Everyone seems to be talking about being on a journey lately when it comes to the Christian faith. Well, we are on a journey that is for sure. The great Christian classic, Pilgrim’s Progress, is a cherished read for the true Christian because immediately, if you are truly on this journey, you are connected to the experiences of Christian and all the characters he meets along the way. However, many talk about our journey in a much different way than the Biblical meaning. Many talk about the Christian “journey” or “experience” as if it is something to be uniquely experienced and defined, or rather really RE-defined, based upon one’s subjective viewpoint. Well, once Christianity begins to be solely defined by one’s own subjective experience and not the Objective written closed canon of God’s Holy Word, well, then it ceases to be Christian at all.
if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?
So as I begin to share “my journey” I would rather spare you all the minute details of how I became acquainted with a movement within the evangelical arena known as Spiritual Formation. However, I believe it is necessary to provide you with some background information. In the past few months the Lord has increasingly opened my eyes to many errors, both in my own understanding of His Word, and in many of the teachers and instructors that I have both followed and promoted. The plunged initiation into this journey occurred in a baptism by fire introduction to Spiritual Formation while attending a home school conference held at Gardner Webb university this past summer. Suffice it to say that within 48 hours of the conference, I had contacted my husband to drive 6 hours round trip to bring me home. The theology that was being promoted wasn’t quite right and while I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at the time, I knew I had to get out of there and figure out what exactly was being promoted. On the second night, during a lecture that was suppose to be about “A philosophy for education” the speaker, Dr. Carroll Smith of Gardner Webb University, the Baptist college where the conference was held began to quote the works of N.T. Wright, John Walton, Jurgen Moltmann, and John Polkinghorne.The latter three I did not know, but the first, N.T. Wright, I knew to be a teacher of heresy from reading Ken Ham of Answers In Genesis. Incidentally I did discover that Polkinghorne believes we came from primates, Walton doesn’t believe the Bible give a historical account of creation and that God made everything for us and not Himself, and Moltmann doesn’t believe in Hell, and NT Wright has some very confused views regarding justification
As I continued to research both the names quoted and the terms used at this conference, an unraveling started to take place. First, there was a personal unraveling as I had to come to grips with how WIDESPREAD and popular this movement has become. Secondly, the unraveling of my own theology and the “reforming” of a better understanding of what it is exactly that makes up the Christian faith and experience.
Much of what was being taught at this conference was a method by which one could gain spiritual growth and oneness with God through what they call, “Spiritual Formation“. There was very little talk about the need for regeneration, the need to be born again, the need to repent and believe. Rather, the major focus was that the body, soul, mind, and spirit are all one being and ought not be separated and that God is inhabiting ALL CREATION, a concept I now understand to be a type of pantheism, called panentheism, as it teaches that God can be found IN everything and that the earth is the temple of God. If that sounds a little New Age to you, well it should, because it is a very New Age concept.
“Panentheism holds that God is the “supreme effect” of the universe. God is everything in the universe, but God also is greater than the universe. Events and changes in the universe affect and change God. As the universe grows and learns, God also increases in knowledge and being.”
Over the next several posts, I will begin to share what I learned about the Spiritual Formation movement and hopefully try to help be another voice to awaken the church to something happening right under our noses. I will end this post with a few definitions of terms for you to ponder.
Let’s just start with the first definition of Spiritual Formation that I had ever read and what was promoted at this particular conference. When I read this, of course, at the time I had no idea what it was or if it was even wrong. To be ‘spiritually formed’ sounds pretty Biblical. We are to not be ‘conformed’ but ‘transformed by the renewing of our minds’ right? So, what’s wrong with Spiritual Formation? Well, here was the description under the heading for the class called, “Spiritual Formation”
“Our Lord…reverenced whatever the learner had in him of his own, and was tender fostering this native growth…Men, in His eyes, were not mere clay in the hands of the potter, matter to be molded into shape. They were organic beings, each growing form within, with a life of his own- a personal life which was exceedingly precious in His and His Father’s eyes- and He would foster this growth so that it might take after the highest type.” (H. Latham quoted in School Education, p. 183)
What was that gobbledygook? Well, I still don’t quite know, but one thing I do know. God MOST CERTAINLY DOES SEE MAN AS MERE CLAY IN THE HANDS OF THE POTTER. Consider the following passage in Romans:
Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor? Romans 9:21
And this one from Isaiah:
But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousness are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf,And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.7 And there is no one who calls on Your name,Who stirs himself up to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us,And have consumed us because of our iniquities.8 But now, O LORD,You are our Father;We are the clay, and You our potter;And all we are the work of Your hand.Isaiah 64:6-8
As I continued to research the term, “Spiritual Formation” the scope of influence got bigger and bigger until I landed on a man named Richard Foster. And that was where the unraveling really began and the piecing it together has been an ongoing journey ever since. I’ll wrap up this post with the definition of Spiritual Formation from Richard Foster’s Renovare website and a few comments. Then in my next several posts I will begin to share why I believe Richard Foster is a widely accepted false teacher and why I believe Spiritual Formation is a dangerous movement that’s real intent it to unravel the historic Christian faith.
What is spiritual formation?
spir•i•tu•al (spĭr’ĭ-chōō-əl) adj. — Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material.
We are all spiritual beings. We have physical bodies, but our lives are largely driven by an unseen part of us. There is an immaterial center in us that shapes the way we see the world and ourselves, directs the choices we make, and guides our actions. Our spirit is the most important part of who we are. And yet we rarely spend time developing our inner life. That’s what spiritual formation is all about.
Spiritual Formation is a process, but it is also a journey through which we open our hearts to a deeper connection with God. We are not bystanders in our spiritual lives, we are active participants with God, who is ever inviting us into relationship with him.
Let’s contrast that with what Scripture says about this “immaterial center” in man and how it is we come into a “deeper connection” with God.
The Bible declares that this “immaterial center” is a totally depraved sin nature.
1For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Mark 7:21
The Bible says that our coming to God is not of ourselves, but is of “Him who wills”.
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
Lest you think Mr. Foster is merely referring to the sanctification process that occurs after one is born again (and I would argue if there were time and space that even that process is wrought by God’s sovereign will and working) let me share with you the mission statement for Renovare:
“Renovaré is a nonprofit Christian organization headquartered in Englewood, Colorado, and active worldwide. We seek to resource, fuel, model, and advocate more intentional living and spiritual formation among Christians and those wanting a deeper connection with God. A foundational presence in the spiritual formation movement for over 20 years, Renovaré is Christian in commitment, ecumenical in breadth, and international in scope.
I’m sorry to break it to you Mr. Foster, but Scripture is loud and clear that only Christians born of the Spirit from above can have any connection with God!
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:14-16
Okay, so that is a really fast and brief intro into my understanding of Spiritual Formation. Please follow the links provided in this article for some more in depth information and I will provide more in time. Now, let me just close with a brief look into the sorts of practices that Spiritual Formation promote. Starting at around the six minute mark you can experience a prayer of protection for your sleep. Praying for the angels to hover over our beds and “reveal to us visions of Your glorious truth”. Um…okay…whatever.