Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.… And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. (I John 4:10, 14)
This weekend, people throughout the world will be celebrating Christ’s resurrection. Even people who don’t believe in the resurrection are celebrating the weekend and wishing Happy Easter to others. But while that seems odd to celebrate a day when you don’t even believe in its reason, what is more odd is that so many Christians are celebrating the resurrection but are throughout the year promoting a spirituality that ultimately denies the atonement. Without the atonement, why bother thinking about the resurrection—it would mean nothing. The two are synonymous.
For twenty years, Lighthouse Trails has sought to expose the truth about contemplative spirituality. The core of the New Age believes that the teachings of the East and of the West must be fused and blended before the true and universal religion—for which the world waits—could appear on Earth. In other words, all religions must come together under the umbrella of metaphysics (mysticism). While the average Christian would agree that this doesn’t line up with Scripture, the Christian church has been overtaken by this very concept, but in a deceitful and often subtle manner. The underlying layers of this dark and anti-Christ theology rejects the very thing that can save a soul—the atonement for sin on the Cross by Jesus Christ. He was a substitute, and He took our place. Without that atonement, we are lost forever.
Some may be saying right now– my pastor doesn’t deny the atonement. Really? Does he ever promote Brennan Manning or Richard Foster? What about the college you attend? Do your professors ever tell you to read Henri Nouwen or Richard Rohr? And what about the women’s Bible studies you attend? Do they ever read books by Priscilla Shirer and Beth Moore or Keri Wyatt Kent, Jan Johnson, Shauna Niequist, or Ruth Haley Barton? And has your church ever been involved with Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life or Jesus Calling? You see, the spiritual formation movement (of which category all these authors and leaders fall into) has a core of mysticism. And contemplative mysticism, by its very nature, denies the Cross, the atonement, and certainly the resurrection. So to celebrate the resurrection and yet to embrace spiritual formation is a terrible contradiction. Allow us to explain: While it is true that most of the people fore mentioned do not reject the Atonement, by their adhering to and promoting the spirituality that does, they unwittingly reject it also. If this sounds too farfetched, consider this: Jan Johnson (previously mentioned), in her book When the Soul Listens, makes favorable reference to the giants of the contemplative prayer movement (Merton, Nouwen, Pennington, Keating, etc.) in virtually every chapter of her book. It can be factually proven that these individuals to whom she frequently refers believe that God is in everybody and everything. And in the spiritual view of these teachers, the Cross is not the reconciling factor between God and humanity–meditation (i.e., contemplative prayer) is!
The contemplative mind-set of true contemplatives is that God would not send His Son to a violent death on a Cross to bear the sins of others. They say Jesus is their model but cannot say He is their Savior, in the biblical sense.
Thomas Merton was probably the most influential and prominent figure in the modern day contemplative prayer movement. In response to a Muslim mystic’s statement that Islam rejected the idea of Christ’s atonement and redemption on the Cross, Merton responded:
Personally, in matters where dogmatic beliefs differ, I think that controversy is of little value because it takes us away from the spiritual realities into the realm of words and ideas … in words there are apt to be infinite complexities and subtleties which are beyond resolution…. But much more important is the sharing of the experience of divine light, … It is here that the area of fruitful dialogue exists between Christianity and Islam. (from A Time of Departing, p. 59).
Is the preaching of the Cross merely words and ideas that take us away from “spiritual realities”? The spiritual reality of what Merton was talking about was the contemplative spirituality that has no place for the Cross. That’s why it didn’t matter to Merton–it was just merely a religious concept. What really mattered to Merton was the “divine light” that one encounters in the contemplative state. This is where contemplative prayer led Merton; and we believe those who follow his path will end up at the same destination.
During this time of the year when so many churches are holding Easter services (in honor of the death and resurrection of Jesus), how many of these same churches are clinging to contemplative spirituality without even realizing what it really stands for.
If Jesus’ going to the Cross and shedding blood was merely an act of service and sacrifice, an example for others to follow, and was not actually a substitutionary payment for the sins of humanity, then why celebrate Easter and the resurrection? It would make no sense. Those churches who cling to contemplative/emergent ideologies and practices should reevaluate this. While they cling to one (contemplative), they deny the other (the atonement) even if they don’t realize it.
(photo from bigstockphoto.com; used with permission)