The practice of "contemplative prayer" is a "spiritual" practice that continues to grow in popularity, especially at Christian colleges and seminaries. It often flies under the umbrella of "spiritual formation" and focuses on esoteric practices to "know," "hear from," or "be one" with God. Some versions of "contemplative prayer" do have a biblical foundation. That's not what this post is about.
There is a stream of "contemplative prayer" that is becoming frequent a gateway to things like the theology of Richard Rohr and the Enneagram. And it's not unusual for these things to slide people into Progressive Christianity.
That said, it's NOT an automatic slippery slope. Many seminaries now offer multiple courses, and even certification programs, on spiritual formation. Contemplative prayer practices are often part of these classes. Which might be fine.
What IS troubling, however, is that many of these programs have been shaped by the progressive theology and mysticism of Richard Rohr. Even if Rohr isn't mentioned by name, his ideas are often present. This kind of "soft" endorsement of Rohr's aberrant theology is puzzling to me. And it's often a short distance from Rohr to Progressive Theology, and even New Age ideas.
Questions to Ask
Here are some questions to research when vetting a Christian college to try and determine how influenced they are by Progressive Christianity:
Search the University's YouTube channel and web site for such names as Richard Rohr, Sarah Bessey, Jen Hatmaker, and Sarah Held Evans.
Ask whether the chapel staff or residential life staff are required to take the Enneagram assessment.
Search the University's YouTube channel and web site for the Enneagram.
My friend, Marcia Montenegro, is a former astrologer and New Age advocate. She is now a Christian apologist and arguably the foremost expert on Rohr's theology, the problems with Rohr's version of contemplative prayer, and the Enneagram. Be sure to read her extended, and documented, response to these articles on the Biola web site. She specifically points out Rohr's view on the "cosmic Christ," which clearly falls outside orthodox Christianity.
Here are some additional resources that respond to the issues of the Enneagram, Rohr's theology and Progressive Christianity.
Check out my article on the occult origin of the Enneagram.
Monique and I also did a podcast discussing the fact that there is no psychological validity to the Enneagram.
Alisa Childers has a helpful podcast about Richard Rohr's troubling theology.
Marcia's compelling interview with Alisa Childers about the Enneagram is very helpful. They also discuss Rohr.
This issue is a good example of how when you do a little digging, there is often an inter-connected relationship between the Enneagram, contemplative prayer, the drift into Progressive Theology and the New Age. It is my hope that Christian colleges will reconsider the advocacy of contemplative prayer (or at least more sharply refine how they use it), as well as the use of the Enneagram, and the theology of Rohr. It's not unusual for these practices to act as gateways for students to explore Progressive Christianity. And this is true even in Christian universities that have been historically conservative.
Find out more about these connections in Alisa Childers' new book, Another Gospel.
Evaluating the Impact
One big question in all this is: What is the long-term impact when Christians are put on these on-ramps to Progressive Christianity? Many end up drifting into the error, into another Gospel (which is really no Gospel at all). Just by way of example, I have interviewed multiple long-term faculty at prominent Christian universities who report a troubling pattern: they can see from the social media feeds of many of their former students that they are now fully Progressive.