Wednesday, August 15, 2012

I read a few other silly-creepy articles from this mailing list that will beat the Church and modern culture with any stick they can find, and I'm leaning again more in the direction of unsubscribing from their list and ignoring them.  On the one hand, they still make some correct criticisms of certain movements that are popular because they're comforting, such as the prosperity gospel, but judging from my moderate exposure to Joel Osteen, it may be fruitful for a discerning soul to take some of his "the Lord will reward you for behaving rightly" lessons in a metaphorical mode rather than in a materialistic one, and I think the outfit running this mailing list tends to err a little too scrupulously on the side of cutting out things that could be good because they might also be bad.

I don't want to encourage anyone to sin, nor to put them in the near occasion of sin, but sometimes there should be room for prudential judgment and a consideration for the individual's disposition and temperament.

Anyway, on the other hand, they pull some stuff that is so...inbred...that I can't even bring myself to make fun of it.  I can hardly say to myself with a straight face "Well, maybe someone should answer those charges, for the benefit of the anonymous reader who might read them and fail to find the sane rebuttal."

I mentioned a few days ago a few examples, the most egregious I think being the usual smack about the Vatican trying to establish a one-world government (which I have never seen an argument against, except on the grounds that the Antichrist also seems to want such a thing--certainly not a reason to embrace it, but not compelling on its face to the sober minded, either) after that silly article by an obscure department in Rome about global banking.

Somewhat more recently than the message where they criticized that occurrence, they had another article on the proper way to pray.  This sounds like it should be good, but keep in mind this is also coming from some folks who said we shouldn't pray to the Holy Spirit, because it's not Biblical; that we should only pray to the Father, through the Son.  I'm surprised they're Trinitarian at all, after the theological reasoning I saw there.

Anyway, they started by listing a bunch of spiritual practices known around the world, including the Divine Office, Zen mediation, reiki, centering prayer, and a few other things I can't remember at the moment.  The rosary was probably on there, too, and I think those crop labyrinths that show up outside of harmless harvest festival milieux.  Pretty disparate collection, but they then asserted that what all these practices have in common is that they're forms of contemplative prayer, and that they're unbiblical.

Huh?  Not at all.

Of course eastern mystical practices are unbiblical, even if you don't want to go as far as saying they're fundamentally incompatible with Christianity.  But none of these things in itself is contemplative prayer.  Contemplation is a form of prayer that is only a gift from God, perhaps best understood as a special kind of mediation that might occur during one of these other forms of prayer, but it's not something someone can simply sit down and do, like praying rote or praying extemporaneously.  Granted, grasping natural contemplation is an expected fruit of lectio divina, but infused contemplation is not something we can achieve, and thus not something we can resist, except by refusal to cooperate with grace--and that, being the definition of sin, no honest Christian would endorse).

Naturally I can't say God would never bestow the gift of contemplation on a pagan, I've seen too many pagans act in what I would have called Christian charity  to believe that God would refuse to work in their lives, so maybe there is a common thread after all, but honestly, all the things they mentioned are otherwise unrelated.  The rosary?  Mediation on the life of Christ, through the eyes of Mary.  The Divine Office?  Largely psalms of praise.  Reiki?  Some kind of pagan healing technology, of sorts.  Eastern meditation?  Perhaps the closest thing to Christian mediation on the surface, but geared more towards detachment and emptiness than towards calming the self and trying to listen to God, to just spend time with Him.

No, how they say we should pray is to say our praises and petitions, and then search the Scriptures for an answer.

This is not a bad thing, but it puzzles me that anyone would think this is a well rounded way to live.  I would lament if I were of the majority of Christians in history who could not read to study the Bible, or could not afford a Bible to read or the time to read it.

I wonder how they would react if, in poring over Lamentations or Revelation, they received a gift of a moment of spiritual communion in the very sense they said we should not pursue.  It is not seemly to pursue glories, but God is well known for giving us what we don't want because it's good for us.

Above and beyond, our Lord did give us instructions on how to pray, and it was not "praise and beseech, then search the Scriptures."  It was "Pray like this:  Our Father, Who art in heaven; hallowed be Thy Name.  They kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

You can follow that exactly or use it as a guide or template for all your prayer, but it far from supports the position of folks like I'm talking about who try too hard to be pure and correct.  Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, guys.

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