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Meditation - Meaningful Or Mysterious?

In the West today there is increasing interest in Eastern mysticism. Young and old are enrolling at night school classes in Yoga and Transcendental Meditation. Many of these students may not be aware that Yoga is a system of Hindu philosophy. In this context 'meditation' is very different from thinking things through deeply. It is claimed that Transcendental Meditation, which may involve, for example, the constant repetition of a word or phrase, enables the meditator to come into contact with God.

The Scriptures teach that the only way to enter into a relationship with God is through His Son, Jesus Christ, who said, "I am the Way... no one cometh unto the Father, but by Me" (John 14:6). The Lord also warned against the use of "vain repetitions" in approaching God (Matt. 6:7). We would warn all our readers to beware of people claiming to teach Yoga or 'meditation' as defined by Eastern religions.

Is the Christian then to be so active that he has no time at all to meditate? Certainly not! The believer needs to wait on God for guidance as to where his activity should be directed. There are times in the hurry and bustle of contemporary life when it is necessary to heed the psalmist's words, "Be still, and know that I am God" (Psa. 46:10).

There is ample scope for profitable meditation, as Paul exhorted, "Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honourable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things" (Phil. 4:8).

Such meditation will bring us to our knees in prayer and thanksgiving. We should not be self-centred in prayer like the self-righteous Pharisee who "prayed thus with himself, God, I thank Thee that I am not as the rest of men... I fast... I give tithes" (Luke 18:11,12). Notice, "he prayed thus with himself". God does not hear a prayer like that.

We should set aside some part of each day for a quiet time to pray to our heavenly Father in secret. Whatever our own problems, the needs of others should not be forgotten. We should ask in faith; and there is always much cause for thanksgiving. We can be stimulated by studying the prayers of the Bible, especially those of the apostle Paul, remembering that many were written from a prison cell.

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Slowly but surely the pattern of ecumenism is being woven into the fabric of Christendom. The recent document drawn up by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, the third of the series from this body during the past few years, grasps the nettle of the infallibility and universal jurisdiction of the Pope. At a Press conference, Dr Donald Coggan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, stressed that the document, "Authority in the Church", is not binding on either party. It is not to be regarded as a declaration by the two churches. The same point was emphasized by the Bishop Clark, the Roman Catholic co-chairman of the Commission, who likened the document to a Government Green Paper - for discussion. But it gives a further push to the idea propounded some years ago by Dr Ramsey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, that the Primacy of the Pope in some form would be acceptable in a re-unified Christendom.

Spokesmen from both sides of the Commission have not underrated the difficulties to be surmounted before a consensus is reached which would be acceptable to both Rome and Canterbury. Nevertheless, the Anglican members of this Commission have subscribed to the document which, they claim, has placed this problem in its proper perspective. A few decades ago such a discussion-document would have provoked a storm of protest. This one has scarce caused a ripple! Why? Is it that the rising tide of ecumenism is so strong that those in the denominations most deeply disturbed by it are now bowing to the inevitable? Clearly under the guise of reunion there is steady retreat from the historic stance of the Reformers. What was at stake in that great movement was the primacy of Holy Scripture, not the primacy of the Bishop of Rome; the authority of the Bible, not the authority of 'the Church'. The one great world church envisaged by this Commission is attainable only by throwing overboard the Reformers' watchword Sola Scriptura. That is the "proper perspective" of this controversy.

In days to come there will be hot discussion of this document at all levels in Anglican-Roman Catholic circles. Minorities on both sides will regard the proposals as a 'betrayal'. But if the controversy follows the usual pattern it will be increasingly urged by the majority that if there is to be reunion at all, the principle of Papal primacy must be conceded. So strong is the tide of ecumenism running that its supporters are supremely confident. The Roman Catholic co-chairman of the joint Commission stated, "The enduring conviction of this Commission has been that the failure of the Christian churches to achieve unity, which Christ prayed for, remains a scandal". That kind of plausible talk misstates the whole case. But it will enlist widespread support among those to whom reunion is the 'be all and end all'. Those who regard Holy Scripture as the sole authority for the Christian Faith will not be taken in by it. Embodied in our Lord's prayer for unity among His own' is this vital principle, "I have given them Thy word... Sanctify them in the truth: Thy word is truth" (John 17:14,17). 'Christian unity' on any other basis is a pretentious misnomer.

The ecumenical trend in the State Church places born-again Anglicans in a dilemma. Few of their leaders seem prepared to speak out in opposition to it. In the past there has been no such reticence. There has been a hard core of Bishops who stood without compromise for the great principles of the Reformers. Among them was the former Bishop of Liverpool, Dr J. C. Ryle, who wrote:

"Unity in the abstract is no doubt an excellent thing: but unity without truth is useless. Peace and uniformity are beautiful and valuable: but peace without the Gospel - peace based upon a common Episcopacy, and not a common faith - is a worthless peace, not deserving of the name. When Rome has repealed the decrees of Trent, and her additions to the Creed - when Rome has formally renounced image-worship, Mary-worship, and transubstantiation - then, not till then, it will be time to talk of reunion with her. Till then there is a gulf between us which cannot be honestly bridged. Till then I call on all Christians to resist this idea of reunion with Rome."

We would take issue with Dr Ryle on other grounds but in this matter of reunion with Rome we commend to our Anglican brethren in Christ the clear, logical thinking of the above statement.