The Vineyard – Emergent Connection

If you attend a Vineyard Church, or if the names John Wimber, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Madam Guyon resonate as great spiritual teachers, please take some time to consider who you are following. Spiritual formation, contemplative prayer, meditation, and yoga are not spiritual teachings of the bible.

I noticed these names at the Vineyard I used to attend and I had no idea of who they were or what they stood for. After I began my research I started to see the connection between these names, the Vineyard and the Emergent Church. It didn’t take me long to find the truth and to recognize these teachers are not of Christ.

Remember, we were warned in Matthew 24 by Jesus that many would come in His name and many would be deceived.

Important read from Lighthouse Trails –

This week we received an e-mail from someone who asked us to check up on a workshop taking place at the Vineyard in Anaheim, California. Our reader shared her concern that this may be an emerging type workshop and that the church might be going in that direction.

Our Response:

“The Vineyard Movement Grabs Hold of Contemplative Spirituality”

The Vineyard movement was started in the 1970s by John Wimber (who had been a leader in the Friends (Quaker) church) after breaking off from Calvary Chapel where Kenn and Joanie Gulliksen had started the first meetings. Vineyard Anaheim is the “mother” or “flagship” Vineyard church, pastored today by Lance Pittluck. Regarding the  ”Spiritual Formation” workshop that our reader wrote to us about, on the church website, it states:

We believe that every disciple is invited by the Holy Spirit into becoming conformed to the Image of Christ through the disciplines encompassed by solitude, silence, scripture-meditation and reflection.

Vineyard Anaheim has turned to Richard Foster’s Renovare to bring these “disciplines” to their church members. Richard Foster, also a Quaker, is one of the pioneers in bringing contemplative spirituality to the evangelical/Protestant church and is a disciple of Thomas Merton. Foster believes that Merton tried to “awaken” God’s people (through mysticism)2 and that he “has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.3 Yet Merton’s panentheistic view (i.e., God in all) coupled with his strong affinity to Buddhism (he once stated: “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity … I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can”4) is contrary to the God of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Richard Foster so resonates with Merton that he includes him in his list of spiritual masters in his two books Spiritual Classics and Devotional Classics.

It’s not just Richard Foster that Vineyard is looking to for “spiritual formation.” On the ”Pastoral Staff Recommends” page, there is a who’s who of contemplative mystics listed. Craig Lockwood, the pastor who will be heading up the Spiritual Formation program, includes Dallas Willard, Jan Johnson, Larry Crabb, Madame Guyon, Richard Foster, Gary Thomas, Morton Kelsey, and Adele Calhoun on his recommended reading list. These are some of the “heavy weights” in the contemplative movement, and you can read about most of them in A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen or on our research site. Typical of the contemplative mindset, one of those listed, Morton Kelsey, stated: “You can find most of the New Age practices in the depth of Christianity . . . I believe that the Holy One lives in every soul.”5

In Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (which Lockwood recommends), Ahlberg Calhoun promotes mantra meditation, giving detailed instructions on several types of contemplative practices. In addition, she quotes from many New Age sympathizers and New Age contemplatives and encourages the use of centering prayer, breath prayers, contemplative prayer, labyrinths, palms-up, palms-down exercises, and recommends for further reading a plethora of mystics. One of those she lists is Tilden Edwards, the founder of the mysticism promoting Shalem Prayer Institute, who said that contemplative prayer is the bridge between Christianity and Eastern religion.6

An interesting name shows up on the “Pastoral Staff Recommends” page at Vineyard Anaheim – J.P. Moreland. The beliefs of Moreland have been discussed in a number of Lighthouse Trails articles regarding his contemplative views, but we didn’t realize that he attends Vineyard Anaheim. When we saw his name on the Pastoral Staff Recommends page, we called Vineyard and were told that Moreland attends Vineyard Anaheim and “sometimes speaks” there. Moreland, a teacher at Biola University and Summit Ministries (in Colorado) recommends a number of Dallas Willard books and The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen. In that book, which is a primer on contemplative prayer, Nouwen states:

The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart . . . This way of simple prayer . . . opens us to God’s active presence. 7

What Nouwen is describing here is mantra meditation (i.e., eastern-style meditation). Practicing mysticism is what led Nouwen to say near the end of his life:

Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.8

By saying this, Nouwen illustrated the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality – panentheism (God in all) and interspirituality. This can be further proven by Nouwen’s strong affinity with New Age meditation proponent, Beatrice Bruteau where he called her a  “trustworthy guide to contemplative consciousness” (from Abba’s Child) . J.P. Moreland’s endorsement of The Way of the Heart will point Vineyard members to the same spirituality Nouwen came to  embrace.

In a book review of Moreland’s book Kingdom Triangle, he lays out a three-step process to bring about a kingdom of God on earth through spiritual formation (i.e., contemplative prayer). This would resonate with what Vineyard is doing – turning to contemplative to accelerate their kingdom of God on earth goals.

In Kevin Reeves book The Other Side of the River, Reeves addresses the spiritual viewpoints of John Wimber. Wimber said that the Western church needed to go through a major paradigm shift because of its resistance to the supernatural.9 Reeves explains some of Wimber’s ideas:

 The old study and learn method (commended by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 4:13-16, and II Timothy 3:14-17) is no longer adequate. In fact, according to Wimber and a flood of Third Wave teachers, it never has been. Experience is what counts, they say, and all that head knowledge we’ve been accumulating all these years is a big waste of time. This teaching states that to really know God, His power and miracles, we need to shuck all that dead letter stuff and get into the life.

 Wimber also first introduced into mainstream charismatic congregations the incredibly strange manifestations that are supposedly initiated by the Holy Spirit. Pogoing (jumping up and down in place), rippling on or under the skin, tingling, shaking, convulsions, uncontrollable laughter—many of the same kinds of manifestations traditionally attributed to demonic influence—have now attained prominence in River meetings. It is shocking and frightening to see the similarities between Wimber’s manifestations and what is called Kundalini, “a Hindu term for the mystical power or force that underlies Hindu spirituality.” Here is a list of Kundalini symptoms:

* Burning hot or ice cold streams moving up the spine.

* Pains in varying locations throughout the body.

* Vibrations, unease, or cramps in legs and other parts of body.

* Fast pulse and increased metabolism.

* Disturbance in the breathing–and/or heart function.

* Sensitivity to sound, light, smell, and proximity of other people.

* Mystical/religious experiences.

* Parapsychological abilities.

* Persistent anxiety or anxiety attacks, confusion

* Insomnia, manic high spirits or deep depression. Energy loss.

* Impaired concentration and memory.

* Total isolation due to inability to communicate inner experiences out.

* Experiences of possession and poltergeist phenomena. 10

What some may not realize is that many of these symptoms are also experienced during deep contemplative meditation. By combining the hyper-charismatic experiences with contemplative spirituality (as Vineyard is doing), the process of going into altered states of consciousness (i.e., demonic realms) is speeded up; and the voice heard, believed to be God, may not be Him at all. Reeves points out that Wimber was drawn to the writings of Agnes Sanford and Morton Kelsey. Did Wimber realize that Kelsey “equates the ministry of Jesus with shamanism, commends encounters with the dead as natural spirit-earth links,bases much of his book on paganistic Jungian psychology, and calls the atonement a “hypothesis developed” by the early church”?11

An article titled “Buried Seed: Spiritual Direction and the Vineyard Movement” written by a Vineyard “spiritual director” in New Zealand reveals the efforts by spiritual directors in Vineyard to integrate spiritual formation into the Vineyard movement. Just to show the lack of discernment that occurs by contemplative advocates, the author of the article lists Thomas Keating as a source he used to write the article. Keating, like Merton, is a panentheist and mystic Catholic priest.

We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible.

 Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices, especially where they have been initiated by reliable teachers and have a solidly developed Christian faith to find inner form and meaning to the resulting experiences. 12

Our reader who sent us the e-mail inquiring about Vineyard Anaheim asked if there was any emergent connection to spiritual formation. We have always contended that they are basically the same thing (see Faith Undone). What’s more, on the recommended reading list of Vineyard Anaheim, senior pastor Lance Pittluck recommends Rob Bell along with several other contemplative/emerging figures (Nouwen, Sider, Manning, Miller, Boyd, etc). It is clear that Pittluck resonates with these people.

