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The Spiritual Journey of Ruth Haley Barton

The Spiritual Journey of Ruth Haley Barton

Since Ruth Haley Barton has become a significant figure in bringing new doctrine into Christianity, it is important to know who she is.  Her writings are filled with Christian clichés mingled with bizarre misinterpretations of the Scriptures and quotes from Roman Catholic heretics and pagan mystics. Inserted into the mixture is a significant portion of New Age doctrine and practices.  In fact, while she unabashedly promotes Roman Catholicism and New Age beliefs and practices throughout her writing and speaking, she repeatedly chides Protestantism as being inadequate and far less spiritual than Roman Catholicism.  One has to wonder how a Christian could fall to this level of deception. While other individuals have done an excellent job of defining her by her doctrine and practices, I believe it is important to define her by her spiritual journey as well.

However, in her bio, she describes a phase in her life that led to a desperate search for something greater than what Protestantism had to offer her.  In her thirties, married with children, Barton was likely on staff at the Highland Hills Church of Christ when she experienced a spiritual and emotional crisis.  From her description in various bios, she had become what might be termed as a “basket case” that nothing in her Christian experience could correct.

“…I was aware of things in my life that needed fixing and longings that were painfully unmet.  There was a level of selfishness that was being exposed in the crucible of marriage and family life that I did not know how to shift or change.  There were emotions from past pains and current disappointments that I did not know how to resolve.  There was a performance-oriented driven-ness that I did not know how to quiet and a longing for more, but more of what?”

“I had tried everything that had been offered in my own Protestant tradition—more Bible study, praying harder, trying harder, better sermons, Christian self-help books—to fix what was broken and to fill what was lacking, but to no avail. In the midst of the outward busyness of my “professional” life there was an inner chaos that was far more disconcerting than anything that was going on externally.  But this was not a good time to admit to any kind of spiritual emptiness or acknowledge any kind of serious questions about my faith.  As an emerging leader, it was a time for being “good,” for being available when people called, for maintaining outward evidences of spiritual maturity commensurate with the responsibilities I carried and the opportunities that were coming my way. It was a time to do what was needed in order to keep climbing the ladder to professional success and I knew it;  yet (sic) my interior groanings were real and needed attention.”  (Ruth Haley Barton – from her Transformation Center web site. 

God’s word, prayer, and anointed preaching and teaching has for the entirety of Protestantism been sufficient to minister to individuals with her level and type of needs and much greater needs.  It has been sufficient to bring millions of lost souls into the kingdom of God.  Millions have been delivered from various bondages and sin.  Millions have been healed, delivered, and had needs met miraculously.  Innumerable Protestant Christians have faced imprisonment, torture, and even death being sustained by the very factors that Barton claims were inadequate.  Further, some of the greatest Christians in history have come from the ranks of Protestantism.   Additionally, I have personally experienced the power of God through His grace, love, and other avenues of His touching my life through many difficult circumstances.  Barton declares that none of those things could help her. 

The truth is that God is not going to become an enabler by feeding our need to feel good and right when we have become a serial bad-choice maker.  It’s not about praying “harder”, whatever that means, or searching for a cure in self-help books, or in “Protestant tradition”.  The answer is in putting God first, which leads to putting ones family, emotional, and spiritual welfare before ones ladder-climbing ambitions and other busyness. For example, imagine a professing Christian choosing to eat whatever and whenever of an abundance of food.  Just because he or she is a professing Christian does not mean health problems will not occur.  Ones “Protestant tradition” may certainly fail him or her when obesity and subsequent health issues occur.  It would be unfair to blame it on God or Christianity when the consequences of bad choices come a calling.  Besides, it does not appear that contemplative prayer solved her insatiable ambition, but perhaps has given her the means to somehow block the reality of its consequences. 

Consequently, Barton rejected Protestantism to seek the help of a Roman Catholic clinical psychologist, who was also a “spiritual director” involved in pagan mysticism at The Loretto Center.  The Loretto Center is advertised as a convent and retreat in Wheaton Illinois that was “founded and is supported in part by the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary”.  However, it more resembles a New Age center of pagan mysticism. 

“It was almost twenty years ago now when, as a young leader, I crept into a spiritual director’s office desperate for help. “ 

“For me, help came through a spiritual director, although I didn’t even know what one was at the time.  Our paths crossed because she was a psychologist.  I sought her out for therapy because I assumed that my problems were psychological in nature and could be fixed at that level.  Psychological insight and process were indeed valuable—to a point.  Eventually, however, she observed that what I needed was spiritual direction and suggested that we shift the focus of our times together to my relationship with God.  She told me that the questions I was raising were actually an invitation to deeper intimacy with God and needed to be dealt with in the context of that relationship. It was a welcome invitation and so we made the shift.”  (Spiritual Direction with Pastoral and Corporate Leaders, Ruth Haley Barton, April 08 2013)

After making the “shift”, Barton gravitated with whole abandon into Roman Catholic/ New Age mysticism.  She seems to be obsessed with luring as many Protestant Christian leaders as possible under her spiritual direction. 

I am convinced that some of us need to function as spiritual directors outside of existing church systems and corporate structures so that there is a safe place for leaders to go. I have offered spiritual direction in my home and more recently, in my office at a nearby retreat center (the Loretto Center). (parenthesis added) (Spiritual Direction with Pastoral and Corporate Leaders, Ruth Haley Barton, April 08 2013)

In my opinion, this is a subtle attempt to separate Christians from God-ordained ministers and draw them into the same deception Barton was drawn into.  Remember, Barton believes that the traditional church with all its benefits failed her.  Therefore, she is not going to lead anyone to Christ the true Savior.  The concept of a “spiritual director” is simply another Roman Catholic attempt to put an individual between God and us.  The fact is that no true Christian needs a spiritual director no more than he or she needs a priest.  Barton of course would disagree.  In her view, Protestants are too preoccupied with words to really get to know God intimately.  In fact, she almost contemptuously rejects the idea that any Protestant can be anything significant in God unless they practice contemplative prayer.  Barton has not to my knowledge claimed to have converted to Roman Catholicism.  However, she has beyond all doubt in practice made the “shift”, as she puts it, away from “unspiritual and helpless” Protestantism to the New Age/pagan allure of Roman Catholicism.  Evidence of this is in her many references to the insufficiency of Protestantism, especially when it comes to spirituality.

All of this is somewhat predictable given the fact that, as Protestants, we are known by what we protest. But when the early reformers protested some of the excesses of the Catholic Church, they also threw out elements of the spiritual life that we couldn’t afford to lose—and we have been the poorer for it.”  ((Make a Joyful Silence, by Ruth Haley Barton, Sojourners Magazine, February 2009)

When confronted with the fact that her doctrine and practices are non-Christian, Barton expresses surprise that anyone would label them as such.  She defends them as having a biblical nature.  However, in the same context of defending her teaching, she exalts some of the main individuals that are disseminating pagan/New Age doctrines and practices into Christianity.  Consider the following from her web site.

“There are still many who are suspicious, even antagonistic. A couple of years ago as I was preparing to speak at Biola University about spiritual disciplines, someone circulated a warning e-mail with the subject line “Buddhism at Biola!” This language was stunning to me, given the biblical nature of everything I was teaching. Those who feel it is their duty to warn Christendom about contemplative practices also disseminate diatribes, on the Web and elsewhere, against spiritual leaders such as Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Eugene Peterson, and Brian McLaren.  (Feb 05 2009,

Make a Joyful Silence, Ruth Haley Barton, Transforming Center web site)

Actually, there is no “biblical nature” in what Barton teaches, but only the support of ancient and not so ancient New age/Roman Catholic heresy.  However, heresy does not progressively become truthful with age.  Therefore, ancient heresy is no more qualified than modern heresy to support a new doctrine.  At the heart of Barton’s heresy is the concept that God dwells in every individual.  Thus, we do not find God unless we look within ourselves.  This Buddhist and New Age belief is antithetical to God’s word.  She insists that the practice of contemplative prayer will unlock our life that is “hidden with Christ in God”, enabling us to become what God designed us from the beginning to be.  The following statements are evidence to the fact that she believes that humanity is inherently good.

