Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lurking Contemplative Spirituality

Is your church introducing, or teaching, or promoting the unbiblical, mystical practices of new age meditation or contemplative spirituality? It quite possibly might be happening by stealth.

Rick Warren, America’s Pastor, has successfully infiltrated and influenced myriads of churches of all denominations with his Christian Life And Service Seminars (C.L.A.S.S.) materials.

Those materials are readily available and widely used in thousands of churches as new member or discipleship programs. If your church is using that material, it may be exposing you to the contemplative.

The subject of CLASS 201 (or book two in the series) is Christian Growth or Maturity. Section one introduces The Hand Illustration: Six Practical Ways To Get A Grasp On Your Bible. One of those ways is through meditation. After an introductory passage from Psalms 1:2-3, the book starts with this definition of meditation: “Meditation is focus thinking about a Bible verse in order to discover how I can apply its truth to my own life.”

At this point two words triggered my skepticism; “focus thinking.” I have seen and heard that phrase commonly used in relation to new age meditation techniques but I was also bothered by the whole definition which seems to be more man-centered rather than asking, How or what does this verse reveal about the God of Scripture?

A little further down the page is a list of suggested ways to meditate on a verse. Included are:
· Visualize the scene in your mind.
· Say the verse aloud, each time emphasizing a different word.
· Rewrite the verse in your own words.
· Replace the pronouns or people in the verse with your own name.
· Pray the verse back to God.

That’s where I got really nervous; this seems very similar to the methodology of classic contemplative prayer, but “what do I know?”

So I move on to another step – How to apply God’s Word. There, the reader is instructed to ask, “What did it mean to the original hearers?” I think the more appropriate question to ask is, “What did it mean to the writer?” In other words, what did God say? Not, what does it mean to me?

The next section of the book deals with developing the habit of a daily time with God. In it is a five-step chart titled, “Fifteen Minutes With God.” Now, I don't want to be an alarmist or anything, BUT, this chart follows, almost exactly, the contemplative practice of "Lectio Divina" which is a form of mysticism wherein the practitioners claim to receive special revelation from God.

The first step is, RELAX (suggested time 1 minute). Be still quiet! Slow down! Prepare your heart. Take a few deep breaths and wait on God.

The next step is to READ …until you feel God has told you something. Then stop and think about it.

The third step instructs the reader to REFLECT. It refers the reader back to the section on how to meditate and then suggests that the reader “think about what the passage means to you.”

All of this language is very indicative of contemplatives. But just to be fair, lets STOP for a reality check here. Am I presuming too much? Am I being overly critical? Am I trying too hard to make this say more than it says? Is this stuff really dangerous? It seems rather innocuous; maybe just slightly questionable on some minor points but, hey, c’mon Ralph, give Rick Warren a break and stop trying to make something out of nothing.

O.K. I have been accused of being skeptical before. But before I repent, in the interest of clarity, I want to make just one objective observation, offer one bit of supporting evidence for my concern and ask one final question. Then you can decide for yourself. That’s fair!

First the observation – This material was produced, promoted and propagated by Rick Warren.

The supporting evidence - I will let Rick Warren speak for himself. These quotes can be read in this post at Lighthouse Trails Research:

“The last thing Christians need is another Bible study.”
“The church is not fully mature without contemplative prayer.”

The final question – Is it unreasonable for me to presume that a man who believes that the church needs contemplative prayer would not reflect his beliefs in his teaching materials?

As Fox News says, “We Report, You Decide.”


Daisy said...

Sigh. Why can't these folks just make it about Jesus?

Anonymous said...

Our church started using this discipleship series only they didn't tell us it was Warren's. I found out it was Warrens when I saw something just like it in another church. I asked the leadership and they said they developed it themselves. That's when I started looking on the internet and I found out that there are all kinds of churches using the same stuff as we are. Our leadership still don't admit that it is Warrens.

Jim R.

Anonymous said...

I asked the leadership and they said they developed it themselves.

Sounds consistent with the Warren way. Lies aren't really THAT bad if they server the Purpose.