Posts Tagged ‘lectio divina’

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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Remembering the Enticing Appeal of Richard Foster and Beth Moore’s Be Still Film

Be Still DVD

Be Still DVD

In 2006, a DVD film was released by Fox Entertainment called Be Still. Lighthouse Trails wrote extensively about it at the time, warning our readers that the DVD was an infomercial for contemplative prayer. Recently, a caller who very much understood the deceptive dynamics of the contemplative prayer (i.e., Spiritual Formation) movement, reminded us about the film, and we e-mailed her a copy of all the transcripts (we had transcribed the entire film in 2006). The film includes Richard Foster, Buddhist-sympathizer Catholic convert Peter Kreeft, Dallas Willard, Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, Michelle McKinney Hammon, Max Lucado, and Calvin Miller. You can read some of our previous coverage here.

You can be sure that in the last 10 years since Be Still was released, the contemplative prayer movement has grown by leaps and bounds, and we have no doubt that this film has had a lot to do with this spread.

Below we have posted portions of the transcript from three of the segments (there were six altogether) of the Be Still film. You may need to read between the lines to understand the message that is being promoted because the film was  a seductive and enticing infomercial to draw people into the practice of contemplative prayer without coming right out and saying what contemplative prayer really entails. (After all, viewers could get specific instructions later by reading the writings of these people in the film). For those not familiar with the contemplative prayer movement, it may be a good idea to read this article by Lynn Pratt, “So You Want to Practice Contemplative Prayer? What’s Wrong With That?”

Within these quotes, the italicized words are added by LT for emphasis.

“Contemplative Prayer: The Divine Romance Between God and Man”

Narrator:

We live in  frenzied chaotic world under a constant siege of business and noise. The weapons of mass distraction are everywhere. We are bombarded by millions of advertisements daily. The Christian community is not exempt. We were designed to experience fullness of joy, yet many only experience fullness of schedule. Where can we go to find rest and peace?

Be still and know that I am God. We find peace in God’s presence. We get to know God better through prayer. Prayer is relationship and two-way communication with God. Jesus came that we might have life and have it more abundantly. But how can we experience abundance if we don’t learn to slow down? We need to stop and quiet ourselves to spend time in real relationship with God.

Contemplation is different from other types of Christian prayer. Contemplative prayer involves less telling God what we want to happen in our lives and more listening for God’s call to us in our heart through Scripture. As we develop the inward attentiveness to God’s divine whisper, we begin to experience His presence more throughout the day.

“What is Contemplative Prayer?”

 Richard Foster, author “Prayer”:

Contemplative prayer is listening prayer. It is attentiveness. You know how our children will talk with us and sometimes we wish that they would just listen to us. Now, that’s what contemplative prayer is. It’s being all ears to what the Father has to say to us.

[French Catholic mystic] Nicholas Grou said, “O Divine Master, teach me this mute language which says so much.” That’s the idea. It’s very simple, isn’t it? That we become attentive to God. God’s interested in us, what we have to say. We learn to become interested  in what God has to say to us.

Priscilla Shirer, author of “He Speaks to Me: Preparing to Hear the Voice of Go”:

Most of my prayer time is filled up with what I’m saying to Him, as opposed to just being quiet and actually giving him an opportunity to speak to me. And of course I’ve thought about hearing the voice of God all my life, and I’ve thought about wanting to hear Him, but it never occurred to me that I needed to consciously go into His presence with my mouth closed, giving Him an opportunity to get a word in edgewise.  And so I’ve just begun in my prayer life over the past year of my life to make a conscious effort to be in a time of prayer, and yes, to speak to Him, but to consciously say, okay, I’m done talking now, because I’m just gonna sit here in the stillness and wait to see what it is that you want to say to me.

Dallas Willard, PhD.,former  Director, School of Philosophy, USC:

It is somewhat like, uh, the story of electricity with Benjamin Franklin. And actually, we know now that electricity’s everywhere. I mean, our blood cells wouldn’t work without electricity. But it was Franklin who made the effort to contact it, as it were. So the famous story about the kite in the electric storm, and the current running down the line and jumping the gap and causing the spark and so on. And of course it’s a wonder that the old fellow wasn’t killed on the spot with it, because lightning has been doing that for a long time.

Buddhist-sympathizer Catholic convert, Peter Kreeft:

It’s easy to allegorize it. The key is Franklin’s own ego. And the sky is God. And the electricity is grace and the kite line is prayer. And he’s sending himself up to God in order to get charged.

Jerry Shirer:

When my son and I, Jackson, when we play sports or when we play baseball or when he kicks the ball, I always want to try to instruct him on how to do it and what to do. This is how you do it, Son. You do it this way. Well, it hit me. Where Jackson doesn’t want to be with me to receive instruction necessarily. He just wants to be in my presence. And that was the amazing thing. He goes, “You know, Dad, don’t—I don’t need your instructions. I don’t need this. Dad, I’m just happy just being with you.” You know? And that was the thing for me. And that just, you know, made me understand my relationship with Christ. It’s not about me speaking or saying, Lord, this is what I want. He goes, “Jerry, just spend time with Me.”

Richard Foster:

Contemplative prayer can be experienced everywhere, in small groups of people, when you’re alone, when you’re at work, in all kinds of situations. You take a passage of Scripture, a very simple passage, and you simply lean into the passage and you allow the Lord to teach you.

Narrator:

Churches, small groups and individuals around the world have structured a spiritual life around the practice of Christian contemplation.

“Historical Overview”

Dallas Willard:

Very interesting that even Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, thought the highest human good was contemplation. But he thought it was contemplation of truth, not contemplation of God. Still, he was onto something big. And it was later on the Christians came along because Aristotelian contemplation turned out not really to do a lot for people. But Augustine, for example, corrected Aristotle and taught that it was God that we contemplate, because He is the only final good and we lift our minds and hearts to Him through Christ, and that gives us the kind of life-giving joy and sufficiency that Aristotle understood to be true happiness.

Beth Moore:

One of the lives that has affected me deeply is Saint Augustine, that after wrestling with God for such a long time, and God just chasing him and hunting him down, I remember thinking to myself, I want to be that way about God. When God’s hunting me down, I wanna slow down and be caught by Him. If He’s chasing me, I want Him to catch me. And that’s what God did with Saint Augustine. And he knew the fiery passion of God’s love, not just a God of the law, but a God of the heart, a God that chases the heart of man, to pick up all its pieces and make it whole.

Peter Kreeft, PhD, Professor of Philosophy, Boston College:

[The mystic] Kierkegaard, probably the greatest Protestant Christian mind of all time, said many times something like this—This is almost the last page of his journal shortly before he died. He said, “If I could prescribe only one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence. Because even if the word of God were proclaimed in its fullness, it would not be heard. There is too much noise. So begin with silence.”

Narrator:

The stresses we live with are so invasive, we begin to believe we’re nothing but these things. We believe they have the power to define who we are and how we live. We must learn to desire a oneness with God that transcends all these things.

“The Need for Contemplative Prayer”

Max Lucado, Pastor, Author, “Cure for the Common Life”:

You know, people are in such a hurry all the time. I talked to a man recently who had completed 60 ironman triathlons. And the guy’s in his 60s. I said, What’s the secret? He said, “Start slow and taper down.” That’s my new motto in life. He said, “Everybody gets out on these races, and they start running as hard as they can, and they wear out. They can’t finish.” He said, “The secret’s to start slow and taper down.” I thought, you know, that’s right. Cause really in life, we start slow. And Jesus said, “Anybody who would know the kingdom of God needs to come like a child.” Children start slow, in our parent’s lap, at our mother’s breast, sleeping a lot, thinking a lot, learning a lot, but then somewhere along the line we think we gotta ratchet up. And so, yeah, I think it’s time to slow it all down a little bit.

Priscilla Shirer:

I’m reminded of Matthew, chapter 17, during the Transfiguration, Jesus was there with Peter, James and John and it says that God called out from the heavens, God the Father, called out from the heavens. And here’s Jesus standing in front of them with His face shining. And I mean, they are just amazed at what they are seeing and God the Father calls out and says, “This is My Son whom I love, and I am well pleased.” And this is the command that God the Father gives. He says, “Listen to Him.” Here’s Jesus in all of His glory, and the one thing the Father says that He’s, we’re supposed to do is listen to Him. And so, if that’s the one command that God the Father would give at this point, at this incredible point in biblical history, that we listen to Him, then I think we oughta be making some time to come aside from our busyness and listen to what it is that our Father has to say to us.

Calvin Miller, Professor, Author, “Into the Depths of God”: [Miller is a proponent of Marcus Borg who openly denied many tenets of the Christian faith.]

One of the great things that silence does, it gives us a new concept of God. God is not just somebody there to hear us, a doting grandfather who puts his arms around us and says, “Honey, I’ll see what I can do for you.” God is an activist. That’s why I believe in praying the Scriptures. When you open up the Bible and you pray the Scriptures back to God, you’re experiencing something really wonderful, and what you’re experiencing is, you’re reading back to the Author of the Word of God His own words. Now I’m not, I’m not a great writer. But when somebody says to me, “I read your book,” that’s a great gift to give me.

Beth Moore:

God’s Word is so clear that if we are not still before Him, we will never truly know, to the depths of the marrow in our bones, that He is God. There has got to be a stillness. We’ve got to have a time to sit before Him and just know that He is. We live in such an attention-deficit culture, and we’re so entirely over stimulated, so much coming at us at once, one image after another, that if we are not careful, we are going to lose the art of meditation, to just sit before God and know His peace, that He really is in control, and that nothing is happening that’s not being sifted through His fingers, and He is God upon the throne.

Richard Foster:

The wonderful thing about contemplative prayer is that it can be found everywhere, anywhere, any time for anyone. [Foster believes that contemplative prayer is for anyone, not just believers in Christ.] We become a portable sanctuary, so that we are living our life, wherever it is, aware of the goodness of God, the presence of God.

Tim Lundy:

If there ever was an age that the church—and a time period when the church needed the practice of solitude and silence, it’s now. We live in the information age. And I love it. I love the technology. I love the opportunities it gives us. But I also recognize that every day there’s hundreds of emails. We’re connected to a world wide web. We have cell phones. We, whether we’re in a car, or on an airplane or at our home, somebody can be in contact with us. And all those are great resources, but if in the middle of it we don’t stop, if we don’t get silent and practice that and be alone with God, all that becomes just a drain on us. And so the very people you’re trying to connect with and minister to, you have no energy for.

Dallas Willard:

Now because silence is such a radical thing, and it does mean that you give up control of your situation, you can see what a tremendous impact that would have on the American church, in their services, in their meetings of various kinds. Suppose they practice silence in some of their meetings. That would actually give a place for God to break in. And who knows, He might have something to say even to a committee meeting, if they would be silent long enough. It would mean that, for example, the pastors and the leaders in the services would not feel like they have to control everything, that again, God is in control. And that’s the way God is. He more or less waits for us to get tired of running things and then He’s glad to help.

Katherine A. Brown-Satzman, [promotes guided imagery] Executive Director, UCLA, Healthcare Ethics Center:

And in the process of that, physiologically, everything begins to shift. Blood pressure comes down. Breathing changes. Our mind quiets. And we can actually get to this state of where our body can heal in a much better way, because it’s not fighting all of this, right? It’s not amped up.

“Fear of Silence”

Dallas Willard:

If silence is a condition of this experience, a lot of people really are not going to undertake it. It’s very difficult to get anyone to be silent. And I think it’s because in silence they really do surrender their control over how they appear. One of the things we do in talking is to adjust our appearance. And to abandon that as a project is really major. So we keep jabbering. You go to the ordinary church service, you can hardly find 15 minutes of silence. But silence is one of the great spiritual disciplines. And in fact you’re not going to get very far in contemplative prayer unless you know how to be silent. And by that I mean that you really are comfortable with it and you’re practiced in it.

Narrator:

Christian meditation is the practice of being in the presence of God. Its ultimate goal is to seek only God and receive His guidance and grace.

Richard Foster:

Let me give just a little example of contemplative prayer for an individual. I was using Scripture—one of the Psalms, a brief Psalm, like recently I used Psalm 9. And first I would read it through, just out loud to myself, and just become aware of the texture of the Psalm. And then I’d do a second reading. And there I would highlight whatever passage  seemed to strike me in any way—a phrase or a sentence. And then I would do a third reading, and there I’m coming—I’m reading only the highlighted passages, and I look for any phrase, any sentence that speaks particularly to my condition. And that particular day, Psalm 9, the passage was, Be gracious to me, O Lord. Isn’t that wonderful? And I was going through some difficult time, and it was so helpful then, for the entire day, to utilize that particular passage. Be gracious to me, O Lord. Whatever I’m doing, whatever work it is, whatever situation with the children or with my wife or whatever—Be gracious to me, O Lord. See? That’s contemplative prayer.

LT: [Richard Foster is describing lectio divina here; but while he’s trying to make contemplative prayer sound very innocent here, we know from years of studying his writings, that he believes contemplative prayer to be much more than just picking out a passage of Scripture and thinking about it throughout the day. He and other contemplative figures teach that in order to go into the contemplative stillness, that special word or phrase needs to be repeated over and over to help eliminate thoughts and distractions.]

“The Difference Between Eastern and Christian Meditation”

Tim Lundy:

What I see in Christian meditation—it’s not escape from the world. It’s an escape to something and to someone. And so it’s an opportunity to stop, and you’re getting away from the world, but you’re moving toward God and connecting with Him.

Dallas Willard:

The loss of self that is meant in the Eastern traditions, really does mean that the individual dissolves. And that solves the problems of desire and passion, which is the curse of human life on that view of things. See, the Christian and Jewish teaching, and for that matter the Islamic teaching, is that the distinctness of the individual is a good thing. And that God has intended that and means to preserve it. So the response to the human condition is not the disappearance of desire but the dominance of love.

Beth Moore:

That’s the difference with meditation. We’re not just speaking to our inner selves. We’re not just speaking to a more positive thought process that day. We pray to the God of the universe, the king of all creation, is my Abba, Father. That’s who I’m talking to. And when I have that kind of attitude—that I’m talking to somebody that really can change my circumstances, that really can change my heart, that really can empower me to be different than I’d be, to do what I cannot do, to know what I cannot possibly know—I’m gonna tell you something—My approach is gonna be transformed. I’m not just talking, I’m not just trying to get my head together, I’m talking to someone. And I happen to be talking to the God of the universe.

LT: [What Beth Moore and Dallas Willard are saying here is that the method is the same but the intent is different; but we say that if the method is the same, you are going to get the same results. As Ray Yungen has said, two people can jump out of a ten story building with one saying “fly, fly,” and the other saying “fall, fall,” but the results will be the same.]

Narrator:

There’s a peace that surpasses understanding. We know that stress will always be there, but we ground our hearts in such oneness with God that His power can transform our lives.

“How God Speaks Through Scripture”

Richard Foster:

Learning to distinguish the voice of God from just human voices within us comes in much the same way that we learn any other voice. You know, there’s a tone to a voice. Satan pushes and condemns. God draws and encourages. And we can know the difference. And then there’s a spirit in a voice, isn’t there? Remember it was said of Messiah that He would not break a bruised reed nor quench a smoldering wick. You see, Jesus would never snuff out the smallest hope, never crush the needy. And that’s  the spirit that we look for in the voice of God. And then, third,  there’s the content of the voice. And in the final analysis, that is the most clear evidence. You see, the voice of God, the Davar Yahweh, is always consistent with the way God has spoken in the past. And so Scripture, then, becomes a primary means by which we understand God speaking to us today. It will always be consistent with the way He has spoken in the past.

LT: [Satan comes as an angel of light and his ministers as ministers of righteousness. This “test” by Richard Foster is very flawed.]

Mark Brewer:

Sometimes the longest distance in our spiritual journey is that 18 inches from our head getting it down into our heart. And the power of this contemplative prayer, this inner life, is it takes the knowledge which is all the facts and figures, and it makes it wisdom by applying it.

LT: [What contemplatives mean when they say from the head to the heart is what contemplative Henri Nouwen meant when he said: “Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love … For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral [doctrine] to the mystical is required.” (from Nouwen’s book, In the Name of Jesus)]

Calvin Miller:

Can you think about how God must feel when a Christian comes into His presence reading the 23rd Psalm? Lord, You are my shepherd. You make me lie down in green pastures. You lead me beside still waters, all for Your name’s sake. I think when we say those things back to God, as the author of those words, He’s delighted. And the silence confirms that we are people, and we’re talking and God’s listening. But the best times are when God starts talking and we’re quiet enough to hear Him.

Beth Moore:

Second Timothy 3 tells us that all Scripture is God-breathed, and that means that every single word on that paper has come fresh out of the mouth of God. What I try to remember every single time I read Scripture is that it still has the warmth of God’s breath on it. You can’t separate the words of God from the mouth of God, or you’ve just got sterile words sitting on a page. God’s Word is different than that. It’s the very word out of His mouth. Therefore it comes with fresh breath. Because it’s eternal, that means time is not attached to it. So it’s as fresh today to me as it was the day it came out of His mouth and onto the paper. That’s the way I look at it.

LT: [According to this statement by Beth Moore, without the contemplative aspect, the Word of God is “sterile.” We are not taking what she said out of context. This is totally typical of the contemplative mindset. Remember what she said above, without the stillness, you can’t really know God. She also says that “you can’t separate the word of God from the mouth of God,” but the Bible says in Psalm 138:2 that God’s Word is magnified above His name, so surely His Word is magnified above His “breath.” If you stop and really think about what she is saying here, you will see how distorted this thinking is.

Narrator:
The practice of contemplative prayer can be a vital part of our everyday lives. But we must make time for it.

“The Fruit of Contemplative Prayer”

Beth Moore:

A true lover of God once spoke about practicing God’s presence. To me, that’s such a part of contemplative prayer. That we are able to absorb the reality, that as we commune with God through prayer, that He is with us, that His Spirit, for those of us who are in Christ, fills us, that we are drawn near to Him, that our souls find rest in Him, that we’ll realize that it’s not just words on a page, but it’s the presence of God, the voice out of His mouth, that calms us, or perhaps stirs us, gives us peace or perhaps brings us into a holy passion, that we respond to His presence.

Calvin Miller:

But if we don’t do it, all we are is an inner wrangling that never ceases. We move from hassle to hassle to hassle. One may stick a little Jesus in here or there, but without the silence, there’s no healing. There’s no healing.

From the segment called “Cloud of Witnesses: Contemplative Figures Throughout History”

Beth Moore, Author “A Heart Like His”:

You know one of the things that time gives us is that it erases the lines between so many different sections of the people of God. Because many years later it doesn’t matter any longer that this person was of this practice in the Christian faith and this person of another. Time somehow blurs those lines, and we are profoundly moved by the historical narratives of all of their lives of so great a cloud of witnesses that we can look back on and see what kept them running the race, what kept them running toward the face of Christ at the end of that finish line.

Dr. Mark Brewer, Pastor, Bel Air Presbyterian Church, Los Angeles:

Through the ages a lot of us as Christians think that the Holy Spirit’s been on sabbatical since the first century and now He just showed up. But He’s been very active in the lives of all of His people. I think of some of the desert fathers—they called themselves God’s athletes in the third and fourth century. They left this corrupt Roman Empire to go and to seek God and they made what they called this holy place for God. That’s why they fasted and why they lived such simple lives, was so the Lord could encounter them.

Richard Foster, Author, “Prayer”:

[The mystic] Madame Guyon was a French lady of the 17th century. She had children. She had an ordinary life experience. But she learned, you see, how, in that, to live with God. Her book, “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ,” is one of the sweetest little books on contemplative prayer. And she wrote it for people who couldn’t read themselves. Her book was meant to be read to them.

Richard Foster:

[Mystic] Teresa of Avila was a Spanish lady in the 16th century, a contemporary with [panentheist] Saint John of the Cross. An incredible leader, administrator. A woman of immense skill and ability and a woman of deep prayer.

Jerry Root, PhD, Professor, Wheaton College:

One of my favorite stories relates to the medieval contemplative Julian of Norwich. She was from England. And she claimed to have had revelation from God and she wrote about it shortly after she had these experiences. She was in her early 20s. Twenty-five years later she wrote about it again. She hadn’t had a new experience with God, revealing Himself to her, but she wrote about it 25 years later, having allowed 25 years of contemplation to inform what this meant to her. There’s one story that occurs in both accounts. She said that God spoke to her and told her to pick up a chestnut. She picked it up and God spoke to her and said, “All the great truths can be found even in a chestnut. God made it. God sustains it. God loves it.”

And I think all of the great contemplative writers have present application, if we’ll look for it.

[The mystic] Evelyn Underhill would be a relatively modern contemplative. She died in the early 1940s. At Oxford University you had to be a male to teach, until Evelyn Underhill came along. She was the first woman given lecture-wide status throughout the university. She was towering intellect. She wrote 39 books on Christian spirituality [i.e., contemplative spirituality] and philosophy of religion. And Evelyn Underhill tells a great story about a friend of hers who had been to Scotland, to the island of Iona. Iona is an island that’s sacred for the Scots because it’s where Columba first brought Christianity to Scotland. Every Scot needs to make the pilgrimage to Iona sometime in their life because the roots of Scottish Christianity are there. Well, Underhill’s friend had been to Scotland and had been to Iona, and when she returned her Scottish gardener said to her, “Where did you go for your vacation?” And Underhill’s friend said, “I’ve been to Iona.” And he says, “Oh, Iona’s a thin place.” She said, “What do you mean?” He said, “It’s a thin place because there’s not much between God and Iona.”

And all of life, properly looked at, in some senses, is a thin place. Everywhere we look, in a world made by God, a world inhabited by God, God is calling us to worship Him. . . . There’s another medieval contemplative named Brother Lawrence. He was responsible for the book “Practicing the Presence of God.” Many people don’t realize that Brother Lawrence was a pot scrubber in a monastery. He wasn’t a full-fledged monk. He was a brother who would come in and scrub pots for the monks so that they could spend their time in prayer. And it was while he was washing pots at a kitchen scullery that he practiced the presence of God. In essence, Brother Lawrence would tell us the kitchen’s a thin place. Scrubbing pots is a thin place. All of life—especially the struggle of life—is a thin place. God wants to meet us in those places.

Dallas Willard:

Brother Lawrence’s experiences were rather different. They involve some things that are quite like this type of prayer. But for example, a major experience for him was viewing a tree that had lost its leaves in the winter and was all stripped bare, and the realization that this tree still had life in it, and that this life would flourish again in the spring. His sense of that seemed to bring him into a kind of unity with that life that he began to practice. And of course, he had a very lowly, menial position, caring for the kitchen and the needs of the monastery. So he learned then to see God in all things.

Richard Foster:

Brother Lawrence, in his wonderful book, “The Practice of the Presence of God,” said, “Those who have the gale…” He means the wind. “…of the Holy Spirit go forward even in sleep.” Isn’t that wonderful, that we can move forward in our spiritual life even when we’re sleeping? I often try, as I am entering sleep, to just give my life to God—my heart, my mind, my thinking, my dreams, whatever they might be. And then you wake up in the morning and you’ve advanced in the Spirit. You see, that’s part of contemplative prayer as well.

From the segment, Alone With God:

Woman:

Find a simple and quiet place where you can be comfortable for about 20 minutes. But you don’t want to get so comfortable that you miss your intimate time with God because you’ve fallen asleep. If I’m in bed, I prop up on a pillow and try to sit up as straight as possible, not in the counting sheep position.

Take a few deep breaths. Begin to relax and slow yourself down. As you inhale, think of the Holy Spirit breathing life and peace into your body. And as you exhale, remember the verse that says to cast all your cares upon Him.

 

 

 

 

 

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Spiritual Formation—A Dangerous Substitute For the Life of Christ

Sometimes we think of spiritual formation as formation by the Holy Spirit. Once again. That’s essential. . . . But now I have to say something that may be challenging for you to think about: Spiritual formation is not all by the Holy Spirit. . . . We have to recognize that spiritual formation in us is something that is also done to us by those around us, by ourselves, and by activities which we voluntarily undertake . . .There has to be method.1—Dallas Willard

bigstockphoto.com (a monastery)

bigstockphoto.com

Aside from the fact that Spiritual Formation incorporates mystical practices into its infrastructure (remove the contemplative aspect and you don’t have “Spiritual Formation” anymore), Spiritual Formation is a works-based substitute for biblical Christianity. Let us explain.

When one becomes born again (“that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9-10), having given his or her life and heart over to Christ as Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ says He will come in and live in that surrendered heart:

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20)

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. (John 14:23)

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: (Colossians 1:27)

[I]f the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you. (Romans 8:11; emphasis added)

When God, through Jesus Christ, is living in us, He begins to do a transforming work in our hearts (2 Corinthians 3:18). Not only does He change us, He also communes with us. In other words, we have fellowship with Him, and He promises never to leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

This life of God in the believer’s heart is not something we need to conjure up through meditative practices. But if a person does not have this relationship with the Lord, he may seek out ways to feel close to God. This is where Spiritual Formation comes into play. Rather than a surrendered life to Christ, the seeking person begins practicing the spiritual disciplines (e.g., prayer, fasting, good works, etc.) with the promise that if he practices these disciplines, he will become more Christ-like.

But merely doing these acts fails to make one feel close to God—something is still missing. And thus, he begins practicing the discipline of silence (or solitude), and now in these altered states of silence, he finally feels connected to God. He now feels complete. What he does not understand is that he has substituted the indwelling of Christ in his heart for a works-based methodology that endangers his spiritual life. Dangerous because these mystical experiences he now engages in appear to be good because they make him feel close to God, but in reality he is being drawn into demonic realms no different than what happens to someone who is practicing transcendental meditation or eastern meditation. Even mystics themselves acknowledge that the contemplative realm is no different than the realm reached by occultists. To understand this more fully, please read Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing.

Bottom line, it is not possible to be truly Christ-like without having Christ inside of us because it is He who is able to change our hearts—we cannot do it without Him.

It is interesting to note that virtually every contemplative teacher has a common theme—they feel dry and empty and want to go “deeper” with God or “become more intimate” with God. But if we have Christ living in us, how can we go any deeper than that? How can we become more intimate than that? And if going deeper and becoming intimate were so important, why is it that none of the disciples or Jesus Himself ever told us to do this? As Larry DeBruyn states:

Why are Christians seeking a divine presence that Jesus promised would abundantly flow in them? . . . Why do they need another voice, another visitation, or another vision? Why are some people unthankfully desirous of “something more” than what God has already given to us? Why is it that some Christians, in the depth of their souls, are not seemingly at rest?2

Is There a “Good” Spiritual Formation?
One of the most common arguments we hear defending Spiritual Formation is that there is a “good” Spiritual Formation done without contemplative prayer. To that we say, we have never yet seen a Spiritual Formation program in a school or a church that doesn’t in some way point people to the contemplative mystics. It might be indirectly, but in every case, if you follow the trail, it will lead you right into the arms of Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and other contemplative teachers.

Think about this common scenario: A Christian college decides to begin a Spiritual Formation course. The instructor has heard some negative things about Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Brennan Manning, and he figures he will teach the class good Spiritual Formation and leave those teachers completely out. But he’s going to need a textbook. He turns to a respected institution, Dallas Theological Seminary, and finds a book written by Paul Pettit, Professor in Pastoral and Education Ministries. The book is titled Foundations of Spiritual Formation. The instructor who has found this book to use in his own class may never mention Richard Foster or Dallas Willard, but the textbook he is using does. Within the pages of Pettit’s book is Richard Foster, Philip Yancey, N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Thomas Aquinas, Lectio Divina, Ayn Rand, Parker Palmer, Eugene Peterson, J.P. Moreland, Klaus Issler, Bruce Dermerst, Jim Burns, Kenneth Boa and Brother Lawrence’s “practicing God’s presence.” You may not have heard of all these names, but they are all associated with the contemplative prayer movement and the emerging church.

Another example of this is Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Whitney is Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. While his book does not promote contemplative mysticism, he says that Richard Foster has “done much good”3 in the area of Christian spirituality.

Our point is that even if there is a sincere attempt to teach Spiritual Formation and stay away from the mystical side, we contend that it cannot be successfully accomplished because it will always lead back to the ones who have brought it to the church in the first place.

Spiritual formation is sweeping quickly throughout Christianity today. It’s no wonder when the majority of Christian leaders have either endorsed the movement or given it a silent pass. For instance, in Chuck Swindoll’s book So You Want to Be Like Christ: 8 Essential Disciplines to Get Your There, Swindoll favorably quotes Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Swindoll calls Celebration of Discipline a “meaningful work”4 and Willard’s book The Spirit of the Disciplines “excellent work.”5 In chapter three,”Silence and Solitude,” Swindoll talks about “digging for secrets . . . that will deepen our intimacy with God.”6 Quoting the contemplative poster-verse Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God,” Swindoll says the verse is a call to the “discipline of silence.”7 As other contemplative proponents have done, he has taken this verse very much out of context.

Roger Oakland sums it up:

The Spiritual Formation movement . . . teaches people that this is how they can become more intimate with God and truly hear His voice. Even Christian leaders with longstanding reputations of teaching God’s word seem to be succumbing. . . .

We are reconciled to God only through his “death” (the atonement for sin), and we are presented “holy and unblameable and unreproveable” when we belong to Him through rebirth. It has nothing to do with works, rituals, or mystical experiences. It is Christ’s life in the converted believer that transforms him.8

What Christians need is not a method or program or ritual or practice  that will supposedly connect them to God. What we need is to be “in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:30) and Christ in us. And He has promised His Spirit “will guide [us] into all truth” (John 16:13).

In Colossians 1:9, the apostle Paul tells the saints that he was praying for them that they “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” He was praying that they would have discernment (“spiritual understanding”). He said that God, the Father, has made us “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (vs 12) and had “delivered us from the power of darkness [i.e., power of deception]” (vs. 13). But what was the key to having this wisdom and spiritual understanding and being delivered from the power of darkness? Paul tells us in that same chapter. He calls it “the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints” (vs. 26). What is that mystery? Verse 27 says: “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

For those wanting to get involved with the Spiritual Formation movement (i.e., contemplative, spiritual direction), consider the “direction” you will actually be going.

And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel. (Colossians 1:21-23)

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2: 8-10)

To order copies of Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t), click here.

Endnotes:
1. Dallas Willard, “Spiritual Formation: What it is, and How it is Done” (http://www.dwillard.org/articles/artview.asp?artID=58).
2. Larry DeBruyn, “The Practice of His Presence” (http://herescope.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-present-of-his-presence.html).
3. Donald Whitney, “Doctrine and Devotion: A Reunion Devoutly to be Desired” (http://web.archive.org/web/20080828052145/http://biblicalspirituality.org/devotion.html).
4. Chuck Swindoll, So You Want to Be Like Christ: 8 Essential Disciplines to Get You There (Nashville, TN:W Publishing Group, a div. of Thomas Nelson, 2005), p. 15.
5. Ibid., p. 13.
6. Ibid., p. 55.
7. Ibid.
8. Roger Oakland, Faith Undone, op. cit., pp. 91-92.

This has been an extract from our booklet Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t). To order this booklet, click here.

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NEW BOOKLET TRACT: C is For Catholicism—An Evangelical Primer on Catholic Terminology

NEW BOOKLET TRACT: C is For Catholicism—An Evangelical Primer on Catholic Terminology by Kevin Reeves is our newest Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract.  The Booklet Tract is 14 pages long and sells for $1.95 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. Our Booklet Tracts are designed to give away to others or for your own personal use.  Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of C is For Catholicism—An Evangelical Primer on Catholic Terminology, click here.

C is For Catholicism—An Evangelical Primer on Catholic Terminology

rp_BKT-KR-cath.jpgBy Kevin Reeves

I remember well those hot pre-summer vacation days in Philadelphia, standing in formation with my classmates in the parking lot of the Catholic church/school to which I belonged, the sun baking my hatless head as we sang in unison the praises of Mary, the Mother of God. It was a yearly festival, this May Procession, and although we grade-school kids were supposedly there to honor Mary, we all knew that if we adhered close enough to the religious choreography, the parish priest looking on would cut that school day in half. And, if we were really sharp, he would give us off the whole next day. That was the real goal, and we knew it—for each to keep his place in formation, standing straight and uncomplaining, responding correctly to cues from the nuns. It usually paid off, though I clearly recall once being stiffed by the priest although we’d suffered admirably through the hot, endless ordeal.

I bring up the May Procession, not by way of mocking, but because it is indicative of the Catholic Church at large. The term “religious choreography” is aptly used, because it is descriptive of the rigidity of the faith and practice in which I was immersed for the first twenty-four years of my life. The church called the way we were to move, think, act, if we wanted to remain in good standing and possibly attain salvation.

It has been my experience that Roman Catholicism is basically composed of rules to be obeyed. The closer one adheres to said rules, it is taught, the holier one becomes. Though the Scriptures are utilized—albeit in conjunction with what Protestants believe are non-canonical books, like Maccabees and Tobit—they are never stand-alone but are always viewed through the lens of Catholic tradition and doctrine and take secondary place to that church’s form and structure. Catholicism teaches that one cannot be righteous apart from the Catholic system; salvation, as such, is not solely on the basis of the shed blood of Jesus Christ, but also on the basis of works—works which adhere to the Catholic formula. For all those years, I was taught, and believed, that it was the Catholic Church that saved me, not Jesus alone. And for all those years of faithful belief and practice, including twelve years of Catholic school, I never once heard the undiluted Gospel preached.

It was said with pride within my own family that we came from 200 years of Catholic tradition. Our spiritual forebears included poor Irish farmers, assorted rogues one step ahead of the law, fiddlers, and (I was told, anyway) an Irish archbishop, and with such an impressive, unbroken line of Catholicism, we were born into the fold. Until I drifted away from the Catholic Church at twenty-four, all my religious experience had been formed by that ancient tradition. I was raised among statues of Mary and the saints, scapulars, holy water, and blessed palm leaves, but I don’t recall ever seeing a Bible in the house. We really didn’t need one for the spiritual path we were on. The parish priest and nuns taught us all we needed to know to be good Catholics. Not good Christians, mind you. Good Catholics. I say without animosity that there was, and is, a huge difference, one which Catholics do not seem to understand.

For the past several decades, there has been a concerted effort by both the Catholic hierarchy and some leading evangelicals to join hands, forget the tumultuous past, and work together as brothers and sisters in Christ. Though it has always been a subtle thrust of the Vatican to draw back to its church those who consider themselves “Protestant,” now the move has gained such momentum that subtlety is no longer warranted. Today, so much Catholic tradition has inundated even mainline churches that the lines between truth and error are blurred, or worse, eradicated altogether.

Even many Bible-believing Christians love Saint Francis of Assisi, that gentle mendicant at whose beckoning wild animals would supposedly become tame. They have no idea that in real life he was a Catholic mystic, whose vision of Christ supposedly pierced his own hands, feet, and side with the visible, painful wounds of Christ’s crucifixion; they don’t know that Francis honored and held as holy his pope, Innocent III, who instituted the first serious persecution of those who deviated from Catholic tradition; they do not know of the many popes who had mistresses, sired illegitimate children, lived in luxury, ruled as emperors and yet whose word, spoken “from the chair” of Saint Peter was still considered by the faithful to be the very word of God.

When asked about the discrepancy, a Catholic may indeed admit to a checkered papal history, and at the same time confess that a reigning pope can and does speak infallibly, “from the chair.”

Many Christians who don’t recognize the danger infiltrating Christ’s church might well remark that because the pope and his emissaries don’t do those same things today, then we should forget the past, forgive, and move on, recognizing what is good in Catholicism and even incorporating some (or many) of its tenets and practices. I wonder if John Hus, William Tyndale, or scores of other good Christian men and women who gave their all to free multitudes from the religious bondage of Catholicism would think it appropriate to let bygones be bygones. Remember, for all the papal bluster about goodwill toward those outside Vatican purview, the Catholic Church is still basically the same as it was many hundreds of years ago. It has never renounced the Counter-Reformation, nor repented for the execution of men like Hus, nor repudiated its most dearly held doctrines like transubstantiation (the re-sacrifice of Christ on the Cross in every Mass) or the belief in Mary as mediator between Jesus and men.

Many of the following terms were pulled from my memory of long association with and participation in the Catholic Church. As a child I learned the Mass in Latin, competed for “holy cards” in Catholic school, revered both the priests and nuns, and, faithfully adhered to the system marked out for me from birth. Some outworking of Catholicism may have changed since my Catholic days, but the system, the doctrine, and the practices are essentially the same. I have also turned to the research and work of Roger Oakland, director of Understand the Times, International and his excellent book, Another Jesus?: The Eucharistic Christ and the New Evangelizations to confirm the meanings of the following terms.

As Christians who hold fast to the Scriptures and abide in Jesus, we need to love Catholics, while at the same time expose the errors of the religious system in which they are enmeshed. Only by speaking the truth in love and finding no place for compromise with error can we glorify the God who saved us through the shed blood of His only Son.

For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2: 8-9)

Catholicism in Terms

Absolution: The forgiveness of one’s sins by a priest, who acts as a mediator between God and man. That the priest is the one who forgives sin is confirmed by the priest’s own words: “I absolve thee in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” As a teenager once, prior to confession, I asked a priest, “Father, can you forgive hatred?”

“I can forgive any sin, son,” he said with confidence in his authority.

This is in direct conflict with Scripture, which states in 1 Timothy 2:5 that “. . . there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Ash Wednesday: Catholic holy day wherein a priest smudges the sign of the cross on the foreheads of the faithful with a semblance of the words, “dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return,” a warning of the short earthly life span of man. The faithful usually wear the ashes on their foreheads the entire day, in full view.

Assumption: The supposed heavenly taking up of the body of Mary into glory.1

Bleeding Host: A communion wafer that oozes blood and/or pulses like a heart.

Catechism: A book enumerating and explaining the teachings of the Catholic Church. It is given to potential converts and, historically, taught in Catholic schools to students.

Confession: The act of confessing one’s sins to a priest in order to obtain absolution. The priest acts as mediator between God and men, forgiving sins and prescribing what he considers an appropriate penance.

Confessional: The dark, boxlike structure where Catholics to go “confession” (see cover of this booklet). A screen is between the priest and the sinner so that neither can clearly see the other, for privacy’s sake.

Contemplative Prayer: Going beyond thought by the use of repeated prayer words or phrases. The religious chanting common in some monks’ orders qualifies as contemplative, since the phrases, intonation, and method used in the chant is designed to lift the practitioner from the earthly to the divine realm.

Counter-Reformation: The movement, exemplified by the Council of Trent, organized by the Catholic Church and meeting for years that codified Catholic belief in opposition to the Protestant reformers. The council essentially denied the simple truth of the Gospel in favor of longstanding Catholic tradition and Vatican interpretations, and placed an anathema (curse from God) on those in disagreement with its findings on such things as transubstantiation.

Crucifix: Cross on which a figure of Jesus still hangs. Central point of any Catholic church and affixed to the rosary chain, the crucifix reminds the worshipper of the suffering of Christ and His sacrifice for the salvation of souls. Praying while staring at the crucifix is common among Catholics, as the crucifix is used as a prayer assist.

Ecstasy: The ultimate goal of the Catholic mystic in his seeking of God, usually involving separate incidents over a lifetime of devotion. Manifestations accompanying ecstasy, such as visions, crying, rapture, trance, levitation, the receiving of the stigmata, etc., have been reported throughout history.

Eucharist: The sacrament of the partaking of the Communion wafer and wine consecrated by the priest during the Mass. Believed to impart special grace, because the recipient is said to be eating and drinking the actual body and blood of Christ. Also refers to the Communion elements themselves.

Eucharistic Christ: The actual, physical presence of Christ in the consecrated Host, which is to be worshipped by the faithful. It is important to remember that Catholics do not believe they worship a wafer; they believe they worship the Christ that appears in wafer form.

Eucharistic Miracle: Communion wafers that bleed, pulse like a heart, etc. Wine that turns miraculously into human blood. If reports are genuine, then these are actual supernatural occurrences, and completely at odds with the Scriptures, hence demonic in origin.2

Ex Cathedra: Literally, “From the Chair,” meaning the chair of Saint Peter, whom Catholics believe was the first pope of the Roman Church. When a pope speaks Ex Cathedra, his words are considered to be the very words of God.

Father: Official term of address for a priest, as he is seen as a mediator between God and men, the conduit through which the eucharistic transubstantiation is performed, and in matters of faith and practice the wise leader of a spiritual “family” (his parishioners). This is in direct violation of the commandment of Jesus in Matthew 23:9, wherein our Lord states, “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, who is in heaven.”

Though Catholics downplay the importance of this distinction, to call anyone “father” in the official, spiritual sense indicates deference to his presumed spiritual standing, which is believed to be higher and more in tune with God. Implied in this term and image of the Catholic “father” is the idea of a God who is not directly approachable by the “laity,” or the everyday Catholic. Instead, the common people who come with petitions or confessions to God the Father approach through a complex spiritual protocol of Mary, the saints, the angels, and, of course, the family or parish priest. But the Scriptures tell us repeatedly that “. . . because ye are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6) and that we are to “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). By His death and resurrection, Christ Himself has torn the veil that separated us from God (Matthew 27:51) and removed the system that required a human high priest as intermediary. A priest, Catholic or otherwise, is no longer needed for the Christian to directly approach his Father God.

Genuflection: The act of bowing down on one knee before the altar, often in consort with a sign of the cross, in worship of the Jesus whom Catholics believe is physically present in the Host. The Host is kept in a special, ornate box behind the altar. The faithful Catholic, before leaving the church building, turns, faces the Host (the body of Jesus), and falls on one knee in worship of the Host he believes to be God. This is no less than idolatry.

Good Works: In the Catholic sense, necessary to maintain one’s salvation. Catholics will cite James 2:17 (“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone”) to support their assertion. But James here is speaking of works showing that you already have faith in Christ, not that faith plus works equals salvation.

Hail Mary: A prayer of devotion to Mary, ending with the plea, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

Holy Water: Water blessed by the priest and normally kept in small water dishes near the inside entrance to a Catholic church. The faithful dips a finger or two in the water and makes the sign of the cross.

Host: From the Latin hostia, meaning “victim,” because Christ is supposedly sacrificed repeatedly, in every Mass. Physically, it is the Communion wafer consecrated by the priest. When lifted up at the high point of the Mass, and blessed by the priest, the Host is said to become the actual body of Christ. Likewise, the wine, when lifted up and consecrated during the Mass, is said to become the actual blood of Christ.

Immaculate Conception: The doctrine which declares that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was born without original sin in order to be the perfect vessel for the birth of the Son of God. The Scriptures say that only Jesus was born without sin, because He was God incarnate.

Indulgence: A pardon or shortening of the time that a soul is sentenced to purgatory, granted by an act of the pope. The selling of indulgences to raise monies for the building of a new church or add to the Vatican treasury, etc., was so widespread during the Middle Ages, that a ditty developed from the practice: “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, a soul from purgatory springs.”

Infallibility: A characteristic presumed of the pope when speaking officially on faith and doctrine. His words are considered inerrant, without flaw, as coming from God.

Lectio Divina: Means “sacred reading.” In today’s contemplative movement, it often involves taking a single word or small phrase from Scripture and repeating the words over and over again.

Lent: The forty-day period preceding the day the Lord’s resurrection is celebrated. During Lent, Catholics donate extra money, give up certain harmless pleasures, make a more serious commitment to the church, sacrifice for others, etc.

Limbo: The supposed state just short of heaven wherein reside those good souls who had not been baptized into the Roman Catholic Church. This includes babies stillborn or those who died before being baptized.

Lourdes: A famous grotto in France where the peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous supposedly witnessed multiple appearances of the Virgin Mary. The grotto later became a pilgrimage site for the sick and infirm, and many supernatural healings have been said to occur there.

Mary: The mother of Jesus in the Bible, called The Mother of God by Catholics. She is the object of adoration to the faithful who pray to her for mercy, forgiveness, or miracles. The faithful sometimes make vows to her, contrary to the admonition in Matthew 5:33-37 to utter no oaths at all. Also called the Blessed Mother, Blessed Virgin, Virgin Mary, Our Lady, and the Queen of Heaven. One common prayer of praise to her states, “Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope.” So much in this prayer usurps the authority of both Christ and the Father in the life of the true Christian. In 2 Corinthians 1:3, God, not Mary, is the one from whom mercy flows, He being called “the father of mercies and the God of all comfort.” In the above prayer to Mary, she is also called “our life,” but Colossians 3:4 states that “. . . when Christ, who is our life, shall appear . . .” Later in that same prayer to Mary, she is called the Catholic’s “advocate,” thus again usurping Christ’s position, as 1 John 2:1 calls Him, not Mary, the Christian’s advocate.

This image of Mary as a powerful go-between is so central to the Catholic faith that it is impossible to conceive of Catholicism without her in the position of adoration that she holds. It is of utmost importance to realize that the Bible says very little about the mother of Jesus. Catholic tradition is responsible for the Marian construct we see in operation today.

Marian Apparitions: Though not exclusively a Catholic term, it is used to denote supposed appearances of Mary in her glorified state. She is said to have appeared to individuals or groups of people in many locations throughout the world, including at Fatima, Portugal in the early part of the twentieth century.
Mass: A celebratory re-sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. This is a contradiction of the many Scriptures that declare Christ died only once, for all men, for all time, such as Hebrews 9:28, which states that “Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many.” He is never to be re-offered as a sacrifice for sin, such as is done in the Mass. His one sacrifice was sufficient.

May Procession: A spiritual celebration of the Catholic Church, which, in my time, was composed of schoolchildren in the Catholic school I attended, and directed by nuns and priests. Mary is honored as the Mother of God. One of the songs sung during the celebration is “Immaculate Mary.”

Mediatrix: Term applied to Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who is said to be a co-redeemer with Christ. In Catholic practice, Mary is often the mediator between men and Jesus, it being suggested that she is more merciful and that her Son in heaven would refuse her nothing.

Monstrance: The ornate, hand-held container that is used to display the Host. A priest raises the monstrance above his head and passes it before the congregation, allowing them to worship the supposed Jesus in the Host.

Mortal Sin: A sin that, if not repented of before death, condemns a soul to hell.

Mystic: In Catholic parlance, one who seeks complete union with God.

Mysticism: A direct experience with the supernatural realm outside scriptural boundaries.

New Evangelization Plan: A program by the Catholic Church designed to win the world to Christ (the Eucharistic christ), with the Eucharist as the focal point.3

Our Father: The Catholic term for the Lord’s Prayer. “Forgive us our debts” is usually substituted with “forgive us our trespasses.”

Pope: From the Latin papa. The supreme, spiritual head of the entire Roman Catholic Church on earth, considered the “vicar” of Christ.

Purgatory: Place of punishment wherein those who died with venial sins on their souls will be purged. Considered by some Catholics to be a place of fiery torment of unspecified but limited duration.

Penance: Good works, restitution, or a set of prayers to be prayed after a priest absolves sin. Failure to do penance when so ordered invalidates the absolution.

Relics: Anything once belonging to a deceased, sainted Catholic, including bones, articles of clothing, personal possessions, etc., that are considered imbued with supernatural power. Historically, the sale of relics was a booming business. Supposed pieces of the “true cross” and spots of “Christ’s blood” were once peddled in Europe.

Righteousness: The position of being in right standing with God through good works, prayers, and devotion to the teachings of the Catholic Church. Contrary to the use of the term in the Bible (2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 3:28), righteousness in the Catholic system is not imputed and irrevocable, but rather maintained by following the Catholic protocol.

Rosary: A set of beads, ending in a crucifix, that is used with a particular pattern of fixed prayers, especially the Our Father and the Hail Mary. Primarily a devotional tool to Mary.

Saints: Devoted Catholic men and women, most notably mystics, who were canonized by the Catholic Church after a Vatican investigation has proven that two miracles occurred through or by their intervention. Catholic tradition ascribes to some saints rather fantastic characteristics, such as bi-location (being in two places at one time), levitation, or the stigmata.

Separated Brethren: Any Christian who is not a Catholic. Protestants.

Scapular: Small piece of consecrated cloth, with a picture of the Mother of God and/or the saint to whom it was first given. The scapular is designed to be worn about the neck as a symbol of consecration to Mary. Supposedly presented by Mary to Catholic Saint Simon Stock in the early medieval period, in the form of a monk’s habit. It was eventually cut down to its present form for use with common Catholics, with the promise that the faithful who die wearing the scapular will not be sent to hell.4

Sign of the Cross: Short ritual, using the hand to touch first the forehead, then the center of the chest, then the left side of the chest or shoulder, then the right. During the ritual some bow their heads, and some say, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” The ritual is a symbol of worship and humility.

Statues: It would be difficult to overstate the importance of statues (those miniature or life-size representations of Mary, the Catholic saints, and Christ) in Catholic worship. In a church, or consecrated by a priest for private use, such statues are viewed as holy by “the faithful.” Catholics kneel before them, fix their eyes upon them while praying, and implore favors from those they represent. This practice is in direct violation of the Second Commandment, written in Exodus 20:4-5, which forbids the pagan practice of bowing before images in worship. Doing connotes idol worship.

In many churches, bouquets of fresh flowers are placed at the feet of a statue of Mary, by the faithful as evidence of their devotion to the Mother of God. Statues may also be attired according to month, holy day, or festival, such as those of Mary in certain Catholic nations, where the statue is crowned, dressed in fine garments and jewels, and paraded on a garlanded platform through the streets amid throngs of worshippers. In some churches, the statue of Mary, normally placed near or beside the altar rail, is shown with a serpent under her feet, indicating that she will tread down Satan. The Bible states that only Christ, not Mary, will crush the serpent’s head, since it is He alone who purchased salvation for believers at the cost of His own blood.

In the past century, miracles attributed to Catholic statues include mouths moving as if to speak, and blood or tears or milk flowing from the eyes. In view of the Scriptures, such bizarre manifestations can only be considered demonic.

Stigmata: Visible marks depicting the wounds of Jesus’ crucifixion, appearing on the hands, feet and side of certain mystics, such as Francis of Assisi.

Tabernacle: The ornate box on the altar containing the hosts.

Transubstantiation: The doctrine that asserts that during the Mass, the Host (the communion wafer) and the communion wine are transformed miraculously into the literal body and blood of Christ.

Venial Sin: A “smaller” sin, one that does not place the soul in eternal jeopardy. It is believed that a Catholic may die with venial sins on his soul, and, after a time of suffering in purgatory, be taken to heaven.

Visualization: Can be used as a springboard to mysticism, i.e., visualizing oneself walking with Jesus, talking with Him, sitting at His feet and listening to His teaching. This goes much farther than harmless imagining in that visualization is utilized to actually bring one into contact with God.

To order copies of C is For Catholicism—An Evangelical Primer on Catholic Terminology, click here.

____________

Endnotes
1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assumption_of_Mary.
2. Joan Carroll Cruz, Eucharistic Miracles: And Eucharistic Phenomena in the Lives of the Saints (Rockford, IL: Tan Books and Publishers, 1987), back cover; cited in Roger Oakland’s Another Jesus? (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2004), page 115.
3. Read chapter 6, “The New Evangelization” of Another Jesus? for more information.
4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simon_Stock.

To order copies of C is For Catholicism—An Evangelical Primer on Catholic Terminology, click here.

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Letter to the Editor: My Pastor Asks Church to Read David Benner – Who is He?

To Lighthouse Trails:

Our Pastor has started a series based on a book “The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self Discovery” by David G. Benner. What can you tell me about this book and the author? What our pastor has read from this book is very strange because in the first few pages there is no mention of the Bible. Can you help me because I think this book is a farce.

B.G.

Dear B.G.

David Benner is one of the major heavy weights in contemplative spirituality. First of all, this particular book of his is promoted and endorsed by some of the most prolific contemplative mystics out there today, including the Catholic interspiritualist priest Richard Rohr (a modern day Thomas Merton) and Adele Ahlberg Calhoun (Handbook on Spiritual Disciplines). In addition to the endorsements, the foreword is written by Basil Pennington. Ray Yungen discusses Pennington in his book A Time of Departing. Yungen explains:

In the book Finding Grace at the Center, written by Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington (both Catholic monks), the following advice is given: “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 …” Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington have taken their Christianity and blended it with Eastern mysticism through a contemplative method they call centering prayer … Keating and Pennington have both authored a number of influential books on contemplative prayer thus advancing this movement greatly. Pennington essentially wrote a treatise on the subject called Centering Prayer while Keating has written the popular and influential classic, Open Mind, Open Heart, and both are major evangelists for contemplative prayer. (p. 64)

The following two quotes by Pennington show his panentheistic beliefs (God is in all):

It is my sense, from having meditated with persons from many different [non-Christian] traditions, that in the silence we experience a deep unity. When we go beyond the portals of the rational mind into the experience, there is only one God to be experienced. ( Centered Living, p. 192)

The Spirit enlightened him [Merton] in the true synthesis [unity] of all and in the harmony of that huge chorus of living beings. In the midst of it he lived out a vision of a new world, where all divisions have fallen away and the divine goodness is perceived and enjoyed as present in all and through all. (Thomas Merton, My Brother, pp. 199-200.)

Enneagram

Enneagram

Regarding the specific book by Benner of which you inquired, it is loaded with quotes by, references to, and ideas from numerous contemplative mystics including Thomas Merton, Dallas Willard, Gary Moon, Richard Rohr, Thomas Keating, and of course, Basil Pennington. And throughout the book, Benner recommends contemplative meditation, enneagrams (a meditation tool), visualization, and other means to help the reader become a contemplative mystic. The fact is, the very essence of this book shares the same vision and emphasis that most contemplative books do.  It is important to understand what the contemplative means by “self-discovery,” or finding your true self. To the contemplative, we each have a false self and a true self. This true self can only be reached or attained to through going into the meditative silence, whereupon, they say, we find that true self which is the divinity within all human beings. The core of contemplative spirituality is panentheism (God in all) and the fruit is interspirituality (all paths lead to God).  In The Gift of Being Yourself, Benner’s focus is on helping readers find their “true self,” their divinity within (not dependent on being born again and having Jesus Christ living in you).

Benner has devoted his writing career to spreading the contemplative prayer message such as his book Open to God: Lectio Divina and Life as Prayer, in which teaches readers the contemplative practice lectio divina. You can read our article/booklet on this subject: LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it?

Basil Pennington

Basil Pennington

Isn’t it something that The Gift of Being Yourself: The Sacred Call to Self Discovery is published by InterVarsity Press! While they have certainly published many contemplative books, this one truly shows how strongly they believe in this panentheistic, interspiritual spirituality. And it reminds us once again that the Christian church is in very big trouble, and yet virtually no Christian leader is warning about it. On the contrary. Rick Warren himself has promoted many contemplatives over the years including Henri Nouwen, Richard Foster, Gary Thomas, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun, and several others.

We would encourage you to see if your pastor would read a copy of A Time of Departing. However, we fear that he, like so many other pastors today, may be well down the contemplative road. If he, himself, is practicing contemplative meditation, then he is being drawn in by seducing spirits (familiar spirits); and to convince someone to step away and denounce those euphoric mind-altering experiences is as hard as convincing a drug addict to give up heroin. That’s why the Catholic priest Thomas Merton likened an LSD trip to the contemplative experience. Both entice their victims to think they are reaching God when in fact they are falling into spiritual darkness.

Note: You can find more information about most of the names mentioned above on our research site: www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com and in our books and booklets.

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A Vital Question: Is There a “Good” Spiritual Formation?

Kariba Dam between Zambia and ZimbabweOne of the most common arguments we hear defending Spiritual Formation is that there is a “good” Spiritual Formation done without contemplative prayer. To that we say, we have never yet seen a Spiritual Formation program in a school or a church that doesn’t in some way point people to the contemplative mystics. It might be indirectly, but in every case, if you follow the trail, it will lead you right into the arms of Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and other contemplative teachers.

Think about this common scenario: A Christian college decides to begin a Spiritual Formation course. The instructor has heard some negative things about Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Brennan Manning, and he figures he will teach the class good Spiritual Formation and leave those teachers completely out. But he’s going to need a textbook. He turns to a respected institution, Dallas Theological Seminary, and finds a book written by Paul Pettit, Professor in Pastoral and Education Ministries. The book is titled Foundations of Spiritual Formation. The instructor who has found this book to use in his own class may never mention Richard Foster or Dallas Willard, but the textbook he is using does. Within the pages of Pettit’s book is Richard Foster, Philip Yancey, N.T. Wright, Dallas Willard, Thomas Aquinas, Lectio Divina, Ayn Rand, Parker Palmer, Eugene Peterson, J.P. Moreland, Klaus Issler, Bruce Dermerst, Jim Burns, Kenneth Boa and Brother Lawrence’s “practicing God’s presence.” You may not have heard of all these names, but they are all associated with the contemplative prayer movement and the emerging church.

Another example of this is Donald Whitney’s book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. Whitney is Associate Professor of Biblical Spirituality at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. While his book does not promote contemplative mysticism, he says that Richard Foster has “done much good”31 in the area of Christian spirituality.

Our point is that even if there is a sincere attempt to teach Spiritual Formation and stay away from the mystical side, we contend that it cannot be successfully accomplished because it will always lead back to the ones who have brought it to the church in the first place.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power. (Colossians 2: 8-10)

This is an excerpt from our booklet Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t), click here.

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