“Before calling has anything to do with doing, it has everything to do with being that essence of yourself that God called into being and that God alone truly knows.  It is the call to be who we are and at the same time to become more than we can yet envision.  Our calling is woven into the very fabric of our being as we have been created by God, and it encompasses everything that makes us who we are—even those things that have caused pain and confusion. This would include our genetics, our innate orientations and capacities, our personality, heredity and life-shaping experiences, the time and place into which we were born.  As Parker Palmer points out, ‘Vocation does not come from a voice ‘out there’ calling me to be something I am not.  It comes from a voice ‘in here’ calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.’” (Apr 08 2013, Spiritual Direction with Pastoral and Corporate Leaders, Ruth Haley Barton, Transforming Center Web Site)

You are so right! …It is not the true self that experiences humiliation–only that which is false within us. It is good to remember during this season that we have nothing to lose on the spiritual journey except the false self which is not “real” anyway (it just feels real) and everything to gain–the true self which is hidden with Christ in God and which God is always calling forth. How wonderful that you are experiencing this truth so deeply.  (Ruth Haley Barton, March 30, 2011, responding to a comment on her article, Lent 2011: The Wilderness Within, Mar 29 2011)

Of course, this is not the biblical definition of our calling or vocation in God.  God calls the weak things of the world to confound the mighty and whom He calls He equips and qualifies.  Without God, we are by nature “children of wrath.”  God’s word declares that nothing good dwelt in us before salvation.   God’s word also declares that our self, the person we were born as, is the real problem.  That is why Paul declares that we must die to self.  We were born in sin, but by the grace of God we are re-born into His kingdom.  We must yield to God who delivers us from sin through the blood of His only Son, Christ Jesus. 

Further, there is no kernel of God deep within Christians and even non-Christians that one must find through contemplative prayer.  According to her agreement with Parker Palmer’s explanation of original selfhood, our life is hidden with Christ in the kernel of God within us, and God is always calling that selfhood forth.  To believe Barton, we would have to reject the biblical plan of salvation and the work of the Holy Spirit. We would also have to reject every other great doctrine of God’s word and submit to an alternate plan that gives us charge of our own salvation.

As I watched her go through the steps into contemplative prayer on YouTube, I felt nothing but pity for her.  I could see the sadness, the total control of the demonic spirit that in my opinion has her in a death grip.  I have known many individuals deep in that grip of darkness, some of them before I became a child of God and some afterward.  All of them were as if suspended a few centimeters above a vast bottomless pool of misery.  They know that if they fall in they will lose their lives and their souls.  In order not to fall in, they will do whatever the demon (spirit guide) tells them to do.  However, eventually Satan discards them like worthless trash.  When he has gotten all that he can get out of them, and deems their deaths of more value than their lives, he cruelly cuts the thread by which they are suspended.

A person without Christ cannot avoid the misery of lostness.  He or she needs everything Satan has to offer to endure the dearth of light.  Subsequently, some vociferously chase the toys and frolic in the pleasure pools of the world system until their minds or bodies can no longer run the trail.  Other ones are enlisted as attractors, luring more individuals into the rat race.  All along the way God calls to them to exit the insidious roller coaster Satan has lured them to hop on.  Presently, the world society has reached the point to where multitudes of individuals are seeking relief from misery of lostness by religious means.  Satan will always find someone to do his bidding.  Barton is willing to distribute his falsehoods to avoid punishing torment.  Her soul void of God’s love is filled with the eerie shadows of false knowledge and bleak deserts of heresies.  I feel much pity for her.  At the end of her life there awaits judgment.  All she has is to enjoy her material possessions and what small comfort she gets from her fame.  That could all end in an instant. 

While my pity for her lostness compels me to pray for her soul, I must also pray that she will not be allowed to lure anymore individuals into the spiritual dungeon with her.  Hopefully and prayerfully she will be exposed fully enough that most Christian leaders will come to their senses.  To the extent she has been exposed by her own words, I am astonished that she continues to be accepted into the inner circles of leadership in Christianity.  I realize that some of the ones who promote her are themselves in need of deliverance.  However, many leaders of major denominations are gullibly accepting her heresies without blinking.  Never mind the fact that she is an extremely erroneous and inept expositor of the Scriptures, her open confession to diabolical practices and doctrine ought to set off alarms in every true Christian.  Sadly, it has not been the case.  God help us if that is an indication of how weak modern Christians are in biblical knowledge and spiritual discernment.       

The facts are that Ruth Haley Barton rejected Protestantism, declaring that it had failed her, and ran into a convent of Roman Catholic/New Age mysticism.  There she visited a clinical psychologist that was also a New Age spiritual director.  Under her tutelage, Barton learned how to contact the demonic realm.  Barton then ran into the waiting arms of the Shalem Institute of Spiritual Formation.  No worse quagmire of New Age heresy could she have found.  In the Shalem Institue, her spiritual formation from a believer in Christ to a New Age heretic was completed.  From Shalem, she went on staff at one of the most heretical churches of our generation, Willow Creek Community Church.  Now she stands on the final rungs of her “ladder of success” atop the heap of the spiritual rubble that was once called Christianity and beckons the ones who have thus far escaped to “Come, follow me.”   I pray that no one else answers her call.




  1. How very sad that leaders in some denominations have been wooed by ruth Haley Barton. There is a quote, by spurgeon I think, that the fish always rots from the head down.

  2. I have to say, I am “so” struggling with this. Ruth Haley Barton has become a large influence within our church. And as I go online, uncomfortable with some of the practices initiated in her Sacred Rhythms retreat, it is very difficult to find anyone else who is uncomfortable. I see publishers and churches promoting her. I think that our world has gotten so busy, and gained their self esteem from being “busy.” They are tired and looking for permission to be quiet and to sit. R. Barton gives them that permission. We didn’t need it from her. God gives us permission throughout His Word. The Sabbath is good example; David’s prayers, even more. Thank you for your thoughts.

  3. Goodness. What happened to the teaching of the Christ which the author claims is ignored by RHB “judge not…” I suspect finger pointing only shows the wounds of the pointer. As well as fear.

    • C.H. Fisher

      August 1, 2014 at 2:35 am

      Yes, RHB does not preach the gospel of Christ, but New Age heresy. In my opinion, she is demon possessed. Of course, the Apostle Paul declares that she is anathema. On your other point, the heretics and those whom they have deceived always love to quote “judge not” out of context to shield themselves from the truth. Amazingly, the moment they apply it, they are certainly guilty of the same, for they have judged. How strange that they never realize the hypocrisy of their charge.

    • We are to judge those within the church. God word tell us that.

  4. Excellent article; and true. This deceiver is New Age to the core.

  5. I plan on getting her book, even after reading this article. Jesus tells us you will know them by their fruit. To say that Ruth is demon possessed is remarkable and over the top. You bash all New Age as being false when Paul says he will be all things to all people to at least lead some to Jesus and salvation. Paul met people right where they were spiritually. All religions have at least some “kernel” of truth in them. Just because Islam believes homosexuality is wrong doesn’t mean we no longer believe this as Christians. We reject Islam, yes, but not some of the Truth they believe. I get the impression that many of you are jealous of Ruth’s fruit and instinctively reject all things Catholic. What a pity. The true Church of Christ has a lot to offer and has been protected through the centuries from the gates of hell just as our Lord and Savior promised.

    • C.H. Fisher

      April 23, 2015 at 4:40 pm

      Your comments are a good example of what I have been trying to warn people about for years. It is a mixture of light and darkness, truth and error. Sadly, this is the philosophy and message of the great apostasy; that one can have God and Satan, the kingdom of God and the world system, and that good and evil can coexist spiritually and otherwise. The problem is that philosophy it is diametrically opposed to God’s word. If one loves truth, darkness and its lies will be completely rejected. However, if love for truth is rejected, the mixture you presented is typical of the results.

      • My comments simply state that I reject error and accept TRUTH, even if another church or religion teaches it. We should affirm what is true? Am I missing something? I’m reminded of the parable that Jesus told about the wheat and the tares Mat 13:30 “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather you together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.
        And whether you admit it or not we each have darkness in us as we are all sinners: If you say you have no sin, Scripture tells us you are a liar. So yes there is darkness and light co-existing in each of us Christians.

        • C.H. Fisher

          May 15, 2015 at 10:33 pm

          You are misapplying the word of God. Please read Romans 6. It is against the Gospel of Christ Jesus to twist God’s word to believe that one should accept the darkness. A true Christian is indwelled by the Holy Spirit, not demons, and there is no cohabitation. You will either be the possession of one or the other.

          • I’m not twisting God’s Word. How did I even hint that we should accept the darkness and reject truth. Go back and read what I’ve written. Truth is of God and comes from Him and i repeat it again we should accept TRUTH, yes even if it comes from other false religions, even if it comes from Ruth Barton.

          • C.H. Fisher

            May 22, 2015 at 12:30 pm

            That is so deceptive that it approaches a delusion. Drinking water from a dirty fountain will make you sick. All truth in diabolical sources is polluted with error. The truth is added as a lure, not as food for the redeemed.

            God has not abandoned us. God’s word and Holy Spirit has not departed. His leadership gifts to the Body remain. There is not even a hint in the most pure source of truth (the Bible) that we should go to diabolical people for truth, but quite the contrary. That would be like abandoning the table to eat off of a filthy floor. Sure, God used an ass to warn Balaam, but the ass was not a heretic. The incident was a one-time event and not in any way presented as a new paradigm for receiving truth. Further, it revealed the spiritual bankruptcy of Balaam rather than presented a new method of receiving truth.

            God warns about forsaking Him, broken cisterns for living water.
            “For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, And hewn themselves cisterns—broken cisterns that can hold no water.” Jeremiah 2:13

            God does not use polluted vessels to minister to His people. Read Ephesians 4:11-16, and there is no mention of heretics or diabolical people to deliver truth to His people. They are diabolical if they do not have the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, Who is the Spirit of truth, abiding in them.
            “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His. – Romans 8:9”

            Consider that Christ declares that He is the way, truth, and life, and that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (John 14: 6 & 17).
            Also consider that the classic method of deception (initially employed in the temptation of Eve) is truth mixed with error. Consider that a massive confusion, and most likely the destruction of Christianity, would have resulted had the Early Church began by informing the believers that it would be acceptable to glean truth from other religions and diabolical people. In fact, one of the first deacons did exactly that. His name was Nicolas, and his followers were Nicolaitans (Revelation 2:6). Also read where God rebuked the ones who tolerated false teachers, whom you commend.

            Going to contaminated sources to get truth is to court deception. Further, you encourage other professing Christians, some who may be unable to discern the good from the evil, to imbibe deception. That is why we are warned against the practice of seeking truth from contaminated sources.

            When the emissaries of Satan, such as RHB, speak, it is not to bring people to God or truth. Their goal, as evidenced by their activity and fruit of every one of them throughout history, is to draw people into deception and spiritual death. Why do to a merchant of death to get truth?

            Tragically, for you to support such a practice indicates that you are estranged from God, are following a false spirit, and have become deceived. I counsel you to turn from those vile sources, get alone somewhere and pray, repent, and seek the fullness of the Holy Spirit. This is not a period when one can toy with deception, much less ingest it, without devastating eternal conclusions.

          • In Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the character Banquo tells Macbeth:
            “And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
            The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
            Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s
            In deepest consequence.”

            To further lure us down into believing false doctrine until we are completely deceived, the truth would be mixed in with error. By the time we realize the error, it would be too late.

  6. So glad I found this. With IV press publishing some of it Iwas ready to buy her book but felt uneasy. so many like her. Thanks for this article and all the comments.

  7. The book ” Strengthening the soul of your Leadership” was introduced to our church. I read the book. I stood up to the person who introduced the book, and made a long list of all the pages where she, Ruth Barton, wrote unsound doctrine. To PMB, I used to think similar to you, until I found Scripture in the Bible where God warns his people not to listen to pagans, because every thing they speak is in opposition to him… Their throat’s are like open graves. **That is exactly why we are having this conversation. What they are saying sounds true but at it’s root it is evil, so nothing that they say can be trusted. I will also add that we worship our holy God on holy ground, and he will share His ground with no one.
    ** Psam 5:9; 115:7; 140:3,4; and Paul reiterates these in Romans 3.

    • EKG – Not looking for a complete list, but could you offer a few examples of RHB unsound doctrinal statements in her leadership book. There are some at our church encouraging its use and I’m curious as to some of her mis-teachings. I have been concerned by her New Age influences but would like more than that to start a discussion with. Thanks.

      • The Introduction is a good place to start. However, Contemplative Prayer is nothing more than Christianized yoga. If she has not removed her videos, just check our her demonstration of how to practice Contemplative Prayer. More information about Contemplative Prayer can be read on Lighthouse Trails Research and Publishing website.

  8. If we are in the last days, as most who claim Christendom concur, why the intensive defense of new age doctrine. we are told that the end times would carry strong deception and that we are to watch for that deception.

    the world is already deceived and those prophetic scriptures are referring to the Church. If this new age is not deception, can someone list those deceptions that are supposed to be here because we are in the last days? should the Body of Christ be watching for deception or angrily condemning those who refuse to receive deception?

    i was raised Irish Catholic, schools and all. That was followed by about six years of psychedelic drugs and the pursuit of the eastern religions that those drugs opened the doors to. Hippies, remember? Perhaps i should be thankful that i was raised Catholic. perhaps i should be thankful that i was consumed by eastern mysticism. because having lived both of them, i know their voice. and that voice is so very far away from the voice of my Redeemer that i came to know.

    i love bass fishing and i am pretty good at it. but i never feed the bass. if bass depend upon me for food they will starve to death. it may look like food…but it ain’t. i trick them with lures. and i continue to improve in my ability to use the right lure at the right time and in the right place. we are to be the fisher(men), not the fish.

    speaking Biblical truth has, for decades, has been steadily attacked in our schools and places of business. now it is being steadily attacked in our churches. and we should not be surprised because it was prophesied to be so.

  9. I suppose this is why Jeanne Guyon spent so many years in prison in France. Except it was the RC Church making the judgments against her at that time. Interesting change of the guards through the ages.

    • What is interesting is that Satan can recycle the same old deception generation after generation to draw people to himself. Individuals rush to the glitter of gold only to be swallowed in the foggy shadows of turning. Under their grand delusion they appear ethereal and as spiritually ascended masters. Also interesting is that the same old spirits rise up in their fellow deceived ones to defend them.

      People make themselves susceptible because they either drift into estrangement from God, or they never knew Him in the first place. Thus, spiritual barren—as were the Roman Catholics when Thomas Merton went to the Buddhists searching for surrogate spirituality—they receive Satan’s answer for mankind’s search for God. Once under his spell, they are no longer at odds with him. They speciously believe the conviction of God, that affects them on the occasion their bondage is exposed, is of Satan. Futhermore, they believe when demons help them emote, it is evidence that they have finally found God in the perfect blend of flesh and spirituality—pagan mysticism.

      No, they should not be arrested, but confronted—lest we be guilty of hatred for sitting by idly while souls stream into eternity and hell.

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