Brother Lawrence our example? Really?

I’ll begin by saying it’s grievous to have to write this…

One day last week, as I was preparing to do some work on our powder room, I set up my iPhone to play that day’s radio message from evangelical pastor, Alistair Begg (photo left), via the Truth for Life website. I used to listen to pastor Begg regularly, but I remember being put-off by some of the people he referenced in his sermons, C. S. Lewis being one of his oft-mentioned favorites. But I had recently taken to listening to pastor Begg again. During the course of this new sermon (“True Friendship,” broadcast 9/30/19), pastor Begg said something that was upsetting to hear.

But before I get into the meat of this post, let me start with an observation. We evangelicals live in a bubble. We tend to think we’re the only people who pray and the only people who write passionately and lovingly about our faith. I hate to break it to you my friends, but committed Hindus and Muslims write passionately about their religion as well. Likewise, members of pseudo-Christian cults, like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, are passionate about their religion. They too have devotional materials filled with lofty prose meant to motivate their membership to worship and praise their nonexistent faux deity. Writing pious words about Jesus does not make the writer a Christian. That being said, let’s return to pastor Begg.

As I was listening to the sermon, pastor Begg expounded on our Savior, Lord, and Friend, Jesus Christ. We thrill at being Jesus’s friend, but, as Begg points out, friendship with Christ is not just a doctrinal truth of objective, forensic position, but also experiential. Begg quotes John 15:14:

“You are my friends if you do what I command you.”

Begg then refers to several authors who wrote about obeying Jesus. The first writer Begg mentions is Brother Lawrence (photo right). At the 18:20 mark, Begg says:

“If you read the writing, for example, of Brother Lawrence in “The Practice of the Presence of God,” and you say, now this is an inkling of what’s involved here.”

So what’s the problem? Well, Brother Lawrence (1614-1691) aka Nicolas Herman was an unordained lay brother of the Roman Catholic Discalced Carmelite religious order who resided at a monastery in Paris. Brother Lawrence lived his entire life as a faithful Roman Catholic and fully adhered to his church’s false gospel of salvation by sacramental grace and merit.

Since Brother Lawrence adhered to Rome’s false gospel of sacramental grace and merit, I’m curious why a popular evangelical pastor like Alistair Begg would hold up such a person as a Christian example? Does he believe Brother Lawrence was a genuine Christian because of his pious religious prose? But what of Lawrence’s legalistic and anti-Gospel beliefs and religious practices that were not mentioned in “The Practice of the Presence of God”? Has Begg forgotten the cause and necessity of the Reformation, which began only 97 years before Brother Lawrence was born? What was going through Begg’s mind as he was writing this sermon and decided to extol the writings of a committed Roman Catholic to his audience as an exemplary resource on Christian obedience? Does Begg not consider the effect of recommending a Roman Catholic writer to his evangelical audience or is he well past that point? Can we also expect pastor Begg to recommend the eloquent devotional writings of other false gospel, works-religionists such as Charles Taze Russell, Joseph Smith, Jr., or Mary Baker Eddy? Can anyone imagine a Charles Spurgeon or a Martyn Lloyd-Jones recommending from the pulpit a book written by a committed Roman Catholic to their congregations?

All of the above questions are obviously rhetorical. Ecumenical accommodation and compromise are rampant in the Body of Christ. There’s more than ignorance and carelessness at work here.

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41 thoughts on “Brother Lawrence our example? Really?

  1. Very sad to hear about this.
    No matter how hard the world pushes, we must not cave when the truth is on the line. It doesn’t make any difference how much someone believes something. If it is not in-line with Scripture, it’s wrong.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Emma! Yes, we must not cave to the error and compromise. I see these kinds of “little” accommodations to compromise and error regularly from celebrity pastors and para-church leaders. The conservative Reformed were the holdouts, but sadly they too are joining the ecumenical betrayal.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Begg likes to quote C.S. Lewis, which is bad, and also G.K. Chesterton, which is really bad. I guess someone who likes to quote Chesterton would also see nothing wrong with commending the writings of Brother Lawrence.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. He’s a huge fan of Lewis, which is off-putting in itself, but I’ve also heard him refer favorably to Chesterton. This recommendation of Brother Lawrence was the last straw.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Good post Tom. I hear many evangelicals pointing to Brother Lawrence and Jeanne Guyon. So true your points, leaders of false religions often arouse emotion thru dedication, charisma, and sacrifice. More than ever we must know and stand upon God’s word, our only standard!
    🍃🍂🍁🍃🍂🍁

