Celebrating the Atonement and Resurrection While Promoting Contemplative Prayer — A Profound Contradiction

By Lighthouse Trails

Resurrection of Christ

In 1922, liberal pastor and theologian Harry Emerson Fosdick stated the following words in his sermon titled “Will the Fundamentalists Win?”:

“It is interesting to note where the Fundamentalists are driving in their stakes to mark out the deadline of doctrine around the church, across which no one is to pass except on terms of agreement. They insist that we must all believe in the historicity of certain special miracles, preeminently the virgin birth of our Lord; that we must believe in a special theory of inspiration-that the original documents of the Scripture, which of course we no longer possess, were inerrantly dictated to men a good deal as a man might dictate to a stenographer; that we must believe in a special theory of the Atonement-that the blood of our Lord, shed in a substitutionary death, placates an alienated Deity and makes possible welcome for the returning sinner.”

Fosdick considered the doctrine of a blood atonement a “slaughterhouse religion”

What this line of thinking is saying is that while Jesus’ going to the Cross should be looked at as an example of perfect servanthood and sacrifice ( the term servant leader is connected to this), the idea that God would send His Son to a violent death on the Cross is barbaric and would never happen. Thus, Fosdick (and those who adhere to this reasoning) rejects Christ as a substitute for our penalty of sin (“the wages of sin is death” – Romans 6:23).

In Roger Oakland’s book, Faith Undone, in the chapter titled “Slaughterhouse Religion” (see extract below), he shows where contemplatives and emerging church leaders hold to the same view. This is easy to understand how they could be like this when one understands the underlying panentheistic nature of contemplative prayer. In other words, contemplative mystics believe that man is divine (i.e., that God/divinity dwells in all creation – all humans in particularly).  If man is divine, then he does not need to have anyone make atonement for him. A substitutionary  death (taking a sinner’s place) on the Cross would not be necessary and in fact, would be an insult to man’s own divine nature.  It would be humiliating. Like contemplative mystic monk Thomas Merton said (quoted by Leonard Sweet in Quantum Spirituality), if we really knew what was in each one of us, we would bow down and worship one another. He and other contemplatives say that man’s biggest problem isn’t a sinful nature; no, it’s that he does not realize he is divine. Do all these pastors and professors who promote contemplative figures realize this is what they are really promoting?

During this time of the year, when most churches are holding Easter services (traditionally in honor of the death and resurrection of Jesus), how many of these same churches are clinging to contemplative/emerging spirituality without even comprehending what it really stands for (and some do realize it). If Jesus’ going to the Cross and shedding blood was merely an act of service and sacrifice, an example for others to follow, and was not actually a substitutionary payment for the sins of humanity, then why celebrate Easter and the resurrection? It would make no sense. Those churches who cling to contemplative/emergent ideologies and practices should consider this. While they cling to one (contemplative), they’re on the road to denying the other (the atonement) . . . even if they don’t realize it. Continue reading

See our White Papers on Contemplative Prayer and the Emergent Church

, , , , , ,