Saturday, November 22, 2008

A PERSONAL TESTIMONY: WHY CHRISTIAN LEADERS SHOULD NOT PROMOTE HENRI NOUWEN

Please read the important article at Lighthouse Trails
Why Christian Leaders Should Not Promote Henri Nouwen
that inspired the diatribe which follows:

I became a big fan of Henri Nouwen after discovering him on the reading list of the Spiritual Formation syllabus at a seminary where I took a few classes a couple of years ago. As an author, I found him to be warm, honest and engaging. He appealed to the scholarly side of me as well. I ended up choosing to write one of my papers for the Spiritual Formation class about two of the books he wrote. (It was a required class - I was enrolled in the Marriage and Family Counseling program).

I decided to go down to my basement to unearth this paper to see what I had written about him two years ago. Referring to my own walk with the Lord I wrote (the book mentioned is Nouwen's The Genesee Diary): "One of the first things that came to mind about how my walk would different, and has even begun to become so in the process of reading this book, is that of learning to wait quietly on the Lord. This is something I have been aware of the need to do for some time already, but in reading Nouwen's account I have seen the importance of meditation in the process".

Another book I read and wrote about for the same course was Invitation to a Journey by M. Robert Mulholland. In this paper I wrote: "Mulholland's use of the personality characteristics as tools to understand the spiritual paths we take was a novel one for me, especially the depth of his explanations. I found this concept helpful in understanding the directions my own path has taken, and in seeing areas I need to work on to have a well-rounded spiritual life. I would like to take more time to examine them and get another person's perspective on which areas I need to grow in and how to incorporate them into my lifestyle. I believe meditation would be a discipline I would benefit from".

Please listen to me, people!! Meditation in the scriptural way of mulling over the meaning of a certain passage of scripture so that I could remember and apply it is not what I had in mind. The type of meditation I was learning about was a method of emptying the mind in order to "fill it with God" so that I could reduce my stress level. It is the process of attempting to leave the conscious mind in order to "experience God" and be intimate with Him in a new and different way. On the surface this may sound okay. People who are teaching contemplative prayer say that the verse in Psalm 46 that says, "Be still, and know that I am God", means that we are supposed to still our minds: i.e. stop thinking about God and all other things and just experience (or rest in) Him. But if you read the verse in context, and in its plain and literal meaning, what it really means is that we are to quit striving against God and trust Him to take care of things, not leave our rational minds behind and enter an altered state of consciousness. But this was the conclusion that I came to while I took this Spiritual Formation course and before I had even heard the term "contemplative prayer". I was definitely on the contemplative mystical road that leads to the same place Henri Nouwen ended up: denying that Jesus Christ is the only way to God, which he did in the last book he wrote before his death, Sabbatical Journey. Only he had reached the end of it, and I was just beginning.

When I got home after completing the course I promptly set up a little "meditation corner" in one of the rooms of our basement. I was already familiar with the concept, having been introduced to it on the Oprah Winfrey Show through one of her guests, another New Age/New Spirituality teacher, Sarah Ban Breathnach. It had sounded like a really neat idea to me at the time, and now I had validation from other Christians (misled ones), to do it.

Before taking this Spiritual Formation course I had already been through the wringer emotionally for a number of years. My marriage was struggling and one of my children was acting out with self-injury and thinking of committing suicide. I don't think my situation was all that unique considering the times we live in and the spiritual condition many Christians are in these days. We live in desperate times and many have left the solid spiritual roots of the Bible's authority and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. We have become so busy that we don't take the time to study our Bibles as we should and the foundation starts to erode as the storms of life beat against it.

Well, praise God, He opened my eyes to the folly of the Spiritual Formation movement since then. My meditation corner is gone and my Bible sits open beside me as I write this. It has become a faithful companion. The Lord brought me through a time of repentance for my involvement with this deceitful spiritual movement, and has given me a renewed love for His Word. I have probably read more of my Bible in the last two years than I had in my whole lifetime previous, and I'm no spring chicken anymore! When I look back at the healing that God has wrought in my life (there needed to be a lot) I can see how clearly He has used His Word to bring conviction where there was sin, faith where there was doubt, hope where there was once despair, and an identity in Christ which has become firmly settled. It is through God's Word that my mind has been renewed and my thinking corrected. No ritual or "spiritual discipline" can accomplish such a thing. Practicing such things put me into an ethereal spiritual place that set me up in my mind above other Christians with a false sense of humility (yeah, it is pride). I can now praise God for a marriage which He has restored, three children who all love the Lord and respect their parents, and the ministry I have on this blog because God delivered me from the folly of the Spiritual Formation/Contemplative Prayer movement. Have every one of my problems been solved? Absolutely not, since I still live on this planet in a body which is aging faster than I care to admit. But I can say with confidence that "God is so good!" and I look forward to seeing Him soon when Christ calls His Bride, the Church, home. He has placed my feet on the path of life once again, and has forgiven me for slipping off of it. And He will do it for you too if you are willing to let Him!

Please pray for those who are in spiritual leadership over us and in our Christian educational institutes. The majority of them are well-meaning Christians who sincerely love the Lord, but they have been deceived and are passing the deception along to others. I once again affirm the importance of a solid foundation in God's Word by which we are to test all things. The Contemplative/Spiritual Formation movements are the trojan horse of the New Age/New Spirituality movement. They DO NOT PASS THE TEST OF SCRIPTURE. Their methods of prayer and meditation are not found in the Bible, but the New Age movement is full of it and has come in under the radar with the endorsement of pseudo-christians into the Church. Beware of wolves and false teachers, find out as much as you can about the movement, and then warn everyone who will listen to you. Believe it or not, there are still many people who don't understand what has crept into their churches, and especially their youth programs.

4 comments:

carla said...

Thanks for sharing your testimony Bonnie. I can understand how this happens to so many sincere believers as I too was experimenting with this same pathway before the Lord opened my eyes.

kimolsen said...

So many of the things you have said here really hit home....it is like....Is she talking about me????

I have gone through similar deception and it is the love of the truth that opens our eyes. I love the part about your Bible being right next you... Mine also is always open, close by.

BONNIE said...

Carla and Kim ~

Praise God that He knows who loves the truth more than the wisdom of man. He delivers them from the snare of the fowler. I give God all the credit for leading me away from the Spiritual Formation movement.

I believe it is important to share our personal testimonies of God's deliverance, from whatever that may be. These things are evidence that God is still at work in people's lives today. The Holy Spirit is actively using His Word to convict and convince Christians who are diligently seeking Him and trusting Him to lead with a childlike faith.

All the glory belongs to Him!

BONNIE said...

By the way, one of the reasons I was so interested in contemplative prayer is that I knew in the depths of my soul that I didn't have the type of communion with my Lord that I should have. This was due to the fact that I loved the world more than I loved the WORD (sin in my life). Most of my time was spent thinking about the world and how to make my own world down below a better place to be. This was reflected by how little time I was spending in God's Word and how small my love for it was. When the Holy Spirit finally got through to me, I had to go through a time of godly sorrow and repentance for wasting so much time on unimportant things. It was following this that God granted me a new appreciation for the cross, and the fact that IT IS BY THE BLOOD THAT WE DRAW NEAR, not by any thing (ritual or practice) we undertake. These things are all without power.

The message of the cross is SO SIMPLE. We must remember it is so, proclaim that it is so. The Christian life is a simple life. (I didn't say "easy"!)

Our observance of The Lord's supper is for this reason: to remember that Christ BECAME SIN FOR US, that we MIGHT BECOME THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM. This is what takes place when we accept Him by faith. It doesn't take a genius (or even a professor) to believe this simple truth (although both are welcome at the foot of the cross). One must bow before God in humility, as we let Him remove the yoke of sin from around our neck and replace it with His own perfect righteousness. The agony Christ experienced while on the cross was because He (sinless, holy God in obedience to the Father) willfully chose to bear OUR sin in His own body on the tree. What a sense of gratitude arises in the heart of every person who truly understands this and has experienced it by faith.

Many who claim the name of Christ merely have an intellectual understanding of what happened. They acknowledge in their mind that they are sinners, but have never truly experienced conviction of their sin to the point of agonizing over it, understanding the weight of it and the separation it has caused, and then allowing Christ to take it from them. I also had intellectualized my sin. It took a mighty work of the Holy Spirit, WHO WOULD NOT LET ME REST in my complacency and love of the world, to bring about a genuine change in my life. (In my flesh, I wanted to "rest in God" in a contemplative manner, but He would not let me rest until I confessed my sin). It turned my life upside down. My family saw real changes in how I spent my time and energy and I have never turned back. I AM KEPT BY HIS GRACE AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS!