Posts Tagged ‘contemplative’

When a Young Girl Meets a Mystic and Is Introduced to Lectio Divina

LTRP Note: The following is an excerpt from Carolyn A. Greene’s novel, Castles in the Sand, the first novel published that addresses the contemplative prayer (spiritual formation) movement. In this excerpt, the young Christian Teresa [Tessa], now attending a Christian college, is in her dorm room, thinking about her new spiritual director, Ms. Jasmine, who has promised to teach her students how to enter the “inner life” just like the mystics of the past. For Tessa, a lonely foster girl who lost her parents years earlier in a tragic accident, this talk of a better, more fulfilling life was just what she was looking for.

from Castles in the Sand
by Carolyn A. Greene

The school’s spiritual formation professor had been responsible for bringing Ms. Jasmine to Flat Plains Bible College as their new spiritual director. Tessa was immediately drawn to her. Ms. Jasmine was so down to earth…. [Tessa] admired her from the very beginning.

Tessa’s mind turned to Ms. Jasmine’s promise to soon introduce them to the inner life. Although Tessa felt guarded about anything that came close to her inner life, she was drawn to Ms. Jasmine …

Ms. Jasmine had placed colorful tapestry cushions in a circle at the front of the lecture hall, and fifteen minutes into her talk the students were encouraged to take one and seek out a quiet place of solitude anywhere on the campus. Once they had found a cozy spot, they were to use the outline they’d been given to practice a listening exercise called lectio divina, a “divine reading” that would make them feel closer to Jesus.

“Come back in half an hour,” Ms Jasmine had told them, smiling as they filed by to pick up their cushions….

The listening exercise they were to do seemed simple enough. After choosing a Scripture passage, they were instructed to read it slowly a number of times and wait for a word to “come alive” to them. Then they were to take that single word, close their eyes and repeat it for several minutes. Ms. Jasmine’s had read the outline ahead of time to the class. Her voice had a soothing, relaxing effect:

Sit with your back straight in a comfortable position.
Notice first the faraway sounds that you can hear.
Next, allow yourself to become aware of sounds that are nearer.
Then listen closely to your own heartbeat; this is your very own rhythm of life.
As you shut out these sounds, you will hear the sound of silence within yourself.
Listen like this for several minutes . . .
Write down what you hear God saying to you.
Remember, he is all around you and in you.

Tessa had found her own quiet spot on a bench in the courtyard, where yellow and red leaves drifted gently to the ground from the tree above. It had seemed weird at first, and Tessa wasn’t altogether sure about it. But she read Psalm 15, and soon the word “truth” stood out to her. She straightened her back, closed her eyes, and repeated the word for at least five minutes. It was awkward this first time, because she kept looking down at Ms. Jasmine’s instructions, wanting to get it just right. At one point, she thought she had actually heard a voice speak to her. Ms. Jasmine had told them to imagine themselves having a conversation with Christ. “Don’t be afraid to listen,” were the words she thought she heard, although it was probably just the wind in the trees.

Why not try it again, Tessa thought now, as she lay wide awake in the dark. She put her head under her favorite flannel-covered pillow to shut out [her roommate] Katy’s snoring, turned on her LED book light under the blanket, and reread a page in what was now her favorite book, Selections from the Interior Castle, by Teresa of Avila of Spain. Even the picture on the cover had come alive in her imagination. It was a painting of an ancient castle with a high tower on a green hilltop. Leading up to the castle’s stone archways were winding dirt roads that crossed over stone bridges. Tessa’s imagination took her back to the storybook her mom often read to her when she was a little girl. Hesitantly, but with anticipation, she opened her new book to the page she had dog-eared earlier and began to read:

One kind of rapture is that in which the soul, even though not in prayer, is touched by some word it remembers or hears about God. It seems that His Majesty from the interior of the soul makes the spark we mentioned increase, for He is moved with compassion in seeing the soul suffer so long a time from its desire.

So beautifully written, thought Tessa. She read it over several times. Now that was beautiful literature, the kind she would like to read in the solitude of a beautiful meadow in a deep, sheltered valley. It was perfect. The word that jumped out at her was “spark.” St. Teresa and Ms. Jasmine both talked about the spark within. Ever since her parents died in the crash, Tessa felt as if her own spark had been extinguished. Perhaps she would soon be able to feel the spark come to life again if she could practice being silent like this more often. When she closed her eyes, she could almost see a tiny light growing brighter in the darkness, like a light at the end of a long tunnel. Then again, maybe it was just the lingering glare from her book light. For a moment, she tried to focus on the light. Finally, Tessa quietly turned off the light, laid Gran’s bookmark between the pages where she had finished reading, and put the book on her nightstand. At least she had figured out how to make Katy stop talking.

Tomorrow Ms. Jasmine was going to take their SF class outside into the fresh air. They were going to practice another prayer exercise called centering and take the first prayer walk through the brand-new campus labyrinth. Tessa felt as if she was about to step into a new realm, but she wasn’t quite sure what it was. Maybe Flat Plains Bible College was not such a stuffy place to be after all. She would text Gramps in the morning. He’d be happy to know she was actually beginning to like this place. (from chapter 6, Castles in the Sand)

Also see:

Table of Contents and Chapter One

Chapter by Chapter Synopsis

Chapter 19: “Bad Counsel”

What People Are Saying About Castles in the Sand:

A great read. The author has real talent. Characters like Gramps are amazingly well-sketched. Good story lay-out too, with flashes of humor. The story makes what is happening in schools & churches clear in a way mere reporting can’t. E.L., Pennsylvania, U.S.

An excellent story with an urgent message. Teenaged/college-aged girls will want to read this book because the main character is their age and they will be intrigued by “a mysterious young man who reaches out to help Tessa. Additionally, parents and grandparents of young adults will want to read the book because of the subtle implication of the spiritual danger involved in things such as lectio divina, contemplative prayer etc. And if their sons and daughters are in Christian colleges, these words are now likely a part of their children’s regular vocabulary, and naive, uninformed parents will immediately have their interest piqued when they read those words. D.H., Alberta, Canada

I’m on my second reading of Castles in the Sand. It is even better the second time!! The bonus book you sent me has been read by several people. Hannah [14 year old daughter] was the first to read the book in our house, and it equipped her to address her youth group about the terror of Avila. The leader was recommending they read Teresa of Avila’s work. Hannah spoke right up about how bad it is. You could hear a pin drop, the way the kids were so attentive. K.R., Kansas, U.S.

Why One Should Not Glean From Jennifer Kennedy Dean’s Prayer Studies

By Lois Putnam

On a recent Sunday morning a vivacious older lady stood in front of a congregation, of what can only be termed a solid gospel preaching, mission minded church, and announced to the women that all should sign up for its newest Bible study program that would begin shortly.  Touting both Set Apart, and Living a Praying Life she stated that the author –Jennifer Kennedy Dean–was also part of the National Day of Prayer.

At my seat –I was writing down the information–for I knew my immediate assignment as a discerning Christian was, as Acts 17:11 instructs, to look into Dean to see if all she’s taught and written stands up to scripture.  In short, “Should one glean or be learning from this writer Jennifer Kennedy Dean?”

So that very afternoon I began my investigation.  And it wasn’t long into my research that I found “red flags flying!”   So what was it that made me know that Dean, and her numerous books were  something that I should not be buying into, nor following?  Let me explain!

Dean’s “The Praying Life Foundation” Web Page 

I.  Dean’s All About “Listening Prayer” Article

Checking out Dean’s web page: “The Praying Life Foundation”–her bio, blog, articles, store, and more– soon gave me pause.  For under Dean’s store was a section titled “Free.”  Clicking onto that I found many Dean articles.  Immediately, my eye caught the title: “Listening Prayer.”  Knowing that this was a meditative practice that uses a mantra or repetitive phrase to clear one’s mind so one can “hear God’s voice” as one sits in silence I read the five pages carefully.
http://www.prayinglife.org/free/  Scroll down to find article.

Did Dean support this unscriptural prayer method?  Indeed, Dean did! For Dean began her article by saying, “Spoken prayer will not reach its potential unless it is grounded in listening prayer.  In listening prayer spoken prayer is born.”  And Dean champions going into “the silence”* when she says of the Lord, “He wants us to know his secrets, but his secrets come wrapped in silence.” (p.1)
*  The Silence:  “Absence of normal thought.”  (A Time of Departing: Glossary-p.205) Click here to continue reading.

(Lois Putnam is a Lighthouse Trails author with two booklets released thus far.)

 

Biola University Brings in Emergent Speaker for Students, as Pathway to Apostasy Continues

On February 22nd, 2017, Biola University hosted a one-evening live recording of the renowned public radio podcast “ON BEING with Krista Tippett.” During the event, which was free to attend to all Biola students and others, Tippett interviewed artist Enrique Martinez Celaya. Biola, a Christian university, began wandering into the contemplative/emergent camp many years ago, particularly via their Spiritual Formation program at the Talbot School of Theology, but it has now spread into other areas as well.

For those not familiar with Krista Tippett, we’d like to share a few things about her beliefs. Then you decide if this is what Christian parents are paying high dollars for when sending their children to a Christian university.

Krista Tippett promotes Yoga: In a 2014 interview Krista did with Seane Corn (National Yoga Ambassador for YouthAIDS and cofounder of “Off the Mat, Into the World”), Krista shows a strong camaraderie with Yoga. While interviewing this Yoga teacher, Tippett exhibits a clear resonance with Yoga and offers no warning whatsoever. In a 2012 interview, she interviewed (with the same kind of fevor) Yoga author and teacher Matthew Sanford.

Her organization promotes contemplative prayer: On Krista Tippett’s website, On Being, there is a 2015 article and illustration about The Tree of Contemplative Practices by On Being co-founder Trent Gilliss. Incidentally, Lighthouse trails author Lois Putnam did an article on the Tree of Contemplative Practices in 2014.

Tippett promotes many emergent ideas: Read her article “Religion does not have a monopoly on faith” where she espouses on ecumenism, interspirituality, the new monasticism, and other emergent views.

If you know someone who is attending or if you yourself are attending Biola, the highest level of godly discernment will be needed. The greatest kind of deception is the kind that has a Christian outer wrapping but which has an inner core that is the antithesis of biblical truth.

The LT reader who alerted us to this one-evening event with Krista Tippett also told us that Mike Erre (former pastor of the First Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton – Chuck Swindoll’s former church) is now a Pastor in Residence at Biola. This brought to remembrance our book review of Mike Erre’s book, Death by Church, an extremely emergent-promoting book. Here is a portion of our review:

In the pages of Death by Church (Harvest House), Mike Erre acknowledges that Jesus is Lord. He also references a number of Scriptures and talks about several different Bible stories. But for the discerning Christian who knows his Bible, it doesn’t take too long into Erre’s book to realize something is amiss, and such a reader soon begins to have a sense that he is theologically being tossed to and fro between the pages of this book and soon feeling like he is in a battle zone for the truth. Sandwiched between the Scripture references and the mention of “Jesus” is a theology that does not at all represent the Gospel.

Death by Church has a point to make–that God is saving “all of creation” (eg. p. 100) and that the “church” is not the substance of the kingdom of God (i.e., the whole of creation and all of humanity is). In fact, Erre says, the church is not the kingdom of God at all – it only points to the kingdom of God, which incorporates all of creation and, if the church does all the right things it can have the privilege of being part of that kingdom too. Erre seeks to prove his point but not just by turning to Scripture – he turns to prominent figures in the emerging/emergent church (e.g., Brian McLaren and Dan Kimball), the contemplative mystical prayer movement (e.g., Dallas Willard and panentheist Richard Rohr-a favorite of Erre’s), and New Age sympathizers (such as Marcus Borg, who believes Jesus did not see himself as the Son of God (see For Many Shall Come in My Name, p. 124), and Gregory Boyd, emerging author of Benefit of the Doubt: Breaking the Idol of Certainty). Couple Erre’s frequent use of emerging/contemplative/New Age sympathizing authors with his kingdom-now theology wrapped in universalist/panentheistic overtones, and Death by Church actually takes on a pseudo-name, Death by Deception.(source)

It’s brings much trepidation to think about the direction Biola University and so many Christian universities are going. We cringe when we think of the young people who are sitting in the classes, chapels, and seminars of these schools taking in everything being told to them, all because the man or woman standing at the front of the class says he or she “loves Jesus” when in reality they are presenting another Jesus and a different gospel so much of the time.

Some Previous Articles Lighthouse Trails Has Written on Biola:

Erwin McManus, Moody, Liberty, Cedarville, and Biola Help Pave the Emergent/Social Justice/Progressive Future with Barefoot Tribe

Biola Conference Welcomes Ruth Haley Barton as it Continues Heartily Down Contemplative Path

Biola’s New Gay and Lesbian Student Group – A “Fruit” of Their Contemplative Propensities?

Biola Magazine Managing Editor Admits Biola Promotes Contemplative Spirituality

Christianity is Missing Out on Something Vital – Is This True?

By Ray Yungen

Contemplative advocates propose that there has been something vital and important missing from the church for centuries. The insinuation is that Christians have been lacking something necessary for their spiritual vitality; but that would mean the Holy Spirit has not been fully effective for hundreds of years and only now the secret key has been found that unlocks God’s full power to know Him. These proponents believe that Christianity has been seriously crippled without this extra ingredient. This kind of thinking leads one to believe that traditional, biblical Christianity is merely a philosophy without the contemplative prayer element. Contemplatives are making a distinction between studying and meditating on the Word of God versus experiencing Him, suggesting that we cannot hear Him or really know Him simply by studying His Word or even through normal prayer—we must be contemplative to accomplish this. But the Bible makes it clear that the Word of God is living and active and has always been that way, and it is in filling our minds with it that we come to love Him, not through a mystical practice of stopping the flow of thought (the stillness) that is never once mentioned in the Bible, except in warnings against vain repetitions in the New Testament and divination in the Old Testament.

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton (the man who inspired Dallas Willard and Richard Foster) said that he saw various Eastern religions “come together in his life” (as a Christian mystic). On a rational, practical level, Christianity and Eastern religions will not mix; but add the mystical element and they do blend together like adding soap to oil and water. I must clarify what I mean: Mysticism neutralizes doctrinal differences by sacrificing the truth of Scripture for a mystical experience. Mysticism offers a common ground, and supposedly that commonality is divinity in all. But we know from Scripture “there is one God; and there is none other but he” (Mark 12:32).

In a booklet put out by Saddleback Church on spiritual maturity, the following quote by Henri Nouwen is given:

Solitude begins with a time and place for God, and Him alone. If we really believe not only that God exists, but that He is actively present in our lives—healing, teaching, and guiding—we need to set aside a time and space to give Him our undivided attention.1

Henri-Nouwen

Henri Nouwen

When we understand what Nouwen really means by “time and space” given to God, we can also see the emptiness and deception of his spirituality. In his biography of Nouwen, God’s Beloved, Michael O’ Laughlin says:

Some new elements began to emerge in Nouwen’s thinking when he discovered Thomas Merton. Merton opened up for Henri an enticing vista of the world of contemplation and a way of seeing not only God but also the world through new eyes. . . . If ever there was a time when Henri Nouwen wished to enter the realm of the spiritual masters or dedicate himself to a higher spiritual path, it was when he fell under the spell of Cistercian monasticism and the writings of Thomas Merton.2

In his book, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic, Nouwen talks about these “new eyes” that Merton helped to formulate and said that Merton and his work “had such an impact” on his life and that he was the man who had “inspired” him greatly.3 But when we read Nouwen’s very revealing account, something disturbing is unveiled. Nouwen lays out the path of Merton’s spiritual pilgrimage into contemplative spirituality. Those who have studied Merton from a critical point of view, such as myself, have tried to understand what are the roots behind Merton’s spiritual affinities. Nouwen explains that Merton was influenced by LSD mystic Aldous Huxley who “brought him to a deeper level of knowledge” and “was one of Merton’s favorite novelists.”4 It was through Huxley’s book, Ends and Means, that first brought Merton “into contact with mysticism.”5 Merton states:

 He [Huxley] had read widely and deeply and intelligently in all kinds of Christian and Oriental mystical literature, and had come out with the astonishing truth that all this, far from being a mixture of dreams and magic and charlatanism, was very real and very serious.6

This is why, Nouwen revealed, Merton’s mystical journey took him right into the arms of Buddhism:

 Merton learned from him [Chuang Tzu—a Taoist] what Suzuki [a Zen master] had said about Zen: “Zen teaches nothing; it merely enables us to wake and become aware.”7

Become aware of what? The Buddha nature. Divinity within all.

That is why Merton said if we knew what was in each one of us, we would bow down and worship one another. Merton’s descent into contemplative led him to the belief that God is in all things and that God is all things. This is made clear by Merton when he said: “True solitude is a participation in the solitariness of God—Who is in all things.8

Nouwen adds: “[Chuang Tzu] awakened and led him [Merton] . . . to the deeper ground of his consciousness.”9

This has been the ploy of Satan since the Garden of Eden when the serpent said to Eve, “ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:4). It is this very essence that is the foundation of contemplative prayer.

In Merton’s efforts to become a mystic, he found guidance from a Hindu swami, whom Merton referred to as Dr. Bramachari. Bramachari played a pivotal role in Merton’s future spiritual outlook. Nouwen divulged this when he said:

Thus he [Merton] was more impressed when this Hindu monk pointed him to the Christian mystical tradition. . . . It seems providential indeed that this Hindu monk relativized [sic] Merton’s youthful curiosity for the East and made him sensitive to the richness of Western mysticism.10

Why would a Hindu monk advocate the Christian mystical tradition? The answer is simple: they are one in the same. Even though the repetitive words used may differ (e.g. Christian words: Abba, Father, etc. rather than Hindu words), the end result is the same. And the Hindu monk knew this to be true. Bramachari understood that Merton didn’t need to switch to Hinduism to get the same enlightenment that he himself experienced through the Hindu mystical tradition. In essence, Bramachari backed up what I am trying to get across, that all the world’s mystical traditions basically come from the same source and teach the same precepts . . . and that source is not the God of the Old and New Testaments. That biblical God is not interspiritual!

Evangelical Christianity is now being invited, perhaps even catapulted into seeing God with these new eyes of contemplative prayer. And so the question must be asked, is Thomas Merton’s silence, Henri Nouwen’s space, and Richard Foster’s contemplative prayer the way in which we can know and be close to God? Or is this actually a spiritual belief system that is contrary to the true message that the Bible so absolutely defines—that there is only one way to God and that is through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, whose sacrifice on the Cross obtained our full salvation? If indeed my concerns for the future actually come to fruition, then we will truly enter a time of departing.

For more about Ray Yungen’s work, visit: www.atimeofdeparting.com.

Endnotes:

1.. Henri Nouwen, cited in Saddleback training book, Soul Construction: Solitude Tool  (Lake Forest, CA: Saddleback Church, 2003), p. 12.

2. Michael O’ Laughlin, God’s Beloved (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2004), p. 178.

3. Henri J.M. Nouwen, Thomas Merton: Contemplative Critic (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row Publishers, 1991, Triumph Books Edition), p. 3.

4. Ibid., pp. 19-20.

5. Ibid., p. 20.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., p. 71.

8. Ibid., pp. 46, 71.

9. Ibid., p. 71.

10 . Ibid., p. 29.

Letter to the Editor: Does Lighthouse Trails Only Cover the Contemplative Prayer Issue?

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I was thinking about the cost of mail and how it affects your ministry.  I wonder whether it would now require broader topics to keep it going.  So many of your readers like me have read your warnings about the contemplatives for many years now and perhaps there could be other areas for those people.  Just a thought . . . because it might bring in more readers in the U.S.A. when the Canadians can’t buy because of outrageous shipping costs. I forget what small thing I wanted to buy in the U.S.A. yesterday, but it would cost $60 shipping for a small inexpensive object!  I don’t understand this at all.  There’s supposed to be free trade between the two countries, but those shipping prices are not likely to promote free trade.

Your articles on contemplatives have been excellent, and I knew to avoid churches with that after reading Lighthouse Trails authors.  I wonder what other areas need to be covered now.
God bless.
J.

bigstockphoto.com (a monastery)

bigstockphoto.com (a monastery)

Dear J.

Thanks for your e-mail. It’s really a tragedy that “free” trade between our two countries is so expensive. We are trying to find a Canadian distributor, at least for the booklets, which would mean Canadians could buy the materials right in Canada. Sadly, we were told recently that some of our topics would now be illegal in Canada, and the U.S. is right behind that.

We know what you mean about covering other topics. We actually do cover many many other topics If you look at our blog, for instance, under categories (see below), you can see just how many there are. While we have always emphasized the contemplative, there are dozens of other topics we regularly cover such as Israel, the Holocaust, the emerging church, child abuse, evolution vs creation, false signs and wonders, Roman Catholicism, ecumenism, abortion, Yoga and the New Age, homeschooling issues, Native Spirituality, the Gospel and salvation, and other issues that are affecting the church and the world. This can be seen in our print journals too. We know we will always talk about the contemplative issue, especially because we do receive new readers every day who know nothing about it, but we agree that we need to cover other aspects too, and we hope that is what we are doing.

Here is a list of our current topics we regularly cover. This list is taken from our blog, and these are all live links you can click.

BELOW IS A LIST OF THE CATEGORIES WE COVER IN THE RESOURCES ON OUR STORE SITE:

 Biographies

Remembering the Holocaust

Emerging Church

Audio Books

 

 

Letter to the Editor: Concerns About Erwin Lutzer

LTRP Note: Christian leaders are giving a pass to Roman Catholicism and the Jesuits. After reading this letter to the editor, we cannot help but wonder how many other Christian leaders have attended Jesuit schools and could this be a reason so many of them are accepting of contemplative spirituality and Catholicism in general? One thing is for sure, popular Christian leaders who have attended Jesuit schools and who promote  contemplative figures are influencing others to do the same.

Dear Lighthouse Trails:

I wanted to let you know that I happened to listen to an online YouTube message from Erwin Lutzer yesterday that was an overview of his life.1 Well, I was shocked to hear him say he went to Loyola University!!!! [see YouTube link below; also: https://logoi.org/authors/erwin-lutzer/?___store=en]. It was after his graduation from Dallas Seminary, but still, he did not offer an apology for not knowing he should stay out of Catholicism back when he was young, no, he said it just as if it was a good university to go to!!! I was stunned, as I had always thought Moody Bible was separate from Catholicism, and the very name of Loyola screams Jesuit Catholicism, the worst of the worst of Catholicism! Anyway, I thought it might be worth noting in your articles about how Moody Bible Institute is going Contemplative, and it may help you to maybe understand why his response to your warning e-mails to him was to love all of the brethren. That’s because he obviously feels the Catholics are our brethren. Also if you listen to the link I’ve provided below with that message, you will hear him say that Billy Graham was his hero when he was young, and he still brags about getting 20 minutes of private time with the famous preacher, (at which I said under my breath, every important person in the world gets 20 minutes with Billy Graham, whether they be Democrat or Republican, immoral or moral, Communist or the Pope, Billy Graham has met with and approved of all of them as God’s children.) and so Erwin Lutzer has obviously ignored the fact that Billy Graham sent people back to their Catholic churches after they made a confession for Christ at his crusades and that he has been [one of] the most instrumental preacher in getting the ecumenical movement on its fast path.

Thank you for standing for truth and for being a resource for us all who are wondering “what is happening to our preachers today and the institutions we trusted such as Moody Bible?” Your articles gave me the support I needed to realize I am not alone in being disturbed about Erwin Lutzer’s stance on things and that I need to stick with older preachers who were separate from Catholicism.

God bless,

L.M.

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROxWNJF6GRg

 

Silence—The Language of God? (And Some Folks Promoting it)

By Ray Yungen

For many years during my research, I would come across the term contemplative prayer. Immediately I would dismiss any thought that it had a New Age connotation because I thought it meant to ponder while praying—which would be the logical association with that term. But in the New Age disciplines, things are not always what they seem to be to untrained ears.

What contemplative prayer actually entails is described very clearly by the following writer:

When one enters the deeper layers of contemplative prayer one sooner or later experiences the void, the emptiness, the nothingness . . . the profound mystical silence . . . an absence of thought.1

To my dismay, I discovered this “mystical silence” is accomplished by the same methods used by New Agers to achieve their silence—the mantra and the breath! Contemplative prayer is the repetition of what is referred to as a prayer word or sacred word until one reaches a state where the soul, rather than the mind, contemplates God. Contemplative prayer teacher and Zen master Willigis Jager brought this out when he postulated:

Do not reflect on the meaning of the word; thinking and reflecting must cease, as all mystical writers insist. Simply “sound” the word silently, letting go of all feelings and thoughts.2

Those with some theological training may recognize this teaching as the historical stream going back centuries to such figures as Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, and Julian of Norwich.
One of the most well-known writings on the subject is the classic 14th century treatise, The Cloud of Unknowing, written by an anonymous author. It is essentially a manual on contemplative prayer inviting a beginner to:

Take just a little word, of one syllable rather than of two . . . With this word you are to strike down every kind of thought under the cloud of forgetting.3

The premise here is that in order to really know God, mysticism must be practiced—the mind has to be shut down or turned off so that the cloud of unknowing where the presence of God awaits can be experienced. Practitioners of this method believe that if the sacred words are Christian, you will get Christ—it is simply a matter of intent even though the method is identical to occult and Eastern practices.

