Reformed Theologian Recommends a Book on Contemplative Prayer!!
It is difficult to believe that any professing Christian could ever be deceived into thinking that ‘Soul Recreation’, written by Tom Schwanda deserved their glowing commendation. And yet this is exactly what Dr Joel Beeke has done by posting the following recommendation on his Reformation Heritage Books website! (Link to RHB website)
"While mystical ideas must always be sifted with biblical discernment, it is undeniable that the Reformed and Puritan tradition contains a richly experiential emphasis on delighting in God through Christ. Tom Schwanda has done us a great service in probing that tradition in this study of Isaac Ambrose in his historical context. He offers a nuanced explanation of Ambrose's view of being ravished with Christ, the Bridegroom of the church. He . . . encourages evangelicals to return to our Reformed roots in order to grow in authentic spirituality." —Joel R. Beeke-President of Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids
What Dr Beeke has omitted to say is that Schwanda’s book not only considers and draws on the teachings of Ambrose, Calvin and commendable others, but he also promotes and encourages evangelicals to imitate the practices of The Desert Fathers, Ignatius of Loyola, (yes, founder of the Jesuit Order!!!) Richard Foster, Thomas Merton, and other apostates, whose mystical teachings are based on New Age/occult philosophies. Sadly these philosophies are being accepted unquestionably within many evangelical and reformed churches throughout the world. New Age prayer techniques come in a variety of forms but Contemplative Prayer, as promoted in Schwanda’s book, is one of the most subtle and dangerous deceits to infiltrate the church in recent times.
Schwanda is an Associate Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College. This Bible College has been identified as a promoter of Contemplative Prayer by the Lighthouse Trails Research website. Evidence of Schwanda’s admiration for the above mentioned apostates can be found on a church history website and within Schwanda’s thesis entitled ‘Soul Recreation’. (See the bibliography for a very extensive list of authors referenced throughout this thesis)
Perhaps some proponents of reformed theology have so intellectualised God’s Word that they no longer have need for the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth? (John 16:13) Could it be that in desperation for fulfilment, these intellectuals feel compelled to resort to eastern mysticism in an effort to fill a spiritual void within their lives? Sadly feeding on the ‘manna from heaven’ (The Scriptures) with a view to finding the One of whom they testify (the Lord Jesus Christ), no longer seems to satisfy many professing Christians.
Another credible explanation for the pursuit of mystical experiences is the decline in the scriptural practice of separation amongst the Lord’s people, which has contributed to a lack of discernment within Christendom. An inability to judge between the precious and the vile has undoubtedly led many naive Christians to undertake unscriptural and mystical practices (e.g. Contemplative Prayer, Lectio Divina, Meditative Mantras).
The Bible clearly forbids the employment of new age/occult activities in any shape or form and those who continue to pursue such activities are treading on very dangerous ground. (Deuteronomy 18:9-14) Attempts by Christians to reach a higher plane of knowledge and spiritual experience via New Age techniques is akin to Gnosticism and an affront to our Lord Jesus Christ who “according to his divine power hath given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” 2nd Peter 1:3