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Neologisms for Evangelicals

MANTRA SCRIPTURA [(man’-truh) (skriptər’ uh)

[C19: from Sanskrit, literally: speech, instrument of thought, from man to think. 1808, “that part of the Vedas which contains hymns,” from Skt. mantra-s “sacred message or text, charm, spell, counsel,” lit. “instrument of thought,” related to manyate “thinks.” Sense of “special word used for meditation” is first recorded in Eng. 1956.] [Scriptura: 1250–1300; Middle English and Latin scrīptūra writing. See script, -ure]

  1. The repetitious use of the words of Scripture by means of prayers, chants, incantations, words and musical verse, performed in order to reach a higher level of spirituality, to attain greater spiritual perfection, to ascend to ultimate reality, to access the heavens, to gain new revelation, to encounter interior spiritual oneness with God, and/or experience peace, harmony, unity, euphoria, ecstasy, self-awareness, self-actualization, enlightenment and bliss. [See Mystica Scriptura)
  2. The teaching that in Scripture all things are not plain, nor sufficient, nor alike clear unto all, but that God’s Word needs to be enhanced by repetitive, formulaic, hypnotic and mind-altering extra-scriptural rituals, practices, techniques and ceremonies that induce religious feelings in participants, particularly when performed in combination with solitude, silence, and/or self-denial through the deprivation of nutrition and sleep. (See Sola Experientia)
  3. The view that beneath and beyond the Bible’s plain meaning there exists hidden meanings that are only accessed via repetitive verbal, formulaic, meditative and shaped physical movements that supersede the written text in their intense spiritual expression—including such practices as breathing, posing, posturing, centering, aligning, shaping, imaging and visualizing; walking labyrinths, forming prayer circles, engaging spiritual disciplines, reciting liturgies, praying rosaries, etc.
  4. The belief that repetitive words, prayers, chants, etc., magically assist the participant to obey God thereby resulting in deeper spirituality. In these repetitions, the supremacy of the canonical-biblical text in matters pertaining to life and godliness becomes discounted and downgraded (1 Peter 1:3).
  5. Downgrading the necessity of obedience to the canonical-biblical text (1 Peter 4:17), while investing with divine significance obedience to spiritual exercises which can produce altered states of consciousness in practitioners.
  6. Salvation and/or sanctification achieved through the above described repetitive activities—1) salvation that is independent from hearing the Word of the Gospel which leads to actual repentance from dead works; and 2) sanctification that is independent of real obedience to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit and His production of genuine spiritual fruit in the Christian life. Instead, being focused upon illusory spiritual growth which is technique-driven, self-authenticating and self-centered. (See Inclusiva Scriptura)
  7. The belief that the Word of God possesses magical power when sufficiently repeated over and over, either individually or corporately, which repetitions result in greater spiritual power for the performer. The corollary teaching that God cannot or will not hear prayers unless they are offered in a repetitive and ritualistic manner, especially when executed either in utter solitude, or with increasing amplitude in large stadium-style group events. (See Matthew 6:7; Compare 1 Kings 18:26).
  8. Habitual and obsessive rumination on scripted prayers, historical creeds, patristic texts, poetry, sacred writings, liturgical works, etc., in the quest to experience at-one-ment with the divine. In this compulsion, a profound diminishing of the significance of Jesus Christ’s finished work on the Cross as the way to eternal life; seeking at-one-ment with God by means other than faith in the Lord Jesus Christ’s atonement for sin and resurrection from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:3-4) and full acceptance of the reconciliation with God that comes to the human heart for reason of trusting the Gospel (Romans 5:8-11).

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.”
Jesus, Matthew 6:7
Quotations and Illustrations:

“One way [to become best friends with God] is to use ‘breath prayers’ throughout the day, as many Christians have done for centuries. You choose a brief sentence or a simple phrase that can be repeated in one breath…. [Then after providing ten examples of short biblical phrases that could work as breath prayers, Rick Warren advises] Pray it as often as possible so it is rooted deep in your heart.”[1]

“The simple words ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ can be spoken quietly and persistently in such a way that they become like a hedge around a garden in which God’s shepherding can be sensed. These words, which at first might seem to be no more that an interesting metaphor, can slowly descend from the mind into the heart. There they may offer the context in which an inner transformation, by the God who transcends all human words and concepts, can take place. Thus, the words ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ lead to the silent pastures where we can dwell in the loving presence of him whose Name the preacher speaks. This meditative preaching is one way to practice the ministry of silence.”[2]

“There is a very helpful suggestion for us, people who depend so much on verbal ability. The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart. This repetition has nothing to do with magic. It is not meant to throw a spell on God or to force him into hearing us. On the contrary, a word or sentence repeated frequently can help us to concentrate, to move to the center, to create and inner stillness and thus to listen to the voice of God. When we simply try to sit silently and wait for God to speak to us, we find ourselves bombarded with endless conflicting thoughts and ideas. But when we use a simple sentence such as ‘O God, come to my assistance,’ or ‘Jesus, master, have mercy on me,’ or a word such as ‘Lord’ or ‘Jesus,’ it is easier to let the many distractions pass by without being misled by them. Such a simple, repeated prayer can slowly empty out our crowded interior life and create the quiet space where we can dwell with God. It can be like a ladder along which we can descend into the heart and ascend to God. Our choice of words depends on our needs and the circumstances of the moment, but it is best to use words from Scripture.”[3]

“In praying the Jesus Prayer [‘Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.’], our holy Fathers tell us, we say it over and over hundreds of times as part of our daily prayer rule. It is best to add the Jesus Prayer to your morning prayers as this is when the mind is the quietest. Begin by saying the Jesus Prayer verbally focusing on each word. Repeat the Jesus Prayer continually for 15 minutes at first and then expand to 30 minutes. You will experience the challenge of dealing with your thoughts, the tendency for you mind to wander. Attention when praying the Jesus Prayer is important. Be sincere in your prayer and repeat it with contrition. Praying the Jesus Prayer is that simple!”[4]

“In Christianity the chanting of the name of Jesus in prayer was recommended by Diadochus of Photice in the middle of the fifth century, and by John Climacus in the early seventh century.”[5]

The addiction to physical manifestations in the current revival is often linked directly to TOD [Tabernacle of David] type worship.  It has been pragmatically discovered that long extended and repetitive worship will usually cause God to ‘show up.’ So worship techniques often become the prelude for God showing up in power.  ‘Showing up’ is shorthand for the whole catalogue of physical manifestations associated with the current revival.  The right kind of worship will attract the manifestations which are a sign that God has shown up.  Much of the teaching that praise attracts and brings God’s presence is based on an obscure verse in the OT [Old Testament] which I believe has been misinterpreted.…”[6] 

[1] Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002): 87-89.
[2] Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 1981): 61, chapter “Silence and Preaching.”
[3] Ibid, 81-82, chapter “Nurtured by Short Prayers.”
[4] “Jesus Prayer—Prayer of the Heart,” Orthodox Prayer, Saint George Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Greenville, SC. http://www.orthodoxprayer.org/Jesus%20Prayer.html.
[5] Rosemary Ellen Guiley, “Chanting,” Harper’s Encyclopedia of Mystical & Paranormal Experience (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1991): 92.
[6] Dr. Orrel Steinkamp commenting on the purported beliefs of the IHOP and NAR movements in his landmark article “The Restoration of Davidic Warfare/Worship,” The Plumbline, Vol. 7, No. 4, September/October 2002, http://www.deceptioninthechurch.com/orrel11.html 

See also: Altered States: A Different Gate

Adapted from www.dictionary.com

NOTE: This post is authored by several members of the Discernment Research Group, including Pastor Larry DeBruyn, Susan J. Conway and Sarah H. Leslie, along with Pastor Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries. This is part of a joint project to develop a descriptive vocabulary for the new doctrines, practices and heresies of the emerging evangelical church.