Archive for the ‘Contemplative Spirituality’ Category

Letter to the Editor: Former New Age Follower Shares Vital Information With Her Pastors and Church Leaders

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

Several years ago, I learned that our church was planning to do a labyrinth walk.  A pattern had been set up in one of the rooms, and stations were placed along the path at which to perform rituals and meditate. From my experience in the New Age prior to becoming a Christian, I knew this was something Christians should not be doing.  I found information on the Internet about the background and purpose of the labyrinth, which I presented to our pastor.

Some years later, I came across Warren Smith’s book, Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Life.  It caught my attention, as our church was studying, The Purpose-Driven Life. As I read the book, I could see that quotations used were by New Age or non-Christian people.  Also, the statement that “God is in everything and everyone” is not true.

At the same that I was made aware of this book, I was hearing about contemplative prayer being practiced. This was done by sitting in silence for up to half an hour in order to hear from God, perhaps chanting a word over and over in order to make your mind go blank.  I had done this when I was in New Age in order to develop ESP (extrasensory perception ).  It was called “transcendental meditation,” and, I found out, would attract demons. I made a presentation to the elder board, along with another lady, to inform them of the error in contemplative practices.

It was not long after that my husband and I left that church and found one that was not doing The Purpose-Driven Life or contemplative prayer.

A few years later, we returned to that former church, which, by then, had a new pastor who was preaching directly from the Word.  As there was still some material being used promoting contemplative prayer, I used some information I had received from The Berean Call (stating that the study of psychology could lead to the  practice of contemplative prayer) to present to the pastor.  As that was exactly what had happened to me, I shared my experience with  him.  Through our Women’s leader, who is aware of the deception, I have been able to give out booklets from Lighthouse Trails, which she shares with the staff and ladies of the congregation.

Although I have not always known the result of sharing this information, I believe it has made the pastors more aware of the deception that is occurring in evangelical churches today.

Lynda

Letter to the Editor: “Christian” Homosexual Singer Vicky Beeching Thanks Contemplative Spirituality For Helping Her “Come Out”

Dear Lighthouse Friends,

Vicky Beeching (source: http://www.diva250awards.com/campaigner.html)

When I searched your blog, I did not find information on “Vicky Beeching.”  She is apparently a big figure in Christian pop music.  So you might want to put her on your blog list.

I did not know about Vicky Beeching until yesterday: claiming to be an evangelical Christian, she revises Scripture to justify her homosexuality.  (The current Archbishop of Canterbury for the Anglican Church of England, Justin Welby has given her an award for her praise/worship music. http://www.christianpost.com/news/christian-lesbian-rock-star-vicky-beeching-given-award-by-archbishop-of-canterbury-187689/)

But here is the major point I want to make: she connects justification for biblical revision with contemplative spirituality.

This 2015 video address to the Gay Christian Network (GCN) is to the point about contemplative spirituality:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zlZLYZxyg4

Unless you want to listen to Beeching’s entire talk, you can fast forward to minute 52: here she quotes Rob Bell, then less than a minute and a half later–WOW–she brings contemplative spirituality to the discussion for justification of homosexuality.

And one of her songs–“Breath of God” certainly resonates with contemplative practices.

Regards,

Linda

** LTRP Note: In this video clip of this popular “Christian” singer, she says that it was through practicing contemplative prayer that she gained the courage to reveal that she was homosexual. This makes sense because once a person begins meditating, their spiritual outlook begins to change, away from biblical truths and toward universalism, panentheism, evolution, and yes, even homosexuality. Also if you listen to Beeching’s talk, starting at the 52 minute mark, you will hear her talk about the importance of “doubt.” This is a key in understanding the emergent church, of which Beeching is obviously a part. Emergents, such as Rob Bell, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Dan Kimball, Brian McLaren, teach that it is wrong to be certain about anything (including the Bible and the biblical Gospel). You can see this played out very clearly in the movie Doubt with Meryl Streep). Beeching, and these others, are part of a movement to completely undermine and destroy true Christianity (which is the faith defined in the Bible). Sadly, millions, of young people searching for truth will be led into the arms of these emergents and will ultimately reject the Jesus Christ of the Bible. If you are a grandparent or parent, are you doing EVERYTHING you can do to protect the young people in your lives? The consequences for being apathetic are eternal.

Related Booklet/Article:

6 Questions Every Gay Person Should Ask

 

Taizé Community – A Lifelong Commitment to Celibacy

By Chris Lawson

Photo: Alamy.com; used with permission; under copyright.

(From Chris Lawson’s 2017 book Taizé—A Community and Worship: Ecumenical Reconciliation or an Interfaith Delusion?)

One of the primary characteristics of the all-male Taizé Community is the vow of celibacy that each Taizé Community monk commits to—for life. The Taizé website has published the complete vow, beginning with the following text:

After a time of preparation, a new brother in the Taizé Community makes his lifelong commitment. Here are the words used to express this commitment. . . .

Will you, in order to be more available to serve with your brothers, and in order to give yourself in undivided love to Christ, remain celibate?

I will.1

This vow of celibacy required of the “brothers” in the Taizé Community is the same type of commitment required by Buddhist, Hindu, and Roman Catholic priests and nuns. While the vow of celibacy that these community members commit themselves to may appear pious and spiritual, the Bible does not require one to remain single and “celibate” in order to serve God and receive His blessings. Not only that, it can put one into a harmful snare that can lead to much destruction as the Bible warns.

Researcher and author Mike Oppenheimer presents one serious concern with this requirement of celibacy:

Why is there sexual immorality in a church? Very often it is because someone who burns with passion needs to be married. Paul answers this in 1 Corinthians 7:2-3: “Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband.”

Look at what has happened when priests are frustrated in something God commands is good. Because they have forbidden the priests to marry, the Catholic Church has a high percentage of improper sexual conduct, including sexual molestation of children. This is not to impugn specifically the Roman Catholic Church. There are other churches and groups as well that forbid people to marry and make men or women remain single when they are unable to successfully do so.

In the Bible, the qualifications of a priest or bishop do not forbid being married. The Greek word for bishop is episkopos and is translated in different Bibles using the same word as elder, presbyter, bishop, [or] priest. Titus 1:5-6 instructs these men to be married and to raise godly children.2

This is not to say that sexual molestation (especially of children) only takes place in groups that do not allow/encourage heterosexual marriage. We know that allowing heterosexual marriage does not per se solve the issue of abuse. For example, Frank Houston (a leader of the predecessor group to Hillsong in Australia) was married but was known to have sexually molested children.3

Sadly, the brothers of Taizé willingly restrict themselves from a lifetime of marital intimacy, blessing, and pro-creation. God’s Word speaks very clearly about the origin and practice of “the forbidding of marriage”:

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils [demons]; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. (1 Timothy 4:1-5; emphasis added)

Further implications of Taizé’s vow of celibacy can include the hundreds of thousands of young people who come to the community and witness this unbiblical practice. How many have desired to follow in the Taizé brothers’ footsteps only later to find themselves in situations that bring them shame and disgrace because they could not live a life where God had never called them?

Endnotes:

1. “A Life Long Commitment” (http://www.taize.fr/en_article6.html).
2. Mike Oppenheimer, “Marriage and the Priesthood” (http://www.letusreason.org/rc20.htm).
3. Australian Government’s Royal Commission on Child Abuse (see several documents regarding Frank Houston’s sexual abuse activities: http://childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/search?searchtext=frank+houston+&searchmode=anyword). Also see http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2785983/You-never-forget-moment-dad-s-paedophile-Hillsong-s-Brian-Houston-tells-devastating-10-seconds-realised-father-Frank-paedophile.html. Also see: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2785983/You-never-forget-moment-dad-s-paedophile-Hillsong-s-Brian-Houston-tells-devastating-10-seconds-realised-father-Frank-paedophile.html.

