing before the ghastly phantoms of his delirious brain.” Gibbon said, “They were sunk under the painful weight of crosses and chains; and their emaciated limbs were confined by collars, bracelets, gauntlets, and greaves of massy and rigid iron” (Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire).

The ascetic practices have many purposes, but none of them are scriptural.

They were thought to be necessary for salvation and sanctification. Pio of Pietrelcina said: “Let us now consider what we must do to ensure that the Holy Spirit may dwell in our souls. … The mortification must be constant and steady, not intermittent, and it must last for one’s whole life. Moreover, the perfect Christian must not be satisfied with a kind of mortification which merely appears to be severe. He must make sure that it hurts” (“Mortification of the Flesh,” Wikipedia).

Ascetic practices are also thought to be necessary as part of the path to ecstatic union with God. We have seen that self-denial and self-injury composed the first step in the three-step path to mystical union.

Ascetic practices are also thought to be necessary as penance for sin. In his Spiritual Exercises Ignatius of Loyola taught that penance requires “chastising the body by inflicting sensible pain on it” through “wearing hairshirts, cords, or iron chains on the body, or by scourging or wounding oneself, and by other kinds of austerities” (The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, First Week, Vintage Spiritual Classics, p. 31). Pope John XXIII wrote: “But the faithful must be encouraged to do outward acts of penance, both to keep their bodies under the strict control of reason and faith, and to make amends for their own and other people’s sins” (Paenitentiam Agere, July 1, 1962). Yet we know that the believer’s sin is forgiven through the blood of Christ and not through his own self-effort and sacrifice (1 John 1:9).

Ascetic practices are further thought to be necessary because the body and its physical pleasures are evil. John of the Cross, one of the most acclaimed of the Catholic mystical theologians, considered physical existence, with all its attendant needs and desires, as inherently sinful (Talbot, The Way of the Mystics, p. 148). Francis of Assisi called his own body “Brother Ass.” This error goes back to the Platonic and gnostic philosophy that was imbibed by the Desert Fathers and Church Fathers.

Some of the common ascetic practices of the monastic mystics were as follows:

Extreme fasting

For part of her life Catherine of Siena lived exclusively on the wine and wafer of the Mass. Peter of Alcantara, who was Teresa of Avila’s spiritual director, ate only once in three days at the most. The diet in many monasteries is meager. Consider the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance. The monks subsist on a small amount of food for part of the year and are never allowed to eat meat, fish, or eggs.

Self-flagellation 

Dominic Loricatus (995-1060), a Benedictine monk, lashed himself 300,000 times with a whip in one six-day period (Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. V). He did this while reciting the Psalms, 100 lashes for each psalm. Catherine of Siena scourged herself three times a day with an iron chain. Theresa of the Child Jesus “scourged herself with all the strength and speed of which she was capable, smiling at the crucifix through her tears.” Hildegard of Bingen recommended “maceration of the flesh, and heavy beatings” to ward off lascivious lusts.

Hairshirts

A hairshirt was something uncomfortable worn next to the skin. Commonly it was made of some uncomfortable fabric such as horsehair, but some were made of metal. Henry Suso’s loins were covered with scars from his horsehair shirt. He also devised an undergarment studded with 150 sharp brass nails that pierced his skin. Dominic Loricatus and Ignatius of Loyola wore hairshirts of chain mail.

Bindings

Ignatius had the habit of binding a cord below the knee. The seers of Fatima wore tight cords around their waists. Catherine of Siena wrapped a chain with crosses around her body so tightly that it caused her to bleed; it is described as an “iron spiked girdle.” “Her self-punishment left her body covered with gaping wounds, which she blithely referred to as her ‘flowers'” (Talbot, The Way of the Mystics, p. 81).

Foregoing hygiene 

Anthony never bathed his body nor even washed his feet. Henry Suso didn’t take a bath in 25 years. For a while Ignatius of Loyola didn’t bathe, wore rags, and let his hair and nails grow “wildly out of control.” In the Order of Cistercians of Strict Observance, Thomas Merton’s order, monks are allowed to wash their robes only once a month and they can take showers only by permission of the abbot. It should be called the order of stinky.

Sleep depravation

Catherine of Siena allowed herself only one-half hour of sleep every other day on a hard board. No wonder she had strange visions! Peter of Alcantara slept only one and a half hours a day for 40 years. Catherine of Genoa slept as little as possible and then on a bed covered with briars and thistles.

Silence and solitude

Silence and solitude is a big part of Catholic monastic asceticism. The hermit Theon, one of the “desert fathers,” kept silent for thirty years. Abbot Moses told a young man who asked for guidance, “Go, sit in your cell, and your cell will teach you everything” (The Way of the Mystics, p. 24). Romuald, the founder of the Camaldolese order, says the hermit must “sit in his cell like a chick, and destroy himself completely” (Talbot, Come to the Quiet, p. 22). Cistercian monks take vows of silence and communicate among themselves only by sign language. Teresa of Avila demanded that the nuns in her order not talk to each other or be together except when eating and worshiping. She said, “Each one should be alone in her cell” (The Way of Perfection, chap. 4, p. 29).

Separation from relatives 

Many of the monasteries and convents disallowed the monks and nuns to associate with their relatives. Teresa of Lisieux and her four sisters were nuns in Carmelite convents, and when their father had a series of strokes that left him severely handicapped, they were not allowed to visit him. This is contrary to God’s command to honor and care for one’s own near relations (1 Tim. 5:8).

Paul warned that some would turn from the faith and teach the doctrines of demons, and he identified two of these doctrines as “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats…” (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

A plainer description of Catholic monastic asceticism has never been written!

Paul warned about asceticism in Colossians 2:20-23.

The ascetics find biblical support for their practices in Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 9:27 — “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.”

But nowhere does Paul say that he performed the type of asceticism that is practiced by the Catholic monastics. He listed many things that he suffered, but for the most part they were things that he was subjected to by outside forces and by dint of the performance of his preaching ministry (2 Corinthians 11:23-27). Paul was not punishing his body and ruining his health through mindless asceticism.

In the New Testament, fasting is not a way of punishing oneself; it is a matter of spiritual warfare (Matthew 17:19-21).

Further, Paul was not talking about his salvation or his sanctification but about his ministry. Paul was concerned that he would be a castaway in the sense that he would be put on a shelf in this life so that he could no longer exercise his ministry and/or that his service would be rejected, disapproved at the judgment seat of Christ. The same Greek word is translated “rejected.” Paul was not afraid that he would be lost. In the same epistle he taught that Christ preserves the believer (1 Cor. 1:7-9). What Paul feared was falling short of God’s high calling for his life. The context makes this plain. He is talking about running a race and winning a prize.

To confuse 1 Corinthians 9:27 with salvation is to misunderstand the gospel of Jesus Christ. Salvation is not a reward for faithful service. The Bible plainly states that salvation is by grace, and grace is the free, unmerited mercy of God (Eph. 2:8-9). Anything that is merited or earned, is not grace (Romans 11:6). On the other hand, after we are saved by the marvelous grace of God, we are called to serve Jesus Christ. We are created in Christ Jesus “unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). If a believer is lazy and carnal, he will be chastened by the Lord (Heb. 12:6-8), and if he does not respond, God will take him home (Rom. 8:13; 1 Cor. 11:30; 1 John 5:16).

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SOME BRIEF NOTES ON CONTENDING WITHOUT BEING CONTENTIOUS

by Holly Sprenger Garcia  

So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

 We have contending and we can be contentious… Two different things. We contend for the faith, or we are accusatory and can be contentious. Let’s sharpen iron with GOD’S WORD, not our feelings, experiences, beliefs, our even our word… Let’s wait on our Master, and let our heart be right with Him. Search our hearts Lord. (Psalm 139:23-24)

■A continual dripping on a very rainy day And a contentious woman are alike;Whoever restrains her restrains the wind, And grasps oil with his right hand.As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Whoever keeps the fig tree will eat its fruit; So he who waits on his master will be honored. As in water face reflects face, So a man’s heart reveals the man. Prov 27:15-19

 ■MOLD ME MAKE ME LORD: Strength and honor are her clothing; She shall rejoice in time to come. She opens her mouth with wisdom, And on her tongue is the law of kindness. PR 31:25-26 

This goes BOTH ways, for not only the one contending for the faith, but for those Christians who oppose them, we need to remind ourselves of many passages. Frequently I see people come in to accuse those contending. They ask if you have prayed for them, they say, “they do not want to run out to lynch someone”, or “they don’t want to be condemning” (we should not condemn but speak the Word and hold up all to the light) or “judge not lest be judged”, “or have you used Matthew 18”, or cries of unity, or the funny one that I see frequently is, “You are so judgmental”… The irony escapes them.

■So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20

WE ALL NEED EACH OTHER,  AND NEED TO STOP DESPISING OTHER’S GIFTS,  ALONG WITH REALIZING THAT SOME DO NOT HAVE THE SAME UNDERSTANDING. SLOW TO SPEAK…

■FALSE UNITY: WHAT IS UNITY? It says, all these things are to equip us, edify the body, till we come to a unity of THE FAITH and of THE KNOWLEDGE of the Son of God….WHY? That we should no longer be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine.

SO, WHAT ARE WE TO DO?

Speak the truth in love, WHY?

■So that we may GROW UP in all things INTO HIM….

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Eph 4:13-16

■“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Matthew 10:16

We have to watch out for how we reveal the truth, how we handle ourselves, and being careful of our speech. For those in the body who oppose those who are exposing a false teacher, and you disagree, you are only doing others harm by claiming they are “a brother” or “a sister” without ALSO having done your FULL proving.

■Attacking others for “TRASHING” a brother, or INSISTING they are a brother, is just as unhelpful as insisting someone is false or a wolf without laying out the case and discussing it.

■Never addressing or listening to the concerns of ecumenism, or associations, or lack of God’s Word in the forefront, etc. is not productive, and I cannot possibly see how it can be honoring to Him.

■Both sides of a discussion on false teaching should always maintain sound speech and a lack of characterization of the other side. We do not have the perception of Jesus to call someone a viper, so let’s proceed carefully.

Otherwise, I believe the Word shows we should stay silent from making absolute statements on both sides, UNLESS we have spent enough time to PROVE ALL THINGS – by His Word. If someone won’t hear you (not agree necessarily – (but hear you out) without getting angry, running off, accusing, or ignoring, then you may have to remember the patience we’re admonished to have with all men. We can be wrong, but another believer will generally hear us out, so that they can admonish us/reason with His Word with gentleness and patience. By the Way, Matthew 18 applies to a sin done to one person in private, then you keep it private, it has NOTHING to do with false doctrine. Nor should we rush out to apply it to someone we disagree with. We see things we may or may not like, but this doesn’t mean we should name names.

■But I believe we do have our marching orders in the verses below.

WE ARE ALL CALLED TO REVEAL THE TRUTH WHETHER WE LIKE IT OR NOT.

So for those of you who feel discomfort when this happens, (you’re favorite teacher/pastor being mentioned), please understand how hard it is for the one who is speaking the truth. Certainly hold them accountable for how they do it, but don’t rush in to accuse them of a witch hunt, and/or pepper them with questions without having had the decency to do your own homework, with the info they already provided.

AND WE ARE ALSO CALLED TO WITHDRAW FROM THOSE WE SEE IN THIS PASSAGE BELOW:

■If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. I Tim 6:3-5

WE ARE TO KNOW AND BE IN THE MEAT OF HIS WORD SO WE CAN DISCERN BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL:

We are to take heed to the doctrine for a reason:

■Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you. I Tim 4:16

■For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. 14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Heb 5:13-14

DO NOT EVEN GREET THOSE WHO DO NOT BRING HIS DOCTRINE:

■Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds. 2 John 1:9-11

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 O.K., This is where I’d like to address the people who hang out with the Rick Warren’s of this world, or call Mitt Romney a Christian, or quote Henri Nouwen, or Ken Blanchard, Dallas Willard, link to others pages or products for sale, etc. The Pastors who go to conventions with them or call them brother. The people on FB who put them on their page. I understand completely some will be unknowing, but once you know, you better not compromise the truth of God’s Word, it’s not yours to compromise. So, if you pass along their info, “receive them”, “greet them”, then what?

■YOU ARE SHARING IN THEIR EVIL DEEDS.

I’d also like to address those who defend them as just authors, or fiction (i.e. the Shack) or say they are not pastors, teachers, etc. Please note most of these verses say, WHOEVER, or ANYONE, etc. and does not differentiate that they should not be STOPPED, MARKED, AVOIDED, NAMED, except that there was greater condemnation for the Pharisees or stricter judgment for teachers. And by the way, if YOU are taking teaching, reading an author’s books, sharing them on FB, thereby recommending their speech, YOU are also sharing in their evil deeds. We need to try so hard to be careful, we can all make mistakes, but don’t turn around a snap if someone points it out to you, but be quick to listen, go take some quiet time in prayer and His Word to look for yourself.

■ALL ARE HELD ACCOUNTABLE TO THESE PASSAGES BY GOD’S WORD. DON’T EXCUSE THOSE WHO ARE PROPAGATING FALSE DOCTRINE AS NOT BEING “DISCERNING”. WHAT DO WE SEE FROM THE SCRIPTURES I’VE SHARED SO FAR, AND ALSO BELOW AS OUR RESPONSIBILITY? (See if I have missed some)

1.Know His Word.

2.Use His Word, not yours.

3.Be in the MEAT of His Word.

4.Take Heed to His Word.

5.Correct with His Word.

6.Don’t associate with those who will not CONSENT with sound words, withdraw.

7.Get and use wisdom and kindness when you speak.

8.Be slow to speak, and quick to listen. Don’t be quick to wrath.

9.Not associate with those who don’t consent to sound words.

10.Have no fellowship with the unfruitful deeds of darkness, Reveal the truth.

11.Find out what is acceptable to the Lord.

12.Expose those deeds.

13.Prove or test all things and Hold fast to that which is good.

14.Test the Spirits (Because there are MANY false Prophets)

15.Mark and avoid those who bring that divisive false doctrine.

16.Name Names.

1.Eph 5:10, 11, Heb 5:14, Rom 16:17-18, I John 4:1, I Thess 5:21

I’d also like to address the people who defend them as just being “undiscerning” or “deceived”. Go ahead and pray for them, but we cannot excuse as acceptable behavior.

These teachers/pastors/authors are not just being undiscerning (see Rom 1:31), they are being disobedient to God’s Word and we are NOT even to keep COMPANY with them. (2 Thess 3:14) They also are “sharing in their evil deeds” (2 John 1:9-11). Do we want to defend a “deceived” or “undiscerning” person, who is not in the meat of God’s Word, who do not obey His Word; who call themselves a Christian writer, apologist, speaker, teacher, pastor and then listen or share their writings or teachings?

■But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, DECEIVING and being DECEIVED. But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them. 2 Tim 3:13-14

WHY ARE WE ALL CALLED TO DO THIS? SO WE CAN CUT OFF THEIR OPPORTUNITY TO LEAD OTHERS ASTRAY TO THEIR DEATHS….

■But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light*. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. 2 Cor 11:12-15

* Angel of light, we need to remind ourselves, ministers of righteousness is what they will look like.

ECUMENICAL?

SPIRITUAL FORMATION?

DABBLING IN “CHRISTIAN” YOGA?

GOING TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH?

VISITING YOUR FRIEND’S MOSQUE?

TAKING PART IN REIKI HEALING, ETC.?

What does His Word instruct?

1) Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” 2 Cor 6:14-16

2) And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. 2 Cor 6:16-18

■RENOUNCE AND EXPOSE: For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. Eph 5:8-11

I AM GUILTY OF FORGETTING THIS, HELP ME LORD

■Likewise, exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in ALL THINGS showing yourself to be a PATTERN OF GOOD WORKS; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, SOUND SPEECH that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you. Titus 2:6-8

WHO WE DO AND DO NOT BREAK FELLOWSHIP WITH. HOW SHOULD WE ADMONISH THEM?

BELOW ARE BIBLICAL EXAMPLES AND PATTERNS FOR THOSE WHO ARE TEACHING OTHERWISE TO SOUND DOCTRINE, AND DOES NOT CONSENT TO WHOLESOME WORDS, OR DOES NOT OBEY THESE EPISTLES…

■WE WITHDRAW,

■WE DON’T KEEP COMPANY WITH THEM.

■WE MARK AND AVOID.

BUT LET’S BE VERY CAREFUL IT IS ABOUT SOUND DOCTRINE AND NOT NON-ESSENTIALS OR PRIDE, BUT DO KEEP IN MIND, IT IS GOD’S WORD THAT IS ESSENTIAL. Let’s also only offend in Christ and not in ourselves.

1.But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good. And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. 2 Thess 3:13-15

2.If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. I Tim 6:3-5

3.But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 2 Thess 3:6

IS IT O.K. TO DISMISS BAD TEACHING OR KEEPING BAD COMPANY WITH THE COMMENT, “NOT EVERYONE IS DISCERNING?” WHAT DOES HIS WORD SAY BELOW?

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, UNDISCERNING, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are DESERVING OF DEATH, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them. Rom 1:28-32

Sounds pretty serious to me . . . and I have been there, there is not knowing, but we do need to test the spirits, and search the Scriptures to see if these things are so.  ESPECIALLY if we are recommending or taking teaching from one who may be teaching great error.

  • But solid food belongs to those who are of full agethat is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.  Heb 5:14 

WE DON’T JUDGE WHETHER SOMEONE IS OR IS NOT A BELIEVER

(We can surmise, but we should speak to the fruits of bad doctrine)

This passage also gives us good advice of judging what a man speaks.  Is he/she REALLY speaking the Word of God?

  • He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.  “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 
  • A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matt 12:30, 33-37

 

WE KNOW FALSE PROPHETS AND RAVENING WOLVES BY THEIR FRUIT’S….

RECENTLY I HEARD A WELL-KNOWN PREACHER, USING THE PASSAGE IN MATT 24, CHANGING IT TO SINGULAR, TO KNOW WHETHER SOMEONE WAS A BELIEVER OR NOT… BE CAREFUL… TAKE HEED….lest we fall… We can examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith, but we judge nothing before it’s time with a professing believer’s justification.  We certainly CAN and SHOULD judge unsound doctrine, associations (within the church) and behavior. (I Cor 5 & 6)

 

THIS PASSAGE SPEAKS TO FALSE PROPHETS (NOT NECESSARILY FRUIT INSPECTING OF OTHER BELIEVERS YOU SAW HAVING A BEER OR WHATEVER ELSE YOU MIGHT PERSONALLY LOOK DOWN ON) I am speaking to those who say definitively that people aren’t saved, I don’t believe we can be sure, and I know we can surmise they may in trouble based on lack of fruit of the Spirit or love for the brethren – but Jesus DID say Judge with a righteous judgment and not according to the appearance – the only place to find righteous judgment I know of, is from His Word, not mine): 

  • “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.  Matt 7:15-21
    • They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work. But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: Titus 1:16-2:1
    • But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber. 2 Pet 2:1-3

(Not really even pointing to the obvious guys/women who are wearing Armani suits, or driving Bentley’s, or have 10,000 square foot mansions, or compounds, planes, or $23,000 gold toilet seats, but reminding us all that they are among us, and secretlybring in these destructive heresies.  And MANY will follow their deceptive ways, and most people don’t think they will be deceived, or led astray.  Who is it that is being misled if there are MANY DECEIVERS?)

■This comment was from me to a well-known ministry who was hooking up with Chuck Pierce of the NAR movement. “Please consider the fact that many will follow their destructive ways because you invited them to the occasion.”

But I’d like to admonish each and every one of us, we ARE to prove all things and hold FAST to that which is good. (I Thess 5:21), we ARE to be Bereans and SEARCH the scriptures to see if these things are so (Acts 17:11), we ARE to approach Him with humility and with a teachable attitude… (I Pet 5) May we all remember that.

I remember last year, someone from a Bible study had overheard me speaking of the  danger of  being involved with (yoga), she said, “Oh brother, I am too spiritually mature to be deceived”… I said no more, I was just saddened, I walked with her, and said if she ever wanted to know more, I’d freely share. But she has never asked, and to this day defends the practice. I pray the Lord protects her, and I pray she considers that MANY WILL FOLLOW THEIR DESTRUCTIVE WAYS…

And will it be because one of us haven’t done our proving? Or maybe we’d rather not have a disagreement or deal with the unpleasantness, but think of the alternative….MANY will follow their destructive ways…

EVERYONE… ALL BELIEVERS… ARE CALLED TO DO THIS:

■Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen. Rom 16:17-20

Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:104-105

IN THE END, WE NEED TO REMEMBER WHERE WE CAME FROM AND THE MANNER OF HOW TO RECOVER SOME FROM THE SNARE OF THE ENEMY. (And that should be our goal, not to be right, but to do right).

■Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 3:1-7

USE THE WORD TO JUDGE BY. THAT IS WHERE YOU WILL FIND RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT.

Copyright 2012 Holly Sprenger Garcia

(This note may be shared in its entirety by anyone who chooses to use it for the glory of God. It is not for mocking nor to take it apart to either prove their own view, or to dishonor the Lord. It is free, none my work to be sold by another. These are some of the reasons why this is copyrighted – for those who agree with the reasons, please do share!). Also, I am always open to pointing out where I am wrong (I will be wrong), but please just do it with His Word 🙂

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                        candlecross

 

How to Know When the Emerging Church

Shows Signs of Emerging in Your Church

Commentary by Roger Oakland

http://understandthetimes.org/

The world is changing. So is the Christian evangelical church. There was a time— not that long ago—when the Bible was considered to be the Word of God by the majority of evangelical Christians. Now that we are well into the third millennium and the post-modern, post-Christian era, the term evangelical can mean almost anything. What has happened? Why is this happening and what is the future for mainstream Christianity?

For the past several years, I have been speaking around the world on current trends that are impacting Christianity. After these presentations, I am approached by Christians who come from many different church backgrounds. Many are expressing their concerns about what is happening in their churches, troubled by the new direction they see their church going. While they may not always be able to discern what is wrong, they know something is wrong and that it needs to be addressed.

Further, many have told me they have attempted to express their concerns with their pastors or church elders. In almost every case, they were told they had a choice to make—get with the new program or get out of the church.

This move towards a reinvented Christianity (one designed to “reach people”) seems to be here for the long haul. It is not just a passing fad. I am often asked by concerned brothers and sisters in Christ to provide an explanation in order to help them understand what they have encountered. They want to know why these changes are underway and what to expect in the future. As well, they want to know what, if anything can be done, to stem this tide. It is for this reason I am writing this commentary—to provide biblical insight regarding the Emerging Church and where it is heading in the future.

The Gospel According to the Scriptures

Throughout church history, various trends have come and gone. While culture changes from place to place, biblical Christianity has always been based upon the central message of the Bible which is the gospel of Jesus Christ and the message never changes.

This gospel message is about who Jesus Christ is, and what He has done. A child can understand the gospel message. This message proclaims that life here on planet earth is finite and that life after death is eternal. The good news is that we can be saved from our sins if we will repent and simply ask for forgiveness and follow Him.

How we respond to the gospel message during the time we have on earth determines where we spend eternity—heaven or hell. Jesus, the Creator of the universe, provided a way and the only way we can spend eternity with Him. It is a matter of making a personal decision whether or not we will accept the plan He has provided.

God’s adversary does not want mankind to understand the simple message. His plan is to deceive the world. If he can blind people from the gospel or convince them that they believe the gospel when indeed they do not, his plan has been successful. Throughout the ages, countless billions have been duped, either rejecting the truth, or believing that they had believed the truth when instead they had been deceived.

The Gospel According to Postmoderism

Times change! However, the gospel must remain the same no matter what else changes. We are now living in the postmodern era. In a sincere attempt to reach the postmodern generation with the gospel, it seems many Christians have become postmodern in their thinking.

Perhaps the term postmodern is new to you. Let’s examine what it means.

First, the modern era was characterized by a time of rational thinking based on factual observation. Many claim the modern era ended in the mid 1900s.

The postmodern mindset moves beyond the rational and the factual to the experiential and the mystical. In other words, in the past it was possible to know right from wrong and black from white. In the postmodern era all things are relative to the beholder. What may be right for you may be wrong for someone else. There is no such thing as absolute truth. The only thing that is absolute is that there is no absolute.

We now live in a time in history that is characterized as postmodern. Professors at universities teach students there is no right or wrong. All things are relative. The gospel message to the postmodern mindset is far too dogmatic and arrogant. They say it is necessary to find a more moderate gospel that can be accepted by the masses.

Many church leaders are now looking for ways to reach the postmodern generation. They believe they can find the appropriate methods to do so without changing the message. However, in their attempt to reach this postmodern generation, they have become postmodern themselves and have changed the message. As the gospel is fixed upon the Scriptures, the gospel cannot change, unless of course it becomes another gospel. I believe this is what is happening in the Emerging Church.

He Didn’t Come

Many have noticed that since the turn of the millennium, their churches have changed positions on Bible prophecy and the Second Coming of Jesus. Many have given up on the return of Jesus. From the ‘60s on there was an excitement about the imminent return of Jesus. The Jesus People were excited about Bible prophecy and could see signs that Jesus would descend from the heavens for His Bride at any moment.

The year 2000 was of particular importance. When Jesus didn’t show up, it seems many were apparently disappointed. “Perhaps Jesus has delayed His coming,” some have said. Others are even taking the position that He may not be coming at all, at least not in the manner we have been taught. They are now convinced that we need to be busy about “building His Kingdom” here on earth by “whatever human effort is required.”

The Gospel of the Kingdom

One of the main indicators that something has changed can be seen in the way the future is perceived. Rather than urgently proclaiming the gospel according to the Scriptures and believing the time to do so is short, the emphasis has now shifted. No longer are “signs of the times” significant. The battle cry is very different. A major emphasis among evangelicals is the idea that the world can be radically improved through social programs.

This concept, while on the surface may sound very good, has some serious biblical implications. According to the Scriptures, there will be no kingdom of God until the King arrives. All the human effort man can muster up will fall short of bringing utopia. In fact, according to the Scriptures, fallen man will lead us further down the road to a society of despair and lawlessness just like it was in the days of Noah.

Thus, this purpose-driven view of establishing global utopia may be a plan, but it is “driven” by humanistic reasoning and not led by the Holy Spirit. While it is of course good to do good unto others, all the goodness that we can do will not be good enough. Pastors and church leaders who get involved in such man-driven programs can usually be identified by certain characteristics:

Sound biblical doctrine is dangerous and divisive, and the experiential (i.e.,mystical) is given a greater role than doctrine.

Bible prophecy is no longer taught and is considered a waste of time

Israel becomes less and less important and has no biblical significance

Eventually the promises for Israel are applied to the church and not Israel (Replacement Theology).

Bible study is replaced by studying someone’s book and his methods

Church health is evaluated on the quantity of people who attend.

The truth of God’s Word becomes less and less important

God’s Word, especially concepts like hell, sin and repentance, is eventually downplayed so the unbeliever is not offended.

Spiritual Formation and Transformation

Much of what I have described provides the formula for a dumbing-down of Christianity that paves the way for an apostasy that will only intensify in the future. This trend away from the authority of God’s Word to the reinvented form of Christianity has overcome all evangelical denominations like an avalanche. Few Bible teachers saw this avalanche coming. Now that it is underway, few realize it has even happened.

However, there is another big piece to the puzzle that must be identified in order to understand what is emerging in the Emerging Church. While biblical Christianity has been dumbed-down and the light of God’s Word diminished, another avalanche of deception is underway that is equally devastating.

This is best described by the Word of God giving way to experiences that God’s Word forbids. The best way to understand this process is to recall what happened during the Dark Ages when the Bible became the “forbidden book.” Until the Reformers translated the Bible into the language of the common person, the people were in darkness. When the light of God’s Word became available, the gospel according to the Scriptures was once again understood.

This trend, which is underway today, shows us that history is in the process of repeating itself. As the Word of God becomes less and less important, the rise of mystical experiences is alarming and these experiences are being presented to convince the unsuspecting that Christianity is about feeling, touching, smelling and seeing God. The postmodern mindset is the perfect environment for the fostering of what is called “spiritual formation.” This teaching suggests there are various ways and means to get closer to God. Proponents of spiritual formation erroneously teach that anyone can practice these mystical rituals and find God within. Having a relationship with Jesus Christ is not a prerequisite.

These teachings, while actually rooted in ancient wisdom (the occult), were presented to Christendom post-New Testament and not found in the Word of God. The spiritual formation movement is based upon experiences promoted by desert monks and Roman Catholic mystics – these mystics encouraged the use of rituals and practices, that if performed would bring the practitioner closer to God (or come into God’s presence). The premise was that if one went into the silence or sacred space, then the mind was emptied of distractions and the voice of God could be heard. In truth, these hypnotic, mantric style practices were leading these monks into altered states of consciousness. The methods they used are the same that Buddhists and the Hindus use as a means of encountering the spiritual realm

Such methods are dangerous, and are not sanctioned in the Bible – God gives no instruction for this. On the contrary, he warns severely against divination, which is practicing a ritual or method in order to obtain information from a spiritual source. While proponents of spiritual formation (like Richard Foster) say these methods show that the Holy Spirit is doing something new to refresh Christianity, I would suggest that what is happening is not new and is not the Holy Spirit.

