Tom: We’ve been going through Dave Hunt’s book Occult Invasion: The Subtle Seduction of the World and Church, and for the last couple of weeks we’ve been discussing the occult seduction of youth, addressing the influence of drugs, magic, and witchcraft, which the Bible condemns as sorcery. Occultism also involves various techniques and methodologies such as ritualism, meditation, and visualization. Now, we’ve covered many of the worldly occult influences of our kids, but last week we pointed out with great concern occult practices which are becoming popular and are being promoted in growing numbers of evangelical churches. Specifically, we’re concerned about the contemplative movement, which is an attempt to revive the prayer exercises and techniques practiced by the Catholic mystics during the Middle Ages.
Dave, before we get to the specifics of what’s being taught, those promoting contemplative spiritual exercises…I mean, they seem sincere in their desire to simply draw closer to God, to hear from God in a more direct, personal way. Now, what could be wrong with that?
Dave: It’s not Christian to try to make contact with God through some technique, even a meditative technique. Now, there’s contemplative practices – we’re talking about meditation. There’s a difference between the Eastern concept of meditation and the Western. In the West, meditation, contemplation, means to think deeply about something, to gain insight into truth. For example, Psalm 1 says of this fruitful man, “In his” (that is, God’s) “law he doth meditate day and night.” But meditation in the Eastern mode is an attempt to (they would say) center yourself, quiet your mind, and you are supposedly trying to place yourself in a better mode for communication to be received. That’s not biblical communication. In other words, you are trying to open yourself to the spirit world. Now, the Christians are trying to open themselves to God or to Christ, but never does the Bible say that. Jesus, for example, in John 8 says, “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” We’re to meditate upon the truth, upon the Word of God.
So if you’re learning a technique…for example, one author in a very popular book in Christian bookstores, he says, “Could it be that the early Christians had techniques, knew how to get in tune with God in ways that we have not?” Well now, why do I need to get in tune with God? Is God going to speak to me like He spoke to the prophets? Furthermore, the prophets didn’t have some technique for getting in tune with God. Over 50 times in the Book of Ezekiel it says, “The word of the Lord came unto me.” I think we’ve quoted in the past Jeremiah 42, for example, where the people ask Jeremiah to get a word from God. Jeremiah doesn’t have a technique. He doesn’t have some contemplative methodology for doing this. He has to wait, and it says, “Ten days later the word of the Lord came unto Jeremiah.” Now, Jeremiah is a prophet. I believe that the Bible is God’s Word. We can prove this. It’s verifiable. It all hangs together. But for me now to try to get God to give me another word, or to somehow give me deeper insights into something by some spiritual technique…
Tom: Well, it’s…even a dialogue – I mean, they talk of it in terms of dialogue. So I listen, God speaks, I speak to God, He speaks to me…
Dave: Very dangerous.
Tom: …it’s an ongoing process of, you know, whenever you begin to practice your particular exercises…
Dave, let me add this, because some people think, well, maybe we’re imposing our views on what these teachers of the contemplative method, you know, what they’re doing, that this is our idea. Let me give you just a few definitions: “Christian contemplative (some people would say con-tem-play-tive) prayer is the opening of mind and heart, our whole being to God, the ultimate mystery beyond thoughts, words, and emotions, whom we know by faith is within us.” Now, let’s stop there: I mean, so we’re going to develop an intimate personal relationship with God – this development: “beyond thoughts, words, and emotions.” Now, how do you do that?
Dave: I don’t know. I wouldn’t have any idea. You would think that this is something emotional, something feeling. But how do you do it beyond feeling and beyond emotion? You’re trying to arrive at some communication, some fellowship with God that goes beyond His Word, goes beyond rationality, and you’re trying to get, somehow, some communication from Him – that’s very, very dangerous. It’s not biblical. Never did the prophets try to get a message from God. Nowhere from Adam to John, who wrote the Revelation, do I find that they’re trying to gain some message from God. God speaks to men, and this is what the Bible says, 2 Peter 1: “Holy men of God spake…” as they had some technique? As they wanted it? No, “Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” And as God moved upon man, He inspired them, we believe that these are the prophets, these are the apostles, we believe that this is God’s Word, and we believe that it is a closed book now. It’s a complete book.
Dave: Now, for me to try to get new messages is not biblical, and it is very dangerous, and all of the occultists do this.
Tom: Dave, I just read you this – “It’s beyond thoughts, word, and emotions.” What kind of communication is beyond thoughts, words, and emotions? You see, one other thing…
Dave: But – but, Tom, that’s…I’m referring not so much to that one, but they are getting thoughts. This “Jesus” talks to them.
Dave: They’re in a conversation, but this one doesn’t make sense at all.
Tom: Well, it does in a sense, because, as you know, these guys try to avoid or try to back away from an Eastern mystical…not all of them, but many of them who want to maintain their evangelical image, they want to back away from Eastern mysticism, which, you know, we know we’ve talked about this in programs before – when you go into an altered state of consciousness, you do experience “God.” It’s union with God, basically. Now really, that’s the heart of what’s – of where this stuff’s going, but some of the evangelicals involved, they don’t want it to go that far. So you’ve got a problem here. Let me – let me give you…
Dave: It sounds like a drug trip, Tom. I’ve talked to too many of these guys who – I mean, they’re the universe! They can’t explain. It is beyond thoughts and words and feelings, but it’s something that they have found contact with.
Tom: Now, this – what I’m reading from here, I got this off the internet. This is from an organization, a Christian – the way they identify themselves: Christian Contemplative Prayer Organization. That’s their thrust in this: “We think of prayer as thoughts or feelings expressed in words. This is only one expression. Contemplative prayer is a prayer of silence and experience of God’s presence as the ground of our very being is rooted, the source from whom our life emerges at every moment.” And this is union with God, and this is really – I don’t care who’s promoting this: when you get into it and really look at what they’re teaching, and the goal and the objective of what they want, it’s union with God – that all is one. So it really hearkens back to Eastern mysticism, even though they’d say, “No, this is the Christian version of it.”
Dave: It’s experiential. “I’m going to experience something beyond my capacity even to define or describe the feeling, but this is going to be God.” Tom, God speaks through words. He communicates to us through words. Jesus is called “the Word of God.” We’ve quoted, I think, in the past such verses as Jeremiah:13:10: “This evil people, which refuse to hear my words and follow the imagination of their heart…” Now, what we’re talking about here, Tom, is imagination. There’s another Christian author out there, for example, who says in chapter seven of his book – a very popular writer, popular book – begins with this sentence: “One door opens into the world of the spirit: imagination.” But the Bible says imagination is evil, and “the imagination of man’s heart was only evil continually.” “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.” Now I’m going to let my heart go, and I’m going to have some mystical experience of God? Who says it’s of God, and what good is it going to do me if it’s beyond my ability even to express it or to understand it? God communicates to man through words, and Jesus himself is the Word of God. “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, the Word was God,” and so forth. He has spoken to us in His Son, and when Jesus returns in the midst of Armageddon to destroy Antichrist, on his thigh – on his vesture on his thigh are written “The Word of God,” and the sword coming out of his mouth is the Word of God. Now why do I want to abandon the Word of God and think I can get beyond the Word of God somehow and have some experience of deity?
Tom: Well, it’s an Eastern view. It’s the idea that you cannot know God rationally, that words that have meaning really fall so far short of us really understanding God that we can only experience Him…
Dave: The Qur’an says the same thing: that God is beyond understanding. But what is – Tom, let’s go to the Word of God, as I know we must in this program. It’s not your opinion, it’s not my opinion. Let’s go to Jeremiah:9:23,24 – God says: “Let not the wise grow in his wisdom, the mighty in his might, the rich in his riches, but let him that glorieth glory in this: that he understandeth and knoweth me.” And God puts understanding first in knowing Him. There’s an understanding, not a mystical experience.
So, Tom, these dear people, they may be trying to get a deeper spirituality, but they’re being led astray, and they are leading others astray, and I’m very concerned.
Tom: Dave, our concern here is for youth. This segment, the segment last week, we were dealing with the introduction of these contemplative prayers, techniques, these ideas to get kids more involved intimately with knowing God, with experiencing God, and on the surface it sounds great! It sounds like something that you’d want. But it’s the techniques, the exercises – the thrust here…well, the whole thrust is not biblical. It really hearkens back to Christian mysticism – that is, Catholic mysticism, things that the monks and nuns of the so-called Desert Father and Mothers, those who were in monasteries, things that they practice which were highly experiential. And as we just mentioned a few minutes ago, they really relate more to Eastern mysticism. Meditation is not biblical, it’s not…even the contemplation is not biblical. It’s experientially oriented.
Let me give you just a little background here: last week we discussed the program that’s taking place through the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project which is at San Francisco Theological Seminary. Interestingly, it was funded by the Lilly Endowment funding, which – those are the guys that gave us Prozac, by the way; I don’t know that there’s any connection there. But the young man who’s leading this has written a number of articles, and he talks about how this project which is involved – I think they have at least 16 churches throughout the country. They put on retreats, they have numerous youth pastors involved in this. But the particular churches that they have involved, they get feedback from them as they’re trying out these different techniques. One big concern is that a major part of it are the techniques – the Ignatian meditation techniques that were developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. And, Dave, in this programming of spiritual techniques, somebody just has to read the book: visualization, occultism – The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius…well, you’ve gone through the book.
Dave: Tom, I have ex-Jesuit friends who were in fact demonized by this. Now, that sounds like a strong statement, but I have read The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. These were techniques that he developed, and visualization is at the heart of it. Visualization is the most powerful occult technique. It’s being used in many evangelical churches, not just among the youth but other ones, as well. Again, it sounds good: if I could just visualize myself in the scene where Jesus is teaching, then that would give me deeper insight into His teaching. And of course, as we’ve mentioned in the past, I could have been there. I could have seen Him with my own eyes, I could have heard Him with my own ears, and missed everything that He said! I could have rebelled against Him, cried, “Away with Him! Crucify Him!” which many of those who heard His teachings, were even fed and healed by Him, did. So the idea that I can somehow gain deeper insight by getting a picture… God does not speak through pictures, He speaks through words, and even the parables are not presented in such a way that you could make a picture out of them. It’s the barest description; in fact, there’s no descriptions of, you know, the person who is sowing the seed, what kind of seed, the time of day, and so forth. But these spiritual exercises of Ignatius, they go even beyond that. I mean, we’re going to – I’m going to see myself in the home of Joseph and Mary, and I’m going to listen in on the conversations…it’s imagination is what it is, and in my imagination, now I’m going to somehow create truth, or I’m going to improve upon the truth that the Bible gives me, and that is going to lead me astray.
Tom: Yeah. Dave, my particular concern here, as many of our listeners know, I have a Catholic background, so when I see a movement toward some of the practices, the rituals, the beliefs of Roman Catholicism, particularly those that we’re concerned about that are occultic as a basis. How does an evangelical youth pastor who’s trying to get kids involved in a more intimate relationship with God, why does he turn to the Catholic mystics for techniques that he believes is going to increase their spirituality? Now, well, you just started – you were mentioning some things from Ignatius and his exercises. When you go through the book, you find rituals that support Roman Catholic ideas and concepts. Like just this section on penance: I mean, you have Ignatius wanting you to visualize hell, wanting you to enter in through your imagination and feel the fires and smell the sulfur of hell. A lot of this is related to penance – that is, expiating your own sin. Now where does a youth pastor cut this off? If he’s going to go to Ignatius for all of these different techniques, where does he tell the kids, “Hey, no, no, we’re not going to go that way, we’re not going to go that far”?
Let me just give you one quote from the book. This is from Ignatius – it says, “If we wish to proceed securely in all things, we must hold fast to the following principle: what seems to be white I will believe black if the hierarchal church [that is, the Roman Catholic Church] so defines.” This – all of these exercises and these techniques are related to the view and the theology and the salvation that Roman Catholicism offers. Now, is this what a youth pastor wants for his…
Dave: Now, Tom, let me interrupt, lest someone turn off their hearing aids and say, “Well, these guys are just bashing Catholicism.” I don’t care whether it’s a Catholic or whoever it is, whether it’s St. Ignatius or whatever, it’s not biblical. I don’t care whether he’s a Protestant, I don’t care what his credentials are…you know, this is being taught in evangelical seminaries, as well. So the issue is not whether it’s Catholic or not, the issue is it is occult technique, it is not biblical – in fact, it will open you up to demonic infestation, actually, because you’re opening yourself up to truth as your imagination defines it, separate and apart from God’s Word. God has gone to a lot of effort to give us His Word, to preserve His Word, and “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path.” “Thy words were found and I did eat them.” “Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth…” Never do I find Jesus encouraging us to do this sort of thing. Paul, the apostles, the prophets, nowhere – the Psalmist – never do I find that! Now, why do we think that we can improve upon the Word of God, and we’re going to go into the imagination and we’re going to develop some new relationship with God, some deeper relationship with God… Once again, Tom, let us express, you know, as you have already, our sympathy for these dear people! They want somehow to get closer to God. This is not the way to do it.
Tom: Right. Dave, I want to add to this. You see, by pointing out the Catholic mystics that were involved in this, what they felt was important for salvation, this is a direction at least that our evangelical youth pastors are taking our kids.
Now, I’m going to give you one example as a warning…
Dave: Although, Tom, I don’t think the evangelical youth pastors imagine that they’re doing this for salvation, but for deeper spirituality, Tom.
Tom: But when they have the kids reading the materials…Dave, I’ve been through all the internet! I’m trying to see what’s out there and easily accessible…
Dave: They actually have them reading Ignatius of Loyola?
Dave: The Spiritual Exercises…?
Tom: I don’t know that specifically, but the kids – the youth pastors are instructed to find fellowship in this, to maybe attend retreats, and all of this is run by and fostered by those who have taken to heart the Catholic mystics. That’s what I’m getting at.
Now, here’s one example: this spiritual director, which is a name given to those who are really into this, and then they’ve begun to take on disciples. This spiritual director has two Catholic priests, has – I got this off the internet – has his disciples in learning or walking this journey, this spiritual journey. Now, he talks about his experiences…I don’t have time to go into all of it, but he talks about his meditative technique, and he says, “A hot wind I had never before experienced began blowing through my body. The wind would concentrate upon very specific areas along my spine and into my head. During one devotional, the wind rose up in my body like a river, bending my spine backwards into a gentle curve…”
Dave: Let me interrupt for one second: that sounds like the Kundalini. I could give you that from yoga books.
Tom: Well, let him give it to you, Dave! He was a little concerned about this, because he had to go see a doctor. He couldn’t control the – he calls it the “Holy Spirit.” He could not control the Holy Spirit. For days he couldn’t breathe…
Dave: Taking over his body. It also sounds like things that Brownsville Assembly of God, the Pensacola Revival, and so forth. I’m sorry, go ahead now.
Tom: But you see, he…so he says, “I wrote to a very famous Catholic monk who had written many books that most everyone practicing contemplative prayer has read or at least heard of. I explained a few of my inner experiences and asked his opinion. He graciously wrote back, explaining that although the end in God is the same [in other words, it was his path, he was going his direction], he said he had not practiced the breathing exercises in which he had felt the heat or the flowing of the Spirit exactly as I did, but he had read about these experiences when reading of the Kundalini [which is what you said], what yogis call the ‘fire of the Holy Spirit.’” Experiences of the yogis. Now, this is the kind of thing…I mean, this is really a minefield for our kids.
Dave: It’s a trap, Tom, because they think that they can get this experience and this heat or this takeover or whatever it is, then that means they’re in touch with God. They are not in touch with God. I’m sorry, this is not the way God works. You will not find it in the Bible. And, Tom, the whole purpose of our program Search the Scriptures Daily – this is our guide! We’ve got to go by the Word of God, not your opinion or my opinion, or some great contemplative master or yogi, much less, but by God’s Word.
Tom: It’s treacherous, and our heart goes out to the kids who are being – you know, Dave, this is one aspect. We’ve talked about Taizé, how that’s coming into the church. There’s labyrinth prayer journeys, there’s journaling – they’ve got the kids journaling. I mean, we can talk about that at some later date. These are things that are setting our kids up, conditioning them to really move into bondage, and it’s breaking our hearts.
Dave: Away from the Word of God.