On July 9, I posted a short response to a post on From the Lighthouse. What follows is a fuller critique of that post.

1. From the Lighthouse criticizes Moreland for promoting contemplative spirituality (CS), but fails to make an argument against CS or link to biblical evidence against it.
“But Moreland has another credential that is not being discussed in evangelical circles - he promotes contemplative spirituality.”
How do you define contemplative spirituality and what is the biblical evidence against it? Either cite such evidence in the critique or at least link to the evidence so the reader can make an informed, thoughtful decision.

2. From the Lighthouse criticizes Moreland for his statement that CS may sound like New Age, but fails to mention the biblical support he cites for CS. Further, From the Lighthouse they refer to a biblical argument against CS, but it is an argument from silence. They give no positive defense.

“Moreland writes a disclaimer for the article stating:
As we dive into the disciplines of solitude and silence, I need to make a very important qualification. While some of the things in this article may, at first, sound like something you'd hear from a New Age guru, these ideas are, in fact, based on Scriptural principles and practices.”

Why stop the quote here? Why not even mention the biblical reference Moreland gives in support of his contention:

“To see what I'm getting at, consider these examples:
• "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth" (Psalm 46:10, NIV).
• "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" (Mark 1:35, cf. Luke 4:42).
• Abraham's servant "went out to the field one evening to meditate, and as he looked up, he saw camels approaching" (Genesis 24:63).
• "I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds" (Psalm 77:12).
• "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer" (Psalm 19:14).
You see, there's a very important distinction between vocabulary and definition. While terms like meditation, being still and solitude may be common to both Christianity and the New Age (or many Eastern religions), their content or meaning is significantly different.”

In the context of Moreland’s explanation, the accusation (“We have noticed that usually when something sounds New Age or Eastern, that's because it is.”) fall flat. Further, the only argument is an argument from silence: “There is no instance in the Bible where Jesus or the apostle Paul made such a disclaimer, nor did they ever sound that way.”

3. From the Lighthouse criticizes Moreland for suggesting Catholic retreat centers as “ideal” for solitude retreats, but this criticism is merely categorical and does not take into consideration Moreland’s stated criteria for “ideal.”

“Moreland says, ‘Catholic retreat centers are usually ideal for solitude retreats,’ which are bastions for contemplative spirituality.”

First, Moreland clearly explains what he means by “ideal”: “Go to a retreat center that has as one of its purposes the provision of a place for individual sojourners. Try to find a center that has gardens, fountains, statues and other forms of beautiful artwork.”

Second, he is speaking of a retreat in solitude and silence. Persons on such retreats do not interact with other. I assume there is no CS virus carried in the air. What makes such a retreat center so dangerous?

4. From the Lighthouse criticizes Moreland for his recommending Foster and Nouwen, but they neither cite nor link to evidence against these two men. Further, this criticism is mere guilt by association.

“Moreland recommends Richard Foster and Henri Nouwen, which makes sense - he co-authored a book with Dallas Willard ten years ago; thus, he has been dancing in contemplative circles for sometime.”

5. From the Lighthouse criticizes Moreland for his contribution to the “emerging church book” Reclaiming the Center, but fails to mention the critical nature of this book.

“And in an apologetics book on the emerging church, Reclaiming the Center, Moreland was a contributing writer. That book is being recommended by Christian colleges, even ones that have in the past said no to contemplative, such as Corban College in Salem, Oregon.”
First, Reclaiming the Center is critical of the emerging church movement, not supportive. Moreland’s participation in this work places him as a critic. The subtitle of the work makes this clear: confronting evangelical accommodation in postmodern times.

Second, exactly how are CS and the emerging church related? What evidence supports this contention? Does either movement have this as part of their self-understanding?

6. From the Lighthouse criticizes Moreland for supporting “unbiblical” repetitive prayer, despite the use of spiritual disciplines and repetitive prayer in Scripture.

“We pray and hope that Summit Ministries and Corban College will make clear statements to their students that Moreland's repetitive prayer instructions are unbiblical and dangerous.”

In his article series, Moreland lists several disciplines. What follows in a listing of those disciplines and one biblical reference supporting, commanding, or positively referring to that discipline.

7. From the Lighthouse considers CS the “driving force behind a great falling away,” but offers no evidence for either contention.

“If we truly believe that contemplative spirituality (i.e., mysticism) is the driving force behind a great falling away, then boldness is absolutely required, and to do less could have serious implications.”

First, give evidence that such a falling away exists and that this extreme terminology is warranted.

Second, give evidence that supports calling CS the driving force behind such a falling away.

[NOTE: Having read a couple of Moreland's philosophy/apologetics books, I have no doubts that JP can put forth a more than adequate defense. I post this here as a responsible, thinking, biblical Christian. We must critique one another, but we must do so fairly and accurately, and all for the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.]


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  1. Interesting.
    One must be wary of using terms in an argument, if said terms have both a semantic and historical range (change) of meaning. For instance the word meditate as used in the Bible has no similarity to modern emptying of the mind, but rather a studied focus on something (usually on the words and attributes of God). The biblical usage of the word meditate assumes a filling of the mind, in direct contrast to a modern mystical emptying of the mind. One contemplated, cogitated and even mused out loud about God and His Word - thus an intellectual activity where reason and marvel interplay.
    The quoting of Psalm 118 cannot be used to prescribe repetitious prayer for at least two reasons. First we have Jesus Himself teaching against vain repetitions (petitions) in Matthew 6:7 - and this because God already knows what we need before we speak it Matthew 6:8. Note also the contrast between the repetition of the Baal worshipers and the single and direct prayer of Elijah in 1 Kings 18:26, 36-37 (note also how the vain repetitions are classified as the methods of the pagans) Further, Psalm 118 is not attempting to teach a form of prayer, but is a Jewish type communal singing. This Psalm is methodically composed with chorus, Coda and even call & response sections to involve a group of singing worshipers.
    So I will not so much comment on the allegations against Moreland, nor your critique of them - but I can say that the Bible does not promote any kind of methods or rituals meant to alter our consciousness and somehow clear our minds to better hear and commune with God.

  2. Joel, thank you for your comment. I fully agree that Christian meditation is different from mind-emptying meditation. Christian meditation is a filling of the mind with God's truth, so that we can ponder it. The repeition in Psalm 118 is one way to do this and I cite it as an example of repetition in prayer (note: example, not prescription). The purpose of such repetition is not to remind God of our needs, but to remind ourselves of his truth. But, even when we repeat the petitions, these need not be in vain, for as Jesus teaches in Luke 18, persistence in prayer is valued. The purpose of repetition in communal songs of worship--sung to God and thus constituting prayer--is to reinforce God's truth as we engage him.

    As for "methods or rituals meant to alter our consciousness and somehow clear our minds to better hear and commune with God" I do not believe the Bible teaches this nor did I claim this in the post. Further, I do not think Moreland believes or teaches this. Rather, being quiet, returning to the basic truths about God, and still ourselves before him is just that--being before him. If any transformation of our consciences is to occur, Ia am quite certain that the indwelling Spirit can handle it.