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Counterfeit Spirituality Pt.4

Pt.4: Philosophizing God

April 2010

 

In the ancient world many diverse philosophies were taught about the existence of God and man which were based on superstitions, mysterious, esoteric and metaphysical ideas. These competing worldviews redefined the character of God and embraced ideologies and practices forbidden by the scriptures.  The Creator God of the Bible is defined as a personal and triune being who creates, loves, is holy, desires to be known and saves through faith, but the ancients claimed "god" was a singular and non personal entity that unknowingly created, revealing itself as it emanated, could not be defined or described without diminishing its essence (unknowable), was inclusive of all peoples (universalism), and was accessed through rituals and meditative contemplation. 

Greek philosophers postulated that the reality of a self existent "One" sometimes called "Good," was seen through its emanations reflected in the world around us.  These emanations were the "real" substance behind the physical creation. The physical world was the illusion while the unseen spiritual world was said to be true reality.  The hidden unseen "One" was only apprehended through an inscrutable and sublime spirituality.

Through contemplation, the spiritually "enlightened" were able to plumb the depths of this unknowable "presence" and perceive hidden realities while the mundane thinker could not tap into this "essence."  The "dull and slow" were regarded as a lower order of humanity unfit to rule over the affairs of men since they were ill-equipped to perceive the spiritual transcendence beyond the literal world.  

Thus these "sophisticated" thinkers, who deconstructed the material world around them to reconstruct a more real occult (hidden) world, cloaked their beliefs from the closed-minded through secrecy and cloisters to avoid criticism.  To further hide their concept of a transcendent "God," they claimed that any portrayal of this unknowable, self-existent, impersonal entity would lessen its "form" and impact on the devoted admirer, thus "god" was shrouded in silence and inexpressible knowing.  Any concrete expression of "god" destroyed the image of "god" constructed in the mind of the adoring.

These notions of "God" endured throughout the millennia and are embodied today in New Age philosophies.  Therefore, given the significant New Age influence exerted within the Emergent movement, it is not surprising to find the concept of an unknowable "God" pulsing within Emergent circles. 

Notice how the following quotes of Rob Bell in his book, "Velvet Elvis" demonstrate the belief in an unknowable God;

“….the Christian faith is mysterious to the core.” 1 “It’s about things and beings that ultimately cannot be put into words.” 2 “Language fails when we try to get a hold of who God is or what we should believe.” 3 “If we definitely put God into words, we have at that very moment made God something God is not.” 4


Politicizing Worship

This existentialist view of "God" conceives of deity without defining who this "god" is or what is required of the worshiper. Since Postmoderns tend to shrug authority, doctrine, objectivity and Biblical Truth, what better way to be religious and autonomous than to privately adhere to a set of personal convictions about "God" that are left undefined?  How easy it is for Emergents to worship the "god" behind the "forms" of Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, Hinduism, and Wicca.  Emergent author Dan Kimball in his book, "The Emerging Church" illustrates this point well;

“In a post-Christian world, pluralism is the norm. Buddhism, Wicca, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or an eclectic blend—it’s all part of the soil. The basis of learning has shifted from logic and rational, systematic thought to the realm of experience. People increasingly long for the mystical and the spiritual rather than the evidential and facts-based faith of the modern soil.” 5

Emergent/New Age styled contemplation allows anyone, regardless of their religious creed, to tap into the mystical presence called "god". Religious unity and peace are possible when one remains silent about personal or Biblical convictions while believing that silence is communing with the divine.  With non-verbal worship, beliefs remain veiled among the "enlightened" and mysterious tranquility can be wordlessly conveyed through rituals.  

 

Emergent thinkers legitimize a counterfeit spirituality by supplanting absolute Biblical truths with New Age mind/body experiences. The enticement of "appearing" spiritual through silent practices and private rituals scintillates the mind.  Truth becomes relocated in the senses rather than in the revealed Word of God, but Jesus said, "I have spoken openly to the world...and I spoke nothing in secret" (John 18:20).  In contemplative exercises, there is no higher authority to interpret these experiences and override what the mind and heart have perceived to be the real "God."  Hence contemplative prayer practices, injected into the Christian church by Catholic mystics, and adopted by Emergents, have become alternative approaches to "knowing" God.


Moving Christianity Towards Ecumenism

For centuries, Catholicism has recognized the "validity" of mystical experiences as an integral part of their spirituality.  In Romanism, experiences are often times elevated above scripture, as evidenced by pilgrimages to apparition sites of the virgin Mary. Mysticism is also seen in their celebration of the Mass where the parishioner perceives the elements of bread and wine to be a hidden depiction of the body and blood of Christ, when in reality they remain unchanged and mere physical food.  Similar to Greek philosophers who postulated that spiritual forms lie hidden within the material world, the Catholic transubstantiated Eucharist philosophizes that the substances one sees are not real, but their deeper spiritual significance is.

 

Many of the ancient pagan approaches to "God," which found lodging in the Catholic Church, are now influencing the Emergent church through contemplative writers. Not only does Romanism experience "Christ" through the Eucharist, but also through the mystical practices of St. Ignatius prayer exercises, labyrinth walks, Lectio Divina, the Stations of the Cross, Cursillio, and centering prayers. 

In addition, Rome validates the spiritual experiences of other religions.  Consider this excerpt found in Vatican II;

“In Hinduism, men…seek release from the trials of the present life by ascetical practices, profound meditation and recourse to God in confidence and love. Buddhism…proposes a way of life by which man can, with confidence and trust, attain a state of perfect liberation and reach supreme illumination either through their own efforts or by the aid of divine help…The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions.” 6

Mother Teresa openly accepted other belief systems;

“I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.” 7 "There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God. I follow Christ…” 8 “What God is in your mind, you must accept.” 9

When one thinks there is a deeper reality behind the physical "forms" of worship, then any expression of devotion is fine because the "god" behind the "forms" is considered one in the same. Thomas Merton, mystic and Trappist monk known for interfaith dialogues and promotion of contemplative prayer, said the following;

“I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity. The future of Zen is in the West. I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can.” 10


Convergance

These meditative practices migrate across cultural and religious boundaries thereby uniting people groups that would otherwise remain separate. Contemplatives of all stripes openly acknowledge such connectedness. The postmodern virtues of political correctness and tolerance never criticize the perceptions of another's concept of "God," nor warn that the religion engaged in is false.  Hence, truth is considered relative and "God" is understood individually. World unity can easily be achieved through worshiping "God" as one privately imagines "Him" to be.

 
"We come from a variety of secular and religious backgrounds and we each seek to enrich our journey through spiritual practice and study of the world's great spiritual traditions. We desire to draw closer to the loving Spirit which pervades all creation and which inspires our compassion for all beings." 11
This insidiousness spirituality is woven into the very fabric of secular society. The widespread embracing of these rituals portends a coming transformation of the global community at large.

Conclusion
 

God condemns the practice of Spiritism.  Mystical spirituality, regardless of the religious banner or secular philosophy it hides behind, will lead the follower to another spirit, another Jesus, unbiblical living and another worldview in anticipation of a different kingdom where ultimately a different king, the false christ, will rule.  

The church is unwittingly being processed into global religious compliance by silent and private experiences.  The voice of truth needs to be raised above the tinkle of the Shintoist bells and the Hindu "aum".  The body of Christ needs to speak boldly about these matters so that the gospel will not be supplanted by experiences and truth processed into subjectivity. Jesus died for the world that it might be saved, but philosophizing God and His truth makes the gospel unnecessary and Christianity merely a sect in the mix of world religions.

 


References
:

[1] Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis , Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; Source Cited: The Emerging Church Is Coming, David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, Disc 1, Lecture 2.

[2] Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis , Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; Source Cited: The Emerging Church Is Coming, David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, Disc 1, Lecture 2.

[3] Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis , Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; Source Cited: The Emerging Church Is Coming, David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, Disc 1, Lecture 2.

[4] Rob Bell, Velvet Elvis , Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; Source Cited: The Emerging Church Is Coming, David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, Disc 1, Lecture 2.  

[5] Dan Kimball, " Zondervan; Grand Rapids, MI, 2003. Source Cited: http://www.christianstandard.com/articledisplay.asp?id=487

 [6] Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council (Nostra Aetate), Source Cited: CatholicCulture.org

[7] Her Words, http://www.ewtn.com/MotherTeresa/words.htm

[8] Her Words, http://www.ewtn.com/MotherTeresa/words.htm

[9] 1G (from Mother Teresa: Her People and Her Work , by Desmond Doig, p. 156, as quoted by Dave Hunt, Global Peace and the Rise of Antichrist , p. 149)

, 7:10, 1969, http://www.gratefulness.org/readings/dsr_merton_recol2.htm Source Cited: http://www.wayoflife.org/files/674deabb115b8b21c1d6d9028e9d0da5-9.html

[11] Center for Contemplative Spirituality website, Source Cited: http://www.gotquestions.org/contemplative-spirituality.html

Lighthouse Trails Ministries, Mantra Meditation, http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/meditation.htm

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