Emerging Mysticism in New Evangelicalism<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

By Ken Silva
 
It will not be wise in the times we are currently living in to have a "business as usual" approach to our Christian walk. You may recall our Lord letting the Jewish religious leaders of His day know that He expected them to understand the times in which they were living when they pressed the Master for a sign from Heaven:
 
He answered them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.' You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times."[1]
 
For those with eyes to see the sky has been looking quite red and threatening over evangelicalism for quite some time and especially so with a new evangelicalism that has emerged which is steeped in mysticism. The Trojan Horse that has brought this neo-paganism into the Christian community is the Emerging Church (EC). At the outset let's firmly establish from credible sources how this element of mysticism fits into this new evangelicalism. As you will be coming to see, its impact is already far reaching enough that Chuck Swindoll has even used mystic sources in his own most recent work.
 
The Richard Foster Connection

As we begin we must first establish Richard Foster as the link for this "Christian" mysticism from the Emerging Church (EC) into the mainstream of the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />American Church. Space does not allow for an in-depth discussion so the interested reader is referred to my more thorough documentation at Apprising Ministries. Initially we make the connection of Foster with the EC. In an article in Christianity Today (CT) a couple of years back entitled "The Emergent Mystique," we are told that Brian McLaren is a prominent theologian in "Emergent, the emerging church network that he and several other church planters and pastors lead."

 

McLaren then goes on to cite Dallas Willard and Richard Foster, with their emphasis on spiritual disciplines, "as key mentors for the emerging church." [2] This is very important to understand for a couple of reasons. Although many in the EC would wish to distance themselves from McLaren as he drifts further from the historic orthodox Christian faith, as you can see they can't because he clearly is one its leaders. So here now we have a "prominent theologian" in the EC informing us Richard Foster is one of the "key mentors for the emerging church" along with Dallas Willard.
 
On Brian McLaren's website he provides a running commentary on that aforementioned CT article. First there is a quote from it, which says McLaren "cites Dallas Willard and Richard Foster, with their emphasis on spiritual disciplines, as key mentors for the emerging church." McLaren himself then adds this comment, "I'm grateful to Andy for including the preceding, because many people doubt this.[3] Elsewhere on his website a reader asks the Emergent theologian about the subject of "spiritual formation," which is the mysticism of which we speak:
 
The reason I am writing you is because I am trying to better understand what spiritual formation is…I have heard a lot on this subject from people such as Richard Foster and Dallas Willard,… How would you define Spiritual Formation and what kind of importance would you place on it with the current generation?
 
Answer: I hope to do some writing on this subject in a year or two. In the meantime, I have deep appreciation for what my friend Dallas Willard is saying. He, and those he points to, are great guides.[4]
 
This kind of non-answer is what you will also come to expect from Brian McLaren, but for now we note that the Emergent spiritual director tells us that his "friend" Dallas Willard, as well as "those he points to, are great guides." Then as evidenced by the following answer to another reader's question, McLaren also seems to have a deep appreciation for what Richard Foster is doing for the "Christian mystical tradition" as well.
 
In some of my readings, both of books authored by you and others, I have read about Christian mystics. Who are the predominant Christian mystic authors?
 
Answer: If you pick up Richard Foster's "Celebration of Discipline" and his other work via Renovare, you'll get a great exposure to the Christian mystical tradition.
"The Spiritual Formation Workbook" is a great resource too. Tony Jones' "The Sacred Way" is also a sturdy introduction to contemplative practices.[5]
 
As we close this piece we note that McLaren also recommended the book The Sacred Way by Tony Jones, the National Coordinator of Emergent-US, as a good resource on the subject of "contemplative practices" (mysticism) as well. So now we have firmly established Richard Foster as a "key" mentor and source of authority in the Emergent Church on contemplative practices and the so-called Christian mystic tradition. As we continue our look at the emerging mysticism in new evangelicalism it will be critical for you to know the key players who are involved.
 


[1] Matthew 16:2-3, ESV

[2] http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/011/12.36.html         

[3] http://www.anewkindofchristian.com/achives/000271.html, emphasis his

[4] http://www.anewkindofchristian/archives/000283.html

[5] http://www.anewkindofchristian/archives/000467.html

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