What is Renovare / the Renovare Bible?

Question: "What is Renovare / the Renovare Bible?"

Like so many ideas today, the Renovare philosophy seems innocuous enough—even deeply spiritual—until we begin to peel back the pretense and see what’s really being taught. There is plenty in Renovare to give cause for concern.

The organization was founded in 1988 by Richard J. Foster, a Quaker theologian. In general, Quakers believe that every man has an “inner light” which can lead him to truth as he waits and listens. There is no need for clergy or doctrinal creeds. The objectivity of God’s Word is replaced by the subjective feelings and influences of this “inner light.”

Renovare (the Latin word for “renewal”) purports to work for the renewal of the Church by concentrating on the “spiritual formation” of individual Christians. This “spiritual formation” involves following certain practices and traditions with the result that the life of Christ is formed within the Christian. This sacramental living—a moment-by-moment interaction with God—Foster calls the “with-God-life.” Renovare is unabashedly ecumenical and places a heavy emphasis on mysticism to the detriment of solid theology.

The release of the Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible in 2005 has furthered the deception by packaging the mystical thinking of Renovare scholars into “study notes” for the Bible itself. Besides Foster, editors included Dallas Willard, Walter Brueggemann, and Eugene Peterson. With the Renovare Bible, we have an edition that undermines inspiration, downplays the accuracy of prophecy, and promotes Catholic mysticism.

Here are several reasons why we reject the Renovare Bible as a spurious work of deceitful men:

1) The Renovare Bible includes the Apocrypha. The editors suggest that the Apocrypha is not to be viewed as equal with Bible; however, they also proclaim that “most of the Church throughout much of history has accepted the Deuterocanonicals as Scripture” (xxx.2). This is an untruth. The Catholic Church has accepted the Apocrypha as scripture since the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century, but not most of the Church, and not most of the time. Also, Israel never considered the Apocrypha as Holy Writ.

2) The Renovare Bible uses the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) as its basis. This translation has always been a favorite of theologically liberal churches—it was, in fact, designed with them in mind. The translators of the NRSV went out of their way to be “gender-inclusive,” removing anything which might offend feminists. Also, the NRSV’s translation of several Old Testament passages seems to purposely deny a connection to the New Testament. For example, Isaiah 7:14, which the NIV translates as “the virgin will be with child,” reads this way in the NRSV: “the young woman is with child.” Thus, there is no virgin, and, since it’s in the present tense, there is no prophecy.

3) Some of the “Spiritual Disciplines” the Renovare Bible promotes are not biblical (nor is the term spiritual discipline found in scripture): solitude, confession, meditation, silence, secrecy, and celebration. When Foster writes of “meditation,” he means something far different from the contemplation of God’s Word. In an early edition of The Celebration of Discipline, he advises, “In your imagination allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body. . . . Reassure your body that you will return momentarily. Imagine your spiritual self, alive and vibrant, rising up through the clouds and into the stratosphere. . . . Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the everlasting Creator. Do not be disappointed if no words come; like good friends, you are silently enjoying the company of each other.” (p 27). This is nothing more than occult astral projection masquerading as Christian activity.

4) The Renovare Bible, like its parent organization, is designed to promote ecumenicalism. “Wisdom” is gathered from Catholic, Episcopal, mystic, and Protestant sources alike, with no regard for the serious theological differences these groups have.

5) The Renovare Bible attacks the divine authorship of Genesis, stating in its General Introduction that Moses did not write it, that its content is mythological, and that it was written over a process of time as tales from other religions were adapted and given a unique monotheistic twist. This flies in the face of many passages of scripture which say that Moses, under the inspiration of God, wrote the Pentateuch (Exodus 17:14; 24:4 Deuteronomy 31:9, 25; Joshua 8:31-32; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Chronicles 30:16; Nehemiah 8:1; Luke 24:44; John 1:17, 45; 5:45-46; 7:19-23).

6) The Renovare Bible denies that the book of Daniel is prophecy, stating in the introductory notes to that book, “We do not know who wrote it or exactly when it was written” (pg. 1245). The writer of the introduction, James M. Rand, goes on to set the date of Daniel’s writing around 167 B.C. This would mean, of course, that the author of Daniel, who claims to be Daniel (Daniel 8:15, 27, 9:1-2; 10:2), and who claims to have written it “in the first year of Darius” or 538 B.C. (9:1), is a liar.

7) The Renovare Bible attempts to destroy the nature and power of Messianic prophecy. For example, in Isaiah 9:6-7, the Messiah is called “the mighty God, the everlasting Father,” but the Renovare study notes attribute this description to “human agents” (pg. 997). The whole book of Isaiah (which Renovare says Isaiah did not really write, pp. 982, 1068) is called “tradition” (pg. 982-983) and “poetic imagination.”

8) The Renovare Bible ignores the prophecies concerning Israel’s future. The prophecy of Jeremiah 31:7-14, which plainly says that Israel will be gathered and restored, is interpreted by Renovare as God’s promise to homeless people everywhere. The “dry bones” prophecy of Ezekiel 37 (again, a passage which specifies “the whole house of Israel” in verse 11) is twisted into a reference to the church’s beginning at Pentecost.

For these and other reasons, we believe Renovare to be a theologically dangerous movement. By promising a closer, joyful walk with God, Renovare preys upon the spiritually hungry and points them not to the cross of Christ or God’s inerrant Word but to man’s traditions and human experience.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns.

Related Topics:

What is the documentary hypothesis?

What is the Synoptic Problem?

What is the JEDP Theory?

What are redaction criticism and higher criticism?

What is the Restoration Movement?

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What is Renovare / the Renovare Bible?