by Jeannette Haley
Have you ever considered the profound effect of silence? Think about the times when only one minute of silence is observed in commemorating the dead. There is something about that one minute of silence that reaches deep down into the depths of your soul, where something like an unseen hand grips and draws out emotions that have been long buried and forgotten.
Most people living in our busy Western civilization today seem to subconsciously (or consciously) fear silence. Everywhere a person turns, he or she is bombarded with noise. Shopping malls and stores pump out music through their sound systems. The same is true in the professional office place. People drive down the street with radios and boom boxes blaring, causing both cars and houses alike to vibrate.
In our neighborhood there are two or three families that, every weekend, blast everyone around them with their loud music. Others couldn’t care less if their poor, frustrated dogs bark and howl nonstop, day and night. Some never give it a thought that perhaps their children running up and down the street screaming and yelling after dark on hot summer nights are keeping some folks awake.
Rare is the family today that engages in meaningful conversation around the dinner table where events of the day are shared with one another, and where family devotions and prayer take place. This once valuable practice flew out the window when the noisy television set came in the door. Who would have ever thought that by the turn of the century personal computers, video games, cell phones, and all the other noisy, brain numbing, desensitizing electronic gadgets (too numerous to mention) would forever alter our lives?
Am I against television? That depends. If a person can’t discipline what they watch, and how much time they spend watching it, and consider how important it is to him or her, then it’s an idol that needs to go. Am I against computers? Again, that depends. After all, I’m writing this article on a computer. Computers have been a tremendous help to us in writing books, articles, sermons and so forth. Obviously a computer, like any other technological wonder can be used for either good or evil.
The point is that as a society we have largely become soul-dead entertainment and noise addicts. Granted, there are millions of people whose lives are being destroyed because of addictions to alcohol and drugs (both illegal and prescription) and pornography (which is an even harder addiction to overcome). But, what about those people who have an insatiable addiction to noise and entertainment? One gets the impression that unless homes, cars, businesses, restaurants, shopping places, etc. are saturated with noise, then people have an uneasy feeling that something is terribly amiss.
Sadly, this has become the mindset of the post modern church as well. Everything is centered on how people feel rather than on what God’s Word says. Emotional hype, feel-good entertainment, hip hop “worship” and a “soft-on-sin” approach is dished out to the soul-dead masses. “Loud” has become the new definition of anointing. Christianity has been redefined as “churched folks” (as opposed to “the unchurched.”) Holiness is no longer defined by God’s character, but rather by self-righteousness and pride cloaked under a thin veneer of religiosity.
What is the impact of this pseudo “Christianity” on our young people? Most of the young people we encounter today are unable to interact, think outside of the box or even carry on a surface conversation, let alone an intelligent one. Most of them are self-absorbed, immature, lazy, and irresponsible with no desire to stir themselves up to pursue God and wisdom, develop character and integrity, and achieve a state of excellence in thought, word and deed. They have no hunger for wisdom, learning or correction. They simply want to play, be entertained and have fun. Obviously, they lack the fear of God. The result is each generation has become more foolish than the preceding one. While many may say they are Christians and appear to be “religious,” without the true Jesus and the right Spirit, all they amount to are religious fools.
This is frightening in light of the times in which we live. Yet, young people appear to be utterly detached from reality and the world around them, rendering them ill-equipped to deal with life in the present, and certainly slated for destruction in the days to come. Much of the blame for this can be laid at the doorstep of the church.
Around five decades ago, A. W. Tozer wrote: “[It has been said] that the more a man has in his own heart the less he will require from the outside; excessive need for support from without is proof of the bankruptcy of the inner man. [Thus] the present inordinate attachment to…entertainment is evidence that the inner life of modern man is in serious decline. The average man has…no inner strength to place him above the need for repeated psychological shots to give him the courage to go on living….