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Lisa Beth! Yes, I’ve been seeing references to Brother Lawrence here and there and didn’t pay much attention until I heard this very favorable recommendation from Begg. I did a little digging and found out that well-respected evangelical pastor and writer, A. W. Tozer (1897-1963), was the first evangelical to commend Brother Lawrence to evangelical audiences and he also referred favorably to several Catholic mystics in his writings. I just read an article written by a Roman Catholic who pointed out the inconsistency of a few evangelical apologists (including Dave Hunt) who were definitely not fans of Romanism, but were huge fans of Tozer. Hunt died in 2013 but his Berean Call ministry still prominently features Tozer’s writings. One compromise leads to another.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yup, it appears that Tozer was one of the first big-name evangelical pastors to enthusiastically embrace the Catholic mystics in an effort to seek a “deeper” prayer life. Argh! So undiscerning. This has caused immense harm.

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      2. I might be wrong, but I’m guessing Begg was led to Brother Lawrence’s writings by Tozer’s favorable references. I found out that John Wesley was also a big fan of Brother Lawrence, which doesn’t surprise me because of the tendency to religious experientialism/euphoria in the Wesleyanism-holiness movement.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. That’s crazy!
    That is another reason we left our local “mega church” (which by the way had started out many years ago in our community VERY tiny 😞)!
    Every time we turned around the “leader” kept quoting C. S. Lewis- C. Peter Wagner, etc and also pushing “…free The Shack books in the foyer after this service!” ( other books ad well) The multitudes followed him blindly and still do 😢😭
    It’s amazing the “sheep” being led astray and being starved!
    These “leaders” believe they are so right doing all this!
    We must ADHERE to God’s Word -Jesus-God’s written Words-the scriptures- we must test all things! It’s ok to do that ! Why? Because our God says too!!!
    Acts 17:11
    11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

    1 John 4:1
    4 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for all of the good comments and the apropos Scripture verses! Yes, mega-church seeker churches try to appeal to the “lowest common denominator” in order to pack the sanctuary and the message becomes wide-is-the-way accommodation rather than the Narrow Way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Right! I went to a small Southern Baptist church for one year. The young pastor was trying to grow the church and he was absolutely enamored with Catholic theologians and intellectuals. He loved Lewis and Chesterton. It was driving me crazy and I had to get out of there.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Amen! Thank God for His discernment He so graciously allows us! Can you imagine where we would be with out it??? 😢
        ( I’m not saying I have sought it every time – sadly- but as the years go by I am learning that we need His knowledge for our own good 🙏🏻💕)

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Yes, praise the Lord for His discernment. It amazes me that men like Begg, William Lane Craig, Ravi Zacharias, etc. are so eager to embrace Rome, even though Catholic prelates are quite open in insisting salvation must be merited. Begg and the others are spiritually blinded. There could be no other explanation for this radical dichotomy they uphold.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Yeah, I have heard him very favorably speak of Catholics Francis of Assisi, Malcolm Muggeridge, G.K. Chesterton, and Mother Teresa. He’s much more compromised than Begg.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Tom,

    I think you’re right that Alistair should not have highlighted the work of any Roman Catholic in a favorable light in any context, but especially from the pulpit. I attended Parkside Church for over seven years, and in that time those occasions were very rare, but not non-existent. Nevertheless, Alistair has a true gift of preaching and teaching. His preaching ministry is very strong and he is extremely influential in his congregation of several thousand members/regular attendees. I say this not to discourage your critique, but to encourage you to address this directly with Alistar, for the sake of the Lord’s elect at Parkside, and those who hear him through Truth For Life. As a sinner, he still needs correction on this matter. I would encourage you to email him and prayerfully and respectfully lay out your concerns, in the hope that he will receive your loving counsel and avoid all future such references. You can try abegg@parksidechurch.com. While Alistair’s email isn’t published, the address I suggest follows the pattern of the email addresses of the other pastors at Parkside Church. Or you could call Truth For Life and ask them how to contact him. And there’s always the old fashioned way of writing a letter and sending it via U.S. Mail to either Parkside Church, 7100 Pettibone Road, Chagrin Falls, Ohio 44023 or Truth For Life Ministries (sorry, don’t have that address handy) . The point is, you, as a believer and former Roman Catholic, have tremendous credibility on this matter, you’re a really good writer, and the Lord may use you to help someone He loves, who himself has great responsibility in His kingdom. I know he reads his correspondence as he sometimes quoted from letters he’d received. Please prayerfully consider doing this. It so pains me that old friends who still ttend church there could have unbiblical views on Roman Catholicism because Alistair has given some safe harbor. I may also do this. Even though I went there for a number of years, he didn’t know me and since I’m not a former RC, I don’t have quite the same credibility as you, but I do have the exact same concern about it. Thanks for considering, Tom. Grace and peace.

    Liked by 1 person

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