What Your Church Needs to Know Before Doing a Priscilla Shirer Study

The repetition [of a word or phrase] can in fact be soothing and very freeing, helping us, as Nouwen says, “to empty out our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God.”—Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens, p. 93

Years ago, I got a chance to meet Jan Johnson. . . . I was encouraged and redirected in so many ways. As a young woman trying to navigate the ins and outs of my relationship with the Lord, Ms. Jan spoke wisdom into my life that was extremely pivotal in my life—personally and in ministry.—Priscilla Shirer (emphasis added; http://www.goingbeyond.com/blog/wisbits; quoted in 2010 and still up on Shirer’s website)

Priscilla Shirer

This week, our office received a call from a woman who was concerned that her church is going to be doing a study using material by Priscilla Shirer. Our caller wanted to get some information she can show her pastor as to why her church should not be doing a Priscilla Shirer study. Because Priscilla Shirer is a contemplative proponent, we concur with our caller’s concerns. In John Lanagan’s booklet,  Beth Moore & Priscilla Shirer – Their History of Contemplative Prayer,Lanagan shows how both Moore and Shirer have been advocates of contemplative spirituality for quite some time. In that booklet, and this is what we want to focus on in this article, Lanagan discusses a woman named Jan Johnson. Because Priscilla Shirer embraces and has gleaned spiritually from Johnson, we need to take a closer look at what Johnson believes.

We first heard about Jan Johnson in Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing where Yungen explains:

Spiritual director Jan Johnson, in her book When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer, is a perfect example of an evangelical Christian who endorses and promotes this practice [contemplative prayer]. She leaves no doubt about what this type of prayer entails:

“Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.” [emphasis added]

Johnson’s explanation of the initial stages of contemplative prayer leaves no doubt that “stilling” your thoughts means only one thing; she explains:

“In the beginning, it is usual to feel nothing but a cloud of unknowing. . . . If you’re a person who has relied on yourself a great deal to know what’s going on, this unknowing will be unnerving. [emphasis added] (Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 82.)

When Johnson talks about stilling the mind in order to experience God’s presence and hear His voice, she is referring to something that is universal with mystics—putting the mind into a neutral, altered state where one is not aware of the distractions around him. This inner stillness cannot only be achieved through some type of meditative practice (see Johnson’s quote at top of this article), which in the case of “Christian” mystics is contemplative prayer. For those of you unfamiliar with contemplative jargon, the “cloud of unknowing” is taken from a small book of the same name, written by an anonymous monk several hundred years ago. The book is a primer on contemplative prayer and in it instructs:

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. (The Cloud of Unknowing)

This is describing a mantra-style practice, no different than that used in eastern meditation. It is interesting that Jan Johnson says the effect of this type of prayer is “unnerving.” Webster’s Dictionary defines unnerving as “inspiring fear.” This reminds us of another contemplative teacher, Richard Foster, who suggested that people pray prayers of protection before practicing contemplative prayer in order to avoid an evil encounter. But where in Scripture is prayer to God described as inspiring fear or something that needs prayers of protection first? Nowhere. That’s not how God’s Word defines prayer.

Jan Johnson

In Jan Johnson’s book, Invitation to the Jesus Life: Experiments in Christlikeness, Johnson shows her resonance with a number of contemplative figures with quotes by and references to them.  One particular name that jumps out is New Age sympathizer Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. Read a few quotes by Chardin and then ask yourself, why would a Christian author (Johnson) be drawn to someone with these views:

What I am proposing to do is to narrow that gap between pantheism and Christianity by bringing out what one might call the Christian soul of pantheism or the pantheist aspect of Christianity.—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 56

Now I realize that, on the model of the incarnate God whom Christianity reveals to me, I can be saved only by becoming one with the universe. Thereby, too, my deepest ‘pantheist’ aspirations are satisfied.—Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 128.

I believe that the Messiah whom we await, whom we all without any doubt await, is the universal Christ; that is to say, the Christ of evolution.—Chardin, Christianity and Evolution, p. 95.

