4 Christian Mysticism – Part 1

The many nuances within mysticism make it extremely difficult to define while also accurately capturing its scope and significance. Nevertheless, Pastor John MacArthur provides a particularly cogent definition in his book Reckless Faith: When the Church Loses Its Will to Discern:

Mysticism is the idea that spiritual reality is found by looking inward. … The mystic disdains rational understanding and seeks truth instead through the feelings, the imagination, personal visions, inner voices, private illumination, or other purely subjective means. Objective truth becomes practically superfluous.*[1][2]


“Mysticism,” as defined by Merriam-Webster.com, is “The belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight).”[3] In other words, mysticism utilizes practices which bypass Scripture in an effort to establish a more direct channel of communication with God. These are methods whose manner and practice are not taught or endorsed in the Bible, and which result in knowledge and understanding that is considered divine, and therefore, infallible and equal or superior to that of Scripture. Because these methods circumvent the guiding principles of Scripture, the truth of these revelations is subjective. No longer is there a universal standard against which truth can be measured. Mysticism replaces the absolute truth of the Bible with personal experience and intuition.


Any revelation from God whose validity can’t be confirmed according to the declarations and principles taught in Scripture is, by definition, mystical. It is outside the purview of Scripture. Yet, 2 Timothy 3:16–17 teaches that Scripture is sufficient to teach us everything that we need to know in order to have a right relationship with God and to honor Him, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” This passage does not teach that the Bible provides most of what is needed to be a complete and fully equipped Christian. Instead, it teaches that absolutely every spiritual technique, doctrine, and principle necessary to be complete in God’s eyes has already been supplied to the Christian via the Bible. Consequently, when the Holy Spirit enlightens the mind of a Christian and teaches him to better align his practice with his position in Christ, it will always be rooted in the truths already provided us in Scripture.


The Bible is God’s means of communicating essential truth to us today, and it is sufficient. It is declared by Jesus Christ to be truth in John 17:17.[4] As such, it serves as our ultimate rule of faith and practice for every believer. Everything that we need to know in order to have a right relationship with God and to please Him has already been revealed in Scripture. Every sermon, every spiritual help book, every church program, etc. is only helpful to the Christian if it teaches him to better understand the commandments and principles already recorded in the Bible. All else is a waste of time and a distraction from God’s will for the Christian. There is no such thing as a “new” or “secret” method for having a closer and deeper relationship with God. God is not revealing new truths today to make His people more spiritual. If the Christians during the Apostle Paul’s time could be complete and fully equipped based solely upon the truths found in the Bible, then the same must be true for Christians today who possess the very same Bible.


Scripture teaches that we should turn to it if we want to know what God has to say, and yet mysticism teaches that we can bypass and contradict the guidelines of Scripture in order to receive direct knowledge and insight from God. These two teachings are not compatible with one another. Clearly we have a problem. Realizing that Biblical Christianity and mysticism are not compatible with one another, we are compelled to conclude that there can be no such thing as “Christian” mysticism. Anything that contradicts or amends the standard of God’s Word is not truly Christian. Rather, it belongs to the spirit of anti-Christ. Please keep this in mind each time that the title “Christian mysticism” is used in this book. This title is misleading. Nevertheless, there are those today who attempt to use mystical techniques which are outside the limits of those found in Scripture in order to enhance their spiritual relationship with God, and they have chosen to call these practices “Christian” mysticism.


Once more, mysticism seeks direct knowledge of God and spiritual truth through subjective experience. In our society, there has been a general shift toward mysticism. An evidence of this shift is the substantial rise in paganism. Paganism, as a religion, is deeply rooted in mysticism and serves as one of the most blatant examples of mystical practices. According to a 2001 American Religious Identification Survey, “From 1990 to 2001: Numbers of adherents [to paganism] went from 8,000 to 134,000. Their numbers of adherents doubled about every 30 months.”[5] Note that these are individuals who have taken the title “pagan” as their religious affiliation.*[6] This is not the result of Christians labeling dissenters as “pagan.” A subsequent survey observes, “Specifically, the number of Wiccans more than doubled from 2001 to 2008, from 134,000 to 342,000, and the same held true for neo-pagans, who went from 140,000 in 2001 to 340,000 in 2008.”[7] Similarly, a 2008 Denver Post article reports, “Their numbers roughly double about every 18 months in the United States, Canada and Europe, according to the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.”[8]


According to ReligionLink, “Experts say the growth reflects not only increasing numbers of neo-pagans, but also a rise in the social acceptability of paganism. As a result, more respondents would be willing to identify themselves as followers of some pagan tradition.”[9] Some of this can be attributed to the media’s excessive interest in the Occult. Some of this is the consequence of rejecting organized religion and of rejecting absolute truth. In any case, there is a decided increase in the number of individuals within America who identify themselves as pagan. Whatever the many reasons for the growth of paganism, the fact remains that it is a clear indication that the spirit of antichrist is extremely active in society today.


Given that, today, society is more likely to influence the church than the church is likely to influence society, it is not surprising to find some of these same proclivities within the church—particularly the attraction to mysticism. For years mysticism has steadily infiltrated the Christian church. Church members and pastors alike have developed a fascination with the mystical. Ursula King is an internationally known scholar on spirituality and interfaith dialogue. In her book Christian Mystics, she observes, “It is probably true to say that recent years have seen a greater interest and fascination with the mystics of all ages and faiths than any previous period in history.”[10] Similarly, Leonard Sweet, who is a leading figure in the Emergent Church movement, writes in his book Quantum Spirituality:

Mysticism, once cast to the sidelines of the Christian tradition, is now situated in postmodernist culture near the center. … In the words of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century, Jesuit philosopher of religion/dogmatist Karl Rahner, “The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic, one who has experienced something, or he will be nothing.”[11]


“The Christian of tomorrow will be a mystic …” In many ways, this prediction has already been fulfilled. Mystical practices have been so widely embraced by the church that it can be argued that the Christian of today is a mystic. In his book Living in the Presence, Tilden Edwards, an Episcopal priest, writes:

In the wider ecumenism of the Spirit being opened for us today, we need to humbly accept the learnings of particular Eastern religions in relation to the body now available to us. What makes a particular practice Christian is not its source, but its intent. If our intent in assuming a particular bodily practice is to deepen our awareness in Christ, then it is Christian. … This is important to remember in the face of those Christians who would try to impoverish our spiritual resources by too narrowly defining them. If we view the human family as one in God’s Spirit, then this historical cross-fertilization is not surprising … In terms of the body, selective attention to Eastern spiritual practices can be of great assistance to a fully embodied Christian life.[12]

Here we have an Episcopal priest teaching that what makes something Christian is not its source but its intent. However, Matthew 7:21–23 contradicts this statement:

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”


Serving God in any manner one desires so long as it is intended to glorify Him is not acceptable. Jesus teaches in Matthew chapter 7 that some people will serve God only to discover that their intentions were not sufficient to be granted entrance into the Kingdom of God. Likewise, Luke 13:24–27 says:

Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, “Lord, open to us,” then he will answer you, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.” But he will say, “I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!”


In John 14:6, we learn that Jesus is the narrow gate. It is not enough that these individuals sought after God. Jesus said that they must do so according to God’s way. Intent does not make anything Christian. Our intent and actions can only be deemed Christian if they are in obedience to, and in alignment with, the Word of God.


These are influential religious leaders who are teaching that the church should embrace mysticism. In fact, they maintain that the church is moving toward mysticism, and that this is a good thing. Keep in mind that when these religious leaders speak of mysticism, they are referring to Eastern spirituality, just as Tilden Edwards explained. Of course, “Eastern spirituality” is merely a polite title for “paganism.”


There are some key characteristics of “Christian” mysticism with which we should familiarize ourselves. First, “Christian” mysticism emphasizes a direct personal experience with God. At its core, it maintains that receiving God’s message through preaching or the Bible is not adequate. In order to fully experience God, personal revelation must be sought through direct communication with God.


Secondly, “Christian” mysticism emphasizes finding spiritual insight beyond thought and doctrine. “Christian” mysticism allows for spiritual insights which are not based upon good Biblical teaching. In fact, some of these insights may not be found anywhere in Scripture. Sometimes they may even contradict Scripture. The Bible simply does not teach some of the things which are learned through mystical practices. Nevertheless, practitioners of these methods believe that these insights necessarily originate in God. As such, these insights are believed to be equal or superior to Bible doctrine.


In order to glean these insights, one must first bypass the rational mind. Often this is accomplished by focusing the mind on something repetitive in an effort to numb the mind. Critical reasoning is rejected because it is considered carnal and is not rooted in the spiritual. Thus, in order to achieve the ultimate goal, one must first stop thinking, stop analyzing, and stop discerning all thoughts when approaching God. Spencer Burke, former pastor of Mariner’s Church and founder of the Emergent Church publication, The OOze says, “A move away from intellectual Christianity is essential. We must move to the mystical.”[13] In other words, when we can successfully stop thinking, then we can experience God. And when we experience God, then He reveals new truths to us. Some of these truths may be so new and relevant that they cannot even be found in Scripture. Thus, our understanding of who God is and what He desires exceeds the Bible and what we think we know. As Leonard Sweet has said, “Mysticism, begins in experience; it ends in theology.”[14]


Thirdly, “Christian” mysticism accepts extra-biblical dreams, visions, and insights as being revelations from God. The thinking is that these practices lead an individual into an extra-spiritual state of mind where he sets aside the “voices of darkness” in order to listen to the “voices of light.”*[15] Because he is in a higher state of spirituality and union with God, it is believed that only God can successfully communicate with him. Therefore, any messages and insights that are received in this super-spiritual state of mind must be from God. In other words, the self is suppressed, so the messages received cannot be from one’s own mind and desires. Neither can the messages be from evil spirits because the individual’s spirit is in such a state of longing for God and union with Him that no evil spirit would dare to interfere.


To be fair, there are some who do teach that other spiritual forces can communicate their own messages, but they then proceed to teach that certain prayers of protection can ward off these spirits.*[16] Supposedly, by praying these special prayers, an individual can virtually guarantee that only God will be able to successfully communicate with him. Thus, the outcome is the same: Any messages and insights that an individual receives while in this enlightened transcendental-like state of mind are necessarily from God.


The inevitable conclusion of this conviction is that the messages and insights that an individual receives through mystical encounters with God necessarily trump Scripture. After all, these revelations come from God, they are current, and they are personalized; whereas, the Bible was written thousands of years ago to a general audience. According to this mindset, the Bible serves as a worthy framework for following God, but these personalized revelations fill in the gaps where the Bible is not specific enough or is perceived as not being culturally relevant. If there is ever a contradiction, the more recent and personalized revelation is followed rather than the teaching of the Bible. Therefore, these extra-biblical revelations are given greater weight and authority than the Bible. This is precisely the teaching of Thomas Merton who teaches that through the mystical practice of contemplative prayer, God “offers you an understanding and light, which are like nothing you ever found in books or heard in sermons.”[17] We will examine the influence of Thomas Merton in greater detail later, but according to him, this unique understanding from God can only be acquired through contemplative mysticism.


When discussing “Christian” mysticism, attention must be given to Charismatic mysticism. The three characteristics of “Christian” mysticism which we just considered are inherent to the core doctrines of the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Third Wave movements. These are three distinct movements, as defined by Charles Peter Wagner, which share a common foundation.*[18] Within Pentecostalism, there is a wide spectrum of beliefs and practices, and for this reason, it is very difficult to speak of Pentecostalism in general terms. Nevertheless, the Charismatic and Third Wave movements have consistently proven themselves to strongly adhere to each of the three key characteristics of “Christian” mysticism. Once again, these characteristics are:

  • “Christian” mysticism emphasizes a direct personal experience with God.
  • “Christian” mysticism emphasizes finding spiritual insight beyond thought and doctrine.
  • “Christian” mysticism accepts extra-biblical dreams, visions, and insights as revelations from God.


The foundation of the Charismatic, and Third Wave movements is firmly rooted in these three characteristics of “Christian” mysticism. At its core, these movements are mystical. Their heritage, and their foundational doctrines and practices are rooted in mysticism. These are expound upon further in Appendices B.1 and B.7, but at this point, we will simply review several quotations from influential leaders within these movements. Certainly, there are exceptional churches within the Charismatic and Third Wave movements. Nevertheless, in looking at them as a general whole, these quotes should be sufficient to reveal that several key aspects of their doctrine are firmly rooted in mysticism.


To begin with, Charismatic and Third Wave doctrine de-emphasizes preaching and the Bible. Steve Hill, co-founder and senior pastor of Heartland World Ministries Church who is best known for preaching the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida from 1995 to 2000, has said, “In these latter days preaching and simply teaching the word is no longer sufficient, the Spirit has to get involved, through signs and wonders due to much sin that abounds.”[19] According to Steve Hill, preaching and teaching the Word of God is no longer sufficient. The Charismatic and Third Wave movements de-emphasize preaching and the Bible. In fact, during a “Praise the Lord” show on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Frederick Price declared, “Man has made God violate His own word. Have a ‘Rolls Royce’ Faith.”*[20][21] Likewise, John Kilpatrick, who is best known for his pastoral oversight of the Brownsville Revival, said:

Let me tell you something else about this revival. This move of God is not about preaching. … We’ve heard so many sermons and so much of the Word of God that we’ve grown fat, but there’s been no power and no anointing and no miracles. So, I just want to tell you, that’s why tonight I don’t feel bad about not coming up here and preaching a great sermon.[22]

Rather than preaching and the Bible, the Charismatic and Third Wave movements emphasize a direct, personal, and subjective experience with God. Often, this is accomplished through dreams, visions, prophetic tongues, etc.


Furthermore, these movements fear sound doctrine and criticism. An example of this fear can be found in a Trinity Broadcasting “Spring Praise-a-thon,” during which Paul Crouch said:

I think God’s given up on a lot of that old rotten Sanhedrin religious crowd, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. I think they’re damned and on their way to hell and I don’t think there’s any redemption for them. I say to hell with you! … the heresy hunters that want to find a little mote of illegal doctrine in some Christian’s eye and pluck that little mote out of their eye when they’ve got the whole forest in their own lives and in their own eyes. I say to hell with you! Oh hallelujah. Get out of God’s way, quit blocking God’s bridges or God’s gonna shoot you if I don’t! I refuse to argue any longer with any of you out there. Don’t even call me. If you want to argue doctrine, if you want to straighten out somebody over here, if you want to criticize Ken Copeland for his preaching on faith, or Dad Hagin. Get out of my life! I don’t even want to talk to you or hear you. I don’t want to see your ugly face! Get out of my face in Jesus’ name.*[23][24]


The revelations and insights which are received while under the anointing of the Holy Spirit are considered by the Charismatic movement to be superior to sound doctrine. However, they are subjective experiences which cannot be well defended. As such, there is a fear of sound doctrine and criticism which can expose many of these revelations for what they truly are. Steve Hill once warned, “Don’t analyze this ‘move of God,’ and you had better receive it if you don’t want a stamp of disapproval from Jesus.”[25] Likewise, Kenneth Copeland has said, “I don’t preach doctrine, I preach faith.”*[26][27]


Additionally, the Charismatic and Third Wave movements emphasize direct personal experiences with God which are recognized through feelings, insight, and revelations and which occur when the brain is disengaged. In his book The Force of Faith, Kenneth Copeland writes, “Believers are not to be led by logic. We are not even to be led by good sense.”[28] Similarly, John Kilpatrick declared, “Let (yourselves) go … do not think about what you are doing … just give yourselves completely to the Spirit.”[29] Also Rodney Howard Browne, founder and pastor of The River in Tampa, Florida, head of Revival Ministries International, and best known for his role in the Holy Laughter Revival, has said, “You really cannot understand what God is doing in these meetings with an analytical mind. It’s not a move of man, it’s a move of God. The mind is never going to understand what God’s doing. … The only way you’re going to understand what God’s doing is with your heart.”[30]


Hopefully, as we look at these statements, verses are coming to our minds, such as Isaiah 1:18 where God says, “Come now, and let us reason together …” Also, verses such as 2 Timothy 1:71 Peter 1:13, and Galatians 5:16, and 22–23 which teach that we are not to surrender our minds but are instead called to maintain a spirit of self-control. Despite the fact that self-control is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit, these religious leaders repeatedly encourage believers to stop analyzing doctrines, statements, and events according to Scripture. They teach that believers should disengage their brains so that they can better receive God’s special revelation to them. For example, Paul Cain preached, “I know some of you are going to disagree with this. Don’t you even stop to disagree. Revelation 12:5. If you disagree, just file it in ‘miscellaneous’ and check it out. And don’t bother with it; when we get to heaven we’ll check it out and you’ll find out I’m right …”*[31][32] Similarly, Jack Deere said, “But you know what? God is in the process of offending our minds in order to reveal our hearts. And I don’t know any place where it’s going to be 100% right. There’s going to be stumbling blocks in every ministry that the Holy Spirit is really responsible for.”*[33][34]


Aside from the fact that this is absolute heresy, notice Jack Deere’s statement that God’s truth offends our minds. In other words, Jack Deere is teaching that we have to stop critically evaluating things before God can truly communicate with us. This belief is shared by many of the most influential leaders within the Charismatic and Third Wave movements. Rodney Howard Browne even went so far as to declare:

You can’t have revival without stirring up the flesh. … When revival comes you will see manifestations of these three things in meetings: (1) the Holy Spirit; (2) the flesh, and (3) the devil. But, I’d rather be in a church where the devil and the flesh are manifesting than in a church where nothing is happening because people are too afraid to manifest anything … Don’t worry about it. And if a devil manifests, don’t worry about that, either. Rejoice, because at least something is happening![35]


Additionally, personal experiences are placed above the authority of Scripture. William Branham, an evangelist who is credited as having founded the post-World War II healing movement, once said, “Now, I’m just your brother, by the grace of God. But when the Angel of the Lord moves down, it becomes then a Voice of God to you … But I am God’s Voice to you … Now, see, I can say nothing in myself. But what He shows me.”[36] William Branham mimicked Christ in John 14:10 and claimed to be a transmitter of divine revelation for the modern church.* Similarly, Bill Hamon, who is best known for his involvement among the Kansas City Prophets, said:

Paul said no other foundation can any man lay. We are going to see great apostolic and prophetic insight that is going to really change a lot about the Church. We keep saying we won’t recognize the 21st century church. That means a lot of change is going to take place quickly. It won’t destroy the foundations, but it will put us in a proper design and proper pattern.[37]


Essentially, Bill Hamon is teaching that the Apostles did not lay the correct foundation for the church. We have to correct the foundation that the Apostles laid. The only way to accomplish this is to go beyond Scripture in our pursuit of truth. This is echoed in Paul Cain’s statement:

God’s raising up a new standard, a new banner, if you will, that’s going to radically change the expression, the understanding of Christianity in our generation … God has invited us to have a role in establishing a new order of Christianity … God is offering to this generation something He has never offered to any other generation … beware lest old order brethren rob you and steal this hope from you.[38]


If we understand the history of the Charismatic and Third Wave movements, then it should not surprise us to learn that many of its foundational elements are rooted in mysticism. These movements have always emphasized the mystical. If we trace their history back far enough, we learn that they are rooted, in part, in the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of Theosis. This is the teaching that man can be progressively sanctified even unto the point of becoming perfected deity—only without God’s divine essence, or uncausedness.[39] We also discover that they are rooted in Montanism. Several key elements of Charismatic and Third Wave doctrine were first practiced and preached by Montanus.  In many ways, Montanus can be considered the true founding father of these movements.


We do not have space to fully examine Montanus at this time, but he was rejected by the early church, and the Council at Constantinople decreed that Montanism was tantamount to paganism.[40] Nevertheless, Charles Wesley described Montanists as “real Scriptural Christians” and Montanus as “one of the best men then upon the earth.”[41] This is important because John and Charles Wesley laid the foundation that would eventually morph into Pentecostalism, and ultimately into the Charismatic and the Third Wave movements. (For a fuller consideration of Montanus, see Appendix B.1.)


A careful examination of the Charismatic and Third Wave movements reveals that their core doctrines cannot be divorced from mysticism. Theirs is a theology which was born out of the greatest of intentions but which has succumbed to the faulty promises of “Christian” mysticism. However, this book hopes to focus upon another facet of “Christian” mysticism which is more likely to lure today’s Evangelical, Baptist, and Reformed churches.


It appears as though many Christian denominations have long recognized the mystical and unscriptural practices of the Charismatic and Third Wave movements and have sought to clearly separate themselves from these teachings. For some of these churches, this effort developed into a type of paranoia. Fearing accusations that they may be affirming Charismatic or Third Wave doctrine, they determined to separate themselves from anything which might possibly be misconstrued to accuse them of favoring these doctrines. Unfortunately, this led many into an excessive de-emphasizing of the Holy Spirit and into a nearly total rejection and denial of everything supernatural. However, the Holy Spirit cannot be ignored. It is important to remember that the Holy Spirit is the third member of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is active in our salvation (Tit. 3:5). He is given to us as a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance (Eph. 1:13–14), and He enlightens our minds to understand the things of God and His Word (1 Cor. 2:12). The Holy Spirit also empowers Christians with spiritual gifts to edify and build up the church (1 Cor. 12:4–11Rom. 12:4–6Eph. 4:11–12). To ignore the Holy Spirit is to ignore a significant aspect of the Christian’s relationship with God and others, and this often leads to a form of legalism.


Some have recognized the error of de-emphasizing the Holy Spirit and have begun a journey to discover the truth. They are asking the question, “How do we incorporate the Holy Spirit into our lives and churches without falling into the extreme practices of the Charismatic and Third Wave movements?” If we are honest, this is not an easy question to answer. This is borne out in the testimony of those who have begun this journey. Many times they experience a pendulum effect as they seek to match their doctrine with their practice. Too often, in seeking to correct one error of extremes, the Christian swings to a new error of extremes on the other side of the spectrum. Then, when this new position is recognized as an error of extremes, the Christian reacts by once again swinging back the other direction. There may be quite a process of fluctuating back and forth between the two extreme positions before the Christian finds the proper balance.


We ought to be sensitive to this very natural spiritual journey. Sometimes Christians are quick to completely separate from anyone who shows any affinity toward what we are confident is error. However, the Bible only calls Christians to separate over major doctrinal errors. Even then, the Christian is told to do so in a spirit of love. He is not to rant and rave against the other individual. It is important to remember that the enemy is not Christian believers, but the error that they espouse and the spirit of antichrist that has deceived them into accepting it.


The struggle to find balance is exponentially more difficult for ministries and religious leaders. Changes in their doctrine or application directly impact more than themselves. Also, everything they do and say is carefully monitored by others. We should be discerning Christians when it comes to evaluating the spiritual journey of ministries and religious leaders. We should be gracious and understanding toward their efforts to find the balance between the truths of God’s Word and the practical application of those truths. This is not to say that we should condone their mistakes or necessarily participate with them in this journey. However, we should be very careful about condemning their work and standing opposed to them. Keep in mind that it is the Devil who is the accuser of the brethren according to Revelation 12:9–10. Too many Christians find themselves unwittingly aiding the Devil in his efforts by unkindly attacking those Christians whose beliefs are not their own.


Many within the Evangelical, Baptist, and Reformed camps have sought ways to include the Holy Spirit in their spiritual lives without falling into the extremes of the Charismatic movement. This pursuit has led many to the monastic mystical traditions. These are mystical practices which find their origins in the seclusion of Roman Catholic monasteries. Often, Christians are drawn to these monastic traditions because these mystical monks are perceived as being very spiritually disciplined. This is in contrast to the Charismatic who is perceived to be governed by a lack of self-control. In any event, there is a modern revival of monastic mysticism.


Today, the essential elements of monastic mysticism bear the title “contemplative spirituality.” Other titles which are used within this movement as synonyms for “contemplative spirituality” are “spiritual disciplines,” “the contemplatives,” and “spiritual formation.” All of these are modern synonyms for “monastic mysticism.” Be very careful as numerous modern-day authors and preachers will refer to “the spiritual disciplines” without clearly identifying these disciplines as belonging to the monastic mystical traditions. These are spiritual disciplines which were formed within Roman Catholic monasteries. They are not the same spiritual disciplines which were taught by the Apostles. An illustration of the intentional misrepresentation of these terms can be found in a CD set by Mike Bickle titled, “Contemplative Prayer: The Journey into Fullness.”*[42] This CD set is promoted on The International House of Prayer’s (IHOP) website. This organization actually belongs to the Third Wave movement; nevertheless, this is a great example of why religious teachers today choose to use vague terminology instead of clearly identifying their teaching as belonging to the monastic mystical traditions. In it, Mike Bickle makes the following statements:

[M]ystics is a legitimate term… I don’t want to fight the war …so I’m just saying contemplative prayer, but I mean the mystics—even here at IHOP I say, let’s just stay with contemplatives …I don’t have time to argue… so I call them the contemplatives…. I don’t want to go into the semantics, the debates…so, I’m calling it the contemplatives… I don’t have time to argue… but I need the mystics. … a study of the lives of the mystics, the contemplatives, through history, and clearly the most inspiring, compelling examples of history, in my world, have come out of the Catholic dark ages. I can’t find anything like it in modern times, in America, in the Protestant world.[43]


Monastic mysticism is simply being renamed. People know what Roman Catholic monastic tradition entails, but they don’t know what “contemplatives” means. Too many people realize that the majority of the monastic traditions were not based upon an accurate understanding of the Bible. In fact, there was a reformation movement which separated many Christians from these errors. Because of this, many Evangelical, Baptist and Reformed churches would not allow Roman Catholic tradition to be taught within their churches. They would be opposed to a book titled Catholic Monastic Mystical Prayer Methods, but it seems that they would welcome the same book if it were titled Contemplative Prayer. The reason is that most Christians do not associate “contemplative prayer” with monastic mysticism. However, Mike Bickle reveals that they are one and the same. “The contemplatives,” “contemplative spirituality,” the “spiritual disciplines,” and “spiritual formation” are all simply a modern way of saying “monastic mysticism” without invoking the controversy that would usually arise from teaching monastic mysticism within Protestant churches. The willingness of the proponents of these types of mysticism to deceive others so as not to evoke criticism or opposition is in itself a sign of the working of the spirit of antichrist!


The teachings of monastic mysticism—contemplative spirituality—have been introduced into churches today through a renewed interest in the writings and teachings of the early Catholic mystics—particularly the Desert Fathers. The Desert Fathers were Christian hermits who lived in the wilderness in order to fully devote themselves to God. They dwelt in small isolated communities and spent their lives seeking a deeper relationship with God. Today’s contemplative movement traces its roots back to these monks. It is these monks who were the first to promote the mantra as a prayer tool within Christianity. Daniel Goleman, a meditative scholar, writes in his book The Meditative Mind:

One meditation scholar made this connection when he said: “The meditation practices and rules for living of these earliest Christian monks bear strong similarity to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East … the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery.”[44]

Ray Yungen, a researcher who has extensively studied mysticism within the church, adds, “Consequently, the desert fathers believed as long as the desire for God was sincere—anything could be utilized to reach God. If a method worked for the Hindus to reach their gods, then Christian mantras could be used to reach Jesus.”[45]


The Desert Fathers were influential in merging Eastern spirituality with Christianity. Recognizing this, Ray Yungen makes a wise observation, “In many ways the desert fathers were like Cain—eager to please but not willing to listen to the instruction of the Lord and do what is right. One cannot fault them for their devotion, but one certainly can for their lack of discernment.”[46] In the Biblical account of Cain and Abel, God made His wishes known regarding the acceptable sacrifice. Abel obeyed God and his sacrifice was accepted, but Cain chose to ignore the desire of God and offer a sacrifice of his own will. According to Scripture, his sacrifice was unacceptable (Gen. 4:3–7). In looking at the testimonies of the Desert Fathers, these were very committed individuals. We can’t fault them for their desires. They seem to have genuinely desired intimacy with God, but they turned to the wrong source to accomplish this. They displayed a lack of discernment, and we certainly can fault their methods.*[47] It is these methods which have laid the foundation for a form of spirituality that is popular among most Christian denominations today and which is directing people back to gurus and Eastern spirituality. But this shouldn’t be surprising considering that the Desert Fathers originally derived their methods, in part, from gurus and Eastern spiritual practices.


A comprehensive study of how these mystical practices moved out of the monasteries and into both Catholic and Protestant churches would require an entire book. Instead, we will focus our attention on a few key individuals who bear much of the responsibility for accomplishing this feat.


It can be said that Thomas Keating initiated the modern contemplative movement. Thomas Keating is a Trappist Monk. It was he who transitioned these practices from the Roman Catholic monasteries to the Catholic laity. According to a 2005 Newsweek article titled “In Search of the Spiritual:”

The 1960s did not penetrate very deeply into the small towns of the Quaboag Valley of central Massachusetts. Even so, Father Thomas Keating, the abbot of St. Joseph’s Abbey, couldn’t help noticing the attraction that the exotic religious practices of the East held for many young Roman Catholics. To him, as a Trappist monk, meditation was second nature. He invited the great Zen master Roshi Sasaki to lead retreats at the abbey. And surely, he thought, there must be a precedent within the church for making such simple but powerful spiritual techniques available to laypeople. His Trappist brother Father William Meninger found it in one day in 1974, in a dusty copy of a 14th-century guide to contemplative meditation, “The Cloud of Unknowing.” Drawing on that work, as well as the writings of the contemplatives Saint John of the Cross and Saint Teresa of Avila, the two monks began teaching a form of Christian meditation that grew into the worldwide phenomenon known as centering prayer. Twice a day for 20 minutes, practitioners find a quiet place to sit with their eyes closed and surrender their minds to God. In more than a dozen books and in speeches and retreats that have attracted tens of thousands, Keating has spread the word to a world of “hungry people, looking for a deeper relationship with God.”[48]


How can we fault Thomas Keating for encouraging people to surrender their minds to God and to develop a deeper relationship with God? Well, here it is important to understand what he means when he uses these terms because what he means and what we mean are not the same. Thomas Keating, as with many “Christian” mystics, has intentionally couched his teaching in language which is innocuous. However, what he is trying to camouflage with his language is his belief that we are essentially God. In an interview where he was asked to summarize his teachings on the spiritual journey “from the mundane to the mind,” Thomas Keating said that we should first realize that there is a God, or an “Other” with a capital “O.” Then we try to become the Other. Finally, we realize that there is no Other. Instead, we and the Other are one. We always have been, and we always will be one:

The beginning of the spiritual journey is the realization—not just the information—but a real interior conviction that there is a higher power, or God, or to make it as easy as possible for everybody, that there is an Other—capital O. Second step—to try to become the Other. Still a capital O. And finally, the realization that there is no Other. You and the Other are One—always have been, always will be. You just think that you aren’t. And that as the spiritual journey unfolds, one lets go of these false beliefs in one’s separation from God, and begins to perceive in all events and other people the same presence of God that one is more and more aware of in one’s self at the deepest level. And thus the words of Paul become something that make sense—that God is all in all. In other words, in a sense, we not only become God, but are God. Our little local consciousness disappears with death because it’s mostly based on the brain, but the consciousness of our consciousness, which is God within us, remains forever. And so as we move into God-consciousness, so to speak, then we perceive how everything that we’ve done that was good was not us but God in us, serving God in other people, God in us loving God in other people, or simply God in us greeting God in other people.[49]


Thomas Keating’s understanding of who God is and our relationship to Him does not match the Bible’s understanding. What Thomas Keating means when he talks about developing a deeper relationship with God is fundamentally different from what we mean when we talk about developing a deeper relationship with God. Essentially, Thomas Keating is teaching us to surrender our minds to ourselves.


Having noted this, let’s continue with the story of how Thomas Keating brought these mystical practices out from the Roman Catholic monasteries and introduced them to the Catholic laity. According to an article in the Miami Herald titled “A Quiet Revolution:”

Through the late 1960s and early 1970s, Father Keating and two other monks met with Buddhist and Hindu teachers in an effort to understand the mass defection of young Catholics at the time, people drawn in part to the East’s meditation practices. Their research led Keating, then an abbot at a Massachusetts monastery, to begin unearthing a similar meditative method based on the Christian tradition.[50]


This method is what is known today as contemplative prayer. Thus, the contemplative method of prayer became Thomas Keating’s means of providing the Roman Catholic laity with an Eastern spiritual experience within the confines of Christianity. To better promote this method, Thomas Keating helped to found an organization called Contemplative Outreach. According to the Contemplative Outreach website:

Fr. Thomas Keating is a founding member and the spiritual guide of Contemplative Outreach, LTD. He has served on Contemplative Outreach’s Board of Trustees since the organization’s beginning and is currently serving as the Chairman of the Board. Fr. Keating is one of the principal architects and teachers of the Christian contemplative prayer movement and, in many ways, Contemplative Outreach is a manifestation of his longtime desire to contribute to the recovery of the contemplative dimension of Christianity.[51]


It may have been Thomas Keating who introduced contemplative prayer to the Roman Catholic laity, but it was another Trappist monk named Thomas Merton who popularized it among the Catholic laity. Eventually he even managed to introduce and popularize it among the Protestants. Ray Yungen has described Thomas Merton in this way:

What Martin Luther King was to the civil rights movement and what Henry Ford was to the automobile, Thomas Merton is to contemplative prayer. Although this prayer movement existed centuries before he came along, Merton took it out of its monastic setting and made it available to and popular with the masses. It is interesting to me that many people still think celebrity star Shirley MacLaine was the greatest influence in the New Age. But for me, hands down, Thomas Merton has influenced New Age thinking more than any person of recent decades. Merton penned one of the most classic descriptions of New Age spirituality I have ever come across.[52]


This is the quote by Thomas Merton to which Ray Yungen is referring:

It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race … now I realize what we all are. … If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are. … I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other … At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth … This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. … It is in everybody …[53]

Similar to Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton believed that we are inherently divine.


Thomas Merton was a man with many faces. Like Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton was a Trappist monk. Anthony Clarke wrote an article for Catholic Answers Magazine titled “Can You Trust Thomas Merton?” in which he says:

Fr. Thomas Merton was a man of a thousand lives. He was at one time a womanizer, a member of the Young Communist League, an English student at Columbia, a peace activist, an English teacher at St. Bonaventure University, and a social work volunteer. He was an orphan, the father of a child, a Catholic convert, a Trappist monk, a priest, a poet, a writer, and some describe him as a Zen Buddhist. It is difficult to distill the essence of Thomas Merton: He and his works are complex.[54]

What can be certain is that Thomas Merton was on a continual spiritual journey. It may be difficult to pin him to a particular theology, but whatever it may have been, he always merged Christianity with Eastern spirituality.


Thomas Merton’s journey into Roman Catholicism was reinforced when he met the Hindu monk Mahanambrata Brahmachari who encouraged him to read The Confessions of St. Augustine and Thomas Kempis’ book Imitation of Christ. His Catholicism was always a hybrid of Catholic orthodoxy and Eastern mysticism. Throughout his life, he studied Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sufism. Jainism is an Indian religion which follows a path of non-violence and emphasizes the spiritual independence and equality between all forms of life. As for Sufism, it is Islamic mysticism. Thomas Merton pioneered dialogue with prominent Asian spiritual figures such as the Dalai Lama, D.T. Suzuki, and Thich Nhat Hanh.[55] He once told a group of women, “I am deeply impregnated with Sufism.”[56] And in “Recollections of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West,” Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast writes that Thomas Merton told him, “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity. The future of Zen is in the West. I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.”[57] He also writes, “‘But isn’t there still an implicit dualism in all this?’ I asked. His answer was, ‘Really there isn’t, and yet there is. You have to see your will and God’s will dualistically for a long time. You have to experience duality for a long time until you see it’s not there. In this respect I am a Hindu.’”[58]


In his book Spiritual Friend, Tilden Edwards notes, “Thomas Merton in many ways helped pave the way for recent serious Christian investigation of these potential Eastern contributions.”[59] It cannot be denied that Thomas Merton’s Christianity was highly infused with Eastern spirituality. In fact, Yoga Journal reports:

Merton had encountered Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Taoism and Vedanta many years prior to his Asian journey. Merton was able to uncover the stream where the wisdom of East and West merge and flow together, beyond dogma, in the depths of inner experience. . . . Merton embraced the spiritual philosophies of the East and integrated this wisdom into [his] own life through direct practice.[60]


Thomas Merton denied the doctrine of original sin in his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander:

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of their hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed. … I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. But this cannot be seen, only believed and “understood” by a peculiar gift.

Again, that expression, le point vierge, (I cannot translate it) comes in here. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. It is so to speak His name written is us, as our poverty, as our indigence, as our dependence, as our sonship. It is like a pure diamond, blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it we would see these billion points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely. … the gate of heaven is everywhere.[61]*[62]

This is heresy. This is a total rejection of the doctrine of original sin. Thomas Merton believed that every person is inherently good because God resides at the center of every person—therefore, there is no need for the true gospel message or for regeneration.


So Thomas Keating took these mystical practices out of the Roman Catholic monasteries and introduced them to the Catholic laity. Thomas Merton then popularized this monastic mysticism among the Catholic laity and subsequently introduced it to the Protestants. Among the Protestants, a man named Richard Foster popularized the teaching. Richard Foster is one of the primary bridge builders between Evangelicalism and monastic mysticism, or contemplative spirituality. He is a Quaker mystic who is best known for his book Celebration of Discipline which was named as one of the top 10 religious books of the 20th century by Christianity Today.[63] In fact, one pastor speculated that there is hardly a pastor in the United States who does not have Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline in his study.[64]


In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster writes, “Though it may sound strange to modern ears, we should all without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer.”[65] It is not terribly surprising that Richard Foster would endorse contemplative mysticism when one considers his Quaker roots. According to Quaker doctrine, every person possesses a Divine inner light of truth.*[66] In the book Christianity Through the Centuries, Earle Cairns notes:

The Quakers appeared on the English religious scene during the chaotic period of the Civil War and the Commonwealth. They set aside the doctrines of an organized church and the Bible as the sole and final revelation of God’s will in favor of the doctrine of the Inner Light, by which they meant that the Holy Spirit can give immediate and direct knowledge of God apart from the Bible. They resembled the Montanists, but their mystical tendencies were fortunately balanced by moral earnestness and a strong social passion.[67]


If an individual can connect with this Divine inner light, then he can receive special guidance. This is very similar to contemplative prayer where the mind descends into the heart and connects with God in our inner-most being. In fact, Richard Foster borrows the words of the Russian contemplative mystic Theophan the Recluse in his book Sanctuary of the Soul: Journey Into Meditative Prayer, “To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all seeing, within you.”


Richard Foster’s spirituality is based on monastic mysticism. It is not based upon the clear teaching of Scripture. Referring to spiritual disciplines, he says, “Recent converts—for that matter people who have yet to turn their lives over to Jesus Christ – can and should practice them.”[68] This statement reveals that whatever spiritual disciplines Richard Foster is writing about, they are not the same disciplines that the Apostles wrote about.*[69] True spiritual disciplines, according to Scripture, stem from the influence of the Holy Spirit in the life of a genuine Christian.


Richard Foster is a disciple of Thomas Merton and frequently quotes Merton in his writings. He positively quotes Merton nine times in his book Celebration of Discipline alone. Richard Foster even refers to Thomas Merton’s book Contemplative Prayer as a spiritual classic and as “a must book.”[70] He says that Thomas Merton shared “priceless wisdom for all Christians who long to go deeper in the spiritual life.”[71] Ray Yungen recalls:

It was after this that I attended a local seminar where Richard Foster was speaking. At the end of the meeting, I approached him. Wanting to know more about Foster’s beliefs, I asked, “What do you think about the current contemplative prayer movement?” Foster emphatically told me, “Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people!”[72]


Thomas Merton is not the only mystic promoted in Richard Foster’s writings. He endorses other mystics such as Henri Nouwen and Tilden Edwards. In Celebration of Discipline, Foster recommends Tilden Edwards’ book Spiritual Friend, listing it under “Excellent books on spirituality.” He writes, “Spiritual Friend helps clear away the confusion and invites us to see that we do not have to live the spiritual life in isolation. Also, you will want to be acquainted with Edwards’ earlier book Living Simply Through the Day.[73]


In this book, Spiritual Friend, Tilden Edwards advocates contemplative prayer and Eastern religious traditions. He writes:

This mystical stream [contemplative prayer and other monastic traditions] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality (and to that of Sufi Moslems and some Hasidic Jews in the West as well). … 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.

This exchange, together with the more popular Eastern impact in the West through transcendental meditation, Hatha Yoga, the martial arts, and through many available courses on Eastern religions in universities, has aided a recent rediscovery of Christian apophatic mystical tradition …[74]


As for Henri Nouwen, he was a Roman Catholic mystic who was strongly influenced by Thomas Merton. He even received the Thomas Merton Award in 1985.*[75][76] Henri Nouwen denied the true gospel message by teaching that God is already within everyone. In his book Here and Now, he writes, “The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is the same as the one who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being.”[77] Nevertheless, a Christian Century magazine survey in 2003 concluded that Nouwen’s writings were the first choice for both Catholic and mainline Protestant clergy.[78]


In his book In the Name of Jesus, Henri Nouwen writes that Christian leaders must move from the moral to the mystical, saying, “Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love. … For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required.”[79] This is one of the men endorsed by Richard Foster.


When we take the time to define what is intended by the terms “contemplative spirituality,” “spiritual formation,” and “spiritual disciplines,” and when we examine the theology of its chief proponents, we should be compelled to reject this teaching as being unbiblical. It is monastic mysticism which is nothing less than Eastern spirituality disguised as Christianity.


Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, and Richard Foster were instrumental in resurrecting the monastic mystical traditions and re-introducing them to Roman Catholicism, and eventually to all Christian denominations. Today, many influential and popular Christian leaders have leaned upon these men for their own spiritual growth and have endorsed or advocated their books and teachings. For some of these Christian leaders, their endorsement is probably made with full knowledge of the historical context surrounding these mystical practices. For others, their endorsement likely stems from a lack of knowledge, or a confusion regarding the nature of these practices.


Undoubtedly, some Christian leaders are also experiencing the pendulum effect of breaking away from legalism and seeking after how to properly incorporate the Holy Spirit into their ministries and personal lives. As such, some of these Christian leaders may have unwittingly swung toward mysticism. We can only hope that they will eventually recognize the error of “Christian” mysticism and amend their ways; nevertheless, a partial list of influential leaders who have, to one degree or another, encouraged or associated themselves with “Christian” mysticism includes: Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, Doug Pagitt, Rob Bell, Chuck Smith Jr., Robert Schuller, Eugene Peterson, John Eldridge, Rick Warren, Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp, Bill Hybels, Philip Yancey, Ruth Haley Barton, Lee Strobel, John Piper, David Jeremiah, and Chuck Swindoll.[80]


Many ministries, organizations, and Christian events have also encouraged mystical practices and have advocated the books and teachings of “Christian” mystics. These “Christian” mystics often rely heavily upon the teachings of Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, and Richard Foster. A partial list of these Christian ministries, organizations, and Christian events includes: Christianity Today, Focus on the Family, Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS), Cornerstone Festival, The Navigators, The Baptist Standard, Christian Broadcasting Network, and the Acts 29 Network.[81]


Even many Christian publishing houses have chosen to publish books that teach “Christian” mysticism. A partial list includes: Zondervan, Thomas Nelson, Moody Press, InterVarsity Press, NavPress, and Eerdman’s.[82]


This is only a sampling of Christian leaders, ministries, publications, and publishing houses that have—perhaps, in some cases, unwittingly—endorsed or advocated “Christian” mystics and their teachings. The above lists are not intended to single out anyone—despite the fact that they necessarily do. Neither are they meant to advocate separating ourselves from these individuals and ministries. Many in the above lists are solid individuals or ministries who are doing a great work for the Lord. However, everyone has faults and spiritual blind spots, and those listed above have—to varying degrees, whether knowingly or not—introduced their followers to monastic mystical traditions.


