Category Archives: Hearing from God

Beware of “Spiritual Formation”

Yesterday I posted a spontaneous reflection describing how I find that the “noise” of this world can keep us continually distracted, in such a way that we lose ability to focus our thoughts on things of eternal importance.  We may get so wrapped up in the worries, cares and “busy-ness” of this world that we neglect to give attention to God, and draw strength from Him.

Today I would like to point you to a helpful article series by Gary Gilley that critically examines a trend in many evangelical Christian circles today towards spiritual practices (or disciplines) often included under the banner “spiritual formation.”   The practices include such things as contemplative prayer and lectio divina (sacred reading).  While it’s certainly true that we need discipline in the Christian life, many (not all) in the “spiritual formation” movement advocate practices that are more mystical than they are biblical.  I therefore commend Dr. Gilley’s article series as an aid to helping discern right and wrong spiritual practices in accordance with Scripture.  It is so important that we remain biblical as we walk with God.  We must not burden ourselves or others to pursue spiritual disciplines not authorized by Scripture.   And I want to clarify that the primary intention of my article yesterday was to say that getting alone with God in a quiet place is a good practice, one modeled by Christ Himself. Yet Scripture does not lay this practice down as a commandment we must obey.

Dr. Gilley is a long-time pastor who writes from a reformed perspective. I have been reading his helpful articles and reviews for some time now.  The series of articles I mention above is as follows:

Solitude and Silence
Sacred Reading (Lectio Divina)
Contemplative Prayer
Spiritual Formation

 

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Filed under Discernment, Hearing from God, Orthopraxy, Theology

The Subjectivity of Charismaticism

I have been commenting over at Parchment and Pen on a post titled, Surprised by the Deficiency of the Spirit by Lisa Robinson.  I decided to turn my comments there into a post here:

To know the right answers to the most critical questions of life, such as, how does one inherit eternal life, Jesus consistently directed people to Scripture (e.g., Luke 10:25-28). He characterized Scripture as the highest authority, and His own ministry as being, not a contradiction to the Law and Prophets, but a fulfillment of them:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished (Matthew 5:17-18 ESV).

Paul concurred with our Lord’s view on Scripture, testifying that

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV).

The Spirit of course speaks through the Scriptures, being the Author of them. Can and does He prompt people towards certain thoughts and actions apart from direct interaction with Scripture? Yes, but I would argue such promptings are always in accord with the Word of Scripture.

Are we supposed to be directed specifically by God’s “voice” in every decision and choice we make, as many in charismatic circles claim? I don’t think the Bible teaches this. In fact we read in James 4 (cont.),

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”—yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:13-17, ESV).

James speaking by the Spirit tells us human beings don’t know the future (and cannot know, since we are but “mists”) . Yet so many supposed “words” given in many Christian circles today deal with precisely this– what we cannot know, not being God. If we claim to know, James says we’re boastful sinners. Moreover, as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us, in Scripture we already have all the information we need  to live a life pleasing to God.

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29 ESV)”.

Reading James, it seems to me then that the hunger for secret, unrevealed knowledge is evil and leads believers into dangerous territory. Open the door to “subjectivity” and all manner of deception follows, as evidenced by the rampant error that characterizes so much of Christendom today, as it follows in the charismatic way.

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Filed under Charismaticism, Hearing from God, Theology