Archive for the ‘Lectio Divina’ Category

“Reconciliation” — A “Theological Theme” at Taizé

By Chris Lawson
(From his 2017 book, Taizé—A Community of Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

In a book titled A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship, and Reconciliation (with a foreword by Desmond Tutu), author Jason Brian Santos says that the “three prominent theological themes of Taizé are reconciliation, freedom and trust.”1

Taizé Community

In explaining “reconciliation,” Santos says that Brother Roger [founder of Taizé community in France]  did not want any particular “theology” at Taizé because that would hinder the “reconciliation” between those of different religious persuasions. Santos describes Brother Roger’s ecumenical vision:

As the community developed and new brothers joined Brother Roger, it became apparent that genuine ecumenism would be one of the most significant challenges the community would face. After all, for over four hundred years estrangement had existed between Protestants and Catholics. But for the young Swiss theologian, it was four hundred years too many. Brother Roger understood all of humanity to be reconciled to God in and through Christ. . . . all are equal in Taizé; the community becomes a living example of reconciliation. . . .

This, to a large degree, is why the Taizé chants were birthed to help bring young people from different Christian traditions together in a unified expression of prayer.2

Bearing in mind that these “unified expression[s] of prayer” are largely mystical repetitive chants and other contemplative practices (e.g., lectio divina, centering prayer), the words of the Catholic contemplative monk, Thomas Merton, come to mind. Merton once described a conversation he had with a Sufi (Islamic mystic) leader who told Merton there could be no fellowship between those of different religions as long as doctrines (he referred then to the “doctrine of atonement or the theory of redemption”3) stood in the way. Merton assured him that while doctrines such as these were a barrier, there could be unity of spirit in the mystical realm.4 This is what Brother Roger was proposing for Taizé.

Jason Brian Santos, who spent time at Taizé researching the community, sums up Taizé’s view of reconciliation:

When Christ made all things new, he restored in us the image of God. Moreover, this image was restored in all of humanity. As a consequence, when we see our neighbor we ought to see the image of God; we ought to see Christ.5 (emphasis added)

Webster’s Dictionary defines “reconciliation” as “the act of reconciling, or the state of being reconciled; reconcilement; restoration to harmony; renewal of friendship.”6

To the Catholic Church, this reconciliation means something very different from the idea of two friends reconciling after a disagreement or estrangement. Rather, it sees the “reconciliation” between Catholics and Protestants as the reabsorption of Protestants into the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church, as an institution, has always seen Protestants as “the lost brethren,” so the only feasible reconciliation is to bring them back. The papacy and the Roman hierarchy will only be fully satisfied when they have fully assimilated the Protestant church into its system on its terms.

In Roger Oakland’s book, The Good Shepherd Calls, he discusses the “Roman Catholic Ecumenical Delegation for Christian Unity and Reconciliation.”7 Oakland explains the efforts being made by both the Catholic Church and leaders in the Protestant church to eradicate the barriers that keep the Catholics and the Protestants from becoming one church. There is every reason to believe that Taizé desires this very same thing. And with 100,000 people coming to Taizé every year, they very well may see this union take place sooner than later.

An online promotional piece for Jason Brian Santos’ book A Community Called Taizé by his publisher, InterVarsity Press, asks the question, “Why have millions of young people visited an ecumenical monastic community in France?”8 Like the emerging-church movement with its sensory-driven mystical contemplative practices, momentum is picking up rapidly in ecumenical movements worldwide. But why has the Taizé Community in particular grown so much in recent years? One apparent answer is that several popes and many Protestant groups have heartily promoted and endorsed it. While it is being touted as a place of reconciliation through love, certainly there is more going on than meets the eye.

Endnotes:
1. Jason Brian Santos, A Community Called Taizé: A Story of Prayer, Worship and Reconciliation (IVP Books, 2008, Kindle Edition), Kindle Location 1366.
2. Ibid.
3. Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), pp. 109-110.
4. Ibid.
5. Jason Brian Santos, op. cit.,
6. http://www.webster-dictionary.org/definition/Reconciliation.
7. Roger Oakland, The Good Shepherd Calls: An Urgent Message to the Last-Days Church (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, Inc, 2017), p. 131.
8. “Why have millions of young people visited an ecumenical monastic community in France?” (InterVarsity Press website: https://web-beta.archive.org/web/20100104080925/https://www.ivpress.com/title/ata/3525-look.pdf).

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When a Young Girl Meets a Mystic and Is Introduced to Lectio Divina

LTRP Note: The following is an excerpt from Carolyn A. Greene’s novel, Castles in the Sand, the first novel published that addresses the contemplative prayer (spiritual formation) movement. In this excerpt, the young Christian Teresa [Tessa], now attending a Christian college, is in her dorm room, thinking about her new spiritual director, Ms. Jasmine, who has promised to teach her students how to enter the “inner life” just like the mystics of the past. For Tessa, a lonely foster girl who lost her parents years earlier in a tragic accident, this talk of a better, more fulfilling life was just what she was looking for.

from Castles in the Sand
by Carolyn A. Greene

The school’s spiritual formation professor had been responsible for bringing Ms. Jasmine to Flat Plains Bible College as their new spiritual director. Tessa was immediately drawn to her. Ms. Jasmine was so down to earth…. [Tessa] admired her from the very beginning.

Tessa’s mind turned to Ms. Jasmine’s promise to soon introduce them to the inner life. Although Tessa felt guarded about anything that came close to her inner life, she was drawn to Ms. Jasmine …

Ms. Jasmine had placed colorful tapestry cushions in a circle at the front of the lecture hall, and fifteen minutes into her talk the students were encouraged to take one and seek out a quiet place of solitude anywhere on the campus. Once they had found a cozy spot, they were to use the outline they’d been given to practice a listening exercise called lectio divina, a “divine reading” that would make them feel closer to Jesus.

“Come back in half an hour,” Ms Jasmine had told them, smiling as they filed by to pick up their cushions….

The listening exercise they were to do seemed simple enough. After choosing a Scripture passage, they were instructed to read it slowly a number of times and wait for a word to “come alive” to them. Then they were to take that single word, close their eyes and repeat it for several minutes. Ms. Jasmine’s had read the outline ahead of time to the class. Her voice had a soothing, relaxing effect:

Sit with your back straight in a comfortable position.
Notice first the faraway sounds that you can hear.
Next, allow yourself to become aware of sounds that are nearer.
Then listen closely to your own heartbeat; this is your very own rhythm of life.
As you shut out these sounds, you will hear the sound of silence within yourself.
Listen like this for several minutes . . .
Write down what you hear God saying to you.
Remember, he is all around you and in you.

Tessa had found her own quiet spot on a bench in the courtyard, where yellow and red leaves drifted gently to the ground from the tree above. It had seemed weird at first, and Tessa wasn’t altogether sure about it. But she read Psalm 15, and soon the word “truth” stood out to her. She straightened her back, closed her eyes, and repeated the word for at least five minutes. It was awkward this first time, because she kept looking down at Ms. Jasmine’s instructions, wanting to get it just right. At one point, she thought she had actually heard a voice speak to her. Ms. Jasmine had told them to imagine themselves having a conversation with Christ. “Don’t be afraid to listen,” were the words she thought she heard, although it was probably just the wind in the trees.

Why not try it again, Tessa thought now, as she lay wide awake in the dark. She put her head under her favorite flannel-covered pillow to shut out [her roommate] Katy’s snoring, turned on her LED book light under the blanket, and reread a page in what was now her favorite book, Selections from the Interior Castle, by Teresa of Avila of Spain. Even the picture on the cover had come alive in her imagination. It was a painting of an ancient castle with a high tower on a green hilltop. Leading up to the castle’s stone archways were winding dirt roads that crossed over stone bridges. Tessa’s imagination took her back to the storybook her mom often read to her when she was a little girl. Hesitantly, but with anticipation, she opened her new book to the page she had dog-eared earlier and began to read:

One kind of rapture is that in which the soul, even though not in prayer, is touched by some word it remembers or hears about God. It seems that His Majesty from the interior of the soul makes the spark we mentioned increase, for He is moved with compassion in seeing the soul suffer so long a time from its desire.

So beautifully written, thought Tessa. She read it over several times. Now that was beautiful literature, the kind she would like to read in the solitude of a beautiful meadow in a deep, sheltered valley. It was perfect. The word that jumped out at her was “spark.” St. Teresa and Ms. Jasmine both talked about the spark within. Ever since her parents died in the crash, Tessa felt as if her own spark had been extinguished. Perhaps she would soon be able to feel the spark come to life again if she could practice being silent like this more often. When she closed her eyes, she could almost see a tiny light growing brighter in the darkness, like a light at the end of a long tunnel. Then again, maybe it was just the lingering glare from her book light. For a moment, she tried to focus on the light. Finally, Tessa quietly turned off the light, laid Gran’s bookmark between the pages where she had finished reading, and put the book on her nightstand. At least she had figured out how to make Katy stop talking.

Tomorrow Ms. Jasmine was going to take their SF class outside into the fresh air. They were going to practice another prayer exercise called centering and take the first prayer walk through the brand-new campus labyrinth. Tessa felt as if she was about to step into a new realm, but she wasn’t quite sure what it was. Maybe Flat Plains Bible College was not such a stuffy place to be after all. She would text Gramps in the morning. He’d be happy to know she was actually beginning to like this place. (from chapter 6, Castles in the Sand)

Also see:

Table of Contents and Chapter One

Chapter by Chapter Synopsis

Chapter 19: “Bad Counsel”

What People Are Saying About Castles in the Sand:

A great read. The author has real talent. Characters like Gramps are amazingly well-sketched. Good story lay-out too, with flashes of humor. The story makes what is happening in schools & churches clear in a way mere reporting can’t. E.L., Pennsylvania, U.S.

An excellent story with an urgent message. Teenaged/college-aged girls will want to read this book because the main character is their age and they will be intrigued by “a mysterious young man who reaches out to help Tessa. Additionally, parents and grandparents of young adults will want to read the book because of the subtle implication of the spiritual danger involved in things such as lectio divina, contemplative prayer etc. And if their sons and daughters are in Christian colleges, these words are now likely a part of their children’s regular vocabulary, and naive, uninformed parents will immediately have their interest piqued when they read those words. D.H., Alberta, Canada

I’m on my second reading of Castles in the Sand. It is even better the second time!! The bonus book you sent me has been read by several people. Hannah [14 year old daughter] was the first to read the book in our house, and it equipped her to address her youth group about the terror of Avila. The leader was recommending they read Teresa of Avila’s work. Hannah spoke right up about how bad it is. You could hear a pin drop, the way the kids were so attentive. K.R., Kansas, U.S.

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Guest Post: Albert Mohler Gives Air Time to Author of “The Benedict Option” (A Monastic/Catholic Promoting Book)

LTRP Note: This is another example of a major Christian leader laying aside the integrity of biblical faith and giving credence to the Roman Catholicism and contemplative mysticism for the sake of “unity” and “morality.”

By Cathy Mickel
(Author of Spiritual Junk Food: The Dumbing Down of Christian Youth)

Albert Mohler

Where is the wisdom in Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, giving air time to Rod Dreher, the author of The Benedict Option (a book highlighting the way of Saint Benedict, Catholic “saint” and founder of the monastic Benedictine order)? (Other evangelical leaders who support the book are Matt Chandler; https://twitter.com/villagechurchtx/status/839994280101961729,  Russell Moore; http://www.russellmoore.com/2017/03/10/signposts-conversation-rod-dreher/,  and John Piper; https://twitter.com/JohnPiper/status/839647675364622336 )

In the interview, Mohler says, “[T]he book is very important. I want to commend it to every thinking Christian. We ought to read this book and we ought also to read far beyond the title.” (http://www.albertmohler.com/2017/02/13/benedict-option-conversation-rod-dreher)

The following are a few quotes from what the author of The Benedict Option said to Albert Mohler in the interview.

[T]he West owes an incalculable debt to those Benedictine monks.

So this is nothing new. We’re just rediscovering an old tradition, things that our ancestors knew. And look, I think that whether we’re evangelical, Catholic, or Orthodox, we need to go back to the early church to see how our ancestors did it, see what they did, see how they embodied the faith and culture and practices [contemplative prayer].

. . . time for Christians to take seriously the times we’re in, to read the signs of the times and to respond in a responsible way, in a clear way, in a patient way. And I use Saint Benedict of Nursia [considered the “father of western monasticism”], the 6th century saint, who was a Christian who lived through the fall of the Roman Empire; he was born four years after the Empire officially fell. And he went down to Rome to get his education and saw it was completely corrupt, it was falling apart. He went out to the woods to pray; he lived in cave for three years, and asked God to show him what to do with his life. He ended up coming out and founding a monastic order. That monastic order he founded ended up over the next few centuries spreading like wildfire throughout Western Europe. And what they did was prepare the way for civilization to return to Western Europe. They tendered within those monasteries the Scriptures, the prayers, the liturgies, and the old ways of doing things. So they became a sort of ark that traveled over the dark sea of time until it found dry land, and there was light after the darkness.” [see John Caddock’s article Brennan Manning’s “New Monks” & Their Dangerous Contemplative Monasticism”]

One of the stories I tell in the book is about going to the Benedictine monastery in Norcia, a small town in the mountains of central Italy, that was where say Benedict was born. He was a son of the Roman governor. Well, there’s still a monastery there today. Napoleon closed it down in 1810, but in the year 2000 some American monks went there and reopened it. And they wanted to sing the traditional Latin mass, and it’s become a real oasis of Christian peace and beauty. Well, it’s the sort of place where you go there up in the mountains, and you really envy these men, their peace, where they can worship and meet visitors.

[I]n my own case, my life is shaped around liturgy that’s been in our church for 1500 years. My life is shaped around the chanting of Psalms and on all kinds of sensual ways that embody the faith. Of course you can have smells and bells and go straight to hell, that doesn’t change you and lead to greater conversion. But for me as an Orthodox Christian and me as a Catholic, the faith had more traction and it drew me in closer and closer. (emphasis added)

Here is Amazon’s description of Benedict Option:

In a radical new vision for the future of Christianity, NYT bestselling author and conservative columnist Rod Dreher calls on American Christians to prepare for the coming Dark Age by embracing an ancient Christian way of life [contemplative prayer] . . .

In The Benedict Option, Dreher calls on traditional Christians to learn from the example of St. Benedict of Nursia, a sixth-century monk who turned from the chaos and decadence of the collapsing Roman Empire, and found a new way to live out the faith in community. For five difficult centuries, Benedict’s monks kept the faith alive through the Dark Ages, and prepared the way for the rebirth of civilization. What do ordinary 21st century Christians — Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox — have to learn from the teaching and example of this great spiritual father? That they must read the signs of the times, abandon hope for a political solution to our civilization’s problems, and turn their attention to creating resilient spiritual centers that can survive the coming storm. Whatever their Christian tradition, they must draw on the secrets of Benedictine wisdom to build up the local church, create countercultural schools based on the classical tradition, rebuild family life, thicken communal bonds, and develop survival strategies for doctors, teachers, and others on the front lines of persecution. . . .

Added section from Lighthouse Trails editors—Here are a few quotes from the book, The Benedict Option:

Imagine that you are at a Catholic mass in a dreary 1970s-era suburban church that looks like a converted Pizza Hut. The next Sunday you are at a high Catholic mass in New York City, at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The Scripture reading is the same in both places, and Jesus is just as present in the Eucharist at Our Lady of Pizza Hut as at St. Patrick’s. Chances are, though, that you had to work harder to conjure a sense of the true holiness of the mass in the suburban church than in the cathedral—though theologically speaking, the “information” conveyed in Word and Sacrament in both places was the same. This is the difference liturgy can make. (Dreher, Rod. The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, pp. 106-107, Penguin Publishing Group; emphasis added)

I told the priest how, in response to a personal crisis, my own orthodox priest back in Louisiana had assigned me a strict daily prayer rule, praying the Jesus Prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”) for about an hour each day. It was dull and difficult at first, but I did it out of obedience. Every day, for a seemingly endless hour, silent prayer. In time, though, the hour seemed much shorter, and I discovered that the peace I had conspicuously lacked in my soul came forth. (The Benedict Option, p. 59)

For the monks, prayer is not simply words they speak. Each monk spends several hours daily doing lectio divina, a Benedictine method of Scripture study that involves reading a Scripture passage, meditating on it, praying about it, and finally contemplating its meaning for the soul. (The Benedict Option, pp. 58-59)

The Reformation broke the religious unity [with Rome] of Europe. In Protestant lands, it birthed an unresolvable crisis in religious authority, which over the coming centuries would cause unending schisms. The Benedict Option, p. 45, emphasis added)

If you don’t control your own attention, there are plenty of people eager to do it for you. The first step in regaining cognitive control is creating a space of silence in which you can think. During a deep spiritual crisis in my own life, the toxic tide of chronic anxiety did not began to recede from my mind until my priest ordered me to take up a daily rule of contemplative prayer. Stilling my mind for an hour of prayer was incredibly difficult, but it eventually opened up a beachhead in which the Holy Spirit could work to calm the stormy waters within.  (The Benedict Option, pp. 227-228, emphasis added)

In a 2017 Christianity Today article titled, “The Benedict Option’s Vision for a Christian Village” by Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option, Dreher says the following. Our deciphering is in brackets:

I have written The Benedict Option to wake up the church, and to encourage it to act to strengthen itself [unify by removing the barriers between Protestantism and Catholicism], while there is still time. If we want to survive, we have to return to the roots of our faith [not biblical roots, monastic roots of the desert fathers and other mystics], both in thought and in deed. We are going to have to learn habits of the heart [contemplative prayer practices – Nouwen called it moving from the moral (doctrine) to the mystical] forgotten by believers in the West [that’s what Merton taught]. We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways. In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs [the cost is going to be the death of biblical truth]. (source)

These remarks by Dreher are reminiscent of the contemplative pioneer and disciple of Thomas Merton, Richard Foster, when he said: “I see a Catholic monk from the hills of Kentucky standing alongside a Baptist evangelist from the streets of Los Angeles and together offering up a sacrifice of praise. I see a people.” (Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water, San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1998, p. 273) We need not look very far to know how such an ecumenical unifying will take place. The contemplative prayer movement is the vehicle, and it is in our midst waiting for the unaware and undiscerning to hop on for the ride.

One can only wonder, will there be any Christian leaders left standing when the battle is over?  Remember the words of Jesus when He said,

[W]hen the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth? (Luke 18:8)

 

 

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Letter to the Editor: Spiritual Formation at Bible Camp – Our Warnings Being Ignored

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To Lighthouse Trails:

I have been going to a non-denominational church for years, and last year I noticed the term “Spiritual Formation” being used in the website of the Bible camp this church sponsors. I brought it to their attention, only to be met with indifference and the impression that I was somehow “over the top” to even suggest that Spiritual Formation was in fact Roman Catholic mysticism. They say they are doing a “good” Spiritual Formation yet have teachers at this camp who are from all sorts of New Age churches. Most of these teachers are linked with Rick Warren, Beth Moore, and a host of other contemplative teachers. The church I have been going to actually originated at this Bible camp over 50 years ago and was for many years very biblical and evangelistic. Now it’s united with different denominations and a overload of New Age ideas.

So last year, because no one was listening to me, my wife and I left this assembly, and to this day, no one there seems none the wiser about SF having set up roots in this Bible camp. Nor do they care; no one even calls us, though we were dedicated in doing our part in this assembly for years and years.

Other than Lighthouse Trails and few other online ministries, why is it that no one seems to see this danger, and why are they so indifferent about even talking about this deception? Most of the folks in this assembly, I believe are true born-again believers, yet have blinders on.

This Bible camp offers credits to colleges locally, and these colleges also teach Spiritual Formation with the likes of Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. I actually wrote to these colleges and asked them if they teach SF that embraces the “silence,” repetition of words, Lectio Divina etc. etc., and they proudly admitted to teaching such!

So where have all the Christians gone, and why are the majority of them not even willing to understand this RC deception? I just don’t it.

Art

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Christianity is Missing Out on Something Vital – Is This True?

By Ray Yungen

Contemplative advocates propose that there has been something vital and important missing from the church for centuries. The insinuation is that Christians have been lacking something necessary for their spiritual vitality; but that would mean the Holy Spirit has not been fully effective for hundreds of years and only now the secret key has been found that unlocks God’s full power to know Him. These proponents believe that Christianity has been seriously crippled without this extra ingredient. This kind of thinking leads one to believe that traditional, biblical Christianity is merely a philosophy without the contemplative prayer element. Contemplatives are making a distinction between studying and meditating on the Word of God versus experiencing Him, suggesting that we cannot hear Him or really know Him simply by studying His Word or even through normal prayer—we must be contemplative to accomplish this. But the Bible makes it clear that the Word of God is living and active and has always been that way, and it is in filling our minds with it that we come to love Him, not through a mystical practice of stopping the flow of thought (the stillness) that is never once mentioned in the Bible, except in warnings against vain repetitions in the New Testament and divination in the Old Testament.

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton (the man who inspired Dallas Willard and Richard Foster) said that he saw various Eastern religions “come together in his life” (as a Christian mystic). On a rational, practical level, Christianity and Eastern religions will not mix; but add the mystical element and they do blend together like adding soap to oil and water. I must clarify what I mean: Mysticism neutralizes doctrinal differences by sacrificing the truth of Scripture for a mystical experience. Mysticism offers a common ground, and supposedly that commonality is divinity in all. But we know from Scripture “there is one God; and there is none other but he” (Mark 12:32).

In a booklet put out by Saddleback Church on spiritual maturity, the following quote by Henri Nouwen is given:

Solitude begins with a time and place for God, and Him alone. If we really believe not only that God exists, but that He is actively present in our lives—healing, teaching, and guiding—we need to set aside a time and space to give Him our undivided attention.1

Henri-Nouwen

Henri Nouwen

When we understand what Nouwen really means by “time and space” given to God, we can also see the emptiness and deception of his spirituality. In his biography of Nouwen, God’s Beloved, Michael O’ Laughlin says:

Some new elements began to emerge in Nouwen’s thinking when he discovered Thomas Merton. Merton opened up for Henri an enticing vista of the world of contemplation and a way of seeing not only God but also the world through new eyes. . . . If ever there was a time when Henri Nouwen wished to enter the realm of the spiritual masters or dedicate himself to a higher spiritual path, it was when he fell under the spell of Cistercian monasticism and the writings of Thomas Merton.2

In his book, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic, Nouwen talks about these “new eyes” that Merton helped to formulate and said that Merton and his work “had such an impact” on his life and that he was the man who had “inspired” him greatly.3 But when we read Nouwen’s very revealing account, something disturbing is unveiled. Nouwen lays out the path of Merton’s spiritual pilgrimage into contemplative spirituality. Those who have studied Merton from a critical point of view, such as myself, have tried to understand what are the roots behind Merton’s spiritual affinities. Nouwen explains that Merton was influenced by LSD mystic Aldous Huxley who “brought him to a deeper level of knowledge” and “was one of Merton’s favorite novelists.”4 It was through Huxley’s book, Ends and Means, that first brought Merton “into contact with mysticism.”5 Merton states:

 He [Huxley] had read widely and deeply and intelligently in all kinds of Christian and Oriental mystical literature, and had come out with the astonishing truth that all this, far from being a mixture of dreams and magic and charlatanism, was very real and very serious.6

This is why, Nouwen revealed, Merton’s mystical journey took him right into the arms of Buddhism:

 Merton learned from him [Chuang Tzu—a Taoist] what Suzuki [a Zen master] had said about Zen: “Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake and become aware.”7

Become aware of what? The Buddha nature. Divinity within all.

That is why Merton said if we knew what was in each one of us, we would bow down and worship one another. Merton’s descent into contemplative led him to the belief that God is in all things and that God is all things. This is made clear by Merton when he said: “True solitude is a participation in the solitariness of God—Who is in all things.8

Nouwen adds: “[Chuang Tzu] awakened and led him [Merton] . . . to the deeper ground of his consciousness.”9

This has been the ploy of Satan since the Garden of Eden when the serpent said to Eve, “ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:4). It is this very essence that is the foundation of contemplative prayer.

In Merton’s efforts to become a mystic, he found guidance from a Hindu swami, whom Merton referred to as Dr. Bramachari. Bramachari played a pivotal role in Merton’s future spiritual outlook. Nouwen divulged this when he said:

Thus he [Merton] was more impressed when this Hindu monk pointed him to the Christian mystical tradition. . . . It seems providential indeed that this Hindu monk relativized [sic] Merton’s youthful curiosity for the East and made him sensitive to the richness of Western mysticism.10

Why would a Hindu monk advocate the Christian mystical tradition? The answer is simple: they are one in the same. Even though the repetitive words used may differ (e.g. Christian words: Abba, Father, etc. rather than Hindu words), the end result is the same. And the Hindu monk knew this to be true. Bramachari understood that Merton didn’t need to switch to Hinduism to get the same enlightenment that he himself experienced through the Hindu mystical tradition. In essence, Bramachari backed up what I am trying to get across, that all the world’s mystical traditions basically come from the same source and teach the same precepts . . . and that source is not the God of the Old and New Testaments. That biblical God is not interspiritual!

Evangelical Christianity is now being invited, perhaps even catapulted into seeing God with these new eyes of contemplative prayer. And so the question must be asked, is Thomas Merton’s silence, Henri Nouwen’s space, and Richard Foster’s contemplative prayer the way in which we can know and be close to God? Or is this actually a spiritual belief system that is contrary to the true message that the Bible so absolutely defines—that there is only one way to God and that is through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice on the Cross obtained our full salvation? If indeed my concerns for the future actually come to fruition, then we will truly enter a time of departing.

For more about Ray Yungen’s work, visit: www.atimeofdeparting.com.

Endnotes:

1.. Henri Nouwen, cited in Saddleback training book, Soul Construction: Solitude Tool  (Lake Forest, CA: Saddleback Church, 2003), p. 12.

2. Michael O’ Laughlin, God’s Beloved (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), p. 178.

3. Henri J.M. Nouwen, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1991, Triumph Books Edition), p. 3.

4. Ibid., pp. 19-20.

5. Ibid., p. 20.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., p. 71.

8. Ibid., pp. 46, 71.

9. Ibid., p. 71.

10 . Ibid., p. 29.

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Letter to the Editor: Friend’s Church Bringing in “Praying in Color” – A Disguised Vehicle for Contemplative Prayer

LTRP Note: Lighthouse Trails has received many emails over the past few years about the “praying in color,” which has become extremely popular within Christianity. This prompted us to publish a booklet by Lois Putnam on the subject. While coloring is not wrong in itself, the “praying in color” movement is a disguised vehicle for contemplative prayer (not really all that disguised either). Beware, our enemy comes as an angel of light and his ministers as ministers of righteousness.

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Dear Lighthouse Trails,

A friend of mine texted me to ask if I had heard of “praying in color.”  She included the following website: www.prayingincolor.com.  Immediately, I knew that this was not of God.  I perused the website and was not surprised that this is rooted and grounded in Hinduism, Catholicism, visualization, and mysticism.  Apparently, one of the leaders at my friend’s church is introducing this to the congregation.  My friend knew something wasn’t right or biblical about this.  The leader explained to the congregation that she had gone to a seminar on “praying in color” and was so taken in by it that she is inviting a “praying in color” coach to do a seminar at her church.  This is not the first time that this leader has introduced false teaching to the congregation (i.e. Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life).

I explained to my friend that this is certainly not in line with the Bible.  I can only pray that she and others will take a stand and resist this demonic activity from coming into their church.

Just reading the bios of Sybil MacBeth and her husband, you are immediately aware that they are into mysticism, etc. On the back cover of the 2nd book listed in my e-mail, she has a quote from Phyllis Tickle.

Just a brief sample of what is on the website, it states the following:

 

1) Welcome to a New Way to Pray in Color?

Why Pray in Color?

 

2) You want to pray but words escape you. 2) Sitting still and staying focused in prayer are a challenge. 3) Your body wants to be part of your prayer. 4) You want to just hang out with God but don’t know how. 5) Listening to God feels like an impossible task . 6) Your mind wanders and your body complains. 7) You want a visual, concrete way to pray. 8) You Need a new way to pray.ant a visual, concrete way to pray.

3) According to the website, you can pray in color or black and white.

4) In her book Pray and Color: A Color Book and Guide to Prayer, you can read the following: “Try coloring as a bridge to an island of inner quiet and prayer. Since 2007, thousands have enjoyed learning a new prayer practice called Praying in Color from Sybil MacBeth. This new coloring book and guide allows anyone to quiet the mind and pray while creating something visual and inspired. Slowing down isn’t easy in our culture where stimulation and constant virtual connection are the norm. If you find the transition from busyness to stillness difficult, follow Sybil to a slower, more contemplative pace through coloring as prayer and as spiritual practice. Includes an introduction and guide to fourteen types of prayer, along with 32 pages to color.”

5) In another book, Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God, you can read the following: “Praying in Color: Drawing a New Path to God by Sybil MacBeth introduces the active, visual prayer practice the author calls “praying in color.” The book provides a little bit of memoir and theology and a lot of how-to. Step-by step instructions in Chapter 3 introduce “praying in color” as a way to do intercessory prayer. Additional chapters explain how the practice can be applied to learning Scripture, keeping Advent and Lent, practicing lectio divina, and praying in other ways.”

Thomas Merton and Tony Jones are listed in endnotes.

You can go to Amazon to peruse a chapter or two:  https://www.amazon.com/Praying-Color-Drawing-Active-Prayer/dp/1557255121/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475095439&sr=1-4&keywords=sybil+macbeth (if you can’t click on link, just copy and paste in your browser.)

—In Chapter 3, she quotes from Mary Eddy Baker . . . talks about a children’s prayer that her mother would pray over her from Baker.  In this prayer, Baker starts the prayer off by saying, “Father-Mother God.”

My heart breaks to know that so many professing Christians are deceived and cannot recognize Satan masquerading as an angel of light. Even more devastating, she has a book for children.

I know this is a long email, but I wanted to be able to give you a thorough overview of these books.  Hopefully, you can warn other Christians.

In Christ,

S _______

 

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A History of AWANA’s Contemplative Track Record and the Implications of Their New CEO

For over a decade  now, Lighthouse Trails editors have been concerned about the direction that the AWANA children’s club is heading. Today, in this report, we want to first give an overview of our past decade of reporting on AWANA, and then we want to share some new information that should concern every parent and grandparent who has a child or grandchild in AWANA.

It was just over ten years ago, in Feb of 2006, that we posted our first article about AWANA after having contacted them about our concerns. That article talked about connections AWANA had with Willow Creek (for documentation on Willow Creek, see links at the end of this article). In that article, we stated:

Awana Clubs has been a respected and trusted Christian organization for many years. Countless children have been Cubbies and Sparkies and have memorized Scripture through the program.

With so much of the church heading into the contemplative/emergent camp, also known as the spiritual formation movement, what a tragedy it would be to see Awana being sucked into this also. Few things are stable these days … is Awana the next to cave in?

As 2006 moved forward, our concerns heightened as AWANA continued promoting contemplative materials and the Spiritual Formation movement and showed no signs of breaking away from Willow Creek.

In 2007 and 2008, we posted a number of other articles documenting the organization’s move into the “new” emerging spirituality. Two phone calls from us and sending printed materials had no apparent effect. And as one of our articles stated, “Today, we received another email [from AWANA] backing up their insistence that nothing is amiss.”1In one article we wrote in 2007, we explained:

Awana is showing signs that it is becoming a full-blown contemplative organization. First of all, through Awana’s prison project, the organization is incorporating New Age sympathizer Ken Blanchard’s Lead Like Jesus Encounter program. On July 13th, we spoke with Lyndon Azcuna, Awana Cross Cultural Ministries director, who told us he was a Lead Like Jesus facilitator. Azcuna works in the main headquarters office of Awana. He said that the project was using Ken Blanchard’s materials. When we explained to him that Blanchard promoted the New Age and mystical meditation, he said that the program did not have these elements.

However, the Lead Like Jesus Encounter is largely based on Blanchard’s book, Lead Like Jesus, and that book does include contemplative elements. For instance, in the chapter called “The Habits of a Servant Leader” a palms-up, palms-down exercise is described (something Richard Foster has encouraged)(p. 158). The book gives a typical instruction on contemplative:

“Before we send people off for their period of solitude, we have them recite with us Psalm 46:10 in this way: Be still and know that I am God. Be still and know. Be still. Be…. When people return from their time of solitude, they have big smiles on their faces. While many of them found it difficult to quiet their mind, they say it was a powerful experience. The reality is most of us spend little if any time in solitude. Yet if we don’t, how can God have a chance to talk with us?”

For Awana to include Ken Blanchard’s teachings into its organization, shows that the situation is quite serious.

In that same article in 2007, we announced the release of a book, partly authored by two AWANA leades (at that time), called Children’s Perspectives on  Spiritual Formation. We stated:

[T]here is something even more disquieting with regard to Awana and their slide into contemplative – a book that is recommended by Awana and also carried by the Awana store: Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation. A description of the book is as follows:

“In childrens ministry, models, methods, and materials abound. How do you decide what direction you want your ministry to children to take? Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation allows you to examine the four prominent points-of-view in the church today. You will then be able to make a more informed decision on the way in which your ministry should take.”

The book offers four different views on how to transform children. One author, Scottie May, a professor at Wheaton, writes the section titled, “Contemplative-Reflective Model.” May gives a hearty promotion of centering prayer, the Jesus prayer, Christ candles, the Catholic Eucharist and an strong endorsement for contemplative spirituality ala Thomas Merton, whom she favorably quotes in the book. Two Awana staff writers respond in the book to May’s contemplative approach and give it a thumbs up with only minor cautions. But overall they believe that contemplative is a valid approach for all Christians, including children. Perspectives on Children’s Spiritual Formation is giving a green light to Awana leaders around the world to practice contemplative prayer.

In 2007, we wrote an article titled “Awana Revisited: Is it or is it not promoting contemplative spirituality?” that examined in more detail the book (Children’s Perspectives on  Spiritual Formation) that was still being promoted by AWANA. Here are a couple quotes from that book written by the two AWANA leaders:

Page 82: “In his excellent overview, Streams of Living Water, Richard Foster outlines six different spiritual traditions that present within the Christian faith. They are the contemplative tradition, the holiness tradition, the charismatic tradition, the social justice tradition, the evangelical tradition, and the incarnational tradition. Each of these has played an important part in the larger history of the Christian church…. Each of these traditions has made significant contributions to Christian spirituality and each has weaknesses when isolated from other traditions. (bold added)

P. 83-84: “While we believe that the Contemplative-Reflective Model highlights some significant needs in children’s spiritual formation, we should see it as an addition to the base provided for us in the Scriptures….We share agreement with the Contemplative-Reflective Model in a number of areas … we have much to learn from the Contemplative-Reflective Model. Many of our children’s programs are far from reverential, and the constant barrage of impulses does not seem to help in developing this interior life [this is the mystical contemplative life that Teresa of Avila practiced].” (bold added)

Our response in 2007 to these and other comments from the book was:

If the Awana writers in this book are trying to persuade readers that they do not promote contemplative spirituality, they have done a terrible job in expressing this. On the contrary, they have given minor cautions and major affirmations. They conclude with: “Given this framework, the Contemplative-Reflective Model becomes, at best, an important tool in helping provide a balanced development of the Christian spiritual life” (p. 87). While Carson and Crupper [the two AWANA leaders] point out some of the flaws in the Contemplative-Reflective Model, they make it clear that there is much good in it. Their response to contemplative spirituality leaves one message to readers: contemplative has some problems but if incorporated with other spiritual traditions, it has great value. And it is this attitude that is going to take Awana down a slippery slope of deception, unless they truly come to understand the underlying dangers of contemplative and then make every effort to rid Awana of its influence. (bold added)

In 2012, we contacted the publisher of Children’s Perspectives in Spiritual Formation and learned that the book was still in active print. Sadly, AWANA leadership had decided that the contemplative approach was valid.

In November of 2015, we posted a letter to the editor titled “Concerns By Awana Leader About Awana Linking Hands with the Emerging Church.” The letter from one of our readers who was a former AWANA leader, stated:

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

My family has been involved with the Awana ministry for almost 20 years both as “clubbers” and leaders.

Awana came out with new junior high curriculum. I reviewed one of the books and was not happy. The high school level curriculum too is in the process of being re-written with the help of a man named Josh Griffin. Josh Griffin is the high school pastor for Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. Griffin is associated with Doug Fields who was a speaker for Youth Specialties, then went on to be a youth pastor for Saddleback before returning back to work for Youth Specialties. Both Fields and Griffin have written books together and share a blog.

In September, Awana sent out an e-mail invitation to the 2015 National Youth Convention put on by Youth Specialties. Awana had a booth there.

A link on the e-mail connects to a promotional video where you see many people including Tony Campolo. Also Mark Matlock, the director of Youth Specialties tells his audience, “Youth ministry reminds the church that teens are not marginalized members of the body, but are co-creators and conspirators in the divine work of the church.”

This is chilling considering that the words co-creators and conspirators are words associated with the New Age.

Speakers of the conference included such emerging church personalities as Doug Fields, Dan Kimball, Tony Campolo, Mike King, Jim Burns, and Alan Hirsch. Josh Griffin was the M.C. for the worship sessions.

The convention also offered spiritual directors for one-on-one sessions.

It is truly sad to see Awana linking hands with the emerging church movement.

This brings us to the present, 2016. On March 9th of this year, a press release came out announcing the retirement of long-time AWANA president Jack Eggar who was being replaced by an interim president and CEO, Valerie Bell. Bell is a member of Willow Creek (and her husband is a Vice President of Willow Creek Association). The fact alone that AWANA has selected someone from Willow Creek to lead AWANA should be enough to show that AWANA has at least in part absorbed the spirituality of Willow Creek, which is the spirituality of the emerging church (and that is NOT guilt by association). But the selection of Valerie Bell has even deeper roots in the “new” spirituality.

Valerie Bell

While Bell has some disconcerting resource links on her website, the one that stands out the most is Hungry Souls, the website of David and Karen Mains.  For a number of years, the Mains have had affinity with New Age concepts and teachings as has been brought out by a number of different discernment ministries (you can do a search on the Internet and see this for yourself). For example, a 2005 article by pastor, researcher, and author Gary Gilley reveals that in a book written by Mains, Lonely No More, Mains “chronicled her journey into Jungian psychology, visualization and the occult.” Gilley stated, “The spiritual path that Karen Mains describes in Lonely No More can easily be found in most occult spiritual transformation books.” That book, Lonely No More remains available today on Amazon as a Kindle book.

In a more recent book of Mains, The God Hunt, in a Further Reading section in the back, a number of contemplative/new spirituality authors are listed including Tilden Edwards (co-founder of the panentheistic Shalem Prayer Institute in Washington, DC), emerging church leader, the late Phyllis Tickle, and contemplatives Esther de Waal and Kathleen Norris.

Furthermore, on Karen Mains’ site in an article titled “The Practice of Silence,” she says, “I became convinced that no deep spiritual growth could occur in my life without the practice of silence that allows us to develop the capacity of holy listening.” This “holy listening” and the “practice of silence,” of course, is contemplative prayer.

There is no question that Bell and Mains share a spiritual affinity. In 2008, they traveled to France together and lead a group in a 10-day “pilgrimage.” Promotional advertising for the trip said:

We will teach you how to “read” great art and then how to use those same viewing exercises to develop a contemplative prayer practice for the soul.

Among various teachings and practices included in the trip was instruction in the contemplative practice, Lectio Divina.

In addition to promoting David and Karen Mains, Valerie Bell shares her own views on contemplative spirituality on her website. On a page with the subtitle Soul Care (another way of saying contemplative), it says:

Valerie has a strong interest in soul-care as a way to find spiritual well-being and relationship with a loving God. Her approach invites people to learn spiritual practices that can sustain them through the most difficult life challenges. Her book, A Well-Tended Soul, describes the nuances of that inner journey and is a core resource to her spiritual formation seminars. (bold added)

There is no question that AWANA  is becoming a whole-hearted emerging/contemplative organization, and children in the program will eventually feel the effects. Unfortunately, deception can often be slow and subtle so parents may not realize their AWANA Cubbies and Sparkies are being influenced, a little more week after week through the AWANA curriculum. While we still believe there are AWANA local teachers who love the Lord and are trying to present a biblical view, the handwriting has been on the wall for over a decade, and it’s getting easier to read all the time.

Lighthouse Trails Articles on Willow Creek:

Calvary Chapel, Bill Hybels, and Jesuit Mysticism

Lynne Hybels’ “God”

“Christian Palestinianism” & Emergents Lynn Hybels and Jim Wallis Come to Multnomah University For “Justice” Conference

No Repentance from Willow Creek – Only a Mystical Paradigm Shift

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