A Beka’s high school World Literature course, fourth edition, 2011, features two selections from the writings of Roman Catholic contemplative mystics: “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence and “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas À Kempis.
The copyright page says that A Beka is “a Christian textbook ministry affiliated with Pensacola Christian College.”
By definition, a world literature course analyzes non-Christian literature, but a literature course intended for Christian young people should give clear background warnings about spiritual danger, whereas in this case A Beka does no such thing.
À Kempis and Lawrence represent a rapidly-growing and very dangerous contemplative movement today, and it is unconscionable for A Beka not to mention this.
Consider Brother Lawrence, (real name Nicholas Herman), a Carmelite monk. The Carmelite order is devoted to Mary. It is called the Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. I have visited the Carmelite church in Rome, Santa Mari della Vittoria (Church of Our Lady of Victory), which is dedicated to the idolatrous “Queen of Heaven.” It contains a fresco depicting The Virgin Mary Triumphing over Heresy. Mary is being praised by the choirs of heaven for her victory over such “heresies” as the Bible as the sole authority for faith and practice and salvation by Christ’s grace alone without works. Santa Mari della Vittoria also contains a depiction of The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa, another deluded Catholic “saint” who is influential in the contemplative movement.
The Carmelite order follows the Book of the First Monks, which establishes its doctrine of monasticism on wild-eyed allegorical meanings of Scripture, teaches salvation through sacraments and good works, and promotes blind mysticism.
A century before Lawrence, Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross had reformed the Carmelite order with their mystical practices and extreme asceticism.
Teresa of Avila, one of the most prominent of Rome’s contemplative mystics, claimed to have seen Mary ascend to heaven and to have seen Jesus in the consecrated host of the mass (The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself, chap. 39, p. 305; chap. 29, page 206). She claimed that she was visited by Mary and Joseph who clothed her in a “robe of great whiteness and clarity” (chap. 33, p. 247). She also claimed to have rescued many souls from purgatory (chap. 39, p. 296).
Teresa inflicted tortures on herself and practiced extreme asceticism. In this state, she experienced visions and heard voices that caused her great fear and anguish and led her friends and some of her confessors to think she was demon possessed. She experienced temporary paralysis so that she had no power over herself, and she would allegedly levitate. She described one occasion in which the nuns tried unsuccessfully to hold her down!
She even described her own mental state in terms of lunacy:
“But this intellect of mine is so wild that it seems like a raving lunatic. Nobody can hold it down, and I have no sufficient control over it myself to keep it quiet for a single moment” (The Life of Saint Teresa, chap. 30, p. 219).
Teresa experienced visions and “raptures” through mindless meditation.
“All that the soul has to do at these times of quiet is merely to be calm and make no noise. By noise I mean working with the intellect to find great numbers of words and reflections with which to thank God. ... in these periods of quiet, the soul should repose in its calm, and learning should be put on one side” (The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself, chap. 15, pp. 106, 107, 108).
“The intellect, at any rate, is of no value here” (chap. 16, p. 113).
This is the type of contemplative mysticism that is promoted by Richard Foster and other leaders of the modern “evangelical” contemplative prayer movement. It puts one in danger of communing with demons masquerading as angels of light.
The practice of contemplative prayer almost invariably leads to ecumenical sympathy with Roman Catholicism, and often it leads to heresies of universalism and even pantheism (God is everything) and panentheism (God is in everything) as we have documented in the book Contemplative Mysticism: An Ecumenical Bond.
Brother Lawrence lived in this radically heretical environment. Deceived by Rome, he thought that his own works atoned for sins. He labored under a terrible legalistic bondage of Roman asceticism rather than the wonderful freedom of the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
Brother Lawrence’s words about abiding in Jesus, which are quoted in A Beka’s World Literature textbook, are innocuous in themselves, but they must be defined by the context in which he lived and by the heresies that he held.
Either the authors of this textbook are unfamiliar with this context, in which case they should not be writing textbooks, or they know about the context and are hiding it from their students, in which case they are committing a great sin by building bridges to this dangerous world.
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14).
Brother Lawrence looked upon sacrifice and suffering as a means of salvation.
In part one of The Practice of the Presence of God, Lawrence is quoted as saying, “This made me resolve to give the all for the All: so after having given myself wholly to God, TO MAKE ALL THE SATISFACTION I COULD FOR MY SINS, I renounced, for the love of Him, everything that was not He...”
Priest Joseph de Beauford, who compiled The Practice and Presence of God after Lawrence’s death, observed: “His one desire was that he might suffer something for the love of God, FOR ALL HIS SINS, and finding in his last illness a favorable occasion for suffering in this life, he embraced it heartily.”
That Lawrence, like Teresa of Avila, was dealing with demons is obvious. When something would take his mind away from God, he would receive “a reminder from God” that moved him to “cry out, singing and dancing violently like a mad man” (Gerald G. May, The Awakened Heart, HarperCollins, 1993, p. 134).
Why does Pensacola’s A Beka introduce high school students to these very dangerous people, even in the context of world literature, without a very loud and clear warning?
For more about Teresa of Avila, Brother Lawrence, Thomas À Kempis, and the other influential contemplative mystics, past and present, the rapid spread of this practice today, and great spiritual danger associated with it, see Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond, available in print and eBook editions from Way of Life Literature.
It is imperative that parents, teachers, pastors, and missionaries be properly educated about the spiritual dangers that God’s people are facing today.
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