Posts Tagged ‘Thomas Keating’
Presented by Chris Lawson (Spiritual Research Network)
Note from Chris Lawson: These videos (links below) briefly express years of my own research observations about the influences and dangers of mystical (and occult) based literature and teachings being embraced by many popular Christian leaders and authors today.
My purpose in making this video is to show firsthand – with books from our SRN research library – some of the deeply problematic roots and bad fruit of the Contemplative Spirituality “Centering-Prayer” movement. Click here for source of this video.
On October 16th, Biola University will host its Torrey Conference 2013, and contemplative teacher Ruth Haley Barton will be a featured speaker at the event. This does not come as a great surprise to the editors at Lighthouse Trails because Biola has been going down the contemplative path for quite sometime. But because there are still so many who do not think there is a crisis happening at Christian colleges and seminaries, Lighthouse Trails continues issuing the warnings. And there are Christian parents who are paying large amounts of money to send their children to these schools, thinking their children are going to be drawn closer to the Lord and the truth of His Word. But for most kids going to Christian colleges today, they are going to be handed a college diploma that has been obtained through the filter of contemplative spirituality. Such is definitely the case with Biola University.
It was just earlier this year that we brought to our readers attention the Assemblies of God invitation of Ruth Haley Barton to the AG General Council conference. We wrote articles explaining the spirituality that Barton embraces and passes on to thousands of Christian pastors and church leaders. Sadly, our warnings fell on the deaf ears of AG leaders, and Barton’s invitation remained intact. In fact, AG General Superintendent Dr. George Wood defended the invitation publically and expressed his relaxed views about contemplative spirituality. You can read the coverage we did on that situation by clicking here.
One of the main points we want to get across - something we have worked very hard at explaining clearly over the years - is that contemplative prayer is essentially the same mystical practice that takes place in occultism, the New Age, and eastern meditation. While intent may be different (contemplatives say they want to reach God), the methods are virtually the same, and the results are identical. In this particular article, “Lighthouse Trails Statement to Assemblies of God Response Regarding Invitation of Ruth Haley Barton,” we answer these important questions: 1. WHAT IS THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER AND EASTERN MEDITATION? 2. WHERE DID CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE COME FROM? and 3. WHAT IS THE PROOF THAT CONTEMPLATIVE IS OCCULTIC?
As for Ruth Haley Barton, we have given ample evidence to prove that she is a bi-product, if you will, of the spirituality of contemplative panentheistic mystics Thomas Keating, Richard Rohr, and Tilden Edwards. And the fact that she is now being welcomed so readily by evangelical denominations (Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, Wesleyan, etc.) shows just how integrated contemplative spirituality has become in the evangelical and Protestant church.
As we stated earlier in this article, we are not surprised that Biola has invited Ruth Haley Barton to the Torrey Conference. We first wrote about Biola University’s contemplative leanings in 2006 in an article titled “The Shape of Things to Come: Biola University Embraces Contemplative Spirituality.” And in that article, we pointed out that Biola had invited Barton to speak at an event. In that 2006 article, we stated “Biola University, the traditional virtual bedrock of conservative Christian higher education, has opened itself to influences that would have its founders turning over in their graves.”
Incidentally, Biola is also engaging with contemplative author Adele Ahlberg Calhoun as you can see from this Biola page that has two videos of talks at Biola by Calhoun. Calhoun’s book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, shows her strong propensities toward a number of eastern style mysticism advocates such as David Steindl-Rast, Thomas Keating, Basil Pennington, and Tilden Edwards (Shalem Institute). You can read our review of Calhoun’s book here.
Biola has also welcomed the teachings of the recently late contemplative pioneer Dallas Willard (see Biola video here) and has resonated with and encouraged the teachings of Peter Drucker (see video here). Others who have spoken at Biola are meditation proponent Ken Blanchard (here), emerging church teacher Shane Claiborne (here), and lectio divina instructor, Joanne Jung (here) to name just a few.
If you know someone who is attending Biola University, please deliver to them a sober warning about what he or she could encounter while attending Biola. To see the Lighthouse Trails list of contemplative colleges, click here.
More Evidence and a Final Plea as Assemblies of God Conference with Ruth Haley Barton Begins August 5th
On August 5th-9th, the Assemblies of God will be holding their 2013 General Council conference titled Believe. Lighthouse Trails has written a number of times about the upcoming conference since April of this year. At the end of this report, we have listed the links to those past reports. Basically, our concern has focused on the fact that contemplative pioneer Ruth Haley Barton is one of the speakers at this year’s AOG event. We have given ample evidence to show why there is cause for concern, and we have explained the serious implications of the Barton invitation. Today, we are issuing one final plea to AOG leadership regarding this matter. The information in today’s report is vital.
Before we begin, no one should think that this is the first time AOG leadership has promoted a contemplative/emerging author. This has been an ongoing problem for sometime (although the Barton invitation is probably the most pronounced). For example, there are several instances within the Assemblies of God seminary that show an affinity toward contemplative spirituality and the emerging church. And the Gospel Publishing House (the publishing arm of AOG) website sells a number of books from authors in the emerging/contemplative camp.
Incidentally, on the Network for Women in Ministry website (that’s the AOG women’s group responsible for inviting Ruth Barton to this year’s General Council conference), a ”Suggested List for Further Reading” offers Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster (where he says “we should all, without shame, enroll in the school of contemplative prayer”), Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home by Foster (his primer on contemplative prayer), a book by Henri Nouwen, and a book called The Contemporaries Meet the Classics on Prayer, which includes writings by many contemplative proponents: Nouwen, Foster, Marjorie Thompson, Brother Lawrence, Calvin Miller, Dallas Willard, Mother Teresa, Evelyn Underhill, and Thomas Merton.
Now, onto the information we are compelled to share in this report. It may seem trivial to some at first, but if you read through this report, we think you will see the significance.
In Ruth Haley Barton’s book Invitation to Solitude and Silence (the book where Barton acknowledges Thomas Keating’s influence in her life), Barton quotes the late Catholic priest William Shannon from his book Silence on Fire (the biography of Thomas Merton). Shannon states:
Wordless prayer … is humble, simple, lowly, prayer in which we experience our total dependence on God and our awareness that we are in God. Wordless prayer is not an effort to “get anywhere, ” for we are already there (in God’s presence). It is just that we are not sufficiently conscious of our being there.1 (emphasis added)
Shannon’s comment here is the typical statement by mystics of all religious backgrounds, i.e., that God is already inside each one of us (all mankind), and we just need to become aware of it. It is a panentheistic view. We can illustrate this further when Shannon says:
The contemplative experience is neither a union of separate identities nor a fusion of them; on the contrary, separate identities disappear in the All Who is God.2
Shannon, founder of the International Thomas Merton Society, did not believe in the biblical view of God as we will show below. When he speaks of “separate identities disappear[ing],” he means that there is only one identity - God and that God and man are mutually the same. This is classic Buddhism or Hinduism. In A Time of Departing, Ray Yungen addresses Shannon’s panentheistic beliefs:
[In William Shannon's book, Silence on Fire], he relates the account of a theological discussion he once had with an atheist groom for whom he was performing a wedding ceremony. He told the skeptical young man:
“You will never find God by looking outside yourself. You will only find God within. It will only be when you have come to experience God in your own heart and let God into the corridors of your heart (or rather found God there) that you will be able to ‘know’ that there is indeed a God and that you are not separate from God.”
This advice is no different from what any New Age teacher would impart to someone who held an atheistic point of view. You want God? Meditate! God is just waiting for you to open up. Based on Shannon’s own mystical beliefs, he knew this was the right approach. He alluded to this by explaining that the young man would find enlightenment if he would look in the right place or use the right method.3
In Shannon’s book, Seeds of Peace, he reiterates this same view:
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.4 (emphasis added)
You will find this mindset in contemplative teachers across the board. This being in God has nothing to do with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through faith. Shannon isn’t saying this to born-again Christians. This union with God is a blanket declaration for all of mankind, with or without a Savior. We are all in God.
Shannon contrasts the spirituality of devotion (placating God with good works) with “contemplative spirituality,” the latter where God is identified as “the ground of all being”5 and the core of everything there is (man is naturally connected with God). Contemplative mystics, such as Shannon and Merton, teach that all you have to do to find this union with God is use the mystical technology which connects you with your “true self” (i.e, your own divinity). Bernard of Clairvaux, contemplative mystic from ages past, said that God is “the stone in the stones and tree in the trees.”6 In other words, God exists in everything and is the essence of what we see – there is no distinction between God and His creation. We know from Scripture, however, that this untrue. Isaiah 42:8 declares, ”I am the LORD: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another.” Yungen points out, “Creation can reflect God’s glory (Isaiah 6:3), but it can never possess God’s glory. For that to happen would mean God was indeed giving His glory to another.”7 Paul, the apostle, solidifies the distinction between God and creation when he warns of those who worship the creature (creation) rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25).
What this boils down to is this: In the writings of these mystics – the ones Ruth Haley Barton admires, quotes, and gleans from – there is nothing promoting the Gospel or the message of the Cross. Rather, a cosmic “Christ,” which revolves around a panentheistic, interspiritual outlook, is uplifted and glorified. There is nothing truly Christian about the teachings of Merton, Keating, Shannon, and Tilden Edwards. And let us make something clear – these mystics don’t hide their propensities. It isn’t in some secret code or subtle message. On the contrary, they are forthright and bold about their stance.
If these mystics whom Barton admires are so open about their views, how is it she is drawn to them so consistently in her own spiritual walk? No doubt, she has read their books, so she must know what they really stand for. A lover of God’s Word would not be drawn to those who reject the message of the Cross. That’s right, reject. In Silence on Fire, the very book from which Barton quotes William Shannon, Shannon says:
This [the traditional biblical view] is a typical patriarchal notion of God. He is the God of Noah who sees people deep in sin, repents that He made them and resolves to destroy them. He is the God of the desert who sends snakes to bite His people because they murmured against Him. He is the God of David who practically decimates a people. . . . He is the God who exacts the last drop of blood from His Son, so that His just anger, evoked by sin, may be appeased. This God whose moods alternate between graciousness and fierce anger. This God does not exist.8 (emphasis added)
You see, overall, the contemplatives reject the notion that God sent His Son to a violent death as a penalty for OUR sins. While they may say that Jesus was a good example of servanthood, they reject His death as an atonement for others. This anti-atonement view is pervasive among the mystics.9 That is because you cannot have it both ways: you cannot have a Gospel of salvation through the death of a Savior for man’s sins and also say that God exists in all things and that man is divine. It just won’t work. The mystics and New Agers know that – but how ironic – the Christian leaders don’t!
Listen to another man who trained Barton – Tilden Edwards, co-founder of the Shalem Prayer Institute:
It is such an innocent, intuitively discerning mind that helps make the Eastern guru and the Desert Abba “master” [the intuitively discerning mind is the contemplative state]. Where intimate Source [inner divinity] radiates among non-Christians then surely we must be dealing with the “other sheep” (Matthew 10:16) manifesting the cosmic Christ.10
In other words, in this contemplative state, the East and the West meet. The word “cosmic” often carries with it a silly childish connotation (remember, baby boomers who grew up with Buck Rogers and his cosmic ray gun). But here the word cosmic or cosmos carries a deeper meaning where the “cosmic Christ” is not an individual – it is a consciousness, and it can only be grasped in the meditative state.
We’ll leave you with this question: Is it not utterly amazing (and almost unbelievable) that Ruth Haley Barton has gained access to the hierarchy of the Assemblies of God denomination, where the General Superintendent, Dr. George Wood, insinuated that those under him should not consider the evidence that Lighthouse Trails provided. But, just because someone tells others not to listen doesn’t change the facts. Either they are true, or they aren’t true; and ignoring the facts doesn’t make them go away.
[B]e not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2 – emphasis added)
1. Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, p 39.
2. William Shannon, quoted in The Message of Thomas Merton, p. 200.
3. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing, pp. 31-32, quoting William Shannon in Silence on Fire, p. 99.
4. William Shannon, Seeds of Peace, p. 66.
5. Thomas Merton, The Hidden Ground of Love, p. 570.
6. Joseph Chu-Cong, The Contemplative Experience, Joseph Chu-Cong, p. 3.
7. Yungen, A Time of Departing, p. 31.
8. (Shannon, Silence on Fire, pp. 109-110.
9. See Roger Oakland’s chapter, “Slaughterhouse Religion” in Faith Undone. You can read the PDF for free here.
10. Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 169.
Our past reports on the Barton/AOG issue:
SPECIAL FOLLOW-UP REPORT: Lighthouse Trails Statement to Assemblies of God Response Regarding Invitation of Ruth Haley Barton
A Special Follow-Up Report by Ray Yungen and the Editors at Lighthouse Trails
Before we begin our report addressing the public response issued by the Assemblies of God Superintendent Dr. George O. Wood and Dr. Jodi Detrick, chairperson for the Network for Women in Ministry regarding the invitation of Ruth Haley Barton to the 2013 General Council Conference, we would like to clarify one thing: Lighthouse Trails carries no personal animosity toward Ruth Haley Barton. Our issue has to do with a spiritual practice that Ms. Barton is deeply involved with and that, as we will show, has roots in Eastern mysticism, which does not line up with the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the Word of God.
To begin, we want to clarify that the names we mention below are not people who are loosely and inadvertently associated with this mystical spirituality but rather are practitioners and dedicated advocates of it.
Dr. Detrick suggested in her response to our April 15th article that what we presented in that article was a “misunderstanding” in that there is a clear and distinctive difference between Eastern mysticism and Christian contemplative prayer. She stated:
Sadly, some are saying that seeking the Lord in such a way equates with the practices of meditation and contemplation in Eastern religions. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and is an unfortunate and inaccurate identification.(source)
What we hope to show in this report is that our conclusions are not the result of a misunderstanding by any means, and we will show that there is a direct correlation between the contemplative prayer movement and Eastern meditation.
While we bear no ill feelings toward Dr. Detrick or Dr. Wood, we are compelled to show that the premise of the following statement by Dr. Detrick can be disproven through solid evidence:
We want to assure those with concerns that there is not even the smallest part of us that embraces any form of eastern religion or the New Age movement’s teachings and practices.(source)
Now while it may be Dr. Detrick’s intent not to embrace any form of Eastern mysticism, we will demonstrate that contemplative prayer and Eastern meditation are essentially the same, and different in name only. At the onset of providing this evidence, please bear in mind that while we only give a relatively few examples (for the reader’s time’s sake) in this report, we could provide many many more similar examples as they are ample.
THE CONNECTION BETWEEN CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER AND EASTERN MEDITATION
I. The very person who coined the term New Age, occultist Alice Bailey, saw a direct link between Christian mysticism (i.e., contemplative prayer) and Eastern mysticism. Bailey stated:
It is, of course, easy to find many passages which link the way of the Christian Knower [contemplative] with that of his brother in the East. They bear witness to the same efficacy of method.1
II. Tilden Edwards, the founder of Shalem Institute of whom Ms. Barton received her training in contemplative spirituality, also identified the connection between contemplative prayer and Eastern meditation. Edwards said:
This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality.2
III. In his book, Spiritual Friend, Tilden Edwards suggests those who practice contemplative prayer and have begun experiencing “spiritual unfolding” and other “unusual experiences,” should turn to a book titled Psychosynthesis in order to understand the “dynamics” at “certain stages.”3 The man who wrote Psychosynthesis, Roberto Assagioli, was a direct disciple of Alice Bailey! Edwards might as well have recommended people turn to Alice Bailey herself. This is not guilt by association. Edwards knows that there is a connection between contemplative prayer and occultic (i.e., Eastern) mysticism.
IV. Thomas Keating, a major leader in the contemplative prayer movement, also acknowledges that Barton’s contemplative prayer is related to Eastern religious meditation. In a book Keating wrote the foreword to, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality, Keating states:
In order to guide persons having this experience, Christian spiritual directors may need to dialogue with Eastern teachers in order to get a fuller understanding.4
Keating understands that within the DNA of Christian contemplative prayer is Eastern- mysticism. Philip St. Romain, the author of the Kundalini book says: “This book is an important contribution to the renewal of the Christian contemplative tradition.”5 Contemplative mystics say these things because they know them to be true. Also in the foreword of that book, Keating states that the Kundalini energy “is also at work today in numerous persons who are devoting themselves to contemplative prayer.” Kundalini energy is what is known as the serpent power of New Age mysticism. This statement by Keating should cause any Christian who is even thinking of dabbling in contemplative prayer to run the other way. We encourage you to look up Kundalini on the Internet.
V. Ruth Haley Barton identifies with Keating. In her book, Invitation to Solitude and Silence, she admits that Thomas Keating helped her to understand the contemplative idea of “the true self” (man’s divinity):
The concept of the true self and the false self is a consistent theme not only in Scripture but also in the writings of the church fathers and mothers. Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen (particularly Nouwen’s The Way of the Heart) and Father Thomas Keating are contemporary authors who have shaped my understanding of this aspect of the spiritual life.6
Merton, Nouwen, and Keating believe that man can attain to his “true self” (perfect self) through mystical practices. This is actually the crux of the Spiritual Formation (i.e., contemplative prayer) movement, that man realizes his divinity through mystical experiences. Ruth Haley Barton’s Transforming Center has a mission of helping people find their “higher” true self through contemplative practices.
VI. Henri Nouwen, the late Catholic priest, who is touted highly by Barton as well as by virtually every contemplative proponent, knew very well that Eastern mysticism was at the underlying roots of contemplative prayer. In a book written by universalist Catholic priest, Thomas Ryan, Nouwen (in the foreword) wrote:
[T]he author shows a wonderful openness to the gifts of Buddhism, Hinduism and Moslem religion. He discovers their great wisdom for the spiritual life of the Christian . . . Ryan [the author] went to India to learn from spiritual traditions other than his own. He brought home many treasures and offers them to us in the book.7
VII. Regarding a book written by Philip Goldberg titled, American Veda, the book shows how “Hindu mysticism has profoundly affected the world view of millions of Americans and radically altered the religious landscape.”8 Goldberg saw fit to devote an entire chapter to contemplative prayer stating:
Perhaps the biggest shakeup by the eastern winds has been . . . the reawakening - of Western mysticism . . . the long sequestered vaults of contemplative Christianity and Jewish mysticism [Kabbalah] begin to be unlocked.9
If contemplative prayer has nothing to do with eastern mysticism, then why does Goldberg devote an entire chapter to it? He saw it as an adjunct to Hinduism. One final point to consider is this: Virtually every major New Age bookstore has a sizable section on Christian meditation (i.e., contemplative prayer). Call one up in your own town or city and ask if this is so. We believe you’ll see it is.
WHERE DID CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE COME FROM?
I. Carl McColman, in his book, The Big Book of Mysticism, The Essential Guide to Contemplative Spirituality, states:
It is important to note that, throughout the history of Christianity, Christian mystics have displayed an unusual openness to the wisdom of non-Christian philosophy and religion. . . . Ultimately, however, no absolutely clear distinction can be drawn between Christian and non-Christian mysticism… It is precisely in this dimension of mystery that people of different faiths and different wisdom traditions can relate to each other.”10
II. Brian C. Taylor said:
These contemplatives also recognize their soul mates in other traditions, as did Thomas Merton in his pilgrimage to Buddhist Asia. This is because they have passed beyond the confines of religion as a closed system to an open awareness of God-in-life.”11
III. The contemplative prayer movement that is rising rapidly within evangelical circles largely through the early work of figures like Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, and Ruth Haley Barton, and now many of their protégés, stems primarily from the Catholic church. Michael Leach, past president of the Catholic Book Publishers Association, explained this:
The irony is that the best of the New Age ideas—those flowing from a spiritual understanding of God, humankind and the universe—have been jewels in the Catholic treasury since the very beginning, but for too long have been neglected, forgotten or buried.12
IV. How did Eastern meditation enter the Catholic church in the first place? Did the early church fathers get it from the apostles, Jesus’ teachings, or Scripture? No, they did not. On the contrary, the Desert Fathers (monks such as St. Anthony who became hermits) experimented:
It was a time of great experimentation with spiritual methods. Many different kinds of disciplines were tried … many different methods of prayer were created and explored by them.13
And in this experimentation, they “discovered” a prayer tool. According to one meditation scholar:
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.14
The fourth-century Desert Fathers understood that a simple device was needed to keep the “monkey mind” from wandering. Thus, the mantra method of prayer, which had been introduced centuries before by Buddhists and Hindus, came to be a stable form of Christian prayer, not only for the Desert Fathers and Mothers but for Christians down through the ages.15
One of Christian contemplative’s own, Marcus Borg, reveals the role the mantra plays in contemplative prayer:
Contemplation typically involves the silent repetition of a mantra—-a single word, a short phrase or a series of short phrases. . . . Ultimately the purpose of contemplative prayer is to descend to the deepest level of the self, of the heart, where we open out into the sea of being that is God.16
V. Christian contemplative teachers will often say that in contemplative prayer one is not using Buddhist or Hindu mantras, so therefore it cannot be called Eastern meditation. While it is true that different words or syllables are repeated in the contemplative mantra than those used by Eastern mystics, the method (mantra or focus) of entering an altered state of consciousness is the same. Furthermore, as we will demonstrate later, the fruit of contemplative prayer has been shown time and time again to be the same – that of a pantheistic (or panentheistic) mindset of divinity in all things. In short, one would have to conclude – after witnessing the teachings of countless contemplative prayer mystics – that contemplative prayer and Eastern mysticism alike connect the practitioner with spirit guides that will erode – and in time destroy – their belief in the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Once the practitioner establishes the belief, as contemplative prayer will bring him to, that he has divinity within, there is no longer the need for the Cross. Yes, and countless contemplative mystics have already come to this conclusion.
PROOF THAT CONTEMPLATIVE IS OCCULTIC
I. Perhaps the strongest evidence to prove that the realms entered during contemplative prayer are not God’s realm (i.e., the Holy Spirit) but rather demonic occultic realms is observing the “fruit” that contemplative prayer bears in a practitioner’s life. Probably the most profound example is that of the late Catholic monk and mystic, Thomas Merton, who said once that he was “impregnated with Sufism”17 (Islamic mysticism).
Merton’s mystical experiences ultimately made him a kindred spirit and co-mystic with those in other Eastern religions. At an interfaith conference in Thailand, he stated:
I believe that by openness to Buddhism, to Hinduism, and to these great Asian [mystical] traditions, we stand a wonderful chance of learning more about the potentiality of our own Christian traditions.18
Please understand that contemplative prayer alone was the catalyst for such theological views. One of Merton’s biographers made this very clear when he explained:
If one wants to understand Merton’s going to the East it is important to understand that it was his rootedness in his own faith tradition [Catholicism] that gave him the spiritual equipment [contemplative prayer] he needed to grasp the way of wisdom that is proper to the East.19
II. A second remarkable example of the “fruit” of contemplative prayer can be found in an author (often quoted by evangelical contemplative advocates, including Barton) named Sue Monk Kidd. Monk Kidd was once a conservative Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher. One day, she was handed a book by Thomas Merton. It changed her life dramatically (that’s an understatement). Monk Kidd explained:
I found a host of Christian thinkers and saints talking about a way of “being with” God—a way of needing Him and experiencing Him in the depths of one’s being—that opened the door to oneness with Him. They called it contemplation. I was amazed to realize that I had known practically nothing about this ancient and powerful tradition of Christian meditation…. I was ready.20
She wrote that quote in a book titled God’s Joyful Surprise: a spiritual biography. Just to illustrate how subtle this spirituality can be, listen to some of the endorsements she received for that book by traditional Christian organizations:
“[A] joy to read from beginning to end.” Virtue Magazine (back cover); A Virtue Magazine best book of the year
“[T]he message and challenge of the book is profound.” Today’s Christian Woman (back cover)
“[Kidd] suggests some disciplines for cultivating an interior ‘quietness’ and a richer, personal experience of God’s love.” Moody Monthly (back cover)
We don’t believe that the people who wrote these endorsements really understood what they were endorsing.
III. But back to our point here to show the “fruit” of contemplative prayer. Where is Sue Monk Kidd today, spiritually speaking? Listen to these quotes written by her a number of years after God’s Joyful Surprise to see where it took her:
We also need Goddess consciousness to reveal earth’s holiness… Matter becomes inspirited; it breathes divinity. Earth becomes alive and sacred… Goddess offers us the holiness of everything. . . . As I grounded myself in feminine spiritual experience, that fall, I was initiated into my body in a deeper way. I came to know myself as an embodiment of Goddess.21
Mystical awakening in all the great religious traditions, including Christianity, involves arriving at an experience of unity or nondualism. In Zen it’s known as samadhi . . . The day of my awakening was the day I saw, and knew I saw, all things in God, and God in all things. 22
Today, after going down the contemplative path, Sue Monk Kidd worships the goddess within and not the God of the Bible. That is what practicing contemplative prayer got her. And it is what it got Thomas Merton. He came to believe, as well, that God was inside every human being (panentheism):
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, … now I realize what we all are …. If only they [people] could all see themselves as they really are …I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other … At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusions, a point of pure truth … This little point …is the pure glory of God in us. It is in everybody. 23
And Henri Nouwen:
The God who dwells in our inner sanctuary is also the God who dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being.24
What we are saying here is vital. God does not work in the contemplative silence—but rather demons do. Moreover, what makes it so dangerous is that they are very clever. One well-known New Ager revealed what his guiding (familiar) spirit candidly disclosed:
We work with all who are vibrationally sympathetic; simple and sincere people who feel our spirit moving, but for the most part, only within the context of their current belief system.25
The term “vibrationally sympathetic” here means those who suspend thought through word repetition or breath focus—inward mental silence. That is what attracts them. That is their opening. That is why Tilden Edwards called this the “bridge to far Eastern spirituality,” and this is what is being injected into the evangelical church!
WHERE IS THIS ALL LEADING?
In Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, she makes a revealing comment:
Deity means that divinity will no longer be only heavenly … It will also be right here, right now, in me, in the earth, in this river, in excrement and roses alike.26
Monk Kidd has come to believe that God is in everything, literally. She rejects the belief that God is holy and man is a sinner needing a Savior and redemption.
We do not believe that Dr. George Wood or Dr. Detrick would deny the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, nor do we believe they would say that they agree with the words of Thomas Merton or Sue Monk Kidd. But by their willingness to embrace the teachings of Ruth Haley Barton (or any contemplative, for that matter) they are directly exposing themselves and potentially the 65 million members worldwide in their denomination to the beliefs of Merton and Monk Kidd.
Alice Bailey predicted that there would be a global awakening where mankind would finally realize the divinity within. She called it the “regeneration of the churches.” Her rationale for this was obvious:
The Christian church in its many branches can serve as a St. John the Baptist, as a voice crying in the wilderness, and as a nucleus through which world illumination may be accomplished.27 (emphasis added)
Satan is very good at deceiving people, often in very subtle ways. The Bible talks about a day that is coming when Christians will fall into great deception. “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (I Timothy 4:1). These seducing spirits are just that – seducing.
In Acts 16, there is a good example of this. The spirit in the woman endorsed Paul and Silas, but that spirit was not for them but rather against them. It was a demon. In Matthew 24, Jesus talks about great deception coming upon the earth prior to His return. False christs, false prophets, great signs and wonders, and many coming in His name. Could it be that this mystical spirituality, which leads man to say he is divine, is part of this great falling away? We believe it is.
Nothing is being twisted here. The aforementioned evidence is based on facts, not speculations. The leaders of the Assemblies of God (and every other denomination, actually) must decide if they really want to take their denomination in this direction. If they decide to go forward, they must explain away the evidence we have given.
In her books, Ruth Haley Barton quotes a number of people who could legitimately be called New Agers. Bear in mind that she quotes these figures in the context of the practices they share. In her book Sacred Rhythms, she quotes Basil Pennington from his book Finding Grace at the Center. This means she must have read that book, which is a primer in contemplative mysticism. Listen to what Pennington says:
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 [Transcendental Meditation] and similar practices, especially where they have been initiated by reliable teachers and have a solidly developed Christian faith to find inner form and meaning to the resulting experiences.28
Basil Pennington is one of the prominent figures of the contemplative prayer movement.
We stated in this report that contemplative prayer stands on the same ground as occultism. With that in mind, it is worth mentioning that both Thomas Keating (who, according to Barton, shaped her thinking) and Basil Pennington enthusiastically endorsed a book titled Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey in Christian Hermeticism. Fortune-telling Tarot cards are one of the major tools for divination in occultism. And Hermeticism is a set of ancient esoteric beliefs based on the writings of Hermes Trismegistus, the one who coined the term “as above, so below” (the maxim for the New Age movement). Keating said the book was “the greatest contribution to date toward the rediscovery and renewal of the Christian contemplative tradition,”29 and Pennington said, “It is without doubt the most extraordinary work I have ever read.”30 We’re talking about outright occultism here – there’s no room for doubt.
We are not asking anyone reading this to take our word for it. Look these authors up and see for yourself what they are saying. Compare this report we have written with our earlier article showing how Ruth Haley Barton is directly promoting the practice of contemplative prayer. We think, after true prayer and deliberation, you will come to the same conclusion we have—that contemplative prayer has no place in the biblical Christian faith.
Dr. Detrick claims that “[c]ountless AG people, and credentialed leaders, have testified to drawing much closer to the Lord as a result of Ruth’s books and teachings.” If it is true that “countless AG people” have been influenced by Ruth Haley Barton, then this report should motivate those in the Assemblies of God to get to the bottom of this controversy that is unfolding here.
1. Alice Bailey, From Intellect to Intuition (New York, NY: Lucis Publishing Co., 1987, 13th printing), p. 193.
2.Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend (New York, NY: Paulist Press,1980), pp. 18.
3. Ibid., pp. 162-163.
4. Philip St. Romain, Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1995), foreword written by Thomas Keating.
5. Ibid, p. 7.
6. Ruth Haley Barton, Invitation to Solitude and Silence (Downer Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2004), p. 160.
7. Thomas Ryan, Disciplines for Christian Living (Disciplines for Christian Living ), pp. 2-3, from Henri Nouwen in the foreword.
8. The publisher’s description of American Veda on both the publisher’s website and Amazon.com.
9. Philip Goldberg, American Veda (New York, NY: Random House, 2010), p. 310.
10. Carl McColman, The Big Book of Mysticism (Charlottesville, VA: Hampton Roads Publishing, 2010), pp. 63-64.
11. Brian C. Taylor, Setting the Gospel Free (New York, NY: Continuum Publishing , 1996), p. 62.
12. Michael Leach (America Magazine, May 2, 1992), p. 385.
13. Ken Kaisch, Finding God (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1994), p. 191.
14. Daniel Goleman, The Meditative Mind (Los Angeles, CA: Tarcher/Putnam Inc., 1988), p. 53.
15. Frank X. Tuoti, The Dawn of the Mystical Age (New York, NY: Crossroad, 1997), p. 137.
16. Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity (San Francisco, CA: 2004), p. 198.
17. Rob Baker and Gray Henry, Editors, Merton and Sufism (Louisville, KY: Fons Vitae, 1999), p. 69.
18. William Shannon, Silent Lamp (New York, NY: Crossroad, 1992), p. 276.
19. Ibid, p. 281.
20. Sue Monk Kidd, God’s Joyful Surprise (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1997), pg. 187.
21. Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter (San Francisco, CA: HarperCollins, 1996), pp. 162-163, 161.
22. Ibid, p. 161.
23. Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1989 edition), pp. 157-158.
24. Henri Nouwen, Here and Now (New York, NY: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1997 edition), p. 22.
25. Ken Carey, The Starseed Transmissions (A Uni-Sun Book, 1985 4th printing), p. 33.
26. Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter, op. cit., p. 160.
27. Alice Bailey, The Externalization of the Hierarchy (New York, NY: Lucis Publishing, 1976), p. 510.
28. M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, Thomas E. Clarke, Finding Grace at the Center (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Pub., 1978), pp. 5-6.
29. Endorsement on jacket of book
Note: Ray Yungen has been researching the New Age and contemplative spirituality for over 20 years. He is the author of A Time of Departing and For Many Shall Come in My Name. You may find more information, including contact information, about Ray Yungen and Lighthouse Trails at www.lighthousetrails.com and www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com.
Emerging “Progressive” Spirituality: Joining the New Age with Christianity, and Christian Leaders Say OK
No one group understands emerging “progressive” spirituality as much as those in the New Age. That’s because it is their religion. So when the evangelical emerging church movement rose to the forefront, New Agers must have found it quite intriguing and most likely rewarding to see their belief system finally take root in Christianity.
In the book, As Above, So Below, written by Ronald S. Miller and the editors of New Age Journal, the authors appropriately name the first chapter “The Emerging Spirituality.” Now some may say, “Oh, they might call it that, but it isn’t the same as the Emerging Church ala McLaren, Jones, Kimball, Pagitt, etc. That’s an entirely different ball game.” Well, let’s take a look at this chapter in the New Age book. The chapter, “The Emerging Spirituality” starts off with a story about Jesus and Moses. That would certainly throw a few people–only Christians talk about Jesus, right? The book then quotes New Ager Joan Borysenko who explains the significance of the story they relate:
Like the Jesus of this story, . . . many of us lose touch with our own indwelling Divine nature-the unlimited creative potential of love the real Jesus assured us could literally move mountains.
The book goes on to say that the problem with most people is they have forgotten who they really are, don’t know their purpose or reason for existing and just need to reach higher to grasp their utmost potential. It sounds just like some of our most popular evangelical leaders. And like many emerging church leaders, the book says we need to get away from “automatized programs” and have a wake up call. The book tells us that this “wake up call” comes in the form of the metaphysical (mysticism), the “esoteric core of all the world’s spiritual traditions.” This mirrors what Rick Warren (who promotes the emerging church and its spirituality) said in his first book, the Purpose Driven Church, where he praised the “Spiritual Formation” movement which he sees as God’s way of bringing “believers to full maturity.” Warren said that the movement had a “valid message for the church” and gave “the body of Christ a wake-up call” (pp. 126-127). The problem is that the Spiritual Formation movement draws on the same mystical techniques as found in the New Age movement, (eg., mantra-like prayers, breath prayers). In Warren’s book, he touts Richard Foster and Dallas Willard as icons of the Spiritual Formation movement. When Warren says maturity, it implies that the church has been immature because of its mystical deficiency. At other times, Rick Warren has stated that his “new reformation,” an idea that New Agers share, would incorporate those from different religious traditions. Warren may use the name of Jesus quite often, but the overall concept implies that faith in Jesus is not really necessary to bring peace into the world, and this is exactly the thing the New Age teaches.
As Above, So Below (a primer for the New Age) says that “we possess a hidden higher self, the spark of divinity within the soul” (p. 3). Once again, we can turn to emerging/contemplative leaders within Christianity to see they are saying the same thing. Anyone who has read Brennan Manning will recognize the term higher self. And in Max Lucado’s book, Cure for the Common Life, Lucado talks about the “divine spark” that is in each person. And we could give numerous other examples of contemplative emerging authors and leaders who talk like this, even though they name the name of Jesus. So the New Age teaches a higher self and a “spark of divinity” within the soul of every person, and so do Christian leaders.
Miller’s book says that mysticism is the “highest common factor” (p. 2) that links all religions together. He adds that we can practice this mysticism and still remain in our own religion. That’s exactly what Thomas Merton came to believe when he spoke with Dr. Bramachari,1 a Hindu monk who told him he didn’t have to leave the Christian tradition to be the best Buddhist he could be. Tony Campolo, another emerging/contemplative evangelical saw this common factor and suggested this very thing in his book, Speaking My Mind:
Beyond these models of reconciliation, a theology of mysticism provides some hope for common ground between Christianity and Islam. Both religions have within their histories examples of ecstatic union with God … I do not know what to make of the Muslim mystics, especially those who have come to be known as the Sufis. What do they experience in their mystical experiences? Could they have encountered the same God we do in our Christian mysticism?” (pp. 149-150)
Ronald Miller sounds very much like many of today’s emerging leaders when he says: “The modern age requires that we use our newly gained wisdom to transform the world (p. 7).” It is alarming to hear him say that mysticism (i.e., meditation) is the catalyst for “planetary healing,” naming various ecological and social problems facing the world today. Because some of the most influential Christian leaders and organizations today are promoting contemplative spirituality with one hand and working towards global transformation and unity on the other, we believe they are going in the same direction and with the same vehicle (mysticism) as the New Age. And when one realizes that the philosophy behind the New Age is panentheism (God in all) and that it totally negates the gospel message of Jesus Christ, then it is easier to see why it is so disturbing to see Christians promoting the emerging church and contemplative spirituality. For those readers who may be skeptical of our assertions, As Above, So Below has an entire chapter devoted to contemplative spirituality (chapter 3) and its vital place in its panoply of respected New Age practices. And yet that chapter makes reference to some of the same authors that Christians are now adhering to: Thomas Keating, Thomas Merton, the Desert Fathers, Julian of Norwich, and Martin Buber (Buber is quoted by Max Lucado on the divine spark). The fact is, Miller makes our point for us as no one else could.
1. Henri J.M. Nouwen, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1991, Triumph Books Edition)
I had always been confused as to the real nature of this advance in the Catholic church. Was this just the work of a few mavericks and renegades, or did the church hierarchy sanction this practice? My concerns were affirmed when I read in an interview that the mystical prayer movement not only had the approval of the highest echelons of Catholicism but also was, in fact, the source of its expansion. – Ray Yungen
“Contemplative Spirituality – the Source of the Catholic Church’s Expansion”
by Ray Yungen
While many Christians are still not even aware that a practical Christian mystical movement exists, momentum is picking up, and an obvious surge towards this contemplative spirituality has surfaced. Evidence regarding the magnitude of this mystical prayer movement is now within reach of the average person. In 1992, Newsweek magazine did a cover story called “Talking to God,” which made a clear reference to it. The article disclosed:
[S]ilence, appropriate body posture and, above all, emptying the mind through repetition of prayerâ€”have been the practices of mystics in all the great world religions. And they form the basis on which most modern spiritual directors guide those who want to draw closer to God.1
It is amazing to me how Newsweek clearly observed this shift in the spiritual paradigm over fifteen years ago, while many Christians (including most prominent leaders) still live in abject ignorance of this change. Are the teachings of the practical Christian mystic actually being assimilated so well that even our pastors are not discerning this shift?
In September 2005, Newsweek carried a special report called “Spirituality in America.” The feature story, titled “In Search of the Spiritual,” is seventeen pages long, and for anyone who thought that a Christian mystical movement did not exist, this article is all the proof needed to show it not only exists but is alive, well, and growing like you wouldn’t believe.
The article begins by describing the origin of the contemporary contemplative prayer movement, which began largely with a Catholic monk named Thomas Keating:
To him [Keating], as a Trappist monk, meditation was second nature. He invited the great Zen master Roshi Sasaki to lead retreats at the abbey. And surely, he thought, there must be a precedent within the church for making such simple but powerful spiritual techniques available to laypeople. His Trappist brother Father William Meninger found it in one day in 1974, in a dusty copy of a 14th-century guide to contemplative meditation, “The Cloud of Unknowing.”2
The most obvious integration of this movement can be found in Roman Catholicism. Michael Leach, former president of the Catholic Book Publishers Association, made this incredibly candid assertion:
But many people also believe that the spiritual principles underlying the New Age movement will soon be incorporated–or rather reincorporated–into the mainstream of Catholic belief. In fact, it’s happening in the United States right now.3
Incorporating it is! And it is assimilating primarily through the contemplative prayer movement.
Contemplative leader Basil Pennington, openly acknowledging its growing size, said, “We are part of an immensely large community … ‘We are Legion.’”4 Backing him up, a major Catholic resource company stated, “Contemplative prayer has once again become commonplace in the Christian community.”5
William Shannon [a mystic proponent and the biographer of Thomas Merton] went so far as to say contemplative spirituality has now widely replaced old-style Catholicism.6 This is not to say the Mass or any of the sacraments have been abandoned, but the underlying spiritual ideology of many in the Catholic church is now contemplative in its orientation.
One of my personal experiences with the saturation of mysticism in the Catholic church was in a phone conversation I had with the head nun at a local retreat center who told me the same message Shannon conveys. She made it clear The Cloud of Unknowing is now the basis for nearly all Catholic spirituality, and contemplative prayer is now becoming widespread all over the world.
I had always been confused as to the real nature of this advance in the Catholic church. Was this just the work of a few mavericks and renegades, or did the church hierarchy sanction this practice? My concerns were affirmed when I read in an interview that the mystical prayer movement not only had the approval of the highest echelons of Catholicism but also was, in fact, the source of its expansion. Speaking of a meeting between the late Pope Paul VI and members of the Catholic Trappist Monastic Order in the 1970s, Thomas Keating, disclosed the following:
The Pontiff declared that unless the Church rediscovered the contemplative tradition, renewal couldn’t take place. He specifically called upon the monastics, because they lived the contemplative life, to help the laity and those in other religious orders bring that dimension into their lives as well.7
Just look at the latest official catechism of the Catholic church to see contemplative prayer officially endorsed and promoted to the faithful by the powers that be. The new catechism firmly states: “Contemplative prayer is hearing the word of God … Contemplative prayer is silence.”8
I realized just how successfully Pope Paul’s admonitions have been carried out when I discovered the following at one popular Catholic bookstore. Many shelves were marked as spirituality–the focal point of the entire store. Eighty to ninety percent of the books on those shelves were on mystical prayer. It was clearly the overriding theme….
Contemplative spirituality reaches far beyond the walls of the Catholic church. Mainline Protestant traditions (Episcopalians, United Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, United Church of Christ, etc.) have dived into the contemplative waters too. Their deep tradition of twentieth-century liberalism and sociopolitical activism has left them spiritually dry and thirsting for supernatural experiences. This school of practical mysticism gives them a sense of spirituality while still allowing them a liberal political correctness. Marcus Borg, [former] professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University and someone who resonates with mystical spirituality understands the popularity of mystical prayer. He states:
In some mainline denominations, emerging-paradigm [contemplative] Christians are in the majority. Others are about equally divided between these two ways of being Christian.9
A sales person at a bookstore that caters to these denominations once told me the contemplative prayer view has found a large audience in the Protestant mainstream, and many pastors are very open to these practices. She added that some members of the clergy did show resistance, but a clear momentum towards the contemplative direction was nevertheless occurring. An article in Publisher’s Weekly magazine addressing the move toward contemplative prayer in mainstream religious circles confirmed her observation. One woman in the publishing field was quoted as saying, “[M]any Protestants are looking to satisfy that yearning by a return to the Western contemplative tradition.”10 Another college professor pointed out:
My students have been typically middle-aged and upper middle class Methodists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists, active in the lay leadership of their churches. To outward appearances, they are quite conventional people. Yet I have found that virtually every one of my students has encountered the new age in one of its many forms and has been attracted by its mystery.11
Contemplative spirituality provides a seemingly profound experience of God without having to adhere to a conservative social outlook. It also gives its practitioners comfort to know they draw on a so–called Christian well of tradition. This dilutes any reluctance some might have about the orthodoxy of these practices.
To underscore the scope and reach of the contemplative prayer movement let’s look at the numbers put out by an organization called Spiritual Directors International (SDI). On their website this group gives ample evidence of what their practices are. In one national conference, the following was presented:
This workshop offers an opportunity to study and experience the [spiritual] director’s role in a person’s move into the beginning and early stages of contemplative prayer, silence, and openness to new sorts of praying.12
One of the objectives of SDI is “Tending the holy around the world and across traditions.” A 2008 membership list showed 652 Episcopalians, 239 Presbyterians, 239 Methodists, 175 Lutherans, and a whopping 2,386 Roman Catholics; counting another forty or so “traditions,” the total was 6648. To show the nature of just what they mean by “across traditions,” the list included Buddhist, Gnostic Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jewish, Siddha Yoga, and even Pagan/Wiccan.* (see below)
(For more information about contemplative spirituality, spiritual formation, and New Age mysticism coming into the church, read A Time of Departing.)
1. Kenneth L. Woodward, “Talking to God” (Newsweek , January 6, 1992), p. 44.
2. Jerry Alder, “In Search of the Spiritual” (Newsweek, August/September 2005, Special Report: “Spirituality in America”), p. 48.
3. Michael Leach (America, May 2, 1992), p. 384.
4. M. Basil Pennington, Centered Living: The Way of Centering Prayer (New York, NY: Doubleday Publishing, Image Book edition, September 1988), p. 10.
5. Sheed & Ward Catalog, Winter/Lent, 1978, p. 12.
6. William Shannon, Seeds of Peace (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1996), p. 25.
7. Anne A. Simpson, “Resting in God” Common Boundary magazine, Sept./Oct. 1997, http://www.livingrosaries.org/interview.htm), p. 25.
8. Catechism of the Catholic Church (Urbi et Orbi Communications, 1994), p. 652.
9. Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 2004), p. 7.
10. Kimberly Winston, “Get Thee to a Monastery” (Publisher’s Weekly, April 10, 2000), p. 39.
11. Bruce Epperly, Crystal & Cross (Mystic, CT: Twenty-third Publishers, 1996), p. 14.
12. Spiritual Directors International, Conference Workshops: “Exile or Return? Accompanying the Journey into Contemplative Prayer” (http://www.sdiworld.org/conference_workshops.html).
*Note on Spiritual Directors International. Since 2005, there have been significant increases in the SDI’s demographic statistics of spiritual director members. The overall increase went from around 5000 members in 2005 to 6648 in 2008 with new denominations and religious groups added.
New Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract: LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it?
LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it? written by the editors at Lighthouse Trails is one of the new Lighthouse Trails Print Booklet Tracts and is an easy to understand explanation of the practice of lectio divina, a practice that is becoming increasing popular in evangelical/Protestant circles today. The booklet is 16 pages long and sells for $1.50 for single copies. Quantity discounts are as much as 50% off retail. This is a great way to tell others about lectio divina and answer the question, should Christians practice it. Below is the content of the booklet. To order copies of LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it?, click here. There are also two bonus sections in the booklet: 1) “Some places you will find lectio divina “(listing over 30 Christian authors who are promoting lectio divina); 2) Is There Really a Different Way of Reading the Word of God? (see this section below)
New Lighthouse Trails Booklet Tract: “LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it?”
LECTIO DIVINA—There’s a lot of talk about it today; umpteen books are published and more are on the way about lectio divina; and an increasing number of evangelical/Protestant figures are writing about it, endorsing it, and teaching it. Some people think lectio divina simply means to read a passage of Scripture slowly (or “praying the Scriptures”) then ponder or think on that Scripture. That can be a part of it. But if you ask mystics or contemplatives what it really entails (And who would know better than they?), they will tell you that lectio divina (pronounced lex-ee-o di-veen-a) always includes taking a passage of Scripture (or other writings), reading it slowly, and repeating it as you work your way down to where you have just a word or small phrase from the passage that you are “meditating” on (repeating over and over). Basically, you are coming up with a mantra-like word or phrase that has been extracted from a passage of Scripture, which, according to contemplatives, if repeated for several minutes, will help you get rid of thoughts and distractions, so then, they say, you can hear the voice of God and feel His presence (going into the silence).
There are said to be four steps in lectio divina. These four steps are:
Reading (lectio)—Slowly begin reading a biblical passage as if it were a long awaited love letter addressed to you. Approach it reverentially and expectantly, in a way that savors each word and phrase. Read the passage until you hear a word or phrase that touches you, resonates, attracts, or even disturbs you.
Reflecting (meditatio)—Ponder this word or phrase for a few minutes. Let it sink in slowly and deeply until you are resting in it. Listen for what the word or phrase is saying to you at this moment in your life, what it may be offering to you, what it may be demanding of you.
Expressing (oratio)—If you are a praying person, when you are ready, openly and honestly express to God the prayers that arise spontaneously within you from your experience of this word or phrase. These may be prayers of thanksgiving, petition, intercession, lament, or praise. If prayer is not part of your journey you could write down the thoughts that have come your way.
Resting (contemplatio)—Allow yourself to simply rest silently for a time in the stillness of your heart remaining open to the quiet fullness of God’s love and peace. This is like the silence of communion between the mother holding her sleeping infant child or between lovers whose communication with each other passes beyond words.1
Catholic priest and contemplative mysticism pioneer Thomas Keating explains what lectio divina is not in an article he has written titled “The Classical Monastic Practice of Lectio Divina.” He explains that lectio divina is not traditional Bible study, not reading the Scriptures for understanding and edification, and not praying the Scriptures (though praying the Scriptures can be a form of lectio divina when a word or phrase is taken from the Scriptures to focus on for the purpose of going into “God’s presence”).2 Keating says that lectio divina is an introduction into the more intense practices—contemplative prayer and centering prayer.
While some people think lectio divina is just reading Scripture slowly (and what’s wrong with that), it is the focusing on and repeating a word or small phrase to facilitate going into the “silence” that is the real danger. There is certainly nothing wrong with reading Scripture carefully and thoughtfully. Thoughtfully, we say. In eastern-style meditation (and in contemplative prayer) thoughts are the enemy. Eastern-style mystic Anthony De Mello describes this problem with thoughts in his book Sadhana: A Way to God:
To silence the mind is an extremely difficult task. How hard it is to keep the mind from thinking, thinking, thinking, forever thinking, forever producing thoughts in a never ending stream. Our Hindu masters in India have a saying: one thorn is removed by another. By this they mean that you will be wise to use one thought to rid yourself of all the other thoughts that crowd into your mind. One thought, one image, one phrase or sentence or word that your mind can be made to fasten on.3
Spiritual director Jan Johnson in her book, When the Soul Listens: Finding Rest and Direction in Contemplative Prayer also believes that thoughts get in the way, and the mind must be stilled:
Contemplative prayer, in its simplest form, is a prayer in which you still your thoughts and emotions and focus on God Himself. This puts you in a better state to be aware of God’s presence, and it makes you better able to hear God’s voice, correcting, guiding, and directing you.4
Mark Yaconelli, author of Contemplative Youth Ministry: Practicing the Presence of Jesus, has this to say about lectio divina. Keep in mind that Yaconelli’s materials are used in evangelical/Protestant settings (e.g., colleges, seminaries, youth groups):
In order to practice lectio divina, select a time and place that is peaceful and in which you may be alert and prayer fully attentive. Dispose yourself for prayer in whatever way is natural for you. This may be a spoken prayer to God to open you more fully to the Spirit, a gentle relaxation process that focuses on breathing, singing or chanting, or simply a few minutes of silence to empty yourself of thoughts, images, and emotions.5
Research analyst Ray Yungen explains this silence that contemplative mystics seek:
When [Richard] Foster speaks of the silence, he does not mean external silence. In his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Foster recommends the practice of breath prayer6—picking a single word or short phrase and repeating it in conjunction with the breath. This is classic contemplative mysticism. . . . In Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, [Foster] ties in a quote by one mystic who advised, “You must bind the mind with one thought”7 . . . I once related Foster’s breath prayer method to a former New Age devotee who is now a Christian. She affirmed this connection when she remarked with astonishment, “That’s what I did when I was into ashtanga yoga!”8
With lectio divina, the word or phrase one repeats eventually can lose its meaning, and this repetitive sound can start to put the practitioner into an altered mind state. Yungen tells us that:
Keeping the mind riveted on only one thought is unnatural and adverse to true reflection and prayer. Simple logic tells us the repeating of words has no rational value. For instance, if someone called you on the phone and just said your name or one phrase over and over, would that be something you found edifying? Of course not; you would hang up on him or her. Why would God feel otherwise? And if God’s presence is lacking, what is this presence that appears as light during meditation and infuses a counterfeit sense of divinity within?9
Yungen exhorts believers that: “the goal of prayer should not be to bind the mind with a word or phrase in order to induce a mystical trance but rather to use the mind to glory in the grace of God. This was the apostle Paul’s counsel to the various churches: ‘Study to shew thyself approved’ (2 Tim. 2:15) and ‘we pray always’ (2 Thessalonians 1:11) as in talking to God with both heart and mind.”10
In order to help those you care about stay clear of contemplative spirituality and spiritual deception, it is important for you to understand how lectio divina plays a significant role in leading people toward full blown meditative practices. And we propose that this “presence” that is reached during the “silent” altered states of consciousness from saying a word or phrase over and over (or focusing on the breath or an object) is not God’s presence. God has instructed us in the Bible not to perform “special kinds of process[es]” or “formula[s],”11 as Thomas Keating calls lectio divina, to induce mystical experiences (see Deuteronomy 18:9-11); thus, we believe ample warning about lectio divina is warranted.
In conclusion, lectio divina is a bridge to eastern-style meditation. If indeed, this is true, then it will lead Christians away from the message of the Cross and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and thus Christians should not practice lectio divina. Do you know where practices such as lectio divina took Thomas Keating in his spirituality? When you read the statement by him below, you can see the answer to this:
We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible.
Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices, especially where they have been initiated by reliable teachers and have a solidly developed Christian faith to find inner form and meaning to the resulting experiences.12
1. Taken from: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/lectiodivina.htm.
2. Thomas Keating, “The Classical Monastic Practice of Lectio Divina” (http://web.archive.org/web/20120201174238/http://www.crossroadshikers.org/LectioDevina.htm).
3. Anthony de Mello, Sadhana: A Way to God (St. Louis, the Institute of Jesuit Resources, 1978), p. 28.
4. Jan Johnson, When the Soul Listens (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1999), p. 16.
5. Mark Yaconelli, http://web.archive.org/web/20080724110254/http://www.ymsp.org/resources/practices/lectio_divina.html.
6. Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1992), p. 122.
7. Ibid., p. 124.
8. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2006), p. 75.
9. Ibid., p. 76.
10. Ibid., p. 75.
11. Keating, “The Classical Monastic Practice of Lectio Divina,” op. cit.
12. M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, Thomas E. Clarke, Finding Grace at the Center (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Pub., 1978), pp. 5-6.
To order copies of LECTIO DIVINA-What it is, What it is not, and Should Christians Practice it?, click here.
Q & A
IS THERE REALLY A DIFFERENT WAY OF READING THE WORD OF GOD?
QUESTION: I live in South Africa and even here, the Dutch Reformed church is doing the contemplative route. Some writers have even written some books on the subject in which they actually encourage their members to explore that route! I put an enquiry to one of the blokes on this subject and he explained as follows:
In the years after Christ ascended to heaven, there were actually two ways of reading the Bible . . .
The school of Antioch read it as a historic/grammatical narrative and the school of Alexandria took the more ‘spiritual’ route of reading.
Both ways are/were apparently valid.
The Antioch model ensured that God’s Word was read with intellectual integrity and the Alexandrian model ensured that it was read as God’s Word (i.e. meditative and contemplative reading).
From the 12th century onwards, universities then created a platform on which the Word could be challenged or critiqued which led to the questioning of the “Godly Dimensions” thereof . . . lectio divina was then neglected; and by now starting the lectio divina method, the idea is to reclaim the ‘Godly Dimensions” of the Word!!”
Question? How could we as children of God ever have missed this (tongue in cheek), and is there really a different way of reading the Word? God’s Word is His Word, and we read it as it stands, right, with recognition of the metaphors that [are] used? (maybe I am missing something). Your comments on this will be appreciated, since people just accept this and follow it as if it is fine! If one does challenge them on this, he or she is [said to be] in the wilderness and should wake up and smell the roses [they say] . . .
ANSWER: The contemplative prayer (i.e., spiritual formation) movement has found its way into virtually every Christian denomination throughout the world.
In your question, you ask, “how could we as children of God ever have missed this . . . ?” That’s a good question. If lectio divina and other contemplative practices were so utterly vital to sustain our relationship with Christ (some Christian leaders state we must have the “stillness” to really know God), how is it that nowhere in the Bible is there any indication at all that we are to use God’s word as a tool to go into a state of silence to reach “‘Godly dimensions’ of the Word.”
If indeed such practices were vital for the Christian believer, surely Jesus Christ or the apostles (especially the apostle Paul) would have explicitly instructed us on this. In Ephesians 2, we are told that the “saints” (i.e., “the household of God”) are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone,” and that it is through Christ that we become a “holy temple in the Lord . . . for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (vs. 19-22). But the contemplative prayer movement says we must draw from the ancient Catholic mystics and desert fathers in order for us to become all that Christ desires for us. Basically, the foundation that was laid out in Scripture (which is the Gospel) with Christ as the chief corner stone (the sacrificial Lamb for our salvation) was not enough, but the foundation of the ancient mystics is laid down instead. As Ray Yungen points out, one mysticism proponent admits that the practices these earliest monks drew from were so strongly similar “to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East” that “the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery”1
With lectio divina (as with other contemplative practices), the Word of God is used as a tool to perform a ritual that will bring on a mystical experience. We contend that it is a misuse of Scripture where God’s word is actually used in a way contrary to God’s intent and purposes. A word or phrase from a passage of Scripture is turned into a mantra-like practice, where it is repeated over and over. No longer do the words have the meaning intended by the authors (the apostles and prophets inspired by the Holy Spirit) but rather an experience to “feel” closer to God is sought.
The contemplative says we must seek after a “deeper” relationship with God. But for the born-again believer who has been united with Christ through faith by His grace and “sealed unto the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30), a method or ritual is not needed to draw near to the Lord for He is already in our hearts established and “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and being in the body of Christ is all that is necessary to fulfill your relationship needs for God. There is no esoteric tradition that will give you more of the Holy Spirit.
In answer to the question, no, we as believers did not miss anything. Contemplatives such as Richard Foster say that Christians are missing something, that our lives are empty and lacking in vitality, and thus we need, they say, these meditation techniques. But if we truly do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, if we have allowed Him to be Lord and Savior of our lives, then He promises to live in our hearts and commune with us. Surely, if we needed to repeat words and phrases over and over in order to have that fellowship with Christ, He would, at some point, have told us in His Word and laid out these contemplative instructions. But rather, the Word tells us that His “grace and peace” have been given to us “through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord” and that His “divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness” and that through “exceeding great and precious promises” we can be “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:2-4).
The biblical way to draw near to God is one in which we acknowledge the work has already been done at the Cross and is offered to “whosoever believeth,” with a free and clear invitation of communion with God, a communion that is ours for the asking. The contemplative way to “draw near to God” is riddled with man’s efforts, mystical eastern practices, altered states of consciousness, an eventual change in attitude toward the atonement, an exaltation of man (as having divinity), and a growing view that the Bible is more of a ritualistic tool and a poetic piece of literature rather than an authority (unchanging, solid, and trustworthy) for our spiritual lives. Just look at the views of the emerging church (which is propelled by contemplative prayer) to see the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality. Or consider what the occult prophetess Alice Bailey said:
It is, of course, easy to find many passages which link the way of the Christian Knower with that of his brother in the East. They bear witness to the same efficacy [efficiency] of method.2
Or the words of Thomas Merton’s biographer and advocate, William Shannon:
If one wants to understand Merton’s going to the East it is important to understand that it was his rootedness in his own faith tradition [Catholicism] that gave him the spiritual equipment [contemplative prayer] he needed to grasp the way of wisdom that is proper to the East.3
Simply put, what these quotes reveal is that these “dimensions” of God are not really dimensions of God at all, but pathways to the mystical occult practices and teachings of the East. Ironically, lectio divina will lead practitioners away from the very thing it claims to embrace: the Word of God.
When we use the Bible, let us use it in the way it is intended. As Paul succinctly puts it, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Now, if one would like to use the Word of God as a “tool,” the Bible offers its own suggestions:
Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:105)
And take . . . the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
By its own claims, the Bible is useful for gaining understanding and receiving instruction, but never is it offered as a hypnotic tool or as a mind-altering device. Now, while lectio divina is promoted as a devotional technique, the methods employed ultimately lead one to the “silence.” Thus, as believers, let us reject this practice, and let us cling to and “contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).
1. Daniel Goleman, The Meditative Mind (Los Angeles, CA: Tarcher/Putnam Inc., 1988), p.53.
2. Alice Bailey, From Intellect to Intuition (New York, NY: Lucis Publishing Co., 1987, 13th printing), p. 193, as cited from A Time of Departing, 2nd ed., p. 28.
3. William Shannon, Silent Lamp, The Thomas Merton Story (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing Company, 1992), p. 281.
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