So the question we as Christians must ask ourselves is, “Why not? Why shouldn’t we incorporate this mystical prayer practice into our lives?” The answer to this is actually found in Scripture.

While certain instances in the Bible describe mystical experiences, I see no evidence anywhere of God sanctioning man-initiated mysticism. Legitimate mystical [supernatural] experiences were always initiated by God to certain individuals for certain revelations and was never based on a method for the altering of consciousness. In Acts 11:5, Peter fell into a trance while in prayer. But it was God, not Peter, who initiated the trance and facilitated it.

By definition, a mystic, on the other hand, is someone who uses rote methods in an attempt to tap into their inner divinity. Those who use these methods put themselves into a trance state outside of God’s sanction or protection and thus engage in an extremely dangerous approach. Besides, nowhere in the Bible are such mystical practices prescribed. For instance, the Lord, for the purpose of teaching people a respect for His holiness and His plans, instated certain ceremonies for His people (especially in the Old Testament). Nonetheless, Scripture contains no reference in which God promoted mystical practices. The gifts of the Spirit spoken of in the New Testament were supernatural in nature but did not fall within the confines of mysticism. God bestowed spiritual gifts without the Christian practicing a method beforehand to get God’s response.

Proponents of contemplative prayer would respond with, What about Psalms 46:10? “Be still, and know that I am God.” This verse is often used by those promoting contemplative prayer. On the surface, this argument can seem valid, but once the meaning of “still” is examined, any contemplative connection is expelled. The Hebrew meaning of the word is to slacken, cease, or abate. In other words, the context is to slow down and trust God rather than get in a dither over things. Relax and watch God work. Reading the two verses just before Psalms 46:10 puts it in an entirely different light from that proposed by mystics:

Come, behold the works of the LORD, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire. Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.

This isn’t talking about going into some altered state of consciousness!

It should also be pointed out that being born again, in and of itself, is mystical. But it is a direct act of God, initiated by Him—the Holy Spirit has regenerated the once-dead spirit of man into a living spirit through Christ. Yet, we notice that even in this most significant of experiences when one is “passed from death unto life” (John 5:24), God accomplishes this without placing the individual in an altered state of consciousness.

We can take this a step further by looking at the day of Pentecost recorded in Acts, chapter 2 where those present were “all filled with the Holy Ghost” (vs. 4). Notice that they were “all with one accord in one place” (vs. 1) when the Holy Spirit descended on them. From the context of the chapter, it is safe to assume this was a lively gathering of believers engaged in intelligent conversation. Then, when those present began to speak in other tongues, it was not an episode of mindless babbling or vain repetition as in a mantra. Rather it was an event of coherent speech significant enough to draw a crowd who exclaimed, “we do hear them speak in our tongues the wonderful works of God” (vs. 11). Other observers who suspected they were in an altered state of consciousness said, “These men are full of new wine” (vs. 13). Notice that Peter was quick to correct this group in asserting that they were all fully conscious. Would it not then stand to reason that their minds were not in any kind of altered state? Next, Peter delivered one of the most carefully articulated speeches recorded in Scripture. This was certainly not a group of men in a trance.

So, through the lens of perhaps the two most meaningful mystical experiences recorded in the New Testament (i.e., being born again and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost), an altered state of consciousness was never sought after nor was it achieved. In fact, a complete search of both Old and New Testaments reveals there were only two types of experiences sanctioned by God where the recipient is not fully awake—namely dreams and visions—and in each case the experience is initiated by God. Conversely, every instance of a self-induced trance recorded in Scripture is adamantly condemned by God as we see summarized in the following verses:

When thou art come into the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not learn to do after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you any one that maketh his son or his daughter to pass through the fire, or that useth divination, or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch. Or a charmer, or a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. (Deuteronomy 18:9-11)

An examination of the Hebrew meanings of the terms used in the above verses shows that much of what is being spoken of is the invoking of spells. And a spell, used in this context, refers to a trance. In other words, when God induces a trance it is in the form of a dream or a vision. When man induces a trance, it is in the form of a spell or hypnosis.

And remember, nowhere in the Bible is the silence equated with the “power of God,” but the “preaching of the cross” (I Corinthians 1:18) most certainly is!

Endnotes:

1. William Johnston, Letters to Contemplatives, p. 13.
2. Willigis Jager, Contemplation: A Christian Path, p. 31.
3. Ken Kaisch, Finding God, cited from The Cloud of Unknowing, p. 223.

