By Phil Young, M.D.
(Guest writer and missionary)
To grasp fully the temptation involved in contemplative prayer, one needs to go back to the beginning and look at man’s first temptation, that of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and its implications. In Genesis chapter one, we are told that Adam and Eve were created in the image of God. Theologians have argued just what is meant by “created in the image of God.”
Whatever else it means, it is an indication that Adam and Eve were meant to be God’s representatives on planet earth. Following the completion of creation, Adam and Eve were given dominion over that creation, over all animal life on the planet. The creation of Eve from Adam’s body further illustrates what is indicated by this idea of image. Before Eve was created, all the animal world was paraded before Adam, but no animal was found that was “suitable” to be his companion. The idea in the Hebrew word translated “suitable” is that Adam needed a companion who was created in such a fashion that if that individual was standing in front of Adam it would be just as if Adam himself was standing there. In other words, Eve, when she was taken and created from Adam’s body was created in Adam’s image, created as Adam’s perfect representative. Before the fall, one would have received the same answer if one asked the “image” question to either Adam or Eve. Just as Eve was to faithfully represent Adam when he was not present, Adam and Eve were to give a visible presence of God’s character to the creation that had been placed under them. They were to be the representatives of God on planet earth. The more they fellowshipped with God, the better representatives they would become.
Adam and Eve were not created in the image of Yahweh or Jehovah, the word for God that speaks of His essence, but in the image of Elohim, a word for God which hints of the trinity and the interrelationship of that trinity, their creativity and goodness. It was God’s character that Adam and Eve were to represent, not God’s essence. What Adam and Eve were meant to do is seen in the life of Christ. Following the incarnation, as He lived his life here on earth, he never used the power he had as God to meet any of his human needs. Christ used His power as God in His ministry to others. As we see Christ starting his ministry, He was tempted by Satan to change the very rocks in the wilderness into bread when He had been without food during forty days and nights in the wilderness. Satan was tempting Christ to use his power as God to meet his real human hunger. If Christ had done so, if He had used his power as God to meet his own needs, all that his life on earth would have proved is that God can live a life here on earth that is fit for heaven, not that any mere man can be good enough to live a life fit for heaven. Since God cannot die, there would not have been any perfect sacrificial lamb. In other words, Christ had to live as a perfect man to be God’s perfect sacrifice. He could not use His godhood to meet his needs. He answered Satan’s temptation by saying that man is not to live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. Mankind is to be molded by every single word of God. Christ’s life was a life of complete obedience to God.
Christ as the second Adam was a perfect representation of the character of God. In John 14: 8 when Philip asked Christ to show us (the disciples) God the Father, Christ answered that he who has seen me has seen the Father. Christ, as He lived as a man, was the perfect representation of God’s character here on earth. And as Christians, we seek to be fit vessels to represent Christ to a fallen world to give a picture of God’s character though it is marred through our human weakness.
Look again at the temptation of Adam and Eve. The gist of the temptation was that Adam and Eve would become more like God by disobeying Him. “You shall be as gods knowing good and evil, ‘’ if you will just eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil which God has told you not to eat. Adam and Eve were already created in God’s image, in His character. How could they become more like God? By constantly walking in God’s will the character that God had given them would gradually truly became their own unshakable character. The temptation from Satan was to divorce themselves from God and to do just as they pleased–to live so that that they would ‘know both good and evil’ while ignoring all moral consequences. In the Hebrew Satan told them, “dying, you shall not die.” In other words, when separated from God due to sin, they would not die, they would continue to exist but they would just be divorced from the only source of true life, God. Hell, which is permanent separation from God, is a place of permanent degradation: “Their worm dieth not.” The whole universe is gradually degrading, and in scientific terms, this is called entropy. This is likely because the universe is no longer connected to God in the same way it was before sin. The universe cannot create life and is not life or a living being, the thesis of many Eastern religions, a belief which is in exact opposition to this process of degradation which is seen taking place in the universe. In fact, any system that is degrading had to be created, had to have a beginning; so the universe cannot have existed forever.
We as Christians are sealed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, who gradually transforms us to be like Christ until the day, we, in character, will be like Christ, when “we see Him as He is” in heaven. The temptation of Contemplative Prayer is in a sense the same one that Adam and Eve faced–to be more like Christ, like God; to be more like Him in character by going outside the provisions of his Word. We already have been given God’s character as we are born again through the provision of Christ’s Calvary sacrifice and obedience to the Word of God. We have God’s character restored through our faith in the second Adam, Christ, and we grow to be more like Him as we are obedient to the Scripture He has given us. The temptation in Contemplative Prayer is to take a path not endorsed by Scripture, a path that ignores the provisions God has given in an effort to draw closer to Christ, an effort to become more like Him through disobedience to His Word. This is parallel to the temptation Adam and Eve faced. In both cases, the temptation involves a good goal—to be more like God. Unfortunately, the result is the same in both cases. We come under Satan’s sway, under his dominion.
We become more like Christ by renewing our mind through God’s Word, not by trying to empty our mind of all rational thought, not by following the same practices the heathen world has used for years. The very process they use involves vain repetition of words in prayer, repeating a word over and over again, a practice which is forbidden by Christ’s admonition to His disciples, not to use vain repetitions. It makes no difference if Christian words like “Jesus” are used. It is the practice of using repeated words to empty one’s mind that is wrong [see Matthew 6:7]. It is evident this practice does not bring the heathen world closer to the true God, so how can Christians think that the practice will draw them closer to Christ? The false spirituality that results is based on an experience, which is divorced from God’s Word. A good goal “to be closer to Christ” can never trump obedience to the Word of God.