By Jimmy Tuten
This treatise is an attempt to alert brethren to the dangers and doctrinal perversions associated with a segment of the “Total Commitment” philosophy known as “Quiet Time.” Various brotherhood journals have dealt with problems of the Crossroads approach to personal evangelism, campus ministries, and edification. So brethren are aware of the fact that the principles of it have come from such publications as The Master Plan of Evangelism, Jay Adams’ Competent To Counsel and The Christian Counselor’s Manual, all of which are Calvinistic in nature. The “Total Commitment” evangelistic movement is a method of securing devotion from members of the church in approaches likened to that used by various cults (Unification Church and Hare Krishna, for example). A number of people have been caught up in the emotionalism of false spirituality even to the point of alienation from families and broken marriages. Congregations have been splintered over this doctrine. The system perverts the biblical concept of “Jesus is Lord.” It espouses a neglect of all duties of the Christian except that of “a prayerful life” (i.e. “Quiet Time”). It uses coercion instead of persuasion to gain converts. It is a commitment to a man-made system of doctrine rather than to Christ.
Closely involved with this man-made system is the idea of perfectionism, sometimes called the “gospel of perfectionism,” because the gospel has in fact been replaced by a gospel of a changed life. This perfectionism is a power growth concept involving a “Quiet Time.” The basis for it is the theology of the charismatic movement of Wesleyanism. The fact, the doctrinal basis and outlook of the “Quiet Time” segment of the “total commitment” movement itself is Wesleyanism. It is a fact that while some conservative churches have not been directly affected by the general movement of “total commitment,” they have, in some instances, been infiltrated and disrupted by the “Quiet Time” concept. Too, there is some acceptance of “Quiet Time” in varying forms. Through these pages (August 5, 1982, p. 462) 1 asked the question three years ago: “Will Crossroadism work its ugly tentacles into conservative churches and wreck the structures that are already fragmented?” Three years later I can answer with a resounding, “Yes!” Through the “Quiet Time” it is working its way into our ranks. Hence, the need for this treatise.
History of The “Quiet Time” Concept(1)
“Quiet Time” has its roots in the “spiritual earnestness movement” of John and Charles Wesley, who in turn were influenced by the Moravian sect founded in 1722 by John Huss. The movement was in response to the spiritual lethargy of the people of England and was designed to offset the prudence and cold logic of the day. A “Holy Club” was formed (later called “Methodism”) for the purpose of reading helpful books and having frequent communion. This club was broken down into “bands” or groups of twelve each for mutual cultivation (prayer groups and soul talks are part of the “total commitment” movement and find their roots in the preceding). Each group had a class leader (prayer partner) who would monitor progress. Members of this “Holy Club” were censorious as to the genuineness of religious experiences that did not conform to their own. They were self-seeking. They looked for instantaneous, joyful experiences and they showed remarkable exhibitions of bodily excitement (people torn by convulsions, fainting, etc.).
John Wesley’s emphasis fell upon what he called “entire sanctification,” or “Christian perfectionism” (second work of grace). His teaching efforts zeroed in on perfectionism and he taught his followers to center their aspirations on this point. He took the emphasis away from what happens when you initially become a Christian in obedience to the gospel (Rom. 1: 16-17; 6:1-6; Mk. 16:16). He made a distinction between “justification” and “sanctification.” In the former there was the essence of being a Christian and sometime later one became a real Christian (sanctified at this point). According to Wesley, one is justified at one point and sanctified later, though the apostle Paul says that both take place at the same time when one is washed (1 Cor. 6:9-11). To Wesley, sanctification meant that one reached the point of is complete devotion to the Lord, absolute surrender and total commitment. The “total commitment” concept simply substitutes “discipleship” in the place of “sanctification.” Just as Wesley emphasized the second work of grace, so with “total commitment” a true disciple is one who has come to the point of really serving Jesus and of being fully committed, we are told. The “Quiet Time” (private time) is the beginning of this “power growth” and along with “Soul Talks” (called “Life Talks” and “Discipleship meetings” at one time or another) is the most important vehicle for this new life concept.
In time the concept has worked its way into Pentecostal books such as Larry Christenson’s Speaking In Tongues. It is here that you find the basis for “Quiet Time.” In addition to this unscriptural, Apostolic Pentecostal publication, the Moody Monthly with its Manna In The Morning is used by the Crossroads brethren. The Campus Advance Strategy Manual, dated September 15, 1967 (page 3, item B.2) commands the “Daily Quiet Time.” It is patterned exactly like that of Lary Christenson’s “How to Have A Daily Quiet Time with God” (p. 136, Appendix). The “Daily Quiet Time” is completely Pentecostal. But, how did this Pentecostal “Quiet Time” work its way into Churches of Christ?
In 1967, during the height of the glossolalia movement among Churches of Christ (see my The Holy Spirit. His Person And Work), there was a movement that got underway among brethren known as Campus Advance. This movement used such key, Pentecostal prone men as Pat Boone and Wesley Reagan (Mission Magazine, Sept. 15 and Oct. 19, 1970) as key speakers. Knowing where these men now are helps one understand the movement’s thrust. Because it was tied closely to the local church, it died by 1970. The movement was therefore aborted and Dudley Link, writing in Mission Magazine (Oct. 19, 1970) said it needed rethinking if it was to be the intended movement within a movement, with its own doctrine, designs and organization. The result was a new strategy involving the use of pilot churches. The old 14th Street Church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida (now Crossroads) became the pilot church. Hence, Crossroads is the child and the neo-Pentecostal Campus Advance movement (1967-1970) was the father of the Crossroads philosophy. In a tape that I have in my file, Chuck Lucas said, “The materials used in Crossroads were begun in 1968” (May 24, 1981). There is, therefore, no doubt about the origin of the movement.
In the Campus Advance Strategy Manual the statement was made that a vanguard of students would be developed (Appendix 111). The objective was to teach young people how to live moment by moment in a “victorious abundant, adventurous relationship with Jesus Christ. . . given over to a ministry. . . of effectively, aggressively evangelizing the campus. . . . ” These men were called “Vanguards,” then “Front Line Soldiers” and finally “The Gladiators” when it was found to be a problem on campus at the University of Florida.
The power growth concept, of which “Quiet Times” is an intricate part, is taught in the Master Plan of Evangelism, beginning on page 69. “Power growth” simply means that as one grows in the System, spirituality increases proportionately. This growth begins with the “Quiet Time.” In the instructions for “Quiet Time,” taken from Manna In The Morning and used by Crossroads (they later came out with their own, Your First Forty Days) it is asserted: “as you obey, so He reveals. When you cease to obey, He ceases to reveal.” The power growth concept of “Quiet Times” is the practice of looking for additional revelations beyond the Word of God. We will now address ourselves more specifically to the subject.
What Is The “Quiet Time”?
Before discussing this, let it be said that no one objects to setting aside a period of time each day for the purpose of meditating on the word of God and for prayer. The Bible teaches the need for study and prayer (1 Pet. 2:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). However, when a system of man-made rules are set up for such efforts and these rules become the standard for the measurement of spirituality, you have a system of manmade doctrine and not that which is of faith (Col. 2:8-10, 16). This violates Jude 3. For example, it is said, “the quiet time is vital for spiritual cleansing. You are initially cleansed by the precious blood, that is true, and again and again you have to come back to the quiet time” Manna In The Morning). After arguing for the essentiality of “Quiet Time” for spiritual growth, it is then stressed that “What You Need for and Effective Quiet Time” is (1) a definite place, (2) a good sized, easily read Bible, (3) a prayer list or prayer cycle, (4) a personal notebook and (5) a spirit of expectancy. A booklet, “Quiet Time” (an inter-Varsity guide book) says that “Quiet Time” is the “secret of a successful Christian life” (back cover). But the question rises, What if I cannot find a definite place for study and prayer? Am I less spiritual than those who do? What if I cannot meet each day at 6:00 a.m. for private time? Am I minding the things of the Spirit less than those who do? The point is, that spirituality is not confined to a small area of life, nor is it to be defined as religious activity. It is the whole range of life: in the home, on the job, at play, in government, etc.
Defining “Quiet Time” is difficult, but it is best defined as a system of ultimate salvation by works and a begging through prayer for additional, apart-from-the Word inspiration and revelation as the only way to achieve perfection (power growth) and spirituality. Like the issue of circumcision in Acts 15 it imposes something not bound by God. It is a concept that espouses the idea that just as the Holy Spirit convicts and converts separate and apart from the Word (this is a false doctrine of Calvinism), so in sanctification (discipleship) the Holy Spirit illuminates apart from the Word (this is Calvinism also). The fact is this: the Holy Spirit does nothing to the Christian that He does not do through the Word (see my notes, The Holy Spirit. His Person And Work, chapter 6).
What Is Unscriptural About Quiet Time?
(1) It Negates The All-sufficiency of Scripture. It is essential that one understand that belief in the completeness and all-sufficiency of Scripture, and that the Holy Spirit operates on the heart of the Christian through the all-sufficient Word are bound inextricably together (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3). If the Spirit gives additional revelation, or inspiration, or illumination then the Word of God is not complete. The logical consequence of “Quiet Time” is that the Word is not complete and all-sufficient and new revelations are needed for growth.
(a) Quotes from Manna In The Morning. The “spirit of expectancy” is “not the Bible memorized, nor the Bible on your bookshelf or in your study. It is the Word that God speaks to your soul in the quiet place of prayer and meditation. . . . You can be doctrinally correct, and yet be spiritually dead. The thing that maintains life is the living word of God which is spoken to your soul every day,” etc.
(b) Quotes from Quiet Time (Inter Varsity Guidebook): “Your object in the Quiet Time is not so much to gather information as to gain inspiration.” “The Holy Spirit reveals the deeper things only to those who are at leisure to receive from him the secrets of the Scriptures.” “Don’t do all the talking. There should be stillness and expectancy.” “This is the story of a living faith planted in our hearts by the Holy Ghost.” If we will expose all our soul to the Holy Spirit, we shall have many a thrilling surprise.” “A notebook should be used in which to write thoughts which the Holy Spirit may give you as you read and pursue your mornings portion, ” etc.
(c) The following is a summary: “Hush yourself in His presence. Wait until the glory of His presence seems to come upon you . . . Seek cleansing. Seek the illumination of the Holy Spirit . . . Say: ‘Lord, as I look at this passage this morning, is there any command to obey?. . . Is there any new thought to follow?’. . . Lord Jesus, as I face this day, I ask thee by the power of thine indwelling Spirit (personal, direct, apart from the Word indwelling, jt) to give me the grace to translate into action what thou hast told me to do this morning” (Manna In The Morning). In the Campus Advance Strategy Manual there is a section on “Terminology” and under “Christ’s Glory In Our Lives” they say, ” – – it is a glorious experience so that we can be seen to possess something different from the Word” (p. 11).
(2) It Creates A False Sense of Pride In Spiritual Attainment. Because the Bible is put into a sense of revelation and growth in proportion to obedience and involvement with others, one naturally tends to conclude that the more active you are, the more spiritual you become. The more spiritual you are (according to the movement), the more you look to your attainment as a superior way of spiritual life. From here on out the gospel is looked upon as not being sufficient to motivate people and this false sense of spirituality becomes the gospel of a changed life. This, rather than the gospel of Christ, becomes the power to get people involved and busy. When this force is applied it is connected with fear and guilt (psychologically speaking). Fear of God’s displeasure, fear that He does not love us and fear of our own inadequacies finally lead us to conclude that we are not Christians after all. Things that the movement have imposed are placed upon us and we lose sight of real spirituality as taught in the Bible. The movement now says, in fearful pride of super spirituality, “grow like us, or you are dead in the sight of God.” This is conversion by condemnation! Churches that are not “evangelistic” (Crossroads style) are without power, we are told (i.e., spiritually dead). Please note that this violates a number of passages on judging, etc., but more specifically, the fact that:
(a) The gospel is the power to save and not a changed life (Rom. 1:16-17).
(b) Spirituality is not activity in one field, but in the whole of one’s life (Col. 3:18; 3:19; 3:20; 3:22-25, etc.).
(c) Scriptural motivation is the sufficient fact that the Christian has died to sin and has been raised to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:1-6; Col. 3:1-4). Being richly filled with the Word of Christ, we obey Him in every walk of life. Paul said, “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus giving thanks to God through Him” (Col. 3:17).
(d) The fruit that we are to bear (Jn. 15:1-6) is not confined to the narrow sense of winning souls, i.e., producing other Christians. Fruit bearing, according to the context, is obeying God’s commands, all of them (Jn. 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10). This is broad, indeed!
(e) Christian perfection is not the “entire sanctification” of Neo-Pentecostalism. It is the growth from being a babe in Christ to maturity (1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:11-14). The biblical perfection is not sinlessness, for we all sin (1 Jn. 1:8).
(3) It Destroys The Biblical Fact That The Gospel Changes Lives. The “Quiet Time” concept makes the changed life the gospel. We are told that “the Christian life does not consist in trying to keep our souls fit, but in being so fit that we are ready for the maximum accomplishment” (Quiet Time, p. 9). Again “make perfectly clear to yourself. . . that you cannot convey to others divine grace if you yourself have a neglected spiritual condition. . . you cannot lead anyone higher than you yourself have gone; you cannot enrich anyone beyond your own actual experience with God. . .” (p. 10-11).
The changed life is a fruit of the gospel and not the gospel itself no more than helping others in the gospel (Jas. 1:27). Would you make benevolence the gospel? No, because the gospel is the standard of measurement for spirituality and not spirituality as a measurement (Tit. 1:13; 1 Cor. 9:27). For example, after admonishing Titus to speak sound doctrine, Paul tells him to put the brethren in mind to be ready to every good work (Tit. 2:15; 3:1). Good works is a fruit of obedience to the gospel. The good work is not the gospel, but the effect of it in our lives.
(4) It Damns One To Hell. Any who abide not in the doctrine are without God (2 Jn. 9), they are not perfect (complete, 2 Tim. 3:16-17), and they are without the gift of grace (Eph. 3:3-7). In failing to make their calling and election sure, they have fallen from grace (2 Pet. 1:5-11). The book of Revelation speaks of the fact that without the holy city will be those who maketh a lie (Rev. 22:15). False doctrine is a lie. False teachers will be cast into hell (Rev. 21:8). the “Quiet Time” is a false system of teaching that damns souls.
“For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived. . . but after that the kindness and love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost. . . This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Tit. 3:3-8). “Quiet Time” is not a “good work” because it is not taught in the Bible!
(Next installment: “What is Spirituality?”)
1. One should study carefully: Christianity Through The Ages, by Cairns; History of The Christian Church, by Walker; History of 77se Christian Church, by Fischer; The Eternal Kingdom, by Mattox, etc. in the section “Wesleyanism.”
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 24, pp. 748-750
December 19, 1985