“It is not surprising to us that Olivet Nazarene University promotes Spiritual Formation. (Lighthouse Trails Research)
It appears all the Nazarene universities are involved in promoting contemplative spirituality; however, if any university president would like to disavow that they promote Spiritual Formation programs (aka contemplative spirituality), and that they do not endorse any of these types of contemplative authors in their programs, I will post that here publicly.
The following specific facts are extracted from a post at Lighthouse Trails Research regarding Olivet Nazarene University:
Spiritual Formation is part of the school’s major theology curriculums
Henri Nouwen’s books are used in at least 4 courses
The Vice President of Spiritual Life lists Nouwen as one of his favorite authors
This is troubling news, and if we dig deeper and get closer, I’m sure we would find that there is no denying that these sources are used because those at the school who use them, have no problem with them. No professor or school leader is going to use or recommend any of these books I mentioned, unless they have no problem with what these authors teach! These books are not being used as examples of what to avoid, but examples of what can supposedly help us grow spiritually. Nothing could be further from the truth. That Olivet is considered by many to be one of the more conservative Christian colleges is not a very good sign.
As the writers mention below, practically all Nazarene colleges and the seminaries are promoting spiritual formation (aka contemplative spirituality), and these kinds of writers. Foster has appeared at seminars in some Nazarene universities, such as at Point Loma. He is considered the leading promoter of contemplative mysticism today within the “evangelical” community. Nouwen was a universalist Catholic monk who mixed Christianity with Buddhism. Tony Campolo has spoken at Olivet, even just recently, and apparently no one there has any problem with him. Campolo is a big promoter of centering prayer, the mantra like Jesus Prayer, and also promotes the occultic practices of Celtic Spirituality. I sent my concerns about him to Dr. Carl Leth, dean of the School of Theology, but apparently he has no problem in having Dr. Campolo speak there.
I agree with the conclusions of Lighthouse Trails, and again I commend ministries like them who are consistently exposing what is going on in not only the Nazarene denomination, but in practically all denominations. The only question that remains on the table is this: why are some of you okay with it, and if you are not, why are some of you so silent?
This post is being forwarded to Olivet president Dr. Bowling, and to Dr. Leth. I would like to get a reasonable, biblically supported explanation of why these kinds of authors are used in a required freshman course, and in other theology courses. Perhaps they are using these authors as examples of bad theology? But if not, and Olivet claims to be “theologically grounded in the Wesleyan tradition”, what does that have to do with Richard Foster and Henri Nouwen’s promotion of unbilical contemplative spirituality?
I am also sending this to the Board of General Superintendents for comment. What they think about these issues is still unknown to me and many others who have asked them to comment.
On Saturday morning, Lighthouse Trails received an e-mail from a concerned parent whose child is attending Olivet Nazarene University. The parent told us that Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline is part of a required Freshman course. We have also discovered that Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative spirituality) is integrated in various aspects of the school including their Christian Education program, Practical Ministries, Youth Ministry, and the School of Theology. Thus we have added Olivet Nazarene University to our list of Christian schools that promote Spiritual Formation.
In addition to Richard Foster’s book, Henri Nouwen’s books are used in at least 4 courses. In two of those (CMIN 116, COMM 300), his contemplative promoting book In the Name of Jesus is used. This is the book that Kay Warren, Rick Warren’s wife, recommends saying it “hits at the heart of the minister . . . I highlighted almost every word.”1 It is in that book of Nouwen’s that he says:
Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love . . . For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required.2 (emphasis added)
In almost every school that promotes Spiritual Formation, Henri Nouwen is used. This is because the spirituality that Nouwen advocated for is the same spirituality that Spiritual Formation (contemplative) inhabits. When you think of where Spiritual Formation took Nouwen before the end of his life (after years of practicing mysticism), it is sobering to see the majority of Christian colleges and seminaries embrace him. In the last book he wrote, he stated:
Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.”3
What Nouwen says here illustrates the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality. It is not surprising to us that Olivet Nazarene University promotes Spiritual Formation. It appears all the Nazarene universities are involved in promoting contemplative spirituality; however, if any university president would like to disavow that they promote Spiritual Formation programs (aka contemplative spirituality), and that they do not endorse any of these types of contemplative authors in their programs, I will post that here publicly. We have documented this for years. If you want to see one of the most shocking signs of where evangelical Christian schools will end up, read our article Buddhist/Universalist Sympathizer Woos Nazarene Students at NNU and watch the video we link to of Dr. Jay McDaniel’s visit to Northwest Nazarene University in Idaho.
Nouwen’s influence is obvious at Olivet. The VP of Spiritual Life lists Nouwen as one of his favorite authors. This of course could have a profound influence on many students. Parents, please remember, when you are looking for a college or university for your son or daughter to attend this coming fall, please check that school out carefully beforehand, and make sure your child understands what the underlying roots of contemplative and emerging spirituality are before they leave your home. It is by no means just Nazarene Universities that are being affected. This is happening in virtually every denomination to one degree or another.
Original link: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=8761
1. Rick Warren quoting Kay Warren on the Ministry Toolbox (Issue #54, 6/5/2002, (http://web.archive.org/web/20081227044856/http://legacy.pastors.com/RWMT/?ID=54).
2. Henri Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 2000), pp. 6, 31-32.
3. Henri Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, Hardcover edition, 1998, p. 51.