Henri Nouwen is popular among many in the church today and mention of his writings and statements seem to be at an all time high. Many first heard of Nouwen when Rick Warren quoted him in The Purpose-Driven Life (p. 269). Francis Chan quoted him in Crazy Love and I've heard his name a lot lately in the writings and sermons of many in the postmodern circles of the church.
What's the attraction, I wondered as I read some of his stuff and then it hit me. Nouwen serves as a source of introduction to contemplative practices of the new spiritual formation teachings. Many in the church seem enamored with this idea of going “deeper” through certain prayer practices and other rituals like Lectio Divina and rituals borrowed from the Desert Fathers and Roman Catholicism.
Rick Warren tweeted Nouwen just a few days ago (http://www.crosstalkblog.com/2010/09/rick-warren-tweets-new-age-mystic-henri-nouwen/ ) and so I thought I'd provide any who would be interested with some quotes representing some of Nouwen's troubling teachings.
My hope and prayer is that leaders and layman alike in this fellowship will seek their counsel and wisdom from the Bible as opposed to the writings of a man like Henri Nouwen. Consider these items:
In Nouwen's last book, Sabbatical Journey, page 51, 1998 Hardcover Edition, Nouwen wrote:
"Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God."
Here's some other troubling statements and beliefs:
“Prayer is soul work because our souls are those sacred centers where all is one, ... It is in the heart of God that we can come to the full realization of the unity of all that is.” (From Bread for the Journey)
"a place for everyone in heaven"
(Life of the Beloved - p. 53)
"to become the Beloved, we must claim it" Nouwen says we are all the chosen ones. (Life of the Beloved)
"The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is the same as the one who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being." Here and Now by Henri Nouwen; page 22
These statements sound strikingly similar to the famous quote by New Age priestess Marianne Williamson which basically talked about the glory of God being in everyone. Of course, the source of these teachings are the same and the deception is mightily working as some in the chruch claim that these writers are inspirational in what they are saying.
Henri Nouwen himself promoted Thomas Merton, Taoist Philosopher Chvang Tzu, the writings of the Desert Fathers, Teilhard de Chardin(Catholic priest who believed Jesus would not return in person but rather as a cosmic Christ), and Hindu Spiritual Writer Eknath Eswaran.
Ray Yungen writes:
“Nouwen's endorsement of a book by Hindu spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran, teaching mantra meditation, further illustrates his universalistic sympathies. On the back cover, Nouwen stated, "This book has helped me a great deal."
Nouwen also wrote the foreword to a book that mixes Christianity with Hindu spirituality, in which he says:
“[T]he author shows a wonderful openness to the gifts of Buddhism, Hinduism and Moslem religion. He discovers their great wisdom for the spiritual life of the Christian ... Ryan [the author] went to India to learn from spiritual traditions other than his own. He brought home many treasures and offers them to us in the book.”
Nouwen apparently took these approaches seriously himself. In his book, The Way of the Heart, he advised his readers:
“The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart ... This way of simple prayer ... opens us to God's active presence.”
But what God's "active presence" taught him, unfortunately, stood more in line with classic Hinduism than classic evangelical Christianity
from “Henri Nouwen and Buddhism”
by Ray Yungen (Excerpt from A Time of Departing, 2nd ed.).
Mike Oppenheimer from Let Us Reason Ministries writes:
“Henri Nouwen, a promoter of contemplative prayer and a universalist is referenced by Rick Warren in his book Purpose Driven Life (page 269). Henri Nouwen - “Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love ... For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required” (In the Name of Jesus, p. 6,31-32). We should expect more Biblical discernment from national leaders.” http://www.letusreason.org/current73.htm
beloved, I think you can see why I'm concerned. These quotes were offered for your perusal and it is my prayer that folks won't be misled by dangerous teachers like Henri Nouwen.