The greatest danger to Christianity today is the downplaying of biblical doctrine. The Church is built upon the word of God given to the prophets and the apostles for leading people to Christ and for maturing believers in the faith.
True Christianity is not built on personal feeling or what you think God is saying to you because you learned to practice certain spiritual disciplines. Yet, that is what many Christian leaders and Christian education centers are teaching others.
Spiritual formation is taught and is required in almost all Christian higher leaning centers today and the graduates then teach it from pulpits, in seminars, and in Christian books. I think what was said on this gty.org blog gets to the heart of the spiritual formation movement.
many of the leading voices in the spiritual formation movement stress the need for more intuitive interpretations of spirituality. They encourage believers to incorporate a wide variety of extrabiblical spiritual practices, such as contemplative prayer, silence, meditation, creative expression, and yoga. In fact, some of the most popular methods of spiritual formation have been lifted from Catholicism, new age mysticism, or other religions and rebranded with biblical-sounding terminology.
But any kind of subjective spirituality that draws your focus away from the Lord and His truth can have disastrous results, derailing your spiritual growth and cutting you off from God’s plan for your sanctification.
All true spiritual growth starts with the preeminent role of God’s Word in the lives of His people.
Further, I think the following article by Christian Pack on Christian Formation goes on to explain the issues and the dangers. You really need to read the whole article but here is one excerpt.
Spiritual Formation is identical to classic occultic meditation practices taught in Hinduism, Buddhism, wicca, paganism, etc. The technique goes something like this: find a quiet spot to sit or lie down, breathe deeply, and begin to focus on something for the purpose of stilling your thoughts. (The “something” can literally be almost anything: a candle, a word, a phrase, repetitive music, drumming, one’s own breath, etc.) After about 20 minutes of practicing this technique, which is simple to do, a person will enter into an altered state of consciousness. In this altered state of consciousness, the mind is no longer active and critically engaged, and able to assess data. In this state, the mind is passive, its God-given barriers down; it is able only to receive information, much like a radio receiver. Mystics from all faith traditions the world over often report ecstatic experiences of becoming yoked to some spiritual energy, leaving them feeling refreshed, energized, and peaceful after engaging in their mystical practices.
I am going to try to explain the issues of spiritual formation with its contemplative prayer so that everyone can understand. I think one reason people do not understand this stuff is all the fancy terminology used.
Either those identifying with Christ believe that God gave His revealed word once and for all through his written word or they think that God is still giving further revelation and it is up to each individual to learn how to obtain that new revelation and get into the ranks of the spiritually elite that hear His voice. (Of course the Pope, the Mormon Prophet and the self-appointed-anointed of the Charismatic Movement claim direct Revelation just by their position.)
The biblical path to God’s revelation means that God is sovereign and was fully able to give His inerrant unchangeable word for all people through His own chosen prophets and apostles. The second path to revelation means that God is dependent on our actions and is a respecter of persons that learn how to hear His “still small voice”.
They get this “still small voice” from 1 Ki 19:12. What they do not understand is that Elijah was a chosen prophet of God. And God spoke to Him quite distantly before, during and after this passage. So the passage is not saying what they read into it. Let me explain.
Elijah was on a very long fast because he was in fear for his life and was praying that God would judge Israel that killed all of Jehovah’s prophets and that were trying to kill him. God clearly spoke to Elijah while he was hiding in a cave and told him to go before the mount so that the nature of Jehovah could be reveled to him.
The message given was that God was not to be found in great natural events and catastrophic judgment that Elijah wanted but God was revealed in a “calm voice”. Then God told Elijah that he was to go to Syria and anoint Hazael as King of Syria and Hazael and Syria would severely chastise Israel in God’s own timing.
So this was God’s calm rational measured method to chastise unbelieving Israel rather than some national catastrophe like Elijah obvious was praying for and wanted to see in Jehovah. And why no instant catastrophe on Israel? Because there were thousands of people in Israel that still had not bowed their knee to Baal. People should not build theology about hearing from God on a verse that they do not understand.
We do not learn how to become Ezekiel and we do not hear God by mystical spiritual formation techniques. Some think they can learn to become prophets but they are wrong and these presumptions people are infecting Christendom with bad doctrine because gospel lite church leaders share media platforms with these heretics and even promote them.
I am one that thinks that everything we need to know for faith and practice can be found in the scriptures and that God speaks to us through His revealed word. That does not mean that the Holy Spirit can not enlighten us or impress upon our hearts spiritual direction but this spiritual guidance is not the same thing as the Rhema words of presumptions revelation that the hyper-charismatics and spiritual formation programs promote.
If these people were meditating on God’s written word, I would find no fault in that because we are clearly told to do that. However by learning spiritual formation techniques they are really trying to find God in their own mind instead of in His written word.
Through Spiritual formation techniques, the god or Jesus created by their own mind is self-made, or even worse, their god or Jesus may have been implanted in their mind by a deceiving spirit.
How many mystics have received revelation from the occult that they thought was coming from God? Even many of the great humanistic philosophers of the last few centuries communicated with familiar spirits. That fact can be verified from some of their own writings
There are those that think God gives direct messages like some weak radio signal and if they get their flesh quiet enough and their spiritual importance antenna high enough above the rest, they can tune in and hear His latest broadcast. Believe me, when God spoke to His prophets they had absolutely no problem hearing Him. I do not recall one prophet ever saying huh or having to go through a learning curve like some modern false prophets claim when they are proven wrong? The one time God spoke audibly to Israel they were so terrified that they asked Him not to speak to them again lest they die (Ex 20:19). Presumptions false prophets claiming to hear from God ought to take heed and repent.
The mind is deceitful and it plays tricks. As a new Christian in the Charismatic Movement of the 1970’s, I was taught that I needed to speak in tongues, so I did. However, it did not take long for me to realize that when using and interpreting my “prayer language” I was really telling myself what I wanted to hear. In other words, through tongues, I was making God say things to me that He was not saying. When I realized that, I stopped the practice and separated from churches that were teaching people to interpret illusions of their own minds. How is this Spiritual Formation with its contemplative prayer any different?
Today, hearing from God is being taught everywhere. The methods are the same that Eastern pagan mystics and Catholic mystics use to hear from the spirits. Thanks to the influence of Charismatic movement leaders, and the Spiritual Formation discipline taught in almost all Bible colleges, most of the Evangelical movement now believes that direct revelation from God is something to be achieved.
Spiritual formation is really nothing but a bio-feedback technique as is transcendental meditation, it is a form of self-hypnotism. You learn to quiet your body and focus your mind to hear very selective self-speak. Everyone talks to themselves mentally, even in their sleep, if you don’t you’re probably dead. Just because you can learn brain wave altering techniques to tune into normally subconscious thoughts, and to run with those thoughts to some Christian sounding jargon or image, does not mean that you reached Jesus or are hearing from God.
There were times when I was awakened from sleep that I could pick up where a dream left off by willfully focusing on the dream and going back into dreamland. This is much the same thing and with lots of practice the technique can get much more highly focused and controlled. That becomes self-effort to reach God. That is contrary to God being totally available to all of faith that call on Him.
You might say, I have Jesus and that is why I can hear voices from God, but if you actually had Jesus you would have no need to try to have a dialogue with Him in dreamland brain wavelengths through spiritual formation techniques. God is not the author of confusion. Can you imagine the confusion when everyone in a fellowship is telling everyone else a different version of what Jesus or God told them this week. I have news, it is already happening in some circles.
Apparently, many church leaders think that God does not have issues with those speaking presumption. Judge not lest you be judged is one verse that they love to throw at you. Or touch not my anointed is another one. Grow up people! Quit with the ignorant childish clichés and learn to discern scripture in full context of all the scriptures. God gave you His word and He gave you your brain so that you could sort out truth from error. It is time that some people used those tools. The Bible is not a book where Bible clichés overrule solid biblical doctrines.
The Bible is God’s revealed word to the nations. We are not to blindly follow every new wind of doctrine. But, the wind never stops blowing and itching ears are always looking for some new wind to tickle them .
People are claiming revelations from God that come from themselves or the Devil. That is why nothing they say comes true. That is why biblical doctrine needs to be taught now more than ever. It is not a coincidence that the same people pushing people to get some private mystical revelation from God are the same ones that downplay biblical doctrine and Bible prophecy.
Spiritual formation with its contemplative prayer and its Emergent Church movement and its ties to the hyper-charismatics is just another fleshly self-aggrandizement diversion to keep churches and Christians off focus from what they really should be teaching and doing in these last days.
Did God really tell you to build that bigger church building and put your church in debt or did you tell yourself that? Did God really tell you that you are going to marry that woman or did you tell yourself that. Did God really tell you that you are healed or did you tell yourself that. Did God really tell you that you are a prophet or did you tell yourself that? Did God really tell you to give to TBN to get a hundred fold blessing or did you tell yourself that or did someone on TBN plant the suggestion in your mind? The list of presumptions justified by claims of hearing from God are endless.
Today more than ever we should be preaching the revealed word. Apostasy is upon us and we are nearing the end times. It is time to get our house in order. This should be a major focus of the Church. Instead, too many people in our churches are promoting techniques for people to find their own fairy dust so they can magically make their life on earth wonderful. The book stores are full of smiling faces telling you how you can have a better life now. Don’t go there! If you follow them, they will lead you to “The Shack” that has “The Secret” that allows the spiritual elite to speak into existence their own worldly utopian reality.
Spiritual formation is gearing the Church up for more self-delusion. They downplay the Bible. They want you to believe that you can hear from God through some mystical technique where subjective Rhema words from God becomes the new gospel truth. Spiritual formation was designed for our biblically dumbed down post-modern generation where the only absolute truth is found between one’s two ears.
Don Koenig founded www.thepropheticyears.com website in 1999 after almost thirty years of independent study on the Bible and learning from many astute teachers within Christendom. Don created his website to write about Bible prophecy, biblical discernment and his Christian worldviews. Don wrote a free Revelation commentary ebook in 2004 named "The Revelation of Jesus Christ Through The Ages". The World and Church and Bible Prophecy section of this website was started in 2007.