“The [fantastic] growth of the amusement phase of human life [is] a threat to the souls of modern men. It has…greater power over human minds and human character than any other educational influence on earth, [a] power almost exclusively evil, rotting the inner life, crowding out…eternal thoughts which would fill the souls of men….[It] has grown into a veritable religion…against which it is now dangerous to speak….
“For centuries the Church stood solidly against every form of worldly entertainment, recognizing it [as] a device for wasting time, a refuge from the disturbing voice of conscience…divert[ing] attention from moral accountability….But of late…she appears to have join[ed] forces with…the great god Entertainment….So today we have the astonishing spectacle of millions of dollars being poured into the unholy job of providing earthly entertainment for the so-called sons of heaven. Religious entertainment is in many places rapidly crowding out the serious things of God…and hardly a man dares raise his voice against it.” (From The Best of A. W. Tozer,126-128 as quoted in The Berean Call, September 2006)
As can be expected, this overindulgence of entertainment within the church has left a spiritual vacuum within the souls of people, making them vulnerable. The result of this is a wide open door for a diversity of counterfeit spiritual experiences, not the least of which is “contemplative spirituality.” Contemplative spirituality is a belief system that uses ancient mystical practices to induce altered states of consciousness (the silence) and is rooted in mysticism and the occult. It is often packaged in Christian terminology, thus seducing the undiscerning. The premise of contemplative spirituality is pantheistic.
One of the Scriptures that cults, such as Unity, use to justify unbiblical practices of meditation and contemplative prayer is Psalm 46:10a which states, “Be still, and know that I am God”. In context, this Scripture means to be aware, comprehend, have respect, or understand (among other meanings) that God is who He is. By taking this Scripture out of context it is cleverly twisted to convey the opposite meaning; that is, the individual (me, myself or I) is “god.” People who are hungry for a mystical “spiritual experience” need to beware that “contemplative prayer is a mystical prayer that leads one into the “silence” but in actuality leads away from God.This is because the purpose of contemplative prayer is to enter an altered state of consciousness in order to find one’s true self, thus finding God. This true self relates to the belief that man is basically good. Proponents of contemplative prayer teach that all human beings have a divine center and that all, not just born again believers, should practice contemplative prayer. Another definition of contemplative prayer: As it is expressed in a modern day movement is mystically (i.e. based on a technique or method) in which one empties the mind of thought through repetition, usually of a word or phrase or focus on the breath. In this case the silence would be an absence of thought, all thought. [Definitions of contemplative spirituality:http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/cp.htm]
When God commands us to “be still” it is for the purpose of seeking, finding, knowing and obeying Him. 1 Thessalonians 4:11 commands: “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you.” Consider this instruction given in 1 Timothy 2:2: “For kings, and for all that are in authority: that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” [Emphasis added.] Peter talks about the “hidden man of the heart” and a “meek and quiet spirit” and tells us that this is of “great price” in the “sight of God.” (1 Peter 3:4.) God instructed Job: Hearken unto this, O Job: stand still, and consider the wondrous works of God” Job 37:14. Again, notice that the purpose for being still is to consider, contemplate or meditate, upon all the wonderful works of God, not empty your mind into a vacuum into which any spirit (demon) can enter and take control.
The occult, mystical practice of “contemplative prayer” is ancient and dangerous. It is something that every born again believer should not only flee from, but warn others against. The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul,commands those who would follow Christ thusly: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” Philippians 2:3-8. Godcommands us to have “humbleness of mind,” (Colossians 3:12) not an “empty” mind. Instead of seeking a mystical experience through occult methods, God tells us what to think upon in Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
What about you? What do you think upon in moments of silence? Perhaps you’re a person who avoids silence because it brings you face-to-face with yourself. Maybe you are a person who is seeking to have a “spiritual experience” through some type of eastern meditation such as “contemplative prayer.” Hopefully, you are one who has discovered the joy and peace of the presence of God in the “secret place” of your prayer closet, where your meditation of Him is sweet. (Matthew 6:5-8) Someone reading this may need encouragement. If so remember this promise: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the LORD forever: for in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength” Isaiah 26:3, 4.