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Brennan Manning and Contemplative Spirituality


In The Signature of Jesus, Manning teaches how to suspend thought. He instructs his readers methodically:

[T]he first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer.

[C]ontemplative spirituality tends to emphasize the need for a change in consciousness … we must come to see reality differently.

Choose a single, sacred word … repeat the sacred word inwardly, slowly, and often.

[E]nter into the great silence of God. Alone in that silence, the noise within will subside and the Voice of Love will be heard.46

If one could draw a spiritual tree of both Manning’s and Foster’s mystical heritage it would look like this: from India—to Alexandria— to the Desert Fathers—to Thomas Merton—to them; and now, through them and others like them—to you. What it should look like is: from the triune God—to His holy prophets and apostles—to you. Very simple! That, my friend, is the decisive factor of this controversy.

I am aware that Foster and Manning both say things that would stir the heart of any Christian. But the issue here is one of mysticism. Is their mysticism legitimate? Biblical meditation and prayer, as found abundantly in the book of Psalms, is not to stop thinking about God but rather to think intently on God and to direct all our thoughts toward God. The following statement by William Shannon quoting Merton leaves an inescapable conclusion:

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. (emphasis mine)

In essence, he is saying there is only one big identity—God. This is more in tune with core shamanism than Christianity, yet Manning embraces Shannon. In Leviticus 19:31, God says "I am the Lord your God." Only God possesses God’s identity. Any other teaching is heretical.

I challenge the Christian community to look at the facts surrounding the contemplative prayer movement and see its connection to New Age occultism and Eastern mysticism. Just because a writer is emotionally stirring, sincere, and uses biblical language does not necessarily mean he or sheadvocates sound, biblical truths. (From A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen, 2nd ed., pp. 88-89)

<A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen

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