“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.”
TWO TREES, ONE ROOT
A very interesting look at the links between Eastern spirituality and Darwinism by Tricia Wright.
Two trees, one root: the link between evolutionism and Eastern spirituality
Published: 13 February 2018 (GMT+10)
Looking at today’s once-Christian ‘Western’ society, one sees two non-Christian worldviews growing like long-established trees, stretching their branches into everything from education, to the media, to the church. One tree is materialism, the belief that matter is all there is, firmly based on and intertwined with Darwinian evolution. Its canopy bears the dark fruits which stem from morality without a Creator (and thus Lawgiver).1
Alongside it a second tree is thriving: Eastern spirituality. With its alluring blossoms promising enlightenment, health and wisdom, this tree seems to be drawing much of the world to its shade.
These two worldview ‘trees’ may look very different, but are remarkably connected by a common root system.
Exploring the connection
Like materialistic Darwinism, Eastern spirituality is a far-from-biblical concept that is heavily promoted in popular culture and public education. In education systems throughout the world, ‘mindfulness’ programs have emerged to teach youth meditation practices which, though often secularized, are rooted in ancient Eastern religions.2,3 These may include anything from breathing practices, visualization techniques and other ‘focusing’ exercises to transcendental meditation, mantra repetition and yoga.4
Of course, one needs to avoid the ‘genetic fallacy’, which would be to conclude that something with origins in an anti-biblical philosophy is therefore necessarily unbiblical in itself. It is nonetheless disturbing to see the extent of the enthusiastic penetration of such Hindu-derived practices, with at best minimal evidence of benefit. England, Canada, America, Israel, and India are just a few of the nations to integrate such programs in all levels of school curricula.4Organizations like Mindful Schools partner with teachers to bring meditation practices to classrooms in over 100 countries.5
But education is only the beginning. In Western nations, Eastern spiritualistic practices are becoming commonplace in such diverse realms as business, the military, and healthcare.3 They have become so popular in Western cultures that some Hindu communities are actually beginning to take offence. For instance, they deplore the Western commercialization of yoga without recognition of its Hindu origins,6 and are offended at imagery of Hindu deities on ‘religiously impure’ consumer goods such as socks, shoes and toilet seats.7 When did Eastern spirituality become so internationally popular?
A bit of history
Let’s backtrack through time to the mid-1800s, shortly after Darwin published his Origin of Species. As evolutionary ideas became popular in Europe and spread to India, which was then a British colony, both Eastern and Western scholars noted that despite some key differences between naturalistic Darwinism and polytheistic Hinduism, there were important commonalities. These make Eastern spirituality all the more appealing to Western cultures in which evolution has made inroads.
For instance, not only does Indian cosmology feature the long ages known as ‘deep time’, but Hinduism maintains that the universe progresses in cycles of evolution and dissolution. In each cycle, a set number of species evolves along a fixed pattern. The fixed, cyclic nature of Hindu evolutionism contrasts with the less predictable linear model which Darwin advanced. But Eastern and Western views of evolution overlapped enough that Swami Vivekānanda (né Narendranath Datta, 1863—1902), instrumental in developing modern yoga and popularizing it in America in the late 1800s/early 1900s said,
“The idea of evolution was to be found in the Vedas [ancient Hindu scriptures] long before the Christian era; but until Darwin said it was true, it was regarded as a mere Hindu superstition.”8
An example of Hindu doctrine which various scholars have interpreted as evolutionary is avatarism. This refers to a series of earthly manifestations, or avatars, of a deity—usually Vishnu. Each reincarnation of Vishnu assumes a new form, beginning as a fish-man and progressing up to a human avatar. Of this doctrine, nineteenth-century Hindu philosopher Keshub Chunder Sen observed,
“Lo! The Hindu Avatar rises from the lowest scale of life through the fish, the tortoise and the hog to the perfection of humanity. Indian Avatarism is, indeed, a crude representation of the ascending scale of Divine creation. Such precisely is the modern theory of evolution.”9
Nineteenth-century Westerners who likewise stressed the overlaps between Eastern and Western evolution include Nobel-Prize-winning essayist Maurice Maeterlinck, and Oxford Sanskrit professor Sir Monier Monier-Williams.10 The latter said, “The Hindus were … Darwinians many centuries before Darwin … .”11
Meanwhile, even as the Western naturalism12 of Darwin and Huxley spread east, Eastern spirituality was spreading west, with many of its prominent promoters advocating at least some elements of Darwinism.
One such was the aforementioned Swami Vivekānanda, who interpreted Yoga Sutras (ancient Hindu texts) along Darwinian lines. He used Westerners’ eroded trust of scriptural authority in Darwin’s wake as an opening for promoting evolution-friendly Hinduism in the West.13 He wrote,
“At the beginning of the nineteenth century man tried to find God through reason, and Deism was the result. What little was left of God by this process was destroyed by Darwinism and Millism.”14
He outlined four types of yoga, describing them as four paths by which man may realize his ‘own divinity’.15 Such ideas fitted well with the Western occultist movements, then becoming popular as an alternative mode of spirituality following Darwinism’s challenge to Christianity.16 The result was to usher yoga into the West through promotion by Western mystics and New Ageists who themselves adopted evolutionary ideas.
Among these was Annie Besant (1847–1933). Once a clergyman’s wife, she became an active political reformer before turning to theosophy, an occultist movement rooted in Hindu teachings.17 A leader of the Theosophical Society, Besant was influenced by Helen Blavatsky, who advanced a spiritualistic, cyclic form of evolution and who wrote,
“Evolutionary law compelled the lunar ‘Fathers’ to pass, in their monadic condition, through all the forms of life and being on this globe … . These ‘Forms’ are called ‘Sons of Yoga,’ because Yoga (union with Brahmâ exoterically) is the supreme condition of the passive infinite deity.”18
Besant was, like Vivekānanda, a key originator of modern yoga, as well as a social Darwinist and eugenicist.19 She advocated yoga as a means of hastening the evolution of a Mother Race, which corresponds to “what used to be called the Aryan Race”.20 Hitler’s swastika is in fact an ancient Hindu symbol.21
Sharing this fascination with both Social Darwinism/racism and Eastern spirituality was John Woodroffe (1865–1936). He interpreted Sanskrit texts into books which helped catalyze Western adaptations of kundalini yoga and hatha yoga.22 Woodroffe also wrote The Seed of Race, outlining a Social Darwinian model which aimed to enhance humanity’s evolution through eugenics.18,23
Further highlighting the intersection between Eastern philosophy and evolutionary thought in the 20th century is the relationship between the prominent humanist Charles Francis Potter (1885–1962) and the American yogi-entrepreneur Pierre Bernard (1875–1955). Bernard was born Perry Baker in Iowa, before choosing a less pedestrian-sounding name for himself in promoting postural yoga, occultism—and himself. A godlike figure to many, he became known as ‘the Great Oom’.
The humanist Potter was once a Baptist minister who adopted increasingly liberal theology. He founded a Unitarian church, debated conservative theologians on topics including creation vs evolution, advised the lawyer defending evolutionary education in the Scopes Trial, and founded the First Humanist Society of New York and the Euthanasia Society of America. In advocating the abolition of the supernatural to leave humanism as ‘real religion’, Potter said that “the chief end of man is to improve himself, both as an individual and as a race”.
Interestingly, Potter was also so taken by Bernard’s ideas that he wrote an unpublished biography of him. What connects Bernard’s Eastern spiritualism with Potter’s evolutionary humanism?
The root—an ancient rebellion
Answering this requires digging straight to the root connecting the two worldview ‘trees’ we have been examining. A major hint is seen in the stated purpose of Vivekānanda’s four yoga paths, echoing Potter’s ‘chief end’ comment: man’s “realization of his own divinity”. This is a lie as old as Eden, first whispered in Eve’s ear when the serpent insisted, “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).
It is this rejection of a single, unmatchable, all-powerful biblical Creator that ultimately unites Eastern spirituality and evolutionary materialism. Both are manifestations of the same Genesis rebellion. But Eastern spirituality, unlike naturalistic evolution, has the advantage of recognizing a spiritual dimension. It can therefore tickle the human need for spirituality without requiring acceptance of the biblical Creator, or His moral standards.
It also stands in opposition to our need to recognize our own sinfulness and inability to save ourselves before coming to God through Christ. And it makes its appeal through a framework which shares many overlaps with evolutionary theory, even promising to help humanity reach a higher stage of evolution. No wonder Eastern spirituality appeals to so many in our evolutionized culture!
Ultimately, the only way to overcome the toxic fruits of these two ‘trees’ in our society is to acknowledge the root, reject the rebellion, and turn back to the Genesis Creator through the only way available: Jesus Christ.
References and notes
- For examples, see the list of articles at creation.com/qa#Social. Return to text.
- Renshaw, T.L., & Cook, C.R., Introduction to the special issue: Mindfulness in the schools—historical roots, current status and future directions, Psychology in the Schools 54(1):5–12, 2016. Return to text.
- Meiklejohn, J., et al., Integrating mindfulness training into K–12 education: Fostering the resilience of teachers and students, Mindfulness 3(4):291–307, 2012. Return to text.
- Waters, L., Barsky, A., Ridd, A. & Allen, K., Contemplative education: A systematic, evidence-based review of the effect of meditation interventions in schools, Educational Psychology Review 27(1):103–134, 2015. Return to text.
- Mindful Schools website, mindfulschools.org, accessed 4 August 2017. Return to text.
- Jain, A.R., Who is to say modern yoga practitioners have it all wrong? On Hindu origins and yogaphobia, JAAR 82(2):427–471, 2014. Return to text.
- Ramachandran, T., A call to multiple arms! Protesting the commoditization of Hindu imagery in Western society, Material Religion 10(1):54–75, 2014. Return to text.
- Vivekānanda, S. (1896), as cited in Killingley, D. H., Yoga-sūtra IV, 2–3 and Vivekānanda’s interpretation of evolution, Journal of Indian Philosophy 18(2):151–179, 1990. Return to text.
- Sen, K.C. (1882), cited in Killingley, ref. 8. Return to text.
- Brown, C.M., Colonial and post-colonial elaborations of avataric evolutionism, Zygon 42(3):715–747, 2007. Return to text.
- Monier-Williams, M. (1891), cited in Brown, ref. 10. Return to text.
- Another term for materialism; nature is everything, there is no supernatural realm. Return to text.
- Killingley, ref. 8. Return to text.
- Cited in Killingley, ref. 8. Millism refers to the agnostic John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), an influential liberal philosopher. Return to text.
- Newcombe, S., The development of modern yoga: A survey of the field, Religion Compass 3(6):986–1002, 2009. Return to text.
- Brown, ref. 10. Return to text.
- Annie Besant (1847–1933), bbc.co.uk. Return to text.
- Blavatsky, H., The Secret Doctrine, Vol. II: Anthropogenesis, p. 115, 1988, retrieved 29 July 2017 from phx-ult-lodge.org. Return to text.
- Singleton, M., Yoga, eugenics, and spiritual Darwinism in the early twentieth century, International Journal of Hindu Studies 11(2):125–146, 2007 | doi 10.1007/s11407-007-9043-7. Return to text.
- Besant, A. (1927), cited in Singleton, ref. 17. Return to text.
- For more on this, see Wieland, C., One Human Family: the Bible, science, race and culture, Creation Book Publishers, Powder Springs, GA, 2011. Return to text.
- Jain, A., From Counterculture to Counterculture, in Selling Yoga: From counterculture to pop culture, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, pp. 26–27, 2014. Return to text.
- For background to this subject, see creation.com/eugenics. Return to text.
Complete article at –
The Tragedy of Dumbing Down Christianity
I came across this article in Relevant Magazine which caught my attention. The article discusses a subject matter that is truly very relevant to American Christianity – not only today but also in trends that span the last couple of decades in the church.
It is sometimes difficult to find an article of this importance when reading through Relevant Magazine (as with other journals such as Christianity Today). But, it is very encouraging to read this article because it touches on a building block of the faith that in some cases has been weakened or even missing in the church today. If these trends continue, the church tomorrow will move even further from a close walk with the Lord.
For now, let’s just categorize this as discipleship in the church today – is it happening? Is it being implemented effectively? Are Christians growing closer to God as they get to know God’s word?…etc. Instead, what we find more common today is a brand of spirituality that minimalizes the Bible and focuses more on participating in practices that share less from the Bible but instead have more in common with mysticism in the early church and commonly found in Eastern religions today (e.g. Buddhism). Today, one often hears the phrase of getting deeper into the faith – but it is applied to mean engaging in mystical practices with little to no Biblical justification to support it (non-biblical meditation, spiritual formation, contemplative prayer, breathing exercises….etc.). This replaces basic biblical concepts such as discipleship, studying the Bible, participating in Bible study groups, prayer, meditation on God’s word…..etc.
The Tragedy of Dumbing Down Christianity
We need to get deeper into our faith.
The other day I was in a coffee shop in the mountains, seated near the counter. A guy in his early 20s walked in wearing a TOOL shirt and a long ponytail. I could overhear his conversation as he approached the barista and they began chatting. Somehow it came up that she attends a Christian university and he clearly didn’t approve.
“Do they incorporate religion into all the classes there?” he asked. “Even the science classes? How does that work?”
She valiantly began explaining how they pray before every class and teach from a Christian worldview, but it soon became evident that she was being crushed in this conversation. He was well-schooled in the writings of Dawkins, Hitchens and Nye, and began doling out the punishment.
I use the word punishment because this poor barista has herself been punished by a church system which, for the past 200 years, has begun discarding intelligence in favor of emotion, conversion experiences and passion. Ask most American Christians today any question deeper than “Does God love everyone?” and you’re bound to get some sort of response suggesting that that sort of discourse should be reserved for theological universities.
The other day, a friend of mine said he sees no merit in understanding Calvinism or Arminianism because he just wants to love God and love people. And it seems that the ball stops there for most Christians today. No need to know any more than that.
We have replaced rich, robust theology in the Church with emotional music and constant reminders that “God is love and loves you and He’s your personal Savior and loves your soul …” These words are great at bringing outsiders through the doors (because they’re true by and large) but poor at growing believers into mature witnesses with rich understanding of the deep things of God.
I have found the opposite to be very true. I have found that the more I learn about God, His Word and theology which describes Him, the more I can love and worship Him, because now there is that much more to adore and be amazed by. If my ability to worship God is a fire, learning more about Him only adds more wood to the blaze. After all, if you really loved God, wouldn’t you want to learn as much about Him as possible?
Our logic is pretty backward here.
Quite honestly, I’m exhausted by Christians who don’t want to learn more. It’s one thing to not know much about our faith, but another to have no desire to grow.
I’m saddened that atheists are so passionate about what they believe that they will read stacks of books in order to define their beliefs, while we are happy to float along the surface with a “Hillsong-deep theology” and call it good. And we wonder why people are leaving the Church in droves.
A church that offers only emotional, feel-good theology is going to lose the long-term wrestling match to a well-read and convincing atheist nearly every time.
Puritan Cotton Mather wrote, “Ignorance is the Mother not of Devotion but of HERESY” (caps lock his).
The mushy-gushy can only last so long.
Just as a marriage cannot be sustained by the tumble of infatuation, a life of faith cannot be sustained by passionate emotion. Yes, it may be a wonderful (and necessary) entryway, but without depth of knowledge and understanding, it will be “blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:14).
One of my theology professors is so passionate about this issue that he has brought up the same metaphor at least three times this semester. It goes something like this:
Why do people say they want to ‘know God, but not know about Him? That is absolutely ludicrous!
Imagine if I told you, “I love my wife, but I don’t know anything about her.” You could ask me where she was born and I would shrug.
What type of music or food does she like?
I don’t know.
What color are her eyes?
No idea. But I love her.
See how insane that sounds? The more you come to know about someone, the more you are able to love them.
Yet we have no problem floating on the surface of our knowledge of God. And then we wonder why we have such trouble witnessing to others or describing what we believe or why we believe it to others.
J.P. Moreland, in his book Love the Lord Your God With All Your Mind, demonstrates how the Second Great Awakening led to the beginning of emotional preaching and impassioned calls to a quick conversion experience, as opposed to a period of contemplation, learning and discovery of the Christian faith and doctrines. We live in the fallout of that style of thinking. Moreland writes, “The intellectually shallow, theologically illiterate form of Christianity … came to be part of the populist Christian religion that emerged.”
I was fascinated to learn that the Church was once the place where believers came to learn deep theology and robust doctrine, but now that seems to be reserved only for biblical universities. Nowadays anyone can start a church, and as long as it’s engaging and entertaining enough, people will show up. Never mind if it’s true or not (Case in point: The pastor of the largest church in America doesn’t even have a bachelor’s degree, much less a seminary degree and look where that leads.). This all helps me realize why people are seeing less and less need for the Church. After the initial emotion has worn off, what does it really have to offer?
It should not only be pastors, authors and theologians who study what they believe, but all believers. Jesus Himself stated that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind (Luke 10:27), yet we tend to overlook this last one and focus on the heart and soul.
God paints an intense fate for those who neglect to grow in their understanding in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for their lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you.”
So let’s not get destroyed and rejected, eh?
It’s not too late for Christians to learn in their understanding of the holy. It’s not too late to learn the meaning and value of our creeds, doctrines, and systems. There is merit in learning and understanding the deeper parts of our faith and I say we start sooner than later.
If you’re reading this and thinking, Gee, I would love to come to a deeper understanding of God but don’t know where to start, I’ll give a few great starting points here. Additionally, if you’re reading this and thinking, Gee, I don’t really learn that much about the Bible or God at my church, it just kind of hypes me up, it may be time to change that. Begin by talking to your pastor about it before going church shopping.
Here are some books which are very easy to read and introduce us to cursory facets of the Christian faith:
Delighting in The Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith by Michael Reeves
Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
The New Lonely by me
A version of this article appeared on ethanrenoe.com. Used with permission.
(478) 40th ANNIVERSARY OF RICHARD FOSTER’S CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE – Emerging Trends in the Church Today
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!
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.
The 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.]
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:
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.
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 monasteries. THOMAS 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)
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.
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?
(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.
This 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.
“MOORE ON” CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER
Beth Moore, a Southern Baptist who has been a staple in Bible studies for quite some time now among Christian groups. This is especially true
With Evangelical women’s groups that have met to review her many books on prayer, Bible study…..etc. So, I want to respect that and not paint a broad stroke that questions her motives or tears down what may have been beneficial to many people over the years.
The purpose of this posting is to look at specific issues where she crossed a very obvious line by combining practices not found in the Bible and instead having more similarities to other religions. This type of syncretic characteristic may be detrimental if followers are taking their mind off of God’s word and His teaching and instead following after influences not from God. This is true whether they realize they are doing this or not.
In April 2008, she joined up with RICHARD FOSTER, DALLAS WILLARD and other CONTEMPLATIVES on the Be Still DVD. Because of the questions raised regarding her association with the contemplative and mystical nature of the DVD, she issued a retraction. However, soon afterward, she issued a retraction of a retraction. In a statement published on May 26, 2008, Moore’s Living Proof Ministries said: “We believe that once you view the Be Still video you will agree that there is no problem with its expression of Truth”
However, that was quickly discounted since the DVD features RICHARD FOSTER and DALLAS WILLARD. One review stated –
“In the DVD, there are countless enticements, references and comments that clearly show its affinity with contemplative spirituality. For instance, Richard Foster says that anyone can practice CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER and become a ‘portable sanctuary’ for God. This PANENTHEISTIC VIEW of God is very typical for contemplatives. … The underlying theme of the Be Still DVD is that we cannot truly know God or be intimate with Him without contemplative prayer and the state of SILENCE that it produces. While the DVD is vague and lacking in actual instruction on word or phrase REPETITION (which lies at the heart of contemplative prayer), it is really quite misleading.
What they don’t tell you in the DVD is that this state of STILLNESS or SILENCE is, for the most part, achieved through some method such as mantra-like meditation. THE PURPOSE OF THE DVD, IN ESSENCE, IS NOT TO INSTRUCT YOU IN CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER BUT RATHER TO MAKE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HUNGRY FOR IT. The DVD even promises that practicing the silence will heal your family problems. … THIS PROJECT IS AN INFOMERCIAL FOR CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE, and because of the huge advertising campaign that Fox Home Entertainment has launched, contemplative prayer could be potentially introduced into millions of homes around the world. (LHT)
“[On the DVD Moore says], ‘… if we are not STILL before Him [God], we will NEVER truly know to the DEPTHS of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s GOT to be a STILLNESS.’ … [But is] it not true that as believers we come to Him by grace, boldly to His throne, and we call Him our friend? No stillness, no mantra, no breath prayer, no rituals. Our personal relationship with Him is based on His faithfulness and His love and His offer that we have access to Him through the blood of Jesus Christ, and not on the basis of entering an ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS or state of bliss or ecstasy as some call it” (“Beth Moore Gives Thumbs Up to Be Still DVD,”http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/bethmoorethumbsup.htm).
Beth Moore in her book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things (2002), recommends contemplative Roman Catholics Brother Lawrence and Brennan Manning.
Of Manning she says that his contribution to our generation “may be a gift without parallel” (p. 72) and calls Ragamuffin Gospel “one of the most remarkable books” (p. 290). But, there is no warning given to the readers of what is salvation as outlined in the Bible – no clear Gospel message. Manning attends Mass regularly, has questionable views on homosexuality, promotes the use of mantras to create a thoughtless state of silent meditation, he spent six months in ISOLATION in a CAVE and spends eight days each year in silent retreat under the direction of a Dominican nun that he promotes the dangerous practice of VISUALIZATION that he quotes very approvingly from the New Agers such as Beatrice Bruteau and Matthew Fox.
Much of these characteristics come from Eastern Mysticism, New Age, and ancient Roman Catholic mysticism.
=> Contemplative prayer has been around for centuries and it is rooted firmly in Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Centuries ago, Christians in the Eastern hemisphere began to pick up these practices and incorporate them. Contemplative practices, or “disciplines” as they are called, include centering prayers and mantra meditation.
=> “Contemplative prayer is the act of going into the “Silence”. (The term is often capitalized because this is the Silence in which God is supposedly encountered.) It requires shutting your mind down by the use of a favorite word or phrase repeated over and over to shut off your thinking processes. Proponents of this practice claim that once your mind is shut down you will encounter God in the spirit realm. Unlike the meditation referred to by the Psalmist in Psalm 119:15 where he writes, “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways”, this contemplative meditation requires the mind to be shut down to the point of silence. Into this SILENCE God is supposed to speak. Rather than encounter God through His Word, Christians are now seeking something new and more “authentic” by using the Bible passages as mantras in an attempt to experience God in a whole new way. There is great danger here. A brief look at those who revived this practice in the 20th century will tell us why.” (D. Cloud)
Joseph G. Sandman writes in America Magazine,
“Who could have predicted 25 years ago, when three Trappist monks from a monastery in Massachusetts introduced contemplative prayer to a group of “noncontemplatives,” that its popularity would grow so dramatically? Today, thousands of believers from a variety of Christian denominations in every state and in dozens of countries practice contemplative prayer daily. In addition, an international network of dedicated volunteers teaches it around the world.” (America Magazine, 9/9/00)
BIBLICAL MEDIATION versus THE SILENCE:
It is important to understand that Biblical meditation involves reflective thinking on a biblical truth found in God’s word. CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER doesn’t involve thinking – contrary to its title. Rather, an altered state of consciousness is achieved by allowing your mind to go into a state of SILENCE where thoughts are minimized. This is done by repeating MANTRAs that focuses your mind on a word or phrase. Once your mind is not focused on anything else, you begin to open yourself up to whatever enters your mind next. The problem is that you are opening yourself up to any outside influence while mistakenly thinking that you are hearing from God.
So, clearly, Beth Moore is promoting these types of mystical and contemplative practices by associating with modern day mystics and contemplatives such as RICHARD FOSTER, and DALLAS WILLARD along with promoting teachings that include mystical practices such as STILLNESS and THE SILENCE under a category called CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER – all of which are not based on God’s word. While much of her teaching may be beneficial, when one is teaching practices that share more with other religions, it becomes important to not only warn others but to educate them on these specific differences. This was a brief overview of some of the issues involved with Beth Moore’s teachings. We will continue to look at Beth Moore’s teachings in upcoming postings. Also, keep in mind, there is a great deal of background information on other topics discussed in this posting in the archives of this blog (e.g. “the silence”). These can be obtained by doing a search on this site.