Johnson’s 2016 book Meeting God in Scripture: A Hands-On Guide to Lectio Divina leads readers in lectio divina meditations. Lectio Divina is used today as a gateway practice into contemplative mystical prayer. In her book, Johnson provides a section titled  “Relax and Refocus (silencio)”  which is instruction to readers on how to get rid of mental distractions when trying to practice lectio divina:

Each exercise begins with brief guidance to slow down, quiet your inner self and let go of distracting thoughts. . . . focusing on God. A way to interrupt this [mental] traffic is to focus on being present in the moment by breathing in and out deeply— even overbreathing. It also helps to relax our body parts one by one: bending the neck, letting the arms go limp, relaxing the legs and ankles. Loosen each part from the inside out. This doesn’t mean you’re setting aside your mind— you’re redirecting your mind away from the busyness that often consumes you. Being present in the moment prepares you to wait on the still, small voice of God. If you are distracted, you may want to try the palms up, palms down method. Rest your hands in your lap, placing your hands palms down as a symbol of turning over any concerns you have. If a nagging thought arises, turn your hands palms up as a “symbol of your desire to receive from the Lord.” [Foster] If you become distracted at any time during meditation, repeat the exercise. (Meeting God in Scripture, Kindle version, Kindle location 102)

To back up her teaching on practicing contemplative meditation and finding that inner stillness of the mind, Johnson turns to several contemplative teachers in Meeting God in Scripture. Sadly, God and Scripture are not the only things readers are going to meet when they read this book by Johnson. They will also meet Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Henri Nouwen, and David Benner. Other books Johnson has written have the same caliber.  A few of those titles are:  Spiritual Disciplines Companion: Bible Studies and Practices to Transform Your Soul, Enjoying the Presence of God: Discovering Intimacy with God in the Daily Rhythms of Life, Abundant Simplicity: Discovering the Unhurried Rhythms of Grace, and Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice: Experiments in Spiritual Transformation (Willard and Johnson). She has written several others books which carry the same message: you’ve got to have the inner mental silence to really know God (something Beth Moore has said too—in the Be Still DVD).

We could give several more examples of Johnson’s embracing contemplative spirituality. You won’t find much that she has written that doesn’t include this element. In one article on her website titled “What Is Solitude & Why Do I Need It? or . . . Turn Up the Quiet,” she quotes panentheist Thomas Merton from his book New Seeds of Contemplation. Why does Jan Johnson keep referring to contemplative mystics in her writings? There can only be one answer to that question—because she resonates with them.

Conclusion

As noted at the beginning of this article, Priscilla Shirer “was encouraged and redirected in so many ways” when she met Jan Johnson. She added that Johnson “spoke wisdom into [Priscilla’s] life that was extremely pivotal in [her] life—personally and in ministry.” Shirer said these words in 2010 and has left them up on her website to this day. Obviously, she still feels this way about Johnson. In Shirer’s popular book 2006/2012 Discerning the Voice of God, she favorably quotes Jan Johnson twice from When the Soul Listens. Shirer also quotes contemplatives Joyce Huggett and Phil Yancey in Discerning the Voice of God. Shirer clearly has been influenced by Jan Johnson as she admits herself.

We’ll close with this: On Priscilla Shirer’s website, where she talks about meeting Jan Johnson, she also includes an article by Johnson who is quoting panentheist Catholic priest Richard Rohr (founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation) from his book Everything Belongs (meaning everything and everyone is part of God). Rohr’s spirituality would be in the same camp as someone like Episcopalian panentheist Matthew Fox (author of The Coming of the Cosmic Christ). Rohr wrote the foreword to a book called How Big is Your God? by Jesuit priest (from India) Paul Coutinho. In Coutinho’s book, he describes an interspiritual community where people of all religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity) worship the same God. For Rohr to write the foreword to such a book, he would have to agree with Coutinho’s views. On Rohr’s website, he has an article titled “Cosmic Christ.” One need not look too far into Rohr’s teachings and website to see he is indeed promoting the same Cosmic Christ as Matthew Fox – this is the “christ” whose being they say lives in every human—this, of course, would nullify the need for atonement by a savior. Lighthouse Trails has written numerous times about Rohr as he is aggressively pushing his panentheistic mystical spirituality into the evangelical church. If everything you have read in this article has not persuaded you to steer clear of Shirer’s studies, then this should do it, hands down. The fact that she keeps the post about Rohr on her website should alarm all Bible-believing Christians and illustrates the spiritual affinity Priscilla Shirer is drawn to.

Before your church does a Priscilla Shirer study, please keep in mind the things you have read in this article. Contemplative prayer has roots in panentheism  (God is in all) and interspirituality (all paths lead to God) as you can read in Ray Yungen’s article “The Final Outcome of Practicing Contemplative Prayer: Interspirituality.” Do you really want your church influenced in any way by a spirituality that is so against the Cross? Are we saying Priscilla Shirer is necessarily against the Cross? No, but for someone who wrote a book on how to discern the voice of God, she sure isn’t showing any discernment in the voices that she herself is listening to and being persuaded by.

Letter to the Editor: Brian Brodersen’s Creation Fest Coming Out of the Contemplative Closet

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

You may recall previous e-mails from me about the state of some Calvary Chapel fellowships here in the UK. It would appear that the majority are maintaining links with Brian Brodersen’s new CCGN including our pastor. I made mention that our pastor is very unhappy with organizations such as yourselves and questions your ability to be truly discerning. He wrote an article criticizing people whom he says have “isolated themselves” and others from the body of Christ by doing something he calls “association fallacy.” He then quotes Proverbs 25:18 “A man who bears false witness against his neighbour is like a war club, or a sword or a sharp arrow.”

The association fallacy occurs when a person is misrepresented because of their relation to some other person. This is a form of false witness, they say. My view is that he is making an excuse for his continued involvement with Brian Brodersen; and to emphasize the point, he is one of the main speakers at this years Creation Fest in Cornwall. He has stated to me that he considers Brodersen a close friend [see LT statement about guilt by association below].

The evidence for Mr Brodersen is increasingly not good and to let you know, Creation Fest, (director Brian Brodersen) is sponsoring an event at Truro Cathedral on May 28th, called “Thy Kingdom Come.”1  This event includes “Taize Reflection” [see Taizé article below],  Lectio Divina, Labyrinth Walking, Prayer Stations, Breath Prayers, Sitting in Silence and Symbolic (ritualistic) body movements, hand signs etc-called “prayer games.” You can also download from the Creation Fest site the “official common worship app” from the Church of England.

My leader wishes to meet up with me again as I have been vocal in our local church about a growing number of issues of which he is not happy. Calvaries in the UK have a leadership style in that “what the leader says goes, and you either have to agree or get out.” I have been accused of being divisive and undermining the church!

I guess you already have a lot of the details regarding Brian Brodersen, but he is clearly a man that should  be avoided in my view. I am convinced that, in fact, my leader is himself unable to discern what is going on the church today. I would be interested in your thoughts. Keep up the good work. It is a pity I don’t live in the States close to say Chris Quintana’s fellowship.

God bless

________________

Related Information:

“Reconciliation” — A “Theological Theme” at Taizé
(100,000 young people visit Taizé, France every year. Chris Lawson unveils the dangerous truth about Taizé in his new book.)

BOOKLET: How to Know if You Are Being Spiritually Abused or Deceived—A Spiritual Abuse Questionnaire

Rick Warren and Brian Brodersen Prove: “A Photo Is Worth A Thousand Words”

Brian Brodersen and Greg Laurie’s “Bigger Picture of Christianity”

For several screenshots of Creation Fest’s website, click here.

