President Newton Meet Abby, Outside the Labyrinth, by Pr. Rossow

In a post earlier this week Todd Wilken, host of the Issues, Etc. radio program, alerted BJS readers to a troubling conference promoted by the California/Nevada/Hawaii district of the LCMS.

Our BJS readers have proven their mettle once again by dropping some insightful critiques. One of the most interesting and helpful is from our reader named Abby. I would like to highlight her comment but first here’s a little more about the conference.

It is a troubling conference for many reasons. Two of those reasons are the speakers and the theme.

The theme is meeting the needs of the SBNR. SBNR means “spiritual but not religious.” Properly handled that could be a good theme. For instance, if it referred to a Lutheran spirituality of the cross and the means of grace opposed to a false religiosity of Pharisaism, then it might be quite helpful. Instead, the conference is promoting a false pagan spirituality based on such practices as walking and praying the labyrinth. (For a description of the labyrinth click here.) You can also check out Pastor Clint Poppe’s BJS post where we first addressed this matter.

In short, the labyrinth is used to promote prayer and meditation. These are good things but historically the labyrinth is associated with pagan meditation upon things spiritual and is making a come back in this day to promote this same false spirituality. I suppose a labyrinth could be used properly if participants were given a litany of Scripture to meditate upon, but its historical and current uses for pagan, free-floating meditation, at the very least, make it an inadvisable practice. More troubling is the way it is promoted by the church hosting this conference. Their two labyrinths (yes, I said “two”) are promoted as tools for any spiritual people to use for their own end without the guidance of the means of grace and the congregation presents them not as tools dependent on the means of grace but as a sort of fourth sacrament, based on meditation as an end in itself.

The second reason the conference is troubling is because of the speakers. They include a woman pastor who is “a force in the worldwide labyrinth movement,” the pastor of the sponsoring church who is certified in labyrinth spirituality, and the President of the district, Robert Newton. Why is the president of the district promoting this false spirituality? Why is the pastor of the church certified in the spirituality of labyrinths? Is it not enough to be certified in the office of the administration of word and sacrament? If these first two objections are some how met with clever qualifying excuses, what is to be made of inviting a “force in the worldwide labyrinth movement” into a confessional church. I guarantee you that the worldwide movement is of Satan and is intended to steal people away from the means of grace and not lead them to the inerrant Word of Christ and his sacraments properly administered. (I fear that with that last comment the Reverend President might accuse me of being religious at the expense of being spiritual.)

All of this leads me to Abby’s excellent comment. (Click here to read it in the context of Wilken’s original post. It is comment #46.) Thanks Abby for putting yourself out there for the sake of helping us better understand the shortcomings of labyrinth spirituality. May your testimony lead President Newton to rebuke this false spirituality and be satisfied with what God gives us in Word and Sacrament. Read, enjoy and join in the discussion.

This all brought back to my mind that a few years ago I was seeing a psychologist/therapist. He was a Christian of another denomination. (I have a long history of depression and have been in therapy — mostly talk, some medication — for 20+ years. I have also been an active lifelong member in my Lutheran church — no correlation to the depression.)

My counselor said that a “labyrinth” was being held at a local University and would I go? Because he asked me to I said ‘yes’ because I was seeking anything that would help me and I figured he knew that this would be something therapeutic that would help me. Something prohibited me from going, I don’t remember what. (But seeing here what it is like I am glad I did not go to it.)

About 2 years ago I met a pastor who was willing to meet with me. I was still desperately seeking so out came my ‘story.’ He worked with me through several passages of Scripture. The first one being on justification. So, since he was giving me the time I decided to read all the Gospels straight through. After that I continued with the rest of the whole New Testament except Revelation. The light truly turned on. I have never read the whole New Testament before and understood it as I did now through these new “eyes.” I understand now all the ‘big’ words — atonement, imputation, justification, propitiation, grace — especially grace. I understood Christ’s work before but not this deeply and clearly. I could never get this from all my years in secular counseling. So much depression lifted from me that I don’t believe it will ever come back again the way it was before. I could never now NOT understand grace. (I know that is a bad sentence.)

A ‘labyrinth’ without Christ is nothing. I also noticed that one of the presenters’ best friend is his dog. I had a dog exactly like that and she was my best friend also. I preferred her to people. She was my excuse to avoid people. But a dog or ‘labyrinth’ without people is nothing. We need to be with people — with all their faults just like mine — to love them as Christ has commanded that we do. This ‘labyrinth spirituality’ without Christ is absolutely nothing. And I am not kidding about this.

I am so glad that ‘something’ prohibited me from going to a labyrinth. Because it would have done nothing but confuse me more and give me more guilt — it would not have helped me to be ‘better’. A labyrinth did not die for me. A labyrinth cannot forgive and love me. A labyrinth will not keep me safe from the devil for all eternity. A labyrinth gives nothing. Because it does not give Christ. Only He frees me from the wrath of God.

I know everyone is different and everyone is at a different time and place. But I thank God and the pastor that he gave me this time. And for his prayers. He is a very wise young man. I thank God that He directed me away from a labyrinth.

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