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(469.3) MONASTICISM (Part 3) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

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)Monk-ee-Business

 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 BuddhismHinduismJainism, and Daoism.

 

The word monasticism is derived from the Greek monachos (“living alone”), but this etymology highlights only one of the elements of monasticism and is somewhat misleading, because a large proportion of the world’s monastics live in cenobitic (common life) communities. The term monasticism implies celibacy, or living alone in the sense of lacking a spouse, which became a socially and historically crucial feature of the monastic life. (Encylopedia Britannica)

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

img_how_do_buddhist_monks_live_6113_orig

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 Lectio_Divina.svgCONTEMPLATIVE 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.TMertonStudy

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.” [1] 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.’” [2] 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.

 

CONCLUSIONS

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. 

 

Monk

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(469.2) MONASTICISM (Part 2) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

EVANGELICAL MONASTICISM?

It is becoming more and more routine that Evangelicals (EV) are seeking out new practices and following after doctrine that even a short time ago would not have been accepted within the Evangelical community.  Unfortunately, some of these trends include characteristics that range from legalism, ritualism, holding tradition in a higher view than the Bible…etc.  Movements such as the Emerging Church comprised in many cases of younger adults who were turned off by the church growth movement and its baggage of perceived insincerity with minimal involvement in the Social Gospel, instead now has turned towards more traditional and historical forms of Christianity.  This includes some of the early church mystical approach to spirituality which is new and unknown to most Evangelicals today.  Yet, many join the bandwagon effect thinking that they are pursuing “deep”, personal, fellowship with God by participating in these practices.  The problem is many of these practices don’t emanate from Scripture and share similarities with other religions such as Eastern Mysticism.

In short, much of this is related to the popularity of going back to the early church or a more liturgical church environment and mixing in various aspects of MONASTIC practices with common EV practices.

The IRONY is that many EV Christians today came out of Roman Catholicism (RC) because of it’s overemphasis of these same characteristics. Trying to introduce the Evangelical Church to rituals really cuts against the grain of what Evangelicalism represents.

For example, some EV churches are participating in Ash Wednesday services including the gesture of placing ashes on foreheads.  Some churches now include praying the rosary and performing the stations of the cross.  Some churches are introducing more liturgical forms of worship ranging from simply reciting an early church creed to lighting candles.  Popular authors over the last few years seemingly outdo each other in focusing on church practices not associated with Evangelical churches.  Is this wrong?  

Obviously, Evangelical churches “haven’t arrived” – so no church is perfect.  Let me explain the differences between EV and RC churches from a personal perspective. For me, some of the main reasons for leaving RC included the lack of any message challenging me to accept Christ as savior for my sins; the lack of emphasis on God’s word – the Bible; the contradictions in Scripture versus church practice; the overemphasis on rituals and the seemingly minimal effect of the church on the people who attend.  This last point can be a characteristic of any church from any denomination, but for me, it played a role in my decision.

My initial religious indoctrination as a Roman Catholic was CCD classes.  But these classes usually was very light on God’s word and they were boring with minimum practical benefit.  I remember going to confession and being told by the priest to say several “Hail Marys” and several “Our Fathers” as my penance for my sins.  My mother told me stories of her childhood in Italy included time spent living with nuns as a part of her education.  She is both quick to say how she cherished those times for many different reasons but she also is quick to state how stuck in tradition Catholics are and how much they tend to be focused on anything but God’s word.

At the time, I visited Protestant churches and was quick to see and experience the change.  God’s word was preached and each of us was encouraged to study and live our life based on God’s word.  People were challenged to make a decision about Christ – gone was the assumption that just because you were a part of a certain denomination implies that you are saved (e.g. Roman Catholicism).  EV churches were not known for ritualism and traditions were minimal.  Instead of a strict reverent atmosphere in church, EV churches usually was more open to a more joyful atmosphere.  It was a stark difference between the silence and reverence of a RC service.  There was fellowship and edification taking place.  There was a sense of liberty and freedom as our eyes were focused more on God and less on our own efforts in our attempt to please God or be right with God.

Doctrinally, some of the key differences between the EV church and RC churches include the liberty and freedom that we have in Christ.  EV churches tend to focus more on God’s grace and RC churches having a more works related approach with more reliance on priests and rituals instead of going directly to God and His word.  Evangelicalism is known for an emphasis on the Bible, growing through discipleship, participating in missions both in your local community and across the world. 

