Recipe for Shipwreck: Misguided Endorsements of Madame Guyon’s Works
by Scott Noble
Dec 13, 2013
Updated Dec.31, 2013
Madame Guyon (AD 1648-1717), whose books are riddled with shallow, jagged rocks, capable of shipwrecking the unwary traveler, was endorsed, to one degree or another, by many respected leaders of the past, such as Count Zinzendorf, John Wesley, Adoniram Judson, Charles Spurgeon, A.W. Tozer, Watchman Nee, and others. How could all of these men possibly be wrong? That’s really not the right question, since only the Bible is our infallible guide. In our own day and age, many evangelical leaders endorse the life of “Mother” Teresa, in spite of the fact that many of her mystical practices and doctrinal statements undermine biblical beliefs and spirituality. Helping the poor is a great thing, but that can be done biblically, while also helping the poor to come to eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, not just giving a temporary fix which leaves the person ignorant of the gospel.
Following what is popular or what is promoted by big name preachers is not what the Bereans of Paul’s day did. “…they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” (Acts 17:11) John Wesley himself confessed his error in falsely esteeming a book by Martin Luther just because it was well spoken of by others: “Monday, 15.–I set out for London, and read over in the way that celebrated book, Martin Luther’s comment on the Epistle to the Galatians. I was utterly ashamed. How have I esteemed this book, only because I heard it so commended by others; or, at best, because I had read some excellent sentences occasionally quoted from it! But what shall I say, now I judge for myself?….he is deeply tinctured with mysticism throughout and hence often dangerously wrong.” href=”http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/journal.txt”>http://www.ccel.org/ccel/wesley/journal.txt
Count Zinzendorf (AD 1700-1760) of the Moravians
“In the year 1731, several individuals, who either resided at Herrnhut, or were on a visit there, secretly disseminated the works of Madam Guion, which were approved of by some. This induced the Count to read these writings, and particularly her spiritual discourses. But, believing that some of the mystics not only teach erroneous doctrines, but also use improper modes of speech respecting commonly received truths, he sought to extract that which was really good from them. Hence he began, in February, to speak upon a variety of subjects, in short meetings which he held, connected with Madam Guion’s discourses. But I am of opinion he did not so much intend to introduce her writings into the church, as to bring off its members from them; and in this he succeeded.” (From “The Life of Nicholas Lewis Count Zinzendorf” By August Gottlieb Spangenberg) http://books.google.co.th/books?id=Xmg3AAAAMAAJ&pg=PA133&lpg=PA133&dq= zinzendorf+guion&source= bl&ots=oA9iLsQVax&sig=yd2D05_EZZS1q1CrQcUW2hR-sLE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=u22kUvKdOcjArAevpIHYAw&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAQ#v =onepage&q=zinzendorf%20guion&f=false
“In Zinzendorf the teachings of Arndt, Spener and Francke bear their natural fruit. Zinzendorf developed a system he called, “Theology of the Heart” which basically meant that heart-felt religious convictions and experiences were more trustworthy than theological understanding. As a natural outworking of this philosophy Zinzendorf emphasized the ecumenicalism of Francke, teaching that doctrinal difference between believers should be tolerated. Zinzendorf is best known today because of his leadership within the Moravians, a Pietist sect that had profound impact on the life of John Wesley….Based upon the studies of J. E. Hutton, historian of the Moravian movement, Arnold Dallimore writes: To them the value of the Bible consisted, not in its supposed infallibility, but in its appeal to their hearts €¦.The Bible was not its supreme authority, but authority lay also in personal experience, and, of course, varied according to the sentiments of the individual….The Society”s gatherings were characterized by an extraordinary fervour, but because of the lack of clear doctrinal teaching, its members proved susceptible to varying religious influences.”
John Wesley (AD 1703-1791)
After living a very religious life (he was even a missionary to America), but not knowing the Lord, John Wesley was born- again in AD 1738. His own experience alone, of having great piety without being born-again, should have cautioned him against promoting the life of a devout mystic (Madame Guyon), who followed the false doctrines of Rome. Devotion alone is not proof of knowing God, as Wesley preached in his famous “The Almost Christian” sermon. In his early life, Wesley was clearly opposed to mystical teachings.
“…I made an end of Madam Guyon’s ‘Short Method of Prayer’ and ‘Les Torrentes Spirituelles.’ Ah, my brethren! I can answer your riddle, now I have ploughed with your heifer. The very words I have so often heard some of you use, are not your own, no more than they are God’s. They are only retailed from this poor Quietist [see Appendix A on Quietism]; and that with the utmost faithfulness. Oh, that ye knew how much wiser is God than man! Then would you drop Quietists and Mystics together, and at all hazards keep to the plain, practical, written word of God.” -The Journal of the Reverend John Wesley http://books.google.co.th/books?id=0hRMAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA685&lpg=PA685&dq=zinzendorf+guion&source=bl&ots=ufCcgvmV3V&sig=OABaewoQpR4ldzCn2ZPvpOmWT10&hl=en&sa=X&ei=u22kUvKdOcjArAevpIHYAw&ved=0CEgQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=zinzendorf%20guion&f=false
“…I have industriously guarded them from meddling with the Mystic writers, as they are usually called; because these are the most artful refiners of it that ever appeared in the Christian world, and the most bewitching. There is something like enchantment in them. When you get into them, you know not how to get out. Some of the chief of these, though in different ways, are Jacob Behmen and Madame Guyon. My dear friend, come not into their secret; keep in the plain, open Bible way. Aim at nothing higher, nothing deeper, than the religion described at large in our Lord’s Sermon upon the Mount, and briefly summed up by St. Paul in the 13th chapter [of the First Epistle] to the Corinthians….All the high-sounding or mysterious expressions used by that class of writers either mean no more than this or they mean wrong. O beware of them! Leave them off before they are meddled with.” http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/wesleys-letters-1772/
“For what is prayer but the desire of the soul expressed in words to God, either inwardly or outwardly. How, then, will you teach them to express a desire who feel no desire at all? When, therefore, Madame Guyon talks in that manner, it often makes me afraid that both she and her teacher, Archbishop Fenelon, talked by rote of the things they knew not. Both of them had an amazing genius, but I doubt full little experience. It is exceeding certain neither his nor her writings are likely to do us any solid service. We have all the gold that is in them without the dross, which is often not only useless but dangerous. Let you and I keep the good old way.”
“Madame Guyon was a good woman and is a fine writer, but very far from judicious. Her writings will lead any one who is fond of them into unscriptural Quietism. They strike at the root, and tend to make us rest contented without either faith or works. It is certain the Scripture by “prayer” almost always means vocal prayer. And whosoever intermits this for any time will neither pray with the voice nor the heart. It is therefore our wisdom to force ourselves to prayer– to pray whether we can pray or no. And many times while we are so doing the fire will fall from heaven, and we shall know our labor was not in vain.” http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/wesleys-letters-1773/
Saying that someone is a “good woman” or a “fine writer”, is not the same as saying she is a Christian woman or an edifying writer. It is probably the following bad advice by Guyon that Wesley was addressing in the quote above: Guyon advised, “Now that your soul has been called to a state of inward silence, you should not burden yourself with vocal prayers.” (Chadwick, 93) At this point though, in 1774, Wesley started compromising, acknowledging the “excellent things” in Guyon’s books, and recommended the recipient of his letter to read only those things which he published, but two years later, he published a biography of Madame Guyon (although it was an abridged version)!
“There are many excellent things in Madame Guyon”s works, and there are many that are exceedingly dangerous. The more so because the good things make way for the mischievous ones. And it is not easy unless for those of much experience, to distinguish the one from the other. Perhaps, therefore, it might be safest for you chiefly to confine yourself to what we have published.”http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-letters-of-john-wesley/wesleys-letters-1774
“John Wesley owned many works by Madame Guyon and in 1776 he republished her autobiography which had been translated into English by a Quaker. http://books.google.co.th/books?id=tmA81f0PHU0C&pg=PA253&lpg=PA253&dq=%22madame+guyon%22+%22john+wesley%22+translated&source=bl&ots=YaF16mJokl&sig=7bgmMa8qH1fH4Q3MOynzGeANU6w&hl=en&sa=X&ei=jfSiUvHnJ-b-iAfAzYHIDA&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22madame%20guyon%22%20%22john%20wesley%22%20translated&f=false
“Concerning Madame Guyon, a mystic believed by many to be on the cutting edge of spirituality in her time, he [John Wesley] cautioned [in the preface to his version of Madame Guyon’s life]: ‘The grand source of all her mistakes was this, the not being guided by the written word. She did not take the Scripture for the rule of her actions; at most it was but the secondary rule. Inward impressions, which she called inspirations, were her primary rule. The written word was not a lantern to her feet, a light in all her paths. No; she followed another light, the outward light of her confessors, and the inward light of her own spirit.’ (An extract of the Life of Madam Guion. By John Wesley, M.A, 7)id=nsJq1v2HCa4C&pg=PA40&lpg=PA40&dq=%22An+extract+of+the+Life+of+Madame+Guyon%22+preface+wesley&source=bl&ots=sqqZAbEITL&sig=CLKiLfTEkwGgmsg03guI_PhoSng&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UF-lUoyYAYGzrgeezYCgBQ&ved= 0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22An%20extract%20of%20the%20Life%20of%20Madame%20Guyon%22%20preface%20wesley&f=false” target=”_blank”>http://books.google.co.th/books?id=nsJq1v2HCa4C&pg=PA40&lpg=PA40&dq=%22An+extract+of+the+Life+of+Madame+Guyon%22+preface+wesley&source=bl&ots=sqqZAbEITL&sig=CLKiLfTEkwGgmsg03guI_PhoSng&hl=en&sa=X&ei=UF-lUoyYAYGzrgeezYCgBQ&ved= 0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22An%20extract%20of%20the%20Life%20of%20Madame%20Guyon%22%20preface%20wesley&f=false
“Not that I would recommend a cold, dead, formal prayer, out of which both love and desire, hope and fear, are excluded. Such seems to have been “the calm and undisturbed method of prayer,” so strongly recommended by the late Bishop Hoadly, which occasioned for some years so violent a contest in the religious world. Is it not probable that the well-meaning bishop had met with some of the Mystics or Quietists (such as Madam Guion, or the Archbishop [Fenelon] of Cambray) and that having no experience of these things he patched together a theory of his own as nearly resembling theirs as he could? But it is certain nothing is farther from apathy than real, scriptural devotion. It excites, exercises, and gives full scope to all our nobler passions; and excludes none but those that are wild, irrational, and beneath the dignity of man.” http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/117/
In the quote above, Wesley also recognized the danger of the irrational, which Guyon did not see as a danger. Guyon advised, “…let your soul linger sweetly and silently on the Scripture verse you have read. Do not try to reason out the truth in it…” (Chadwick, 17) Guyon further confirmed, “We must, therefore, continue steadfastly and immovable in our abandonment, without listening to the voice of natural reason.” (Chadwick, 36) This anti-rational stance is common in Guyon and other mystics, but the downplaying of logic opens up the floodgate for irrational and unbiblical “revelations.” More on this in the section about Watchman Nee.
Later in life (AD 1789) Wesley still saw the error’s of Madame Guyon’s ways, and still rightly promoted “scriptural devotion,” in contrast to mysticism, but the damage was already done. In Wesley’s abridged version of Guyon’s life, he had already made a partial acceptance, and a half-hearted endorsement of her teachings, even though he gave due caution for his readers, saying “The grand source of all her mistakes was this, the not being guided by the written word.” Nowadays many who promote Guyon’s works refer to John Wesley to bolster their claim, as though Wesley had made a full endorsement of Guyon’s works. This is one of the dangers of compromise- the often unseen (though at other times clearly seen) negative influence it brings to many others.
