Chapter I - An Introduction to Contemplative Prayer: What it is, how it is practiced, its claimed importance, the introduction to evangelicals, the spread, and the million dollar question.
Chapter II - The Source of The Tradition: Many Christian mystics claim that Contemplative Prayer as it is taught and practiced in the modern church is rooted in the tradition of the Desert Fathers. This is as far from the truth as it gets.
Chapter III - Alpha - An Altered State of Consciousness: Alpha, the "resting state" of the brain, often associated with the transportation to a "higher realm of consciousness" or mystical experience, is harnessed by Buddhist meditators, Hindus, New Agers, Shamans, Witches and 'Christian' mystics alike.
Chapter IV - Summary and Conclusion: Contemplative Prayer is unsupported by Scripture regardless of how many out-of-context verses supporters pull up in the effort to bolster their claims. Besides which, silence is not God's first language, God does not dwell in us, we cannot decide how to approach the Almighty, and Christians may be transformed by pagan practices, but it is a transformation not for the better Finally, if the teachings of the mystics is true, God has been remarkably negligent.
Chapter V - Eastern Meditation Vs Biblical Meditation: Since the words meditate, meditation etc. are not exactly unknown in the Bible, it is imperative that we are aware of the difference between Contemplative Prayer and Biblical meditation.
Chapter VI - Experiencing God: Unfortunately, in this world of 'warm fuzzies' people are obsessed with how they feel. Thus they assume that since they don't feel the presence of God, He must not be there or is simply ignoring them.
YOU ARE HERE Chapter VII - Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and Thomas Keating:
Because it is impossible to cover every single person who teaches one or another form of mysticism, I have limited this section to four of the very popular and influential teachers of contemplative prayer and Lectio Divina etc. Note: This section is only part of a larger article on Contemplative Prayer
Thomas Merton (1915-1968),
Henri Nouwen (1932-1996),
Brennan Manning (1934-2013),
Thomas Keating (1923 - Present)
As of writing, Keating is in his mid nineties and living in St. Benedict's in Snowmass, Colorado..
All four of the men had a several things in common. They were all Catholic and all of them were extremely prolific authors with numerous books to each ones credit. The sheer volume of words makes it very easy to like and agree with, or even be deeply touched by some of the things they said. However, the problem lies in the fact that many people are not aware of the full extent of their beliefs and everything they taught.
While anyone can make statements that stir the heart, pretty phrases and noble sentiments do not a Scripturally sound book make. In this case, the issue is the legitimacy or non legitimacy of mysticism.
Catholic Spiritual Leaders?
Too many Catholics, are immersed in all things Catholic and, more often than not, place a greater emphasis on church tradition than they do on Scripture. These men (and numerous others), hailed as great spiritual leaders are (or were during their lifetimes) Catholic to the core and could not even see through Rome's foundational heresies such as the papacy, the Mass, transfiguration, prayers to the saints, the veneration of Mary and salvation through works.
Because a form of contemplative prayer is an ancient tradition in Catholicism especially amongst the 'desert fathers', the mystics obviously saw nothing wrong with it, seemingly oblivious to the fact that no such thing is taught in Scripture. However, when they discovered that Zen Buddhism, Sufism, Taoism and Vedanta etc. had similar traditions to their own they took it many steps further. Instead of warning the Eastern mystics of the dangers of pursuing the paths they were on, these supposed Christians fraternized with them, embraced their spiritual philosophies, and integrated their practices into Christianity.
What is mind blowing is that none of them ever put forward the position that Christ is the only way to God, nor did any of them every preach the Gospel message. Although they recognized the doctrinal differences, the experiences they felt they had in common apparently trumped all other factors.
How then can we possibly trust them to point us in the direction of God?
But, somehow or the other - ignoring everything the Scriptures say and even basic common sense - we do.
Remember that anyone who chooses to inform others about Christianity (be a teacher in other words) shoulders a tremendous burden and, as the apostle James said, incurs a stricter judgment
Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. (James 3:1 NASB)
Jesus was even more explicit,
"Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea. (Mark 9:42 NASB)
Unfortunately for them, anyone who teaches doctrine that is not in accordance with the Bible, and/or encourages people to experiment with techniques practiced in other religions causes others to stumble. They are not legitimate Christian teachers but little more than the ravenous wolves Paul warned us about in the book of Acts. I dread to think of their end at the hands of a wrathful God.
And us? All I can say is we emphatically and repeatedly state that Scripture is the final arbitrator of all thing spiritual, but when Scripture clearly commands us not to have anything to do with heretics but to call them out at every opportunity, we have done just the opposite. We have put these men on pedestals trusting them to teach us how to pray and bring us closer to God. See Fraternizing With The Enemy
We must be even more stupid and careless than they were.
Unless of course, the Bible just forgot to mention 'spiritual disciplines' as one of the ways to achieve a "truly transforming faith" and, realizing His omission, God left our further education and enlightenment to apostate Roman Catholic mystics who incorporated eastern religious techniques into Christianity and, centuries later, men like Richard Foster who introduced the church to the beliefs and practices of these medieval mystics.
And if you believe any of the above, I can lay my hands on a 14th century castle in England going very cheap that would love to talk to you about.
Finally, while it is not particularly amazing (He is God after all) that our Lord not only foretold the appearance of these impostors down to the last detail - it is beyond belief that man has so blatantly disregarded Jesus' warning, even though He was so very specific about the two places where the Christ would not be found - "the desert" and "the secret or inner chambers."
If therefore they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the wilderness; go not forth: Behold, he is in the inner chambers; believe it not. (Matthew 24:26)
Yet, because they imagine they feel God's presence, experience oriented and Biblically illiterate Christians, who have not consulted God's word, have been led by the nose down the very treacherous paths, venturing into areas where, I am sure, even angels fear to tread.
They have been led away from the Father, not towards Him.