(473) “THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB, THE JIG IS UP” – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

DIANA BUTLER BASS – CHRISTIANITY FOR THE REST OF US

A Pacific Northwest newspaper describes how a local church is changing the way they practices church and view Christianity.  These new practices include what can broadly be called a “CONTEMPLATIVE APPROACH”.  This was derived from reading DIANA BUTLER BASS – CHRISTIANITY FOR THE REST OF US.

The following article is found at http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=25355

It’s no wonder a church would head in the contemplative

direction if congregants are turning to Butler Bass for spiritual nourishment. You may recall a Lighthouse Trails article in November of 2015 about Diana Butler Bass titled “New Spirituality Teacher Says ‘The Jig is Up’ to Those Who Believe in ‘the Blo

od of the Lamb.’”  Bass is a CONTEMPLATIVE proponent, and like so many of her contemplative constituents who wander into the CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER world, her views toward the CROSS and the ATONEMENT have become outright hostile; and those who adhere to the “blood of the lamb” and who cling to the old rugged Cross are seen as an enemy and hindrance to world peace and “restoration.”

Christianity for the Rest of Us is filled with the ideologies of CONTEMPLATIVES, EMERGENTS, and SOCIALIST-like figures such as  Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Eddie Gibbs, Marcus Borg, JoanChittister, Parker Palmer, and her “friend” Brian McLaren. A prevailing theme in the book is “SITTING IN SILENCE,” meditation, and contemplation. She says things like:

People need silence to find their way back to interior wisdom. They need a recovery of the contemplative arts of “thinking, meditating, ruminating.” (Kindle Locations 1789-1790).

True knowledge of the self, of love and meaning, comes only in silence. (Kindle Locations 1795-1796).

If this and other churches continue following the same path as Diana Butler Bass, they may also begin to embrace her view that “the jig is up” to those who believe in the “blood of the lamb.” Below is the article we wrote in 2015. If your church is reading books by authors such as Diana Butler Bass, please urge them to reconsider what they are doing.

New Spirituality Teacher Says “The Jig is Up” to Those Who Believe in “the Blood of the Lamb”

Every now and then something come along that presents our case in such a succinct and obvious way that we are compelled to share it with our readers with the hope it will leave no question as to how serious the present situation is with regard to Christianity in the Western world. Religious author Diana Butler Bass, who was one of the speakers at the [2015] Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, has written a book titled Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening. In it, she makes the stunning statement:

Conventional, comforting Christianity has failed. It does not work. For the churches that insist on preaching it, the jig is up. We cannot go back, and we should not want to. . . . In earlier American awakenings, preachers extolled “old-time religion” as the answer to questions about God, morality, and existence. This awakening is different . . . it is not about sawdust trails, mortification of sin [putting to death the old man], and being washed in the blood of the Lamb [the preaching of the Cross – emphasis ours]. The awakening going on around us is not an evangelical revival; it is not returning to the faith of our fathers or re-creating our grandparents church. Instead, it is a Great Returning to ancient understandings of the human quest for the divine. (pp. 36, 99).

Contrast this with 2 Corinthians 5: 18-21, which states:

And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;  to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

It could not be any more clear what’s at stake here. The term “the jig is up” is a slang term that has the connotation of someone being caught at doing something wrong. It has an intrinsically militant tone that is more or less saying “you’re not going to get away with this any longer.” By Butler Bass saying “the jig is up,” there is an underlying implication of a mounting consensus that backs up that statement, such as what Ray Yungen and others we know recently witnessed at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, where 14,000 people attended and where a clear animosity toward biblical Christians was prevalent.

Inside Diana Butler Bass’ book that so openly rejects the Cross and the atonement are the following glowing endorsements of people you have probably heard of:

She’s spot-on prophetic, compelling, and most important, hopeful. —ROB BELL, author of Love Wins

Join her in rebuilding religion from the bottom up!— RICHARD ROHR, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation and author of Falling Upward

She has a good nose to sniff out crappy religion, but she also has the eyes to see new life budding from the compost of Christendom. SHANE CLAIBORNE, mentored by TONY CAMPOLO

Diana Butler Bass has a keen eye for what is happening in the Christian world these days— so keen, she is able to see through the bad news for the good news that is emerging. PARKER PALMER

Bass as one of our foremost commentators on twenty-first century Christianity.—MARCUS BORG 

I expect (and hope) that this will be the must-read ‘church book’ for every Christian leader— clergy and lay— for years to come.” —BRIAN D. McLAREN, , author of A New Kind of Christianity and Naked Spirituality

……..What Butler Bass refers to as the “ancient understandings of the human quest for the divine” is what the apostle Paul called the mystery of iniquity. This is where man is deceived by familiar spirits (demons) into believing that man is God.

……..when it comes to the preaching of the Cross, Diana Butler Bass, Marcus Borg, Brian McLaren, Richard Rohr, and Shane Claiborne are wrong. On the contrary to what they believe, the preaching of the Cross DOES work. People ARE reconciled to God when they are washed in the blood of the lamb. In other words, they’re not just wrong, they are terribly tragically wrong.

The complete article can be found at http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=25355

And they [the saints of Jesus Christ] overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelation 12:11)

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(472) LECTIO DIVINA – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

LECTIO DIVINA – Part 1

What Is Lectio Divina?

Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading,“spiritual reading,” or “holy reading” and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and provide special spiritual insights. The principles of lectio divina were expressed around the year 220 and later practiced by CATHOLIC MONKS, especially the MONASTIC rules of Sts. Pachomius, Augustine, Basil, and Benedict.

Lectio_Divina.svg

The practice of lectio divina is currently very popular among CATHOLICS and GNOSTICS, and is gaining acceptance as an integral part of the devotional practices of the EMERGING CHURCH. Pope Benedict XVI said in a 2005 speech, “I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart.Lectio is also said to be adaptable for people of other faiths in reading their scripture—whether that be the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, or the Koran. Non-Christians may simply make suitable modifications of the method to accommodate secular traditions. Further, the four principles of lectio divina can also be adapted to the four Jungian psychological principles of sensing, thinking, intuiting, and feeling.

The actual practice of lectio divina begins with a time of relaxation, making oneself comfortable and CLEARING the MIND of mundane thoughts and cares. Some lectio practitioners find it helpful to concentrate by beginning with DEEP CLEANSING BREATHS and REPEATING  a chosen phrase or word SEVERAL times to help FREE the MIND.. Then they follow four steps:

Lectio—Reading the Bible passage gently and slowly several times. The passage itself is not as important as the savoring of each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow speaks to the practitioner.

Meditatio—Reflecting on the text of the passage and thinking about how it applies to one’s own life. This is considered to be a very personal reading of the Scripture and very personal application.

Oratio—Responding to the passage by opening the heart to God. This is NOT primarily an INTELLECTUAL exercise, but is thought to be more of the beginning of a CONVERSATION with God.

Contemplatio—Listening to God. This is a FREEING of oneself from one’s own THOUGHTS, both mundane and holy, and hearing God talk to us. Opening the mind, heart, and soul to the influence of God.

Naturally, the connection between Bible reading and prayer is one to be encouraged; they should always go together. However, the dangers inherent in this kind of practice, and its astonishing similarity to TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION  and other dangerous rituals, should be carefully considered. It has the potential to become a pursuit of MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE where the goal is to FREE the mind and empower oneself.

 

The Christian should use the Scriptures to pursue the knowledge of God, wisdom, and holiness through the objective meaning of the text with the aim of transforming the mind according to truth. God said His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6), not for lack of mystical, personal encounters with Him.

Those who take a supernatural approach to the text tend to disconnect it from its context and natural meaning and use it in a subjective, individualistic, experiential way for which it was never intended. Here is where lectio and GNOSTICISM share a similarity. Christian Gnosticism is the belief that one must have a “gnosis” (from Greek Gnosko, “to know”) or mystical, inner knowledge obtained only after one has been properly initiated. Only a few can possess this mystical knowledge. Naturally, the idea of having special knowledge is very appealing and makes the “knower” feel important and unique in that he/she has a special experience with God that no one else has. The “knower” believes that the masses are not in possession of spiritual knowledge and only the truly “enlightened” can experience God. Thus, the reintroduction of CONTEMPLATIVE or CENTERING PRAYER —a meditative practice that focuses on having a MYSTICAL experience with God—into the Church. Contemplative prayer is similar to the meditative exercises used in EASTERN RELIGIONS and NEW AGE CULTS  and has no basis whatsoever in the Bible, although the contemplative pray-ers do use the Bible as a starting point.

Further, the DANGERS inherent in OPENING our MINDS and LISTENING for voices should be obvious. The contemplative pray-ers are so eager to hear something—anything—that they can lose the objectivity needed to discern between God’s voice, their own thoughts, and the infiltration of demons into their minds. Satan and his minions are always eager for inroads into the minds of the unsuspecting, and to open our minds in such ways is to invite disaster. We must never forget that Satan is ever on the prowl, seeking to devour our souls (1 Peter 5:8) and can appear as an angel of light (2Corinthians 11:14), whispering his deception into our open and willing minds.

Finally, the attack on the sufficiency of Scripture is a clear distinctive of lectio divina. Where the Bible claims to be all we need to 

silence1

live the Christian life (2 Timothy 3:16), lectio’s adherents deny that. Those who practice “conversational” prayers, seeking a special revelation from God, are asking Him to bypass what He has already revealed to mankind, as though He would now renege on all His promises concerning His eternal Word. Psalm 19:7–14 contains the definitive statement about the sufficiency of Scripture. It is “perfect, reviving the soul”; it is “right, rejoicing the heart”; it is “pure, enlightening the eyes”; it is “true” and “righteous altogether”; and it is “more desirable than gold.” If God meant all that He said in this psalm, there is no need for additional revelation, and to ask Him for one is to deny what He has already revealed.

