Posts Tagged ‘mystics’

The Desert Fathers and the Methods They Used

By Ray Yungen

Catholic priest William Shannon in his book, Seeds of Peace, explained the human dilemma as being the following:

This forgetfulness, of our oneness with God, is not just a personal experience, it is the corporate experience of humanity. Indeed, this is one way to understanding original sin. We are in God, but we don’t seem to know it. We are in paradise, but we don’t realize it.1

Shannon’s viewpoint defines the basic underlying worldview of the contemplative prayer movement as a whole. One can find similar quotations in practically every book written by contemplative authors. A Hindu guru or a Zen Buddhist master would offer the same explanation. This conclusion becomes completely logical when tracing the roots of contemplative prayer. Let us look at the beginnings of this practice.

In the early Middle Ages, there lived a group of hermits in the wilderness areas of the Middle East. They are known to history as the Desert Fathers. They dwelt in small isolated communities for the purpose of devoting their lives completely to God without distraction. The contemplative movement traces its roots back to these monks who promoted the mantra as a prayer tool. One meditation scholar made this connection when he said:

The meditation practices and rules for living of these earliest Christian monks bear strong similarity to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East … the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery.2

Many of the Desert Fathers, in their zeal, were simply seeking God through trial and error. A leading contemplative prayer teacher candidly acknowledged the haphazard way the Desert Fathers acquired their practices:

It was a time of great experimentation with spiritual methods. Many different kinds of disciplines were tried, some of which are too harsh or extreme for people today. Many different methods of prayer were created and explored by them.3

Attempting to reach God through occult mystical practices will guarantee disaster. The Desert Fathers of Egypt were located in a particularly dangerous locale at that time to be groping around for innovative approaches to God, because as one theologian pointed out:

[D]evelopment of Christian meditative disciplines should have begun in Egypt because much of the intellectual, philosophical, and theological basis of the practice of meditation in Christianity also comes out of the theology of Hellenic and Roman Egypt. This is significant because it was in Alexandria that Christian theology had the most contact with the various Gnostic speculations which, according to many scholars, have their roots in the East, possibly in India.4

Consequently, the Desert Fathers believed as long as the desire for God was sincere–anything could be utilized to reach God. If a method worked for the Hindus to reach their gods, then Christian mantras could be used to reach Jesus. A current practitioner and promoter of the Desert Fathers’ mystical prayer still echoes the logical formulations of his mystical ancestors:

In the wider ecumenism of the Spirit being opened for us today, we need to humbly accept the learnings of particular Eastern religions … What makes a particular practice Christian is not its source, but its intent … this is important to remember in the face of those Christians who would try to impoverish our spiritual resources by too narrowly defining them. If we view the human family as one in God’s spirit, then this historical cross-fertilization is not surprising … selective attention to Eastern spiritual practices can be of great assistance to a fully embodied Christian life.5

Do you catch the reasoning here? Non-Christian sources, as avenues to spiritual growth, are perfectly legitimate in the Christian life, and if Christians only practice their Christianity based on the Bible, they will actually impoverish their spirituality. This was the thinking of the Desert Fathers. So as a result, we now have contemplative prayer. Jesus addressed this when he warned His disciples: “And when you pray, do not
use vain repetitions, as the heathen do.” (Matthew 6:7)

It should be apparent that mantra meditation or sacred word prayer qualifies as “vain repetition” and clearly fits an accurate description of the point Jesus was making. Yet in spite of this, trusted evangelical Christians have often pronounced that Christian mysticism is different from other forms of mysticism (such as Eastern or occult) because it is focused on Jesus Christ.

This logic may sound credible on the surface, but Christians must ask themselves a very simple and fundamental question: What really makes a practice Christian? The answer is obvious–does the New Testament sanction it? Hasn’t Christ taught us, through His Word, to pray in faith in His name and according to His will? Did He leave something out? Would Jesus hold out on His true followers? Never!

Understanding this truth, God has declared in His Word that He does not leave it up to earnest, yet sinful people, to reinvent their own Christianity. When Christians ignore God’s instructions in following Him they end up learning the way of the heathen. Israel did this countless times. It is just human nature.

The account of Cain and Abel is a classic biblical example of spiritual infidelity. Both of Adam’s sons wanted to please God, but Cain decided he would experiment with his own method of being devout. Cain must have reasoned to himself: “Perhaps God would like fruit or grain better than a dead animal. It’s not as gross. It’s less smelly. Hey, I think I will try it!”

As you know, God was not the least bit impressed by Cain’s attempt to create his own approach to pleasing God. The Lord made it clear to Cain that God’s favor would be upon him if he did what is right, not just what was intended for God or God-focused.

In many ways, the Desert Fathers were like Cain—eager to please but not willing to listen to the instruction of the Lord and do what was right. One cannot fault them for their devotion, but one certainly can fault them for their lack of discernment.

Notes:
1. William Shannon, Seeds of Peace, p. 66.
2. Daniel Goleman, The Meditative Mind 1988, p.53.
3. Ken Kaisch, Finding God, p.191.
4. Father William Teska, Meditation in Christianity , p.65.
5. Tilden Edwards, Living in the Presence , Acknowledgement page.

Related Material:

A list of ancient mystics (taken from Chris Lawson’s A Directory of Authors: Three NOT Recommended Lists booklet)

Mystics from the past oftentimes favorably endorsed by “Christian” authors today

Middle Ages (Medieval Times) and Renaissance

Angela of Foligno (1248–1309)

Anthony of Padua (1195–1231)

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090–1153)

Bonaventure (1217–1274)

Catherine of Siena (1347–1380)

Desert Fathers, The

Hadewijch of Antwerp (13th century)

Henry Suso (1295–1366)

Hildegard of Bingen (1098–1179)

Hugh of Saint Victor (1096–1141)

Jacopone da Todi (1230–1306)

Johannes Tauler (d.1361)

John of Ruysbroeck (1293–1381)

John Scotus Eriugena (810–877)

Julian of Norwich (1342–1416)

Mechthild of Magdeburg (1212–1297)

Meister Eckhart (1260–1327)

Richard of Saint Victor (d.1173)

Richard Rolle (1300–1341)

The Cloud of the Unknowing (anonymous, instruction in mysticism, 1375)

Theologia Germanica (anonymous, mystical treatise, late 14th century)

Thomas a’ Kempis (1380–1471)

Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274)

Walter Hilton (1340–1396)
Renaissance, Reformation, and Counter–Reformation

Brother Lawrence (1614–1691)

Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1822)

George Fox (1624–1691)

Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556)

Jakob Böhme (1575–1624)

Jean Nicolas Grou (1731-1803)

John of the Cross (Juan de Yepes) (1542–1591)

Joseph of Cupertino (1603–1663)

Madame Guyon (1647–1717)

Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582)

Theophan the Recluse (1815–1894)

William Law (1686–1761)

Modern Era (19th—20th Century)

Alexandrina Maria da Costa (1904–1955)

Bernadette Roberts (1931–)

Berthe Petit (1870–1943)

Carmela Carabelli (1910–1978)

Domenico da Cese (1905–1978)

Evelyn Underhill (1875–1941)

Flower A. Newhouse (1909–1994)

Frank Laubach (1884–1970)

Frederick Buechner (1926–)

Karl Rahner (1904–1984)

Lúcia Santos (1907–2005)

Maria Pierina de Micheli (1890–1945)

Maria Valtorta (1898–1963)

Marie Lataste (1822–1899)

Marie Martha Chambon (1841–1907)

Martin Buber (1868–1965)

Mary Faustina Kowalska (1905–1938)

Mary of Saint Peter (1816–1848)

Mary of the Divine Heart (1863–1899)

Padre Pio of Pietrelcina (1887–1968)

Pierina Gilli (1911–1991)

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881– 1955)

Simone Weil (1909–1943)

Soren Kierkegaard (1813–1855)

Thomas Merton (1915–1968)

Thomas Raymond Kelly (1893–1941)

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First ever Catholic speaker at IHOP-KC Onething conference was asked to speak on wisdom of Teresa of Avila, contemplative prayer

teresaavilaBy John Lanagan
My Word Like Fire Ministries

“I recently had the extraordinary privilege of being the first ever Catholic speaker at a very large Evangelical conference. [IHOP-KC Onething 2015] You might be surprised to know that they asked me to speak on the wisdom of St. Teresa of Avila regarding the progress of prayer from those just beginning to pray to those who know the sublime reality of contemplative prayer.” [1] –Dan Burke, President of the Avila Foundation

The “sublime reality of contemplative prayer”?

Mike Bickle, Director of International House of Prayer has been practicing and promoting contemplative prayer for a long time. This is the primary reason IHOP-KC is defying the Bible about Catholicism. Theology has been altered and addled via the sweet deceptions of this practice. Click here to continue reading.

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RICK WARREN AND THE CHAPLET OF DIVINE MERCY – “One of my favorite shows”

Final part of the 5-part series on the Rick Warren/Raymond Arroyo Interview

By Roger Oakland
Understand the Times, International

Some who have read the previous four parts to this series dealing with Rick Warren’s interview with Raymond Arroyo of EWTN may still be asking the question: Why would Understand The Times spend so much time and energy on this topic? What is wrong with “America’s Pastor” expressing his support for the Roman Catholic Church and many of their beliefs and practices?

The answer is simple. Bible-believing Christians are called to “contend for the faith” [1] . When a Christian leader publically makes statements or endorsements by saying or doing things that contradict the Bible, the leader needs to be addressed in a public manner so those who have been influenced can be put back on track.

While many professing Christians who embrace full blown ecumenical unity with Rome remain silent and see no harm with the direction Warren is headed, we are compelled to sound the alarm. In the previous four commentaries we have addressed several critical topics indicating Warren is headed down the road to Rome without hesitation. Some of these include:

Endorsement of Catholic saints and mystics and their methods

Endorsement and praise for Pope Benedict – who Warren calls “our Pope”

Unity with Catholics and other religions for the cause of “religious liberty”

The PEACE Plan and the “faith sector” working together with all faiths

Warren and his “spiritual director” and the connection with Jean Vanier

The New Evangelization delegation from Rome to Saddleback

Now, in this commentary we will address what I consider the most blatant endorsement of Roman Catholicism revealed in his entire interview with EWTN. It was so revealing that even Raymond Arroyo expressed surprise when he asked
Warren to comment on the following topic:

Tell me about your—the little breather you take in the day when you watch television. When we first met, you came up to me afterwards—I can’t believe you watch Chaplet of Divine Mercy. [2]

In response to Arroyo’s comment, Rick Warren expounded. Click here to continue reading, for footnote material, and to see all five parts of this series.

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Letter to the Editor: Nothing wrong with Contemplative Prayer or desert fathers, says reader

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

Your dismissal of the tradition of contemplative prayer is totally mistaken and without grounds.  It appears that too many Christians, especially within evangelical communities, seem to think that there was Jesus, and then the last 150 years of evangelical history while lobbing off the whole history of Christianity in between.  There has been a very strong tradition of contemplative prayer since the earliest days of Christianity.  This especially had its flowering in the lives of the early desert fathers and mothers in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th centuries (long before there was any such thing as an protestant evangelical church).  John Cassian, (4th century), talks in his Conferences on Prayer of using a brief phrase or word from scripture and repeating it slowly and with reverence – see Conference Ten in his Conference on Prayer.  Contemplative prayer had very deep roots in the early Greek Fathers – see St. Gregory of Nyssa (his work – Life of Moses), St. Basil the Great, St Gregory of Nazianzen (4th/5th Century), Psuedo-Dionysius (5th/6th Century) and St. Issac of Syria (7th century).  With St. Benedict, in the west, the western monastic tradition took root and in Western Christianity.  In the early middle ages – see the work of the “Cloud of Unknowing” by an anonymous author in the 12th century.  You also seem to have a real historical memory lapse with regard to the scriptures themselves – the canon of scripture was established by the Church, not the other way around – some of the gospels themselves had not even been written until more than 60 – 70 years after Jesus life, death and resurrection.  My point is not to attack your beliefs or try to convert you – but rather to at least have you consider that the contemplative tradition has had a very long historical place and purpose within the Christian tradition since the beginning of the Church.  Wasn’t it St. Paul who first said “In Him, we live, move and have our being” or “that God may be all in all.”

Warmest wishes and blessings!!

DH

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Mike Bickle of IHOP-KC instructs followers on contemplative prayer

By John Lanagan
My Word Like Fire Ministries

In Fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit: 5 Practical Phrases, International House of Prayer leader Mike Bickle gives instructions on how to experience contemplative prayer–which he calls “communing prayer.” Like all Christian contemplatives, Bickle works hard at presenting this as biblically acceptable. He states there is “…a lot of counterfeit mysticism…” Before teaching his Christianese mantra method, he again emphasizes he is not talking about Eastern or Oprah religion.

According to Bickle, “I use sentences, better yet phrases. Eventually on these five phrases I’m gonna give you in a minute, I reduce those to one word…” (42:13 of video, give or take)

There is much throughout this entire video to cause concern. (click_HERE_for_video)

I am sorry to say contemplative prayer seems foundational to IHOP, which means much deception has occurred, and will continue to occur. As covered elsewhere, Mike Bickle wants Fire Within,  a book promoting the teachings of Catholic contemplatives Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross, to be the “manual for IHOP-KC.” (click_HERE_for_article)

Mike Bickle “claims that God is restoring contemplative prayer to the church. He goes on to claim that contemplative prayer is a God-ordained means of entering into the fullness of God, and that the brightest lights in church history have been Roman Catholic mystics who lived during the dark ages. Click here to continue reading.

Related Information:

Mike Bickle “Want[s]” Contemplative Mysticism Book to be “the manual for IHOP–KC.”

Contemplative Spirituality and the Emerging Church Come to Kansas Through YouthFront and MNU

MIKE BICKLE AND MIKE HUCKABEE TEAM UP FOR “THECALL” REVIVAL CONFERENCE

CrossTalk on WorldNetDaily Article – Challenge to Dominionist Leaders – The Gospel Should Come First!

Latter Rain: The Spawning of Apostasy

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“Tough Questions” with Dallas Willard . . . and His Contemplative Propensities

Many Christians have heard the name Dallas Willard, a professor of philosophy at University of Southern California and  a prolific speaker and author within the evangelical church for many years. What many may not know is that Dallas Willard is a proponent of contemplative spirituality and emerging theology.

Recently, a Lighthouse Trails reader sent us a link to a 2009 video where John Ortberg is sharing the stage with Dallas Willard in front of a live audience. The session is called “Tough Questions.” We are presenting this video to our readers because we believe it is a case in point of the spiritual outlook of the contemplative’s life. That may seem like a strong statement to say about Dallas Willard, but when you hear him answer questions like “Is Jesus God?,” we think you will understand why we have said this. The “fruit” of contemplative prayer, in time, moves the practitioner further and further away from biblical Christianity.

In 1995, Dallas Willard was identified with Richard Foster and the “Spiritual Formation” (i.e., contemplative prayer/”spiritual disciplines”) movement by Rick Warren in Warren’s first book, The Purpose Driven Church where Warren said that the Spiritual Formation movement was a “valid message” and a “wake up call” to the church (p. 127). In 2005, Willard worked with Richard Foster to promote the very troubling Renovare Spiritual Formation Study Bible. Over the past several years, Willard has spoken frequently at Renovare (Foster’s organization) events. Their comradeship is clearly marked and continues that way today. The point being is that Willard resonates with Spiritual Formation and Richard Foster. That is a point that has at times been questioned, but the answer is very evident if one studies the history of Dallas Willard. And realizing the true nature of what is being called “Spiritual Formation,” that if one practices certain “disciplines” one can become more “Christ-like” regardless of being born again or not, the seriousness of the situation becomes evident. Being born again is not a criteria as far as the contemplative goes, even though Scripture is absolutely clear, “Ye must be born again” (John 3:7).

 To understand a bit more fully what contemplatives typically believe as far as the authority of Scripture, it would be good to read something about one of the editors, Walter Brueggemann, of the Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible. Here you can see how the contemplative believes that Scripture is not “fixed” or set in stone but is ever changing. For Foster and Willard to include Brueggemann as a main editor in that “Bible” project speaks volumes.

That said, we have had readers contact us and say, “We know Richard Foster is a contemplative, but isn’t Dallas Willard ok? He isn’t contemplative is he?” The answer to that, which can be proven by the mystics who Willard has endorsed and promoted consistently for many years, is a resounding yes. For instance, at Fuller Seminary, Willard has taught a Spirituality and Ministry course where recommended reading includes Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and Richard Foster. On Willard’s own website, he has been listing, under recommended reading, the names of numerous contemplative mystic advocates and teachers such as Jan Johnson, Ignatius of Loyola, Henri Nouwen,  Madame Guyon, Teresa of Avila, and Evelyn Underhill. These names have been on his website for years and are there today.

Dallas Willard has endorsed the covers of books by authors such as Ruth Haley Barton (trained at the Shalem Institute, a learning center that has strong universalistic propensities, in her book Invitation to Silence and Solitude. Willard’s own books are endorsed by people such as goddess worshiper Sue Monk Kidd. He co-authored a book with contemplative Jan Johnson. In his own book, Spirit of the Disciplines (a very popular book in evangelical circles), he favorably quotes mystic monk Thomas Merton, Agnes Sanford, and George Fox.

In addition to many books where he has been clearly connected to  contemplatives, he has sat on the board of the contemplative, now emerging, Allelon for a number of years with Leonard Sweet, Richard Foster, Brian McLaren, and Eugene Peterson. 1

With this introduction, showing Willard’s obvious embracing of those in the mystical contemplative camp, please watch the following video with discernment: http://mppc.org/toughquestions

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