January 26, 2004

 

Dear David Muyskens,

I just finished reading with great interest the article entitled: Restoring Tradition of Meditation by Chris Meehan of Religion News Service .

This was particularly timely as I have been recently doing extensive research on this kind of meditation as to how truly prevalent it was in the history of Christianity as well as whether or not it is Biblical. In this regard, I wrote a documentary/debate with Rick Foster's RENOVARE as well as a separate documentary/debate with Christian Psychologist Dr. John Stoll, who both teach and promote this kind of meditation and "centering."

I hope and pray you take everything to heart, as there are very good Biblical reasons to do so.

Kindest regards in Christ,

 

James Sundquist

President

Rock Salt Publishing

*******************

The complete transcript of my dialogue with Lynda Graybeal, one of the Directors at Renovare regarding Richard Foster's Teaching, is available at:

 

http://www.cephas-library.com/psychology/renovare_psychology_richard_foster_1.html

 

But here is an excerpt which address whether Rick Foster and Brennan Manning's definitions of Meditation are, in fact, Biblical or Christian:

 

LYNDA GRAYBEAL OF RICK FOSTER'S RENOVARE:

4. False Disjunction, e.g. the only kind of "centering down" is New Age "centering down". This ignores the rich history of centering down in the Church, and the fact that practices from many religions including centering down have been co-opted by the New Age movement. In conjunction with this, one huge mistake many people make is to take our present knowledge of the New Age movement and read it into books and teachings prior to its inception. In doing this, they can declare that people who lived decades, and sometimes centuries ago, taught New Age beliefs.

JAMES SUNDQUIST RESPONSE:

Once again I do not recall ever saying that all centering down is "New Age" centering down. I can center down to do my homework, center down to practice my guitar. I can say that Christ is the center of my life, so thinking about him and praying to him could be argued to mean that I am centering down. Additionally, what other religions do with regard to centering down (as you stated above), is totally irrelevant to Christianity, regardless of whether or not the New Age Movement has co-opted this practice. As true believers we are do obey the Word of God only and not incorporate the beliefs and practices of all other religions, because they are not of God! Why Richard Foster's version is New Age is not a false disjunction is that he employs and prescribes identical techniques to what the New Age employs such as vain repetitions, Ashtanga Yoga, Kundalini, and Buddhist prayers at Quaker gatherings that I can document. In quote after quote, Richard Foster gives accolades to promoters and practioners of Eastern Mysticism and Meditation which mirror his own views. There is not even anything to mask what he is doing. Secondly, you are not even historically accurate. Though the New Age term itself might be recent, the beliefs and practices the term refers to, go back to the Garden of Eden. All New Age beliefs, each and every religion, have at their very foundations the lies of Satan, which are always, always, always to take away from the Deity of Christ and the Word of God. Their beliefs stem from the Fall of Adam, and later from the Tower of Babel, and Babylon. Even at the time of Christ, Jesus himself commanded us NOT to pray as the heathens do with vain repetitions (such as breath mantras). Here is the direct commandment of our Lord himself:

"But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking." Matthew 6:7 KJV

So if the Lord does not hear these kind of prayers, who are we really praying to? What possibly God ordained purpose could they have?

And yet what do we find Richard Foster recommending in his book Spiritual Classics? Richard Foster states:

"Practice lectio devina by taking a Bible text that you love, reading it over attentively, then entering into prayer through a single word or phrase." p.35 "Why does this little prayer of one syllable pierce the heavens?" p. 45 (Source: Richard Foster, Spiritual Classics, p. 35, p.45)

Jesus Christ said that if you want to be his disciple, you must obey him. So how is praying with vain repetitions and repeating a single word or phrase over and over obeying Christ, when he gave specific instructions which forbade it?

Your version of centering down and imagination does not even fit the Biblical meaning of meditation, but is, in fact, the opposite. Richard Foster's idea of meditation is to imagine the loins of your mind to be let down and relaxed that anything might enter. Here is the proof:

Richard Foster in his book, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, speaks of the practice of "breath prayer," in which a Christian-sounding word or phrase is repeated over and over again like a mantra. Foster wrote that "Christian meditation is an attempt to empty the mind in order to fill it" (Ray Yungen, Time of Departing, Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2002, pg. 72). But fill it with what? This "breath prayer" idea has gained popularity in charismatic circles that frequently sing of "breathing in Jesus" or variations thereof. (SOURCE: Jacki Alnor, Christian Sentinel, April 2003. Richard Foster quote taken from Richard Foster, Celebration of Discipline, Harper & Row Pub., San Francisco, CA 1978, p. 15.)

This is precisely the technique that lets demons enter a person. But we are to be circumspect which is what a night watchman is, as this literally means having eyes all around our head to guard against imaginations and seducing spirits that would love to enter us.

The Apostle Paul commands us to "gird up the loins of our minds," not let them down, not empty our minds.

We are to put on the helmet of salvation to protect our minds, as well as the shield of faith that we might ward off the fiery darts of the enemy from penetrating that part of our armor. One girds up the loins of their mind for war, as that is precisely what we are in...a spiritual war. Any good soldier girds up his or her mind when he or she stands guard on a night watch. I know this first hand because I used to stand guard in four-hour shifts at night over missile batteries in the U.S. Army in West Germany. Emptying your mind and/or falling a sleep on guard duty would get you court-marshalled. You had to be vigilant and constantly alert, i.e., we are to have the loins of your mind girded up...not let down! Succinctly, we are to have the mind of Christ....not mindlessness!

This is perfectly consistent with what the Apostle Paul further tells us:

"Be sober and be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour" I Peter 5:8

How can a Christian be ever vigilant and sober within his mind, if he is spending a lot of time emptying his mind by practicing any type of meditation which is the direct opposite of Biblical meditation?

For one of the very best Scripture passages on the context and real meaning of what the Bible teaches about "meditation," read the entirety of Psalm 119, where you will find the word "meditate" time and time again.

You want context? The entire passage uses the word "meditate" to describe the author's intent to meditate on the statutes, laws, and decrees of the Lord, that the author might not sin against God. Now traditionally, the "centering down" form of meditation promoted by Richard Foster involves CLOSING the eyes. Well let's see what the writer in Psalm 119 thinks about that. In Psalm 119:148 we read:

"My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises." Psalm 119:148 NIV

When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, he rebuked his Disciples for NOT keeping their eyes open, for he wanted them to WATCH and PRAY (Mark 14:38) WITH HIM. Let's take an even closer look at what Jesus had in mind in terms of how he prayed (the highest form of meditation which is to "watch" and "pray") in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus Christ's idea of how to pray was to resist temptation to the sweating of drops of blood. No human besides Christ has ever accomplished this feat. Nevertheless, Christ our Lord does set an example of what should be taking place during our praying. This kind of praying has nothing in common with techniques or purpose of praying for Eastern Meditation or any other religion. Christ's method of praying has nothing in common with Richard Foster's revised definition of meditation or "centering down." Jesus Christ gave even more instructions when his disciples asked him how to pray. The Lord gives them (and us) instructions on how to pray when he gives us the Lords' Prayer. Once again, he gives us no instructions which resemble "centering down" meditation. This prayer is a petition and requires the mind to be fully engaged, not unplugged. Finally, it tells us to appeal to the Lord to protect us from the Evil One (i.e., Satan). Eastern Meditation REMOVES the protection to let the Evil One IN to our minds.

Just prior to this, Jesus had lifted up his OPEN eyes to the Heavens to pray...not close them when he raised Lazarus.

"Then they took away the stone [from the place] where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up [his] eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me." John 11:41 KJV

So we don't even see Jesus praying or instructing us how to pray or meditate like anything even resembling Eastern Meditation or Richard Foster's version of meditation.

Again the Apostle Paul says:

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things." Philippians 4:8 KVJ

With the mind of Christ, this is the kind of thinking or meditation we should be practicing. What is pure or commendable about Carl Jung's practice of divination or the complete balance of his theory of the subconscious, which he believed came from what we possessed in our subconscious as animals before we became human (thus totally denying the creation of man directly from the dust by a Sovereign Creator) ?

What is of good report of Carl Jung?

What is noble about his personality theory, which he also drew from paganism and a spirit-guide that possessed him? Are not these things clearly abhorred by both Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul? We are to flee these things, not embrace, promote them and feed them to God's children.

You want to call your kind of meditation Biblical. But I challenge you to go through the entire Old and New Testaments and do a word search for the word "meditate" or "meditation", and look it up in the Hebrew and the Greek (as you did with the word "you" in the New Testament). You will not find one instance or precedent for the word meaning anything close to your revisionist definition. You will not find a precedent for it. You will not find an example of Jesus Christ or any of the Apostles practicing it or recommending it. But you will find it practiced and promoted in Eastern Meditation and the New Age Movement.

Finally, the New Age Movement did not borrow or hijack centering down from Christianity. Though not under the same name, the practice is as ancient as Babylon and the Tower of Babel. And the Tower of Babel was constructed because of the same lie Satan used in the Garden of Eden, "You shall be as God."

When you say "church" you mean Roman Catholicism and the Carmelite Order traditions. But Roman Catholicism is both pagan and apostate. Indeed, your version of centering down indeed matastesized into the Church and spread spiritual death into the Church, just as various forms of cancer metastasize in the organs of the human body, eventually causing physical death. Your form of "centering down" is also rooted in the Church's first and tragically on-going heresy, Gnosticism.

Despite what you believe and stated above, centering down has no rich history or even existence in the TRUE CHURCH. For you to claim that New Age beliefs are only recent, reveals a tragic lack of knowledge of both history and Scripture. As the prophet Hosea declares:

"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children." Hosea 4:6 KJV

The complete transcript of my dialogue with Dr. John Stoll and Carl Jung teaching is available at:

http://www.abrahamic-faith.com/James/

But here is an excerpt on that debate which addresses whether or not "Prayer Centering" is Biblical or Christian:

Dear Dr. Stoll,

Thank you for your continued dialogue in responding to my concerns.

To be consistent with our previous format, I begin by quoting you, then responding in red.

Response to your June 9, 2003 Letter.

*****

JOHN STOLL:

As to what you pointed out as to "centered spirituality" wondering if I got that from Jung, the answer is, no. I got that as a boy from my Father, a Godly Bible expositor, who reminded the people to "center their spiritual life on Christ" rather than on the world. My Father probably never even heard of Jung. However, various words such as the word, "centered" are not necessarily the exclusive domain of Godless Psychologists.

As someone with advanced degrees and 50 years of studying, teaching, and counseling, you should be the first to know that cantered spirituality is primarily known for it New Age connection. It is not taught in the Bible. There should be no confusion about this. And there should be no mixing of Godless Psychology with Biblical Christianity in order to get cantered. So, you are saying there is such a thing a Godfull Psychology? This is an oxymoron. You even concede that term is used in Godless Psychology in your last letter to me.

So why didn't you completely expose it and renounce its New Age and normally understood connection? Your father indeed may not have heard of Jung, so may have used the term innocently enough, but you should know better than to use the term today, when most do understand that its most normal usage is identifying it with the New Age. And this raises another question, how did your father get along so admirably in the faith WITHOUT probably ever knowing who Carl Jung was? I have known the Lord for 50 years and studied the Bible too and I never once ever heard of the term or even concept of being spiritual centered as a Christian. I have never even heard any great Bible scholar teach such a concept.

There is no such Scripture. Go ahead and use your search engine in the Bible (I tried it in KJV and NIV) and find me a chapter and verse to support this very unorthodox gnostic idea of being spiritually centered. You will certainly find "sanctify", "justify", in a Bible word search, but you won't find "centered" or "Centered Spirituality". Now you may say "well you wouldn't find "trinity" either in a Bible search. True enough. But you will still find a host of Scriptures that support the very Orthodox Christian concept behind the Trinity. But there is no Orthodox Christianity behind either the word(s) "centered spiritual", or the concept. And even if you really mean centered on Christ, then there is no other center. Are you suggesting if Christ is the fulcrum center, that we are then to balance psychology with Scripture? If we are to worship him with all of our heart, mind, strength and soul (not just spiritually center ourselves), there isn't anything else to balance it with to be centered spiritually.

Now if you wish to use the term centered in the way you would use a level which has a little bubble in it, or a carpenter's plumbline, as the Prophet Amos used the term, then you would still mean everything must be in plumb with the Scriptures. But Carl Jung is clearly out of plumb and clearly NOT centered, so he must be totally rejected. The New Age uses also uses the term Christ-Centered Spirituality But it is not the same Christ. Your defense of using the term centered spiritually because you mean Christ exclusively (but did not state this) would be like insisting on using the word gay in talking about people who are colorfully dressed. After all, that is what the word meant in the King James Bible. When almost everyone hearing you describe people as gay would almost universally be understood to mean that they are homosexual. And were you use of centered spiritually used in isolation or where you precisely defined it to mean totally obedient to the Scriptures, being born again, and totally reliant on the Holy Spirit, I will concede your use of the term. But because you have inundated it with Psychology and Carl Jung teaching, this makes it a great stumbling block.

***********

Centering Down, Is This Biblical?

Dear Dr. Stoll,


I trust that you have had a chance to review my last commentary. This is more or a less an epilogue to the discussion of “Centering.”

I have since learned the “centering” is a key term invoked and promoted by Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington, as part of “centering prayer” which is at the heart of contemplative prayer. Sound good? Just a better version of Biblical prayer and meditation? Not when you discover that this centering is a blended Christianity with Eastern mysticism. Your own mentor, Morton Kelsey, himself mentored by Carl Jung, stated: “You can find most of the New Age practices in the depth of Christianity...”I believe that the Holy One lives in every soul.” (Source “A Time of Departing”, Ray Yungen, page 67, Lighthouse Trails Publishing Company, 2002.) So it is not entirely out of order that I would challenge you regarding the use of this term, as it is now been integrated into Christian. Centering Prayer was further endorsed by Brennan Manning.

Here is another one of your quotes:

"The study of psychology as a scientific field poses problems for the Christian, yet when integrated with the psychological principles as demonstrated in God's Word, it offers the opportunity of opining new insights regarding Christian experiences and understanding of the Biblical truths. An illustration may serve to help underscore this principle. The sulfa drug does not kill the germ. It dissolves the hard protective coating around the germ so that the white corpuscles are able to kill the germ. In a similar fashion, psychology can provide the tools used by God to penetrate more efficiently, and dissolve the defensive shell that people use to insulate themselves from Biblical truths, and from their fellowmen. When this shell is broken, the Spirit of God is able to perform His work in their lives. Each problem raised by life and psychology has its answer in the Word of God. These answers should be sought and found, and when they are, along with personal application, the normal spiritual life that God has for each of us will become evident."

So, psychology can break the shell, so that the world, as with CGM can break down the defenses so that people will seek after God? What an anemic view of the power of God's word. The Bible is not able to pierce or dissolve these defenses, but Psychology is? Psychology is sharper than a two-edged sword separating even soul from spirit? I thought only the Scriptures could do that via the Holy Spirit. The word of God itself does the penetration and is certainly sharper than psychology. In fact, psychology has no blade at all and penetrates nothing to produce righteousness. Psychology and Carl Jung is what dissolves the protective coating of the armor of God so that the Christian can no longer ward off the fiery darts of the enemy. In response to Dr. Stoll's proposition that Psychology can dissolve the shell that insulates people from Biblical truths, here is what the Scriptures say:

"Now when they heard [this], they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men [and] brethren, what shall we do?

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 2:37-38

If Dr. Stoll is right, When 3,000 who were saved asked "What shall we do?" Shouldn't Peter have said. "Take a Personality Profile Test?” Or, “many of you standing here did not get saved by hearing the Scriptures, so I would now like to educate you to some of the hundreds of theories of psychology in order to break down those barriers that the Scriptures themselves were unable to do, so that the Gospel can penetrate more of you than the Scriptures by themselves were able to do. And for those of you who did get saved. Now is the time to get sanctified. But once again, Scripture is good as far as it goes, but we really need an additional tool, we need a Personality Profile. In many circles this will become known as MBTI.”

Then in Acts 2:42

"And they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine "

Would then read: "and they continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine and Carl Jung occultic teachings and Gnosticism."

Also,

Act 4:4 "Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand."


I would ask Dr. Stoll "Howbeit that if hearing the word (Scripture) caused five thousand to believe, why does he state that Psychology can break them down to receive Scripture and be saved?" Does the Bible say Psychology can prick the heart, or does it say hearing the Word pricked their hearts?

Rom 12:2 "And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what [is] that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." KJV

Romans 12:2 "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will." NIV

**********

This is an amazing statement! You can't even test what is God's will until you renounce the patterns and principles of this world (Jung, Kelsey, Psychology). HOW ABOUT THAT!!! Again I say "then"!!!!!!

Sincerely in Christ,

James Sundquist

President

Rock Salt Publishing

January 28, 2004

Dear David,

Thank you for your response to my letter and appeal regarding “Christian Meditation”

as to whether or not it is Biblical. And though I feel constrained to oppose you, I am grateful that your tone was diplomatic.

I should point out further that though you response seems to focus on one aspect of “Christian Meditation” which is “centering prayer” the scope of the article did address the greater issue of “Christian Meditation” in which you were named and identified with. In that article, in a conference at St. Thomas More Church, held by you and Steve Cartwright, he states by centering prayer they received the gift of the presence of God,” as though the presence of God did not already exist in the manifestation of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit ALREADY identified in Scripture, in which NO separate gift was listed anywhere known as the “gift of the presence of God.” Mr Cartwright further states that there is “no analysis of experience”....say what? We must ALWAYS test these spirits to see if they be of God. We must always test every idea against Scripture as Paul commended the Bereans for. We must cast down vain strongholds of imagination. No analysis....this idea is totally foreign to Scripture in terms of our walk with the Lord. But it is certainly at the heart of the New Age Eastern Meditation that does not gird up the loins of the mind, being circumspect to every device and seducing spirit that comes along, masquerading as an angel of light and illumination to the hidden (occult) mystery religions.

I think it is fair to say that “centering prayer” is what, in fact, its founders and leaders who coined the term say that it is. It is fair to say that it is what is defined as on the prayer centering website which in its own words states under the definition of “centering prayer”:

Centering Prayer is a method of prayer, which prepares us to receive the gift of God's presence, traditionally called contemplative prayer

So it would only then be fair and logical to conclude that “centering prayer” is what they then define “contemplative prayer” as. Now it would also be fair to conclude that by their own admission the site then tells us where these ideas came from, who first promoted them, and who now promotes them. This should always be one of the first questions a Christian should ask in order to be a good Berean to see if these ideas can be found in Scripture. The site then lists various notables from which this tradition was drawn. Here is the quote on the very website you are listed as a contact:

“Centering Prayer is drawn from ancient prayer practices of the Christian contemplative heritage, notably the Fathers and Mothers of the Desert, Lectio Divina, (praying the scriptures), The Cloud of Unknowing, St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila.. It was distilled into a simple method of prayer in the 1970’s by three Trappist monks, Fr. William Meninger, Fr. Basil Pennington and Abbot Thomas Keating at the Trappist Abbey, St. Joseph’s Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts.” Source: http://www.centeringprayer.com/cntrgpryr.htmow lets examine exactly what these teachers (and other names listed on other “Christian”centering prayer and contemplative prayer sites, such as Richard Foster, Brennan Manning, Basil Pennington are teaching:

The Carmelites go back to 1562 when Teresa of Avila took it to herself to reform the Carmelite Order instituted in 1154 on the Mount Carmel, Israel. The Order fell victim of a lack of discipline among its monks and nuns, Teresa resolved to revive it by restoring the primitive rule and emphasizing a contemplative life. John of the Cross joined forces with Teresa to reform the monks houses of the Order. Now besides the fact the Carmelites are a Roman Catholic order, here are some quotes from these Carmelites which are quite alarming and why the New Age just love them:

Here is what John of the Cross says about God:

“*'My beloved [God] is the high mountains, and the lovely valley forests, unexplored islands, rushing rivers' John of the Cross

No God is not the high mountains, he is the creator of the high mountains. Anyone worshipping the mountains, thinking they are God is pantheism. (John of the Cross was Carmelite who joined forces with Teresa of Avila.)


He also wrote of mystical union that "it would not be a true and total transformation if the soul were not transformed into the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity" (Spiritual Canticle, stanza 39.3) Source: Brittanica International, 1966.

 

BASIL PENNINGTON:

Here is a quote from Basil Pennington, who wrote the preface for Brother Lawrence's Practicing the Presence of God:

*'[T]he soul of the human family is the Holy Spirit.'
Basil Pennington

Another quote from Thomas Keating:

"God speaks through the prophets, but he speaks better in silence."

No, that is not Scriptural. In fact it contradicts this Scripture, as the Apostle Paul would beg to disagree with Thomas Keating:

Rom 10:17 So then faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

Hbr 11:6 But without faith [it is] impossible to please [him]: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and [that] he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

So you can't even obtain faith in silence, so it is impossible to please God until you first hear. You can not hear if it is silent, that is an oxymoron!

Here is a quote from Basil Pennington and Thomas Keating in their book Finding Grace at the Center:

We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” if for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Easter techniques as possible...Many Christian who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices...” pp.5-6

“In order to guide persons having this experience [divineoneness], Christian spiritual directors many need to dialogue with Eastern teachers in order to get a fuller understanding.”

Now this is quite an amazing statement considering that you state: “It would be tragic if some Christians were held back from receiving the gift of contemplative prayer because they were frightened that it was New Age.” David Muyskens, January 27, 2004

Yoga, Zen, and TM are not New Age? So much for light not having fellowship with darkness, so much for coming out from among them, so much you can not simultaneously drink from cup of demons and the cup of the Lord, so much for the Scripture “if it does not speak to the law and the prophets there is no light in them,” so much for Jesus Christ's own words that a thornbush can not produce figs!

BRENNAN MANNING:

PRAYER CENTERING Review

As mentioned above, the key to spirituality, according to Manning, is a special type of prayer which he calls "contemplative prayer" or "centering prayer."

For the uninitiated, this may not seem ominous. It may sound like what God calls us to do in His Word. It is not. It is ominous. It is a practice derived from Eastern mysticism.

In The Signature of Jesus, Manning writes, "The task of contemplative prayer is to help me achieve the conscious awareness of the unconditionally loving God dwelling within me" (p. 211). He also says, "What masters of the interior life recommend is the discipline of 'centering down' throughout the day" (p. 94).

Manning attempts to head off the charge that centering prayer comes from Eastern mysticism and the New Age movement by saying:

A simple method of contemplative prayer (often called "centering prayer" in our time and anchored in the Western Christian tradition of John Cassian and the desert fathers, and not, as some think, in Eastern mysticism or New age philosophy) has four steps (p. 218).

He instructs the reader in the practice of centering prayer, which is a type of contemplative wordless "prayer" a technique that involves breathing exercises and the chanting of a sacred word or phrase. Manning begins "the first step in faith is to stop thinking about God at the time of prayer" (p. 212)! What biblical support is there for this idea?

The second step, according to Manning, is to "without moving your lips, repeat the sacred word [or phrase] inwardly, slowly, and often" (p. 218). Once again, where is the biblical support for this practice? None is cited, because none exists.

The third step concerns what to do when inevitable distractions come. The answer is to "simply return to listening to your sacred word. Gently return your mind to your sacred word" (p. 218).

Finally, "after a twenty-minute period of prayer [which Manning recommends twice daily] conclude with the Lord's Prayer, a favorite psalm, or some spontaneous words of praise and thanks" (p. 219). While he doesn't say how long this concluding recitation or spontaneous words might last, it seems he only expects this to be a minute or two, since the Lord's Prayer and most of the Psalms are short and easy to read in a minute or so. This concluding recitation seems to be an afterthought, something put in to make the "prayer" seem Christian. Yet even this fourth part is biblically suspect. Jesus said, "And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do" (Matt 6:7). Any routine prayer repeated each prayer session will soon fall into the category of "vain repetition," even if it is Scripture. The Lord's Prayer is a sample of the way we should pray, and not some prayer we should memorize and repeat back to God daily.

The instruction utilizes odd jargon such as the "false self" and "crucifixion of the ego" and a curious mix of spiritual and psychological terms. To understand his language one would need to have a more candid overview of centering prayer, which I found in an unusual-for me, not for New Agers-non Christian source called Gnosis Magazine. The following is a condensation of the article titled "From Woundedness to Union" (Gnosis, Winter 1995, pp. 41-45). The author is a Ph.D. who was tutored by the inventors of centering prayer:

Thomas Keating and Basil Pennington [who Manning credits for teaching him this prayer form] were exploring how to achieve a more concentrated experience on the general model of a Zen sesshin, having been quite experienced in sesshins. During these experiments they came upon a form of meditation from which tears, repressed memories, deep intuitions all came to the surface in a jumble, along with a sense of catharsis and bonding among the participants.

From his years as abbot, Keating recognized that this technique accelerated the sensitizing of the unconscious which is the goal of the contemplative life. He recalls, "I saw people going through in ten days what it might have taken twenty years to go through at a monastery." He believes that this unloading of the unconscious is a purification process at work to which he attaches traditional Christian terminology as the struggle against sin. This is called "Divine Therapy."

The main goal is to dismantle the "false self," the needy, driven, unrecognized motivations behind untransformed human behavior. They suggest the false self as a modern equivalent for the traditional concept of original sin. The "true self" is buried beneath the accretions and defenses. A huge amount of healing has to take place before our deep and authentic quest for union with God is realized. This, in essence, constitutes the spiritual journey.

The most fruitful connection here [for the author of the article] is the linking of the "dark night" of the traditional apophatic path and the psychological process, the "darkness" of the psyche. If psychoanalysis represents "cataphatic therapy"-using words, concepts, and awareness to illuminate the darkness of our inner ground-centering prayer presents a kind of "apophatic psycho therapy" ("apophatic" meaning that which points one towards the ineffable, beyond all words, concepts, and forms).

Periods of psychological ferment and destabilization are signs that the journey is progressing, not failing. The results can often be horrifying to ourselves. As trust grows in God and practice becomes more stable, we penetrate deeper and deeper down to the bedrock of pain, the origin of our personal false self. In response to each significant descent into the ground of our woundedness, there is a parallel ascent in the form of inner freedom, the experience of the fruits of the spirit and beatitude.

By interweaving the contemporary language of psychological healing with the traditional language of Christianity a new synthesis is born.23

Chapter seven is entitled "Celebrate the Darkness" (a title that is decidedly not only unbiblical, but even antibiblical; darkness is always presented negatively in Scripture, see, for example, 2 Cor 6:14; Eph 5:8, 11; 1 Thess 5:4-5; 1 Pet 2:9; 1 John 1:5-10). Manning writes "the ego has to break; and this breaking is like entering into a great darkness. Without such a struggle and affliction, there can be no movement in love" (p. 145). He goes on,

With the ego purged and the heart purified through the trials of the dark night, the interior life of an authentic disciple is a hidden, invisible affair. Today it appears that God is calling many ordinary Christians into this rhythm of loss and gain. The hunger I encounter across the land for silence, solitude, and centering prayer is the Spirit of Christ calling us from the shallows to the deep (p. 149).

In centering prayer the word sin becomes a religious word attached to a method of psychological therapy, and the biblical presentation of true moral guilt is omitted.24 It is a system completely open to the manipulation of the inventors who feel the liberty to use the biblical language any way they see fit. Manning attempts to give it the validity of tradition by saying that it is has been rooted in Catholic monastic practices since the 5th century: "It is a comfort to know that this is a path that others have tracked before us" (p. 149).

The practice of centering prayer is expanding in many parishes and is now moving beyond Catholic boundaries as many are coming to it from the Recovery Movement. The Catholic Church does not have an official position on this form of prayer, but some Catholic scholars refute the mind-emptying techniques. They also call for psychological studies because of the reported occurrences of depression among practitioners of New Age type meditation.

The result of this mystical practice is that the practitioner becomes less interested in objective spiritual knowledge found in the Bible and more interested in the subjective experience which is found through centering prayer. This may account for the antagonistic attitude toward traditional forms of faith. Manning speaks of "several local churches I have visited, [in which] religiosity has pushed Jesus to the margins of real life and plunged people into preoccupation with their own personal salvation" (p. 193). Of course, centering prayer requires no interest whatsoever in one's own personal salvation since it presupposes that all are already saved. That is what we discover when we "center down." Manning's attitude toward the Bible seems to be markedly different from that of Calvin and Luther, for example, or of anyone who has a high regard for it as the very Word of God:

I am deeply distressed by what I only can call in our Christian culture the idolatry of the Scriptures. For many Christians, the Bible is not a pointer to God but God himself. In a word-bibliolatry. God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book. I develop a nasty rash around people who speak as if mere scrutiny of its pages will reveal precisely how God thinks and precisely what God wants (pp. 188-89).

In The Signature of Jesus Manning rarely cites Scripture. Why should he, when the truly important knowledge of God comes from his experience of centering down and not from the Bible? Remember "God cannot be confined within the covers of a leather-bound book." While Manning would acknowledge that some elementary truths of God can be found by reading the Bible, intimate knowledge of God only comes through centering prayer.25

Source: http://www.faithalone.org/journal/1997ii/Caddock.html

BRENNAN MANNING Review by Jackie Alnor:

http://www.lighthousetrails.com/manningreview.htm

There are several statements in your letter I would also like to challenge:

It is astonishing to me that you would say that these people are not integrating Carl Jung into their books and teaching. Carl Jung has been a vast influence, initially in Roman Catholic mysticism and gnosticism. In fact it was prevalent in Roman Catholicism BEFORE it was brought to Evangelical Christianity. This in common knowledge which you can prove with your own website search of Catholic Retreat Centers who are great devotees and promoters of Carl Jung. Even the various authors promoting this movement such as Richard Foster's books are laced with quotes from Carl Jung.

You state that centering prayer is NOT using a repetitive mantra. Well this may be the case for you, but it collides with the observed practices in a host of Christian meditation retreat centers and the actual prescriptions offered by leaders of the movement.

You have correctly quoted Scripture. But you have not made any connection with the term “centering” and those Scriptures. There is not one single example of the practice in Scripture. Not not one single example. Your example of Christ commanding us to pray secret in our prayer closes says nothing about being silent, only to not be seen or heard by others. Secondly, if if is so important to be in isolation to pray, then why are you then promoting group techniques? Furthermore, show me one Scripture where God “goes deeper than conversation”, Show me one Scripture that says we are any closer to God in silence than we we confess our faith with our lips, or when Jesus prayed to the Father to the sweating of drops of blood, or Daniel's prayer? It is amazing to me that all of you who promote this “contemplative prayer” think you are closer to God than all of the persecuted and martyred saints throughout the ages who did not practice this form of prayer...that somehow they missed out. What you are proposing is that somehow a very subjective (and untested by the testing of the spirits to see if it be of God) is superior to the objective Word of God. This is particularly true when the Scriptures themselves declare that the is already sufficient to the perfecting of saints (sanctification)...that we already lack nothing. Sola Scriptura was sufficient for the Apostle Paul and he told us it was sufficient...nothing deficient....lacking nothing. If we lack nothing without “prayer centering” then what can this practice add? Are you saying that prayer centering is a way to open our hearts that could be achieved by reading the Scripture and praying the same way the rest of the saints have always prayed? There is no presence of God when two or more are gathered in his name without even practicing “centering prayer?” God is not already present in a believer by virtue of his simple obedience to Christ's commands such as the Great Commission (which the Desert Fathers did NOT practice), by simply praising his name (The Lord occupies the praise of his people)? “Centering Prayer” is not listed as one of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, and yet a Christian does not have the presence of God until they practice Centering Prayer?” If this is true, then there is no presence of God in all the Gifts of the Holy Spirit that are listed in Scripture. But that idea is absurd. Without God's presence in the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, what Christian would even want them and of what value would they be to the Church?

Psalm 62 You state: “It is the quiet prayer the Psalms speak of ("For God alone my soul waits in silence" Ps. 62)”

You have quoted the Revised Standard Edition. The King James or even the NIV does not contain the words “in silence”. Here is the proof:

Psa 62:1 [[To the chief Musician, to Jeduthun, A Psalm of David.]] Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him [cometh] my salvation.” Psalm 62:1 KVJ

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.” Psalm 62:1 NIV

So where is “in silence” in these passages?

But even more crucially, is the rest of the verse you did not quote (“from him cometh my salvation”), because this reveals what the whole chapter is really all about, and that is what the Psalmist David was talking about what he was waiting for...and that is his salvation. In fact the whole rest of Chapter 62 is talking about salvation...and the expectation of Christ's coming to save him ultimately. The Psalm even ends with the assurance that God will reward man according to his works whether they are wicked or righteous. Even if David were waiting “in silence” he is waiting for his salvation, not simply a subjective experience of practicing the presence of God. Finally we are not even told that Psalm 62 is a prayer as you state!

Psalm 46

"Be still, and know that I am God," Ps. 46,

Once there is nothing in the context of this Psalm to suggest the author was praying. If anything the Lord was trying to do what he did with Job and that is to get him to pay attention to everything the Lord is doing and has done in Creation and Judgment..man was not being credit for contributing to some sort of dialogue with God. This Psalm is almost a reprimand to mankind. This “be still” was analogous to trying to get a fidgety child to “sit still” and pay attention. God was simply tell man to stand in awe and behold all that GOD was doing including the devastation he caused on the earth. This can be clearly seen in verse 8 where he states:

“Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth? And this is “prayer centering?” What possible role did man have in this activity?

More proof from Biblical scholars regarding what “be still” means in Psalm 46:

http://cana.userworld.com/cana_Meditation_Psalm.html

Psa 131:2 Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul [is] even as a weaned child”

Once again this quieting oneself is just like what Psalm 46 is asking us to do. In fact this verse even reinforces that Psalm 46 by trying to get the child weaned off of behaving like a child and simply behaving more like an adult. But it has nothing to to with “centering prayer” and just like with Psalm 46 there is nothing in this chapter to even suggest the author is praying.

Finally I would like to respond to your use of Ephesians 3:16,17, and 19. First allow me to put these quotes:

Eph 3:16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;

Eph 3:17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,

Eph 3:18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;

Eph 3:19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God

Now I will agree with you that this passage is a prayer because Paul states that it is in verse 14 when he says “for this reason I knee before the Father.” We are also not left in the dark what Paul was referring to that we might be filled to the measure of fullness of God.” The impression created in vast majority of proof texts in “Christian Meditation and “Centering Prayer” is that some new information or elevated state of consciousness is going to be achieved which all other Christians who don't practice it will not attain. But Paul tells in this very chapter who would received these riches (all Christians) and even what they would receive. It is essential that when Paul write a phrase such as “for this reason” , of King James renders it “for this cause” you have to go back to the earlier part of that passage to see what the reason was that he was referring to, or what cause. Well Paul tells us immediately prior in Verse 13. So, what reason does Paul give for kneeling before the Father. He says “so all the rest of the Christians in Ephesus won't get discouraged because of Paul's suffering. There is no mysterious altered state of consciousness that you are going to experience in your inner being. Paul goes further as you go back even further in passage. There are not some new found riches yet to be discovered by “centering prayer” as you seem to imply. Paul tells us what theses riches are when he declares that it was the mystery of Christ which was not made known yet to the Gentiles in previous generations. In other words, what was hidden is now revealed in Christ. BUT IT IS ALREADY REVEALED...”and to make it plain to everyone the administration of this mystery” (Verse 9).

Now this is not to say there are not riches yet to be revealed, as Paul in other place says” “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” I Corinthians 2:9 But these are riches that we will obtain when we are resurrected in our glorified bodies...not before, and certainly not acquired by means of “prayer centering” or the type of meditation described in your movement. Paul would agree that we should no longer be as a child but become mature. But this maturation comes through sanctification of his Word so that we won't be tossed to and fro by every wind of doctrine and cunningly devised myths and fables dreamed up by Gnostics and Mystics and their descendants that Paul himself opposed.

Three other very valuable resources on “Christian Meditation” are:

http://www.mediaspotlight.org

Ask for article on Renovare and Richard Foster by Al Dager

http://www.lighthousetrails.com

In Particular, Ray Yungen's Book “Time of Departing”

and

http://cana.userworld.com/cana_meditation.html

and

http://groups.google.com/groups?q=author:noahdove%40
lightspeed.bc.ca&hl=en&lr=&ie=UTF-8&edition=us&selm=
120820011325402872%25noahdove%40lightspeed.bc.ca&rnum=3

Well I hope that this treatise will demonstrate to you that the concerns Christians have regarding whether or not “Christian Meditation” is New Age is not without foundation and documentation. That in the end, it is a clear and present danger to the Church

Kindest regards in Christ,

James Sundquist

*********************

Dear James Sundquist:

I wish I could share with you what Centering Prayer is
and how the Lord has blessed me through its practice. Centering Prayer is
not a form of meditation, it does not use a mantra, it is all about the
indwelling Christ and spending time in an intimate, loving relationship with him. It
should not be lumped with eastern meditation or Jungian psychology. It is a
way of opening our hearts to be in contemplation which is a silent and intimate
communion with God. It is the prayer Jesus taught when he said we are to go
into our secret room and there commune with Abba, the most intimate term for
Father. It is communion with God that goes deeper than conversation, which is,
of course, also important as we come closer to God. It is the presence of
God that is known in this silent, contemplative prayer. Its consequence is
knowing that Presence in the rest of life. It is the quiet prayer the Psalms
speak of ("For God alone my soul waits in silence" Ps. 62, "Be still, and know
that I am God," Ps. 46, "I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child
with its mother.") It is what Paul prayed for: "That you may be strengthened
in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell
in your hearts...so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God."
(Eph. 3:16,17&19) I hope this helps clarify gift that many Christians who
practice Centering Prayer are receiving. It would be tragic if some Christians were
held back from receiving the gift of contemplative prayer because they were
frightened that it was New Age.

David Muyskens

 
 
 
       
 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 
       

 
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