Guilt by Association: While Lighthouse Trails has been accused at times of practicing “guilt by association,” our critics fail to understand that there is something called guilt by promotion, which is a very valid form of argument. If someone is promoting another person (quoting or referencing him or her in his books or talks, etc.), then he is guilty of “guilt by promotion,” not just by association. But even guilt by association has its validity. We are told in Scripture not to be associated with those who are unruly or who teach false doctrines* (e.g. 1 Timothy 6:3-6): otherwise it gives credence to that false teaching. This idea of “association fallacy” is, we believe, an effort by some to free themselves to hang out with whom they wish without being challenged for it. But this is not the way a Christian leader or pastor should behave. We believe that if a leader or pastor is associating himself with a false teacher, it is because he resonates with that teacher. An exception to this would be if the leader or pastor is ignorant of what the teacher believes or teaches, but even then, once he himself has become aware, he is responsible and can no longer claim “I didn’t know.”

*See Warren B. Smith’s new booklet/article on Sound Doctrine.

 

Letter to the Editor: Concerns About Meditation/Visualization Language in Kyle Idleman’s Not a Fan “Bible Study”

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I am a member of a Baptist church affiliated with the SBC. My Sunday School class recently began the Not a Fan video Bible study, being supplemented by the Not a Fan journal  [this link is to a sample of the journal] by Kyle Idleman. I was familiar with the book of the same title and the concept (are you a fan or a follower?) but knew little else. I went into the study with an open mind, but quickly called into question the manner in which the author was prompting the reading to “consider” his concepts. By day 2 of the journal, it became clear to me that I would not be continuing. My spirit was utterly grieved by the exercises! I am hopeful that Lighthouse Trails will review this journal and prayerfully consider it. I feel it is dangerous teaching that is delving into contemplative prayer.

Below are some examples I extrapolated from the first 91 pages of the 192 page journal.

Day 1, Noon Reminder:

Try taking five minutes for meditation. Close your eyes and in your mind picture Jesus. Watch Him turn, look at you and hear Him say, “If you would come after me, you must deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.” Hear Him say these words again and again. Become aware of your reaction to His invitation.

Note: [from the journal] Some of the suggestions, like this one, may sound a bit inane or even non-traditional. We encourage you to try each exercise with an open mind. Give it 100%.

I was immediately adverse to the idea of “imagining” and “awareness.”  It jarred me, but I decided to simply skip past that section and continue on. Fast forward to the “noon reminder” on day 2:

Try repeating this phrase aloud ten times, “Lord Jesus, come interfere in my life.” (Again, this is one of the suggestions that may sound childish or impractical, but what do you have to lose in trying it?)

Matthew 6:7 comes to mind: “And in praying use not vain repetitions, as the Gentiles do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”

Here are some other observations I made as I looked deeper into the journal. First, there is a purposeful “convincing” being done to get the reader to participate in these exercises. The 2 examples I gave are just two of MANY. Idleman excuses these exercises as possibly “childish,” “silly,” “crazy,” and “impractical” but encourages the reader to give them a try anyway. When studying the Word of God, these are not words that come to mind or describe what our attitude or experience should be when doing so.

Within the first 91 pages, I have highlighted the word “imagine” countless times. A lot of prompting to visualize is used. There are also several times where it is suggested to repeat words and phrases. The words “meditate” and “meditation” are used frequently as well. The reader is encouraged to focus on their own thoughts, imagine, “picture the destination” (pg. 74), “picture the place you want to end up.” (pg. 74), “pictures Jesus” (pg. 85), “review your day in your mind’s eye” (pg. 50). The author then prompts the reader to jot down thoughts after completing the exercises.
On page 90 it says, “Sit, be still and take in your surroundings. Use your senses to observe everything going on around you.”

The first reference to prayer doesn’t even appear until page 24 and it says this: “Imagine saying your evening prayers to the person you are most likely to put ahead of Jesus.” There is a lot more on visualizations, meditation and being self-aware than there is on prayer!

I am continuing my research on this but am hoping your staff will take a look as well and let me know if my reservations are founded.

Thank You,
J.B.

“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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