October 19, 2017

IM Book Review: Sacred Pathways

One Size Fits None
Review of Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas

We’ve all held up ridiculously sized articles of clothing and scorned their boast that one size fits all, from Linda Hunt to Shaquille O‘Neal.  We know that clothes should be made in different sizes.  We accept that not all medicine is suitable for all people and all ailments.  No one thinks that everyone should marry the same person or live in the same size house.

Why is it then that there is a one-size-fits-all evangelical do-it-yourself worship procedure?  A quiet time, personal Bible study with highlighter markers at hand, and church on Sunday morning and Wednesday night — that’s what Christians do.  If this regime doesn’t help you, then do it harder.  See if there’s some unexamined sin in your life that’s separating you from God, then get up earlier in the morning and do it again.  And again.

Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Pathways is a breath of fresh air to those who are suffocating in poorly fitting spiritual disciplines.  The book is not about corporate worship.  Mr. Thomas does not go anywhere near the Worship Wars, liturgy versus free form services, hymns versus choruses, etc.  He is writing for people who want to grow closer to God in their private worship.

If you’ve read anything else by Gary Thomas or checked out his website, you know that unlike some evangelicals he believes that the Holy Spirit has been active throughout Christian history, not just since 1517.  He’s willing to look at different Christian traditions and learn from them.  Mr. Thomas is the founder and director of The Center for Evangelical Spirituality, “a ministry that integrates Scripture, church history, and the Christian classics.”  From his knowledge of Christian history and practice, he has outlined nine “sacred pathways.”

A sacred pathway is a way a person takes toward God.  The quiet time/Bible study route is a sacred pathway and is very helpful to some people.  But for those of us who feel the need for something different, who were perhaps made a little differently, Thomas outlines nine Christian practices of personal worship.

I won’t tell you what the nine pathways are.  Read the book.  But I will detail the two things I found most helpful about this book.

First and most important, it gave me permission to be different, to have different gifts, different needs, and a different way to relate to God. My spiritual life had been the valley of dry bones for years.  I kept taking more Bible studies at church, beating myself up for my inability to get anything out of a quiet time, examining myself for unconfessed sin — Whew.  Then Sacred Pathways reminded me that great Christians throughout the ages had approached God in different ways.  Some had been contemplatives, some reformers, some fierce intellectuals — and all had grown spiritually themselves as well as contributing to the beauty of the Church Universal.  I felt on reading this book that I had walked out of a tiny house — a nice little house, but very limited — and suddenly seen a vast world all the way to the horizon.

The second thing that’s helpful about this book is its practicality. There are clear descriptions of the sacred pathways, short tests to help you determine which appeal to you, resources for you to discover more about them, and examples of Christians who exemplify them.  An excellent feature was the caution in each chapter.  Any practice out of balance can lead to extremism, and Mr. Thomas does well to warn us of the inherent temptations of pursuing one pathway exclusively.  He understands that our goal as Christians is to grow to be like Christ, not to be the extreme example of intellectualism or contemplation.

Several caveats: First, the book is not great literature, it’s helpful advice.  Think of it as one of those little maps at the front of guidebooks, not as an in-depth travelogue.  Second, you could make the criticism that Mr. Thomas’ works fall under the questionable “therapeutic Christianity” label.   Third, if you want more from him you’ll be disappointed to find that his website is largely for marketing himself and his books — but under “Free Resources” you can find biographies of great Christians through the ages and reading suggestions for some Christian classics.  And while he endorses  a wider Christianity, he himself is pretty solidly white American evangelical — not the worst thing in the world, but by no means everything in the world.

Nonetheless, reading Sacred Pathways ten years ago was a turning point on my spiritual journey.  Maybe I turned a little more sharply than Mr. Thomas would have liked, since I would now no longer call myself an evangelical.  But perhaps not; he seems to have a sense of Christian unity.  I would highly recommend this book to people from all traditions, Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox, who feel distant from God in their private worship.  Everyone will find in it some familiar things and some challenging things.

Enjoy.

Comments

  1. Experienced this book for the first time in 2008 while preparing as a liturgically barren evangelical to lead a spiritual retreat. The materials I used were very well received by the evangelical chaplains I was leading. I think many of us are aware of the lack of dimension in our spirituality.

  2. Thanks Damaris, this sounds like a must read. The one sizes fits none tag has me hooked (I’m a non-con).

    Greg R

  3. Our marriage couselor gave us his “Sacred Marriage” to read as part of our pre-marital counseling. It is, by far, the best book I’ve read on marriage. I now give it as a standar gift to friends (single, dating, engaged or married) who are looking for help in relationships.
    If this book is anything like that one, it is worth the reading. ~ L

    • Bought/picked it up tonight after work after reading some excerpts online. Thanks for the recommendation.

  4. Could you explain, in light of the Protestant Reformation, how Roman Catholic contemplative mystics qualify as “great Christians.”

    Sure, the Holy Spirit’s been active; like say, with His Church Reformers, who rejected these mystics’ self-centered extra-biblical revelations and taught the proper Christian spirituality of Sola Scriptura.

    • What do you mean by “the proper Christian spirituality of Sola Scriptura”?

      Also, even if you think the Protestant Reformers were right on target and their protest was in God’s will, how do you know that the Holy Spirit has been active with only “His Church Reformers”? There are those who believe the Holy Spirit left the church in its early years and took a nap for next 1000 years until John Hus and Martin Luther appeared … but surely it is at least *possible* that God was active.

      • how do you know that the Holy Spirit has been active with only “His Church Reformers”?

        I didn’t say that; this is a common straw man, which is put forth by those who have little idea of what the Reformation was about i.e. the Gospel itself.

        The mystics romanced today were slaves to the Roman Catholic Church who has anathematized God’s Gospel of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name by God’s grace alone; through faith alone, in Christ’s finished work alone on the Cross.

        • If you believe that the Holy Spirit was active among people besides the Reformers, why not among the Catholic mystics? I understand that you think their soteriological views were seriously deficient, but they were contemplating some of the same themes (the Trinity, Christ’s sacrifice, grace, etc).

          In defense of mysticism, one might also note that it is not a solely Catholic phenomenon. There were streams of mysticism (albeit experienced and expressed very differently) among the Puritans. Whatever you mean by ‘the spirituality of Sola Scriptura,’ it apparently included being ravished by God and writing poems about it. :p

        • Ken,

          I will attempt to answer you and hope that my words will shed some light into mystics and mysticism.

          I recognize that there are no known Protestant mystics; I found that out by looking for some. (I had just read “Prayers by Women Mystics.” and they were all Catholic.

          The ideas, etc. from mystics are considered private revelation that adds NOTHING to Holy Scripture, and is binding on no one else. (Just like a Christian man gets a revelation that he should marry a specific woman). The revelations should be consistent with the Bible.

          About being slaves to the Catholic Church, I hardly think that a woman trying to reform an order of nuns, being constantly aware of the Spanish Inquisition is being a slave. She even had a comfortable relationship with Jesus to say,”If you treat your friends like this, no wonder you don’t have too many.” (After her cart turned over in the mud). (She being Teresa of Avila).

          The wiser ones were under the guidance of the Church, but sometimes that made their lives more difficult because of misunderstandings, mistranslations of their writings, etc. (Sister Faustina (Divine Mercy devotion) was originally considered heretical, but when a more accurate translation was made, she was found to be orthodox. )

          One thing that might make some people uncomfortable with mystics is that many of them speak more of a bedroom language when talking to and about God, rather than the language of theology, or even ordinary conversation.

          • While I agree that protestants do not have a mystic tradition to match that of Catholicism, I don’t think it is altogether absent. One of my favorite books is called, “The Chrisitan Book of Mystical Verse”, compiled by A.W. Tozer. Tozer would define mysticism a bit differently than you have, and focuses more on the writings of those who had an intense, personal, experiential relationship with God that transcends rational description (and so must resort to the images and metaphors) , rather than than those who claimed some sort of personal revelation.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Romish Popery put my head back together after your Reformed Sola Scriptura Sola Fide Born Again Bible Believers ripped it apart, Silva. There really WERE Believers in Christ between the death of the last apostle (or the rise of Constantine) and 1517 (or whenever your church was founded), and these days I go for the Church with the solid and unbroken historical trace. (And then there’s Father “Orthocuban” Obregon, from the other shore of the Adriatic…)

          Too many Protestant types have a Mormonesque view of history — the Church went off the rails early (into “slavery to the Roman Catholic Church”) until Our Founder/Reformer/Whatever was led Without Error to Restore The Original New Testament Church Founded in 33 AD, the first Real Christians since Constantine’s Great Apostasy. Same view of church history as the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc — everybody since Christ himself got it wrong except Us.

        • “The mystics romanced today were slaves to the Roman Catholic Church who has anathematized God’s Gospel of repentance and the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ Name by God’s grace alone; through faith alone, in Christ’s finished work alone on the Cross.”

          Ken,

          I humbly caution you to be careful of judgmental statements you choose to make. It is very clear from this statement alone that you do not know what the true Catholic Faith is and that you have not taken time to personally study the Churches teachings. I will add, I am not referring to books written “about” catholics by non-catholics nor those written by all catholics. I am referring to the core documents and official teachings at the heart of the Churches’ Faith. If you took the time to do such a study, with a truly open heart before God asking the Holy Spirit to open your mind to understand the truth of the Catholic Faith you would then know this statement of yours is not a truthful representation, that it is false.

          As for your previous statement: “these mystics’ self-centered extra-biblical revelations”

          If you knew anything about the Catholic Church you would know that it would not and has never and will never Officially support, endorse as authentic, or encourage the writings nor teachings of any Catholic, mystic or not, who contradicts the truth in Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Apostolic Fathers who themselves were taught by the very apostles and disciples of Jesus.

