By Ken Silva
 
"Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God." [1]
 
Due to the importance of this topic of Contemplative/Centering Prayer, which is the source for the reemergence of the Gnostic neo-pagan "Christian" mysticism in new evangelicalism, I begin this series as quickly as I can. I ask the interested reader to please keep an eye out for this work to be ongoing to cover various mystics who are influential in the new spirituality now infecting the evangelical community of our Lord's Church.
 

 
We will begin with Richard Foster. In his book Celebration of Discipline (COD), while Foster is discussing "imagination," which he considers to be one of "The Inward Disciplines," the Guru of Contemplation writes:
 
We can descend with the mind into the heart most easily through the imagination. In this regard the great Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte speaks of "the divine offices and the splendid services of the Christian imagination." Perhaps some rare individuals experience God through abstract contemplation alone, but most of us need to be more deeply rooted in the senses. We must not despise this simpler, more humble route into God's presence. [2]
 
It's important to stop here and think something through: God indwells the Christian, even though most mystics believe God is already in everything and everyone, but we do know from the Bible that God only indwells the believer in Christ. Here's the key issue: If God is already present in the Christian, then why do we need contemplative spirituality as the "route into God's presence?" Answer: We don't.
 
O but it gets even worse. You see a core doctrine in the <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Emergent Church of new evangelicalism is the awful idea that we will use mysticism to find the "common ground" with other world religions. However, as you will be coming to see the first thing that has to be done in order to do this is to make Jesus of Nazareth into a mystic. This Foster begins to do in COD as, without any Biblical basis for the supposed mysticism of our Lord and Master, the Guru simply states:
 
Jesus himself taught in this manner, making constant appeal to the imagination, and many of the devotional masters likewise encourage us in this way. St. Teresa of Avila says, "…as I could not make reflection with my understanding I contrived to picture Christ within me." Many of us can identify with her words, for we too have tried a merely cerebral approach and found it too abstract, too detached. [3]
 

 
We'll cover so-called "St." Teresa of Avila next time. In fact in COD Foster includes this Roman Catholic nun among "the great writers of the devotional life," which he says goes "from St. Augustine to St. Francis, from John Calvin to John Wesley, from Teresa of Avila to Juliana of Norwich." [4] You might make note here that the ecumenical Foster is undoubtedly influenced in his own aberrant mystic views by the apostate Church of Rome, and in opposition to the theology of the Reformers, Foster obviously considers it a part of the true Body of Christ. 
 
Another issue that has not been thoroughly explored in the study of this invasion of contemplative spirituality into the evangelical camp, deeply rooted as it is in Roman Catholicism, is that Guru Richard Foster is a Quaker, or a member of The Religious Society of Friends, as they prefer to be called. If one wants to better understand how Foster's own teachings about the "inward life" were shaped then it becomes necessary to have a working background of the theology inherent in this group in which he has been raised.
 
In his fine work Christianity Through The Centuries Dr. Earle Cairns informs us:
 
The Quakers appeared on the English religious scene during the chaotic period of the Civil War and the Commonwealth. They set aside the doctrines of an organized church and the Bible as the sole and final revelation of God's will in favor of the doctrine of the Inner Light, by which they meant that the Holy Spirit can give immediate and direct knowledge of God apart from the Bible. [5]
 
In his classic two volume set A History Of Christianity the great Yale historian Kenneth Scott Latourette adds:
 
Their founder was George Fox (1624-1691). Of humble birth, from boyhood he had heard Puritan preaching and had acquired an intimate familiarity with the text of the English Bible… For four years he suffered severe spiritual depression induced by the spectacle of human suffering,…and by the doctrine of predestination… By temperament a mystic, he was eager for direct and unhindered access to God… He would follow and have others follow the Inner Light." [6]
 
These are all very important concepts to understand regarding the spiritual excesses of The Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers). An aberrant view of mysticism is already rooted in the foundational theology of the Quakers. Their founder George Fox began with his theology already turned backward. Thus two major flaws emerged; out went the Pastoral Epistles for God's prescribed method of spiritual leadership within His local churches, and instead of judging all experience by Holy Scripture, in the Quaker view it became that the proper understanding of the Bible was to be determined by mystical experience.
 
And it is this very same mortal theological wound of interpreting the text of the Bible by the spiritual experience a given person may have that is also central to the postmodern approach of the Emergent Church, of which Richard Foster is "a key mentor."
 


[1] 3 John 1:11

[2] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, (HarperCollins, 1998), p. 25, emphasis mine.

[3] Ibid., emphasis mine.

[4] Ibid., p. 5, emphasis mine.

[5] Earle Cairns, Christianity Through The Centuries, (Zondervan, 1996), p. 381, emphasis mine.

[6] Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History Of Christianity, (Prince Press, 2003) p. 822, emphasis mine.

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