by Don Matzat
1. The New Liberals The new liberals believe the Bible is true but, as the old liberals, are driven by cultural relevance. 2. Hitting for the Cycle How does preaching Law and Gospel produce the Christian life? 3. What is Centering? Borrowing from the New Age.
How do we reach people with the Gospel? How do we make the message relevant? How do we relate to this culture? How can we be more sensitive to the felt needs of the seekers?
I am sure you have heard these questions. Perhaps you are so accustomed to hearing discussion on these issues that you take the questions for granted. But, are they proper questions? Should we be driven by the desire for cultural relevance?
In this edition of the Issues, Etc. Journal we will deal with this issue. We will first consider the real motivation behind liberalism. We will also examine how the "old fashioned" preaching of Law and Gospel produces the Christian life. Finally, we will look at "centering," one of the elements of the new "relevant" spirituality.
May this issue produce in you a new commitment to the Means of Grace - the preaching and hearing of the Gospel and participating in the Lord's Table.
The New Liberals
Evangelicalism has produced a new breed of liberals.
These "new liberals" claim to believe what the Bible says and retain orthodox theology,
but they adopt the same notion of cultural relevance that drove the old liberals.
When the enlightenment and the age of reason invaded Christianity the result was classic liberal theology - the placing of reason over biblical revelation. Such embracing of modern culture did great harm to the Christian message. We can rejoice today because, for all practical purposes, classic liberal theology is dead. We are living in the age of postmodernism.
Classic liberal theology, primarily the product of 19th century German rationalism, imposed its mind-set on the Christian Church. Today, with the advent of postmodernism, the classic liberal is as politically incorrect as the conservative Bible-believer. It is not proper, according to the postmodernist thinker, to impose your viewpoint on other people. They have their truth, and you have your truth. The folks of the "Jesus Seminar" are, for the most part, aged scholars attempting a last hurrah.
But there is a new threat on the horizon. It is no longer the classic liberal but the new liberal - the culturally relevant postmodern evangelical.
Liberals and Conservatives
Traditionally, the terms liberal and conservative, when applied to Christianity, defined two divergent viewpoints as to the relationship between reason and revelation. While the liberal was progressive in his embrace of the rationalism of the culture, the conservative remained the cautious traditionalist.
The liberal placed reason over revelation in order to accommodate the culture and make the Christian message palatable to the modern, scientific mentality. The liberal attempted to form a "religion of the people" by offering a culturally relevant message.
On the other hand, the authentic Christian conservative, on the other hand, while not rejecting the role of reason, willingly submitted reason to biblical revelation. The conservative was also interested in reaching people, but he was motivated by the greater desire of faithfulness to biblical truth. For the conservative, the Word of God, not the culture, determined the churchs agenda.
The real issue that divides liberals and conservatives is not specifically the role of reason but rather the issue of cultural relevance. Being culturally relevant in the modern scientific age demanded watering down the Christian message by eliminating the offensive elements, such as miracles.
The postmodern culture is not characterized by rationalism but by relativism. Absolute truth claims are rejected. Truth is either personal or the perspective of a specific community of faith.
Postmodernists are driven by the heart rather than by the head. This "new age" is also a spiritual age, yet it is a spirituality based on feelings, the development of the inner-life, not on propositional truth. I believe it is proper to conclude that the desire for cultural relevance defines and distinguishes the progressive liberal from the authentic Christian conservative. As the philosophic underpinnings of the culture change, the result will be a new breed of liberals.
This new liberal is not a rationalist. He may believe that the Bible is inspired and inerrant and may claim to possess theological soundness, but is driven by the same desire for cultural relevance that drove the classic liberal. The result of this new liberalism upon the Christian Church is as devastating as the intrusion of the classic rationalist.
Where did we get the idea that the Christian Church should be culturally relevant? Obviously, this is not a Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod idea. We required two world wars before we stopped speaking German. The present expression of the drive for cultural relevance is a product of modern evangelicalism.
Present day evangelicalism or neo-evangelicalism is rooted in the 40's. While emerging out of fundamentalism, it was a reaction against fundamentalism. Various conservative Christian leaders such as Harold John Ockenga, Carl F. H. Henry, Edward John Carnell questioned the relevance of the fundamentalist stance.
