[Today’s post, as well as the one coming up on the first Tuesday of December, will be more discussion-by-interview than devotional, but check out the linked biblical references for your own edification.]
Since January, I have been studying the little book titled The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence, using individual sections for the monthly devotional blog on my website. Responses are always welcome, and have been positive.
However, among these encouraging comments have been two from my dear friend and fellow author, Deb Elkink, that deserve further discussion ( these comments are from July 7, 2015 and October 6, 2015. Please hit Read Full Post to see Comments).
Today I’d like to introduce you to Deb and summarize her reactions, not so much to my posts as to the writings and beliefs of Brother Lawrence, on which my blogs have been based.
Deb is a multi-talented woman, with experience in writing, cooking (large scale), ranching, sewing (designer Vogue dresses and costumes) and homeschooling, to mention a few. She has a pilot’s license, a B.A. in Communications, an M.A. in Theology, as well as two published books: The Third Grace (a literary novel), and Roots and Branches: The Symbol of the Tree in the Imagination of G.K. Chesterton. Deb is committed to “contending earnestly for the faith [doctrine] once delivered” (Jude 1:3), and she has agreed to share her thoughts with us.
JAN: Deb, would you give us a brief summary of who Brother Lawrence was and what he believed?
DEB: He was a 17th-century German religious mystic who believed he’d found the secret to higher spiritual life. Today’s evangelical church is “rediscovering” the writings of Brother Lawrence, which stand in contrast to the Reformation’s five key beliefs known as the solae (Latin for “alones”): Based on Scripture alone, we are saved by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to God’s glory alone.
JAN: What are the particular errors you detect in his belief system?
DEB: First of all, The Practice of the Presence of God is easy to read and to devotionally apply through our filter or bias of biblical evangelical Christianity. One can only applaud this man’s thirst for God (Ps. 63:1), and his literary expression is as almost as enjoyable to read as the metaphysical poets Blake and Donne and Herbert.
However, Brother Lawrence was a monastic who sought a “higher” spirituality and emotional tranquility through the discipline of contemplation; prayer for him was sensing God’s presence. Like other mystics with whom he is associated (Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, Madame Guyon), Brother Lawrence eschewed intellectual knowledge of the written Word of God as source and authority of truth, instead focusing on subjective experiences (of self-emptying and detachment) to define sanctification.
JAN: Please allow me to interrupt your train of thought. This (what I’ve italicized above) is an aspect of the book I had not recognized. I did note that although “God” is mentioned often, the name of Christ is very rare. That should be a flag for us as we seek truth.
Please join us December 1 for the rest of this interview.