          The true mystics were(are) far from self-centered. One can only experience the depths of the Presence of God by a total self-emptying of all that is not God, by a total abandonment and total surrender to God. Only the Holy Spirit can bring this about if the person is willing to surrender to the interior undoing of one’s “self” by the same Holy Spirit to be transformed into the image of Jesus. This is a interior journey in the depths of one’s being where the soul comes to stand naked before the indwelling Trinity lived out through the realities of day to day life. Only the Holy Spirit can enlighten the mind and reveal to the heart the wonders of living in deep fellowship with The Indwelling Lover of one’s soul, experiencing each moment of one’s day, in even the humblest of tasks, the Presence of the Divine, the awesome God we serve.

          I pray the Holy Spirit be allowed by you to open you heart to know the wonders He works in souls. Be careful not to speak out against the very marvelous workings of the very same Holy Spirit you claim to believe in and know.

          As this posts topic presents : not all souls/persons are called to make the same journey home. Not all are called to be mystics. I am reminded of a comment Jeff Dunn made in one of his recent posts about what he believes God is calling him to do for Christian artists. He said that if someone didn’t understand what he was sharing with us was because it was his calling and not theirs.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Treaty of Westphalia ended the Reformation Was in 1648, Silva.

    • Daniel,

      I couldn’t reply under your posting to mine, so thank you for bringing up Tozer, I hadn’t heard of him, nor was he mentioned when I asked the question about Protestant mystics at a seminary bookstore.

      While I wasn’t as clear as I should have been, I really include your definition as part or all of mine. The concepts in evangelicalism just make discussing certain things very, very hard.

      • Anna, some other protestant with mystical leanings (broadly defined) might be George Fox, William Law, John Wesley, George MacDonald, and Evelyn Underhill. I have not read Fox or Underhill, so can not say much about them other than their reputation as those who take seriously the interior life. Others who have helped me personally are Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Andrew Murray, and E.M. Bounds. I mentioned him in another comment, but would also recommend most highly some of the writings of D. A. Carson. He is a New Testament scholar of first order, yet his non-technical books have both careful doctrine and heart-inflaming devotion. His “A Call to Spiritual Reformation” was especially helpful. He would, no doubt, reject the mystic label, but he speaks solidly to the heart as well as the head.

  5. Just another way for Christians to embrace syncretism- just like the Israelites worshiping the golden calf in the name of God. Now Christians want to “come to God” through practices that the RCC borrowed from the Eastern religions. We are not entitled to pick the path by which we approach God. This is such post modern/New Age thinking- please reconsider your recommendation for this book.

    • From Damaris’ article:

      An excellent feature was the caution in each chapter. Any practice out of balance can lead to extremism, and Mr. Thomas does well to warn us of the inherent temptations of pursuing one pathway exclusively. He understands that our goal as Christians is to grow to be like Christ, not to be the extreme example of intellectualism or contemplation.

      Are you sure you read all of the above ?? If so, which part of Thomas’ book is “New Age thinking” ?? You’ve lost me here….and I am no big fan of New Age thinking (once did a Sunday school lesson chewing on Eckhart Tolle).

      • Greg- I grew up in a protestant church, thinking I was a Christian. Looking back it was just moralism I was following. After failing miserably at this- in other words- sinning horribly, I walked away from what I thought was Christianity. But I needed answers. I had done horrible things. Since Christianity was off the table for me- I read lots of self-help books and got into counseling. This all led me to New Age books and ideas. The first word I always looked up was “sin.” But guess what- they do not use that word. They do use a lot of Bible verses and Christian terminology though- like atonement and God and Christ consciousness. The Christian terminology actually made me feel comfortable- I didn’t want to be some hippy New Ager. The essence of New Age philosophy is a spirituality without any boundaries. If something makes you feel closer to God- do it. And I did :nature, contemplation, activism, intellectualism, and much more. Wait a second- that sounds a lot like Thomas’ paths to God. And therein lies the problem.
        When God saved me through the beautiful news that my sins could be forgiven because of what Christ had done for me on the cross, I saw the futility of trying to come to God on my terms, and I threw myself at the foot of the cross. My “paths to God” do not bring forgiveness of sins (even they did make me feel closer to God at times).

        Then as a Christian- guess what I started being introduced to as ways to grow closer to God- New Age practices- in particular so called Christian contemplation, which is just a “Christianized” way to say transcendental/Buddhist meditation. I used to joke and say “What next?- “Christian Tarot cards.” Too late- they’re already out there. Along with Christian Yoga, Christian Dream interpretation, Christian spell-breaking, Christian visualization, Christian labyrinths, and much more.
        I am so glad you taught about Eckhart Tolle- many professing Christians saw no conflict between his teaching and Christianity. But frankly, a bigger threat to Christianity is this Christianizing of pagan practices- that is way more deceptive.
        I would encourage you to study how these “ancient practices” came into the Catholic Church- and then study how they have been introduced into the evangelical church (which is primarily through Richard Foster and Dallas Willard.)
        Hope I have helped connect the dots.

        • Cathy

          Thank you for your moving and well written post. I am thrilled that God has shown Himself so strong in your salvation.

          I think I understand where you are coming from. You see Christians adopting practices associated with the lostness in your past. I would think you are wise in not incorporating these into your life (at least not right now).

          Many of us, however, do not have these associations, and have found in Foster, Willard and the like a travelogue to an inward country that our sermons have left unexplored. For myself, at least, they have taught me to worship in spirit and in truth.

          I must disagree with you on the point of the origins of the spiritual disciplines advocated by these men (and others). In the first place, it is often difficult to distinguish the historical source of all these practices. Simply because a pagan or eastern religion has incorporated something does not mean they originated it. In the second place, to argue that some practice or idea is bad simply because of its origins is to commit the genetic fallacy.

          This is not to say I would incorporate Christian Tarot cards into my devotions; I would reject them because Tarot seems a silly superstition that would deny God’s good and sovereign control of my life.

          Anyway, that’s my take.

          • All man contrived pathways to god; steps to god are NOT found in God’s Word, the Bible. This is nonsense– Desert Fathers etc. Man believes he can create some “experience” to draw close to God by emptying the mind. That is impossible and it is Satan who deceives man into believing these encounters are true. Hebrews 4:16 tells us to go Boldly to the throne of grace. Mat. 6:7 we are warned about mantras/vain repetitions! It is a privilege to go in prayer; anytime, anywhere to the Lord who hears our every need. (those who have come to repentant faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior)

            This “profound” books on “how to” do spirituality better have no merit and are the lies ot the devil. Our confidence in the sufficiency of scripture alone. It is a grave danger to believe the untruths that come from men and their creative false teachings.

          • I have to jump your case on Matthew 6:7. If I said to avoid blue cars, would you then logically assume that all cars are blue? When Jesus warned about “vain repetitions,”, he wasn’t saying REPETITION was wrong. If you think He meant to critique the FORM of prayer than you have missed the point of the passage entirely. Jesus means to critique the heart of the person praying. He says that your repetitions are vain when they become the basis of your acceptability before God. Protestants take this and say their lack of repetition makes their prayer acceptable, and end up making the same error: It’s not your form of prayer: It to whom you pray and in whose name. The fact that Jesus used the grammatical modifier “vain” in front of repetitions thus incurs that repetitions are NOT, in and of themselves, vain. Otherwise, they wouldn’t need the modifier and the use of it would be redundant. Mantras? Quite useful. Try Galatians 5:16. Repeat it to yourself over and over. This is harmful because it originated outside Christiandom? Colossians 3:16. Mantras are not wrong of themselves. It depends on what you are repeating. TRUTH, by all means, is helpful, no matter how many times you repeat it to yourself.

          • …Oh, and our confidence is in the sufficiency of CHRIST alone, not scripture.

        • First of all, “welcome to IMONK”, I’m not sure if you’ve posted here before and how often. My memory for faces is much better than names, which leaves my up the river when it comes to remembering some of my IMONK neighbors.

          Your post helps me in some ways, but brings up a few questions that I’ll hit on, BUT, I dont’ want this to become a sub-thread all its own. Damaris has written a lovely summary of what seems to me to be a helpful book, and she doesn’t need a brushfire in the background.

          I’m glad the Jesus has graciously helped you out of the swamp that is New Age philosophy. That is worth celebrating, early and often. I’ve (quickly) read two of Tolle’s blockbuster bestsellers, Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline” (eons ago), and a few of Willards books. I haven’t yet read Thomas, but here’s the deal.

          Foster, Willard, and I’m betting Thomas are as far apart from Tolle, and anyone like him as stars on the opposite side of the universe. I’ll let Damaris , or someone else who has read him vouche for Thomas more thoroughly, but I harbor no doubts about Willard’s orthodoxy, and creedal fidelity. Just wondering, have you read Thomas/Willard/Foster first hand, even if it’s just extended articles or essays, or basing your view on something or someone else ?? I’d be curious to know how you came to your views.

          What “pagan practices” are you getting at, and why ?? Maybe ‘contemplative prayer” or the Jesus prayer, or the use of repetition ?? I’m fishing here…..

          Not trying to put you on trial, but your post comes across like a “shot over the bow”, so I’m asking you to flesh that out a bit.

          Thanks
          Greg R

          PS: if this whole direction of post is seen as a waste of time, Damaris/Mike/Jeff, just delete as you see fit.

        • “But frankly, a bigger threat to Christianity is this Christianizing of pagan practices- that is way more deceptive.”

          I wonder … Obviously, it depends a bit on what practice we are discussing. If it’s a practice with profoundly un-Christian meanings embedded into it, then yes. But in the case of meditation, might we merely be discussing a method of concentration and praying? If so, is there really anything dangerous about it? Also, even if I believe that Christianity is uniquely true, might natural revelation and the ancient practices of other religions be doing something valid in their own quests to encounter the divine? If so, would it be wrong for Christianity to have adopted some practices of encountering God mystically from — or adopting some that seem like — those used in other Eastern religions? Keep in mind that Christianity is itself very Eastern in its roots. I don’t think there is any mistake that traditional Judaism, Orthodox Christianity, and Buddhism are all closer to each other in some elements of practice than any of them are with western evangelicalism.

          It seems like there are enough valid questions here neither to unthinkingly adopt or automatically to reject a practice simply because it bears some similarity to non-Christian religious practice.

          • I’ve read Thomas, Foster, and Willard- but only after I started doing my own research about so-called Christian mysticism. The reason I started researching: after going through the “Steps to Freedom” by Neil Anderson (as a Christian)- with some added generational curse breaking thrown in- I spiraled into a depression. Then I sought “Christian” counseling- and things just went from bad to worse, as this counselor introduced me to Theophostics. Theophostics is basically Christianized inner child healing (you may remember John Bradshaw teaching inner child healing on Oprah in the 80″s.) It is absolutely the same practice I participated in- in the 80’s, in my New Age days- except now, after being put into an altered state of consciousness- I met Jesus- face to face (instead of my inner child.) I know this sounds like hooey- but it is really out there, and Christian counselors are really doing this. I had a very profound emotional experience, thinking that Jesus was literally speaking to me face to face- however, what this “jesus” said to me was very confusing and seemed to be contradicting scripture (in particular, the seriousness of my sin.) But God is so gracious- he used this to open my eyes. I began to question a lot of things that are called Christian (like I mentioned above- Christian Yoga, Christian contemplative prayer, etc.) After all, if you can Christianize inner child healing- you can pretty much Christianize anything. I’m glad Daniel would not use Christian Tarot cards- but if we do not acknowledge God’s prescribed way that we come to him, then one man’s superstition is just another man’s “path” to God. That’s what happens when you start picking your own path.

          • @Cathy: thanks again for a well thought out post, and you can’t imagine how I rejoice with you: Theophostic WAS, thank GOD, the major prayer model at our church, and I’ve researched that one also. Hooey on steroids, and I’m thrilled that’s part of your past.

            More later, but I’ll say about “Dr.Ed Smith” what I said about Eckhart (although Smith is probably a brother in the Lord): his philosophy is MILES, MANY MILES away from anything I’ve read from Willard/Tozer/Laubach. Don’t want to hijack the topic more than is necessary here, but don’t lose the forest for a few weird trees (and Theophostic is one weird tree…)

            Read some of the posts in this thread carefully and prayerfully: the issue is more nuanced than you might have been led to believe.

            Greg R

    • I don’t think trying to learn from what God has taught others, even if they are from a quite different Christian tradition, should be labeled syncretism. I am as protestant as the day is long, but have found no one who helps me spiritually more than Fenelon, the mystical Archbishop. He sits on my favorite devotional shelf not too far down from Jonathan Edwards, A. W. Tozer, Thomas a Kempis, and D.A. Carson. One does not have to agree theologically with a fellow-traveler to in order to enjoy and benefit from the company,

      • Well said! To totally discount someone’s experince with God because they come from a different denomination will do more harm then good. If the point of reading other works is to expand your mind, why would you only read authors that think like you?
        I love the “fellow-traveler” analogy. Excellent thoughts indeed. ~ L

    • My 2cd word to Cathy: read the expanded message from the publisher on the Amazon link posted above; read it (which includes some long quotes from Thomas himself) and then tell us which part of what he is saying or doing is New Age.

      Let love of the brethren/sistren coninue…..
      Greg R

    • I find this kind of “guilt by association” quite disturbing. Just because something is Eastern does not make it wrong. That’s just way too easy. If we really are called to be discerning then we will know that mere similarity does not make two things equal. There are elements of truth in every culture. Just because that truth is practiced alongside something less than Christian does not mean we condemn the whole shebang.

  6. I read this a few years ago. It has its flaws, but it really is a monumental book, coming from an evangelical. As someone who is very visual-tactile, this book helped me understand why the typical contemporary evangelical worship show is very frustrating, but why I feel at home just kneeling in a Catholic church amidst icons, statues, stations, crucifixes, candles, and incense, running prayer beads through my fingers, reciting ancient prayers. The typical evangelical response to such things is that they are mere externals with no internal, personal (impl. moral) significance. This book begins to address the error of that criticism.

    But I sense from reading Thomas that although he quotes from Luther or de Sales, he is clearly still a Baptist. I think this is how a “generous” orthodoxy should work. We can each be influenced by the broader Christian tradition but maintain a theological center that we come back to – whether that be Lutheran, Calvinist, Wesleyan, Baptist, etc. That’s why it is not only important to be open to other Christian traditions but to masters of ones own.

    • Sir Ox: dude, you have been quite quotable lately……KEEP WRITING……… that’s an order 🙂

      (please)
      Greg R
      yes: a generous orthodoxy should still be ‘othodoxy’….

  7. Deb, I deleted your comment. Way too long.Make your point concisely and it will be allowed.

  8. As one who can’t handle the quiet time/personal Bible study/church every time the doors open school of Christian maturity I’m very much looking forward to reading this book.

    Yes, I’m aware of the caveats – I even read Deb’s comment before it got scrubbed (and yeah, I’ve seen IM blogs that were shorter): I will be approaching it with a little more than my usual caution. But this book fits in nicely with where the Lord currently has me on my spiritual journey.

  9. David Cornwell says:

    I’m sort of amazed that anything in Demaris’ description of the book can lead to criticism of the of the practice of anyone else. The statement …”Sacred Pathways reminded me that great Christians throughout the ages had approached God in different ways. Some had been contemplatives, some reformers, some fierce intellectuals — and all had grown spiritually themselves as well as contributing to the beauty of the Church Universal” seems non-controversial to me.

    Reform many times throws out the good with the bad. We can learn from the practice of Christians of any age and any tradition.

    • I’m equally amazed, but we have a grassfire smoldering here…..some seem to find even the mention of anything “mystical” too pope-ish, or whatever…

      I smell some afternoon moderation…… :-//

      • Some people seem to have the Boanerges Syndrome (Mk ch 3 vs 17 / Lk ch 9 vs 54) when it comes to perceived heresies/deviant teachings.

        • “Some people seem to have the Boanerges Syndrome (Mk ch 3 vs 17 / Lk ch 9 vs 54) when it comes to perceived heresies/deviant teachings.”

          This is meant politely, and sincerely, and coming from a former Roman Catholic; would this include men like Luther and Calvin?

          • Beats me.

          • I mean this politely and sincerely, and I’m ex-RCC myself: this blog is not really about continuing the reformation in the RCC vs. the Protestant world sense of the word. You are welcome here, Ken, but why pick these fights here ??

            Things kinda slow over @ Apprising Ministries ??

            Pax
            Greg R

          • @EricW: I’m planning on using “Beats me” as a response here and there. I’ll give attribution, I swear……. it is both elegant and brilliant, and I’m NOT kidding.

            yeah, baby, that rocked
            Greg R

          • Absolutely, in my opinion.

            Protestants aren’t supposed to think that Luther and Calvin was infallible, right? So why the reluctance to reconsider them?

            Why, when exegetes like N. T. Wright argue that the Reformers may have gotten Paul partly wrong, do hardline Protestants erupt in fury? I can understand and respect adherence to Sacred Tradition. But a sola scriptura Sacred Tradition is kind of incoherent, isn’t it? Yet that seems to be what we have in modern conservative Protestantism. Sola fide and sola scriptura are pillars that must not be questioned–even using Scripture itself! This makes no sense. If we’re going to have a Sacred Tradition that we don’t question, let’s have the original Sacred Tradition that developed organically in the Church during the first millennium (I think longer, but after the first millennium you have the East/West split which makes things more complicated). If you think that’s the wrong path, then be a _real_ follower of sola scriptura and dare to open your mind to the possibility that the Reformers didn’t get Scripture exactly right.

  10. Anna.

    “About being slaves to the Catholic Church,” refers to their remaining obedient to its non-gospel.

  11. Frank Jones says:

    I’ve not read the book, but to those that call this New Age or heretical:

    Is God not sovereign over those that entrust their lives to Him? Don’t be scared! I went through a “mystic” phase. I wanted a “deeper” experiences with God. I meditated, breathed deep and all that stuff. After a while, God led me to a place where I realized that stuff didn’t add to to the experience of His presence. I will say, it did help me center for prayer. I believe that as long as were A) practicing Jesus’ commandment of loving God with all we are and loving our neighbor as ourselves and B) submitting what we do to the authority of scripture, we’ll be okay.
    As a musician, I’ve seen this kind of classifying/labeling with Christian Rock ad nauseum. You cannot label a certain beat, chord progression, or melody as “good” or “bad”. Christian art suffers greatly because of fear; fear to be truly human and holy at the same time. We don’t trust in the present, active work of God in our lives. I can’t help but wonder if our worship experiences suffer because of fear as well, corporately and otherwise. I’m intrigue by the book, especially since I’ve perused “Sacred Marriage” a bit. Considering that he certainly wasn’t coming from a warm and fuzzy place with that title, I doubt that this is New Age drivel.

  12. Greg R,

    ” why pick these fights here ??”

    No one objectively reading what I said would come to that conclusion. So much for discussion, eh.

    No worries; I’m gone.

    • Greg, Thanks for getting to the point with Ken. How he can’t see that his remarks are contentious and hurtful, I don’t know. “Self-centered,” “extra-biblical,” “slaves,” “deficient demeanor,” etc. And now that you’ve outed him, he’s gone. Wish there were opponents of the Foster/Willlard/contemplative/tradition-honoring route that could dialogue rather than mud-slinging. I’d like to talk with them.

      And now I’ve zipped over to Apprising Ministries and discovered, in Silva’s posts at least, more such empty mud-slinging. So sad. This is as dishonest (or at least, self-deceptive) and arrogant an approach to Christian faith and spirituality as could be found in the RC tradition Ken critiques. What is sadder is that these people set themselves up as “discernment ministries.” The blind leading the blind!

      • ” in Silva’s posts at least, more such empty mud-slinging. So sad.”

        No Chris, what’s sad is sappy attitudes like yours.

        “these people set themselves up as ‘discernment ministries.’ The blind leading the blind!”

        Yeah, good thing you’re above mud-slinging, no.

        Luther spoke of “middle-of-the-road” men like you.

        • David Cornwell says:

          Luther has become a little pope to some protestants it seems.

          • oh yeah….and I’m guessing he’s not real jazzed about it, but being dead and all……..kinda hard to protest….

      • @Ken , if you’ve checked back: I think letting this go, and heading back to AM (for now) is good for all of us; I wish you all GOD”s best in your apologetic efforts. There is a WIDE expanse of what we discuss here @ IMONK but prosilytizing either side of the Tiber is frowned on, and we like it that way.

        @Chris: thanks , bro, just trying to major in the majors (while continually reminding myself, with abundant help from others, just what the majors really are)….

        IMONK has been ginormously a blessing for that…
        Greg R

        • Greg R,

          While I have my doubts about how sincere your wish is, I won’t bother iMonk comboxes because I cannot help but seek to try and lead those out of darkness by preching the actual Gospel.

          I think it’s sad iMonk blog doesn’t think that’s important enough to do.

          • OK, Rec’d as they say in the sports blogs…… we hear ya…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Say hello to A.W.Pink.

            Gonna get real lonely in Heaven being the only one whose Gospel theology was Pure Enough to make it past the Great White Throne theology exam.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        And now I’ve zipped over to Apprising Ministries and discovered, in Silva’s posts at least, more such empty mud-slinging.

        So we got a troll?

        • This belongs one post up, but…

          “I’m afraid it was the Mormons’. Yes, the Mormons’ was the correct answer.”

          • … is that a South Park quote??

          • Indeed it is, Tim. And always the one the comes to mind whenever I come across those who have “solved every mystery” of our faith and turned life into a multiple-choice test, where any deviation from their interpretation of doctrine is grounds for failing.

  13. Dumb Ox – I like your following quote: “I think this is how a “generous” orthodoxy should work. We can each be influenced by the broader Christian tradition but maintain a theological center that we come back to – whether that be Lutheran, Calvinist, Wesleyan, Baptist, etc.”

    This kind of balance exemplified by Gary Thomas is difficult and maybe even risky, but it allows us to be impacted by the broader Christian tradition and avoid the trap of tribalism. Well said.

  14. But mysticism IS pagan….no matter how much tasty Christian terminology has been sprinkled on top. And yes, the problem with it is the mantra meditation/repetition……which is the classic occultic/pagan technique for corralling what the Buddhists call the “monkey mind.” It’s basically using a technique to enter into an altered state of consciousness so as to have an “experience” of God. My guess is that the reason people get so up in arms in their defense of this activity is because they are in all likelihood having wonderful experiences in their contemplative meditations that feel very much like “God” to them. But, Satan himself can masquerade as an angel of light.

    • Christine, would you please give us an objective definition of paganism and explain why mysticism is identical to that?

    • btw, the line between discerning and judging is crossed when we attempt to discern and discredit the motives of others

      • screeeech……as the gears to hundreds of watchblogs come to a grinding halt (wishing, here)….. well said, Danny

    • Christine, the Hebrew word for meditate in the Bible means to murmur or mutter and in practice it means to repeat words or verses of Scripture over and over again. If you ever watch an Orthodox Jew praying, you will observe them swaying back and forth, murmuring their set prayers and Scriptures over and over. This is not a pagan practice, but one endorsed by Scripture and tradition.

    • Discussion has gone from mysticism to syncretism to paganism.

      I thought the book was about individualism, or maybe denominationalism. We’re OK with these ideas, aren’t we?

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        At least until the theology starts getting parsed letter-by-letter and the denunciations and anathemas start flying.

        • I’m trying to get the phrase “deficient demeanor” out of my mind….and trying to stop laughing……it’s-not-working….. 🙂 🙂

    • Christine,

      I cannot speak for any one else in this. When I have had mystical experiences, I did NOT seek them, I was found.

      I agree that the devil can appear as an angel, but he cannot love. And that is what I have experienced multiple times and multiple places.

      I truly hope that I can pass the LOVE to those around me, but I know that I can’t do it on my own. Any more than a birthday cake candle can explain the love of the sun for it.

  15. Didn’t 1Corinthians12 settle most of this?

  16. Any meditation that involves entering into an altered state of consciousness is not biblical and is nowhere taught in Scripture. Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. “This, then, is how you should pray…” And then Jesus went into the Lord’s prayer, which was words spoken, not a silent, still state waiting to “experience” God or “hear” words from God.

    And “babbling like pagans?”….does that not sounds exactly like a 1st century description of mantra meditation 😉

    • Christine, I think the verse you quote would be spot on if the people doing the repetition think the mere volume of their words (rather than the fatherly goodness of God) ensure that their prayers are answered. The contrast is not between silent prayer and spoken prayer, but mindlessly repeated requests to God like a He was a vending machine versus the simple prayer of a child to a father.

      Btw, “pagan” here is simply the word for Gentiles.

      In short, I don’t think this passage has anything to do with contemplative prayer.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I could make a case that mantra meditation is just the Pagan imitation of “the Hebrew word for meditate in the Bible means to murmur or mutter and in practice it means to repeat words or verses of Scripture over and over again.”

      • Hmmm, interesting theory. Do Jesus or the Apostles model this for us?

        • By the way, Christine, Jesus and the Apostles did not model expository preaching either.

          • Good one Mike! Oh wait, you weren’t kidding? Now come on, if you really are a Chaplain, you know as well as I do that all good Jewish boys were required to memorize the first five books of the Bible by the time they came of age. Takes expository to a whole new level, huh?

            And how about Deut 11:18-20:

            “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates…”

            If that’s not a lyrical and brilliant description of expository teaching, I don’t know what is.

            • I’m completely serious, Christine. Memorizing Scripture and meditating on it bears no relation to expository preaching or teaching in the style you are talking about. Now, Christine, realize this is coming from someone who has taught the Bible in an expository way for over 30 years! I’m not dismissing the method—I love it—I’m just saying you’ll be hard pressed to find examples of the modern expository sermonic form in Scripture. And when you think of all the literary forms and ways of presenting God’s revelation in the Bible itself, one would be hard pressed to say there is a single or even preferred way of communicating God’s truth.

              There are a multitude of legitimate things we do as Christians that have no direct example or command in Scripture attached to them. The Bible is not an exhaustive guide to every detail of life and spiritual practice.

  17. “The Hebrew word for meditate in the Bible means to murmur or mutter and in practice it means to repeat words or verses of Scripture over and over again. If you ever watch an Orthodox Jew praying, you will observe them swaying back and forth, murmuring their set prayers and Scriptures over and over. This is not a pagan practice, but one endorsed by Scripture and tradition.”

    The Hebrew word for meditate does not mean to murmer and repeat words or verses over and over again. The fact is, it’s meaning is actually a bit uncertain.

    But one thing that we know it DOESN’T mean, from the example of Jesus Himself, is meditation in an altered state of consciousness. That has NEVER been part of orthodox Judaism; only in the mystical strain of Kabbalah, which was never referred to by Jesus.

    • Well, I don’t think Judaism and Christianity have used the language of ‘altered state of consciousness’ . But both religions have traditionally used repeating prayers; long periods of silence; fasting; etc. to foster religious experience. And every religion is interested in cultivating a forms of prayer and worship that banish chaotic or mundane thought in order to allow a person to focus in God. Whether we call it altered consciousness or not, we’re changing the way or bodies and minds are operating for distinct periods of time.

      If Gregorian chants, desert fathers, and long Yiddish prayers are too exotic to use as examples, one might note that even large contemporary worship services are altering people’s feelings by repeating rock music very very loud and repeating the same lyrics for 15 minutes.

      I am not saying all these things are equivalents or that all are merely technique; but on a certain level all religious experience IS an ‘altered state of consciousness’ (in a very general sense).

      • as examples, one might note that even large contemporary worship services are altering people’s feelings by repeating rock music very very loud and repeating the same lyrics for 15 minutes.

        yes, it’s an alterred state of consciousness called B-O-R-I-N-G …..and this is typed by a 20yr. Vineyard-ite, so I’m just ‘outing’ myself here….

        see M.Spencers series on WORSHIP and WORSHIP music…..ironically, the ev. church is BIG into alterred state of consciousness with its Sunday morning style (as a substitute for real worship, some would argue). this is swallow a gnat (or less): nitpick on repetitive prayer while swallowing a camel …..

        • “yes, it’s an alterred state of consciousness called B-O-R-I-N-G ”

          You mean you don’t like repeating the same 3 lines 97 times to guitars, quivery-voiced men, and breathy female vocalists? Don’t you love Jesus?

          *Ducks and runs into back of Catholic church*
          “They’ll never find me behind all the candles!*

          • OK…but careful…. I was a Latin blabbin’ altar boy, and know most of the hiding places from experience.. 🙂

            Greg R

          • Singin’ Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord,
            Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord,
            Yes, Lord, yes, Lord, yes, yes, Lord,
            Amen!

          • @Ted: that’s not boring, that’s give-me-a-lobotomy-now-if-you-can’t-make-it-stop annoying……

          • Ted, don’t ever post that again. Now it’s in my head, right next to “It’s a small world after all.” 🙂

          • Sorry. Greg brought up Spencer’s series on worship music and I think I posted it back then too.

            We could agree to stay on-topic, but I think we’re way beyond that now…

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            You mean you don’t like repeating the same 3 lines 97 times to guitars, quivery-voiced men, and breathy female vocalists? Don’t you love Jesus?

            We talkin’ the Praise & Worship Choruses (TM) that have quite an underground following in the Gay scene?

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Ted, don’t ever post that again. Now it’s in my head, right next to “It’s a small world after all.”

            Being as how 7/11 P&W (seven words repeated for eleven minutes) has a LOT of breathy “Jesus Is My Boyfriend” riffs (enough to make them VERY popular among the Gay community), I have to draw an analogy with a small-press comic strip I saw once.

            Situation: Mixed party (two girls, four or five guys) doing Disneyland. The “It’s a Small World” panels show the entire group going through “It’s a Small World”; both girls are sitting there taking in the show with trembling lips and goo-goo-eyes like Bella watching Edward sparkle while all the guys are puking over the side of the boat or jumping ship trying to escape.

          • Ok, not do play the Devil’s Advocate here, but I’m gonna rush to the defense of poor Derrell Evans (author of much critiqued praise song “Trading My Sorrows”). Even the most intellectual liturgical tradition acknowledges the importance of a congregational “amen.” What happens in that is the people as one respond to God with an affirmative. Not to mention, that is hardly the only lyric to the song. The rest is extremely Biblical:

            “‘m pressed but not crushed persecuted not abandoned
            Struck down but not destroyed
            I’m blessed beyond the curse for his promise will endure
            And his joy’s gonna be my strength
            Though the sorrow may last for the night
            His joy comes with the morning ”

            Sounds like the Psalms, to me. The problem is not with the song: It’s in the way people use it: Endless repetition ad infinitum. Used moderately, the song does convey a good message, especially if the entirety of the text is considered. However, I will agree with the annoyance of one certain section being repeated into oblivion. Quite annoying. Not my favorite mantra. Singing “Yes Lord” is the theological equivalent of “amen” I think. Some churches even use a double or triple amen! But 12 times is probably overdoing it.

          • @Miguel: couldn’t agree more…..I actually LOVE the verse part of the song (solid words of encouragement), but ohhh, that chorus…..

    • But it is referred to by Paul. What Paul describes in 1 Cor. 12 (being “caught up to the third heaven”) is a classic example of the “heavenly ascent” characteristic of “hekhalot literature,” which is the earliest strand in what would become Kabbalah.

      The same is true of the Book of Revelation. What is the state described as “being in the Spirit” in chap. 1, if not an “altered state of consciousness”? And in chap. 4 we have the expected “heavenly ascent” and vision of God’s throne characteristic of early Jewish mystical/apocalyptic texts.

      Edwin

      • Edwin,

        thought the same thing myself. I think some time ago this “dangerous alterred states of consciousness” thing got started, and it grew a life of its own, kinda like “strong bass beat = of the devil”. Once it had a certain ev. momentum , there was no stopping it, no clear headed critique. I’ve never studied it out thoroughly, but I’m thinking there are a variety of “alterred states” menioned in the bible (positively); you mention 3, and I’m sure there’s more…… woooo-whooo.

  18. Gesenius:
    I. הָגָה fut. יֶהְגֶּה—(1) to murmur, to mutter, to growl, (almost the same in meaning as הָמָה); used of the growl of a lion over his prey (Gr. ὑποβρυχάομαι: to roar is שָׁאַג, βρυχάομαι), Isa. 31:4; of low thunder (see הֶגֶה Job 37:2); of the muttering of enchanters (see Hiphil); of the sound of a harp when struck (see הִגָּיוֹן Ps. 9:17; 92:4); of the cooing of doves, Isa. 38:14; 59:11; of the groaning and sighing of men (οἰμώζειν), Isa. 16:7; Jer. 48:31.
    (2) poetically, to speak.—(a) absolutely (to utter sound), Ps. 115:7.—(b) with an acc. of the thing, Job 27:4; Ps. 37:30; Isa. 59:3; Pro. 8:7; hence to sing, to celebrate (like to say, אָמַר). Psal. 35:28, לְשׁוֹנִי תֶּהְגֶּה צִדְקֶךָ “my tongue shall celebrate thy righteousness;” Ps. 71:24.
    (3) to meditate (prop. to speak with oneself, murmuring and in a low voice, as is often done by those who are musing, compare No. 1 and אָמַר, אָמַר בְּלִבּוֹ), followed by בְּ, to meditate on any thing (über etwas nachdenken). Josh. 1:8, וְהָגִיתָ בּוֹ יוֹמָם וָלַיְלָה “and thou shalt meditate thereon (on the law) day and night;” Ps. 1:2; 63:7; 77:13, וְהָגִיתִי בְכָל־פָּֽעֳלֶךָ “and I will meditate on all thy works;” Ps. 143:5. (Syn. שִׂיחַ). Pro. 15:28, לֵב צַדִּיק יֶהְגֶּה לַעֲנוֹת “the heart of the righteous will meditate what to answer.” Also to remember any thing, followed by an acc., Isa. 33:18, לִבְּךָ יֶהְגֶּה אֵימָה “thy heart shall remember the terror.” And in a bad sense, to plot, to plan, to devise. Psal. 2:1, לְאֻמִּים יֶהְגּוּ רִיק “(why) do the nations devise vain things?” i.e. vain sedition; Pro. 24:2; Isa. 59:13. [Poel] (Syr. ܗܓܳܐ to meditate, to read syllable by syllable. Pael, to meditate, to contemplate. Ethpael, to read. Comp. Æth. ነበበ: to murmur, to utter an inarticulate sound, to speak, to meditate; Conj. IV. to read. Arabic نَبَّ to mutter.)
    Gesenius, Wilhelm ; Tregelles, Samuel Prideaux: Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures. Bellingham, WA : Logos Research Systems, Inc, 2003, S. 215

  19. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says:

    I haven’t read the book, but I did stumble upon a site that used one of the books little quizzes to help you determine some of how you best relate to God. It reminded me somewhat of some of the Briggs-Meyer stuff I’ve come across. The quiz had pretty predictable results for me, but I’m pretty self-aware, and have though over these topics quite often as I’ve worked in and with a variety of Christian traditions.

    Even if you’re not going to read the book, I’d encourage folks to do a little homework on what Thomas is talking about before getting to scandalized. Some objective reading on Church history also can help. Ain’t a one of us has a pure tradition.

    • Without reading the book, I’m about 95 percent sure the categories are based on the Myers-Briggs Temperament Sorter.

  20. Daniel – I didn’t see anything in there about entering into an altered state of consciousness via the use of a mind-corralling device.

    • I believe the question was whether the word had a known meaning, not whether it fit your interpretation of contemplative prayer

  21. Just because church history has been rife with examples of Christians syncretizing with pagan practices doesn’t mean that we have a license to do so this as well. God actually has a pattern of judging this sin of easygoing syncretism rather harshly in Scripture. Come on, it’s the golden calf all over again – which was a clear example of syncretism. The Israelites knew about making an altar for approaching God…and they also knew about calf worship from their 400 years of slavery in Egypt. So it should be okay to combine these things as a way to worship God, right?

    Think again. When the Israelites made an altar (learned from God) and put a golden calf in front of it (learned from captivity in Egypt), was God pleased?

    Before you respond, consider carefully what Aaron said:

    “Aaron built an altar in front of the calf and announced, ‘Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD.’ ” (Exo 32:5)

    Okay, so clearly, this was something that would be honoring to the LORD, right? As Aaron himself said, this golden calf was going to be used in a way to honor the LORD…..

    Uhh….no….the LORD was enraged…He made them drink ground calf juice (Exo 32:20) – Ack!

    Anyone who thinks they can syncretize their worship of God with pagan practices borrowed from pagan cultures is sadly mistaken. And I also fear for them, because mysticism – while it “feels” spiritual, profound and even good – is very deceptive.

    • So because this doesn’t fit your definition of what is acceptable before God I should go back to the one size fits all quiet time/personal Bible study/church every time the doors open method of achieving “Christian” maturity? And if it’s not succeeding I should just do it better/longer/harder, and/or look for some secret sin in my life?

      Because remember, a widely accepted standard of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, all the while expecting different results. And trying to tell me to do something that I know will just cause burn-out because it’s the wrong approach for me just doesn’t cut it!

      So what would you offer in lieu of this insanity, which is practiced and preached by almost every church/ministry/book I’ve ever seen recommended by mainstream Evangelical sources but is totally ineffective in my case?

    • I understand the point you are making, at least it pertains to the introduction of idols.

      But are you arguing that Judaism shared no practices in common with surrounding near eastern religions? And that God would have been judged for any overlap? And that they never borrowed anything?

      • Edit:

        The above should read, “And that God would have judged them for any overlap?”

  22. James – Well, I would recommend ongoing expository teaching, and maybe some precepts Bible studies. You’re absolutely right – God doesn’t want your gritted teeth and your white knuckling…but isn’t He precious to you? Don’t you yearn to know him more? Learn more about him?

    • Expository teaching I can handle. But precepts? Okay, I just checked out of the conversation.

      Last time I tangled with precepts I discovered a system of personal interpretation that had little, if anything, to do with any reasonable system of Bible study I’d ever seen. As I recall the basis of the system was yanking verses out of context and stringing them together in a system that was totally foreign to the context and historical meaning of the passages, creating entirely new understandings of the scriptures.

      Been nice knowing you.

      • All the precepts studies I know teach expository, contextual, historical interpretation. So anything you were taught that was out of context may have been called “precepts” but was not. Kay Arthur teaches precepts. My own pastor teaches preceptively. John MacArthur does. There are more, just can’t think of them off the top of my head. Nothin’ to be afraid of friend, it’s just a variation of expository 🙂

  23. Well Christine:

    As I have sat on the sidelines so far all I have seen you do is reassert your opinion without really showing any evidence that you really understand the contemplative tradition at all. It looks to me like you read something somewhere and for whatever reason it bothered you.

    What I have not seen either is any recognition on your part that perhaps either your Christian background or your culture colors your interpretation of scripture (it does with all of us).

    I have been an evangelical for over 30 years and I am beginning to see more and more that we have been shaped by living in America (as someone is by being in Africa), and that maybe we threw a whole lot of stuff out at the reformation that was true.

    Don’t quit digging for truth, but recognize that it does not always sound like something you are familiar with. You can be wrong as well.

  24. Danielle-

    “Are you arguing that Judaism shared no practices in common with surrounding near eastern religions? And that God would have judged them for any overlap? And that they never borrowed anything?”

    No – I’m not saying they shared no practices in common with surrounding near eastern religions -I’m saying they DID, and God judged them for it. Sharing practices with the pagan cultures was a sin that God warned them against over and over and over. He was and is a jealous God, a little “overlap” is not okay in his eyes. And yes, they “borrowed” plenty from the surrounding cultures…always resulting in fearsome punishment and God’s wrath.

    Israel went through a “cycle” of idolatry – over years and years and years – that went like this:

    Israel serves the LORD âžž Israel falls into sin & idolatry âžž Israel is judged/enslaved âžž Israel cries out to the LORD âžž God raises up a judge âžž Israel is delivered âžž Israel serves the Lord âžž Israel falls into sin & idolatry âžž etc. (Judges has many examples of this pattern)

    • But are they being judged for religious practices or for worshiping false gods? Most of the judgments concern idols and sacrificing things to idols. Practices like blood sacrifice and fasting clearly overlap, at the very least.

  25. Ken – Oh no, no, no! This is not just my opinion at all. I completely understand the contemplative tradition. I am very familiar with it, having embraced it and practiced it for close to a decade. Because of this, I know firsthand how dangerously deceptive it is. Practicing the tradition of contemplative prayer not only gave me genuine, profound spiritual experiences, it also gave me feelings of superiority….as in, well, if people were REALLY spiritually mature, they would do this. I and everyone else I knew that practiced it looked down our noses at the poor schmucks who weren’t as “evolved” as we were. I find the entire tradition to be very pietistic and elitist.

    But is that how Christianity REALLY is? A hierarchical system to be worked, mastered, ascended through? No, the gospel is magnificent in both its simplicity AND its depth. Simple enough for a child to understand, and at the same time, deep enough for a person to plumb its depths for a lifetime and never touch bottom. The hierarchies and levels are for all the pagan traditions…….attached to their systems of works righteousness….

    And back to the part about it being spiritually profound – this type of mystical prayer most assuredly is spiritual at its core…..only, it’s not “God” that people are connecting to when they engage in contemplative prayer. The supernatural realm is an area that is strictly off-limits to us….”The hidden things belong to the LORD.” (Deut 29:29) People who are doing contemplative prayer are opening themselves up to profound spiritual deception.

    I shared my testimony about this in a radio interview, but don’t know if it’s okay to post a link here….so I will refrain 🙂

    • If you took the usual Evangelical approach, that “my” system is the best, of course it would result in feelings of superiority. But if, in the spirit of the book in question, we were to take the approach most applicable to us as merely being what is best for me, and understanding that all approaches are valid (and, we might even argue, needed) within the body, then the feelings of superiority are done away with.

      The situation is analagous to what my wife, in the field of education, sees with different learning styles. Any one given learning style is not necessarily better than another – not in a general sense, anyway – rather, one is better for specific individuals, but not for others, who are geared to different styles. And a good educator makes sure he/she teaches in such a way as to reach everyone, not just those with the “preferred” learning style.

      • It’s not about what approach is “best for me;” it is about (1) what is honoring to the LORD and (2) what He has commanded/forbidden. Your argument is not with me, my friend.

        God didn’t say, “Hey, this is how you approach me, ok? Everybody good with that? No? Okay, do your own thing…” The incorporation of pagan practices is explicitly forbidden in Scripture. Just ask Nadab and Abihu:

        “Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.” (Leviticus 10:1-2)

        • Christine: some observations

          1, you keep running back to the golden calf, as if that means something to our conversation. Why am I to think that contemplative prayer falls into this idolatrous category ? If you want to assert that this discipline, or any of the others, belong to idolatry, then make the connection. Making a strong statement doesn’t make it so, and appealing to Ex. 32 gets you nowhere until you’ve shown us that what Thomas is presenting is in the golden calf neighborhood.

          2. If in fact you can’t show us it is clearly sinful, who are you to tell another that this approach does not honor God ? Appealing to your experience may not be as helpful as you might imagine. What was idolatry to you (because of personal attitudes or excesses ?? ) maybe was handled by someone with a different heart and approach , both now or in church history. As has been noted , just because neighboring cultures did something similar, what does that mean , really ?? They also had religious feast days, priesthoods, conventional oral prayers, and on and on. Is EVERYTHING that the pagans did necessarily totally wrong ?? There is more overlap here than you want to admit to, unless you want to say that ALL these things are suddenly idolatrous, in every application.

          3. you shrug off church history, and attribute a sinful heart rather quickly, to those who (seemingly and by their own confession) have been brought closer to the LORD by these practices. Were these church fathers and mystics just not that all self aware ? Did they not care about honoring the LORD ?? Just blinded and deceived in pagan practices ?? Do I sound not very convinced that 600 to 900 yrs later, you know their hearts better than they did ??

          As I’ve said to another poster: I am VERY sensitive to New Age baloney, but you need to do more than just make strong categorical statements, but show us where Thomas fits your categories and warnings.

          thanks
          Greg R

          • “You keep running back to the golden calf, as if that means something to our conversation. Why am I to think that contemplative prayer falls into this idolatrous category ? If you want to assert that this discipline, or any of the others, belong to idolatry, then make the connection.”

            I’m sorry, but I really don’t know how to make this any clearer than I already have. I think I’ve said the same exact thing about 15 different ways! So please forgive me if I have not been clear. Maybe this will do it:

            Syncretizing our worship of God with pagan religious practices (like mantra meditation) is sinful and forbidden by God. It is also idolatrous, in that this is the sin of the golden calf incident. The Israelites took what was known (approaching God through an altar) and what was pagan (calf worship) and they combined them, thereby making their “offering” sinful in the eyes of God. They syncretized their religious practice of worship of God with a pagan cultural practice.

            In the same way, people today take appropriate biblical prayer and combine it with the pagan cultural practice of mind-altering mantra meditation, and think that God MUST accept this “offering” because this way “feels” good to them….never mind what Scripture has said on this subject. This is sin. It is the same sin in fact, only the century is different.

            Gary Thomas, by promoting the practice of contemplative prayer (which combines appropriate biblical prayer with mind-altering mantra meditation) is committing the sin of the golden calf incident….determining for himself how he will approach God, even when it flies in the face of what Scripture mandates.

            God is holy-holy-HOLY. It matters how we approach him. He’s not a Burger King, “Have It Your Way” God, He is HOLY, and He has spoken clearly on this subject. And lest we forget, worship – rather than being about how it makes US feel or what “works” best for US – in fact has very little to do with us – and everything to do with God. It’s not about us…it’s about Him.

          • Christine;

            Pardon the pun, but you keep repeating your “mantra” that contemplative prayer is as the sin of the golden calf. But while you have repeated it something like 15 different ways, you have yet to demonstrate that our understanding of Jewish practice is so wrong, and yours so right.

            I have yet to see why I should return to the “quiet time/personal Bible study/church every time the doors open” philosophy that has repeatedly failed me so spectacularly when there appear to be Biblically acceptable alternatives that are better suited to who I am in Christ, and therefore more in keeping with the relationship that our Saviour would have with me. Because a relationship is determined by the interplay of two people, not simply by the characteristics of one person (even if He is, by definition, the Dominant Partner).

            So please, show me where I’m wrong. Because otherwise I will be ordering a copy of this book before the weekend is out as part of my reading list for an upcoming journey.

        • To be fair, I don’t think anyone is advocating “doing their own thing” when the thing they want to do violates Scripture or Christian teaching.

          The live question here is whether contemplative prayer contradicts Scripture. Every verse you’ve quoted so far either prohibits the worship of idols or concerns the violation of a specific instruction given by the Lord. Since contemplative prayer is a practice and not idols, and since it doesn’t violate any particular command about prayer (at least not that anyone in this conversation has claimed yet), then this would seem to fall into a gray area. That is, it is open for discussion and is perhaps a matter of Christian liberty. IF it is in the realm of Christian liberty, then it is reasonable for someone to ask whether the practice might be helpful for them.

          Obviously you’ve had some important personal experiences with this matter, so I will tread very lightly here. But from the bit you’ve said, I wonder if the problem you experienced wasn’t with the practice of contemplative prayer, but with your understanding of it? You mention that you believed you were obtaining special knowledge that lesser Christians didn’t have. Perhaps your error was doctrinal rather than practical? You might not have been struggling with mysticism but with gnosticism.

          Just some thoughts. 🙂 Although we disagree on some points, its obvious that you are posting out of concern, and I appreciate that.

          • Ok, I think I understand where we’re not connecting –

            “Since contemplative prayer is a practice and not idols…”

            I’m sorry, but when you posted this earlier, I thought you were being facetious so I didn’t respond, but now I see that you are earnestly asking this.

            Idolatry is not simply carving a statue and worshiping it. Idolatry can take many forms, including:

            (1) “Crafting” for oneself in one’s own mind an image of God….this generally takes the form of “God” becoming very small, manageable, and with more human characteristics. Sometimes this takes the form of people picking and choosing which doctrines “feel good” to them and rejecting other, harder doctrines. For instance, seeing God only as a God of love, when He is a God of both love AND justice, in equal measures. Seems like a small thing…but it’s not. Doctrine matters, because it reveals truth about God and his character and nature. A “God” of justice who has not love is a hard and cruel taskmaster. A “God” of love who has not justice is a soft, weak “God” who allows justice to be subverted. God reveals himself in Scripture as possessing the perfect balance of both justice AND love: revealed most magnificently in the Cross, the point at which God’s justice and his love meet in perfect balance.

            Another way idolatry can be committed is by:

            (2) Combining good, appropriate biblical worship with pagan practices. This sin presumes that man has the right to choose how he can approach God. And obviously, God has to become very “small” for people to think that they can do this and not be in sin. (So a person worshiping this “God” has crafted in their own mind a “God” who is small, hasn’t spoken clearly in this matter, and really just wants people to do what “feels” best to them…..This is not the God of the Bible.)

            The idolatrous sin that I see today is people “crafting” for themselves an image of God that is very, very small…which in turn would make them very, very, big. Well, of course this feels good to our flesh, but why is this idolatrous? Because God is HOLY, and He has spoken clearly on incorporating pagan practices into our worship of him.

            But you see, when our “God” is “small” (and we are “big”), then it doesn’t really matter what Scripture says on a subject. There seems to be a casual dismissal of God’s Word today….

            Also, the reason this issue does not fall in the gray area of Christian liberty is because there is obvious spiritual content in mantra meditation, as it is used by Hindus, Buddhists, Catholic mystics and New Agers to enter into an altered state of consciousness. Not in same arena at all as meat sacrificed to idols, celebrating (or not) Easter or Christmas (which have pagan roots).

  26. Gee whiz, I step out for a few hours and look what happens! I appreciate the civility and kindness shown by the vast majority of you. Most of you are taking the time to try to understand each other’s positions and terminology — always essential in discussions of this sort. Let me remind everyone of two things:

    One, the original post is a book review. Enough said.

    Two, here at iMonk we do not challenge people’s salvation. The knowledge of who is and who isn’t saved is in God’s hands alone. Yes, yes, I know all the protests about judging by fruits and discerning the narrow path from the broad way that leadeth to destruction. But I would submit that no one here knows enough about anyone else here to judge by fruits, and as far as I’m concerned, I’m too busy trying to keep my eyes on the narrow way to get all stirred up about someone else’s driving.

    “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31 and 32.

    • Ev’s, most of the time, lean toward the rationalistic, the simplistic,and the formulaic. We like things predigested and broken down to a method we know “works”. I’m looking forward to reading someone who is not afraid to take into account the variety of personality and gifting that makes sanctification via formula unnecessary. I think James’ comments about learning style are a great analogy. God is way more flexible in these things than we’ve been led to believe.

      I appreciate your review, and efforts to give us more spiritual tools for the toolbox.

      Greg R

  27. “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

    Good reminder, Damaris. I haven’t read this book, but I have recently read Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline and I think they would say a few similar things. I think some of the problems some people have with Christian meditation and contemplation is that they think these practices indicate we are trying to WORK or EARN our way into being accepted by God. But this is a misconception. When I do Christian Centering Prayer, the only part of what happens that comes from me is my decision to “show up.” There is an element of my cooperating with God when I choose to let go of the worrisome thoughts so that I can be more aware of the presence of God.

    And some people choose to fast or do other things that may seem to be “works.” But in my opinion, Jesus DID things: he fasted; he went off alone and prayed for long period of times; he celebrated the Jewish holy days. We miss the whole point of the incarnation (God becoming man) if we don’t realize that God works with material things (including our bodies) to bring light, love, holiness into the world.

  28. For Christine —

    Certainly within the last thirty or forty years Christianity has seen some invasions of the sort of Eastern mysticism you are talking about. I agree that the practices that some evangelical churches have borrowed from Transcendental Meditation, for example, can be very harmful to spiritual growth and are in many cases syncretic. What Gary Thomas is talking about here, however, are practices that have been in use and approved by Biblical Christians for many, many centuries. You have obviously had bad experiences with contemplative prayer and feel that they give you some authority to speak. Have you spent time in, say, a Carmelite monastery, though, and really studied the true practices honed by many years’ tradition? There are strains of contemplation that go back more than a millenium before the Beatles went to India, that owe nothing to Hinduism and everything to the kinds of experiences described in the Bible in 2 Corinthians 12:1-5, among other places.

    Everyone, I think we need to give this discussion a rest, not that it’s not important, but that at this point many things are being repeated. Please, Christine and everyone, continue to read and post on iMonk. We love to have you all, but it’s time to shut down the computers and turn to God in our own ways.

    Blessings to you all.

  29. Ignatius Retreat House was my favorite hangout…so no, I didn’t stick just to the eastern traditions. I have studied many “traditions”…but the problem with “traditions” is that they come from man, and not from God. That’s why they always ultimately lead one to a dead-end.

    In context, the passage in 2 Cor. is describing an experience that God specifically gave Paul, not a type of “spiritual gift” that all Christians are able to have access to. Heb. 1:1-12 also makes it clear that God has spoken in these last days through his Son. That is, till the canon was closed, prophets were given visions and they spoke for God, but once Jesus came, no more visions, no more “words from God.” Jesus, the final and greatest Prophet, has spoken all that we need in the Bible. Otherwise, if today’s mystics truly are getting “words from God” in their mystical experiences, then we all need to grab some paper and staple it into the back of our Bibles and write these words down…because true, inerrant words from God are binding and authoritative. But if they’re not willing to go so far as to say they are getting authoritative “words from God,” then why are they doing the contemplative practices? What’s the point?

    • Christine-

      first off, I don’t know if you’re new here or not. Either way, welcome to iMonk!

      I’m going to be sort and simple (which for me is hard to do).

      You speak of “altered state of consciousness” a lot. And I understand what that means very much (I’m a psychology major). However, if you stop to consider it, the Christian life is one of constant “altered state of consciousness”. Outside of Christ we are blind and dead to the True Reality. However, in Christ through the Holy Spirit, our eyes and hearts are opened. We begin to see things as they really are. And as run the race of faith and are more conformed to the likeness of Christ, our state of mind is altered more and more. The goal is to have the mind of Christ. And, this isn’t merely some WWJD thing. This is absolutely conformity to God- my will is His will, to the very core of my being. Thus, why I understand your fear (rightly founded), Christianity (at least for me) is constantly altering my state of mind. To be more like Christ’s.

      When I use repetitious prayers, I know God won’t be impressed by my +100 prayer and genuflecting. I repeat prayers because I need to hear the words. I dunno bout you, but I can’t comprehend why repeating “Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a poor sinner” can be bad. It reminds me who I’m talking to, who He is, and why I’m talking to Him. Pretty clear and to the point.

      It is somewhat similar to confessing your sins to your (insert pastor/priest/spiritual mentor) here. The person isn’t the one who in the end forgives- that Persons is God. However, we NEED to hear the assurance of forgiveness. We are physical just as much as spiritual, so we need these concrete assurances.

      I could go on, but I do not wish to rant. Especially when so many have given good thoughts before me.

      Hope this helps somewhat. If not, at least I put in my 2 cents.

      • Tim writes, “Christianity (at least for me) is constantly altering my state of mind. To be more like Christ’s.”

        I agree, Tim. I liked your entire comment very much.

      • We are physical just as much as spiritual, so we need these concrete assurances.

        body-soul-mind-spirit-will

        Great post, the incarnation of Jesus continues…….
        Greg R

    • @Christine, tho you’ve probably gone back to the castle and raised the drawbridge

      from Donald S. Whitney’s “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian” (forward written by that well known syncretist, J.I’m waffling Packer)
      One sad feature of our modern culture is that meditation has become identified more with nonchristian systems of thought than with biblical christianity. Even among believers, the practice of meditation is often more closely associated with yoga, TM, relaxation therapy, or the New Age movement. Because meditation is so prominent in many spiritually counterfeit groups and movements, some christians are uncomfortable with the whole subject and suspicious of those who engage in it. But we must remember that meditation is both commanded by GOD and modeled by the godly in scripture. Just because a cult uses the cross as a symbol, doesn’t mean the Church should cease to use it. In the same way, we shouldn’t discard or be afraid of scriptural meditation simply because the world has adapted it for its own purposes.
      The kind of meditation encouraged in the Bible differs from other kinds of meditation in several ways. While some advocate a kind of meditation in which you do your best to empty your mind, christian meditation involves filling your mind with God and truth. For some, meditation is an attempt to achieve complete mental passivity, but biblical meditation requires constructive mental activity. Worldly meditation employs visualization techniques intended to “create your own reality”. And while christian history has always had a place for the sanctified use of our GOD-given imagination in meditation, imagination is our servant to help us meditate on things that are true (Phil 4:8). Furthermore, instead of creating our own reality through visualization, we link meditation with prayer to GOD and responsible, Spirit-filled human action to effect changes.
      (p.47)
      I know this isn’t Thomas’ book (which I’m certain will be similar) but I fail to see anything pagan, idolatrous, or suspicious in the christian use of meditation, as described above.

      Blessings on the Sola Sisters, Ken S., and watchbloggers everywhere.
      Greg R

  30. About traditions that come supposedly “from man, and not from God”: Our generation, like all generations before us, has no other access to God than through traditions.

    Sacrilege! you say. We have our Bible, which comes directly from God! All else is syncretism, mixture, unfaithfulness!

    Read D. H. Williams, Evangelicals and Tradition. That faithful Baptist is still willing to admit, as should we all, that the Bible comes to us, yes, from God, but also through the church and, indeed, tradition.

    Therefore, if tradition is only “from man, and not from God,” then let’s all just pack it in–we’re playing a fool’s game.

    If, instead, God has always worked in and through human witness–that is, human tradition–then we must be very, very circumspect before we dismiss something as deeply rooted in Christian tradition as contemplative prayer.

    I don’t know whether this image will help, but in excising what some take to be a diseased molar, infected with the rot of syncretism, the cocksure critics of today may be in danger of removing jaw, skull, brain, and all; or in plain language: Trinity, Incarnation, Bible, and our very access to the Most High God.

    Of course this will seem ludicrous to the critics of tradition. But bear with me for a moment more:

    What is ironic is that the same people who make these arguments against the precious repository of Christian tradition also assume the inviolable truth of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Bible, all of which were formed, as is easy to demonstrate from Christian history, in the midst of the church and through the process of “traditioning”–a discerning, contested, confused, but the church East and West has always believed, Spirit-guided handing-down from one generation to the next.

    The teachers of the church (bishops) gathered repeatedly in council to hammer out the beliefs on which these modern “surgeons of the church” still stake their faith: that God is three in one; that Jesus Christ is one hundred percent human and one hundred percent divine, “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation”; and much more.

    If we think these and other key doctrines, whose truth we presume even if we often don’t (and probably don’t need to) articulate exactly as those early councils, did come directly, clearly, obviously from Scripture, and that this Scripture was untouched by “human tradition,” then we ignore the real experience of the historic church: Real disagreements arose between the wisest of our pastors and teachers, who sought understanding because of, not instead of, faith in Christ. A long process of discernment was required to arrive at the formulations on which our faith is still based–whether it is based explicitly (in creedal churches) or implicitly (in those who think they can do without creeds, yet affirm essentially the same truths).

    Furthermore, those formulations themselves mark out areas of mystery, indeed areas still open to discovery, variation, honest disagreement. The bishops of the Council of Chalcedon, who wrote the “four fences of Chalcedon” quoted above (“without confusion, without change . . .”), intentionally declined to define precisely what IS the relationship between the humanity and the divinity of Christ. Why? Because it is not given to the minds of humans to know this, and all attempts to define it have sat uncomfortably with the early Rule of Faith and the witness of the whole canon of Scripture.

    So too with contemplative prayer and so many other practices in Christian worship and spirituality. All of these address the God who shows himself and yet also remains hidden. So humility and charity are necessary in approaching the worship practices of other Christians. Where syncretism is obvious and explicit, we must deal with that. Where it is not, we must approach circumspectly.

    Probably it’s time for me to be quiet. And certainly it is time for me to get some sleep.

    • But it’s also time for me to say, “Well said.” Thanks for your thoughtful contribution.

    • “The bishops of the Council of Chalcedon…..intentionally declined to define precisely what IS the relationship between the humanity and the divinity of Christ. Why? Because it is not given to the minds of humans to know this, and all attempts to define it have sat uncomfortably with the early Rule of Faith and the witness of the whole canon of Scripture.

      So too with contemplative prayer and so many other practices in Christian worship and spirituality. All of these address the God who shows himself and yet also remains hidden.”

      WONDERFUL…….. and I’m going to make an educated guess that much of what lies behind such a fear of contemplative prayer, and practices like that, is not a fear of gnosticism, or syncretism (as real as those are) but a fear of transcendence: the enemy of modernity…….

      ooops, that could be a little syncretism of a very sneaky variety
      Greg R

      • If by “contemplative prayer” you mean mindless meditation (of the sort practiced by Buddhists), than I am afraid for very sound scientific and Biblical reasons.

        Science has shown that this sort of practice shuts down parts of the brain.

        The Bible makes it clear that we come to know God (and therefore, truth) through the reading of His Word.

        Biblical “meditation” is reading (or memorizing) and reflecting on the Word.

        • Gary Thomas has a very clear definition in the book of what he means by contemplative prayer. I recommend you read it in order to understand what he’s saying. I will mention that my definition of the contemplative life differed slightly from his, but neither one of us is saying anything like “mindless meditation of the sort practiced by Buddhists” or the “sort of practice [that] shuts down the brain.” The goal in all orthodox (small o) Christianity is not the loss of self but the union of self with God. Sorry if that phrasing raises anyone’s hackles, but I think it is a legitimate statement. Union with God is illustrated in Bible by many images, bride and bridegroom, vine and branches, etc. The correct goal of contemplation is the same as the correct goal of Bible study, listening to expository preaching, participating in the Eucharist, caring for the poor, striving to appreciate and understand God’s creation, etc: to become conformed to the image and likeness of God.

          • it’s Friday…we could all use a little(lot) THEOSIS around here, esp. moi….

            Greg R
            PS: can’t help but wonder what G.Thomas would think of our comments the last 36 hrs….. maybe: “c’mon guys…..this wasn’t The Shack”…..sheesh 🙂

          • That’s good to hear. I doubt I will be able to read the book (the public libraries around me only carry super-heretical stuff, or the New Atheists 🙁 ).

          • Nedbrek — You could always order it through your friendly, convenient iMonk link . . .

  31. I wish people wouldn’t reflexively make a whipping boy of “tradition(s)” but would first look at the Biblical uses of paradosis (13x in the NT) and paradidomi (119x in the NT). I don’t know how they’re used in the LXX or what their Hebrew equivalents are, as i’m away from my Logos program. But I suspect they’re neutral terms by themselves and only take on negative meanings based on the context and what is being “handed over/down” and why.

  32. @ Greg R-

    “it’s Friday…we could all use a little(lot) THEOSIS around here, esp. moi….”

    LOL! Oh, that is priceless. I personally need infinite amounts of it. Thankfully, God has the issue pretty well figured out 🙂

    • that’s a great ending thought , there, bro…. I was listening to a little 3rd Day today kinda loud to get some of the stink off of me; God does indeed have it figured out, and I need to soak in that reality, and not get worked up at stuff that is so beyond me. (like the occasional troll here at IMONK)

      Lord increase our heart’s capacity to take YOU in….tonight
      God’s power and affection to you and yours
      Greg R

  33. for those who haven’t had their Gary Thomas fix for the day……Sola Sistahs, you might want to turn away….. I thought this was great, and adds to the Beth Moore thread as well.

    Jean-Pierre de Caussade was a French Jesuit spiritual director who lived in the early eighteenth century. He left behind a “late blooming” classic entitled Abandonment to Divine Providence that wasn’t popularly discovered or widely disseminated until long after he died. In it, de Caussade captures dependence on the divine like few other authors I have ever read. Speaking of God he writes:

    “Your inexhaustible action is the infinite source of new thoughts, new sufferings, new actions, new patriarchs, new prophets, new apostles, new saints. [We] do not need to copy each other’s lives and writing, but simply live in a perpetual abandonment to your secret operations.”

    In other words, while we have much to learn from the great examples of successful parents and ministers, we shouldn’t feel the need to slavishly follow their methods. God, by his own power and inspiration, is raising up “new patriarchs, new prophets, new apostles, new saints.” While we would be foolish not to draw deeply from the wisdom of those who have gone before us, we also need to be careful about talking about the “old times”—even the very recent “old times”—as if they occurred with a different God at the helm or one who has lost his zeal for what is happening today.

    De Caussade again: “We hear perpetually of the ‘early centuries’ and ‘the times of the saints.’ What a way to talk! Are not all times the successive effects of the divine activity that pours itself forth on all the instants of time, filling them, sanctifying them, and elevating them all?”

    The same God who raised up Francis of Assisi, Teresa of Avila, Martin Luther, John Wesley and Charles Spurgeon, today has raised up Rick Warren, Beth Moore, Ed Young, and Mark Driscoll. The same God raised them all, and He is neither limited nor tired nor running out of creative energy. Just because he has blessed Rick, Beth, Ed and Mark doesn’t mean he is spent, taking a break, or has inspired his “best sermon.” He’s got plenty more where that came from—the inexhaustible well of divine energy, provision, wisdom, love, and gifting.

    Let’s rest in God—in whatever ministry we find ourselves in. If we are truly relying on him, we can’t grow weary, we can’t run out of ideas, we can’t be incapable of serving, because no matter how naturally gifted Rick, Beth, Ed or Mark might be, none of them can even approach the creative genius, never-ending mercy, and ever-flowing love of God”

    good stuff; thanks Damaris playing “Andrew says you need to meet this guy…..”
    Greg R

  34. A side thought for a future post theme, in light of the , ahem, guests that we had on this thread…

    As we grow (hopefully) in maturity as a believer, and as our convictions take on more clarity, and in a sense, become more focused, we should actually have FEWER, not GREATER enemies. This isn’t mushy tolerance, as much as it is knowing the bounds of orthodoxy AND taking seriously the fact that “we fight not against flesh and blood”…… Maturity takes us to a place where we can oppose vehemently a mindset, a philosophy, a false religion, but see those who practice these as slaves that have been captured to do his (the devil’s) will, and in need of redemption and help (instead of targets of condemnation).

    Monday’s food for thought
    GReg R

    • I agree, Greg. I think (partly because of how distant they seem to me!) that forgiveness and love of enemies are the pinnacle of spiritual maturity. May God give us grace to climb that far.