What Is Your Opinion of Contemplative Practices?

By Randy Alcorn February 15, 2019

Several years ago I was contacted by someone very concerned that I’ve mentioned reading some books by authors connected to contemplative practices. My response was that I don’t believe in painting a broad brush over certain authors when we don’t agree with them in every area. For example, I’ve read three of Dallas Willard’s books, who was one of the authors that was mentioned, and while I don’t agree with him in certain areas, for the most part I found them to be very Christ-centered and biblical.

I do not give an overall endorsement for contemplative practices. There are many false and dangerous contemplative practices so it all depends on the context and what one is contemplating on. I do believe in meditating on Scripture and on our Lord, as this is explicitly commanded and commended.

Jared Wilson writes this:

Many warn repeatedly about the dangers of “contemplative prayer.” Heresy hunters cast a wide net in these warnings, indicting all kinds of evangelicals, including some who are not really dangerous at all. What is being conflated here is the kind of contemplation that has more in common with Eastern meditation than Psalm 1:2. Certainly there is a kind of contemplative prayer that is more contemplative than prayer. And yet, Christians are not called merely to regurgitate facts but to ponder them, reflect on them, marinate in them. Let the reader understand, of course.

This does not mean that Christians must contemplate the allegedly endless possibilities of the human consciousness (for our hearts are deceitful above all things) nor the ambiguous qualities of a vague numinous (for the Lord our God, the Lord is One—and he has a name). When we meditate and contemplate, then, let us meditate on God’s sufficient Word and contemplate his holiness. We have content to contemplate, in other words. We have a definitive word from the Divine, and it is inspired and inerrant. Therefore, whether in prayer or in study, we are not called to contemplate with an empty mind but upon the substance of Scripture.

See the rest of Jared’s article The Right Kind of Mysticism.

See also John Piper’s answer to “What Do You Think About Contemplative Prayer?”

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Randy Alcorn, founder of EPM

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of fifty-some books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries