Pastor of Subjective Spirituality?

Diane Conklin
Christian Research Service
www.christianresearchservice.com
April 2014

updated January 2015

 

Roman Catholic Spiritual DirectionWhy would an evangelical church have a “Pastor of Spiritual Direction” on its staff trained by an abbot from a Benedictine monastery?  Such is the case of one pastor drinking deeply from monastic, Catholic traditions.  Who knows how many like him there are across the evangelical and mainline Protestant spectrum?  These leaders and their churches are embracing the ever-growing Spiritual Formation-Contemplative-Charismatic-Ecumenical objectives of the apostate Roman Catholic Church.  Many on this global quest applaud its (deplorable) direction, while others don’t even realize they’re being taken for an unbiblical, spiritual ride.

Too many evangelical Protestants mistakenly believe we’ve long departed our spiritual formation moorings, and that it’s high time we made a comeback.  This particular pastor, who graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary and The Monastery of the Risen Christ School for Spiritual Directors, is obviously running with this idea:

I have the privilege of being a co-listener with individuals as they seek to hear God’s voice. I lead during the week several opportunities of group Lectio Divina.1

The late Catholic priest of this monastery, Abbot David Geraets, O.S.B. (Order of St. Benedict), experienced “the integration of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal with Jungian depth psychology,” leading him to complete two years of Jungian Training and eventually seeing the need for establishing a School for Spiritual Directors:

As a result of the charismatic renewal in the Church, there has been an increasing need to provide proper spiritual direction for those many whose lives have been touched by the Spirit. It has become apparent that, if people are to grow and mature in the Spirit, they will need proper spiritual direction from those who understand and are sensitive to the workings of God’s Spirit.2 (emphasis added)

While at this Catholic training program participants partake in the Benedictine tradition of monastic principles and practices with The Monastery of the Risen Christ community members and Oblates (followers of the teachings of St. Benedict).  These practices include familiar things like praise, fellowship with shared meals, prayer ministry, and Scripture study, albeit in accordance with the sixth century Rule of St. Benedict written for individuals who associate themselves with a Benedictine community:

Benedict’s Rule stands tall in the great tradition of Christian monasticism. It is a Christian rule in the sense that its spiritual doctrine picks up on the values of the Bible (e.g., prayer, fasting, service of neighbor) and arranges for a life in which these values can be lived out in community. (emphasis added)

However, in contrast there are other practices4 at the School for Spiritual Directors that have nothing to do with “values of the Bible”:

  • Partaking of the Eucharist: Transubstantiation is the teaching that during the eucharistMass, at the consecration in the Lord’s Supper (Communion), the elements of the Eucharist, bread and wine, are transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus and that they are no longer bread and wine, but only retain their appearance of bread and wine.
  • Lectio Divina: [T]he dangers inherent in this kind of practice, and its astonishing similarity to transcendental meditation and other dangerous rituals, should be carefully considered. It has the potential to become a pursuit of mystical experience where the goal is to free the mind and empower oneself…the attack on the sufficiency of Scripture is a clear distinctive of lectio divina.
  • Depth Psychology: Carl Jung believed that psychological distress is a result of an imbalance within the individual that often is experienced as an alienation from the deeper personality, or what he calls the Self.  Jungian psychotherapy seeks to restore the individual’s connection to the Self.
  • Healing the family tree Eucharist: Catholic version of Generational Sins – There is a trend in the church today to try to blame every sin and problem on some sort of generational curse.
  • The Enneagram: “The Enneagram of Personality Types is a modern synthesis of a number of ancient wisdom tradThe Enneagramitions…” (enneagraminstitute.com).
  • Archetypes – “[B]asic instinctual patterns of the Child, Mother, Warrior, Father, Seeker, Wise Man & Woman, Shadow, Animus, Anima” – Archetypal Psychology: Founded in archeology and anthropology, archetypal psychology is one of the strategies that is often used to uncover unconscious motives. Jung studied how historical religions, deities and fables influenced an individual’s sense of self.
  • Dream Work: Jungian Psychology is best explored through personal Dream Work.  Jung believed that our dreams can guide us past our Ego identity and persona if we have the courage to face our Shadow, deal with our animus (our masculine ‘doing’), address our Soul (our feminine ‘being’) and await the coming of the Self.Dream Work
  • Prayer of Discernment – Ignatian Exercises:  [A] compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius Loyola.
  • Pray, worship, and walk the labyrinth: A prayer labyrinth is a labyrinth used to facilitate prayer, meditation, spiritual transformation, and/or global unity…While prayer labyrinths have been used in Catholic cathedrals for centuries, the past decade has seen resurgence in their popularity, especially within the Emergent Church and among New Age groups and neo-pagans.Long_beach_labyrinth
  • Spiritual Direction: Abbot David Geraets’ Charismatic Renewal resources.  A partial list reads as follows:
Abiding Through Contemplative Prayer
Baptism Into the Holy Spirit & Contemplative Prayer
Baptism: Light, Love and Transformation
Charismatic Prayer and Spirituality
Charismatic Renewal: Who Needs It?
Christian Initiation
Discerning Visions and Revelations
Discernment From Dreams
Discernment of Paranormal Experiences
Dreams: God Speaking to Us Today
Dreams: Healing and Listening to God
Finding Your Charismatic Roots
God: Visions, Dreams & Revelations
Healing and Gospel Renewal
Holiness Is Inner Healing and Wholeness

 

I shudder to think what an unsuspecting church member would stumble into seeking counsel from this “Pastor of Spiritual Direction.”  It appears for many evangelical Protestants that Luther’s Reformation protest is over; it’s time to dock with the Roman Catholic mother ship.  Never mind all the inherent dangers of its spiritual formation (among a plethora of other doctrinal dangers):

[S]ome of the most popular methods of spiritual formation have been lifted from Catholicism, new age mysticism, or other religions and rebranded with biblical-sounding terminology.  But any kind of subjective spirituality that draws your focus away from the Lord and His truth can have disastrous results, derailing your spiritual growth and cutting you off from God’s plan for your sanctification.5

Rebranding aides in passing off a counterfeit as authentic, as we can see from these two biblical-sounding examples:

We’ve found that spiritual direction is a vital ministry for Protestant  Evangelicals…“the Protestant Reformers were all active in providing spiritual direction to others. Marlin [sic] Luther did most of this by means of correspondence, much like the apostle Paul fourteen centuries earlier. Ulrich Zwingli, while recommending confession of sins to God alone, urged Christians to consult other wise and mature Christians for assistance on the spiritual journey. And John Calvin, while stressing that the individual Christian’s subservience should be to God alone, offered spiritual direction and proclaimed its merits. (Sacred Companions, pp. 89-90.)6

Jesus is our best example of a spiritual director because of his intimacy with his Father and his absolute commitment to do nothing apart from what the Father shows or tells him [John 5:19, 30]. For example, in John 4:23-24, Jesus has a conversation with a woman by a well where he asks her questions, tells her that God is looking for people who are simply and honestly themselves before God in their worship, and frees her to be honest about her own life – all in response to his Father’s leading.7

I never knew that Reformers, the apostle Paul, and Jesus were “spiritual directors.” However, I know this pastor, aside from serving at his church and the School for Spiritual Directors, also serves on a faculty that “has developed a new paradigm of leadership development based in spiritual formation.”8  (emphasis added)  New paradigm indeed; how about another gospel!

In his article, “Living Grace: You Can’t Do It On Your Own,” this pastor writes:

In Paul’s letter to Galatia he says, “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” It is Paul’s second instruction that I often miss or fail to heed. I can so easily believe that God’s role was to supply the life while my role was to choose the path and find my own way to the destination.9 (emphasis added)

His applied corrective?  “My role is to continue to read on and listen for His promptings and power, giving both direction and the strength to walk in God’s ways.” (emphasis added)  Choosing to follow the path of subjective mysticism is NOT the same as choosing to follow the biblical path of objective, apostolic teachings–nor are their destinations the same.

Spiritual formation is fond of asking: Where is God in all of this?  I find myself asking: Where is the God of the Bible in all of this?

[H]aving formed in their minds such a God as suits them, and thinking God to be such a one as themselves, who favors and agrees with them, they may like him very well.10

ENDNOTES:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jon-byron-0007504

2 Monastery of The Risen Christ – School for Spiritual Directors; 2012 flyer.

3 http://www.osb.org/gen/rule.html

4 Compiled from the School for Spiritual Directors; 2012-2014 flyers.

5 http://www.gty.org/blog/B120910

6  http://www.spiritualleadership.com/resources; “Spiritual Direction.”

7 ibid.

http://www.spiritualleadership.com/about-us/our-story

9 http://www.spiritualleadership.com/living-grace

10 Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 2 (ed. Edward Hickman; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1834) 920.

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