Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio of the ministry The Berean Call, with T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in. In today’s program, Tom wraps up a two-part series with guest Larry DeBruyn, as they address the question, “Have You Contemplated Your Spirituality?” Here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. As Gary mentioned, this is our second part of a conversation about Contemplative Spirituality. And to discuss this with me has been Larry DeBruyn. Larry’s a former pastor; he heads up his ministry, [which] is called Guarding His Flock Ministry. He’s a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, an author – one of his books is Unshackled: Breaking Away from Seductive Spirituality, and I just love reading Larry’s articles on different blog sites: Herescope, for example, and then also Dave James’s ministry, The Alliance for Biblical Integrity. So, Larry, welcome back to Search the Scriptures 24/7.
Larry: All right! Thank you very much.
Tom: Now as I mentioned at the end of last week’s program, I was…I don’t want to say “blown away,” because we don’t want to get into the metaphors of what we’re talking about here, but you wrote about the beginnings of altered…certainly, there have been drugs and a lot of things that went before it, but in a modern, particularly Americana sense, going back to the Quakers, their use of confinement – solitary confinement – now, I’ll just drop it at that, and you explain to our audience, our listeners, that had a religious basis among the Quakers. Explain that to us.
Larry: Well, the whole movement of solitary confinement began in Eastern State Prison in Pennsylvania around the time of the Civil War. And for criminals, it was thought that solitary confinement would cause them to draw closer to God, because the Quaker theology is that as God is light, so we possess an inner light. And if we cultivate the inner light, then we’ll become one with the Light. As Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” And so, you do that through “quietism,” which is another word for mysticism or contemplation. You practice that, and you practice that alone. So the theory of rehabilitation was that you would take criminals and place them alone in solitary confinement to bring them closer to God.
So, as originally conceived, solitary seems to have been used as a method to rehabilitate prisoners, rather than as is true nowadays, to punish them. And so, it was the idea that by solitary confinement, the prisoner would restore his relationship with God, having fallen away. Of course, it’s a neglect of what we call original sin, and so forth, and what happened is that this method of criminal rehabilitation was picked up in Europe – in Western Europe – in places like Germany and Denmark. They, too, adopted solitary confinement. But then reports began to filter back from Western Europe that it wasn’t working very well. In fact, some of the prisoners were going crazy in solitary confinement. They were having confrontations with…whatever - and the idea is that what the solitary confinement caused was hallucinations, suicidal thoughts, and maniacal outbreaks. And the Germans reported that, and then the Danes began to report the same thing, and so what happens is that there’s a resemblance to this to the desert fathers, who would retreat into the desert to experience God, and experience some of the same phenomena. That’s what’s called “The Dark Night of the Soul,” when all these crazy things begin to happen.
Now, it’s unfair to say that this is going to happen with everyone who practices contemplation, because it’s not. But it does happen. And there are organizations around today who exist for the express purpose of trying to help people get through this whose souls have become afflicted by practicing contemplation and solitude and silence.
Larry: Because we’re made to be communicating people.
Larry: It’s the way we’re made.
Tom: Larry, last week you discussed in more detail the desert fathers, going back to St. Anthony, but based on what you just said, we can look back…anybody who wants to read about the desert fathers so-called – these guys were nuts! And why were they nuts? Well, maybe they had the right heart to seek after God, or they were sincere, but as you’ve just pointed out, the process caused them to go crazy! Hallucinations, altered states of consciousness, just hanging in there with themselves, listening to voices. Then you add more of the whole Catholic idea of expiation of their own sins, temporal expiation…
Tom: …anything from flagellating themselves to hair shirts, you know, anything…putting stones under their feet in their socks, walking around…and then, we take that same thing – from the desert fathers, as you pointed out, to monasticism. You’ve got a nun, a monk, a priest in a cell – the whole idea is being alone with God, supposedly. But they’re not alone with God, and as you pointed out, it doesn’t affect everyone. And again, I want to add one thing to this: we’ve used the term “contemplation,” but we’ve also talked about meditation, and this is a huge problem in the church today as we’re moving into not biblical meditation but another meditation that we’ve been describing – call it contemplation, call it spiritual exercises, whatever they might be – and they are creating…not for everyone, but, as you pointed out…talk a little bit about at least one organization, or some organizations, that recognize this as a problem, but we don’t hear about them.
Larry: Well, there are those of us out in “discernment land,” so to speak, who see it as a problem. The…I think, poster verse for contemplation is Psalm:46:10, where it says, “Be still, and know that I am God.” Around this verse originally was constructed an entire DVD with various authors like Dallas Willard and Richard Foster and Beth Moore and others who were advocating contemplative spirituality. And it always gets to the idea that they’re never satisfied with what they have in Scripture. They have to have something more. And so they develop all these disciplines and so forth to promote God speaking personally to them, giving them a personal word. And then, of course, this raises the issue of, Well, what if God doesn’t speak to me, but God speaks to you? or…and so forth, and so forth, and so forth. Because it then becomes a game of “one-up-man-ship. And we’re comparing one experience with another experience and experience…when God has given us the Scripture. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, Tom, that the whole Bible is written and given to us inscripturated, in words, by God through holy apostles and prophets to counteract exactly this type of spirituality. They’re placed in antithesis, one with another.
So the question becomes, “What is true spirituality? Is it the spirituality that God gives? Or is the spirituality that man creates and the demons, or spirits, contribute to?”
Now, if organizations – you know, every seminary, almost nowadays, has a spiritual director. There’s a flood of literature from the major publishing companies that promote this type of spirituality. There are videos or DVDs that promote this. Megachurch pastors are even promoting this – the idea that God can speak in a whisper, and we need to listen to what God is saying.
I think God speaks quite clearly in His Word!
Or that God gives us hunches, and God gives us feelings, or God gives us directions, or whatever, that are personal, that are esoteric, that lack any external validation. So it’s all over the place today. All kinds of organizations are promoting it. In fact, it is to the church today what perhaps the charismatic movement was to the church ten, twelve years ago. I would say this: to the extent that the charismatic movement emphasizes the ongoing signs and wonders and the gift of prophecy, God speaking, and all that, this is a more subtle type of movement, but shares much in common. It’s the idea that it’s personal, not public.
Tom: Yeah, but, Larry, I know as you’re saying this, so our listeners don't misunderstand – we’ve had some talks about this – you believe that God speaks to our hearts, but this is subjective and personal. It’s not objective. It’s not the objective Word of God, which that stuff races away from.
Larry: I can believe that God would speak to me; that the Holy Spirit would…we call it the “testimony of the Holy Spirit” – that He works within me. There’s no doubt about that. That’s the witness of the Spirit. But I cannot make what God tells me to be the rule for somebody else.
Tom: Absolutely not. Now we’re creating doctrine that’s contrary to the Scriptures. But I want to go back to something that you said so you can explain it for our listeners.
A favored verse, which you…not just alluded to, you mentioned…a favored verse among contemplatives is Psalm:46:10: Be still, and know that I am God. I mean, they run with that, don’t they? Now give us a biblical, scriptural explanation of what that verse means.
Larry: Well, the verse is very interesting, because the verse, of course, appears at the end of the Psalm. And the psalmist is looking at world in chaos, kind of like our world today. There’s a lot to be worried about out there, isn’t there?
Larry: Stuff that’s going on in our world today. And so, the author of Psalm 46 looked at the world and wrote this psalm to be a comfort to people in the midst of a very trying world. And you have to understand that the injunction, “Be still,” was uttered, or written, in that kind of a world, with those kinds of problems, a lot like ours today. There’s a crisis. And, you know, if I were to go through the psalm, verses 1-3, there’s a crisis that imperiled creation. We’ve got that with the ecology movement. There’s a crisis that is threatening the city in verses 4-7. We’ve got that with terrorism. There’s a crisis besieging the country. Those are external enemies, and yet in the midst of their world falling apart, the people were afraid. And so the psalmist is simply saying, “Be still. Calm down. And know that the sovereign God is going to work this all out. He’s in control. And I would say this: if God is not in control, then nobody’s in control. And that’s a scary thought.
So “be still” is used, I think, many times in the Old Testament, and it can mean a variety of things, everywhere from describing laziness to ordering relaxation, but never does it ever suggest that “listening prayer” is involved, or practicing silence in order to hear God speak. In fact, the translations of the command “be still” are “you cease striving; be quiet; calm down” – I like that one – but just cease striving! Don’t fight it! God is in control. We’re to know that He is God. So this verse is a very misused verse, and I would say that if people are interested in any more of the details of this, the last article on my website in the area of Contemplative Spirituality is this article that’s been updated, and they can read it and get a grasp of what the Psalm is teaching.
Tom: And Larry’s ministry is Guarding His Flock Ministry, so you can go there.
Larry: Guarding His Flock Ministries. Can I add one more thing?
Tom: Sure, go ahead!
Larry: What the psalmist has…to put it into our vernacular: in the midst of all that’s going on in the world, God is telling the people through the psalmist, “Just chill out. Chill.”
Tom: The other thing that I appreciated about what you said…this is The Berean Call. We encourage people to be Bereans – to search the Scriptures, and so on.
Tom: And as you know, hermeneutics – that’s so critically important, and just one aspect of hermeneutics: context, context, context. And what you’ve just done for us, you’ve taken Psalm 46, and you’ve identified the context, and then given…verse 10, which tells you what is being said here and what you need to understand.
Larry: Yeah, and the end of the verse says, “God will be exalted among the nations. And He will be exalted in the earth.” That should be a comfort to us.
Tom: Right. Absolutely. Eastern mysticism, as you are well aware, has overrun the West, and I want to go back to the days – Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, died a number of years ago – he was the Beatles’ guru. And, see, much of this stuff, folks, that we’re talking about, not only is deceptive. Certainly, it goes beyond what the Scripture says, misinterprets, changes meanings to promote the idea to make it sound biblical and so on. But if you go back to, again, the Beatles’ guru, the Maharishi – his deception was just blatant! He started out with what he called the Spiritual Regeneration Movement. We had many, many gurus that came West. They were missionaries, basically, and he was probably the most well known. But he began with what he called the Hindu Spiritual Regeneration Movement. And he tried to promote it, but it didn’t go over because he tried to get it in schools and so on. Now you had religion in schools, and so there were court cases and it got his programs thrown out. So what did he do? He just changed the name of the movement to The Science of Creative Intelligence. Whoa!
Tom: And now, what we have is – I remember at our last conference, one of our speakers addressing this – the so-called science of Transcendental Meditation. You know, you’ve got Dr. Oz. You’ve got three of the medical doctors that Rick Warren brings in, and they’re promoting meditation for weight loss! This is at Saddleback, for his congregation! The deceptive aspects of this are just overwhelming. Would you agree?
Larry: I would agree totally that this is an alternative way now. You know, my dad used to tell me that you could take weight off the same way you put it on, with your mouth. And do I need a guru to tell me how to lose weight? The idea of what they’re promoting is almost charlatan-like. It’s… I don’t know…use the words “snake oil,” whatever. But the idea that we can do certain things – that this is the magic cure-all to everything, it may offer something temporary. In fact, it may be more inviting than we might think, but the demons could be behind this, and if the demons are behind this, we can be assured of one thing: the experiences are going to be real and convincing, and this is the danger, I believe, with this whole movement, is one opens oneself up to the dimension of the spirits, and when they begin to act, and when they begin to work, then there’s trouble.
Now, you think, for example, of the Gadarene demoniac. Where was he? He was practicing solitude out in Gadara, which is on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, right? He’s all alone. What does this have to do? It seems like everything in the Bible suggests that this approach to spirituality is wrong. Jesus, when He was, for example, tempted in the wilderness – He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, and I believe, personally, based upon His location in the wilderness and then being taken to the pinnacle of the Temple, or being taken to a high mountain and being shown all the kingdoms of the world, that these were visionary experiences. And how did Jesus fight these visionary experiences? He fought them by “Thus sayeth the scriptures: You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” And it’s amazing how He takes the book of Deuteronomy and uses that to thwart the satanic temptation to make a spectacle of Himself by jumping off the wall of the Temple, or, number 2, he quotes the Word of God in reference to the offer of all of the kingdoms of this world. How did Jesus see all this stuff, and what was He experiencing? We don’t know for sure, but we do know that He was in the desert, He wasn’t alone, He was in the role of a desert father, but fought it with scripture.
Tom: Well, that’s the point. He’s…Jesus is showing us it’s the objective Word of God; that…it’s not our personal subjective experiences, our feelings, and all of that stuff. “To the law and the testimony! If they speak not according to this word, it’s because there's no light in them.”
Larry: Exactly. And if Jesus wouldn’t have used the Word of God, what kind of an example would He have been to us?
