Who Is Henri Nouwen?
Pastor Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries (no relation other than a brother in Christ) in this 2008 article, answers the question of who is Henri Nouwen, and what influence does he have on evangelical Christians.
No discerning Christian ought to be reading books by a man who believed that all people can find their own way to God. Is your pastor or Sunday School teacher recommending Henri Nouwen? I pray that you heed the warning here of Pastor Silva.
They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and clasp hands with pagans. (Isaiah 2:6)
Chanting With Roman Catholic Henri Nouwen In A Baptist Seminary
If you’ve been following this work in the Lord at Apprising Ministries you will have seen that I have written quite a bit lately about apostate Roman Catholicism. Amazingly people who are supposed to hold to Reformed Protestant theology like Southern Baptist pastor Rick Warren have apparently become convinced that the Reformation is over and that all of this is somehow behind us now. If you feel this way, my question to you would be: Says who? Because I can tell you, it certainly wasn’t God Himself.
A huge part of how this arrogant imprudence has been spreading into evangelicalism itself is through spiritually petrifying mainline denominations, such as the United Methodist Church, the Congregational Church and much of the Episcopal Church to name a few, which have been involved with neopagan Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) for quite some time. Instead of being willing to stand for the absolute Truth of the Gospel and to actually come into conflict with false religions within this pagan society so steeped in relativism now many evangelicals have simply begun to meditate right along with them.
In his Critical Issues Commentary article The Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines: A Critique of Dallas Willard and The Spirit of the Disciplines Bob DeWaay brings out why:
Practices called “spiritual disciplines” that are deemed necessary for “spiritual formation” have entered evangelicalism. Recent encounters with this teaching narrated to me by friends caused me to investigate these practices. The first experience involved my friend and co-worker Ryan Habbena who went back to seminary to finish his masters degree. Here is his experience in his own words:
I recently took a seminary course on the book of Luke. It was a summer intensive and was one of only two classes being offered at the time. About midway through the week, while the class was steeped in trying to discern the intent and significance of the book of Luke, we began to hear the echoes of mystic chanting coming through the walls. As it turned out, the other class being offered was parked right next to ours. The paper thin walls were carrying the choruses of a class exploring the life and teachings of Catholic mystic Henry Nouwen.
We proceeded, trying to concentrate on studying the Scriptures while tuning out the chants that were carrying on next door. Perhaps what was more unsettling though is the class studying Nouwen was chock full, while there were plenty of empty seats next door for anyone wanting to learn about the inspired book of Luke.
How can this be? A Baptist seminary was favorably studying the teachings of this Catholic mystic whose own biographers describe as having had emotional problems and homosexual inclinations.
Men and women, transcendental meditation for the Christian aka Contemplative/Centering Prayer first began invading the Christian community with the apostate “fourth- and fifth-century Egyptian Desert Fathers and Mothers” who became involved in this exact same compromise with religions of the East that we are witnessing right now within the American Christian Church. However, shouldn’t a red warning flag be raised as we note the word Egyptian in association with these heretical hermits? That quote by the way is taken from the back cover of a book by Henri Nouwen (1932-1996) called The Way Of The Heart (WoTH), which is one of Nouwen’s most oft-quoted books.
So Why Are Evangelicals Listening To Nouwen?
I find it interesting that WoTH just happens to be published by HarperSanFrancisco, which is also the same publisher of Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster and others of like-mind including his spiritual twin Dallas Willard who are now promulgating CSM within evangelcalism under the guise of Spiritual Formation. On the back cover of WoTH we read: “Henri J. Nouwen, a priest born and educated in the Netherlands.” Yet another Roman Catholic priest that more and more evangelical leaders are quoting, and thereby exposing their flocks to, as a positive source for furthering our relationship with God. But I ask: If someone is going to be lauded as a teacher of Christian spirituality shouldn’t we at least insist that he first have to be a Christian?
So just who was Henri Nouwen…and why are evangelicals listening to him? From the website Henri Nouwen.org, the official website of the Henry Nouwen Society we are told: “Henri Nouwen spent his life helping people respond to the universal ‘yearning for love, unity, and communion that doesn’t go away’.” In Ray Yungen’s excellent book A Time for Departing, and if you haven’t read the Second Edition you really should because the book has nearly doubled in size with important new information added, Yungen further informs us that:
An individual who has gained popularity and respect in Christian circles, akin to that of Thomas Merton, is the now deceased [Roman] Catholic theologian Henri Nouwen… Many pastors and professors are greatly attracted to his deep thinking. In fact, one of his biographers revealed that in a 1994 survey of 3,400 U.S. Protestant church leaders, Nouwen ranked second only to Billy Graham… (61)
Unfortunately, this widely read and often-quoted author, at the end of his life, stated in clear terms that he approached God from a universalistic view. He proclaimed: “Today I personally believe that 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 way to God.” (Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey, 51)
Nouwen’s endorsement of a book by Hindu spiritual teacher Elnath Easwaran, teaching mantra meditation, further illustrates his universalistic sympathies. On the back cover, Nouwen stated, “This book has helped me a great deal.” (62)
And it’s really little wonder that a book touching on Hindu mantra meditation techniques would be of “help” to Nouwen because he also taught the alleged “inward journey” of meditation inherent within this spurious CSM. In the book Henri Nouwen: A Spirituality of Imperfection biographer Wil Hernandez, who “teaches a course on the spirituality of Henri Nouwen at Fuller Theological Seminary” tells us:
This deep experience of ourselves captures the nature of our inward journey. Henri Nouwen himself embarked on what journalist Philip Yancey calls a form of “inward mobility” wherein “[h]e withdrew in order to look inward, to learn how to love God and be loved by God.” Such movement is best realized in the context of solitude. In solitude, we can pay closer attention to our inner self and consequently become present to our own experience…
Our inward ability to relate to and be at home with our own self is what enables us to live from the center of our existence and thereby relate with others in terms of who we are and not so much by what we do… Reaching into our inmost being connects us to the reality of our own soul—that mystical reality that Henri Nouwen simply calls the heart. (22)
“Christian” Meditation Is The Broad Pathway To Apostasy
Men and women, here again is yet another example of a leading practitioner of so-called “Christian” mysticism who also ended up teaching that man can be saved apart from Jesus Christ. Not only that but Nouwen, like fellow Roman Catholic priest Thomas Merton, would also end up essentially becoming a Buddhist. How many more pathetic examples like this one by Henri Nouwen do discernment ministries have to present before evangelical leaders awaken from their love affair with deceiving spirits with their things taught by demons? Nouwen went on to negate the need for being born again when he teaches that God already dwells in all of mankind:
Still, when we remain faith to our discipline [of Contemplative/Centering Prayer], even if it is only ten minutes a day, we gradually come to see — by the candlelight of our prayers — that there is a space within us where God dwells and where we are invited to dwell with God…
One of the discoveries we make in [meditative] prayer is that the closer we come to God, the closer we come to all our brothers and sisters in the human family. God is not a private God. The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is also the God who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being. (Here and Now, 25, emphasis mine)
In closing, let’s consider the following by Nouwen from the aforementioned WoTH. He’s describing what he called “short prayers,” but it is actually the repetitive mantra that one finds in transcendental meditation as practiced in Hinduism and that of Zen Buddhism. Citing John Climacus while he instructs us Nouwen inadvertently reveals just how influenced by Eastern religions those apostate “Desert Fathers” actually were, “ ‘Wordiness in prayer often subjects the mind to fantasy to and dissipation; single words of their very nature tend to concentrate [shut down] the mind. When you find satisfaction or compunction in a certain word of your prayer, stop at that point.’ ” (81, emphasis mine) And this is what evangelical leaders like Chuck Swindoll and David Jeremiah open their readers up to by their quoting this fool in an approving manner.
And if there’s still any doubt that Nouwen is talking about a repetitive mantra derived from the Eastern religions, which fatally warped the theology of these heretical hermits he then says, “The quiet repetition of a single word can help us descend with the mind into the heart” (ibid., emphasis added). Now we ask: Who would have the most to gain if he could convince people, and especially born again Christians, to shut down critical reasoning skills and “find satisfaction…in a certain word…[and] stop at that point”? For those who can still reason in the Lord the answer to this apparent mystery is obviously Satan himself. But nowhere in Scripture are we taught to pray in such a fashion.
The Power Behind Effectual Fervent Prayer
You see our Lord left no such foolhardy instructions about prayer, instead He said — “But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do” (Matthew 6:7). The Devil knows that the prayers of the saints have a power about which he can do nothing and the enemy of men’s souls trembles before the child of God who is faithful in prayer. And while there is no power whatsoever in the act of prayer itself, there is infinite power available to the regenerated believers in Christ through our LORD God Almighty Who is the One Who answers our prayers. No wonder these seducing spirits with their Contemplative/Centering Prayer want to get us to stop praying and simply sit around in altered states of consciousness in mind-numbing silence.
If you are a Christian who has bought into this lie of CSM, which has become the latest fad in evangelicalism under the cover of Spiritual Formation, then I encourage you to utter some actual words of repentance and ask God to forgive you. And further I exhort you to then join the rest of us who are anxious to live out the Truth of James 5:16 — The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. Beloved of God, may we be silent no more! Let’s continue to cry out to our Lord until He sends revival into His Church, and then together we can begin to push these enemy forces who speak through apostates like Henri Nouwen right back out of His precious Church. C’mon, child of God let us together ride to the sound of the guns!
By Ken Silva pastor-teacher on Aug 12, 2008, Apprising Ministries