(460.3) Spiritual Formation 2017.3 – Interpreting Key Passages in the Bible Used to Promote Contemplative Spirituality – EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY
Some of the key verses used to promote and defend CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY are usually taken out of context. There are several contemporary authors/speakers who promote a Christian walk that moves further away from the Bible and prayer to a walk that looks INWARD and seeks to be drawn CLOSER to become UNIFIED with God in the DEEPEST part of our soul. The problem is that Scripture discusses our sanctification and growth involving our dedication to God’s word and Biblical prayer – NOT in chasing after ancient mystical approaches that we find in the early church. There are other religions that promote the idea of being unified with God by being unified with all of humanity – but Christianity is not it. To summarize – passages from the Bible are used to justify this seeking to be close to God in the DEEPEST part of the soul so that they can ultimately become unified with God. But, the passages referred are usually taken out of context to arrive at their conclusion.
In the following book, Relentless Spirituality: Embracing The Spiritual Disciplines of A.B. Simpson, by Dr. Gary Keisling illustrates a simple example of this. The foreword was written by DALLAS WILLARD – a huge influence on the church accepting contemplative/spiritual formation.
The book uses phraseology that quickly tips off the reader of the perspective that promotes a more mystical approach (e.g. SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES).
First, let me say that my intention is not to be critical of Keisling but rather, my review is focused on how Scripture is used to come up with relentless alternative interpretations of the Bible that may not be justified when those passages are looked at in context.
Keisling discusses the disciplines such as SILENCE and SOLITUDE. He states that “both have complimentary roles in SPIRITUAL FORMATION”. Solitude unfolds in two dimensions. First, there is solitude that is in response to Jesus’ invitation: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (NIV Mark 6:31) .
Now, look at that verse again and ask yourself what is actually being said in the passage. In context, look at the entire chapter to get an understanding of the context of verse 31. Again, ask yourself, how should verse 31 be interpreted?
Keisling states that – “Christ’s disciples were invited to join Jesus in doing something they had seen Him do in the past and would certainly see Him to again in the future. It was an invitation………..to be alone and draw close to God.”
Hold the phone. Was that the reasons stated in this passage of Scripture? Read the passage again. Read it from another translation – NKJV: “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while”. You can read in a number of both literal and dynamic translations and they say the same thing.
=> I would say that Jesus was inviting the disciples to literally “get some rest”. Radical idea? This passage doesn’t say or even imply that Jesus was calling them to engage in a Spiritual Discipline of drawing close to God. Keisling states that we are to “draw close to the Presence of the Almighty.”
He goes on to explain that “these steps of spiritual formation are an essential part of life in Christ”. Really? “These steps” are an essential part of our spiritual formation – yet Christiandom is just finding out about it now?
=> QUESTION: Where does the Bible instruct us to be in SILENCE and SOLITUDE with respect to our devotional life in our walk with Christ?
=> If you find a passage in the Bible, ask yourself first – are you interpreting the passage correctly?
=> Then ask yourself is the passage asking us to engage in SILENCE and SOLITUDE as a part of our normative walk in Christ?
In my opinion, the so-called disciplines of SILENCE and SOLITUDE find themselves to be silent in the Bible. With the huge emphasis today on this topic, I think it very important to note that many look at early church traditions (that many consider being mystical) more so than look to see what Scripture actually says on these issues.
There are other key passages that supporters of CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER take out of context making their case for Spiritual Formation. We will look at a few in the near future.