In our last article, Spiritual Formation Rude Awakening, we ended with a video from Richard Foster, one of the leading proponents of Spiritual Formation. I described to you how I came to learn the phrase Spiritual Formation and its meaning as well as what is implied and practiced by those who employ Spiritual Formation techniques in their “spiritual journey”. Now, I want to take the time to begin explaining the many reasons I believe Richard Foster to be a false teacher, as well as define more of the terms associated with this movement, and point you to resources to better help you understand why it is so important to recognize the “buzz words” and the trends behind this movement. I have discovered that not everyone who employs the terms associated with this movement even understand themselves the actual roots behind it. There is plenty online by others with far more experience and knowledge than I have on these topics, and where relevant ,I will point you to their sites and information. I am primarily going to focus on my own direct research and try to Biblically persuade you to understand my reasoning for this conclusion. I realize, especially in our modern age of political correctness, that to use a label like “false teacher’ or worse “heretic” is not popular. I want to assure everyone that I am not using the term lightly with regard to Foster. While, I haven’t read every single word the man has ever written, I have read enough from his website and online excerpts of his books, to be able to rightly make an assessment with regard to his teachings. I am not judging the man as a person or his heart motivations; merely, what he teaches. In keeping with the biblical mandate to test every spirit to see if it is in fact from the Lord, I venture to do this to warn the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Why I believe Richard Foster to be a false teacher: Reason #1:
1. . Richard Foster Teaches Mystical Prayer and Mingles with Eastern Religious Mystical Practices
Read His Own Words
“[I]n your imagination allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body. Look back so that you can see yourself lying in the grass and reassure your body that you will return momentarily … Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator. Rest in His presence.” Richard Foster in the 1978 edition of Celebration of Discipline, pp. 26-27
I challenge you to find from Scripture one single passage (in context) that supports such mystical nonsensical prayer. What is he talking about? Well, this is instruction in what is known as Contemplative Prayer. Now you would think that contemplative prayer means to contemplate God while praying, but it doesn’t. It means quite the opposite. It means to sit in silence and attempt to empty your mind of all rational thought so as to enter this altered state of consciousness and enter into the divine presence of God (or whomever you think the ‘eternal Creator’ is for your own faith).
For just a cursory definition of contemplative prayer you can visit Got Questions.org here. There you will find the following statement:
Contemplative prayer begins with “centering prayer,” a meditative practice where the practitioner focuses on a word and repeats that word over and over for the duration of the exercise. The purpose is to clear one’s mind of outside concerns so that God’s voice may be more easily heard. After the centering prayer, the practitioner is to sit still, listen for direct guidance from God, and feel His presence.
What does the Bible say about repeating a word over and over during prayer?
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking Matthew 6:7
They also provide a pretty good overview and introduction into Richard Foster’s ministry, Renovare, and what is being taught.
“Renovaré (the Latin word for “renewal”) purports to work for the renewal of the Church by concentrating on the “spiritual formation” of individual Christians. This “spiritual formation” involves following certain practices and traditions with the result that the life of Christ is formed within the Christian. This sacramental living—a moment-by-moment interaction with God—Foster calls the “with-God life.”
Of course, becoming Christlike and developing the inner person should be the goal of every Christian. There are, however, definite red flags that go up when the basic tenets of the Renovaré movement are examined. First, Renovaré is unabashedly ecumenical. “Wisdom” is gathered from Catholic, Episcopal, mystic, and Protestant sources alike, with no regard for the serious theological differences these groups have. Biblical Christianity and Roman Catholicism are two different religions that practice and believe different things about how one is saved, the authority of the Bible, the priesthood of believers, the nature of man, the work of Christ on the cross, and the veneration of and prayer to Mary. The list of irreconcilable differences between what the Bible says and what the Roman Catholic Church says makes any joint mission between the two absolutely impossible. Those who deny this are not being true to what they say they believe, no matter which side they are on. Any Catholic who is serious about his faith will deny what a serious evangelical Christian believes and vice-versa.
Second, Renovaré places a heavy emphasis on mysticism to the detriment of solid theology. The release of the Renovaré Spiritual Formation Bible in 2005 has packaged the mystical thinking of Renovaré scholars into “study notes” for the Bible itself. Besides Foster, editors included Dallas Willard, Walter Brueggemann, and Eugene Peterson. In an early edition of The Celebration of Discipline, Foster advises, “In your imagination allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body. . . . Reassure your body that you will return momentarily. Imagine your spiritual self, alive and vibrant, rising up through the clouds and into the stratosphere. . . . Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal Creator. Do not be disappointed if no words come; like good friends, you are silently enjoying the company of each other” (p 27). This activity bears a striking resemblance to astral projection and an out-of-body experience, both occult practices that are strictly forbidden in Scripture.
At Contemplative Outreach located just off Renovare’s site, Fr. Thomas Keating and others happily explain to you the purpose and scope of Centering Prayer. In the following video we are told,
“God’s first language is silence. In this brief time that we have when we walk the earth, when we have quiet moments, something happens to us; SOMETHING BEGINS TO BE REBORN IN US that is unbelievable
Keating tells us, “Centering prayer is a method of OPENING and CONSENTING to God’s presence and action within us; a way of ESTABLISHING A RELATIONSHIP with him that grows deeper and deeper in intamacy, understanding, and self surrender. We LET GO OF OUR ORDINARY PSYCHOLOGICAL AWARENESS and TURN INWARDLY TO THE CENTER OF OUR BEING to our spiritual faculties; intellect and will to God and to access the source of true happiness rather than look for it in an external.”
Another man states, “My only knowledge of what happens in centering prayer is afterwards; it is in the spiritual fruits.”
Keating goes on to say, “Secondly, I see contemplative prayer as a point of unity between the Christian denominations, and finally, we are in a better position to dialogue with the GREAT SPIRITUAL TRADITIONS OF THE EASTERN RELIGIONS, BUDDHISM AND HINDUSIM, who also have a very rich contemplative tradition.”
Scripture tells us that the process of being born again is not of us, but of God. Salvation is unto the Lord and is an act of grace through faith (which comes from hearing the Word…not sitting in silence) in Jesus Christ ALONE.
So then [it is] not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. Romans 9:16, “No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, [that is], the Son of Man who is in heaven. John 3:13, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:13
Christian brothers and sisters, I ask you, what fellowship does darkness have with light? Why do we need to dialogue with other eastern traditions that are idol worshipers and sons of the devil, other than to proclaim the gospel to them for the salvation of their souls. God’s first language is NOT SILENCE. God’s WORD is a written revelation handed down by the blood of martyred men and women. There is thorougly NOTHING biblical about the teaching of centering prayer, listening prayer, contemplative prayer, silence and solitude, or whatever you want to call it. It is not a biblical method of prayer. We are never told in Scripture to sit in silence to hear God speak to us and to practice his presence. Rather, it is my conclusion that this practice is a fulfillment of the end times prophecy that states:
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons 1 Timothy 4:1
For You have forsaken Your people, the house of Jacob, Because they are filled with eastern ways; They [are] soothsayers like the Philistines, And they are pleased with the children of foreigners. Isaiah 2:6
I encourage you to follow some of the links provided by Renovare’s site. Take the time to see who else shows up as practitioners and endorsers of centering prayer with your own eyes.
Click here or follow one of the many links below to do your own research.
http://www.renovare.us/SPIRITUALRENEWAL/LivingLikeJesus/PrayerFilledLife/tabid/2573/Default.aspx (also a link to Jesuits here)
from that site click on this link: http://www.contemplativeoutreach.org/site/PageServer?pagename=about
Then click here to see who helps deliver the “teaching” of contemplative prayer for them:
At soundstrue you can click on these links for proof that this is a practice of Eastern Religion:
Notice there are Buddhists, Hindus, Eckhart Tolle is on there. He is who Oprah endorses. They believe there is no Hell. They believe we just need a “Christ consciousness” to get to heaven. This is a denial of the need to be born again (which is a work of God…no man can accomplish it by mystical prayer)
http://www.soundstrue.com/shop/Contemplative-Prayer/368.productdetails by Thomas Keating
“Shortly after the founding of the order, their focus shifted to counteracting the spread of Protestantism. The counter-reformation in the 16th and 17th centuries was largely due to the Jesuits. With their vows of total obedience to the Pope and their strict military style training, the Jesuits became feared across Europe as the “storm-troopers” of the Catholic Church, and they led armies which recaptured large areas for the Roman Catholic Church. Along with the military actions, their work centered on education and missionary expansion, and by the end of Loyola’s life in 1556, there were Jesuits in Japan, Brazil, Ethiopia, and most parts of Europe. Many of the explorers of that period were accompanied by Jesuit priests, eager to bring Catholicism to new lands.”
Why does Richard Foster show up on this New Age site: http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/teachers/teachers.php?id=259
Consider these ministries warning about Richard Foster:
I leave you with this final admonition until next time. Through my research, I have discovered that Richard Foster is widely endorsed and accepted by the greater evangelical world. Sadly, he has infiltrated the Southern Baptist Convention fairly thoroughly with his book being read and taught in most seminaries I have found. More disturbing still is that the practice of Centering Prayer is being promulgated by MANY MANY popular teachers. Many, that I, myself, have read and studied and in time I will provide more evidence to support that claim. But for now, I leave you with this admonition from our Lord’s Word:
“For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Jude 1:4