Catch of the Week, Current Events and Politics, Faith and Christianity

St. Teresa of Avila

I wish I had my old friend Paul to pass this by….

It’s rare to find a woman blogger who takes this perspective, and writes this well. The Tim Challies article at the end of the stream is also quite detail. Runs against the gain of contemporary thinking. Read the 4 parts of the St. Teresa’s experience. Is this good or bad?

Perhaps because of their more sensitive and emotional nature women tend in this direction more often than men, but it is not exclusive. Or perhaps it really is their nature.

2 Corinthians 11:3  But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

Genesis 3:1  Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

Hey, don’t stone me, it was Moses and Paul who wrote about that! It might be true.

Men have their own issues.

Maybe we didn’t inherit this benefit.

Genesis 3:5  For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Anyway read below. Are there Logical Fallacies, or Straw Man arguments or examples of Begging the Question, or Stone Throwing in what they say, or are their points valid? Or just bad gripes.

Since Dean and I are reading Wylie’s The History of the Reformation, I was struck by this quote:

Protestants have long held to the doctrine of sola scripture—Scripture alone. Teresa wrote during the Counter-Reformation, the period of time in which Rome was responding to the challenge of these Protestant doctrines. Donald Whitney says, “the Scriptures alone—and not anyone’s individual experience nor the collected and distilled corporate tradition of the church—are our final authority. And the Scriptures are our final authority because the Scriptures are what God says. In this context sola scriptura means that the Bible is the ultimate authority in all matters of faith and Christian living, and thus the ultimate authority in spirituality.” The Bible is also “a sufficient guide for our spirituality. In other words, the authority for our spirituality claims its sufficiency as the director of our spirituality.” The Bible will guide us not only in what we know of God but also in how we know God.

It seems so much of Christian Culture today gets far too focused on the latest new/old discovery of pathways to faith from the popular writers and conference speakers. About the only Spiritual Pathway not tolerated or encouraged is the classical reformed view. Nothing new here though.

Jer 6:16  Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

Jer 6:17  Also I set watchmen over you, saying, Hearken to the sound of the trumpet. But they said, We will not hearken.

But it’s almost as impossible to argue that as an option today as it was in Jeremiah’s time.

As for me some 10-12 years ago, somehow I became convinced to leave behind the teachings and training I have had since my early exposure to Richard Foster back in the late 1970’s. Thirty years was enough. But it’s hard just to keep focused on the Bible, when so many alternatives are being presented (can I say “Sold”) to us everyday. Almost always with good intentions.

Btw..the title of the first article is a bit strong but the author admits she making a wisecrack. But her final sentences do have some truth in them.

The U.S. secular culture is already far along the “anything goes” sexual path. The church will follow a la the Jewish religious leaders of the OT—that’s how it works—unless we have the savvy to recognize that “What’s next—temple prostitutes?” could become more than just a wisecrack.

What to do? We must examine, with discernment, the teachings of the spiritual mentors we’re following. “Watch your life and doctrine closely,” Paul told Timothy (1 Timothy 4:16), who was working in Ephesus, the HQ of the sometimes-erotic worship of the goddess Artemis. Let’s read the Old Testament and take a hard look at what happens when believers don’t stay on alert. Then we’ll be equipped to expose false teaching when we find it, instead of overlooking/endorsing it.

Anyway don’t get hung up or offended by the title, and if you find any serious logic errors let me know.

(Caution…I’ve reblogged what they have written and given the actual links in the titles. Lynn Pratt is a new blogger to me, i like what she says and how she says it in these articles but have not reviewed her other work, so as always use discernment.)

“What’s Next—Temple Prostitutes?”

Lynn Pratt / September 6, 2018

That title was a crack I made around 2006 when I became aware of the new wave of false teaching entering the church. One aspect of that teaching hinted that our experience with Jesus was (should be?) sexual. (Christians who use a mantra, as in contemplative prayer, and go into an altered state of consciousness sometimes have erotic experiences, which they mistakenly believe to be “union” with God/Jesus.)

There was new interest in/promotion of the “bridal mysticism” of medieval nuns like Teresa of Avila: “Body and spirit are in the throes of a sweet, happy pain…and a spell of strangulation…swoon-like weakness…” There were quotes in Christian books, like Tony Campolo saying, “There is nothing wrong . . . with eroticism in worship.” And Ann Voskamp: “Mystical union…. God as Husband in sacred wedlock, bound together, body and soul… To know him the way Adam knew Eve. Spirit skin to spirit skin…” Ken Wilson: “I was having feelings of connection with the divine… [that] reminded me very much of the amorous feelings I have for my wife.”

You may not have connected the dots, but go back to the Old Testament (and general history) as a reminder that pagan religions typically include sexual ritual. And when believers in God step away from God’s path, it inevitably trends toward an “anything goes” sexual culture. There are loads of Scripture warnings against following pagan practices (ex: Deuteronomy 12:30-32)—not to mention any number of explanations of failures to obey those warnings (ex: 1 Kings 14:22-24). And at some point, says 2 Kings 23:7, the quarters of shrine prostitutes were actually “in the temple of the Lord”!

Well, those people were idiots, right? We in the church today would never be tricked into that sort of thing.

But see, you and/or your small group are almost surely using books written by people who are on that path, or who at least are being influenced by such people. (You can partly discern a writer’s spiritual family tree by looking at who is quoted in the endnotes.) The average Christian probably reads quotes like those above and brushes them aside with, “Oh, surely it doesn’t mean THAT!” But people engaged in mystical practice DO mean that.

And so we come to the next level, with such ideas now being even more openly promoted. In 2017, a book came out called Tantric Jesus: The Erotic Heart of Early Christianity. (Tantrism is sex magic. Look it up.) The sales pitch is that this “wisdom” of Jesus resonates with the “tantric yogas of India and Tibet.” This thing is so blasphemous against the Lord, I can’t even bring myself to give a sample quotation. The U.S. secular culture is already far along the “anything goes” sexual path. The church will follow a la the Jewish religious leaders of the OT—that’s how it works—unless we have the savvy to recognize that “What’s next—temple prostitutes?” could become more than just a wisecrack.

What to do? We must examine, with discernment, the teachings of the spiritual mentors we’re following. “Watch your life and doctrine closely,” Paul told Timothy (1 Timothy 4:16), who was working in Ephesus, the HQ of the sometimes-erotic worship of the goddess Artemis. Let’s read the Old Testament and take a hard look at what happens when believers don’t stay on alert. Then we’ll be equipped to expose false teaching when we find it, instead of overlooking/endorsing it.

Tagged contemplative prayer, false teaching, sex, tantrism, Teresa of Avila

St. Teresa of Avila

Lynn Pratt / July 10, 2018

People ask what names to look for in spotting iffy teaching. Medieval mystic St. Teresa of Avila is one. No judgment is being made on Teresa’s motives/sincerity. But her encounters with what she thought was Jesus were disturbing, erotic, dark—more indicative of demonic mischief. Tim Challies’s article is a concise look at Teresa’s spirituality. (Be sure to see the quote about “strangulation.”) Teresa lived in terror of “committing the smallest offence against God” and said Jesus made her life a “continual torment” (Interior Castle). In spite of all that (and more), many writers/ministers steer us to follow poor, misguided Teresa. For example, Philip Yancey calls her “one of the masters of prayer” (Prayer, p. 184).

Tagged prayer, Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila—a Master of Prayer?

Lynn Pratt / May 9, 2018

Philip Yancey’s book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (2006, Zondervan), sadly, steers us to medieval mystic Teresa of Avila for guidance regarding our prayer lives. He praises her as “one of the masters of prayer.” (p. 184) And he states that she wrote “one of the most exhaustive books on prayer ever written.” (p. 323)

Sounds like someone to emulate.

But before we start collecting wisdom from Teresa, we should realize that what Teresa really “mastered” wasn’t prayer at all. The poor girl opened occult doors (via contemplative or mantra prayer and also praying to saints—which is consulting the dead and forbidden in Scripture). She levitated, starved and tortured herself, had erotic encounters with entities . . . Mr. Yancey should have clarified a few things.

Additionally, Mr. Yancey seems to think of prayer as something difficult. He says, “I take some comfort in the fact that virtually all the masters of spirituality recount a dark night of the soul. . . . Teresa of Avila spent twenty years in a nearly prayerless state before breaking through to emerge as a master of prayer.” (p. 201)

Does Scripture teach that prayer requires a 20-year agony, some special talent/formula, some sort of breakthrough to become a “master of spirituality”? No! Rather, the Lord repeatedly invites us to simply call on him anytime, anywhere, about anything. Nobody has to be a “master” to speak with the Master.

Tagged Philip Yancey, prayer, Teresa of Avila

The False Teachers: Teresa of Avila

Tim Challies

May 15, 2014

A few weeks ago I set out on a series of articles through which I am scanning the history of the church—from its earliest days all the way to the present time—to examine some of Christianity’s most notable false teachers and to examine the false doctrine each of them represents. Along the way we have visited such figures as Joseph Smith (Mormonism), Ellen G. White (Adventism), Norman Vincent Peale (Positive Thinking) and Benny Hinn (Faith Healing). Today we turn to a post-Reformation nun whose mysticism has remained influential through the centuries. She represents the false teaching of mysticism.

Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila was born on March 28, 1515, to a family that would soon number twelve. Sadly, Teresa’s mother died in 1529 and against her father’s wishes, she entered the Carmelite Convent of the Incarnation at Avil. Very quickly she encountered significant health concerns and was rendered an invalid for three years. It was during this time that she discovered and developed a love for prayer. However, once her health was recovered, this dedication to prayer soon waned. At that time, and in that area, the Carmelites were a relaxed order and living as a nun was easy, respectable, and could even be glamorous at times.

In 1554, when she was almost 40, Teresa had an intense religious experience while she was before an image of the wounded Christ in the convent’s private chapel. She felt that Christ “was within me, or that I was totally engulfed by him.” Such experiences became more common and she became accustomed to Christ appearing to her and engulfing her in his love, though this was regarded with suspicion by her fellow nuns and by her priest confessors. There was suspicion toward anyone who claimed to be receiving special illumination or revelation from God.

In 1558, increasingly concerned with the laxity of Carmelite life, Teresa began to consider reform. This reform would require Carmelite nuns to completely withdraw from society around them so they could dedicate their time and attention to prayer, and through a life of repentance and penance, do works of reparation for the sins of mankind. Pope Pius IV authorized this reform and in 1562 she founded a new convent, insisting that the nuns survive only through receiving public alms. She would give the rest of her life to establishing and growing sixteen of these convents through Spain. Though it all, she would have ongoing and increasing mystical experiences.

She left behind a significant number of books including The Way of Perfection(1583), and The Interior Castle (1588), which many regard as a masterpiece of spiritual autobiography alongside Augustin’s Confessions. Beside her books, she left behind some 31 poems and 458 letters.

Teresa died of cancer on October 4, 1582. It was said that she died in a state of ecstasy and that as she died, any object she had touched sent forth a sweet odor. Forty years later she was canonized by Pope Gregory XV and thereafter named a Doctor of the Church by Pope Paul VI, the first female to be so honored.

False Teaching – Mysticism

Teresa was a mystic. Donald Whitney says mysticism refers to “those forms of Christian spirituality which attempt direct or unmediated access to God.” Mystics are those who expect to experience “a direct inner realization of the Divine” and an “unmediated link to an absolute.”

At the heart of Teresa’s teaching was the ascent of the soul into sweet and unbroken mystical communion with God. She described four progressive stages in this ascent.

1 Mental Prayer. The first is mental prayer, devout contemplation and concentration, through which the soul withdraws from everything physical around it. This happens especially during penitence and during times of observing Christ in his suffering and death.

2 Prayer of Quiet. In prayer of quiet, the human will becomes lost in God’s will in a kind of supernatural state. Faculties such as memory, reason and imagination have not yet been quieted from outside distraction, but the mind and will are quiet in a growing experience of Christ’s presence.

3 Devotion of Union. The devotion of union is a supernatural, ecstatic state in which human reason has become absorbed in God and only memory and imagination remain unclaimed. This is a state of bliss and peace where the higher faculties experience a sweet rest and the devotee experiences conscious rapture in God’s love.

4 Devotion of Ecstasy or Rapture. This is a passive state in which the feeling of having a physical body disappears. Sense, memory and imagination are all absorbed in God. “Body and spirit are in the throes of a sweet, happy pain, alternating between a fearful fiery glow, a complete impotence and unconsciousness, and a spell of strangulation, sometimes by such an ecstatic flight that the body is literally lifted into space . This after half an hour is followed by a reactionary relaxation of a few hours in a swoon-like weakness, attended by a negation of all the faculties in the union with God. The subject awakens From this in tears; it is the climax of mystical experience, producing a trance. Indeed, she was said to have been observed levitating during Mass on more than one occasion.”1

Followers & Modern Adherents

Despite significant opposition to her experiences and reform, Teresa gained a substantial following in her day and was influential on her generation of fellow Carmelite nuns and on other mystics such as John of the Cross. Her influence has only widened in the centuries since, and especially after her canonization. Her books have been the primary means of disseminating her ideas.

In days past her many admirers have seen her in many different lights. “George Eliot, who cast Teresa as patron saint of the frustrated bluestocking Dorothea Brooke in Middlemarch ; Vita Sackville–West, who made Teresa into a twentieth century free spirit with (but of cours) lesbian proclivities; and a range of feminist theorists, from Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex to the tenured denizens of numerous women’s studies departments. To them, Teresa was a postmodern “subversive” against patriarchal power structures both secular and ecclesial, androcentric metanarrative, and whatever else is currently deemed oppressive to the female sex.”2

In recent days her influence among Christians has grown, and especially during a resurgence of interest in contemplative prayer. Her doctrine of asceticism is considered a classic explanation and exposition of the contemplative life. Teresa’s understanding of the soul’s ascent and the mystical communion with God through contemplative prayer has been influential to the likes of those who have a fascination with mysticism including Brennan Manning, Richard Foster, and Watchman Nee, along with many who were (or are) associated with Emerging Christianity. We can also spot her direct or indirect influence in the works of bestselling authors like Sarah Young (Jesus Calling) and Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts).

What the Bible Says

At the heart of mysticism is the primacy of experience over Scripture. Mystics seek to experience God directly rather than through the mediation of the Bible. Scripture demands for itself a unique place in the Christian life and church and mysticism threatens to supplant it. One of the great challenges before every Christian and every generation of Christians is this: Will the Bible be enough? Will we affirm the sufficiency of Scripture—that the Bible is all we need for life and doctrine—or will we demand that God reveal himself to us in other ways, such as mystical raptures?

Protestants have long held to the doctrine of sola scripture—Scripture alone. Teresa wrote during the Counter-Reformation, the period of time in which Rome was responding to the challenge of these Protestant doctrines. Donald Whitney says, “the Scriptures alone—and not anyone’s individual experience nor the collected and distilled corporate tradition of the church—are our final authority. And the Scriptures are our final authority because the Scriptures are what God says. In this context sola scriptura means that the Bible is the ultimate authority in all matters of faith and Christian living, and thus the ultimate authority in spirituality.” The Bible is also “a sufficient guide for our spirituality. In other words, the authority for our spirituality claims its sufficiency as the director of our spirituality.” The Bible will guide us not only in what we know of God but also in how we know God.

Whitney offers two ways we cross this boundary of sola scriptura. The first is whenever

we seek an experience with Him in a way not found in Scripture. In one sense it is difficult to think of an example of an encounter with God for which there is nothing remotely similar in the Bible. Yet in another sense mankind seems to have a unlimited capacity to invent ways to “get in touch with God.” And all these have in common the presumption of the ability to experience God apart from the forms He has selected, and/or the presumption of the ability to experience Him immediately, that is, unmediated by God’s ordained means of revealing Himself to us.

A second way to cross the boundary of sola scriptura is

seeking to experience God in a way not inaugurated, guided, or interpreted by Scripture. Scripture should inaugurate many of our experiences with God, for the Scriptures are the clearest revelation of God. This is why He gave His Word to us, so that we would experience Him. And in a real sense we might say that all true experiences with God are ultimately inaugurated by Scripture.

When we understand the unique position Scripture demands for itself, we also understand the danger inherent in mysticism.

Note: Readers pointed out that initially I did not properly cite Wikipedia’s entry on Teresa of Avila; I appreciate having that pointed out and added a footnote as appropriate. It was clearly marked as a quote in my research notes but that did not make it to the article. As for the general tone of the article, it is meant to be informational more than biographical, by which I mean I do not provide exhaustive information about the false teachers; most of my interest is in the false teaching. Of course this does not excuse sloppy or inaccurate information and this article did not adhere to the standards I would want it to. I am traveling this week and, being away from my usual routines and my usual reference works, allowed myself to be sloppy in both research and writing. It would have been far better to save this for another week and to ensure it was of better quality. I will attempt to revisit this article soon and to do a better job of it. For the next few days I am in Australia preaching two to three times a day and I need to prioritize that (I’d really appreciate your prayers in this time as I have not adjusted well to the fourteen time-zone difference and am extremely tired); I will return to the article after I return to Canada. In the meantime, please do forgive me for my sloppiness.

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