Lighthouse Trails Publishing had a new book warning on their research blog July 2 that I think is important to share, particularly due to the high-profile promoters of the author. From LT:
Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun is a primer on contemplative mysticism, bursting with contemplative meditation instruction along with references and quotes by some of the movement’s most prolific mystics on the scene today. It’s a book one might expect to find on the shelves of a Catholic monastery, a New Age bookstore, or in an emerging church coffee house; while it probably is in those types of places, the book has become a common textbook in many spiritual formation classes and has found a growing audience with evangelical pastors, seminary professors, and Christian ministry leaders. In fact, countless in ministry are eagerly flocking to this book, and in so doing pointing potentially millions of Christians to the book’s message. While we have made mention of this book in several articles over the past decade, we feel it is time to present a more focused critique of Calhoun’s message.
Who is promoting Calhoun’s handbook? First of all, one of the most influential people who has been promoting and recommending the book for a number of years is Rick Warren. You can find the book on his resource website, where Saddleback gives a hearty recommendation for the book. That recommendation has been sitting on that site since at least 2008. Willow Creek recommends the book in their Establishing Life Giving Rhythms class. In a course at Reformed Theological Seminary, the book is being used as “required reading.” In Olivet Nazarene University’s Spiritual Formation and Personal Development course, the book is listed in the “Suggested Reading” section. In Biola’s online course, Introduction to Spiritual Formation, the book is “Recommended Reading.”
Assemblies of God Theological Seminary’s course, Renewing the Spiritual Leader includes Calhoun’s book in a list of books to choose from for required reading. Moody Bible Institute’s Midday Connection radio program had Calhoun as a guest speaker in November 2011, and Moody host Anita Lustrea talks about Calhoun in her own book, What Women Tell Me. Lustrea, tells how she met Calhoun during a course called Growing Your Soul (Calhoun is co-director and founder of the program) and how Calhoun taught her some of the contemplative “spiritual disciplines” (p. 125). On the Wesleyan denomination’s website, in a Spiritual Formation course, Calhoun’s book is listed in a Bibliography on Spiritual Formation. MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) had Calhoun as one of the speakers at their 2011 MOPS International Convention. On the book’s publisher’s website (InterVarsity Press), you will find an endorsement for the book by the popular pastor Timothy Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian of NYC, who says of Calhoun’s handbook:
I have long profited from Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s gifts in the field of spiritual development, and I am delighted that she has compiled her experience with spiritual disciplines into book form. I highly recommend it and I look forward to using it as a resource at our church.
These are just a few instances of many more where evangelical Christians or organizations are turning to Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook for spiritual direction (see below this article for more who use the book). Now let us examine this book and see why it is so troubling to know it is being used in so many Christian venues.
As we stated above, Calhoun’s book is permeated with references of and quotes by some of the most prolific contemplative mystics today. But she doesn’t just quote and reference these mystics – in her book, she reveals that these mysticism teachers are her ”spiritual tutors” …
I hope you will visit Lighthouse Trails and finish reading their in-depth look at Calhoun’s book to better understand why they think this book and the contemplative spiritual/mysticism movement endangers Christians.
- Discernment Reading (steakandabible.com)