The Associated Baptist Press recently reported on the spread of Catholic mysticism among Baptist churches in two reports: “Contemplative Worship Fits Baptist Faith” and “Silent Worship Not Just for Catholics” (Sept. 17, 2012). Chad Kerr, a deacon in Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, says this practice has resulted in “a shift in the way he understands his relationship with God” compared to his upbringing in Baptist churches in Georgia. It’s not about reading the Bible and meditating on Scripture and verbal prayer. It’s about seeking an “experience” with God through beyond the Bible through mystical practices such as silent meditation, chanting, repetition prayer, and use of the imagination. Kerr describes contemplative prayer as “just sitting and trying to be silent and feel and listen.” Michael Sciretti, minister of spiritual formation at Freemason Street Baptist Church in Norfolk, Virginia, calls contemplative prayer an “unmediated experience of God.” He says it is “about going into the innermost chamber to experience and encounter God in our own hearts.” Diana Butler Bass, author of The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening, says it is “creating sacred space in which people can actually feel, touch and listen to God in their midst.” The important question here is how do you know that you are “feeling, touching, and listening to God,” when the Bible warns so often of deceiving spirits and false christs? In reality, this is blind mysticism that removes one from the solid foundation of Scripture, and it is a recipe for spiritual delusion. Since it is not solidly based on Scripture, it is very effective at creating “grassroots ecumenism.” Richard Foster, one of the most influential men in the contemplative prayer movement, said, “I see a Catholic monk from the hills of Kentucky standing alongside a Baptist evangelist from the streets of Los Angeles and together offering up a sacrifice of praise. I see a people” (Streams of Living Water, 1998, p. 274).
(For more on this see our bookContemplative Mysticism, which is available in print and eBook formats from www.wayoflife.org.)