The Spirituality of Thomas Keating

Thomas Keating, a Catholic monk, has been a significant influence in bringing contemplative spirituality to mainstream Christendom. It’s no secret that he is a promoter of Eastern mysticism, yet his books are found in countless Christian bookstores. Lifeway Stores says that Keating falls within the parameters of their policy on which books to sell. They say:

“[W]e work very hard to ensure that the products we list are in harmony with our vision statement and product standards. As such, they are biblically-based and theologically sound. With some 100,000 books in our database, our customers could not expect to agree with every thought in every book, but they should not encounter material that is inconsistent with basic tenets of the Christian faith.

But is Thomas Keating’s spirituality consistent “with basic tenets of the Christian faith”? We believe the answer to that is a wholehearted NO. Listen to Keating’s own words in his book, The Heart of the Word: A Spiritual Catechism: An Introduction to Contemplative Christianity :

I have had the rare opportunity to absorb the contemplative tradition of Christianity within the context of monastic practice and experience. My own exposure to Eastern methods of meditation began in the 1960s. It awakened in me a deep appreciation of these values. These Eastern methods have expanded my understanding of the mystery of Christ and the message of the Gospel. Moreover, they mirror aspects of Christian mysticism overlooked in recent centuries. The contemplative dimension of life, present in all the great religions, is the common heart of the world. There the human family is already one” (Prologue).

“This book is also for Christians who have turned East for spiritual experience and who now would like to integrate that experience into their Christian background” (p. 3).

And from Keating and Basil Pennington’s book, Finding Grace at the Center:

We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible.

Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices, especially where they have been initiated by reliable teachers and have a solidly developed Christian faith to find inner form and meaning to the resulting experiences.(pp. 5-6)

Keating’s spiritual affinity does not line up with the “basic tenets of the Christian faith,” and we hope that LifeWay Stores (Southern Baptist Convention) will make a public statement to set the record straight. If someone looking for spiritual truth happens to come across LifeWay Stores selection of books and buys a book by Keating, what they will read will not lead them into salvation through Jesus Christ but will lead them into the arms of interspirituality, mysticism and pantheism. Thus LifeWay Stores could be responsible for keeping people from finding truth.

For more research on Keating, click here.

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