But as stated above, today, some EV churches are sporting new trends including a fresh look to monastic practices of the early RC church.  Movements such as the EMERGING CHURCH have moved further away from God’s word by incorporating an approach that seeks to include monastic practices from RC.  For example, there is a common practice of spending extended periods of time alone in silence and solitude.  It is not uncommon that this time alone is spent in a RC monastery. And, there are many stories of RC clergy and monks influencing people to live a lifestyle either symbolically or in actuality closer to a monastic walk than a historical EV walk.

In Part 3, we will look at what the monastic characteristics are and ask – why are some EV Christians moving in this direction yet staying within the EV Church?

 

(467) LABYRINTHS – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

LABYRINTHS

Some good news – BETH MOORE’s Facebook page removed the labyrinth that they had posted.  I was told that there was a one in a million chance that she read my blog and soon afterward removed the labyrinth……… 

Speaking of labyrinths, I have found that in my local community, there are a couple of churches offering prayer and meditation experiences using their own labyrinths.

One site offers this as their description:
1-labyrinthThe labyrinth is an ancient, sacred symbol found in MANY RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS throughout the world. Today, modern pilgrims walk the labyrinth as one of many ways to pray and meditate. The winding path into the center and back out again is a metaphor for the journeys of life and faith. Unlike a maze, which has many paths and is a puzzle to solve, the labyrinth is a single path in and a single path out, and is designed to QUIET the MIND for prayer and MEDITATION

Labyrinths predate Christianity by over 1,000 years.  Let Us Reason ministries makes the following statements:

The labyrinth has its origins in ancient pagan rituals, most famously at Knossos in ancient Crete, where one was located in the basement of a palace where the mythic man-eating Minotaur was said to roam. According to ancient lore, the hero Theseus journeyed through the labyrinth to slay the evil Minotaur. Theseus’ doubled-headed ax was called a ‘labrys,’ from which the word labyrinth was derived. Ceremonies re-enacting this myth as a ritual labyrinth walk are still performed today. Other labyrinths have been tied to fertility rites and goddess worship (M. Tooley, September 2000). Modern disciples of the labyrinth propose that ancient Christians used the labyrinth as a means of spiritual meditation. Scholars insist there is absolutely no evidence of labyrinth walking by Christians (M. Tooley, September 2000, Maze Craze. http://www.touchstonemag.com ).

So if these were practiced by other religions and cultures that are of a non Christian origin, what kind of value would they have to offer a Christian who is supposed to have all that he needs in Jesus Christ according to the Scripture?

We find the use of this design is put to smaller patterns that are a non-walk though spiritual practice. The patterns of the labyrinth are similar in design and conception to the mandalas of South Asian Buddhism, that are supposed to be physical representations of the spiritual realm designed to aid in meditation. Mandala means – circle: it is a circular design, which is used to focus in on and bring one into a meditative state. We are told that true meditation occurs when the physical brain has been calmed or neutralized, a mantra or a mandala is used to bring calmness so the mind is then freed and can then discover new truths it normally was not open to find.”

This is where the potential for influence can happen!

(466) BETH MOORE & LABYRINTHS (Part 2)- Emerging Trends in the Church Today

LABYRINTHS

Does your church have a LABYRINTH yet?  

No?  Well, it is the latest thing that is seeping into the Christian Church across the country.  Mostly more liberal mainline churches but Evangelicals are eager to dip their toes in as BETH MOORE recently illustrated on her facebook page.Beth More FB

So, why are LABYRINTHS popping up?  

Some would say that times are changing.  Others would say that what was once old is new again.  I would like to say that at times Christians get easily distracted and can get caught up with the latest trends coming down the pike.  Let’s face it, in my hometown, we have a Christian radio station whose lineup on the weekend consists of SNAKE-OIL salesmen that all have a similar sounding tag line – “Are you feeling more tired than before?” followed by “then you need to start taking our pills……just 24 pills a day…..call now and we will include a free bottle of these special pills just because we are concerned about your health….etc.”

While some Christians are not lured into these infomercials, others are gullible enough to quickly be swept away believing what they just heard on the radio is right for them.  After all, if it is on a Christian radio station, it must be ok. Right?

Well, Labyrinths feel like this as we are increasingly seeing their use catch on within Christianity.  At times the line “everybody is doing it” seems appropriate. Others attempt to be out ahead of the latest “religious” trend for whatever reason – I don’t know their heart so I will just leave it up to them.

The history of labyrinths is murky at best.  Church history shows them to be popping up sometime during the Middle Ages within Roman Catholicism serving as a substitute for not being able to travel to the Jerusalem during the Crusades.  

LABYRINTHS

What Is a Prayer Labyrinth? 

A labyrinth is a path which leads, via a circuitous route, to the center of an intricate design and back out again. A labyrinth’s route is unicursal; that is, it has only a single path. Unlike a maze, a labyrinth is designed for ease of navigation, and it is impossible to get lost within one. (Got Questions Ministries)

Specifically, a prayer labyrinth is a labyrinth used to facilitate prayer, meditation, spiritual transformation, and/or global unity. The most famous prayer labyrinths today include:

  • an ancient one in the cathedral of Chartres, France,
  • another in the cathedral of Duomo di Siena, Tuscany; and
  • two maintained by Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal church in San Francisco (picture) – TP-labyrinth-6_smaller-768x517

As stated above, the history of labyrinths is very sketchy and it is difficult to put together a definitive historical path.  The Cathedral at Chartres originated in the Middle Ages. 

While prayer labyrinths have been used in CATHOLIC cathedrals for centuries, the past decade has seen a resurgence in their popularity, especially within the EMERGENT CHURCH, among NEW AGE groups and NEO-PAGANS. 

In some cases, it is believed that some labyrinths existed for over 3,500 years in various forms and various areas that included Crete, Egypt, Italy, Scandinavia and North America.  Many of these were decidedly PAGAN in function – many were dedicated to a GODDESS and functioned in a PAGAN manner.  Let me say again, many of these were PAGAN in origin.

Other examples include the Hopi Indians who saw the labyrinth as a symbol of MOTHER EARTH, and the hundreds of stone labyrinths along the Scandinavian shoreline were used as magic TRAPS for trolls and evil winds to ensure safe fishing.

In the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church used the labyrinth for its own purposes within its cathedrals. Within Catholicism, the labyrinth could symbolize several things: the hard and winding road to God, a MYSTICAL ascension to salvation and enlightenment, or even a pilgrimage to Jerusalem for those who could not make the actual journey. (Got Questions Ministries)

There has been a MODERN “rediscovery” of the labyrinth.  Lauren Artress, Canon for Special Ministries at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, is widely credited with initiating the labyrinth movement in the United States in the 1990s.  Marcia Montenegro, The Labyrinth: A Walk by Faith?  (http://www.christiananswersforthenewage.org/Articles_Labyrinth.html)

Today,  there are groups that use them in their churches – such as The Labyrinth Society and Veriditas, The World-Wide Labyrinth Project. According to these groups, the labyrinth is a “divine imprint,” a “MYSTICAL TRADITION,” a “SACRED PATH,” and a “sacred gateway.” The stated purpose of Veriditas is “to transform the Human Spirit,” using “the Labyrinth EXPERIENCE  as a personal practice for healing and growth, a tool for community building, an agent for global peace and a metaphor for the blossoming of the Spirit in our lives” (from the official Veriditas website). 

According to Veriditas, walking a prayer labyrinth involves 3 stages: purgation (releasing), illumination (receiving), and union (returning).

  1. Purgation occurs as one moves toward the center of the labyrinth. During this stage, one sheds the cares and distractions of life and opens his heart and mind.
  2. Illumination occurs at the center of the labyrinth; this is the time to “receive what is there for you” through prayer and meditation.
  3. Union occurs as one exits the labyrinth and involves “joining God, your Higher Power, or the healing forces at work in the world.”

The labyrinth developed in use as a spiritual and psychological tool.  The common themes included the labyrinth were promoted as

  • a way to APPROACH GOD
  • a way to feel close to God
  • to journey into the self
  • BOTH Christians and non-Christians can use it
  • New Age beliefs get mixed in with Christian beliefs

Proponents of prayer labyrinths speak of using the labyrinth to become enlightened, realigned with the universe, and increasingly empowered to know one’s Self and to accomplish the work of the soul.

Some, such as Dr. Lauren Artress, president of Veriditas, also speak of the “many levels of consciousness” which touch the worshiper in a labyrinth, including the consciousness that he is “one of those pilgrims walking in the early times. It feels like it’s from another time; it doesn’t feel like it’s in this life” (from an interview with Dr. Lauren Artress on the official Veriditas website).

Perhaps as a throwback to the old goddess worship, many prayer labyrinths contain feminine symbols in the center. Dr. Artress recognizes the symbolism and speaks freely of connecting with the “sacred feminine” in a labyrinth and of the need to view God as both a “he” and a “she.”

Are prayer labyrinths biblical?   NO, they are not.

Not only are labyrinths never mentioned in the Bible, but they also conflict with several biblical principles of worship and prayer.

Items 1 – 5 are taken from – Got Questions Ministries. (2002–2013). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. – 

1) God seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24; Philippians 3:3; Psalm 29:2). Proponents of prayer labyrinths speak of “body worship” and the goal to employ all five senses in worship. But body worship is not a biblical concept. We live by faith, not by sight, and worship is not a sensuous, physical activity; worship is a matter of the heart, expressed in praise and service to God. For the New Testament believer, worship has nothing to do with external trappings such as lighting candles, kneeling at an altar, or walking in circles.

2) Prayer is not to become ritualistic (Matthew 6:5–8). Dr. Artress says that “ritual feeds the soul” and recommends repeated, regular trips through the labyrinth. If ritual were truly food for the soul, then the Pharisees of Jesus’ day should have been the best-fed souls alive—after all, their religious system abounded in ritual and tradition. Yet Jesus rebuked them on more than one occasion for the deadness and hypocrisy of their religion (Matthew 15:3; Mark 7:6–13).

3) Every believer has the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Many who walk prayer labyrinths are seeking special insight, new revelation, or a discovery of “the God who’s within.” Such an emphasis on mysticism and esoteric knowledge comes dangerously close to Gnosticism and New Age thinking. The Christian has no need of mystical experience or extra-biblical revelation: “You have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth” (1 John 2:20).

4) God is near to all those who call upon Him in truth (Psalm 145:18; Acts 17:27). No ritual, including walking a labyrinth, can bring anyone any closer to God. Jesus is the way (John 14:6). Repentance and faith are what is required (Acts 20:21).

5) The Bible is sufficient to make the Christian holy, wise, and completely proficient for his work in this world (2 Timothy 3:15–17). To say that, in order to find real power, we must add mysticism or tradition to the Bible is to denigrate God’s Word and the Spirit’s work through it.

Historically, labyrinths were ROOTED in PAGANISM and incorporated by Catholicism. Now they are promoted by the Emergent Church and others who seek an open spirituality apart from the Bible. Paul’s warning to the church should suffice to keep us focused on Jesus and avoid empty ritual: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8). 

So, BETH MOORE, using LABYRINTHS that are not discussed in the Bible and have PAGAN origins followed by an introduction in the church from ROMAN CATHOLICISM.

  • Why are you doing this?  
  • What does this say about your view of the Bible and its authority over your spiritual life?
  • Doesn’t God hold spiritual leaders, especially those in a teaching role, up to a higher standard in responsibility in what you teach others?
  • What effect do your MYSTICAL teachings have on those who follow you?

Some of the information used in this article along with additional information about labyrinths can be found at the following web sites:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

:

 

(465) BETH MOORE & LABYRINTHS (Part 1)- Emerging Trends in the Church Today

MORE ON BETH MOORE MYSTICISM

Beth More FB

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).

I’ve refrained from talking about Beth Moore because many people that I know are in Bible Studies using her material and I have felt there were bigger fish to go after like those who cross over into another religion and attempt to syncretic-ally mix it with Christian practices.  But, Beth Moore has been making leaps into a theology that is more ecumenical with Roman Catholicism and recommending practices that are at least questionable from a Biblical perspective. As always, I am not judging her heart, but her teaching now includes these practices that may have crossed the line and it is important that we, as Christians, understand departures from Scripture.

This posting will only cover the surface of the issues that are concerning.  Beth Moore, a Southern Baptist who is influential with a wide range of evangelical women, has moved into the CONTEMPLATIVE and MYSTICAL side not only over the last several years but specifically now with her posting of a labyrinth on her Facebook page.

She is in well-known company with the likes of RICHARD FOSTER (Celebration of Discipline), DALLAS WILLARD, plus several others.  In 2008, Fox Home Entertainment published her Be Still DVD.  Shortly after its release, she had to address some concerns over its content and she actually issued a retraction dealing with issues relating to her DVD. But that was short-lived when followed up with a retraction of her retraction.

In a statement published on May 26, 2008, Moore’s Living Proof Ministries said: “We believe that once you view the Be Still video you will agree that there is no problem with its expression of Truth” (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/bethmoorestatement.htm).

Lighthouse Trails issued the following discerning warning:

 

“In the DVD, there are countless enticements, references and comments that clearly show its affinity with contemplative spirituality. For instance, Richard Foster says that anyone can practice contemplative prayer and become a ‘portable sanctuary’ for God. This panentheistic view of God is very typical for contemplatives. … The underlying theme of the Be Still DVD is that we cannot truly know God or be intimate with Him without contemplative prayer and the state of silence that it produces.

 

While the DVD is vague and lacking in actual instruction on word or phrase repetition (which lies at the heart of contemplative prayer), it is really quite misleading. What they don’t tell you in the DVD is that this state of stillness or silence is, for the most part, achieved through some method such as mantra-like meditation. THE PURPOSE OF THE DVD, IN ESSENCE, IS NOT TO INSTRUCT YOU IN CONTEMPLATIVE PRAYER BUT RATHER TO MAKE YOU AND YOUR FAMILY HUNGRY FOR IT. The DVD even promises that practicing the silence will heal your family problems. … THIS PROJECT IS AN INFOMERCIAL FOR CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE, and because of the huge advertising campaign that Fox Home Entertainment has launched, contemplative prayer could be potentially introduced into millions of homes around the world.

“[On the DVD Moore says], ‘… if we are not still before Him [God], we will never truly know to the depths of the marrow of our bones that He is God. There’s got to be a stillness.’ … [But is] it not true that as believers we come to Him by grace, boldly to His throne, and we call Him our friend? No stillness, no mantra, no breath prayer, no rituals. Our personal relationship with Him is based on His faithfulness and His love and His offer that we have access to Him through the blood of Jesus Christ, and not on the basis of entering an altered state of consciousness or state of bliss or ecstasy as some call it” (“Beth Moore Gives Thumbs Up to Be Still DVD,” http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/bethmoorethumbsup.htm).

 

Contemplative Roman Catholics are becoming popular today especially among Evangelical youth.  In Moore’s book When Godly People Do Ungodly Things (2002), Moore recommends contemplative Roman Catholics Brother Lawrence and Brennan Manning (died in 2013).

Beth Moore states that Manning’s contribution to our generation “may be a gift without parallel” (p. 72) and calls Ragamuffin Gospel “one of the most remarkable books” (p. 290). But, Manning theology is aberrant at best:

  • She does not warn her readers that Manning never gives a clear testimony of salvation or a clear gospel in his writings,
  • that he attends MASS regularly,
  • that he believes it is wrong for churches to require that HOMOSEXUALS repent before they can be members,
  • that he promotes the use of MANTRAS to create a THOUGHTLESS state of SILENT meditation,
  • that he spent SIX months in ISOLATION in a CAVE and spends eight days each year in silent retreat under the direction of a Dominican nun,
  • that he promotes the dangerous practice of VISUALIZATION,
  • that he quotes very approvingly from NEW AGERS such as Beatrice Bruteau (who says, “We have realized ourselves as the Self that says only I AM … unlimited, absolute I AM”) and Matthew Fox (who says all religions lead to the same God), and
  • that he believes in UNIVERSAL salvation, that everyone including Hitler will go to heaven. (For documentation see “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics” in our new book Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Glue.)

Instead of issuing retraction after retraction, if Moore wants to not be associated with the contemplative movement,  she could issue a statement renouncing Richard Foster and Brennan Manning along with other contemplatives they associate with. 

Moore’s ecumenical meetings are attended by folks from many different denominations. Some believe it is because she “doesn’t get caught up in divisive doctrinal issues” and “steers clear of topics that could widen existing rifts between different streams in the body of Christ” (Charisma magazine, June 2003). This is the popular but unscriptural “positive-only” ecumenical philosophy that is so helpful to the furthering of end time apostasy.” 

 

=> “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17).

In Part 2, we will look deeper into Beth Moore and Labyrinths. 

 

(463) GOD IN MY EVERYTHING by KEN SHIGEMATSU (Part 2) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

NEO-MONASTICISM

(Part 2) (I have not yet included all the references in 

Ken Shigematsu comes across in his writings as someone who not pushing an agenda for the sake of being controversial.  Rather, there seems to be a sincerity in his writings which I find very appealing and encouraging to read.  

499251_1_ftcBut, and it’s a big but, he inundates his writings with an appeal to mystics, monastics (Roman Catholicism), along with being critical of leaders such as Franklin Graham and his public stands on important social issues.   In essence, he ends up siding with those who not only disagree with someone like Franklin Graham, but disagrees with the biblical position on those issues.  No, he doesn’t come out and say that but rather he softens the implication by looking to not be viewed as disruptive to the community. Noble sounding but is it scriptural?  

Let’s investigate this in more detail. In his article titled – How Meditation and Monotasking Help Me Live More Mindfully (from Image for Psychology & Spiritual Formation Shortreads), several items quickly jump out.  Faithful followers of this blog will recognize several of these points including the use of words such as DEEP, CONTEMPLATIVE, MEDITATION, REPEATING YOUR WORDS (i.e. MANTRA), CONTROL YOUR BREATH, VISUALIZATION,…etc.  See if you can identify any of these terms in SHIGEMATSU’s writing:

For me, paying attention and living CONTEMPLATIVELY don’t come naturally. I need the grace of God. I also need practices which make me more receptive to the grace of God, more aware of Christ’s presence around and within me.

One of the practices that I have found especially helpful is MEDITATION.

At some point in the morning, I typically sit down and take some DEEP BREATHS.  Because I am easily distracted, I will often REPEAT a single word like “wait” or “Jesus” to help focus me.

=> MY NOTE:  Tibetan Buddhism, being a more esoteric and mystical form of Buddhism, utilizes breath control and visualization to train the mind where it can focus on Sunyata, “the essential emptiness of the phenomenal world,” and reach states where “the sense of experience ceases to exist.

Meditation, as taught and practiced today in the West, originates from practices and beliefs of Hinduism and Buddhism. In Hinduism, the goal of meditation is to realize that one’s personal identity is a barrier to the truth that the real self is part of the divine godhead, which is ultimate reality.1

The MIND in both Hinduism & Buddhism is seen as part of the material body and therefore a BARRIER to spiritual enlightenment.2 Meditation is designed to BYPASS the MIND, using special breathing techniques.3 The ultimate goal is samadhi with no cognition, or absorption into a state of pure consciousness through disengaging the MIND and a loss of self-awareness and subject-object awareness4: “The mind which for so long stood between us and our true nature has been overcome.”5 One of the most common ways this is done is through various forms of yoga, including the popular hatha yoga taught in the West.6 “Though their means may differ, all yogic paths seek to transcend duality in union” so that one’s “mistaken belief in himself as a separate, unique individual apart from God will be overcome.”7 Exhaling the BREATH is “the surrender of our ego” and the move from attachment to “non-attachment.”8

This imported meditation is usually packaged as a way to relax or reduce stress. But this was never the purpose of meditation in its HINDU or BUDDHIST form. Sometimes taught with VISUALIZATION and BREATHING exercises, this “relaxation” exercise has many hidden dangers. The mind often goes into an ALTERED STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS, also known as a light TRANCE or HYPNOTIC state, during the meditation.9 The exercises are designed to bring this about. In such a state, rational judgment and discernment is suspended, and the mind is highly suggestible and open to any influences present. In one class the writer attended, a student who fell asleep was reprimanded because he would miss the “spiritual trip” intended by the exercise.

This state of mind is not the same as spontaneous daydreaming, quiet contemplation, or conscious, rational concentration. The euphoria or peace experienced by many at first is short-lived and deceptive. Instructors of these techniques who teach them as a spiritual discipline often warn students that psychic experiences and supernatural encounters are common, some of them frightening, and that the breathing techniques can be dangerous10. The effect for some people is similar to a drug trip. It is this state of mind during which one is supposed to contact guides from the spirit world.11

Ken Shigematsu goes on in the same article –

I set a timer on my watch (usually 12 minutes) so I am not thinking about the time (if the time starts to feel too short, I’ll add time or if it begins to feel too long, I will decrease the time). After I have meditated, I feel more relaxed, a little more focused and a little more aware of Jesus throughout the day.

Meditation to some people may seem like a weird waste of time, but it can help us become more aware of God and more mindful of our choices.

Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a psychologist who teaches at Stanford, describes how meditation actually changes our brain—and it doesn’t take a lifetime for our brain to experience this transformation. Dr. McGonigal cites a study which found that just three accumulated hours of meditation practice—or about 10 minutes a day for two to three weeks—led to improved attention and self-control. After 11 accumulated hours of meditation—about 10 minutes a day for just over two months—researchers could actually see increased neural connections in the regions of the brain important for avoiding distractions and controlling impulses. Magnetic resonance (MR) scans have shown that when people meditate, the gray matter in the brain associated with stress, anxiety, and depression shrinks.

There is a person named Andrew, who like me was easily distracted and also felt like a terrible meditator. An electrical engineer, he was convinced that the goal of meditation was to get rid of all thoughts and empty the mind. But even when he was trying to focus on his breathing, other thoughts leaked in. He was ready to give up on the practice because he wasn’t making progress as quickly as he expected, and felt he was wasting his time. But as he reflected on his experience, Andrew realized that even when he felt distracted during his 5 or 10 minutes of meditation, he was more focused on days he meditated than on days when he skipped it. He also realized that on the days he meditated, when he was just about to order something salty and deep-fried for lunch (he was trying to improve his diet), he was more likely to order something healthier. When he had a sarcastic comment on his lips and needed to pause and hold his tongue, on the days he meditated he found he was more likely to bite his tongue. And when he was distracted at work—which was often—he realized that on the days he meditated he was better able to refocus on his work and get back on track.

These changes may seem superficial, but if our goal is to experience God in our everything, then our eating choices, how we talk to other people, how we work really matter.

A simple practice of meditation helps me become more present to God in each part of my life.

Meditation not only helps improve my ability to concentrate, it helps me live a more focused life. Rather than serving as an antidote to multitasking, it can helps me monotask—to focus on just one thing at a time.

I have been inspired by the wisdom of the ZEN tradition to aim to do just one thing at a time. The Vietnamese ZEN master, Thich Nhat Hanh, says: “While washing the dishes, you might be thinking about the tea afterward and so try to get them out of the way as quickly as possible in order to sit and drink tea. But that means that you are incapable of living during the time you are washing the dishes.”

When I monotask, I aim not to just hurry through something to check it off my “to-do” list, but to actually be mindful and present while doing it, and then move on to the next thing. Walk from here to there. Type an email. Work on a budget. Eat an oat bar. Read. Talk to a friend. Cut the grass. Wash the dishes. Change a water filter. Read a story. Bathe our son.

Most of the time, I don’t live this way (I recently got a well-deserved ticket for talking on my smart phone while driving), but from time to time, when I consciously do just one thing at a time, it helps me be more fully present and aware of God. I start to feel like I am not merely a person who says my prayers but that my life itself is becoming a kind of prayer. Ultimately, meditation and the contemplative life is not about removing oneself from the world, but empowering us to become more fully present and responsive to it.

Truly, there are a number of words, phrases, sentence…etc.,(many are listed above) used by Ken Shigematsu that cause concern.  The concern stems from the fact that these words and phrases come either directly from Eastern Mystical practices or at a minimum are not taught as normative in the Bible.  When was the last time you practiced your breathing?  Lived Contemplatively?

When altered states of conscientious are achieved, it leaves the participant highly susceptible to whatever thought comes to into the mind at this point.  That is dangerous on many different levels.

More could be said.  Simply stated, one has to question why a Pastor who has been trained in God’s word would combine practices from other religions in with Christianity.  To me, that is a serious problem that conflicts with many passages of scripture.  It can leave one open to influence from sources other than God when in these types of altered states.

(462) GOD IN MY EVERYTHING by KEN SHIGEMATSU (Part 1) – Emerging Trends in the Church Today

NEO-MONASTICISM

Ken Shigematsu, author of God In My Everything – How An Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God.


BACKGROUND
Ken is the Senior Pastor of Tenth Church (C&MA) in Vancouver, BC, one of the largest and most diverse city-center churches in Canada. He is a recipient of the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal awarded to Canadians in recognition

499251_1_ftcfor their outstanding contribution to the country. Before entering pastoral ministry, he worked for the Sony Corporation in Tokyo and draws on both EASTERN and western perspectives in his writing and speaking. Ken is the author of God in My Everything (Zondervan 2013).

The book’s description goes on to say –

Ken Shigematsu shows that a vibrant spiritual life is for all of us–not just those predisposed to SOLITUDE and reflection. The time-tested spiritual practice of the “rule of life” can bring you into a closer relationship with God. A personal rule of life fits almost any vocation or life situation and shifts with you as life changes.

Journey down this ancient pathway and learn to enjoy God as you draw closer to Christ.

Ken Shigematsu shows that SPIRTUAL FORMATION is more than just SOLITUDE and CONTEMPLATIVE  reflections. SPIRITUAL FORMATION happens in the everyday, in each and every moment of life.  For those caught up in the busyness of work, family, and church, it often feels like time with God is just another thing on a crowded “to-do’ list. Ken explains how the time-tested spiritual practice of the “rule of lifecan help bring busy people into a closer relationship with God. He shows how a personal rule of life can fit almost any vocation or life situation.

In God in My Everything, you will discover how to create and practice a life-giving, sustainable RHYTHM in the midst of your demanding life. If you long for a DEEPER spirituality but often feel that the busyness of life makes a close relationship with God challenging—and, at times, seemingly impossible—this book is for you.

 
Ken is a very good writer who grabs your attention by making his advice very practical. His appeal to those caught up in the busyness of life and his instruction into setting up a personal “rule of life” that can be applied to your job as well as to your personal life with the goal of bringing you into a closer relationship with God.  Who wouldn’t want that?

I commend the author for an appeal to challenges that most all of us face in life. I also respect his background coming from an Eastern perspective which reveals a different perspective on many different issues in life.  

Ken is a pastor with the Christian & Missionary Alliance.  It is important to not judge Ken Shigematsu’s motives beyond what he has revealed in his writings and speeches.  This critique is focused on comparing his beliefs, teachings, books,….etc. to what is in God’s word regarding various areas of our lives. I’m sure if we looked at what Ken promotes from a biblical perspective, we could also demonstrate a number of biblical perspectives that he is promoting well.  

With this strength also comes several concerns.  Starting from the very beginning of his book in its title – “God In My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God” there is a sense that this book is not your standard Evangelical perspective. While some may applaud that perspective, there are several real concerns starting from the very beginning of the book.  This is even shown in the book description as listed above.  For someone who has followed this blog for quite a while now, they should quickly see some wording that raises red flags – requiring some additional biblical vetting on the message be conveyed in the book.

  • A sampling of these phrases that should tip off these concerns include:  EASTERN PERSPECTIVE, SOLITUDE, CONTEMPLATIVE, SPIRITUAL FORMATION, SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES, PRACTICE, going DEEP(ER), RHYTHM, ANCIENT PATHWAY, RULE OF LIFE….etc.  
  • Previous postings describe several of these which are commonly used in contemplative and mystical writings to convey concepts that have limited or no biblical justification for.  At the risk of repeating myself too often, in some cases, the lack of biblical support is made up by having more similarities to other religions such as EASTERN MYSTICISM as well as ancient practices found in some of the Early Church Roman Catholicism which also followed MYSTICAL practices. 

 

Starting from the beginning in Chapter 1, which is titled – “Monks, Samurai, and the Christian Life” forshadows the reader on the direction Ken will take in conveying his ideas.  But even before we go down this path, there are several other red flags that one can identify as possible concerns.  I used to repeat ad nauseam, the phrase – “You can’t judge a book by its cover”.  While I still believe it to be true, technically speaking, the reality of today’s trends in “Christian books” have shown that in many cases today, you can judge a book by its cover.

Both on the cover and inside the book, many of the references Ken Shigematsu uses come from a more liberal, progressive, “emerging church”, mystical perspective.  Some examples include TONY CAMPOLO, PETE SCAZZERO, SHANE CLAIBORNE, JOHN ORTBERG.….etc.  These names are easily recognizable to many.  But, in each of these examples, these authors have demonstrated repeatedly their preference to trends coming from mystical practices instead of Scripture.  It is also not uncommon that these teachers promote a SOCIAL GOSPEL instead of a biblical GOSPEL to those who unexpectantly follow through with what is being taught.  These practices can draw a follower of Christ further from a close fellowship with God and into areas that are only found in Eastern & early Roman Catholic Mysticism.  

One example of this comes with the word MEDITATION.  As explained in previous postings, many today directly use and apply methods that come out of Eastern religions and are not taught in the Bible – breathing techniques, posture, repetition of a mantra, emptying the mind……etc.  Some of these are used by Ken Shigematsu without question.  A huge red flag!  

The question many of you have may be – “So what?”  While there are several dangers to doing these things, let me just say these techniques empty the mind.  Once the mind is more focused (on “nothingness”), it allows the person to focus on whatever would then come into the mind next.  Like TRANSCENDENTAL MEDIATION, a person can be influenced by whatever then affects that person during these meditations. If they are following after non-biblical practices to achieve this focus, it is not too difficult to see how demonic influences could start to affect the person’s walk.  

NEO-MONASTICISM

Back to the first chapter, Ken introduces the reader to his promotion of a MONASTIC walk in his spiritual life.  Monasticism is making huge inroads into Evangelicalism today. It is quite mind-boggling that the church has taken a turn in following after practices not prescribed by God’s word but in essence come from practices from other religions (i.e. Eastern) and ancient Roman Catholicism.  This new NEO-MONASTICISM is a topic we will discuss in the future postings on Ken Shigematsu’s book – God In My Everything: How an Ancient Rhythm Helps Busy People Enjoy God“.  It is an important topic to discuss and be made aware of with concerns of drawing people away from God and family.