Beware The Leaven Coming Into Your Church Curriculum

Colossians 2:8-12 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.

Reflecting God is an adult Sunday School journal with daily devotionals written for each month by various writers, prepared by the WordAction company.  It is not only prepared for Nazarenes but also for churches that are in the Wesleyan tradition.  They state that: “WordAction is the world’s leading provider of Wesleyan Sunday School lessons and curriculum for children, youth, and adult Sunday School, as well as a leading provider of small group resources and devotional material for family or personal daily devotional times.”

I have read these lessons many times, and have used this or similar curriculum books in teaching Adult Sunday school classes.  For the most part, it has solid reliable material.  However,  a friend alerted me to this particular lesson, which I had not seen.  I am working on another edition that a good friend also sent me a few months ago to review.  So now its time for a word of warning, and a word of serious caution.  The caution is this: WordAction may possibly be gearing up to slowly start promoting contemplative spirituality practices that are at the core of the spirituality of the emergent church movement.

 Here is an excerpt from the Feb 8 lesson titled Center Down (and for those who don’t understand this yet, I will explain what this means:

“The Quakers quiet their hearts and spirits before God when they gather for worship through a meditative state they call “centering down.”  When they rest in the Lord and “wait” on him, they believe that he will bring understanding, direction, and peace.”

In addition to serving God, Brother Lawrence, the author of the book “The Practice of the Presence of God,” advises that we stay in touch with him.  He said, “There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful, than that of a continual conversation with God.  Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it.”

This is a blatant promotion of mysticism!  And I point out the elitist-like last sentence that suggests that only those special people who practice and experience contemplative prayer will truly understand God!  This is the mindset of the mystics, that they are special.  My friends, I have come to the point in my last three years researching that anyone using the word EXPERIENCE must at least be scrutinized as to what he means by it when he uses the word!  It more often than not means an experience that is outside the bounds of Scriptural teaching.  Please remember this.  It is essentially a type of experience whose goal is to reach some kind of union with God.  And please note again what they said: “they believe.”  Not, “Scripture says”.

 First of all, the Quakers (Religious Society of Friends) are a religious group that claims to be Christian, and they promote a weird doctrine that we have some sort of “Inner Light” within us.  The founder was George Fox, who at a young adult age, had a strong mystical experience.  He became convinced that “person requires no spiritual intermediary but can receive direct understanding and guidance through one’s own “inward light,” which is supplied by the Holy Spirit.” (Source)  He believed that everyone has a divine spark within them that can respond directly and personally to God. 

The Inner Light, according to respected Quaker author Howard Brinton, “can be reached only by ‘centering down,’ to use an old Quaker phrase: that is, by concentrating our attention on the inward side of life where the soul’s windows open toward the Divine.…” (Brinton, 1953). “Centering down” means turning away from ego-driven pursuits, from selfish individual concerns, and allowing oneself to be moved by a spiritual intelligence greater than one’s everyday consciousness.  (Source: Paths of Learning.net)

Their most famous member today is perhaps Richard Foster, the modern day guru of contemplative spirituality, who believes that anyone (not just Christians) can be a “portable sanctuary for God”; who recommends contemplative prayer but at the same time warns that we need to pray a prayer of protection before participating; and also warns that novices should not do it.

So when they promote centering down, they are promoting a practice that is part and parcel the same as the practices of Eastern mysticism.  Here is a description of the Quakers’ practice of centering down, as explained by the Rev. Sue Annabrooke Jones on her website:

Meeting actually begins when all are joined in that silent “waiting upon God” that the Quakers call “centering down.” With mind and body stilled, members sit in deep contemplative silence together for one hour, each person attuned to his or her own inward light.
During a meeting someone may feel moved to speak. When this happens, it comes from a deep religious experience and a conviction that this experience must be shared. This spoken ministry, which is usually brief and simple, requires no response, and is intended as meditative seed for everyone else in the group. This unique cross-fertilization component distinguishes Quaker meditation from other forms of meditation which, even when practiced in a group, remain ultimately a solo activity.
  (Source: CosmicLotus.org)

Is this a biblically sound practice that belongs now in a Nazarene holiness publication?

And then there is Brother Lawrence. Who is Brother Lawrence?  He was a 17th century monk who “developed a technique–mostly through inspiration and intuition–which leads to results akin to those developed by the continued practice of either Zen or mindfulness meditation.” (Source: Lighthouse Trails)

He was part of the Carmelite Order, which was run by the very contemplative Teresa of Avila, another monastic practictioner who was also influenced by Jewish Kabbalic mysticism.  His “practicing the presence of God” as he coined it leaves much question as to how this can be verified as real or not.  It is not because it is too subjective, and leaves a wide open door for anything to be conjured up in ones imagination.

In his document, “Evangelicals Turning To Catholic Spirituality”, David Cloud describes the epidemic that is racing through the evangelical world, which is one of embracing more and more the monastic Eastern mysticism of the Desert fathers and early “church fathers”, although this clearly does not include the real early church fathers, i.e. the apostles themselves.  You will not find anything close to this that they ever wrote about in Scripture.  However, in this report by Cloud, you will clearly be disturbed by seeing some well known names of today who have favorably promoted some of these practices.  It is what it is, and we have to deal with the facts.

In Scripture, we are told that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.”  (Gal 5:9).  Satan attacks us from within, after he slips into our churches in disguise, often through the undiscerning and sometimes well meaning minds of many Christians.  I consider this an attack upon the church, even if the rest of this curriculum book is on solid ground.  We cannot allow Satan to grab a foothold in any way in our church literature, just as we cannot allow him to gain a foothold in our universities, churches and pulpits.

So beware, you have been warned to watch what you read, and judge it by the word of God.  Nowhere in Scripture are we taught to “practice the silence” and “wait for God to speak.”   Reflecting God is a wonderful sounding title, but this particular lesson truly does not reflect God, but rather subtly reflects the doctrines of demons being promoted in our denomination today.  Do not tolerate this for one second.  Do not compromise a bit on any of this.  This is being sent to the publishers of WordAction, so that hopefully with this warning, they will take great care that they are not becoming complicit in the infiltration of ungodly teachings in our Christian books.  No excuse will be acceptable for this.  I pray it was a mistake that will not be repeated.  But if so, it will be exposed again for what it is.