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We know that voices that speak to you can cause havoc in your life. The stories fly in from media sources of those who “hear” voices telling them to do awful things like kill people or to harm oneself. We rightly determine that the source of these voices are evil and demonic.
Christians however often believe themselves protected from such deception. This is far from the truth. Our adversary the devil disguises himself as an angel of light. 2 Corthinians 11:14. He knows that his true identity needs to be hidden or else be outright rejected.
The problem is that Christians are often no longer satisfied with walking in faith and Sola Scripture. They are lured into seeking experiences. Meditative practices offer such spiritual delusion.
I speak from past experience. I was drawn into pentecostal theology of receiving personal “words”. It was pleasant. I was filled with joy at being used by the Lord. I wept with gratitude and humility. But something was wrong and I knew it. Nagging thoughts sent red flags.
I started praying for truth no matter how hard it would be to my pride. And it was pride. My thoughts got twisted. Surely the Lord would use me in this way because of my deep humility. I was led to 1 Samuel 15:23.
“For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has rejected you as king.”
This verse cut to my very soul and my sin was exposed. The scales fell from my eyes.
Encountering voices in contemplative prayer . . .
he who is not from God does not listen to us.
By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”
—The Apostle John, 1 John 4:6, NASB
Through practicing the discipline of solitude and silence, contemplative spiritualists hope to hear God personally speak to them. As one nationally known personality stated on the Be Still DVD, “intimacy automatically breeds revelation.” But if a voice speaks, there is some question regarding its identity. Therefore in the video’s same segment, “Fear of Silence,” Richard Foster offers advice about how to discern who might communicate in the stillness. He said:
Learning to distinguish the voice of God… from just human voices within us… comes in much the same way that we learn any other voice. Satan pushes and condemns. God draws and encourages. And we can know the difference.
Though there could be others, Richard Foster admits to cacophony of possible voices that might speak: first, human voices within and without (a source that could involve hearing oneself speak, in which case, contemplators would be listening to themselves); second, the voice of Satan or demons; and third, God’s voice.
In order to determine whose voice might be speaking, Foster provides criteria. If the voice ispositiveand reaffirming, then the voice is God’s. If however the voice is negative and that like a bully who “pushes and condemns,” then the voice must be that of Satan. To discern whether or not the voice is human, Foster offers no advice.
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By Marsha West
Is it possible for a Christian to know God’s will and not have to agonize over it? Should a believer make a decision without first spending hours in prayer, asking God to reveal His will? Must a Christian avoid making a decision until he or she has a “peace about it”? What about waiting for a “sign” from God? Is it okay for a Christian to consult a psychic or a Ouija board to seek God’s guidance?
A married couple, John and Tina, is faced with a dilemma. They would like to move to Colorado to be closer to John’s family. They’ve been praying about it, asking God to show them His will. Their decision must be made before the end of the week, yet they’re still not sure what God wants them to do — should they stay or should they go?
Naturally John and Tina are confused and frustrated. John is leaning toward moving because he knows it will be good for the kids to live close to their grandparents. He’s even getting excited about it. Not Tina! She wants to wait for a “confirmation,” from God before they pull up stakes and move half way across the country.
John and Tina are in the proverbial pickle.
Many Christians talk about finding God’s will as though it were some deep dark secret, hidden away in the pages of Scripture. Maybe God doesn’t want us to find it.
Where does the Bible teach that God tries to hide His will from us?
Tina and John believe their heavenly Father loves them, yet they’ve decided that He’s hiding His will from them. Maybe God likes playing hide and seek.
Most good parents want what’s best for their children, right? So does it make sense that God would want to hide His will from those He loves? If Tina and John really believe He’s a loving Father, why are they clinging to the ridiculous notion that He wants to keep them in the dark?
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
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.”
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/
It is used in Tai Chi to manipulate the flow of the occultic chi energy (http://groups.ku.edu/~kungfu
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.”
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).
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).
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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Have you ever gone to church leadership because of some alarming things being taught in your church?
As the Great Falling Away continues in our beloved church communities, it seems that even those who once were thought “solid” are not immune to the yeast of false teachings and rogue leadership bent on silencing concerns. It may have happened to you.
A friend of mine allowed me to re-publish her testimony on our site, and it’s one that might stir a lot of emotions for many of you. What happened to her and her family is very sad, but what her family is doing now serves as a tale and a trend you are going to be hearing a lot more about in the year ahead.
Suffering for the Truth By Jenna Guerette (Originally published at Truth or Trend)
This ministry received a cult-like following at my church.
The next Sunday, a congregational meeting was held. They stated that my family hadn’t been kicked out. Bits of my letter were read out of context. A man who had eaten numerous dinners in our home, slandered my Mom and myself in front of the church. A trusted friend told me what happened at this meeting. All in all, the meeting was a complete snow job. It was my family’s word against the elders. The elders were anointed by God. How could they be wrong?
Contemplative Prayer Movement and Its Origin
Published in the Christian Chronicle – By S. E. Ray – 06/18/06
There is a prayer practice that is becoming popular within the evangelical church. It is primarily known as Contemplative Prayer. It is also known as centering prayer, listening prayer, breath prayer, and prayer of the heart. The practice is now widely embraced and taught in secular and professed Christian seminaries, colleges, universities, organizations, ministries and seminars throughout the United States. Academic promoters have introduced these practices into the fields of medicine; business and law while countless secular and Christian books, magazines, seminars, and retreats are teaching lay people how to incorporate them into their daily lives. Promoters promise physical, mental and spiritual benefits desiring to bring about positive social change.
The essential function of contemplative prayer is to enter an altered state of consciousness in order to find one’s true self, thus striving to find God. Proponents of contemplative prayer teach that all human beings have a divine center and that all, not just born again believers, should practice contemplative prayer. To achieve the state of emptiness, one uses a “mantra,” a word repeated over and over to focus the mind while striving to go deep within oneself. The effects are a hypnotic-like state: concentration upon one thing, disengagement from other stimuli, a high degree of openness to suggestion, a psychological and physiological condition that externally resembles sleep but in which consciousness is interiorized and the mind subject to suggestion.
In the early Middle Ages during the 4th through 6th centuries, there lived a group of hermits in the wilderness areas of the Middle East. They were known to history as the Desert Fathers. They dwelt in small isolated communities for the purpose of devoting their lives completely to God without distraction. The contemplative movement traces its roots back to these monks. They were the ones who first promoted the mantra as a prayer tool. “The meditation practices and rules for living of these earliest Christian monks bear strong similarity to those of their Hindu and Buddhist enunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East… the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery.'” From A Time of Departing, p. 42, 2nd ed. (Ray Yungen)
[See photo of Thomas Keating and Thomas Merton below.]
Most New Agers, occultist and Eastern Mystics teach this type of praying, along with certain individuals within Christianity. Two influential writers who have popularized “contemplative prayer” in the evangelical church are Richard Foster and Brennan Manning. Both these men have written popular “Christian” books about contemplative prayer. And, both quote the Catholic mystics such as Thomas Merton and Thomas Keating. Through the late 1960s and early 1970s, Father Keating and two other monks met with Buddhist and Hindu teachers in an effort to understand the mass defection of young Catholics at the time, people drawn in part to the East’s meditation practices. Their research led Keating, then an abbot at a Massachusetts monastery, to begin unearthing a similar meditative method based on the Christian tradition. The East was mixed with Catholicism to yield new appeal to the defecting younger generation of that time.
Contemplative Prayer differs from Christian prayer in that the intent of the technique is to bring the practitioner to the center of his own being. There he is, supposedly, to experience the presence of the God who indwells him. Christian prayer, on the contrary, centers upon God in a relational way, as an independent power apart from oneself but realized intimately through the Holy Spirit. The confusion of this technique with Christian practitioners arises from a misunderstanding of the indwelling of God. The fact that God indwells us does not mean that we can capture his presence by mental techniques. Nor does it mean that we are identical with him in our deepest self as gods. Rather, the Creator God indwells us by grace that does not blend human effort and His divine presence.
Contemplative prayer claims for itself the experience of God, while setting aside external realities and overcoming the “otherness” of God. It takes these characteristics not from Christian tradition but from Hinduism, through the medium of Transcendental Meditation. The practice of TM is Hinduism adapted by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, a Hindu guru, for use in a Western cultural setting. Fr. Pennington, one of the authors of centering prayer and an ardent supporter of TM, says, “Mahesh Yogi, employing the terminology of the ancient Vedic tradition, speaks of this ‘to plunge into deep, deep rest for fifteen or twenty minutes twice a day’ as experiencing the Absolute.” The prayer technique may also incorporate the Buddhist Zen practice of Zazen, or sitting meditation, which involves the detached observation of the thoughts.
Paul writes in scripture, “So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my mind; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my mind.” (I Corinthians 14:15 NIV). He does not say that he will pray with the spirit and clear the mind, but with the spirit and the mind. Clearing ones mind as to be vacant, and trusting God to fill it with whatever He desires, not only has no biblical grounding but also is an open invitation to spiritual invasion of unfriendly familiars. Buddhists call this state Nirvana or Satori, the New Age calls it “at-one-ness”, and Christian mystics perceive they have experienced some kind of ecstatic union with God. Former practitioners have reported insomnia, new fears and paranoia’s, unusual emotional outbursts without restraint, swirling emotions with confusion among others. There is a complete vulnerability in the psychological state of one who practices contemplative prayer, a state that may allow unwelcome visitation without resistance. Contemplative prayer, TM and such practices drop the physiological and psychological boundaries that, in our fallen state, are a fail-safe protection for the human mind and spirit.
The meditation of occultists is identical with the prayer of Christian mystics: it is no accident that both traditions use the same method for the highest reaches of their respective pursuits. Occultism is defined as the science of mystical evolution; it is the employment of the hidden mystical faculties of man to discern the hidden reality of nature, and to experience God as the all in all. In New Age meditation, human efforts are relied upon to realize God. The goal is not to seek God as an Other, but to achieve an altered state of consciousness. Where a Christian seeks dialogue and interaction with God and, with his help, the “restoration of all things in Christ,” by a certain “participation in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 NIV), the Mystic seeks God in the inner self and escape from the distractions of the outer world.
Richard Foster in his book, Prayer: Finding the heart’s True Home, he speaks of the practice of “breath prayer,” in which a Christian-sounding word or phrase is repeated over and over again like a mantra. Foster wrote “Christian meditation is an attempt to empty the mind in order to fill it” (pg. 72). This “breath prayer” idea has gained popularity in charismatic circles that frequently sing of “breathing in Jesus” or variations thereof. Jesus instructed his followers NOT to use vain repetitions as the heathen do (Matthew 6:7). Mantra meditation was practiced by pagan religions (including Hinduism and Buddhism), centuries before Christ was born. Jesus knew about this form of prayer and most scholars agree he was referring to it directly in his teaching.
