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Posts Tagged ‘Nouwen’

My husband asked an assistant pastor how to handle a suggested Nouwen book in our small group meeting.  One of the first questions I heard from him was, “was it an unqualified recommendation?”  In fairness, people do sometimes read and recommend books, but they don’t always agree with everything in the book or everything from that author.  Unfortunately, this was actually qualified in that the book was recommended excitedly and whole heartedly.  The man in our group shared several concepts openly and offered to let two women in the group be the next ones to read it after someone else outside the group finished his copy.  I believe he even suggested that Christians should read it, and I am sure he said it was his favorite book.  We shared some of our thoughts with the pastor, that the man seemed to really like the book and was sharing it. I did mention the comment the man made stating that the book opened an idea he hadn’t thought of, that Jesus himself was a “prodigal of the Father” because he left and came back. The pastor’s eyebrows twitched a little bit, and he shook his head, “no.”  

The pastor’s advice was not to go all out after this man.  He said that we should actually bring this to the attention of the small group leader.  He suggested we share why we see problems with the author and that it’s not someone we’d recommend reading.  He said that many don’t have the same level of discernment, and some don’t subscribe to the strange teachings but also don’t know the problems with an author’s entire body of work.  He said to assume the best about a person at first, and just trust the leadership.  However, he did say to keep paying attention and if this keeps coming up, to bring it back up again to the leader.  It can also be brought up to the pastors in leadership of the church.  He suggested further we truly befriend this man and if the opportunity arises, we can share with him carefully the problems with Nouwen and why we wouldn’t recommend it as a solid book for Christians to read.  

This is a very big difference than what happened at our former church when we brought up books and teachings that were questionable.  The pastor here acknowledged the teaching from Nouwen was bad (if it indeed was what we were saying it is…he’d never read it before).  He mentioned how many people read popular authors, he has been given books from church members of such authors.  He said how he has personally tactfully told people how the author is in error and he’d suggest they never recommend the book without some qualification.  He personally had quoted authors from the pulpit he doesn’t agree with, but he says he intends to always qualify those quotes as true as far as he sees it but the author has other comments or ideas that are not in line with scripture.  And reading works that are questionable can be a learning experience, but it must be qualified as such.  He says he’s sometimes shocked at what members in our church recommend for reading on facebook or in person, saying that he often wants to say, “What?  Haven’t you been hearing sound teaching in our church for years?  Why would you recommend that book?”  

At least he acknowledged us, and was kind.  He did seem to be bothered by this problem and suggested a way to deal with it and not ignore it.  He actually thinks the leader in our group likely hasn’t heard of Nouwen, and may have no clue about it.  I find this to be a very good thing.  It’s much different than the “oh, that author is recommended and used by many pastors…and we might not agree with everything he says but he has good intentions.”  That was our former church, and that was unacceptable squashing.  We weren’t told not to be divisive, but to proceed carefully.  

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I recall the venom my former pastor spit at us(not literally, ick, that would have been a sight) when my husband and I gave him a letter that connected dots.  It went from pastor’s sermons to those they quoted to others those quoted to heretical beliefs.  Rick Warren didn’t even bother to quote a person who quoted a person today on twitter, he lead his followers straight to Henri Nouwen.  Hiddenness is the place of purification. In hiddenness we find our true selves” -Nouwen   Funny that, our former church not only quoted Rick Warren and Dallas Willard, but they have implimented the programs.  Now, with Warren and Willard both being into people who into mysticism…I know my dots were rightly connected.  Sadly, my former pastor tried to hide those connections, tried to make my husband and me look like liars, even called us liars “from the pit of hell.”   Very sad. 

Adam and Eve hid when they sinned.  Of course, I could be taking Nouwen out of context, you see, I have no idea what book that quote comes from.  So, he might be talking about something  good, but it’s such a short quip.  Sounds bad though to me.  The point is Nouwen’s work and quotes show his mysticm, show his affinity for Buddist ideas.  No place for a Christian.

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Like being intwined in seaweed, or brambles in the forest, we Christians are often entangled in things that make it hard to walk the path of truth.  We get into men’s teachings, and follow men.  We get into the world’s ways, become woven together with these ways.  Soon, they become a part of us, like barnacles on a whale, entwined and braided, the thorns have broken off and splinter inside.  Cutting ourselves free will hurt.  I can say, when I read about influences in the church these days I see this entanglement.  Entanglement with the mystics and the belief that it is supposed to be a part of Christianity.  The claim that to be deeper with Christ we must pracitice spiritual disciplines.   I thought Christ was our mediator, and that nothing we do can save us.  The sacrifices desired are a “broken and contrite heart….” and not contemplation. 

From personal experience, I saw entanglement coming from my very own pastors.  If writers like Nouwen, Willard, Hybels, and Warren are producing good fruit, then why do pastors who are following after them continue to loose long time Christians who are serious about following after God?  It is not the numbers that are the measure of fruit, but I believe (and I am not God so anyone out there can correct me on this) that wise people will stick with a wise pastor if God doesn’t call them to something else.  If you are loosing elder members, you might consider why.  If a church looks like the world, then it might as well be the world. 

The entanglement is confusing.  I have asked elders and pastors about contemplative prayer.  I’ve gotten some interesting answers. 

“Do not let terminology frustrate you, the Bible speaks about contemplation” (this also included transformation and meditation).  My question further would be “does it include spiritual formation?”  We didn’t ask much about that as we had enough issues…

The lead pastor of our former church said, “If you are referring to lectio divina, it’s been around since the Reformation.”  Interesting.  Many things have been around since even before the Reformation, and that doesn’t make them right.

I have heard other unsatisfactory responses when it comes to such entanglements.  “Why would you attack a ministry that has done so much to advance the kingdom” and there’s always the “you’re being unloving.” 

It hurts when people pull on the tangles, no one ever likes the rats brushed out.  It can pull and hurt.  Cutting out the cancer and treating it hurts.  What is hard, is that we were warned the weeds would grow among the fields.   We are to snatch some from the flames, but we will not be able to untangle all the knots until the return of our risen Lord.  This hurts all the more.  We can do our part, and it will not be enough but we are still called to do it.  It is finished in Christ Jesus.

Sadly, I have to admit I am entangled too.  The world is on me, though I am cleansed by the blood of the Lamb.  I pick up a thorn here, a barnacle there.  I get caught up too.  I am sure the first thing that will happen after I rejoice in seeing Jesus is sheer on my face mourning.  At least for the second He allows it.   I so long to be untangled. 

Maranatha.

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