It’s Late And Do You Know Who’s Instructing Your Pastors?

We will begin with this past year’s 2008 Zondervan National Pastors Conference (NPC) where the NPC 2008 website at the time informed us that pastors who attended were encouraged to avail themselves of a “special overnight retreat” where, with the help of “The Transforming Center leaders,” they could “experience God’s transforming presence.” You see apparently this is something we as lower-tier Christians are just simply unable to do without the help of these enlightened spiritual gurus like Ruth Haley Barton.

Barton was again the “featured speaker” and teacher among these Transforming Center swamis at Zondervan’s NPC as she has been for the past couple of years. And it’s really little wonder because these NPC presentations are essentially extensions of The Transforming Center’s own “National Pastor’s Retreats” where you’re invited:

into rhythms of solitude, prayer and community in the relaxed environment of a beautiful retreat center!…

  • A safe place to be honest about the challenges of spiritual leadership
  • An experience of solitude, prayer and community
  • A deepened understanding of leadership that flows from your authentic self
  • Guidance for cultivating spiritual rhythms in the context of your life and leadership (Online source)
  • For a Biblical refutation of the foolishness concerning “your authentic self” we refer you to The Real Truth About Your Evil “True Self”. According to The Transforming Center website Ruth Haley Barton is “Co-Founder & President” as well as:

    a spiritual director, teacher and retreat leader trained through the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation(Bethesda, Maryland). Educated at Wheaton College (Wheaton, Illinois) and Northern Baptist Theological Seminary (Lombard, Illinois), Ruth has served on the pastoral staff of several churches, including Willow Creek Community Church. A  student of Family Systems Theory as it relates to congregational life (Lombard Mennonite Peace Center), Ruth consults with leadership teams in church and organizational settings.  She provides teaching and guidance in the areas of spiritual  formation and leadership development, community building and discernment.  (Online source, emphasis mine)

    In the Apprising Ministries article Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism As Methodology For Spiritual Formation I brought out that as a continuing series AM will be seeking to help the Body of Christ to “question” various teachers so often appealed to as “expert witnesses” for what I see as a counterfeit form of Christianity through their neo-pagan “spiritual disciplines” of corrupt Contemplative/Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) and its so-called “Christian” meditation of Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP)—which actually flowered in the antibiblical monastic traditions of apostate Roman Catholicism.

    Trained By The Shalem Institute Of Tilden Edwards

    With this in mind then we remind you that the bio of Ruth Haley Barton above has now introduced into evidence that fact that she was “trained through the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation.” And therefore we can also “cross-examine” this information, as it were, by taking a quick look at TSI, which is the home of its own “Founder and Senior Fellow” Tilden Edwards. In his book Spiritual Friend: Reclaiming the Gift of Spiritual Direction (SF) Edwards shares with us where this neo-gnostic CSM actually came from and while doing so reveals where it will eventually take those who continue in it long enough.

    However first, as all mystics must do, Edwards criticizes and then attempts to undermine “scripturally informed faith” based in rational thought, which he laments “helped pave the way for the Reformation’s ‘justification by faith alone’ ” (18). O how terrible; the Reformation focused attention back onto the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But you see the real practioners of CSM know that the exclusivity of the genuine Gospel of Jesus Christ is one huge roadblock to their interspiritual meditation powwows.

    Then SF in Edwards also enlightens us that his particular:

    mystical stream is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality (and to that of Sufi Moslems and some Hassidic Jews in the West as well). The Zen warning not to confuse the pointing finger…for the moon to which it points is a saying that a Christian mystic easily understands. It is no accident that the most active frontier between Christian and Eastern religions today is between contemplative Christian monks and their Eastern equivalents. Some forms of Eastern meditation informally have been incorporated or adapted into the practice of many Christian monks, and increasingly by other Christians. (19, emphasis mine)

    You need to understand that this form “of Eastern meditation” which has “been incorporated or adapted into the practice” would be the CCP of those “contemplative Christian monks,” e.g. Thomas Merton. And in evangelicalism’s sordid lust affair with the neo-pietism of Spiritual Formation as promulgated by Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster—with an able assist from his spiritual twin Dallas Willard—we’re now seeing this CCP practiced “increasingly by other Christians.” This is what your pastors are being taught at Zondervan NPCs by Roshi Ruth Haley Barton.

    In fact Barton’s 2006 book Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation about so-called “Spiritual disciplines [which] open us to God’s transforming love” Sacred Rhythms even comes with the glowing endorsement from Tilden Edwards below:

    Ruth Haley Barton offers much wise, sane, concrete help for people who are ready for the “more” of God amidst their busy lives and want a better way to arrange their lives to receive God’s transfroming presence…. She grounds those practices in our own deepest desires connecting those desires with God’s desires for our well-being. (back cover)

    One of the better known books Barton has written would be Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence (ISS). By the way, click that link and you’ll see that you can purchase this book teaching CSM right from Lifeway Christian Stores of the “Protestant” Southern Baptist Convention. We’re told that in ISS:

    Ruth Haley Barton invites you to meet God deeply and fully outside the demands and noise of daily life. She leads you on a journey toward freedom and authenticity, toward becoming the person God created you to be. (Online source)

    All The Usual Roman Catholic Priests Of So-Called “Christian” Mysticism

    In the “Sources” notes for “Chapter 7: Rest for the Soul” Barton tells us just where it is that she gained her understanding of this alleged “authentic self.” And wouldn’t you know it, her wisdom was actually gleaned from some of those neo-gnostic “contemplative Christian monks” Edwards was talking about above. Barton herself informs us:

    The concept of the true self and the false self is a consistent theme not only in Scripiture [It is; where?] but also in the writings of the church fathers and mothers. Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen (particularly Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart) and Father Thomas Keating are contemporary authors who have shaped my understanding of this aspect of the spiritual life. (141)

    Huh? Church “mothers”? And one final thing about Barton’s mentor Tilden Edwards; in the Winter 2000 Newsletterfrom TSI you’ll be able to see, to no real surprise, Edwards doesn’t hold to Sola Scriptura, and just like Marcus Borg he has great respect for Buddha: 

    For many years, I have kept in my office an ink drawing of two smiling figures with their arms around each other: Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha, with the caption: “Jesus and Buddha must be very good friends.” They are not the same, but they are friends, not enemies, and they are not indifferent to one another. From the very beginning of Shalem, I have been moved to affirm that statement. In my recently revised first book, Living Simply through the Day, I tell the story of my experience with a Tibetan Buddhist lama in 1973 and how my time with him helped me understand Christian contemplative tradition in a more experiential way.

    Many years ago, the Roman Catholic theologian John Dunne said that the spiritual adventure of our time is the passing over to the standpoint of another religion or culture and returning with new insight to one’s own. Indeed, many members of Roman Catholic religious orders have taken the lead in recent decades in “passing over” to Buddhist practices and standpoints and returning with a fresh perspective on Christian faith and practice. This venture also has been shared by many mainstream non-Catholic clergy and laity, as well as by many Jews. What has led so many to value such an exploration?

    We live in a time of great renaissance for contemplative understanding and practice. Many people have discovered the contemplative strands of other traditions that contribute to Judaeo-Christian ones. I believe that the Holy Spirit is in these enrichments across faith lines, not only for individual deepening but also as a way of discovering an underlying human spiritual connectedness beyond our authentic differences-a sense of connectedness that is essential to the world’s peace. Rather than being competitors and finding grounds for holy wars, we can recognize that we share the same basic yearnings for truth, love, and wholeness, and that each tradition has received a unique treasure of grace that can enlarge the other’s understanding and response to these longings. (Online source)

    We return now more specifically to “the former associate director of spiritual formation at Willow Creek Community Church,” Ruth Haley Barton, as Lighthouse Trails Research also brings out:

    Here’s what she says about contemplative prayer: “Ask for a simple prayer to express your willingness to meet God in the silence … a simple statement …such as “Here I am.” … Help yourself return to your original intent by repeating the prayer that you have chosen.” —Ruth Haley Barton Quotes taken from Discipleship Journal Vol. 113 1999 (Online source)

    In ISS one of the people Barton points us to in order to help us “meet God fully and deeply” is Richard Rohr who is another Living Spiritual Teacher along with Richard Foster. Rohr also happens to be author of a popular book which teaches the CCP of CSM called Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer. By the way it’s a book that’s also recommended by Emerging Church pastor Rob Bell and one which Spiritual Director Barton herself references in chapter 6 of her ISS.

    To introduce you further to Guru Rohr we now turn to the website of the Center for Action and Contemplation (CAC). Under the section Our Founderwe are told that “Father Richard Rohr is a Franciscan [Roman Catholic priest] of the New Mexico Province” (Online source). Swami Barton opens chapter one of ISS with the following bit of mystic wisdom from Roshi Rohr, “A good journey begins with knowing where we are and being willing to go somewhere else” (25). Well, following is where the deceptive “journey” of the practice of Contemplative/Centering Prayerhas taken Roshi Rohr.

    Jesus and Buddha And Their “Paths to Awakening”?

    In January of 2008 he was a featured “presenter” at Jesus and Buddha: Paths to Awakening (Online source)—sponsored by his own CAC—where in true contemplative messed up mystic theology he taught the equality of Buddha with Christ and the indwelling of God in all things:

    The Four Noble Truths are the distilled essence of the Buddhist teaching. In this retreat, each of the Four Noble Truths will be introduced and explored, with emphasis given to the presence of each Noble Truth at the heart of Jesus’ call to awaken to God’s presence in every detail of our daily lives…

    The teachings of both Jesus and Buddha call us to transformational honesty. They are both teaching us how to see, and how to see all the way through! They both knew that if you see God for yourself, you will see the Divine in all things. (Online source)

    So add Rohr to the growing society of “Christians” who hold this unregenerate teacher of pagan religion in high esteem. The wasted life of the aforementioned Thomas Merton, a highly revered Golden Buddha of CSM, is further proof as to where this type of spirituality will eventually take you if you choose to join these mystic fools in seeking to approach God in ways He has not sanctioned. By the time of his accidental electrocution in Bangkok Merton had all but become a Buddhist himself, which is painfully obvious as I show in Thomas Merton And The Buddhas.

    Merton wrote in his journal of the time just before his death when he stepped onto “holy ground” as he observed the huge Buddha statues at Polonnaruwa:

    I am able to approach the Buddhas barefoot and undisturbed, my feet in wet grass, wet sand. Then the silence of the extraordinary faces… I was knocked over with a rush of relief and thankfulness at the obvious clarity of the figures, the clarity and fluidity of shape and line, the design of the monumental bodies composed into the rock shape… The thing about all this is that there is no puzzle, no problem and really no “mystery.” All problems are resolved and everything is clear, simply because what matters is clear…

    I don’t know when in my life I have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination. Surely, with Mahabalipuram and Polonnaruwa my Asian pilgrimage had become clear and had purified itself. I mean, I know and have seen what I was obscurely looking for.

    Rather than seeking to walk the same ground as men like Thomas Merton the question evangelicals ought to be asking themselves is why are we turning to deceived dreamers like Ruth Haley Barton to bring this kind of heretical CSM skubalon into our churches?

    See also: