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(461) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: THOMAS KEATING – CONTEMPLATIVE & CENTERING PRAYER

THOMAS KEATING – CONTEMPLATIVE & CENTERING PRAYER

How did it become popular today inside the church for Christians to follow after Eastern Mysticism and New Age beliefs?  The following events had an important effect on the church.   See if you think that the Bible supports these views as presented by Thomas Keating – 

Trappist Fr. Thomas Keating, a global figure in both interreligious dialogue and Christian contemplative prayer, has died on October 25 at the age of 95.

Keating was one of the chief architects of what is now known as CENTERING PRAYER.

He was well known internationally through his extensive writing, lecturing and teaching on the contemporary practice of MEDITATIVE PRAYER and on INTERFAITH discourse, 

The Dalai Lama and Trappist Fr. Thomas Keating in 1991 (NCR file photo)The Dalai Lama and Trappist Fr. Thomas Keating in 1991 (NCR file photo)

A statement from Contemplative Outreach, the international organization co-founded by Keating, said, “It is with deep sorrow that we share the news of the passing of our beloved teacher and spiritual father.”

“He modeled for us the incredible riches and humility borne of a divine relationship that is not only possible but is already the fact in every human being,” the statement said.

During his freshman year at Yale, Keating was increasingly drawn to church history and the writings of its mystics. Keating was “mesmerized” with the monastic life and entered a strict Trappist community in 1944. He was ordained a priest in 1949.

 

Recovering Christian contemplative prayer

Largely in response to the 1962-65 Second Vatican Council’s call to religious orders for renewal, Keating and fellow Cistercian monks William Meninger and the late Basil Pennington (1931-2005), worked together in the 1970s to develop a CONTEMPLATIVE prayer method that drew on ANCIENT traditions but would be readily accessible to the modern world.

Keating’s observation that many, notably younger persons, were being attracted to EASTERN MEDITATION practices helped spur his work to recover Christian CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER.

In-house issues and the contemplative work — focused on understanding SILENCE as the language of God — reportedly created some uneasiness within the Spencer Trappist community. Some have described it as tension between MONASTIC ASCETICISM and CONTEMPLATION. 

With the growing popularity of CENTERING PRAYER, Keating led retreats and workshops worldwide which eventually developed into various organizations.  Out of that grew Contemplative Outreach Ltd., officially incorporated in 1986. Its website describes the network as consolidating “the three monks’ experiment.”

Today, the organization’s website reports that Contemplative Outreach:

  • Annually serves more 40,000 people;
  • Supports more than 90 active contemplative chapters in 39 countries;
  • Nurtures some 800 prayer groups;
  • Teaches more than 15,000 people centering prayer and other contemplative practices through local workshops;
  • “Provides training and resources to local chapters and volunteers.”

In the Keating documentary, Fitzpatrick-Hopler says that, “within a few sentences,” Keating “brought all my Eastern experience and my Catholic upbringing together all at once, and I recognized him as my teacher. It was almost not so much about what he said but just about who he is, and his presence. And he could just bring it together in such a way that meant something to me very, very deeply. … Something really resonated.”


Speaking in the documentary, Keating provides an insight into his overall sense of the divine.

“The gift of God is absolutely gratuitous,” he said. “It’s not something you earn. It’s something that’s there. It’s something you just have to accept. This is the gift that has been given. There’s no place to go to get it. There’s no place you can go to avoid it. It just is. It’s part of our very existence. And so the purpose of ALL the great religions is to bring us into this relationship with reality that is so intimate that no words can possibly describe it.”

Keating has teamed up with speaking engagements with other well-known religious leaders including the Dalai Lama and Ken Wilber. 

Another popular author/speaker, Richard Rohr has said:

“In my lifetime there are few priests or teachers who have both exemplified and taught an actual transformative spirituality as well as Thomas Keating.”

“He combined good theology with good psychology without compromising either of them,” added Rohr. “We were personal friends and I will miss his company here in nearby Snowmass, but we will still have his love — and his books, which will always remain as spiritual classics.”

Centering prayer draws its name from a reference in a Thomas Merton text.  The centering prayer movement has grown in popularity among various denominations.  In the Evangelical Church, both Pennington and Keating have been very influential in promoting centering prayer.

BASIL PENNINGTON (1931-2005) entered the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance in 1951 at St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. This Order is also called Trappist after the name of the location of their founding, which was the Abbey of Notre Dame de la Grande Trappe.

The Order is dedicated to CONTEMPLATION.  The monks dedicate themselves to SILENCE and SOLITUDE and meditation under the RULE OF SAINT BENEDICT. 

This Rule teaches salvation and sanctification through asceticism. Chapter 7 of the Rule presents a 12-step ladder of virtue and asceticism that “leads to heaven.” These include repression of self-will, submission to superiors, confession, stifling laughter, and speaking only when asked a question. Under the Rule of Benedict everything is regulated, including sleeping, waking, meal times, quantity and quality of food, clothing, work, and recreation. The Rule forbids the ownership of any private property or the receipt of letters or gifts without permission of the abbot. 

Pennington was a UNIVERSALIST who taught that man SHARES God’s divine nature. 

“We are united with everybody else in our human nature and in our SHARING OF A DIVINE NATURE, so we are never really alone, we have all this union and communion. Getting in touch with that reality is the greatest healing. We can adopt meditative practices which enable us to begin that journey of finding our true inner selves or transcending our separate selves and leave behind some of the pain and suffering” (Interview with Mary NurrieStearns)

Pennington used language that included words such as ALL, SAME, UNITY, ONE…etc., when describing the meditative practices of all religions  which can bring one into the experience of the same God:

“It is my sense, from having meditated with persons from many different [non-Christian] traditions, that in the silence we experience a deep unity. When we go beyond the portals of the rational mind into the experience, there is only one God to be experienced” (Pennington, Centered Living, p. 192).

At an abbey at St. Joseph, the centering prayer movement began in the 1970s.  On a similar note, Richard Foster released the first edition of CELEBRATION OF DISCIPLINE in 1978.  Foster introduced Evangelical Christianity to this type of mystical and contemplative approach to faith.  Trappist monk William Meninger found a “dusty copy” of The Cloud of Unknowing, and he and Keating and Pennington began developing a system of contemplation based on that as well as the writings of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila

Observing that this type of Catholic contemplation is very similar to that of Buddhist and Hindu mystics, they invited pagan meditation masters, including Zen Buddhist Roshi Sasaki, to teach at some of the retreats. 

Keating combines contemplative practices with humanistic psychology, eastern religion, and New Age, and he has been deeply influenced by his pagan associations. 

He believes that man has a “false self” built up through one’s life experiences and this false self is filled with guilt because of a false sense of sin and separation from God. The guilt supposedly is not real and the false self is “an illusion.” The objective of contemplative techniques is to reach beyond this false self to the true self that is sinless and guiltless and already in union with God

This is a UNIVERSALISTIC teaching that denies the fall and salvation through faith in the substitutionary atonement of Christ.

Keating says:

“As we evolve toward self-identity and full self-consciousness, so grows the sense of responsibility, and hence guilt, and so grows the sense of alienation from the true self which has long ago been forgotten in the course of the early growth period. This whole process of growth normally takes place without the inner experience of the divine presence. That is the crucial source of the false self. … THERE’S NOTHING BASICALLY WRONG WITH YOU, it’s just that YOUR BASIC GOODNESS has been overlaid by emotional programs for happiness which are aimed at things other than the ultimate happiness which is your relationship with God” (Keating interview with Kate Olson, “Centering Prayer as Divine Therapy,” Trinity News, Trinity Church in the City, New York City, volume 42, issue 4, 1995).

A Roman Catholic reference describes Keating’s thoughtless meditative prayer in Hindu terms as being united with God in a mindless experience.

Contemplative prayer is the opening of mind and heart, our whole being, to God, the Ultimate Mystery, BEYOND THOUGHTS, WORDS, AND EMOTIONS. It is a process of interior purification THAT LEADS, IF WE CONSENT, TO DIVINE UNION” (Keating interview with Kate Olson, “Centering Prayer as Divine Therapy,” Trinity News, Trinity Church in the City, New York City, volume 42, issue 4, 1995).

Keating describes centering prayer is “a journey into the unknown” (Open Mind, Open Heart, p. 72). 

Keating wrote the foreword to Philip St. Romain’s book Kundalini Energy and Christian Spirituality (1990). Keating says,

 

“Kundalini is an enormous energy for good,” but also admits that it can be harmful. 

This get’s a bit weird real fast.  He postulates that the meditative prayer practices of Catholic mystics such as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross might have been associated with kundalini energy. Keating concludes by saying: “This book will initiate Christians on the spiritual journey into this important but long neglected dimension of the transforming power of grace.”  Transformative – really?  Who is doing the transforming?  

Kundalini is a Hindu concept which says that there is powerful form of psychic energy at the base of the spine that can be “awakened.” It is called the serpent – sounds occultic? 

An important point to keep in mind – its own practitioners warn repeatedly about its dangers. The Ayurveda Encyclopedia says, “Those who awaken their kundalini without a guru can lose their direction in life … they can become confused or mentally imbalanced … more harm than good can arise” (p. 336). The book Aghora II: Kundalini warns many times that “indiscriminate awakening of the Kundalini is very dangerous” (p. 61). It says: “Once aroused and unboxed Kundalini is not ‘derousable’; the genie will not fit back into the bottle. … Those who ride Kundalini without knowing their destination risk losing their way” (p. 20). In fact, the book says “some die of shock when Kundalini is awakened, and others become severely ill” (p. 61). It is likened to a toddler grasping a live wire (p. 58).

Keating published eight “Guidelines for Interreligious Understanding,” including the following.  Consider what a biblical response would be to the following guidelines – 

* The world religions bear witness to the experience of Ultimate reality to which they give various names: Brahman, Allah, Absolute, God, Great Spirit.

* Ultimate Reality cannot be limited to any name or concept.

* The potential for human wholeness–or in other frames of reference, enlightenment, salvation, transformation, blessedness, nirvana–is present in every human person.

* Prayer is communion with Ultimate Reality, whether it is regarded as personal, impersonal or beyond them both

This is UNIVERSALISM, and it is birthed out of contemplative spirituality and interfaith dialogue.

Beginning in 1982 exchanges took place between Catholic and Buddhist monks and nuns. The Buddhists visit Catholic monasteries in North America, while the Catholics visit Buddhist monasteries in Asia. This was done with the approval of the Dalai Lama, who was approached in 1981 while he was participating in a Buddhist-Catholic interfaith symposium at the Naropa Buddhist Institute in Boulder, Colorado. David Steindl-Rast and Thomas Keating also participated in the symposium. When the Catholics asked the Dalai Lama if he and his monks would be willing to participate, he replied, “Yes, but I have no money” (Pascaline Coff, Ibid.). The Catholics volunteered to pay the expenses, and the exchanges began the following year. 

 

CONCLUSIONS: 

Contemplative and Centering Prayer has become popular today in the Evangelical Church. Is this a good thing?

Today, in the church, phrases such as contemplative prayer, spiritual disciplines, meditation (non-biblical), spiritual formation,….etc., have a history that traces back, in recent times, to what Thomas Keating began in the 1970s. But, there are aspects of this that go back into the early church with early Roman Catholic mysticism. That doesn’t justify it and actually, there is little in the Bible that lines up with some of these practices.

Yet, there are many similarities between these and New Age practices and Eastern Mysticism. Eastern religions (e.g. Buddhism) had a big influence on Thomas Keating. And it still influences the practices today. References for this material include Roman Catholic information showing how the RC Church exchanged meetings (and still do) with monks from other mystical religions (e.g. Buddhism) and share ideas, practices, teachings….etc. on contemplative meditation and similar practices.

Today, Evangelical seminaries are following suit with retreats being held by professors and their students onsite at a RC abbey or monastery. In addition to times of SILENCE & SOLITUDE, there are interactions with monks. The Evangelical Church & seminaries are training the next generation of pastors and church leaders with influences that come from these types of Eastern perspectives – a contemplative, meditative practice which includes times of SILENCE and SOLITUDE.

The Bible says several things warning us of the influence of unbiblical religions and practices that follow after these other faiths. However, today, the influence is subtle and it is sweeping through the church.  

When one researches the history of contemplative prayer and various mystical practices in the churches today, much of it leads back to interactions between Roman Catholic monastic communities and Eastern religions. It gets difficult to justify any carry-over into the Christian faith with origins of these items not coming from Scripture. The deception is real and the path comes from outside of the Christian faith.

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(456) SPIRITUAL FORMATION – EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY.

Spiritual Formation

Another view of Spiritual Formation using a basic resource that anyone could view themselves – From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The attempt here is to use a more general, not necessarily one-sided definition and review of the topic of Spiritual Formation (SF).  Yes, we should always be careful about relying on Wikipedia because it has a reputation for some bias, error, false statements….etc. at times.  But, generally speaking, it can be a good way to start out researching a topic and traveling down various references included in their articles. 

With several previous articles on SF on this blog, we have already looked at more detailed definitions and explanations of the topic.  This is just to bring in a middle of the road view. 

Don’t be surprised how much of these writings sound good to your ears as you read through this.  But, read it again and then take notice of several concerns about this topic (from an Evangelical Protestant perspective).  There are portions that are in bold to stand out with regard to these issues.  Hopefully, one can start to understand if these practices come from God’s word or man’s tradition.  
  1. Do you think the biblical references given are referring to SF?  
  2. How many of the DISCIPLINES listed come from the Bible?
  3. What is the origin of SF?  Do you see the direct ties to Roman Catholicism? New Age? Mysticism? Historical ancient teachings? Psychology and Philosophy...etc.
    • Words used to show these types of teachings include a focus on the deep, inner world, intimacy, and union with God in this internal perspective,…etc.
  4. In the history of the Protestant Church, would you consider SF a more recent trend or one long established since the Reformation?

Keep in mind, there is much more background information that could be added to this article explaining in more detail specific issues relating to Roman Catholic teachings, mysticism, philosophy as well as biblical views on these subjects,…etc.  This is just a general article.  

Some previous blog posts on Spiritual Formation:

=> Wikipedia article:

Spiritual formation may refer either to the process and practices by which a person may progress in one’s spiritual or religious life or to a movement in Protestant Christianity that emphasizes these processes and practices. It may include, but is not limited to,

  • Specific techniques of prayer and meditation[1][page needed]
  • A focus on spiritual disciplines and practices[2][page needed]
  • Reference to historical religious philosophy and techniques[3]

Many authors[who?] have attempted to define spiritual formation. Christian religious writers and institutions have differing definitions due to their various conceptions of it. Some authors suggest that it is discovery of “leadings of the heart,”[4] renewal of the mind (sanctification),[5] walking in the spirit,[6] or a type of character formation.[7] In Care of Mind, Care of Spirit, psychiatrist Gerald G. May offers, “Spiritual formation is a rather general term referring to all attempts, means, instruction, and disciplines intended towards deepening of faith and furtherance of spiritual growth. It includes educational endeavors as well as the more intimate and in-depth process of spiritual direction.”[8]

Christianity[edit]

Christian spiritual formation is often understood as a long-term process in which a believer desires to become a disciple of Jesus and become more like him. This process requires engagement of various sorts by the individual and religious community but is enacted and guided by the Holy Spirit. Dallas Willard wrote that “spiritual formation for the Christian basically refers to the Spirit-driven process of forming the inner world of the human self in such a way that it becomes like the inner being of Christ himself.”[9]

Approaches to Spiritual Formation[edit]

Formal Study[edit]

Informal study[edit]

Community/church involvement[edit]

  • Corporate worship
  • Volunteer service
  • Activism

Practice of religious exercises[edit]

Ordinary experiences of everyday life[edit]

  • Work and play
  • Family life

Leadership[edit]

Some people regard leadership development as a process of spiritual formation.[citation needed] Building on the emphasis of Christian spiritual formation in leaders, leadershipexpert Timothy H. Warneka wrote:

Today’s world cries out for people who can lead with a global perspective. We need leaders who lead from the heart as well as the mind, leaders who understand that decisions made about even the smallest of organizations affect the entire global community. We need leaders who can act ethically, intentionally, and with respect for existing citizenry as well as for future generations. We need leaders who can address problems from an integrated, holistic perspective—the only place that solutions for today’s most pressing problems will be found. Most of all, we need leaders who understand that the primary function of a leader is to serve, not to be served.[10]

Biblical references[edit]

But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

He handed out gifts of apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher to train Christ’s followers in skilled servant work, working within Christ’s body, the church, until we’re all moving rhythmically and easily with each other, efficient and graceful in response to God’s Son, fully mature adults, fully developed within and without, fully alive like Christ.

  • Romans 8:29 (New International Version)

For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

  • Romans 12:2 (New International Version)

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

  • 2 Corinthians 3:18 (New International Version)

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

  • Galatians 4:19 (New International Version)

My dear children, for whom I am again in the pains of childbirth until Christ is formed in you…

Disciplines[edit]

Many authors and speakers write that believers can attain spiritual growth through the practice of religious disciplines. Such disciplines may be understood as means of exercising and strengthening one’s religious and spiritual capacities,[11] a means of accessing a spiritual reality directly,[12] or a manner of making oneself available to the activity of God.[13]

Spiritual disciplines, as a strategy towards spiritual formation, have risen and fallen in popularity over the centuries. Christianity asserts two things: first, transformation of the heart is a work only God can accomplish, and second, we are saved not by our works or efforts, but by God’s grace, that is, His unmerited favor; the church has often been tempted to marginalize the usefulness of these disciplines so as not be confused with preaching “justification by works.”

However other scholars respond by saying that, it is not salvation that is at stake, but rather the need to develop people of genuine Christ-like character to live in the world and confront its values.

Quaker theologian Richard Foster in his book, Celebration of Discipline,[14] includes several internal, external, and corporate disciplines one should engage in through his or her Christian life. These include the following internal disciplines: Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, and Study. External disciplines include: Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, and Service. Finally, corporate disciplines, those that are completed within the body of the church are confession, worship, guidance, and celebration.

History of the Protestant Movement[edit]

Spiritual formation in general has been integral to most religions, including Christianity. The religious ideal typically presupposes that one be changed in some manner through interaction with spiritual realities. Therefore, to trace a historical origin of spiritual formation is to examine the history of religion in general.

However, the history of spiritual formation as a specific movement within 20th century Protestantism is possible. James Houston traces the history of the movement to post-Vatican II reformers within the ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH, who sought to find ways to educate and train new priests in a manner that was appropriate to VATICAN II ideals. This formative perspective began to spread into and was adopted by the Association of Theological Schools, and as an increasing number of evangelical schools began joining them in the 1970s and 1980s, the ideals spread throughout the academic and theological strata of Christianity, particularly in the United States. While initially aimed at academic and pastoral leadership, Houston notes that the Protestant ideal of the priesthood of all believers pushed churches to expand this formative ideal to all individuals.[15]

On a popular level, the formation movement emerged, in part, with the publication of Richard Foster’sCelebration of Discipline in 1978, which introduced and popularized a set of spiritual disciplines as historical practices BEYOND Bible study, prayer, and church attendance that may lead to religious maturity and spiritual growth.[16]

Controversy[edit]

Validity of Ideals[edit]

While some Christians understand spiritual formation to be an integral part of their religion, others perceive it as a diluting of the faith or an attempt by competing religious ideals to infiltrate Christian doctrine and lead adherents astray. Some individuals and organizations, such as Lighthouse Trails Research, interpret spiritual formation as a front for non-Christian mysticism or Roman Catholic influence to enter the Protestant church, which they see as damaging religious doctrine and leading Christians to engage in dangerous practices or leave the faith entirely.

Short-Term Movement[edit]

Because spiritual formation has been used, in recent decades, to describe a loose but semi-coherent set of practices and ideals within American Protestantism, many have accused it of merely being a “fad”. Such persons dismiss it because of this trendiness, but others have argued that to relegate it only to a small sub-group within the church is to neglect its necessity to Christian practice.[17]

References[edit]

  1. Jump up^ E.g., Keating, Thomas (2009). Intimacy with God: An Introduction to Centering Prayer. The Crossroad Publishing Company. ISBN 0824525299.
  2. Jump up^ E.g., Foster, Richard (1998). Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0060628391.
  3. Jump up^ E.g., Hall, Christopher A. (1998). Reading Scripture with the Church Fathers. IVP Academic. ISBN 0830815007.
  4. Jump up^ Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca Laird. Spiritual Formation: Following the Movements of the Spirit HarperCollins Publishers, 2010, p xix
  5. Jump up^ Larry Christenson, The Renewed Mind: Becoming the Person God Wants You to BeBethany House, 2001
  6. Jump up^ Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, Daniel G. Reid. Dictionary of Paul and His Letters: A Compendium of Contemporary Biblical Scholarship InterVarsity Press, 1993, p. 909.
  7. Jump up^ Tennant, Agnieszka. “The Making of a Christian”Christianity Today, London, 27 October 2005. Retrieved on 14 August 2014. ] ,
  8. Jump up^ May, Gerald GCare of Mind, Care of Spirit: A Psychiatrist Explores Spiritual Direction. 1st HarperCollins paperback ed. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992, p. 6.
  9. Jump up^ Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2002) p. 22.
  10. Jump up^ Warneka, Timothy H. (2007). Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader: An Introduction to Catholic Servant Leadership. Asogomi Publishing International. ISBN 9780976862758. Retrieved 2014-09-03.
  11. Jump up^ Willard, Dallas (1999). The Spirit of the Disciplines. HarperOne. p. 4. ISBN 0060694424.
  12. Jump up^ Keating, Thomas (2006). Open Mind, Open Heart. Bloomsbury Academic. p. 11. ISBN 0826418899.
  13. Jump up^ Calhoun, Adele Ahlberg (2015). Spiritual Disciplines Handbook: Practices That Transform Us. IVP Books. pp. 17–20. ISBN 0830846050.
  14. Jump up^ Foster, Richard. Celebration of Discipline: A Path to Spiritual Growth. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998). pg v
  15. Jump up^ Houston, James. “The History of Spiritual Formation – James Houston and Bruce Hindmarsh | Open Biola”Open Biola. Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  16. Jump up^ “Welkom in onze Spirituele Community”spirituelecommunity.nl. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  17. Jump up^ “Seven Things I Hate About Spiritual Formation”CT Pastors. Retrieved 2017-04-24.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dallas Willard. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 2002).
  • Dallas Willard. The Spirit of the Disciplines. (New York: Harper & Row, 1988).
  • Ken Boa. Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001).
  • Gerald G. May. Care of Mind, Care of Spirit: A Psychiatrist Explores Spiritual Direction. (San Francisco: Harper, 1982).
  • Richard Foster. Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1978).
  • David Benner. Care of Souls: Revisioning Christian Nurture and Counsel. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998).
  • Oswald ChambersMy Utmost for His Highest (Discovery House Publishers, 2014).
  • Thomas A Kempis. The Imitation of Christ (Lulu Press, 2010).
  • Henri Nouwen. Spiritual Formation. (Harper Collins, 2010).
  • John BunyanThe Pilgrim’s Progress. (Uhrichsville Ohio: Barbour and Company.
  • Dietrich BonhoefferCost of Discipleship. (Simon and Schuster, 2012).
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Life Together. (Simon and Schuster, 2012).
  • Don PostemaSpace for God: Study and Practice of Spirituality and Prayer. (Faith Alive Christian Resource, 1997).

(454) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY: BIBLIOLATRY (Part 2) – WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE TODAY

In Part 1 of our study on BIBLIOLATRY, we defined its meaning – the worship (idolization) of the Bible.  We looked at how the word bibliolatry is used today showing that in some cases it is used more so as a personal attack on Christians who hold to the Bible’s view of it its Divine origin and authority.  From the verses we looked at, the Bible shows how the study and application of God’s word lead to the conversion of unbelievers (Philip’s use of Scripture in Acts 8:30-31); we are encouraged to know God’s word when we defend our faith (1 Peter 3:15-16); and probably a good passage that sums much of what we can say about the Bible comes from 2 Timothy 3:16-17 

16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

But, not to be outdone, today’s Christians face an onslaught of both implicit and explicit influences on their faiths to move in a direction that borrows mystical practices from early church traditions  (Roman Catholic mystics – “saints”) to more not-so-subtle mystical practices from Eastern religions (e.g. Buddhism, Hinduism…etc.).  The New Age also includes many of these perspectives. 

The editors at Lighthouse Trails put out a recent commentary on Bibliolatry and how it has become a popular view within the Contemplative movement (i.e. mystical) throughout Christianity today (especially with Evangelicalism).  The quotes in their article from popular authors/speakers/leaders are, in my mind, quite shocking (although I am not surprised anymore).  They reveal not only what these folks believe but also what the particular institution they are a part of is promoting to their students, theological journals, writings and books, future church pastors, leaders..etc.  I took the liberty of highlighting names and underlining portions of the article.

https://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=28301

They Call It “Bibliolatry” (Bible Worship) – But Could it Be a Contemplative Smoke Screen?

 

In an article titled “How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It,” Biola University professor J.P. Moreland says that  evangelical Christians are too committed to the Bible. He states:

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,”  [Moreland] said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.” The problem, he said, is “the idea that the Bible is the sole source of knowledge of God, morality, and a host of related important items. Accordingly, the Bible is taken to be the sole authority for faith and practice.(source)

While Moreland gives examples such as non-charismatics who steer clear of any and all venues such as “impressions, dreams, visions, prophetic words, words of knowledge and wisdom,” there may be more behind his statements than meets the eye. This idea of “bibliolatry” (the idolizing of the Bible) did not originate with Moreland. Contemplative Brennan Manning (who gets many of his ideas from mystics like Thomas Merton and William Shannon (Silence on Fire), once said this:

I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word–bibliolatry. God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book. I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants.”–Brennan ManningSignature of Jesus, pp. 188-189

Without checking the further inferences of such statements, some may agree with Manning and Moreland solely on the idea that we should not worship a leather-bound book but rather the One of whom the book is about. But few “over-committed” Bible-believing Christians would argue with that. Christians who believe the Bible is the actual inspired word of God know that the Bible is not God Himself, but it is the Jesus Christ proclaimed in that Bible who is to be worshiped. But they also know that within the pages of the Bible are the holy words, ideas, and truths of God. So for Moreland and Manning to suggest that these types of Christians don’t really worship God but rather pages in a book is a misrepresentation of Bible-believing Christians.

Scot McKnight is another who uses this term, bibliolatry. In his book A Community Called Atonement, McKnight says, “I begin with the rubble called bibliolatry, the tendency for some Christians to ascribe too much to the Bible” (p. 143).  Emerging spirituality figure Walter Brueggemann uses the term in his book Theology of the Old Testament (p. 574).

There may be a logical reason why these men condemn those who adhere to the Bible too stronglyAll have something in common – they all promote CONTEMPLATIVE spirituality. And, as we have shown time and again, those who embrace the  contemplative spiritual outlook, often shift their focus from the moral (doctrine) to the MYSTICAL as HENRI NOUWEN suggested in his book In the Name of Jesus:

Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen to the voice of love . . .  For Christian leadership to be truly fruitful in the future, a movement from the moral to the mystical is required. (p. 32)

In Moreland’s book, The Lost Virtue of Happiness, he talks about rediscovering important spiritual principles that have been lost. In Faith Undone, Roger Oakland cites this book in explaining the problem of mysticism:

Two of the spiritual disciplines . . .  are “SOLITUDE and SILENCE” (p. 51). The book says that these two disciplines are “absolutely fundamental to the Christian life” (p. 51). . . .  Moreland and Issler [co-author] state:

In our experience, Catholic retreat centers [bastions of mysticism] are usually ideal for solitude retreats . . . We also recommend that you bring photos of your loved ones and a picture of Jesus . . .  Or gaze at a statue of Jesus. Or let some pleasant thought, feeling, or memory run through your mind over and over again (pp. 54-55)….

Moreland and Issler provide tips for developing a prayer life. Here are some of the recommendations they make:

  • [W]e recommend that you begin by saying the Jesus Prayer about three hundred times a day (p. 90).

 

  • When you first awaken, say the Jesus Prayer twenty to thirty times. As you do, something will begin to happen to you. God will begin to slowly begin to occupy the center of your attention (p. 92).

 

  • Repetitive use of the Jesus Prayer while doing more focused things allows God to be on the boundaries of your mind and forms the habit of being gently in contact with him all day long (p. 93).

Moreland and Issler try to present what they consider a scriptural case that repetitive prayers are OK with God. But they never do it! They say the Jesus Prayer is derived from Luke 18:38 where the blind man cries out, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me,”(p.90) but nowhere in that section of the Bible (or any other section for that matter) does it instruct people to repeat a rendition of Luke 18:38 over and over. (from Faith Undone, pp. 117-119)

To be sure, the worship of any leather-bound book would be unscriptural and idolatrous, but we have never known or heard of a single case where a Christian advocates or practices Bible worship. As far as that goes, we have known countless Christians who respect (revere) the Bible as being the inspired Word of God; now if that were a point deserving criticism and condemnation, then we would necessarily need to place the apostle Paul under such scrutiny for having said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). Was Paul a Bible worshiper? We know he was not. We also know that he never instructed anyone to repeat words or phrases from the Bible over and over for the purpose of achieving a “silence” (i.e., a mind-altering state). Such a practice is not taught anywhere in Scripture; hence, we propose that it is just such a practice that is a misuse of Scripture. Is it mere coincidence that in virtually every case where someone uses the “bibliolatry” argument, that person also promotes contemplative prayer, a practice that cannot be supported through Scripture? And by downplaying scriptural authority, cannot the contemplative viewpoint be easier to promote within Christianity?

One last case in point about “bibliolatry” comes from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho  (NNU) where Dr. Jay McDaniel was invited to speak. McDaniel is a self-proclaimed “Christian” Buddhist sympathizer. When asked by a student at the lecture whether he believed that Jesus was “the way, the truth, and the life,” McDaniel stated that if Jesus had meant to say that He himself was the way, the truth, and the life, it would have been egocentric and arrogant of Jesus – He only meant to point people in the right direction – letting go of ego and grasping love. McDaniel stated also that Buddhist mindfulness (eastern meditation) is just as truth filled  as doctrine and theology. He said there was an overemphasis in the church on doctrine calling it bibliolatry (idol worship of the Bible). (source

There is an attack on the Word of God. That’s no new thing–secular humanists, New Agers, and philosophers have attacked the Bible for centuries. BUT this attack of which we speak comes from WITHIN the ranks of Christianity out of the halls of highly respected universities and off the presses of successful Christian publishers, and it is being carried forth by those who gain access into the hearts of men and women through their use of contemplative spirituality.

What can we make of this idea of “bibliolatry”? The following statement offers some valid insight regarding this idea that Christians put too much emphasis on the Bible:

Today some are saying that the Bible is a lesser revelation than the Son. But if we do not make much of the Bible, then we cannot know much of the Son, for our only source of information about the Son (and hence about the Father) is through the Bible. Furthermore, if the Bible is not to be trusted,  then again, we cannot know truth about the Son . . . if the Bible is not completely true, we end up with either misinformation or subjective evaluation. Jesus Himself asserted that the Bible revealed Him (Luke 24:27, 44-45, John 5:39). (A Survey of Christian Doctrine, Ryrie, p. 17)

In summary, we find it rather odd that in a time in history when many churches are hardly even opening the Bible, that Bible-believing Christians would be accused of focusing  too much on the Bible. Our continual plea to all Christians is to be diligent in their study of the Scriptures and to be as the Bereans who “searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). We should also note that Jesus never corrected people for studying the Scriptures but rather for their lack of understanding them. Paul nailed it on the head when he said, “Study to show thyself approved unto God . . . rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Could this accusation of “bibliolatry” be nothing more than a smoke screen to further the contemplative agenda?

Additional information related to this article can be found at https://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=28301

 

=> Instead of diving into mystical practices, if you desire to know God and truly understand Him along with a desire for God to talk to YOU – open up your Bible and pray for His Holy Spirit for an understanding of His word (2 Timothy 2:15, 2 Timothy 3:16-17).

(450) EMERGING TRENDS IN THE CHURCH TODAY – “Go-Along-To-Get-Along” Christianity

“Go-Along-To-Get-Along” Christianity

In today’s church environment, there are a few people who are discerning and apt to identify false teaching when they see it in the church/Christianity.  Many more people are interested in just being involved with other Christians and not rocking the boat.  This can include a less discerning, all-inclusive, non-confrontational, so-called tolerance shown to others both outside the church and those within the church.

Many would agree that there can be extremes on either end of this spectrum.  Some folks exhibit a prideful and critical arrogance in thinking the worst of other Christians no matter how much they truly know of their situation or what they believe on an issue.  My Pastor consistently convicts me to check your actions in how we deal with other Christians. These are wise words because it can be very easy to think we know it all and that everyone needs to hear your view on the issues even though we may not know the background of the issue. 

On the other end are those who refuse to judge, compare what is being taught to what the Bible teaches, are always trying to show love to all they come in contact with…etc.  This shows itself in what some will call a “go-along-to-get-along” Christianity.  Knowingly or unknowingly, they view what society says above what the word of God says on everything from church issues to societal issues.  Some act this way because they are truly ignorant of God’s word, or they are fearful of being ridiculed, and some do it because they themselves may be caught up in false teaching.  

An example today includes the following –

Extremes are shown repeatedly today in the church.  It is not uncommon to find today unbiblical and non-Christian practices within the church.  Practices that don’t have a basis in the Bible but rather have more in common with mysticism found in Eastern religions and along with ancient Roman Catholic mysticism. On one end of the spectrum, some will say that since many Christians are doing these things, it must be alright to participate.  They refuse to think critically about what is being taught compared to what the Bible teaches.    Even leaders, seminaries, pastors…etc., exhibit a “go-along-to-get-along” attitude as the easy way out.

With this in mind, another very common example of this is shown by our society’s inclusion of YOGA both outside of the church and within the church. What is Yoga and why should we be concerned?  This article gives a glimpse into what the church is experiencing today  and how Christians respond:

THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2018

Christian woman in Manitoba who warns of the dangers of Yoga shows more discernment and courage than the local “Christian” clergy

 
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.   For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. John 3:19-20

yoga
noun: yo·ga \ ˈyō-gə \
1: capitalized : a Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation

As reported by Riley Laychuk of CBC NewsApril 24, 2018:

Yoga is supposed to bring about calm and tranquillity, but a letter denouncing the practice as anti-Christian is stirring up controversy in Boissevain, Man.

It started with the upcoming opening of a new yoga studio in the Manitoba town, 222 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

“I was startled and shocked about the negativity that could come out of a new business opening in Boissevain,” said Lindsay Alvis, owner of Soul Worx Yoga & Fitness, the studio she is preparing to open in the town.

“I was disappointed, obviously,” she told CBC’s Radio Noon on Tuesday. “I think it’s quite prejudiced to say that [yoga] is against a religion, especially in this day and age.”

Alvis believes the letter in question was sent to members of one local church. It’s not clear who authored it or how many people got copies. It surfaced about 10 days ago.

In it, the author cautions that yoga could disrupt the beliefs of Christians.

“If one desires to physical fitness only, exercise designed for that specific purpose ought rather be chosen,” it reads in part. “No part of yoga can be separated from the philosophy behind it.”

The author also said with the imminent opening of a new studio in the town, they felt the need to share the letter.

Alvis, who practises Buti yoga — a mixture of traditional yoga and dance — believes the popular exercise has come a long way from its Hindu origins in India.

Wendy Giesbrecht, another yoga instructor in Boissevain, also saw a copy of the letter.

“It was kind of insulting, for sure, and I’d like to see the whole discussion on yoga come to light,” she said. “It’s an opinion that I obviously don’t share.”

Giesbrecht said she’s hosted community forums in the past to educate people on what yoga is and the sessions were met with many curious residents and questions.

“Yoga is not a religion.… It’s a very personal journey,” she said.

Rev. Michael Canning, who leads the local Anglican church, said he wasn’t aware of the letter until he was approached about it this week.

“I really don’t see yoga as anti-Christian,” he said, calling it a good way for people to get in touch with their minds and bodies. “I know people who are Christians who find that its a good way of meditating.”

Alvis says she’s had nothing but positive words and thoughts come in from people around town since the letter came to light.

She believes it’ll lead to even more support for her new studio, which she hopes to open in the near future.

“I think that people are entitled to their opinion, but I don’t think religion needs to be an influence or a decision-making [factor] in yoga.”

“I was very surprised by the letter,” said Jane Barter, an associate professor of religion and culture at the University of Winnipeg who specializes in Christian thought. 

“It was so decisive about not allowing Christians to attend yoga, which is odd because yoga is a universal practice — it’s meant to be a universal practice.”

Barter said Christians have incorporated all sorts of non-Christian practices over the centuries, always adapting the religion to the current culture. She said in Roman times, the gospel was explained through the lens of Greek philosophy. 

“I think it’s a feature of a lack of religious literacy in a way, because there have been times where people have been more inclined to recognize the value and the benefit of other practices, including spiritual practices, than today. But I suspect the letter writer represents a very small minority of people,” she said. 

Barter also doesn’t believe that much yoga practised in Manitoba is representative of Hinduism. “But nevertheless, it’s a practice that deserves respect and I believe there is absolutely no problem or peril to the souls of Christians for practising yoga.”

As reported by Kelly Geraldine Malone of Canadian PressApril 25, 2018:

BOISSEVAIN, Man. — Lindsay Alvis was excitedly preparing to open up the first yoga studio in the small southwestern Manitoba community she calls home when a letter showed up in the mail boxes of some of her neighbours.

“PLEASE DON’T DO YOGA” the letter began.

The typed letter left in mailboxes around Boissevain cautions people in the community of about 1,500 not to do yoga because of its Hindu roots, before closing with a dire warning for Christians.

“If you do yoga or are thinking of joining a class, prayerfully search your heart.”

The letter, which warns about “yoga missionaries” and that “no part of yoga can be separated from the philosophy behind it,” is only signed with the name “Marie.”

Alvis was astounded and disappointed that it was being circulated just as she was preparing to teach her first class at Soul Worx Yoga and Fitness.

“If you don’t like yoga don’t do yoga,” Alvis said.

“(If yoga) doesn’t fall within your beliefs then don’t do it, but I don’t think you need to send out a letter warning people of dangers, telling people not to do yoga and saying it in response to a yoga studio opening in your town.”

Alvis was born and raised in the former town, not far from the border with North Dakota. She ended up moving to Alberta, living there for 13 years, before she came back so her husband could take over the family farm two years ago.

“I know religion is big in Boissevain but, when I decided to open the studio, I only had positive feedback,” Alvis said. “I never intended to offend any religion and I don’t believe that yoga is any sort of religion, especially like in my yoga studio.”

She teaches Buti yoga, a cardio-intensive version of the traditional practice which involves stretching and dance. It was created by a celebrity trainer in the United States. Alvis said it’s far removed from having any religious overtones.

While her studio will be the first yoga-dedicated location in Boissevain, yoga has been in the community for a while. Alvis previously taught classes through the local municipality.

“It went very well in town. So it was kind of a first for me hearing about this,” said recreation director Samantha Dyck.

“Since I’ve been here, I’ve never heard any issues with yoga with regards to religious beliefs.”

Ken Warkentin, executive director of Mennonite Church Manitoba which represents one of the churches in Boissevain, said he understands that some people may be “opposed to yoga as a spiritual discipline of Hinduism.” But he said it’s important to have meaningful discussions with people of other religions and beliefs.

“By and large, we would continue to value a conversation around those things and try hard not to become overly judgmental,” he said.

Avis said she won’t let the letter dampen her excitement over the studio opening.

While a few people may share the letter’s sentiment, she said a lot more have reached out to show their support.

“I just want a great thing for the community,” she said.

Click on the link to see the entire letter. Marie is in fact correct in her warning that Yoga is a HINDU practice, that it’s spiritually dangerous, and that Christians should avoid it. Ms. Alvis’s comment that “I don’t think you need to send out a letter warning people of dangers” shows the truth of the passage in John 3 quoted above–those in darkness hate the light. Contrary to the assertion of Professor Barter, there’s nothing in Marie’s letter that’s “decisive about not allowing Christians to attend yoga”–no threats, merely warnings that Yoga is a Hindu practice, and that Christians should prayerfully check their hearts if they’re involved in it or are thinking of doing so.

While Marie is contending for the faith once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3), Ken Warkentin, the provincial Mennonite leader, exhibits the “go-along-to-get-along” spinelessness that’s so typical of modern “Christianity,” while Rev. Canning, the local Anglican minister, exhibits the ignorance and apostasy that so characterizes the Anglican Church of Canada.

For further reading, I recommend the books Death of a Guru by Rabi Maharaj with Dave Hunt (1977, 1984) and Yoga & the Body of Christ by Dave Hunt (2006), and the article The Basic Spirituality of Yoga by an anonymous guest writer at Midwest Christian Outreach (March 8, 2018).

 

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

NOT MUCH OF A MYSTERY

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

What does this mean to YOU? 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Untitled copy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

(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 [2015] 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)

(472) LECTIO DIVINA – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

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.

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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 

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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.