Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Spiritual Formation or Spiritual Adultery?

I know I am going to be tramping on some toes today but I have to do it. This has hit home so to speak in that the teachings are in my area churches, schools ... dear friends from here are falling into this ... Alpha Courses are taught ... we have to be Bereans and discern these teachings. Spiritual Formation is coming to a place near YOU ... and it is hitting the public schools --

If you have a child in either a public or private school, please contact the school immediately and find out if your child is being introduced to any type of meditation exercise (this includes lectio divina and breath prayers). Tell the school you do not want your child participating in any of these activities. This would include Rob Bell's popular Nooma films and his book Velvet Elvis, which are both being used in Christian junior high and high schools.
The following June 16th news story from The New York Times illustrates how serious this matter is. The New Age is overtaking our society. Children are the newest target! This is not only affecting children in public schools. Through the contemplative prayer movement (i.e., spiritual formation) and the emerging church, children and teens in Christian schools are also being introduced to meditation. A whole generation is being taught how to enter dangerous demonic realms through practicing mantra meditation!

See our links below for more information on children and meditation.
The New York Times
"Focus on Quieting the Mind"
by Patricia Leigh Brown
OAKLAND, Calif., June 12 - The lesson began with the striking of a Tibetan singing bowl to induce mindful awareness.

With the sound of their new school bell, the fifth graders at Piedmont Avenue Elementary School here closed their eyes and focused on their breathing, as they tried to imagine "loving kindness" on the playground.

"I was losing at baseball and I was about to throw a bat," Alex Menton, 11, reported to his classmates the next day. "The mindfulness really helped."

As summer looms, students at dozens of schools across the country are trying hard to be in the present moment. This is what is known as mindfulness training, in which stress-reducing techniques drawn from Buddhist meditation are wedged between reading and spelling tests. Click here to read the rest of this news article.

Related Research:

Focus on the Family's Adventures in Odyssey - Promoting Contemplative?

Yoga for children (in public school, that is)
Christianity Today: Contemplative for Children
Jesus Camp, Film Reveals the Mystical and the Militant, Not Biblical Christianity
NOTICE TO PARENTS: Christian Schools Introducing Teens to Mysticism Proponent
Ancient Wisdom for Babies
For more information on how the New Age is coming into schools, read For Many Shall Come in My Name. If you know a school administrator or teacher that would be willing to read this book, contact us, and we will send him or her a free copy.

Spiritual Formation or Spiritual Adultery?

Today, in this postmodern church era, we are being offered a potpourri of sensual experiences in new forms of worship and reviving old forms of contemplative spirituality with the promise of a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus, but is this really the same Christ or the same Spirit or even the same Gospel? Why is this so strange to our sensibilities and how could this possibly happen in the churches today? And yet this is becoming an ever widening practice that has seduced many to open up their lives to a type of spirituality that is not only unbiblical, but has its beginnings in the occult. We don't even recognize the subtleties of the error which we are being fed to be able to discern the truth and we do not even know we have been seduced into a relationship with another spirit or another Christ, deadened to the voice of the Holy Spirit, leading us into spiritual adultery.

1 Timothy 4:1

Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; (Emphasis mine)

Jeremiah 3:1-3

1They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.

2Lift up thine eyes unto the high places, and see where thou hast not been lien with. In the ways hast thou sat for them, as the Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness.

3Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; and thou hadst a whore's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed. (Emphasis mine)

I have been researching the trends in the postmodern church era and I keep coming across the term, spiritual formation. So I spent a few days reading through many web sites, papers, articles and monograms about the subject. I found that for many years, within Christian circles, the term Spiritual Formation has been defined as a shaping process that begins when one becomes a new believer in Christ, as He takes our life, like a piece of clay, and begins to mold it into the image of Himself, through the process of discipleship. This molding and shaping is based upon our willingness to surrender ourselves completely to His hand and will for us. As we deny ourselves and daily take up the cross, He is free to form us into His image.

All sounded well and good until I started reading through some articles discussing the disciplines listed for spiritual formation which included references to contemplative, Psychological and Eastern religious techniques, all in the attempt at a deeper relationship to God in Jesus Christ but through occult means. This can and does open doors to experiences that are more than just imagination but are real and very dangerous if we practice these techniques; we then come into contact with other spirits thinking that we are meeting God.

One of the directors of spiritual formation that deals directly with this issue is Evan Howard. In his article, "Three Temptations of Spiritual Formation," he gives us a picture of the many practices that mainline Christianity have been introduced:

Exploring spiritual formation in mainline churches often means experimenting with a wide range of spiritual and psychological practices. Mainline retreats often draw on themes from medieval mystics, and have workshops on the Labyrinth (a maze people walk through for enlightenment) or the Enneagram (a temperament schema with spiritual dimensions and Sufi roots). Some directors encourage various Buddhist practices to help us get in touch with our spiritual dimension. These practices are intended to expand our understanding of what it means to relate to God. (Emphasis mine)

Though he does not promote these techniques, he also does not warn of their dangers but includes them as ways that open up doors of personal discovery:

I have nothing against self-discovery, or even using broad-ranging interpretive frameworks like mandalas to assist self-discovery. But sooner or later, we must realize that Christian spiritual formation is the process by which believers become more fully conformed and united to Christ. The source of transformation is the Spirit of Christ. Spiritual formation develops primarily in the context of a relationship with Christ. The aim of formation is conformity to and union with Christ. While other traditions may provide helpful and legitimate insights into human "integration," they do not (indeed they cannot) express what conformity to or union with Christ involves. (Emphasis mine)

I have to at least credit Evan that he does eventually turn our eyes to the only one who can work true spiritual formation, Jesus Christ, but he still leaves the door wide open to experimenting with Eastern meditative traditions and occult techniques that will empower us by another spirit, another Christ and render us impotent regarding the power of God working in our lives.

Richard J. Foster, another director of spiritual formation, speaks of the disciplines necessary to spiritual formation in his article, 'Spiritual Formation: A Pastoral Letter':

Frankly, no Spiritual Disciplines, no Spiritual Formation. The Disciplines are the God-ordained means by which each of us is enabled to bring the little, individualized power pack we all possess—we call it the human body—and place it before God as “a living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). It is the way we go about training in the spiritual life. By means of this process we become, through time and experience, the kind of person who lives naturally and freely in “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23).

What are these Spiritual Disciplines I am speaking of? Oh, they are many and varied: fasting and prayer, study and service, submission and solitude, confession and worship, meditation and silence, simplicity, frugality, secrecy, sacrifice, celebration, and the like. The commonly identified public religious activities are important to be sure, but the less commonly practiced activities like solitude and silence and meditation and fasting and submission to the will of others as appropriate are in fact more foundational for Spiritual Formation. All Disciplines should be thoughtfully and resolutely approached for the purpose of forming the life into Christlikeness, or they will have little or no effect in promoting this life. (Emphasis mine)

It is commendable that Richard gives us the basis for spiritual formation through the practice of the disciplines he encourages, but Richard J. Foster has and does promote contemplative spirituality which includes centering and mantra prayer, the silence and breathe prayer (All of these are Eastern religious techniques). These are not neutral religious practices that help one to grow spiritually but are an attempt to blend occultism with Christianity which is clearly not biblical and is not true spiritual formation but spiritual adultery.

This is a trend that has no restraints other than using our ability to discern right from wrong, good from evil, and truth from error. We are responsible for our own deception; we open the flood gates through a desire to touch the supernatural in our journey for a greater spiritual experience without understanding the warnings given to us throughout the Scriptures. When we seek spiritual formation or transformation using techniques and practices other than those specifically found in the bible, God's word, by incorporating worldly wisdom, pagan rituals, occult practices in the guise of Christian spirituality, we are committing spiritual adultery in God's sight. In our quest for the perfect (His perfect will for our lives through the Holy Spirit and the Word), we settle for the profane (An unacceptable offering of prayer and worship to God by seeking after another Christ, another Spirit, another Gospel). One of Paul's warnings to the Corinthians speaks concerning the deceptions of his day as others tried to bring things into the relationship with Christ that were of course spiritual but in the end could only lead to death:

2 Corinthians 11

1Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.

2For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

3But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

4For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

5For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.

6But though I be rude in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been throughly made manifest among you in all things.

7Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?

8I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.

9And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.

10As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia.

11Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.

12But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.

13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (Emphasis mine)

We are surely living in a time where many of the brethren are departing from the truth of God's word for the lies of a false spirituality. How can we knowingly enter into a relationship with another that is not Christ? And if you do desire to know the real why do you settle for the counterfeit? Over the centuries there have been many attempts to draw the brethren away from a walk by faith into a walk by sensory experiences and emotions (sensuality) and we still fall for the trap laid for us by the ultimate deceiver himself, Satan, who will give us the very thing we desire. True spiritual formation happens as a result of walking by faith in God, and not by sight (or our senses).

I quote from Ray Yungen's book, 'A Time of Departing,' from page 136:

"Jesus Christ has called His church to be sanctified (set apart for holy purposes), Spirit-filled (consumed with His presence), surrendered (to Him alone), and willing to suffer (for the sake of righteousness). The world is going to offer many spiritual experiences while we quickly move toward a time where the masses will conform to a universal spirituality that proclaims the oneness of all things. This global spirituality could be the platform that ushers in the False Messiah. Knowing this, let us take the warnings about false teaching seriously and call upon God's grace and mercy for discerning hearts and minds."

In the end, are you going to settle for that which is not of God, even for the chance of gaining spiritual enlightenment or receiving power in your lives. Adultery is not to be taken lightly in our eyes and it is not taken lightly in God's eyes. If you read again through Jeremiah 3, you will see and understand God's heart toward His people and read again 2 Corinthian 11:2, we see His jealousy for us to walk in a pure and simple devotion to Him, in Jesus Christ.

For more information on the subject of Spiritual Adultery, please go to this website: Spiritual Adultery Bible Studies Series

To better understand that contemplative prayer is not biblical practice, please read this article by Marcia Montenegro: Meditation and Psalm 46:10

Also read this article by Ray Yungen concerning Richard J. Foster and Eastern mysticism: Richard Foster: Promoting Eastern Mysticism By Proxy

Ray Yungen's book, 'A Time of Departing' can be purchased at the following website: Lighthouse Trails Publishing Company

Steve Muse, Eastern Regional Watch