Contemplative prayer is the spiritual part of the emergent church movement. Without it, and without the Roman Catholic rituals and pagan practices, the emergent movement would just simply be a philosophical movement that rejects the authority of the Bible. So to make it look more legitimate, there has to be a spiritual component, hence contemplative spirituality, or contemplative prayer (also called centering prayer).
CS is spreading out through all denominations in one form or another, being taught in seminaries and Bible schools, under the guise of “Spiritual Formation”. Degree programs are sprouting up for new positions called “spiritual director”, a kind of evangelical equivalent of priests who hear confessions. Dr. Doug Hardy is a spiritual director who teaches at Nazarene Theological Seminary. He is a part of a group called Spiritual Directors International, which promotes contemplative prayer, and he is listed as a member of the review panel for their journal called Presence. His fundamental calling is apparently to ” come alongside others to help facilitate their alignment with God.” Not sure what that means.
This organization serves many purposes, including helping people find their own spiritual director. They provide videos from various “experts” on spiritual direction, including such notable contemplatives or emergent promoters as Richard Rohr and Brother David Steindl-Rast.
One of their leading members is Lauren Artress, who wrote Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool. Artress, who is a Reverend, helped popularize prayer labyrinths in the United States. Now they are spreading into Nazarene churches and into other denominations, as well as at least one Nazarene university (Trevecca).
In the opening description of their definition of spiritual direction, SDI emphasizes that spiritual direction involves “growing closer to God (or the sacred, the holy or a higher power“. It is significant that Jesus Christ or the God of the Bible is not specifically mentioned, because this is clearly an ecumenical group whose goal is to promote spiritual direction for any religion. You will have no doubt about that as you move through many of its pages. I wonder how many pastors reading this would say yes to an offer to join this organization? It certainly bothers me that a Nazarene theology professor is clearly involved with this group which welcomes collaboration with any religion that wants to provide “spiritual direction.”
The following 6 minute video (Reaching Out To The World) gives you a good idea of centering prayer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTAwBs_9D3c
At around the 3:20 mark, Father Keating says “centering prayer is the point of unity between the Christian denominations”, and then “we’re in a better position to dialogue with the great spiritual traditions of the Eastern religions, Buddhism and Hinduism, who also have a very rich and contemplative tradition…”. Well, at least they don’t hide their agenda and purpose!
(Ray Yungen comments on Fr. Keating in this 1 minute clip from the Emerging Church DVD: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7fCjhRD8UI&feature=related)
This is coming into our churches, in very subtle ways, and sometimes not so subtle. It’s certainly not “my father’s church”, as many of us may be saying right now to ourselves. This is all part of the contemplative spirituality movement which is sweeping evangelicalism today. I believe it is just one of many deceptive tools that good old Satan is using to fool a lot of Christians, and not just those who are young and naive. A lot of “seasoned” Christians, the elect if you will, are buying into this Christianized transcendental meditation. It seems to be born out of a desire to reach new heights of communicating with and getting closer to God. Gone are the old days of steadfast study of God’s word on a regular basis. Gone are the days of prayer to God, submitting our requests and praise to Him, and trusting in His word for guidance, and trusting in the direction of the Holy Spirit. Now we need to experience God in a way we have never experienced through regular prayer and Bible study. Now we have spiritual directors, and now we have new methods of getting that “experience” that no one can have, unless we “practice the presence”, or “walk a labyrinth”, or do the Jesus Prayer that Tony Campolo (who is coming to Eastern Nazarene College in October) does for 20 minutes each morning like a magical formula.
If we don’t do these new things, we are so lacking in spiritual nourishment and insight, aren’t we? Studying God’s word and prayer is not enough. Now we have “new disciplines” introduced, with the excuse that we are just resurrecting ancient, time honored practices from the enlightened Christians of old. Never mind that in light of scripture, they are unholy practices. What they will say that these are traditions that we ought to bring back, in order to get closer to God. If “they” practiced these things way back, we ought to bring them back so we improve the future by bringing back the ancient past. That’s part of the idea behind these movements.
What kind of role models are we bringing in now to our churches and universities? Does Tony Campolo preach holiness, and will he emphasize a return to scripture when he speaks to ENC students next month? Or will he proudly talk about his morning prayer mantra that flies in the face of scriptural admonition? (Mat. 6:7)
Where is the discernment in our leadership today? Or is this a deliberate, intentional move to “Roman Catholicize” our churches and universities?
Have we really got it all wrong after 2,000 years, and these ancient practices are going to re-awaken us? Is this what we might call a new revival being moved by the Holy Spirit? Or is not placing our faith and trust in Jesus Christ enough, and are these new methods saying that “Christ is not sufficient for me to experience all God wants me to. “I need more, I need an extra boost, and I can get it through contemplative prayer.”
What an absolute insult to the One who gave His life for us, and who has taught us that He is all sufficient for us in our daily Christian walk. Do you really want or need a prayer labyrinth, or lectio divina, or prayer beads, or a prayer station, in order to get closer to God? Where in scripture do we find the justification for “practicing the presence of God?” Nowhere is the answer. Jesus Christ is all we need. We are complete in Him! (Col. 2:10)
May God give us discernment not to fall for this unbiblical foolishness. Contemplative prayer: no. God’s word: yes.
- “I hate vain thoughts, but thy law do I love. Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word” (Psalms 119:113,114).
ADDITIONAL RESOURCES AND VIDEOS:
The Occult Infiltration Into Today’s Professing Church: Johanna Michaelson (10 min)
Invisible Denomination, the New Age: Ray Yungen (10 min)
The New Age, Purpose Driven, and Deception in the Church – Part 1: Warren Smith (10 min)Occult Infiltration Into Today’s Professing Church: Johanna Michaelson (10 min)
Invisible Denomination, the New Age: Ray Yungen (10 min)
The New Age, Purpose Driven, and Deception in the Church – Part 1: Warren Smith (10 min)