“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.”
(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.
Spiritual Direction – Part 1
While there is some degree of variability, there are primarily two forms of spiritual direction: regular direction and retreat direction. They differ largely in the frequency of meeting and in the intensity of reflection.
Regular direction can involve a one- to two-hour meeting every four to eight weeks, and thus is slightly less intense than retreat direction, although spiritual exercises and disciplines are often given for the directee to attempt between meetings.
If the directee is on a retreat (lasting a weekend, a week or even 40 days), he or she will generally meet with his or her director on a daily basis for one hour. During these daily meetings, exercises or spiritual disciplines such as LECTIO DIVINA are given to the directee as fodder to continue his or her spiritual growth. Alternatively, retreat centres often offer direction or companionship to persons visiting the centre alone.
The SPIRITUAL EXERCISES of IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA are a popular example of guidelines used for spiritual direction. (Wikipedia)
MY QUESTION: ‘Where’s the beef?” Are the origins of these traditions coming out of man’s traditions or do they come out of God’s word – the Bible? The reliance on God should be grounded in the Bible. How do you know that the what the Spiritual Director is telling someone is biblical?
Very little is usually mentioned about these issues. This may show the reliance of Roman Catholicism on church authority demonstrated by whatever the Pope, Priest says which are based on human feelings, human thoughts….etc. This is in contrast to the traditional Evangelical approach that relies on the Bible as the source and justification for a practice or belief.
ROMAN CATHOLICISM (Early Western Christianity)
Proponents of SPIRITUAL DIRECTION speak of the NT disciples engaging in mentoring as an example of this practice. The problem with this is trying to force into the Bible a teaching that doesn’t emanate from the Bible (e.g. eisegesis).
This can continue into the early history of the church. Theologian John Cassian who lived in the 4th century provided some of the earliest recorded mentoring guidelines on the Christian practice of spiritual direction. This practice was introduced in the monasteries. It consisted of placing a novice under the care of a more experienced monk. Today, many people have heard of the Rule of Saint Benedict – which are similar guidelines
Spiritual direction is WIDESPREAD in the CATHOLIC religion: a person with wisdom and spiritual discernment, usually but not exclusively a priest or consecrated in general, provides counsel to a person who wishes to make a journey of faith and discovery of God’s will in his life. The spiritual guide aims to discern, understand what the Holy Spirit, through the situations of life, spiritual insights fruit of prayer, reading and meditation on the Bible, tells the person accompanied. The spiritual father or spiritual director may provide advice, give indications of life and prayer, resolving doubts in matters of faith and morals without replacing the choices and decisions to the person accompanying. (Wikipedia)
Pastor Larry DeBruyn for CONTEMPLATIVE SPIRITUALITY:
Spiritual Director: A New Gift from an Ancient Tree.
Alice Fryling says that – “Spiritual direction is a way of companioning people as they seek to look closely, through the eyes of their hearts, at the guidance and transforming work of God in their lives.”  For example, Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941), who in spite of having received “no formal education in the area of MYSTICISM,” yet who became a recognized authority on the subject, became so via “the influence of Baron Friedrich von Hugel [1852-1925], her friend and spiritual director . . .” 
SPIRITUAL DIRECTOR appears to mimic the role of an EASTERN RELIGIOUS GURU who tries to affect the spirituality of others in either one-on-one or small group settings. As Fryling states, “People throughout the Christian church, including those of an evangelical orientation, are experiencing again the gifts that God gives to his people through the loving listening and the gentle guidance of spiritual directors.”  So what is the Bible-believing Christian to think of this so-called gift of a spiritual director?
We should know, first of all, that among the lists of gifts in the New Testament (Romans 12:5-8; 1 Corinthians 12:4-11, 28-31; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Peter 4:9-10), there is no spiritual gift of spiritual director!
Second, the central gifts for the church’s edification are those of “teacher” and “pastor-teacher.” The risen and ascended Christ gave these gifts to the body of Christ so that it might come to, “the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God . . . That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive . . .” (Ephesians 4:11-14). The exercise of these gifts is consistent with the example of Jesus. In the gospels, He was primarily known as, “Teacher” (Matthew 8:19). Too, Jesus commissioned the disciples to make disciples via a two-fold process of “baptizing” and “teaching” them (Matthew 28:19-20). According to Paul’s ministry, the exercise of “the gift of teacher” is consistent with not only Paul’s example, but also with his exhortation to Timothy (1 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Timothy 4:11; 6:2). As distributed by the sovereign Spirit of the ascended and Christ, the spiritual gift designed to bring maturity and unity to the local church is “pastor-teacher,” not “spiritual director.” That is why Fryling must state that, “spiritual direction groups” are an “exciting new branch from an ancient tree . . . a practice that began in the early years of Christianity when people followed the desert mothers and fathers out to the wilderness to ask them how to know God.” 
=> There is no gift of “spiritual director” which is sourced in the Bible and bestowed by the Spirit of the Living Christ.
What is important to the church is not that people, in one-on-one, or in small group sessions, listen to spiritual directors and vice versa–though sharing fellowships have their place in the local church–but that people listen to God, and the emphasis upon listening to one another does not qualify as listening to God, for we are neither God nor gods. As the Lord said to His people through the psalmist, “Oh, that My people would listen to Me, / That Israel would walk in My ways!” (Psalm 81:13) One OT scholar remarks:
To listen . . . has the double force in Hebrew which it sometimes has in English: to pay attention and to obey. So this saying is close to the famous words of Samuel, “to obey (lit. to listen) is better than sacrifice”. 
I fear that the gift of so-called spiritual director is just another guru-gimmick which sources spirituality in religious opinions, teachings, and practices that are utterly foreign to Holy Scripture, and such a source of spirituality will not promote the unity of faith amongst believers, as does the legitimate gift of pastor-teacher, but a diversity of beliefs revealing that all the spiritual directors and listeners are being “tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”
For this usurping of the ministry of pastor-teacher by spiritual directors in local churches, pastors are to blame. By allowing methods to trump the message, they created the spiritual vacuum into which spiritual directors have moved in, and instead of being unified, Christians will become increasingly diversified (and apostate) as pan-evangelicalismism, under the tutelage of spiritual directors, bows before the MYSTICISM of the POSTMODERN culture.
 Emphasis mine, Alice Fryling, “A First Look at Spiritual Direction Groups,” Small Groups.com, Posted 5/11/09.(http://smallgroups.com/articles/2009/firstlookspiritualdirectiongroups.html). This article is no longer posted on the website. See also Alice Fryling, “What Happens in Group Spiritual Direction?” SmallGroups.com, Posted 6/29/09 (http://www.smallgroups.com/articles/2009/whathappensingroupspiritualdirection.html).
 Emphasis Mine, The Very Reverend Alan Jones, “Forward,” Evelyn Underhill, The Life of the Spirit and the Life of Today (San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1949): xii.
 Fryling, “Spiritual Direction Groups.”
 Derek Kidner, A Time to Mourn, and a Time to Dance (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1976): 53.
 “T-groups,” Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T-groups).
The following secular article found in a city newspaper back in 2010 discusses the growth of Spiritual Direction. It states that the practice started with the Roman Catholic church but today we see it growing in the Evangelical Church. This demonstrates how quickly this has spread within the Evangelical Church. It is another avenue for drawing people away from Scripture and relying more so on human influence. Where are the warnings and checks against what the Bible teaches on any subject that may come up from the Spiritual Director? Without them, this type of practice can quickly degenerate into a flow of unbiblical advice that results in steering someone away from God’s will for their life. And, as this becomes more popular, people are desensitized as there is a subtle effect that causes this practices and associated descriptive words and phrases to become more mainstream within the Evangelical Church.
(473) “THOSE WHO BELIEVE IN THE BLOOD OF THE LAMB, THE JIG IS UP” – Emerging Trends in the Church Today
DIANA BUTLER BASS – CHRISTIANITY FOR THE REST OF US
A Pacific Northwest newspaper describes how a local church is changing the way they practices church and view Christianity. These new practices include what can broadly be called a “CONTEMPLATIVE APPROACH”. This was derived from reading DIANA BUTLER BASS – CHRISTIANITY FOR THE REST OF US.
The following article is found at http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=25355
It’s no wonder a church would head in the contemplative
direction if congregants are turning to Butler Bass for spiritual nourishment. You may recall a Lighthouse Trails article in November of 2015 about Diana Butler Bass titled “New Spirituality Teacher Says ‘The Jig is Up’ to Those Who Believe in ‘the Blo
od of the Lamb.’” Bass is a CONTEMPLATIVE proponent, and like so many of her contemplative constituents who wander into the CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER world, her views toward the CROSS and the ATONEMENT have become outright hostile; and those who adhere to the “blood of the lamb” and who cling to the old rugged Cross are seen as an enemy and hindrance to world peace and “restoration.”
Christianity for the Rest of Us is filled with the ideologies of CONTEMPLATIVES, EMERGENTS, and SOCIALIST-like figures such as Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Eddie Gibbs, Marcus Borg, JoanChittister, Parker Palmer, and her “friend” Brian McLaren. A prevailing theme in the book is “SITTING IN SILENCE,” meditation, and contemplation. She says things like:
People need silence to find their way back to interior wisdom. They need a recovery of the contemplative arts of “thinking, meditating, ruminating.” (Kindle Locations 1789-1790).
True knowledge of the self, of love and meaning, comes only in silence. (Kindle Locations 1795-1796).
If this and other churches continue following the same path as Diana Butler Bass, they may also begin to embrace her view that “the jig is up” to those who believe in the “blood of the lamb.” Below is the article we wrote in 2015. If your church is reading books by authors such as Diana Butler Bass, please urge them to reconsider what they are doing.
New Spirituality Teacher Says “The Jig is Up” to Those Who Believe in “the Blood of the Lamb”
Every now and then something come along that presents our case in such a succinct and obvious way that we are compelled to share it with our readers with the hope it will leave no question as to how serious the present situation is with regard to Christianity in the Western world. Religious author Diana Butler Bass, who was one of the speakers at the  Parliament of the World’s Religions in Salt Lake City, has written a book titled Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening. In it, she makes the stunning statement:
Conventional, comforting Christianity has failed. It does not work. For the churches that insist on preaching it, the jig is up. We cannot go back, and we should not want to. . . . In earlier American awakenings, preachers extolled “old-time religion” as the answer to questions about God, morality, and existence. This awakening is different . . . it is not about sawdust trails, mortification of sin [putting to death the old man], and being washed in the blood of the Lamb [the preaching of the Cross – emphasis ours]. The awakening going on around us is not an evangelical revival; it is not returning to the faith of our fathers or re-creating our grandparents church. Instead, it is a Great Returning to ancient understandings of the human quest for the divine. (pp. 36, 99).
Contrast this with 2 Corinthians 5: 18-21, which states:
And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; to wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
It could not be any more clear what’s at stake here. The term “the jig is up” is a slang term that has the connotation of someone being caught at doing something wrong. It has an intrinsically militant tone that is more or less saying “you’re not going to get away with this any longer.” By Butler Bass saying “the jig is up,” there is an underlying implication of a mounting consensus that backs up that statement, such as what Ray Yungen and others we know recently witnessed at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, where 14,000 people attended and where a clear animosity toward biblical Christians was prevalent.
Inside Diana Butler Bass’ book that so openly rejects the Cross and the atonement are the following glowing endorsements of people you have probably heard of:
She’s spot-on prophetic, compelling, and most important, hopeful. —ROB BELL, author of Love Wins
Join her in rebuilding religion from the bottom up!— RICHARD ROHR, O.F.M., Center for Action and Contemplation and author of Falling Upward
She has a good nose to sniff out crappy religion, but she also has the eyes to see new life budding from the compost of Christendom. SHANE CLAIBORNE, mentored by TONY CAMPOLO
Diana Butler Bass has a keen eye for what is happening in the Christian world these days— so keen, she is able to see through the bad news for the good news that is emerging. PARKER PALMER
Bass as one of our foremost commentators on twenty-first century Christianity.—MARCUS BORG
I expect (and hope) that this will be the must-read ‘church book’ for every Christian leader— clergy and lay— for years to come.” —BRIAN D. McLAREN, , author of A New Kind of Christianity and Naked Spirituality
……..What Butler Bass refers to as the “ancient understandings of the human quest for the divine” is what the apostle Paul called the mystery of iniquity. This is where man is deceived by familiar spirits (demons) into believing that man is God.
……..when it comes to the preaching of the Cross, Diana Butler Bass, Marcus Borg, Brian McLaren, Richard Rohr, and Shane Claiborne are wrong. On the contrary to what they believe, the preaching of the Cross DOES work. People ARE reconciled to God when they are washed in the blood of the lamb. In other words, they’re not just wrong, they are terribly tragically wrong.
The complete article can be found at http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=25355
And they [the saints of Jesus Christ] overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. (Revelation 12:11)
LECTIO DIVINA – Part 1
What Is Lectio Divina?
Lectio Divina is Latin for “divine reading,” “spiritual reading,” or “holy reading” and represents a method of prayer and scriptural reading intended to promote communion with God and provide special spiritual insights. The principles of lectio divina were expressed around the year 220 and later practiced by CATHOLIC MONKS, especially the MONASTIC rules of Sts. Pachomius, Augustine, Basil, and Benedict.
The practice of lectio divina is currently very popular among CATHOLICS and GNOSTICS, and is gaining acceptance as an integral part of the devotional practices of the EMERGING CHURCH. Pope Benedict XVI said in a 2005 speech, “I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart.” Lectio is also said to be adaptable for people of other faiths in reading their scripture—whether that be the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, or the Koran. Non-Christians may simply make suitable modifications of the method to accommodate secular traditions. Further, the four principles of lectio divina can also be adapted to the four Jungian psychological principles of sensing, thinking, intuiting, and feeling.
The actual practice of lectio divina begins with a time of relaxation, making oneself comfortable and CLEARING the MIND of mundane thoughts and cares. Some lectio practitioners find it helpful to concentrate by beginning with DEEP CLEANSING BREATHS and REPEATING a chosen phrase or word SEVERAL times to help FREE the MIND.. Then they follow four steps:
Lectio—Reading the Bible passage gently and slowly several times. The passage itself is not as important as the savoring of each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the “still, small voice” of a word or phrase that somehow speaks to the practitioner.
Meditatio—Reflecting on the text of the passage and thinking about how it applies to one’s own life. This is considered to be a very personal reading of the Scripture and very personal application.
Oratio—Responding to the passage by opening the heart to God. This is NOT primarily an INTELLECTUAL exercise, but is thought to be more of the beginning of a CONVERSATION with God.
Contemplatio—Listening to God. This is a FREEING of oneself from one’s own THOUGHTS, both mundane and holy, and hearing God talk to us. Opening the mind, heart, and soul to the influence of God.
Naturally, the connection between Bible reading and prayer is one to be encouraged; they should always go together. However, the dangers inherent in this kind of practice, and its astonishing similarity to TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION and other dangerous rituals, should be carefully considered. It has the potential to become a pursuit of MYSTICAL EXPERIENCE where the goal is to FREE the mind and empower oneself.
The Christian should use the Scriptures to pursue the knowledge of God, wisdom, and holiness through the objective meaning of the text with the aim of transforming the mind according to truth. God said His people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6), not for lack of mystical, personal encounters with Him.
Those who take a supernatural approach to the text tend to disconnect it from its context and natural meaning and use it in a subjective, individualistic, experiential way for which it was never intended. Here is where lectio and GNOSTICISM share a similarity. Christian Gnosticism is the belief that one must have a “gnosis” (from Greek Gnosko, “to know”) or mystical, inner knowledge obtained only after one has been properly initiated. Only a few can possess this mystical knowledge. Naturally, the idea of having special knowledge is very appealing and makes the “knower” feel important and unique in that he/she has a special experience with God that no one else has. The “knower” believes that the masses are not in possession of spiritual knowledge and only the truly “enlightened” can experience God. Thus, the reintroduction of CONTEMPLATIVE or CENTERING PRAYER —a meditative practice that focuses on having a MYSTICAL experience with God—into the Church. Contemplative prayer is similar to the meditative exercises used in EASTERN RELIGIONS and NEW AGE CULTS and has no basis whatsoever in the Bible, although the contemplative pray-ers do use the Bible as a starting point.
Further, the DANGERS inherent in OPENING our MINDS and LISTENING for voices should be obvious. The contemplative pray-ers are so eager to hear something—anything—that they can lose the objectivity needed to discern between God’s voice, their own thoughts, and the infiltration of demons into their minds. Satan and his minions are always eager for inroads into the minds of the unsuspecting, and to open our minds in such ways is to invite disaster. We must never forget that Satan is ever on the prowl, seeking to devour our souls (1 Peter 5:8) and can appear as an angel of light (2Corinthians 11:14), whispering his deception into our open and willing minds.
Finally, the attack on the sufficiency of Scripture is a clear distinctive of lectio divina. Where the Bible claims to be all we need to
live the Christian life (2 Timothy 3:16), lectio’s adherents deny that. Those who practice “conversational” prayers, seeking a special revelation from God, are asking Him to bypass what He has already revealed to mankind, as though He would now renege on all His promises concerning His eternal Word. Psalm 19:7–14 contains the definitive statement about the sufficiency of Scripture. It is “perfect, reviving the soul”; it is “right, rejoicing the heart”; it is “pure, enlightening the eyes”; it is “true” and “righteous altogether”; and it is “more desirable than gold.” If God meant all that He said in this psalm, there is no need for additional revelation, and to ask Him for one is to deny what He has already revealed.
The Old and New Testaments are words from God to be studied, meditated upon, prayed over, and memorized for the knowledge and objective meaning they contain and the authority from God they carry, and not for the mystical experience or feeling of personal power and inner peace they may stimulate. Sound knowledge comes first; then the lasting kind of experience and peace comes as a byproduct of knowing and communing with God rightly. As long as a person takes this view of the Bible and prayer, he/she is engaging in the same kind of meditation and prayer that Bible-believing followers of Christ have always commended.
Got Questions Ministries. (2002–2013). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
CALVIN & MONASTICISM
The scope of monasticism is much greater than I realized. This posting will not cover this topic in any way completely. But there are several perspectives that we will at least move quickly over to expose you to various aspects of monasticism – both historically and renewed interests that we are seeing in Christianity today.
Monastic traditions from Roman Catholicism (RC) with its CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM are showing up in mainstream Evangelical Churches. These trends have been introduced from several sources including popular authors and teachers such as the Quaker mystic RICHARD FOSTER, DALLAS WILLARD, BRENNAN MANNING…etc. Under the guise of SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES and SPIRITUAL FORMATION, a mystical approach to CONTEMPLATIVE MEDITATION that actually initiates an altered state of consciousness that is virtually identical to those practiced in Eastern religions such as ZEN BUDDHISM and the transcendental meditation of HINDUISM. Other popular Evangelicals are participating and leading the charge such as RICK WARREN and KAY WARREN. (K. Silva, John Calvin on Monastic Vows i.e. Spiritual Disciplines)
As we looked at Monasticism, in the previous postings, you may recall that it is primarily an institutionalized religious practice or movement whose members attempt to live by a rule that requires works that go beyond those of either the laity or the ordinary spiritual leaders of their religions. Commonly CELIBATE and universally ASCETIC, the monastic individual separates himself or herself from society either by living as a HERMIT or anchorite (religious recluse) or by joining a COMMUNITY (coenobium) of others who profess similar intentions. First applied to Christian groups in antiquity, the term monasticism is now used to denote similar, though not identical, practices in religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Daoism.
Historically, some people left cities and civilization to go live a life as hermits in seclusion away from people (usually in a desert). This trend began after Constantine made Christianity legal (i.e. no more persecutions). Some early church saints felt that this would soften Christianity and they wanted to show their diligence to God by living a life of solitude that included more ascetic (and mystical) practices to demonstrate their sacrificial duty to God while being on the front lines in confronting Satan. Eventually, even though in isolation for the most part, limited community engagement developed with other monks and local communities and monasteries were established. Early desert communities were in Egypt and parts of the Middle East. Some contact developed with other cultures by being located close to trade routes from the Far East into cities like Alexandria, Egypt. Some belie
ve this may have started interaction between Roman Catholic monks and other monks from Eastern religions. Even today, some common reasons used for this interaction usually include issues such as the common practice of meditation used by those in the East and within Christianity. The reasoning goes something like this – “why not learn off of each other and share traditions associated with meditation?” What developed over time was not necessarily mediation as outlined in the Bible. Biblical meditation includes rational concepts focused on God’s word. Unlike Eastern meditation, which includes more mystical concepts such as emptying your mind of any thoughts.
Characteristics of monastic traditions include CONTEMPLATIVE spirituality, centering prayer, silence & solitude along with other practices including TAIZE, LECTIO DIVINA, CHANTING, TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION, and many forms of what is called CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER. These practices involve clearing out your mind of any thoughts (including thoughts about God) and moving away from rational and objective practices such as studying God’s word and instead relying on more intuitive rationalization experiences that may have no basis in Scripture. In fact, similar practices can be found in EASTERN religions. This may not be by accident since some of the early monastic locations were close to trading routes through areas such as Egypt and the city of Alexandria. At these important waypoints, there were interaction and trade between those from the East and those from the West. The ultimate goal of these mystical traditions is to grow in INTIMACY with God by being unified with Him. This mystical approach is said by these proponents to be inside each of us throughout the world. A natural outcome of this type of INTUITIVE path is UNIVERSALISM.
Some of these practices have been seeping into the Evangelical Church more recently as Christians seemingly are excited to try the latest popular trends working its way through Christian groups.
Some basic questions need to be asked. First, when Christians follow after these monastic practices, what basis from Scripture are they using to justify their use? Why are some Evangelicals seeking to add practices historically associated with Roman Catholicism to their own practices? What are some of the dangers involved in doing so?
Historically, let’s look now at how some of the Reformers viewed monasticism.
(A.) JOHN CALVIN made mention of these monastic characteristics as practiced by monks in the RC Church. Take note of the type of language used in describing this monastic practice –
“IT is indeed deplorable that the Church, whose freedom was purchased by the inestimable price of Christ’s blood, should have been thus oppressed by a cruel tyranny, and almost buried under a huge mass of TRADITIONS; but, at the same time, the private infatuation of each individual shows, that not without just cause has so much power been given from above to Satan and his ministers.
MONKS place the principal part of their holiness in idleness. For if you take away their idleness, where will that CONTEMPLATIVE LIFE by which they glory that they excel all others, and make a near approach to the angels?… [I]nstead of Christians, we hear some called BENEDICTINES, others Franciscans, others Dominicans, and so called, that while they affect to be distinguished from the common body of Christians, they proudly substitute these names for a religious profession…
This much is certain, that there is no order of men more polluted by all kinds of vicious turpitude; nowhere do faction, hatred, party-spirit, and intrigue, more prevail… It is fine to philosophise in SECLUSION, far away from the intercourse of society; but it ill accords with Christian meekness for any one, as if in hatred of the human race, to fly to the wilderness and to SOLITUDE, and at the same time desert the duties which the Lord has especially commanded.
Were we to grant that there was nothing worse in that profession, there is certainly no small evil in its having introduced a useless and perilous example into the Church. Now, then, let us see the nature of the vows by which the MONKS of the present day are initiated into this famous order. First, as their intention is to institute a NEW and FICTITIOUS WORSHIP with a view to GAIN FAVOUR with God, I conclude from what has been said above, that everything which they vow is abomination to God.
Secondly, I hold that as they frame their own mode of life at pleasure, without any regard to the calling of God, or to his approbation, the attempt is rash and unlawful; because their conscience has no ground on which it can support itself before God; and “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Rom. 14:23).
Moreover, I maintain that in astricting themselves to many perverse and impious modes of worship, such as are exhibited in MODERN MONASTICISM, they consecrate themselves not to God but to the devil. For why should the prophets have been permitted to say that the Israelites sacrificed their sons to devils and not to God (Deut. 32:17; Ps. 106:37), merely because they had corrupted the true worship of God by profane ceremonies; and we not be permitted to say the same thing of MONKS who, along with the cowl, cover themselves with the net of a thousand impious SUPERSTITIONS? (http://www.biblestudytools.com/history/calvin-institutes-christianity/book4/chapter-13.html)
(B.) SCRIPTURE’S WARNINGS
Let’s take a look at a few verses from the Bible. As Evangelicals include monastic characteristics such as silence, solitude, asceticism….etc., it is not uncommon that leaders, pastors, seminary professors….etc., to step out further and spend times of seclusion and solitude at the local monastery. Spending time alone in MONASTERIES is for periods of isolated prayer and developing greater intimacy with God. What is concerning is that even though these times are promoted as being in isolation, it is not uncommon to hear stories of these leaders spending time with monks from the monastery learning more about contemplative practices.
23 These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:23 ESV)
There is so much in Colossians 2 that identifies our fullness can only be found in Christ plus nothing else. It will be well worth your time to read all of Colossians 2. With Roman Catholicism (RC), there are several requirements put upon man in order to achieve salvation. Some of these include examples such as ASCETICISM – which brings to mind an image of monks living a life of sacrifice, servitude, and works based motivation for gaining God’s grace.
The Colossian church was exposed to teaching that said that Christians need Christ plus other things. Colossians 2, states – It was these “other things” which elevates you. When you read all of Colossians 2, Paul identifies several of these other things:
- Christ plus PHILOSOPHY – added human wisdom to the reality of Christ.
- Today, that equates to a body of beliefs and practices commonly found in LIBERALISM, NEO-ORTHODOXY, MODERNISM. (John MacArthur)
- It starts out with Christ, but it’s Christ plus human wisdom, human reason, human logic, human philosophy….etc.
- Paul warns them in Colossians 2:8 – “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world”
=> BUT, our fullness is in Christ. Christ is sufficient. We should not let anyone say you must have Christ plus their philosophy, or perform in an ascetic manner to earn God’s favor.
- You not only needed Christ plus human wisdom to be spiritual, but you needed Christ plus legalism. Verse 16, he says again, “Let no man therefore judge you in food or drink or in respect of a feast day, a new moon, or a Sabbath.” Don’t let anybody determine how spiritual you are by the number of rituals you keep
- => In other words, don’t let anybody evaluate your spirituality on the basis of the RITUALS that you keep because, in verse 17, “Those are a shadow of the things to come, but that which is to come is Christ and He is here.” So it isn’t Christ plus philosophy, and it isn’t Christ plus legalism.
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through PHILOSOPHY and EMPTY DECEIT, according to the TRADITION OF MEN, according to the BASIC PRINCIPLES of the WORLD, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)
- Thirdly, Colossian church were saying that it was Christ plus MYSTICAL experiences – MYSTICISM. Look at verse 18. He further says, “Don’t let these false teachers beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility –“ it really means a false humility “ – that comes from worshiping angels and having visions.” Now, the Greek text says, “…intruding into things which he ‘hath’ seen.” The word “not” should not be there.
And then, he says there’s even ASCETICISM – asceticism being self-denial, a MONASTIC kind of life, a MONASTIC kind of life, going into a hermit existence, and he talks about that from verse 20 to 23, the people, the kind of earthly religion, “the rudiments of the world,” again, that same phrase, meaning the basics of human religion which say, “Touch not; taste not; handle not,” and it goes on to talk about the fact that you neglect the body at the end of verse 23, and so forth.
And here is like flagellation, and anything you do to deprive your body, this is asceticism, monkish kind of life, monastic, self-denial, deprivation. But the point is this: There have always been, since Colossians 2, and all through the church, and there always will be, people who want to say that having Jesus Christ through His marvelous act of salvation is not enough. You’ve got to do “this” to get it all.
A look into the future trends –
(C.) THE NEW MONASTICISM
George Grant states that –
By the thirteenth century, the West’s idealistic wars against a fearsome Islamic threat had failed ignobly; its stagnating economy had cast a pall of depression across the once prosperous and thriving land; its national and political leaders revealed in pomp, circumstance, and internecine rivalry while their subjects cowered in poverty, fear, and injustice; and the church’s spiritual authority was marred by the flaming vices of perversity, carnality, and avarice. No wonder, then, that even the most pious men tended to press into brash, adventurous superstition or retreat into timid, monkish isolation.
Sound familiar? It should. High medievalism, for all its obvious differences, is so like our present circumstances that historian Margaret Tuchman’s famous description, “A Distant Mirror,” may be more apt than ever. Indeed, the rise of a “New Monastic Movement” among young, urban, evangelical hipsters in recent days is a reminder to us that we are not so different from our barely remembered ancestors as we might suppose. But as understandable as this impulse to run for cover in this time of uncertainty, distrust, and crumbling cultural stability might be, it is hardly a Scriptural response.
A genuinely integrated Christian view regarding life and work must be cognizant of both perspectives regarding the world—and treat them with equal weight. It must be engaged in the world. It must be unengaged in worldliness. It must somehow correlate spiritual concerns with temporal concerns. It must coalesce heavenly hope and landed life. It must coordinate heartfelt faith and down-to-earth practice.
The only way we can do that is to bring our faith right into the thick of our mess of a world. As appealing as a retreat into some monastic sanctuary might seem to us during these wearying days in which we live, it is hardly a biblical alternative. And while there are innumerable commendable aspects of the “New Monastic Movement”—including concern for justice issues, care for the poor, sacrificial stewardship, and covenant community—its high ideals are best pursued as we engage the world, as we “go … and MAKE DISCIPLES of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [he has] commanded [us]” (Matt. 28:19–20).
For nearly two millennia, many Christians have chosen to express their piety through ascetic living. Though the roots of monasticism existed long before, the sixth-century monk Benedict of Nursia is considered to be the founding father of the medieval monastic movements. Benedict’s charter, known as the Benedictine Rule, outlined key principles of holiness and self-denial for communities of monks and nuns who were committed to the values of poverty, chastity, and obedience to God. However, later generations did not always show the same degree of commitment and devotion as their predecessors. In response, certain influential leaders responded to corruption and decline by calling for a return to Benedict’s rigid standards. While returning to the rigor of the past, these leaders also envisioned new ways for monks to carry out their mission within a changing world.
The New Monks
John Caddock in Brennan Manning’s “New Monks” & Their Dangerous Contemplative Monasticismstates states that
…..in The Signature of Jesus, Brennan Manning quotes Catholic saints, medieval mystics, and monks, including Charles de Foucauld, Francis De Sales, Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila, and Catherine of Siena. The most frequently cited sources are part of the community of Roman Catholic clergy who are instrumental in promoting modern contemplative spirituality: THOMAS MERTON, Anthony De Mello, William Shannon, HENRI NOUWEN, Peter Van Breemen, William Reiser, David Steindl-Rast, and BASIL PENNINGTON. Although the word contemplation brings to mind a monastic life dedicated to pence and cloistered within the walls of the monastery, not so with these New Monks.
The New Monks critique the current state of Christianity by arguing that since God is holy and is a “wholly other,” He cannot be defined by systems of doctrine. They maintain that western rationalism has crushed the knowledge of God and that we must return to a more intuitively received knowledge. We must move beyond the intellect, beyond doctrine, and beyond words to a DEEPER union with God. Their writings contain rather complex discussions on the nature of being and share common themes of universality, mystical union with God through contemplation (wordless “prayer”), social justice, and non-violence.
The New Monks maintain that ALL RELIGIONS should immerse themselves in the MYTHS of their TRADITIONS because there is power in the “collective unconscious” of the TRADITION to shape the EXPERIENCE of its followers. So, for the New Monk, the use of biblical language has great power within the Christian tradition. For example, the call to salvation is actually a call to a transformation of consciousness to be psychologically awakened to the UNITY and ONENESS of ALL CREATION. For the New Monks, all religions at their deepest mystical level use myth and symbol to say the same thing.
The New Monks believe we are born into a DUALITY between self (the ego) and ONENESS (being). The ego is driven by fear of death and alienation and is the source of all suffering and woundedness. The fall, a mythical story, has a deeper more “universal truth,” which is intended to shed light on present human experience. We have fallen from oneness and harmony of paradise into alienation and a sense of separation. We must simply realize that the gulf that appears to separate “sinful” humanity from a righteous God has never existed; we are and always have been one with God. For the New Monks, this is God’s unconditional love and grace.
THOMAS MERTON, who is frequently cited by Manning, is the forerunner of the New Monks. Having accepted so much of the new theology, Merton remained involved in the Roman Catholic Church only by a thin affirmation of a God in Nature and a reverence for tradition. He popularized JUNGIAN Psychotherapy in his writings about spiritual healing, agreeing with Jung’s mythic perspective of biblical doctrines.
Merton traveled to Asia on a quest to redefine what being a monk entailed and found it in Buddhist and Hindu teachings. There he discovered great similarities between monastic contemplation and Eastern meditation and determined that they were both in touch with the same mystical source. He felt the emphasis on experience and inner transformation rather than doctrine would be the ecumenical meeting place between East and West.
Merton advocated moving the practice of contemplation from its marginal state of use by only the Catholic monks behind the cloistered walls to a broader use by the common man. Dedicated to civil rights, antiwar, and liberationist activism, he came to call his fellow activists “true monks.” In The Signature of Jesus, Manning precisely echoes the themes of contemplative spirituality. It appears his intention was to bring to Protestants what Thomas Merton brought to many Roman Catholics.
Legalism and the Conscience: 1 John 2:1-2
Legalism is best disguised when it takes up residence in our consciences. From there it can taunt us, urging us to do better and try harder in our feeble fallen existence.
Such guilt-riddled consciences long to be soothed. Invariably, false religion steps into that void, offering a system of works. Man-made religions are particularly appealing to burdened sinners desperate to silence the cries of their consciences.
Roman Catholicism is a great example. We’ve already pointed out their codified denials of salvation by grace alone. On top of that, however, Catholic dogma also affirms works- righteousness through their doctrine of penance:
Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must “make satisfaction for” or “expiate” his sins. This satisfaction is also called “penance.”  Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 1459.
In his book, The Gospel According to Rome, James McCarthy explains how penance is implemented and enforced among Roman Catholics: “To assist the person in making reparation for his sin, the priest imposes an act of penance. It is selected to be ‘in keeping with the nature of the crimes and the ability of the penitents.’”  James G. McCarthy, The Gospel According to Rome (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1995), 79. Prior to his conversion, Martin Luther was deemed by his Catholic peers to be a penitent with a lot of “ability.” As a result, he suffered egregiously under the weight of Roman Catholic penance.
Professing Protestants, Practicing Catholics (www.gtw.org)
All true Protestants gladly join with Martin Luther in proclaiming the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ—completely apart from any human effort. Even so, the harsh practices of his former monastery often linger in our cloistered consciences.
To be sure, most Christians find the Catholic doctrine of penance to be abhorrent. Nonetheless, many are inwardly self-flagellated by their guilt-riddled consciences. They know their right standing with God hinges on Christ’s atoning work, yet still consider it to be a fragile reconciliation—one that’s on a perpetual knife edge. God may have adopted them as His children, but they still live in constant fear of being disowned if they commit a big enough sin. For this reason, many churches are full of Protestants who think and act like Catholics.
It may have been imperceptible to my Christian friends, but my mind was racked with legalistic guilt and fear. Worse still, I actually thought my mental penance demonstrated great humility and righteousness. But living under that kind of pressure isn’t a form of piety, nor does it reflect a low view of self. Rather, it reveals unbelief concerning God’s Word and a low view of Christ in His role as our heavenly Advocate:
Travis Allen writes in an article, Brothers, We are Not Monks –
Any sane person would consider the monastic life to be something like a prison sentence. But busy pastors often straddle the line of sanity—to them, a monastery can sound like a five-star getaway. Quiet. Reading. Study. Contemplation. Meditation. Routine. Predictability. Compared to some of the inglorious and often thankless work of shepherding people, taking the monk’s cowl can seem pretty appealing.
The problem is, it’s just a bit unrealistic. More within reach is to find a better, more acceptable, even admirable way to “retreat into the monastery.” Some pastors want to follow a different “leading of the Lord”—take on more oversight, join a leadership think tank, teach courses at a college or seminary, write articles and books, ascend to a ministry of “wider influence”—almost anything is preferable to the nitty-gritty of pastoral work.
None of that is necessarily wrong. Some pastors are doing those things in addition to shepherding the flock of God. They work hard and ought to be honored for it. On the other hand, some men need to get out of pastoral ministry. They simply don’t belong there in the first place.
But it’s important to recognize that pastoral ministry, theology, and practical Christian growth must be connected to the local church. If it’s disconnected from the local church—divorced from shepherding the flock of God—then it’s not God’s design for the edification and growth of Christ’s church. Monasteries, in whatever form, are not part of the plan.
What is part of the plan is the regular, routine, mundane stuff of life lived, raw and honest, with other believers in the context of the local church. The plan has to do with the joys and sorrows, the pleasures and pains, of normal human relationships.
Our theology—our study of God—teaches us never to be remote or aloof; we are to be intimately connected to the day-to-day lives of other people. We are to bring our theology out of the neat, clean, sterile environment of a classroom, and into the gritty, messy, real work of shepherding sheep. No room for that in a monastic cell.
Just look at Jesus. John 1:14-18 says Jesus tabernacled among us in full humanity to make the Father known to us (i.e., to teach us theology proper). Though He is our “great high priest who has passed through the heavens” (Hebrews 4:14), He didn’t teach us about God from that lofty vantage. He came close enough “to sympathize with our weaknesses,” to be “tempted in all things as we are” (“yet without sin,” Hebrews 4:15). That’s the stuff of pastoral ministry, taught by “the Chief Shepherd” Himself (1 Peter 5:4).
From a practical perspective on monasticism, one must also raise the question about Roman Catholicism priesthood in general. Several problems come to mind:
- Living a life of solitude – is it biblical?
- Restricting oneself from marriage – is that healthy over the long-term?
- Have a works-based focus instead of a focus on God’s grace.
This posting won’t do this topic justice – so many more issues could be included. But let me conclude with several questions that come to mind.
- EVANGELICALS, why are we reverting back to a monastic spirituality that focuses on items that don’t reflect who we are as born-again Christians? They don’t reflect the freedom and liberty we have in Christ by God’s GRACE. We are introducing TRADITIONS, following after ICONS, engaging in practices that have their foundation in MYSTICISM and early ROMAN CATHOLICISM.
- While a respect for the reverence of certain aspects of our faith may be noble, following after TRADITIONS, MAN-MADE THEOLOGY and MYSTICAL CHURCH PRACTICES such as LECTIO DIVINA, SPIRITUAL FORMATION, ASH WEDNESDAY observance, STATIONS OF THE CROSS, MYSTICAL MEDITATION which shares little from Scripture and yet shares more from Eastern Mysticism.
- Many Evangelical Christians specifically LEFT Roman Catholicism for exactly these same reasons.
=> The further we move from the Bible, the easier it is for error to creep into the Church.