“Silence, appropriate body posture and above all, emptying the mind through repetition of prayer—have been the practices of mystics in all the great world religions. And they form the basis on which most modern spiritual directors guide those who want to draw closer to God.… Silence is the language God speaks … says Thomas Keating who taught “centering prayer” to more than 31,000 people last year. Keating suggests that those who pray repeat some “sacred word,” like God or Jesus.” Newsweek, January 6, 1992, article called, “Talking to God,” p. 44.
“In advising against being carried away by artificial practices such as Transcendental Meditation I am but repeating the age-old message of the Church…. The way of the Fathers requires firm faith and long patience, whereas our contemporaries want to seize every spiritual gift, including even direct contemplation of the Absolute God, by force and speedily, and will often draw a parallel between prayer in the Name of Jesus and yoga or Transcendental Meditation and the like. I must stress the danger of such errors…. He is deluded who endeavors to divest himself mentally of all that is transitory and relative in order to cross some invisible threshold, to realize his eternal origin, his identity with the Source of all that exists, in order to return and merge with him, the nameless transpersonal Absolute. Such exercises have enabled many to rise to supernatural contemplation of being, to experience a certain mystical trepidation, to know the state of silence of mind, when mind goes beyond the boundaries of time and space. In such like states man may feel the peacefulness of being withdrawn from the continually changing phenomena of the visible world, may even have a certain experience of eternity. But the God of Truth, the Living God, is not in all this.”Archimandrite Sophrony of Mount Athos, former Eastern mystic converted to Christ.
“The mystical “spirituality” that is so popular in evangelical and charismatic circles today is a yearning for an experiential relationship with God that downplays the role of faith and Scripture and that exalts “transcendental” experiences that lift the individual from the earthly mundane into a higher “spiritual” plane. Biblical prayer is talking with God; mystical spirituality prayer is meditation and “centering” and other such things. Biblical Christianity is a patient walk of faith; mystical spirituality is more a flight of fancy. Biblical study is analyzing and meditating upon the literal truth of the Scripture; mystical spirituality focuses on a “deeper meaning”; it is more allegorical and “transcendental” than literal.” Way of Life, David W. Cloud.
What would the martyrs of the faith say to us if they could speak of our current Western practice of intermingling Christianity with Eastern religion and the occult? Those who were put to death for their faith in Jesus Christ after departed from Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Paul words ring true today and is a strong exhortation to those who try to mix the ways of darkness with the light. “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils; you cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table and of the table of devils.” (I Cor. 10:21 NIV, II Tim 3:5). With extreme prejudice, examine everything against scripture and be cautious about receiving the popular “new” teachings being promoted today in the Church by trusted leaders who are entrenched.
This is an excerpt from Ray Yungen’s “A Time of Departing” chapter 7 “Seducing Spirits.”
Pastor Ron Comer, my good friend who wrote the forward for this book, first became aware of the dangers of contemplative prayer when he was seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. As the youth pastor of a large, dynamic evangelical church, he longed to draw closer to God and hear His voice. He shared with me the following story of how he heard the voice of the Lord, but it was a much different outcome than what he expected. He spoke of how God’s grace rescued him from seducing spirits. I’ll let him recount his own experience with contemplative prayer.
One day I decided to lock myself in my office and not come out until I knew I had met God. I took from my shelf a book by Richard Foster called Celebration of Discipline. I had briefly read it years before but did not give much attention to its practical application. Now, as I began to read, I was intrigued by the freshness of Foster’s approach. It seemed so freeing to come before God and just empty me of myself. I knew God could not fill me if self was in the way.
I laid the book on the floor and got on my knees. I began to step through Foster’s teachings of how to come before God. I emptied my mind of all thought and began to repeat sacred words that brought praise to God. I found myself repeating the same words over and over. After a period of about two hours, I began to feel a release from all my cares. As contrary as it seems, my body began to feel an energy that was both exciting and relaxing. My mind was at peace and my spirit open to any experience God would share with me. I began to slip into a euphoric, mystical state. Suddenly I was struck by five powerful words that penetrated every sense of my existence. The words were firm but loving. My inner spirit had never heard such clarity. The five words were, “This is not from Me!”
Immediately upon hearing these words I began to grieve at all I was doing, and I repented — feeling polluted and foolish. I quickly realized I had not been enjoying God but had opened my mind and heart to a seducing spirit. God ended this episode by confirming in my spirit I needed to stay alert and discerning for deceptive spirits that were amazingly good at emulating the Spirit of God and masquerading as angels of light.
There is an alarming promotion of the mystic contemplatives from Christian ministries lately. One would be wise to avoid Henry Blackaby, Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Thomas Keating, Brennan Manning, Thomas Merton, etc. I would recommend reading “A Time of Departing” by Ray Yungen to protect your spiritual life from deception. On the surface these teachings from these men may sound lovely but they are misleading you.
Source for “A Time of Departing” HERE
50 Questionable Teachings From Experiencing God
By Reese Currie, Compass Distributors
Courses are admitted into evangelical churches, oftentimes without any sort of objective theological review. For Experiencing God, I have reviewed the materials from a Biblical viewpoint and noted any teachings that conflict with Scripture, as well as any teaching techniques that are questionable. I found 50 such teachings or techniques in Experiencing God that fall into one of the following categories:
- Debatable: There are subtle Biblical arguments against a point, but I am not adamant that Blackaby’s point is incorrect; I am simply saying the point is debatable.
- Fallacious: Using an argumentative logical fallacy to support a view.
- Inaccurate: The usage of Scripture is not completely accurate.
- Inarticulate: A carelessly applied word that can be interpreted very badly.
- Inconsistent: A teachers’s life choices are inconsistent with what he teaches.
- Misapplication: A misapplication of Scripture to a situation.
- Misinterpretation: A false impression of the Scripture is given due to poor exegesis.
- Self-contradictory: One teaching conflicts with another.
- Unbiblical: Directly contradicts Bible teaching.
These teachings have to be addressed in the order they appear in the book because Blackaby builds upon false premises throughout Experiencing God. You will find that some of the early teachings that I document seem quite minor, but they build into major doctrinal faults as they grow on the potter’s wheel of Henry Blackaby.
- Class: Unbiblical. Introduction to Unit 1, page 7. Henry Blackaby teaches that we should “operate our budgets on prayer,” budget for more than we have and hope the money will come in. This is counter to Luke 14:28, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it?” The question is not whether he can get the money. The question is whether he has it now. Jesus’ words apply to counting the cost of discipleship, not church funding; however, it is plain that Jesus thought that the logic of having the resources at hand before building a tower was a given.
- Class: Misapplication. Unit 1, page 11. Jesus’ statement, “I am the Way” from John 14:6 is applied to ministry decisions. A quotation is given in the margin that only refers to the statement, ” I am the way, the truth, and the life:”, and the inaccurate translation quoted substitutes an unwarranted period instead of the colon from this KJV quotation. No indication is given that this is a partial quotation or a sentence fragment. John 14:6 actually reads, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” The text has nothing to do with “daily guidance” or ministry decisions, but Blackaby uproots the words from their context to make an application never intended by Christ or the Bible writers.
- Class: Unbiblical/inarticulate. Unit 1, page 17. “With God working through that servant, he or she can do anything God can do. Wow! Unlimited potential!” This is the first dangerous false teaching in Experiencing God. It is not true; for instance, I know of no Christian who can create a baby in the womb. Psalm 139:13 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” This is also the first teaching of Satan to Eve, that she could be just like God.
- Class: Fallacious. Unit 1, page 18. King (the man who writes the exercises in Experiencing God) poses the question, “When we finish a task and feel frustrated that lasting spiritual fruit is not visible, could the reason be that we are attempting very little that only God can do?” This is what is called a complex question. To answer the question, we have to first agree that Blackaby’s principle that “we can do anything God can do” (from point #3) is correct. The question is worded so that you have to accept Blackaby’s principle in order to answer either positive or negative. This is a cultic teaching technique used by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 1, page 18. Blackaby’s statement “you come to know God by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you” is inarticulate in the extreme and suggests a works salvation. At the most, the text should say, “You come to know God better by experience as you obey Him and He accomplishes His work through you.” The initial coming to know God is only by repentance and faith. This teaching itself is the first sign of mysticism in Experiencing God.
- Class: Self-contradictory. Unit 1, page 24. “Whenever God gets ready to do something, He always reveals to a person or His people what He is going to do” is self-contradictory with “Many times, as with Abram, God called people just to follow Him… He is more likely to call you to follow one day at a time than He is to spell out all the details before you begin to obey Him.” (Unit 1, page 11.) The teaching also implies that God is not in something if what is happening has not been previously revealed to anyone, which is patently ridiculous.
- Class: Debatable. Unit 2, page 28. “You never find God asking persons to dream up what they want to do for Him.” This point is debatable Scripturally. For example, Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Surely, thinking about what service you could offer God would be included in that definition.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 2, page 31. “Suppose He wants to do it through you. He comes to you and talks to you. But you are so self-centered, and you respond, ‘I don’t think I am trained. I don’t think I am able to do it. And I …’ Do you see what happens? The focus is on self.”I disagree with Blackaby’s point. Jesus’ teaching on discipleship requires self-evaluation. Quoting again from Luke 14:26-30, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.”In Isaiah 6:5-7 we read, “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.” Isaiah’s concern was not invalid. In His case one of the seraphims dealt with Isaiah’s problem. In our modern times, it could be a person who feels they aren’t trained should go get some training.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 2, page 37. “They may ask, ‘Can’t I get a word from God from the Bible?’ Yes you can! But only the Holy Spirit of God can reveal to you which truth of Scripture is a word from God in a particular circumstance.” This view of Scripture conflicts with 2Timothy 3:16, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” All Scripture is always profitable. There is no point at time at which any word of Scripture becomes untrue or unprofitable.
- Class: Inconsistent. Unit 2, page 37. “You also need to be very careful about claiming you have a word from God. Claiming to have a word from God is serious business.” I agree with Blackaby here, yet Blackaby is a member of Promise Keepers which is inconsistent with his stated position. Promise Keepers’ leader, Bill McCartney, constantly claims he has a word from God in his speeches, such as his statement that “God told him” that every church should send Promise Keepers $1000, reported by the Denver Post.
- Class: Unbiblical/self-contradictory. Unit 2, page 38. “He speaks to His servant when He is ready to move. Otherwise He wouldn’t speak to you.” Blackaby makes it sound as if God only speaks to give high-pressure assignments and never speaks to simply address the concern of one of His children. Blackaby elsewhere claims that God speaks to us through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church. Answered prayer, therefore, is God speaking to us. John 14:14 says, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” Therefore God does speak to us for things that are our concerns, not necessarily His work.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 3, page 48. “You, too, can so order your life under God’s direction that you come to know Him, love Him only, and become like Christ.” It is not at all God’s desire that we love Him only. “For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11). “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death” (1 John 3:14). “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:7-8).
- Class: Self-contradictory. Unit 3, page 53. “They seem to think that God is far off and unconcerned about their day to day living. That is not the God we see in the Scriptures.” This is a true statement. It contradicts his statement “He speaks to His servant when He is ready to move. Otherwise He wouldn’t speak to you.” On the one hand, he says God wouldn’t even speak to us if He didn’t want us to do something, and on the other hand, he says God is concerned about our day to day living.
- Class: Inarticulate. Unit 3, page 55. “He invites you to relate to Him, so He can accomplish His work through you.” Is this really God’s motive? That would be like getting married so that the wife could do the housework or so that the husband could be the breadwinner. God’s reason for relating to us is simply that we personally will not perish; working with Him is a gift He gives some people. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (1Peter 3:9).
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 3, page 55. “His whole plan for the advance of the Kingdom depends His working in real and practical ways through His relationship to His people.” No, it doesn’t. God is pretty powerless if He needs people to accomplish His tasks. For instance, in Revelation we read, “And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people” (Revelation 14:6). God is in no way dependent upon man.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 4, page 57. “You will find that the call to relationship is also a call to be on mission with Him.” False. A good example is the woman caught in adultery. In parting, Jesus says to her, “When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:10-11). There are people that were in relationship to Jesus but were called to no kind of ministry at all. Jesus asked nothing of them but simply to keep holy lives themselves. In John 5:14, the man that Jesus cured at the well was simply told, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” There is more than one example of this being the case, where Jesus made no call to mission of certain people for reasons known only to Him.
- Class: Misinterpretation. Unit 4, page 65. Blackaby insists, “Jesus watched to see where the Father was at work.” The verses that Blackaby derives this teaching from have absolutely nothing to say about “watching” and had nothing whatsoever to do with “where.” John 5:19 says, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” Not a word about “watching.” “Seeing,” yes. But “watching” makes Jesus someone less than God and smacks of Arian heresy. “Where” has nothing whatsoever to do with what Jesus said and is simply an unbiblical addition to what was actually said. I will not make additional examples everywhere that Blackaby applies this particular misinterpretation of the Bible (there are a great number), but only say that while it may be true of us, it is blasphemous to say of Jesus. In reality, though, Blackaby’s interpretation is not even true of us. I may see God working anywhere in the world, but that does not make it necessarily God’s will that I go there and “join Him.”
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 5, page 73. “Could Moses logically prove to someone else that he had heard from God? No, all Moses could do was testify to his encounter with God.” This is utterly unbiblical, and it is designed to give Blackaby authority for claiming that God “speaks to him” all the time without any evidence.In Exodus 4:1-8, God gives Moses a few means to prove that God had spoken to him. It says, “And Moses answered and said, But, behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The LORD hath not appeared unto thee. And the LORD said unto him, What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the LORD said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand, and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand: That they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared unto thee. And the LORD said furthermore unto him, Put now thine hand into thy bosom. And he put his hand into his bosom: and when he took it out, behold, his hand was leprous as snow. And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and, behold, it was turned again as his other flesh. And it shall come to pass, if they will not believe thee, neither hearken to the voice of the first sign, that they will believe the voice of the latter sign.”
- Class: Debatable. Unit 5, page 75. “If you start ‘doing’ before you have a direction from God, more than likely you will be wrong.” The apostles operated full-time on only one direction: “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46b-47). We already have that direction from God. What Blackaby is talking about here is an old Pietist teaching that John Wesley called “quietism.” John Wesley did not live by that principle, taking the divine commission at face value, and won a lot more converts than the Pietists ever did. There is a “general” thing to be doing all the time, in addition to the specific things that God gives more leading on.
- Class: Self-contradictory. Unit 5, page 75. “God is more interested in a love relationship with you than He is in what you can do for Him.” I agree with this point. It contradicts Blackaby’s other point, “You will find that the call to relationship is also a call to be on mission with Him.”
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 6, page 96. “Jesus always was looking for where the Father was at work, and joined Him.” We have already demonstrated that the concepts of “looking” and “where” are not part of the Scripture passage that Blackaby bases this teaching on; the Scriptures simply say that what Jesus does what He sees God doing, in other words, He does the same things God is doing. Doing the same things God is doing have nothing to do with watching to see where God is working and joining Him; it is simply a way of life wherever you are. The trouble is, sometimes an erroneous principle is established in Blackaby’s courses and then accepted as a given forever after.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 6, page 100. “You never know the truth of a situation until you have heard from Jesus.” This would seem to contradict Paul’s teaching from 1Corinthians 5:12-13, “For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.” That means that, based on the knowledge we have already received from Christ through the Bible, we are already qualified to judge matters within the church; and it is those who are outside the church that God judges. This is another example of Blackaby trying to twist Jesus’ statement “I am the Way”, meaning, the way to God and salvation, to specific situations within a church.
- Class: Inconsistent. Unit 6, page 104. “Way back in my teen years I began to sense a deep burden for communities all across Canada that did not have an evangelical church.” I agree with Blackaby here that it the witness of non-evangelical churches is terrible, they don’t even preach the gospel. But Blackaby in real life is an ecumenist (see points #45 and #46), which is to view all types of churches as being equal; so it should not matter to him whether they were evangelical, liberal or Catholic. If it does matter, he certainly should not be an ecumenist.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 7, page 108. In the introduction, Blackaby reiterates his teaching that budgets should be set far higher than you can manage and God will pull through. He gives his example, that the church budget was normally $74,000, they budgeted for $164,000, and they actually received $172,000. Blackaby closes by saying, “God taught our church a lesson in faith that radically changed us all.” But my question is, does God teach a lesson about faith that causes one to disregard the principle underlying the plainly stated word of Jesus in Luke 14:27-33? That sounds more like a departure from the faith to me.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 7, page 109. “When God invites you to join Him in His work, He has a God-sized assignment for you. You will realize that you cannot do it on your own. If God doesn’t help you, you will fail.” Wasn’t one of Jesus’ teachings, “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not” (Matthew 25:42-43). These are all things we can easily do for people, they are God’s work, and He has commanded us to be involved with Him in these things. There are certainly things that cannot be achieved without God’s help, but to claim that everything that can be done without God’s help are not ministries is wrong to the point of being heretical.
- Class: Inconsistent. Unit 7, page 110. “If we looked at all of the circumstances, would we have proceeded? No. But, what you believe about God will determine what you do. When God tells you what He wants to do through you, you will face a crisis of belief. What you do shows what you believe.” This goes directly against Blackaby’s other statement, from Unit 2, page 37, “God speaks by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.” This statement from Unit 2, page 37 is the entire tenor of the course.
- Class: Inconsistent. Unit 7, page 111. The statement “Encounters with God are God-sized” is directly contradictory with this true statement from Unit 5, page 78, “You cannot understand the Word of God unless the Spirit of God teaches you. When you come to the word of God, the Author Himself is present to instruct you. You never discover truth; truth is revealed. When the Holy Spirit reveals truth to you, He is not leading you to an encounter with God. That is an encounter with God.” God encounters us in some small things like understanding small spiritual truths. It does not always have to be a huge production to be an encounter with God.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 7, page 113. “When God lets you know what He wants to do through you, it will be something only God can do.” To reiterate my earlier point on this, from Matthew 25:42-43 and many other places in Scripture, we learn of things we can easily do for people that God commands us to do. I am sure that getting money together to bail out the church in Jerusalem was not presented by Paul as being something only God could do, for instance. This teaching of Blackaby’s denigrates any good work that God has called us to that isn’t impossible for man.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 7, page 116. “I have come to the point in my life that, if the assignment I sense God is giving me is something that I know I can handle, I know it is probably not from God.” It makes me wonder if we’re reading the same Bible. When God told Joseph to move his family to Egypt to escape Herod, was God giving Joseph a task that Joseph could not do? It is fortunate that Joseph did not have the same theology as Henry Blackaby or Christ would have died as an infant!
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 7, page 116. “When God’s people and the world see something happen that only God can do, they come to know God.” This is signs and wonders theology straight out of the charismatic movement. Paul wrote in 1Corinthians 1:21, “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Not by signs and wonders, but by preaching, the world comes to know God. And no one at all comes to know God unless they repent. The question is given on page 118, “How will the world come to know God?” and the required answer is, “By seeing God work.” False. Everyone who comes to know God comes by repentance and faith. This false teaching of Blackaby’s is reiterated dozens of times throughout Unit 7.
- Class: Fallacious. Unit 7, page 119. Henry Blackaby openly proclaims his belief that God manipulated the national economy of Canada on behalf of his single church by forcing the Canadian dollar to hit rock bottom for a time so that funding coming from Texas would yield more Canadian dollars than it would have. This fallacy is called causal reductionism. It seems quite unlikely to me that God Himself manipulated the economy, putting who knows how many families in jeopardy as the parents lost their jobs.
- Class: Misapplication. Unit 9, page 146. Blackaby takes a Scripture, 1John 2:3-6, “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” Then, Blackaby writes, “Each ‘new’ command of Jesus will require a new knowledge and understanding of Him.”But the Scripture cannot possibly be interpreted as discussing “new commands.” We are to walk even as He “walked”, past tense. And as for commandments of Jesus, I know of only two, “Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:35-40).John speaks of keeping commandments from the Bible as a sign of obedience and love for God. Blackaby extends this out to some “new” commandments he thinks Jesus is giving, which is indicative of a belief in “progressive revelation.” Not much wonder Blackaby so heartily supports Roman Catholicism.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 9, page 153. “When God purposes to do something through you, the assignment will have God-sized dimensions. This is because God wants to reveal Himself to you and those around you. If you can do the work in your own strength, people will not come to know God. However, if God works through you to do what only He can do, you and those around you will come to know Him.” This is utterly unbiblical. According to the Bible, “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1Corinthians 1:21b). This notion that people will not be saved unless God moves mountains for them comes from Blackaby’s charismatic influence through Promise Keepers.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 9, page 160. “Some people go to much trouble studying Satan’s ways so they can identify when something appears to be a deception of Satan. I don’t do that. I have determined not to focus on Satan. He is defeated … The only way Satan can affect God’s work through me is when I believe Satan and disbelieve God.” This is the most unbiblical possible counsel from Blackaby, and it demonstrates why he is so easily deceived by Promise Keepers and the ecumenical movement. He refuses to be on guard against the devil’s work.1Peter 5:8 warns, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”Ephesians 6:11 warns, “Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”1Timothy 4:1 says, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.”
Blackaby refuses to consider the possibility of being deceived by the devil in any of his teachings, which is nothing more than spiritual pride.
(By the way, the simple way of knowing the devil’s work is it is based on perversion, which is the denial of important differences. For instance, sexual perverts deny the differences between genders and generations. The devil used this strategy in the garden of Eden, telling Eve she could be like God, denying the essential difference between God and mankind. Wherever there is a denial of differences, such as in the ecumenical movement, one may be positive that the devil is at work.)
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 9, page 160. The question is asked, rhetorically, “Does God plan your life for eternity and then turn you loose to work out His plan?” Blackaby’s answer is no, but let’s be careful about that, Henry! Paul writes, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 10, page 162. In the introduction, Blackaby writes of a salvation experience involving a number of different members of his local church. Unfortunately, the story is spoiled by the last line, “Who won Doug to the Lord? The body did!” Far from it, Henry. John 6:44 says, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.” Who really won Doug to the Lord? God did. He may have used people, but let’s remember to give God the glory.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 10, page 1. “Church members need to be taught how to walk with God. They need to know how to hear Him speaking. They need to be able to identify things only God can do.” The problem is, nothing in the New Testament supports Blackaby’s assumptions. The human part of the divine commission was not to do something only God could do. It was to preach the message of repentance and remission of sins to all nations (Luke 24:47), to baptize and make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). These are things that man can do. God needs to help for the effort to be successful, but man can do everything Christ commanded. (Note that Christ didn’t command anyone to “save people”; that’s God’s part of the work.) What people need is to obey the command already given, not “watch and wait” for new commands that come out of the heads of dreamers.
- Class: Inconsistent. Unit 10, page 164. “Individuals often think that a work for God can be done with whatever means are necessary. They don’t hesitate to violate God’s written will in order to accomplish something they think is His will.” I agree with Blackaby’s statement here, but if he were to apply it in his own life, would he be an ecumenist, while many verses forbid even giving a greeting to a person who preaches a different doctrine? Such verses include Galatians 1:8-10; Romans 16:17-18; 1Timothy 1:3; 4:16; 6:3-5; 2Timothy 4:1-4; Titus 1:9; Hebrews 13:9; and 2John 8-11.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 10, page 168. Blackaby is speaking about “corporately” knowing the will of God when he writes, “When God speaks to a person about the church, the person should share with the body what he or she senses God is saying. As each member shares what he senses God is saying, the whole body goes to God in prayer to discern His will for the body. In His timing God confirms to the body what He is saying. Individual opinions are not that important. The will of God is very important. No single method can be given for discerning God’s will as a body.”This is not the truth. If it were actually practiced in the first church, the Corinthian church would never have expelled the man who was sleeping with his father’s wife. Paul was the one who disagreed; his “one opinion” was quite important because it was based on Scriptural teaching. Paul wrote in 1Corinthians 5:1-2, “It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you.” The sad fact is, most people in churches reject much of what Scripture teaches. One opinion is much more important than that of the majority, if Scripture backs up that one opinion.
- Class: Fallacious/Unbiblical. Unit 10, page 169. Blackaby is discussing how he would not proceed with plans without a major consensus from the church body. Then he writes, “People often ask, ‘Did you always wait until you got a 100 percent vote?’ No, I knew that we might have one or more that were so out of fellowship with the Lord that they could not hear his voice. Another might be purposefully disobedient…. I did not get angry or disappointed with those who did not agree with the rest of the body. Their disagreement indicated that they might have a fellowship problem with the Lord.”This is utter cultism. The argument is first based on an argumentative fallacy called ad hominem. Rather than consider the validity of a minority view, Blackaby prefers to question their fellowship with God. His approach becomes unbiblical in light of 1Corinthians 5 (see point #39). In that situation, Blackaby would have to label Paul either “out of fellowship with the Lord” or “purposefully disobedient” because he disagreed with the majority opinion to have a fornicator in the church. This one paragraph from Experiencing God should put any cult researcher into a state of alert.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 10, page 170. “If the people walk with God, then I can trust God to guide them… If the people do not walk in right fellowship with God, then I depend on God to guide me in helping them become what He wants them to be.” Both of these statements are false teachings and I will deal with them one at a time. In Galatians 2:11 Paul writes, “But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” Did Peter not walk with God? Of course Peter did. That does not prevent someone from making mistakes. When Blackaby’s entire phrasing is taken into account, however, it reveals his view that when people agree with Blackaby, they are walking with God, and when they do not agree with Blackaby, they are not walking with God. This is an incredible degree of arrogance, and it strongly suggests that Blackaby desires a “personality cult” to spring up around him.
- Class: Misapplication. Unit 11, page 184. “You cannot be in relationship with Jesus and not be on mission. Jesus said, ‘As the Father has sent me, I am sending you’ (John 20:21).” In actual fact, there were many people in Scripture who were saved but were not “on mission.” God does not necessarily call a person into mission. Everyone supports mission, but not everyone is on mission. In Matthew’s account of the deliverance of the Divine Commission, we read in Matthew 28:16, “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.” Jesus took His eleven disciples to a mountain away from everyone else to give them the commission to reach the world. Not everyone is called to be a missionary, and it does not mean that Jesus doesn’t love them. People who have bought in to Blackaby’s teachings become very judgmental of what they call “pew-sitters,” people without whose heartfelt financial support, ministry would be utterly impossible.
- Class: Misinterpretation/inaccurate/misapplication. Unit 11, page 188. On the parable of the wheat and the tares, Blackaby writes, “Using this parable, Jesus teaches that some lost and evil people are mixed with true believers in churches.” Blackaby is blatantly contradicting one key part of Jesus’ own explanation of the parable. Jesus does not say that field is the church. Jesus says, “The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one” (Matthew 13:38). The “true church” is not populated with any unbelievers. Acts 2:47 says, “And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” Man’s “churches” contain all kinds of unbelievers, but the true assembly of God contains absolutely none.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 11, page 198. “Can God-like Koinonia [fellowship] exist between churches of different denominations as they co-operate to achieve greater Kingdom purposes? Yes! However, humans left to their own ways cannot achieve those kinds of relationships. Only God through His Holy Spirit can create and sustain Koinonia between His people. He wants to be King, Ruler, and Sovereign over all His kingdom. When He is allowed to rule, man-made barriers will fall.”If God is to be allowed to rule, wouldn’t everyone have to be in agreement with the things He teaches? Blackaby co-operates with many different doctrines and versions of the gospel, including the works-salvation of Roman Catholicism, and the baptismal regeneration of the Anglican communion and the Church of Christ, in addition to those churches that preach justification by faith. From a moral standpoint, Blackaby co-operates with denominations that reject the Bible’s teachings on homosexuality and fornication. How can one co-operate with such things if God is ruling over him? If God’s rule is accepted, then those who oppose His teaching must be rejected.I have a lot of verses to support this.Galatians 1:8-10, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ.”;
Romans 16:17-18, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple”;
1Timothy 1:3, “As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine”;
1Timothy 4:16, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee”;
1Timothy 6:3-5, “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself”;
2Timothy 4:1-4, “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables”;
Titus 1:9, “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers”;
Hebrews 13:9, “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines. For it is a good thing that the heart be established with grace; not with meats, which have not profited them that have been occupied therein”;
2John 8-11, “Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward. Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.”
Many denominations allow their traditions to outweigh Scripture. If Jesus really rules our lives, we will avoid working with such denominations.
Jesus spoke these things about the Pharisees, whose tradition outweighed Scripture:
Matthew 16:6, 11-12, “Then Jesus said unto them, Take heed and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees… How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees”;
Matthew 23:2-3, “Saying The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not”;
Matthew 23:13-15, “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer: therefore ye shall receive the greater damnation. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves.”
I will dispense with quoting parallel accounts from the other gospels. Quite a bit of Scripture that Henry Blackaby teaches you to ignore, isn’t it?
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 11, page 198. “I am not suggesting that doctrinal differences ought to be compromised, but we can act like brothers and sisters who love each other.” This is a direct refusal to obey God on Henry Blackaby’s part. 2John 8-11, Romans 16:17-18 and 1Timothy 6:3-5 absolutely forbid any kind of fellowship with purveyors of false doctrine. People are not your “brothers and sisters” if they believe in salvation by anything other than faith in Christ or oppose God’s teachings in the Bible.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 12, page 203. “You sin against God when you: 1) Miss the mark of His purposes for you, 2) Rebel against Him, refuse to follow Him, 3) Commit acts of evil, wickedness, or immorality.” Point 1) is not Biblical doctrine. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Sin causes the coming short; but coming short is not in itself a sin. Sin defined Biblically is this: “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law” (1John 3:4). Without transgression of the Law, there is no sin.
- Class: Debatable. Unit 12, page 210. “Agencies of a denomination, for instance, have a place in doing God’s will that indvidual churches cannot accomplish alone.” Blackaby is speaking of agencies such as the SBC’s “North American Mission Board.” The problem with this teaching is that there were no such agencies in the Bible, and yet individual churches accomplished the work. With this teaching, Blackaby denigrates the work of independent churches and nondenominational churches. Were Jesus and the apostles negligent in setting up a first century church that had no denominational agencies? I think not.
- Class: Misapplication. Unit 12, page 213. “In Jesus’ commission to His church He said, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matt. 28:19-20).” This is a relatively minor fault, but it is a common evangelical teaching that is false. This command was definitely not given to the church but exclusively to the eleven remaining apostles, who were even sent to a mountain away from everyone else to receive this command. Matthew 28:16 records, “Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.” Not everyone is gifted or called to be an evangelist, and it is unbiblical (see 1Corinthians 12) to suggest that they are.
- Class: Unbiblical. Unit 12, page 213. “Learning to follow Christ is a life-long process. You do not learn to follow Him all by yourself.” Blackaby here is recommending fellowship with a local church, but he goes overboard on the necessity of a church. He writes, “No one can become the kind of complete believer he ought to be outside the functioning body of a New Testament church.” But what Scripture actually says is, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2Timothy 3:15). I know a person who was too sick to attend a church, ministering through a web site from his home for years. He recently made a new translation of the New Testament from Greek at home. A church is very helpful, and if at all possible we should be “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). But the sort of claims Blackaby is making are unwarranted. A person can be fully functional as a Christian outside of any local assembly, if such a situation presents itself.
- Class: Debatable. Unit 12, page 214. “Apart from the body, a gift or ministry is out of context.” Well, the Great Awakening in England was an example of an “out of context” ministry, then. John Wesley was not permitted to speak in his Anglican church so he simply proceeded to minister on his own and through his Methodist societies, which he did not view as a church. Since it was the greatest revival England ever saw, I guess we needn’t worry too greatly about “out-of-context” ministry.
There you have 50 false teachings from Experiencing God. I eliminated six more points that I thought were too minor to bring up in addition to these. Even at 50 points, though, it constitutes one false teaching in every four pages of Experiencing God.
If there is a lesson to be learned or a recommendation to be made, it is this. Do not trust the Southern Baptist Convention’s materials to be doctrinally pure, even if you are a Southern Baptist. Instead, follow the Scriptural advice given in Hebrews 5:14, “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” We are to be discerning both of things we think are good and those things we think are evil.
Courses with this sort of content should not be given to people who do not have a great deal of Scripture knowledge with which to discern what teachings are true and which are false. Other LifeWay courses, like T.W. Hunt’s Mind of Christ for instance, contain solid Bible teaching without all the charismatic psychobabble of Blackabyism. I reviewed T.W. Hunt’s Mind of Christ again, to verify what I have said about him here. The teachings are virtually flawless in his excellent course. (Interestingly, Claude V. King wrote the exercises for Mind of Christ, the same man who did Blackaby’s exercises. Yet the course is devoid of mysticism.) The difference between the two courses is night and day, and I can recommend Mind of Christ without any reservations.
But the best and safest antidote for ignorance about God is to simply read the Bible itself without having to be concerned about any of man’s errors. I would recommend keeping away even from study Bibles, as they tend to have false teachings in the notes, and from dynamic equivalency versions that contain man’s interpretations instead of the literal Word of God. Allow God to teach you His Word Himself. God’s Holy Spirit is more than patient enough to be your teacher if you will turn to Him.
50 Questionable Teachings from Experiencing God is Copyright © 2000 by Compass Distributors. Copyright is to protect content only. Permission is granted to freely distribute
This was taken from the International House of Prayer’s website.
I see that the link below has been broken and that IHOP has pulled this information from their site. If another link can be found I will post it. Please know that this was copied word for word from their site.
|Contemplative Prayer—–Communing with the Holy Spirit who lives within you
I. Know He Lives Inside of You
II. Pray the Scripture
The goal is to search for the Spirit of Jesus in the Word and have depth, not necessarily length, in understanding the passage. Jesus is the Word (John 1) and we want to know Him, the Truth. In Him is life; it is His Spirit who gives life. The words of Scripture are Spirit and they are life (John 6:63). The entrance of the Word gives light and life (Psalm 119:130). As the Word of God enters your heart, the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal body (Romans 8:11).
Make sure you are searching for the Spirit of Jesus, not just searching for knowledge. Just pray the Scriptures. In simple terms, prayer is turning your heart toward God. In John 5:39, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “You do not have His Word abiding in you … you search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life, and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
Choose a short phrase in Scripture.
Begin slowly praying the Scripture in silence.
Focus your prayer toward the Spirit who lives inside you (John 7:38).
Remain on the phrase as long as you feel the Lord’s presence on it. Then move with Him, slowly praying through the passage phrase by phrase.
Choose a short story in Scripture.
Read through the story several times silently.
Close your eyes and acknowledge the Spirit who lives in you.
Use your imagination to imagine yourself as one of the story characters or as an onlooker.
Play out the story in your mind applying all five of your senses.
We call this “Beholding the Spirit Within.”
The goal is to search for and feel God’s presence inside you, not necessarily to gain more understanding in God’s Word as with the first two methods.
Begin by gently praying a short passage of Scripture in silence while focusing on the indwelling Spirit. The Scripture is used to quiet the clamoring of your soul and draw you to God. It is the connection point, the springboard into the spiritual realm.
Once you feel God’s presence, focus on it in a concentrated way.
You will be able to notice His presence now; He has always been there, but now your attention is on Him within you. The outward senses are quiet and your surface thoughts are gone. You are beginning to be consumed by the Spirit.
In this time, feel the freedom to stay quiet. Silently ask the Spirit to show you a vision, or slowly and silently say to Him, “I love You. I love You. I love You.”
Your mind will have to be trained in practical ways to not wander and think on other things. To overcome a wandering mind, simply begin thinking on the Scripture you have been meditating on, and focus your prayer to the Spirit within you. The Lord sees your heart as it searches for Him, and He is smiling upon you. You may become sleepy during prayer. To overcome, sit up straight instead of slouching and do not lie down. You can also begin speaking the Scripture you are meditating on under your breath until you feel the drowsiness subside, then return to the silent prayer.
Diligence in Prayer
In time these methods of praying will become easy. You will find the Spirit who lives in you if you search for Him with all your heart, but it will require time and your whole heart.
Keys to Progress
Humility-the high and lofty One dwells with the lowly in heart (Isaiah 57)
Disciplined life of prayer, fasting, giving and loving your enemies (Matthew 6)
Total abandonment in love to Jesus and loving nothing of this life (Matthew 7:14)
The New Age and Christianity
three techniques for changing and creating reality:
thinking, speaking, and visualizing.”
(Dave Hunt – Occult Invasion)
* * * *
“…imaging and visualization are increasingly appearing as Christian meditation, “mind-stretchers,” or a consciousness-awakening experience in Christian workshops, and you’d better believe that visualization as a cultivated exercise comes with all sorts of metaphysical and spiritual baggage in tow.”
— Visualization and Imaging, Jon Trott
****“It’s not difficult to trace the practice of meditative imaging and visualization back to the mystics.”— Visualization and Imaging, Jon Trott****Jon Trott is correct here. If anyone has started to indulge themselves into meditative practices, just ask them what books they are reading.
Christians are being duped into mysticism because a sentence has the word Jesus in it or there is a phrase of scripture.
The well-known catholic mystics are Brennan Manning, Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Thomas Merton, and Matthew Fox. If these authors are in your library then you know that you are entering a mystical realm that will only draw you AWAY from Jesus Christ. They want you to focus on a centering prayer which will invite a feeling of divinity within yourself. This is the lie, that you are divine. You may not think that this is where they are leading you, but this is what Eve thought when the serpent suggested, that “You will be like God.” Watch out for the new charismatic coined term of DNA which actually means “Divine Nature Activated”
Contemplative prayer sounds so biblical, but it is a dangerous occult method of contacting the spirit world, which is off-limits to the Christian. Visualization is a technique that speeds up the process of reaching into another dimension to either experience visions or transport oneself.
Christian beware, the wolves are telling you that you are divine and holy. What does the Bible say?
“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?”
So why should we center ourselves on our own heart looking for our divinity? We shouldn’t.
Instead…..we can have righteousness through faith….
“But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known to which the Law, and the prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.”
These phrases from the IHOP article bother me.
“Make sure you are searching for the spirit of Jesus.”
Jesus wasn’t and is not a spirit. He came to earth as fully man and fully God, but He never came as a spirit. But those who meditate using TM methods often contact a spirit guide named “Jesus”. This is deceiving spirit because Jesus is now at the right hand of the Father.
“Play out the story…apply all five senses”
This is an exercise in guided imagery. Read what Dave Hunt says about this:
“Visualization and Guided Imagery have long been recognized by sorcerers of all kinds as the most powerful and effective methodology for contacting the spirit world in order to acquire supernatural power, knowledge and healing. Such methods are neither taught or practiced in the Bible as helps to faith or prayer.” (The Seduction of Christianity)
Yet here we see it openly being taught and embraced.
“Begin by gently praying a short passage of Scripture in silence while focusing on the indwelling Spirit.”
How can you do these two things simultaneously? Actually the Scripture becomes meaningless as one focuses on something else entirely.
“The springboard into the spiritual realm.”
What is the springboard?…it is the silence, the quiet. They are trying to fool you into thinking it is the scripture, but this is not the case here. The silence is a void used in eastern meditation to stop you from thinking or concentrating. So now what spiritual realm have you just entered? You have entered a void. It is this void that allows you to enter a spiritual realm that is forbidden in the Bible. This is the realm where the white light enters, and if you know your Bible, then you know that this is Satan. He comes with joy and peace and fills you with ecstasy. If he came any other way he would be instantly rejected.
“Your surface thoughts are gone”.
The Bible never tell us to quit thinking or to empty our minds. In fact we are told the quite the opposite.
1 Peter 5:8
“Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour.”
“Ask the spirit to show you a vision.”
This is exactly how those involved in TM ask to be shown their demonic spirit guides. Exactly. This is so dangerous……
The section describing how to overcome distractions is the same method chanters use when meditating. If they actually have…a thought…oh no…start the chant again to empty the mind.
Anyone who does not see the eastern mysticism in this occult prayer method…does not want to see. Even a cursory study of meditation easily shows the parallels but people aren’t listening, or they don’t care, or maybe they hate to admit they have been deceived. This pride is fateful. It is eternal. It keeps you in touch with the New-Age Jesus, (who does not exist) and separates you from the true Jesus Christ in the Bible.
“It is not an advanced spiritual state, but one that is primitive and regressive, and consequentially results in bondage to spiritistic powers.” ( Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs) Ankerberg and Weldon pg. 238
How is it that the church has fallen into such a sad state of affairs? It is simple. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not being preached anymore. Without repentance, without turning away from sin, without faith, there is no conversion.
The unconverted are hungry for God because they have no way to be sanctified. So in order to hear from God, in order to fill the void, they need to resort to false fire. Gnostic strange fire. This spiritual false fire replaces a true move of God which would cause conviction and make us fall on our faces and weep. We would weep because when the holiness of God shines His light on our sin, magnifying our true nature, it is unbearable. This in turn causes us to hate our sin, and search the Word for how live a holy life pleasing to the Lord.
When the Word of God is not enough, when it is not sufficient, the alternative is deception.
“We are discovering Christianity as an Eastern religion as a way of life.”
The Emerging Church -The Latest Heresy By Stephen Holland
Preached on: Sunday, February 10, 2008
Westhoughton Evangelical Church
King Street, Westhoughton
Lancashire, UK BL5 3AX
Online Sermons: http://www.sermonaudio.com/revholland
Now a few year ago I heard a talk given on the Emerging Church and after it went away
and thought, “I haven’t a clue what he was on about.” So I hope after this session that
you will not go away with the same opinion.
If you have not come to hear of it, the chances are you soon will. A search on the internet
search engine Google will bring up no less than 616,000 references to what has come to
be known as Emergent or Emerging Church.
A check to your local Christian bookstore and see you find such titles as A New Kind of
Christian or Vintage Christianity for New Generations or The Forgotten Ways or The
Lost Methods of Jesus or Adventures in Missing the Point, Liquid Church, A Generous
Orthodoxy: More ready than you realize, Finding Faith Post Christendom, Changing
Worlds, Changing Church, Emerging Church, Emerging Churches, emerging-
church.intro. Those were just found on one shelf in one Christian so called bookstore.
There could be added-and will be many more titles added-to the list in the coming
days. Some authors with in the Emerging Church are Brian McLaren, Ralph Bell, Dan
Kimball, Doug Paget, Leonard Sweet, Spencer Burke, Yurgin McMannis, Tommy Collolen, Jason Clock, [?], Richard Foster and Tony Jones. And we could add also to that
people like Tony Campolo and Steve Chalk.
A tour is apparently being planned in 11 states of the USA to run from February to May
of this year. That tour is called “Everything Must Change Tour.” The title, of course,
that gives almost the game away. We are told by the organizer, Brian McLaren that this
is a tour for people short on hope. This tour is named after McLaren’s latest book Everything Must Change. The subtitle of this book reads: Jesus, Global Crisis and a Revolution
of Hope. This tour is for people of all thoughts, but seems especially aimed at those who
are fed up and disillusioned with-quote-traditional church. It is for people looking for
new ways of doing church. That is the in word today, doing church.
So what, may you ask, what’s all the fuss about?
Well, the very term “Emerging Church” suggests itself that they are emerging from
something. The very titles of the books just quoted suggest the same thing. Terms like
“lost message” or “new kind of Christian” or “forgotten ways” or “finding faith” or
“missing the point” or “post-Christendom” or “changing worlds, changing church.” All
this suggests some form of revolution is taking place or is about to take place and within
branches of the professed Christian Church.
So what, again, you may be asking. After all, the Church has changed, hasn’t it, from
one generation to next and from one century to another. And, of course, our world is
There is nothing wrong, of course, with change. None of us, I take it, came here today by
horseback like many of our forefathers would have done or are dressed like our Puritan
brethren of the 17century. We live in a very advanced age where change is happening
at an incredible pace.
Is the Church in danger of being left behind or even in danger of extinction all together
unless she adapts? These people would tell us, “Yes.”
Men can doubt that the Church of Jesus Christ is at a low point as far as man can see. We
are told that excluding deaths and transfers 1500 people are thought to be deserting
churches in Britain every week. The promised hopes of the decade of evangelism have
not materialized. In the early 1990s it was hoped that about 20,000 new churches would
be opened by the close of the century. Rather, a survey has revealed that only 1867 new
churches were opened in England while 2557 closed. We are told that the fall in church
attendance was expected to decline in Scotland from 17.1% in 1980 to 10.3% by 2005. In
Wales from 14.1% to just 6.4% while in England from 10.1% to 6.7%.
The attendance of young people in churches seems to be even more depressing. In 1979
1,000,416 under 15s attended church. In 1989 it was 1,177,000 and by 1998 it was down
to just 717,100. One has estimated that 94% of young people are not in church on a Sunday. [?] of course, in spite of all its boasts and claims has failed to stem the decline. The
situation seems bleak and desperate. The Church is being increasingly told that she is out
of date, out of touch and irrelevant to our post-modern generation.
What is the answer to our plight? Is this new phenomena, the Emerging Church, the savior of the supposed dying Church? Have we found the answer in this newest of movements? One author things to think so. Michael Moynagh in his book emerging-
church.intro he says this of his own book, “It argues that church of a different timbre is
key to Christianity’s revival, perhaps survival in the western world.” He does, though, go
on to say, “But Emerging Church is not a magic solution. Emerging Church is not a quick
pick me up for a sick body. It is a collection of new vessels for new…for all the ingredients that are essential to Church and up dimension in worship and in dimension in community, announced dimension in mission and an of dimension as individual churches see
themselves as part of the body of Christ.” End quote.
Well, how would we define the Emerging or Emergent Church? How would you define
the Church? Well, let me give you a quote from one of the leading spokesmen, Brian
McLaren, and see if you can figure it out for yourself.
On the front cover of his popular book A Generous Orthodoxy he says this. “Why I am
missional and evangelical and post Protestant and liberal conservative and mystical poetic and biblical and charismatic contemplative and fundamentalist, Calvinist and Anabaptist, Anglican and Methodist and Catholic and Green and incarnational and [?]…”
You are not surprised, “Yet hopeful and emergent and unfinished Christian.”
Well, you were beginning to thinking that here is a man who really isn’t quite too sure
what he is all about. He seems to be one who certainly hasn’t arrived at certainty. And
this really sums up the whole Emerging Church. It doesn’t quite know what it is itself or
where it is going.
Michael Moynagh says, again-quote-“Emerging Church is a mindset. We will come
to you, rather than a model. It is a direction rather than a destination. It rests on principles rather than a plan. It rises out of a culture rather than being imposed on a culture. It
is a mood scarcely yet a movement.”
The same author goes on to say-quote-“Emerging Church is more than a pragmatic
response to declining numbers. It is a theological vision, a wide eyed vision that escapes
a blinked past, challenges the status quo and calls for new forms of Christianity in which
individuals can encounter Christ authentically. Might these communities renew inherited
congregations and become the crucible of the Church in the Postmodern world?” End of
Though the Emerging Church has no leaders, official leaders or base, one widely recognized as a leading spokesman and author is Brian McLaren. He says, Brian McLaren
says, “Right now Emerging Church is a conversation, not a movement. We don’t have a
program. We don’t have a model. I think we must begin as a conversation then grow as a
friendship and see if a movement comes of it.”
Moynagh says, “The lack of a single term reflects how cutting edge it all is. Not even the
language has been defined.”
Leonard Sweet, one such Emergent pioneer, has used the acronym EPIC to describe what
Emergent is all about. E stands for experimental. You see, this is because the Postmodern man, we are told, wants to experience the spiritual. The P stands for participants because Postmodern man wants to enter into things and not just be an observer. So, you
see, we may as well do away with the sermon and have a conversation instead. The I relates to image because our Postmodern man, supposedly, in this generation is sight oriented so we might use things like images-artwork, film and video-in our presentation
and in our worship. C is for communal because Postmodern man wants essential community and belonging.
Well, these things are not necessarily wrong, of course, in and of themselves, but there is
more to it than seems to be. It is not just all innocence.
Rob Dell, who is another one of the leaders in this movement puts us in the picture when
he says, “This is not just the same old message with new methods. We are discovering
Christianity as an Eastern religion as a way of life.”
Well, having no official position as yet has caused one critic to comment, “The Emerging
Church is a rather slippery name for a rather slippery movement. By slippery I mean that
the movement is so new-originating in the late 1990s-so fragmented, so varied that
nailing it down is like nailing the proverbial Jello to the wall. There are no official leaders
or headquarters. Some have said that there are thousands of expressions yet only a few
churches have sold out to the concept. And even those claiming the name can’t agree on
what is going on. Although maybe they are not yet a force to be reckoned with, this
movement will no doubt grow, have its adherents, take its casualties and then give way to
the next heresy to attack the Church of Jesus Christ.”
We need to be very clear that what we are dealing with here in the movement Emergent
Church. We are not simply dealing with differences within evangelical theology or with
secondary issues upon which Christians must agree to disagree. We are not dealing with
what the apostle…we are dealing with what the apostle Paul would describe as “another
gospel.”It is another gospel which is not a gospel to begin with.
Here is another devilish attempt at muddying the waters of the pure gospel of Jesus
Christ. Well, should we be concerned? Should we be taking a few hours out on a Saturday to look at this new phenomena that is coming in to the Church and claming to be
Christian? Well, we should be as concerned as the apostle Paul was concerned in combating heresy that attacked the Church in his own day. We are called to “earnestly con
tend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”And Paul says that we are
“set for the defence of the gospel.”
So the answer is a definite yes. We should be concerned about this false, heretical Emerging Church that is coming upon the scenes and you will soon see to hear about it or get to
hear about it.
One pastor on the fringes of the movement, although it is not entirely Emergent in the
heretical sense of it, Mark Driscoll, who was one of the early young pastors who got involved in this and how it all started in the United States as a group of men gathering together to meet. None of them seemed to have much theological understanding at all, but
they seemed to get together and hold conferences. And out of this grew the Emerging
Church. But he says, “I have to distance myself from one of the many streams in the
Emerging Church because of theological differences. The Emerging Church is the latest
version of Liberalism. The only difference is that the old Liberalism accommodated modernity and the new Liberalism accommodates Postmodernity.”
This really brings us to the heart of the movement. The Emerging Church is a move to
make the gospel attractive and acceptable to Postmodern man. The big challenge, we are
told, is how to tap in to the heart and mind of our Postmodern generation. In order to do
this we must start, of course, they say, with 21st century man, start with where he is at.
See Galatians 1:6
See Jude 3
See Philippians 1:17
How do we do that we ask. Well, we must start with experimentation. After all, as one
Emergent leader tells us, “That is exactly what God did when he created the world.”
Moynagh says this. “Experiments are one of the defining features of Emerging Church.
What is evolution if it is not a history of experimentation? One species flourishes. Another doesn’t. A third mutates.”
Of course we tell him if he read Genesis he would know there is no such thing to begin
with so his movement would flop there.
But he goes on and it gets even worse. He then goes on to say that that is exactly what
God did, experimented when he created Adam. To quote him again, “Does Genesis
two,” he asks, “contain a picture of God in experimental mode? He places Adam in the
Garden and then decides that it is not good for man to be alone. ‘I will make a helper
suitable for him.’He forms all the animals and brings them to Adam to see what he
would call them. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. Has God’s experiment not
succeeded? So God tries again. He creates the woman. The experiment produced the
desired result. God seems to be learning.”
He quickly, of course, see the heresy cries coming and admits that seems to go against
one of the basic attributes of God. But he says that God seems to limit himself. He goes
on to say, “It is a part of God’s perfection that he can be surprised by creation. He has
created in us, for example, with not the songs that humans compose. Each new chart
buster can amaze and perhaps delight him. There is something [?] fitting about a wonderful surprise. Is God to be denied that emotion?”
Do you see where these people are coming from? No understanding of a theology of
One fellow Emergent leader, George Lings, takes great delight in what has been said.
And he adds this complement in the book, “I am glad Mike has been daring and picked
up on the open and creative relationship God has with his creatures to which the Bible
testifies,” to which I say-and this is me-it most certainly does not. And then he goes
on, “And which makes so much better sense of a world where things go wrong. I would
only add that God’s grand experiment or risk was to choose to create beings who have
genuine freedom to love him or not. All the rest flows from this audacious fact.” We are
also told, “Experimentation is part of human being. So it will be second nature for Christians to try and try again with church.”
So after 2000 years we have still not got it right and we must keep on trying and experimenting.
To say that the Emerging Church has a faulty theology of God is an understatement. Any
heresy usually has a defective view of God himself and the Emerging Church has gone
See Genesis 2:18
wrong on its attempts to spread the gospel because it has a wrong view of God and a
wrong view of the Bible.
Well, at the heart of the Emerging Church is the adopting of a Postmodern culture. We
are living in what has come to be termed as Postmodernism. You see, we pass through
the Premodern era, a period stretching from Medieval times up to the French Revolution
of 1789. That was the Premodern era. In such a period man had difficulty in believing
the supernatural. Spirits, demons, hell, heaven and an afterlife and even much superstition is said to have abounded in that period. You would not have had difficulty in persuading people that God or even gods existed. Such beliefs, however, began to be challenged and their sources of authority. This began the Modern era, said to have begun with
the Enlightenment period. Philosophers like Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804) began to challenge and question the dogmas of the past age. The Enlightenment would bring in the
age of Modernity.
One writer, Michael Kruger, says, “With the rise of the Enlightenment there came a new
guardian of truth to replace the Church. Science. No longer would human beings stand
for the irrational musings and archaic dogmatism of religion. Science, with reason as the
foundation, was the new god. And all intellectual theories had to bow and pay homage in
order to be seriously considered. Science viewed Christians as being naively committed
to ancient myths, unable to see past their bias and to take an objective and neutral look at
the world. So Modernity proffers the idea that mankind, armed with rationalism and science, is able to access absolute truth and make unlimited progress toward a better life for
itself. Therefore at its core Modernity is a celebration of human autonomy.”
Well, such a period, of course, was a very exciting period in the history of mankind. It
was a period of discovery, a period of development and a period of growth. It appeared
to offer mankind hope for the future. However, the discoveries being made were not too
deliver. Not only has science and learning not provided man with the satisfaction desired
and prayed for, but it has neither provided him with an answer to life’s most perplexing
In the area of religion the Modernist theologians have destroyed any belief in a supernatural God who spoke through a divinely inspired and infallible Bible. These two
worldviews, then-Premodernism and Modernism-have failed miserably. Of course,
we would expect them to do so as neither can be said to be firmly rooted in the Word of
Well, we now come to our present worldview today. It is called Postmodern,
Postmodernism, a Postmodern generation. Well, it is a matter of debate among scholars
as to when this new period began, but many place it at the time of the collapse of the
Berlin wall in 1989. Some have put it somewhere in the 70s with the sexual revolution
and all the rest. But whichever we say, it is a new era that has come in, Postmodern.
With both Premodernism and Modernism failing to satisfy, man has become disillusioned. Answers to the meaning, purpose and direction of life have not been found. Man has been looking for truth and meaning. The Premodernist stores it in a revelation-albeit
the wrong one-the Church. Well, at least the Church of our day. The Modernist stores it
in science and reason. The Postmodernist now sees his worldview as one in which, for
example, that there is really no such thing as truth. So that is Postmodernism. There
really is no such thing as absolute truth. Absolute truth, he tells us, cannot be. Truth is
rather created and not found. So a culture, for example, may invent its own truth. And
yet another culture, its own version of truth even though they may be contrary to each
other. But there can be no universal truth that belongs to all and everyone. In other
words, there is no absolute truth and it must not even be sought.
Michael Kruger says, “Postmodernity, in contrast to Modernity, rejects any notion of objective truth and insists that the only absolute in the universe is that there are no absolutes. Tolerance is the supreme virtue and exclusivity, the supreme vice. Truth is not
grounded in reality or in any sort of authoritative text, but is simply constructed by the
mind of the individual or socially constructed.”
Another author says, “For the Postmodernist thinkers the very idea of truth is decayed
and disintegrated. It is no longer knowable. At the end of the day truth is simply what
we, as individuals and communities, make it to be and nothing more.”
If you think that is not yet affecting your worldview you are wrong. It is. We have so
many different paths in society, don’t we? So many religions. We are not allowed to say
that one has absolute truth, somebody else is wrong. No, no. You can’t say that. Everything is relative. If it is right for them, then it is right. If they are happy, if that is their
belief, then it is acceptable.
But for Postmodern thinking, “Well if it is…if to them, you know, it’s a flower, it’s a
flower. If to somebody else it’s a weed, it’s a weed. It is whatever you think it to be.”
And hasn’t that come in even in subtlety in things like, with so called, certain crimes,
homophobic crimes, so called, racist crimes, so called. If the person perceives it to be
such then it is. There is no real objective truth.
If such is now the culture and the world we are living in how are we to get the gospel
Well, first we must…first we are to remember that the world in which we live must never
be allowed to shape the gospel that we believe. The Emerging Church has embraced-
like its forefather the Modernist-the belief of its age. It, too, denies that there is such a
thing as truth.
Take the words of Brian McLaren, one of its main architects, “Ask me of Christianity.
My version of it, yours, the pope’s, whoever’s, it is orthodox meaning true. And here is
my honest answer. A little, but not yet. Assuming by Christianity you mean the Christian’s understanding of the world and God, Christian’s opinion on soul, text and culture. I
have to say that we probably have a couple of things right, but a lot of things wrong. And
even more spreads before us unseen and unimagined. But at least our eyes are open. To
be a Christian in a genuinely orthodox way is not to claim to have truth captured, stuffed
and mounted on the wall.”
This is a man who claims to give adherence to the Word of God.
Christians for over 2000 years have believed, rejoiced and often died for the absolute
truth they find in the teachings of Christ and his Word. Yet after all these years we are
now told that there really is no such claim on truth.
Interesting that, McLaren’s latest book is called The Secret Message of Jesus. He and those who follow him are constantly telling us that they are dissatisfied with doing church the traditional way. They are tired of evangelical right they tell us. They are seeking to break free from all that they belonged to the past. Could it be, I ask, that such people have never known the truth and have never known the real Jesus of the Bible? Could it be that they are so dissatisfied because they have never known the liberating power of the gospel of Jesus
Christ? I believe that is so. Christians have traditionally and robustly rejoiced in the certainties and steadfastness of the foundation of the gospel. We have read about it,
preached it with conviction and sung about it with rejoicing. It houses the Emergent
Church, Emerging so called Christians see such.
Rob and Christine Bell, his wife, in the beginning of being interviewed said this concerning the Bible, but they have discovered the Bible as a human product. “I do the thinking,”
she says, “that we figured out the Bible, that we knew what it means.” Now she says, “I
have no idea what most of it means. And yet I feel life is big again like life used to be
black and white and now it is color.”
Brian McLaren sums it all up in the closing of his book A Generous Orthodoxy. “Consider for a minute what it would mean to get the glory of God finally and fully right in
your thinking or to get a fully formed opinion of God’s goodness or holiness. Then I
think you will feel the irony. All these years of pursuing orthodoxy ended up like this, in
front of all this glory, understanding nothing.”
So McLaren would like us to believe at the end of it all we really end up understanding
and knowing nothing. And yet the Christian can say with a certainty like Jeremiah nine
verse three, “And they bend their tongues like their bow for lies: but they are not valiant
for the truth upon the earth; for they proceed from evil to evil, and they know not me,
saith the LORD.”
Unbelief and uncertainty like this is found nowhere in the teaching of Christ or the New
Testament epistles. In fact, the Christian message is not only solid, but simple, too. The
message of the Bible is neither lost, uncertain, complex or difficult. It is a message that is
clear, plain and easy to understand.
Oh, yes, there may be a few difficult passages in Daniel or Revelation to interpret, but the
overall message of the Bible is simple and plain. And for people like Christine Bell we
would say she ought to get on her knees, humble herself before the God of heaven and
submit to his authoritative, inspired, easy to understand revelation.
The message of the Bible is not complex. They seem to great delight in saying, “We can’t
understand anything. We don’t know truth. We don’t know what it is all about. And yet
life is big again.”
We say, “The god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest
6 the light of the glorious gospel…”
How do we share the gospel, then, in their eyes with the unchurched? Well, one of the
key words in the Emerging Church is missional. That is the big word, missional. We
want to be a missional church.
What do we understand by missional? Well, the old meaning, of course, of doing missions, going to the lost, preaching the everlasting gospel of God’s saving grace and rescuing sinners from hell and seeing them get into heaven is not quite what they mean by
missional. A clue to what being a missional Christian is all about is found in the
McLaren’s work, his most well known, although he seems to be spewing out these books
and heresies one after another. But in [?] he says this. “But what about heaven and hell
you ask. Is everybody in? My reply. Why do you consider me qualified to make this
pronouncement? Isn’t this God’s business? Isn’t it clear that I do not believe this is the
right question for a missional Christian to ask?”
Let me break in and say there what caused men like William Carey and others to leave
everything behind was the eternal soul of the people that they were to go and preach to,
but that they were concerned about the eternal destiny of man’s never dying soul.
Not so being missional within the Emerging Church. McLaren goes on, “Can’t we talk
for a while about God’s will being done here on earth as it is heaven instead of jumping
to how to escape earth and get to heaven as quickly as possible? Can’t we talk for a
while about overthrowing and undermining every hellish stronghold in our lives and in
Doesn’t this sound very much like the old “damnable heresy” of the Modernist, Liberal
social gospel that emptied our churches and robbed the gospel of all its saving power?
He goes on to say, “Missional Christian faith asserts that Jesus did not come to make
some people saved and others condemned. Jesus did not come to help some people be
right while leaving everyone else to be wrong. Jesus did not come to create another exclusive religion, Judaism having been exclusive based on genetics and Christianity being
exclusive based on belief which can be a tougher requirement than genetics.”
2 Corinthians 4:4
McLaren has no understanding of the New Testament gospel at all. He himself admits
so. He says, “We must continually be aware,” and this is him speaking, “that the old, old
story may not be the true, true story.” He goes on, in other words, “We must be open to
the perpetual possibility that our received understanding of the gospel may be faulty, imbalanced, poorly [?] or downright warped and twisted.”
Here we must retain the good, Protestant, evangelical and biblical instinct to allow Scripture to critique tradition including our dominant and most recent tradition and including
our tradition’s understanding of the gospel. In this sense, Christians in missional dialogue
must continually expect to rediscover the gospel.
Note how he is prepared to us-or we would say misuse-Scripture to critique what he
says is tradition. He wants us to rediscover the gospel he says. Yet he doesn’t even know
what the gospel is himself. This really is the gospel according to Brian McLaren. It is a
gospel full of uncertainty, mystery and we say falsehood. And he wants us to join him in
his journey of rediscovery?
The gospel of McLaren and the Emerging Church is not the saving gospel from sin and
hell, but another gospel of making a better world and a better you.
But he goes on to say, “From this understanding we place less emphasis on whose lineage, rights, doctrines, structures and terminology are right and move emphasis on whose
action, service, outreach, kindness and effectiveness are good in order to help our world
get back on the road to being truly and wholly good again the way God created it to be.
“We are here on a mission to join God,” he tells us, ” in bringing blessings to our needy
world. We hope to bring God’s blessing to you,” he says, “whoever you are and whatever you believe. And if you would like to join us in this mission and the faith that creates and nourishes, you are welcome.”
I say, “No thank you.”
Note his intention is to join God in bringing blessing to a needy world. He tells us it
really doesn’t matter what you believe. Why, of course, would you when none has arrived at truth anyhow or orthodoxy anyway because he has imbibed a Postmodern age?
His gospel is not to get you into the kingdom, but to bring the kingdom to you.
Dan Kimball, another Emergent leader, says, “Our faith also includes kingdom living.
Part of which is the responsibility to fight local and global and social justice on behalf of
the poor and needy. Our example is Jesus,” he tells us, “who spent his time among the
lepers, the poor and the needy.”
Are we saying that these thing are unimportant and unnecessary? Well, by no means.
Jesus did, in fact, heal the sick, raise the dead, feed the hungry and perform other miracles. We are not saying doing good works is a bad thing. No, they follow the fruits of the gospel. Yet we must always remember that the forming of such miracles was first and
foremost to point to who he was and what he had come to do, of course, to testify that he
was the Savior of lost sinners.
Jesus, in fact, said virtually nothing about social injustice, nothing about the environment
or political tyranny or eradication of poverty or making the world a better place.
What is the true gospel itself? Whereas it has transformed the lives, that society has been
so changed for the better, this was never the priority of Christ, the apostles or the early
church. Christ did not come to bring a paradise to earth through his Church. He came to
rescue sinners from the wrath to come, to give spiritual life to the dead, to draw men back
to the Father, to be a propitiation for men’s sins, to shed his blood for the forgiveness of
those sins, to provide a mansion in heaven, to reconcile sinners to a holy God. He himself
has said that he had not come to bring peace on earth, but a sword.As the truth divides
and brings a different color…literal thought, of course where people fight each other. That
is not the gospel. Christians willingly lay down their lives for the gospel, but the sword is
the Word of God which cuts against truth and separates from truth and error. That can
never happen with McLaren’s gospel or the gospel of the Emerging Church because it
has imbibed a Postmodern culture that tells us there is no such thing as truth.
So he certainly can’t earnestly contend for the faith because he doesn’t know what that
faith is. This aspect of the social here and now gospel is seen in McLaren’s two questions that he asks which are these. What are the biggest problems destroying our world?
And what do the life and teaching of Jesus have to say about these global crises?
The Emerging Church is more world focused than heaven focused. The early Church
looked for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness.The Emerging
Church is man centered. Its starting point is not with the truth as expressed in God’s
Word, but-imbibing a cultural philosophy of the day-truth cannot be established anyway.
The well being of man is the beginning. We hear things like, “We will come to you
rather than you come to us.” “We’ll do church on your terms rather than on ours or the
Rob Bell writes for the media in the States, but all this may be new to you, but it is big
news in the States and it will come over here. They consider him the next Billy Graham
although why I am not sure. He has neither gifts nor theology, well, as he had in his
younger day. Rob Bell says, “For Jesus the question wasn’t how do I get into heaven, but
how do I bring heaven here. The goal isn’t escaping this world, but making this world the
kind of place God can come to. And God is making us into the kind of people who can do
this task, this kind of work.”
See Matthew 10:34
See 2 Peter 3:13
One wonders which Bible are these people reading. He seems to be ignorant of the fact
that Scripture teaches, “The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements
shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned
up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved….”What does Peter say? Not
put on a global mask to solve the world’s dilemmas and problems, but in light of this Peter says, “What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,
looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on
fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?”There, and as we
have quoted earlier, “We look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth right
I want to look-the time is moving on-to the mystical aspect of the Emerging Church.
Due to the fact that the Emerging Church is not truth based means it is susceptible to all
forms of error and falsehood as one might expect. As we are not moved by the truth of
God’s Word then we will seek experiences outside of that Word. And that is exactly
what we find in the Emergent movement. There is no real Jesus in the Emerging Church.
I believe it is not the Jesus we find in the Bible. Christ himself warned that, “Many will
come in my name.”And there appears to be as many Jesus’ in the world as there are
Jones’ in Wales. The big question is: Which Jesus do we have and which Jesus are we
Peter Rollins, an Emergent Leader in Northern Ireland-so it has come over into this
country already-Icon. They all have strange names. They don’t have, you know, Emergent Evangelical Church or Emergent Church. They have stupid, silly names. And here is
one Icon. And the very name will suggest where it is going.
Icon, “We as Icon,” they say, “are developing a theology which derives from the mystics,
a theology without theology to complement our religion without religion.”
You notice all this double talk. It doesn’t make sense. And you read their books. It
doesn’t make sense. Much of the Emergent Church thinking is not based on what the Bible teaches. And they do not derive their theology from the Bible, but rather, their theology-if it can be called that-from experience.
Dan Kimball, another Emergent leader says, “The old paradigm taught that if you have
the right teaching you will experience God. The new paradigms says that if you experience God you will have the right teaching.”
Another Emergent leader [?] in England, so it has arrived on our shores near to here,
Sanctus One, you know, so it is not, you know, the Baptist Tabernacle or somewhere.
They adopt one of their silly names. Sanctus One which is actually in Manchester says,
2 Peter 3:10-11
2 Peter 3:11-12
2 Peter 3:13
See Matthew 24:5, Mark 13:6, Luke 21:8
“We believe that God is not defined by theology. Experience is vital and experience defines us.”
Now in our second talk I am going to jump to the next section because we will be all afternoon otherwise, but I want to jump on briefly and then we can close with some questions. You see, this searching for meaning and experience has not driven this movement
to the Word of God, but back into the world of Medieval Catholicism and Eastern mysticism.
Of course the Roman Catholic Church will endorse anything that furthers its own cause.
An official endorsement in 1965 by the Vatican reads this. “In Hinduism men seek release from the trials of the present life by ascetical practices, profound meditation and
recourse to God in confidence and love. Buddhism proposes a way of life by which man
can with confidence and trust attain a state of perfect liberation and reach supreme illumination either through their own efforts or by the aid of divine help.” And then they go
on to say, “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.”
The Second Vatican Counsel then or some time afterwards mentioned, “It longs to set
forth the way it understands the presence and function of the Roman Catholic,” in this
context, “Church in the world today. Therefore the world which the Counsel has in mind
is the whole human family seen in the context of everything which envelopes it. This is
the reason why this sacred synod in proclaiming the noble destiny of man and affirming
an element of the divine in him offers to cooperate unreservedly with mankind in fostering a sense of brotherhood to correspond to this destiny of theirs.”
You are not surprised, then, at the Emerging Church going down the pathway not just to
Eastern mysticism, but to Romanism as well. In Soul Shaper: Exploring Spirituality and
Contemplative Practices in Youth Ministry Tony Jones advocates 16 ancient future, both,
spiritual tools or disciplines such as-quote-“the Jesus prayer, [?] diviner, silence and
solitude, stations of the cross, center in prayer, [?] and the labyrinth.”
Richard Bennett, a former Roman Catholic priest says this, “Assuming that the Roman
Catholic Evangelical split over the gospel is a thing of the past,” which we know it is not,
“Jones begins by defining his Postmodern approach to youth ministry by combing aspects
of what he sees as common spirituality and evangelicalism, Roman Catholicism and
Eastern Orthodox traditions along with Eastern religious practices gleaned from Buddhism and Hinduism.” Then it goes on, “Tony Jones’ involvement with youth ministry
and leaders of youth ministry is particularly dangerous. This is the cause of cases of obscure heretical practices from papal Rome when he then passes off on the unsuspecting as
if he has rediscovered a long hidden spiritual treasure for Postmodern Christianity. His
major goal is to make his very Roman Catholic view of the past come alive in the present,
something Bible believers should consider carefully especially regarding his very young
This man, by the way, Tony Jones, is a foul mouthed individual who uses foul language
of the worst kind even in describing the Bible. It is for this reason that you will find some
Emergent Churches lighting candles, crosses and other ritual things being performed, all
done in seeking a deeper experience of the divine. So they light their candles. They will
have their crosses They will have their music and their lights. Of course, they will all be
But what are they doing? They are seeking an encounter with the divine. They are seeking an encounter with the spiritual. For the true evangelical we say we are not seeking or
searching for the divine God out there whoever he may be. We have found him in Jesus
Christ, the Jesus alone in the pages of God’s Word.
We are never against experiences, but experiences come from the Word of God and are
based and tested by that very Word.
You will notice many of these people talk about seeking the divine and their masks that
they are having with McLaren and all this everything must change in 11 states of the
United States. They are all telling, “We are seeking something.”
I am not seeking anything. I found it. I am not seeking God or deeper experiences. He is
there in the Word in the written page.
And just in closing: Many young people will be attracted to this Emergent Church. They
will pack them out. The man we just quoted from, Tony Jones, you have seen his influence as to so many Emergent leaders among the youth. The Emergent Church targets the
young and is of particular attraction to young people. One of the reasons is that it uses an
anything goes approach in worship. You can have your bands. You can have your hip
hop, your reggae, whatever music you want. You can have it. You can bring your drums
and whatever you want into worship, whatever is appealing, whatever you want, whatever you are into. Bring it along.
And people will think, “This is great.”
But it is just like the world. You can bring anything into it. All forms of worship and
fleshiness come in. It would not amiss to say it is an almost anything goes approach. Any
form of music no matter how much it represents the debased culture around us seems to
be acceptable and even encouraged. So it will attract the young people who have no understanding of the gospel.
Another reason for why it attracts and will attract the young people is because it appeals
to their sinful nature. It has almost a no rules policy. If you are to go into an Emerging
Church you will find standard. Whatever is right for you is right. You will find one
standing, another sitting, another slouching because anything goes. Just fill out whatever
takes your fancy. We will have appeals, not appeals. There is no such thing as, “Let all
things be done decently and in order.”However, this pandering and [?] to the young is
The young of our church-and they are to be those who are shown authority and leadership-they are not to be those who are considered as to what they would like to see in
church or what pleases them or what will attract them or what will keep you here. Leadership shall be done by those who are mature adults in the faith. And this pattern of lead
ership is seen right throughout Scripture. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord.”
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your
souls.”Considering those who would be leaders there is one that ruleth his household
well having his church or household in subjection.
See, man’s heart is rebellious and will be attracted to this fleshy, false gospel of the
Emergent Church. It is a denial of the clear truth oriented certain foundation of biblical
And I am going to close by summing up two quotes from the Emerging Church and then
we will hand back to our chairman. Sanctus One, an Emerging Church in Manchester
says, as stated on their blog site, “Churches in the West are increasingly experimenting
with more symbolic, reflective spiritualities [?] from Orthodox and Celtic traditions and
sing digital technologies and ambient music. How far can we engage with the Eastern
spiritualities of our Sikh, Hindu and Muslim neighbors whilst retaining our Christian integrity? What might an Emergent Church look like in a multi faith context?”
Our second quote, “Does a little dose of Buddhism thrown into a belief system somehow
kill off the Christian part?”
Real Christians would say a loud, “Yes.”
“My Buddhism doesn’t, except for the unfortunate inability to embrace Jesus,” as if that
is a side issue, “is a better Christian based on Jesus’ description of what a Christian does,
but almost every Christian I know…”
It could be well, he doesn’t know any Christians.
“If they are using Matthew 26 as a guide she would be a sheep and almost every Christian I personally know would be a goat.”
And I say in the Emerging Church they are all goats and may be warned and discerning
about Emerging Church?
See 1 Corinthians 14:40