Dear Pastor Scazzero,
I heard you give your powerful and passionate talk at the Bethel Gospel Assembly on “race.” As you, I too grieve and about the state of the Church and our stunted Christian lives. I, therefore, applaud your program to address this lack of Christian growth.
However, frustration can lead to desperation, and desperation to some ill-advised remediations. I am referring to your recommendation to get back to the spirituality of the “Desert Fathers” and “Monastic traditions.” From my reading, it seems that these traditions have often replaced meditative techniques to experience God for the actual priorities and teachings of God – meditation on Scripture, prayer, confession, repentance, faith, and obedience. Regarding this, Ray Yungen has written:
· "One meditation scholar made this connection when he said: 'The meditation practices and rules for living of these earliest Christian monks bear strong similarity to those of their Hindu and Buddhist... the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing from the East or a spontaneous rediscovery.'" (“A Time of Departing,” p. 42, 2nd ed.)
· "The desert fathers believed as long as the desire for God was sincere--anything could be utilized to reach God. If a method worked for the Hindus to reach their gods, then Christian mantras could be used to reach Jesus." (43)
Do we need their techniques, when we have teachings and biblically prescribed means that are able to make us complete unto every good work?
· All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
If this is so, Christian growth should take us no further than God’s Word. Envisioning the apostasy of the last times, Paul did not suggest that Scripture was not adequate to bring about growth and that we had to find some new methods. Instead, he counseled Timothy:
· Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. (2 Timothy 4:2-4)
The mysticism of the Desert Fathers represents a entire body of myths – myths that tend to de-emphasize those things that are central to our Lord. After all, if we can connect to God through visualizations, the repetition of meaningless words, and imaginations, then the Bible, confession of sins, and prayer are relegated to a secondary or tertiary position. And this is precisely what we have been observing in the past several decades.
Perhaps even worse, resorting to mystical techniques is an affront to God:
· "O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of the LORD. For You have forsaken Your people, the house of Jacob, Because they are filled with eastern ways; They are soothsayers like the Philistines…" (Isaiah 2:5-6)
Later, Isaiah admonishes his people:
· And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. (Isaiah 8:19-20)
We have to meditate on the Word both day and night (Psalm 1). This is God’s way; it must also be ours.
Thanks for your considerations and for bearing with a little word of correction, my brother.