By Ken Silva pastor-teacher on Aug 30, 2008 in AM Missives, Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism, Current Issues, Emergent Church, Features, New Spirituality, Richard Foster, Spiritual Formation, Youth Ministry
The idea here at Apprising Ministries is to begin helping you understand this New Spirituality as well as giving you a proper Christian perspective of it. Firmly rooted as it is in pagan Eastern religions which lurk beneath the New Age movement, this so-called “Christian” mysticism is right now slithering deep into the evangelical camp under the guise of Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism.
Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:8-11)
The New Spirituality And Transformation Through Meditation
The second and third categories of Christian prayer are meditation and contemplation. Though central to the history of the Christian tradition, they have been quite neglected in modern Christianity. Until recently, the practice of meditation and contemplation occurred primarily in religious orders. (198)
Well, this is partially true. Yes, meditation aka contemplation did occur primarily in “religious orders” of apostate Roman Catholicism, but this type of meditation/contemplation was in no way “central” to the historic orthodox Christian faith. And prior to the Reformation essentially there was only the Church of Rome with its “religious orders” or monastic traditions. So of course they were the only ones involved in these practices, which were with a doubt borrowed from pagan religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.
Let me also bring to your attention here that Marcus Borg is listed among something known as the Living Spiritual Teachers Project and his area of expertise is allegedly in what is often referred to in the New Spirituality as “transformation.” We’re told that:
The spiritual practice of transformation holds within its wide embrace the personal renewals that come with a spiritual awakening, a conversion, a mystical epiphany, or an enlightenment. It covers the deepening that takes place when we get in touch with our Higher Self or Spirit. (Online source)
For more on this “Higher Self” I refer you to The Real Truth About Your Evil “True Self” and we’ll return to look more deeply into the issue of transformation another time. But for now the reason I point out “Living Spiritual Teacher” Guru Borg is a teacher of transformation is to show you that in his above statements concerning meditation he is hardly unbiased. The reason being that meditation—also known as transcendental meditation for good reason—is a key component as one attempts to reach this supposed state of transformation/enlightenment.
God Does Not Indwell All Of Mankind
However, in this piece we will first stop to think through an extremely important subject: The Bible teaches that God only indwells the believing Christian as we see right from the conditional “if” in our opening text from the Book of Romans. In the original Greek the word behind “sinful nature” is sarx and it means flesh, as in the body of a person. John Piper puts it well in his article Total Depravity when he points out that:
(3) Man’s inability to submit to God and do good is total.
Picking up on the term “flesh” above (man apart from the grace of God) we find Paul declaring it to be totally enslaved to rebellion. Romans 8:7-8 says, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
The “mind of the flesh” is the mind of man apart from the indwelling Spirit of God (“You are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you,” Romans 8:9). So natural man has a mindset that does not and cannot submit to God. Man cannot reform himself. (Online source)
Your key to understanding that the neo-Gnostic mysticism of the New Spirituality is one of the doctrines of demons is, if God were to already indwell all of mankind then there would be no need for regeneration, more commonly called the “new birth.” Jesus tells us — “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). And this being born again is not a mere theological abstraction as Bob DeWaay points out in his excellent piece The Necessity of Regeneration:
Biblical Christianity is not merely one of many competing religious philosophies, nor is it merely a system of belief and practice that will hopefully make one a better person. Biblical Christianity is an intimate relationship with God through the person of Jesus the Messiah. To be a Christian, a person must be born of God. This “new birth” is spiritual regeneration. The Holy Spirit indwells and gives new life to the people who by faith entrust their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. (Online source)
As we move along you will be coming to see that in denying this solid Biblical teaching above true mystics believe and teach that God—however they may ultimately define Him/it—is already in everyone; and for most mystics, also in everything. Quite often this will result in a warped view of God which is known as panentheism. Pan = “all”; en = “in” and theism = “God.” God is in all and all is in God. This wrong idea of God indwelling all mankind is sometimes called “the divine spark” as you’ll see further in The Emergent “One”
Lord willing, I would also hope to be showing you this idea that God is already in all of mankind is completely consistent with the theology of Quakers like Richard Foster, author of the book Celebration of Discipline, and another of those Living Spiritual Teachers. It’s important to note at this point that Contemplative Spirituality (CS) as taught by Foster was also core doctrine of the Emerging Church from its very inception, and even Emergent theologian Brian McLaren himself said that Foster was a “key mentor” of the Emergent Church.
One River That Is God But Many Streams Back To Him
Now before we get to Foster let me stop and point out that in 2005 Tony Jones, National Coordinator of Emergent Village, wrote a book called The Sacred Way: Spiritual Practices for Everyday Life (SW) wherein he teaches youth pastors and youth ministers about these mystical practices—also called spiritual disciplines—of CS in the New Spirituality; as well as, sharing ideas about how to incorporate them into their “worship.”
As we look in SW one of the recommended “Christian Spiritual Classics” for further study turns out to be Collected Works by the well known mystic Meister Eckart. Jones tells us it is “a mystical treatise on the intersection between Greek philosophy and Christian theology with an emphasis on God’s indwelling of humanity (221). So now we should be able to see that we’re already dealing with anitbiblical teachings.
Modern day mystic Matthew Fox discusses Eckhart’s theology in his 1983 book The Coming Of The Cosmic Christ (CoCC). While Fox is definitely a wolf he is an authority within the New Spirituality. He explains that through mysticism we will come to understand what it is to “reach what Eckhart calls the ‘great underground river’ of divinity” (230) said to be within each of us. That we are dealing with blatant heresy here is crystal clear because earlier in CoCC Fox himself refers to all of humanity as “other Christs” (137).