In assessing modern conservative Protestantism, they rightly noted that, while many fundamentalist churches were growing, they were primarily appealing to the lower, uneducated, socio-economic level. They concluded that this brand of Christianity would not impact the modern culture with the Gospel. Out of these observations emerged a "new evangelicalism" characterized by scholarship, social relevance, and an attitude of non-separatism.
What is an evangelical? Noted fundamentalist leader Bob Jones defined the new evangelical as one who would say to a liberal, "Ill call you brother if youll call me smart." Others have referred to evangelicals as simply "smiling fundamentalists."
The new movement began to take shape. In 1942, the National Association of Evangelicals was formed. Fuller Theological Seminary, organized in 1947, became the training center for the new evangelical pastor. The Billy Graham Crusades beginning in 1948 led the evangelism impetus for the new evangelicals. The first issue of Christianity Today, the scholarly journal of conservative evangelical theology appeared in 1956. Within a few years it had more readers than the more liberal Christian Century.
While fundamentalism had responded to liberal theology by being separate, clinging to their own out-dated culture, the new evangelicals attempted to become integrated and culturally relevant. The movement was highly successful. Time magazine declared 1976 as the Year of the Evangelical.
Evangelical Style and Method
For the first twenty-five years, the Billy Graham Crusades characterized the evangelism zeal of the new evangelicals. In the past twenty-five years, the Church Growth Movement has taken over as the primary evangelical distinctive.
The new evangelicals desired to remain faithful to the Gospel proclamation, but recognized, along with the classic liberals, that the preaching of the cross of Jesus Christ is foolishness to the modern culture. While the classic liberals attempted to reach the culture by changing the product, the new evangelicals set out to change the packaging by adjusting style and method.
In 1970, Donald McGavran of the School of Missions at Fuller came out with the groundbreaking book Understanding Church Growth. Since that time, the face of American Christianity, including the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, has not been the same. Grasping McGavrans theories, Fuller Seminary professors C. Peter Wagner, Arthur Glasser, Alan Tippett, Charles Kraft, and others began to widely disseminate these "Church Growth Principles."
Commenting on the effects of the Church Growth Movement upon evangelicalism, David Wells writes:
A new and more culturally adapted evangelicalism emerged, the central figures of which were no longer the scholars who had been prominent in the immediate post-war years but rather a host of managers, planners, and bureaucrats and not far behind them, marketers This new set of leaders view growing a church or, for that matter, any Christian ministry as essentially no different from growing a business. (1)
Instrumental in the move to turn the local Christian congregation into an efficiently functioning business were the writings of marketing expert George Barna. (2) He conceived of the church as a business, the pastor as a CEO, and the Gospel as a product. Many LCMS congregations have jumped on the "mission statement" band-wagon, thinking that the word "mission" defined a Christian thing. The fact is, the "mission statement" idea emerged out of the marketing strategy of secular corporations. In a college business textbook the authors write: "A mission statement broadly outlines the organizations future course and serves to communicate who we are, what we do, and where were heading." (3)
In his book Dining with the Devil, Os Guinness points out that the Church Growth Movement has caused theology to take a back seat to methodology. He writes:
Today theology is rarely more than marginal in the church-growth movement at the popular level. Discussion of the traditional marks of the church is virtually non-existent. Instead, methodology is at the center and in control. The result is a methodology only occasionally in search of a theology. After all, Church Growth, as opposed to church growth, is a self-professed "science," not a theology. (4)
As postmodernism gradually replaced the age of reason, evangelicals, in search of cultural relevance and driven by "seeker sensitivity," readily adopted the new paradigm. The issue for us is no longer simply adopting "evangelical style" while retaining "Lutheran substance."
Since the primary manifestation of postmodernism is the relativity of truth, when such a mind-set invades the church, the results will be the same. Truth will be deemed relative. Dr. Mike Horton writes:
In fact, evangelical Christians, according to Barna, are equally divided between those who strongly agree and strongly disagree with the statement, "There is no such thing as absolute truth.". . . Even among conservative evangelicalism the accommodation to contemporary culture's retreat from objective truth is obvious. . . . If the early church defended its convictions with "It is written. . ." and the medieval church with, "The Church says. . .", today's evangelicals often throw out slogans and the appeal, "I feel that. . ." (5)
Dr. Albert Mohler adds:
Yet to our shame, the modern secular worldview has wrought destruction within the church as well. The modern attempt to dominate truth has given way within sectors of the church to the postmodern rejection of truth itself. Indeed, in many denominations and churches, notions of orthodoxy and heresy have become "conceptual emptiness." The boundaries have vanished. The very possibility of heresy is dismissed in many circles within Protestantism. (6)
Experience over Doctrine
While the classic liberal placed reason over Scripture, the postmodern liberal places experience over Scripture.
People join a church today because "they like it." They have a good experience. They listen to their pastor, because "they like him." Whether or not the church teaches truth or the pastor proclaims truth is no longer the issue.
If there are elements of the Christian faith which people do not like, those doctrines are not rejected but simply marginalized. People dont like the subject of sin and redemption. Therefore, for the postmodern liberal, Jesus is no longer primarily the suffering Savior who died to forgive human sin. Rather, he is our friend who helps us make it through the week. He gives us good principles for living so that we could be successful in our daily living.
Obviously, people dont like the doctrine of hell. Some postmodern liberals have adjusted the doctrine in order to be more culturally relevant. Unbelievers, according to their way of thinking, are not punished eternally but simple annihilated.
People dont like the idea of standing in awe of a holy God. One author speaks of this as the "cringe factor" that must be eliminated. God has become the "good buddy" of the postmodern liberal.
The postmodern pastor is dedicated to the task of offending no one.
If doctrinal truth is relative, there is no point in defending truth or pointing out error. Error does not exist. Dr. David Wells writes:
So it is that the particularities of evangelical faith, the things that make it different - are dissolved. Modern culture grants me absolute freedom to believe whatever I want to believe - so long as I keep those beliefs from infringing on the consciousness or behavior of anyone else, especially on points of controversy. (7)
Classic confessional theology has always embraced two parts: the first is the clear declaration of the truth; and the second is the description of heterodox positions (those positions that are in error). The postmodern liberal will hold to his truth, but will be uncritical of errorists.
The New Spirituality
We are living in a culture that has become very spiritual. While religion is "out," spirituality is "in." Popular techniques that are a part of the postmodern spirituality are becoming widely adopted by postmodern evangelicals, including those within the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod.
Recent publications by Lutheran organizations (8) have promoted popular New Age practices, including the technique of "centering" (Discussed later in this article).
While it is true that these techniques can be traced to the mysticism of the classic contemplatives, the popularity of these methods today is not related to a revival of classic mysticism but rather the proliferation of the teachings of the New Age movement.
Even though historic Lutheran theology has rejected the introversion and quietism necessary to engage in these practices, seeing them as a challenge to the objective nature of justification, this makes little difference. The practices are popular. People, especially women, enjoy this new spirituality. Its warm and fuzzy.
Collaborative Bible Study
The new approach to education in the postmodern age is what is called "collaborative learning." Gene Veith says:
The postmodernist emphasis upon groups shows up also in education. Students engage in "collaborative learning." Instead of each individual student learning the lesson and doing the homework, students work together in groups, collaborating to receive a group grade. (9)
The postmodern pastor, rather than being a teacher and defender of the truth of Christianity, becomes a group facilitator. Bible study is no longer the exegetically trained pastor saying, "this is what the verse means," rather, the group determines the meaning of Scripture as it applies to them. The pastor is no longer the spiritual authority figure - his opinions on spiritual matters are really no better than anyone else's opinion.
When I took "worship" in the seminary, the historic liturgy was not "given to me," rather, I was given to the liturgy. Liturgical worship added the note of transcendence to the service.
The question was not do the people like it? It was what we did! If you wanted to sing gospel songs, go to the Baptist Church - that is what they do. Today, in the desire to appeal to the seeker, the postmodern pastors trash tradition. The postmodern expression of Christianity is no longer historically based, but is merely built upon the spiritual whims of the populace.
Fifty years after the rise of the new evangelicalism and twenty years after Time declared 1976 The Year of the Evangelical, what has become the shape of American evangelical Christianity? Has the push to attain cultural relevance been successful?
By and large, the Christian Church has not impacted the secular culture with the Gospel. Instead, the philosophy, methods, and style of the secular culture have invaded the Christian Church. Rather than adjusting the secular culture, the grand evangelical experiment in cultural relevance has produced a Christian culture that is virtually identical with the secular culture. Many churches are businesses. Their pastors are CEOs. The worship services offer entertainment. We have Christian television, Christian radio, Christian books, and Christian gift shops. We search the Christian "yellow pages," to find Christian lawyers, psychologists, and financial advisors. We cast our vote for the Christian politicians. Christian contemporary music is marketed in the same way as secular music. We can do Christian aerobics and join Christian weight-loss programs. A Christian ghetto has been produced. While Jesus told his church to be in the world but not of it, the culturally relevant evangelical is of it but not in it.
Successful postmodern evangelical pastors such as Bill Hybels and Robert Schuller are really no different than the successful modern liberal clergy, such as Sloan Coffin and Harry Emerson Fosdick. While Coffin and Fosdick built their congregations by appealing to human reason, Hybels and Schuller "grow a church" by appealing to the feelings and experience of the people. While the classic liberal pastor questioned, on the basis of reason, the truth of traditional Christian doctrine, the postmodern pastor ignores doctrine and focuses on methods that produce success. Doctrine that stands in the way of appealing to the culture, such as the issue of human sin, is marginalized.
On the surface, it may seem ironic to think of the evangelical as the new liberal. The roots of evangelicalism are found in the ultraconservative fundamentalism. Os Guinness comments on this seemingly strange reversal, "Mention of the liberal camp only deepens the irony . . . fundamentalists as modernitys former misfits have become its most ardent missionaries." (10)
Yet, it is not so strange that former fundamentalists are the new culturally relevant liberals. H. Richard Niebuhr points out that the fundamentalist attack on the so-called liberalism of cultural Protestantism was not so much motivated by the desire to preserve the authentic Christian faith, but rather an expression of loyality to their own outdated culture. He writes: "the mores they associate with Christ have at least as little relation to the New Testament and as much connection with social custom as have those of their opponents . . . though the culture it seeks to conserve differs from that which its rivals honor." (11)
From fundamentalism to neo-evangelicalism the issue was always culture over Christ. The difference is, the culture embraced by the neo-evangelicals is the culture of the world.
Response to the New Liberalism
The divisions that exist within Protestant Christianity today over the issue of cultural relevance are as great if not even greater than the divisions caused by liberal rationalism. In the April 5, 1997 edition of the New York Times, columnist Bruce Bawer commented on the state of American Protestantism:
American Protestantism is in the midst of a major shift. It is being split into two nearly antithetical religions, both calling themselves Christian.
Those who oppose this new liberalism dare not respond as old-fashioned cultural conservatives and yearn to recapture the good ol days of the 40s and 50s. Old-fashioned conservatives are as much a hindrance to the Christian enterprise as are the new liberals. Did people in the 40s and 50s understand the liturgy of the church? Were they theologically astute? Were they effectively catechized? Were they able to share their faith or did they merely invite their neighbors to church to listen to the pastor?
Old-fashioned cultural conservatives may join the fight to preserve Bible-based, traditional, confessional Christianity, but they often do so out of the desire to preserve the good ol' days. From what I can remember about the good ol days, they were really not that great. We boasted of having the "pure Gospel," but more often than not had no idea what that meant.
The advent of postmodern liberalism may be the very thing we have needed to wake us from our dogmatic slumbers. In the past, we have not done a good job of teaching and training the people. Truth is relativized and tradition is rejected today because neither were understood nor valued in the 40s and 50s, but there are many good signs on the horizon.
There is a renewed emphasis in the LCMS upon catechesis teaching and training people in the basic elements of the Catechism. If the postmodern age rejects truth, the church must powerfully present truth to fill the vacuum. If the postmodernist claims that there is no absolute truth, we respond by saying, "Yes there is, and we have it. Come and learn." It is again time for the people in the LCMS to say, "We have the pure Gospel!" But this time, they should be taught what that means.
There is also a move among evangelicals back to the historic expression of the Christian faith as seen in the Church Fathers and in the Reformation. Former liberal theologian Thomas Oden now refers to himself as paleo-orthodox. He has returned to the historic roots of the faith. The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, a movement comprised of both Lutherans and Calvinists, is calling evangelicals back to the Reformation. Baptist theologians such as Albert Mohler, John Armstrong, Tom Nettles, and Rob Shorter encourage Baptists to find a deeper expression of their faith in Word and Sacrament.
Movements come and go, but the truth is eternal. Much of the controversy caused by the Church Growth Movement is driven by the baby-boomer generation. This generation will pass and "Woodstock" will no longer be celebrated in the sanctuary. Perhaps the time will come when the refrains of contemporary Christian music will be echoing through the halls of Lutheran nursing homes.
This is a very exciting time to be a part of the Christian Church. It is a time to learn and to grow, or "To get it right and get it out!" Jesus made it very clear that his Church will prevail and the gates of hell will not stand against it!
Hitting For The Cycle
What is sanctification? How is it produced? To grow in our Christian
faith and life, do we simply go in circles and do the same things over
and over again? You got it!
On a recent Issues, Etc. interview, we discussed the subject of sanctification. My guest, a Reformed theologian, compared the various views on sanctification with a wind-up doll. When you wind-up the Pentecostal doll, it speaks in tongues. The Reformed doll grabs the third use of the Law. The Holiness doll goes after perfect sanctification. And what about the Lutheran doll? Well, from his perspective, when you wind-up the Lutheran doll it simply goes in circles.
After giving some thought to what he had said, I came to the conclusion that he was right. Lutherans go in circles. Or, to put it into baseball parlance, we hit for the cycle. Let me explain. . .
Think of a baseball diamond. At home plate, put the Law. At first base, the Gospel. At second base, Faith. At third base, Good Works or the Christian Life.
Now then, when an unbeliever steps up to the plate, the first thing he is hit with is the Law. He becomes aware of his sin before God.
This drives him to first base where the Gospel confronts him with the Good News of the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.
As he rounds first base, the Holy Spirit produces faith causing him to grasp the Good News and rejoice in his salvation.
As he rounds second base, faith, being no idle notion, brings the Holy Spirit, and produces good works. His life is changed as he motors to the Good Works of third base.
In the third base coaching box there are a variety of coaches holding up the "stop" sign.
"Stop," they cry. "Come over here and speak in tongues to get really holy." Others offer the dream of perfect sanctification. Some promote their own evangelical house rules dont drink, smoke, dance, or go to movies. Some theologians of the Reformation group are debating the third use of the Law.
The Apostle Paul is also in the coaches box waving the runner through. "Get to home plate," he shouts. "Keep going! Dont stop at third base."
So the runner rounds third and heads for home saying to himself, "Wow! I am really a good, holy Christian."
As he gets to home plate, he is in for a surprise. He gets nailed by the Law again. This time, though, it is not Romans 1 and 2, but rather Romans 7.
"So, you think you are really hot stuff," the Law says to him. "Quite a good Christian, eh? You are merely a wretched man born out of the wretched root of your father Adam."
Filled with sorrow and contrition, he wanders back up the first base line declaring, "Almighty God, merciful Father, I a poor, miserable sinner. . ." This time, as he gets to first base, he not only hears the Good News of forgiveness, but his pastor is waiting for him with words of absolution "I forgive you!" He also hears Jesus saying to him, "Take and eat, this is my Body and Blood given for your forgiveness."
"This is fantastic," he cries as his faith is again built up and his heart is filled with great joy. He heads toward second base renewed in his faith. As a result, his behavior, actions, and attitudes are again being adjusted.
This time, as he arrives at third base, the coaches box is filled to overflowing. Everyone wants him to stop. One former football coach offers "Promise Keeping." Someone else wants to put a "What would Jesus do?" bracelet on his wrist. Bearded psychologists are there offering self-esteem, support groups, and help for his wounded inner child.
The apostle Paul is still there waving him home. But this time he is being backed up with some of the saints of the past Martin Luther and C.F.W. Walther.
So our faithful baserunner heads back to home plate only to get clobbered with the Law again.
He continues to run the bases and his understanding of sin deepens. He grows in the knowledge of the grace of God in Christ Jesus. His Faith increases and good works freely flow from his life. Much to his amazement, as he reads the Bible, he discovers that this is exactly what God wants for him.
As he grows, he learns to love the worship of the Church. He discovers that various elements of the liturgy deal with either the Law, Gospel, Faith, or Good Works.
The traditional hymnody of the Church enhances his experience of Christian growth. He sings with enthusiasm "Alas, My God, My Sins are Great," "Jesus, Thy Blood and Righteousness," "My Faith Looks Up to Thee," and "May We Thy Precepts Lord Fulfill." In so doing, he is running the bases again and growing.
So, we go in circles! Fight the good fight, and run the good race, but whatever you do dont stop at third base!
What Is Centering?
Can we find God or enhance our experience of Jesus by
entering into an altered state of consciousness?
Historically, eastern mystics, religious contemplatives, occultists, and psychics have always employed a self-induced altered state of consciousness in the practice of their religion and arts. They entered into a "trance" and gazed into crystal balls, communicated with the dead, claimed to find the God within, and brought forth psychic predictions.
The famous psychic Edgar Cayce encouraged his disciples "to attune the deep springs of personhood to the Christ-spirit in order to attain the highest level of psychic experiences." (12)
Eighteenth century Lutheran theologian David Hollaz defined this mysterious trance as "a rare and extraordinary operation either of God, or of a corrupt imagination, or of the devil, alienating the mind of a man from his bodily senses, so that, the use of the latter ceasing, he becomes more ready and quick to receive the objects of imagination." (13)
With new insights from psychology, the growth of Eastern religions, and the advent of the New Age movement, the trance of the mystics and occultists is no longer rare and extraordinary. By using a variety of techniques, self-inducing the mystical altered state of consciousness has become a very popular activity, even for Christians. Amazingly, the technique has found numerous adherents within the Missouri Synod.
Lest we be deceived, it is important for us to understand the nature and roots of this new invasion of mysticism especially the popular technique called "centering."
Insights from Psychology
In 1920s, Dr. Hans Berger, a German psychiatrist, uncovered some interesting insights about the activity of the brain during various stages of human consciousness. By hooking-up patients to an electro-encephalograph, he discovered that the brain of the person actively using his or her five senses emits between 13 and 18 vibrations per second. He referred to these as "beta" rhythms. During sleep, the brain emitted between five to eight rhythms, or what he called "theta." The vibrations below five, found in the deep sleep of infants, he termed "delta" rhythms. The brain waves emitted between "beta" and "theta," the state of consciousness between normal mental activity and sleep, when the brain is emitting between eight to 13 vibrations per second, Berger termed "alpha" rhythms.
This is the basis for what is called the "alpha zone," a new definition for the trance of the mystics.
In the alpha zone, the human brain is in a state of receptivity. Images freely flow through the imagination. The critical, rational mind, as Jose Silva puts in, is on the back burner and the imaginative mind is up-front. (14) Getting the subject into alpha is the goal of the hypnotist and the ploy of the mental programmer.
It is important to point out that entering the alpha zone is a natural human condition and is experienced by everyone prior to falling asleep. We have all sensed the free flow of images that pass through the mind immediately before sleep. This is natural. This is alpha.
Also, there is good evidence to suggest that inducing this alpha state of consciousness does have value in stress management. Lowering brain waves produces relaxation, and we all need to relax.
The issue is not the natural experiences of human consciousness, but rather the relationship between the alpha level and spiritual experience. Does such a relationship exist? If so, is the Holy Spirit producing the experience or is there an alternative source? Should we be concerned that this altered state of consciousness is associated with a variety of occult practices?
Self-inducing alpha is the goal of a wide range of todays spiritual practitioners. Mystics alter their consciousness in order to seek a visualized experience with God. New Age advocates desire a personal, visualized "spirit guide" who will grant enlightened knowledge. Occultists continue to go after psychic phenomena. Followers of Eastern religions pursue the god within.
Those who are presently promoting this altered state of consciousness within the church are not theologians reviving medieval mysticism, but are rather psychologists or those influenced by psychology.
Some psychologists have discovered a wide range of uses for this altered state of consciousness. "Inner healing" counselors encourage entranced patients to relive past traumatic experiences. Recovered memory therapists employ the altered state to recover memories of alleged sexual abuse, past lives, and UFO abductions.
Based upon the theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, these "trained professionals" claim that the altered state of consciousness taps into the content of the unconscious mind where repressed memories of past trauma reside.
But what does this have to do with visualizing Jesus and spiritual experience?
Freud and Jung had a disagreement over the content of the unconscious mind. This led to their traumatic break-up. While Freud believed that repressed sexual content resided within the unconscious, Jung, based on his own experience, contended that the unconscious was also a receptacle for spiritual, religious, and mythological content. Freud admonished his young cohort and encouraged him to dogmatize the his sexual theory and raise it up as a bulwark against the "black mud of occultism." (15) Jung pursued his "spiritual" theories, proving Freud to be prophetic! We are encountering the "black mud of occultism."
The gurus of the new holistic transpersonal psychology, using Jungs notion of unconscious spirituality, see the altered state of consciousness as the touch-point between psychology and religion.
Centering describes the mental exercises used to self-induce the experience of alpha. From what I have been able to determine, the term was initially used by Jung to describe the affect of the mandala, a circular design used by eastern mystics. Staring at the mandala, or the yantra, produces a "centering" of mental activity. (16) Interestingly, Jung also suggested that UFOs or flying saucers are mandala figures projected on the sky by the human psyche, indicating mans search for inner wholeness. (17)
The purpose of centering is to enter into a state of deep relaxation or produce a self-hypnosis. The use of breathing techniques such as counting your breathes is generally used. Others encourage the seeker to visualize themselves in an elevator, counting themselves down to the bottom floor of an altered state of consciousness. Most suggest commanding each part of the body to relax. (18)
The initiates into Transcendental Meditation are given a mantra, a Sanskrit word they are to repeat over and over again. Christians who are taught the centering technique are told to repeat the "Jesus prayer," or to simply repeat the word "Jesus." Theresa and Mark Shaltanis give the following directions to the Lutheran Womens Missionary League:
Shut your eyes and note your breathing. As you inhale, say to yourself, "Be still." As you exhale, say, "and know that I am God." As your breath leaves your body, picture yourself moving closer to God. As you breathe in, see yourselves stopping and taking a close look at God. After a time of picturing yourself in this way, next focus more on the words. Keep breathing and saying the words in this pattern, but now drop off the end, and repeat until you are just saying "Be still." Continue your breathing and saying, "Be still" a few more times until you are ready for reading the Scriptures. (19)
The affect of the mantra, or repeating "Be still," has nothing to do with the meaning of the terms or phrases used. It produces the altered state because of the repetition, not because of the content. Buddhists can also repeat "Jesus" to attain an altered state.
The purpose of entering the altered state of consciousness is to entertain and interact with the images that arise in the imagination. Among those who teach the technique, some suggest creating in the imagination a private place, room, or workshop in which to entertain the visualized "visitors." Others encourage a more "guided imagery," such as imagining a Bible story and placing oneself into the scene and talking to Jesus.
Those who attend the Silva Mind Control seminars are taught the centering technique. Upon entering into a deeply relaxed frame of mind, they are instructed to create a comfortable workshop, perhaps with an easy chair, fire place, picture window, etc. In the workshop they are instructed to visualize two doors. Through those doors will pass the two wise counselors or spirit-guides of their choosing. Many who attend these seminars choose Jesus Christ to be their male spirit-guide. Mind Control seminars are an example of modern day occultism.
It is interesting to compare the methods of Silva with the methods taught in the book Harmony, a manual for emotional well-being produced and distributed by Aid Association for Lutherans. The book says,
Close your eyes so that you won't be distracted by anything in your surroundings. In your minds eye go deep within yourself and create a room there. You can furnish it however you wish, but make it a place that invites quiet reflection, perhaps with a large picture window overlooking a lake or a mountain landscape. This is a room for you and you alone, and others may enter only by invitation.
Picture Jesus standing at the door and knocking (Rev. 3: 20). He is there, not forcing his presence on you, but ready and eager to spend some time with you. Imagine what would happen from this point on, letting the experience unfold naturally without any expectation of specific outcome. (20)
There is no essential difference between what is offered in a Silva Mind Control course and in the book Harmony.
Why Mix Light and Darkness?
On Issues, Etc. I interview numerous cult and occult re-searchers such as James Walker and Craig Branch of Watchman Fellowship, Bob and Gretchen Passantino, Craig Hawkins, Tal Brooke of Spiritual Counterfeits Project, George Mather, and others. All of them would agree that it is utterly foolish to encourage Christians to use the centering technique as an entrance into spiritual experience. Most would contend that any spiritual content encountered while in the altered state of consciousness is demonic in origin the devil parading as an angel of light.
In his book Spirit Wars, Dr. Peter Jones, Professor of New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in California, says that "New Age channelers indicate that going within through the suspension of rational thought is the perfect means for spirit possession." He quotes from popular New Age advocate Ken Carey who received this message from his spirit-guide:
We are unable to communicate with humans whose vibrational fields are distorted by ego factors, emotional fields, excessive conceptualization, or past future orientation. (21)
In their New Age book Centering, Laurie and Tucker point out that the altered state of consciousness brings one into contact with a higher power that leads to paranormal experiences. (22)
Are we not being foolish if we allow these techniques to be visited upon Gods people especially the unsuspecting women of the LWML? What fellowship does light have with darkness? We should avoid every appearance of evil? Some suggest that the centering technique and the visualization of Jesus is neither contrary to Scripture nor to the Lutheran Confessions. This may be true, but neither is poking yourself in the eye with a stick!
Martin Luther soundly rejected the introversion of the German mystics. The very essence of sin was turning in on yourself. He believed that any introversion should result in the discovery of sin and perversion.
The reality of Christ is never discovered within but is always extra nos, outside of us. Christ is to be sought, not in the inner self nor in some questionable technique borrowed from occultism or the fringes of psychological theory, but in the external and objective means of Word and Sacrament.
The intrusion of these methods into the church should cause us great concern. We need to do our homework!This Article is from Issues, Etc. Journal - Spring, 1998 - Vol. 3 No. 1
Table Of References
1. Wells, David, God in the Wasteland, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), pp.71-71.
2. Barna, George, Marketing the Church, (Colorado Springs: Navpress, 1988).
3. Thompson & Strickland, Strategic Management, (Boston: BPI, 1990), pp. 4-5.
4. Guinness, Os, Dining with the Devil, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994), p. 26.
5. Horton, Michael, Beyond the Culture Wars, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1994), p. 69.
6. Boice, James Montgomery and Sasse, Benjamin E., Here We Stand, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), p.61.
7. ibid. 1, p. 27.
8. Harmony: A Guide to Emotional Well-Being, Aid Association for Lutherans, 1994.
Shaltanis, Theresa and Mark, Quiet Time with God, International Lutheran Women's Missionary League, 1997.
9. Veith, Gene, Postmodern Times, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1994), p. 183.
10. ibid. 4, pp. 61-63.
11. Niebuhr, Richard H., Christ and Culture, (New York: Harper and Row, 1951), p. 102.
12. Bro, Harmon, Edgar Cayce on Religion and Psychic Experiences, (Wearner Books, 1970), p. 3.
13. Schmid, Heinrich, The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1875), p. 455.
14. Silva, Jose, Mind Control, p. 91.
15. Jung, C. G., Memories, Dreams, Reflections, (Vintage Books, 1965), p. 150.
16. Samuels, Mike and Nancy, Seeing with the Mind's Eye, (Random House, 1975), p. 28.
17. Jung, C. G., The Collected Works of Carl G. Jung, (Bollingen Series XX, Princeton University Press), Vol. 10, Flying Saucers: Modern Myth (1958).
18. For a thorough treatment of the centering technique, see Morton T. Kelsey, The Other Side of Silence, (Paulist Press, 1976), Part 3.
19. Shaltanis, Theresa and Mark, Quiet Time with God, (International Lutheran Women's Missionary League, 1977), p. 35.
20. Harmony: A Guide to Emotional Well-Being, (Aid Association for Lutherans, 1994), p. 60.
21. Jones, Peter, Spirit Wars, (Wine Press Publishing, 1997), p. 225.
22. Laurie, Sanders and Tucker, Melvin, Centering, (Destiny Books, 1978), p.10.