The spiritual formation movement is being widely promoted at colleges and seminaries as the latest and the greatest way to become a spiritual leader in these days. These ideas are then being exported from seminaries to churches by graduates who have been primed to take Christianity to a new level of enlightenment.

As well, these contemplative practices are being promoted by emergent leaders such as Brian McLaren, Robert Webber, Dallas Willard and others. Publishers like NavPress, InterVarsity and Zondervan are flooding the market with books promoting contemplative practices based on Eastern mysticism. Pastors and church leaders read these books and then promote the ideas as if they were the scriptural answer to drawing close to God.

Signs the Emerging Church is Emerging

There are specific warning signs that are symptomatic that a church may be headed down the emergent/contemplative road. In some cases a pastor may not be aware that he is on this road nor understand where the road ends up.

Here are some of the warning signs:

Scripture is no longer the ultimate authority as the basis for the Christian faith.

The centrality of the gospel of Jesus Christ is being replaced by humanistic methods promoting church growth and a social gospel.

More and more emphasis is being placed on building the kingdom of God now and less and less on the warnings of Scripture about the imminent return of Jesus Christ and a coming judgment in the future.

The teaching that Jesus Christ will rule and reign in a literal millennial period is considered unbiblical and heretical.

The teaching that the church has taken the place of Israel and Israel has no prophetic significance is often embraced.

The teaching that the Book of Revelation does not refer to the future, but instead has been already fulfilled in the past

An experiential mystical form of Christianity begins to be promoted as a method to reach the postmodern generation.

Ideas are promoted teaching that Christianity needs to be reinvented in order to provide meaning for this generation.

The pastor may implement an idea called “ancient-future” or “vintage Christianity” claiming that in order to take the church forward, we need to go back in church history and find out what experiences were effective to get people to embrace Christianity.

While the authority of the Word of God is undermined, images and sensual experiences are promoted as the key to experiencing and knowing God.

These experiences include icons, candles, incense, liturgy, labyrinths, prayer stations, contemplative prayer, experiencing the sacraments, particularly the sacrament of the Eucharist.

There seems to be a strong emphasis on ecumenism indicating that a bridge is being established that leads in the direction of unity with the Roman Catholic Church.

Some evangelical Protestant leaders are saying that the Reformation went too far. They are reexamining the claims of the “church fathers” saying that communion is more than a symbol and that Jesus actually becomes present in the wafer at communion.

There will be a growing trend towards an ecumenical unity for the cause of world peace claiming the validity of other religions and that there are many ways to God.

Members of churches who question or resist the new changes that the pastor is implementing are reprimanded and usually asked to leave.

What does the Future Hold?

If the Emerging Church continues unfolding at the present pace, mainstream evangelical Christianity will be reinvented and the gospel of Jesus Christ according to the Scriptures will be considered too narrow and too restrictive. In other words, the narrow way to heaven that Jesus proclaimed will eventually be abandoned for a wider way that embraces pagan experiential practices. I call this reinvented, re-imagined form of Christianity that is unfolding—“Christian Babylonianism”.

This new form of Christianity will replace biblical faith with a faith that says man can establish the kingdom of God here on earth. The Word will continue to become secondary to a system of works driven by experiences.

An ecumenical pattern towards unity with Rome will become more apparent. Those who refuse to embrace this direction will be considered spiritual oddballs that need to be reprimanded. Those who stand up for biblical faith will be considered the obstructions to the one world spirituality that is promoted as the answer for peace.

The best way to be prepared for what is coming is to gain an understanding of what is happening now. While there are not many who seem to discern the trend underway, there are some. Without the Bible and the Holy Spirit as our guide, the darkness that is coming would be overwhelming. However, the light of God’s Word penetrates the darkness and there are those who are being delivered from deception and see what is taking place.

I am convinced we are seeing apostasy underway, exactly as the Scriptures have forewarned. This means that this current trend is not likely to disappear. We must continue to proclaim the truth in the midst of deception with love. As Paul instructed Timothy:

And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will (2 Timothy 2: 24-26).

There are still pastors and churches who are dedicated to proclaiming the truth. Find out where they are and support them. If you are in a location where this does not seem to be possible, seek out materials that are available from solid Bible-based Christian ministries and hold Bible studies in your own home.

And keep looking up! Jesus is coming soon.

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