Contemplative Spirituality: Not As Healthy As It Sounds‏

Recently I sent an email to about 45 friends telling them about the dangers of the Emergent church movement masquerading as Christianity. It is a movement that is spreading like wildfire throughout many evangelical denominations, as well as mainline churches. Even though it is gaining much acceptability, it ought to be unacceptable to any Christian who believes in the authority of God’s Word over reason, experience, or anything else. There are many warning signs, of which I will explain to you in an upcoming post.

I will not go into the whole thing about Emergent today, but rather I would like you to get a better understanding of Contemplative Spirituality, a practice which is at the center of the Emergent movement, and which I did not get into much detail last time.

So here is an explanation of this unbiblical practice, as written by the authors at:

And for a wealth of research and commentary on contemplative and related practices, Purpose Driven and more, go to this excellent source:

*There is a “bonus” article at the end of this one, by Dr. Gary Gilley on the subject of “lectio divina'” and contemplative spirituality and how they are connected. 🙂

What is contemplative spirituality?

Answer: Contemplative spirituality is an extremely dangerous practice for any person who is concerned with living a biblically God-centered life. It is most commonly associated with the Emerging Church Movement, which is riddled with aberrant, false teachings. It is also used by many different groups that have little, if anything, to do with Christianity.

In practice, contemplative spirituality is primarily centered around meditation, though not meditation with a biblical perspective. Passages in Scripture such as Joshua 1:8 actually exhort us to meditate: “Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed.” Notice what the focus of meditation should be: the Word of God. Contemplative spirituality meditation focuses on nothing, literally. A practitioner is exhorted to completely empty his/her mind, to just “be.” Supposedly this helps one to open up to a greater spiritual experience. However, we are exhorted in Scripture to transform our minds to that of Christ’s, to have His mind. Emptying our minds is contrary to such active, conscious transformation.

Contemplative spirituality also encourages the pursuit of a mystical experience with God. As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary, mysticism is “the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (as intuition or insight).” This emphasis on experiential knowledge erodes the authority of Scripture. We know God according to His Word. Second Timothy 3:16-17 states: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” God’s Word is complete. There is no reason to believe that God adds additional teachings or truths to His Word through mystical experiences. Instead, our faith and what we know about God is based on fact. God said in Hosea 4:6 “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge,” not for lack of mystical experiences.

The website for the Center for Contemplative Spirituality sums it up well: “We come from a variety of secular and religious backgrounds and we each seek to enrich our journey through spiritual practice and study of the world’s great spiritual traditions. We desire to draw closer to the loving Spirit which pervades all creation and which inspires our compassion for all beings.” There is absolutely nothing biblical about such a practice. Great caution should be given to anybody considering contemplative spirituality, for instead of achieving a greater spirituality, a person will instead become confused, deceived, and led away from the Truth.

Recommended Resource: The Truth War: Fighting for Certainty in an Age of Deception by John MacArthur.


By Ken Silva pastor-teacher on Sep 14, 2008 from

In his May 2007 edition of Think On These Things “Mystical Youth Ministry” Dr. Gary Gilley gives us a run down of the so-called “spiritual discipline” of Lectio Divina. In doing so Gilley turns to Dr. Kenneth Boa, President of Reflections Ministries and teacher of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) who personally recommends and teaches:

The ancient art of sacred reading (lectio divina) [which] was introduced to the West by the Eastern desert father John Cassian early in the fifth century. The sixth-century Rule of St. Benedict that guided Benedictine and Cistercian monastic practice ever since, prescribed daily periods for sacred reading. In spite of the simplicity and power of this method of praying through sacred Scripture, it gradually fell into disuse and obscurity.

Unfortunately, by the end of the Middle Ages it came to be seen as a method that should be restricted to the spiritually elite. As time passed, even monastics lost the simplicity of sacred reading as it was replaced by more complicated systems and forms of “mental prayer.”

In recent decades, however, this ancient practice has been revitalized, especially by those in the Cistercian tradition. Writers like Thomas Merton (Contemplative Prayer, New Seeds of Contemplation, Spiritual Direction & Meditation), Thomas Keating (Intimacy with God, Open Mind, Open Heart), Michael Casey (Sacred Read-ing, Toward God, The Undivided Heart), and Thelma Hall (Too Deep for Words) have been promoting sacred reading in Catholic circles, and Protestants are now being exposed to this approach as well. Lectio divina involves a progression through the four movements of reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. (Online source)

Please know that the quotes that Gilley uses below in his article come from Boa’s book The Trinity, a Journal: Lectio Divina: This is Latin for “holy reading,” and is increasingly becoming a popular method of contemplative “Bible reading” in mystical and emergent circles… Ken Boa, another promoter of mystical Christianity, explains that lectio divina involves four movements:

Reading (Lectio) “Since lectio divina engages the whole person, your bodily posture is important. A seated position that is erect but not tense or slouched is best…. Remember that unlike ordinary reading, in lectio you are seeking to be shaped by the Word more than informed by the Word”

Meditation (Meditatio) “Meditation is a spiritual work of holy desire and an interior invitation for the Spirit to pray and speak within us (Romans 8:26-27)…Meditation will do you little good if you try to control the outcome.” Incorporating the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola is recommended for meditation.

Prayer (Oratio) Boa informs us that “Oratio [Prayer] is a time for participation in the interpenetrating subjectivity of the Trinity through prolonged mutual presence and growing identification with the life of Christ.”

Contemplation (Contemplatio) To the uninitiated, contemplation often is confused with meditation but they are not the same. In ordinary circles meditation describes deep thinking and analyzing with a rational mind and some may use contemplation as a synonym for this activity. But contemplation in mystical circles “is a theological grace that cannot be reduced to logical, psychological, or aesthetic categories…It is best for us to stop talking and ‘listen to Him’ in simple and loving attentiveness. In this strange and holy land we must remove the sandals of our ideas, constructs and inclinations, and quietly listen for the voice of God.”

So as we can see from Dr. Ken Boa, himself a teacher and practitioner of this spurious spiritual discipline, Lectio Divina was developed as a “monastic practice” of apostate Roman Catholicism and as Gilley points out it also involves the so-called “Christian” meditation of Contemplative/Centering Prayer. And this is confirmed by no less an authority than the late Roman Catholic monk and “Spiritual Master” Basil Pennington who explains in his book Lectio Divina: For the past twenty-five years we have been sharing Centering Prayer in all parts of the world. In all our prayer workshops we have always included lectio. For the monk and nun, lectio and contemplation, Centering Prayer, are all part of one reality. (ix)

Men and women, the fact is Lectio Divina was not taught or practiced by Jesus Christ and His Apostles, it was rightly rejected as not in line with Biblical Christianity by the Lord’s Reformers, and therefore because this neo-pagan practice is counter to Sola Scriptura it has no place in the life of the Christian.


2 responses to “Contemplative Spirituality: Not As Healthy As It Sounds‏

  1. I find it humorous how in the last paragraph the author puts “the Lord’s Reformers” and their “Biblical Christianity” on the same level as “Jesus Christ and His Apostles”. The absurdity of this from a historical perspective gets even richer as it implies that anything “counter to sola scriptura has no place in the life of the Christian”.

    While recognizing the much needed benefits and course adjustment of the reformation, the idea that sola scriptura is as old as Jesus Christ and His Apostles is just crazy. Unfortunately, some people operate under the crazy idea that Church history begins with the Protestant reformation; and have no idea that the idea of scripture ALONE was a new idea.

  2. Contemplative – to contemplate from the word templum where we get our English word ‘temple’ from. A place set apart for worship. Contemplation comprises the huge realities of worship, offering and prayer without which Christian people are likely to become performance driven as apposed to spirit led. Would that more christian leaders would lead their people into a deep devotional life that seeks to hear and hear and obey the Spirit of God.

    Can hardly see how such a great tool to help us understand and be shaped by the scriptures like Lecto Divina can be so evil.

    Silencio – a time of quieting oneself prior to the reading of the text.

    Praeparatio – focusing the mind on the central theme of the text.

    Lecto – carefully reading a passage of scripture

    Meditatio – Exploring the meaning of the passage

    Contemplatio – Yeilding oneself to God’s will

    Let’s not forget an important addition to the classical practice:

    Incarnatio – Resolving to act on the message of the Scripture.

    Lectio Divina invite readers to slow down, read Scriptures, meditate upon them, and prayerfully respond to God’s Word.

    That cant be as bad as Ken Silva makes it out to be.

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