Tom: If you’re a first time listener, we begin each program by discussing a topic which we think might be of interest to our audience. I intended to discuss Chapter 17 today – the chapter title is “Playing God: The Lust for Power.” But a couple of items were sent to me this week which I think are important to discuss with regard to last week’s topic, which was “The Occult Seduction of Youth.”
But, Dave, what I’d like to discuss today is the occultism Christian kids are being taught in their evangelical churches or para-church youth groups which they are unwittingly accepting and practicing. For example, I have a magazine here – actually, it’s called Youth Worker, and one of the major articles has to do with “How Spiritual Exercises Can Change Your Kids.” Let me read some of this to you, Dave, and see what you think: “In the silence I noticed my breathing. It was as if God was being taken into me, filling me with light and peace. All pain was leaving. Then I listened to the Scripture. Somehow, I was really there, walking with the disciples.” Now, the article goes on, “The words of Teresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich? No, Brenda of Sacramento, a 14-year-old freshman who had just spent 15 minutes engaged in Ignatian Contemplation, a classical form of biblical meditation.”
Now, Dave, I don’t think this is a classical form of biblical meditation.
Dave: You wouldn’t find any instructions for that in the Bible. Ignatian, it says? This comes from the spiritual exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. I have former Jesuit friends who were demonized by his spiritual exercises. Now, maybe that sounds a little bit harsh, but I have right here in my hand The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, and I don’t know exactly how real this “Jesus” was to this girl who picked her up and put her in his arms, and so forth. This may seem wonderful, but what Jesus is this?
First of all, Christ has come to live His life in each of us. This is what the Bible says.
Tom: Believers, those who are of…
Dave: Right, the believers. Thank you. And we walk by faith, not by sight. Now, this is an attempt to walk by sight and not by faith. Paul says, “We look not at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen.” In John 6, when Jesus tells His disciples, “Except ye eat my flesh and drink my blood,” and so forth – that’s probably a chapter we ought to talk about one of these days – from which some people feel…well, whether you’re Catholics, even the Lutherans have a certain form of it, this becomes really the body and blood of Jesus, and therefore through the physical eating of something, I am now partaking of spiritual life. But Jesus in that chapter said, “The flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” And the Bible is not written in pictures, but it’s written in words, and Jesus is called the Word of God.
And you could go to Jeremiah:13:10, I think it is, where he says, “This wicked people that refuse to hear my words and follow the imagination of their own heart….” So now we have a teaching in the church that what we really need is to use our imagination, and it does sound good, you know. For example, if I can just visualize myself in the scene and see Jesus as He fed the 5,000, or if I can see myself being fed, or if I can be in the temple where Jesus overthrew the moneychanger’s tables and so forth. If I could put myself in the biblical scene, then I will gain a deeper insight into what the Scripture is teaching.
Tom: Yeah, but, Dave, people who are listening, they say, “Yeah, that would be great!” But what they may fail to remember here is that those who walk with Jesus, at least for a time—even the disciples rejected that. So my point here is…
Dave: Now, what do you mean “rejected that”? They…
Dave: They rejected what they heard…as they were right there!
Tom: They were right there! That’s my point. They had all of their sense mechanisms. You know, people are saying here, “Well, we want to get all of us. This is holistic.” That’s a term they use. They want all of the sense mechanisms to be sanctified and be a part of what’s going on, or at least be active in their faith, so-called. But they forget that Christ was rejected. So there has to be something else working here, something more important than our sense-orientation.
Dave: Well, I remember, Tom, speaking about this to a group of pastors, actually. In fact, it was at Campus Crusade for Christ’s headquarters, the old one, in Arrowhead Springs. And I remember a pastor coming up to me afterwards, and he was a little bit angry, and he said, “I didn’t understand why you’re putting down the imagination...and visualization. I use.... “ He said, “I have found it very helpful when I pray to visualize myself in the presence of God, and I see myself right there, and I find this really strengthens me. It helps my faith.”
And I looked at him with shock, really. I said, “How could you visualize yourself in the presence of God? Doesn’t the Bible say that “He dwells in a light that no man can approach unto, who no man hath seen nor can see?” Now, so what are you doing when you are coming up with some visual representation of that which cannot be seen and which cannot be entered by man? Are you not violating what the Scripture says? Are you not trying to create something that the Bible says you cannot and is not for you? And therefore, are you not leading yourself astray? And could it not be that one day you awaken to the sad fact that this strength of spirituality that you have felt in your life through this visualization process is really a delusion, and that you have deceived yourself?”
So now we have the teaching in the church that if I can just imagine this scene and enter into some… It’s an occult practice, Tom, and I think we’ve dealt with that at length…
Dave: …that if I can just imagine myself with Jesus, if I can crawl up on his lap and have him put his arms around me…. What Jesus is this? I don’t find John…John, who was the closest disciple to Jesus, you know, he called himself the disciple that Jesus loved.
Tom: Right, the beloved.
Dave: And yet when he saw Jesus in His glory in heaven, he fell at His feet as dead! I don’t read that he crawled up on His lap and Jesus hugged him.
Tom: Or he didn’t have a technique for this Jesus to appear to him.
Dave: That’s a good point, Tom. So what we’re being taught now are techniques, and that this the basis for occultism: the occult teacher, the wizard, the witch, the warlock, whoever it is, he passes on – the magician Dr. Faust, the opera, he passes on these techniques, and if you have a technique whereby you can get yourself into the presence of God, it’s a delusion. Not only a delusion, it’s worse than that. You are being led astray by some spiritual entity that is deceiving you.
Tom: Dave, let me go back – let me refer back to this article. The young man that wrote this article was involved in a project that’s – well, it was…he says, “In 1997, the Youth Ministry and Spirituality Project was established at San Francisco Theological Seminary with funding from the Lily Endowment.” And he goes on to say that “Six years ago I began to realize nothing in my youth ministry was working.” I mean, my heart goes out to youth pastors. They have – I mean, it is difficult at best. I mean rewarding, yes, but it is tough dealing with teenagers with all the influences that go on in their lives, with broken homes, on and on and on. And you do, as a pastor, you want things that are going to be effective to help transform these young kids.
Well, he goes on to say that a friend of his invited him to a week-long retreat at a nearby convent (now, that’s interesting) that involved practicing a variety of spiritual exercises. So he went through this program, and he felt that it didn’t, at first, because it involved things like…
Dave: Let me just interrupt you for a second, Tom. The book I have in front of me, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius – there is no such thing as spiritual exercises taught in the Bible. What is a spiritual exercise?
But anyway, go ahead. In other words, you’re going to do some technique that is going to enhance your spirituality, and that is absolutely contrary to spirituality.
Dave: It’s by faith in Christ, not by exercises. But anyway, go ahead, Tom.
Tom: Absolutely, Dave. But still, I mean, you have a young man who wants to be sincere and wants to be more effective. So he’s involved in this program, and the techniques…he talks about “lectures on contemplation: the practice of one or two ancient forms of prayer. But after two days of this seemingly useless schedule, I began to sense a change within me, a deep awakening.” He goes on to say, “These prayers asked me to listen, to pay attention, and to seek an awareness of God within my own life and surroundings.” Now, to some degree, yeah, check yourself. Test - you’ll see what you’re involved in and see not – number one, not how practical it is, but how biblical it is. Is this God’s way or another way?
Now, Dave, the concern that I have here…
Dave: “Am I creating a world of imagination?”
Dave: As you’re a child, you have imaginary playmates, and you live in an imaginary world. Hopefully you get beyond that. But if an adult is continuing to live in an imaginary world in contrast to the real world, the real physical world, that’s bad, you know? They’ve got some real problems. But now, if a person is living in an imaginary spiritual world and thinking that this is drawing them closer to God, then this is even more serious.
Tom: Yeah. But the seductive aspect is that, you know, meditation: these are different things that most people are used to. So right away there seems to be a peace, there seems to be a change. The feelings – I mean, it’s based on feelings; it’s based on subjective activities.
Dave: You are creating something that yoga creates, Transcendental Meditation creates and so forth.
But, I’m sorry. I interrupted you.
Tom: No, that’s okay. Well, my point here is that he’s found something that seems to have changed him, so, you know, it’s going to work on a psychological basis. I mean, you know, you have different ideas about things and changing.
Now, I’m not saying that he, but certainly, as you mentioned, we know some former Jesuit priests who have been demonized by this. So my point is that, yes, there can be a sense that this is changing me, that this is moving me closer to God, but down the line, you could have entities out there, spirit entities, that are making it even more real, more effective, in terms of really creating a delusion, creating a delusion for you.
Dave: The Bible says, “His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.” It talks about a communication through His Word of His truth. Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” But here we have not the truth but imagination. We have imaginary situations and relationships and visual images that are being created. This is not God’s truth. So it actually is taking you away from His truth and is creating a fantasy world, which now makes me feel more spiritual, and now I’m going to pass these techniques on to the youth in my youth group, and this is a…I mean, you’ve got all kinds of materials before you there, Tom. This is a growing movement, which is literally taking them away from the truth of God.
Tom: Yeah. You see, and again, going back to youth pastors, they say, you know, the tendency is, “What’s working? What seems to be effective? What seems to be transforming lives?” But even that pragmatic approach is wrong if it’s not biblical. That’s a great concern that I have.
Dave, there’s another problem here: he alludes to the fact that…he goes – he comes right out and says that he believes that this form of meditation is biblical, it’s contemplative. But really, it hearkens back not to the Bible but to the Catholic mystics, and it seems to me that even contemplation – they’re not talking about studying God’s Word, ministering, as David said, meditating on God’s Word, day and night. They’re talking about starting off with a psalm, for example, or a word, repeating it over and over. It really has to do with moving them into an altered state of consciousness to be open to whatever is out there.
Dave: Tom, let’s just take it from the Scriptures, and I’ll contrast it with – here’s Richard Foster’s book. I’m just going by memory, I don’t have it in front of me…
Tom: Celebration of Discipline.
Dave: …Celebration of Discipline. I think it’s around page 15 or thereabouts, and he quotes the Scripture. I want to show the misuse of Scripture. He quotes where John in Revelation 1 says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day…” and then he says, “Could it be that there were techniques that John knew, and that the Desert Fathers, the ancient church fathers and the saints back there, they had techniques for getting in touch with God, and they have been lost to the church, and now we need to get them again.” Okay?
Now let’s go on – let’s finish quoting that verse: “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day and heard behind me a voice saying, Come up hither.” Now, this was not a technique that – John is worshipping the Lord in spirit and in truth. This is what Jesus said. This is what he means “he’s in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day”: he’s worshipping the Lord in spirit and in truth. He doesn’t have a technique. He’s not visualizing something. He is surprised! A voice behind him…this is Christ, and He says, “Come up hither,” and Christ takes him into heaven. He does not visualize himself in the presence of Jesus. This is not a Jesus that he has visualized. This is not a scene that he has created. This is a revelation from God.
Now, if you go to Jeremiah 42, for example, when the people – they’re really in rebellion against God, the Jews who are left in the land after the others have been taken captive, and they’re trying to escape from the Babylonians and so forth, and they say to Jeremiah, “Go to your God and get some instructions from Him. We’ll follow them.” It doesn’t say that Jeremiah visualized or that he had some technique like these people are teaching. He could not do that. Jeremiah the great prophet could not do that. He says, “After ten days, the word of the Lord came unto me saying…” God spoke to him. He did not initiate this, he did not create a scene, he did not bring this about. Now, this, of course, is Scripture that is being inspired of God.
But now these people are telling us that you can have something just as real, and you can create it in your imagination. We’re going to call it “contemplation.” You’re not contemplating the Word of God, you are contemplating some – well, you’re repeating a mantra, or you’re contemplating a scene that you’ve created in your imagination. Tom, I don’t know if we’re even communicating this to the people that are listening, but this is deadly stuff.
Tom: But let’s go back to something very simple: most people out there who are listening to this would agree that idolatry – making a statue of somebody and worshipping it, bowing down to the statue – they would say, “No, that’s condemned by the Bible.” But what’s going on here really is mental idolatry. If you are having to visualize or create an image of Jesus, which the Bible condemns, or God – creating creating an image of God, which certainly is condemned by God’s Word, why wouldn’t they understand that? Why wouldn’t that make sense that it’s – the Bible is against it?
Dave: Well, Tom, it’s very interesting. I often say that the church is in worse shape now than it was at the day – the time of the Reformation. One of the cries of Reformers was against images, but we have evangelicals creating images, as you just pointed out, in their minds. Not only that, images that speak, because this Jesus – and we documented it, and, I mean, they don’t hide this. In fact, they’re excited about it! Richard Foster, in fact, in that book says it will be more than an exercise of your imagination: the real Jesus will come to you and speak to you. So now we have an image that speaks. This is contact with the spirit world, and it really speaks. We quote pastors who have gotten involved in this, and they’re excited about this, because this Jesus speaks to them.
Tom, this is occultism.
Tom: Well, Dave, just let me… And, you know, you’re quoting from a book. You remember speaking to Campus Crusade about these things, and another guy that I know also spoke to them, and they were upset that he was – that this man was objecting to Celebration of Discipline because of the very techniques that were in it.
Now, that was quite a while ago. But Richard Foster has Renovaré. He has a whole organization committed to the very practices that we’re having – you know, that we’re objecting to or being critical of right now.
Dave: And the Christian leaders – it’s like a “who’s who” of Christian leaders who endorse this. Tom, I don’t know. It’s very difficult to talk about these things over the radio, because people will think we’re fanatics, we’re crazy, or what are we? We’re just down on what seems to be working, and we’re just negative. Tom, we’re concerned for the truth.
Tom: And what we’re asking is people to check these things out, to be Bereans, to search the Scriptures. Was this good for Paul and Silas? You know, it’s like the song says, “If it was good for Paul and Silas, it’s good enough for me.” But you cannot find this in God’s Word.
Dave, let me close. We have to continue with this, because there’s, you know, this problem is particularly among our youth, evangelical youth, particularly with regard to youth pastors. They have conventions of 7,000. I was reading one example: 7,000 youth pastors are being taught this, and they are disseminating this among our children, and it really concerns us.
We’ll pick up on it next week, but I want to close with a quote that you have in Beyond Seduction, which has two chapters, by the way, that address this that are just fantastic, and we’re going to be talking about them. But this is Tozer quoting John Owen, the…
Dave: A. W. Tozer.
Tom: A. W. Tozer, right. Tozer writes, “There are a great many bogus Christs among us these days. John Owen, the old Puritan, warned people in his day, ‘You have an imaginary Christ, and if you are satisfied with an imaginary Christ, you must be satisfied with an imaginary salvation.’” And that’s our great concern.