Buddhist Prayer @ Lifeway's M-fuge

Discussion in 'General Baptist Discussions' started by crazylegs, Sep 7, 2005.

  1. crazylegs

    crazylegs
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    I posted the article below on my website, and I have gotten 156 comments. You can read it below or find it here: My Website

    Immediately after the service where this prayer was taught to us, I asked to speak to the camp pastor. Later on that night he found me and we discussed Contemplative prayer. He defended it as legitimate while still professing to hold to the Scripture Alone. Don’t get me wrong, all of these lifeway guys have good hearts, but also understand that false teachers will arise from among us (2 Tim. 4:3)… and some of these false teachers don’t even know that they’re teaching falsely, for they claim to hold to the Scriptures alone, and they genuinely believe this. The above camp pastor, later on in the week, gave me the exact paper he quoted during the service where he led us in the contemplative or centering prayer. So, the emails that mention the prayer contain the exact prayer according to lifeway’s curriculum, which every camp pastor had to sign off on.

    When we got back from M-fuge, I had no idea what to do. So, I immediately emailed Danny Akin, Al Mohler, Jerry Vines, Paige Patterson, Adrian Rogers, Voddie Baucham, the White Horse Inn, Baptist Press, Ergun Caner, Jr. Hill, and Mac Brunson.

    Here is the exact email I sent (I sent the same email to everyone… just changed the name):

    “Dr. Akin,
    My name is Jared Moore. I’m a youth pastor in Crossville, TN. I just got back from M-fuge at Southern Charleston University. On Sunday night, June 12, all of the campers and staff gathered for worship. The speaker told all of us to close our eyes and to open our hands as if we’re about to receive something… then he told us the following (this is word for word what he said, for this comes directly from the lifeway outline that every M-fuge preacher must follow)


    “1. As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, let yourself settle down. Let go of all the thoughts, tensions, and sensations you may feel and begin to rest in the love of God who dwells within.
    2. Effortlessly, take up a word, the symbol of your intention to surrender to God’s presence, and let the word be gently present. The word should be one syllable, if possible, and should communicate God’s love to you. Repeat it over and over during your prayer time. Focus on the word and what it means in your relationship with God.
    3. If thoughts subside and you find yourself restfully aware, simply let go of the word. Be in that stillness. When thoughts begin to stir again, gently return to the word. Use that one word as your only response to thoughts, questions, or anxieties that arise in your mind.

    At the end of the prayer time, take a moment to come out of the silence gently. This is a good time to internally express thanks and gratitude to God, and to pray for others in need of God’s grace. Pray over the audience as this time ends.”

    -This “centering prayer” comes from Tony Jones’ book Soul Shaper. He’s an emerging church guy… prays with relics… leads youth in Gregorian chants, etc.

    Dr. Akin,
    I’m a little fish in a big-fish pond. I don’t know who to tell, nor do I know who will listen. Please contact the necessary people in order to get this “commandment of men” to stop. May the Scripture Alone be exalted in the S.B.C. May we spend our lives to see that it is. Thank you for your time.


    In Him,

    Jared H. Moore”

    On the same day, I sent the above email to a lifeway guy who was over the camp pastors. He was over the camp pastors for M-fuge. Here is this complete email:

    “James,
    My name is Jared Moore. I recently returned from M-fuge @ Southern Charleston University. We went from June 11-17. On Sunday night, June 12, all of the campers and staff gathered for worship. The speaker told all of us to close our eyes and to open our hands as if we’re about to receive something… then he told us the following (this is word for word what he said, for this comes directly from the lifeway outline that every M-fuge preacher must follow)


    “1. As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, let yourself settle down. Let go of all the thoughts, tensions, and sensations you may feel and begin to rest in the love of God who dwells within.
    2. Effortlessly, take up a word, the symbol of your intention to surrender to God’s presence, and let the word be gently present. The word should be one syllable, if possible, and should communicate God’s love to you. Repeat it over and over during your prayer time. Focus on the word and what it means in your relationship with God.
    3. If thoughts subside and you find yourself restfully aware, simply let go of the word. Be in that stillness. When thoughts begin to stir again, gently return to the word. Use that one word as your only response to thoughts, questions, or anxieties that arise in your mind.

