Section 10A .. The Contemporary Church/
Mysticism In The Church

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Contemplative Prayer - The Source
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.

Carol Brooks

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.

YOU ARE HERE 001orange 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.

Chapter VII - Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Brennan Manning, and Thomas Keating: These four influential and very popular teachers of contemplative prayer fraternized with Eastern mystics, embraced the spiritual philosophies and religious practices of Buddhism, Hinduism etc. incorporating them into Christianity. They also endorsed various pagan 'spiritual' books that flatly contradict the Bible. Yet, multiple thousands of people all over the world, including many well known church leaders, have seen fit to suspend all common sense, ignore the many, many warnings in Scripture, and blindly follow the teachings of these wolves.


Chapter IV - Summary and Conclusion

Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

Contemplative Prayer Unsupported by Scripture
Is there anything in Holy Writ that can justify these practices?

The Bible - Not Enough?
How Do They Know?

If The Teachings of The Mystics is True, God Has Been Remarkably Negligent

Didn't God Decide What He Would Reveal?

Silence - God's First Language?

Can We Decide How to Approach God?

Does God Dwell Within Us?

Are Christians Transformed by Pagan Practices?

Are We Mature or Immature Christians?

Theology and Doctrine
All too many Christians seem to be under the impression that "theology" and "doctrine" are of minimal importance and have little relevance to their religious life and practice. They couldn't be more wrong


Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings
For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.  (Romans 10:2 NASB

There was a time, not so very long ago when most people's decisions and actions were based on ethics, principles, moral values, and evidence. However, over the last generation or two, society as a whole has undergone a very significant transition. In what has become a 'feel good' society, facts often take a second place to 'feelings' - particularly when it come to religion.

As an example, few who make claims such as 'all spiritual beliefs are valid paths to God" seem to have made an in depth study of various religions to see if their claims are based on fact, or fairy dust. It is usually sufficient that the beliefs and practices they adopt sound and feel "spiritual". However, the open acceptance of many spiritual paths, even those that flatly contradict each other on some crucial issues, would be sheer lunacy in any other context.  In fact, we would often find ourselves in deep trouble if important decisions were based on how we emotionally relate to something, instead of collecting and weighing all the evidence.

See Religious Pluralism - Chapter Two of Choose Life that You Might Live

Unfortunately, Christians have not exempted themselves from this folly. No longer is the word of God the sole criteria by which we order what we do and say. Instead, just like the pagan world, our feelings reign supreme when it comes to all things spiritual.

Because, somewhere along the line, mystics came to the conclusion that that 'feelings' and 'experiences' are a more reliable source of the knowledge of God than reason, intellect, or His word, they began to employ various techniques (borrowed from other religions) to convey them into what they assume to be God's presence.

However, feelings are not, and never have been a reliable indicator of facts - all of us can attest to plenty of times when our feelings were wrong - one can find no better proof of this that the high divorce rate. In other words, the sense of emotional and physical well being that comes from entering an alternate state of consciousness does not necessarily mean that this spiritual practice is wise, much less that it leads to Deity.

The mystic who has experiences cannot possibly know that they are caused by the God of the Bible, especially since drug induced hallucinations have caused some people to think they have encountered the Almighty. And, when they think they are hearing from God, they cannot be absolutely certain that it is God who is doing the speaking. They have absolutely no way of knowing beyond all shadow of doubt that they are not being deluded by Satan posing as an angel of light. A 'feeling' of being in the Divine presence does not mean you are, yet this is exactly what the mystics assure you will happen.

And we are certainly not deterred even when it is pointed out that the Bible doesn't support our beliefs and practices.

Contemplative Prayer - Unsupported By Scripture
One has to ask whether or not the Scriptures directly or indirectly promote the  mysticism that is being marketed. Is there anything in Holy Writ that can justify these practices?

The Bible is made up of a variety of literary genres - While much of it is history, the Bible also contains poetry, wise sayings, apocalyptic writing, parables, etc. each of which has to be recognized in order to interpret the text properly. However, in several cases, proponents of mystical practices, conveniently ignoring all context, have taken plain and literal sentences and ascribed an inner spiritual meaning to them.

All every teacher of bone-headed heretical practices has to do is put their own spin on particular verses and hey presto! they have Scriptural corroboration.

Note: you will often hear people claiming that their interpretation of Scripture is just as legitimate as anyone else's. However, if the Bible is God's word to us, it stands to reason that every book, chapter, and verse conveys something specific He wants us to know, thus has only one legitimate meaning, usually understood from a plain and simple reading of the verse in context. There is a huge difference between exegesis - drawing out of the author's intended meaning from the text in accordance with the context, and eisegesis - imposing our own interpretation onto the text.

See Context is CRUCIAL
No Biblical author simply strung together a number of lofty sounding phrases disconnected from one another. Since each verse is an integral part of a particular point the author was trying to make, no one should read, much less base their beliefs on, stand alone verses. The reader can only be accurately informed by God's Word the way it is written - in its context. Understanding what the author meant comes not only from the words he wrote, but also by what the overall message of the chapter is intended to convey. But, since this takes a little more time, study and effort, most Christians are content with allowing a verse to be wrested from it's context, and used to convey whatever meaning the speaker/author wishes it to convey which, all too often, is nothing but a corruption of the truth. This perversion of Scriptures is done (whether intentionally or unintentionally) in order to persuade men that whatsoever the false teacher says is based on Biblical truth.

If we are free to interpret Scriptural texts any way we choose, then God has given us a useless book that provides no fixed guidelines or do's and dont's. It is pretty much a 'free for all'.

Supporters of contemplative prayer are no different, citing several Scriptural verses in support of the practice. However, if you carefully examine the context of the verses put forward as 'proof texts', you will realize that the mysticism that is being marketed is conspicuous by it's absence in Scripture. The Bible nowhere teaches that we can get any closer to God or acquire any knowledge through spiritual experiences. Knowledge is always linked to God's written Word and one's closeness to God is dependant not on emptying one's mind, but on using it.

Psalm 62:1.
Richard Foster attempted to find support for his position when he wrote

    Contemplative prayer is the one discipline that can free us from our addiction to words. Progress in intimacy with God means progress toward silence.  "For God alone my soul waits in silence, declares the Psalmist, (Psalm 62:1). [01].

    Note: In the English Bible, the word 'silence' has been translated from the Hebrew dmyh.

The question being whether David's five word description of his soul waiting in silence serves as a proof text for contemplative prayer.. The answer to which question is a resounding "no".

Anyone who takes the time and the trouble to read the Psalm in its entirety (See Context is Crucial. Link below), will quickly realize that it is not an instruction on how to pray, but was written in a situation that was exceedingly dangerous for David. Although we do not know exactly who, someone (possibly Absalom) sought his life. Read in its entirety, Psalm 62 is not a call to verbal silence, but is a song of expressed confidence in God - David is simply stating that the Lord alone is his rock and salvation and he will wait in stillness and trust for His God to deliver help and justice which he is certain will come.

In any case, the Hebrew word dmyh (silence) does not necessarily mean silence of the mouth, but can also mean stillness, quiet, trust etc. which is why different versions translate it differently. David was far from silent - he twice confessed that God alone was his rock and salvation, addressed his enemies (Vs. 3-4), encouraged fellow believers (Vs. 8-10) to "trust" in God and testified that both strength and mercy belong to the Lord who will repay every man according to his deeds (Vs. 11-12)

However Richard Foster and others like him endeavor to twist it to support their misguided opinions. Again, I suggest you read Context is CRUCIAL. Link above.

Psalm 46:10
One of the most common Biblical verses cited in support of Contemplative Prayer is Psalm 46:10, "Cease striving and know that I am God". The King James renders this verses so - "Be still, and know that I am God". The "cease striving" or "be still" part is supposedly achieved by learning to ignore all exterior distraction and clearing one's mind of all interior distraction so that God's presence may be felt and His voice more easily heard.

Once again, the words striving or still are rendered from the Hebrew rphh which literally or figuratively means to slacken, desist or let go. Here are a couple of examples - one from the Psalms.

    Cease (Heb.rphh) from anger and forsake wrath; Do not fret; it leads only to evildoing. (Psalms 37:8 NASB)

    And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it; but as he was about to destroy it, the Lord saw and was sorry over the calamity, and said to the destroying angel, "It is enough; now relax (Heb.rphh)  your hand." ... (1 Chronicles 21:15 NASB)

While we have no idea what circumstances prompted the author to pen Psalm 46 , if one reads it in it's entirety, it is very obvious that the nation was, or felt they were, in some grave danger. They needed to let go - to be still and realize that the God of Jacob was their stronghold (Vs. 7 and 11) -  they had nothing to fear as they had God's protection.

Matthew 6:6
I have even heard Matthew 6:6 quoted where Jesus instructed His followers go into their inner room and close the door when they pray and "your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you".

In this and the surrounding verses, the Savior was addressing a common problem that existed then and exists now, i.e. the hypocrisy of doing things to impress others. Instead Jesus' followers were to be charitable in secret, fast so that other people would not notice, and pray in private. And their Father who sees what is done in secret would reward them. (Vs. 18) Those who use God as a means to impress others have already had their reward.

The Bible - Not Enough?
In one of his books, Brennan Manning makes the unsupportable claim that the Bible alone does not "reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants"... A statement obviously made in support of the 'get closer to God by pagan means' philosophy of the mystics. In his words,

    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.  [02]

It is important to note that the accusation of bibliolatry does not refer to people who literally worship the Bible, but is an attack on those believers who hold to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture, also those who maintain that, within the bounds of common sense, the Bible is to be literally interpreted. 

In the first place, the Bible itself tells us that

    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB)

So, if the Bible is inspired by God and He does not lie (Titus 1:2), then every word in the Bible must be true.

Secondly I have to ask - How does Manning or anyone else KNOW that the Bible alone does not "reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants"? And how the smurf did Manning know that "Intimate knowledge of God only comes through centering prayer" [03]

 Did God whisper some additional facts in Manning's ear as he 'prayed'? Did God quietly tell Manning of some other thoughts and plans He has? And if Manning did hear something during his prayer time, how in the world can he possibly have known beyond any shadow of doubt that it was God's voice? Or did he put himself in the exalted position of being the only human in the world that is incapable of being deceived.

One can pose exactly the same 'how do you know' question to the author of the Cloud of Unknowing (a booklet written by an anonymous monk in the fourteenth century that has inspired generations of mystical searchers) who wrote "This form of prayer is more pleasing to God than any other form, and it does more good for the church, for the souls in purgatory, for the missionaries than any other form of prayer". 

Similarly, in his book Spiritual Classics, Richard Foster claims that a single word or phrase- a "little prayer of one syllable" pierces the heavens. [04]

Since the Bible says absolutely nothing about this form of prayer being more pleasing to God than any other form, one is forced to the conclusion that men confused the good feelings they experience during meditative prayer with what God wants and what is pleasing to Him. The truth is that these claims are made without one single fact to back them up thus are no more than the author's (extremely misguided in this case)opinions .To think that we can somehow get closer to God by entering an altered state of consciousness is not only beyond foolishness, but completely unnecessary considering that the Father Himself has already told us that we do not get to know Him through the wisdom of the world, but through the Gospel message.

    For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe [1 Corinthians 1:21 NASB]

Additionally, Jesus and the apostles did not to urge people to seek direct experiences with God. Not only did they go about preaching and teaching the Scriptures . but Jesus said that man lives on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God. (Matthew 4:4). Again,

    All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB)

 See The First Most Dangerous Mistake Any Christian Can Make
Tragically, most Christians are firmly under the impression that they themselves, their pastor, mentor, spiritual leader, or denomination as a whole, cannot be deceived. This in spite of the fact that  deception is one of the major themes of the New Testament, and both Peter and Paul were very emphatic about the fact that wolves would come from the flock itself

If The Teachings of The Mystics is True, God Has Been Remarkably Negligent
Pagan Practices Are The Way to Spiritual Growth and Mature Christian Spirituality?
The back cover of the 20th Anniversary Edition of Richard Foster's book Celebration of Discipline carries an endorsement by Eugene Peterson who wrote ..

    Like a child exploring the attic of an old house on a rainy day, discovering a trunk full of treasure and then calling all his brothers and sisters to share the find, Richard J. Foster has 'found' the spiritual disciplines that the modern world stored away and forgot, and has excitedly called us to celebrate them. For they are, as he shows us, the instruments of joy, the way into mature Christian spirituality and abundant life. [05]

The front flap emphasizes that

    "... it is only by and through these practices that we can find the true path to spiritual growth." [06]

If this is true, then God has been remarkably careless. He sent His Son to die for our sins, but neglected to tell us how we can achieve "mature Christian spirituality" and "abundant life". If contemplative prayer is the way to "spiritual growth" then Christ was equally remiss when the only example of prayer He gave us was 'The Lord's Prayer' - He preceded the Prayer itself with the words "When you pray, say", not "When you pray, listen. Odd isn't it that the only example of prayer given us by the Messiah focuses on the kind of thing we need to talk to the Father about?

However, it should be noted that listening to the Father is hugely important. But to listen, we do not need these mystical techniques. The Holy Spirit is perfectly capable of impressing things on our mind when we pray..

The inside front flap of Celebration of Discipline says it explores the "classic disciplines," or central spiritual practices, of the Christian faith. How in the world can these mystical practices be "central spiritual practices of the Christian faith" when neither God in the Old Testament, Christ in the New, nor a single one of the disciples even hinted, much less taught or endorsed any of them. Every Biblical example of the men of God's prayer involved worship, praise and petition. This included Jesus Himself, the Old Testament prophets, the prophets and apostles of the New Testament etc.

Similarly, the 37th chapter of the Cloud of Unknowing advocates the use of a single-syllable "prayer word" to effectively discipline the mind and to keep it focused so one may "be still and know" God. It describes how one syllable words pierce both heaven and the ear of God...

    "And rather it pierceth the ears of Almighty God than doth any long psalter unmindfully mumbled in the teeth. And herefore it is written, that short prayer pierceth heaven" ... And why pierceth it heaven, this little short prayer of one little syllable? Surely because it is prayed with a full spirit, in the height and in the deepness, in the length and in the breadth of his spirit that prayeth it.

Which bring one question to mind. What is the world was wrong with Jesus? In all the time He spent with the disciples, In all the instructions and lessons He gave them ... He never once mentioned the repetition of a single word to pierce the ears of Almighty God. Worse, the Holy Spirit, who was supposed to have been the inspiring force behind all of Scripture, never once gave any of the authors of the New Testament a single hint about this miraculous one word prayer... in spite of the amazing power it has to fly to the ear of the Almighty. How absolutely careless of them. 

I guess then that the Bible is stretching the truth a wee bit when it claims that "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NASB)

Didn't God Decide What He Would Reveal?
Christianity is different from most other religions in one crucial way.  Most religions are man's effort to find or reach the God they sense exists. Christianity, on the other hand, is the account of God putting His hand out to man which, if you think about it, makes a heck of a lot more sense. After all, the search for a Supreme Being is not exactly like looking for mushrooms. How would you know where to look and how to look. And, how could you possibly know, beyond all doubt, that what you have encountered is indeed Deity and not some other being that, wishing to be seen as benevolent, is wearing a mask?

When God revealed Himself to man, He did so by establishing a unique relationship with one small nation, then giving certain hand picked men (whom He knew would obey Him faithfully), the authority to speak on His behalf. The result was the 66 books of the Bible... written in everyday language, by everyday people who wrote what they saw, what they heard, and what they were told.

In other words, God told us exactly what He wanted us to know - no more, no less. He is not 'confined' within the covers of a leather-bound book as Manning so colorfully puts it. Instead, that leather bound book contains as much information as God chose to reveal about Himself, and every bit of information necessary to enable us to achieve salvation. He told us what constitutes sin, what He thinks of it, and what the consequences of sin will be for the unrepentant. He told us what His plans for this world are, about His coming Kingdom and what it will take to get there is we so choose. Besides which, there are endless clues to God's nature between the covers of His book.

What else do we think we need to know?

See God and His Bible. The Reliability of The Old Testament - Chapter Four of Choose Life that You Might Live

Silence - God's First Language?
In their effort to convince their audience that their particular brand of meditation is Biblical, Keating, Nouwen, Manning Foster and others of their ilk make the most unfounded, unsupportable statements. For example, in the 20th Anniversary Edition of Thomas Keating's book Open Mind, Open Heart, he thrice mentions that God's first language is silence. [07]

Regardless of how 'wise' he (or you) imagine this statement to be, it is as ridiculous as it gets.

Although language can be nonverbal (ex. body language) it is communication by means of vocal sounds, written symbols, signs, or gestures. Silence conveys absolutely nothing, thus cannot be language. Like so many other statements made by contemplatives, this one is self serving in the extreme. It has not a whit of Biblical support but emanates solely from Keating's apparently very fertile imagination - and is made in order to convince very gullible people that his belief system is theologically correct.

While it is certainly true that quiet and silence have their own benefits, there is NO Scriptural basis for the belief that 'real prayer' is wordless. Besides which, if you take the time to actually read the Bible instead of traipsing off to learn from other religions and traditions, you might actually realize that the God of the Old Testament was anything but silent. In fact, He had a great deal to say, and He said it all through the prophets in their language - Hebrew.

I very much doubt we would have had an Israel (or a Bible for that matter) had God sat Moses down near a bush in the the desert and instructed him to empty his mind. And we certainly wouldn't have had much in the way of four Gospels if Jesus elected to do the same with the crowds that followed Him - Thankfully, He taught them in a very understandable human language.

And, from the very beginning, the Almighty's commands were reasonable, plain, and easy to understand. Towards the end of his life, Moses gave the Israelites God's law, telling them that

     (10)  if you obey the Lord your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and soul.  (11)  "For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach. (12) "It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?' (13) "Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'  (14)  "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.  (15)  "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity; (16) in that I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the Lord your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it. (17) "But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them I declare to you today that you shall surely perish... (Deuteronomy 30:10-18 NASB)

In Romans 10:6-8 Paul directly quoted Moses when he said

    ... "do not say in your heart, 'who will ascend into heaven?' (that is, to bring Christ down), (7)  or 'who will descend into the abyss?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)."  (8) But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" -- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching.

Communion with God does not come through some mystical effort in ascending to God nor one descending deep within oneself to find God but by faith accompanied by obeying His statutes found in His word that had been plainly set before them, and were easily understood. 

If you actually  care about what your Bible says, I challenge you to search for the words "meditate" or "meditation".  You will not come across one instance of anyone speaking about, practicing, or recommending the version taught by the mystics. What you will find is people meditating on God's commandments, precepts statutes, and His wondrous works so that they may not sin against the Father. In fact, God instructed Joshua to meditate on the book of law so that he would be careful to follow everything written in it - thus making his way successful.

    "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.  (Joshua 1:8 NASB)

Do you imagine yourself to be more 'spiritual' or closer to God than Joshua and it is not necessary for you to meditate or focus your thoughts on God's word in order to obey His precepts.

The Psalmists knew the value of meditating on God's word.

    I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds. (Psalms 77:12 NASB)

    I have told of my ways, and You have answered me; Teach me Your statutes. Make me understand the way of Your precepts, So I will meditate on Your wonders. (Psalms 119:26-27 NASB)

    I shall delight in Your commandments, Which I love. And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes. (Psalms 119:47-48 NASB)

    And I shall lift up my hands to Your commandments, Which I love; And I will meditate on Your statutes.  (Psalms 119:48 NASB)

    One generation shall praise Your works to another, And shall declare Your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of Your majesty And on Your wonderful works, I will meditate. (Psalms 145:4-5 NASB)

Does God Dwell Within Us?
The intent behind centering prayer is to bring the practitioner to the center of his own being where he can (as mystics would have you believe) experience the presence of the God who indwells him. For example, Henri Nouwen says God dwells in the inner sanctuary of each human being, while Brennan Manning teaches that an unconditionally loving God dwells within us.

This erroneous doctrine stems from the fact that we have taken several Biblical verses (Romans 8:9, 11, 1 Corinthians 3:16) that tell us that the "Spirit" of God dwells within us and assumed them to mean that God Himself dwell in us.

They are however, not the same thing.

When the Scriptures speak of something or someone dwelling or abiding in us as they often do, it is not to be taken literally. The expression merely indicates that whatever or whomever does the dwelling is the primary influencing factor in our lives. The Spirit of God dwelling in someone simply means that they are spiritually minded, ie. under the direction and influence of the Holy Spirit. If not quenched, the Spirit plays a huge part in the maturing and perfecting of the believer.

    In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27 NASB)

    It is no surprise then that if we are not controlled by the Holy Spirit, we do not belong to God. As Paul told the Romans, "... you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. (Romans 8:9 NASB)

Other influences, both good and bad, also are said to dwell within us. This can be sin (Romans 7:17), the word of God (Colossians 3:16), faith (2 Timothy 1:3-5), truth (2 John 1:1-2 ) etc.  We can also be filled with jealousy, and a host of less than desirable traits.

    But Peter said, "Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land?  (Acts 5:3 NASB)

    But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. (Acts 13:45 NASB)

    being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, (Romans 1:29 NASB)

All children communicate with their parents by interacting with them - talking to them, listening to and learning from them, following their example etc. not by going deep within themselves (even we would consider that extremely strange). Besides which, not only did Christ teach us to speak to the Father in a relational way as someone apart from ourselves, but the Bible tells us that we have been adopted as children of God.

Yet we, once again borrowing a leaf from Buddhist and New Age philosophy, think we can find Him in the center of ourselves.

Christians - Transformed by Pagan Practices?

Consider Henri Nouwen's foreword to Thomas Ryan's 1993 book, Disciplines For Christian Living. He said in part, (All Emphasis Added)

    When Thomas Ryan took a sabbatical and went to India to study the religions of the Hindus, the Buddhists, and the Moslems, he was most struck by their practices. In India he came to realize that there was nothing wrong with the "How to do it?" question and that all the great Hindi, Buddhist and Moslem teachers taught their disciples very practical disciplines to transform their lives. He became deeply convinced that unless Christians offer similar disciplines, the Christian faith will never become a truly transforming faith, with concrete and specific implications for daily life. [13]

It is terrifying that he says that Christians can never be truly transformed unless they practice the disciplines taught by all the "great" Hindi, Buddhist and Moslem teachers. (It is also completely mystifying he is respected by so many Christians) Yet, although the word itself is is only used twice in the New Testament, the Scriptures are very clear transformation is achieved by the "renewing of ones mind".

    And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NASB)

And how does one renew ones mind? The answer is in Ephesians 4:22- 32... lay aside your old self and put on the new which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness.. And as the chapter goes on to say, speak truth with your neighbour, Do not let the sun set on your anger, do not steal, let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, put away all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander. Be kind and forgiving to one another...

Golly! I guess 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 have a medieval castle in England that I am selling for a very good price and would love to talk to you about.

Spiritual Formation in The Bible
According to Renovar (the organization founded by Richard Foster), the Bible has a lot to say about Spiritual Formation. They list a few passages that are supposed to encourage us "in spiritual renewal". For example,

    2 Corinthians 3:18
    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.

    2 Corinthians 4:16
    Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.

    Ephesians 4:20-24
    But that isn't what you learned about Christ. Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God truly righteous and holy.

    1 Timothy 4:7-8
    train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.

    Colossians 3 :10-11
    Each of you is now a new person. You are becoming more and more like your Creator, and you will understand him better. It doesn't matter if you are a Greek or a Jew, or if you are circumcised or not. You may even be a barbarian or a Scythian, and you may be a slave or a free person. Yet Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us. [14]

There is little question that these verses deal with spiritual renewal or, as the Bible puts it, the renewal of the "inner man". However, if you read the verses in context, it is very clear that this renewal is achieved by holiness and knowledge, not by repeating words or phrases for twenty minutes, or endeavoring to empty your mind.

Can We Decide How to Approach God?
Anyone who thinks they can 'conjure up' God by learning and practicing certain techniques, and can cheerfully walk in and out of His presence whenever we have a few spare minutes needs to pay attention to the lesson of Jeroboam, i.e. HE is Lord of the universe and reserves the right to declare the terms by which we can come to Him.

was a valiant warrior who was given ten tribes of Israel by the Lord Himself (1 Kings 11). After being made king over all Israel, he lived in the city of Shechem that became the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel. (Shechem is where Abraham worshipped, Jacob built an altar and bought land, and Joseph was buried. See Genesis 12:6, 33:18-20 and Joshua 24:32) .

However, Jeroboam feared that if the people made yearly trips to offer sacrifices at the Temple in the southern kingdom of Judah, their allegiance may shift.  So, being a pragmatist, he made two golden calves, set one in Bethel and the other in Dan and told the people that since it was too much for them to make the long journey to Jerusalem, they could now worship their gods that had brought them up from the land of Egypt. He also appointed a feast on the fifteenth of the eighth month as a substitute for the feast of Tabernacles on which date he burned incense and sacrificed to the calves he had made..

As said by pastor Bob DeWaay - "There is no evidence he really believed that the golden calves were God, he simply used them to represent God to the people (in rebellion against the 10 commandments). He saw the need for feasts and a priesthood; he just made up his own. He mingled the worship of Yahweh with the practices of the pagans."

And what did God have to say to the man who decided to make changes to how and where people could approach Him? In the Father's words,

    you also have done more evil than all who were before you, and have gone and made for yourself other gods and molten images to provoke Me to anger, and have cast Me behind your back-- therefore behold, I am bringing calamity on the house of Jeroboam, and will cut off from Jeroboam every male person, both bond and free in Israel, and I will make a clean sweep of the house of Jeroboam, as one sweeps away dung until it is all gone. "Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs will eat. And he who dies in the field the birds of the heavens will eat; for the LORD has spoken it."' (1 Kings 14:9-11 NASB)

Like their spiritual father the modern "sons of Jeroboam" are 'thinking outside the box' and endeavoring to use pagan methods to contact the Father. They seem to be unaware, have forgotten, or simply don't care that the Bible tells us that we draw near to God through Christ, not through techniques.

    Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me' (John 14:6).

    But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13 NASB)

    For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16 NASB)

The Father's condemnation of idolatry is found all through Scripture and is, in fact, singled out in the Bible as the most abominable of sins. Yet, we are to believe that methods that parallel and, in many cases, have been learned from Eastern idol worshipers, bring us closer to a Holy God.

In Deuteronomy 12:1-4 gave His people very explicit instructions. They were told to "utterly destroy" all the places where the nations (whom they dispossessed) served their gods and to "cut down the engraved images of their gods and obliterate their name from that place". The warning, which was a precaution in order to avoid the Israelites being ensnared by pagan practices, is as relevant today as it was at the time of Moses. Unfortunately today, as it was at the time of Moses, the warning has gone unheeded.

If we can come closer to God by any means that we see fit, then yoga, tarot cards, Ouija boards, crystal balls can all be used as means to communicate with Him.

Why the Restrictions?
The Bible was given us for a reason. While wisdom and knowledge can come from many sources (even Confucius had some wisdom to offer) the Bible was given us as the only sure guide to spiritual safety and eternal life. It is, as Psalm 119 says, a lamp to our feet and a light to our path - the standard by which we test all things spiritual. The warnings about staying away from pagan practices are for our safety. Human beings do not know who or what they encounter in Contemplative Prayer, Visualization etc. As pastor Bob DeWaay said

    The spirit world that Christian mystics like Morton Kelsey want to explore is far more complex than even Jung and Kelsey give it credit for being. The dangers of deception are far more real. In fact, if we journey into the world of the spirits by means other that what God has ordained, we will be deceived, not may be deceived. The spirits who inhabit that world have been there for many thousands of years practicing the art of deception. They willingly give people whatever experience they would tend to think is from God". [08]

If you are one of the people who is following the path outlined by the mystics and have begun to have experiences and believe that you have encountered God or even that He has spoken or is speaking to you, let me ask you a couple of questions.

    How do you know that you are not the victim of hallucinations - perceiving or hearing things that do not have an external source? How do you know who (or what) you have encountered?
    How do you know it is God who is speaking to you and not someone or something else?
    How do you know that you not being deluded by Satan disguised as an angel of light whose sole purpose is to keep you from the Father?

The truth is you cannot possibly know any of these things unless you have a fixed and infallible standard by which to interpret and understand the experience - to judge whether the things you may have heard or seen and the feelings you nay have experienced are of God or not..

When a person stops using their Bible as the ultimate - in fact their only - spiritual guide they are cast adrift in a ver dangerous and deceptive spiritual sea with neither compass, rudder, or anchor.

To say we can achieve more in the way of getting closer to God than using the methods He has outlined in His word is not only presumptuous and arrogant, but futile and exceedingly dangerous.  Richard Foster himself teaches that "we can specifically pray, inviting God to inform us through our dreams. We should tell Him of our willingness to allow Him to speak to us in this way.  He then adds (All Emphasis Added)

    At the same time, it is wise to pray a prayer of protection, since to open ourselves to spiritual influence can be dangerous as well as profitable. [09]

In Finding the Heart's True Home, Foster urges the reader to learn and pray a prayer of protection which involves being covered with the blood of Christ and ordering all dark and evil spirits to leave. This because

    I also want to give a word of precaution. In the silent contemplation of God we are entering deeply into the spiritual realm, and there is such a thing as a supernatural guidance. While the Bible does not give us a lot of information on that, there are various orders of spiritual beings, and some of them are definitely not in cooperation with God and his way! But for now I want to encourage you to learn and practice prayers of protection.  [10]

    At the outset I need to give a word of warning, a little like the warning labels on medicine bottles. Contemplative Prayer is not for the novice. I do not say this about any other form of prayer.  All are welcome, regardless of proficiency or expertise, to enter freely into adoration and meditation and intercession and host of other approaches to prayer. But contemplation is different... we must learn our multiplication tables before we attempt calculus, so to speak. This is simply a fact of the spiritual realm, and it would be wrong of me not to tell you about it.  Contemplative prayer is for those who have exercised their spiritual muscles a bit and know something about the landscape of the spirit. In fact, those who work in the area of spiritual direction always look for signs of a maturing faith before encouraging individuals into Contemplative Prayer. [11]

When the warning about unclean spirits are to be found from cover to cover in the Bible (See the spirits behind the idols), it is simply impossible that God would want us to become involved in anything that could expose us to demonic influences . Besides which, if we choose to indulge in practices that were never taught in the Bible we not only have absolutely no right to ask for protection, but it wont do us a whit of good. We were already warned not to go there.

 John of the Cross, himself a mystic, issued another warning

    I am really terrified by what passes among us in these days. Anyone who has barely begun to meditate, if he becomes conscious of words of this kind during his self-recollection, pronounces them forthwith to be the work of God; and, convinced that they are so, goes about proclaiming 'God has told me this,' or 'I have had that answer from God.' But all is illusion and fancy; such an one has only been speaking to himself. Besides, the desire for these words, and the attention they give to them, end by persuading men that all the observations which they address to themselves are the responses of God. [12]

Are We Mature or Immature Christians?
In Ephesians 4:11-13 Paul wrote that Christ had appointed pastors and teachers that the infant church might grow into "maturity" - a body worthy of Christ, who its Head.

    And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature (Gk. teleios) man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13 NASB)

The Greek word teleios translated 'mature' is also used in 1 Corinthians 14:20 where it is contrasted with childish thinking

    Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature (Gk. teleios) . 

 However, verse 14 is extremely interesting outlining as it does, one important result of attaining maturity

    As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;  (Ephesians 4:14 NASB)

When we indulge in practices that are outside of what the Bible teaches we prove ourselves immature, carried away by false doctrine and deceitful scheming. We are potentially opening ourselves up to the doctrines of demons we were warned about from cover to cover of the Bible.

Theology and Doctrine
In part, thanks to apostate, so called "Christian" leaders, all too many Christians seem to be under the impression that "theology" and "doctrine" are of minimal importance. They are not only widely misunderstood, but brushed aside by some Christians in the belief that they have little relevance to their religious life and practice. Others seem to think that these five dollar words are best left to those who have spent years poring over dusty tomes, or spent at least a year or two in in the halls of academia, and have a string of letters after their names.

They are both wrong.

The fact is that both theology and doctrine are crucial to authentic Christian faith.

The word the word "ology" simply means any science or branch of knowledge or learning - the subject defined by the first part of the word. For example, anthropology is the study of human beings". Theology is the field of study of divine things - religious truth such as the nature of God, His attributes and relationship with the universe etc. Thus whether the average Christian realizes it or not, all Christians are theologians because, based on however much study they have done, they have some knowledge and thoughts about God.

Doctrine: Contrary to what some believe, doctrine is not something that severely limits our freedom, but comes from from the Latin doctrina, which simply means a belief or system of beliefs. When it comes to their faith, all Christians believe something, which means all Christians have doctrine. However, what you believe comes from whatever theology, you have been exposed to.

Every person's beliefs (doctrine) and spiritual practices are shaped by their theology or what he or she has studied and learned about God and God related topics. You pray or don't pray based on what you believe about God. Additionally, how you pray is also based on your theology. Unfortunately, our entertainment oriented, anti-intellectual, often lazy and superficial culture, that wants everything, including religion, in pre-digested, convenient little packages, is giving less and less heed to in-depth Biblical study and understanding, which leads to right doctrine and practices.

All the apostles took an extremely strong stand against false doctrine because it is anything but harmless. Paul went as far as to say that anyone who preaches a different doctrine is cursed. As the following verses show, false teachings spread like leaven - damning and destroying

    "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30 NASB)

    Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting. (Romans 16:17-18 NASB)

    You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough. (Galatians 5:7-9 NASB)

In the effort to tickle the ears of this postmodern generation, all too many modern day so called 'Christian' leaders assure us that the most important thing in our spiritual life is merely to feel God's presence. All intellectual effort (read studying the Bible chapter by chapter) has been supplanted by methods intended to get the practitioner into direct communion with "God". The fact that these mystical methods bring instant gratification is more than enough to guarantee their success with an experience oriented and Biblically illiterate generation, that

    1) cannot distinguish truth from error and certainly does not recognize heresy even when it smacks them between the eyes

    2) has absolutely NO idea what the Bible says about how to treat teachers of false doctrine.

Yet, the Bible's instructions on how to deal with those who teach and practice false doctrine in the church are very explicit. It is a two step process. The heresy has to be actively confronted and, if not repented of, has to be shunned. The duty of every true believer towards those who profess to be Christians but deny the word of the Lord, is to come out from among them. Leaving, or separating oneself from apostasy and heresy is not optional, but commanded.  Both steps are well summarized in the verses below.

    Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them. (Romans 16:17 NASB)

    A factious man (a heretic) after a first and second admonition refuse; knowing that such a one is perverted, and sinneth, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11. Emphasis Added)

In other words, if someone is demonstrably a heretic in any sense of the word, God's clear instructions are that he is to be shunned.

Yet, because they imagine they feel God's presence 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.

CONTINUE ON TO - Chapter 5 - Eastern Meditation Vs Biblical Meditation Since the words meditate, meditation etc. are not exactly unknown in the Bible, it is imperative that we know if there is any  difference between Buddhist/Hindu/New Age breathing meditation and Biblical meditation.


End Notes. Chapter Four
[01] Richard Foster Prayer: Finding The Hearts True Home, 10th Anniversary Edition. Publisher: SanFran; 10 Anv Lrg edition (December 24, 2002) Pg. 282

[02] Brennan Manning, Signature of Jesus: Multnomah; 4 edition (July 6, 2004). Pg. 174

[03] Brennan Manning, Gentle Revolutionaries. p. 104

[04] Richard Foster. Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings on the Twelve Spiritual Discipline. Publisher: HarperOne; 1st edition (November 13, 2007). Pg. 45

[05] https://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product_slideshow?sku=28399&actual_sku=28399&slide=98

[06] https://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product_slideshow?sku=28399&actual_sku=28399&slide=1

[07] Thomas Keating. Open Mind, Open Heart Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic; 20th Edition edition (November 1, 2006). Pgs 48, 80 and 179

[08] Bob DeWaay. Contemporary Christian Divination - The False Claims and Practices of Christian Mystics.

[09] Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978), p. 23

[10] Richard Foster  Prayer: Finding The Hearts True Home, 10th Anniversary Edition. Publisher: SanFran; 10 Anv Lrg edition (December 24, 2002) Pg. 285

[11] ibid. Pgs. 282-283

[12] 275:580 - 581.  "Subida del Monte Carmelo, I. ii. cap. xxvii.

[13] Henri Nouwen. Foreword to Disciplines for Christian Living: Interfaith Perspectives by Thomas Ryan. Publisher: Paulist Pr (March 1993)

[14] Renovar. Spiritual Formation.https://renovare.org/about/ideas/spiritual-formation


Index To Contemplative Prayer