Christian & Missionary Alliance Embraces Contemplative Spirituality & Christian Mysticism

Don’t be fooled – this subject matter is probably happening in YOUR church, no matter the denomination, and most of you don’t even realize it…..yet.  I am under no illusions that anything in this blog will change anybody’s mind in the C&MA about their continued venture deeper and deeper into CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM.  But, I keep praying and seeking God’s will on the matter.  Unlike those who utilize mystical practices – they more closely follow after tradition and other religious beliefs rather than the Bible.  In my mind, what else can I say?  Sure, scant references to Scripture are sprinkled in but verses are usually taken out of context.

That said, it still saddens me to come across articles written by other Christians who identify the growing mystical trends in the C&MA.  Not only are general trends looked at but specific leaders in the church are identified – e.g. professors at Nyack/Seminary who promote postmodernism through their lectures and the books they write (for all to read).  These professors follow after teachers such as RICHARD ROHR and promote POSTMODERNISM.  My goodness, how can an Evangelical church go down the path of ancient Roman Catholic mysticism and postmodernism where every truth in Scripture is doubted and confusion reigns instead of the surety of God’s word?  There are many good and faithful people in the C&MA but they need to WAKE UP!

I may not fully agree with every point of the article but overall, several important points are made.  I find some of the issues here SHOCKING – e.g. using Richard Rohr and teaching postmodernism – this wasn’t part of the Evangelical church that I came to admire years ago. It truly is shocking when you look at what is being taught.  The C&MA has a rich history in discipleship and missions.  But from several perspectives, mystical practices run contrary because the mystical perspective looks internally for truth.  This is done instead of seeking God’s truth from the external –> looking at God’s word in Scripture. This article contains some strong words – hopefully & prayerfully, people will realize that truth comes from God’s word and we should be concerned with teaching that creeps into the church that isn’t supported by Scripture! –



The Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) is an evangelical denomination founded in 1887 by A. B. Simpson. Born out of Pentecostalism, the deeper life movement, and the divine healing movement, the C&MA has roots in Christian mysticism and contemplative Christianity.[1] A.B. Simpson wrote, “There is, in the deepest centre of the soul, a chamber of peace where God dwells, and where, if we will only enter in and hush every other sound, we can hear His still, small voice.”[2] This is mysticism by its very definition.

According to mysticism, truth comes from within and can be discovered by disengaging the mind and clearing the mind of conscious thought. John MacArthur gives the following explanation of mysticism:

Mysticism is a system of belief that attempts to perceive spiritual reality apart from objective, verifiable facts. It seeks truth through feelings, intuition, and other internal senses. Objective data is usually discounted, so mysticism derives its authority from within. Spontaneous feeling becomes more significant than objective fact. Intuition outweighs reason. An internal awareness supersedes external reality.[3]

Scripture on the other hand teaches that truth does not come from within but is external, objective, and unchanging and is found in the Word of God (John 17:17). In the Christian worldview, truth is not discovered by emptying one’s self of conscious thought but rather by engaging the mind in the careful study of God’s revealed Word.

The C&MA and Mysticism

Rev. David John Smith, currently the pastor of Rose Hill Alliance Church in Minnesota, writes that “God can and does speak to us in multi-level methods as we open up all the vents of our soul to listen.”[4] He goes on to list thirty ways in which God supposedly speaks to believers, including mental pictures, imagination, visions, and even journaling conversations with God.[5] All of these mystical practices are unorthodox and unbiblical—even anti-biblical—and are being embraced by the C&MA as a denomination.

In recent years, the C&MA has exhibited a disturbing trend back to its roots in contemplative Christianity and mysticism, also integrating elements of the heretical emerging church movement, new-age spirituality, and postmodernism. Seminaries affiliated with the C&MA are openly and actively promoting mystical practices and contemplative and emergent spirituality. The Lighthouse Trails Research Blog listed the C&MA as one of the top 50 organizations with a significant role in bringing contemplative Christianity to the church. Also included on this list were such organizations and denominations as Mike Bickle’s International House of Prayer, the Emergent Village, and the highly liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Presbyterian Church (USA). As defined by the Lighthouse Trails Research Project,

Contemplative Spirituality [is a] belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in mysticism and the occult but often wrapped in Christian terminology. The premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic (God is all) and panentheistic (God is in all). Common terms used for this movement are “spiritual formation,” “the silence,” “the stillness,” “ancient-wisdom,” “spiritual disciplines,” and many others.

Contemplative Prayer

One of the mystical doctrines being embraced by the C&MA is contemplative prayer. Contemplative prayer, also known as soaking prayer and centering prayer, is the unbiblical and mystical practice of emptying one’s mind of conscious thought and turning to one’s inner self to find the presence of God.

Contemplative prayer is being practiced and taught at official Alliance seminaries. Because all Alliance pastors are trained at one of these official schools, the false doctrines imparted to these students will eventually permeate the local churches affiliated with the denomination.

Ron Walborn, dean of Alliance Theological Seminary, endorsed a book by James P. Danaher entitled Contemplative Prayer: A Theology for the Twenty-First Century. Danaher is Professor and Chair of the Department of Philosophy at Nyack College, an official school of the C&MA. Incidentally, the postmodernist Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr also endorsed Danaher’s book. Rohr is an advocate of “alternative orthodoxy,” a supporter of homosexuality (even presiding over a lesbian “marriage”), and the author of The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See—a book that Danaher unapologetically taught to his class at Nyack College.


Furthermore, James Danaher is also the author of the book Eyes That See, Ears That Hear: Perceiving Jesus in a Postmodern Context, intended for “Christians who are looking to understand Jesus in light of a postmodern perspective.” Richard Rohr also endorsed this book. The following is a telling quotation from the book’s description:

In his book, James Danaher successfully shows that a post-modern perspective, which questions the cultural, historical, and linguistic presuppositions involved in interpreting the Gospels, frees us to hear anew the culturally subversive, yet ultimately transformative message of Jesus’ Good News.

The author carefully uses postmodern insights to illustrate that what we see in the Gospels is largely a product of how we see, and how we see comes from our social constructs, not what we interpret to be God’s objective revelation.

Danaher has abandoned the crucial biblical concept of absolute truth and replaced it with the postmodern concept that truth is changing. This is the perspective being embraced and communicated by institutional centers affiliated with the C&MA and will continue to have a progressive impact on the denomination as the students trained at these institutions are installed as pastors in local churches.

Spiritual Formation

Moreover, official Alliance colleges and seminaries such as Nyack College, Ambrose University College, Toccoa Falls College, and Simpson University are all incorporating “Spiritual Formation” into their academic programs. While the term “Spiritual Formation” may sound harmless enough, it is essentially a cryptic word used by advocates of emergent and contemplative spirituality to infiltrate the unsuspecting church with their heresy.

The Lighthouse Trails Research Project states that Spiritual Formation is

[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 and its “pioneers” such as Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and Henri Nouwen. Spiritual Formation is based on “spiritual disciplines” that can be practiced by people of any faith to make them more “Christ-like.” Rebirth through Jesus Christ and regeneration through the Holy Spirit are not essential. Rather it is a works-based “theology” that has strong roots in Roman Catholicism and ancient paganism.

Some of the stated goals for the Spiritual Formation program at the Alliance Theological Seminary are to increase awareness of “your personal spiritual reality” and to nurture a “continuing desire to grow beyond your current spiritual reality.” Again, while the reference to a “spiritual reality” may seem innocuous, the concept of spiritual reality is rooted in Eastern mystical religion. Mysticism teaches that spiritual reality is a transcendent metaphysical order that may be known by emptying one’s self of conscious thought and desires.


All of the elements of mysticism being introduced into the church are not Christian. Rather, they are an intrusion of false religion brought about through the subtlety of false teachers (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1). Nowhere in Scripture do we find any type of warrant for the mystic beliefs and practices being adopted by the C&MA.

Christian mysticism is simply a contradiction in terms and is a heresy secretly being introduced into the church by false teachers (2 Peter 2:1). It is our duty to exercise discernment and to call out these false teachers and warn Christians of their presence (1 Tim. 1:3).

© 2014 Pro Veritate. All Rights Reserved. 



[1] Smith, D. J. (1998, February 17). Listening Prayer: Listening to God for Life and Ministry. Retrieved August 17, 2014, fromhttps://online.ambrose.edu/alliancestudies/dsmith/djs_prayer.html

[2] Simpson, A. B. (1924). The Holy Spirit, Or, Power From On High. New York: The Christian Alliance Publishing Co., 160.

[3] MacArthur, John. (1993). Charismatic Chaos. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 35.

[4] Smith. Listening Prayer. Retrieved August 17, 2014, fromhttps://online.ambrose.edu/alliancestudies/dsmith/djs_prayer.html

[5] Ibid.



=> References for Danaher’s book on Contemplative Prayer:

“Again, James Danaher shows us that the use of the mind and the search for God are not in competition, but in fact enrich and feed one another at very deep levels. How much we need this kind of integration in our culture–where so much religious talk seems divisive and compromised. Contemplative Prayer is not just about divine prayer but about the very quality of human faith and love.”

Richard Rohr, OFM
Author of Everything Belongs and The Naked Now

“There is often a wide gulf in academia between the mind and the spirit. Many Christian academics start in the spirit but lose something of their spirituality in the development of their mind. Jim Danaher successfully bridges that gulf in this book on contemplative prayer. Jim’s insights into this marvelous discipline nourish both the mind and the spirit, bringing them together in Holy Communion with the Trinity.”

Ron Walborn
Dean, Alliance Theological Seminary


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