Tom: Right. And I believe we all have our perspectives on this. We could say, “Well, wait a minute. He’s God. Yeah, He’s the God-man,” and so on. I think a lot of the things that Jesus said, questions that He asked – He knew the answers. But if He didn’t, how would we know? You know, so He’s basically communicating to us, teaching us, through His Word.
Larry: And He is the Incarnate Word, for what He says – what God says.
Tom: Now, there’s a flood, as I mentioned – a tsunami - and the Lord willing, I hope to have article in February dealing with this flood of Eastern mysticism that’s just overwhelming. You know, we have “Christian yoga”; we’ve got “Christian” martial arts; we’ve got Christianized meditation; we’ve got Christianized Buddhism – all of that. Now, my question is, do you have any insights, Larry, on how we can deal with this, and how it came in…well, you know, we talked about how it came into Christendom, but can we turn this around?
Larry: You know, that’s a big question. Seduction seems to be a one-way street. The Bible talks about being deceived in 1 Timothy 4, the doctrines of demons, deception, but they also talk about (the Scriptures, that is) about being deluded. For example, God in 2 Thessalonians 2 will send upon them strong delusion that they would believe the lie. What was the lie? That there was a man who put himself in the temple and said that he was God and they all worshiped him. But delusion to believe the lie. And the spectrum between deception and delusion – you probably find any one of a number of degrees. So I can’t answer the question “Can this be stopped?” My own inclination is that no, it can’t. What was the solution when Israel was filled with the influences of the East, as Isaiah the prophet said in chapter 2? The only solution was for the Lord God to send them to Babylon for seventy years of captivity! It has to end, I think, in some sort of judgment. And Scripture teaches that the age will progress, and there will be false prophets who will arise – Jesus said this – and many Christs will arise: here a Christ, there a Christ, everywhere a Christ Christ. All of this is the – I think, divinization that takes place when people begin to believe the lie that they’re God. “You shall be as god, knowing good and evil.” Well, people are believing this because it’s a small step for someone to be meditating on the “god within” to thinking that they are God.
Tom: Absolutely! You know, Larry, I’m on the same page with you here. And I collectively…we know what the Bible says, and we have an understanding of eschatology – how things are going to play out - but within that, I don’t see a problem with drawing people out of it, calling them out of it, giving them information, which is what you do. So, maybe…well, not maybe; there’s nothing in the Scripture that says we can absolutely turn this around, but we can get people information, they can repent of this – if they’re not believers, become believers. If they are believers, repent and get back, you know, with the Lord in terms of their understanding. And the only way that I know for them to do that, once they’re convicted in their heart that they’ve bought into something, whether it be out of ignorance or rebellion at some point, they can still repent of that, but the solution, to me, the antidote for…we’re talking about apostasy here - the way things are going, and this is a major part of it - the only way that they can defend themselves, or protect themselves, is through the Word of God. Reading diligently, understanding, drawing closer to the Lord, recognizing from the Scriptures, being Bereans that these things are not according to the Scriptures, and then being fruitful and productive by doing what the Word of God says!
Jesus said, “Why do you call me Lord, Lord, and you don’t do what I say?” To me, that’s the way we need to go about it.
Larry: Well, you know, I would also – and perhaps taking, in answer to your question, a little farther, I would say that for those people who are being deceived, it’s possible to help them. For example, in Jude it says, “And have mercy on some who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire, and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.”
So there is that idea that Jude teaches that we’re to be about the business of discernment and warning people to keep them from going into it, first of all, but if they are into it, that they might, by God’s grace and by the leading of the Spirit of God, get out of it! So, our ministry, as I see it, is to, I think, confirm the faith of some and perhaps correct the faith of others in hopes that they will be saved from the fire and that we can rescue them in one sense – that God can, through our ministry.
Tom: Amen. Amen. Larry, I can’t thank you enough. Larry’s ministry, again, is Guarding His Flock Ministries, and you can check out his articles on his website. Larry, it’s just been wonderful. I appreciate so much your input and what you’ve contributed, and so, God bless you, brother!
Larry: I hope it helps, and God be praised – that’s all I can say.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 featuring T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019, Bend, Oregon, 97708; call us at 800-937-6638; or visit our website at thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us, and we hope you can be here again next week. Until then, we encourage you to search the Scriptures 24/7.