Monday, April 4, 2011

A Review of 'A Time of Departing'

A Review of
A Time of Departing: How ancient Mystical Practices are Uniting Christians with the World’s Religions by Ray Yungen

Ray Yungen’s book A time of Departing is supposedly about a connection between New Age Mysticism and Evangelical ministries. The author believes that the new age is infiltrating the church through some pastors and their methodologies or spiritual practices.

But the book fails on several levels. Many of the Evangelical ministries Yungen points to do not fall within new age thinking. And the extreme problems with new age spirituality are belittled by connecting the movement to Evangelical ministries. Additionally it turns the Christian reader away from material that would be beneficial to their growth in Christ.

Many of the problems in the book occur because Yungen fails to use primary sources and instead uses the scholarship of writers who are new age. Such new age scholars often attempt to use Christians and their past writings to bolster their own new age belief systems, thus adding their own views as a gloss to the Christian works.

For instance, in an early section of the book Yungen attempts to connect the Desert Father’s ‘Jesus Prayer’ to Gnosticism and Hinduism.(42-43) Historically there is no connection. And in fact one of the great church Fathers, Athanasius, who fought valiantly for the deity of Jesus Christ, was a friend of one of the Desert Fathers, St Anthony.

Another example of improper research is the chapter on Pastor Rick Warren, “America’s Pastor.” I will quote a section and then explain what is wrong:
He [Warren] 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.” (146-147)
Yungen is writing about the book The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence. There is nothing in it that has to do with new age thinking. Teresa of Avila’s The Interior Castle is not at all like Brother Lawrence’s book. His is simple and practical while Teresa’s is complex and difficult. Of Brother Lawrence and his small book A.W. Tozer wrote and quoted him:
Brother Lawrence is well established in the affection of spiritual souls of all denominations and every shade of Christian thought. As a cook he learned to turn the modest service into a kind of worship. "We can do little things for God," he said. "I turn the cake that is frying on the pan for love of Him, and that done, if there is nothing else to call me, I prostrate myself in worship before Him who has given me grace to work. Afterwards I rise happier than a king."
It is nonsense to call him new age or to even suggest that he has any kind of connection to Cabbalism.

Teresa of Avila is not easy to read. Her book The Interior Castle is definitely mystic, but it is Christian. Yungen uses a professor who specializes in Teilhard de Chardin to explain Teresa of Avila. I also had a professor who specialized in Teilhard. She turned all Christians into panentheists which is Teilhard’s worldview. An apologist for Christianity must read the works he is critiquing and not use secondary works as primary.

Since Ursula King, the professor who Yungen quoted is involved with comparative world religions she has attempted to give The Interior Castle a Jewish Cabbalistic slant. It isn’t true. But even so it has no connection to Brother Lawrence. And finally Yungen, by linking all of this together, is trying to make it seem like Rick Warren has some connection to Jewish Cabbalism or some sort of new age mysticism. Yungen hasn’t proved anything.

While Yungen writes about many new age gurus and spiritualities which the Christian should be aware of and concerned about there are better books to read. Here are several:

Revealing the New Age Jesus: Challenges to Orthodox Views of Christ by Douglas Groothuis

A Crash Course on the New Age Movement by Elliot Miller

On witchcraft-Wicca’s Charm: Understanding the Spiritual Hunger Behind the Rise of Modern Witchcraft and Pagan Spirituality by Edwards Sanders

Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be by Kevin De Young, …

On Sue Monk Kidd see my article, “A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to The Sacred Feminine


reformedpastor said...

Sounds like a worthy successor to Dave Hunt, who has been attacking pretty much everyone who does not agree with him (including Calvinists) as heretics, occultists, and New Agers since the late 70s, but who's getting up in years. Hunt also had a habit of attacking ideas about which he knew little, and doing so with the unshakable confidence of the invincibly ignorant. Thanks for the review--I'll be sure to steer clear.

David Fischler
Woodbridge, VA

Viola Larson said...

Yes, I use to know Dave Hunt-but he did get involved in some extremism. It’s really too bad because he is or was a very good Bible teacher. It’s funny when I was in an independent church doing apologetics it seemed to fall my lot to write about all the ultra conservatives who didn't make distinctions in what they wrote.

Now I write mostly about the other side, but a friend asked me to do a review of this book because some people he worked with were getting into this stuff. I thought I might as well post it.

Ralph Dawson said...

Thank you for this review. You have brought some clear understanding to a lopsided picture that this author tries to paint. This author and others he associates I am sure started off with good intentions but like the crusaders of years ago they are swinging swords and killing anyone not in their camp and leading a host of others down a path that is not helpful in growing closer to Jesus.