Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God. (Exodus 20:4-5, KJV)

Neo-Gnosticism Slithers Deeper Into Mainstream Evangelicalism

Apprising Ministries has taken some flak for the previous article James Emery White Promotes Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism. As previously pointed out, my friend Jim Luppachino of Watcher’s Lamp (WL) wrote a strong piece called James Emery White’s Purpose Driven Mysticism. Please keep in mind we are not talking here about the fine theologian Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries.

The James Emery White in question is:

the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina; President of Serious Times, a ministry which explores the intersection of faith and culture; and ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture on the Charlotte campus of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. (Online source)

So with that out of the way we return to the matter at hand; in the comments section over at WL a couple of anonymous commenters claiming to be students of White’s whined that he was mischaracterized and doesn’t promote Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism. You are about to see from White’s book Serious Times that this “adjunct professor of theology and culture” at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary most certainly does.

White even opens Chapter 4, “Deepening Our Souls,” with a quote from contemplative Quaker mystic Thomas R. Kelly, author of A Testament of Devotion where this “Quaker missionary” himself quotes another heretical mystic, Meister Eckhart, while informing us:

Meister Eckhart wrote: “As thou art in church or cell, that same frame of mind carry into the world, into its turmoil and its fitfulness” [sic] Deep within us all there is an amazing inner sanctu [sic] of the soul, a holy place, a speaking Voice,…the Light within,… the Presence in the midst. Here is the slumbering Christ, stirring to be awakened to become the soul we clothe in earthly form and action. And He is within us all. (Online source, emphasis mine)

That is a lie; Christ is not within all of mankind. Recently I did a very in-depth two part investigation into heretical Quaker mysticism in Contemplating the Inner Light of the QuakersPart One and Part Two. In the second article I demonstrate that right in line with classic Gnostic mysticism, George Fox—the contemplative mystic who founded the Quakers—clearly taught that this supposed “Inner Light” is in every human heart, just as Kelly himself has speculated above.

You will also sometmes see mystics refer to this idea as a “divine spark.” But in Understanding the New Spirituality: God Indwells Mankind I show you that it is an incontrovertible fact this idea of God indwelling mankind prior to regeneration is in direct contradiction with the Biblical revelation of the true nature of fallen man. And yet, here is James Emery White opening his chapter by quoting a Quaker heretic in Thomas R. Kelly.

O, but it actually gets even worse as on page 81 White draws from the polluted neo-Gnostic wells of universalist Henry Nouwen (1932-1996) as well as the poison from Living Spiritual Teacher Guru Richard Foster—another spiritually corrupt Quaker mystic. White also has a picture of troubled mystic and apostate Roman Catholic nun Teresa of Avila on page 84 as he further discusses Contemplative/Centering Prayer, which is actually what these mystic fools are talking about when they speak of prayer.

The Corrupt Contemplative Spirituality Of The Mystic Monk Thomas Merton

White also tells us:

The spiritual life is first of all a life. These words from Thomas Merton remind me that my spiritual life is not something merely to be talked about or studied but to be lived… (74)

Prayer is the foundation of intimacy with God, the “inward movement” that we make toward God. Thomas Merton broadens this vision by writing that prayer “means yearning for the simple presence of God, for a personal understanding of his word, for knowledge of his will and for capacity to hear and obey him”… (83)

However, in Who Is Thomas Merton you’ll quickly find out that the Mystic Monk Thomas Merton was as deep into Contemplative/Centering Prayer, i.e. transcendental meditation in Christian jargon, as it gets. Well what follows below will show you with cystalline clarity just where this “spiritual life” of CSM eventually took him. See for yourself if this so-called “inward movement” of Merton, which White is recommending, really was “toward God.”

Let’s take a real close look at Merton as he allegedly “broadens this vision” while devoting his life to the practice Contemplative/Centering Prayer, which is really nothing more than transcendental meditation in Christianese. Also keep in mind that White has told us Merton is supposedly seeking “for the simple presence of God, for a personal understanding of his word, for knowledge of his will.”

As you read what follows from Thomas Merton you tell me if the neo-gnostic meditation of CCP gave him the “capacity to hear and obey [God]”. Men and women, the blasphemous idolatry below from Thomas Merton does not come from a genuine Christian. And if you take a real close look at Emerging Church pastor Rob Bell in the video clips within Rob Bell Avoids Jesus Christ at the Seeds of Compassion Event you’ll see that this Emergent Church icon himself is heading in the very same direction as Thomas Merton.

It is simply beyond question that the corrupt neo-Gnostic mystic spirituality advanced by Richard Foster is heavily influenced by Thomas Merton. In his book A Time of Departing Ray Yungen offers this bit of personal testimony about an encounter he had with Contemplative Guru Foster:

After the seminar ended, curious about what he meant by [some of his] statements, I approached Foster and politely asked him, “What do you think of the current Catholic contemplative prayer movement?”
He appeared visibly uncomfortable with question, and at first seemed evasive and vague.

He then replied, “Well, I don’t know, some good, some bad (mentioning Matthew Fox as an example of the bad).” In defense, he said, “My critics don’t understand there is a tradition within Christianity that goes back centuries.” He then said something that has echoed in my mind ever since that day. He emphatically stated, “Well, Thomas Merton tried to awaken God’s people!” (76,77)

The Unholy Ground Of Idolatry

Below I will present an account from Thomas Merton’s own journal concerning his “total integration” as he observed the huge Buddha statues at Polonnaruwa. This event happened during the tour of Asia he was on in 1968 when he was accidentally electrocuted. As a matter of fact, in the series “Merton Center Occasional Papers” from Merton.org, the website of “The Thomas Merton Center [which] is the official repository of Merton’s artistic estate,” ITMS President Dr. Paul M. Pearson tells us:

In his Asian Journal Merton refered to himself as a pilgrim — “I have left my monastery to come here not just as a research scholar or even as an author. I come as a pilgrim…to drink from ancient sources of monastic vision and experience.” (3)

I now take the following section from the book Thomas Merton: My Brother by the late “Spiritual Master”M. Basil Pennington who was a fellow Trappist monk and a close friend of Merton’s. It will be presented without comment, but as you read I ask you to please keep in mind that Merton’s own account of awe while he stood before these pagan idols is coming from someone many evangelicals today consider to be a Christian—including James Emery White.

Pennington writes: “At Polonnaruwa,…Merton was able to enter into the sanctuary with the solitariness he wanted. The pilgrim took off his shoes and let the dampness of the living earth speak to him. At this point it is not only best but necessary to let Merton speak for himself”:

I am able to approach the Buddhas barefoot and undisturbed, my feet in wet grass, wet sand. Then the silence of the extraordinary faces. The great smiles. Huge and yet subtle. Filled with every possibility, questioning nothing, knowing everything, rejecting nothing, the peace not of emotional resignation but of Madhyamika [the “Middle Path” school of Buddhism], of sunyata [“emptiness, the Void” — a basic concept in Buddhism], that has seen through every question without trying to discredit anyone or anything—without refutation—without establishing some argument. For the doctrinaire, the mind that needs well established positions, such peace, such silence, can be frightening.

I was knocked over with a rush of relief and thankfulness at the obvious clarity of the figures, the clarity and fluidity of shape and line, the design of the monumental bodies composed into the rock shape and landscape, figure rock and tree. And the sweep of bare rock slopping away on the other side of the hollow, where you can go back and see different aspects of the figures. Looking at these figures I was suddenly, almost forcibly, jerked clean out of the habitual, half-tied vision of things, and an inner clearness, clarity, as if exploding from the rocks themselves, became evident and obvious. The queer evidence of the reclining figure, the smile, the sad smile of Ananda standing with arms folded (much more “imperitive” than Da Vinchi’s Mona Lisa because completely simple and straightforward).

The thing about all this is that there is no puzzle, no problem and really no “mystery.” All problems are resolved and everything is clear, simply because what matters is clear. The rock, all matter, all life is charged with dharmakaya… everything is emptiness and everything is compassion. I don’t know when in my life I have ever had such a sense of beauty and spiritual validity running together in one aesthetic illumination. Surely, with Mahabalipuram and Polonnaruwa my Asian pilgrimage had become clear and had purified itself. I mean, I know and have seen what I was obscurely looking for. I don’t know what else remains, but I have now seen and have pierced through the surface and have got beyond the shadow and the disguise.

Basil Pennington then adds, “here through the aesthetic experience that Merton entered into and sought to express the mystical experience…quiet, isolation, simplicity and freshness. There is a wholeness. Merton said he could not express it adequately. He might have added, as did his Cistercian Fathers in speaking of such moments of total integration, that those who have experienced it know what he was talking about, and those who have not should seek the experience so that they will know.”

“Merton did not return to this experience in the few journal entries that would follow. As I have said, a week later he would be dead.” (171,172,173).