Adoniram Judson (AD 1788-1850)
“He seemed at one time to be inclined to embrace the mystical tenets of Thomas a Kempis, Fenelon, and Madame Guyon, and it was feared that he was leaning toward those monkish austerities which belong peculiarly to the spirit of the Roman Church. Certainly there are passages here and there in his writings which point in this direction. And yet, often in these extracts it can be discerned with what cautious and stealthy steps he trod the perilous pathway leading toward monastic asceticism. On the occasion of sending a gift of money to his sister in America, he writes: “But I give it on the express condition that you appropriate part of it to purchase for yourself the life of Lady Guyon… and I hope you will read it diligently, and endeavor to emulate that most excellent saint so far as she was right.” href=”http://books.google.co.th/books/about/The_Life_of_Adoniram_Judson.html?id=f563uwAACAAJ&redir_esc=y” target=”_blank”>http://books.google.co.th/books/about/The_Life_of_Adoniram_Judson.html?id=f563uwAACAAJ&redir_esc=y
“…so far as she was right”? This was very irresponsible advice to his sister to buy Guyon’s book and assume she could rightly discern between the error and the truth, like sending a box of food mixed with poison. If he wanted to bless his sister, he should have just sent her a truly good book, without the spiritual dangers which are present in Guyon’s books.
Charles Spurgeon (AD 1834-1892)
Spurgeon has a great quote about the dangers of the Catholic Church. It is too bad, that like King Solomon, he did not heed his own recommendations: “Since he was cursed who rebuilt Jericho, much more the man who labours to restore Popery among us. In our fathers’ days the gigantic walls of Popery fell by the power of their faith, the perseverance of their efforts, and the blast of their gospel trumpets; and now there are some who would rebuild that accursed system upon its old foundation. O Lord, be pleased to thwart their unrighteous endeavours, and pull down every stone which they build. It should be a serious business with us to be thoroughly purged of every error which may have a tendency to foster the spirit of Popery, and when we have made a clean sweep at home we should seek in every way to oppose its all too rapid spread abroad in the church and in the world. This last can be done in secret by fervent prayer, and in public by decided testimony. We must warn with judicious boldness those who are inclined towards the errors of Rome; we must instruct the young in gospel truth, and tell them of the black doings of Popery in the olden times…..Are we doing all we can for Jesus and the gospel? If not, our negligence plays into the hands of the priestcraft. What are we doing to spread the Bible, which is the Pope’s bane and poison? Are we casting abroad good, sound gospel writings?…If the thousands who will read this short word this night will do all they can to hinder the rebuilding of this accursed Jericho, the Lord’s glory shall speed among the sons of men. Reader, what can you do? What will you do?” http://www.heartlight.org/spurgeon/0529-pm.html
Here are some quotes by Charles Spurgeon concerning Madame Guyon:
“The mystics are a class of people who have a peculiar attraction for my mind; and I suppose the mention of such a name as that of Madame Guyon, who, among females, stands at the very head of the school, will awaken in many of you many sweet remembrances of times enjoyed in reading her blessed hymns, and of her sweet and admirable life. But, after all, it is not the highest style of Christian living to be a mystic.”
“The church of Rome is a church defiled with error and debased with superstition, but was there ever a nobler Christian woman in this world than Madame de la Mothe Guyon? She did not depart from Christ, though in the midst of a pestilent atmosphere. Remember, too, the names of Jansenius, Arnold, Pascal, and Fenelon which are an honor to the universal Church of Christ—who ever walked in closer communion with Christ than those holy men did?” www.spurgeongems.org/vols52-54/chs3046.pdf €
“If you preach much about emotional religion and the heart-work of godliness, cold-blooded professors label you as rather mystical and begin to talk of Madame Guyon and the danger of the Quietist school of religion.” www.spurgeongems.org/vols22-24/chs1281.pdf €
It is really surprising to see these kinds of quotes from Spurgeon, especially since he was very clear about speaking against the false doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church. And, in Spurgeon’s audience there were surely young believers and non-Christians present also. Maybe even some Catholics heard or read his sermons. If so, seeing and hearing his endorsement of Madame Guyon and then reading Guyon, would have only reinforced their faith in Rome. Although Spurgeon was wise concerning the false doctrines of Rome, he negligently let in the Trojan Horse of Madame Guyon’s Catholic teachings (and other mystics such as Fenelon), unchallenged among Christ’s flock. The teachings of Madame Guyon are clearly misleading for young believers, but they are even misleading for older believers, as we will see in the life of A.W. Tozer.
R.A. Torrey (AD 1856-1928)
R.A. Torrey also wrote about prayer, but put the Bible as our foundation and warned against mysticism. “It is not by seasons of mystical meditation and rapturous experiences that we learn to abide in Christ; it is by feeding upon His word, His written word as found in the Bible, and looking to the Holy Spirit to implant these words in our hearts and to make them a living thing in our hearts.” http://www.ccel.org/ccel/torrey/pray.txt
A.W. Tozer (AD 1897-1963)
“In 1963, the year of his death, Tozer wrote, The Christian Book of Mystical Verse, a poetry collection from the saintly mystics…” http://justthebook.wordpress.com/2009/01/22/a-w-tozer-the-mystic-part-1/
From Preface to Tozer”s “Knowledge of the Holy” ” €¦Were Christians today reading such works as those of Augustine or Anselm a book like this would have no reason for being. But such illuminated masters are known to modern Christians only by name €¦” http://justthebook.wordpress.com/2009/01/22/a-w-tozer-the-mystic-part-1/
“Nicolas, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila and many others of Tozer”s “saints” were active supporters of the anti-Christian papal system, and of the works-related method of salvation. Are they considered holy just because they speak of sanctification, Christ and heaven? The Devil does as much. Tozer bemoaned the fact that these writers are virtually unknown in modern times. In this we agree – if they were more thoroughly known then Tozer”s quotes can be shown for what they really are – passages taken largely out of context from a system that has much more of the Counter-Reformation than the Reformation. And his quoting of these mystics is more frequent than you might expect. In his slim volume, “Knowledge of the Holy”, for instance, there are at least eighteen quotes that are to be found.” www.onthewing.org/user/Tozer1%20Reconsidered%20-%20Riggle.pdf €
” Tozer did not ask for spiritual references when he effusively praised the ecstatic utterances of Julian of Norwich, nor of the “insights” of that “master of the inner life” (his words), Evelyn Underhill, the ecumenicist mystic. If he would have asked for proper Scriptural backing from them, and found them wanting, he would have saved himself much confusion – and the church much polluting error that is now hard to eradicate.” www.onthewing.org/user/Tozer1%20Reconsidered%20-%20Riggle.pdf €
“In TAG [The Attributes of God by A.W. Tozer], Tozer extensively cites the writings of a medieval mystic and visionary, Julian of Norwich, a woman who chose to use a man”s name. Julian was an anchoress ” a person who, claiming religious reasons, lived a life of extreme ascetism and isolation from others ” believing any social contact would contaminate her before God…. Another medieval mystic whom Tozer held in high regard and cites as being equally authoritative with Julian is an obscure monk named Brother Lawrence. Brother Lawrence had a series of meditations which after his death were collected and published as The Practice of the Presence of God. Julian of Noirwich, Brother Lawrence, and Meister Eckhardt [another mystic cited favorably by Tozer], did not base their practices upon the teaching of scriptures. Their writings were the result of hallucinations produced during trance states [altered states of consciousness], during which their bodies became inhabited by what Scripture calls ‘familiar spirits.'” http://davestheology.wordpress.com/2013/04/18/a-w-tozer-a-trojan-horse-for-apostasy/
From Tozer’s “Man: the Dwelling Place of God”: “Most of the great masters of the deeper life, such as Fenelon, Molinos [see Appendix A], John of the Cross, Madame Guyon and a host of others, have warned against pseudo-religious experiences that provide much carnal enjoyment but feed the flesh and puff up the heart with self-love.” Is Guyon a “master?” Certainly not from a biblical perspective. http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/tozer/5j00.0010/5j00.0010.29.htm
The Results of Mysticism in Tozer’s Life
It is clear from these quotes that Tozer was not only into Madame Guyon’s writings, but the writings of many of the mystics. This emphasis on mysticism like the detachment from the world of Buddhist and Catholic monks, had sad consequences for his family and others in his church.
“On the personal front, while Tozer sought, and apparently found, intimacy with God, he neither sought nor had intimacy with people. After church services Tozer shunned conversation with adults and often slipped into the nursery. He refused to do counseling, pastoral or hospital visits. Very few people were ever allowed to get to know him and this included his family. He rejected involvement with extended family which was a source of pain for his immediate family. With the exception of his younger child and only daughter, his children felt estranged from their father. Tozer had time for God and preaching but little time for family. But the greatest estrangement was from his wife Ada. Tozer seemed to lack closeness with Ada almost from the beginning of their marriage, and he did not seem to consider her feelings nor consult her even on important matters. A year after Tozer”s death, Ada remarried and, when asked about her happiness, consistently replied: “I have never been happier in my life. Aiden (Tozer) loved Jesus Christ, but Leonard Odam loves me” (p. 160). One has to wonder how a man who sought such intimacy with God could shun intimacy with his own wife and children. Perhaps we will never have the answer to that question but it does leave a dark blot on Tozer”s legacy.”
Watchman Nee (AD 1903-1972)
Regarding “Experiencing the Depths of Jesus Christ” by Madame Guyon…
“Watchman Nee saw that this book was translated into Chinese, and made available to every new convert of The Little Flock.”
It is asking for shipwreck to expose anyone to Madame Guyon’s teachings, whether a young or an old believer. Those with influence in Watchman Nee’s early life exposed him to Madame Guyon, and this influence can be seen in how he leaned towards mysticism and “intuition,” instead of making God’s Word the sure foundation of his life. This in turn formed the unstable foundation for those whom Nee influenced, such as the cult leader Witness Lee, and others.
Early influences in Watchman Nee’s Life
“Nee also got doses of Catholic mysticism through the writings of Madame Jeanne Guyon, as published in Penn Lewis’ magazine.” http://www.apologeticsindex.org/2694-watching-out-for-watchman-nee
“Nee continued to read widely and when Barber exposed him to the writings of John Darby, he found the basis for his ecclesiology, or thoughts on the church. From that point, everything Nee wrote on the church is easily identified with the teachings of the Plymouth Brethren. He rejected clergy as unscriptural.”
“Nee outlines no method of Bible study and interpretation and appears to deny evangelical hermeneutics. In his book Spiritual Authority, he sets himself and his elders up as the unquestionable authorities. By all appearances, Nee saw himself not as a servant but as a guru.” http://www.apologeticsindex.org/2694-watching-out-for-watchman-nee
“…Nee taught there should only be one congregation in each city. Whenever Nee’s followers moved into a city, they proclaimed themselves as the only church approved by God in that city.” http://www.apologeticsindex.org/n00.html#neew
“One gets the impression from Nee that the Bible was not nearly as important as Christians generally consider it. In his book The Ministry of God’s Word, Nee says, “Words alone cannot be considered God’s Word.” In this book, Nee becomes very philosophical, mystical and incoherent.” http://www.apologeticsindex.org/2694-watching-out-for-watchman-nee
Arthur Johnson, author of “Faith Misguided,” wrote concerning a type of mystical revelation, which was in keeping with Watchman Nee’s teachings, “Ordinary knowledge of all kinds is scorned as inferior and unspiritual because it depends on the mind. On the other hand, that which is nonrational is praised as spiritual.”
In “The Spiritual Man,” Nee wrote, “Man’s soulical faculties cannot perceive God: nothing else can be a substitute for intuition. Except a man receives a new life from God and has his intuition resurrected, he is eternally separated from God” Nee exalts “intuition” which is not even a biblical term, to the detriment of reason.
Also, in “The Spiritual Man,” Nee wrote, “Such experiences inform us that our intuition, the organ for the working of the Holy Spirit, is capable itself of distinguishing good from evil without any assistance from the mind’s observation and investigation.”
In “Spiritual Reality or Obsession,” Nee said, “A wonderful thing happens after you touch reality. Whenever you encounter someone who has not touched, or entered into, reality, you immediately sense it. You know he has not touched that reality because he is still following the mind, the law, the rule or regulation. Before God there is something which the Bible calls ‘true.’ It is nothing other than ‘reality.’ In relating to this trueness – this reality – one is delivered from doctrine, letter, human thoughts, and human ways.”
Arthur Johnson wrote, “In insisting on a secondary place for doctrine, Nee is setting up a conflict between the written Word of God and what he takes to be the work of the Holy Spirit within us….The biblical teaching, on the other hand, is that the Holy Spirit’s tool in doing His work in us is the written Word….The Scriptures know nothing of a tension between the written Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit within us, as Nee suggests.”
In “The Release of the Spirit,” Nee said, ” Today if you are listening to a prophetic message, you will realize that there is a mystic something other than word and thought present. This you can clearly sense, and may well call it the spirit in God’s Word.”
Madame Guyon’s writings likewise downplay the rational, in favor of the “intuitive.” Guyon wrote, “May I hasten to say that the kind of prayer I am speaking of is not a prayer that comes from your mind. It is a prayer that begins in the heart….Prayer that comes out of the heart is not interrupted by thinking.” (Experiencing The Depths of Jesus Christ, p. 4]
Arthur Johnson wrote, “Fortunately, Watchman Nee does not carry his position to its logical extension. He does not elevate his own pronouncements, based on these mystical elements, to an authoritative position equal to or greater than Scripture. However, he has clearly laid the foundation for such an equation…. The key to Watchman Nee’s position is: the nonrational, intuitive functions of man provide a special “organ” for relating to God. Once this is accepted, the door is open for all sorts of nonbiblical views.” http://web.archive.org/web/20030207191255/http://www.thelocalchurch.org/faithmisguided.html
Madame Guyon’s (AD 1648-1717) Mystical Life and Teachings
Guyon, like many Catholics, prayed to Mary. “I did not fail to say my vocal prayers every day, to confess pretty often, and to partake of the communion almost every fortnight. Sometimes I went to church to weep, and to pray to the Blessed Virgin to obtain my conversion.” (Plantinga, 23)
Guyon wrote in her autobiography concerning the time after her husband died, and like other Catholic mystics, spoke of Christ as her personal spouse, as opposed to the biblical teaching of the church corporately being the bride of Christ. “It was in the morning of July 21, 1676, that he died. Next day I entered into my closet, in which was the image of my divine spouse, the Lord Jesus Christ. I renewed my marriage-contract, and added thereto a vow of chastity, with a promise to make it perpetual, if M. Bertot my director, would permit me.” (Plantinga, 83)
Guyon also advocated visualization, contrary to what the apostles wrote. “Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” (John 20:29); and, “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing…” (I Peter 1:8). Guyon wrote, “We must not form any image of the Deity, though we may of Jesus Christ, seeing Him in His birth, or His crucifixion, or in some other state or mystery, provided the soul always seeks Him in its own center.” (Chadwick, 24)
Some examples of Guyon’s unbiblical advice and teachings:
“…your soul should not attempt to do anything other than withdraw itself from external objects and turn inward.” (Chadwick, 60)
“The more passive and tranquil the soul remains, and the freer it is from self-effort, the more rapidly it advances…” (Chadwick, 61)
“All our attention should, therefore, be directed toward developing the greatest amount of ability to withdraw inward.” (Chadwick, 61)
“All their praying is now done in silence…it is of the utmost importance to remain as silent as possible.” (Chadwick, 68-69)
“…the soul that is quiet and peaceful in prayer often sinks into a…mystical… slumber in which all of its powers are at rest…the soul is wholly adapted to this mystical slumber…” (Chadwick, 70)
“The only way to find God is to direct your thoughts and feelings inward.” (Chadwick, 75)
“But here in this mystical death of the soul, all things are alike. Now being dead, the soul is insensible to everything that concerns it…It has no preference between being an angel or devil…” (Chadwick, 185)
“The transformation…is recognized by the lack of distinction between God and their soul- it is no longer able to separate itself…from God… everything is equally God, because it has passed into its Original Source, reunited to its ALL, and changed into Him.” (Chadwick, 199)
“The only way to overcome the senses is to draw the soul completely inward to an awareness of the presence of the indwelling God…By focusing its attention inward, it weakens the senses, and is nearer to the inward awareness of God the more it is separated from the awareness of self…” (Chadwick, 54)
Buddhism also seeks to separate a person from an awareness of self (anatta) and detach from their senses. The theological terms are different here, but an altered state of consciousness is sought in both, weakening the senses and going inward.
G. Richard Fisher wrote, “It is curious that Moody Press is responsible for Guyon”s autobiography while also publishing Arthur Johnson”s Faith Misguided, which exposed the dangers of mysticism. It is also curious that Moody has let Johnson”s book go out of print while for decades has continued to print Guyon”s volume.” (http://www.pfo.org/mguyon.htm) Other “evangelical” publishers of Guyon’s works include Bridge-Logos, CLC Publications, and Whitaker House.
Endorsements from “reputable” publishers or famous preachers don’t guarantee that a book is biblical. We must, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (I Thessalonians 5:21) We need not sail in shallow waters where deceptive doctrines lurk like jagged rocks. Madame Guyon’s books and the books of other mystics are recipes for shipwreck. There are plenty of good books out there which are edifying and biblical. If a person is not satisfied just reading the biblical books that are out there, and with reading the Bible itself, what does that say? Like the children of Israel not satisfied with the daily Manna God gave them, this shows they are looking for something beyond what is biblical. May we be satisfied with and delight in what God has given us in His Word, and thereby love the truth. “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.” (John 17:17)
Chadwick, H.J. (2001). Madame Jeanne Guyon: Experiencing Union With God Through Inner Prayer & The Way and Results of Union With God. Gainesville: Bridge-Logos.
Johnson, A.L. (1988). Faith Misguided. Moody Press.
From David Kowalski’s article on Quietism:
Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism are perhaps the most extreme examples of quietism. The impediment to enlightenment in these religions is not self as a rebellious independent but self in its very humanity. Both mind and will are seen as enemies to be blotted out. Once mind and will are entirely negated, the practitioner achieves ecstatic enlightenment. Buddhist teacher Ajahn Chah says one must “exhaust the mind”s ability to concoct thought.”
In the Christian tradition, quietism refers to a passive approach to living which sees intellectual stillness, and the inward quieting or negating of our wills as the key to victorious, Christian living. Instead of teaching a self, renewed in Christ, quietism teaches a kind of self-annihilation. Quietistic strains have existed since very early times in the church, showing themselves in such things as Neoplatonism. Some medieval mystics sought this intellectual stillness and interior passivity, speaking of a kind of union with God in which the individual is absorbed into the deity with the human will or self being subsumed and essentially nullified in this experience.
Miguel de Molinos
This self-eradication to achieve a higher state among early, Christian mystics is sometimes difficult to distinguish from the concepts of moksha and nirvana in Eastern religions (this is true, for example, to some degree of the teachings and practice of Meister Eckhart [1260 ” 1327]). Full-blown quietism is often traced to Miguel de Molinos, a 17th-century Spanish priest who influenced the thought and spirituality of notable quietists such as Madame Jeanne Guyon. Guyon saw Christian life not as a renewal of self by the Spirit but as a replacement of self by the Spirit that happens in the mystical state of “union”:
“Indeed He drew my soul more and more into Himself, till it lost itself entirely out of sight, and could perceive itself no more. It seemed at first to pass into Him. As one sees a river pass into the ocean, lose itself in it, its water for a time distinguished from that of the sea, till it gradually becomes transformed into the same sea, and possesses all its qualities; so was my soul lost in God, who communicated to it His qualities, having drawn it out of all that it had of its own.”