A Fortress of Solitude … Entering the SILENCE
Jim Burns is President of HomeWord and Executive Director of the HomeWord Center for Youth and Family at Azusa Pacific University. His radio broadcast is heard on over 800 stations a day (including Calvary chapels KLHT in Hawaii) and heard around the world via podcast at HomeWord.com
So when I heard Burns interview with Ruth Haley Barton giving her such a great review I was very concerned.
Burns says in his broadcast Barton has a great book whom he highly recommends and called the day of his interview, “spiritual direction day.” So let’s hear where the people are being led.
Burns says he read through her book two times “Invitation to solitude and silence.” Burns quotes her book that desperation is what propelled her into solitude. She says desperation is good very thing in the spiritual life … as it because it causes us to be open to solutions or open to ways of being that are different then what we might be willing for if we weren’t so desperate.”
At age thirty Barton had questions and she did not know where to turn, “the normal bible studies and sermons and those sorts of things weren’t helping on the levels of which I needed help and so at that point I had a spiritual director that pointed me to the disciplines of solitude and silence.” At this point Burns asks “help us to understand what a spiritual director is…”
Barton: “a spiritual director is someone is more well versed in the ways of the soul than many of us are someone who has great deal of experience… training in paying attention to what is happening in a persons soul, what’s happening in a person’s relationship with God ” a person who is practiced in the area of discernment which is being able to sense the presence of God and then able to support us in faithfully following God’s will in our lives.
Her definition of discernment is quite different than the bibles
(let us consider that each of us are given the Holy Spirit personally to search out our heart. She says we need more, another human person whose trained; they are like a psychological mediator.)
Barton who is one of the main promoters of teaches thousands of pastors and Christian leaders about Spiritual Formation said this about her own spiritual director:
Here is what she said in another interview from navpress "A few years ago, I began to recognize an inner chaos in my soul . . . No matter how much I prayed, read the Bible, and listened to good teaching, I could not calm the internal roar created by questions with no answers."
“Not knowing exactly what I needed, I sought out a spiritual director, someone well versed in the ways of the soul.
As I entered into this new relationship, I remember wanting to talk about everything: the hectic nature of life with a husband and three children, the demands of professional life and graduate school, and the issues that kept me stirred up emotionally.
We did do some talking, but eventually this wise woman said to me, "Ruth, you are like a jar of river water all shaken up. What you need is stillness and silence so that the sediment can settle and the water can become clear."… I decided to accept this invitation to move beyond my addiction to words." (Beyond Words posted on bible.org)"Beyond Words:Experience God's presence in silence and solitude "
To move herself beyond words? Notice that she sought this.
(Homeword) Barton: “15 years ago people within evangelicalism weren’t talking about solitude and silence and they weren’t talking about spiritual directors, so it was all new to me but I also believe that when the student is ready the teacher will appear.”
15 years ago we in the church were more bible based so there is the answer to her point. We have now allowed eastern type meditations to be brought into the church and are accepted, i.e. Christianized, by those who have no discernment of the word and allowed themselves to have outside spiritual influences (remember that she said To move herself beyond words)
Her phrase “when the student is ready the teacher will appear” This statement is attributed to Buddha, but it really did not originate with Gautama. It is clearly a phrase found with the gurus of India. And very concerning to hear her say this over so many stations.
Theosophy magazine of 1918, we have: “When the disciple is ready, the Master will appear.”
And in a 1927 publication, Steps to Self-Mastery, S. R. Parchment says: “When the pupil is ready, the Master appears”
In a Masonic publication from 1922 is an old Theosophical statement., we also read “It is said, in what is called Occultism, that when the pupil is ready the Master will appear.”
(some may say different words: disciple, seeker or learner instead of student, or have master instead of teacher but they all mean the same thing.)
According to Jesus, The Holy Spirit is our teacher, He sent him to lead us into all truth but Barton is speaking of something very different.
“This person was able to point me toward the disciplines of solitude and silence which were radically different kinds of invitations for me at that point my Christian life was Characterized by many many words a whole lot of intellectual striving and hard work a whole lot of activity and Christian business. She says that she accepted the invitation “and If I hadn’t been so desperate I probably would have run the other way.”
She talks about this exercise being used to meet God. She calls it an ancient tradition”, yet I can’t seem to find in in all of the Bible? So it’s ancient but not originating from the Bible.
Burns then asks, “where do people start?
Barton: she says she wrote the book because most people could not have a spiritual director (so much for the saying when the student is ready the teacher will appear; apparently it’s only for the few.
She wrote the book as a spiritual director Barton sound like she is on some spiritual journey than resting in Christ and the truth he has made known in his word.
Maybe she was frustrated because she was not doing things in the Spirit that gives joy in the process (though it may have hard work for any who enter into reaching people). I’m not sure except to say where she is pointing people for the solution is not God’s way to solve this.
So we must ask who is Ruth Haley Barton’s spiritual director?
On The Transforming Center website we read Ruth Haley Barton is “Co-Founder & President” as well as:
a spiritual director, teacher and retreat leader trained through the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation…A student of Family Systems Theory as it relates to congregational life (Lombard Mennonite Peace Center), Ruth consults with leadership teams in church and organizational settings. She provides teaching and guidance in the areas of spiritual formation and leadership development, community building and discernment. (Online source, emphasis mine)
"Shalem is an ecumenical Christian organization devoted to the support of contemplative spirituality."
She was “trained through the Shalem Institute for Spiritual Formation.” The home of its own “Founder and Senior Fellow” Tilden Edwards. In his book Spiritual Friend: Reclaiming the Gift of Spiritual Direction (SF) Edwards shares with us where this neo-gnostic CSM actually came from and while doing so reveals where it will eventually take those who continue in it long enough.
Edwards also enlightens us that his particular:
"This mystical stream [contemplative prayer] is the Western bridge to Far Eastern spirituality."— (and to that of Sufi Moslems and some Hassidic Jews in the West as well). The Zen warning not to confuse the pointing finger…for the moon to which it points is a saying that a Christian mystic easily understands. It is no accident that the most active frontier between Christian and Eastern religions today is between contemplative Christian monks and their Eastern equivalents. Some forms of Eastern meditation informally have been incorporated or adapted into the practice of many Christian monks, and increasingly by other Christians. (Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend, p. 18.)
In his article Jesus and Buddha: Good Friends by Tilden Edwards
For many years, I have kept in my office an ink drawing of two smiling figures with their arms around each other: Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha, with the caption: "Jesus and Buddha must be very good friends." They are not the same, but they are friends, not enemies, and they are not indifferent to one another. From the very beginning of Shalem, I have been moved to affirm that statement. In my recently revised first book, Living Simply through the Day, I tell the story of my experience with a Tibetan Buddhist lama in 1973 and how my time with him helped me understand Christian contemplative tradition in a more experiential way.
Many years ago, the Roman Catholic theologian John Dunne said that the spiritual adventure of our time is the passing over to the standpoint of another religion or culture and returning with new insight to one's own. Indeed, many members of Roman Catholic religious orders have taken the lead in recent decades in "passing over" to Buddhist practices and standpoints and returning with a fresh perspective on Christian faith and practice. …
We live in a time of great renaissance for contemplative understanding and practice. Many people have discovered the contemplative strands of other traditions that contribute to Judaeo-Christian ones. I believe that the Holy Spirit is in these enrichments across faith lines, ….
The story of Gautama Buddha actually entered Christian tradition in the Middle Ages in a disguised way as the story of a popular saint: Josephat (one of two St. Josephat's at the time). As I have encountered that story through some of the Buddha's living practitioners, the story of Jesus has not disappeared nor been watered down for me. On the contrary, Jesus has come alive in a larger and more intimate way than ever before. … For many years, I have kept in my office an ink drawing of two smiling figures with their arms around each other: Jesus Christ and Gautama Buddha, with the caption: "Jesus and Buddha must be very good friends." They are not the same, but they are friends, not enemies, and they are not indifferent to one another. From the very beginning of Shalem, I have been moved to affirm that statement. In my recently revised first book, Living in the Presence
As some have suggested, perhaps we should no longer speak of interfaith relations but of intrafaith relations as we come to realize that we share the same mysterious divine ground with different, evolving experiences of it. Contemplative traditions can be particularly helpful in showing us the inclusive ground that is deeper than words, structures and categories; a holy ground that is finally trust-worthy, liberating, and pervaded by a mysterious love ever drawing us.
Jesus Christ has his own unique way of showing us that great, underlying, loving light. Gautama Buddha illuminates some of its facets through his own profound experience
Volume 24, No. 1-Winter, 2000http://www.shalem.org/index.php/resources/newsletter/newsletter-archive/winter00#05
”I am a trained spiritual director.”Where is that concept mentioned in the Bible. We are to make disciples not teach these ancient disciplines. The chapters (6-8) help take you in a five step way into the journey and then theres a practice at the end of each chapter that actually helps people practice the discipline the kind of help that I received form the spiritual director.” Burns describes what he read “close your eyes breath deeply y’know three times whatever,…
Burns then quotes Henry Nowen from Bartons book: “Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life”(Nowen was a interfaith believer)
“We do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside to be with God and listen to him.”
Now I want to pause here and have you consider that our time is to be spent in the word, this is the main and plain way God speaks to us and instructs us. He never says to approach Him each time with silence, being alone in solitude away from noise that distract does help us concentrate as we read ( so we can think) but not for when we do not read.
Burns: One of the phrases I picked up in your book is, we have to identify “sacred space and time”
Talk about sacred space for a minute.”
Barton: sacred space means set apart and I this case means set apart for God.” (I thought holy, sanctified meant this for our lives) “so a sacred space would be a space set apart for God and I Just broaden the idea and talk about time as well… a time that is set apart for God alone.”(ed. Note: if that is all this would entailed I would agree but it is not)
Barton:“So I really encourage people at the beginning of their journey into solitude and silence to identify a place… in home or in a church. Even if all you do is turn your chair and look outside. That is your sacred space and your body and your soul eventually will begin to recognize when you are entering into that sacred space” and so your body can actually lead you soul at that point into that sense of quiet on the inside.”
Think about what she is saying here. Your body is never to lead the soul but the Spirit of God is to rule over the body and the soul. That is how one is in submission to God.
In the Old testament a sacred place was where God was manifested himself usually in glory, it became a holy place, what she is talking about is making your own, wherever you want. What we need is a place to have quiet to read and pray but this is not the same as what she is describing, similar words but the meaning is different.
In the beginning… this was 15 years ago that I started to be invited into this discipline myself… (by God? No.)
“For myself… when I first began this discipline I was only able to tolerate 10 minutes. Because the RPM’s of my soul and life were going so fast. (she then gives an example of stopping a fast car and the momentum). “Sometimes even the 20 minutes would be very hard because my mind would be is distracted.”
This is the same complaint of meditators. The bible tells us to think on these things for meditation, so we focus on what is right, not force ourselves to go silent.
She speaks about increasing our attitude for solitude and silence. Burns quotes Dallas Williard who wrote the forward to her book, “that silence is frightening because it strips us like nothing else does.“ Actually it is the word of God that shows us what we need to know in these matters.
She talks about being drawn in and resisting, ”If we can push past our resistance we actually cross a threshold into a place where solitude becomes a much more comfortable and inviting place for us to be. But there will be that threshold place that’s characterized by that push pull phenomenon or that area of resistance.”
What she is depicting is like Zen. What she is describing is the Martha Mary syndrome. The problem is Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened. She would interpret this as being silent. God tells us to hear and read the word.
“Whatever time we can give God, I think God is just waiting outside the borders of our busyness just waiting for that little opening. So even if all we can give him is ten minutes which is all I gave him the first whole year that I was practicing. God is so faithful to come into those spaces we create for him
Christianity teaches that God lives in us, he is not just outside waiting. If one is sensitive to the Holy Spirit we will hear him speak even when we are active.
In the second part of the broadcast Burns introduces Barton’s practice for slowing down in life. Peace in the pressures of life, the madness in life. Introduces her as the president of transforming center associate of spiritual formations and one who “shapes the souls of people.”
The program announcer states “its not mystical or middle eastern” (how about eastern? To be more accurate. Because that is exactly what it is)
Barton speaks of her desperation and from what I have heard ignores the sinful nature of man. Concentrating on a physical manifestation she says Elijah was on a journey of solitude into God, the angel was sent to tell him to rest his body.
“For me when I first began my journey this was the first thing my spiritual director taught.
She and others use the Old Testament specifically one scripture to justify this. “Be still and know that I am God.” This is a scripture that is used in all kinds of ways from occultists to monks.
She says the word rapha means to let go, actually to let go of your grip.” Let’s read it in context to understand its meaning. Psalm 46:10 “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”
7503 raphah a primitive root; to slacken (in many applications, literal or figurative):
KJV-- abate, cease, consume, draw [toward evening], fail, (be) faint, be (wax) feeble, forsake, idle, leave, let alone (go, down), (be) slack, stay, be still, be slothful, (be) weak (-en). See 7495.
Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary says Ps 46:10 The transition is most impressive, the covenant people the speaking triumphantly of God among themselves (Ps 46:1-7), then calling on the pagan to behold His works (Ps 46:8-9), and now God Himself commanding the pagan troublers of His people, "Be still,"-i.e., Desist from your mad attempt to fight against Omnipotence arrayed on the side of God's people.”
It means to cease what you are doing, let God do it, trust in Him. Thus letting Him be in control. Another example is Moses saying to Israel when they needed to cross the red Sea to escape the Egyptian armies Ex 14:13, "Stand still, and see the salvation of God."
Yet burns comments’ “it works with the mind.” Barton: we know how to rest our bodies but we don’t know how to rest our minds.”
So we see she has yanked the scripture from its meaning and formed it to their own predilection.
Barton then proceeds, silence is the primary discipline: ”we work putting things into words.” She then suggests ”though you are working on my behalf but for these few moments I don’t need you right now ‘(In other words turn off your mind)
Burns: ”We track our emptiness even if they are painful. It opens us up to what you call the substance of God” How do you get to this emptiness?”
Barton: “By staying in it” by continuing in the journey open and available?”
The bible teaches that God is with us, he will never leave nor forsake us. He is an ever present help in time of our need. He does not wait for us to go in some unbiblical spiritual discipline to contact him.
In one of her advertisements: “Ruth Haley Barton describes how she has discovered the real presence of God – the God who is present through the practice of solitude and silence.” (Invitation to Solitude and Silence Experiencing God's Transforming Presence@ christianaudio.com)
Why did she have to discover what is promised to be living inside every person who has accepted the gospel? Do we all have to use her method to discover this as she did?
“Silence deepens our experience of solitude as we allow the noise of our own thoughts, strivings, and inner compulsions to settle down so we can hear a truer and more reliable Voice—God himself speaking in the depths of our being.”
Is God speaking and we do not hear. Is it because we are not attuned to his voice?
In her outline “SHARING SILENCE a Guide for Groups”, she teaches group silence. She says at the “close the time of silence either with a spontaneous prayer inviting the Holy Spirit’s guidance or the simple prayer “Come Holy Spirit.” Again, is not the Holy Spirit resident within us?
She teaches that they should “pay attention to their own breathing during the opening and closing silences.”
This is as far away from Bible study and contemplation the Scripture teaches as east is from the west. In fact I do not see her explain Scripture at all in her interview.
There is nowhere in the New Testament that instructs silence like this to contact God. It says the opposite, to speak and to pray.
She seems to make a connection of the noise of life affecting God’s presence which she claims is assessed through silence. The Bible says there is time where there is a lack of hearing the word of God. Amos writes, “ The days are coming— this is the declaration of the Lord God — when I will send a famine through the land: not a famine of bread or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord (Amos 8:11) Her teaching is a perfect illustration of what Amos wrote.
For wisdom we are told by reading in Prov. 23:12 “Apply your heart to discipline And your ears to words of knowledge. “ It is pointing to God’s word for knowledge so that you can act in wisdom.
Barton says: We invite God to be with us.” But He is already with us, He indwells believers. That’s one of the benefits of the new covenant.
Barton: “God knows how to be with us” That is where solitude as a personal and intimate discipline… we allow God to be with us in some way that only God knows how to be with us.”
This is ignoring the relationship of his spirit that leads and guides us continually.
“Silence means that I’m really stopping the work of the mind by saying thank you God”
She is not bringing a teaching or practice from the Bible
Burns comments: the scripture says discipline yourself for the work of Godliness”
Once again we need to go to the Scripture and read it in context.
1 Tim. 4:7-8 “But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.”
1The word exercise, (discipline) is gumnazo-1) to exercise naked (in a palaestra or school of athletics) 2) to exercise vigorously, in any way, either the body or the mind.It means the very opposite of what they are claiming, it is an activity, not a non activity. Burns has fully wrapped himself in this unbliblical (discipline) practice.
Exactly how is this done?
1 Cor. 9:27-10:12 “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” Paul speaks of having his body under God’s control.
We do not have a discipline of silence taught in Scripture – i.e. to enter the silence. They are telling us it is to stop the flow of words both externally and internally, its not just about talking but thinking… in words.
Burns says: “You have to have rest for your soul”
Barton uses Ps.131 as a child the soul with God is able to rest in whatever is in the presence of God”
The Psalmist Speaking of anger, frustration etc. states “LORD, my heart is not haughty, nor my eyes lofty. Neither do I concern myself with great matters, nor with things too profound for me. Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with his mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me.”(Ps 131:1-2 )
In other words he has not pursued these matters that are beyond him, so his soul is not in turmoil. It does not mean what they (spiritual formation) are teaching; interpreting this as going into silence.
Matt 11:28-30 "Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
2 Cor. 2:13 “Paul has said I had no rest in my spirit, at times. ”He gladly accepted the burdens of the church and turned them into prayers.
Heb. 3:10-12 Therefore I was angry with that generation, and said, 'They always go astray in their heart, and they have not known My ways.' Meaning v.12 a heart of unbelief '”They shall not enter My rest.' "
Heb. 4:1 we have a promise of entering His rest, V.9-11 “There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (he is speaking of the new covenant). Did God go into silence after the 6th day?
In 1 Cor. 4:6 Paul instructed us to on what NOT TO DO “learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.” Exactly what Barton is leading people to do, go beyond the scriptures words.
He also wrote in Phil 4:8-9 “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy-- meditate (THINK) on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.”
Meditate - present middle imperative for habit of thought. (from Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament).
Think- Gr. logizomai - middle voice from 3056; to take an inventory, i.e. estimate (literally or figuratively)
Thayers: 1) to reckon, to count, to compute, to calculate, to count over a) to take into account, to make an account of 1) metaphorically, to pass to one's account, to impute 2) a thing is reckoned as or to be something, that is, as availing for or equivalent to something, as having the like force and weight b) to number among, to reckon with c) to reckon, to account 2) to reckon inward, to count up or weigh the reasons, to deliberate 3) by reckoning up all the reasons, to gather, to infer a) to consider, to take into account, to weigh, to meditate on b) to suppose, to deem, to judge c) to determine, purpose, decide
Paul is saying in Phil.4 these ideals are to be the object of our attention so we can practice them. Think what they are and mean; and live them out to be an influence to those around us. This is contrary to seeking the kingdom of God by entering silence each day. We are to be anchored in the word of God understanding it, contemplating it, applying it. It is the anchor for our soul, the presence of God, the Holy Spirit wrote it in words so we can have rest.
Baton is convinced without these disciplines we cannot be intimate with the Lord. Think of all the great men in history who never used this discipline. What of the apostles lacking this teaching to the church?
You would be hard pressed to find anything like these interpretations for silence. A few examples of the New testament speaking of silence.
1 Tim 2:11 “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.”
1 Tim 2:12 “And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.”
The Lord is not telling women (or anyone) to find solitude and contact Him in the silence.
Hab. 2:20 “But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him."
Rev 8:1 When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.”
Despite their denials, THIS IS a Christianizing of eastern concepts into the church.
God can speak to us at anytime, we are not required to be silent. It usually occurs when we are learning, reading or active and ministering.
Job 38:1-3 Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: "Who is this who darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now prepare yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer Me.”
Job did not enter silence, yet we have the longest conversation recorded in the Bible.
The only silence should be from those who are promoting this Catholic monk practice in the church.