The Immanuel Approach is only one of many versions of contemplative and Inner Healing practices promoted for “emotional healing” that uses contemplative methods. The page for the Immanuel Approach examined for this article is here.


I would like to point out that numerous teachers and sites offer the Immanuel Approach, so it is not coming from only one source and may vary from teacher to teacher. However, what I noted in common was a promotion of contemplative practices to allegedly know God more deeply, and/or to have a supposed more “intimate connection” with God, along with references to Inner Healing (inner healing is also known as “healing of memories”).



The Renovare Connection

The Immanuel Approach site gives as a reference for their teachings the Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible (now called the Life With God Bible):


The Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible: New Revised Standard Version with Deuterocanonical Books, Editor: Richard J. Foster; General Editors: Gayle Beebe, Lynda L. Graybeal, Thomas C. Oden, Dallas Willard; Consulting Editors: Walter Brueggemann, Eugene H. Peterson. (New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers), 2005.


Renovare was started by the late Dallas Willard and Richard Foster (Celebration of Discipline) as a project to introduce contemplative practices into the evangelical church, and they succeeded. Foster still runs Renovare, which has grown and spread far beyond its original reach.


I previously owned the Renovare Bible and spent time looking through it. I noticed that they used commentaries in line with the Higher Critics. Higher Criticism rejected the supernatural elements of biblical accounts such as the miracles, and sought to explain them by natural events. There were also attempts to re-assign biblical books to other authors or to add to them (such as adding another writer to the book of Isaiah).


The Immanuel site offers 6 appendices to support their teaching.


    1. God With Us
    2. Experiencing God
    3. People in Scripture Who Saw God
    4. God Can Appear in Different Forms
    5. Answers to Objections to Seeing God
    6. God Accepts and Loves Intimacy with Us



This article addresses numbers 2, 3 and 5 (briefly).



“Experiencing God”

For no. 4, “Experiencing God,” they make too much of a distinction between two Greek words, gnosis (to know) and epignosis (a more precise knowing) in an attempt to validate Immanuel Approach’s false distinction between mind and heart:


In New Testament Greek, gnosis, refers to intellectual knowledge, but epignosis refers to experiential knowledge gained through our senses. Epignosis makes a distinction between knowledge of the mind and what I call knowledge the heart. – From Immanual Approach site


While epignosis can refer to experiential knowledge, it more often means a more accurate and precise knowledge. There is a good explanation of these words (called Ginosko and Epigignosis). Here is an excerpt:


Ginosko is general term for knowledge and understanding that is salvific (Col. 1:5), ongoing (John 13:12), fragmentary/incomplete (1 Cor. 13:12) and relational (Mt. 1:25; Luke 1:34). Epiginosko on the other hand is intensive and it is knowledge that is precise, accurate and correct (1 Cor. 13:12; 1 Tim. 2:2). It can also mean advance or special knowledge (Rom. 1:32). It also refers to knowledge that is participatory (1 Tim. 4:3).

All Christians start with ginosko or gnosis of God and Christ (Col. 1:6), but should not end there. The goal of all believers, especially the spiritual leaders is to lead God’s people to an accurate, precise and correct knowledge of God and Christ. This is most important because without epiginosko there is a possibility that Christians always err and could stray away from the truth.

….Paul’s ultimate goal was to have an ongoing and accurate and precise knowledge of Jesus Christ and he uses both ginosko and epiginosko in this endeavor (Phil. 3:10; 1 Cor. 13:12). Likewise, our ultimate goal as Christians is to have a precise and accurate knowledge of Jesus Christ – “so that yo may know him better” (Eph. 1:17). The word “know” here is epignosis which is the adjective form of the verb epiginosko and means precise or accurate knowledge. Christians start with ginosko (or gnosis) and move to epiginosko (or epignosis) and finally ends in oida or eido which is fullness of knowledge, e.g. “in order that you may know (eido) the hope to which he has called you” (Eph. 1:18).


In the process of sanctification, one is growing in Christ and being more conformed to his image (Romans 8:29). These are some verses using epignosis to show both a salvific knowledge and a more precise knowledge of Christ as one matures in Christ:


“so that you may know (epignosis) him better” (Eph. 1:17)

“more and more in knowledge (epignosis) and depth of insight” (Phil. 1:9)

“asking God to fill you with the knowledge (epignosis) of his will” (Col. 1:9)

“growing in the knowledge (epignosis) of God” (Col. 1:10)

“renewed in knowledge (epignosis) in the image of its Creator” (Col. 3:10) which is Christ (1:16)

“all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge (epignosis) of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4)

“the knowledge (epignosis) of the truth that leads to godliness” (Titus 1:1)

“you will have a full understanding (epignosis) of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philemon 6) (Examples taken from article)


All knowledge involves the mind, whether it is superficial, intellectual, or in-depth knowledge, so the teaching that epignosis refers to knowing with the heart (versus the mind) is fallacious . The mind, heart, and soul/spirit are interconnected and function together. Even though one is saved through faith, that involves the mind’s acknowledgement of who Jesus is and why one needs to trust him.



On the Immanuel Approach site, it is stated:


Through the Spirit, the eyes of our imagination connect with the spiritual realm. Paul’s use of dianoia, translated as imagination, in Ephesians 1:16-18, suggests that dianoia/imagination, is the word used in scripture for that part of us that receives revelation; perhaps it is even the bridge between soul and spirit.


There are two things wrong with that statement. First, the word “dianoia” is translated as “thoughts,” “mind,” or “understanding” in most translations. The King James has “imagination of their hearts” for Luke 1:51 but the meaning is the thoughts of the person. Distinctions between mind, heart, and imagination in these passages are not made in Scripture.


Secondly, to say that “the eyes of our imagination connect with the spiritual realm,” is, at best, meaningless drivel, and at worst, misleads people into thinking they can use imagination (such as visualization) to “connect” with God. This supports the Immanuel practice of visualized prayer or guided prayer. What is meant by “spiritual realm” here? It is not explained and leaves the door open for almost any meaning to be given to it that will suit the beliefs of those who assert this.


To justify the idea that emotional healing can be done apart from the mind, this ministry/business (if they charge people, it is not a ministry) needs to promote the false idea of “imagination” as well as the contention that epignosis is a “knowledge of the heart.” They offer their methods as answers to an alleged emotional healing (which is really Inner Healing).


 “People in Scripture Who Saw God”

Several Bible verses are listed but most of these refer to the preincarnate Christ, “the angel of the Lord.” In Exodus, it is the “pillar of cloud,” also thought to be a presence of the preincarnate Christ.


In other cases, such as when it is said that Moses spoke to God “face to face,” the meaning of this term “face to face” is that Moses was able to speak with God freely and intimately. Note that the text states that Moses “spoke” to God, not that he saw him.


Since Scripture is clear that no one can actually see God (Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; 1 Timothy 6:14–16; 1 John 4:12), the meaning of some verses which seem to say somebody saw God need further investigation. In some cases, it was the glory of God that was viewed (as by Moses) or it was the cloud in the wilderness which indicated God’s presence. To see God would have been thought impossible by the Jews because God was too holy for them, and God is spirit and invisible to the human eye.


Rather than go into this here, please see this brief article which explains the passages about seeing God on the Bible.


Warning on Claims for Emotional Healing

The claims to do emotional healing (including trauma) in a spiritual way are fraught with untested ideas and methods and little or no grounding in Scripture. Many of the methods are from the New Age and may actually be forms of inner healing, which is based on New Thought concepts and techniques such as visualization.


Healing trauma and emotional wounds has seemingly become the latest therapeutic trend and is picking up steam as Christian prayer and/or therapy. These ministries and organizations will use different terms, so one must look at the content of the teachings and their basis, and investigate to learn if sound biblical principles are being used. If Contemplative practices are taught and/or if inner healing is used, then avoidance is recommended.


More Resources

Articles by Bob DeWaay:

Richard Foster – Celebration of Deception


Donald Whitney and Spiritual Disciplines


The Dangers of Spiritual Formation and Disciplines


Contemporary Christian Divination



People and terms connected to Contemplative Spirituality: (Just a sampling of the most influential)

The Divine
Inner Life
Spiritual Formation
Spiritual Disciplines
Spiritual rhythms
Soul Care
Spiritual Director/Direction
Being Still
The Still, Small Voice
Lectio Divina
Ancient practices
Thin Place