BRAINWAVES REPORT BW/012
HEALING OF THE CHURCH
LUTHER AND SOLITUDE
In BRAINWAVES report BW/010, 'Healing of the Nation', I suggested that one of the principal differences between
the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches lies in the fact that Protestantism was born without a contemplative
dimension; and I attributed this to Luther's own aversion to contemplative prayer. In this paper, which forms the
sequel, I want to explore this issue and its effects in greater depth, and to consider how greater mutual
understanding can be brought about between these two branches of the Church.
We need to understand first, why was Luther so averse to contemplation? I find the explanation in Roland Bainton's
very sympathetic biography, Here I Stand. Bainton makes it plain that Luther was a chronic depressive.
Luther felt that his depressions were necesssary. At the same time they were dreadful and by all means and
in every way to be avoided and overcome. His whole life was a struggle against them, a fight for
faith....Sometimes he would engage in direct encounter with the Devil....[B]ut it is noteworthy that what the
Devil says to Luther is only what one says to oneself in moments of introspection, and...only the minor
difficulties were referred to the Devil. In all the major encounters, God himself was the assailant.' (Here I
Bainton reports his advice on avoiding such attacks.
Shun solitude. "Eve got into trouble when she walked in the garden alone. I have my worst temptations
when I am by myself." (284-5)
He found respite in faith, in the Bible, in company and conviviality, in anger, and in the love of his wife Katie; but
emphatically not in fasting (285). Ronald Blythe similarly reports Luther's counsel against the solitary life of the
Such terrors were to be there for many of [Jesus'] desert-dwelling followers and Martin Luther understood
them so well that he warned off Christians from what he regarded as fiend-infested desolate regions. 'The
devils are in woods, in waters, in wildernesses, and in dark pooly places, ready to hunt and prejudice
people.' (Divine Landscapes, 196).
What do we make of this? Here is a man in pursuit of God, but when he endeavours to get alone with Him in prayer,
he is assaulted most fearfully from within his own psyche. Those who have had such an experience even for a short
time will know just how frightening this can be. To struggle thus for a lifetime must be unimaginably dreadful. Small
wonder then that he could not cope with his own company. In an age that knew very little of the workings of the
human mind, and nothing at all of brain chemistry, of the unconscious, or of psychotherapy, the only framework he
had with which to understand and grapple with his problem was the naive one of God (for good experiences) versus
the Devil (for bad ones) - and even then he confused the two.
I suggest that we have here, in Luther's battle with depression, in his inadequate model of his own inner workings
and consequent horror of solitude, a primary source of the Reformation antipathy towards contemplative prayer. He
was scarcely in a position to recommend the practice enjoined by Jesus as fundamental,
But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your
Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.' (Matthew 6:6 TNIV)
The consequences of this have been great.
In following Luther, Protestants, right up till the present day, have tended very much to ignore contemplation as a
channel of personal knowledge of God and have consequently elevated scripture as the primary, even the sole,
source of such knowledge - hence the Reformers' watchword sola scriptura. Let me illustrate this from Dr Francis
Schaeffer, an analyst to whose writings I am personally indebted as a highly articulate representative of the
Reformed tradition in the late twentieth century.
First, let us consider his penetrating book on epistemology, He Is There and He Is Not Silent. The only evidence
Schaeffer gives that God is not silent is the Bible. However all this proves is that He used not to be silent. Again, in
Escape from Reason, when he wants to illustrate how God speaks directly to individuals, his examples are Moses
and Paul (89-90). There is no suggestion that God continued to address individuals personally after the New
Testament was complete - as, for instance, in the famous episode when in 1206 He instructed St Francis to 'Rebuild
my Church'. By contrast, the Bible itself records how God revealed himself to the patriarchs before even a word of
the Bible was written; and tells us repeatedly that God does not change.
Second, for Schaeffer, God's true self-revelation in the Bible is essentially propositional. He is distinctly unhappy
about the notion 'that what matters is not setting out to prove or disprove propositions; what matters is an encounter
with Jesus.' He would have had little time therefore for his contemporary, the Trappist monk Thomas Merton,
probably the most prolific and influential contemplative of his day, whose experience of God could be very far from
propositional, as illustrated in Annex A. This would lose us someone who on any reckoning was an exceedingly
great man. I do not think any Christians can afford to be so dismissive of others from whom we could be learning.
Third, let us consider the very heartbeat of Schaeffer's most famous work, The God Who Is There, upon which he
...the classical basis of antithesis. So, if anything was true, the opposite was false. In morality, if one thing
was right, its opposite was wrong. This little formula, 'A is not non-A', is the first move in classical logic. (13
And here he is being absolutely true to the Reformers. In one blow he abolishes mystery and all mysticism. Reason
is supreme. Religion is what can be proved. Not so, however, according to another prominent evangelical of his
generation, Dr J. I. Packer, writing about divine sovereignty and human responsibility:
All theological topics contain pitfalls for the unwary, for God's truth is never quite what man would have
expected; and our present subject is more treacherous than most. This is because in thinking it through we
have to deal with an antinomy in the biblical revelation, and in such circumstances our finite, fallen minds are
more than ordinarily apt to go astray.
What is an antinomy?...It is an apparent incompatibility between two apparent truths. An antinomy exists
when a pair of principles stand side by side, seemingly irreconcilable, yet both indeniable. There are cogent
reasons for believing each of them; each rests on clear and solid evidence; but it is a mystery to you how
they can be squared with each other. You see how each must be true on its own; but you do not see how
they can both be true together. (Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God, 18-9)
Packer cites as an example the wave/particle duality in physics.
My wife Barbara has long held that the test of true religion, which distinguishes it from the cults, is this ability to
handle paradox. How should one do so? Packer, who himself distinguishes between paradox and antinomy,
What should one do, then, with an antinomy? Accept it for what it is, and learn to live with it. Refuse to
regard the apparent inconsistency as real; put down the semblance of contradiction to the deficiency of your
own understanding; think of the two principles as, not rival alternatives, but, in some way that at present you
do not grasp, complementary to each other. Be careful, therefore, not to set them at loggerheads, nor to
make deductions from either that would cut across the other....Use each within the limits of its own sphere of
reference....Note what connections exist between the two truths and their two frames of reference, and teach
yourself to think of reality in a way that provides for their peaceful coexistence, remembering that reality itself
has proved actually to contain them both....This, as I understand it, is how modern physics deals with the
problem of light, and this is how Christians have to deal with the antinomies of biblical teaching. (21-2)
We find a neat application of this in the peacemaking of my ancestor, the Revd Charles Simeon of Cambridge, in his
handling of the contemporary dispute between the Calvinists and the Arminians - essentially the subject of Packer's
book. Both sides, he maintained, were right in what they affirmed (on their own territory) and wrong in what they
denied (on their opponents'). The truth was to be found not in either extreme, nor in the middle, but in both
Schaeffer saw classical logic as the basis of Christian thinking. If however we extrapolate from Packer, Christianity
is founded not upon logic but upon mystery, one facet of which is the coming together of apparent opposites which
are beyond our comprehension. We can behold, we can contemplate, we can worship, we can be enveloped and
we can have our minds transfigured - but we can never, ever fully understand. As even the super-intelligent Paul
Those who think they know something do not yet know as they ought to know. But whoever loves God is
known by God. (1 Corinthians 8:2-3 TNIV cf. 3:18, 10:12)
I have argued elsewhere that Paul himself had a deep and transforming experience of the mystery of God during his
two year confinement in the prison of Caesarea (Acts 24:27), which is reflected in the prominence given to mystery
in his letters to the Ephesians and the Colossians written there. This raises the possibility that some of the
misunderstandings between Christians may result not from capitulation to superstition or dogmatism by one party or
the other, but from different experiences of God's mystery. This is the mystery of which A. W. Tozer wrote,
Worship is to feel in your heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of
admiring awe and astonished wonder and overpowering love in the presence of that most ancient Mystery,
that majesty which philosophers call the First Cause but which we call Our Father Which Art in Heaven. (The
Worship-Driven Life, 8)
I am going to suggest that at the heart of the New Testament lies a paradox and duality which, though not as
perplexing as an antimony, will nevertheless benefit from the charitable and conciliatory approach suggested by Dr
THE TWO GOSPELS
In a caricature of Church history which is often passed on with other Reformation traditions today, it is alleged that
Catholics believe - or believed - in a 'gospel' of salvation by works, whereas Protestants believe in a gospel of
salvation by faith alone, sola fide. Here is a distinction easily grasped. The Protestant view is then demonstrated by
reference to, most commonly, Romans chapters 3 to 8. This view of Catholicism becomes problematical the
moment one opens any of the great classical texts of Catholic mysticism, such as de Caussade's writings on self-
abandonment, whose very breath is faith in Jesus. I wish to propose an alternative reconstruction.
For the term gospel, euaggelion, 'good news', a message (as opposed to a book), has two distinct meanings in the
New Testament. There is of course the gospel of the forgiveness of sins through the atoning blood of Christ, that we
find expounded particularly in Paul's letters to the Romans and the Galatians. But there is also another 'good news',
preached by Jesus and variously called in the Synoptic Gospels 'the good news of God' (Mark 1:14), 'the good news
of the kingdom' (Matthew 4:23, 9:35, 24:14), and 'the good news of the kingdom of God' (Luke 4:43, 8:1, 16:16).
This is not a message about His own atoning death, which by common consent He only began to discuss privately
with the disciples after Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:31 and parallels), and even then He was not
understood. Of what then did this consist? Mark gives us a brief summary:
'The time has come,' he said. 'The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!'
(Mark 1:15 TNIV)
The good news that Jesus preached was the proximity of the kingdom of God.
What is so good about the 'good news' of the imminent kingdom of Matthew 4:23? After a few verses defining Jesus'
audience (4:23-5), Matthew gives us in three chapters (5-7) the content of Jesus' early teaching, commonly
designated the Sermon on the Mount. Launching in with the Beatitudes, Jesus proclaims some really tremendous
news for all manner of people, especially the unfortunates. For the poor in spirit (or, in Luke's version, simply, the
poor, 6:20), for those who mourn, for the meek, those who long for righteousness or are persecuted for it, for the
merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers - the news is just terrific. God thinks they are fantastic! So much so
that he has a special place for them in His coming kingdom, which is in fact 'at hand'! And, as we learn later, when it
comes about, those at the bottom of the heap are going to end up on top, and vice versa (Matthew 19:30, 20:16),
very much as foretold in the Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-55). To the Jew this would mean the coming at last of the age
the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:9 TNIV;cf.
For this we are to petition God whenever we pray (Matthew 6:10). It is hard to imagine anything that the majority of
His audience would find more exciting.
There are therefore two items of good news in the New Testament: the forgiveness of sins and the advent of the
kingdom. How do they relate to each other? Both include a command to repent. And we find both at the outset, in
the teaching of John the Baptist. Famously, John preached a 'baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins'
(Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3). But according to Matthew, he also proclaimed the imminence of the kingdom (3:1). Jesus at
the start of His ministry (c.AD 30-1) adopted the latter and made it the central thrust of His preaching (e.g.
Matthew 4:17, 12:28, 24:14). In chapter after chapter of (especially) the Synoptic Gospels, the kingdom of God (or in
Matthew, of heaven) is the central topic of his parables and discourses. He even made it the message of the Twelve
during their trial mission (Matthew 10:7); and of the seventy during theirs (Luke 10:9). He gave his envoys on these
occasions very clear briefs: they were to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons, and to
proclaim the kingdom (Matthew 10:7-8; Luke 9:1-2; 10:9; cf. Mark 6:12-3) - but apparently never, to forgive sins,
which in the common understanding was God's prerogative (Mark 2:7). And while Jesus Himself frequently forgave
the sins of individual penitents and taught in parables about the forgiveness of God, He did not in instructing His
disciples before His Passion assign to the forgiveness of sins the prominence He gave it afterwards.
For at the Last Supper we see a momentous change. Ever since the Caesarea Philippi episode, Jesus has been
drip-feeding the disciples with talk of His forthcoming crucifixion. Initially, He gave no timescale or location and no
explanation (Mark 8:31, 9:31). On the third time, He indicated the occasion (when they reached Jerusalem, their
next destination, Mark 10:33-4), but still gave no explanation. Then, before they reached Jericho, came the first hint:
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.
(Mark 10:45 TNIV)
Now, at the Last Supper (Thursday 2 April 33), Jesus knows that His hour has come (John 13:1, 17:1 cf. Mark
14:41). His death is not only inevitable, but now necessarily imminent, in that none of the interested parties can any
longer postpone it (Mark 14:1-2). The machine has been fully wound up, and must unwind. And so, suddenly, the
rules and dynamics change. For the first time, in the graphic context of the Passover meal, Jesus gives explicitly the
reason why He has to die: His own blood is to be 'poured out for many' (Mark 14:24) 'for the forgiveness of sins'
(Matthew 26:28). Then on Easter evening in the upper room - His sacrifice complete - again for the first time ever,
He authorises the disciples to forgive sins (John 20:23). That is, the divine prerogative can now be shared.
Subsequently He ordains that
repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
(Luke 24:47 TNIV)
By doing so He reunited the two messages of the Baptist. From now on the forgiveness of sins is a central plank in
the gospel platform, where it remains for the rest of the New Testament. But there is no suggestion that this was to
be at the expense of the proclamation of the kingdom, which the apostles including Paul continued faithfully to
herald for as long as we can trace them in Luke's record. On this Jesus insisted:
And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then
the end will come. (Matthew 24:14 TNIV)
And with the exception of the epistles of John, the kingdom recurs as a central concept in all the major components
of the New Testament. How the early Church combined both the messages of forgiveness and of the coming
kingdom is well illustrated by Peter's address at Solomon's Colonnade, soon after Pentecost 33:
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from
the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you - even Jesus. Heaven must
receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy
prophets. (Acts 3:19-21 TNIV)
We have therefore two distinct bundles of good news in the New Testament, both with impeccable credentials and
both instituted by Jesus. There is good news for the world in the coming of the kingdom, and good news for the
individual about the forgiveness of sins through His death and resurrection. The life and theology of the kingdom
were the subject of much of Jesus' teaching during His lifetime. But of the theology of His death, as we have seen,
He gave but few hints before the Last Supper. However before departing He explained that there was much else
that He was not able to teach them, which the Holy Spirit would make good on His coming. (John 14:25, 15:26,
16:12-5) And so in due course the nuts and bolts of personal salvation by faith in Jesus' redeeming blood were
indeed revealed to the Church, principally through the newcomer Paul c.34-6, who recorded the revelations made to
him, most notably in his letters to the Romans and the Galatians, which were probably penned in Corinth later on, in
This new doctrine is the gospel that Paul was preaching on his First Missionary Journey (spring 47 - autumn 48;
Acts 13:1-14:28), whose reverberations worried the Church in Jerusalem. The focus of contention was the
admission of Gentiles to the Church on acccount of their faith alone, without the need for circumcision. Paul was
called to account at the Council of Jerusalem (late 48; Acts 15 and probably Galatians 2:1-10) and was vindicated
on the intervention of Peter, who had himself a few years earlier been primed to admit Gentiles into the Church
(Acts 10-11). From then on salvation by faith alone became part of the authentic Christian message, but never at the
expense of the ultimate goal, the establishment of the kingdom.
However, this was later to lead to confusion. The Reformation exploded into life when Luther rediscovered the
gospel of salvation by faith as taught by Paul; and today his descendant Protestants, charged perhaps by Paul's
own injunction at Galatians 1:8, recognise no other gospel. For the Catholic, on the other hand, the term 'gospel'
has a wider meaning, including also the life and teaching of Jesus. How many battles have been fought, and how
much ink - not to mention blood - has been spilled because neither side has realised that the term 'gospel' has two
quite different but equally authentic and well-attested meanings! It is unfortunate that Luther, who rediscovered the
good news of forgiveness, did not go on to discover that of the kingdom. It is a message one does not often hear
For the emphases and dynamics of the two messages are in places different. So for instance when Paul was asked
by his jailor in Philippi what he must do to be saved, he replied, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved -
you and your household.' (Acts 16:31, mid-49; cf. Peter at 2:38-9, Pentecost 33). By contrast, Jesus himself, on
being asked an equivalent question by a lawyer, replied with the parable of the good Samaritan, concluding, 'Go and
do likewise' (Luke 10:25-37). Today's evangelist, giving such an answer, would in some Protestant quarters find
himself damned for preaching a gospel of 'good works'. Somewhere here, I suspect, lies the origin of the hideous
caricature described at the start of this section.
We have then a paradox - two distinct gospel messages under one name - and will be well served by Packer's
advice on antinomies. Accordingly, we are not at liberty to play off one against the other. The early Church saw fit to
include both epistles and gospels in the New Testament, and we may not backtrack. Nor can we ignore the
distinction by glibly identifying the kingdom with the Church, as has often been done by Christians of all traditions.
Jesus never told us to preach that 'the Church is at hand'! Rather, we should perhaps be like those 'scribes' whom
Jesus spoke of as 'instructed about the kingdom of heaven' who are 'like the owner of a house who brings out of his
storeroom new treasures as well as old.' (Matthew 13:52) On any particular occasion they are well placed to judge
which of the two is more appropriate.
How do the two relate? On my understanding Jesus was sent by His Father to reconquer chaotic planet earth, which
had fallen into the wrong hands, and to return it to God with order fully restored (1 Corinthians 15:24-8). Jesus'
strategy at His first coming was to establish, train and equip a body of followers, to whom He delegated that very
same task: 'As the Father has sent me, I also am sending you.' (John 20:21 cf. 17:18) When He comes again we the
Church are to surrender to Him authority - such as we then possess - over the recaptured planet, which He will in
turn, after completing the reconquest, duly give back to God. This process of recovering the planet, as I see it, is all
of a piece with the establishment of the kingdom. So I read Paul, concluding his great treatise on personal salvation:
The creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was
subjected to frustration, not by its own choice but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the
creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the
children of God. (Romans 8:19-21 TNIV)
If so, then the Church is tasked not just with propagating itself - the usual Reformation view - but also with
proclaiming and preparing for the kingdom. This is why Jesus made the gospel of the kingdom His own launching-
I find this view strongly supported by Lesslie Newbigin's masterful seventh chapter, 'The Logic of Election' in his
book The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, all of which repays study:
To be chosen, to be elect, therefore does not mean that the elect are the saved and the rest are the lost. To
be elect in Christ Jesus, and there is no other election, means to be incorporated into his mission to the
world, to be the bearer of God's saving purpose for his whole world, to be the sign and the agent and the
firstfruit of his blessed kingdom which is for all. (86-7)
This, Newbigin explains, is the logic behind Paul's statement,
For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all (Romans 11:32
which he carefully distinguishes from a doctrine of universal salvation. However, some two millennia later, and
nearly five hundred years on from the Reformation, the kingdom has still not yet come, the world is facing
unparalleled ecological disaster and the only force on earth capable of rectifying it is crippled by its perpetuated
historical divisions. Roman Catholics and Reformation Protestants view each other with the same suspicion and
hostility that Jewish and Gentile Christians held for each other in the early days of the New Testament Church. ('We
have the truth.' 'God revealed Himself to our forbears; the other lot must conform to our standards before we will
have anything to do with them'; and so forth.) Both sides insist that the other must first remove the speck from its
eye before they will deal with the plank in their own. And meanwhile the world perishes.
We might do better to recognise that there are at least two different types of believer. There are those who respond
most readily to the teaching of Jesus about the kingdom, as found in the gospels. Consciously or unconsciously - for
instance by deeds of mercy - they are paving the way for the kingdom. We may call them the '(good) Samaritans'.
And there are others whose motivation is to proclaim the forgiveness of sins as taught particularly in the letters of
Paul. We may call these the 'evangelists'. And a certain amount of name-calling goes on between the two. The
Samaritans often see the evangelists as 'fanatics' or 'hot-gospellers', meaning in practice that they don't get their
teaching from Jesus. The evangelists have been known to describe the Samaritans as 'unsound' or 'unbiblical',
meaning in practice that they don't get their teaching from Paul. However once it is realised that God's agenda
includes both the saving of individual souls and the reconquest of the planet, each type may begin to understand,
and think more charitably of, the other. The need today is for a healing of the gulf between these two groups of
Christians, very much like that between Gentiles and Jews described in Ephesians 2:14-8, whom Jesus by His
death moulded into one. Of this Paul writes,
His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace. (Ephesians 2:15
There is therefore hope for the Church.
THE WAY AHEAD
How then do we set about the healing of the Church? I have three suggestions.
First, we need to recognise that God is concerned both for the growth of the Church and for the broader kingdom for
which the Church exists; and that as Sovereign He shares His concern for both with His children as He pleases. It is
not for any of us to despise any whose callings and instincts are different from our own; and in particular those who
most naturally serve whichever good news is not our own primary interest. God needs the whole of His Church, and
He needs it to be united. (1 Corinthians 12:12-26; Romans 14:4; Acts 10:15; John 17) Further, such recognition is
not conditional upon the other side making the first move.
Second, we Protestants especially need to immerse, or reimmerse, ourselves in the teaching of Jesus - not Luther,
not even Paul, but Jesus. We need to abandon any form of Reformation faith in which we get our salvation from
Jesus and our doctrine solely from Paul. Steve Chalke, in The Lost Message of Jesus, has given us some
pointers. All of us need to go further.
Third, in the light of Jesus' teaching, besides proclaiming God's truth, we should be thinking very hard (cf. n.5) about
the nature and essential features of God's kingdom (cf. pp.5-6), and how these features might begin to arise from
within the world as we know it today. To do this we need to exercise the renewed mind of which Paul speaks in
Romans 12:2. As Paul himself put it,
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.
(Philippians 4:8 TNIV; emphasis added)
This is our job. As such, we are to become instruments of God's creativity. To which end, as Vernon White has
argued in his most thoughtful paper 'Re-Enchanting the World', we need to rediscover the mystery of God as
encountered in the medieval mystical tradition - for him, the early strand, that of Augustine and Pseudo-Dionysius,
the unknown author of the late fifth century. 'Out of this doctrine of the mystery of God,' he tells us, 'the world too is
In such ways the mystical tradition could be a profoundly unifying force for the Church in its practice and theology. It
is something the Church needs for its own nourishment. Even more important, the Church needs it to feed the
world's hunger. There is this hunger in the world to re-enchant the world, and only a Church which recognizes that
enchantment more in its own life will be able to feed this world. (354)
We are looking here for a God who calls us ever deeper into encounter with Himself but who ultimately lies beyond
description. I see this as a fruit of contemplative prayer. That is our role in the partnership. God's, is to bring about
For His is the kingdom, the power and the glory.
From a letter from Thomas Merton to Daniel J. Berrigan (Jesuit priest involved in the peace movement) dated March
I am not sure I know what you mean about the Benedictine approach in prayer. If you mean liturgical...but I
think you do not. Maybe you do. If you mean the Cassian-like desert solitary stuff, this is Benedictine in its
way, Cistercian in its way, I don’t know what it is. But really it is Oriental and when seen in an Oriental
context, I think such objections as you may have to it, vanish. There is an absolute need for the solitary,
bare, dark, beyond-concept, beyond-thought, beyond-feeling type of prayer. Not of course for everybody.
But unless that dimension is there in the Church somewhere, the whole caboodle lacks life and light and
intelligence. It is a kind of hidden, secret, unknown stabilizer, and a compass too. About this I have no
hesitations and no doubts, because it is my vocation; about one’s own vocation, after it has been tested and
continues to be tested, one can say in humility that he knows. Knows what? That it is willed by God, insofar
as in it one feels the hand of God pressing down on him. Unmistakably....
From Thomas Merton, The Hidden Ground of Love: Letters on Religious Experience and Social Concerns ed. by
William H. Shannon (London: Collins (Flame), 1990).
Anon, The Cloud of Unknowing, tr. C. Walters (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1961).
Bainton, Roland H., Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York: New American Library, 1950).
Blythe, Ronald, Divine Landscapes: A Pilgrimage Through Britain's Sacred Places (Norwich: Canterbury Press,
de Caussade, Jean-Pierre, Self-Abandonment to Divine Providence, tr. P. H. Ramière, rev. J. Joyce (Glasgow:
Chalke, Steve and Alan Mann, The Lost Message of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003).
Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, tr. C. Walters (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966).
à Kempis, Thomas, The Imitation of Christ, tr. L. Sherley-Price (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1952).
Mosse, Martin, 'Healing of the Nation', BRAINWAVES report BW/010, October 2008.
Mosse, Martin, The Three Gospels (MIlton Keynes: Paternoster 2007).
Newbigin, Lesslie, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (London: SPCK, 1989).
Packer, J. I., Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991)
Robinson, J. A. T., Redating the New Testament (London: SCM Press, 1976).
Schaeffer, Francis, Escape from Reason (London: Inter-Varsity Fellowship, 1968).
Schaeffer, Francis, He Is There and He Is Not Silent (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1972).
Schaeffer, Francis, The God Who Is There: Speaking Historic Christianity into the Twentieth Century (London:
Hodder and Stoughton, 1968).
Tozer, A. W., The Worship-Driven Life: The Reason We Were Created, ed. James L. Snyder (Oxford: Monarch
Underhill, Evelyn, The Mystics of the Church (London: James Clarke, 1925).
White, Vernon, 'Re-Enchanting the World: A Fresh Look at the God of Mystical Theology', Theology Vol CIII No. 815
(Sept/Oct 2000), 347-55.
E.g Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8.
See for instance He Is There and He Is Not Silent, Appendix I, 'Is Propositional Revelation Nonsense?', 90-4.
Escape from Reason, 76.
Cf. Article VI in the Book of Common Prayer:
'Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary for salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be
proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be
thought necessary to salvation.'
See Romans 12:1-2, where we are commanded to present our bodies to God in order to have our minds
transformed. 'Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.' I
see in this an excellent description of contemplative prayer in which our fundamental problem, that as sinners
our thinking has gone wrong (Romans 1:21,28), is rectified through the personal salvation which Paul has
explained in the preceding chapters. From now on we are to discover God's will by learning to think about it
under the guidance of the Spirit (cf. John 16:13, 1 John 2:20,27). As the Chinese evangelical Watchman Nee
put it, 'But the man who is spiritual knows how to stand still. He can stand before God in worship while God
makes known to him His will.' Hence the Bible is not so much a closed book as an open door. It is not there to
do our thinking for us but to teach us how to think; a fishing rod not a fish. Note that the word 'transformed',
metamorphousthe, in Romans 12:2 is cognate to that used to describe Jesus at His transfiguration (Mark 9:2).
See The Three Gospels, 215-20, 236, 251.
Romans 2, which teaches that at the Last Judgement 'God "will repay everyone according to what they have
done"' (v.6), and that He will give eternal life to those who do good (vv.7,10), tends to be ignored on such
occasions. That the Last Judgement will be carried out in terms of what people have done is the consistent
teaching of scripture, as in Matthew 16:27; 25:31-46 on the sheep and the goats; and Revelation 20:12-3.
Justification by faith is the process by which salvation is received in this life - as by Abraham in Galatians 3 -
those who so receive it being exempt from the Last Judgement (John 5:24). Note that exclusivism - the doctrine
that heaven is reserved exclusively for those who are card-carrying Christians at the instant of death - reduces
the Last Judgement to the status of a rubber stamp upon an already determined verdict. This view finds no
support whatever in the New Testament, which sees the Last Judgement as a momentous unravelling of human
history when God brings to light people's deepest secrets and motivations (Romans 2:16). St Paul actually
forbids us to make such judgements prematurely, before that Day (1 Corinthians 4:5; cf. Jesus' parable of the
weeds, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43).
Or, for instance, The Cloud of Unknowing; Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love; Thomas à Kempis,
The Imitation of Christ.
I have argued elsewhere that the Sermon on the Mount probably represents the earliest written record of Jesus,
having been originally collated by the Apostle Matthew in Aramaic c.44 before its later inclusion, translated into
Greek, in our First Gospel (The Three Gospels, Chapter 4, 'The Genesis of Matthew', 103-32).
This I take it is the reason why Jesus pronounces them makarioi, 'blessed'.
For the dates in this paper see my The Three Gospels, Appendix 1, 'New Testament Chronology', 283-302.
E.g. Acts 1:3, 8:12, 14:22, 19:8, 20:25, 28:23,31.
E.g. Romans 14:17; 1 Corinthians 4:20, 6:9-10, 15:24,50; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:5; Colossians 1:13,
4:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:12; 2 Thessalonians 1:5; 2 Timothy 4:1,18; Hebrews 1:8, 12:28; James 2:5; 2 Peter
1:11; Revelation 1:9, 5:10, 11:15, 12:10).
This is probably the context of the letter of James, written it would seem at this time; cf. Robinson Redating,
See The Three Gospels, 288-91, 308-9.
Anyone whose conscience is particularly troubled by this could perhaps console themselves with the thought
that Jesus outranks any angel (Hebrews 1)!
That grace extends to the household of believers as a unit is a recurring theme of Luke in Acts (e.g. 2:39; 11:14;
16:15; 16:31-4; 18:8; cf. 1 Corinthians 1:16).