Subtle Inroads of Spiritual Formation
By Pastor Hal Mayer
Thank you for joining me at Keep the Faith Ministry today. I’m deeply thankful to the Lord for His mercy and love and I know that He will sustain His faithful people through every trial. But I’m deeply troubled about the times in which we live. Just at the very time when we are seeing the most amazing prophetic developments in this world, we are also seeing the most amazing blindness in God’s church concerning the inroads of Satan. That should be expected of course, but it is nevertheless troubling because many will be lost because of it.
You may remember that some months ago, I presented a sermon on the background and foundations of Spiritual Formation and its diabolical influence. At that time, we suggested that this movement is going to grow and derail the faith of many. And today that is happening very widely. In fact, the teachings of Spiritual Formation have swept into the church and have overtaken universities and seminaries, Master of Divinity programs and even church members. Since that sermon much has happened and I believe that it is time to bring you up to date and warn you concerning the inroads of Spiritual Formation. More than anything else, as a faithful pastor, I have to share my convictions concerning these things and warn you about them; otherwise I would not be faithful to my calling. Some may think I sound critical. But I am not. My heart is motivated by love for God’s children, and I want to see them in heaven. I have to be a faithful sentinel and a faithful watchman on the walls of Zion; otherwise I will lose my own salvation because the blood of lost souls will be on my hands if I do not warn. I know that I will not be welcome in some churches or on some campuses because of what I say. But I still have to say it. I still have to give the message.
But before I share today’s message, I would like to tell you that Highwood Health Centre in Australia is making good progress. We have almost completed our team for the time being and they are all on campus now. We need your prayers so that many health guests will come to the program and receive the blessings of the Lord in recovering their health and most of all, finding the way of eternal life. We hear amazing stories from our guests and it is thrilling to watch how God really blesses them as they attend the program.
The wonderful news is that we are presently discussing how to start a medical missionary training program for Australia, New Zealand and other parts of Oceania at Highwood. We plan to offer shorter courses of about six months for people of any age who want to learn how to be effective medical missionaries in the work that God says will be the last work we can do before Jesus comes again. We aren’t quite sure yet when the first medical missionary training program will start, but it could even be as early as late 2012. We are presently discussing the curriculum for both classroom and practical training and making plans to organize teachers and others.
Our more immediate and pressing need is to address our hydrotherapy and massage treatment rooms. These are very special places where the staff can really communicate with the guests on spiritual things and encourage them greatly. It is our “high-touch” area. Right now there are some mechanical problems with our steam baths, and also we have some remodeling issues that need to be addressed as well to be more efficient. Soon we will let you know the costs to make these remodeling changes, so stay tuned. We have appreciated your support very much and it means a lot to us.
And thank you so much for your prayers and support for the global work of Keep the Faith Ministry as well as its work in Australia. We really mean it!
We also have some needs at Keep the Faith. I need some help writing health articles and Prophetic Intelligence Briefings. Maybe there is someone who has a bit of writing talent that is interested in doing this from home on a volunteer basis. I believe that it could be more than one person in fact. So if you would like to assist us with some writing projects, please let me know.
As we begin our study today I would like for you to bow your head with me, if you can, while we pray. Dear heavenly Father, We bow before You in humble realization of our human weaknesses and we realize that You are our sovereign God. You are Truth, and there is no falsehood in You at all. Your word is full of truth. Your heart is full of love. And Your will is for us to live victoriously in this present evil and wicked generation. When we see false doctrine and practices arise among Your people, we are troubled because it shows us how frail and how weak the human heart is and how it longs for a meaningful relationship. It also shows us how Satan is a wily foe who will deceive and mislead even sincere souls, if he can, into falsehood. I pray that You will send Your Holy Spirit to us today in order that we may understand the things that we are about to study. Show us how to help others to see these things from Your word also. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
To begin our study, please turn with me in your Bibles to the first epistle of Paul to Timothy 4:1, 2. Listen carefully. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron.”
These verses warn us that as we near the close of time, some will depart from the faith and become deceived. To many of us over the years, we thought that meant that they left the church and no longer walked with God’s people. While there certainly have been many, many; far too many cases of this, most of us never thought that those who depart from the faith and fall prey to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils would stay in the church and deceive many within its precincts. But that is the devil’s plan. And God has to allow it to happen to test His people, to mature the issues in the Great Controversy, and to reveal the true intent of Satan’s subtle assault on God’s church. Most of us would never have imagined that respected church leaders in high positions, media leaders, or educators or others who are in important posts would actually be the purveyors of evil doctrines of devils. But it is sadly true. And those faithful souls who have stood up against these doctrines of devils are derided, misrepresented and abused by those who teach them.
