(This article and most of those I have been posting are relevant for any denomination, not just Nazarene. Take heed and beware of what is being taught at your child’s university or in your youth groups, and use discernment).
In the previous post, I discussed the Barefoot Ministries book for youth, Sacred Life. Although not all of the book’s chapters were discussed, I wanted to touch on a few other points I had not made. I will then follow with a review of the second book I read, called Sacred Space.
In Sacred Life, I discussed the use of material from St. Ignatius and his work, Spiritual Exercises, and how he was deeply into mysticism, asceticism, and other spiritual practices which are unscriptural. We also talked about the practice of the Jesus Prayer, which is simply “vain repetition” as forbidden in the scriptures, and the use of prayer ropes to aid in such type prayers. In other words, praying the rosary is what is being taught in this book for Nazarene youth! To have gone into some of the other methods, which were mentioned, would have made the article three times as long, but I covered enough ground to come to the conclusion that this is not recommended for any Christian youth to use as a guide for faith and practice.
Pilgrimages to Interspiritual Communities?
However, I will mention one more item from Sacred Life, before moving on. There is the chapter on pilgrimages. Someday I would love to go to the Holy Land and see it all. I think most Christians would jump at that opportunity if they could. But what does Mike King recommend as one of the pilgrimages to go on? First, he states “in addition to the most common pilgrimage destinations connected to biblical places (Israel, Palestine, Rome, …”…“here are some other pilgrimage ideas”. He goes on to specify seven locations, but the one that caught my eye was his recommendation to go to the Taize (pronounced teh-zay) prayer community in France. Well, he calls it a prayer community, and that sounds all good and well, but again, a little more detail in description from Mr. King would have discerning Christians shocked, amazed, dumbfounded, appalled.
The Taize community is more than “just a prayer community”. It is a hotbed of contemplative mysticism and interspirituality! Lighthouse Trails Research describes it as this: “”Taize is an ecumenical prayer service designed to achieve a contemplative state through music, song and silence.” Taize worshippers practice the silence with icons, candles, incense and prayer stations, and the description from Lighthouse says the same sentiment that King says, that it is attracting youth from all over the world. David Cloud, in his excellent book documenting contemplative heresies, describes it like this: The Taizé services are non-dogmatic and non-authoritative. There is no preaching” (Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond, pg. 9).
And this description: “It does not dictate what people must believe. No confessions of faith are required. No sermons are given. No emotional, evangelical-style testimonials are expected. Clergy are not required” (“Taizé,” Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, Sept 20, 2002).
For the details on this outrageously non-Christian community, go to their own website: http://www.taize.fr/en. Mr. King, what were you thinking when you recommended this? You are either ignorant of what this is all about, or you know what it is, and you obviously embrace this interspiritual, universalistic type of ideology. And this is where you recommend Nazarene youth take a pilgrimage to?
Pagan Practices in the Nazarene Community
On to Sacred Places. This book is essentially two things, and I could argue, one thing in different forms. It is mostly about walking through prayer stations in various situations and places, and secondly, it gives instructions on how to use a prayer labyrinth, which is another way of “doing” prayer stations.
In the opening instructions, it says: “Sacred Space… is your guide to an ancient practice for drawing closer to God. It involves prayer and meditation using prayer journeys. A prayer journey is a meditation that is done by moving through different stations, concentrating on a different aspect of the meditation at each station.” (p.7). Okay, already on page 7, I’m a little suspect. Where in the scriptures is this ancient practice described? Does Psalms perhaps instruct us on how to meditate on God’s word by using different prayer stations? No, certainly not. I agree, these are ancient practices, but they are NOT ancient Christian practices, that withstand the scrutiny of scripture! Further on, it says: “the traditional meditations are generally used on a prayer path or prayer labyrinth, but they can be used just about anywhere” (p. 7). Traditional, yes. Scriptural, no.
Finally, they ask the question of why we should pray this way? The answer: “currently there is a hunger for authenticity and a desire to embrace the mystery of life. As you read this, ask yourself if you have hungered for authenticity and the mystery of God. This ancient tool allows you to have both.” Really? I thought that most Christians have a desire to embrace the teachings of the Lord Jesus and the apostles, as revealed in scripture. The things that Jesus has revealed to us are not mysteries. And have you ever woken up one morning and felt that you “hunger for authenticity?”
That is just another emergent buzzword that is thrown around as part of their vernacular, and it really is a smokescreen to divert Christians into thinking that for 2,000 years, we have not had true authenticity, and now here is the way to be authentic, and at the same time, embrace the mystery of God. In other words, let’s get mystical, because that is how you can really get to know God, in a way you never thought possible. Friends, we get to know God by studying His word diligently, and with a clear mind that is thinking on His word and learning the meaning of God’s instruction through proper biblical study.
The prayer stations are just another form of doing what is called in Roman Catholicism, Stations of the Cross. The chapters give instructions on how to do prayer stations in the following situations: in a public park, at the mall, on a campus, in the outdoors, and on a mission trip. At the mall, for instance, the identified stations could be: the entrance, a candle store, an expensive jewelry store, a store window, a trendy clothing store, people passing by, the toy store, and the mall exit.
As an example of how to focus, when at the expensive jewelry store you are asked to:
- “Spend a moment browsing through the jewelry store. Pick out your favorite item, a watch, a ring, or a necklace. A store employee will probably ask if you need help. Note how they treat you if they find out you are just looking and not buying….”
It goes on like this at other stations, with recommended scriptures, AND specific prayers for you to recite. Enough said, you will need to perhaps read the entire book to understand how this plays out, but what it is, is is step by step guidelines that if followed correctly will bring some type of new experience with God that you would not have otherwise, like simply reading scripture to understand it.
Using A Pagan Ritual: The Labyrinth
Finally, there is the prayer labyrinth. At the end of the book are instructions on how to make a prayer labyrinth. Again, the writers go out of their way to say “meditating at stations along a path is an ancient tradition” (p. 123). Again, I ask, but is it scriptural? Far from it! Let me tell you where the prayer labyrinth came from. It is not a Christian tradition, although it is ancient; in fact, its much older than Christianity. The labyrinth’s roots come from pagan religions, including Greek mythology, centuries before the time of Christ. In mystical Judaism it is called the Kabala. It is not found anywhere in the Bible!
David Cloud says about the labyrinth that “it was Christianized by the Roman Catholic Church as part of its desperate search for spirituality apart from the Bible” (Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond, pg. 89). This statement very simply describes what the contemplative prayer and spiritual formation movement is all about: searching for spirituality apart from scripture. What Richard Foster promotes is no different from what the “ancients” promoted and practiced: mystical and occultic systems of worship that take the focus away from proper scriptural teachings and instruction.
In his book, A Time of Departing, Ray Yungen states: “Those walking the labyrinth will generally engage in centering prayer or contemplative prayer by repeating a chosen word or phrase while they walk, with the hope that when they reach the center of the labyrinth, they will have also centered down and reached the divinity within” (A Time of Departing, p. 179).
Yet the writers give instructions on how to set a labyrinth up, and even proudly tell you to go to the Barefoot Ministries website to get detailed instructions and facilitator’s guidelines!
Bottom line: these things are extra-biblical. The Bible warns us against ritualism. (Matthew 6:5–8). We do not need any new revelation from practices such as these; all that we need is found in scripture, and is sufficient for our faith and practice.
- and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.(2 Tim. 3:15–17 NKJV)
All we need is repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. He is the only Way, Truth, and Life. Rituals such as these diminish the sacrifice that He gave on the cross.
But now the emergent church is promoting these practices, and right inside the Nazarene church and other denominations. Look at the labyrinth at Trevecca Nazarene University. Look at the labyrinth used in a church’s District Assembly report. I could go on and on. They are appearing everywhere.
(Apparently some of us have touched a few nerves in the Nazarene hierarchy: at the NMI website, the word Emerging has been replaced with Developing! (http://www.nazarenemissions.org/10002/story.aspx). I have no doubt the emergent ideology along with its focus on contemplative mysticism and “ancient” and “traditional” practices has been embraced by many Nazarenes, yet countless “average” Nazarenes are not aware of it- yet. What will you decide to do, accept or reject it? If you accept, what is your basis for accepting?
We need to raise our voices and speak out against these practices, for if we keep quiet or look the other way, it will be a very shameful thing we do if we allow another gospel to come in and destroy the faith of our youth.
- “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).