Saturday, January 7, 2012

John Piper Encouraging Lectio Divina

Posted by Christine Pack

UPDATE: As of Tuesday, January 10, 2012, the Desiring God article in which the Roman Catholic mystical practice of Lectio Divina was promoted has been changed. Notes author Jonathan Parnell:
"Formerly I listed Lectio Divina as a third system for prayer. I've since removed it for the confusion it has caused. We do not endorse contemplative spirituality. The main point I'd like to recommend is using the text of Scripture as an organizer for our prayers — prayers that are exegetically faithful and gospel rich. I'm sorry for introducing the category."
While I appreciate the quick response by Desiring God (due in some part, I'm sure, to the ensuing uproar), John Piper still recommends resources by contemplative mystics on his church website. So yes, the Lectio Divina article teaching mysticism was pulled, but other concerning items that promote mysticism remain.

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 by Jonathan Parnell 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 - Lectio DivinaContemplative 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.

ADDED NOTE 1/10/2012: My sister made a very good comment in the comment section below about there being a time as a new Christian, for her, when John Piper's teaching actually helped her get free of mysticism (because she came out of the same New Age mysticism that I did). And she's right: there was a time when John Piper did not teach these things. Here was her comment:
"One of the saddest things to me is that John Piper actually helped me come out of my Christian mysticism. When I began realizing that a lot of what is called Christian teaching these days is just pagan practices sprinkled with Christian terminology and some Bible verses, I looked to the the Bible and to good Bible teaches to help me answer two basic questions: How does God communicate with us? And what is prayer? It was some teaching by John Piper specifically on that second question that really helped me. He was very clear: prayer is us talking to God- it is not like a telephone conversation where I talk and then God talks. He said God speaks to us through scripture. I could stop looking for signs and clues and hunches and feelings- I could just read God's Word and know that God was speaking clearly and openly to me. It was so freeing." 
And in fact, after Cathy commented, in reflecting back I also remembered how she had labored over this issue with me when I was a new Christian and she was discipling me. She really worked to help me understand this strange new concept of how it is that God communicates with us. It was extremely freeing for me as well, having come out of mysticism, where you're always trying to figure out if the sign/nudge/dream/vision/impression/etc. that you received was really from God. It was just, open up your Bible and read. Really? Really. So freeing. So unmystical. Not to mention, so biblical.

 Additional Resources 

John Piper's Bethlehem Baptist Church Endorsing Books by Contemplative Spirituality Mystics Dallas Willard and Richard Foster

Beth Moore and John Piper Lead "Lectio Divina Lite" Prayer at Passion 2012 Conference

Just Do Something: How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, etc.  - by Kevin DeYoung

Just Do Something - by Kevin DeYoung (audio)

Secular Interview About What Mysticism Is - BBC Radio Program

What Is Mysticism? (Sola Sisters Article)

What Is Mysticism? (3-Part Series by Dr. Gary Gilley) - Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4 and Part 5

On John Piper and Lectio Divina

Biblical Silence vs. Mystical Silence

Testimony of a Former Mystic

Rick Warren Gets John Piper's Stamp of Approval?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Is Catholicism just another Christian denomination? Yes, according to bestselling Bible study teacher Beth Moore [UPDATED]

Posted by Christine Pack (originally published January 3, 2012)

 Additional Resources 

The Be Still DVD: An Ode To Silence (Marcia Montenegro, Christian Answers For The New Age)

Theology … More or Less With Beth (Sarah Flashing)

Beth Moore's Dangerous Bible Twisting (Fighting For the Faith)

Beth Moore Recommends "Jesus Calling" Book Claiming Direct Divine Revelation (Apprising)

Pastor Ken Silva and Beth Moore Discuss Her Vision Affirming the Roman Catholic Church as Just Another Christian Denomination (Apprising)

Concerns About Beth Moore (CARM)

A List of False Teachings In The Catholic Church (CARM)

Damaging Doctrine: "If you can't hear God speak, it must be your fault." (Stand Up For The Truth)

Preparing for Eternity (former Roman Catholic Mike Gendron)

Proclaiming The Gospel (former Roman Catholic Mike Gendron)

Testimony of former Roman Catholic Priest Richard Bennett (Berean Beacon)

Berean Beacon (former Roman Catholic priest Richard Bennett)

A Chart With Christian/Catholic Views Side-By-Side (Richard Bennett, Berean Beacon,)

Mother Teresa, A Lost Soul (Berean Beacon)

Catholics, Physical Suffering and Doctrines of Demons (Sola Sisters)

Why the Reformation Was Important (Sola Sisters)

Redeemer's Tim Keller Recommends Ignatius of Loyola? (Sola Sisters)

After The Darkness, Light (Post Tenebras Lux) (Sola Sisters)

On The "Faith" of Mother Teresa: John Ortberg Strikes Out (Sola Sisters)

Biblically Explaining The Heresy of Catholicism (Dr. John MacArthur, GTY)

Far From Rome Near To God (Amazon)

Mother Teresa's Crisis of Faith (Time Magazine)

Mother Teresa Did Not Feel Christ's Presence for Last Half of Her Life, Letters Reveal (Fox News)

BBC Reports About Exorcism Performed on Mother Teresa (BBC Archives)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Unbelief is Ever Present

"Unbelief is one of the commonest spiritual diseases in these latter days. It meets us at every turn, and in every company. Like the Egyptian plague of frogs, it makes its way into every family and home, and there seems no keeping it out. Among high and low, and rich and poor, in town and in country, in universities and manufacturing towns, in castles and in cottages, you will continually find some form of unbelief. It is no longer a pestilence which walks in darkness, but a destruction which wastes at noonday. Unbelief is even thought clever and intellectual, and a mark of a thoughtful mind. Society seems leavened with it. He who avows his belief of everything contained in the Bible, must make up his mind in many companies to be smiled at contemptuously, and thought an ignorant and weak man." (J.C. Ryle)

 Additional Resources 

Daily J. C. Ryle Quotes

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bestseller "Experiencing God" Misleading Christians With "Soft" Mysticism?

Posted by Christine Pack

Reverend Jack Hughes and Reverend Justin Peters recently gave an interview in which they discussed their concerns with bestseller Experiencing (by Henry Blackaby and Claude King). This is such an important topic because this book is HUGE - beyond huge, really - in evangelical circles. My sister has a theory that the soft mysticism as taught by Blackaby leads to the hardcore mysticism of Richard Foster, Dallas Willard and the Spiritual Disciplines so big in evangelicalism today. In other words, Blackaby's Experiencing God book has primed the pump, so to speak, in helping Christians become attuned to the idea that they should be "hearing from God." In fact, in this interview, Reverend Justin Peters makes the point that Blackaby goes so far as to say that if you are not hearing from God, then something is wrong with your Christian walk! This is terrible teaching for the Christian, and absolutely not true. But once Christians have become opened up to this idea that they can and should be hearing from God on a regular basis, then they will be all the more open to the techniques and practices offered up in the Spiritual Disciplines of the Spiritual Formation movement that is so popular today, and which will ensure some kind of spiritual experience. But please note that while the experiences achieved through these techniques will be spiritual in nature, the fact remains that the techniques themselves are pagan and occultic in origin, and are thus forbidden to Christians. And that means that God will not reveal himself to man through occultic means......therefore, any "spirit" encountered through these techniques will not be of God.

In fact, a general rule of thumb for the Christian is this: we don't need any techniques or tricks for getting to God. We already have access to God, knowing that we can go boldly before the throne of grace because of the shed blood of Jesus. We also are counseled by the book of Hebrews (and elsewhere) that we are a people who are to walk by faith, not by sight, and that we must guard against the human tendency to insist upon tangibility in our encounters with God.

 Additional Resources 

Unbiblical Teachings on Prayer and Experiencing God: How Mysticism Misleads Christians by Bob DeWaay

God's Will and Christian Liberty - Part 1 and Part 2

Pastor Gary Gilley Reviews Experiencing God - Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Glory of Jesus

Posted by Christine Pack

When I was growing up, the church my family attended organized many activities for celebrating Christmas and the birth of Jesus. Our church was large enough to boast several opera trained singers and even a few musicians who were members of our city's world-class symphony; excellent Christmas programs were always offered up by the choir director. There was a magnificent tree in the main hall that the ladies of the church put up each year that was splendidly decorated with beautiful, carefully crafted hand-made ornaments, a labor of love that had taken several years to complete. There were sing-alongs, bonfires, food and clothing drives to help the poor, and of course, the Christmas play.

But when I think back to the actual theology taught to me about Jesus by this church, I am sad to say that I remember an overemphasis upon Jesus' humanity, and an under-emphasis of his Deity. Jesus was taught as a good teacher and a good man, a man who lived a life so virtuous that we should strive to model our own lives after it. The crucifixion was taught as the ultimate act of Jesus identifying with mankind in his suffering. All in all, this church presented what I now regard as a very "small" view of Jesus. Yes, Jesus did live as a man, He did live a very good and virtuous life, and He did identify with mankind. We should, by God's grace and the power of the Holy Spirit, seek to honor the Lord with our lives. But that is not the entire story. There is much more!

A few nights ago, my sons and I were watching The Nativity Story (my all time favorite Christmas movie ever-ever-ever). My boys are now at ages where their questions have become very deep and very challenging. While watching this movie about Jesus' first Incarnation, one of them was prompted to ask about Jesus' second coming. What a glorious thought! I began to tell them about the oft-neglected book of Revelation, which is the only book in the Bible that gives a very specific promise to those who study this book:
"Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near." Rev 1:3
According to Revelation, someday Jesus will come back in might and glory, to judge all the earth. He will not be Jesus "meek and mild," as He was the first time He came to earth......He will be glorious, and his magnificence and Deity will be unveiled for all the world to see!

Revelation 1:14 describes Jesus as having eyes like blazing fire....but these are the same eyes that looked with compassionate tenderness upon the diseased and crippled before He reached forth to heal them.

Revelation 1:15 says that his voice had the sound of many rushing waters, like a mighty ocean....but this is the same voice that spoke to the dead Lazarus and bid him to live and come forth.

Revelation 19:12 says that when He returns, He will have many crowns upon his head......but this is the same head that once wore a painful crown of thorns as Jesus did when He was mocked and tortured on his way to the Cross.

Revelation 1:15 says that his feet are like "bronze glowing in a furnace," while Revelation 19:15 says that his feet will tread the winepress of the Lord's fury against all unrighteousness......but these are the same feet that were nailed to a Roman cross as Jesus willingly gave his life as a ransom for many.

Revelation 19:15 also says that out of his mouth comes a sharp sword which He will use in judgment to strike down the nations....but this is also the mouth that spoke the words "It is finished" after He had suffered the agonies of hell for the undeserving and the unrighteous.

Someday He will return. Are you ready to meet the Lord? What stops you from running to the Savior and falling at his feet? Today can be the day of to Jesus! He bids you come to him. He is just and holy and pure.....but He is also filled with mercy and love for you. He has made a way for you to be saved. Will you go to him today?

photo credit: (ノಥ益ಥ)ノ uɐp~ via photopin cc

 Additional Resources 

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas? (Dr. John MacArthur, GTY)

God Came Near (Sola Sisters)

The Glory of Jesus (Sola Sisters)

Should We Have A Christmas Tree? (Got Questions?)

Christian Christmas Grinches (Kevin DeYoung)

Christmas is Just A Christianized Pagan Celebration? Not So Fast..... (Sola Sisters)

Exposé of Alexander Hislop's The Two Babylons (UK Apologetics)