In the book Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 8, page 293 we read the shocking prophecy. Listen carefully. “The experience of the past will be repeated. In the future, Satan’s superstitions will assume new forms. Errors will be presented in a pleasing and flattering manner. False theories, clothed with garments of light, will be presented to God’s people. Thus Satan will try to deceive, if possible, the very elect. Most seducing influences will be exerted; minds will be hypnotized.”
Did you hear that? “Minds will be hypnotized.” These are minds of church members and church leaders, my friends. They will not be hypnotized by angels of God. They will be hypnotized by the deceptions of Satan and his agencies. We are living, my friends, in a time when false theories are coming into God’s church clothed in garments of light, just exactly as predicted. They are presented to God’s people as if they are the best thing to help you get close to God, when in reality they will tear you away from the truth. They are emotional. They are appealing because they offer a false sense of warmth and happiness in God, but they are dangerous and deceptive, because they don’t lead you to the word of God. They take you in the other direction and place your confidence in man, not in God. Spiritual Formation is a form of mind control, or mind manipulation, partly self-induced, partly through “guides” as they are strangely called.
Here is another shocking statement, though it is somewhat more familiar. It is from Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5 page 81. “The time is not far distant when the test will come to every soul. The mark of the beast will be urged upon us. Those who have step by step yielded to worldly demands and conformed to worldly customs will not find it a hard matter to yield to the powers that be, rather than subject themselves to derision, insult, threatened imprisonment, and death. The contest is between the commandments of God and the commandments of men. In this time the gold will be separated from the dross in the church. True godliness will be clearly distinguished from the appearance and tinsel of it. Many a star that we have admired for its brilliancy will then go out in darkness. Chaff like a cloud will be borne away on the wind, even from places where we see only floors of rich wheat.”
“Many a star will go out.” That is talking about leading church members who have the ability to preach or teach very well. They have much talent and they are educated and respected by many. They may have won many souls to the truth of the everlasting gospel. They might have preached before thousands. But these bright stars will go out, we are told. Does that surprise you? It does me, when I really think about it, even though I have heard that statement before. When you think about it, you realize that this is talking about church members, people who know better.
The good news is that it is the Lord’s doing and it is marvelous in our eyes. He will separate the chaff from the wheat in the church. But before this time comes, there has to be a falling away first, part of which happens from within.
Here it is in the verse from scripture. It is from the second epistle of Paul to the Thessalonians, chapter two, and verse three. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (the day of the Lord) shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition…”
Though this is first talking about the rise of Roman Catholicism, it is also talking about a falling away from biblical faith in the last days just before Jesus comes. This falling away will also lead those who fall away to the false teachings of spiritual Babylon or the Roman Catholic system. This does not say that they will leave the church. It only says there will be a falling away. In fact, many who are falling away are still in the church and are still teaching the errors of Babylon.
I am amazed at how many Christians just can’t see it. I’m amazed at how many church leaders can’t see it. I’m amazed at how many educators can’t see it. And I am amazed at how many of those who are called to lead God’s sheep to feed on the truth, are advocating Roman Catholic, Jesuit inspired contemplative spirituality. And they are doing it right in among the very people whom God has called to be distinctive in their loyalty to the word and in their love for God by keeping all of His law. This special deception is targeted at leaders, pastors and educators. In fact, it is coming through the educational system of the pastors at seminaries, as you will see. The devil knows that if he can get the pastors and leaders under his control then he can get the whole church too. But that will not happen. There are faithful men and women who will rise up to defend the truth. They will walk in the ways of righteousness and reprove the works of darkness as they arise.
Many are deceived into thinking that Spiritual Formation and contemplative spirituality will help them with a closer walk with God. They do not have a walk with God themselves, and haven’t had one for many, many years. They don’t know the voice of God and they cannot discern when a false doctrine comes along, particularly if it is clothed in light. They are very susceptible to spiritualism because they have not drunk deeply from the fountain of the word, and have not found Christ for themselves.
Others have depended on the church to provide them a relationship with Christ. They have depended on church leaders to tell them what is right and what is wrong. They have not studied God’s word to find out for themselves. Hence, they too are vulnerable to be taken in by deceptive theories. Make no mistake about it. The deceptions targeted at the leaders will eventually be turned on the members too.
But let me repeat what I said before. I believe that many are taken in by contemplative spirituality because they have never developed their own personal Bible-based love relationship with Christ. They are not overcomers in Christ’s strength. They have not kept God’s law faithfully, so they have a void like a giant hole in their hearts. They are hungry for meaningful spirituality to fill the void in their lives, and when Spiritual Formation comes along, they think that this is just the answer for the huge empty space in their hearts. But unfortunately, Satan is ready to fill it with vain human philosophy.
This is certainly true of many whose religious experience has been built on emotionalism and sensationalism. But it is especially true of those whose religious experience is built on intellectualism and scholasticism. It is also true of many whose experience is founded on externals and superficialities. And it is certainly true of many who have never had their hearts melted by the love of Jesus. They have the right desire. They want an experience that is powerful and enduring. They want a love that will warm the deepest recesses of their hearts. But in turning to Spiritual Formation they are looking in the wrong place.
Spiritual Formation teaches them to look to man rather than to God for their experience; to spiritual mentors who will “guide” them to Christ, supposedly. Friends, it is the word of God that guides us to Jesus. No one else and nothing else can do this.
The true relationship with Jesus is a bowing in humble submission to His revealed will. It means that we fall on our faces in despair at our wicked and wretched hearts and we beg for God’s forgiveness and love to fill our hearts. It comes to us when we tell God that we will do whatever He tells us to do and then ask Him for the power to fulfill it. You will never find it in incantations. You will never find it in vain repetitions. You will never find it in a ritual or a labyrinth. Your experience must be rooted in God’s word and the work of the Holy Spirit on your heart. Study the word. Relish the word. Practice the word of God. God promises to plug the hole and fill up your heart without fancy trappings, without atmospheres of images and candles, dark spaces, without artificial devices to “enhance” our sensory experience.
When you study Spiritual Formation, the teachers and book writers tell you that you need to read the writings of the famous masters of mysticism; the ancient faith (meaning the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church fathers). But that is just teaching you to look to man instead of God. Teachers of contemplative spirituality teach you that you need to have atmosphere so that your senses, your eyes, ears, noses and skin can feel the presence of something supernatural. They call it God, but friends, it is spiritualism, and it comes straight out of paganism and Roman Catholicism. Not only does it take your eyes off Christ, it also leads you to look to the human beings who make those recommendations. They present themselves as experts and people think they know what they are talking about. But it is all part of the devil’s plan to deceive and lead you astray.
Perhaps the first thing that Satan tries to do is set the stage for contemplative spirituality by tempting you to take your eyes off Christ. He distracts you by worldliness, which keeps you from having a walk with Christ. He does this through entertainment, pursuit of wealth, fashion, secret sins and other diversions. He can also have great effect by tempting you to indulge your appetite and eat food that is not healthy and nourishing, such as junk food, flesh food of all kinds, and rich and heavy foods. And he also keeps you so busy with the “cares of this life” that you have no time for Jesus in your heart. Anything that will keep you from putting your eyes on Christ will suit his purpose.
The devil is also very effective in setting the stage for Spiritual Formation by getting unwary souls into the superficial and emotion-oriented charismatic movement, more commonly known as the celebration style of worship. But eventually that does not satisfy the spiritual hunger of the soul.
After a long time, when your heart is empty and you have nothing in your spiritual experience, Satan knows you will eventually turn to Christ in your desperation to find something meaningful. And right then he is ready with Spiritual Formation. There are millions who have a great open gap in their hearts and they are hungering for meaningful spirituality and peace from the conflicts and difficulties they face. Now he comes to them with Spiritual Formation to offer them a way to “fill the void.” But it is another distraction from the true relationship with Christ.
Perhaps you remember that the source of Spiritual Formation and contemplative spirituality in the church comes directly from paganism through the Jesuits. But if you haven’t listened to our last sermon on this topic, please do so. That will give you all the documentation you need. You can order the CD from our office, or you can go online and download the text or the MP3 file there. You can also use the links for documentation.
But briefly let me summarize. When Ignatius Loyola established the Jesuit order he arranged the system of the Jesuits so that the organization would be under the control of the Jesuit general, sometimes called the “black pope.” In doing so, he also knew that no human system could be effective if it doesn’t involve a spiritual control mechanism. So he established a system of spiritual control called Spiritual Formation in which the subordinate is under the direction and guidance of the superior or spiritual director, usually one of their order trained for this purpose. In fact, the young novitiates (as new recruits are called) are trained in obedience to the point where they would be willing to do whatever they were told to do by their spiritual director. They view the instructions of their spiritual director as the voice of God. It is the role of the spiritual director to train the novitiate to view his instructions that way. The subordinate is in some ways like a “corpse,” doing whatever their master instructs them. Once mature, they too become masters over others. This is how Ignatius Loyola trained the Jesuits to look to man instead of to God.
Along with this, Loyola added contemplative prayer, more commonly known as “spiritual exercises,” that would offer those of the order an emotional way to attach them to the order and hypnotize their minds and keep them from ever leaving the order, if possible. Contemplative prayer was also a means of making this entire Jesuit system look very pious and harmless.
Loyola also added his own manual on Spiritual Formation called The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola. The book is still in print. This book forms the cornerstone of Ignatian spirituality, or the spirituality of the Jesuits. The “Spiritual Exercises” were intended to be carried out while under the control or direction of a “spiritual director.” They are a central component of the Jesuit novitiate training and it happens in the first year or two of their training. But the “Exercises” weren’t intended to be limited to those in a religious order, specifically the Jesuit order, but were intended for use by anyone. Apparently, when Roman Catholic lay people (and perhaps others) go through the “Exercises,” they often do this under the trained guidance of a member of the Jesuit order as well. Needless to say, this would develop a loyalty to the Jesuit order and also to the “spiritual director.” One would certainly wonder if in the evangelical or non-Catholic setting, how many of the top spiritual directors in each church are also connected to the Jesuit order.
“Beginning in the 1980s, Protestants have had a growing interest in the Spiritual Exercises. There are recent (2006) adaptations that are specific to Protestants that emphasize the exercises as a school of contemplative prayer.”
Since the 1980s, interest in Spiritual Formation has steadily grown and has been brought stealthily into the protestant churches. Now, veiled spiritualism in the form of Spiritual Formation and contemplative prayer has gone mainstream including mainline churches, such as the Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran and Presbyterian churches, as well as penetrating deeply within the evangelical churches, particularly through the mega-churches like Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church and Bill Hybel’s Willow Creek Church where many pastors have trained in the postmodern concept of church growth. Many pastors have gone to Willow Creek for this training, and they now try to bring these concepts into the local churches to which they are assigned. And who knows what level of Spiritual Formation they have been subjected to. Now they are very susceptible to these Jesuit influences.
Today, Ignatian spirituality, Spiritual Formation and Contemplative prayer have been reformulated for evangelicals and other non-Catholic churches. They veiled it so that they can more easily take Ignatius Loyola’s principles more deeply into the vast majority of Christian churches. And it is being extremely successful.
Before I go any further, I would like you to listen to this important statement from Great Controversy, page 557 and 558. “It is true that spiritualism is now changing its form and, veiling some of its more objectionable features, is assuming a Christian guise… Even in its present form, so far from being more worthy of toleration than formerly, it is really a more dangerous, because a more subtle, deception. While it formerly denounced Christ and the Bible, it now professes to accept both. But the Bible is interpreted in a manner that is pleasing to the unrenewed heart, while its solemn and vital truths are made of no effect.”
Did you hear that? The teachings of spiritualism are veiled now. And in recent times, those teaching these courses are now giving them different names than Spiritual Formation such as “Jesus 101,” or “discipleship classes,” etc. This veils the true purpose of Spiritual Formation. The content is still the same. Satan is very subtle. He comes as an “angel of light.” So you would expect that he would misapply good words and use them as a disguise for his own concepts.
Also, did you notice that the Bible is re-interpreted and made pleasing to the carnal heart? Thousands join the church. In fact, huge mega-churches arise. But it is a social, ecumenical, and false gospel.
Let me read on. “Love is dwelt upon as the chief attribute of God, but it is degraded to a weak sentimentalism, making little distinction between good and evil. God’s justice, His denunciations of sin, the requirements of His holy law, are all kept out of sight. The people are taught to regard the Decalogue as a dead letter. Pleasing, bewitching fables captivate the senses and lead men to reject the Bible as the foundation of their faith. Christ is as verily denied as before; but Satan has so blinded the eyes of the people that the deception is not discerned.”
Notice that these false teachers only please their listeners with sermons about love. They teach about the cross, the resurrection, and all the stories of the life of Christ, but they are leaving out the real consequences of these things and the demands that they put on the converted life.
Reading on: “There are few who have any just conception of the deceptive power of spiritualism and the danger of coming under its influence. Many tamper with it merely to gratify their curiosity.”
Think about this in relation to the church, my friends. Church members dabble in spiritualism because they don’t see the danger and they are curious.
I’ll continue: “They have no real faith in it and would be filled with horror at the thought of yielding themselves to the [evil] spirits’ control. But they venture upon the forbidden ground, and the mighty destroyer exercises his power upon them against their will.”
Notice that he works against their will, and listen now to what happens to them once under his control.
“Let them once be induced to submit their minds to his direction, and he holds them captive. It is impossible, in their own strength, to break away from the bewitching, alluring spell. Nothing but the power of God, granted in answer to the earnest prayer of faith, can deliver these ensnared souls.”
They are ensnared my friends. Those who play around with spiritualism will not be able to break away, except by direct intervention of God. No wonder so many who defend Spiritual Formation can’t see its dangers. No wonder those who teach contemplative spirituality defend it with tenacity.
The objectionable parts of Spiritual Formation and contemplative spirituality have been toned down so that they will not offend as easily. The control mechanisms have been toned down too, though there is still the subordinate trainee who is guided by the “spiritual director.” But the same principles are at play. And the effect is to reduce resistance to Rome’s teaching and bring formerly protestant churches and people under the influence of Rome. It is really quite a cunning strategy.
And many churches are taking the bait. They have lost their spiritual direction from the Bible and the God of Heaven and now they hunger to replace it with humanly guided spirituality. This is devastating, both to the churches who adopt it, and the people who practice it. It is spiritualism at its root. It is designed to destroy any remaining understanding of the scripturally distinctive doctrines of God’s final message to the world. Spiritual Formation and contemplative prayer have now come into God’s church like a flood. And it has come into the church through some very well-known evangelical-style leaders. Incidentally, the more evangelical a church becomes, the more it leaves behind its true biblical foundation and the more susceptible and vulnerable it is to the Jesuit-inspired contemplative spirituality.
A few years ago there was a fanaticism going around in God’s church, in which many people were encouraged to read a cleverly written book by an evangelical mega-church leader named Rick Warren. The book was called The Purpose-Driven Life. It was followed by another book he authored called, The Purpose-Driven Church. Now Rick Warren is strongly advocating Spiritual Formation, and many are being deceived by it.
Also, do you remember Bill Hybels? He is the leader of the Willow Creek mega-church where pastors of many denominations were trained in mega-church principles. Well, now he is in the middle of promoting Spiritual Formation too.
These mega-churches have re-packaged Spiritual Formation as part of the “emerging church” movement, which is a euphemism for the emergence of Roman Catholicism in the evangelical or protestant churches. Contemplative prayer is the latest twist in the ecumenical movement, which seeks to bring all the churches back to Rome. But it is more than that. Contemplative prayer for instance, merges Eastern and Western forms of meditation. These practices include a lot of external trappings to supposedly “enhance” the contemplative prayer experience, such as prayer stations, Taizé, silence, sacred space, ancient prayer practices, prayer labyrinths, and prayer rooms. They also include mystical and spiritualistic practices such as centering prayer, “Jesus prayer,” lectio divina, and breath prayer. They reflect new age ideas such as “inner light,” “beyond words,” “centering down,” etc.
The idea of the emerging church, contemplative prayer and Spiritual Formation is that we have to go back to ancient Christianity, not the ancient Christianity of Christ and His apostles, but rather the ancient Christianity of the 4th century when the Christian church was full of mystics and spiritualists. This was also during the time when the Roman Catholic Church had a lot of church councils that developed the foundational doctrines of the Catholic Church. Those in the emerging church movement are actually promoting the idea that by becoming more acquainted with the mystics we can come closer to God.
For instance, in his book called Hunger, Satisfying the Longing of the Soul, published by the Review and Herald’s Autumn House Division, author Jon Dybdahl, a seminary professor, actually recommends reading Roman Catholic mystics as part of your quest to satisfy the spiritual hunger of your soul. He recommends reading famous Roman Catholic monks and priests like Henri Nouwen, Thomas Merton, Benedict Groeschel, Jerome Neufelder and Thomas Keating. He also recommends Tilden Edwards, an Episcopal priest and mystic, Robert Webber, one of the foremost advocates of emergent teaching and Spiritual Formation, Thomas R. Kelly, a Quaker mystic, Tony Campolo, an evangelical who claims to have been born again by reading the Catholic mystics, especially the Spiritual Exercises by Ignatius Loyola, Richard Foster, one of the main evangelical promoters of “contemplative prayer” in the emerging church movement, who himself recommends that his followers read Roman Catholic Church fathers and mystics.
Jon Dybdahl taught at Andrews University Seminary for many years, and was President of Walla Walla University for some time in Washington State.
But it isn’t just in books that the concepts of Spiritual Formation are being promoted. Spiritual Formation training has become an epidemic in seminaries. Everywhere it seems seminaries are now teaching Spiritual Formation and its attendant practices. Just consider this list of seminaries who all teach Spiritual Formation. They include the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, Biola Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, where many pastors have gone for their doctoral and other post graduate degrees, Dallas Theological Seminary, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Urshan Graduate School of Theology, Briercrest College and Seminary, Eastern Mennonite Seminary, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary of Andrews University, La Sierra University School of Religion (Seventh-day Adventist), Inter-American Adventist Theological Seminary, Multnomah Biblical Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Moody Theological Seminary & Graduate School, Cincinnati Christian University, Columbia International University, Eston College, Moody Bible Institute, Multnomah University, Nazarene Bible College, Prairie Bible College and about 350 other seminaries throughout North America.
The Evangelical version of Ignatius Loyola’s Spiritual Formation is now part of the core curriculum of these seminaries. And they are pressured to teach it by their accrediting associations. They are all accredited through either the Association of Theological Seminaries (ATS) or the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE).
Both accrediting organizations require schools that they accredit to teach Spiritual Formation and incorporate it into the lives of their students. For instance, ATS lists Spiritual Formation in its handbook as part of its guidelines for schools wanting to have their Masters of Divinity Programs accredited and includes the following information.
“The Master of Divinity degree program standard requires that students be educated in four areas: (1) Religious Heritage, (2) Cultural Context, (3) Personal and Spiritual Formation, and (4) Capacity for Ministerial and Public Leadership.”
Think about this for a minute. While you are studying at these seminaries, you will learn about the cultural context of the scriptures and how to interpret them according to the culture of their times. In other words, you will likely learn how to reject a personal application of the scriptures in our times. This is most likely where the idea comes from that we don’t have to apply the Bible’s strong denunciations of homosexuality since it was part of the “culture of the times,” and since times have changed, we can overlook these rather undesirable verses. The same is true about ordination of woman pastors. The strong statements of the apostle Paul can’t be taken as applicable today. After all, his culture demanded his statement. This principle applies to any area of life required by scripture that we don’t want to obey.
Notice too that the seminary students will learn Spiritual Formation along with cultural context. This will get them going down the track of accepting the teachings of Rome.
I will quote further from the ATS manual. “Instruction in these areas shall be conducted so as to indicate their interdependence with each other and with other areas of the curriculum…”
The Handbook goes on to say that Spiritual Formation must be integrated with the other three areas, not separated out as an independent “silo” of learning. It says, “Therefore, comprehensive assessment of learning in the MDiv program should indicate how well students have integrated Theological Heritage, Cultural Context, Personal and Spiritual Formation, and Capacity for Ministerial and Public Leadership to minister faithfully and effectively.”
In other words, the seminary cannot pick and choose from that list and it cannot teach these four items as distinct from each other, but must integrate them so that they are seen as interdependent on each other. They cannot avoid proficiency in teaching Spiritual Formation as essential to pastoral ministry. Furthermore, seminaries will be evaluated for accreditation purposes on how well the students integrate these four areas, including Spiritual Formation, into their lives and ministry.
What a shame that seminaries in God’s church have sought accreditation at all, but particularly from accrediting bodies that have no clear understanding of the truth for these last days. This is slowly, stealthily stripping the seminaries of God’s last church of its distinctive message and replacing it with a social and ecumenical gospel.
ABHE, the other accrediting body has a handbook too. In it they make the following statement.
“[A]n accredited graduate program is characterized by… A learning environment that cultivates critical thinking, theological reflection, spiritual formation, and effective leadership/ministry practice” (p. 46).
This is saying essentially the same thing as the ATS manual.
So, Christian seminaries that want to be accredited by either of these two accrediting bodies are required now to teach Spiritual Formation. And students going to those schools will be required to learn Spiritual Formation and incorporate its principles into their lives. These schools will be teaching them using principles similar and compatible with the Jesuit order.
Since accredited theological schools are required to demonstrate that students actually achieve the goals of Spiritual Formation, students who refuse to be involved in Spiritual Formation will likely not graduate from these seminaries.
There is no doubt that these accrediting associations are pushing contemplative spirituality. In fact, some schools are even offering master degrees in it now too. For instances, you can get a Master of Arts degree from Moody’s in Spiritual Formation. Perhaps in time, there will be more Master’s degrees from other universities teaching it as well.
The ATS handbook for Seminary Presidents recommends books by Roman Catholic mystics and others, including Buddhist sympathizers.
A seminary, as you no doubt know, trains the ministers and leaders of a church. If they are all trained in Jesuit spirituality and contemplative prayer, under masters who guide them, how easy would it be for God’s church to be compromised by these men and women who are trained in this way? I dare say that it would be very easy indeed. In addition, it makes the church more ecumenical and more open to Roman Catholic teaching. It gets the church ready to join the global religion that is coming upon the planet.
It makes the church more and more willing to compromise the key message for the last days, which is explained in Revelation 18:2, 4. “Babylon is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird… Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”
How can God’s people give the message to come out of the fallen churches, when they are joining them in Jesuit inspired practices? How can people be called out of the false system of spirituality when the messengers are involved in it themselves?
Listen to this statement from the book Evangelism, page 230. “We are as a people in danger of giving the third angel’s message in such an indefinite manner that it does not impress the people… Our message is a life-and-death message, and we must let this message appear as it is – the great power of God. Then the Lord will make it effectual. We are to present it in all its telling force.”
That is a pretty strong statement. What does the third angel’s message say? It is found in Revelation 14:9-12 let me read it to you. “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name. Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.”
God’s last day people will have the responsibility to identify, even pinpoint the beast and the image to the beast. God’s last day church has to give the warning not to be associated with this false system of worship (Revelation 18:4). It has to be clear and decided. It cannot be muted and indefinite. How will this happen if the church is steeped in the vain philosophies and practices of spiritual Babylon’s own system of spirituality; steeped in the Jesuit science of Spiritual Formation which comes from the very source that the Bible condemns? It is impossible my friends.
There is another principle that often surfaces in the writings and teachings of emergent church leaders who advocate Spiritual Formation. It is the idea that God is in everything, or the concept of pantheism. This too comes from paganism through Ignatius Loyola into the Catholic Church and Jesuitism. Now it is coming into non-Catholic churches through Spiritual Formation. Pantheism is the idea that God is energy and that God is in everything because every form of matter can be converted to energy. This teaching makes God impersonal, though he or it can be communicated with. It also lays the foundation for the ritualism of contemplative spirituality. Contemplative prayer looks within oneself to find the true philosophy of life instead of to Christ. Of course it is in the name of Christ.
Strangely, in 1904 Battle Creek College was dealing with the same or similar theories about God and spirituality under the influence of John Harvey Kellogg.
Listen to what was written about him in Special Testimonies, Series B, No. 6, page 42. “In the night season I was in a large meeting. The one who has stood for many years as the leader in our medical work was speaking, and he was filled with enthusiasm regarding his subject… The subject upon which he was speaking was life, and the relation of God to all living things. In his presentations he cloaked the matter somewhat, but in reality he was presenting as of the highest value, scientific theories which are akin to pantheism… One by my side told me that the evil angels had taken captive the mind of the speaker. He said that we were to stand as guardians of the churches, but that we were on no account to enter into discussion with those who hold pantheistic theories, on these subjects. He said that just as surely as the angels who fell were seduced and deceived by Satan, so surely was the speaker under the spiritualistic education of evil angels.”
“I was bidden to warn our people on no account to send their children to Battle Creek to receive an education, because these delusive, scientific theories would be presented in the most seducing forms.”
This prophetic counsel, given in 1904 is certainly very relevant today. Why should young people be sent to a seminary to learn under spiritual directors who will destroy them with Spiritual Formation?
While John Harvey Kellogg may not have been teaching Jesuit Spiritual Formation exactly, he was certainly venturing on similar ground and was being taught by evil angels. Could it be that those who are advocating and teaching Spiritual Formation in God’s church today are being taught by evil angels again? Remember the Apostle Peter tells us that we are to “be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith…” 1 Peter 5:8, 9
John Harvey Kellogg was teaching spiritualism, for pantheism comes directly from spiritualistic teachers. He wrote a book on the subject called the The Living Temple. This book was referred to in a letter by God’s messenger in 1904.
“There is in it [pantheism] the beginning of theories which, carried to their logical conclusion, would destroy faith in the sanctuary question and in the atonement. I do not think that Dr. Kellogg saw this clearly. I do not think that he realized that in laying his new foundation of faith, he was directing his steps toward infidelity.—Letter 33, 1904, p. 2. (To Brethren Faulkhead and Salisbury, Jan. 17, 1904)
Do the teachers of Spiritual Formation have a love for the sanctuary message of the Bible and the final work of Christ in the Heavenly Sanctuary? Do they understand and teach the message of victory over sin, which is the work of Christ in His followers in these last days?
Here is a statement from Selected Messages, Vol. 1, page 200, which gives instructions to those who love the truth, and what they are to do about it.
“I am instructed to speak plainly. ‘Meet it,’ is the word spoken to me. ‘Meet it firmly, and without delay…’ In the book Living Temple there is presented the alpha of deadly heresies. The omega will follow, and will be received by those who are not willing to heed the warning God has given.”
Spiritual Formation is a serious problem, my friends. Satan is at war with God’s church. Evil angels are teaching sophistries and the churches are falling for it. Those who advocate Spiritual Formation are working with the archenemy of God’s church. This is serious, my friends. How is it that Satan has been able to get so far into God’s church that Spiritual Formation and Contemplative Spirituality are taught in the seminaries? Could the seminaries have been infiltrated?
We are to avoid all connection with such theories and practices. As most of you know, Keep the Faith recently became the owner and operator of Highwood Health Centre in Victoria, Australia. In recent times, I have been trying to discover what other types of health centres are in the general area. Do you know what kind they are? They are all new age organizations promoting yoga and other pagan practices of mind manipulation to promote healing. What I have discovered as I have reviewed their programs is that some of them also include the principles of Ignatian Spirituality, including contemplative prayer, labyrinths, and other mystical practices. The new age movement relishes this stuff, and they use it freely as if it is their own. That suggests a strong link between pagan teachings and the Jesuit concepts of Spiritual Formation. Spiritual Formation is really an adaptation of pagan philosophy of searching for the God within.
The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola emphasize something they call “discernment.” The one who practices the “Exercises” is supposedly developing spiritual “discernment” within himself so that he can discern good from evil and good spirits from evil spirits. But his discernment is not formed by the Bible. It is formed through the guidance of his spiritual director in teaching him how to think. In other words, he begins to think like his director, and develops the same perspective and philosophy. He becomes like his director. Spiritual Formation is about manipulation of the mind. It is a classic Jesuit educational tool.
In essence then, Spiritual Formation is bringing the toned down Jesuit system into God’s church including its pagan concepts, which is similar to what John Harvey Kellogg did back in the early 20th century.
Many schools argue that the Spiritual Formation that they teach is not the same as what the Jesuits teach. While it is true that it is not the same in the sense that it has been toned down for more general Christian consumption, it is nevertheless promoting the same dangerous principles of contemplative spirituality and mind control. The teachers and authors recommend their students read the Roman Catholic mystics, contemplative writers and others who do not lead them to the Word of God, but away from it.
The future for the seminaries and theological schools that teach Spiritual Formation is spiritually bleak. Many of them are already compromised by evolutionary teachings, and many of them have for a long time been hotbeds of false doctrine in other areas. Now, Satan is coming after them to deepen their resistance to the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14. He is trying to move them another step away from the plan of holy living that God has for them.
Friends, the bottom line in all of this is that Spiritual Formation by whatever name it is called leads you away from the Bible as the foundation of your faith, and replaces it with a human guide, a human philosophy. This will never lead you to heaven. Satan’s plan is to destroy your faith, if he can.
The word of God must be at the center of our faith. We don’t need rituals, mystics, or labyrinths to find our way to eternal life. What we need is Christ. What you need is Christ. What I need is Christ. While Spiritual Formation claims to lead you to Jesus, it is actually placing you under influences that are leading you the other way.
Here is a statement written in the Review and Herald 100 years ago on, March 11, 1902. “If ministers who are called upon to preach the most solemn message ever given to mortals, evade the truth, they are unfaithful in their work, and are false shepherds to the sheep and the lambs. The assertions of man are of no value. Let the word of God speak to the people.”
Isn’t that a wonderful statement? “Let the word of God speak to the people.” Speak the truth. Speak it plainly and humbly. Let the word do the work of converting the soul, and the Holy Spirit will greatly bless it. But so often we think we have a better way. We think that we have a more appealing approach with human philosophy.
Here is a statement from the Review and Herald of October 22, 1901. “God calls for men like Elijah, Nathan, and John the Baptist, men who will bear His message with faithfulness, regardless of the consequences, who will speak the truth bravely, though it calls for the sacrifice of all they have.”
The problem is that those who have never had, or who have lost their personal love relationship with Christ are vulnerable to Spiritual Formation because they hunger for something real. Spiritual Formation promises to fulfill this hunger, but it only leads them further from the truth of God’s word. It only leads them further from the law of God and they will end up trampling on its precepts.
Listen to this from the book Great Controversy, page 608. “As the storm approaches…” Is there a storm approaching? There certainly is. “As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the third angel’s message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become the bitterest enemies of their former brethren. When Sabbath keepers are brought before the courts to answer for their faith, these apostates are the most efficient agents of Satan to misrepresent and accuse them and by false reports and insinuations to stir up the rulers against them.”
Those who fall for Spiritual Formation will inevitably oppose the Sabbath of God and, along with the rest of the churches of Babylon, they will work to bring the world into the coming global religion sponsored by the Vatican. They will worship in the way their spiritual guide, the Jesuit order will instruct them to worship. They will follow Rome’s Sunday Sabbath. They will live by human laws. But when the door of probation finally closes, they will be on the outside of the ark of safety.
Friends, I don’t want to be among them, do you? I don’t want to have my faith destroyed by some fanciful theory, no matter how many people believe it. The popularity of any belief is not the gauge by which we decide what is truth? The largest religions in the world are all false religions and do not follow the Bible. Even the not-so-large religions and churches are almost all false religions. There is only one truth, and that truth is found in the Bible. It is rooted in the Law of God, and it is obeyed by the power of Christ in your life and mine. We need the word of God more than ever to discern these false spirits. We need the word of God, especially as we near the close of probation because that is the time when final decisions will be made for truth or for error.
Let us bow our heads in prayer. Our heavenly Father, we see clearly that Spiritual Formation is coming in like a flood and it is taking over seminaries and churches and leading them down the road to destruction. Help us to understand that we are living in the time when Jesus is in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary and that He is working to purify His people of all sin. He is working to strengthen them for the struggle ahead. We are in a war with Satan. And he works so subtly that it is hard to see his tactics. But give us true spiritual eyesight and discernment. Let us live for Jesus and open our hearts to His spiritual guidance. In Jesus name I pray, amen.
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