Some People Who Are Promoting the “Silence”

“What you need is stillness and silence so that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear.”–Ruth Haley Barton, “Beyond Words”

“I do not believe anyone can ever become a deep person [intimate with God] without stillness and silence.”–Charles Swindoll, So You Want To Be Like Christ? Eight Essential Disciplines to Get You There, p. 65“The basic method promoted in The Cloud is to move beyond thinking into a place of utter stillness with the Lord … the believer must first achieve a state of silence and contemplation, and then God works in the believer’s heart.”–Tony Jones, The Sacred Way, p. 15

“Progress in intimacy with God means progress toward silence…. It is this recreating silence to which we are called in Contemplative Prayer.–Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 155

“It is through silence that you find your inner being.”–Vijay Eswaran, In the Sphere of Silence, excerpt from website.

“This book [In the Sphere of Silence] is a wonderful guide on how to enter the realm of silence and draw closer to God.”–New Age sympathizer, Ken Blanchard

“[G]o into the silence for guidance”–New Ager, Wayne Dyer, ATOD p. 18 (from interview with Wayne Dyer, Portland, OR., 3/27/97)

“While we are all equally precious in the eyes of God, we are not all equally ready to listen to ‘God’s speech in his wondrous, terrible, gentle, loving, all embracing silence.’”–Richard Foster, Prayer, Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 156.

“When one enters the deeper layers of contemplative prayer one sooner or later experiences the void, the emptiness, the nothingness … the profound mystical silence … an absence of thought.” –Thomas Merton biographer, William Johnston, Letters to Contemplatives, p. 13.

“In the silence is a dynamic presence. And that’s God, and we become attuned to that.”–Interspiritualist, Wayne Teasdale, Michael Tobias, “A Parliament of Souls in Search of a Global Spirituality” (KQED Inc., San Francisco, CA, 1995), p. 148.

“One of the great things silence does, it gives us a new concept of God.” – Calvin Miller, from Be Still DVD

“God’s Word is so clear that if we are not still before Him, we will never truly know, to the depths of the marrow in our bones, that He is God. There has got to be a stillness. We’ve got to have a time to sit before Him and just know that He is. We live in such an attention-deficit culture, and we’re so entirely over stimulated, so much coming at us at once, one image after another, that if we are not careful, we are going to lose the art of meditation.” Beth Moore, from Be Still DVD

“Kierkegaard, probably the greatest Protestant Christian mind of all time, said … “If I could prescribe only one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence.”–Peter Kreeft, from Be Still DVD

“To be still means not only that you make a time to sit with God, but a time for your mind and your heart to be still also. Then God can meet you and fill you with His presence and His Word.”–Henry Cloud (CCN) from Be Still DVD, “Being Still: Helpful Hints with Dr. Henry Cloud”

“What does stillness really mean? Is stillness just something physical? Or is it mental? Is it spiritual? Is it emotional? There’s so many levels of stillness that we need to practice. And know. Be still and know. Know what? You know, there’s something that comes with the assurance of being still. You’re no longer practicing or exerting effort.” Michelle McKinney Hammond, from Be Still DVD, “Contemplative Prayer: The Divine Romance Between God and Man”

“[S]ilence is one of the great spiritual disciplines. And in fact you’re not going to get very far in contemplative prayer unless you know how to be silent. And by that I mean that you really are comfortable with it and you’re practiced in it.” Dallas Willard, Be Still DVD, “Fear of Silence”

“First, you must remember that when you go into solitude and silence, your basic goal is to do nothing. Yes, nothing!”–J.P. Moreland, “How Spiritual Disciplines Work: Solitude and Silence as Spiritual Disciplines”

“It is to this silence [contemplative prayer] that we all are called.”–Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart, p. 66.

“God’s first language is silence.”–panentheist monk Thomas Keating, Intimacy with God, p. 153.

ANTHONY DEMELLO EXPLAINS HOW TO GO INTO THIS SILENCE THAT SO MANY TALK ABOUT–WITH THE MANTRA:

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. Anthony de Mello, Sadhana: A Way to God (St. Louis, the Institute of Jesuit Resources, 1978), p. 28.


Lighthouse Trails RSS Feed
**SHOP FOR BOOKS/DVDS**

SEARCH ENTIRE SITE
Categories
Calendar
June 2017
S M T W T F S
« May    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  
Archives
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons