The following is excerpted from the book CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM: A POWERFUL ECUMENICAL BOND, which is available from Way of Life Literature. Contemplative mysticism, which originated with Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox monasticism, is permeating every branch of Christianity today, including the Southern Baptist Convention. In this book we document the fact that Catholic mysticism leads inevitably to a broadminded ecumenical philosophy and to the adoption of heresies. For many, this path has led to interfaith dialogue, Buddhism, Hinduism, universalism, pantheism, panentheism, even goddess theology. One chapter is dedicated to exposing the heresies of Richard Foster: “Evangelicalism’s Mystical Sparkplug.” We describe the major contemplative practices, such as centering prayer, visualizing prayer, Jesus Prayer, Lectio Divina, and the labyrinth. We look at the history of Roman Catholic monasticism, beginning with the Desert Fathers and the Church Fathers, and document the heresies associated with it, such as its sacramental gospel, rejection of the Bible as sole authority, veneration of Mary, purgatory, celibacy, asceticism, allegorical interpretation of Scripture, and moral corruption. We examine the errors of contemplative mysticism, such as downplaying the centrality of the Bible, ignoring the fact that multitudes of professing Christians are not born again, exchanging the God of the Bible for a blind idol, ignoring the Bible’s warnings against associating with heresy and paganism, and downplaying the danger of spiritual delusion.
A major section of the book is entitled “A Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics” which deals with dozens of the current-day contemplative promoters as well as the ancient “saints” and mystics that are being resurrected today, including the following:
Angela of Foligno, Anthony the Great, Augustine, Benedict of Nursia, Bernard of Clairvaux, Ken Blanchard, Bonaventure, Brother Lawrence, Catherine of Genoa, Catherine of Siena, Larry Crabb, Anthony De Mello, Dominic, Meister Eckhart, Tilden Edwards, James Finely, Richard Foster, Matthew Fox, Frances de Sales, Francis of Assisi, Alan Griffiths, Madame Guyon, Hildegard of Bingen, Ignatius of Loyola, Willigis Jager, John of the Cross, William Johnston, Julian of Norwich, Thomas Keating, Morton Kelsey, Thomas a Kempis, Sue Monk Kidd, Peter Kreeft, John Main, Brennan Manning, Thomas Merton, J.P. Moreland, Henri Nouwen, Basil Pennington, Eugene Peterson, Karl Kahner, Thomas Ryan, William Shannon, Henri Le Saux, Philip St. Roman, David Steindl-Rast, Henry Suso, John Michael Talbot, Johann Tauler, Wayne Teasdale, Pierre Teilhard, Teresa of Avila, Teresa of Lisieux, Majorie Thompson, Phyllis Tickle, Robert Webber, Dallas Willard, John Yungblut
THOMAS À KEMPIS (Thomas of Kempen) (1380-1471) was a German Augustinian monk. His birth name was Thomas Hemerken but his birth place was Kempen, and the name à Kempis was given to him when he entered the priesthood.
He was ordained in the Canons Regular of St. Augustine in 1413. Twelve years later he was elected to the position of sub-prior (prior’s assistant) in the monastery of Mount St. Agnes and in that capacity was responsible for training those who were aspiring to be priests.
He was denied canonization as a saint because when his body was dug up splinters were found embedded under his fingernails (Robert Wilkins, A History of Man’s Obsessions and Fears). Apparently he was accidently buried alive, and the canonization authorities determined that a true saint wouldn’t fight death in such a manner.
Kempis was the author of the very influential contemplative volume, The Imitation of Christ. First printed in 1471, it has gone through countless editions and has been translated into more than 50 languages. Ignatius of Loyola read a chapter of this book each day of his life. Therese of Lisieux memorized it before entering the Carmelite convent. Thomas Merton listed the reading of it as one of the steps to his conversion to Rome.
The Imitation of Christ is composed of four independent treatises, written at different times. It is a series of meditative reflections on the spiritual life of monastics.
It is filled with Catholic heresies. Book IV, for example, is about the sacrament of the Mass. Consider the following statements:
“... how great should be the reverence that I, and every Christian, should have in the presence of this Holy Sacrament when we receive the most excellent Body of Christ?” (The Imitation of Christ, Vintage Spiritual Classics, 1998, Book IV, chap. 1, 7, p. 181).
“But, You, my God, the Holy of Holies, the Creator of all things and Lord of angels, are here present before me on this altar!” (Book IV, chap. 1, 8, p. 181).
“But, in the Sacrament of the altar, You, my God, the man Christ Jesus, are fully present...” (Book IV, chap. 1, 8, p. 182).
“This most worthy and most revered Sacrament is the salvation of our soul and body and the medicine for every spiritual illness” (Book IV, chap. 4, 2, p. 189).
Book III and Book IV are written in the form of a dialogue between a disciple and Jesus, and Kempis writes as if Jesus were directly and personally answering questions. Yet this “Jesus” gives instructions that are plainly contrary to Scripture and was thus a false christ.
For example, “Jesus” encourages the invocation of saints (Book III, chap. 57, 7, p. 173). Yet when the Jesus of the Bible taught us to pray, He taught us to pray directly and only to “our father which art in heaven” (Mat. 6:9). There is not a hint anywhere in the New Testament that the apostles and disciples prayed to anyone other than God.
Kempis’ Jesus taught that “only a priest, duly ordained in the Church, has the power to celebrate Mass and consecrate the Body of Christ” (Book IV, chap. 5, 1, p. 191). In the New Testament, there is no such thing as a consecrated priesthood in the churches. There is only the priesthood of all the believers (1 Pet. 2:5).
Kempis’ Jesus also taught blind acceptance of the heretical Mass.
“You must avoid all useless prying and investigating into this most august Sacrament, if you do not want to be inundated with doubts” (Book IV, chap. 18, 1, p. 213).
The apostle Paul, writing by divine inspiration, plainly taught that the Lord’s Supper is strictly a memorial meal (1 Cor. 11:23-25).
Kempis’ Jesus said that an inquiry into truth is permissible only if one is ready to follow the “teachings of the Fathers” and “believe His saints” (Book IV, chap. 18, 2, 3, p. 214). Thus, Kempis’ Jesus did not encourage people to search the Scriptures as the Jesus of the Bible did (John 5:39) but taught them rather to trust in human tradition.
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