Bible Still Alive and “Ancient Mystics” Dead
By Dwayna Litz - www.ltwinternational.org
Posted January 10, 2008
There is a growing fascination with the study of ancient mysticism in seminaries and Christian academia today. Mystics such as Julian of Norwich, who called God “mother”, are lauded as if they -- rather than God's Word and Spirit -- held the key to spiritual insight and maturity. Has the blood of Jesus grown insufficient over time? Must we now resort to anti-biblical, extra-biblical and even occult prayer practices for a close walk with God? Is a humble walk of obedience and trust in Him no longer enough?
The Bible does not teach practices such as--
“breath prayers” or Labyrinth walking
pantheism (worship of nature)
panentheism (worship of a “god force” both higher than nature and within all of nature)
acts of penance or other pious or "meritorious" works of the flesh (such as spending time in silence.
Yet "Christians" participate in these rituals without questioning their roots or results. Many are introduced to these beliefs and practices by Christian authors at apologetics seminars and conferences who emphasize experience and unity. But that unity is often stretched far beyond the blending of today's diverse expressions of "Christianity." It now includes the merging of old and new, medieval mysticism with Evangelical theology.
This merger is costly, for religious unity demands Scriptural compromise. Yet, popular but double-minded pastors and apologists -- once trusted as sound teachers -- are distorting the Truth they had pledged to honor. Consequently, the "truth" they teach becomes part of an enticing lie.
The “Ancient” Bible Still More Reliable and Alive Than “Ancient Mystics”
“Since her beginning, one of the greatest contributions and achievements of the church is the history, literature, and people at the core of Christian spiritual formation. There is simply nothing like this tradition anywhere else, and the profundity of the development of Christian spirituality is unrivaled. Grounded in Scripture, from the Desert Fathers to Henri Nouwen and Richard Foster, we have available to us a deep, rich knowledge of the soul and its proper functioning before God.” (p. 155, “Renovation of the Soul”; section “Cultivating Emotional Sensitivity to the Movement within Your Soul”)
In truth, neither Henri Nouwen nor Richard Foster is “grounded in Scripture”.(See Ray Yungen’s book A Time of Departing, Al Dager’s "Taking Leave of One’s Senses.)”*
Impressionable students of apologetics are being drawn to intellectual contemplative prayer practices as speakers such as J.P. Moreland entice listeners with anecdotes of visions, dreams and the experience of something “more.” More? As if the Bible is not enough, as if child-like indebtedness to the Biblical Jesus has grown stale. What happens to a life “hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3) when subjective experience takes front stage?
Dr. Walter Martin, founder of the Christian Research Institute, said, “We must submit our intellect to the authority of God’s Word.” We must not trust in our own intellect for guidance but bring our offenses and thoughts under the submission of the Bible.
J.P. Moreland continues:
“Of central concern to this literature is the development of sensitivity to the inner affective movements of the soul.” (p. 155)
Where is that found in the Bible? God's Word warns that “he who trusts in his own heart is a fool” (Proverbs 28:26).
J.P. Moreland goes on to write on the same page:
“…we Evangelicals have much in common with our Catholic friends, and central concerns and insights about spiritual formation are among them.” [Emphasis added].
Go to http://www.bereanbeacon.org and http://www.pro-gospel.org to peruse the great divide the monastic works of righteousness pose to salvation by grace. I have Catholic friends, and I appreciate their friendship very much, but when it comes to salvific doctrine the Catholic Church’s official teaching is left wanting biblically. Now, due to such a revival of ancient mysticism amongst reformed denominations promoting “listening prayer” and the study of “ancient mystics” over the Bible, seekers are not even learning how to be saved in Protestant churches. People pack auditoriums in seeker-friendly venues Sunday after Sunday only to assume that a work such as “going to church” makes them a “Christian”.
Churches are growing, but the members don’t know how to articulate what it means to be saved according to the Bible, and they have no understanding of the role of God in salvation. They are left to “imagine” that salvation comes without repentance of sin (since repentance is not mentioned in most contemplative, seeker-friendly “listening prayer sessions”). They are left to assume a relationship with God is based on works, such as walking through a Labyrinth (or slowly meandering, as if a slower paced stroll is more righteous to God). None of this is found in Scripture, and it's rarely tested biblically in comparison to the rate it is being propagated by “contemplative Christians”.
The Bible says, “Suffer hardship…as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3). The Apostle Paul never mentions a retreat center in his admonishment to us to be more like Christ.
Running a Race With Aim
“…I run in such a way as not without aim…” (1 Cor. 9:26).
Though contemplative spirituality may be based on how much people speak or don’t speak, how well they practice "silence," or how slowly they walk, these practices have no Biblical basis. We are commanded to “examine all things carefully…” in 1 Thess. 5:21. Chapters such as Romans 14 assure us that we have been made free in Christ.
Where do we find any mention of being persecution for righteousness sake in the contemplative arenas? But the Bible tells us repeatedly that God's true followers will share in Christ's suffering and face all kinds of trials that will test our faith. (See Philippians 1:29) And since today's "Christian" mysticism is focused on experience rather than Truth, the reality of sin and need for true repentance (conviction of sin and turning away from it) are often ignored. But the Bible tells us that without repentance we will perish (Luke 13:3).
Greg Koukl, president of Stand to Reason, mentions J.P. Moreland in his July/August 2007 issue of the STR newsletter, “Solid Ground,” ending his letter quoting Moreland, stating that Moreland is one of his mentors. That compliment is disconcerting, given the fact that Greg Koukl has influence over many Christians in his STR ministry. Even with Moreland announcing himself as a “mystic”, Stand to Reason continues to promote his work via their web site. It featured his book Kingdom Triangle in their 2007 fall mail-out advertising, “STR Helps You Step Up Your Study this Fall.” But how can teachings such as those documented in Kingdom Triangle “build the confidence of Christians?"
A friend donated a CD series a few years back to LTW of taped sessions of an apologetics conference at Biola University. I listened to Moreland call himself a “mystic” in his lecture and contemplate the navel (I am not exaggerating ; he discussed the anatomical navel in his lecture), and I realized that there was far too little, if any, Bible mentioned for Biola to wet my appetite for learning at this point. Surprisingly, the acronym, B.I.O.L.A., still supposedly stands for Bible Institute of Los Angeles.
In his book, Love Your God with all Your Mind, Moreland teaches:(p. 164, emphasis added. See The Secret)
“There is too little concentration of [the human ] will and intelligence in our public (not to mention) private prayers.”
Occult followers of the spirit of a Lord Maitreya “christ -consciousness” would also agree:
The title, Maitreya, means “Loving One,” from the Sanskrit, maitri, meaning radiant kindness and love. The same great Initiate Who is adorned with this title is the same great 'Teacher alike of angels and men' Whom Christians call the Christ. However, His radiant love is not that of the meek and mild kindness portrayed by the theologians and ecclesiastical minds, but an inclusive energy of exceeding potency and radiatory power, a solar energy which He can focus through His all-inclusive radiatory Will as a center of magnetic power so great that it can 'draw all men and women unto Him.'”
But God says, “Do not learn the way of the nations.” (Jeremiah 10:2).
J.P. Moreland is scheduled to speak at the National Pastors Convention in San Diego in February, 2008, along with Emergent Church speakers. No Bible verse is found in the advertisement for the NPC, but we are told there will be entertainment provided for the pastors. “Conversation” now seems to be Zondervan Publishing’s marketing emphasis—conversation about the Bibles they publish. Here is an excerpt from the web site details for the convention:
“An excellent roster of speakers, comedians, and musicians are lined up for you to enjoy. Choose from critical concern courses, seven general sessions, and over 60 seminars. Or, you can just kick back poolside in the warmth of the sun. Whether you need new ministry ideas, rest, or time with your spouse, NPC is the place to be for people in ministry.”
Compare such a comfortable snippet to my favorite quote by Charles Spurgeon:
“It is a very ill omen to hear a wicked world clap its hands and shout ‘well done’ to the Christian man.”
Making Time to Focus on Yourself?
Having trouble with your prayer life? Focus on the Family “TrueU” offers tips for Christians for a richer prayer time. Here are meditation tips from “How Spiritual Disciplines Work: Solitude and Silence” by J.P. Moreland:(Bolded emphasis and brackets mine)
“Once or twice a year, go on a solitude retreat from 9:00 a.m. one day until 5 p.m. the next day…In my experience, Catholic retreat centers are usually ideal for solitude retreats…For your retreat, take a Bible, a notebook, and hymnal…I also recommend that you take pictures of your loved ones as well as an object or image that reminds you of Jesus. By focusing on these things, your loved ones and the Lord Jesus can become steady objects of focus and love.
“After checking in, stay in your room, get on your knees for around 15 to 30 minutes, and dedicate the next 32 hours to God. When you kneel, be sure it is in a comfortable place. If you kneel at your bedside, open the Bible to a favorite passage, read it a few times and pray it to Jesus. Then get up and go for a long, slow, quiet walk. If possible, walk where there are beautiful sounds and sights, for example, near fountains, flowers or beautiful statues…
“As you quiet down, most likely, anxious thoughts, worries about things you need to get done, tensions with work, family or responsibilities, will surface. Don’t fight them. Like an ocean wave, if you fight against them, they will overwhelm you and you will become fixated on them. Just let them roll through your body, mind and emotions. Pray about your concerns and, after awhile, stop to look at a flower or to listen to a fountain. Or gaze at a statue of Jesus.
[Exodus 20:4 commands us to not make for ourselves any “likeness of what is in heaven”, which would include Jesus since He is seated at the right hand of God as we are told in Hebrews 1:3, 12:2, and 1 Peter 3:22. ] Or let some pleasant thought, feeling, or memory run through your mind over and over again.
“While focusing on some beautiful object or some pleasant memory, let joy and thanksgiving for the object or memory well up within you. [We are commanded to not worship any graven image. (Exodus 20:4)] Begin to sing a song to God. Take a passage you have memorized and which you dearly love and pray it repeatedly to God. [Yet the Bible warns, “But when ye pray do not use vain repetitions, as the heathen do, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Matthew 6:7).] Use this as an occasion to pause and give thanks for specific aspects of your life from the wonderful taste of coffee to more important matters.”
“As concerns spring up, talk again to Jesus about that. If you can’t get worries off your mind, I suggest that you schedule time later your first day, say, one hour before dinner, to do nothing but focus in prayer and meditation on your worries. That way, if a concern threatens to overwhelm you, you can tell yourself you will face it later.” [That which proceeds out of the man that is what defiles the man. (Mark 7:20).]
No Need for Monasteries—We Have a Better “Tabernacle”
“And I will set My tabernacle among you…” (Leviticus 26:11). Our tabernacle is alive in Christ.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14). “…And low I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). “…where can I flee from Thy presence?” (Psalm 139:7). We are at “rest” in Jesus. (See Hebrews 4:1-9). We are His house. (Hebrews 3:6; Romans 12:1; 1 Peter 2:5). God dwells in His people, and we don’t have to go to a monastery, a “temple made of hands” (Acts 7:48, 17:24) to commune with Him.
God’s Word still has the power to refresh us in Him and is sufficient apart from any “work” of human righteousness, including spending time in silence at retreat centers. I do agree with J. P. Moreland in recommending the hymns. I always start my prayer times off by singing hymns as they renew my mind in Jesus and take the focus off of myself and draw me to spend time in God’s Word: http://lightingtheway.blogspot.com/2007/12/beautiful-songs-by-francis-havergal.html
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits...” (1 John 4:1).
See also Hosea 4:12-14 and Amos 5:25-26
“I do not want you to become sharers in demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? We are not stronger than He are we? All things are lawful but not all things are profitable…” (1 Corinthians 10:20-23).
Cares dissipate “fixing our eyes upon Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2). No statues are needed.
© 2007 Dwayna Litz
www.ltwinternational.org or www.lightingtheway.blogspot.com
After months of sitting under the teaching of Pastor John MacArthur, Dwayna Litz founded Lighting The Way Ministry. This ministry works with churches in Southern CA in evangelizing the area through prayer walking, feeding the neighborhood weekly, donating clothing to the homeless, bringing Bible studies to them, writing tracts for the New Age environment, taking people to church and to church events, and providing Biblical answers to their objections to Christianity in love and gentleness.
J.P. Moreland is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Talbot School of Theology and director of Eldos Christian Center. He has contributed to over 40 books, including Love Your God With All Your Mind (NavPress), and over 60 journal articles. Dr. Moreland also co-authored the 2006 release, The Lost Virtue of Happiness: Discovering the Disciplines of the Good Life (NavPress 2006). © 2006 J.P. Moreland; Copyright 2006 Focus on the Family…TrueU, TrueU.org, and the TrueU shield are trademarks and “A Place to Discover the Truth” is a service of Focus on the Family… Source: http://www.trueu.org/Academics/LectureHall/A000000423.cfm
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