The Old and New Testaments are words from God to be studied, meditated upon, prayed over, and memorized for the knowledge and objective meaning they contain and the authority from God they carry, and not for the mystical experience or feeling of personal power and inner peace they may stimulate. Sound knowledge comes first; then the lasting kind of experience and peace comes as a byproduct of knowing and communing with God rightly. As long as a person takes this view of the Bible and prayer, he/she is engaging in the same kind of meditation and prayer that Bible-believing followers of Christ have always commended.

Got Questions Ministries. (2002–2013). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

 

(471) WHY WOULD A CHURCH BAN THE BIBLE? A LOOK BACK AT THE REFORMATION ERA – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

Why Would a Church Ban the Bible?

We’re celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this month by exploring its hidden history. In this post, Dr. Mark Ward explains why publishing God’s Word was such a source of controversy in the Reformation era.

Maybe you’ve heard the story before: prior to the Reformation, the Roman Catholic Church forbade the translation of Scripture into common languages.

Now, Protestants had plenty to protest in this era, but it simply isn’t true that vernacular translation was totally forbidden. But the Roman Church did forbid it in some places at some times—and England, 1408, was one of them.

Why?

Do vernacular translations lead to confusion?

After Wycliffe translated the Latin Vulgate into English, the 1408 Constitutions of Oxford did indeed ban and even burn his work.(For good measure, the authorities also exhumed his body and burned his bones.)Records remain of Catholic arguments against Wycliffe and his followers, the “Lollards.” Catholic leaders felt that laypeople reading English Bibles would only cause confusion. Widespread familiarity with God’s words would lead to irreverence, the argument went, and it wasn’t really possible to translate the Bible with full accuracy into English anyway.

To contemporary Protestants, this way of thinking will seem foreign. Even modern Catholics may find it confounding; today, the Catholic church supports vernacular Bible translation.

But imagine you’re part of a church in a nation which has never had vernacular Bibles, just a few portions of various books available sometimes and in some places. Imagine English is not the dominant international language of trade, entertainment, and mass media that it is today. Imagine most people can’t read, that the language of educated people is Latin, and that Latin also happens to be the accepted language of the Bible—and has been for a thousand years.

Vernacular translation didn’t seem worth the risk to the health of society. Plus, English was a socially stigmatized language, like backwoods twangy English in the U.S. is today. One cleric from the pre-Reformation era wrote, “How . . . the properties of the [Greek] language can be preserved in the English tongue, or any other barbarous tongue, which is by no means governed by rules of grammar, I fail to see.”

According to Margaret Deanesly, many church leaders actually quoted Matthew 7:6 when confronted with the idea of vernacular Bibles: Neque mittatis margaritas vestras ante porcos—“Don’t cast your pearls before swine.”

And I know how they feel. Sometimes when I see what people do with the Bible, particularly on the internet, I get frustrated. Not everything professing Christians do with the Bible is good.

Hearing—and understanding—the voice of our shepherd

But Christians are not swine; they’re sheep. Sheep must be permitted to hear the voice of Christ in a language they can understand so that they can recognize his voice and follow him (John 10; 1 Cor 14:9–11). Reformation Christians have decided, because of the Bible’s own teaching, that the benefits of giving the people the Bible outweigh the risks.

And those benefits are precious: Christ himself is one of them. As John Wycliffe and his followers argued at the turn of the fifteenth century, and as later Reformers such as Luther and Calvin and Tyndale explained in greater detail, every person needs to relate to Christ individually. There is only one mediator between God and man, and it’s Christ (1 Tim 2:5).Where else do we hear his words but in Scripture?

Early Christians translated the Bible, or significant portions, into eight major languages, including Latin, Gothic, and Armenian. But there was a many-century drought in which the vast majority of Christians went without the Bible in their respective tongues. The Reformation launched a new era of Bible translation for which all sheep everywhere should be grateful.

Read about how we got our Bibles back in the Reformation 500 timeline.

 

https://faithlife.com/reformation?utm_source=blog.logos.com&utm_medium=blog&utm_content=howtocelebratereformation&utm_campaign=promo-reformation500

 

(470.1) A NEW REFORMATION – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

CALLING FOR A NEW REFORMATION

PART 1

As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, it is not uncommon to hear someone or some group call for a NEW REFORMATION.

With the direction of the Church over the last few decades, some used to call for a REVIVAL. Those same calls are now directed towards a call for a NEW REFORMATION. These same groups are making a statement urging the Church to mimic some of the main points of the Reformation and look to the Bible for our truth and inspiration instead of looking elsewhere.  

However, an even louder cry is heard from those who are calling for a NEW REFORMATION that doesn’t seek to promote the tenants of the Protestant Reformation but rather to promote a new view of Christianity.  New?  Well, there is nothing new under the sun.  In reality, it is a retreat into Pre-Reformation darkness.  The following article was written by Dr. Paul Elliott back in 2010 as he explains the EMERGING CHURCH movement and its effect on the church at large and seminaries.  He makes several enlightening points that are just as important to understand today as it was several years ago in 2010.  This article is taken from http://www.trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=269

The Emergent Church’s Retreat into Pre-Reformation Darkness

Paul M. Elliott

Jan-April 2010

Editor’s note: Paul Elliott, Ph.D., is President of TeachingTheWord Ministries and principal speaker on The Scripture-Driven Church radio broadcast. An ordained minister with a doctorate in Biblical exegesis, he is the author of four books, including Christianity and Neo-Liberalism: The Spiritual Crisis in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and Beyond (Trinity Foundation, 2004).

In recent years, the Emergent Church movement has become a headline grabbing favorite of the religious media establishment. Emergent leaders’ books line the shelves of religious bookstores. Press coverage of their activities and pronouncements is overwhelmingly favorable. The movement received national exposure in a two-hour PBS television special and on ABC’s Nightline. Emergents’ influence has spread like wildfire in colleges, seminaries and churches – mainline liberal, Roman Catholic, and Evangelical alike.

Emergent Church(1) leaders and their supporters promote the movement as “the way forward” for the church. It is, they claim, a “new Reformation” with its own “95 theses” and its own new Luther pointing the way. But the Emergents’ “way forward” is in fact a headlong, headstrong retreat into pre-Reformationspiritual and intellectual darkness.

“By Their Fruits You Will Know Them”

Most Bible-believing Christians know little about the Emergent church movement, even as it devours once-sound churches, Christian colleges, and seminaries. Many sincere Christians have been confused and even deceived. They are ready to give Emergents the benefit of the doubt because the movement’s place on the theological spectrum seems difficult to pin down. Are they liberals? Are they conservatives? Do they simply defy conventional labels?

Emergent’s own definition of their movement is unhelpful: “a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”(2) Emergents make up their theology (if it can be dignified by that term) on the fly, and it changes with the winds.

Bible-believers need not be confused by the Emergent confusion. The Lord Jesus Christ himself gave us a straightforward procedure for evaluating all men and movements:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them (Matthew 7:15-20).

We must evaluate Emergents’ fruits by the infallible standard of Scripture alone. The Bible employs none of the man-made, sliding-scale labels churches too often apply in such evaluations – liberal/conservative, classical/progressive, traditional/non-traditional, old-school/new-school. Nor does the Bible speak in terms of following a “third way” of compromise. In His Word, the Holy Spirit uses only two categories: truth and error.

The dividing line between truth and error is fixed and well-delineated in God’s Word. It is the Christian soldier’s battle front. On one side is light, on the other side darkness. There is no demilitarized zone where the forces of truth and error may meet under a flag of truce and negotiate. Unless Christians view the fruits of the Emergent confusion in those terms, we view them un-Biblically.

Those fruits include deconstruction of the Bible, grace, faith, salvation, and the church. Emergents’ deconstruction of the person and work of Jesus Christ is openly blasphemous. Emergents arrogantly proclaim that the Gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in the finished work of Christ alone, is an insult to their intelligence. Man, not Christ or the Bible, is preeminent in Emergent thinking. The Emergent Church may be the most narcissistic movement in church history.

New Luther or Blind Leader?

In 2004, Emergent guru(3) Brian McLaren published what was hailed as a landmark book called A Generous Orthodoxy.(4) Phyllis Tickle, who according to her website is “a lay eucharistic minister and lector in the Episcopal church,”(5) wrote the foreword, in which she said:9780310258032_p0_v3_s550x406

Religion is like a spyglass through which we look to determine our course, our place in the order of things, and to sight that toward where we are going [sic]. On a clear day, no sailor needs such help, save for passing views of a far shore. But on a stormy sea, with all landmarks hidden in obscuring clouds, the spyglass becomes the instrument of hope, the one thing on board that, held to the eye long enough, will find the break in the clouds and discover once more the currents and shores of safe passage. Ours are stormy seas just now; and I believe as surely as Martin Luther held the spyglass for sixteenth-century Europe, so Brian McLaren holds it here for us in the twenty-first….

…The emerging church has the potential of being to North American Christianity what Reformation Protestantism was to European Christianity. And I am sure that the generous orthodoxy defined in the following pages is our 95 theses. Both are strong statements, strongly stated and, believe me, not lightly taken in so public a forum as this. All I can add to them in defense is the far simpler statement: Here I stand.

So, on that basis, the one thing that remains is to invite you to join thousands and thousands of others who have already read these words and subsequently assumed them as the theses of a new kind of Christianity and the foundational principles for a new Beloved Community.(6)

The “Beloved Community” of which Tickle speaks is a term coined by pseudo-Christian philosopher Josiah Royce (1855-1916). In his 1913 book, The Problem of Christianity, Royce said that the doctrine of the incarnation is not about the coming of God in the person of Jesus Christ, but the incarnation of God in the visible church. He added that “the visible church, rather than the person of the founder [Jesus Christ], ought to be viewed as the central idea of Christianity.” To Royce, the “problem of Christianity” was Jesus Christ.

Royce also said that the visible church forms a “Universal Community of Interpretation” that redefines “Christianity” to suit the conditions of the times. Royce is a favorite philosopher of the Emergents. Tellingly, his long-out-of-print book was recently republished by the Catholic University of America, an institution of the greatest chameleon-church on Earth.(7)

Confused and Proud of It

Brian McLaren is clearly comfortable in the intellectual and theological company of people like Tickle and Royce. The full title of McLaren’s “95 theses of the Emergent Church” is quite a mouthful:

A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional — Evangelical — Post-Protestant — Liberal/Conservative — Mystical/Poetic — Biblical — Charismatic/Contemplative — Fundamentalist/Calvinist — Anabaptist/Anglican — Methodist — Catholic — Green—Incarnational — Depressed-Yet-Hopeful — Emergent — Unfinished Christian

Rather than being ashamed of his confused state of mind, McLaren wears this complex and contradictory title proudly. He uses each of the descriptions in the lengthy subtitle of his book as the title of a chapter within it. McLaren presents himself as the guru of a “new Reformation” built not on Biblical orthodoxy, but on a man-centered theology of paradox.

A followup book, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (2007), authored by McLaren and twenty-six other Emergent thought leaders, is an equally confused and confusing theological Tower of Babel. Its architects and builders are bent on not simply tearing down the Reformation, but on taking the church back into pre-Reformation darkness. In the process, McLaren and his fellow Emergents leave no doubt that they are not really Christians at all.

The Origin of the Term “Emergent”

The Emergent Church movement is unabashedly POSTMODERNIST.  Emergents’ only absolute is that there are no absolutes. Feelings and experience preclude the acceptance of propositional truth. Emergent “truth” comes through dialogue and consensus, and therefore today’s “truth” is not necessarily tomorrow’s. Theology is “conversational.” Truth itself is “emergent.”

What is the definition of “emergent”? Brian McLaren offers this:

There are many kinds of thinking. Some thought is discursive, tracing the development of an idea in a linear way. Some is polemical, staging a winner-takes-all fight between ideas. Some is analytical, breaking down complex wholes into simple parts or tracing complex effects back to simpler causes. But some thought seeks to embrace what has come before – like a new ring on a tree – in something bigger. This is emergent (or integral, or integrative) thinking.(8)

This definition of “emergence” has its roots in the philosophy of a man named Ken Wilber, who mixes elements of Christianity, Buddhism, New Age, and EASTERN philosophies into his so-called religious practice. Wilber is becoming popular as a thought leader among an ever-widening circle of Evangelical and Reformed churches and seminaries. McLaren says the definition of “emergence” is based on Wilbur’s evolutionary concept of the “Great Nest of Being” which consists of, as McLaren puts it, “these realities” –

1. Space and Time: the primal creation in which everything emerges.

2. Inanimate Matter: the domain of physics and chemistry in space and time.

3. Microbiotic and Plant Life: the domain of microbiology and botany, which embraces domains 1 and 2 and adds life.

4. Animal Life: the domain of zoology, which comprises domains 1 through 3 and adds increasing levels of sentience and intelligence.

5. Human Life: the domain of anthropology and psychology and art and ethics, which comprises domains 1 through 4 and adds increasing levels of consciousness and culture.

6. Spiritual Life: the domain of awareness of God, accessed through theology and spirituality and mysticism, which encompasses domains 1 through 5, and adds the experience of the sacred and conscious relationship with God.(9)

This kind of thinking marries Eastern mysticism and New Age thought with classical Darwinism. Everything emerges from something else, says McLaren. He then gives his first example of how he says Christians need to practice “emergent” thinking: “In whatever ways Protestants feel they emerged from Catholicism…they can’t despise their roots or reject their past.”(10) As we shall see, what McLaren has in mind is a redefinition of Protestantism as the prelude to an unconditional surrender to Roman Catholicism.

Say “So Long” to the Solas

How does the Emergent Church’s “new Reformation” compare with the one that freed Biblical Christianity from the shroud of Romanism? What of the five solas, the rallying cries of that Reformation? What of sola Scriptura, the Reformers’ declaration that the Christian’s authority is Scripture alone? What of sola gratia, salvation by grace alone? What of solus Christus, the truth that salvation is through Christ alone? What of sola fide, justification by faith alone? And do Emergents believe in soli Deo gloria, that the glory belongs to God alone?luther2

Emergents dismiss adherence to such fundamentals, says spokesman Barry Taylor, as “a constant reminder that religion can be a source of chaos and confusion.”(11) But who is it that is really living in the realm of chaos and confusion — those whom the Emergents deride as “fundamentalists”, or Emergents who have exalted themselves against the knowledge of God? How do the theological currents flowing through the Emergent Church compare with the Reformation’s great and fundamental statements of the Biblical faith “once for all delivered to the saints”? We shall allow Emergent Church spokesmen to answer for themselves, to their own condemnation.

Deconstructing the Word of God

We begin with sola Scriptura, the doctrine that the Christians’ sole authority is Scripture alone. Emergent Church leaders will tell you they are uncertain of most things. They wear ambiguity like a badge of honor. But they are certain of one thing: The Bible is not the inspired, infallible, inerrant, uniquely authoritative Word of God.

What do Emergent Church leaders say is the nature of the Bible? Emergent guru McLaren says that the Bible is “an inspired gift from God – a unique collection of literary artifacts.”(12) Emergent leader Doug Pagitt agrees with McLaren, hinting at what they mean by “inspired.” The “history of the Christian faith,” Pagitt says, is that “the Scriptures come from and inform the church.”(13) In other words, they do not come from God in the sense of verbal, plenary, authoritative inspiration spoken of in passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:20-21.

McLaren is even more explicit. He says that “the purpose of Scripture is to equip God’s people for good works.”(14) The italics are his. McLaren and other Emergents repeat this statement frequently in their writings, almost as a mantra. But there is never a word about Scripture’s telling mankind how to become one of God’s people, through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Throughout their writings, Emergents assume that everybody is already one of “God’s people.” You just have to get busy doing “good works”.

But after stating that “the purpose of Scripture is to equip God’s people for good works,” McLaren follows immediately with this: “Shouldn’t a simple statement like this be far more important than statements with words foreign to the Bible’s vocabulary about itself (inerrant, authoritative, literal, revelatory, objective, absolute, propositional, etc.)?”(15)

Just how “foreign” does McLaren think these words are to Scripture? He does not hesitate to tell us, in a book with one of the most ironic titles ever: Adventures in Missing the Point, co-authored by McLaren and so-called “Evangelical left” spokesman Tony CampoloMcLaren’s and Campolo’s title reflects their fatuous belief that the Bible-believing Christian church has “missed the point” on just about everything. (Of course, Emergents have “gotten the point.”) “The Bible is an inspired gift from God – a unique collection of literary artifacts,” McLaren says. But it is not the inspired, infallible, inerrant, propositional, revelatory, absolute, objective, Word of God. What’s more, McLaren asserts, “not even one-hundredth of one percent of the Bible” presents “objective information about God.”(16)

Those are some pretty absolute statements from a man who claims that little, if anything, is certain. But McLaren is just getting warmed up. The Christian church, says McLaren, has misrepresented the Bible as something containing “universal laws.” “We claimed that the Bible was easy to understand,” he laments. “We presented the Bible as a repository of sacred propositions.” All of that was wrong, he says. And, echoing the true position of the Roman Catholic Church-State, McLaren laments that “we mass produced the Bible” and gave Christians the impression that they could interpret it for themselves.(17) 

Orthoparadoxy and Paradoxology

How, according to Emergents, are we to approach this “inspired” but humanly-originated, non-inerrant, non-infallible, non-authoritative Bible? Emergent spokesman Dwight J. Friesen, a professor of practical theology at Mars Hill Graduate School (Seattle) and a member of the Faith and Order Commission of the ultra-liberal National Council of Churches, says that Christ was not interested in orthodoxy but in “a full and flourishing human life.”(18) What must develop, says Friesen, is not orthodoxy – correct teaching – but a piece of Emergent doubletalk called orthoparadoxy, or “correct paradox.” Friesen writes:

Orthoparaxody represents a conversational theological method that seeks to graciously embrace difference while bringing the fullness of a differentiated social-self to the other. Through the methodology of orthoparadoxy, competing ideas, practices, and hermeneutics are seen as an invitation to conversational engagement rather than as something to refute, reform, or revise.(19)

Current theological methods that often stress agreement/disagreement, win/loss, good/bad, orthodox/heresy, and the like set people up for constant battles to convince and convert the other to their way of believing…(20)

Orthoparadox theology is less concerned with creating “once for all” doctrinal statements or dogmatic claims and is more interested in holding competing truth claims in right tension….Orthoparadox theology requires a dynamic understanding of the Holy Spirit.(21)

…see conversation starters where you once saw theological disagreement.(22)

Emergent Church spokeswoman Nanette Sawyer has added another term to the Emergent lexicon of confusion and doubt: paradoxology. Sawyer is an ordained Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) minister with degrees from both Harvard and McCormick divinity schools. Sawyer, like most of her fellow Emergents, takes refuge from the light of truth in the caverns of paradox. Those who believe the Bible’s categorical, propositional truth claims are arrogant and superficial, she says. They have not ascended to the lofty realms of higher knowledge that can only be attained by embracing paradox:

There is a beauty in paradox when it comes to talking about things of ultimate concern. Paradox works against our tendency to stay superficial in our faith, or to rest on easy answers or categorical thinking. It breaks apart our categories by showing the inadequacy of them and by pointing to a reality larger than us, the reality of gloria, of light, of beyond-the-beyond. I like to call it paradoxology – the glory of paradox, paradox-doxology – which takes us somewhere we wouldn’t be capable of going if we thought we had everything all wrapped up, if we thought we had attained full comprehension. The commitment to embracing the paradox and resisting the impulse to categorize people (ourselves included) is one of the ways we follow Jesus into that larger mysterious reality of light and love.(23)

The Gnostics, who sought to destroy the Biblical faith of the early church by leading it to a “higher” mystical knowledge beyond Scripture, would be proud of Nanette Sawyer. So would the church of Rome, whether 16th– or 21st–century. This is how we must approach the Bible, according to Brian McLaren:

Drop any affair you may have with Certainty, Proof, Argument…The ultimate Bible study or sermon in recent decades yielded clarity. That clarity, unfortunately, was often boring – and probably not that accurate, either, since reality is seldom clear, but usually fuzzy and mysterious…(24)

Find things to do with the Bible other than read and study it [and McLaren then suggests several that are forms of medieval, mystical meditation commended by the Roman Catholic church].(25)

In the recent past we generally began our apologetic by arguing for the Bible’s authority, then used the Bible to prove our other points. In the future we’ll present the Bible less like evidence in a court case and more like works of art in an art gallery.(26)

In the recent past we talked a lot about absolute truth, attempting to prove abstract propositions about God (for instance, proving the sovereignty of God).(27)

That approach, McLaren asserts, is passé in the postmodern world. Protestants have gotten it all wrong about the Bible, by using concepts of truth and error to “lay low” their Catholic “brethren”

Protestants have paid more attention to the Bible than any other group, but sadly, much of their Bible study has been undertaken to fuel their efforts to prove themselves right and others wrong (and therefore worthy of protest)… the Bible does not yield its best resources to people who approach it seeking ammunition with which to lay their [Catholic] brethren low… How many Protestants can’t pick up their Bibles without hearing arguments play in their heads on every page, echoes of the polemical preachers they have heard since childhood? How much Bible study is, therefore, an adventure in missing the point?(28)

Stone Soup Theology

Emergent theology must embrace mystery and paradox, and discard propositional truth, because of its rush to include all ideas and perspectives in the pursuit of “higher knowledge.” Emergents often refer to their approach as “conversational theology.” In the Emergent view, too many cooks don’t spoil the soup. They enrich it and spice it up.

But the dish simmering in the Emergent kitchen is actually stone soup. The recipe reads thus: Start not with God’s Word but with an empty pot. Fill it not with Living Water but with the dank and putrefying fluid of broken cisterns. Throw in any old stone just as long as it is not Christ the Rock of Offense. Then let everyone who comes along throw in any heresy he (or she) wishes, whether it’s fresh from the fertile fields of postmodernism, or stinking and moldy from the dark cells of the Middle Ages. Stir the soup constantly and mix thoroughly. You can serve this fetid dish at any stage in the cooking process. Serve hot, cold, or lukewarm. It doesn’t matter, because your fellow Emergents (and their camp followers in academia and the religious media) will say it’s delicious no matter what.

For Bible believers whose spiritual taste buds have not been seared with a hot iron, the true taste of this theological soup is bitter irony: While Emergent theology claims to be generously inclusive, it is fatally exclusive of anything that really matters. While it welcomes any and every idea the sinful mind of man can imagine, it rejects anything from the mind of God. Certain ideas are forbidden – or if they are introduced into the conversation, they will be ridiculed and quickly rejected. Those ideas are the Bible’s propositional truths.

The results are predictable. The Emergent “God” is not the God of the Bible, but whatever Emergents make him/her/it out to be – and you will find Emergents referring to “God” as any of the three.

The Bible is not the inspired, infallible, inerrant, uniquely authoritative Word of God, but a collection of literary artifacts. Its value and usefulness are determined not by any objective standard, but by Emergents’ subjective agendas.

“Grace” is not the gift of God that brings about salvation from sin and Hell, but Emergents’ gift of inclusiveness to anyone of any religion, or no religion at all, as long as all can agree on a left-wing social-economic-environmentalist agenda.

Jesus Christ may be many things, but He is not the God of the Bible. He may be a moral example, a social revolutionary, a religious iconoclast, or a radical environmentalist. As we shall see, in the Emergents’ twisted theology He may even be an insane sexual pervert. Emergents’ blasphemy of Christ knows no limits.

The Gospel: An Insult to Emergents’ Intelligence

The writings of Emergent Church spokesmen contain many recurring themes, but one is especially prominent: The Biblical Gospel of personal salvation from sin and wrath by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, is an insult to their intelligence. Nanette Sawyer, whose love of “paradoxology” we mentioned earlier, is among the insulted. Her story is typical:

My explicit rejection of Christianity happened when our family minister implicitly rejected me. When I was a preteen, he visited our house, spoke with my parents, then pulled me aside, the eldest, for a chat of our own. He asked me if I was a Christian. This is a very interesting question to ask a child who has been raised in a Christian household. Being asked such a question I was, in essence, being told that I might notbe a Christian. I responded that I didn’t know. The conversation went downhill from there and ended with my saying that I guessed I wasn’t a Christian. He told me that I had to believe [on Jesus Christ as Savior] to be a Christian and I didn’t believe it.

After that, I spent a good fifteen years defining myself as not Christian. Some of the things that I had been taught in Christian contexts, both explicitly and implicitly, were unacceptable to me. I was taught, for example, that there are good people and bad people, Christian people and non-Christian people, saved people and damned people, and we know who they are.

…I was taught that I was inherently bad, and that I would be judged for that. I was told that the only way out of the judgment was to admit how bad I was…

Thinking back on that pivotal interaction with my childhood minister, I believe the whole conversation missed the mark in a big way. He was defining Christian identity as assent to a list of certain beliefs, and he was defining Christian community as those people who concur with those beliefs…In asking me if I was a Christian, and accepting [my] answer, he essentially told me that I wasn’t part of the community. I wasn’t in; I was out.(29)

Affronted by this, Sawyer says that she later became a “Christian” through Hindu meditation and the medieval, mystical Roman Catholic practice of “centering prayer” — all while a student at Harvard, taking a master’s degree in comparative world religions. She then tells of her experience while attending the services of a liberal Presbyterian church in Boston:

The minister there invited me into the community by serving me communion without asking if I was a Christian… He didn’t ask, “Are you one of us?” He didn’t say, “Do you believe?” He simply said, “Nanette, the body of Christ, given for you.”(30)

On this basis, Sawyer says, she became a “Christian” and was subsequently ordained as a minister in the apostate PCUSA.

With all this background, you may understand the reason my statement of faith, my personal credo, written in seminary and required for ordination in the Presbyterian Church [USA], included the line: “I believe that all people are children of God, created and loved by God, and that God’s compassionate grace is available to us at all times.”

Imagine my surprise when a particular pastor challenged me on this point. He suggested that “children of God” is a biblical phrase, and that I was using it unbiblically. He believed that not all people are children of God, only Christians…(31)

Imagine a pastor having the nerve to say that to be a “child of God” is a doctrinal term with a specific Biblical meaning! How thoroughly un-postmodern can you get? Sawyer recounts her shocked reaction to this intellectual baboon: “I focused on not letting my jaw hit the floor.” She continues:

So what about the Bible on this question of the children of God? Is it unbiblical to call all people the children of God? It is true that there are many places in the New Testament that talk about the children of God as the followers of Jesus. But it is not true that this must lead us to the kind of arrogance that asserts that non-Christians are not children of God….

Even if we could answer the question of who is and isn’t a child of God, it wouldn’t help us be better followers of Jesus; it would only help divide people into more categories.(32)

Rather than submitting to the Gospel teaching that only those who believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior have the authority to be called the children of God (John 1:12), Sawyer goes on to misread three New Testament passages to support her contention that even the Bible itself is “undermining such an exclusionary claim.”(33)

Like Nanette Sawyer, Brian McLaren also takes umbrage at the Bible’s doctrine of salvation:

…I used to believe that Jesus’ primary focus was on saving me as an individual…For that reason I often spoke of Jesus as my “personal Savior” and urged others to believe in Jesus in the same way…(34)

Through the years…I became less and less comfortable with being restricted to the “personal Savior” gospel.(35)

McLaren says that his rejection of the Biblical Gospel is rooted in his rejection of the Bible’s teaching of eternal punishment in Hell for those who do not receive Christ as Savior. He says that “radical rethinking” of the doctrine of Hell is needed.(36) Since McLaren can’t stand Jesus’ own words on the subject (He spoke of Hell far more than of Heaven), he dares to put these words in Christ’s mouth:

“I am here to save you…not by telling you to…focus on salvation from Hell after this life (as some people are going to do in My name) – but by giving you permission to start your participation in God’s mission right now, right where you are, even as oppressed people. The opportunity to start living in this new and better way is available to you right now: The kingdom of God is at hand!”(37)

The audacity of Emergents in suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) seemingly knows no bounds.

Given these and other statements by Emergent Church leaders, it seems almost ludicrous to compare their mind-set with the salvation solas of the Reformation, but we shall do so, because it further reveals the depths of their darkness.

Notes:

1. Some in the movement once used the name “Emerging Church,” but more recently its leaders, and the quasi-official website emergentvillage.org, have standardized on the term “Emergent.”

2. From the banner of the movement’s flagship website, http://www.emergentvillage.com.

3. We use the term “guru” advisedly; McLaren and other Emergent Church leaders position themselves as spiritual advisers imparting transcendental, higher knowledge – higher than the Word of God.

4. Brian McLaren, A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional—Evangelical—Post-Protestant— Liberal/Conservative—Mystical/Poetic—Biblical—Charismatic/Contemplative—Fundamentalist/Calvinist—Anabaptist/Anglican—Methodist—Catholic—Green—Incarnational—Depressed-Yet-Hopeful—Emergent —Unfinished Christian (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004).

5. Her website, phyllistickle.org, describes her extensive liberal media connections. She was the “founding editor of the Religion Department of Publishers Weekly, the international journal of the book industry, is frequently quoted in print sources like USA TodayChristian Science Monitor, the New York Times as well as in electronic media like PBS, NPR, The Hallmark Channel, and innumerable blogs and web sites. Tickle is an authority on religion in America and a much sought after lecturer on the subject….Tickle is a founding member of The Canterbury Roundtable, and serves now, as she has in the past, on a number of advisory and corporate boards.”

6. A Generous Orthodoxy, 11-12.

7. Josiah Royce, The Problem of Christianity, 1913, republished in 2001 by Catholic University of America Press, 43 and 340.

8. A Generous Orthodoxy, 316.

9. A Generous Orthodoxy, 317-318.

10. A Generous Orthodoxy, 317.

11. Barry Taylor, “Converting Christianity” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope: Key Leaders Offer an Inside Look, Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, editors (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2007), 165.

12. Brian D. McLaren and Tony Campolo, Adventures in Missing the Point (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 75.

13. An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 171.

14. A Generous Orthodoxy, 183.

15. A Generous Orthodoxy, 183.

16. Adventures in Missing the Point, 262.

17. Adventures in Missing the Point, 76-77.

18. Dwight J. Friesen, “Orthoparadoxy: Emerging Hope for Embracing Difference” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 204.

19. Friesen, 207.

20. Friesen, 208.

21. Friesen, 209.

22. Friesen, 212.

23. Nanette Sawyer, “What Would Huckleberry Do? A Relational Ethic as the Jesus Way,” in An Emergent Manifesto of Hope, 48.

24. Brian D. McLaren and Tony Campolo, Adventures in Missing the Point (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 84.

25. Adventures in Missing the Point, 85.

26. Adventures in Missing the Point, 101.

27. Adventures in Missing the Point, 102.

28. A Generous Orthodoxy, 138.

29. Nanette Sawyer, “What Would Huckleberry Do?”, 43-44. Italics are in the original.

30. Sawyer, 44.

31. Sawyer, 45.

32. Sawyer, 46-47. Italics are in the original.

33. Sawyer, 47.

34. A Generous Orthodoxy, 107. Italics are in the original.

35. A Generous Orthodoxy, 108-109.

36. A Generous Orthodoxy, 109.

37. Adventures in Missing the Point, 25.

 

We will look at Part 2 in the next posting.

 

(469.3) MONASTICISM (Part 3) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

CALVIN & MONASTICISM

The scope of monasticism is much greater than I realized.  This posting will not cover this topic in any way completely.  But there are several perspectives that we will at least move quickly over to expose you to various aspects of monasticism – both historically and renewed interests that we are seeing in Christianity today.

Monastic traditions from Roman Catholicism (RC) with its CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM are showing up in mainstream Evangelical Churches.  These trends have been introduced from several sources including popular authors and teachers such as the Quaker mystic RICHARD FOSTER, DALLAS WILLARD, BRENNAN MANNING…etc.  Under the guise of SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES and SPIRITUAL FORMATION, a  mystical approach to CONTEMPLATIVE MEDITATION that actually initiates an altered state of consciousness that is virtually identical to those practiced in Eastern religions such as ZEN BUDDHISM and the transcendental meditation of HINDUISM. Other popular Evangelicals are participating and leading the charge such as RICK WARREN and KAY WARREN.   (K. Silva, John Calvin on Monastic Vows i.e. Spiritual Disciplines)Monk-ee-Business

 As we looked at Monasticism, in the previous postings, you may recall that it is primarily an institutionalized religious practice or movement whose members attempt to live by a rule that requires works that go beyond those of either the laity or the ordinary spiritual leaders of their religions. Commonly CELIBATE and universally ASCETIC, the monastic individual separates himself or herself from society either by living as a HERMIT or anchorite (religious recluse) or by joining a COMMUNITY (coenobium) of others who profess similar intentions. First applied to Christian groups in antiquity, the term monasticism is now used to denote similar, though not identical, practices in religions such as BuddhismHinduismJainism, and Daoism.

 

The word monasticism is derived from the Greek monachos (“living alone”), but this etymology highlights only one of the elements of monasticism and is somewhat misleading, because a large proportion of the world’s monastics live in cenobitic (common life) communities. The term monasticism implies celibacy, or living alone in the sense of lacking a spouse, which became a socially and historically crucial feature of the monastic life. (Encylopedia Britannica)

Historically, some people left cities and civilization to go live a life as hermits in seclusion away from people (usually in a desert).  This trend began after Constantine made Christianity legal (i.e. no more persecutions).  Some early church saints felt that this would soften Christianity and they wanted to show their diligence to God by living a life of solitude that included more ascetic (and mystical) practices to demonstrate their sacrificial duty to God while being on the front lines in confronting Satan.  Eventually, even though in isolation for the most part, limited community engagement developed with other monks and local communities and monasteries were established.  Early desert communities were in Egypt and parts of the Middle East.  Some contact developed with other cultures by being located close to trade routes from the Far East into cities like Alexandria, Egypt.  Some belie

img_how_do_buddhist_monks_live_6113_orig

ve this may have started interaction between Roman Catholic monks and other monks from Eastern religions.  Even today, some common reasons used for this interaction usually include issues such as the common practice of meditation used by those in the East and within Christianity.  The reasoning goes something like this – “why not learn off of each other and share traditions associated with meditation?”  What developed over time was not necessarily mediation as outlined in the Bible.  Biblical meditation includes rational concepts focused on God’s word.  Unlike Eastern meditation, which includes more mystical concepts such as emptying your mind of any thoughts.

 

Characteristics of monastic traditions include CONTEMPLATIVE spirituality, centering prayer, silence & solitude along with other practices including TAIZE, LECTIO DIVINA, CHANTING, TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION, and many forms of what is called Lectio_Divina.svgCONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER.   These practices involve clearing out your mind of any thoughts (including thoughts about God) and moving away from rational and objective practices such as studying God’s word and instead relying on more intuitive rationalization experiences that may have no basis in Scripture.  In fact, similar practices can be found in EASTERN religions.  This may not be by accident since some of the early monastic locations were close to trading routes through areas such as Egypt and the city of Alexandria.  At these important waypoints, there were interaction and trade between those from the East and those from the West.  The ultimate goal of these mystical traditions is to grow in INTIMACY with God by being unified with Him.  This mystical approach is said by these proponents to be inside each of us throughout the world.  A natural outcome of this type of INTUITIVE path is UNIVERSALISM.

 

Some of these practices have been seeping into the Evangelical Church more recently as Christians seemingly are excited to try the latest popular trends working its way through Christian groups. 

Some basic questions need to be asked.  First, when Christians follow after these monastic practices, what basis from Scripture are they using to justify their use? Why are some Evangelicals seeking to add practices historically associated with Roman Catholicism to their own practices?  What are some of the dangers involved in doing so?

Historically, let’s look now at how some of the Reformers viewed monasticism.

(A.) JOHN CALVIN made mention of these monastic characteristics as practiced by monks in the RC Church. Take note of the type of language used in describing this monastic practice –  

“IT is indeed deplorable that the Church, whose freedom was purchased by the inestimable price of Christ’s blood, should have been thus oppressed by a cruel tyranny, and almost buried under a huge mass of TRADITIONS; but, at the same time, the private infatuation of each individual shows, that not without just cause has so much power been given from above to Satan and his ministers.

MONKS place the principal part of their holiness in idleness. For if you take away their idleness, where will that CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE by which they glory that they excel all others, and make a near approach to the angels?… [I]nstead of Christians, we hear some called BENEDICTINES, others Franciscans, others Dominicans, and so called, that while they affect to be distinguished from the common body of Christians, they proudly substitute these names for a religious profession…

This much is certain, that there is no order of men more polluted by all kinds of vicious turpitude; nowhere do faction, hatred, party-spirit, and intrigue, more prevail… It is fine to philosophise in SECLUSION, far away from the intercourse of society; but it ill accords with Christian meekness for any one, as if in hatred of the human race, to fly to the wilderness and to SOLITUDE, and at the same time desert the duties which the Lord has especially commanded.

Were we to grant that there was nothing worse in that profession, there is certainly no small evil in its having introduced a useless and perilous example into the Church. Now, then, let us see the nature of the vows by which the MONKS of the present day are initiated into this famous order. First, as their intention is to institute a NEW and FICTITIOUS WORSHIP with a view to GAIN FAVOUR with God, I conclude from what has been said above, that everything which they vow is abomination to God.

Secondly, I hold that as they frame their own mode of life at pleasure, without any regard to the calling of God, or to his approbation, the attempt is rash and unlawful; because their conscience has no ground on which it can support itself before God; and “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).

Moreover, I maintain that in astricting themselves to many perverse and impious modes of worship, such as are exhibited in MODERN MONASTICISM, they consecrate themselves not to God but to the devil. For why should the prophets have been permitted to say that the Israelites sacrificed their sons to devils and not to God (Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37), merely because they had corrupted the true worship of God by profane ceremonies; and we not be permitted to say the same thing of MONKS who, along with the cowl, cover themselves with the net of a thousand impious SUPERSTITIONS?  (http://www.biblestudytools.com/history/calvin-institutes-christianity/book4/chapter-13.html)

(B.) SCRIPTURE’S WARNINGS
Let’s take a look at a few verses from the Bible.  As Evangelicals include monastic characteristics such as silence, solitude, asceticism….etc., it is not uncommon that leaders, pastors, seminary professors….etc., to step out further and spend times of seclusion and solitude at the local monastery.  Spending time alone in MONASTERIES is for periods of isolated prayer and developing greater intimacy with God.  What is concerning is that even though these times are promoted as being in isolation, it is not uncommon to hear stories of these leaders spending time with monks from the monastery learning more about contemplative practices.

23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh  (Colossians 2:23 ESV)

There is so much in Colossians 2 that identifies our fullness can only be found in Christ plus nothing else.  It will be well worth your time to read all of Colossians 2.  With Roman Catholicism (RC), there are several requirements put upon man in order to achieve salvation.  Some of these include examples such as ASCETICISM  – which brings to mind an image of monks living a life of sacrifice, servitude, and works based motivation for gaining God’s grace.

The Colossian church was exposed to teaching that said that Christians need Christ plus other things. Colossians 2, states –  It was these “other things” which elevates you.  When you read all of Colossians 2, Paul identifies several of these other things:

  • Christ plus PHILOSOPHY – added human wisdom to the reality of Christ.
    • Today, that equates to a body of beliefs and practices commonly found in LIBERALISM, NEO-ORTHODOXY, MODERNISM.  (John MacArthur)
    • It starts out with Christ, but it’s Christ plus human wisdom, human reason, human logic, human philosophy….etc.  
      • Paul warns them in Colossians 2:8 – “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world”  

=> BUT, our fullness is in Christ.  Christ is sufficient.  We should not let anyone say you must have Christ plus their philosophy, or perform in an ascetic manner to earn God’s favor.

  • You not only needed Christ plus human wisdom to be spiritual, but you needed Christ plus legalism.  Verse 16, he says again, “Let no man therefore judge you in food or drink or in respect of a feast day, a new moon, or a Sabbath.”  Don’t let anybody determine how spiritual you are by the number of rituals you keep  
    • => In other words, don’t let anybody evaluate your spirituality on the basis of the RITUALS that you keep because, in verse 17, “Those are a shadow of the things to come, but that which is to come is Christ and He is here.”  So it isn’t Christ plus philosophy, and it isn’t Christ plus legalism.

“Beware lest anyone cheat you through PHILOSOPHY and EMPTY DECEIT, according to the TRADITION OF MEN, according to the BASIC PRINCIPLES of the WORLD, and not according to Christ.(Colossians 2:8)

  • Thirdly,  Colossian church were saying that it was Christ plus MYSTICAL experiences – MYSTICISM.  Look at verse 18.  He further says, “Don’t let these false teachers beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility –“ it really means a false humility “ – that comes from worshiping angels and having visions.”  Now, the Greek text says, “…intruding into things which he ‘hath’ seen.”  The word “not” should not be there.

And then, he says there’s even ASCETICISM – asceticism being self-denial, a MONASTIC kind of life, a MONASTIC kind of life, going into a hermit existence, and he talks about that from verse 20 to 23, the people, the kind of earthly religion, “the rudiments of the world,” again, that same phrase, meaning the basics of human religion which say, “Touch not; taste not; handle not,” and it goes on to talk about the fact that you neglect the body at the end of verse 23, and so forth.

And here is like flagellation, and anything you do to deprive your body, this is asceticism, monkish kind of life, monastic, self-denial, deprivation.  But the point is this: There have always been, since  Colossians 2, and all through the church, and there always will be, people who want to say that having Jesus Christ through His marvelous act of salvation is not enough.  You’ve got to do “this” to get it all.

A look into the future trends – 

(C.) THE NEW MONASTICISM

George Grant states that –

By the thirteenth century, the West’s idealistic wars against a fearsome Islamic threat had failed ignobly; its stagnating economy had cast a pall of depression across the once prosperous and thriving land; its national and political leaders revealed in pomp, circumstance, and internecine rivalry while their subjects cowered in poverty, fear, and injustice; and the church’s spiritual authority was marred by the flaming vices of perversity, carnality, and avarice. No wonder, then, that even the most pious men tended to press into brash, adventurous superstition or retreat into timid, monkish isolation.

Sound familiar? It should. High medievalism, for all its obvious differences, is so like our present circumstances that historian Margaret Tuchman’s famous description, “A Distant Mirror,” may be more apt than ever. Indeed, the rise of a “New Monastic Movement” among young, urban, evangelical hipsters in recent days is a reminder to us that we are not so different from our barely remembered ancestors as we might suppose. But as understandable as this impulse to run for cover in this time of uncertainty, distrust, and crumbling cultural stability might be, it is hardly a Scriptural response.

A genuinely integrated Christian view regarding life and work must be cognizant of both perspectives regarding the world—and treat them with equal weight. It must be engaged in the world. It must be unengaged in worldliness. It must somehow correlate spiritual concerns with temporal concerns. It must coalesce heavenly hope and landed life. It must coordinate heartfelt faith and down-to-earth practice.

The only way we can do that is to bring our faith right into the thick of our mess of a world. As appealing as a retreat into some monastic sanctuary might seem to us during these wearying days in which we live, it is hardly a biblical alternative. And while there are innumerable commendable aspects of the “New Monastic Movement”—including concern for justice issues, care for the poor, sacrificial stewardship, and covenant community—its high ideals are best pursued as we engage the world, as we “go … and MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [he has] commanded [us]” (Matt. 28:19–20).

For nearly two millennia, many Christians have chosen to express their piety through ascetic living. Though the roots of monasticism existed long before, the sixth-century monk Benedict of Nursia is considered to be the founding father of the medieval monastic movements. Benedict’s charter, known as the Benedictine Rule, outlined key principles of holiness and self-denial for communities of monks and nuns who were committed to the values of poverty, chastity, and obedience to God. However, later generations did not always show the same degree of commitment and devotion as their predecessors. In response, certain influential leaders responded to corruption and decline by calling for a return to Benedict’s rigid standards. While returning to the rigor of the past, these leaders also envisioned new ways for monks to carry out their mission within a changing world.

The New Monks
John Caddock in  Brennan Manning’s “New Monks” & Their Dangerous Contemplative Monasticismstates states that

…..in The Signature of Jesus, Brennan Manning quotes Catholic saints, medieval mystics, and monks, including Charles de Foucauld, Francis De Sales, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, and Catherine of Siena. The most frequently cited sources are part of the community of Roman Catholic clergy who are instrumental in promoting modern contemplative spirituality: THOMAS MERTON, Anthony De Mello, William Shannon, HENRI NOUWEN, Peter Van Breemen, William Reiser, David Steindl-Rast, and BASIL PENNINGTON. Although the word contemplation brings to mind a monastic life dedicated to pence and cloistered within the walls of the monastery, not so with these New Monks.

The New Monks critique the current state of Christianity by arguing that since God is holy and is a “wholly other,” He cannot be defined by systems of doctrine. They maintain that western rationalism has crushed the knowledge of God and that we must return to a more intuitively received knowledge. We must move beyond the intellect, beyond doctrine, and beyond words to a DEEPER union with God. Their writings contain rather complex discussions on the nature of being and share common themes of universality, mystical union with God through contemplation (wordless “prayer”), social justice, and non-violence.

The New Monks maintain that ALL RELIGIONS should immerse themselves in the MYTHS of their TRADITIONS because there is power in the “collective unconscious” of the TRADITION to shape the EXPERIENCE of its followers. So, for the New Monk, the use of biblical language has great power within the Christian tradition. For example, the call to salvation is actually a call to a transformation of consciousness to be psychologically awakened to the UNITY and ONENESS of ALL CREATION. For the New Monks, all religions at their deepest mystical level use myth and symbol to say the same thing.

The New Monks believe we are born into a DUALITY between self (the ego) and ONENESS (being). The ego is driven by fear of death and alienation and is the source of all suffering and woundedness. The fall, a mythical story, has a deeper more “universal truth,” which is intended to shed light on present human experience. We have fallen from oneness and harmony of paradise into alienation and a sense of separation. We must simply realize that the gulf that appears to separate “sinful” humanity from a righteous God has never existed; we are and always have been one with God. For the New Monks, this is God’s unconditional love and grace.

THOMAS MERTON, who is frequently cited by Manning, is the forerunner of the New Monks. Having accepted so much of the new theology, Merton remained involved in the Roman Catholic Church only by a thin affirmation of a God in Nature and a reverence for tradition. He popularized JUNGIAN Psychotherapy in his writings about spiritual healing, agreeing with Jung’s mythic perspective of biblical doctrines.TMertonStudy

Merton traveled to Asia on a quest to redefine what being a monk entailed and found it in Buddhist and Hindu teachings. There he discovered great similarities between monastic contemplation and Eastern meditation and determined that they were both in touch with the same mystical source. He felt the emphasis on experience and inner transformation rather than doctrine would be the ecumenical meeting place between East and West.

Merton advocated moving the practice of contemplation from its marginal state of use by only the Catholic monks behind the cloistered walls to a broader use by the common man. Dedicated to civil rights, antiwar, and liberationist activism, he came to call his fellow activists “true monks.” In The Signature of Jesus, Manning precisely echoes the themes of contemplative spirituality. It appears his intention was to bring to Protestants what Thomas Merton brought to many Roman Catholics.

Legalism and the Conscience: 1 John 2:1-2

Legalism is best disguised when it takes up residence in our consciences. From there it can taunt us, urging us to do better and try harder in our feeble fallen existence.

Such guilt-riddled consciences long to be soothed. Invariably, false religion steps into that void, offering a system of works. Man-made religions are particularly appealing to burdened sinners desperate to silence the cries of their consciences.

Roman Catholicism is a great example. We’ve already pointed out their codified denials of salvation by grace alone. On top of that, however, Catholic dogma also affirms works- righteousness through their doctrine of penance:

Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must “make satisfaction for” or “expiate” his sins. This satisfaction is also called “penance.” [1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 1459.

In his book, The Gospel According to Rome, James McCarthy explains how penance is implemented and enforced among Roman Catholics: “To assist the person in making reparation for his sin, the priest imposes an act of penance. It is selected to be ‘in keeping with the nature of the crimes and the ability of the penitents.’” [2] James G. McCarthy, The Gospel According to Rome (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995), 79. Prior to his conversion, Martin Luther was deemed by his Catholic peers to be a penitent with a lot of “ability.” As a result, he suffered egregiously under the weight of Roman Catholic penance.

