Is Rosaria Butterfield Leading the Sheep Over a Cliff?

If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2 John 9-11)

I find it deeply disturbing that a growing number of those who claim to be born again Bible believing Christians have so little spiritual discernment. How is that even possible when the Holy Spirit Himself takes up residence in those who have come to faith in Christ? In this postmodern, feminist driven, ever-changing world in which we live, many professing Christians are completely oblivious to what the Christian life should look like, and quite honestly many simply do not care. This despite the fact the Bible has a lot to say on this subject. (1 John) Those who read and study the Bible are few and far between….but they’re Jesus followers, right?

Anyone who takes time to read the Bible, both the Old and the New Testament, will learn a lot about the only true God…who He is…His ways…His will…even Church doctrine. Where do we discover the truth about God’s only begotten Son Jesus Christ? In the pages of Scripture. Where do we discover what we need to know about the work of the Holy Spirit? In the Bible. How will those who profess a belief in Jesus Christ know how to live in a way that is pleasing to Him? God is specific about how to please Him in His Word!Because of my concern over the visible Church’s lack of discernment, I want to bring to light what troubles me about Rosaria Butterfield. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, Butterfield is a highly regarded Christian author, speaker and the wife of a Reformed pastor. Not long ago she came under fire for quoting a notorious heretic in her best-selling book The Gospel Comes With A House Key (hereafter referred to as House Key). That criticism centered most significantly around her quoting Henri Nouwen and including his work in the Recommended Reading list at the close of her book. Most readers aren’t familiar with Henri Nouwen, and why would they be? Nouwen was a Catholic priest. A few years ago I addressed my concerns about him, and several other priests, in The Progressive Christian Charade because I was surprised that quite a few prominent Christians promoted “Desert Fathers” such as Meister Eckhart, Ignatius of Loyola, St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila as well as priests who took up where they left off: Thomas Merton, Thomas Keating, William Meninger, Basil Pennington and Henri Nouwen. As time goes on, more names are being added to that list.

Anyway, it’s not my intention to tackle Roman Catholic mystics in this article, nor am I going to review House Key. As mentioned, I have already dealt with the prior, and as for the latter, let’s leave that task to those who write book reviews.

You might ask, why am I taking the time to write this piece?  The specific answer is to express my concerns with House Key.  Before reading the book, for background purposes, I viewed or listened to some of what Rosaria had to say in her lectures on You Tube and on her radio podcasts.   Finally, I read articles written about her by her supporters and detractors.  This review, although unsettling in some aspects of what I learned also provided me with many valuable insights.

I feel my responsibility as a reporter, researcher, writer and editor of a discernment blog is to inform people of faith what is happening in the news. This is true whether the news is of a secular or spiritual nature. Even more critical is the requirement to keep believers apprised as to how significant issues are impacting the Church. My focus has always been on the cults, “Christian” mysticism, New Age spirituality, Social Justice “Christianity” (progressivism), the homosexual agenda, false teachers and more. It is within one of these areas that I took issue with House Key. The area I refer to is Roman Catholic mysticism. I fear that, perhaps without realizing it, Rosaria Butterfield has pulled her readers into unbiblical contemplative prayer that is associated with it.  My goal in this article is to direct House Key readers away from a path that may inadvertently lead the undiscerning seeker over a cliff.

Henri Nouwen

I’ll begin my evaluation with chapter three of House Key and Rosaria’s fondness for a heretic. She writes:

[T]he late and gentle Catholic priest, founder of L’Arche Daybreak Community (for disabled people with mental disabilities) in Toronto, California, regarded hospitality as a spiritual movement, one that is possible only when loneliness finds it’s spiritual refreshment in solitude, when hostility resolves itself in hospitality, and when illusion is manifested in prayer. (62)

Researcher and author John Lanagan tells us that “Rosaria Butterfield is describing the ostensible theme of Nouwen’s book, Reaching Out: The Three Movements Of The Spiritual Life, which is also listed in the back of Butterfield’s own book as Recommended Reading. However, I believe there is an underlying purpose to Nouwen’s book–and with the vast majority of his books–and that is to introduce the reader to contemplative prayer. (Source) (emphasis added)

Why would Rosaria recommend a book penned by a Roman Catholic priest who promoted unbiblical contemplative prayer? Also troubling is that upon Nouwen’s death it was discovered in his journals that he struggled with homosexual temptation. Even though “there is no evidence that he broke his vows of chastity,” the priest desired to have sex with men. You should also know that Henri Nouwen was a universalist.

