This post should be filed under the category of “Very, Very Sad.”
In a recent article by Ken Silva of Apprising, Silva reported that Bible teacher Beth Moore and respected theologian John Piper participated in a sort of “Lectio Divina Lite” prayer at the Passion 2012 Conference going on in Atlanta right now. But even more than that, Dr. John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, is now straight up encouraging the mystical practice of Lectio Divina to his followers on his Desiring God website.
A recently published article at Desiring God, which provides “God centered resources from the Ministry of John Piper,” encourages readers to learn Lectio Divina, a mystical practice developed by Roman Catholic monks. Some of what is written in this article is very good, but I have to ask the obvious question here: Should we really be getting any aspect of our theology from monks who cloistered themselves (in direct opposition to what Scripture teaches), and who dabbled in pagan mysticism?Fellow Christians, this is disturbing to me and should be for all of us who claim the name of Christ. Dr. Piper has been a highly esteemed theologian for years, maybe decades. This is yet another exhortation that we are to follow God, and not a man.
The Desiring God article in question points us to author Kenneth Boa, a Thomas Merton quoting mystic. That’s right, the very same Thomas Merton who said he wanted “to become as good a Buddhist as I can.”
Kenneth Boa, Devotional Spirituality, Part 7, “The Practice of Sacred Reading”
While it could be hoped that Kenneth Boa means nothing more than deeply contemplating Scripture (as Scripture commands), sadly, he makes it clear in one of his articles that, when discussing the practice “Contemplative Prayer,” he is not merely talking about deeply and mindfully contemplating God’s Word (as many Christians might think this term means). No, what he is pointing his readers toward is how to enter into an altered state of consciousness not for the purpose of learning mindfully about God, but to instead have some kind of subjective impression or experience of God. This is mysticism.
Kenneth Boa, Devotional Spirituality, Part 6, “The Practice of Sacred Reading”
Nowhere in Scripture are we taught that we have to get really silent and “listen” for God to speak to us, or, wait silently for God to “shape” us in some mystical way. Yes, the Holy Spirit guides us, and yes, there is some mystery about how this happens, but we have to go by Scripture. Jesus taught:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Mark 12:30 (my emphasis)
“But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.” Jude 1:20
“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” Ephesians 6:18 (my emphasis)
We are to pray in the Spirit, staying mindfully alert. This is the Christian practice of prayer, and it stands in direct contrast to the pagan practice of “mystical prayer,” which is to empty one’s mind and go into an altered state of consciousness, sometimes called an Alpha state. Scripture doesn’t teach going into an altered state of consciousness so that we can get some kind of mystical message from God. However, pagans of all stripes DO engage in this mind emptying practice.
First let me start with explaining why a person is unable to learn mindfully about God in an altered state of consciousness: it is because the mind, after following the techniques encouraged by Kenneth Boa (and now the Desiring God’s website), is now in a controlled, light hypnotic trance. These techniques enable people to go into a state in which they are neither fully awake, nor fully asleep….they are somewhere in the middle. They are in an Alpha state. But in this state (well known throughout the occult world, incidentally), the mind is parked. It’s in neutral. It can only receive information, much like a radio receiver, and is unable to critically process data. And as mentioned above, mystics throughout the ages have always had “culturally personalized” techniques for achieving this state of mindlessness:
Hindus/Buddhists – Mantra meditation
Muslim Sufis – Chanting and ritual dancing
Judaism – Kabbalah
Chinese/Japanese – Taoism
Native American Indians – Drumming and peyote
Roman Catholic Monks – Contemplative prayer
All of these mystics – with widely divergent cultural customs and differences – have one thing in common: some kind of technique for shutting down the mind, and something we are never told to do in Scripture (“Be alert!”). My Christian friends, this practice of emptying the mind is dangerous, dangerous teaching, and as a former mystic, I can attest to the fact that, rather than leading one to God, it leads practitioners instead into the demonic realm.Please pray that God would open Dr. Piper’s eyes to the dangers of this practice his website is now encouraging.
The original appears complete with a comments section for you to weigh in on the discussion right here.