Professing Protestants, Practicing Catholics (www.gtw.org)

All true Protestants gladly join with Martin Luther in proclaiming the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ—completely apart from any human effort. Even so, the harsh practices of his former monastery often linger in our cloistered consciences.

To be sure, most Christians find the Catholic doctrine of penance to be abhorrent. Nonetheless, many are inwardly self-flagellated by their guilt-riddled consciences. They know their right standing with God hinges on Christ’s atoning work, yet still consider it to be a fragile reconciliation—one that’s on a perpetual knife edge. God may have adopted them as His children, but they still live in constant fear of being disowned if they commit a big enough sin. For this reason, many churches are full of Protestants who think and act like Catholics.

It may have been imperceptible to my Christian friends, but my mind was racked with legalistic guilt and fear. Worse still, I actually thought my mental penance demonstrated great humility and righteousness. But living under that kind of pressure isn’t a form of piety, nor does it reflect a low view of self. Rather, it reveals unbelief concerning God’s Word and a low view of Christ in His role as our heavenly Advocate:

Travis Allen writes in an article, Brothers, We are Not Monks – 

Any sane person would consider the monastic life to be something like a prison sentence. But busy pastors often straddle the line of sanity—to them, a monastery can sound like a five-star getaway. Quiet. Reading. Study. Contemplation. Meditation. Routine. Predictability. Compared to some of the inglorious and often thankless work of shepherding people, taking the monk’s cowl can seem pretty appealing.

The problem is, it’s just a bit unrealistic. More within reach is to find a better, more acceptable, even admirable way to “retreat into the monastery.” Some pastors want to follow a different “leading of the Lord”—take on more oversight, join a leadership think tank, teach courses at a college or seminary, write articles and books, ascend to a ministry of “wider influence”—almost anything is preferable to the nitty-gritty of pastoral work.

None of that is necessarily wrong. Some pastors are doing those things in addition to shepherding the flock of God. They work hard and ought to be honored for it. On the other hand, some men need to get out of pastoral ministry. They simply don’t belong there in the first place.

But it’s important to recognize that pastoral ministry, theology, and practical Christian growth must be connected to the local church. If it’s disconnected from the local church—divorced from shepherding the flock of God—then it’s not God’s design for the edification and growth of Christ’s church. Monasteries, in whatever form, are not part of the plan.

What is part of the plan is the regular, routine, mundane stuff of life lived, raw and honest, with other believers in the context of the local church. The plan has to do with the joys and sorrows, the pleasures and pains, of normal human relationships.

Our theology—our study of God—teaches us never to be remote or aloof; we are to be intimately connected to the day-to-day lives of other people. We are to bring our theology out of the neat, clean, sterile environment of a classroom, and into the gritty, messy, real work of shepherding sheep. No room for that in a monastic cell.

Just look at Jesus. John 1:14-18 says Jesus tabernacled among us in full humanity to make the Father known to us (i.e., to teach us theology proper). Though He is our “great high priest who has passed through the heavens” (Hebrews 4:14), He didn’t teach us about God from that lofty vantage. He came close enough “to sympathize with our weaknesses,” to be “tempted in all things as we are” (“yet without sin,” Hebrews 4:15). That’s the stuff of pastoral ministry, taught by “the Chief Shepherd” Himself (1 Peter 5:4).

From a practical perspective on monasticism, one must also raise the question about Roman Catholicism priesthood in general.  Several problems come to mind:

  • Living a life of solitude – is it biblical?
  • Restricting oneself from marriage – is that healthy over the long-term?
  • Have a works-based focus instead of a focus on God’s grace.

 

CONCLUSIONS

This posting won’t do this topic justice – so many more issues could be included.  But let me conclude with several questions that come to mind. 

  • EVANGELICALS, why are we reverting back to a monastic spirituality that focuses on items that don’t reflect who we are as born-again Christians?  They don’t reflect the freedom and liberty we have in Christ by God’s GRACE.  We are introducing TRADITIONS, following after ICONS, engaging in practices that have their foundation in MYSTICISM and early ROMAN CATHOLICISM.

 

  • While a respect for the reverence of certain aspects of our faith may be noble, following after TRADITIONS, MAN-MADE THEOLOGY and MYSTICAL CHURCH PRACTICES such as LECTIO DIVINA, SPIRITUAL FORMATION, ASH WEDNESDAY observance, STATIONS OF THE CROSS, MYSTICAL MEDITATION which shares little from Scripture and yet shares more from Eastern Mysticism

 

  • Many Evangelical Christians specifically LEFT Roman Catholicism for exactly these same reasons.  

 

=> The further we move from the Bible, the easier it is for error to creep into the Church. 

 

Monk

(469.2) MONASTICISM (Part 2) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

EVANGELICAL MONASTICISM?

It is becoming more and more routine that Evangelicals (EV) are seeking out new practices and following after doctrine that even a short time ago would not have been accepted within the Evangelical community.  Unfortunately, some of these trends include characteristics that range from legalism, ritualism, holding tradition in a higher view than the Bible…etc.  Movements such as the Emerging Church comprised in many cases of younger adults who were turned off by the church growth movement and its baggage of perceived insincerity with minimal involvement in the Social Gospel, instead now has turned towards more traditional and historical forms of Christianity.  This includes some of the early church mystical approach to spirituality which is new and unknown to most Evangelicals today.  Yet, many join the bandwagon effect thinking that they are pursuing “deep”, personal, fellowship with God by participating in these practices.  The problem is many of these practices don’t emanate from Scripture and share similarities with other religions such as Eastern Mysticism.

In short, much of this is related to the popularity of going back to the early church or a more liturgical church environment and mixing in various aspects of MONASTIC practices with common EV practices.

The IRONY is that many EV Christians today came out of Roman Catholicism (RC) because of it’s overemphasis of these same characteristics. Trying to introduce the Evangelical Church to rituals really cuts against the grain of what Evangelicalism represents.

For example, some EV churches are participating in Ash Wednesday services including the gesture of placing ashes on foreheads.  Some churches now include praying the rosary and performing the stations of the cross.  Some churches are introducing more liturgical forms of worship ranging from simply reciting an early church creed to lighting candles.  Popular authors over the last few years seemingly outdo each other in focusing on church practices not associated with Evangelical churches.  Is this wrong?  

Obviously, Evangelical churches “haven’t arrived” – so no church is perfect.  Let me explain the differences between EV and RC churches from a personal perspective. For me, some of the main reasons for leaving RC included the lack of any message challenging me to accept Christ as savior for my sins; the lack of emphasis on God’s word – the Bible; the contradictions in Scripture versus church practice; the overemphasis on rituals and the seemingly minimal effect of the church on the people who attend.  This last point can be a characteristic of any church from any denomination, but for me, it played a role in my decision.

My initial religious indoctrination as a Roman Catholic was CCD classes.  But these classes usually was very light on God’s word and they were boring with minimum practical benefit.  I remember going to confession and being told by the priest to say several “Hail Marys” and several “Our Fathers” as my penance for my sins.  My mother told me stories of her childhood in Italy included time spent living with nuns as a part of her education.  She is both quick to say how she cherished those times for many different reasons but she also is quick to state how stuck in tradition Catholics are and how much they tend to be focused on anything but God’s word.

At the time, I visited Protestant churches and was quick to see and experience the change.  God’s word was preached and each of us was encouraged to study and live our life based on God’s word.  People were challenged to make a decision about Christ – gone was the assumption that just because you were a part of a certain denomination implies that you are saved (e.g. Roman Catholicism).  EV churches were not known for ritualism and traditions were minimal.  Instead of a strict reverent atmosphere in church, EV churches usually was more open to a more joyful atmosphere.  It was a stark difference between the silence and reverence of a RC service.  There was fellowship and edification taking place.  There was a sense of liberty and freedom as our eyes were focused more on God and less on our own efforts in our attempt to please God or be right with God.

Doctrinally, some of the key differences between the EV church and RC churches include the liberty and freedom that we have in Christ.  EV churches tend to focus more on God’s grace and RC churches having a more works related approach with more reliance on priests and rituals instead of going directly to God and His word.  Evangelicalism is known for an emphasis on the Bible, growing through discipleship, participating in missions both in your local community and across the world. 

But as stated above, today, some EV churches are sporting new trends including a fresh look to monastic practices of the early RC church.  Movements such as the EMERGING CHURCH have moved further away from God’s word by incorporating an approach that seeks to include monastic practices from RC.  For example, there is a common practice of spending extended periods of time alone in silence and solitude.  It is not uncommon that this time alone is spent in a RC monastery. And, there are many stories of RC clergy and monks influencing people to live a lifestyle either symbolically or in actuality closer to a monastic walk than a historical EV walk.

In Part 3, we will look at what the monastic characteristics are and ask – why are some EV Christians moving in this direction yet staying within the EV Church?

 

(469.1) MONASTICISM (Part 1) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

EVANGELICAL MONASTICISM?

The latest fad that has come into play within Evangelicalism has elements that fall under the broad category mysticism and has to do with monastic spirituality. What is monasticism?  Why is it becoming more and more popular among Evangelicals?TMertonStudy

Thomas Merton

(1.) MONASTICISM DEFINED

Monasticism, an institutionalized religious practice or movement whose members attempt to live by a rule that requires works that go beyond those of either the laity or the ordinary spiritual leaders of their religions. Commonly celibate and universally ascetic, the monastic individual separates himself or herself from society either by living as a hermit or anchorite (religious recluse) or by joining a community (coenobium) of others who profess similar intentions. First applied to Christian groups, both Latin and Greek, the term monasticism is now used to denote similar, though not identical, practices in religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Daoism.  

The word monasticism is derived from the Greek monachos (“living alone”), but this etymology highlights only one of the elements of monasticism and is somewhat misleading, because a large proportion of the world’s monastics live in cenobitic (common life) communities. The term monasticism implies celibacy, or living alone in the sense of lacking a spouse, which became a socially and historically crucial feature of the monastic life.

Even this aspect of monasticism does not extend beyond the cultures and languages that perpetuate the religious terminology of the so-called Abrahamic or prophetic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. In the Islamic world, Arabic and Persian terms that can be translated as monk or monastic do not mean “solitary,” as in the Greek. Instead, they are etymologically derived from other terms associated with monastic life in Islam (e.g., zuhd, “asceticism”). None of the many Indic terms for monk (Sanskrit apabhramsha; Pali prakrit) mean “single” or “living alone,” though monastics in those traditions—Brahman-Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain—live alone or in groups that are set off from the rest of their societies. The etymologies of the Indian and some of the Arabic and Persian terminology connote poverty, ecstatic states of mind, dress conventions, and so on, while other terms imply single, celibate living.

Nature and significance

Monastics have been instrumental in creating, preserving, and enhancing institutions of religious and secular learning and in transmitting cultural goods, artifacts, and intellectual skills down through the generations. Monastic institutions have also fulfilled medical, political, and military functions, though since 1500 the latter two have become completely secularized in most societies.

A definition of monasticism that covers all its forms would be so broad that particulars would have to be relegated to the analysis of specific monastic systems. Such a definition might be: religiously mandated behaviour (i.e., orthopraxy), together with its institutions, ritual, and belief systems, whose agents, members, or participants undertake voluntarily (often through a vow) religious works that go beyond those required by the religious teachings of the society at large. Such behaviour derives from the example of religious and spiritual founders who interpreted more radically the tenets that apply to all believers or to the whole society. Beyond such a statement, one can speak only of the principal characteristics of the monastic life and its institutions, since none of them is universal. Celibacy is fundamental to the majority of the world’s monastic orders but is by no means universal, as shown by the case of Buddhism in modern Japan. Another characteristic, asceticism, is universal, provided the term is defined widely enough so as to include all supererogatory (i.e., additional but voluntarily undertaken) religious practices. The truly universal characteristic of monasticism follows from its definition: the monastic separates himself from society, either to abide alone as a religious recluse (hermit or anchorite) or to join a community of those who have separated themselves from their surroundings with similar intentions—i.e., the full-time pursuit of the religious life in its most radical and often in its most demanding guise.

Monasticism does not exist in societies that lack a written transmitted lore. Nonliterate societies cannot have monastic institutions, because the monastic responds to an established written body of religious doctrine, which has undergone criticism and then generated countercriticism in a dialectic process that presupposes a literate, codified manipulation of the doctrine. The monastic founders and their successors may either support or oppose the official religious tradition, but the presence of such a tradition is indispensable as the matrix of all monastic endeavour.

(2.) MONASTICISM IN CHRISTIANITY

Although used by scholars to describe similar institutions and practices in other religions, the terms monk and monastic are historically and etymologically Christian. A sweeping view of Christian monastic history reveals a gradual shift of emphasis from the contemplative to the socially active. Highly meditative orders emerged in the Eastern Orthodox Church and other churches based on the Greek liturgy, the Mount Athos (Greece) complex (founded in the 10th century) being the most famous among them. The large variety of Roman Catholic orders displays eclectic emphases: the Benedictines, Cistercians, Carthusians, Carmelites, and certain orders designated as “minor” (in the Latin sense of humble or modest, rather than lower in a hierarchy or organization) emphasize meditation. The Dominicans should be called “major”—though they are not—because the tasks of preaching, maintaining scholastic continuity, and evangelizing outrank that of contemplation in their order. The Society of Jesus (Jesuits; founded by Ignatius of Loyola between 1534 and 1540) stands at the other end of the contemplative–social-centred continuum. Nearly all the members of the order are priests, and the order regards teaching, social work, and the active life as the quintessence of supererogatory piety.

The Jesuits represented a new kind of order that proliferated in the Roman Catholic Church after 1520, the so-called “clerks regular.” Other orders of clerks regular include the Theatines, founded in 1524 as “Clerks Regular of the Divine Providence,” and the Barnabites, founded in 1530 as the “Clerks Regular of St. Paul.” They and their numerous female equivalents, such as the Daughters of Charity and the Ursulines, constitute the active orders, none of which after 1965 live any longer in enclosure. In the 20th century Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, which turned away from enclosure and contemplation to pursue a life of service. Some scholars would argue that, because of this outward orientation, such orders should no longer be called monastic.

Certain monastic institutions have existed within the Protestant tradition. In the mid-19th century a number of Anglican religious communities for men and women were founded. The first communities were sisterhoods that combined service (teaching and nursing) with prayer, and male communities appeared not long after. In the late 20th century there were some 50 Protestant religious communities. The Taizé (France) communities of the Reformed Protestant tradition, founded in the Burgundy region of France in the 1940s, initiated an ecumenical movement of contemplative monasticism. The first brothers of Taizé came from French and Swiss Reformed churches and were later joined by members of Lutheran churches; a community of sisters in association with Taizé was later founded at Grandchamp near Neuchâtel, Switz. There are also a few surviving Lutheran monasteries. Monasticism would thus seem to be a viable expression of the Protestant tradition; yet, owing to a set of historical accidents whose ideological summation was described in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by the German sociologist Max Weber (1864–1920), Protestantism has always emphasized active engagement in the world rather than seclusion. This explains the existence of various part-time Protestant retreats, usually in rural settings, designed as centres for recuperation from overwork.1

Source: 1. “Monasticism.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2012. Web. 17 Jan. 2012. 

(3) JOHN CALVIN ON MONASTIC VOWS & SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES

Ken Silva: In Means Of Grace: Searching The Scriptures the other day here at Apprising Ministries reminded you about the spread of what I call a cult of Foster-Willardism deep within mainstream Protestant evangelicalism; and with it, a rebirth of Pietism masquerading as the SPIRITUAL FORMATION. 

A good four years ago in SPIRITUAL FORMATION: Just Say No I warned that, with an assist from his spiritual twin Dallas Willard and the neoliberal cult operating within the Emergent Church, Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic Richard Foster would successfully perpetrate this reimagined monastic mythology.

Monk-ee-BusinessThis all was accomplished under the guise of so-called “spiritual disciplines,” and Foster-Willardism has now captured the younger sectors of the church visible. You should know that the core practice of this Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) is its crown jewel Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP).

However the truth is, CCP is actually a type of meditation in an altered state of consciousness that’s virtually identical to that practiced in Eastern religions such as Zen Buddhism and the transcendental meditation of Hinduism. It is “Christian” mysticism that forms the basis of spurious spiritual formation.

The fact remains it was really developed in the antibiblical monastic traditions of apostate Roman Catholicism; and yet we now see this CSM showing up in more and more mainstream evangelical churches. For example, CSM Invades Evangelicalism With Rick Warren and Kay Warren Leading The Charge.

Sadly, it’s been forgotten that CSM is the Counter Reformation spirituality practiced contemporary to the early Church Reformers, which they rejected in favor of the proper Christian spirituality of sola Scriptura. God didn’t want His Christians practicing CSM then, and He doesn’t want us doing so now.

In closing this here’s John Calvin, one the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, and what he thought about the reimagined form of semi-pelagian Pietism that’s been revived by Richard Foster in these so-called spiritual disciplines of Spiritual Formation:

IT is indeed deplorable that the Church, whose freedom was purchased by the inestimable price of Christ’s blood, should have been thus oppressed by a cruel tyranny, and almost buried under a huge mass of traditions; but, at the same time, the private infatuation of each individual shows, that not without just cause has so much power been given from above to Satan and his ministers.

It was not enough to neglect the command of Christ, and bear anyburdens which false teachers might please to impose, but each individual behoved to have his own peculiar burdens, and thus sink deeper by digging his own cavern. This has been the result when men set about devising vows, by which a stronger and closer obligation might be added to common ties…

[M]onks place the principal part of their holiness in idleness. For if you take away their idleness, where will that                                  which they glory that they excel all others, and make a near approach to the angels?… [I]nstead of Christians, we hear some called Benedictines, others Franciscans, others Dominicans, and so called, that while they affect to be distinguished from the common body of Christians, they proudly substitute these names for a religious profession…

This much is certain, that there is no order of men more polluted by all kinds of vicious turpitude; nowhere do faction, hatred, party-spirit, and intrigue, more prevail… It is fine to philosophise in seclusion, far away from the intercourse of society; but it ill accords with Christian meekness for any one, as if in hatred of the human race, to fly to the wilderness and to solitude, and at the same time desert the duties which the Lord has especially commanded.

Were we to grant that there was nothing worse in that profession, there is certainly no small evil in its having introduced a useless and perilous example into the Church. Now, then, let us see the nature of the vows by which the monks of the present day are initiated into this famous order. First, as their intention is to institute a new and fictitious worship with a view to gain favour with God, I conclude from what has been said above, that everything which they vow is abomination to God.

Secondly, I hold that as they frame their own mode of life at pleasure, without any regard to the calling of God, or to his approbation, the attempt is rash and unlawful; because their conscience has no ground on which it can support itself before God; and “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).

Moreover, I maintain that in astricting themselves to many perverse and impious modes of worship, such as are exhibited in modern monasticism, they consecrate themselves not to God but to the devil. For why should the prophets have been permitted to say that the Israelites sacrificed their sons to devils and not to God (Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37), merely because they had corrupted the true worship of God by profane ceremonies; and we not be permitted to say the same thing of monks who, along with the cowl, cover themselves with the net of a thousand impious superstitions? 2

 

Source:  2. JOHN CALVIN ON MONASTIC VOWS I.E. SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES
By Ken Silva pastor-teacher on Dec 30, 2012 in Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism

In Part 2, we will look at monasticism within the Evangelical Church today.