The above list is intended only to reveal that “Christian” mysticism is nearly impossible to avoid in today’s popular Christian culture. Regardless of whether we have ever heard the names Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, and Richard Foster, their doctrines are infiltrating our churches and our favorite ministries. Today we are being exposed to mystical doctrines, and sometimes this exposure comes from the most unlikely of sources. The important thing to realize is that this is not something that is relegated to the fringe elements of Christianity. Instead, these teachings can be readily found in our section of the Christian bookstore, on the radio stations that we enjoy listening to, and on the websites that we frequent. This is why it is imperative that we do not blindly follow after individuals. We must be as the Bereans who considered what they were being taught and compared it against Scripture before accepting it.*[83] The Bible must be our standard against which all teaching is held to determine its validity. To ignore or forsake the Bible is to fall victim to the deception of the spirit of antichrist.


Once more, the author is not in any way suggesting that everyone in the above lists is evil or needs to be rejected. Many of them have wonderful ministries that have strengthened God’s church. Any names in the above lists are included only to illustrate the fact that it is nearly impossible for any denomination to avoid being exposed to these teachings, whether they be Charismatic, Evangelical, Baptist, or Reformed. For this reason, we need to be able to identify when we are being fed something mystical; we need to recognize the true source of this mysticism, and we need to be able to discern what Scripture has to say regarding these mystical practices. Only in this way will we be able to stand against the schemes of the Devil (Eph. 6:11) in the area of “Christian” mysticism.


  1. John MacArthur is pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California and was named by Christianity Today as one of the most influential preachers in America. In addition to his internationally syndicated radio program Grace to You, he is a prolific author and is responsible for The MacArthur Study Bible. (“The Top 25 Most Influential Preachers.” Christianity Today, 2006, Source: Wikipedia, “John F. MacArthur.”)
  2. MacArthur, Reckless Faith, 27.
  3. “Mysticism,” Merriam-Webster.com.
  4. John 17:17: Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
  5. Robinson, “Religious identification: How American adults view themselves.”
  6. Many individuals who could rightly be classified as pagan do not classify themselves as pagan, choosing instead to refer to themselves by other titles, such as animists.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Draper, “Neopaganism growing quickly.”
  9. Robinson, “Religious identification: How American adults view themselves.”
  10. King, Christian Mystics, 11.
  11. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality (Dayton: Whaleprints, 1991), 76, Source: Yungen, A Time of Departing, 160.
  12. Edwards, Living in the Presence, 18–19.
  13. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger, Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), 230, Source: Diekmann, “The Emerging Church.”
  14. Leonard Sweet, Quantum Spirituality (Dayton:Whaleprints, 1991), 76, Source: Yungen, A Time of Departing, 160.
  15. “At first silence might only frighten us. In silence we start hearing the voices of darkness: our jealousy and anger, our resentment and desire for revenge, our lust and greed, and our pain over losses, abuses, and rejections. These voices are often noisy and boisterous. They may even deafen us. Our most spontaneous reaction is to run away from them and return to our entertainment. But if we have the discipline to stay put and not let these dark voices intimidate us, they will gradually lose their strength and recede into the background, creating space for the softer, gentler voices of the light. These voices speak of peace, kindness, gentleness, goodness, joy, hope, forgiveness, and, most of all, love. They might at first seem small and insignificant, and we may have a hard time trusting them. However, they are very persistent and they will grow stronger if we keep listening. They come from a very deep place and from very far. They have been speaking to us since before we were born, and they reveal to us that there is no darkness in the One who sent us into the world, only light. They are part of God’s voice calling us from all eternity: ‘My beloved child, my favorite one, my joy.’” (Nouwen, Can You Drink The Cup?, 95.)
  16. “I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as supernatural guidance that is not divine guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on the nature of the spiritual world, we do know enough to recognize that there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! ... But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection. Here is the prayer that Luther used: “Shield us, Lord, with thy right arm. Save us from sin’s dreadful harm.” My own approach is to preface a time of contemplation by speaking this simple prayer: “By the authority of almighty God I surround myself with the light of Christ, I cover myself with the blood of Christ, and I seal myself with the cross of Christ. All dark and evil spirits must now leave. No influence is allowed to come near to me but that it is first filtered through the light of Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray. Amen.” (Foster, Prayer, 157.)
  17. Thomas Merton, The Hidden Ground Of Love: The Letters Of Thomas Merton On Religious Experience And Social Concerns, Source: Goodreads, “Hidden Ground of Love Quotes.”
  18. “There is no question that a new and exciting era has come upon Christianity in the twentieth century. It started with the Pentecostal movement at the beginning of the century, a movement which continues to multiply under God’s blessing. It was joined by the Charismatic movement soon after mid-century. And now in these latter decades the Spirit is moving in what some of us like to call the third wave where we are seeing the miraculous works of God operating as they have been in the other movements in churches which have not been nor intend to be either Pentecostal or charismatic.” (Charles Peter Wagner, The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit: Encountering the Power of Signs and Wonders Today (Vida Publishers, 1986), Source: Apologetics Index, “Third Wave.”)
  19. Robert Gray, “What We Saw,” December 14, 1996, Source: “Steve Hill.”
  20. Frederick Price is the founder and senior pastor of Crenshaw Christian Center in Inglewood, California. He also founded Fellowship International Christian Word of Faith Ministries.
  21. Frederick Price, “Praise the Lord,” Trinity Broadcasting Network, September 21, 1990, Source: “Frederick K C Price.”
  22. Costella, “The Brownsville/Pensacola Outpouring. Revival or Pandemonium?”
  23. Paul and Janice Crouch together with Jim and Tammy Bakker co-founded Trinity Broadcasting Systems in 1973. The Bakkers left in 1975 to begin The Praise The Lord Club. Eventually, Trinity Broadcasting Systems was renamed and became the Trinity Broadcasting Network.
  24. Paul Crouch, “Praise-a-thon,” Trinity Broadcasting Network, April 2, 1991, Source: “Links to Audio Files.”
  25. “Neal and Darlenn H visit to Brownsville AOG.,” February 19, 1997, Source: “Steve Hill.”
  26. Kenneth Copeland is the founder of Eagle Mountain International Church which is also known as Kenneth Copeland Ministries. He served as a member of the Oral Roberts University Board of Regents until 2008. He also hosts the daily television program Believer’s Voice of Victory.
  27. Kenneth Copeland, “Copeland, _Following the Faith of Abraham I, side 2,” Source: Hanegraaff, “What’s Wrong with the Faith Movement?” 16.
  28. Kenneth Copeland, The Force of Faith, 7, Source: “‘By Your Words’ Quotes from Third Wave Leaders.”
  29. Jimmy Robbins, “Revival … Or Satanic Counterfeit?” 1996, Source: Interactive Bible, “Pentecostalism: The religion where you worship God with your mind in neutral!”
  30. Julia Duin, “An Evening with Rodney Howard-Browne,” Christian Research Journal 17, no. 3 (Winter 1995):43, Source: Duin, “An Evening with Rodney Howard-Browne.”
  31. Beginning his ministry at the age of eighteen, Paul Cain was the youngest minister in the movement known as the Voice of Healing Revival of the late 1940s and early 1950s. He is best known for his involvement with the Kansas City Prophets and later with John Wimber and the Vineyard Movement.
  32. Paul Cain, Prophetic Power and Passion Conference at Christ Chapel in Florence, Alabama, August 1995, Source: “Paul Cain.”
  33. Jack Deere was an associate professor of Old Testament at Dallas Seminary until he reversed his position on cessationism. Believing that he had experienced sign gifts of the Holy Spirit through the ministry of John Wimber, he joined the staff of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church in Anaheim, California. He eventually began his own ministry and founded Wellspring Church in North Richland Hills, Texas.
  34. Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship Audiotape, November 20, 1994, Source: “Jack Deere.”
  35. Rodney Howard-Browne, quoted in Weighed and Found Wanting: Putting the Toronto Blessing in Context, 162, Source: Burns, “Unholy Laughter.”
  36. William Branham, “Footprints On The Sands Of Time,” 214, Source: “William Branham.”
  37. Bill Hamon, http://imagint.com/bereans/prophesies/cinc-1999.htm, Source: Eldridge, “Bill Hamon: Head Wolf in the Sheep Pen.”
  38. Paul Cain, “You Can Become the Word!” 1989, Vineyard Prophetic Conference, with comment from Sandy Simpson, 1997, Source: “Paul Cain.”
  39. Wikipedia, “Theosis (Eastern Orthodox theology).”
  40. MacArthur, Charismatic Chaos, 88.
  41. Charles Wesley, Journal, III, 496, and The Works of Wesley VI, (New York, 1856) 556, Source: Interactive Bible, “We have the Holy Spirit.”
  42. Mike Bickle founded the Kansas City Fellowship which is now known as the Metro City Fellowship. While pastoring this church, he led a group of men which many today refer to as “the Kansas City Prophets.” Additionally, Mike Bickle founded the International House of Prayer (IHOP), an organization which spawned the International House of Prayer University. Mike Bickle is also well known for organizing the annual OneThing youth conference.
  43. Mike Bickle, “Contemplative Prayer pt1,” Source: “Dangerous doctrinal trends that are growing in the Body of Christ,” 13.
  44. Daniel Goleman, The Meditative Mind (1988), 53, Source: Yungen, “The Desert Fathers – Borrowing From The East.”
  45. Yungen, “The Desert Fathers – Borrowing From The East.”
  46. Ibid.
  47. God expects His people to discern between right and wrong, and between those who serve God and those who do not. Hebrews 5:12–14 says, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” Malachi 3:17–18 says, “‘They shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, in the day when I make up my treasured possession, and I will spare them as a man spares his son who serves him. Then once more you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve him.’”
  48. Adler, “In Search of the Spiritual; Move over, politics,” 46.
  49. lowellballard, “Thomas Keating – Summary of Beliefs.”
  50. “A Quiet Revolution,” The Miami Herald, Source: “Who Is Thomas Keating?”
  51. Contemplative Outreach, “Fr. Thomas Keating.”
  52. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, 58, Source: “Thomas Merton – Contemplative, Mystic, Panentheist.”
  53. Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 154–155.
  54. Clark, “Can You Trust Thomas Merton?”
  55. Wikipedia, “Thomas Merton.”
  56. Robert Baker, Merton and Sufism, Edited by Gray Henry, 69, Source: Yungen, A Time of Departing, 60.
  57. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollections of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West,” Monastic Studies (Pine City, 1969), Source: Steindl-Rast, “Recollections of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West.”
  58. Ibid.
  59. Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, 18–19, Source: Yungen, “5 Things You Should Know.”
  60. Michael Torris, Yoga Journal, January-February 1999, Source: Yungen, “5 Things You Should Know.”
  61. Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, 154–156.
  62. Le point vierge is a French phrase which can be translated as “the virgin point,” or “the blank slate.” (George, “Mary: Le point vierge.”)
  63. “Books of the Century.”
  64. Lagosz1, “Ray Yungen – Mysticism in the Church.”
  65. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 15.
  66. The Quakers “affirm the ‘Inner Light,’ the spiritual nerve center that God has placed in every person. … The Society of Friends began with the vision of George Fox (1624–91), a British seeker after spiritual truth and peace during the turmoil of the English Civil War and its aftermath. After failing to find satisfactory truth and peace in the churches of his time, Fox discovered what he sought in a direct personal relationship with Christ: “When all my hopes in [churches] were gone… I heard a voice which said, ‘That is the Inner Voice, or Inner Light, based upon the description of John 1:9: “the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (KJV)” ’ “ This voice, Fox maintained, is available to all and has nothing to do with the ceremonies, rituals, or creeds over which Christians have fought. Every heart is God’s altar and shrine.” (emphasis removed) (Mead and Hill, Handbook Of Denominations In The United States, 14–141, Source: Silva, “Contemplating the Inner Light of the Quakers (Pt. 2).”
  67. Cairns, Christianity Through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church, 381.
  68. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 2.
  69. In his book A Time of Departing, Ray Yungen writes, “During a trip across the country, I stopped to research at the world headquarters for the Unity School of Christianity, a New Age metaphysical church located in the suburbs of Kansas City, Missouri. In their bookstore under authors A-Z (a who’s who of New Age writers), I found no less than five of Foster’s titles. A number of New Age bookstores also carry his books, under the headings of mysticism. After seeing Celebration of Discipline at one New Age bookstore (a store operated by devotees of a famous Hindu swami), I asked the store’s book buyer what he thought of Foster. ‘He is wonderful,’ the man enthusiastically replied. ‘His views on prayer are absolutely wonderful.’ I then asked if he knew Foster was considered a conservative Christian in many circles. His reply was intriguing: ‘Well, if he was a fundamentalist he wouldn’t be sold at a bookstore like this one.’ He ended the conversation with further praise of Foster. Perhaps the most unsettling example of all is in a book titled The Miracle of Prayer. This book could not be any more blatantly New Age in viewpoint, filled with occult concepts and references. Yet under suggested reading, in the back of the book, Foster’s book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home is recommended.” (Yungen, A Time of Departing, 78.)
  70. Richard Foster, Meditative Prayer (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, 1983), Source: Yungen, A Time of Departing, 77.
  71. Richard Foster and James Smith, Devotional Classics (San Francisco: Harper, 1993), 61, Source: Yungen, A Time of Departing, 78.
  72. Yungen, “Richard Foster and the Be Still DVD.”
  73. Foster, Celebration of Discipline, 220.
  74. Edwards, Spiritual Friend, 18–19.
  75. According to his biographer, Michael Ford, Nouwen acknowledged in his private journals and in discussions with friends that he was homosexual. Some have attempted to use this to slander his name. However, his priestly vows of celibacy and his devotion to Catholic doctrine prevented him from being an active homosexual. (Ford, Wounded Prophet: A Portrait of Henri J.M. Nouwen.)
  76. Thomas Merton Center, “Award Winners.”
  77. Henri Nouwen, Here and Now, 22 (Crossroad, 1994), Source: Yungen, “5 Things You Should Know.”
  78. Jackson Carroll, “Pastors’ Picks: What Preachers Are Reading,” Christian Century 120, no. 17, (August 23, 2003):31, Source: Wikipedia, “Henri Nouwen.”
  79. Nouwen, In the Name of Jesus, 6, 31–32.
  80. List compiled from http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com.
  81. Ibid.
  82. Ibid.
  83. Acts 17:10–11: The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.


Sinister Spirit Copyright © 2014 by Timothy Zebell. All Rights Reserved.


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