For those who wonder if the contemplative/emerging infiltration is confined to just Vineyard Anaheim, a Book Recommendations for Youth list on the main USA Vineyard website recommends emerging church favorites N.T. Wright, Andy Stanley, Erwin McManus, and Shane Claiborne, and contemplatives Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, Jim Burns, and John Eldredge.  Sadly, Vineyard youth are being introduced to these contemplative/emerging leaders. In addition, Vineyard has at least one leader who is designated to work with Vineyard churches in spiritual formation. And just as a sampling to show this is not an isolated situation, listed below are a few Vineyard churches that are incorporating “spiritual formation” into church life:

Vineyard City Church – Redding California’ (also links to the very contemplative/emerging Simpson College and Bethel Church in Redding)

 Live Oak Vineyard – Monrovia California (promotes New Age sympathizer Phyllis Tickle)

Friends Langley Vineyard – BC Canada

Vineyard Community Church – Cincinnati, OH

All this would leave little doubt that the Vineyard movement has hopped onto the contemplative/emergent track, seemingly full speed ahead.

Notes:

  1. Bill Jackson, The Quest For The Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard, ch 3, p. 80.
  2. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd ed, 2006), pp. 76-77, quoting Richard Foster at a seminar Yungen attended.
  3. Richard Foster and Emilie Griffin, Spiritual Classics (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 2000), p. 17.
  4. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
  5. Morton Kelsey cited in Charles H. Simpkinson, “In the Spirit of the Early Christians.”
  6. Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1980), pp. 18.
  7. Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1991), p. 81.
  8. Henri  Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1998), p. 51.
  9. John Wimber: 1934-1997. Wimber’s “paradigm shift” is discussed and documented in several books and articles such as C. Peter Wagner’s Acts of the Holy Spirit (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2000), p. 123.
  10. Kevin Reeves, The Other Side of the River (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007), pp. 167-168.
  11.  Ibid, p. 169.
  12.  M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, Thomas E. Clarke, Finding Grace at the Center  (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Pub., 1978), pp. 5-6.

To Be Called By His Name

Christian or Christ-follower?

I seem to remember being taught by my Mother to not say words or repeat things I didn’t understand. So truly I had no excuse to have picked up and used the words “Christ-follower” to describe “who I was”.  Fortunately, that fit was very short lived as I found out what that phrase meant exactly and who coined it. (Yes, Emergent Church warning…)

I am very happy and content to be called a Christian. It is an honor and I will never again go seeking after another cool or hip phrase to be called by. It is enough to be called by His name.

This is an excellent article on that very thing from Lighthouse Trails Authors —(yes, think – Beth Moore, Richard Foster, Basil Pennington, Henri Nouwen, Rick Warren, etc, etc…the gang’s all there!)

Christian or Christ-follower?

Christian or Christ-follower. It’s a distinction that is being made more and more today, and often the latter term, Christ follower, is replacing the former term, Christian. Even many Christian leaders are making the switch. But just what does it mean? Emerging church leader, Erwin McManus says his “goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ.” In McManus’ book, The Barbarian Way, he talks about being “awakened” to a “primal longing that … waits to be unleashed within everyone who is a follower of Jesus Christ.” McManus says that the “greatest enemy to the movement of Jesus Christ is Christianity [i.e., Christians].” A video series on YouTube.com called “Christian No More” (by Christian Community Church) exemplifies this view by portraying those who call themselves Christians as shallow church-goers who wear suits and ties, have Christian bumper stickers on their cars and prefer the King James Version. This belittling video is evidence that it is increasingly more popular to call oneself a Christ follower rather than a Christian.

Interestingly, most of the leaders who seem to be downplaying the name Christian and promoting the appropriation of the term “Christ follower” are contemplative spirituality proponents. One contemplative advocate, Rick Warren, had the term throughout his former pastors.com website. Lee Strobel refers to it in his book Case for Christ (Student Edition), and Wesleyan pastor David Drury has a Christ-Follower Pop Quiz on his web site to help determine if you are really a “Christ Follower.”

This theme of anti-”Christian” sentiment is not going to disappear any time soon. In emerging church leader and labyrinth promoter Dan Kimball’s book called, “They Like Jesus, But Not the Church,” the idea is that you can go for Jesus, but you don’t have to identify yourself as a Christian or part of the Christian church. This concept spills over into some missionary societies too, where they teach people from other religions that they can keep their religion, just add Jesus to the equation. They don’t have to embrace the term “Christian” (see The New Missiology).

So what’s the problem? So what if you want to be a Christ follower instead of a Christian. Well, the problem, when identified, will show you why the Spiritual Formation movement (which is promoted by Purpose Driven, Willow Creek, the emerging church, etc) is so dangerous and misleading.

Let us explain. If you have researched the teachings of contemplative authors, you may have noticed a common message. That message says: If you want to be like Christ, then practice these certain disciplines and you can be like Him. Chuck Swindoll bought into this when he wrote his book, So You Want to Be Like Christ: Eight Essential Disciplines to Get You There. But Swindoll exalts one particular discipline – the silence. In fact, he goes so far as to say you can’t become a deep, meaningful Christian without it. Beth Moore, in the pro-contemplative film, Be Still, says: “[I]f we are not still before Him [God], we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.” And this is what contemplatives teach. The one common thread woven throughout spiritual formation teachings is that the silence and being a Christ follower are practically synonymous. You can’t have one without the other. And of course, this silence is induced through meditative practices such as centering prayer, lectio divina, etc.

So what we are witnessing is countless teachers, authors and leaders telling people they can become like Christ through a method that can be learned. Richard Foster teaches that anyone, not just believers, can practice contemplative prayer and become like Christ.

Now here lies the difference between a Christian and a Christ-follower. A person who is truly born-again has Jesus Christ indwelling him. Jesus lives inside that person. And it is His life in him or her that gives the power to become progressively more like Him (sanctification), as Paul said in his address to Corinthian Christians: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18). The believer draws his strength and power from Jesus Christ (who indwells him), and he realizes his salvation and any good thing in him is from Christ; as the Scripture says: “Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:9).

But being born again or having the indwelling of Jesus Christ is not a prerequisite for the Christendom of today. Spiritual formation can be practiced by anyone. Jesus becomes a model or an example who can be followed and mimicked. For example, Ken Blanchard, says Jesus is a perfect model to follow. That’s why he talks so much about leading like Jesus would lead. But Blanchard has shown time and again that he believes meditation is a key factor in becoming like Jesus.

While Jesus was and is a model, that wasn’t His primary mission. And when people refer to Him as a model, it is often because they see Him as a model for higher consciousness rather than the unique Son of God, Emmanuel (God with us) who came to die for us and be our Savior. And that’s what you find across the board in contemplative writings. Contemplative icons Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen saw Jesus in this manner. This is why Nouwen said it disturbed him when he heard people say Jesus was the only way. He said it was his mission to help people find his or her own way to God (see Sabbatical Journey). That’s also why he saw India as a source for many spiritual “treasures” for the Christian. 1 In an eastern religion like Buddhism, Buddha was a model where his followers were imitators of him. But in Christianity the Spirit of Christ indwells us through faith. So Jesus becomes more than a model; He is a living presence in us. “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).

This is actually the heart of the whole spiritual formation movement. It supposedly teaches you how to be like Christ, but the power to do this doesn’t come from Jesus Christ living in you (in fact that isn’t a requirement, according to Richard Foster) – but the power to change has to come from somewhere. Where? It comes from meditation! So anyone at all, from any walk of life, from any religion, can be a “Christ follower.” But this does not mean they have Jesus Christ in them. The contemplative prayer movement is misguiding millions into believing that if they practice certain disciplines they can be like Christ, thus securing their spiritual well being. They may come to believe that they have a christ consciousness and are Christ like, yet they do not have the actual power of Christ within. That power can only come from the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16).

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (I Corinthians 1:18).

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come … Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (II Timothy 3:1,5).

The man who virtually wrote the book on the subject (Centering Prayer), Basil Pennington, made the point of what we are trying to say when he penned these words:

It is my sense, from having meditated with persons from many different [non-Christian] traditions, that in the silence we experience a deep unity. When we go beyond the portals of the rational mind into the experience, there is only one God to be experienced.

Another majorcontemplative promoter stated:

The new ecumenism involved here is not between Christian and Christian, but between Christians and the grace of other intuitively deep religious traditions.–Tilden Edwards

These two men have both been leaders of the contemplative prayer movement for decades. And it is important to note that evangelical leader Richard Foster endorsed Edwards’ book, Spiritual Friend, from which this last quote came (see back, Celebration of Discipline). Both Pennington and Edwards would call themselves Christ followers, following in the same spiritual path as Jesus Christ followed. But as you can see, both Pennington and Edwards do not accept the view that believing the gospel is a vital prerequisite for having a relationship with the living God. Otherwise they would not have said the above. With this mindset, the message of the cross is rendered useless. And so the question that we must ask ourselves is this: Will we, who have Jesus Christ living in us, call ourselves Christians? Let those of us who name the name of Christ, stand and say, yes, we will be called Christians.

For a complete analysis and documentation of contemplative spirituality and its infiltration into Christendom, we encourage you to read A Time of Departing.