I was surprised to see a study group on something called Renovare’ being offered at a local church. I scanned the book they are using (The Good and Beautiful God: Falling in Love with the God Jesus Knows) and it looks pretty creepy. Lots of stuff implying that God will reveal special, individualized messages to you in prayer. He could do that, of course, but I’ve read a bit of the Bible and can’t think of a single passage that hints at that being normative or something we can get on demand. The “still, small voice” was audible — and was given to an Old Testament prophet who had just slaughtered a few hundred prophets of Baal after a dramatic showdown. So if you fit that job description, you too can expect audible messages from God!
One exercise from the book has you read a passage then note any word that “God seems to be emphasizing.” Then you “allow God to reveal to you the significance of this word.” This is bad on many levels. Aside from being un-biblical, it will lead people to think they aren’t really Christian or aren’t as spiritual as others because they don’t get personalized messages from God. Or people will make up some meaning that isn’t there and just fashion a god in their own image. Or they will feel peer pressure to make up something (hey, lying is always good for spiritual growth, right?).
There was lots on lectio divina in the book as well.
Maybe if we just read the 31,173 verses in context and really sought to understand them via normal Bible study techniques we’d be better off. God seemed to be keen on getting what He wanted into the Bible, so perhaps those drawn to lectio divina and Renovare’-type practices should make sure they have all those verses well understood before expecting God to give them something new and personalized.
11 thoughts on “Anyone heard of Renovare’?”
The whole movement even has a study Bible, which I mentioned in my recent article on “Bible Version Nonsense” where I said:
“Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible. This is another “study” Bible which entered the fray a few years back, using the ecumenical, gender-neutral New Revised Standard Version as its text. The “scholars” promoting this one are all into the mystical, contemplative movement. It’s primary focus is all about mystic Richard Foster’s “Spiritual Disciplines.” This version also includes the Apocrypha, making it acceptable to Romanists but promoting heresy at the same time. Of course much of the mystical teaching coming from this movement originated in the Romanist church, and much of their teachings are indeed part of the commentaries. Explanatory notes also deny the divine authorship of much of Scripture, claiming that Genesis isn’t history – only myth that gathered theological importance over the centuries. I recommend a review of an article by Dave Hunt written soon after the release of this heretical “bible.””
The review I mentioned by Hunt is at
Thanks for the additional background!
One of the biggest problems with movements like this is the teachers and students become incorrigible. They will hear no criticism of the methods. And it really produces a cult like mentality. I have personally experienced Christians using the “personal message” approach to Christianity, worship, and Bible reading become enraged by the suggestion that they are not a radio tower or have interpretive x-ray vision.
People like us are quenching the spirit or putting God in a box. It always comes down to “you dont think God can…”. but the point isn’t what God CAN do, its what He actually DOES do.
I’m tempted to go to the class and say, “God told me to concentrate on the word ‘the.'” And when I asked him to tell me what it means, He said it meant you are a false teacher and should be kicked out of the church, and that this Renovare’ class is garbage.
That’s awesome. But more importantly, by what standard can they disagree? You could just accuse them of quenching the spirit.
But more interestigly, I wonder if it would register to them if you gave the appearence of genuine intention. And took the same verse as someone else, but gave an “honest” sounding explanation of the same verse, but a completely opposite understanding. Then ask if God would author confusion, or contradict Himself. See if they have any integrity at all.
Yes Neil – it’s a contemplative spirituality program. STAY AWAY. It was started by Richard Foster, the Quaker mystic who has single-handedly brought “centering prayer” (transcendental meditation with a thin Christian veneer) into mainstream Protestantism. I’d explain more but I have to get to work…you can google it….your mis-givings were 100% correct.
Seems there is no end to the list of spinoff cults who fixate on something and just run with it, is there?
Reminds me of numerology – the outrageous theory that one can apply mathematical formulas to the Scriptures and divine “hidden knowledge” that no one else is able to see. Isn’t that how someone came up with the (debunked even before-the-fact) idea that God would return on such and such a day?
God handled down the Bible because there were certain things He wanted all of humanity to know. God’s knowledge and wisdom are in plain sight for all who care to look, and it’s right in front of us. The book of Proverbs tells us that “wisdom calls out to us in the streets.” It doesn’t say that wisdom is whispered in our ear in inner rooms. Note that the men who wrote down the Scriptures and claimed divine inspiration, proceeded to share that knowledge with anyone who would listen, including us today who can read what was written.
This is why I don’t take pilgrimages or spend my days looking for the Holy Grail, thinking I’m going to happen upon some incredible revelation known only to me after that. The times I’ve run off to the hills to talk with God were the times I was in crisis and needed a day or so to get back in touch with that obvious knowledge.
Even CS Lewis, arguably the greatest Christian writer of modern times, didn’t make such claims. Even his books say he can only take you so far, after which, you’ve got to choose your own denomination.
What utter nonsense. The devil is indeed a crafty one, continually sending in wolves disguised as sheep.
Good points. I was just thinking of that the other day. Satan prompts people to look for holy grails, fountains of youth, etc., when the truth is so much simpler and better: Trust in Jesus for eternal life and joy.
II Timothy 3:6-7 “For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Hello Neil. I actually am an employee with Renovare and have benefited from what we do for over 20 years. James Bryan Smith, Richard Foster, and others associated with Renovare are personal friends.
Here is what Renovare does, in short: we point people to the Bible (strong emphasis on the Gospels) and to the history of the Church, do a little teaching around it which includes various historic Christian practices, and then let people make their own decisions on from what/whom they should learn and what they should do with their time. Moses. Jesus. Paul. Augustine of Hippo. Dietrich Bonhoeffer. C.S. Lewis. Julian of Norwich. Thomas a Kempis. John Wesley. These are the people from whom we learn through Renovare’s efforts and they represent the whole history and breadth of the Church, not just the “Romanists.” And then we trust ourselves to make our own decisions, having faith that God is guiding us as individuals and communities into what God would have for us.
We do emphasize a contemplative way of following Jesus, but just as much we emphasize an active way, including teaching on the Social Justice and Evangelical traditions of Jesus and the Church.
Everything that James Bryan Smith writes about in THE GOOD AND BEAUTIFUL GOD has roots in the practices of the historic Church. LECTIO DIVINA, Latin for “sacred reading,” for instance, began with the Benedictines in the 5th Century and has had been made use of, in one form or another, ever since. Just because some people do not find LECTIO DIVINA helpful, or think it is “dangerous,” does not mean that followers of Jesus cannot benefit from it. It just means it is not for some and it is for others.
If you REALLY want to know what Renovare is about then please take some time and look through our website (www.renovare.us), specifically the “Spiritual Renewal” section.
I really do appreciate your desire to look for errancy in your local congregation. But guess what? If you label Renovare “errant” then you are labeling 98% of the contemporary and historic Church errant, everything but a very narrow group of conservative Protestants that think that their way is the only way. Not even the Roman Catholic Church–which accounts for 1 billion or 1 out of every 2 Christians on the planet–is arrogant enough to say their way is the ONLY way. They have provided plenty of space for all people who want to follow Jesus to become participants in the salvation that he offers. I hope you will consider doing the same.
I would be happy to engage this conversation further offline. You can contact me through the Renovare website. Shalom.
I noticed that in your lengthy reply you ignored my specific concern about creepy and un-biblical methods in the book, namely: “One exercise from the book has you read a passage then note any word that “God seems to be emphasizing.” Then you “allow God to reveal to you the significance of this word.”
I realize it is your job to defend your employer, but I must point out how fallacious that line of reasoning is.
Renovare is errant for the reasons I noted, and more reasons that I didn’t bother to note. Just because some or even much of what you teach is orthodox does not shield you from criticism. If you want to claim that most of what Renovare teaches lines up with most of historic Christianity, then that proves nothing. All heresies and false teachings contain elements of truth. That’s how they sneak in under the tent.
I didn’t claim that my way was the only way, so you can skip that false personal attack. I just pointed out errors in your way, which you neglected to address.
By the way, do you think it is arrogant to say that Christianity is the only way to salvation?
Thanks, but I’ve seen enough. I hope that Renovare corrects its false teachings that will lead people into all sorts of mischief. There is nothing biblical about asking God to reveal a special meaning of a word to you. You are welcome to ask, and He might answer, but to pretend that it is normative is wrong.