Another time we’ll also be returning to this panentheistic world-view which eventually emerges from all those who practice this neo-Gnostic contemplative mysticism long enough to receive the delusion whereby they plunge into that “great underground river” of deception. But for our purposes in this article we know that the Bible teaches us God only indwells the believer, who by His grace, is regenerated and places their personal faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
As we begin to close for now we turn briefly to CoD, Foster’s classic book on the subject of CS, which is also highly recommended by Emergent spiritual director Brian McLaren. While discussing what Foster considers to be one of “The Inward Disciplines” in CoD, something he refers to as “imagination,” the Guru of Contemplative Spirituality writes:
We can descend with the mind into the heart most easily through the imagination. In this regard the great Scottish preacher Alexander Whyte speaks of “the divine offices and the splendid services of the Christian imagination.” Perhaps some rare individuals experience God through abstract contemplation alone, but most of us need to be more deeply rooted in the senses. We must not despise this simpler, more humble route into God’s presence (25, emphasis mine).
So here’s the key question we wish to leave with you: If God is already present in the Christian, and He is, then why do we need this CS and New Spirituality as the supposed “route into God’s presence?” Answer: We don’t. Ah, but it gets even worse. You see, another important doctrine in the postliberal cult of the Emergent Church is the horribly misguided idea that we will use this convoluted contemplative mysticism of the New Spirituality to find the “common ground” with other world religions.
Remaking Jesus Into A Mystic Teacher Of Mediation
However, you must understand that the first thing that has to be done in order to even attempt this bridge into some Global Family of God is to remake Jesus Christ of Nazareth Himself into a mystic. And this Foster begins to do in CoD; using circular logic, without any Biblical basis whatsoever for the supposed mysticism of our Lord and Master, Guru Foster simply states:
Jesus himself taught in this manner [of the mystic], making constant appeal to the imagination, and many of the devotional masters likewise encourage us in this way. St. Teresa of Avila says, “…as I could not make reflection with my understanding I contrived to picture Christ within me.” Many of us can identify with her words, for we too have tried a merely cerebral approach and found it too abstract, too detached (ibid, emphasis added).
I cover Teresa of Avila in more depth elsewhere, but here you can clearly see that her mystic musings have undoubtedly impacted Foster. In fact in CoD he includes this troubled Roman Catholic nun among “the great writers of the devotional life,” which he says goes “from St. Augustine to St. Francis, from John Calvin to John Wesley, from Teresa of Avila to Juliana of Norwich” (5, emphasis mine).
You might make note here that the highly ecumenical Foster is certainly influenced in his own aberrant mystic views by apostate Roman Catholicism. The incontrovertible fact is that this heretical so-called Christian mysticism did originally flower within the monastic traditions of the Church of Rome. And in direct opposition to the theology of the Reformers the Guru of Contemplation obviously considers the Roman Catholic Church a part of the true Body of Christ.
It’s also true that even Foster’s above denigration of “a merely cerebral approach” (i.e. analytical) to Holy Scripture is also consistent with the same grave error of experience trumps and/or interprets Scripture within the whole messed up mystic tradition of this New Spirituality. And please know that I am not advocating a dead literal letterism as we approach the Bible; but leaving that aside, in CoCC Matthew Fox—one who is very well experienced in this kind of transcendental meditation for the Christian–explains that the:
first meaning of mysticism is experience itself. As Kabir, the great creation mystic of India, put it in the fifteenth century, “I say only what I have seen with my own eyes–and you keep quoting the Scriptures!” He goes on, “Experience, O seeker, is the essence of all things.” The mystic is keen on the experience of the Divine and will not settle for theory alone or knowing about the Divine (48, emphasis mine).
Men and women, in this piece you have just read where all of this contemplative mysticism of the New Spirituality will always lead one who persists in it. And we’ve seen it in words which are eerily similar to those currently coming from Brian McLaren and Doug Pagitt and Rob Bell ad infinitum ad nauseum among the spiritually corrupt leadership of the Emergent Church as well.
Then as we recall above how Matthew Fox, one who feels that he has personally reached what mystic Meister Eckhart called “the ‘great underground river’ of divinity” within each of us, now refers to all of humanity as “other Christs”, there comes emerging a very real source of serious concern for the spiritual direction of Foster’s Quaker “Christian” mysticism that long ago penetrated evangelicalism. And this all makes the following information from Ray Yungen in his book A Time of Departing even more startling:
It is not surprising to find those in the contemplative prayer camp who also subscribe to this view. Contemplative author John R. Yungblut, former Dean of Studies at the Quaker Meditation Center at Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania, echoed a similar notion:
But we cannot confine the existence of the divine to this one man [Jesus] among men. Therefore we are not to worship the man Jesus, though we cannot refrain from worshipping the source of this Holy Spirit or Christ-life, which for many of us has been revealed primarily in this historical figure. (114,115, emphasis mine)
And it should shock us out of our compliant complacency with heresy in the American Christian Church when the words above from more and more of these contemplative teachers—many as professing Christians—now so closely mirror those of Deepak Chopra, one of the leading Gurus of this antichrist New Spirituality, in his piece Why We Need a Jesus:
it occurred to me that Jesus can be taken as a savior without being the savior… What this implies is that there was a third Jesus, a teacher of higher consciousness. He wanted to raise his followers to the same level of God consciousness that he was in… He quotes Psalms 82 to argue that if scripture makes everyone a god, he cannot be blaspheming to make the same claim for himself…
However, your personal vision must come from a deeper value structure — call it myth, archetype, or the wisdom tradition — and Jesus stands as one of the high peaks of that invisible structure. God-consciousness will never perish. Since Jesus once embodied God-consciousness, he is keeping it alive at this moment, offering to teach the way to anyone who wants to find it. (Online source)