They are full of superstitions from the East; they practice divination like the Philistines and clasp hands with pagans. (Isaiah 2:6)
Richard Foster, modern day guru of contemplative prayer, is very popular in Nazarene and other evangelical denominations. One of his books was featured at the Nazarene General Assembly in 2009, on a table situated in one of two “Prayer Rooms.” You know (for those who were there), the prayer rooms that had that good old Roman Catholic feel to them with their prayer stations, icons, and candles. The post has a short video of the room.
In a recent post, I questioned the wisdom of the leadership at Point Loma Nazarene University for allowing Richard Foster’s Renovaré group to come and spread their false ideology at a Christian school. Recently the coordinator of Renovaré posted the following comment on my blog in defense of Renovaré, which was founded by Foster, the guru of this “new” spirituality, which is not really new. Here is what he said:
“While I really appreciate and admire the energy you put into this work, it is very discouraging to think of all that is being done to “correct” what is perceived as the wayward ways of others as opposed to casting a positive vision of life with God in his kingdom for Christians and non-Christians alike.
On Renovare specifically, we promote a balanced vision of Christian life and faith that encourages growth in six areas of faith and practice:
Contemplative: Prayer-Filled Life
Holiness: Virtuous Life
Charismatic: Spirit-Empowered Life
Social Justice: Compassionate Life
Evangelical: Word-Centered Life
Incarnational: Sacramental Life
We do draw on Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox persons and practices from the past, as do all Christians. There was no other church before the 10th Century! And, believe it or not, there were no Protestants before the 16th Century! And, I believe, Nazarenes are part of this Protestant branch of Christianity. So we all gain from the legacy that is the Roman Catholic Church. It cannot be avoided.
In any case, I would very much appreciate it if you would discontinue referring to Renovare as a “contemplative spirituality” ministry. While this is something that we care about and promote, as did Jesus (what did he did for 40 days in the desert? build sand castles? no, he prayed and contemplated the goodness of God), it is not the only thing. We are as much about helping people grow in holiness and compassion and other areas as in the life of prayer.” (Emphasis mine)
I thanked Mr. Graybeal for commenting and for at least having the courage to defend his position, albeit I believe an incorrect defense that is not based on scripture. I am particularly bothered by the stunning silence of those Nazarenes who promote this stuff in the college seminars, conferences, course, and retreats, but have yet to defend this biblically, other than stating that these are biblical practices, without further supporting their positions with a sound defense.
I know what he means by contemplative. He describes it as “prayer filled life”, but our contention has always been that it is not the kind of prayer that is biblically sanctioned. This contemplative life he references is the same as that of people like Tony Campolo with his Celtic mysticism, or folks like Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, and goes all the way back to the Desert Fathers of old. It cannot be traced in any way to scripture, no matter what they say. “Be still”, from Psalm 46, does not cut it as an excuse for mindless meditation, which contemplative prayer leads us into.
He also says, “We do draw on Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox persons and practices from the past, as do all Christians.” No, we don’t all draw from these traditions. It was these and other deviations from orthodox biblical Christianity that spurred Martin Luther to nail the 95 Theses to the church walls. And Martin Luther himself hated these kinds of mindless practices, and yet the contemplatives of today along with the emergent church crowd, insist on telling lies to justify these practices. I would ask any Nazarene pastor or leader today, can you tell me when we started drawing from these traditions, and why?
Mr. Graybeal justifies contemplative spirituality and “meditation” with reference to Jesus praying out in the desert. The problem is that Jesus prayed not in the way of the Eastern mystics, but instead prayed directly to God, with a conscious mind, not a mind that He emptied! Sure, I can contemplate on God’s goodness, on God’s word, and think about it and learn from it. That’s biblical contemplation. The contemplation of today’s “Christian” mystics leads to emptying the mind. It’s not the kind of contemplation you will find anywhere in the Bible. In fact, it’s the kind of contemplation that led Richard Foster to warn us that before we enter into contemplative prayer, that we ought to pray a “prayer of protection”, because the spirits involved may not be of God! And, he warned that he does not recommend this practice to novices! Furthermore, he also believes that even non-Christians can practice this kind of prayer just as Christians do!
So… where is the discernment from our professors, our pastors, and our national leaders, to thoroughly reject Richard Foster, Leonard Sweet, and all the other false teachers who are peddling this false “New Spirituality?” Why would Point Loma Nazarene University host a retreat sponsored by Renovaré this year? I think I know the answer, but the question still needs to be asked. Yet, in almost all our Nazarene universities and the seminary, you will find a fascination with Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Brother Lawrence- almost anybody but a good old solid holiness author, who might be thrown in there just to say they have some of them too.
And finally, “So we all gain from the legacy that is the Roman Catholic Church. It cannot be avoided.” No, we don’t all gain from the legacy of the Roman Catholic Church, and it CAN and SHOULD be avoided. As we start incorporating the Roman Catholic mysticism that the Reformation rejected, we are actually attempting to go backwards to a time of inward turning, works-based Christianity which cannot save anyone, instead of a Christianity focused solely on Christ and the redemptive work he did on the Cross. The Five Solas came out of the Reformation:
Sola scriptura (“by Scripture alone”), Sola fide (“by faith alone”), Sola gratia (“by grace alone”), Solus Christus or Solo Christo (“Christ alone” or “through Christ alone”), Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”)
Contemplative spirituality practices are a rejection of these five principles. These principles are all taught in scripture and therefore are founded on God’s word. The same cannot be said of contemplative prayer, mindless “silence” or “the thin places” of Tony Campolo, no matter how much its supporters protest. That’s because it is not based on the word of God, but on doctrines of demons.
I sincerely would like to know from our General Superintendents, what are the biblical justifications for these kinds of practices, and for allowing blatantly false teachers like Richard Foster? Since our top leaders sets the tone for our denomination, I believe we have a right to get a clear, unambiguous answer from you. And… are we becoming Roman Catholic?
For further insight into Foster and others, the following article by Pastor Ken Silva at Apprising Ministries explains the roots of this dangerous spirituality: