By Ray Yungen
Scores of books and writings by authors and teachers of contemplative prayer have been written. Basically, these authors echo Thomas Merton, and in understanding Merton, we can understand the whole movement. It is essential to see that although Merton and his proponents have an apparent devotion to God and a strong commitment to moral integrity, they have attempted to marry biblical principles to a mysticism that is, through the Desert Fathers, derived from Eastern religions.
I recall coming out of an interspiritual center once where the creed was all religions are one. I thought to myself, I’m sure I am viewed as someone who gets up and smugly cries out, “only my religion is true!” It’s true that I’ve come to this conclusion, yes, but why? Simply put, because the prophets and apostles of my religion made that unmistakably clear. None of the biblical champions of God were interspiritualists—absolutely none! Paul, the apostle, illustrated this in the following account:
And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people.
Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein: Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. (Acts 14: 11-16, emphasis mine)
Paul said this because he knew that these other gods were not God at all—only Jesus Christ could be worshiped, only He died for humanity’s sins. Needless to say, other faiths do not embrace this. Hindu and Buddhist karma and Islamic submission are only, at best, futile, vain human efforts.
In contemplative-promoting literature, one can find numerous statements that either belittle or actually condemn the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Here are two examples:
Unfortunately, over the course of the centuries, this [Christianity] has come to be presented in almost legal language, as if it were some sort of transaction, a deal with God; there was this gap between us and God, somebody had to make up for it—all that business. We can drop that. The legal metaphor seems to have helped other generations. Fine. Anything that helps is fine. But once it gets in the way, as it does today, we should drop it.1
The fundamentalist continually waves one or two out-of-context gospel passages in front of us, stretching them beyond all valid interpretation and meaning. Thus the quotation “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6) is often used to declare that no one except the Christian can attain to God-or for that matter be “saved.” This we know is nonsense. When the Divine Mother gathers up her harvest during the decades ahead, the chaff of fundamentalism will be separated from the good wheat of the new consciousness and left by the wayside.2
Interspiritualists look with great distain on the concept that God is confined to one religion. One statement that demonstrates this repugnance was made by an Anglican bishop. He maintains:
The problem with exclusivism is that it presents us with a god from whom we need to be delivered rather than the living God who is the hope of the world. The exclusivist god is narrow, rigid, and blind. This god pays no attention to the sanctity and personal holiness of people outside the Christian fold. This god takes no loving and parental pride in the lives of great spiritual teachers who spoke of other paths to truth, figures like Moses, Siddartha [Buddha], Mohammed, and Gandhi. . . . Such a god is not worthy of honour, glory, worship, or praise. This god offers no hope for a world deeply divided along religious lines, a world crying out for peace and reconciliation.3 (emphasis mine)
At this point, we must return to what the apostle Paul said: “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils [i.e., pagan mysticism]” (I Corinthians 10:21).
No longer is the contemplative movement confined to just the Roman Catholic church and mainline Protestant camps. With a sincere desire to find a deeper walk with God many conservative, evangelical Christians are now exploring and embracing the spirituality of the people I have profiled in A Time of Departing. This pursuit oddly covers the whole gamut of evangelical Christianity from charismatic to Baptist. Only the most discerning and biblically grounded Christians seem aware of the dangers of the contemplative prayer movement. A lack of discernment or a misleading view of Scripture can open the doors to becoming a contemplative evangelical. The list of these evangelicals is growing, and you may be surprised who is involved in swiftly moving the evangelical church toward a new mystical paradigm. (from chapter 3 of A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen)
1. Robert Aitken & David Steindl Rast, The Ground We Share (Boston, MA: Shambhala Publications, Inc., 1994), p. 45.
2. Frank X. Tuoti, The Dawn of the Mystical Age (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1997), p. 86.
3. Michael Ingham, Mansions of the Spirit (Toronto, ON: Anglican Book Centre, 1997), p. 61.