Mennonites Walk Barton’s Bridge

Ruth Haley Barton, founder of The Transforming Centre[1], was trained at the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation which teaches: “This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality … It is no accident that the most active frontier between Christian and Eastern religions today is between contemplative Christian monks and their Eastern equivalents.” —Tilden Edwards, Shalem Founder[2]

Barton, who could not find peace or direction in her Baptist roots or through reading the Bible and praying, found fulfillment through spiritual direction. Now she incorporates a blend of Eastern and Roman Catholic contemplative spirituality and monastic practices in her retreats and books on practicing the presence of God in the silence and sacred rhythms of prayer. Lately she has been very instrumental in leading entire Protestant and Anabaptist church congregations and their leaders into these same practices through spiritual direction and discernment seminars.

This year, the Mennonites have once again[3] brought in Ruth Haley Barton to help them make decisions in the silence regarding some very important upcoming issues that include LGBTQ and anti-Israel BDS resolutions. How tragic to see an entire church delegation over looking all that is necessary in their discernment process (the Bible), thereby shunning to declare the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) in seeking guidance from an apprentice of Thomas Merton and Tilden Edwards. Surely Menno Simons is rolling over in his grave.

“But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4

Here are two articles for the remnant to read and pray about…

CLC discerns delegate agenda and offers counsel to Executive Board
Posted on March 30, 2015
NORTH NEWTON, Kan.—“We are here and we’ve been gathered by God, and the truth is gathered, too,” said Chuck Neufeld, conference minister for Illinois Mennonite Conference, during a plenary session at the March 26–28 meeting of Mennonite Church USA’s Constituency Leaders Council (CLC) in North Newton, Kan.
CLC members spent time in prayer and worship; received input from Ruth Haley Barton on tools for discerning God’s will for the church; and offered counsel to the Resolutions Committee and Executive Board (EB) of Mennonite Church USA on churchwide statements to bring before the Delegate Assembly in Kansas City, Mo., this summer.
Neufeld’s reflections, offered after a half hour of silent discernment and prayer, were joined by those of other CLC members who called for mutual forbearance and care across the church in the midst of disagreements on how LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) individuals should be allowed to participate in Mennonite Church USA. Marco Güete, conference minister for Southeast Mennonite Conference, closed the sharing time with observations from his long career in the Mennonite Church, saying, “My reflection to God during this time was, ‘I love your imperfect church. Thank you for this opportunity to be a part of it.’”

More here:
http://mennoniteusa.org/news/clc-discerns-delegate-agenda-and-offers-counsel-to-executive-board/

Discerning spirit
God’s will can be found, even in when we disagree
Apr 13, 2015 by Paul Schrag

The rest of the world makes decisions, but the church discerns. If that were just a choice of words, it wouldn’t be important. But Ruth Haley Barton believes the difference goes much deeper. To discern is to find the will of God.
“Christian leaders have an idea that their decision-making should be somehow different from the rest of the world,” Barton said in a presentation to the Mennonite Church USA Constituency Leaders Council on March 26 at Bethel College in North Newton, Kan. “But sometimes we reduce that to just having a prayer and devotions at the beginning of the meeting.”
Discernment is more than a nod to God.
At a time when MC USA is experiencing conflict over same-sex relationships and church polity, Barton’s message was timely. Though she spoke to leaders dealing with major issues, her ideas apply to every Christian and to all of life.
Barton is a teacher and writer about Christian formation and church leadership at the Transforming Center in Wheaton, Ill., who will speak to delegates at the MC USA convention in Kansas City in July.
She defines discernment as “the capacity to recognize and respond to the presence and the activity of God in both the ordinary moments and the larger decisions of our lives.”
Discernment is the habit of noticing where God is at work and how God is speaking. Barton believes it is possible, in any situation, to “have a sense of whether God is at work or the Evil One is at work.” This needs to happen even in the interior world of our own thoughts and motives. 1 John 4:1 advises us to “test the spirits.” Are we willing to test our own spirit?
To do this, we need to listen to God in solitude and silence.
“Many of us are trying to give spiritual leadership without having much of a spiritual life,” Barton said. We must not let our busyness — even our Christian busyness — keep us from being aware of what is going on in our own soul. We need to be quiet and hear the voice of God as distinct from our own voice.
To whom does God give the spiritual gift of discernment? To those who are on a spiritual journey, Barton says. To those who let God transform them into a better version of themselves.

