Monday, February 22, 2010

Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Metaphysics (Part II) ~ Ray Yungen (click on the book[s] for link)

(Rick Warren Part II ~ See Part I)

I draw your attention now to a section in The Purpose Driven Life under Day 11, "Becoming Best Friends with God." In this section, Warren begins by telling readers that more than anything else, God wants to be our friend, that "we were made to live in God's continual presence,"[9] and that "we can now approach God anytime,"[10] but he adds there are "secrets"[11] to having a friendship with God. One of those secrets he refers to is a form of contemplative spirituality called "breath prayers."[12] He says that a relationship with God will never happen by just attending church and having a daily quiet time. He then offers an example of someone who learned this secret and had an intimate relationship with God. This person was a Carmelite monk named Brother Lawrence.

The fact that Brother Lawrence was in the Carmelite order means his spiritual practices were derived from or heavily influenced by Teresa of Avila who reformed that order in the previous century. In a book titled Christian Mystics, Professor Ursula King makes the startling revelation that:
[G]iven her [Teresa of Avila] partly Jewish background, her thinking was also affected by Jewish Kabbalistic mysticism, elements of which can be detected in her writings.[13]
Brother Lawrence is often quoted by contemplative authors for his habit of what he called "practicing the presence of God."[14] But what was the actual nature of this presence? Was it something that would reflect the true character of God? I find the following account from a devout advocate of Brother Lawrence both questionable and disturbing:
It is said of Brother Lawrence that when something had taken his mind away from love's presence he would receive "a reminder from God" that so moved his soul that he "cried out, singing and dancing violently like a mad man." You will note that the reminders came from God and were not his own doing.[15]
Brother Lawrence says that secret phrases must be "repeat[ed] often in the day,"[16] and "for the right practice of it, the heart must be empty of all other things."[17] He speaks of the trouble of wandering thoughts and says that the habit of practicing the presence of God is the "one remedy"[18] and the "best and easiest method"[19] he knows to dissolve distractions.

Rick Warren has not only favorably introduced this monk to his readers and called his ideas "helpful"[20] but has sandwiched between his comments on Brother Lawrence an unusual rendering of Ephesians 4:6 from the New Century Version concerning God that reads, "He rules everything and is everywhere and is in everything."[21] However, Warren neglects to rectify this misleading translation and alert the reader to the fact that Paul is speaking here of the Church body as uniquely united in Christ by one single faith under one single God as is clear by what immediately precedes the verse in question:
There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling, One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all. (Ephesians 4:4-6a)
And lest anyone should think Paul is speaking in terms of an all-inclusive God-is-in-everybody religion, he only says this after making one of the most concise presentations of the Gospel recorded in Scripture:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. . . . But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2: 8,9,13)
Without Warren giving any explanation to the verse he quotes, the implication is that God is in all creation, including all persons. Many reading The Purpose Driven Life may very well take this to mean that God is in all. Former New Age follower, Warren Smith, in his book Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose Driven Church, expounds:
Rick Warren's implication... that God is "in" every person is at the very heart of all New Age teaching. The Bible does not teach this. The New Century Version that Rick Warren quotes is dangerously mistaken in its translation of Ephesians 4:6.... New Age teachers with their New Spirituality are trying to co-opt this scripture to make it apply to the whole human race.[22]
Shalem Institute, founded by Tilden Edwards and located in Washington, DC, sees Brother Lawrence as someone whose contemplation' includes the belief that God is in everything:
Christian contemplation means finding God in all things and all things in God. Brother Lawrence, the 17th century Carmelite friar, called it "the loving gaze that finds God everywhere.[23]
Rick Warren has taken Brother Lawrence's advice of repeating A "little internal adorations" throughout the day a step further and tells his readers that "practicing the presence of God" can be accomplished through breath prayers. Warren states:
The Bible tells us to "pray all the time." How is it possible to do this? One way is to use "breath prayers" throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated to Jesus in one breath.[24]
Warren then advises readers to use visual reminders throughout the day and gives an example of others who practice breath prayers—Benedictine monks, known for their contemplative spirituality and interspirituality. According to Warren, this breath prayer that the monks practiced (and now we should practice) involves taking a "simple phrase" such as "I belong to you" or "You are my God" and "Pray it as often as possible."[25]

British metaphysical author Carolyn Reynolds, in her book Spiritual Fitness, defines meditation simply as "repeated sounds or phrases."[26] That is exactly what Warren is promoting. He assures readers, "Practicing the presence of God is a skill, a habit you can develop."[27] The key word here is "skill," which reflects Richard Foster's influence that Christians need to be trained in order to interact with God in any profound way. But it is the nature of this method that betrays the danger of the contemplative approach.

In Foster's book, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, Foster encourages readers to "bind the mind" with "breath prayers,"[28] quoting Theophane the Recluse and making reference to Brother Lawrence, calling him a practitioner of this type of prayer. Very likely, this Is where Warren picked this up.

I believe this is a question that needs to be asked, "Is breath prayer a valid practice?" In Sonia Choquette's book on psychic development, Your Heart's Desire, she says, "All of us need to take the time to expand our mental awareness in order to hear inner guidance."[29] The way she suggests doing this is through the same principle as breath prayer. One repeats, "I am calm" over and over again.

When a word or phrase is repeated over and over, after just a few repetitions, those words lose their meaning and become just sounds. Have you ever tried repeating a word over and over again? After three or four times, the word may begin to lose its meaning, and if this repeating of words were continued, normal thought processes could be blocked, making it possible to enter an altered state of consciousness because of a hypnotic effect that begins to take place. It really makes no difference whether the repeated words are "You are my God" or "I am calm," the results are the same. So, if you use Warren's method or the occult method, the use of a mantra will take you to the same place.

What Warren is teaching is a derivative of The Cloud of Unknowing, an ancient primer on contemplative prayer, written by an anonymous monk. Contemplative priest, Ken Kaisch, teaches his students this method of prayer found in Brother Lawrence's writings and describes what the term "presence" means:
You will be gradually able to tune into God's presence... you will have a sense of slow, vibrant, deep energy surrounding you... Let yourself flow with this energy, it is the Presence of our Lord... As you continue to dwell in the Presence, the intensity will grow. It is extremely pleasurable to experience.[30]
Warren not only promotes breath prayers on Day 11 in The Purpose Driven Life but also on Day 38, where he tells readers how to become "world-class Christian[s]" through the "practice [of].. breath prayers."[31] In addition to these two references, there are four references to using breath prayers on Warren's website, which reaches thousands of pastors throughout the world. And on the main Purpose Driven website, Warren again promotes this practice in an article titled "Purpose Driven Life: Worship That Pleases God."[32]
  • Footnotes
9. Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), p. 85.
10. Ibid., p. 86.
11. Ibid., p. 87.
12. Ibid., p. 89.
13. Ursula King, Christian Mystics (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 1998), p. 138.
14. Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, online version at
15. Gerald May, The Awakened Heart (New York, NY:HarperCollins, First HarperCollins Paperback Edition, 1993) p. 87, citing from The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, translated by John Delaney, Image Books, 1977, p. 34.
16. Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God, Christian Classics Ethereal Library, online version, op, cit.
17. Ibid.
18. Ibid.
19. Ibid.
20. Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life, op. cit., p. 88.
21. Ibid.
22. Warren Smith, Deceived on Purpose (Magalia, CA: Mountain Stream Press, 2004), pp. 81, 83.
23. A Shalem Senior Staff, "Contemplative Spirituality" (Shalem Institute, spirituality.html/view?search term=brother %20lawrence).
[This site has changed and I cannot confirm this articles address, not that it doesn't exist. I found interesting this bit of info from the site]:
Matthew Fox Coming to Shalem
Shalem is thrilled to host Matthew Fox as this year's presenter at the Gerald May Seminar. Celebrate the 40th anniversary of Earth Day with Shalem and Matthew Fox as he talks about Earth Spirituality and the Mystical Tradition. April 23-24, 2010
Register early before it sells out! Click here for more info.(
24. Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life, op. cit., p. 89.
25. Ibid.
26. Carolyn Reynolds, Spiritual Fitness (Camarillo, CA: DeVorss & Company, 2005), p. 105.
27. Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life, op. cit., p. 89.
28. Richard Foster, Prayer: Finding the Heart's True Home, op. cit., p. 124.
29. Sonia Choquette, Your Heart's Desire (New York, NY: Three Rivers Press, 1997), p. 107.
30. Ken Kaisch, Finding God: A Handbook of Christian Meditation (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1994), pp. 63, 64.
31. Rick Warren, Purpose Driven Life, op. cit., p. 299.
32. Rick Warren, "Purpose Driven Life: Worship That Pleases God" 
(Purpose Driven website, http://www., accessed 12/2005).