Setting the Record Straight About Spiritual Formation at WWU

by David Thomas

David Thomas is the dean of Walla Walla University School of Theology
Walla Walla University is a Seventh-day Adventist University in College Place, Washington.

COLLEGE PLACE, Wash., September 2, 2015 - For reasons that will become apparent shortly, I want to address the topic of spiritual formation.

On the face of it, this phrase would seem to be innocuous, even favorable as a phrase describing the task of forming the internal spiritual dimension that is so important to all of us. But, as I suspect you already know, that is not the case. The phrase “spiritual formation” has come to be the phrase of choice used now to refer to the surreptitious infiltration of all kinds of Eastern mystical meditational ideas and techniques alleged to be flooding into Christianity and, of particular concern, into Adventism — all as part of a great conspiracy of the devil.

Most astonishing to me is that, according to the purveyors of this idea of a great conspiracy, Walla Walla University, Walla Walla University Church and its School of Theology are said to be the primary locations where all this is happening.

Those purveying these allegations have produced all manner of videos, books and Internet presentations. They have made speeches and gone about making presentations laying out their claims and allegations very publicly. And they have now distributed their wares far and wide. The charges and allegations they make are very serious indeed. I would respond by saying that those of us who live and work in and around Walla Walla University know what Eastern mystical meditation is — a mind-altering meditational technique through which people try to transcend their humanity in order to penetrate the transcendence of God. And I can say categorically that such meditation is NOT practiced or endorsed here at all. Those who claim otherwise say this kind of mystical stuff is “everywhere” at WWU. I say, if it is “everywhere,” then it must be “somewhere.” The problem is that nobody can find a “somewhere” where mystical meditation is being practiced or endorsed. It is simply the case that this kind of thing is not found on the campus nor in the church.

Put another way, those making these allegations against us have created a fantasy. For reasons I do not understand, they have amassed all kinds of evidences and drawn conclusions that have no substance in reality. What they have never done is check their conclusions with those against whom they make their allegations. When formulating opinions, before going public with them, it is normally standard practice to engage those about whom you write or speak to see if the conclusions you have arrived at are, in fact, true. This our detractors have never done. They have never come here to see for themselves what is happening, and they have never come to talk with those whom they allege are the perpetrators of this infiltration of Eastern things. I can only presume that, for some reason, they prefer their fantasy to truth. So, I say again quite plainly, spiritual formation as conspiratorially understood is not a part of life at WWU or the School of Theology. It is NOT! We do NOT practice mystical meditations nor do we endorse them no matter what you hear from those far away.

I might conclude by observing that, up to this point, we have deliberately chosen not to engage in debate with our detractors because, once a conspiracy theory is abroad, any and all evidences and occurrences get co-opted to support the conspiracy. We prefer not to be caught in that dynamic. We do sincerely hope, however, that those who make allegations about spiritual formation at WWU will soon realize they are completely wrong in their conclusions and will turn from their ways. Ours is an open campus, and the church services are televised. We are under the supervision and direction of a university board of church leaders and other trustworthy people. Church leaders are often on our campus interacting with us, and we are visited by the Adventist Accreditation Agency as are all other campuses. There is no conspiracy or underhandedness going on here.

It is time for all this to come to a halt, for making such egregious allegations against fellow Christians without concrete substantiation is unconscionable. It boggles the mind to think how readily some who profess faith in Jesus believe the very worst about their fellows! In the interest of openness, I include here my phone number and invite you to call me if you have interest in firsthand conversation: 509-527-2194.

 

 

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