Archive for the ‘Contemplative Denominations’ Category
Used with permission.
In an article called Pray and Work in the February issue of the MB Herald, the author attempts to answer the question; where do prayer and deed intersect? But another question remains unanswered; where do Mennonites and Benedictine monks and Jesuits intersect?
Here is an excerpt from Pray and Work (MB Herald):
The Protestant work ethic shouts: “Work harder, do more, give more!” The contemplative ethic tells us to pray more, go deeper with God, reflect on our activity. Perhaps the answer is in both.
I’ve often heard we should “pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you.” This proverb (often attributed to Ignatius of Loyola) seems prudent – an appropriate mix of dependence on Christ and the Protestant work ethic that has served us so well.
While this saying appears wise at first glance, it’s poorly conceived. If we apply it to our lives, we risk falling into self-sufficiency and independence from God. It’s the Jesuit version of “God helps those who help themselves.”
If I work as though ministry is all my responsibility, I’m liable to create my own kingdom based on my good works. Who needs God if I work as if everything depends on me?
Some suggest that St. Ignatius’ comments were more along the lines of: “Work as if everything depended on God, pray as if everything depended on you.”
Father Mark Stengel, who contributes to the Country Monks blog, summed it up well…
What follows is a lengthy quote from Father Mark Stengel, the oblate director at the Subiaco Abbey in Arkansas, home of 40 monks who follow the rule of St. Benedict and chant prayers 5 times a day. Father Stengel is a contributor to the blog on the Abbey’s website (www.countrymonks.us).
“Saint” Ignatius of Loyola was the founder of the Jesuits, an order formed to bring about the counter reformation, which continues today (through much more civil efforts than 500 years ago) to convert Protestants back to the Mother Church of Rome. Roger Oakland says that “in a way, it is more insidious than the Inquisitions, because now it has infiltrated Christianity and is being disguised as the “new” Christianity.”
Where do Mennonites and Benedictine monks and Jesuits intersect?
Answer: at the ecumenical crossroads where the cross of Christ and the gospel of truth is compromised. Click here for more information and footnotes.
150 appeal on behalf of sexual minorities in MC USA
By Tim Huber Mennonite World Review
One hundred fifty Mennonite Church USA pastors and others credentialed for ministry have signed a letter calling on denominational leaders to “change church policies” to “make space for congregations and pastors who welcome and bless” gay and lesbian Christians and other sexual minorities.
The letter was sent Jan. 24 to MC USA Executive Board members, conference ministers and other leaders.
Letter organizers stated in a news release it is the “biggest collection of Mennonite pastors and credentialed leaders to affirm equal treatment for those in same-sex relationships.”
The letter asks for an end to the discipline of pastors and congregations that dissent from MC USA’s teaching position that homosexual practice is a sin.
The teaching position is based on the MC USA Confession of Faith, which states that “God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life,” and by denominational statements from the 1980s that define “homosexual, extramarital and premarital sexual activity as sin.” (source)
Letter to the Editor: Evangelical Free Church Snowballing into Spiritual Deception Through Contemplative/Emerging
Greetings Lighthouse Trails:
I never thought I would be writing you, but I would like to tell you how much I appreciate your efforts, for few are those doing your type of ministry, certainly not in my experience, especially at the local level by church leadership! Let me get straight to the point of my writing—my wife and I have been attending an Evangelical Free Church for approximately five years now, but recently things are beginning to snowball in several areas.
One of those areas is that of Spiritual Formation and some other “mystical” directions such as an Emergent-type communion at our ladies retreat (darkened room, candles, veils, prayer stations, candlelight, ect.) along with the current teaching from Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God in a Sunday School class. On the heels of this, there was a series begun in the regular preaching service based upon [contemplative author] John Ortberg’s book The Life You’ve Always Wanted, in which his book was used four weeks running right alongside the Bible in the pulpit! In the course of this (which was stopped due to the protests of a few), [mystic] Meister Eckhart was quoted in the Sunday bulletin. Over this, I’ve had several encounters with church leadership, all to no avail, and now unquestionably I’ve become a ‘marked man’ due to my protests.
All this to say that only recently I went to the National E-Free website only to find the following recommendations in their online magazine, seemingly one more organization lost to this movement. My primary motive in writing you is merely to inform you regarding this group as well since I haven’t read much, if anything about them in your writings [editor's note: We have written a few times about the EFCA, the most recent time here]. I am a former pastor and have a small e-mail list. Following is a portion of what I sent those on my list:
“FROM MY DESK: Periodically I like to peruse the website of the national E-free church just as a matter of seeing what might be going on. This particular site is generally not a fountainhead of information, often at least for me, leaving much unanswered and generally dealing only in the most general and accommodating ways with the subject matter. Much to my surprise this time I found the following recommended list of books and authors, all of which indicated to me that this national headquarters is, for lack of a better expression, “coming out of the closet” and recommending to all the member and affiliated people and churches contemplative spirituality!
None of the books were written by men like D.L. Moody or G. Campbell Morgan, or Hudson Taylor, or even George Muller, or any other of a plethora of men whose lives and teachings have been respected for many, many years. No, all of these authors are garnering their information from spiritual disciplines ‘outside’ the confines of Scripture and blending them, if you please, with their own twisted and manipulated version of biblical teachings. These authors draw from sources such as psychology in its many forms, Quakerism, Hinduism, Catholicism, Zen Buddhism, and many other so-called religious traditions. So the question becomes: how long will it take for these recommendations to begin having their effect in your local church?
Some of these names were unfamiliar to me, so I did my due diligence and to my utter astonishment–%100 of these authors are deeply involved in the Spiritual Transformation movement. Something else I picked up along the way was that the common mantra amongst them is becoming “can’t we all just get along.” I suppose this is intended to deflect any opposition to their introduction of a false spirituality into the churches. Keep in mind these books were recommended by participating E-Free pastors; what might this tell you?”
From the recommended resources of the Evangelical Free Church magazine website [most of these names can be found on the Lighthouse Trails Research site]:
Ruth Haley Barton. Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s transforming presence and Sacred Rhythms: Arranging our lives for spiritual transformation
David G. Benner. Sacred Companions: The gift of spiritual friendship and direction and Desiring God’s Will: Aligning our hearts with the heart of God (available from Amazon.com)
– (His) life’s work has been directed toward the promotion of the well-being of the inner life of persons, focusing in particular on the interaction of psychological and spiritual dynamics. The underlying passion of his life has been the understanding and pursuit of transformation – not merely healing or even growth, but the unfolding of the self associated with a journey of awakening. This has been the focus of his more than three decades of work in psychoanalytic psychotherapy and his more recent work as a spiritual guide to those who seek awakening and transformation through spiritual openness and contemplative stillness in action.
– David is a faculty member of The Rohr Institute’s Living School for Action and Contemplation where he serves as a Master Teacher. He currently makes this the exclusive venue for his teaching because of the deep congruence between the Rohr Institute’s core principles and his own – specifically, his conviction that the understanding and facilitation of transformation cannot be restricted to the best contemporary psychological and spiritual insights but must be grounded in the perennial wisdom tradition.
– The Rohr Institute’s Living School for Action and Contemplation provides such a course of study grounded in the Christian mystical tradition. Cultivating a contemplative mind through teachings and practices, students deepen their awareness of our common union with Divine Reality and all beings.
The Rohr Institute’s Living School offers students exclusive access to learn directly from Fr. (Fr. =Father) Richard Rohr, other core faculty, and invited master teachers. Fr. Richard is a Franciscan of the New Mexico Province, and the Founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, Strongly influenced by the Franciscan (as in Catholic) Alternative Orthodoxy
Mark Buchanan. The Holy Wild: Trusting in the character of God and The Rest of God: Restoring your soul by restoring Sabbath
Bruce Demarest. Satisfy Your Soul: Restoring the heart of Christian spirituality
Brennan Manning. Abba’s Child: The cry of the heart for intimate belonging
M. Robert Mulholland. Invitation to a Journey: A road map for spiritual formation
John Ortberg. The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual disciplines for ordinary people
Peter Scazzero. The Emotionally Healthy Church: A strategy for discipleship that actually changes lives and Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a revolution in your life in Christ
Dallas Willard. The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding how God changes lives and Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the character of Christ
[This note is at the bottom of the EFCA page]: * These resources are recommended by Cedarly Pastors Retreat. While Cedarly does not necessarily endorse every position of every writer, each of the resources listed has important things to say about our relationship with the Lord Jesus and the growth and nurture of that relationship. [note from the LT reader: And each of them has its own brand of heresy!]
LTRP Note: After one of our readers notified us today about the Mark Centre in Canada (affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren), we saw the need to post the following book review about a book written by the directors of the Mark Centre, Steve and Evy Klassen. If you, or someone you know, is planning on attending a retreat center, use extra discernment when there. Many, if not most, retreat centers openly promote contemplative spirituality. Just take a look at the retreat center’s bookstore (most of them have one) – that will tell you a lot.
What Will Ears Hear in The Mark Centre’s New Book?
“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” Isaiah 30:21
A new training resource offered by the Mark Centre (affiliated with the BC Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches) is a book written by directors Steve and Evy Klassen called Your Ears Will Hear: A Journal for Listening to God. The title of this workbook is four words taken from Isaiah 30:21 that are said to be the ‘watchwords’ of the Mark Centre.
The description of this book, which was written to assist people as they listen to God, informs readers that it:
“…has already received praise from international authors like Paul Hawker, who claims ‘Your Ears Will Hear’ offers a smorgasbord of stories and practices for seekers to draw from as they pursue their quest to hear God’s voice. In his foreword, Loren Cunningham, founder of Youth With A Mission, promises ‘You will enjoy recognizing and listening to the voice of God while working through this book.’ Click here to read this entire book review.
by Ray Yungen
For many years during my research, I would come across the term contemplative prayer. Immediately I would dismiss any thought that it had a New Age connotation because I thought it meant to ponder while praying–which would be the logical association with that term. But in the New Age disciplines, things are not always what they seem to be to untrained ears. What contemplative prayer actually entails is described very clearly by the following writer:
When one enters the deeper layers of contemplative prayer one sooner or later experiences the void, the emptiness, the nothingness … the profound mystical silence … an absence of thought.1
To my dismay, I discovered this “mystical silence” is accomplished by the same methods used by New Agers to achieve their silence–the mantra and the breath! Contemplative prayer is the repetition of what is referred to as a prayer word or sacred word until one reaches a state where the soul, rather than the mind, contemplates God. Contemplative prayer teacher and Zen master Willigis Jager brought this out when he postulated:
Do not reflect on the meaning of the word; thinking and reflecting must cease, as all mystical writers insist. Simply “sound” the word silently, letting go of all feelings and thoughts.2
One of the most well-known writings on the subject is the classic 14th century treatise, The Cloud of Unknowing, written by an anonymous author. It is essentially a manual on contemplative prayer inviting a beginner to:
Take just a little word, of one syllable rather than of two . . . With this word you are to strike down every kind of thought under the cloud of forgetting.3
The premise here is that in order to really know God, mysticism must be practiced–the mind has to be shut down or turned off so that the cloud of unknowing where the presence of God awaits can be experienced.
So the question we as Christians must ask ourselves is, “Why not? Why shouldn’t we incorporate this mystical prayer practice into our lives?” The answer to this is actually found in Scripture.
While certain instances in the Bible describe mystical experiences, I see no evidence anywhere of God sanctioning man-initiated mysticism. Legitimate mystical experiences were always initiated by God to certain individuals for certain revelations and was never based on a method for the altering of consciousness. In Acts 11:5, Peter fell into a trance while in prayer. But it was God, not Peter, who initiated the trance and facilitated it.
By definition, a mystic, on the other hand, is someone who uses rote methods in an attempt to tap into their inner divinity. Those who use these methods put themselves into a trance state outside of God’s sanction or protection and thus engage in an extremely dangerous approach. Besides, nowhere in the Bible are such mystical practices prescribed. For instance, the Lord, for the purpose of teaching people a respect for His holiness and His plans, instated certain ceremonies for His people (especially in the Old Testament). Nonetheless, Scripture contains no reference in which God promoted mystical practices. The gifts of the Spirit spoken of in the New Testament were supernatural in nature but did not fall within the confines of mysticism. God bestowed spiritual gifts without the Christian practicing a method beforehand to get God’s response.
Proponents of contemplative prayer would respond with, What about Psalms 46:10? “Be still and know that I am God.” This verse is often used by those promoting contemplative prayer. On the surface, this argument can seem valid, but once the meaning of “still” is examined, any contemplative connection is expelled. The Hebrew meaning of the word is to slacken, cease, or abate. In other words, the context is to slow down and trust God rather than get in a dither over things. Relax and watch God work. This isn’t talking about going into some altered state of consciousness!
It should also be pointed out that being born again, in and of itself, is mystical. But it is a direct act of God, initiated by Him–the Holy Spirit has regenerated the once-dead spirit of man into a living spirit through Christ. Yet, we notice that even in this most significant of experiences when one is “passed from death into life” (John 5:24), God accomplishes this without placing the individual in an altered state of consciousness.
We can take this a step further by looking at the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts, chapter 2 where those present were “all filled with the Holy Spirit” (vs. 4). Notice that they were “all with one accord in one place” (vs. 1) when the Holy Spirit descended on them. From the context of the chapter, it is safe to assume this was a lively gathering of believers engaged in intelligent conversation. Then, when those present began to speak in other tongues, it was not an episode of mindless babbling or vain repetition as in a mantra. Rather it was an event of coherent speech significant enough to draw a crowd who exclaimed, “we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God” (vs. 11). Other observers who suspected they were in an altered state of consciousness said, “They are full of new wine” (vs. 13). Notice that Peter was quick to correct this group in asserting that they were all fully conscious. Would it not then stand to reason that their minds were not in any kind of altered state? Next, Peter delivered one of the most carefully articulated speeches recorded in Scripture. This was certainly not a group of men in a trance.
So, through the lens of perhaps the two most meaningful mystical experiences recorded in the New Testament (i.e., being born again and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost), an altered state of consciousness was never sought after nor was it achieved. In fact, a complete search of both Old and New Testaments reveals there were only two types of experiences sanctioned by God where the recipient is not fully awake–namely dreams and visions–and in each case the experience is initiated by God. Conversely, every instance of a self-induced trance recorded in Scripture is adamantly condemned by God as we see summarized in the following verses:
When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. (Deuteronomy 18:9-11)
An examination of the Hebrew meanings of the terms used in the above verses shows that much of what is being spoken of is the invoking of spells. And a spell, used in this context, refers to a trance. In other words, when God induces a trance it is in the form of a dream or a vision. When man induces a trance, it is in the form of a spell or hypnosis.
And remember, nowhere in the Bible is the silence equated with the “power of God,” but the message of the cross (1 Corinthians 1:18) most certainly is!
1.William Johnston, Letters to Contemplatives, op. cit., p. 13.
2.Willigis Jager, Contemplation: A Christian Path (Triumph Books, 1994), p. 31.
3.Ken Kaisch, Finding God, cited from The Cloud of Unknowing, p. 223.
Lighthouse Trails is pleased to say that we have now gone to press with Warren B. Smith’s new release, “Another Jesus” Calling. The book will be back from press by November 22nd. Below is some information about the book, including the Table of Contents and a link to the “Note to the Reader” (from the book).
Inspired by the New Age book God Calling, Sarah Young claims to be receiving messages from Jesus Christ which she compiled into what is now her best-selling book, Jesus Calling. Author Warren Smith carefully documents his concerns about her book, her “Jesus,” and the New Age implications contained in many of Young’s devotional messages. He also warns about the danger of contemplative prayer and in elevating spiritual experiences over the Word of God. “Another Jesus” Calling is his call for much needed discernment in these very deceptive times.
By: Warren B. Smith
$12.95 (LT Price)
176 pages | Softbound
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Note to the Reader
PART ONE – GOD CALLING: Ten Concerns
1. Channeled Book From Jesus?
2. Permeated With New Age Terminology
3. God’s Universal Spirit?
4. God “in” Everyone?
5. Name it & Claim it
6. Experience Replaces God’s Word
7. Jesus Needs Us More Than We Need Him?
8. New Truth & New Revelation
9. The New Age & Psalm 46:10
10. New Age Christianity
PART TWO – JESUS CALLING: Twenty Concerns
1. Inspired by a Channeled New Age Book
2. Channeling Jesus?
3. Test the Spirits
4. Jesus Contradicts Himself?
5. Jesus Tells Us to Laugh at the Future?
6. The Flattery of Jesus?
7. Who Wants Us to Rest by the Wayside?
8. Visualizing Jesus?
9. The Dark Night of Jesus’ Birth?
10. Abraham Guilty of “Idolatry” & “Son-Worship”?
11. Contemplative Prayer, the New Age, & Psalm 46:10
12. Practicing What Presence?
13. “Co-creating” with God
14. Quantum Leap, Quantum “Christ”
15. “Cocoon of Light”
16. The “Great Work” of “Divine Alchemy”
17. Jesus is Above All & “in” All?
18. Moving Toward a New Age/New Worldview
19. Would Jesus Magnify His Presence Above the
Word of God?
20. “Another Jesus” Calling
Appendix A – Ten Basic Warnings About Deception
Appendix B – The Gospel of the True Jesus Christ
Appendix C – Ten Ways to Be More Discerning
Note From the Publisher
Click here to order or for more information.
AUTHOR BIO: Warren B. Smith (B.A. University of Pennsylvania; M.S.W. Tulane University) is a former social worker who directed several homeless programs in Northern California and served as a hospice social worker in New Orleans and on the California coast. Because of his past involvement in the New Age movement, he has written extensively on the subject of spiritual deception. He speaks often at conferences in the U.S. and abroad.
Is your church involved in a Spiritual Formation program? If so, you might want to ask the question, what does Spiritual Formation look like? It’s a fair question, and one, that if not asked, could end up surprising you when your church changes in ways you never imagined.
In a 2002 Christianity Today article, it stated: “Spiritual Formation is in.” The article reveals who is largely responsible for starting the movement:
Now many evangelical seminaries offer programs in spiritual formation. Renovare, which Richard Foster and others founded in 1989 to cultivate spiritual formation (especially among evangelicals), today offers retreats and resources worldwide.
Foster began his organization Renovare in 1989, but 11 years earlier (1978) his book Celebration of Discipline first came out, and that has been a Spiritual Formation primer ever since.
The Christianity Today article defines Spiritual Formation as:
Formation, like the forming of a pot from clay, brings to mind shaping and molding, helping something potential become something actual. Spiritual formation speaks of a shaping process with reference to the spiritual dimension of a person’s life. Christian spiritual formation thus refers to the process by which believers become more fully conformed and united to Christ.
Such a definition would hardly send up red flags. But what this definition excludes is how this “process” of conforming and uniting to Christ takes place, and who is eligible to participate in such a process.
The “how” is done through spiritual disciplines, mainly through the discipline of the silence. The silence is an altered state that is reached through mantra meditation, breath prayers, or some other meditative practice. The idea behind it is that if you go into this silent state, you will hear from God, and He will transform you to be like Christ. The “who” (who can practice these disciplines and become like Christ) is anyone (according to Foster and other proponents of Spiritual Formation). A Christian, a Buddhist, a Muslim, even an atheist — anyone at all can benefit from the spiritual disciplines and become like Christ (the question is which Christ).
According to Rick Warren, the Spiritual Formation movement is a “wake up call” and a “valid message” to the body of Christ. 1He acknowledges that Richard Foster is a key player in the movement. Brian McLaren, a leader in the emerging church movement, names Richard Foster as one of the “key mentors for the emerging church.”2It is noteworthy that McLaren and Warren (two of the most influential figures today3) each recognize Foster’s role and contribution. Two and two do add up here. McLaren sees Foster’s mystical affinities, and that’s why he says Foster is a key mentor – mysticism is the energy behind the emerging church movement. Without it, there would be no emerging church. Rick Warren considers Foster’s spirituality important because Warren too adheres to the mystical. Thus, these two heavy-weight “evangelicals” see mysticism as crucial for their agendas.
So just what does Spiritual Formation look like? That’s easy. Richard Foster has the answer to that. When he told Ray Yungen several years ago that Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people, what he meant was that Thomas Merton saw one element missing within Christianity – the mystical element. Merton had learned from a Hindu swami named Dr. Bramachari that Merton could obtain mystical properties from Christians like the Desert Fathers – he didn’t need to leave his own tradition.
But Merton realized that most Christians didn’t know about this. So, he set out to bring mysticism (i.e., contemplative prayer) to the Christian world. However, Merton died an early death in 1968 and was unable to accomplish his goal. But somewhere between 1968 and 1978, Richard Foster picked up the mantle of Thomas Merton and carried it forward. Now today, tens of thousands of churches, maybe even yours, are going forth with Thomas Merton’s message of Spiritual Formation. But in essence they are going forth with the Hindu message of: God is in all things (panentheism), and God is all things (pantheism). Such a message contradicts the Gospel message of Jesus Christ – that man is sinful, he is heading for eternal destruction because of sin, and he needs a Savior, and that Savior is God (i.e., Jesus Christ) who paid the price for us with His shed blood.
Just remember, when you find out that your church is going to do a Spiritual Formation program, think about these words by Thomas Merton:
The most important need in the Christian world today is this inner truth nourished by this Spirit of contemplation . . . Without contemplation and interior prayer the Church cannot fulfill her mission to transform and save mankind. (cited in A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 129)
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, . . . now I realize what we all are. . . . If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are . . . I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. . . . At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth. . . . This little point . . . is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody. (Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Garden City, NY: Doubleday Publishers, 1989), pp. 157-158).
This “Spirit of contemplation” is what fuels the Spiritual Formation movement. Merton believed that God dwelled in all people – Richard Foster believes this too. The question you must ask yourself is, do you believe that also? If not, then Spiritual Formation does not belong in your church or in your family’s spiritual structure.
For more information on Spiritual Formation:
For documentation of the quotes in this article and for further information on contemplative spirituality, read A Time of Departing