Sunday, June 18, 2006

Spiritual Formation Under Attack

WARNING! Rant alert!

Why do we Christians keep doing this to one another? I just learned of a "ministry" that is entirely devoted to exposing the "dangers" of Christian contemplative spirituality and spiritual formation. I was blown away, because according to their own stated purpose, these old, stable, time-proven methods of growing in Christ are falsely believed to espouse "all paths lead to God." These misguided souls have laid a totally false foundation, and thus are "exposing" something that's not even there!

This is not to say that there are non-Christian contemplative traditions even older than Christianity itself. I'm not talking about those, and supposedly neither are they (the Dombrowskis). Yet what they describe as pertaining to specific Christian movements are not even recognizable, I suspect because they keep reading into them what they mistakenly believe must be there because that's what "contemplative" and "spiritual formation" MUST be about.

Sorry, but casting aspersions on practices such as contemplative prayer and spiritual formation simply because one couple's own spin on Scripture doesn't leave room for them, is highly damaging to the body of Christ. They're throwing the baby out with the bathwater! That's what reactionaries have always done. Take something you personally disagree with, find a little support for your POV, and declare war. Never mind that some of the most beautiful and profound writings of Christians across the centuries came about as fruit from contemplative prayer. Never mind that ANY Christian who is discipled by a more mature brother or sister, is engaged in spiritual formation. Never mind that the church has been enriched for nearly two thousand years by those who undertake such spiritual disciplines. We're to oppose everything to do with the Alpha Course, Rick Warren and the "Purpose Driven" principles, the Emerging Church movement, respected Christian authors such as Beth Moore, Max Lucado, Richard Foster, Henri Nouwen, and Thomas Merton, most Christian publishers, many Christian seminaries, and practices such as lectio divina and breath prayer, all because these people insist that these avenues lead inevitably to "far eastern spirituality." Oh, and while we're at it, let's stand against the "Global Peace Plan." (What, and pray for global war instead?)

This rubbish about fearing anything remotely resembling prayer and meditation techniques that some non-Christian traditions may also employ, is a huge stumbling block to people and is totally unnecessary. If you need to hedge your own faith because you fear it, go for it! But don't build a ministry designed to spread your fear to as many as you can get to swallow it. We're not supposed to have a spirit of fear. And techniques that slow down our world-frantic lives so that we can listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit teaching us, are nothing to fear. If you're praying to the true and living God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, then WHAT ARE YOU AFRAID OF, ANYWAY?

Granted, not all types of prayer are helpful for everyone. Some people have to keep it entirely cerebral, while that style is intimidating for others who are "wired" by God to pray more intuitively or emotionally. And I, too, believe that Christians need to be clear that our focus is always to be Jesus Christ, our Way to God. But I'm not about to be taken in by charlatans who monger fear of what they neither practice nor understand. I can't take seriously anyone who claims that deliberate, systematic reading of Christian texts (aka "lectio divina") is a path to Buddha. Hello?! Read Christian books to follow Buddha?? I don't think so!

I find it telling that on their Master List (books and authors they warn you about), they categorize Hildegard of Bingen as "new age," Henri Nouwen as a homosexual writer, and yet apparently don't find any problem with the false teachings of the manhood/womanhood movement and its Grudem/Piper/Mouser proponents or the blatantly it's-all-about-sexuality T. D. Jakes of "Woman, Thou Art Loosed" infame. Just be sure to never read anything by Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Scott Peck (yeah, it occurs to me they might not want anyone to read "People of the Lie," especially), Jack Canfield (yeah, too much "Chicken Soup" could be bad for you), or Mike Yacconelli (of Youth Specialties), plus a score of others whose books' worst crime is that the Dombrowskis are afraid of something in them or something they think might be true about the authors themselves.

And for the Dombrowskis' information, Merton remained a faithful Christian, for all the time he spent actually getting to know and understand Buddhists. Funny how respecting other people and their faith traditions actually works at getting them to know and understand and respect Christians in return.

We Christians ought to spend more time and energy promoting what we stand FOR, rather than discrediting perfectly legitimate Christian practices in order to invent something to rail AGAINST. Trust the Holy Spirit to use even practices you yourself don't understand or appreciate, to grow the faith of your brothers and sisters. God knows better than you or I do!

And no, I'm not posting a link. I don't want anyone thinking I support them in any way. You can find the poisonous "Lighthouse Trails 'Research' Project" pages on your own, if you really want to wade through all their false witness. Ugh! I feel dirty just from reading this trash!


D. P. said...

I can't say I'm completely shocked that somebody would so blithely jettison nearly 2000 years of Christian spiritual wisdom. No, actually I am. I'm not surprised, because evangelicals and charismatics have pretty much been moving in this direction for decades, but I'm shocked nonetheless.

How arrogant we are to think that our generation, at long last, has figured it all out and that virtually ALL of the spiritual luminaries of the past not only got it wrong but are positively dangerous!

Just for that, I'm going to pray the Jesus Prayer for ten minutes on my lunch break!

(PS: Did you know that Baptist hero John Bunyan was an advocate of something very similar to lectio divina?)

Psalmist said...

I'm amazed that there are actually intelligent Christians--or at least one I know of--blind enough in this area to believe their nonsense.

The inclusion on the book list that really broke my heart was Brother Lawrence.

I'm sure that, given time, these people will find something wrong with writings by every Christian who ever set pen to paper--or fingers to keyboard--except for themselves, of course.

As a mentor of mine used to say, "I'm amazed at how God always agrees with me when I study and pray alone, but even more amazed at how often he disagrees with me when I study or pray with a group."

Accountability. This "ministry" appears to have none.


Psalmist said...

BTW, D.P., good point about Bunyan. And "The Pilgrim's Progress" is a highly dangerous book. Full of metaphor and all. Probably new age.

Psalmist said...

One final comment, D.P. Your second paragraph is the same argument used by patriarchalists about biblical equality. They're wrong about that, but you're spot on vis a vis the Dombrowskis.

P.S. (an after-thought) said...
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P.S. (an after-thought) said...

I've heard for years, and read recently on blogs and websites, Christians of about every stripe dumping on all who are "other." What is God thinking now?

Yes, it is very good to be wary and critical (meaning thinking carefully) about any philosophy.

My take is that some segments Christianity, at least American Christianity, takes a DON'T LOOK, DON'T TOUCH, DON'T THINK approach toward other ways that people see God, experience God, think about God, worship God. But they don't teach their people critical thinking, just STAY AWAY thinking.

The problem with that is then people can be led by the nose by their own spiritual leaders.

My son was looking on-line at a "Christian college" but he found out that they had some very set ways of looking at the world and 50 rules a student there had to follow or get kicked out, including, don't walk on the grass, don't go into certain areas of town. My husband's comment was, "Jesus wouldn't last 2 weeks there."

What happens to these Christians when they inevitably meet up with the real world and hardships?

I posted a comment on a blog in my own tradition about how I came to "feel" that God was encouraging me to do a certain service in my church. Someone told me that God only comes to us in the Word and in the Sacrements, and that anything else was unreliable, and heresy.

I say, they are limiting God!

SingingOwl said...
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SingingOwl said...
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SingingOwl said...

I saw this website a week or so ago, and I simply could not believe it was real. Unbelievable -- and deeply disturbing. I hope that they overtepped it so far (Brother Lawrence?) that they lose credibility with all but a few.

Okay, I can hope.

LOL at Bunyan as "new age." Reminds me of a story I recently heard from a neighboring minister from a rather "liberal" denomination.

Her church service is broadcast on a local Christian station. That is, it was. She was banned from their section of the airwaves for...can you guess? I'll bet not.

Done guessing?

The theme song for the program she recorded was "All Creatures of Our God and King." The references to sun and moon were deemed "new age goddess worship."

I know. I almost fell off my chair and I'm sure my mouth dropped open.

I guess D.P. and "myself" are both new agers and didn't know it.

Oh wait, I'm mixing up the posts. Hee hee. Time for the owl to hit the hay.

Psalmist said...

Oh, yeah, you betcha...that ol' Saint Francis was probably smoking some of that "Sister Mary Jane" or something. How DARE he call the sun his brother and the moon his sister? Claiming kinship with the earth??? OOOOOHHH--goddess worship! What an ignorant thing for your local broadcaster to do! Talk about religiously illiterate! I guess we should disregard Jesus' saying that if we human beings don't praise him, the very stones will cry out.

What I'm surprised about is the relative lack of anti-Catholicism at that site. Well, they're anti an awful lot of Catholics (various saints and monastic religious especially), but they seem to have stopped short of the classic stupid Protty insult of calling the RC a cult. Hey...I found something good to say about the "Lighthouse" folks!

Yeah, I can't stop snickering internally at the ridiculous notion that Hildegard and Bunyan are new agers! And I'm wondering how long it will be before Phillip Yancey makes their blacklist. He's written such good things, I'm sure it's only a matter of time.


St. Inuksuk said...

Thanks for you welcome!
All those up for a Labyrinth prayerwalk, let's raise some eyebrows!!!!!!