The Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary has come under fire for teaching “spiritual formation.” In a recent article in the Adventist Review, three faculty members discuss what they teach, and why they’ve agreed to avoid the term “spiritual formation,” in favor of “Biblical spirituality.” I took Joe Kidder’s class on spiritual formation last summer, kind of curious about the seminary’s approach, and it was a pretty standard evangelical class on personal devotion. See the seminary’s statement, Teaching Biblical Spirituality.
They also insist rather emphatically that they don’t teach “contemplative prayer.” And that’s true. It wasn’t taught in any form in the course I took. But I wonder about their emphatic denial. Allan Walshe says,
We can all say definitely and categorically that we do not teach or practice “contemplative spirituality,” “contemplative prayer,” “apophatic contemplation or meditation,” which seeks a total emptying of the mind, New Age philosophies, Eastern religious practices, or any other nonbiblical practices that others borrow from Hinduism or Buddhism. We believe everyone should be vigilant not to allow these kinds of philosophies and practices to infiltrate the Adventist Church.
After reading that, I’m still puzzled by what exactly they understand by “contemplative prayer” that “seeks a total emptying of the mind.” I asked a couple of those named in the article to define it more fully, and haven’t gotten a response.
For the record, here are some things I’ve written on some issues in spirituality: