If I recommend a book to another Christian, I better be sure that it is a sound, biblically solid book. The best book I would recommend to read is the Bible. That is certainly a given. But when we recommend something other than the Bible, we need to have a good amount of discernment, because some books can contain dangerous and misleading information.
For example, I marvel at those who love and highly recommend that popular book, The Shack. It has been consistently at or near the top of the NY Times bestseller list since it came out in 2007. But where is the discernment? Sure, it’s fictional, and it’s highly emotional because of the basic storyline. Who would not relate to the hurt and pain of losing a loved one, as the main character, Mack, did. Who would not get moved by how he goes through the story and seems to find peace from his dialoguing with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
But the problem with the book is, that it depicts God in a distorted and blasphemous way. There are some serious issues with how God is portrayed, and yes, some of the concepts taught in this book are downright heretical. (For just a short summary of the main points covered by Dr. Michael Youssef’s sermon on this book, go to Leading The Way. He also has an excellent video sermon on the same page). Recommending a book like The Shack, especially to novice Christians, is I believe a serious lack of discernment, and a serious mistake, because of the many heresies in the book, and the distortions of God’s true character and nature.
But I have a problem with another book. It’s written by Richard Foster, “guru” of the contemplative prayer movement. It’s called “Prayer: Finding The Heart’s True Home”. Here are some quotes by Foster from this book:
- “I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance…. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! … But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.”
- “At the outset I need to give a word of warning, a little like the warning labels on medicine bottles. Contemplative prayer is not for the novice. I do not say this about any other form of prayer…”
So Richard Foster says a few things here. He gives us a word of caution, and admits that the Bible does not contain anything definitive about contemplative prayer. Then he goes on to say that not only are there various types of spiritual beings, but that some are clearly not working with God! So his conclusion is that we should pray a prayer of protection before we enter into contemplative prayer! Amazing, that if we are to do something that is supposedly from God, that we should ask for protection first? And then he tops it off by warning that this type of prayer is not for the novice.
I could go on much more about Richard Foster. I have an earlier posting on him that you can read further on him (Richard Foster: A Reliable Source for Proper Christian Spirituality?), and there is much well documented information you can find about him, at places like Lighthouse Trails Research, and Apprising Ministries.
But I think this should suffice here to make my point, and to also ask a question.
The question is, why was this book placed on a table in the General Assembly prayer room, with a Bible next to it as well? (I have a problem with the prayer room also, and it’s heavy, Roman Catholic feel to it, and it’s various prayer stations with all the icons, statues, etc, similar to Stations of the Cross in the Catholic church- but I digress, that’s for another posting).
If a book is to be recommended to perhaps 25,000 or more Nazarenes, should not that book be well grounded biblically? Not only do these quotes, and more, from his book, illustrate the potential danger to Christians reading this book, there are other problems in recommending this book.
When you look at Richard Foster’s track record, you will also discover a propensity on his part not only to quote mystics of all kinds, but he also blatantly endorses and recommends their books as well. That is another discernment problem there as well! If I recommend one book by an author, a person will most likely read other books by the author, and is also highly likely to read perhaps books recommended by this author. Do you see where I am going here with this?
Here are some of those whom he quotes:
“[W]e began experiencing that “sweet sinking into Deity” Madame Guyon speaks of. It, very honestly, had much the same “feel” and “smell” as the experiences I had been reading about in the Devotional Masters” (from Renovare Perspective.01/ 1998)
(Madame Guyon was a Roman Catholic mystic who believed she achieved union with God, believed God is in all things, and believed she had reached a point where she could no longer sin)
“Thomas Merton has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood … his interest in contemplation led him to investigate prayer forms in Eastern religion …[he is] a gifted teacher …” (Spiritual Classics – p.17)
(Thomas Merton believed in the importance of Eastern-style meditation, that there are many paths to God, and that divinity dwelt in all things and people).
In addition, and this would get too long if I mentioned all of them, but in his book Spiritual Classics, he recommends many other mystics and contemplatives, like Henri Nouwen, who in his last book, said that he wanted everyone to find their own way to God. Nouwen also promoted Eastern-style meditation.
Some will say that I am exaggerating the significance of this. But Richard Foster is clearly a favorite of the emergent church proponents, and I don’t think it is an accident to have seen this book displayed. I am surprised a little, but I believe it is just another indicative sign of the infiltration of emergent ideology into our denomination. So one question would be this: on the basis of what I have quoted, and far more that I have not, what is the biblical foundation for recommending such a book? Why should I not be concerned at the statements that Richard Foster makes, that say we should pray a prayer of protection before doing contemplative prayer, and not let novices try it?
I know some will get upset over this, but here’s another question, in closing; why in the world was this book ever placed as one of the centerpieces of a prayer room at a Nazarene General Assembly? What was the rationale? Where are we headed if this is not just a simple mistake, but rather a pattern of recommending books by authors who promote unbiblical and dangerous practices? This has got to stop, and we need to wake up to the fact that this may not be a mistake at all. Emergent ideology is creeping into our denomination and our universities, and we had better wake up to that fact, and decide which side of the fence we will be on.