When I wrote to George Wood, General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God, concerning the AoG invite of Ruth Haley Barton to speak at the General Council, I did not expect a response. When I received his response I was shocked at some of the answers to my questions. Dr. Wood’s response is posted on Truthkeepers Facebook page for everyone to read and analyze. Some of the AoG leadership questioned the authenticity of Dr. Wood’s response. In fact, I sent a copy of the original email (that included the official seal of the AoG) to one source to deter such an accusation. I understand why they did not want to believe the authenticity of Wood’s email. It included very troubling statements that indicate Dr. Wood may no longer be qualified to lead the AoG. Let me explain.
First, there is ample evidence of Ruth Haley Barton’s conversion to the heretical disciplines of eastern mysticism. She has stated and written unequivocally that she had rejected what she terms as “Protestant traditions” because they had “failed her” in a time of crisis. This includes prayer, God’s word, preaching, teaching, and apparently everything else that composes true Christianity. In effect, Barton rejected Christianity and made an appointment with a psychologist, also a spiritual director (guru), at a Roman Catholic convent, the Loretto Center.
“A few years ago, I began to recognize an inner chaos in my soul . . . No matter how much I prayed, read the Bible, and listened to good teaching, I could not calm the internal roar created by questions with no answers.” (Beyond Words: Experience God’s presence in silence and solitude.)
“I sought out a spiritual director, someone well versed in the ways of the soul … eventually this wise woman said to me, … “What you need is stillness and silence so that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.’ … I decided to accept this invitation to move beyond my addiction to words.”
During her sessions with the Spiritual Director, she apparently converted to a division of Roman Catholicism that indulges in Contemplative Spirituality. The headquarters for Barton’s Transforming Center is presently located at The Loretto Center. In fact, the present Spiritual Director for the Loretto Center is also a spiritual Director for Barton’s Transforming Center. Anyone visiting Barton’s Transforming Center for help will also be subjected to various pagan practices including the same heretical Contemplative/New Age heresy that Barton surrendered to. That heresy is what she was invited to present at the General Council of the AoG.
Contemplative Spirituality is eastern mysticism that was first brought into the Roman Catholic Church by Trappist monks during the fourth century. They borrowed it from the Sufi Muslims. Contemplative Spirituality was again introduced to Roman Catholicism and to a great extent Protestantism, by another Trappist monk and priest, Thomas Merton. Merton actually became a Buddhist and promoted Buddhism as the best form of spirituality suitable for Christians. Merton was followed by Henri Nouwen, a Roman Catholic priest that, like Barton, struggled with spiritual turmoil including depression. Nouwen became a practitioner of Contemplative Prayer and one of its most ardent promoters.
More than the spiritual arm of Roman Catholicism, Contemplative Spirituality is also the spiritual foundation of the New Age Movement. Barton made no distinction between Roman Catholicism and The New Age Movement as she received training from both sources. From the Loretto Center, Barton went to the Shalem Institute, a New Age center founded by an Episcopal priest, Tilden Edwards. Edwards makes no secret about his relationship with paganism. In fact, he declares that Contemplative Spirituality is the bridge between religions. I tend to agree since every practitioner I am aware of appears to make no distinction between Christianity and paganism. That is one of the most troubling aspects of individuals that indulge in Contemplative Prayer.
George Wood implied that he indulges in Contemplative Prayer. The symptoms of indulgence are evident in his responses to my questions. First, he actually recommended that I read Barton’s book, “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership”. After reading the introduction, I was stunned that the leader of the AoG would recommend reading it. It will become completely obvious to even a novice Christian after reading the introduction to Barton’s book that she is a flagrant heretic. Dr. Wood may as well have recommended Anton LaVey’s “The Satanic Bible” as proof of his (LaVey’s) Christian validity (Yes, in my opinion it is that bizarre). It begs the question of why Dr. Wood recommended Barton’s book as evidence of her Christianity and godliness when it clearly proves overwhelmingly otherwise. The answer is because the practice of Contemplative Prayer accomplishes exactly what Tilden Edwards declared, namely that practioners no longer view distinctions between religions as obstacles. Therefore, they do not distinguish between the deceptive and the true. Pagan religions are belief systems that contain doctrines and practices antithetical to Christianity. It is amazing that before engaging in Contemplative Prayer one would recognize the danger of belief systems diametrically opposing Christianity. However, after engaging in CP, all alarm disappears and the same individual cannot understand why anyone would think it a dangerous practice. Dr. Wood does not believe CP to be a dangerous practice. He does not understand what all the hoopla is about. He believes that Ruth Barton is a godly Christian woman. However, if Dr. Wood believes that “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership” is a spiritually healthy Christian book, then clearly he is unable or unwilling to discern the difference between the pagan belief system of Barton and the gospel according to the Assemblies of God. Consequently, his ability to lead the Assemblies of God Movement must surely be in question.
Further evidence that Dr. Wood may have lost his discernment due to Contemplative Prayer is found in his defense of the invite of Ruth Barton. He stated that the women who invited her are “godly” women and that if I only knew them personally I would agree with his assessment. Even a cursory examination of some of the individuals involved reveals quite the opposite. Dr. Jody Detrick (head of the AoG Women’s group that invited Barton) was chosen to present the AoG response to Lighthouse Trails Research’s article exposing Barton. In her response, she makes false statements, expressly regarding Contemplative Prayer.
Dr. Detrick states, “Conversely, Christian contemplative prayer is a biblical spiritual discipline.” That is completely false. Contemplative Prayer has always been a pagan practice. There is no biblical basis for calling it Christian.
Dr. Detrick wrote; “Some have inaccurately reported that Ruth Barton teaches the use of only three words as the sum of all prayer. This is a misrepresentation of her encouragement to find a simple, personal prayer to say to God when one is entering into a time of silence and listening in His presence.” This is also false as anyone can discover for themselves by reading Barton’s articles and books.
She declares that the “Christian” version of CP that Barton teaches is unlike the pagan version. This is also completely false. One only has to watch Barton’s YouTube presentation of CP and read her books to realize it is exactly as the pagan version. This is not a Christian practice that Satan copied, as Dr. Detrick insists, but a satanic practice that some individuals such as Barton are attempting to Christianize.
Further, Dr. Detrick is a “Life Coach”, a profession that often employs questionable spiritual processes. If she defends CP with falsehoods, I have to wonder if she practices it in her own life and in her profession. Her husband, an ordained minister and leader with the AoG, is purportedly writing a book on Spiritual Formation.
Spiritual Formation: A movement that has provided a platform and a channel through which contemplative prayer is entering the church. Find spiritual formation being used, and in nearly every case you will find contemplative spirituality. In fact, contemplative spirituality is the heartbeat of the spiritual formation movement. (Lighthouse Trails Research)
It is obvious to me that Dr. Wood believes in a different definition of godly than what God’s word declares. Godliness, in the Bible (Greek; Eusebeia) is defined as; “reverence, respect, piety towards God.” It is not about a good personality, intelligence, talent, or the charismatic ability to please or influence people. It is about reverence, respect, and piety towards God. Promoting Contemplative Prayer and defending it with duplicitous statements is not an expression of godliness. It is complete disrespect for God, His word, and His Son who declared that none will come to the Father except through Him. Christ is the High Priest of our profession of faith. He ever intercedes to the Father for us. Why do we need Contemplative Prayer, altered states of consciousness, and “wordless” prayer, when we have Christ? In fact, there are no scriptures that state that we need anything remotely resembling Contemplative Prayer.
After our initial exchange, I sent Dr. Wood more information about Ruth Barton. In response to that email, he decline to comment, effectively shutting the door to any further truth about Barton. He had written that he was sure that “the blogs” would deal with the matter. He uses the term “blogs” pejoratively, as if that discredits any truth that might be contained therein. A blog is no different than an article written on paper. Truth is not necessarily altered by the method through which it is presented. I recommended Ray Yungen’s book, “A Time of Departing”, but he appeared disinterested in reading it. One has to wonder by what means Dr. Wood prefers truth to arrive. As one astute observer of human nature once said something to the effect, “If an individual chooses not to hear God through His word and His Holy Spirit, God most likely cannot speak to him through any other way or method.” The rejection of love for truth is a deadly mistake in this final page of world history.
The most ominous aspect of practicing CP is that the consequences are immediate. In that sense it is like spiritual crack cocaine. Once you use it, you are not only addicted, but you lose all apprehension about its dangers. The individuals that you would never have associated with before ingesting CP become your bosom buddies afterward. Further, ones philosophy changes and the sense of good and evil flies away on wings of innocence. It cannot be overstated that Contemplative Prayer is a dangerous pagan practice. It is not about simply being quiet before God. Further, it is not “wordless” prayer, which is oxymoronic. Contemplative Prayer is an individual effectively washing his or her own mind. It is undoing the spiritual transformation that God accomplished at the point of new birth. CP is not the path to greater spirituality in God, but the path to the sensual spirituality of Sufi Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and other diabolical practitioners of the dark arts. It is the means to cross over the line between deception and delusion. No one can cross that line except the ties to truth have been irrevocably loosened and undone. No one wishes to cross it that has bound love for truth deep in his or her soul.