Ken Silva confirms that the “gentle priest,” practiced  Contemplative/Centering Prayer in an altered state of consciousness. Silva writes:

In Dallas Theological Seminary Faculty Recommends Henry Nouwen With His Contemplative Prayer I told you that, from his books, Henri Nouwen—even today—remains a veritable superstar teacher of this spurious CSM.


Nouwen’s main claim to fame was teaching the practice of so-called “Christian” meditation aka CCP; transcendental meditation lightly sprayed with Christian terms. This is what he [Nouwen] means by silence and solitude….His practice of it would ultimately lead him to teach universalism. Near the end of his life Nouwen would muse:

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. (Source)

If that quote isn’t enough to convince you that Nouwen taught universalism, take a look at another of his quotes:

I am deeply convinced that Jesus is completely unique in the world as the full revelation of God’s life, but I also believe that many people can come to Christ even when they have never formally known Christ or had the opportunity to accept him. The final judgment, as Jesus says, is not based on whether or not they have known Jesus but whether or not the people have cared for those who are hungry, naked, prisoners, all the people in need. (emphasis added)

This, brethren, is the Social Justice gospel.

Remember, we are talking about a Catholic luminary often quoted by evangelicals who once stated that all human beings, saved or unsaved, can walk through that door [to heaven], whether they know about Jesus or not.

Those of us in discernment, who are not ministers, spend most of our time warning the sheep who the wolves are so that they won’t be taken in by them, and we are passionate about getting the word out. In many ways we’re doing the work of shepherds by guarding the sheep pen because in many cases real shepherds don’t have the time it takes to keep up with all the bad guys, and there are a whole slew of them.  For the most part, discerners have undertaken a thankless job. For daring to reveal wolves by name, many of us are made to feel like we, not the wolves, are the enemy!

Having been involved in online discernment for nearly 20 years, I can attest to the fact that people hate having their idols smashed. I’ve had a few idols of my own toppled, so I know firsthand that although it is heartbreaking, it is necessary to purge the lies and half-truths false teachers bring into the visible Church. In Exodus 20:4-5 God says, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness or anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God.” Paul tells us to, “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming.” (Colossians 3:5-7) Why are idols dangerous? Because the wrath of God is coming on idolatry! So put your “human idols” to death.

There is abundant evidence that the late and gentle priest, Henri Nouwen, was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. As John Lanagan lamented:

Rosaria Butterfield should never have given Nouwen’s “Reaching Out: The Three Movements Of The Spiritual Life” space in her book. This was a serious error. 

My hope is that the Butterfields will remove Henri Nouwen’s quote as well as the book recommendation for “Reaching Out” from House Key.

Praying In Concentric Circles

In the opening chapter of House Key, Rosaria states “In the morning I pray in concentric circles.” I think it’s safe to say that most evangelicals have never heard of praying in concentric circles. So allow me to explain. The term is used by Reformed Baptist pastor John Piper. Piper prays in concentric circles (cc) for the reason that it helps him focus and keep his mind from wandering when he prays.  Does Piper not know that the practice of praying in cc’s came from Catholic mystics? It would appear that he put his own spin on a practice he borrowed from Roman Catholic priests such as Thomas Merton without concern for its origin.

Here’s how Vicar Rev Mark Waters describes this activity in “Contemplative Prayer as a Holy Habit”:

Some writers talking about contemplative prayer use a simple image to describe it. The image involves three concentric circles – a bull’s eye diagram. The outer circle is seen as ‘ordinary awareness’, the middle circle is seen as ‘spiritual awareness’, and the inner, central one is seen as ‘divine awareness.

Later the vicar explains divine awareness:

This awareness concerns the idea – the belief – that God is at the center of our being. This is dangerous stuff. We need to be cautious. We must be careful not to conclude that we are identical with the divine – it is more subtle than that – more a matter of being mysteriously interwoven. Thomas Merton puts it beautifully:

At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our own mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God written in us, as our poverty, as our son or daughtership. It is like a pure diamond blazing with the invisible light of heaven. It is in everybody, and if we could see it, we would see these billions of points of light coming together in the face and blaze of a sun that would make all the darkness and cruelty of life vanish completely. I have no programme for this seeing. It is only given. But the gate of heaven is everywhere. (Source)

Rosaria Butterfield borrowed John Piper’s model of praying in concentric circles, and Piper, it seems, thought the term useful and borrowed it from Catholic mystics. In my research I discovered that mystics have prayed in concentric circles for decades. Piper suggests evangelicals pray thusly:

Consider praying in concentric circles from your own soul outward to the whole world. [What?] This is my regular practice. I pray for my own soul first. Not because I am more deserving than others, but because if God doesn’t awaken and strengthen and humble and fill my own soul, then I can’t pray for anybody else’s.