    James,
    I was told to email you because you handled the camp pastors. The persons I would really like to talk to are those that developed the above curriculum and approved it. I took my youth to a camp that I trusted. I thought that lifeway stood for the Scripture Alone, but I guess I was wrong. My youth were taught that a pagan method for prayer was God-honoring, and would actually help them to focus on God. They were told that Christians had been using it for centuries… even if this is true, as if it validates anything. If this method for prayer can be found in the Scriptures, then let’s adopt as God-honoring. Could you point me in the right direction? Thank you for your time.

    In Him,

    Jared Moore”

    Here is his reply:

    James defended contemplative prayer in his reply to me. In my reply to him, I quote some of the things he said in his email.

    Here is my reply:

    “James,
    I don’t question the intention of the hearts of those who wrote and approved this curriculum. They, no doubt, didn’t set out to expose S.B.C. teenagers to a pagan methodology for prayer; however, the heart behind it is irrelevant. Mormons, Catholics, and Jehovah’s Witnesses’ hearts believe what they are doing is good. Every denomination within Christianity believes that what they are doing is good, or our theology would not be what it is, and we wouldn’t be divided.

    The reality is that our hearts are irrelevant. What matters is what the Truth says. This type of prayer is no where in Scripture. Your use of Revelation 4:8 is a weak argument for contemplative prayer. Are you a beast? Can you pray day and night with no rest? Do the beasts mentioned have a sinful nature? Does God command you to pray day and night with no rest? Are you in heaven? Is the statement, “Let go of all the thoughts, tensions, and sensations you may feel…” found anywhere in this passage or the rest of Scripture as a legitimate, God-honoring, beginning to prayer? The answer is no, what is found is the continual thinking upon Scripture or God’s works… He’s always on your mind. (Joshua 1:8, Psalm 1:2, Psalm 77:12, Psalm 119:15, Psalm 119:48, Psalm 119:78, Psalm 143:5). By meditate, does the Psalmist mean, “Let go of your thoughts, rest in stillness, think of a one syllable word dealing with God’s character,” etc.? The answer is no. God, His Word, and Works were constantly on His mind. Is the repeating of God’s attributes admirable in God’s eyes? It is no more admirable than if you said it one time. I do know, however, that Jesus was against vain repetitions… that have no heart behind them… (Matthew 6:7). Saying that God is holy over and over again doesn’t make it truer… Contemplative prayer is for the individual praying not for the King of kings and Lord of lords that they’re praying to. Think about it, it’s all centered on the person praying…. it’s even called a “prayer experience”. James… Look at what Lifeway has written one more time…

    “1. As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, let yourself settle down. Let go of all the thoughts, tensions, and sensations you may feel and begin to rest in the love of God who dwells within.
    2. Effortlessly, take up a word, the symbol of your intention to surrender to God’s presence, and let the word be gently present. The word should be one syllable, if possible, and should communicate God’s love to you. Repeat it over and over during your prayer time. Focus on the word and what it means in your relationship with God.
    3. If thoughts subside and you find yourself restfully aware, simply let go of the word. Be in that stillness. When thoughts begin to stir again, gently return to the word. Use that one word as your only response to thoughts, questions, or anxieties that arise in your mind.
    -This ends the contemplative prayer part.

    James, The only time that you actually pray to God is in the middle when you repeat the one syllable word over and over again… the rest is for you… this is an inward focused prayer, not an upward focused one. It stinks of Near-Eastern mysticism, not to mention vain repetition… if it is indeed vain.

    The man who this contemplative prayer came from was Tony Jones and His book Soul Shaper. He’s an Emerging Church guy. Here are some quotes by Him:

    “Postmodernism was the key to unlock the door to the future of my theology and ministry.”

    James, Postmodernism rejects Absolute Truth. It’s a “to each his own” mentality. There is no theology in it, for it is a rejection of Absolute Truth.

    “Lectio divina is a very ancient way of reading Scripture—where you take a very small chunk and read it over and over.”

    Lectio divina is the reading of Scripture while listening to the still small voice of God. It is searching for a word or words that God has for you that day. It asks, “not what did the author mean when he was carried along by the Holy Spirit,” but asks, “what does this passage mean to me?” This is exactly what Satan did when he tempted Jesus (Matthew 4:1-10). Satan no doubt intentionally tried to deceive Jesus, but the only difference concerning interpretation between him and someone implementing postmodern practices is that the butchering of Scripture is intentional in one and unintentional in the other… the result, however, is the same… the adoption of untruth as Truth.

