(480) POSTEVANGELICAL, POSTCONSERVATIVE, POSTMODERNISM (Part 1) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

CERTAINTY:  A PLACE TO STAND (Part 1)

(1) INTRODUCTION

A very useful book by Dr. Grant Richison with a Forward by Dr. Norm Geisler.

Richison, G. C. (2010). Certainty, a Place to Stand: Critique of the Emergent Church of Postevangelicals (pp. 19–20). Grant C. Richison. 

The book describes the rampant uncertainty in the church today.  So much so that some of the most popular Christian teachers and leaders actually have their own brand of theology that teaches uncertainty as true doctrine.

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Dr. Geisler states that “In a day when the evangelical trumpet is making an uncertain sound, every Christian leader needs to read this book. It shows the need to be anchored to the Rock in our efforts to be geared to the times. At no time in our generation has there been a greater need and a clearer call to return to a surer foundation than that which is laid for our faith.”

The book is a critique of the EMERGENT CHURCH of POSTEVANGELICALS.

Richison also promotes a few other books that will give the reader a view of the POSTCONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT for what it really is:

  1. The Evangelical Left by Millard J. Erickson (Baker Books, 1997)
  2. Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church by D.A. Carson (Zondervan, 2005)
  3. The Courage to be Protestant by David Wells (Eerdmans, 2008)
  4. Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times edited by Millard J. Erickson, Paul Kjoss Helseth and Justin Taylor (Crossway Books, 2004) – critiques Renewing the Center by Stanley Grenz.
  5. The Emerging Church, Undefining Christianity by Bob DeWaay (Bethany Press International, 2009)
  6. Evangelicals Engaging Emergent: A Discussion of the Emergent Church Movement (B & H Academic, 2009) is a balanced book critiquing the emergent church movement.
  7. Why We’re Not Emergent (by Two Guys Who Should Be), by Kevin DeYoung and Tel Kluck (Moody, 2009).

 

(2) DEFINITIONS:  

It important to familiarize yourself with important terms that today are part of the common Christian vernacular.  Throw in several words originating from Eastern mystical religions, your grasp of the contemporary language scene would be complete. 

First, Richison differentiates postmodernism between philosophical and functional:  

Philosophical postmodernism is a belief in a system; the function of postmodernity manifests itself in how people live their normal lives but without a clear understanding of the philosophy. Philosophical postmodernism gives no direct extrapolation to functional postmodernism; we find functional postmodernism in television, movies, and business. Not all postmodernity (the function) comes from postmodernism (the philosophy)

Certainty is lack of doubt about some state of affairs. Certainty admits degrees. Evangelicals do not affirm certainty about all things exhaustively. A proposition is certain if no other proposition has greater warrant than it does.

Absolute certainty is lack of any doubt. The Bible presents its thoughts with certainty, not tentatively (Luke 1:4; Acts 1:3). God’s Word is the criterion for truth. Certainty comes by an act of God through the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:4–16; 1 Thessalonians 1:5). Absolute certainty is the supernatural foundation for knowledge.

Postmodernism is a catch-all term that covers many ideas. At its base, postmodernism is belief in plurality: no one can come to ultimate truth because people come to truth from their own perspective.

Postconservatism is belief in postmodernism by evangelicals who are sometimes called “postevangelicals.” This is the belief system behind those in the emergent church who want to soft pedal truth.4

Emerging church is a broad term describing churches that seek to contextualize the gospel by method to postmodern philosophy. Not all emergent churches are postconservative in philosophy but are what we call “doctrine-friendly” or “truth-friendly” churches.

Emergent church is a particular term for an official network of contextualizers committed to postmodern Christianity. All their thinking is emerging; they do not claim certainty of truth. They deconstruct previous evangelical thinking about certainty and other essential doctrines of Scripture. They emphasize narrative theology rather than propositional truth. Presentation of Christianity is by missional living rather than by statements of the gospel. They presume that historic evangelicalism is non-authentic, not involved with non-Christians, obsessed with doctrine, and not operating by Christocentric living.5 This group is not “truth-friendly.”

Coherent truth is the basis of the emergent approach to reality, wherein facts and objective truth are not necessary and only a general coherence of an idea is needed.

Correspondent truth is the view that truth must correspond to facts, objectivity, and reality.

Missional is the term used for attempting to incarnate the gospel with personal and community testimony rather than presenting the gospel through propositions. Postconservatives use the word “missional” in the sense of “improving society now.” It is a way to correct society’s evils.

Proposition is that which corresponds to truth; it is the meaning of a declarative sentence. It is not an encounter, event, or personal experience. Biblical propositional assertions correspond to facts and reality.

Spiritual formation is not what evangelicals call sanctification, but it is rather the means whereby emergents use disciplines such as mysticism to make them feel closer to God. This is a non-biblical, extra-biblical idea. Many evangelicals use this term for sanctification and confuse terminology in doing so.

Foundationalism is an approach to reality that builds beliefs on givens. In the case of the Word of God, Christians build their beliefs on givens in the Bible. Emergents want to “rethink” everything. They do not operate on givens. It is important to distinguish the foundationalism of the Enlightenment from the foundationalism of the Bible. Biblical foundationalism does not rest on rationalism or empiricism but on the law of non-contradiction, the validity of the law of causality, and the reliability of sense perception. Without foundationalism we cannot establish truth by categories. Without the law of non-contradiction, it would be impossible to communicate adequately with others. Certainty does not require total understanding to know something for sure. To reject foundationalism is to reject rationality.

=> Just taking some time to understand what these terms mean and how they are used today in the church and by Christians in general is an important first step to understanding the direction the church is heading.  

In Part 2, we will go into detail in how widespread these terms are being used by Christians who don’t have clue to their origins and how they are used today.

 

 

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(447) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: THE SHACK – Review by Marcia Montenegro

The Shack was one of the free movies shown this past weekend with Projecting Hope.

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Several concerns about the new movie, The Shack, based on the best-selling novel by William P. Young.  The following article is a review by Marcia Montenegro: http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_TheShack.html

729230_1_ftc_dpWHAT’S AT THE BACK OF THE SHACK? A LOOK AT WILLIAM, P. YOUNG’S THE SHACK

By Marcia Montenegro

Written November 2008

Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” John 20:29

Note: Many will say this is fiction and therefore criticisms of Young’s theology in this book are off-limits or irrelevant. But Young is a Christian who places God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit as central characters in his book, The Shack.  Why insert obvious lessons that Mack, the main character, is learning about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit if we are to assume that God in this book is fantasy or fiction? The characters who represent God…

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(478) 40th ANNIVERSARY OF RICHARD FOSTER’S CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

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40th Anniversary

Time flies when you are having fun.  However, a book that has really invaded the Evangelical Church and has dramatically changed spiritual practices like never before is a book by Richard Foster – A Celebration of Discipline.  As publishers push to put out a 40-year anniversary edition to seminaries, churches, pastors and lay people, it is important to understand what you are getting into – MYSTICISM and CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER…..etc.

Christian University Graduate Agrees—Celebration of Discipline/Richard Foster Bypass the Cross—As CoD Soon Celebrates 40-Year Anniversary!

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40th Anniversary edition of Celebration of Discipline to be released in 2018, which is the 40th anniversary of CoD.

Just as Lighthouse Trails was about to issue a post this week about Celebration of Discipline’s (by Richard Foster) 40-year anniversary announcement (that we received by e-mail this month), we received the following e-mail from a…

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(478) 40th ANNIVERSARY OF RICHARD FOSTER’S CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

40th Anniversary

Time flies when you are having fun.  However, a book that has really invaded the Evangelical Church and has dramatically changed spiritual practices like never before is a book by Richard Foster – A Celebration of Discipline.  As publishers push to put out a 40-year anniversary edition to seminaries, churches, pastors and lay people, it is important to understand what you are getting into – MYSTICISM and CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER…..etc.

Christian University Graduate Agrees—Celebration of Discipline/Richard Foster Bypass the Cross—As CoD Soon Celebrates 40-Year Anniversary!

celebrationofdiscipline-40-years-400x600
40th Anniversary edition of Celebration of Discipline to be released in 2018, which is the 40th anniversary of CoD.

Just as Lighthouse Trails was about to issue a post this week about Celebration of Discipline’s (by Richard Foster) 40-year anniversary announcement (that we received by e-mail this month), we received the following e-mail from a Christian university graduate:

Three years ago this past September, I began my studies at Tyndale University in Toronto, Ontario. Right away, for one class, we were asked to study one author in particular whom I had never heard of, RICHARD FOSTER and his book Celebration of Discipline. I went online to do research and came across your website, and found your analysis of Foster to be spot on. As I read Foster, I realized he had completely bypassed the role of the Cross in bringing man into relationship with God, and instead substituted what he calls the “SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES”. This is of course heresy.

For nearly sixteen years, Lighthouse Trails has tirelessly tried to warn the church about contemplative spirituality and how it entered the church in the first place largely through Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline.

a-time-of-departingThe following is a repost of a prior article we wrote about Celebration of Discipline. It would be a good idea to ask your own pastor if he has ever read Celebration of Discipline and if he has, what does he think. And if he has not read the refutation  A Time of Departing and is willing to do so, Lighthouse Trails will gladly send him a complimentary copy of it.

=> [HIGH RECOMMEND: A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen.  This book opened my eyes to the gradual but definite mission creep of mystical contemplative practices coming into the church.]  

First published in 1978, Celebration of Discipline has had a massive influence on today’s Christianity. Unfortunately, the influence has helped to saturate the church with MYSTICAL CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER and the NEW AGE.   Most likely, your pastor has a copy of this book sitting on his library shelves. He may even have it sitting on his desk for easy reach and reference. Richard Foster, a Quaker and the founder of an organization called RENOVARE (meaning renewal), wrote the book, and even he may have had no idea the impact this book would have. But decades later, it is still being read, and in fact, Christian leaders and organizations continue promoting the book.

Foster said in the book, that we “should all without shame enroll as apprentices in the school of contemplative prayer” (p. 13, 1978 ed.). In other books and writings of Foster’s, he makes it very clear that this “CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER”  is the EASTERN-style MANTRA MEDIATION to which mystic monk THOMAS MERTON adhered. In fact, Richard Foster once told Ray Yungen (author of A Time of Departing) that “Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people” (at a conference in Salem, OR in the 90s).

Thomas Merton, who said he was “impregnated with Sufism” (Merton and Sufism, p. 69) and wanted to “become as GOOD A BUDDHIST” as he could be (David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West”), believed that “God’s people” lacked one thing—mysticism, and this is to what they needed “awakening.” Of Merton, Foster says: “Thomas Merton has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.” (Spiritual Classics, p. 17) And yet, Thomas Merton once told NEW AGE Episcopal priest MATTHEW FOX that he felt sorry for the hippies in the 60s who were dropping LSD because all they had to do was practice the MYSTICAL (contemplative) stream to achieve the same results. (Interview) We couldn’t agree with him more. Both altered states are the same, but we differ from Merton and Foster in conclusions outcome—we know neither leads to God.

Listed under “excellent books on spirituality,” in some editions of Celebration of Discipline, Foster says of panentheist Tilden Edwards’ book Spiritual Friend that it helps “clear away the confusion and invites us to see that we do not have to live the spiritual life in isolation.” And yet, TILDEN EDWARDS, founder of the “Christian”/Buddhist SHALEM INSTITUTE in Washington, DC, said that contemplative spirituality was the “Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality”(Spiritual Friend, p. 18). On the Shalem Institute website you can find numerous quotes, references, articles, and recommendations to panentheism, universalism, interspirituality, New Age, and Eastern thought.

In Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster tells us “we must be willing to go down into the recreating SILENCES, into the inner world of contemplation(COD, p.13.) He goes on to say that the “masters of meditation beckon us.” Just prior to that remark, he quotes Carl Jung and Thomas Merton.

Celebration of Discipline has helped to pave the way for Thomas Merton’s panentheistic belief system. It has opened the door for other Christian authors, speakers, and pastors to bring contemplative spirituality into the lives of millions of people. The late HENRI NOUWEN, a popular contemplative who also followed the teachings of Thomas Merton, made a telling statement towards the end of his life:

I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, ALL human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God(emphasis added – Sabbatical Journey, p. 51).

Essentially, the fruit of years of practicing mysticism by Nouwen was a departure from believing the Cross was the only way to salvation. This is the fruit of contemplative spirituality.

Today, countless ministers and ministries are promoting and endorsing Celebration of Discipline. If they really knew what Foster’s “celebration” was all about, we think many of them would race away from the teachings of Thomas Merton and Richard Foster and back to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Note: If your pastor or someone you know has a copy of Celebration of Discipline or quotes Richard Foster, be sure and give him a copy of Ray Yungen’s new booklet A Serious Look at Richard Foster’s “School” of Contemplative Prayer. Also, want to know what Spiritual Formation is (and its dangers), read this: Is Your Church Doing Spiritual Formation? (Important Reasons Why They Shouldn’t

Quotes by Richard Foster:

“Spend some time this week listening to contemplative music designed to quiet you, settle you, deepen you. (Compact discs and tapes from the TAIZE community, JOHN MICHAEL TALBOT,  and the Monks of Weston Priory are especially helpful).” Renovare’s Perspective Newsletter

“We now come to the ultimate stage of Christian experience. Divine Union…. Contemplatives sometimes speak of their union with God by the analogy of a log in a fire: the glowing log is so united with the fire that it is fire.” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 159)

“Christians . . .  have developed two fundamental expressions of Unceasing Prayer. The first . . .  is usually called aspiratory prayer or BREATH PRAYER. The most famous of the breath prayers is the Jesus Prayer. It is also possible to discover your own individual breath prayer. . . . Begin praying your breath prayer as often as possible.” (Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, p. 122) [LT Note: Remember, Rick Warren promoted breath prayers in The Purpose Driven Life.]

 

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=27209

(477) IT’S EASY TO CONNECT THE DOTS – Emerging Trends in YOUR Church Today

NOT MUCH OF A MYSTERY

If you base your views on the Bible, one can easily see the contradictions, discrepancies, aberrant, and sometimes false teachings involved within popular movements today such as the Emerging Church.  The problem is that many of these inclinations and teachings go unchecked and become normalized within the church.  People become desensitized to their jargon and common definitions that have been used by the church for centuries change to a more ancient usage or outright usage more commonly found in other religions (Eastern religions).   The Evangelical Church is in a free-fall in regards to this effect.  Seminaries are required for accreditation to include these new teachings – each generation of church leaders and pastors are being exposed to these different teachings that emphasize a mystical approach to faith – one that hasn’t been a part of historic Evangelicalism and one that deviates from the Reformation view.

What does this mean to YOU? 

The teaching which you ingest by hearing sermons and lectures in Sunday School classes, discussions with friends, sermons from the pulpit, church resources in the library, seminary professors teaching classes, books authored by well-known writers and teachers…..etc. all can affect your learning and can either be used to grow your walk in faith or stunt your walk in faith. Because of the subtle nature of this effect, it becomes increasingly difficult to identify these items and the potentially adverse effects of exposure to these teachings.

Lynne Hybels  (wife of the mega church founder of Willow Creek, Bill Hybels), recently said the following:

“25 yrs ago I lost the Christianity of my youth. Found a deeper faith embracing silence, centering prayer, doubt, mystery, Jesus. Recognized my own deep brokenness & moved toward the brokenness of the world. 25 yrs later, the world’s overwhelming pain pushes me again into silence.”

 

She said she lost her Christianity of her youth and found DEEPER faith embracing SILENCE, CENTERING PRAYER, DOUBT, MYSTERY……etc.  Her mysticism is beyond opinion – each of these descriptives carries with it a great deal mysticism directly from ancient Roman Catholic saints and commonly found in Eastern Mysticism.

This is just one view of the adverse effects of where mysticism can lead.  In my Growth Group class at church, I have come across several examples of mysticism having an adverse effect on a person’s walk.

Let’s look at a few examples in the areas of popular Christian books and teachings from popular Christian leaders.  This chart shows how MYSTICISM (i.e. CONTEMPLATIVE) influences Christians in the church (laypeople and pastors) using very popular books and teachings from commonly known leaders.

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Who hasn’t heard of CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE by RICHARD J. FOSTER?  It is one of the most popular Christian books sold within the last 20-30 years.  It is highly acclaimed by Christians journals such as Christianity Today and is commonly used in churches and seminaries across many denominations.  Details of this book can be found in other postings on this blog. For now, let’s just look at how easily one can follow a trail from RICHARD FOSTER back to MONASTIC practices found in ancient ROMAN CATHOLICISM. These include the repetition of words or phrases (i.e. mantras) during prayer and meditation – something clearly Jesus told us not to do in our prayer time. 

You can see that popular authors such as RICHARD FOSTER and DALLAS WILLARD have been heavily influenced by ROMAN CATHOLIC monks who teach principles of mysticism. They admit that they learned some of these principles from BUDDHIST MONKS visiting their monasteriesTHOMAS MERTON, a Roman Catholic monk is quoted in the chart as saying that he wants to be as good as a BUDDHIST that he can.

You can see how they have influenced (connect the dots) popular Evangelical writers today than many Christians have no idea that they are “under the influence”. These monks commonly hold retreats today teaching others (Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Buddhists….etc.) their view of mysticism and they give people opportunity to spend time in SILENCE and SOLITUDE.  While claiming that these principles come from the early church (e.g. the Desert Fathers), it is difficult to find biblical support for their teachings.  In actuality, there are more similaries to to NEW AGE (similar to EASTERN MYSTICISM). One of the guest teachers from Alliance Theological Seminary informed our church’s congregation that he routinely spends time in retreats at a local monastery.  So much could be said about this but not in this post.  

Take a look at just a few quotes directly from these authors and teachers and see if you can differentiate what is biblical and what is a mystical approach to faith.  If it is not found in God’s word, does it come from man’s philosophy, church traditions, personal experience?  Is biblical teaching suppressed by the promotion of a more imaginative inner workings, intuitive, experiential…etc. view of spiritual issues. Should these be held higher than God’s word in influencing your walk of faith?

BRIAN MCLAREN: “This full, radiant, glorious experience of God in Jesus Christ eventually revolutionized the whole concept of God, so that the word God itself was re-imagined through the experience of encountering Jesus, seeing him act, hearing him speak, watching him relate, and reflecting on his whole career.” (McLaren, 73)

BRIAN MCLAREN: “Think of [i.e. “imagine”] the kind of universe you would expect if God A created it: a universe of dominance, control, limitation, submission, uniformity, coercion. Think of the kind of universe you would expect if God B created it: a universe of interdependence, relationship, possibility, responsibility, becoming, novelty, mutualilty, freedom. . . . I find myself in universe B getting to know God B.” (McLaren 76)

LEONARD SWEET: “Right belief” should not hold the “upper hand over a believer’s authentic experience.” (Sweet)

LEONARD SWEET: Christianity should not be viewed as a “belief system with a distinct worldview,” but as an experiential “conversation” with God and others. (Sweet)

LEONARD SWEET: Christianity is “not primarily a matter of belief,” but rather “immersion and engagement, a full-on experience of life.” (Sweet)

LEONARD SWEET: Sweet wonders with Amos Yong, “what the gospel might look like if its primary dialogue partners are not Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Hegel or Whitehead, but rather Buddha, Confucius, Lao-tzu, Chuang-tzu, Nagarjuna, Shankara, Ramanuja, Chu His, Dogen, Wang Yang Ming, and so on.”

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?
Each of the above quotes could merit its own posting with an explanation of the concerns involved.  Hopefully, you can see a few things that at least should raise a red flag in your eyes.  Scripture will help you to see the issues involved:

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)

Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their own craftiness”; (1 Corinthians 3:18-19)

O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge— by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen. (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Ephesians 5:6)

Let me conclude with God’s wisdom from His word –

Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. (Proverbs 30:5)

 

 

(476) MEDITATION (Part 2): DANGEROUS MEDITATIONS – Emerging Trends in the Church Today.

Overstressed Americans are increasingly turning to various forms of Eastern meditation, particularly yoga, in search of relaxation and spirituality. Underlying these meditative practices, however, is a worldview in conflict with biblical spirituality—though many Christians are (unwisely) practicing yoga.

Many Eastern religions teach that the source of salvation is found within,  and that the fundamental human problem is not sin against a holy God but ignorance of our true condition. These worldviews advocate meditation and “higher forms of consciousness” as a way to discover a secret inner divinity.

Yoga, deeply rooted in Hinduism, essentially means to be “yoked” with the divine. Yogic postures, breathing, and chanting were originally designed not to bring better physical health and well-being (Western marketing to the contrary), but a sense of oneness with Brahman—the Hindu word for the absolute being that pervades all things. This is pantheism (all is divine), not Christianity.

Transcendental Meditation is a veiled form of Hindu yoga, though it claims to be a religiously neutral method of relaxation and rejuvenation. Initiates to TM receive a mantra (Hindu holy word) to repeat while sitting in yogic postures and engaging in yogic breathing. The goal is to find God within their own beings, since God (Brahman) and the self (Atman) are really one.

Differences in various forms of Eastern meditation aside, they all aim at a supposedly “higher” or “altered” state of consciousness. Meditation guides claim that normal consciousness obscures sacred realities. Therefore, meditation is practiced in order to suspend rational patterns of thought.

This helps explain why so many Eastern mystics claim that divine realities are utterly beyond words, thought, and personality. In order to find “enlightenment,” one must extinguish one’s critical capacities—something the Bible never calls us to do (Rom. 12:1-2). In fact, suspending our critical capacities through meditation opens the soul to deception and even to spiritual bondage.

The biblical worldview is completely at odds with the pantheistic concepts driving Eastern meditation. We are not one with an impersonal absolute being that is called “God.” Rather, we are estranged from the true personal God because of our “true moral guilt,” as Francis Schaeffer says.

No amount of chanting, breathing, visualizing, or physical contortions will melt away the sin that separates us from the Lord of the cosmos—however “peaceful” these practices may feel. Moreover, Paul warns that “Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). “Pleasant” experiences may be portals to peril. Even yoga teachers warn that yoga may open one up to spiritual and physical maladies.

The answer to our plight is not found in some “higher level of consciousness” (really a deceptive state of mind), but in placing our faith in the unmatched achievements of Jesus Christ on our behalf. If it were possible to find enlightenment within, God would not have sent “his one and only Son” (John 3:16) to die on the Cross for our sins in order to give us new life and hope for eternity through Christ’s resurrection. We cannot raise ourselves from the dead.

The biblical concept of prayer assumes that rational and meaningful communication between God and humans is possible. There is no summons to suspend rational judgment even when prayer through the Holy Spirit is “with groans that words cannot express” (Rom. 8:26). Nor should we repeat words meaninglessly to induce a trance (Matt. 6:7).

In the Bible, meditation always means pondering God’s revealed truths and reflecting on how they pertain to us. David revels in the richness of God’s law throughout Psalm 119. He encourages us to meditate on it: “I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word” (Ps. 119:15-16). Since all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16), all of it is profitable for meditation in the biblical sense.

Douglas Groothuis is professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary and the author of several books, including Unmasking the New Age and Confronting the New Age.

(475) MEDITATION: IS MEDIATION BIBLICAL? – Emerging Trends in the Church Today.

Meditation: Is Meditation Biblical?

Today, the word meditation can have various meanings from across different denominations as well as different religions. One concern within Evangelicalism is the inclusion of several of these meanings into practices within the church.  These practices can cross over from Roman Catholicism or from Eastern Mysticism using the same word, meditation, but whose meaning may be different from the historic meaning within Evangelicism.  The subtle this shift in usage, the more easily it attaches itself to the vernacular jargon within the church.

The Dictionary of Christian Spirituality gives the spectrum of meanings of meditation.  It tends to promote a more contemplative view as more mainstream but it is a good starting point to understand the meanings of meditation:

(1) Meditation [1]

Meditation is the spiritual practice of focused attentiveness. Christian meditation has traditionally been focused on the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, read personally and christocentrically.

The practice of Christian meditation is rooted in the practice of Jesus himself. From Jesus’ use of Scripture, especially in his Emmaus Road discourse (Luke 24:25–27), it is clear that meditation on the Hebrew Scriptures constituted an important part of Jesus’ devotional practice. After his resurrection and ascension, believers incorporated the remembered words of Jesus and the words of the first apostles into their worship and meditation (Col. 3:16). The rich use of the OT throughout the NT is evidence for and illustrative of early Christian meditative practice, the Hebrew Scriptures read in the light of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.

In the MONASTIC tradition, meditation was an integral aspect of the life of prayer. According to Jean Leclercq, it required the monk not only to think about the Scriptures, but “to practice a thing by thinking of it … to fix it in the memory, to learn it.”

In the 12th and 13th centuries, NEW emphasis was placed on EMOTIONAL engagement in meditative practice, with the person inserting himself or herself into a visualized reenactment of a biblical event. This “meditation of the historical event” allowed the person to imagine, for example, standing in the place of Mary at the foot of the cross, seeking to feel what she had felt, and so to enter into the INNER spiritual meaning of the event. The goal of such meditation was ultimately to EXPERIENCE UNION with God [i.e. the definition of mysticism] . The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius (1548) combined such visualization with the examination of one’s own sinfulness, with a view to deepening repentance and enhancing wonder at God’s grace.

After the REFORMATION, Protestant meditation placed a RENEWED EMPHASIS on the BIBLE as God’s Word; the printing press, vernacular translations, and widening literacy made the reading and meditation of the Scripture available to rank-and-file Christians. Following John Calvin’s insistence that every word of Scripture should be received as spoken directly to the reader by the mouth of God (Institutes, 7.1), Puritan meditation was intensely oriented toward the Scriptures, with the intent not merely to memorize and recite the words, but also TO APPLY them to one’s own life.

In recent decades, there have been several developments in Christian meditation.

(1) A return to pre-Reformation sources of Christian meditative practice. SILENT RETREATS, often guided by some form of the IGNATIAN exercises, are part of the spiritual practice of many.

(2) A renewed interest in meditative foci other than Scriptural texts. In Celebration of Discipline (1978), Richard Foster encouraged focused meditation on some aspect of creation as preparation for learning how to meditate on Scripture (24–25).

(3) An increased openness toward some aspects of EASTERN MEDITATION seen to be compatible with Christian meditation. THOMAS MERTON is the primary influence on this turn; the BUDDHIST practice of MINDFULNESS is seen as a way of becoming attentive to the present moment.

(4) A growing awareness of the neurological effects of meditation, with an interest in the therapeutic or cognitive, rather than purely spiritual, benefits it confers, with many therapies incorporating meditative practices.

[1] Hancock, M. (2011). Meditation. In G. G. Scorgie (Ed.), Dictionary of Christian spirituality (pp. 606–608). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

 => More specifically, does the Bible tell us, as Christians, to meditate?  If so, how?

(2) What is Christian meditation? [2]

To answer this question, we may have to first understand what meditation is not.

Psalm 19:14 states, “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” What, then, is Christian meditation, and how should Christians meditate? Unfortunately, the word “meditation” can carry the connotation of something mystical.

  • For some, meditation is clearing the mind while sitting in an unusual position.
  • For others, meditation is communing with the spirit world around us.

=> Concepts such as these most definitely do NOT characterize Christian meditation.

Christian meditation has NOTHING to do with practices that have EASTERN MYSTICISM  as their foundation. Such practices include LECTIO DIVINA, TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION,  and many forms of what is called CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER. These have at their core a DANGEROUS premise that we need to “hear God’s voice,” not through His Word, but through personal revelation through meditation. Some churches are filled with people who think they are hearing a “word from the Lord,” often contradicting one another and therefore causing endless divisions within the body of Christ. Christians are not to abandon God’s Word, which is “God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). If the Bible is sufficient to thoroughly equip us for every good work, how could we think we need to seek a mystical experience instead of or in addition to it?

Christian meditation is to be solely on the Word of God and what it reveals about Him. David found this to be so, and he describes the man who is “blessed” as one whose “delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Psalm 1:2). True Christian meditation is an active thought process whereby we give ourselves to the study of the Word, praying over it and asking God to give us understanding by the Spirit, who has promised to lead us “into all truth” (John 16:13). Then we put this truth into practice, committing ourselves to the Scriptures as the rule for life and practice as we go about our daily activities. This causes spiritual growth and maturing in the things of God as we are taught by His Holy Spirit.[1]

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

(3) Meditation after reading Scripture [3] is as critical as preparation before reading Scripture. One can read diligently, but the reading will bear no fruit if meditation does not follow. Reading may give some breadth, but only meditation and study will give depth. The difference between reading and meditation is like the difference between drifting in a boat and rowing toward a destination. “Meditation without reading is erroneous, and reading without meditation is barren.… Meditation makes that which we have read to be our own. He is blessed which meditates in the law day and night” (Psalm 1).”16

Meditation involves our MINDS and UNDERSTANDING, as well as our hearts and affections. To reach a sound and settled judgment on various truths, the mind must be brought to meditative understanding. Meditation, however, also “digests” this settled judgment and makes it work upon our affections. If our affections do not become involved, our sound meditative understanding will erode away. The Scriptures must be transfused through the entire texture of the soul.

16 Ibid., 393.

[3] Beeke, J. R. and L., Ray B. (2009). Chapter Seven: The Transforming Power of Scripture. In D. Kistler (Ed.), Sola Scriptura: The Protestant position on the Bible (p. 120). Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing.

As a check, let’s take one more look at an overview of mediation.  Christian Research Institute states the following:

(4) CHRISTIAN MEDITATION- Summary
Meditation. Is meditation a non-Christian practice? Or is meditation something the Bible clearly encourages us to do?

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION- Self-Centered Motives
Many people view meditation as a means to develop their natural and psychic powers. In other cases, people practice meditation with the goal of self-relaxation. Whatever the case may be, the fact is, this kind of meditation — that is, EASTERN MEDITATION — is characterized by self-centered objectives. It employs techniques like concentrating on objects, exercising “controlled” breathing, and uttering mantras — all this with the purpose of emptying the mind of all kinds of distractions which supposedly will enable a person to reach an altered state of consciousness, a state of harmony with himself and the universe.

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION- No Blending with Eastern Mysticism
Eastern meditation is very dangerous, to say the least, because it draws people away from God by encouraging them to look inwardly to themselves rather than to God. Additionally, the kind of meditation we are talking about right now is intimately tied to Eastern philosophies which run counter to biblical teaching. Not only that, but the notion of emptying one’s mind opens up the possibility of demonic deception, manipulation, and yes, even possession.

CHRISTIAN MEDITATION- Meditation the Christian Way
Now, we have to be careful not to write off meditation itself simply because it’s practiced by Eastern mystics. Keep in mind that the Bible in no uncertain terms encourages us to meditate on God’s law day and night (Josh. 1:8)! However, biblical meditation doesn’t involve looking within ourselves or emptying our minds for selfish reasons. Rather, it urges believers to contemplate and deeply reflect God’s Person and faithfulness — not only that, it also calls us to look to His Word (Psa. 119), and His creation (Psa. 19, 104). In fact, Christian meditation calls us to look upward and outward to God so that our minds may be filled with godly wisdom and insight, and so that our hearts may be filled with comfort, happiness, and joy. To echo the opening words of the Book of Psalms: “Blessed is the man…[whose] delight is in the law of the Lord, who meditates on his law day and night.” (Psa. 1:1-2 NIV). And remember, there is a quantum difference between getting into the Word of God and getting the Word into you — so let me encourage you to hide God’s Word in your heart.

[4] http://www.equip.org/perspectives/christian-meditation-is-meditation-biblical/

=> This concludes the brief summary of meditation.  There is more that could be said – so God willing, another posting will follow soon.  For now, it is my hope that your focus is on God and His word.