Friday, August 18, 2006

PSEUDO-MISSION: Meditation

"The first move is to hear from the heart and to think deeply about what you hear. 'All who have ears to hear,' Jesus said, 'let them hear.' Hearing in this deep way means more than listening: it means thinking, and more than thinking. It means rethinking everything in light of the secret message. As we've seen, this profound rethinking is what the word repent means."
(Brian McLaren, The Secret Message of Jesus (W Publishing Group, 2006) p. 105)


"Each man is a channel for the expression of God's truths. As we evolve from within outwards we conform ourselves to the reception of certain gifts. Each man is a power in himself. We have to rise to our best each time we call truths out. They exist in us potentially and are ever seeking an outlet for right expression."
Swamie A.P. Mukerji, Yoga Lessons for Developing Spiritual Consciousness (Yogi Publ. Society, 1911), p. 28.



Continuing on the topic of inclusivism from yesterday's post, the very next section of Re-Thinking Missions is subtitled "What These Developments Call For." Once mission work accepts inclusivism, then what is next? The answer to this was meditation!

The 1932 Laymen's Inquiry broached this subject by calling for a "deepening our grasp of what Christianity actually means." This highlighted phrase comes immediately after a disparaging comment that implies that standing on biblical Truth would be seen as "rivalry" or "counter-aggression" to other faiths. This type of Christianity "is suffering from the poverty, the rigidity, the inertness of conceptions." And therefore, the solution to this negativity is…

You guessed it… "[R]eligion cannot be handed on as a finished doctrine" and therefore we need a "renewal of insight" that requires "different ways," including "thought" and "conduct" and "experience." Which leads the Inquiry to make the following radical suggestion:

"Christianity, therefore, cannot afford to leave to Buddhism or to Hinduism the arts of meditation.…

"We would commend to the Christian Church a serious inquiry into the religious value of meditation, a study of the ways in which a further place for this function can be brought into the Christian life, without falling into the common abuses of monasticism.…

"If Christianity is to get a better hold on its own meaning, it must make a place for explorative thinking;…

"…[No] religion can do its work in the modern age without all the tools of reflection.…

"Christianity is not equipped to meet and converse with the religious leaders of the Orient until it can enter competently into their world of thought."

The Laymen's Inquiry claimed that "the non-Christian religions do contain elements of instruction for us." Therefore, they concluded, Christianity needs to hearken to Buddhism so that we can learn from it, for it is a faith that is:

"[T]ruly practical: for it is the depths of the universe which most directly stir the depths of selfhood, and the stability of the inner life is the source of all strength for outer action. It is Zen Buddhism, we remember, a cult of quietude and discipline, which has given to Japan so many strong men in public life." [emphasis added]

The Laymen's Inquiry concluded this section of the chapter by suggesting that mutual "sharing" of religious ideas would be beneficial -- in other words opening a dialogue with other faiths. They proposed the "establishment of centers here and there as persons and occasions offer, for the avowed purpose of facilitating such cooperative religious inquiry." Several footnotes suggest ashrams, Buddhist monasteries, or Catholic hostels and hospices as suitable locations for embarking on this experience of solitary thought and meditative arts. The expressed purpose for this activity is to "strengthen religion," not Christianity.

"Out of these conversations and thoughts there should come, in the first place, a steady growth of mutual understanding and respect among these seekers of various faiths; then that deepening of self-knowledge which is inseparable from a better knowledge of others; and from time to time, as the supreme success, the birth of an idea which shall stir and strengthen religion in the race." [emphasis added]

Time for a reality check. What is this eastern mystical practice of meditation which the Laymen's Inquiry so wished to emulate and embrace? A little book from that same era -- 1911 -- entitled Yoga Lessons for Developing Spiritual Consciousness by Swamie A.P. Mukerji (published by the Yogi Publication Society, Masonic Temple, Chicago, Illinois) introduced meditative practices and theologies to the western mind. Herein it is clearly stated that the goal of meditation is to cultivate the "DIVINITY WITHIN" (p. 13) and become "the DIVINE MAN" (p. 26) Selected quotes from the book shed light on the real nature of yoga and meditation:

"MEN are going up an ascending scale of existence." (p. 50)

"The ascension of the soul is the development of the Spiritual Consciousness….
It is the quickening of your evolution on the spirutal plane by the up-keep of a systematized line of though activity plus the self-determined exercise of volition." (p. 63)

"Man's will is God's will. What is of God is God. The Infinite exists, in full stature, in each living, breathing form. Hence to know youself is to know God. You are Bliss Eternal." (p. 52)

"Each man is to himself absolutely the way, the truth and the life." (p. 169) [all emphases in original]

The Christian church has come a long way. What may have seemed like a radical suggestion for mission work in 1932 is now being openly practiced in evangelical churches today.

The Truth:

"Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen,…" (Jeremiah 10:2a)