    “The first time I introduced this, the kids came in, and I had a candle going and a little incense burning and some Gregorian chant music on the CD player.”

    Do I need to say anything about this?

    “We’ve used prayer with icons, or the Eastern Orthodox Jesus prayer.”

    Prayer with icons, AKA idol worship. The Jesus Prayer is simply, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have mercy on me, the sinner.” This, of course, is not a bad prayer to pray at conversion or before confession of sins from a repentant heart. Eastern Orthodox people, however, repeat this prayer over and over again. If we go back to Matthew 6:7, we know that Christ is against vain repetition in prayer. As if saying it more than once is going to make God do anything that He wouldn’t do after the first time.

    “We’ve done Ignatian meditation.”

    This is a Catholic practice… basically, most of the above mentioned are Catholic practices. The Emerging Church claims to be something new; however, it is just the rebirth of Catholicism… it is the opposite of the Scripture Alone… it is the exaltation of the commandments of men instead of the commandments of God.

    James,

    You said,
    “Lifeway DOES stand for Scripture alone. But as Henry Blackaby says in Experiencing God, God speaks through the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, and the church to reveal Himself, His purposes, and His ways.” This seems to suggest that if a centuries-old practice of the church is in accordance with, and not contrary to God’s Word, then God can speak through it.”

    You act as if this type of prayer was universally adopted by the church in its entirety. The only place that I can find it; however, is in Catholicism. God does speak through the church, prayer, and circumstances, but I do not hold these equal to the clear teaching of Scripture. From your above statement, it seems that you hold God speaking through prayer, circumstances, and the church equal to His revealed Word in Scripture. You know as well as I do, that to adopt any of these as equal to the Scriptures is to reject the Scriptures Alone. God is not giving any new revelation… we have His complete, infallible Word. We don’t need anything else.

    You said,
    “So maybe the question is not, “whether this method of prayer can be found in Scriptures,” but whether this method of prayer is contrary to anything that is in Scripture.”

    By this statement you open the door to any type of prayer, or any type of worship, as long as it’s done by some Christians and the Bible doesn’t say not to do it. In Matthew 6 Jesus tells the disciples how to pray. Scripture, throughout, shows us examples of prayer. “Centering prayer” is not found anywhere, nor is the Near-Eastern meditation. How can you say that you stand for the Scriptures alone whenever you adopt a commandment of men as a God-honoring method for prayer? Do we really need other methods of prayer? Are the Biblical methods that God has revealed to us not good enough? We are sinners saved by grace… who still have our sinful natures. This sinful nature blinds us. We are incapable of inventing anything that is honoring to God. The only things that we know of God is that which He has revealed, and this is all that we need in order to live in a proper covenantal relationship with Him.

    The Scripture alone, not only means the inerrancy of Scripture, but it also means the application thereof.

    Brother, if you are able, I beg for you to correct me from the Scriptures for I long to please Christ alone. If you are unable, I beg for you to repent from your adoption of untruth.

    Thank you for your time brother.

    May the Scripture alone be followed as God-honoring among Southern Baptists, and may we spend our lives to see that it is.

    In Him,

    Jared H. Moore”

    James has not emailed me back. A few days after I had emailed the above “big dogs” in the S.B.C. I got a call from Joe Palmer. (Evidently some of the above gentlemen had gotten the attention of Jimmy Draper: Thank you brothers!) Joe is the head of all lifeway camps. He called to assure me that something was being done and that this prayer had been changed. I also received several emails from Jimmy Draper. I commend them for their fast response concerning the issue. I received a letter, as did the others who went to Charleston Southern University, a few weeks after returning from camp. Here is a quote from the letter:

    “One of the attending churches felt the meditative prayer experience was too closely related to some meditative practices of varying non-Christian sects. Obviously, that was not our intention. We have made changes to the prayer activity of that night which ties it directly to Scripture in order to make sure the students have the chance to focus clearly on God’s Word and its power in their lives.”

    Once again, I commend lifeway for their quick response, but what about the 1000s of teens and adults who have taken this method back to their home churches? LifeWay addressed the issue, but did not deny this Near Eastern Mysticism as an unbiblical method for prayer. From what I understand from the above letter, they basically believe that I took it the wrong way. So, the error falls on the interpreter rather than the author. I don’t know any other way to take it. My heart is held captive by the Word of God, and to see this Mystic method being taught as biblical has broken my heart and lit a fire under me. This is not something that can be swept under the carpet. It is a BIG mistake. Let us commend LifeWay for their quick response, but let us see to it that every denomination who attends these camps, especially SBC Christians, know about the pagan method for prayer that was taught as biblical for two weeks to 1000s of students at LifeWay’s camps.
     
  2. El_Guero

    El_Guero
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    WHEW!
     
  3. go2church

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    I would question the statement "that post-modernism is a rejection of absolute truth ... etc", that seems to be a very simplistic defination of a very complex and might I add developing "movement" in the history of humanity.
     
  4. Kiffen

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    I agree with Jared that the prayer that was prayed gets very close to Eastern Mystiscism though I would not call it a Buddhist prayer.

    I think however Jared does not understand the "Jesus Prayer". A good reading of The Way of the Pilgrim is the best course on it. "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, Have Mercy on me a Sinner!" is the Jesus Prayer.

    The Jesus Prayer is a Contemplative prayer that focusus on meditating on the name of Jesus. The Jesus Prayer is a focused meditation on one's sinfulness and the goodness of Christ. I repeat though, the "Jesus Prayer" is a meditation and contemplation, something that is sadly lacking in Evangelical circles. It has nothing to do with vain repetition unless one is repeating the Name of Jesus in a vain way.

    Prayer with icons is not synomous with Idol worship. Once again a misuderstanding of the Orthodox use of Icons. Orthodox Icons are theological representations and always tell some sort of story. Eastern Orthodox spirituality strictly forbids imagining any images of God or Jesus and considers it borderline idolatry. The Icons are strictly pictures telling a story though I will admit that Eastern Orthodoxy veneration of icons borders on idolatry at times.


    Regarding, Lectio divina, I am surprised any one would have anything against Meditating on Scripture. It can be abused by a papacy of the believer mentality but most teachings on Lectio divina do not simply ask "what does this passage mean to me" while ignoring "what did the author mean when he was carried along by the Holy Spirit,”.

    There has to be balance in this debate. Jared is correct regarding M-fuge but has a major misunderstanding of the "Jesus Prayer" and also of Lectio divina. I have some major concerns with the Post Modern movement because it lacks theological grounding but we best not throw the baby out with the bath water.
     
  5. crazylegs

    crazylegs
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    Kiffen,
    go here: http://jeffwright.exaltchrist.com/?p=42

    This is a description of what Tony Jones meant by Lecto Divinia...

    I don't believe that I've misunderstood Lectio Divina in the least as Tony Jones has described it...

    I may have misunderstood The Jesus Prayer and prayer with icons, but once again, these must be examined from the perspective of the author... who is an emergent church guy.

    I am in the process of critiquing his book called: Soul Shaper.

    What this all boils down to... is why in the world was this tuaght at a Southern Baptist Youth camp?
     
  6. go2church

    go2church
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    What do you have against the Emergent Church folks, or do you have anything against them?
     
  7. crazylegs

    crazylegs
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    I'm against their theology... their to each/his own mentality.
     
  8. go2church

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    How is there a "their theology" if they have a "each /his mentality". Sounds like you would fit in with the emergent church folks!

    Odd, I find the historic baptist doctines of soul freedom, priesthood of the believer and local church autonomy being expressed in many of the emergent churches.
     
  9. Marcia

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    Lectio divina is not meditating on scripture in the sense of biblical meditation, which means to think about what you are reading. It is reading the Bible mystically and using the words of the Bible as a tool to somehow mystically get into the presence of God. What I've read by those promoting LD is that you are not supposed to think about the content of the words.

    As for the emergent church, they don't like propositional statements. On McLaren's book:
     
  10. Marcia

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    From Christianity Today:
    From the same article, this is Rob Bell, an emergent church pastor:
    Hmmm, the Bible is a “human product” and “a different kind of center.” What kind of center would that be? Oh, wait, I guess in the pomo world, you can have more than one center.
     
  11. gb93433

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    I had some of the same sort of discussions with some of the leaders in the SBC. I had come to the opinion that the politicians knew their Bible little and had not spent much time on the front line of today.

    There is entirely too much church growth politics in the SBC and they don't even know it.

    It was about 1992 that the curriculum for the Royal Ambassadors very much paralleled the masonic lodge's methodology.

    Everyone of my friends from seminary days that were in the same Sunday School class I was in have left the SBC. One was the registrar at SWBTS.

    Nothing new under the sun.

    The SBC is very concerned about its state. Jimmy Draper has written several articles regarding this.
     
  12. Aaron

    Aaron
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    This is no admission of wrong doing. It's merely the squeaky wheel getting the grease.

    (FYI. I see an add at the top of the BB for Rosary beads.)
     
  13. Kiffen

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    That is incorrect. Lectio divina is a meditation on Scripture.

    An example of Lecto Divini

    Read
    John 1:29-34
    The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! [30] This is the one I meant when I said, 'A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' [31] I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel."
    [32] Then John gave this testimony: "I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. [33] I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' [34] I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God."



    MEDITATE ON THIS
    1. What does the witnessing of John the Baptist about Jesus as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” and the “Son of God” mean to us personally and experientially? How does it affect our lives?



    2. Like John the Baptist, are we also both precursors and witnesses of Christ? If yes, how?



    3. Do we open up ourselves to the grace of the Holy Spirit day by day, allowing him to anoint us for the messianic task of proclaiming the Gospel message centered on the saving work of Christ, the Lamb of God and the beloved Son of God?
     
  14. Kiffen

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    Regarding McLaren. He is only one part of the Emergent Church movement. I think he is unorthodox.

    The Emergent Church movement I think overall represents a reaction to the "Jesus is my Girlfriend/Boyfriend" Praise and Worship style worship of the Boomers. They want something deeper than singing a nursery ryhme Praise and Worship chorus over and over again. Returning to some ancient Christian spirituality and liturgical worship is good THOUGH I think the EC movement lacks doctrinal stability and McLaren represents I think the worst of that movement.
     
  15. Gold Dragon

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    The fear of anything remotely connected with mysticism that was present in the Christian faith for more than 1500 years is evidence of how the modernist, positivist, rationalistic, reductionist philosophy of the Enlightenment and subsequent era has corrupted the Christian faith and become an idol in itself among Christians.
     
  16. gb93433

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    Of course the answer to all of this is: Know your Bible.
     
  17. Gold Dragon

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    Just an fyi that Tony Jones' "Soul Sharper" did not originate contemplative prayer. The technique was largely drawn from the work of a 17th century Catholic (Carmelite) monk, Brother Lawrence in a book called "The Practice of the Presence of God".

    CCEL : The Practice of the Presence of God : The Best Rule of Holy Life

    Regarding the relationship between postmodernism and relativism, I like the way it is articulated here.

    and here ...

    [ September 08, 2005, 09:29 AM: Message edited by: Gold Dragon ]
     
  18. Gold Dragon

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    Another key influence to the technique of contemplative prayer is a 14th century anonymous work in english:

    CCEL : The Cloud of Unknowing

    It was rediscovered and popularized in our modern world in 1974 by another Catholic (Trappist) monk, Father William Meninger of Spencer Massachusetts.

    Just an fyi that I have never practiced or taught contemplative prayer.
     
  19. Kiffen

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    I believe you are correct Gold Dragon. Contemplative prayer and Lecto Divini goes way back. Of course it can be abused but that is with everything.

    Too often our prayer life is only to ask God for something rather than spend time alone with Him in meditation. It has nothing to do with TM or Eastern Religion. Eastern Religion emphasizes emptying your mind filling it with a mantra etc.. but Christian Mysticism emphasis is emptying one's mind of carnal thoughts and filling one's mind with the things of God. That is very Biblical. For many reading your Bible is an intellectual exercise while the Early Church Fathers taught that Bible Reading is a form of prayer where you encounter God.
     
  20. crazylegs

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    How far lectio devinia and contemplative prayer go back... and where they come from... is irrelevant in this argument... we have to examine what Tony Jones thinks concerning the issue, since it was his book that Lifeway used.

    Golden Dragon,
    you quoted...
    "while relativism and nihilism are generally viewed as an abandonment of meaning and authority, postmodern philosophy is generally viewed as an openness to meaning and authority from unexpected places, and that the ultimate source of authority is the "play" of the discourse itself."

    What exactly is the difference between these two statements... both of them reject absolute truth...

    If you are "open" to truth from about anywhere... how can you ever be against anything... and how can you have absolute truth?
     

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