Let’s be clear. Praying for our own soul first is unbiblical. Even at my absolute worst, when I’m a dead mess, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I always manage to find the words to pray for others. I’ll leave it at that.

Concentric circles are a tool used by priests during prayer. There are various names for this sort of praying. Contemplative, centering, and breath prayer to name three. Contemplative/centering/breath prayer can cause the practitioner to go into an altered state of consciousness, which is the end game for those who practice contemplative prayer.

As an aside, while researching I came across a very disturbing video of a “Passion” conference. The video shows pastors John Piper, Louie Giglio, Francis Chan, Bible teacher Beth Moore and others, including those in the audience, practicing Lectio Divina a.k.a. The Silence. Over 40,000 evangelicals participated as they gathered for Passion 2012. These are our pastors and leaders who are considered trusted individuals in the visible Church, people we look to for guidance. To close the session, Passion founder Louie Giglio took the audience into a form of contemplative prayer, Lectio Divina, that is derived from the Roman Catholic Church. When he ended the reading of Scripture he looks into the audience and says, “Let’s pause, and be still.”  Following The Silence, Giglio declared the following:

How many of you heard the voice of God speak specifically, clearly, directly, and personally, to you? Can you just put a hand up? I’d like you to share it. Can you put a hand up for a minute?

Just want you to look around; that’s people saying, “God Almighty (pause) the Maker of heaven (pause) the one Who’s sitting on the only throne (pause) that’s not under threat (long pause, audience cheers)—He spoke to me. He spoke to me.”

“God spoke to me.” (long pause) Don’t let the voice of the darkness, tell you that you are not (pause) worth (pause) that God would not speak to you. (pause) Don’t let him tell you, you don’t matter. (pause) God spoke to you.

Space doesn’t allow for a thorough examination of Lectio Divina. A link to this unbiblical pagan practice is provided below.

Before moving on, I need to remind Bible believing Christians that praying in ways that are not found in Scripture can be dangerous. Using formulas and aids like Concentric Circles, that are used by New Age mystics, is unnecessary and may lead the undiscerning Christian into New Age mysticism. To connect the dots, in his zeal to help believers pray more effectively, John Piper borrowed an occult term…in 2012 we witness John Piper participating in Lectio Divina…Rosaria Butterfield prays in cc’s…Rosaria’s children study yoga a Buddhist practice.  (On page 134 of “Secrets Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert,” Rosaria says when speaking of subjects her children study, “They also study piano, ornithology, yoga and swimming.”

Former New Ager, Ray Yungen, tells us that mystic David Steindl-Rast once asked Thomas Merton what role Buddhism played in his going deeper into the spiritual life. Merton replied: “I think I couldn’t understand Christian teaching the way I do if it were not in the light of Buddhism.”

Be mindful that “A little leaven leavens the whole lump.”

Jesus Paradox

The title of chapter 3 of House Key is Jesus Paradox. Rosaria has used the phrase in her lectures to “capture the way Christ’s humility and Kingship create a paradox.” So why do I bring this up? Out of curiosity I googled the phrase Jesus Paradox and was surprised that Center for Action and Contemplation was the #1 site listed. (Here – Not a site I recommend)  CAC is owned by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr. According to former New Ager and author Marcia Montenegro:

Rohr openly admits to panentheism in his blogs, and on page 43 of this book. Panentheism is the belief that God is contained in creation, and creation is contained in God, with God also transcending creation. ‘God is hidden in the dirt and mud instead of descending from the clouds,’ writes Rohr (119). Panentheism alters the nature of God as revealed in Scripture.” (Source)

Rohr is a mystic and a New Age-sympathizer. Take a gander at his website:

Jesus has always been so much bigger than our ideas about him, our readiness to surrender to him, and our ability to love and allow what he clearly loves and allows in creation. He is the microcosm of the macrocosm. He is the Great Coincidence of Opposites as St. Bonaventure taught. Only the Jesus Paradox gives us the permission and freedom to finally and fully love the paradox that everything already and always will be. Richard Rohr  (Source)

Rohr quotes New Age mystic Amos Smith, who also uses the phrase Jesus Paradox:

My core truth about Jesus isn’t rooted in mainstream Christian tradition. It’s rooted in Jesus’ essence. It’s about the deep stillness of silent prayer and a theology big enough to give that blessed stillness words.

The core of truth about Jesus is rooted in His essence? Good grief. I repeat, good grief! Who are these people?

I’ll not belabor the point. Google him. What you’ll discover by reading Richard Rohr is a lot of magical mystical New Age, Buddhist mumbo jumbo. Clearly, Rohr is not a biblical Christian. The authority of Scripture means nothing to him.

So, the question is, why does Rosaria Butterfield borrow a phrase from a Catholic mystic in her talks? Why use a phrase from a man who doesn’t have a biblical view of the Son of God, put her own spin on the phrase, and include it in House Key? Did it not occur to her that thousands of Christians could be exposed to RCC heretic Richard Rohr? Why not coin a phrase of her own? As you recall, Jesus Paradox is a phrase Rosaria used in her talks even before using it in her book. What’s troubling is that she may have inadvertently exposed well over 500,000 of her followers on Facebook to Rohr’s false gospel and countless others to this same danger through House Key.

One last point. Like Henri Nouwen, Richard Rohr is a Roman Catholic priest, a mystic and a universalist.  Marcia Montenegro explains:

Rohr reads universal meanings of salvation into passages like Romans 8:3, Hebrews 2:19 and 7:28, and Philippians 3:9-12, 21. He believes the original message of Jesus was a universal salvation and that the church later turned it into individualized salvation due to dualistic thinking, which he repeatedly denounces. (Source)

Like Nouwen, Rohr is a dangerous man. I repeat, why is it necessary to borrow a phrase coined by a false teacher? And why would anyone want people to view Nouwen as a “gentle Catholic priest”? He was confused, to say the least. But the truth of the matter is that Henri Nouwen was a heretic!

Who Wrote The Forward To House Key?

Before providing the specific answer to this question it is valuable to know that certain contributors to the Forward are affiliated with The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) which is a Southern Baptist entity. TGC is a left of center organization that is rife with Progressive (Social Justice) “Christians.” Progressives are largely “woke” individuals who are on board with social justice and wealth redistribution. Critical theory (i.e. critical race theory) and intersectionality are under the umbrella of social justice.

Now the specifics.

Russell Moore. Southern Baptist Russell Moore used his position as ERLC president to turn this once-conservative denomination toward “Progressive Christianity.” (Research links below)

Ray Ortland. Pastor Ray Ortland is a Council Member/contributor of TGC. In 2019 Ortland suggested in a tweet that God no longer matters to Americans who voted for Donald Trump.  Ortland praised Sen. Mitt Romney for voting to convict President Trump of Impeachable Offenses. He is a prominent participant in the affairs of TGC and writes for ERLC.

Sam Allberry. Same-sex attracted (SSA) Anglican priest.  He is a speaker, author and founder of Living Out Ministries, a website for those who struggle with SSA.  The stated purpose of this web site is to share “our stories at public events, on-line and via the media to communicate that many same-sex attracted Christians are both happy in their sexuality and the Bible’s teaching on same-sex sexual relationships.” Allberry is a TGC editor and contributor. (Research links below)

Melissa Kruger. This speaker and author is the wife of Michael J. Krueger, president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte NC. Melissa is the director of women’s initiatives for TGC. Both she and her husband are TGC contributors.

Gag Reflex

As I read House Key, I couldn’t help but wonder why Rosaria would like to see Bible believing Christians becoming more compassionate toward the LGBTQ+ community. In “On How We Speak of Sin,” Aaron O’Kelley made the following observation:

When addressing sins of the LGBTQ+ universe, we constantly see calls for understanding, sensitivity, qualification, nuance. We are exhorted to investigate the hidden motivations behind these sexual sins in order to affirm the good that is in them. But when addressing sins that progressives have ruled abominable–racism and misogyny preeminent among them–evangelicals have no room for nuance or qualification. Such sins are self-evidently vile, and must be named as such as often as possible.

A friend who was once a fan of Rosaria’s pointed out in a note to me that “if you listen to her testimony, sermons (and yes, I think they are sermons) and read much of what she writes, you will hear her look back on her past with affection and with an endearing attitude towards homosexuals, whereas the born again believer looks back in disgust.”

“What do Christians have to learn from the lesbian community?” asked another friend who was once a fan of Rosaria’s. “Can Christians learn hospitality from the pornographer community? Should we learn hospitality from any deviant, sinful community that doesn’t operate on biblical principles?”

O’Kelley reminds believers of something many of us have forgotten:

We…need to conserve the moral revulsion that previous generations left to us regarding sexual perversions, and then fortify that moral instinct with depth of understanding of God’s design in nature for sexuality. We need to recover our gag reflex, but I fear we don’t have the stomach for it.  (Source)


A Critical Review of “The Gospel Comes With a House Key” by Rosaria Butterfield

When You Pray, Say Biblical Prayer vs Contemplative Prayer

The Tragic Influence of Catholic Priest Richard Rohr’s Mysticism on Millennial Evangelicals


Lectio Divina

The Mystery of the Prayer Wheel

Russell Moore

Sam Allberry

Join Marsha West on MeWe

Copyright by Marsha West, 7/14/21