Chasing after a spiritual “high” by following the “mystics”

Teresa of Avila: An Ancient Mystic Who Helped Shape Today’s Spiritual Formation Movement
By Carolyn A. Greene
Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2017, 19 pages, $1.95

Within the evangelical church, we see trends and gimmicks come and go. Others stay around for awhile. Some hip pastor dreams up a new, “cutting edge” spirituality technique and then appears on TBN hawking his new book and the next thing you know “progressive” pastors all over the country are climbing on board so they don’t get left behind at the “last year’s news” station.

Such is the case with the “contemplative prayer” (aka “spiritual formation” and “centering prayer”) movement. It wasn’t enough just to read God’s Word and go to the Lord in simple prayer. No, as Christianity in America began moving farther and farther away from doctrine-based faith to subjective experientialism, “cutting edge” pastors began looking into methods for their congregations to “deepen” their prayer/worship “encounter.” But there was no need to reinvent the wheel. “Hip” pastors read accounts of the old Roman Catholic mystics and discovered exactly what they were looking for.

Cloistered monastic religious orders encouraged their monks and nuns to practice forms of extreme asceticism including self-mortification (flagellation, chronic fasting, sleep deprivation, etc.). Under these conditions, the mystics often fell into deep swoons and trances and claimed to experience ecstasies and the miraculous phenomena of levitation, bi-location, and stigmata as well as being visited by Jesus and/or the “Blessed Virgin.”

One such Catholic mystic was the celebrated “saint,” Teresa of Avila, Spain (1515-1582). In this pamphlet, Carolyn Greene refers to some of the writings of Teresa to illustrate her “otherworldly” experiences. This short pamphlet is not a thorough exposé of “contemplative prayer” or of the alleged experiences of Teresa, but serves only as a brief introduction.

Many “hip” pastors and church leaders have jumped onto the “contemplative prayer” band wagon. They extol the writings of Teresa and other Catholic mystics as guides for their followers to experience a deep, subjective, often trance-like “encounter” while in prayer/meditation. This technique began in the “emerging church” with people like Brian McLaren and Richard Foster and has since spread into mainstream “evangelicalism” through people like Sarah Young, Rick Warren, Dallas Willard, Tim Keller, Beth Moore, and Priscilla Shirer.

Contemplative/centering prayer promotes emptying the mind and experiencing a self-induced trance similar to the TM trancendental meditation practices taught in Hinduism. I believe voluntarily surrendering control of one’s mind exposes an individual to demonic influences. In contrast, God’s Word commands that we are to be ever sober and vigilant rather than slaves of hypnotic euphoria.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” – 1 Peter 5:8-9

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” – Galatians 5:22-24

The other great danger of the contemplative prayer movement is that it serves as a bridge between evangelical Christians and Roman Catholicism. Teresa of Avila was a faithful follower of Roman Catholicism’s false gospel of salvation through sacramental grace and merit. If your pastor proposes a contemplative/centering prayer initiative, it’s definitely time to find a new church.

For many resources that examine the dangers of contemplative spirituality and Roman Catholicism, see the link to Lighthouse Trails Publishing below.

Lighthouse Trails Publishing
http://www.lighthousetrails.com/

the_ecstasy_of_saint_theresa
Sculpted by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1652, “The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa” purports to show the “saint” in the throes of swooning ecstasy as an angel prepares to thrust a golden lance into her heart.
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Blood will flow

This week, many are eagerly gearing up for Easter Sunday. People who never go toFlagg church any other time of the year will show up on Sunday. There will be ham dinners with family afterwards along with colored eggs and Easter baskets for the children. I’m a Christian who doesn’t adhere to any liturgical calendar. Every day in the Lord is the same to me. Millions of people will commemorate Christ’s resurrection on Easter all over the world although the vast majority have not accepted Him as Savior. Jesus and Easter are part of their cultural, religious heritage but they have no saving relationship with Christ. They don’t see themselves as sinners without a plea and haven’t reached out in faith to the Savior who died for them. If pressed they would probably say they’re basically “good” people who deserve to go to Heaven. As Christians, let’s use the opportunity of Easter to tell our friends and family about the resurrection of our Savior and the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Centuries ago, many Roman Catholics practiced severe forms of self-mortification including self-flagellation, wearing hair shirts and cilices, sleep deprivation, etc. Self-mortification was an act of penance; pain and sufferings were offered up to God as reparations for sin. The cobblestone streets of medieval Europe were often stained with the blood of Catholic flagellant sects. The practice peaked during “Holy Week,” especially on Good Friday. Extreme forms of self-mortification have generally lost favor, although pope John Paul II was known to have whipped himself with a belt regularly as a “spiritual discipline.” Self-flagellation is still very much alive in pockets of Catholic culture. Flagellants stage processions in Mexico and the Philippines during Holy Week. Every year on Good Friday in the Philippines there are Catholic men who have themselves nailed to crosses in imitation of Jesus (see reports below).

God’s Word talks about fasting and denying fleshly desires but nowhere in the Bible are believers instructed to harm themselves. Pain inducing, self-mutilation has its roots in pagan worship:

“At noon Elijah began to taunt (the prophets of Baal). “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely (Baal) is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.” – 1 Kings 18:27-28

I’m so thankful for my Savior. He paid the COMPLETE penalty for our sins on that cross on Calvary. And He rose from the grave conquering sin and death. All we must do is accept Him as Savior. Inflicting pain upon yourself won’t save. Sacraments and church membership won’t save. Going to church once in a while or even every Sunday won’t save. Only the blood of Jesus Christ, shed once for all time on Calvary, has power to save. Our own blood and efforts are powerless. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith today and ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area that preaches God’s Word without compromise.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” – John 1: 12-13


 

Filipinos flagellate, crucify themselves in Holy Week ritual
http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/06/asia/gallery/philippines-penitents/

Acts of love, not pain, make this week holy
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/775159/acts-of-love-not-pain-make-this-week-holy

Does Jorge “pope Francis” Bergoglio wear a “cilice”?

During the Middle Ages the idea that self-deprivation led to higher levels of sanctity andcilice holiness grew in popularity within Catholicism. In monasteries and convents, self-deprivation often led to extreme forms of asceticism as practitioners attempted to quell the desires of the flesh and offer penance for sins through self-inflicted pain and suffering. Adherents slept on cold floors, wore hair shirts, heavy chains, coarse ropes, or “cilices” (a metal-wire device secured around the thigh that inflicts pain with inward-pointing spikes). Self-scourging (flagellation) also became quite popular. Some famous “saints” went to an early grave as a result of voluntary starvation.

Some would argue these extreme examples of asceticism were confined to a less-enlightened, bygone era but forms of self-mortification are practiced right up to the present day in Catholicism. Reports surfaced in 2010 that “saint” Karol “John Paul II” Wojtyla, had regularly whipped himself with a belt and “blessed” Anjeze “mother Teresa” Bojaxhiu wore a cilice every day.

Defending Wojtyla’s self-scourging, “cardinal” Jose Saraiva Martins said, “It does seem like something from another age, but it is not. It is an instrument of perfection, not just in religious life, but in human life. It is not acting against oneself, but striving to perfect oneself.”

I wonder if the current pope, Jorge “pope Francis” Bergoglio also inflicts pain upon himself as part of a “spiritual” discipline? I’m a little naive when it comes to self-mortification protocol. Maybe a Catholic can help us out? Do Catholic men flagellate themselves and Catholic women wear cilices or are both practices gender neutral?

Yes, accepting Jesus as Savior and following Him as Lord may mean physical persecution. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).  The Bible does talk about self-denial and fasting but nowhere does the Bible teach Christians should inflict pain upon themselves. In contrast, the Bible identifies such practices with pagan idolatry:

“At noon Elijah began to taunt (the worshippers of Baal). “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed.” – 1 Kings 18:27-28

Catholics believe in salvation by sacramental grace and merit and mistakenly believe that by inflicting pain and suffering upon themselves they can affect spiritual perfection leading to their salvation.

I am so grateful the Lord freed me from the chains of Roman Catholicism and saved me by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

Related terms: corporal penitence, corporal discipline