(400) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: C&MA & RAVI ZACHARIAS
EAST MEETS WEST: CHRISTIAN & MISSIONARY ALLIANCE and RAVI ZACHARIAS
This is a reposting of Episode 351 about Ravi Zacharias and his talk titled “East meets West“. With recent posts demonstrating concerns that several Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) professors at Nyack, Alliance Theological Seminary (ATS) as well as the other affiliated schools are rapidly pursuing a contemplative path involving Roman Catholic and Eastern Mysticism, some encouraging news is always welcome.
As many of you know, Rave Zacharias is affiliated with the C&MA. He has an interesting background. His website gives some information about him –
Born in India in 1946, Ravi immigrated to Canada with his family twenty years later. While pursuing a career in business management, his interest in theology grew; subsequently, he pursued this study during his undergraduate education. He received his Master of Divinity from Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. Well-versed in the disciplines of comparative religions, cults, and philosophy, he held the chair of Evangelism and Contemporary Thought at Alliance Theological Seminary for three and a half years. Dr. Zacharias has been a visiting scholar at Ridley Hall, Cambridge (then affiliated with Cambridge University, now more recently allied with Cambridge and affiliated with Durham University) where he studied moralist philosophers and literature of the Romantic era. He has been honored with the conferring of six doctoral degrees, including a Doctor of Laws and a Doctor of Sacred Theology.
Mr. Zacharias has authored or edited well over twenty books including the Gold Medallion winner Can Man Live Without God (Word, 1994), Walking from East to West (Zondervan, 2006), The Grand Weaver (Zondervan, 2007), Has Christianity Failed You? (Zondervan, 2010), Why Jesus, (FaithWords, 2012), and Beyond Opinion (Thomas Nelson, 2007), which includes contributions from RZIM’s global team. His latest books are a graphic novel version of The Lamb and the Fuhrer (Kingstone Media: June 2014) and Why Suffering?, coauthored with Vince Vitale and released by FaithWords in October 2014. Several of his books have been translated into Russian, Chinese, Korean, Thai, Spanish, and other languages.
Ravi has appeared on CNN, Fox, and other international broadcasts. His weekly radio program, “Let My People Think,” airs on 2152 outlets worldwide, his weekday program, “Just Thinking,” on 721, and his one-minute “Just a Thought,” on 488. Various broadcasts are also translated into Romanian and Turkish, and “Let My People Think” airs as the Spanish-language program “Pensemos” on over 250 outlets in sixteen countries. Additionally, his television program, “Let My People Think,” is broadcast internationally in several countries including Indonesia. RZIM is headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with additional offices in Canada, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, Hong Kong, Romania, Turkey, Austria, Spain, and South Africa. Dr. Zacharias and his wife, Margie, have three grown children. They reside in Atlanta.
For our discussion, what is most interesting is that he was born in India and spent the first 20 years immersed in that cultural setting – getting direct and widespread exposure to Eastern religions, beliefs, and customs of the people and culture there. Today, many people get their first encounter with Ravi by hearing his distinguished voice at events where he is a featured speaker or in debates with people from other religions and beliefs. But, even with his background, the subtle blending of Eastern Mysticism and Christianity taking place today in the church is not always noted by many including someone like Zacharias.
For example, in the past, Ravi Zacharias has discussed the following about well-known Roman Catholic & Eastern Mysticism contemplatives such as Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton. Fortunately, here is an outcome when he was confronted for recommending some of these folks in his writings –
In a 2012 online interviewby an independent blog, Ravi Zacharias was asked the following question:
If in your book, you wrote how Eastern mysticism is completely erroneous, why did you state in one of your speaking engagements that Henri Nouwen was one of the greatest saints who lived in our time, when Nouwen is known to have been influenced by Thomas Merton and others who practice Eastern mysticism?
I regret having said that. At the time, I based my comment on Nouwen’s story of the prodigal son which I felt was on target. But later as I learned more about Nouwen and Merton, I found their writings to be very troubling. I believe that doctrinally, Nouwen lost his way. I used to read Malcolm Muggeridge too until I read his book, “Jesus Rediscovered”. Muggeridge was morally and culturally a good thinker, but he was not theologically sound.
It now appears that Ravi Zacharias has changed his mind about Henri Nouwen and has been willing to acknowledge that publicly, something that is not seen often from other Christian leaders. I applaud Ravi Zacharias for taking a stand on truth and holding to biblical principles. It is my hope and prayer that more like Ravi within the C&MA will step forward to question those in leadership, those responsible for educating future pastors and leaders at places such as Nyack, ATS, as well as all the educational resources within the C&MA.
That all said, it is by no means a done deal. Ravi Zacharias still promotes past articles where he points positively to people such as Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. Even today he shares the stage during speaking engagements with other New Age, contemplative, and aberrant teachers such as LEONARD SWEET. Sweet, has spoken at several C&MA events across the country –> which really points to how shallow the view towards discernment is within the church.
Still, it is important to identify the positives and to commend the position that Ravi Zacharias has taken – even if the issue hasn’t been entirely dealt with. It is my prayer that God will use people like him to influence others within the C&MA.
Ray Yungen comments about these issues –
If this mystical paradigm shift comes to complete fruition, what will the Christian of the future be like? If Christians develop into the spiritual likeness of Henri Nouwen, we will find them meditating with Buddhists as Nouwen did—which he called “dialogue of the heart.”1 We will also find them listening to tapes on the seven chakras 2 (which Reiki is based on) as Nouwen did, and above all we will find them wanting to help people “claim his or her own way to God”3 (universalism) as Nouwen did. Nouwen wrote that his solitude and the solitude of his Buddhist friends would “greet each other and support each other.”4 In this one statement lies the fundamental flaw of the contemplative prayer movement—spiritual adultery.
Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd ed, 2006), p. 183.
I leave you with two video clips of talks given by Ravi Zacharias where he addresses issues within Christianity in coming to terms with influences from the East –