Since When Has Contemplative Spirituality Been Reformed Doctrine?
In posts such as Calvinist Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism? and Calvinist Contemplative/Centering Prayer? here at Apprising Ministries I’ve shared some concern about this New Calvinism as expressed e.g. by Matt Chandler and particularly Mark Driscoll, founder of Acts 29 Network:
Four Ways ‘New Calvinism’ is So Powerful
- Old Calvinism was fundamental or liberal and separated from or syncretized with culture. New Calvinism is missional and seeks to create and redeem culture.
- Old Calvinism fled from the cities. New Calvinism is flooding into cities.
- Old Calvinism was cessationistic and fearful of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. New Calvinism is continuationist and joyful in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
- Old Calvinism was fearful and suspicious of other Christians and burned bridges. New Calvinism loves all Christians and builds bridges between them. (Online source)
Leaving aside the broadbrushing of “Old Calvinism,” point number 3 is the concern here. As one who holds to the doctrines of grace, though I wouldn’t call myself a Calvinist, and being that I’m not a strict cessationist, I have zero fear “of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.” That said, I am most certainly a bit “suspicious” when people speak of being “a reformed charismatic” as does Matt Chandler in the video below. In his post Matt Chandler on being a reformed charismatic Adrian Warnock tells us:
This is the second of a four-part interview with Matt Chandler. At Together For the Gospel, Chandler began his talk by claiming to be a reformed charismatic. After Grudem’s recent interview on this subject at New Word Alive, I was eager to ask Matt just what he meant by this, as there is a broad spectrum of people who would describe themselves as charismatic. (Online source)
Indeed, there are; and this is where we now find ourselves entering a murky and mystical area. Now I’ll show you why I said that; I told you previously, e.g. in Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism Creeps Closer…To Your Church, about a very key component which was hidden within the Trojan Horse of the sinfully ecumenical neo-liberal cult of the Emerging Church aka Emergent Church with its new postmodern form of big tent Progressive Christianity aka Emergence Christianity. Which, by the way, has been pushed at Young Adult and Youth groups within squishy evanjellyfish for years now.
What the EC has been doing all along is blurring doctrinal lines through their core doctrine of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM), as taught by Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster, along with his spiritual twin and Southern Baptist minister Dallas Willard. I’ve also reminded you that as far back as 2004 EC guru Brian McLaren told you that that Foster and Willard were “key mentors” of the EC, and their whole shtick is spreading spurious CSM under the guise of so-called Spiritual Formation, which has now been ongoing for decades within evangelical seminaries.
As I was following up a tip from a reader concerning The Village Church (TVC), where New Calvinist Matt Chandler is pastor, I began looking into all of this in Confusion Concerning Calvinist Spirituality? Let me be crystal clear here; I am well aware of pastor Chandler’s current situation with his battling a malignant brain tumor, and of course, I’m praying that the Lord will heal him quickly and completely. And as you’ll see, that aforementioned article was actually written back in April of last year.
He is undoubtedly a brother, with what appears to be some heterodox beliefs in the area of CSM; and in no way should this be perceived as an attack upon Matt Chandler, or for that matter, anyone else. Returning now more specifically to TVC, which is aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention, as I investigated what the reader had told me I did a search in the Recommended Books at the TVC website—which they tell us “have challenged and helped us as a staff in our faith and in our ministry work.”
I will say I did find it quite odd that we would find the following books by Richard Foster: Celebration of Discipline, Streams of Living Water and The Challenge of the Disciplined Life.
Contemplative Mysticism Is Counter To Proper Christian Spirituality of Sola Scriptura
Checking these sources again today and finding they’re still there, as well as having read Streams of Living Waters (SoLF) myself, I will tell you that I do wonder what we’ll learn about proper Christian spirituality from a Quaker mystic. Dr. Gary Gilley rightly informs us that “Celebration Of Discipline” By Richard Foster An Encyclopedia Of Theological Error. What exactly would the Counter Reformation (hello) spirituality espoused by Foster do to help the “staff in our faith” at TVC? Gilley informs us:
Celebration of Discipline alone, not even referencing Foster’s other writings and teachings and ministries, is a virtual encyclopedia of theological error. We would be hard pressed to find in one so-called evangelical volume such a composite of false teaching. These include faulty views on the subjective leading of God (pp. 10, 16-17, 18, 50, 95, 98, 108-109, 128, 139-140, 149-150, 162, 167, 182); approval of New Age teachers (see Thomas Merton below); occultic use of imagination (pp. 25-26, 40-43, 163, 198); open theism (p. 35); misunderstanding of the will of God in prayer (p. 37); promotion of visions, revelations and charismatic gifts (pp. 108, 165, 168-169, 171, 193); endorsement of rosary and prayer wheel use (p. 64); misunderstanding of the Old Testament Law for today (pp. 82, 87); mystical journaling (p. 108); embracing pop-psychology (pp. 113-120); promoting Roman Catholic practices such as use of “spiritual directors,” confession and penance (pp. 146-150, 156, 185); and affirming of aberrant charismatic practices (pp. 158-174, 198). (Online source)
You’ll see in Calvinist Contemplative/Centering Prayer? that Mark Driscoll also recommends Foster’s Celebration of Discipline as well; and in addition, he recommends the contemplative book Sacred Pathways (SP) by Gary Thomas. Consider the following from the online apologetics and discernment ministry Lighthouse Trails Research:
In an article written by Driscoll himself, ironically titled Obedience, Driscoll tells readers to turn to Richard Foster and contemplative Gary Thomas. Driscoll states:
As for Gary Thomas, in his book Sacred Pathways (the one Driscoll recommends), Thomas tells readers to repeat a word for 20 minutes in order to still the mind. This is the basic principle in all Eastern and occultic methods. (Online source)
I covered this in more detail in Contemplative Monvee: Placing Experience Above Scripture; that noted, I happen to have the book SP by Thomas and, in addition to teaching mantra meditation, the fact is that chapter 9 is a veritable ode of praise for contemplatives whom Thomas says:
simply want to bathe in the ocean of love God has for his children, while the rest of us seem unfortunately content to experience that love drop by drop.
The clear implication is they are superior Christians; Thomas then continues on with his romanticizing of mystics as he tell us about the “Acts of Contemplatives,” which he calls “many forms of prayer and activities that contemplatives can make use of in addition to general contemplative prayer.” Next Thomas goes through “The Jesus Prayer,” “Secret Acts of Devotion,” “Dancing Prayer,” “Centering Prayer” (it’s the same as Contemplative Prayer), “Prayer of the Heart,” “Stations of the Cross,” and finally “Meditative Prayer,” which you’ll see mystics also refer to as “the silence” and/or “wordless prayer.” 
Under that section Meditative Prayer Thomas goes into a short spiel about Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the militantly pro-Roman Catholic Church spiritual Gestapo Unit known as the Jesuits. Thomas though tells that his, “The Spiritual Exercises, helped make mental prayer [i.e. Contemplative/Centering Prayer] more popular.” As you’ll see in Keeping You Apprised Of: Contemplative/Centering Prayer this type of meditation in an altered state of consciousness—a TM-lite sprayed with Christian terminology—was not practiced or taught by Jesus; nor by His Apostles.
As it concerns Richard Foster, in his fine book A Time for Departing Christian apologist Ray Yungen is correct in his discussion below concerning the vision that Richard Foster claims to have received directly from God, which Foster shares beginning on page 273 of his SoLF. The Quaker mystic talks about a “deep conviction that…a great new thing is coming.” Incidently, and in fairness, where the Roman Catholic mystic Meister Eckhart’s “great underground river” would include all religions eventually flowing to God, Foster’s own “streams of living waters” do appear to be limited just to so-called “Christian” faith traditions.
With this in mind, concerning Foster’s “revelation”—he’s allegedly gleaned from the Lord Himself through his practice of CSM—Yungen tells us:
Richard Foster emanates his hoped-for vision of an “all inclusive community” that he feels God is forming today. He sees this as “a great, new gathering of the people of God.” On the surface this might sound noble and sanctifying, but a deeper examination will expose elements that line up more with Alice Bailey’s vision [of the New Age] than with Jesus Christ’s. Foster prophesies:
I see a Catholic monk from the hills of Kentucky standing alongside a Baptist evangelist from the streets of Los Angeles and together offering up a sacrifice of praise. I see a people.
The only place in “the hills of Kentucky” where Catholic monks live is the Gethsemane Abbey, a Trappist monastery. This also, coincidentally, was the home base of Thomas Merton. 
However, as nice as the idea of these streams coming together may sound, this prophesy flows in direct opposition to Reformation theology and the doctrines of grace that one like Chandler would say he believes. So the question that needs to be examined here is: Why would the staff of a Reformed pastor, who refers to himself as a Calvinist, even want us reading a likely unregenerate—and unquestionably sinfully ecumenical—Quaker mystic to learn about Christian spirituality? A man whose own Christian doctrine is so watered-down and nebulous that he has been included in the Living Spiritual Teachers Project right alongside New Age mystics like Deepak Chopra and Marianne Williamson.
Yet, in addition to Foster, the Spiritual Life section of TVC also has three other contemplative “classics” as well:
The Imitation of Christ by Roman Catholic mystic Thomas a Kempis
The Practice of the Presence of God by Roman Catholic monk “Brother” Lawrence
The Ragamuffin Gospel by apostate mystic Brennan Manning, a real fav of the EC
Then there’s three books by Philip Yancey who’s rather semi-pelagian with touches of Open Theism, at best. I’ll tell you in no uncertain terms, as a pastor-teacher myself, there’s absolutely no way I would willingly expose my sheep to any of those authors. People only have so much time to read and there’s far better out there. This kind of thing by The Village Church staff only serves to make faded lines even more blurry within Reformed circles. And I am also aware of the caveat: The Village may not necessarily endorse or believe all that is written in these books. The problem is, we’re left to wonder: Which parts are not necessarily endorsed of believed?
1. Gary Thomas, Sacred Pathways [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000], 182.
2. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing [Silverton: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2002], 130.