This first post of the New Year is really a continuation of my last post that illustrated how the Progressive Church and the Missional Church make up the book ends of the Emergent Church with all their commonalities. One of the central elements of both ends is the practice of Contemplative Spiritual practices which are nothing more than New Age – Middle Eastern mysticism. I am encountering more and more Christians who have no idea what Contemplative Prayer/Spirituality is and it is horrifying to see them walk right into it because it gives them what they want. An experience. Church, we do not need false spiritual practices to experience God! His Spirit, the Holy Spirit dwells in every born again Christian. We experience Him regardless of feelings and emotions. If He is leading us, we are experiencing Him. It has taken some time to pray through and research the following terms so that I can give the best explanation of them as possible. If we are hearing or seeing these kinds of words in our churches, it is time to find a new church or new church leaders.
Spiritual Director or Director of Spiritual Formation – Leader who is going to teach you and your church contemplative spiritual practices.
Spiritual Formation – Christianized term for contemplative spiritual practices.
Contemplative Prayer – Any of the following: Centering Prayer (focus on internal silence using a sacred word or phrase to experience Divine presence within), Circle Prayer ( a practice of drawing a circle to stand in and pray for that which you want to see God do. This practice comes from the legend of a Jewish mystic Honi. This practice has been brought to the church through books by Mark Batterson), Breath Prayer (An ancient form of prayer where you choose one to two lines to meditate on as you inhale and exhale over them. An example of a prayer commonly used in this practice is the Jesus Prayer.)
Imaginative Prayer or Ignatian Contemplation – Basically you use your imagination to create and experience the sights and sounds of the scene of the text you have placed yourself in. This practice is meant to bring your whole self into the presence of Christ. This is meant to lead into a time of silence.
Lectio Divina or Divine Reading – This is a traditional Benedictine/ Monastic practice of interpreting scripture – popular in liturgical churches . It has four steps, reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating. You meditate on a single word or phrase from the text. The focus of this practice is not theological understanding such as biblical context etc. instead the practitioner enters into the text with Jesus. Intended to lead into silence.
The Silence or Contemplative Silence – Is the awareness of being drawn into the spaciousness of Love. According to a contemplative life website (which has a very interesting image on it) This Silence is not something that is necessarily done but rather a response to ‘being’. It went on to talk about this response there is a yearning for a stillness that draws you inward and propels you into the world. It stirs within all kinds of feelings and emotions as well as raising to consciousness aspects of personality and community that need healing. (This is why you will find just about every social justice activist practices Contemplative Spiritual practices.)
The Presence – I guess simply put it is experiencing the Divine Presence. It is the heart of Contemplative practices. This can be any “god” he or she etc.
Contemplation – I went to one of the most popular mystics there is for this one. I’m just going to quote R. Rohr and let the explanation come from the horses mouth. He says, “In short, contemplation might be described as entering a deeper silence and letting go of our habitual thoughts, sensations, and feelings in order to connect to a truth greater than ourselves.” Um, a truth? hmmm? He then goes on to mention some of the different forms of ‘contemplation’ that people practice such as Centering Prayer and Breath Prayer, other expressions like dancing, Yoga (this is Hinduism), drumming, ecstatic singing or chanting. I have been a Believer for over 30 years – this is NOT biblical stuff. Last, he mentions, “Contemplation is a word that is not easily defined. It has ancient roots and is continually evolving.”
Soul Care (spiritual direction) – Popular term for the use of contemplative practices in peoples personal well being. This is popping up in more and more churches. You might also encounter it in counseling especially mental health or addiction counseling.
Mantras/Rhythms – Ancient (Middle Eastern) practice. A mantra is a sacred utterance (syllable, word or verse) that is considered to possess mystical or spiritual ability to produce a desired or intended result. As you chant you create a rhythm. They are used to focus or center the mind.
Higher Self – It’s basic premise describes an eternal, omnipotent, conscious and intelligent being, who is one’s self. Also know as as the transcendental Self, or Purusha. In Hinduism it means the Divine Self.
True Self – Richard Rohr says, “Your True Self is a tiny little flame of this Universal Reality that is Life itself, Consciousness itself, Being itself, Love itself, Light and Fire itself, God’s very self.” Basically, the True Self in every person is God. Hmmm…
Enneagram – Spiritual psychology system based on ancient Sufi (Islamic) mysticism. R. Rohr explains that the Enneagram is intended to help you live more fully as your True Self. It is intended to be done along with contemplative practices.
Labyrinth – Ancient spiritual discipline of walking a marked (patterned) path. It is intended to foster contemplation and spiritual transformation. It is rooted in paganism.
Mandalas – Middle Eastern sacred circles used to facilitate centering and meditation.
New Age – An eclectic range of beliefs and practices based on Middle Eastern religion. Strong focus on the spiritual authority of self.
Mysticism – Eastern meditation. The spiritual belief that a connection can be obtained with “God” or the spirits (hmmm) through thought and meditation. In this meditation is the emptying of one’s self, the inner silencing etc.
Monasticism – Institutionalized religious practice or movement whose members attempt to live by a rule that requires works. This is a huge part of the model for the Missional church movement.
Asceticism – The practice of abstaining from worldly pleasure often with a spiritual focus.
Ecumenism – It is basically the unifying of different Christian denominations over sacrament rather than doctrine. The draw of all denominations into Catholicism = one world religion.
Universalism – Religious belief that because every human is created in the image of God, that sooner or later every person will be reconciled to God. This is why our churches need to teach the difference between what the Bible teaches about being created in God’s image and what it actually teaches regarding those who are Children of God.
Desert Fathers/ Mothers – Early 3rd Century monks and nuns who lived in the Egyptian desert. They were the beginning or as one author put it the ‘head waters’ of “Christian” contemplative/mystic practices. They drew from Middle Eastern religion.
Ancient Wisdom – Pre- Christian knowledge, philosophy and beliefs.
Church, it is time to wake up! None of this is supported by scripture unless you use scripture out of context. All of these things are under the umbrella of contemplative spirituality and outside of biblical Christianity. I said in the beginning of this post that this is one of the commonalities between the Progressive church and the Missional church, the other two main staples are ecumenism and social justice/social activism. The Emergent church is not dead, it hasn’t disappeared and it isn’t going to! This movement is leading right into the last days. The missional/micro-church is the leading threat to evangelical churches right now! Some of its most prominent leaders very openly practice and draw from the things I have written about. If your church has incorporated any of these into what they teach, you need a new church or you need new leadership. There are churches using contemplative practices as a model of how to pray or study scripture. Why? That is just as bad as the full practice of these things! This stuff is all rooted in false religion and the occult. That’s it. StraightUp!