Archive | October 2014

TIM KELLER on Quiet Times, Mysticism and Priceless Payoff of Prayer




Even though I have not yet read Tim Keller’s new book, Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, it is refreshing to read this review from The Gospel Coalition.

From what I can gather from the article, Keller looks at both the positive and negative aspects of how many of us have thought about our devotional time spent with God through prayer and reading Scripture – i.e. our “quiet times”.

However, today, that approach is not the popular approach promoted by best selling authors (e.g. Emerging Church). Today, many are promoting techniques that approach spirituality from a “early church”, Roman Catholic perspective (to use their words). In actuality, what they mean is usually a more CONTEMPLATIVE perspective which mimics a monastic & mystical pattern as seen in the Desert Fathers in early church history.

There several problems with this type of contemplative approach, some of which include the following:

  • Less emphasis is stressed on using your mind or actually thinking during these times of prayer.  Instead, a CONTEMPLATIVE approach involves “emptying your mind”, moving beyond words and rational thought into pure AWARENESS of our oneness with God. BRENNAN MANNING stated that you shouldn’t even think about God during this time.  What ?  Yes, he said that.
  • Often, descriptives of the contemplative approach involves the word “DEEP” as if these new methods propel one into the depths of spirituality that is closer to God.  Everything is described as deep this, deep that, deeper walk, deeper, deeper, deeper…..etc.
  • The problem arises when we minimize our thinking (thoughts, intellect, memory…etc.), we become more prone to outside influences.  How do you know for sure what is influencing you during these times if we are letting down our guard by not thinking of Scripture, God,….etc.?
  • Likewise, this approach is similar to what Transcendental Meditation involves – it can become more similar to what is taught in Eastern Mysticism than it does to biblical Christianity. Repetition of a mantra are common instructions as well as controlling your breath, posture,…etc.  Sounds like Christianity or Eastern Mysticism ?
  • All of this is subtle with a great deal of Christian jargon thrown in to make everything seem “ok”.  But when someone tells you to minimize your thinking and instead rely on  a more mystical approach to spirituality, you run the risk of moving further from God instead.

Keller talks about the difference between devotional reading and actually studying the Bible.  He also touches on problems with Lectio Devina, which is becoming more popular within the Evangelical community today. This is an important distinction because some will be consumed by spending too much time studying the Bible instead having a time set aside for devotions.  Study of Scripture is very important and in many cases a separate time should be set aside for that purpose.

Keller also describes what is meant by MEDITATION and how important it is to THINK out your theology.  Yes, biblical meditation does involve thinking – unlike the CONTEMPLATIVE APPROACH. A focus on God and His word is central to a biblical approach to meditation. 

I am looking forward to reading Keller’s book on Prayer!