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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

More on Christian Meditation - LHTR


Contemplative Prayer – Does Our Intent Justify the Method?


If our intent is to find Jesus, is the method of going about this acceptable, even if the method might happen to be a Buddhist meditation style. Brian Edgar, Director of Theology and Public Policy for the Australian Evangelical Alliance believes it is when he states:

Sometimes people suggest that certain methods (such as meditative, contemplative or imaginative prayer) are not Christian. But the key question is about the intention or the focus involved, rather than simply the technique. If the aim is to focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ through the presence of the Spirit then it is Christian. If a prayer is focused at something or someone else then it is not. It is really just the same as preaching. Speaking and listening can be a thoroughly spiritual exercise. But non-Christians also speak and listen, and what makes something a Christian exercise is the content rather than the method. (Edgar, Spirituality)

Panentheist and contemplative Tilden Edwards, of Shalem Institute would agree with Edgar when he states:

In the wider ecumenism of the Spirit being opened for us today, we need to humbly accept the learnings of particular Eastern religions … What makes a particular practice Christian is not its source, but its intent … this is important to remember in the face of those Christians who would try to impoverish our spiritual resources by too narrowly defining them. If we view the human family as one in God’s spirit, then this historical cross-fertilization is not surprising … selective attention to Eastern spiritual practices can be of great assistance to a fully embodied Christian life.(ATOD)

Ray Yungen elaborates:

The premise here is that in order to really know God, mysticism must be practiced-the mind has to be shut down or turned off so that the cloud of unknowing where the presence of God awaits can be experienced. Practitioners of this method believe that if the sacred words are Christian, you will get Christ-it is simply a matter of intent even though the method is identical to occult and Eastern practices. So the question we as Christians must ask ourselves is, “Why not? Why shouldn’t we incorporate this mystical prayer practice into our lives?” The answer to this is actually found in Scripture.
While certain instances in the Bible describe mystical experiences, I see no evidence anywhere of God sanctioning man-initiated mysticism. Legitimate mystical experiences were always initiated by God to certain individuals for certain revelations and was never based on a method for the altering of consciousness. In Acts 11:5, Peter fell into a trance while in prayer. But it was God, not Peter, who initiated the trance and facilitated it. By definition, a mystic, on the other hand, is someone who uses rote methods in an attempt to tap into their inner divinity. Those who use these methods put themselves into a trance state outside of God’s sanction or protection and thus engage in an extremely dangerous approach. Besides, nowhere in the Bible are such mystical practices prescribed. For instance, the Lord, for the purpose of teaching people a respect for His holiness and His plans, instated certain ceremonies for His people (especially in the Old Testament).
Nonetheless, Scripture contains no reference in which God promoted mystical practices. The gifts of the Spirit spoken of in the New Testament were supernatural in nature but did not fall within the confines of mysticism. God bestowed spiritual gifts without the Christian practicing a method beforehand to get God’s response….
[Y]ou can call a practice by any other name, but it is the same practice, hence the same results. For example, if you were to jump off a cliff with the intent to fly saying the word “fly, fly, fly” as you jump off and someone else jumped off the same cliff with the intent to hit the bottom saying “fall, fall, fall” as he jumps off, in either case both will hit the bottom. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening in contemplative prayer, although the intent may be to honor Christ. (A Time of Departing)

2 comments:

  1. this stuff makes me want to scream

    ReplyDelete
  2. hi icebear! great to see you here....and yes, aaaahhhhhh ;)

    ReplyDelete

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