For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, ESV)

Non-Protesting Protestants Engaging In Revisionist History Of The Lord’s Reformation 

Last time in Ravi Zacharias International Ministries Embracing Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM) we began a look at the letter from Margaret Manning of RZIM and saw they are still equivocating with words in an ongoing defense of Ravi Zacharias’ lavish praise concerning Henri Nouwen (1932-1996), a veritable superstar of CSM. But it cannot be stressed enough that this absolutely does not involve Zacharias using a mere source quote; rather, we have a very clear-cut statement that he fully accepts Nouwen as a regenerated Christian.

So now it’s become very important that readers see for themselves what the official RZIM position on apostate (at best) monk and mystic Henri Nouwen is, as well as that concerning CSM itself. Now the first key issue we must come to grips with would be that as a Roman Catholic priest obviously Nouwen’s alligience was to Rome, and as such, he rejected Sola Scriptura outright. As previously pointed out to embrace CSM, and it’s beyond question that Nouwen was a very well-known teacher of its corrupt Contemplative/Centering Prayer (CCP), one first has to reject the final authority of God’s Word.

Amazingly enough, and illustrative of the things I have said concerning what has become a segment of “Evangelical Untouchables” within the Body of Christ, there are still people writing things like: If Ravi Zacharias said this he should repent. Men and women, there is a video clip of Zacharias calling the Roman Catholic Henri Nouwen, “One of the greatest saints of recent memory.” There’s nothing taken out of context as the continuing defense of that statement of Zacharias by RZIM Speaking Team/Associate Writer Margaret Manning makes abundantly clear. 

Apprising Ministries, in reluctantly covering this, has many articles listed below which will allow the interested reader to pursue these points in greater detail. We’ve already pointed out that CCP is the primary vehicle of  a quasi-Eastern Contemplative Spirituality/Mysticism (CSM), now becoming the current fad in apostatizing evangelicalism, as advanced by Living Spiritual Teacher and Quaker mystic “Roshi” Richard Foster. But as I have said before this CCP is not at all a form of Biblical prayer; but rather, the fact is it begins as an attempt to Christianize an Eastern form of meditation.

This is the backdrop against which we now begin to look a bit more closely at the letter from RZIM where we will see, again, a very sad case of their either being unwilling, or in ignorance unable, to exercise spiritual discernment in this area. Speaking for RZIM Manning tells a friend of mine who had written her: 

Thank you for your recent email. I appreciate your writing to me, and I am happy to clarify my use of Augustine and Luther with regards to what is being called “contemplative prayer” for lack of a better term. But, first, let me help you to understand how I define “contemplative prayer” and why I would include these two church fathers as “contemplatives.” As I have understood contemplative practices within Christianity throughout the history of the church, what is being discussed and understood here goes back to the monastic tradition of the Church. The monastics marked their days with prayers throughout the day as a part of their corporate worship (the marking of the hours), as well as focused on devoted times of private prayer. Both, Augustine and Luther practiced prayer in this kind of monastic tradition – of course Luther was an Augustinian priest, and part of an Augustinian monastery founded in honor of St. Augustine. Had the Catholic Church not excommunicated him, he would have remained within the Catholic (meaning “whole”) church.

First, with all due respect, who cares how Manning personally defines “contemplative prayer”? As I pointed out in The Terminology Trap of “Spiritual Formation”  those who originated the practices of CSM are the ones who get to define them. It’s not unlike what I have shared with Mormon Missionaries who have whined to me that, “We’re Christians too.” I would politely explain to them that while I respect their right to believe whatever they want to about God, Jesus, etc., the fact remains that Mormons don’t believe what Christians believe and this is what excludes them from being Christian.

The Body of Christ, long before Joseph Smith slithered onto the scene, defined what it is to be a Christian based upon what the Bible teaches. In a similar fashion those heretical hermits who borrowed mystic meditation from their pagan pals in false Eastern religions get to define what CCP is, and not, pretending Protestants some 1700 years after the fact. I happen to have been studying CSM and CCP from primary sources for years now and neither Augustine or Luther were practioners of, nor advocates for, CCP ala the deceived desert deserters. And most certainly not Luther.

Manning continues on with the position of RZIM concerning CSM and CCP:

Of course, there is a tradition of “Christian mystics” who focused on the more “ecstatic” experiences with God, much like our contemporary charismatic traditions focus on today – the more experiential and supernatural gifts of the Spirit. St. John of the Cross, St. Francis of Assisi, Theresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, and many others are a part of this more “mystical” tradition. But, this is not the same as Eastern practices of meditation that are practiced by Buddhists, and that many are alleging are making their way into the Christian church. I also believe that many misunderstand Luther’s Reformation as a complete repudiation of everything that had gone before in the Catholic church. Luther had many specific critiques about the Catholic Church – and they were serious, indeed. But, he did not repudiate many of the devotional practices that he would have been nurtured on and practiced himself.

He didn’t? Permit me to introduce you to Luther’s view of those apostate “devotional practices” Manning romanticizes “he would have been nurtured on.” And she does correctly remind us that Martin Luther was indeed one of these monks; so as such, he knew exactly what he was talking about—from personal experience—when in Tabletalk circa 1626 AD) Luther wrote concerning what he had “practiced himself”:

Idolatry is all manner of seeming holiness and worshipping, let these counterfeit spiritualities shine outwardly as glorious and fair as they may; in a word, all manner of devotion in those that we would serve God without Christ the Mediator, his Word and command. In popedom it was held a work of the greatest sanctity for the monks to sit in their cells and meditate of God, [solitude] and of his wonderful works; to be kindled with zeal, kneeling on their knees, praying, and having their imaginary contemplations of celestial objects, with such supposed devotion, that they wept for joy. In these their conceits, they banished all desires and thoughts of women, and what else is temporal and evanescent. They seemed to meditate only of God, and of his wonderful works.

Yet all these seeming holy actions of devotion, which the wit and wisdom of man holds to be angelical sanctity, are nothing else but works of the flesh. All manner of religion, where people serve God without his Word and command, is simply idolatry, and the more holy and spiritual such a religion seems, the more hurtful and venomous it is; for it leads people away from the faith of Christ, and makes them rely and depend upon their own strength, works, and righteousness. In like manner, all kinds of orders of monks, fasts, prayers, hairy shirts, the austerities of the Capuchins, who in popedome are held to be the most holy of all, are mere works of the flesh; for the monks hold they are holy, and shall be saved, not through Christ, whom they view as a severe and angry judge, but through the rules of their order.

 The Roman Catholic Church Is Not Christ’s Church But The Synagogue Of Satan

That sounds just a tad bit like repudiation to me. Let me also take the time to correct Manning’s misunderstanding, as well as that of RZIM, because we’re not at all talking here about “Luther’s Reformation.” Now I will say that I personally hope RZIM isn’t meaning to shave off some edges in order to sustain $upport from Roman Catholics but the proper Protestant position would be Christ Himself raised up His Reformers to return the Body of Christ to proper Biblical spirituality.

The fact is the Lord’s Reformation came about because the very same kind of  Tower of Babel-like spirituality still within the apostate Church of Rome today, and which it seems RZIM would have us return to, had so disgusted Him that His Spirit moved upon these Reformers who risked their very lives in order to wrest His Church away from Satan’s seducing spirits who had infiltrated it. And as far as Luther’s “critiques” concerning the Roman Catholic Church not being “serious” AM would strongly disagree with RZIM in that statement.

However, at the same time, as a former Roman Catholic myself I’m in absolute agreement with Luther as he says:

Since the papal church not only neglects the command of Christ but even compels the people to ignore it and to act against it, it is certain that it is not Christ’s church but the synagogue of Satan which prescribes sin and prohibits righteousness. It clearly and indisputably follows that it must be the abomination of Antichrist and the furious harlot of the devil. (What Luther Says, II: 1019)

What kind of a church is the pope’s church? It is an uncertain, vacillating and tottering church. Indeed, it is a deceitful, lying church, doubting and unbelieving, without God’s Word. For the pope with his wrong keys teaches his church to doubt and to be uncertain. If it is a vacillating church, then it is not the church of faith, for the latter is founded upon a rock, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it (Matt.16:18). If it is not the church of faith, then it is not the Christian church, but it must be an unchristian, anti-Christian, and faithless church which destroys and ruins the real, holy, Christian church. (Luther’s Works, vol. 40, Church and Ministry II, The Keys, p.348, as cited by Online source, emphasis mine)

As we wrap this up for now, one of the main pied pipers of this CCP perversion of prayer was Roman Catholic monk Thomas Merton (1915-1968). Merton was a mystic who became so messed up by his CSM that by the time of his death he had himself, for all intents and purposes, virtually become a Buddhist as evidenced in Thomas Merton and the Buddhas. Merton is also still widely acknowledged as an expert on the monastic traditions of apostate Roman Catholicism. I’ll now share something below which comes from my personal copy of the mystic monk’s book called Spiritual Direction & Meditation.

While Merton is discussing why so-called “spiritual directors” would become necessary he confirms that the desert hermits mentioned above—and now romaticized as “the desert fathers and mothers”—actually were the precursors of what would become the antibiblical monastic systems of the Roman Catholic Church. Merton tells us that the:

original, primitive meaning of spiritual direction suggests a particular need connected with a special ascetic task, a peculiar vocation for which a professional formation is required. In other words, spiritual direction is a monastic concept. It is a practice which was unnecessary until men withdrew from the Christian community in order to live as solitaries in the desert. (11)

Now from the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology we get a look at the twisted pelagianism at the rotten root of Merton’s practice of CSM, which was later repackaged for ignornant evangelicals by Guru Richard Foster. It’s important to note here that this very same CSM, which was practiced by Counter Reformation apostates (at best) such as Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the spiritual Gestapo unit the Jesuits, and messed mystic nun Teresa of Avila, would end up bringing about the Protestant Reformation because of corrupt theology such as the following:

As a Christian mystic, Merton’s spiritual quest was a quest for his true or real self. Merton held that one must lose his or her “exterior” self. One’s true identity is lost as in a forest, and when the seeker finds God, they find their true self. God, then, bears the identity of an individual, and the quest of the true self becomes the quest of God. (763)

From his delusions contained in his book Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander Merton the mystic monk would muse:

Then it was as if I suddenly saw the secret beauty of [mankind’s] hearts, the depths of their hearts where neither sin nor desire nor self-knowledge can reach, the core of their reality, the person that each one is in God’s eyes. If only they could see themselves as they really are. If only we could see each other that way all the time. There would be no more war, no more hatred, no more cruelty, no more greed….I suppose the big problem would be that we would fall down and worship each other. But this cannot be seen, only believed and “understood” by a peculiar gift.

Again, that expression, le point vierge, (I cannot translate it) comes in here. At the center of our being is a point of nothingness which is untouched by sin and by illusion, a point of pure truth, a point or spark which belongs entirely to God, which is never at our disposal, from which God disposes of our lives, which is inaccessible to the fantasies of our mind or the brutalities of our own will. This little point of nothingness and of absolute poverty is the pure glory of God in us. (158, emphasis mine)

Ok, one really would be hard-pressed to find a better fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3:2 — People will be lovers of themselves. Now in the context of verse 1 — But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days — God the Holy Spirit is telling us this is a bad thing. But in the deluded minds of these self-styled “Christian” mystics like Merton and Nouwen this self-ishness becomes a good thing. And it puts them in direct contradiction with the inspired Apostle Paul — I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature (Romans 7:18).

One can listen to mystic dreamers like Foster and Nouwen if they want to, but, I’ve got some real news for you; what you just read above—from God Himself through Paul—is your authentic, true, real, sinful, and wicked, self. And we really don’t have to look very far to find it; nope, it’s as close as a newborn babe at 3 AM crying because it wants, what it wants, and it wants it, now! Haven’t you yet figured out why the Lord allows parents the privilege of being awakened like that? Meet the selfishness that, in His amazing grace, the Creator puts up with from each of His regenerated children until they very day He brings us home.

And I’ll leave you with this; I’m not a Lutheran, and I don’t follow what Luther says unless it lines up with Scripture, which cannot err. That said, the truth remains Luther was dead on target when he warned about people who would take positions it appears Ravi Zacharias International Ministries is attempting to take a-top some imagined ecumenical fence. The Lord knows I pray RZIM will repent; but sadly, at the same time I’ve also been around long enough to have learned not to hold my breath about such things:

The negotiation about doctrinal agreement displeases me altogether, for this is utterly impossible unless the pope has his papacy abolished. Therefore avoid and flee those who seek the middle of the road. Think of me after I am dead and such middle-of-the-road men arise, for nothing good will come of it. There can be no compromise. (What Luther Says, II: 1019, as cited at Online source)

See also: