Biola University And New Age Occultism
Biola Magazine for the Fall ’09 semester has an article on prayer titled, “Prayer for Generation Tweet.” This article is on pages 18-25. It can also be found online at the Biola University website at the following web address: http://www.biola.edu/news/biolamag/articles/09fall/coverstory.cfm
Biola Magazine’s article expresses the need for prayer and how to make time for prayer in this generation of twitter users who are constantly distracted with technology. This is not a bad thing, but looking further into the language used by people such as Todd Picket, the Biola chapel director and Associate Dean for Spiritual Development, and Klaus Issler, Professor of Christian Education and Theology at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology one can see blatant New Age ideology expressed about God and prayer.
Spiritual Formation is a term used to describe a type of faith that claims to be Christian where meditation, prayer facilitators or prayer guides (meditation guides), stillness, and resting in the presence are all considered vitally important for a Christian’s faith. Without doing such spiritual exercises and activities a person cannot possibly grow in their faith with God on a deep level. On page 24 of the article Davette Bishop the wife of the pastor at Whittier Hills Baptist Church in California, and who leads the congregation in “soul care days,” implements long periods of guided prayer: “meditation at various stations that might have candles, verses to meditate on [Lectio Divina], or instructions about guided prayer.”
To get an idea of how this New Age spirituality is being implemented at Christian universities, churches, youth groups, and bible studies all across America, (and most recently churches across the world) one only has to look at the following quotes from the article and use spiritual discernment.
Picket talks about prayer in terms of relationship and that our relationship with God is unlike any other of our relationships:
“The difference is that I want to be controlled by the will of God. I’m folding my will into someone else’s. That’s not just relationship. That’s union. Prayer is a means to that sort of union and abiding” (p. 22).
The quote sounds nice but it is laced with deceptive speech that even strong Christian parents could possibly over look. He speaks with a semi-Pelagianistic tone that communicates man having to act first for God is able to work His will for the Christian. He is saying both man and God must work together to achieve a spiritually transforming result. It is unbiblical to believe that we must act in order for God to have a way to bring about His will. Yes, we should bend our will, or fold our wills to be God’s will as we pray, but does that mean we are in union with God? Does that mean God can only bring about His will if we let Him? Is prayer really a means for Christians to unite with God? The problem is that undiscerning Christians will just assume that Picket means to unite our desires and wills to be like God’s. The way Picket uses his words does not make a distinction in how he uses the word union for whether or not he means submission of the will to be like God’s will, or an actual union of the human self and God. What it looks like he is actually saying is that prayer makes us like God as we come into union with Him. New Age theology teaches that mankind is God and we must all unite together as God. Spiritual Formation is this same theology in disguise with Christian language. If a person is in union with God than that person is also God. The word “unite” means to bring together into one. Nowhere does the Bible promote such a belief. This is just the beginning of such deception.
Issler states, “Prayer is also a means of training Christians for their future partnership with God in directing the affairs of the universe” (p. 22). To any discerning Christian this is an extremely blatant statement of New Age belief. New Age theology teaches that man is God and we can become God through self realization, and that man is able to control and bring the universe to a higher consciousness through unity. Nowhere in the Bible can you find a verse that says humanity is a partner with God in controlling the universe. 1 Chronicles 29:11 says,
“Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the splendor and the majesty, for everything in the heavens and on earth belongs to You. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom, and You are exalted as head over all.”
Job 37 also describes in detail how God controls everything in the universe. Psalm 33:14-16 describes that God is also in control of the affairs of human beings on the earth. There is no passage in the Bible that describes man as controlling anything in the universe or becoming a partner of God to help Him control anything. 1 Corinthians 3:9 says that “we are God’s co-workers” but that does not describe a partnership. In 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 it talks about Christians being “servants of Christ and managers of God’s mysteries,” but this in no way describes a partnership or any power given to help God direct the affairs of the universe. The Bible clearly teaches that we are not given power to direct anything, but only that we are directed by God. We are servants of God, yes, but not partners! Nor are we apprentices of Jesus Christ as many Spiritual Formationists would believe. We are tools that God uses to bring about His will, but not partners. The Bible is explicit in teaching that “Christ is the head of the church” (1 Cor. 11:3).
As the article goes to page 24 under the heading “How Should We Pray?” it starts with the claim that there is little information in the Bible about prayer. Then goes on to say that there is not “one right way” to pray. It uses examples that prayer is different through different cultures and denominations. The article mentions the Lord’s Prayer from Luke 11 in passing. It does not even quote it. There is no exegesis of the biblical passage or any explanation of what Christ taught in Luke. The article moves on to claim that since 1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “Pray without ceasing” it can justify Twitter prayers (small typed out prayers on twitter updates for their friends to see) as valid forms of praying. Also, that if one sets his heart with God, all activities and conversations with people can be as prayer which is clearly false since prayer is how we communicate with God; not with other people.
The article goes on to tell about the types of prayer offered through Biola’s Spiritual Formation programs such as, prayer projects, times of solitude, group spiritual direction (group guided mediation just like the New Age), and resting in the presence (a New Age term). Certain prayer activities they offer are explained,
“Over the past year at Biola, students have had the chance to develop this discipline through activities such as ‘Fives’ and ‘Sabbathing.’ ‘Fives,’ named for its meeting time every Tuesday afternoon in the Rose of Sharon Prayer Chapel, offers a chance for students to be led in quiet prayer and meditation on Scripture. ‘Sabbathing,’ which is held on occasional Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, provides students an opportunity to set aside a large block of time to speak to God, listen for him and rest in him, all with the help of a trained facilitator” (p. 24).
One can notice the terms “led” and “trained facilitator.” This is nothing more than New Age Guided Mediation where a teacher facilitates the direction of their student’s thoughts in meditation. Gurus of Hinduism, and Buddhism both use prayer guides for their disciples. The Bible does not say we need a “trained” facilitator or any guide when praying. Having anyone other than ourselves and God direct our prayer is dangerous. One also has to remember that Spiritual Formation has the goal of a transformation in the soul in order to experience God deeper. It is not the same as praying to understand God’s will. It is a supernaturally subjective experience for the practitioner. A popular New Age website called http://www.exploremeditation.com describes guided meditation which is the mirror image of guided prayer that “instruction is all given to you step by step, and you are led through the process from start to finish.” It goes on to discuss what they have termed “Christian Meditation” on their website and even labels a warning that,
“In recent years, some evangelical and fundamentalist Christians have taught that contemplative meditation is dangerous, warning of its similarity to mysticism and New Age practices” (exploremeditation.com).
The website then goes on to say that, “Meditation is the basic activity that underlies all metaphysics and is the primary source of spiritual direction for the New Age person.” With such a blatant honesty from New Agers themselves Christians should be smart enough to realize that all spiritually contemplative meditation achieves the same results.
The article explains multiple times that Christians need to “listen” to God. This is done in the silence. They literally are explaining that God will audibly, and literally speak to a person who is in prayer. This brings in new revelation from God, but as Christians we already have God’s complete revelation through the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17). One cannot trust a subjective experience or voice in the head and know that it is God. This kind of belief about hearing God speak is dangerous as any spirit can manifest itself and claim it is God. The point is that Spiritual Formation practices the exact same activities that the Occult and New Age practice, but they expect a different result. They think they are reaching God. But using practices from Eastern Mysticism and expecting anything else other than reaching the spirits of such eastern mytsical false religions makes no sense.
One of the alarming statements made in the Biola Magazine aritcle was by Picket. The article states,
“The goal of this type of prayer is ‘a complete immediacy of relationship’ with God, says Picket, who likens the experience to being in a room with your eyes closed but being aware that there is someone else in there with you” (p. 24).
With Spiritual Formation someone else is actually there in the room with the person, a presence, but it is not God. It is another spirit. One of great deception, and Spiritual Formation allows the exploitation of students to a demonic presence which is the same spirit or spirits of the New Age that present themselves to people. Picket goes on to say:
“It’s a mode of prayer that simply practices the presence of God, which develops faith. What you don’t want to do is only think about God….Our mind wants to look for insights like ‘God is this’ or ‘God is that,’ but why say ‘God is’ if he is right there in your presence? We should sometimes be satisfied to just ‘Be still and know that I am God’ (Psalm 46:10)” (p. 24).
Picket speaks like a New Age philosopher in his use of language which makes his statement hard to understand, but He is saying that this activity develops faith and without it faith is not developed. The most alarming statement is what he said about Psalm 46:10. The way he used it is a warning sign. Picket says that people “should sometimes be satisfied to ‘be still and know that I am God.’” Did Picket use this language on accident? Or was he illustrating a Christ likeness? The language taken in its literal form seems to say that students should know that they are God. Also, with the other New Age statements made by him and Issler one can only conclude that he literally is preaching New Age theology that we should know that inside us is the divine and we should realize that we are divine. We should come into union with God and join Him in controlling the universe. This is how the language is used.
Picket and Issler are both highly educated men, so it is doubtful they used such terminology on accident. The only thing they can do is deny such claims and say people are reading into their words and missing the point. This is how such New Age deception infiltrates the church. It sounds “Christian” and sounds nice. It also plays off of people’s desire to not take someone out of context or misunderstand them. In order for every day parents, and Biola students to understand the actual message these men are trying to convey, Issler and Picket need to be intellectually responsible with their use of language which they certainly are not doing in this article. This is nothing more than postmodern speach that can be twisted in either direction to please whoever is reading.
The Spiritual Formation movement understands that most church people do not read their Bibles or understand New Age religion. This ideology is easily slipped into the church and people accept it. This is because Spiritual Formation is therapeutic and laced with nice sounding Christian words. People are searching for joy and completeness and they think they need something more than the Bible to fulfill them. Spiritual Formation is antibiblical. Advocates such as J.P. Moreland (2007), Distinguished Professor at Biola’s Talbot School of Theology, accuse discerning Christians of “bibliolatry.” In his ETS paper he claims that evangelicals have an “over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ” (p. 1). Biola University, which comprises Talbot School of Theology, claims to be an evangelical Christian University and Seminary based on the inerrency and ultimate authority of the Bible (Sola scriptura), yet such deception and antibiblical faith has taken a strong presence in the school with no opposition.
Louis T. Talbot, the 2nd and 4th president of Biola University and founder of Talbot School of Theology, would be rolling over in his grave if he knew the direction these schools were taking. Talbot had to deal with a similar heresy in his day from Pentecostalism that was quickly growing during his time and has become an enemy of confusion towards true Christianity with lasting impessions that effect the church today (Charismatic Movement). Pentecostalism teaches that no one can be a real Christian (or if they can, they certainly cannot be a good one) unless they have what is falsely labeled “the witness of the Holy Spirit.” This is an ecstatic, emotional, mystical exerperence where visions, supernatural tongues, and many other wild things happen. This movement has influenced much of the “Christianity + mysticism” of today which can be seen in the Charismatic theology that has invaded many Evangelical churches. In fact Spiritual Formation believes one can achieve all of those supernatural things if one concentrates and completes spiritual disciplines enough. Talbot (1941) states,
“Many groping souls are seeking spiritual guidance. Many are in the depths of despair, bewildered, fearful, believing that they must go through some emotional experience, such as a vision or state of ecstasy, in order to obtain the Witness of the Holy Spirit of God” (p. 2).
One of the bad things about this movement is that it claims that “All of [these spiritual disciplines are] helpful and crucial for a healthy spiritual life” (McCracken, p. 24). Therefore anyone who is not practicing Spiritual Formation is not spiritually healthy. So students who want to strengthen their faith and know God on a deeper level are suckered into these activities and deceived into thinking they are now spiritually mature and Godly. Thus, Spiritual Formation is a works based religion with its prayer rituals and hours gained in prayer and spiritual disciplines with a desire for supernatural results. Those who cannot obtain these experiences or do not practice them are led to feel that they are not following God or being good Christians. They are told that their faith will be weak if they do not practice prayer meditations, stillness, or the silence etc. Talbot’s (1941) sorrowful call against the mystical experience seeking religion of the Pentecostal movement rings true today for the Spiritual Formation movement:
“My friends, many thousands of God’s dear children have been swept off their feet by such testimony; have begun to search for a similar experience, wholly contrary to the sacred Scriptures; and, not having experienced what others have claimed, have been led to the very depths of despair” (p.5).
About this same issue Talbot claims, “It is all of Satan” (p. 13).
Unfortunately those people who do actually obtain such desired experiences will not be experiencing anything from God, but that of demonic power and deception; the same ecstatic visions, tongues, extreme emotional feelings that are achieved from the Occult, New Age, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other mystery religions. This is Satanic deception in one of its most hidden forms.
I will leave you with some Scripture to ponder: Colossians 2:18,
“Let no one disqualify you, insisiting on ascetic practices and the worship of angels, claiming access to a visionary realm and inflated without cause by his fleshly mind.”
And Colossians 4:2 “Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it.” The key word in that verse being “alert.” Meditation empties your mind and takes away your thought and alertness which contradicts Scripture.
(2004). Holy Bible: holman christian standard Bible. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.
(2009). Meditation techniques. http://www.exploremeditation.com/meditation-techniques.php. Date accessed, November 02, 2009.
McCracken, B. (2009). Prayer for generation tweet. Biola Magazine (Fall ’09). La Mirada, CA: Biola Univesity.
Moreland, J.P. (2007). How evangelicals became over-committed to the Bible and what can be done about it. Retrieved October 31st, 2009, from http://www.kingdomtriangle.com/discussion/
Talbot, L.T. (1941). The witness of the Holy Spirit: a radio Bible study. Los Angeles, CA: Church of the Open Door.