More here:
http://mennoworld.org/2015/04/13/editorial/discerning-spirit/

________

Endnotes:

1] (www.transformingcenter.org)
2] Ruth Haley Barton, Contemplative Prayer, 
and the Spiritual Formation Movement
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/ruthhaleybarton.htm
3] Ruth Haley Barton Trains Mennonites to Discern in The Silence
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/02/18/ruth-haley-barton-trains-mennonites-to-discern-in-the-silence/

*** UPDATE JULY 3, 2015

Mennonites delay vote on divesting from Israel for 2 years
http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=26609

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The Thin Place Trend Continues

The contemplative trend continues to surface in Mennonite publications, as recently shown by a two part article called Moving thinward[1] in the Canadian Mennonite by Troy Watson[2]. It’s about ‘thin places,’ believed by some to be places where we can feel God’s presence more readily because the barrier between the spiritual realm and the material is thinner than in other places. Another article about ‘thin places’ was recently published in the MB Herald, called Find Yourself a Thin Place this Christmas[3].

Could this growing interest in Celtic spirituality and thin places be the fruit of a concern back in 2007 about Lilly Endowment grants that were being given to congregations and their pastors? These grants for pastors to go on sabbaticals with contemplative/emerging overtones have been as recent as 2012.

“. . . according to the Lilly Endowment document that lists the winners of the 2012 grants, pastors will:

. . . seek to regain spiritual vitality through the ancient Christian practice of walking as pilgrims in several countries—the path of Jesus in Israel, the path of the Exodus, some or all of the 500-mile Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) in Spain, the missionary journeys of the Apostle Paul in Greece, Turkey and Italy—and making retreats in Benedictine monasteries, walking the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral, and living in sacred space on the Isle of Iona and other Celtic spiritual destinations.

Winners represent various denominations including Southern Baptist, Independent, Presbyterian, Reformed, Episcopal, United Methodist, Lutheran, Nazarene, Evangelical Free, and Mennonite.”

SOURCE: Question to the Editor: What’s Up with Lilly Endowment – Funding Pastoral Sabbaticals with a Contemplative Agenda
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11280

Whether or not Troy Watson’s recent visit to the contemplative community of Iona was due to a grant, he writes that he’s always been drawn to environments that evoke ‘a sense of sacred space.’ In part two of Moving Thinward he says that “…for Abraham, Jacob and their descendants, Bethel was a thin place” and of Mount Sinai, “This mountain was clearly a very thin place.”

Are there such places to be found today? We know from the Bible that the holy place (the temple) was the only place on the entire earth that God dwelt after sin and death entered the word and man was separated from God. Sacrifices ceased in the Temple in Jerusalem when it was destroyed in 70 AD, but access to the Holy of Holies, where God met man, was already no longer available by then because Jesus was the final sacrifice, once and for all, and the veil to the Holy of Holies was torn.

“Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” Hebrews 10:19,20

Because Jesus is the only way to enter God’s presence, any so called sacred space we now make or attempt to find in order to enter that realm is idolatry. There can be no places on earth where the veil between us and God’s presence is ‘thinner.’ Where ever there are efforts to find thin places where God meets man, such as the contemplatives making their sacred spiritual spaces to sense God’s presence, or the practice of the presence of God through prayer techniques – it is idolatry. The God of the universe already made a way to dwell within each believer, by the power of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent after His ascension. Those who believe are now called the temple of the Holy Spirit. No place on earth is worth making the effort to find. He lives in us. Praise the Name of the LORD!

Endnote:

1] This is part one:

Moving thinward (Pt. 1)
By Troy Watson
Feb 25, 2015
Viewpoints
I’ve always been intrigued with “thin places” long before I ever heard the term “thin place.”
Since childhood, I’ve been curiously drawn to old churches, temples, cathedrals, monasteries, ruins, holy sites, natural “wonders,” remote wilderness, solitary night skies—anywhere that evokes a sense of sacred space. Part of the appeal has been the beauty and mystery I so often find in these environments, but occasionally I’ve been so overwhelmed by divine energy in these places it was as if I’d stumbled upon holy ground.
I’m not the only one. Countless people have experienced God in places like these. Sometimes in exactly the same place.
Almost two years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the Island of Iona. Iona has long been considered a thin place by people from various religious and spiritual backgrounds. . .
*More here:
http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/moving-thinward-pt-1

Here is part two:

Moving thinward (Pt. 2)
By Troy Watson
Mar 25, 2015
(Volume 19 Issue 7 Canadian Mennonite):
http://www.canadianmennonite.org/stories/moving-thinward-pt-2

2] Troy Watson is pastor of Avon Mennonite Church (www.avonmennonite.com/troywatson.htm) in Stratford, Ontario. He is the founder of the Quest Christian Community (www.questchristiancommunity.ca), an alternative faith community in St. Catharines, ON. (a Mennonite Church of Eastern Canada affiliated initiative) whose aim is ‘Christ Consciousness.’ Pastor Watson recently reviewed The Naked Now, a book by Franciscan priest Richard Rohr that explores the lost tradition of mystical Christianity. Of this book, Watson said “I highly recommend this book to anyone who has been reading spiritual authors such as Eckhart Tolle.” (See: http://www.mcec.ca/content/naked-now-richard-rohr)

3] Find Yourself a Thin Place this Christmas
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/should-you-find-yourself-a-thin-place-this-christmas/

*Photo of Altar in The Chapel The Chapel at Iona Abbey by James Denham

What does meditation, Jungian psychology and the labyrinth have to do with the Mennonite Brethren?

Can nice people who create beautiful music be sincerely deceived and lead other well meaning people astray? When reading about the following retreat which is taking place today, keep in mind that this ‘Christian mystic’ is one of the retreat leaders at the Mark Centre which is affiliated with the Mennonite Brethren Conference of BC.

Saturday, March 28 Soul Care Day Retreat
Soul Care Day Retreat – with a theme of Receiving Forgiveness for self and Extending Forgiveness to others
When we can receive love and forgiveness in greater measure for ourselves,we are able to extend that in greater measures to those around us. Aligning with Love is a way to guide us into a deeper journey of forgiveness in our lives. Forgiveness is a key to bring greater transformation in all our relationships.
A full day of care for the soul – for 12 women.
Our day will be a flow of group time and personal time, including lunch and snacks.
Group times will include music meditation, stories, forgiveness teaching and meditation, poetry and sharing together.
In your free time you can choose to rest, do journaling meditations that will be available for you, walk the outdoor labyrinth, or sit at an art/icon station.
$85 for the day. If finances are a difficulty, please indicate what you are able to afford on your registration. Please pay $25 registration down below to reserve your spot and the remainding $60 upon arrival by check/cash/credit.
 Cathy AJ Hardy is a Christian mystic and the retreat will hold elements of Jungian psychology, Celtic Christianity, poetry, and art. Cathy has been leading retreats with the Mark Centre in Abbotsford, MCC in Abbotsford, and at the Westminster Abbey in Mission. She also leads day retreats through her home. She is a singer-songwriter, poet, and retreat facilitator.
(cathyajhardy.com/events/saturday-march-28-soul-care-day-retreat/)

What does Christian mysticism, meditation, Jungian psychology and the labyrinth have to do with the Mennonite Brethren? Biblically and theologically, these have absolutely no place in any Christian ministry. This information has been posted simply to create awareness in the hearts of the remnant of believers within the Mennonite Brethren denomination. Pray for those who have taken the contemplative path. The teachings of contemplative spirituality seem inviting, but are leading many astray.

Note: The goal and strategy of the (Mennonite Brethren affiliated) Mark Centre is serve thousands who will inspire millions to embrace a lifestyle of contemplative listening to God. Those who want to learn more about the Mark Centre or the labyrinth may use the search box on this blog to find previous posts.

RELATED:

The Mark Centre and Silent Prayer – Strategy to Affect Millions
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/the-mark-centre-and-silent-prayer/

What is Jungian analytic psychology, and is it biblical?
http://www.gotquestions.org/Jungian-analytic-psychology.html

Carl G. Jung
 Man of Science or Modern Shaman?
http://www.crossroad.to/articles2/08/nathan/jung.htm

LABYRINTHS, Prayer Paths That Promote the Occult
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/labyrinth.htm

What is Christian mysticism?
http://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-mysticism.html

‘Sacred Space Holy Time’ at Mennonite College

Another Mennonite youth labyrinth experience took place recently, this time at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate in Kitchener, Ontario.

Sacred Space Holy Time
by Lorie Williams
Rockway Mennonite Collegiate
KITCHENER, ONT.
Posted Jan. 28, 2015

On Friday, December 13, students in Ms. Bauman’s grade 10 Church History course had the unique opportunity of experiencing a prayer labyrinth.
Patricia Horst Wagler, a pastor and trained labyrinth facilitator, led students and staff in exploring the history of the labyrinth as a Christian tool for prayer. She explained the meaning and symbolism of the shape and various features of the labyrinth, and the benefits for many of an active, physical way to pray. She described walking the labyrinth as a way to focus the mind and give insight into one’s life and spiritual journey.
She then invited students to walk the labyrinth in silence. While this was a new experience for many students, they respected the silence, took their time and reflected thoughtfully on this experience of active prayer. Some found it a bit weird! Some found it calming, some noticed it helped them find clarity with a problem or decision, and some liked the way they could use their whole body to connect with God.
An open invitation was extended to anyone else who wanted to walk the labyrinth during their spare or at lunch during Friday’s Sabbath Space.
Warm thanks are extended to Patricia for helping us to create this sacred space and holy time.

SOURCE:
http://www.canadianmennonite.org/articles/sacred-space-holy-time

ALSO HERE:
http://rockway.ca/2015/01/13/sacred-space-holy-time/

Patricia Wagler, who led the grade 10 class through the labyrinth, was recently ordained (Jan. 11) at Tavistock Mennonite Church, where she is the associate pastor. She is also a labyrinth retreat workshop facilitator and a spiritual director, having received her spiritual formation and direction training from Jubilee Ontario. Wagler became a certified labyrinth facilitator through Veriditas, whose mission is to connect people with the labyrinth. This season of Lent (Feb. 18 – April 8 from 3 – 8 p.m. on Wednesdays) Tavistock Mennonite Church offers an open invitation to walk the labyrinth (www.tavistockmennonitechurch.ca).

What would Menno Simons say about that?

Related:

Labyrinths – Popping Up at Lots of Seminaries and Christian Colleges
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=7933

Labyrinth at USMB Youth Conference this Spring – UPDATE!!!

UPDATE!!! February 24th

Menno-lite was notified this morning that the Named 2015 committee had ‘recently decided to cancel the labyrinth’ but had neglected to remove the information about the labyrinth from the website.

They are to be commended for doing so, however, perhaps they should be asked to publish their reasons for putting it there in the first place, and for leaving it on the website after they had decided against it.

The alert will remain as posted as a reminder to pray for and keep the leaders of the Mennonite youth accountable. Bless the prayers of the faithful!

************

This April 9-12 the National Youth Conference of the US Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches called NAMED 2015 will be held in Denver, Colorado.[1]

The following is one of the activities listed under “ATTRACTIONS” on the website of Named Denver 2015.[2]

PRAYER LABYRINTH

The Labyrinth is an interactive installation for spiritual journeys. It’s for anyone who wants a break from surfing the surface of culture to contemplate the deeper things of life. The Labyrinth reshapes a 12th-century ritual for the 21st century. Its maze-like path takes you on a symbolic journey, creates space to unwind and think—in particular about our relationships with ourselves, one another, our planet and God. Designed for young and old alike, it provides a mixture of rituals and visuals, of contemplative words and contemporary ambient music, of symbols and media to help guide the spiritual traveler.
Labyrinths were a feature of many medieval cathedrals, one of the best remaining examples is found in Chartres Cathedral in northern France. Unlike a maze they have only one path—there are no dead ends. People walk labyrinths slowly, as an aid to contemplative prayer and reflection, as a spiritual exercise or as a form of pilgrimage. This contemporary version includes music, meditations, art, media and symbolic activities at intervals along the path. Participants walk the Labyrinth with a MP3 player and headphones, in their own relaxing soundworld, at their own pace. Each track contains meditations, instructions and music relating to a part of Labyrinth.

SOURCE: http://www.Named2015.com/contentpages/32538/bc907310-f3d8-4d4a-b0a4-f2cb97b04af2/PrayerLabyrinth.aspx

This is not the first time that Mennonites have sent their youth to events where they learn to walk the labyrinth.[3] In fact, it is becoming increasingly more common. Is this spiritual trend something that youth should be exposed to at a Christian conference? Read the following links and decide.

LABYRINTHS, Prayer Paths That Promote the Occult
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/labyrinth.htm

Enter the labyrinth
http://www.letusreason.org/Nam30.htm

________
Endnotes:

[1] The National Youth Conference will be held April 9-12, 2015, at Hyatt Regency Downtown and Colorado Convention Center in Denver, Colo.
http://www.usmb.org/departments/National-Youth-Conference/page/named-2015.html
[2] http://www.Named2015.com/
[3] See previous posts:
Mennonite College Dedicates New Prayer Labyrinth
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/11/15/mennonite-college-dedicates-new-prayer-labyrinth/
Children Experiencing Mennonite Labyrinth
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/children-experiencing-mennonite-labyrinth/
Mennonite Brethren Sponsored University Promoting the Labyrinth and Taize?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/mennonite-brethren-sponsored-university-promoting-the-labyrinth/
Mennonite Labyrinths
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/mennonite-labyrinths/
Mennonites and Prayer Labyrinths
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/mennonites-and-prayer-labyrinths/
MB YOUTH SOARING WITH CONTEMPLATIVE MINISTRY?
https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/mb-youth-soaring-with-contemplative-ministry/

Mennonites and the Eco-Gospel

A new collaboration of Mennonite Church Canada and Canadian Mennonite University called the CommonWord Book Store and Resource Center[1] just opened at the beginning of this year. On their website they state that they are “passionate about Anabaptist resources for the home and congregation,” however, what can be found there is a plethora of spirituality, from earth worship and indigenous peoples resources to contemplative spiritual formation curriculum and resources by emergent church leaders. Within the virtual walls of this library are enough non-anabaptist resources to make Menno Simons roll over in his grave. For example, the closest Brian McLaren (whose materials fill their web pages) comes to “anabaptist” is his Plymouth Brethren roots.

Shortly after opening, the top ten most popular resources[2] at CommonWord included Heaven is for Real: Based on the incredible True Story DVD[3], Buffalo Shout, Salmon Cry: Conversations on Creation, Land Justice, and Life Together[4], Sacred Pauses: Spiritual Practices for Personal Renewal by April Yamasaki[5], and Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Curriculum) by Richard Rohr[6].

While there may be some biblical resources to be found at CommonWord, more commonly there appears to be a lack of materials that teach the power of God and His Word. For example, Becoming an Energy Saint is a video that was promoted this January on CommonWord’s New Resources page[7]).

Is this environmental message of eco-theology truly what some Mennonites want in their church congregations as a teaching resource?

Carl Teichrib, researcher and writer, confirms that the interfaith green gospel has not only invaded Mennonite organizations, but many church denominations.

“Today’s Christian community is rife with green social and political messages, eco-theology, and interfaith action on the environment. Examples abound, such as the G8 World Religious Summit of 2010, a major interfaith meeting with strong representation from across the Protestant/evangelical spectrum, working in cooperation with world religions to push global green governance and a form of eco-spirituality.
Another example is the commissioned Mennonite Central Committee report, Earth Trek: Celebrating and Sustaining God’s Creation. In it we discover a combination of questionable theology, pantheistic-based messages, troubling political and social activism, mystical meditations and texts on the sacredness of Earth, the promotion of family planning through the United Nations Fund for Population Activities (part of the global abortion industry), favorable connections to The Earth Charter Foundation and Friends of the Earth – and at the end of the book we find this suggestion; “this week, make an offering to the earth, in the form of a prayer or some other gift.” (bold in original)
In Canada, the United Church sings “O Beautiful Gaia” – a song to the Greek goddess of Earth – as found in their More Voices hymnal. Across North America congregations hold Earth Day services, hear sermons on global warming, and engage in environmental campaigns. Example after example could be given. It’s like we’re facing a tsunami of green.”

SOURCE: Bridging Faith and Earth
By Carl Teichrib (www.forcingchange.org)
https://forcingchange.wordpress.com/2015/01/24/bridging-faith-and-earth/

Have some Christians, perhaps in name only, gone so far from their roots that they don’t know who they truly are in Christ? One can only pray that such souls will turn away from the earthy green gospel and turn their hearts to the Maker of heaven and earth.
_____

Endnotes:

[1] http://www.commonword.ca/Home
[2] http://www.commonword.ca/MostPopularResources
[3] Is “Heaven Is for Real” for Real?: An Exercise In Discernment
http://www.thebereancall.org/content/heaven-real-real-exercise-discernment-0
[4] http://www.commonword.ca/ResourceView/2/16064
[5] See: Pausing to Examine Sacred Pauses https://mennolite.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/pausing-to-examine-sacred-pauses/
[6] This book by Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr is endorsed by Dr Mehmet Oz, Brian McLaren, Cynthia Bourgeault
http://www.amazon.com/Falling-Upward-Spirituality-Halves-Life/dp/0470907754
[7] http://www.commonword.ca/ResourceView/48/17430

Find Yourself a Thin Place this Christmas

In an article called Have a “thin” Christmas in the December 2014 issue of the MB Herald, readers are encouraged to find God in the ‘thin places‘ this Christmas.

God comes near

In North America, with the endless noise and rush of life, it’s often difficult to find places where we can steal a glimpse of heaven . . . we all long for places where the veil of eternity becomes slightly more transparent, awareness of God’s presence is heightened and intimacy with Jesus grows. . .
The ancient Celts called these “thin places.”
Whether thin places are actual geographical locations, or simply moments when we allow ourselves to be more aware of Jesus’ presence in our lives, they’re essential to our spiritual well-being.
New York Times writer Eric Weiner says thin places make us feel disoriented – in a good way. “They confuse. We lose our bearings, and find new ones. Or not. Either way, we are jolted out of old ways of seeing the world.”

“Thin places” at Christmas

The Christmas season offers ample opportunities for us to discover “thin places” in our world. They allow us to become disoriented for just a moment. They open the door for God to show us new ways of seeing things – to renew our hope and faith, and to reorient our spiritual compass.
Perhaps it’s a stirring performance of Handel’s “Messiah,” reminding us again of the majesty and grandeur of our Saviour. Perhaps it’s a quiet evening spent by the fire reading God’s Word, seeking his direction for the new year. Perhaps it’s a smile and an embrace from an old friend in the form of a Christmas card, allowing the joy of community to warmly enfold us.
Or perhaps it’s an unexpected faith conversation with a stranger on the subway after a hectic day of Christmas shopping, jarring us out of the ordinary and reminding us of what’s really important.
Wherever the thin places are for you this Christmas season, I wish you many moments discovering the nearness of God in this world.
After all, more than creating a thin space, Jesus’ birth on earth tore the veil in two. On the first Christmas, he emptied himself to dwell with his people, so we might truly see God face-to-face.

SOURCE – Have a “thin” Christmas by Laura Kalmar
http://mbherald.com/thin-christmas/

Are thin places a biblical way to meet God? Does the Bible teach us to seek God through the concept of thin places?

Before the answers to these questions are explored, one important point must be addressed. In the article, MB Herald editor Laura Kalmar refers to New York Times writer Eric Weiner as one of her information sources on thin places. In the Weiner’s NY Times article, called Where Heaven and Earth Come Closer, he calls thin places “locales where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and we’re able to catch glimpses of the divine, or the transcendent or, as I like to think of it, the Infinite Whatever.” Weiner is also an author of Man Seeks God: My Flirtations With the Divine. In the writing of this book, Weiner describes . . .

“… a wild ride that takes me to Nepal, where I meditate with Tibetan lamas and a guy named Wayne; to Turkey, where I whirl (not so well, as it turns out) with Sufi dervishes; to China, where I attempts to unblock my chi; to Israel, where I study Kabbalah, sans Madonna; to the Bronx, where I volunteer at a homeless shelter run by Franciscan friars; and even to Las Vegas, where I have a close encounter with Raelians, followers of the world’s largest UFO-based religion.
Along the way, I learn that I am not alone in my spiritual restlessness. The latest studies find that nearly one in three Americans will change their religious affiliation at some point in their lives. We are, more than ever, a nation of God hoppers.
I am willing to do anything to better understand faith, and to find the god or gods that speak to me. I maintain an open mind, leaving judgment at the door…”

It is unfortunate, if not shocking, that the editor of a Christian magazine would draw from the spiritually restless Weiner as a source for an article on how Christians might experience God.

This isn’t the first time that Christians have looked to other religious sources and extra-biblical spiritual means to experience the presence of God. On page 26 of his book called Letters to a Young Evangelical, well known Christian author Tony Campolo writes that every morning “I am able to create what the ancient Celtic Christians call “the thin place.”” This term is the thin line between spirituality and panentheism, implying that God is in all things. The thin place is also considered the gap between God and man where everything thins out and ultimately disappears in meditation.[1]

When Jesus and the power of the gospel is not enough for some people, they often turn to such concepts of ancient spirituality, like Campolo, who says:

“Believing the gospel was never a problem for me, but during times of reflection I sensed that believing in Jesus and living out His teachings just wasn’t enough. There was a yearning for something more, and I found that I was increasingly spiritually gratified as I adopted older ways of praying–ways that have largely been ignored by those of us in the Protestant tradition. Counter-Reformation saints like Ignatius of Loyola have become important sources of help as I have begun to learn from them modes of contemplative prayer. I practice what is known as “centering prayer,” in which a sacred word is repeated as a way to be in God’s presence.
… I’ve got to push everything out of mind save the name of Jesus. I say His name over and over again, for as long as fifteen minutes, until I find my soul suspended in what the ancient Celtic Christians called a “thin place”–a state where the boundary between heaven and earth, divine and human, dissolves. You could say that I use the name of Jesus as my koan.”
-Tony Campolo[2]

Campolo’s friend Samir Selmanovic[3], who has participated in the emergent conversation with Shane Claiborne and Brian McLaren, says of thin places:

“Celtic Christians sought after ‘thin places,’ spots where the membrane between mere physical reality and the reality of God’s presence thins out and becomes soft and permeable. For them, thin places are locations in space or time where God’s world (‘reality as it really is’) intersects with our world (‘reality as we happen to experience it’) so that it can be seen, touched, tasted, or sensed in some unmistakable way. They believed that at places like shorelines, fjords, rivers, and wells, the veil was so sheer, one could almost step through it. . . . A thin place could be a conversation, a dream, a room, a tree, a dawn, a shore, a dance, a person, a scientific lab, a Sabbath, a Eucharist, an early morning meal before the Ramadan fast begins.” 
— Samir Selmanovic in It’s Really All About God, Reflections of a Muslim Atheist Jewish Christian

It appears that, like contemplative spiritual formation, this is all part of a progression of (un)belief that leads people towards universalism. Like the labyrinth, a thin place appears to be another spiritual tool or means where people seek a supernatural experience or feeling. But what exactly is a ‘thin place’?

A thin place is a place of energy. A place where the veil between this world and the eternal world is thin. A thin place is where one can walk in two worlds – the worlds are fused together, knitted loosely where the differences can be discerned or tightly where the two worlds become one.
Thin places aren’t perceived with the five senses. Experiencing them goes beyond those limits.
Fascination with the “Other world” has occupied our human minds since early recordings of history and likely before that. A thin place pulsates with an energy that connects with our own energy – we feel it, but we do not see it. We know there’s another side – another world – another existence. To some it is heaven, the Kingdom, paradise. To others it may be hell, an abyss, the unknown. Whatever you perceive the Other world to be, a thin place is a place where connection to that world seems effortless, and ephemeral signs of its existence are almost palpable.
Mahatma Ghandi in his Spiritual Message to the World in 1931, speaks of this.
“There is an indefinable, mysterious power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen power that makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses”

Source – What is a Thin Place?
http://www.thinplaces.net/openingarticle.htm

The practice of trying to find the doorway connecting to the other world is definitely not a concept from biblical origins, as an excerpt from thinplace.net explains:

The Celts were a culture of people that arrived in Ireland after 500 BC. The idea of thin places or doorways to the Otherworld were solidly a part of the Irish culture long before the Celts came. …The thin places concept was a part of the pre-Christian or pagan charism and these beliefs or sensitivities – existed prior to the Celts. The concept is rejected by many of the present day Christian communities, often being linked to “new age” heathenism. …These pre-Christian Irish people believed the thin place itself had the mystical or spiritual power. One didn’t create a thin place simply by moving into a state of contemplation or spiritual trance. The site itself was thin and that made spiritual contemplation more powerful.[4]

Christianizing the concept of thin spaces is simply another a new blend of spirituality that is not taught in the Bible, if not forbidden. Attempting to sense a spiritual energy or presence through the supernatural veil is an occultic practice. If ‘occult’ means ‘hidden’ spiritual mysteries and the supernatural, those who attempt to peer through the veil between the realms in order to ‘steal a glimpse of heaven’ to hear or see or feel God may be practicing a form of occultism. Occult methods involve seeking the hidden realm beyond rational reason to find a supernatural experience. Such an attempt outside the word of God might be compared to a soldier stepping into enemy territory without his sword. If Satan masquerades as an angel of light, why take the chance of being deceived by the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:1-2) while looking for a nice supernatural experience in a ‘hidden’ thin place?

While the spiritually restless and misinformed seek supernatural experiences in the thin spaces, it is only in the Bible that the deepest truths can be found. In its pages we read how the Creator of time and space stepped into this darkened world at the perfect time to fulfill prophecy and die for our sins to reconcile us back to Him. His death (not his birth) tore the veil in two, because He was the High Priest who made the final sacrifice (Himself), once and for all (Hebrews 10:10). When our resurrected Lord ascended in heaven, He sent His Holy Spirit to help, teach and comfort us with His presence that indwells and empowers every believer. We don’t need to seek a doorway or experience, we only need to seek and abide in Him. He is the door (John 10:9). Instead of looking to discover “thin places” in our world this season, believers in Christ need only to draw near to God and abide in Him, every day of the year.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” James 4:8 ESV

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[1]Campolo Crosses Bridge to Celtic Thin Place
http://muddystreams.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/campolo-finds-the-thin-place/
[2] 
http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Christianity/2006/02/Mystical-Encounters-For-Christians.aspx
*NEW: Note: Tony Campolo’s pathway of choice had led him to accept homosexuality in the church:
Tony Campolo Comes Out of Closet in Support of ‘Full Acceptance’ of Homosexuality in Church
http://www.submergingchurch.com/2015/06/10/tony-campolo-comes-out-of-closet-in-support-of-full-acceptance-of-homosexuality-in-church/
[3] Selmanovic is the founder of “Faith House Manhattan”, an interfaith community of Christians, Muslims, Jews and humanists/atheists (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samir_Selmanovic)
[4] http://www.thinplace.net/2011/03/richard-rohr-celts-didnt-invent-thin.html

Related:

*Read more about the thin places of Celtic Spirituality and which so called Christians promote them, in this article:

In Touch Magazine Draws Readers to “Celtic Spirituality”
http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=9485

*What are Celtic thin places?