Thursday, January 05, 2006

How Spiritual Formation became popularized

Bob DeWaay has written an excellent critique of the popular new doctrine of spiritual formation and revival of the spiritual disciplines at his website. We highly recommend that Herescope readers go to to read his excellent piece entitled "The Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Spiritual Disciplines."

Recently some tidbits about the history of "spiritual formation" came to our attention while reading John E. Ashbrook's excellent critique of neo-evangelicalism in his 1992 book The New Neutralism II (Here I Stand Books). Sure enough, this false doctrine -- like so many others -- originated at Fuller Theological Seminary, where it became established. Once it found a comfortable home at Fuller, the doctrine quickly spread across neo-evangelicaldom.

Pastor Ashbrook wrote:

"Dr. Richard Lovelace, who is himself a new evangelical, professor of Church History at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, wrote an article for CHARISMA, September, 1984. His article was titled, "Three Streams, One River?" He wrote:

"And Fuller's program, at the moment, is a 'mixing bowl' into which the three streams are flowing. There is significant Catholic input in the seminary's program of spiritual formation. In the course on 'Signs, Wonders and Church Growth,' taught by C. Peter Wagner and John Wimber, has injected a significant charismatic dimension int he School of World Missions." (p. 26-27) [emphasis added]

Later in Ashbrook's book, in a chapter entitles "Intellectuals in Residence," he talked about the significance of a woman named Roberta Hestenes:

"In this day of equal rights for women one dare not be guilty of speaking of male new evangelicals only. Turning from Tony Campolo, let's take a brief look at his boss, Roberta Hestenes, President of Eastern College.

"Christianity Today for March 3, 1989, in an article titled, "Roberta Hestenes: Taking Charge" states the following:

"As president of Eastern College in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, she is the first woman in that position among the schools of the evangelical Christian College Coalition. As the activist chairman of World Vision, she exerts power in one of the largest parachurch organizations in the world.

"Hestenes came out of a tragic family background. She attended Whittier College in California and came to Christ at a small Quaker church as a result of the influence of the faculty advisor to the Lutheran student group. After moving to Washington State with her husband and family she came under the influence of Dr. Robert Munger of the University Presbyterian Church in Seattle. Through responsibilities in that church, her abilities as a teacher and organizer became known. In 1989 Munger moved to the faculty of Fuller Seminary and was not content until Hestenes followed.

"George Marsden, in his Reforming Fundamentalism, chronicles the movement at Fuller to change the emphasis of the school from that of a seminary to more of a trade school. On page 274 he says the following:

"As we have seen, the School of Psychology and the School of World Mission were, by their very natures, oriented toward the practical, and many of their faculty had little patience with the old seminary ideal. Now, however, at the School of Theology itself, such views were common. Especially in the practical field, spokespersons such as the influential Roberta Hestenes, a Robert Munger protege, emphasized that a seminary was not just the intellectual center of the Body of Christ, but also a theological resource center for ministry or service in the broad sense. For this purpose, spiritual formation was probably more important than theological precision. [emphasis added]

"Christianity Today, in the issue mentioned previously, also noted this thought:

"Hestenes made a mark at Fuller. . . Not content merely to teach communications, she helped invent a new major, something called Christian Formation and Discipleship. Within the name is an assertion: making disciples, not accumulating knowledge, should be at the heart of the seminary as well as the church." (p. 54-55) [emphasis added]

Fuller Theological Seminary was the chief organ utilized by the neo-evangelicals to propogate and disseminate new doctrines. They needed the intellectual aura of a seminary to give credence and acceptability to the new doctrines they were pumping out. For more documentation on this point, see the latest newsletter posted at Discernment Ministries (Jan./Feb. 2006), in an article entitled "The Necessity of Separation from Heresy," which chronicles the conspiratorial agenda of Ockenga and his associates to "infiltrate" the churches and the world.

The Truth:

Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?
Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?
(Proverbs 7:27-28)