Posted in conemplative prayer, jen hatmaker, seven sacred pauses, spiritual formation

Book Review & Discernment- "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" by Jen Hatmaker, part 2

In Part 1 of this two-part book review of Jen Hatmaker’s “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess”, I wrote that the book’s focus on social Gospel and try-harder, works mentality was really just Catholic Mysticism wrapped up in a new age monasticism. That the sweep of these kinds of books began a few years ago with David Platt’s “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream,” continued with Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs and A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans. Radical began a craze of anti-consumerism as a spiritual means to ‘get closer to God’ rather than a focus on the discipline of Godly living and biblical shepherding of our means – whatever means we’ve been given – via biblical standards.

Hatmaker’s book states that she and her family “made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.” All of this is completely off-kilter, of course, because we are supposed to be doing that anyway, while living completely for Jesus as His witness in sharing the Good News about the real problem modern-day folks have: sin. The worst part of the book I’d mentioned in Part 1 was that the by-product of the Hatmaker’s legalistic and artificial methods of addressing their self-identified problem was that it meant they discovered “a greatly increased God.” If you really think about that statement, it means that they are teaching that because they recycled, God increased.

However, a more ominous clue as to the incorrect emphasis Hatmaker’s book is that she and her family participated in the “seven sacred pauses.”

The “seven sacred pauses” are code for the Divine Hours. Divine Hours, AKA Liturgical Hours, AKA breviary, are praying at set times, like the monks used to do. It is Catholic mysticism at its most ancient and its worst.

The Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office or canonical hours, often referred to as the Breviary, is the official set of daily prayers prescribed by the Catholic Church to be recited by clergy, religious institutes, and laity. It consists primarily of psalms supplemented by hymns and readings. Together with the Mass, it constitutes the official public prayer life of the Church. The Liturgy of the Hours, along with the Eucharist, has formed part of the Church’s public worship from the earliest times.” (Source wikipedia)

The Catholic’s prayers at set times is very similar to the Muslim’s 5X daily prayers. In Islam the prayers prayed at set times per day is called the Salah. As this Muslim website explains, “The prayer times are before daybreak, at noon, mid- afternoon, after sundown and at night. We wake up thinking of Allah and we interrupt our daily busyness to worship and remember him.”

Below, a comparison of the Seven Sacred Pauses Hatmaker performed in her book and the false Catholic regime’s unbiblical Divine Hours. Click to enlarge.

Just as the Catholic rituals of contemplative prayer and labyrinth walking are unbiblical, so is ritualistic, set prayer. Matthew 6:5-8 specifically advises against prayer becoming ritualistic. Matthew 6:9-15 teaches us how to pray according to the way Jesus would have us do. It should be noted that when Jesus taught the disciples (and by extension, us) to pray, He did not say when to pray, He only said “When you pray…”, in teaching about the Lord’s Prayer, says,

“It is not and was never intended to be a ritual prayer to be formally and liturgically recited. It was a model designed by our Lord to show the nature of prayer and what prayer should consist of by way of content. There is nothing wrong, of course, with reading or reciting it together as we would any passage of Scripture for a certain focus or emphasis or as a reminder of truth. I am convinced, however, it was never meant to be simply recited as a prayer to God in place of personal prayer poured out to God from the heart.”

Personal prayer is never meant to be replaced by a man-made schedule with man-made meanings. It easily becomes ritualistic and that is something the Lord spoke specifically against in condemning the Pharisee’s prayer and lauding the tax-collector’s. (Luke 18:13). However, we all like to feel that we are more deeply connected to God, so prayer labyrinths are re-emerging as a popular activity in emergent churches. So are Spiritual formation disciplines. However labyrinths and other ritualistic prayer practices are not biblical. Got Questions says,

“While prayer labyrinths have been used in Catholic cathedrals for centuries, the past decade has seen resurgence in their popularity, especially within the Emergent Church and among New Age groups and neo-pagans.”

So where did all this come from? Back along, conservative Christians discovered Dallas Willard, who was fascinated with the Catholic mystics. His rediscovery sparked an interest in the “spiritual formation disciplines,” a series of ritualistic actions designed to form us into higher spiritual beings if performed correctly. In Matthew 11:29-30, Jesus mentions his yoke being easy, a yoke Willard interprets as the practice of spiritual disciplines like solitude, silence, and simple living. You can easily see the rearing-up of Catholic mystical practices based on those monastic notions, in conservative circles in the solitude (ritualistic contemplative prayer) and the current push from people like Hatmaker for “simple living” (monasticism).

Critical Issues Commentary says Dallas Willard re-interpreted the Christian life. Willard wrote, “Although we call the disciplines “spiritual”—and although they must never be undertaken apart from a constant, inward interaction with God and his gracious Kingdom—they never fail to require specific acts and dispositions of our body as we engage in them. We are finite and limited to our bodies. So the disciplines cannot be carried out except as our body and its parts are surrendered in precise ways and definite actions to God…” Wirse, CIC says that Willard sees Jesus’ “yoke” as an offer to take up a life-style that will make us better people. This is tantamount to substituting works for grace, and making Jesus an ethical teacher whose example can be followed rather than the unique Son of God who alone always does the things that please the Father.” (source)

Neo-pagans are finding that some of those “specific actions” Willard promoted require dispensing with ‘stuff’ and stripping down to simple living, eschewing wealth as others define it, and living more at one with the world. Yet just as Jesus rebuked ritualistic prayers of the Pharisees, Paul rebuked man made ascetic disciplines designed to abuse the body (Colossians 2:20-23).

You can read more in the Critical Issues Commentary on the spiritual disciplines, here.

So why do women eat this stuff up? I don’t know. I imagine the language used by such authors appeals to women, language like this-

“You can learn to enter into the spirit of the hour wherever you are. No matter what you are doing, you can pause to touch the grace of the hour.”

Really? What does the grace of the hour feel like? How do I enter the spirit of the hour? Will it feel warm? Cold? Is there a door? Hours have a spirit? Who says?

Women like to feel they are warm, enveloped in love, watched over, and thus the romanticization of Jesus began. Jumping on to that notion, books like One Thousand Gifts, The Secret, and this book by Jen Hatmaker pierce the ancient desire of women for a gentle but strong white knight to speak to them in women-language, whispers that only they can covet and take in like perfume. Having an appearance of godliness only makes the book more enticing. Yet underlying the sensitivity of the language of these best selling books, the money side of things is the cold hard reality.

As female buying power increased, false prophets took note. Remember, the motivation for false prophets is money. (Titus 1:10-11 2Peter 2:1-32, Peter 2:14-151, Timothy 6:3-5)

This copy writing tutorial web page says that “Women’s buying power has increased tremendously in recent years. Mothers alone account for $1.3 trillion of sales per year. Romance fiction made $1.37 billion in sales in 2008 and, in fact, had the largest share of the book market (13.5 percent).” That figure is even higher now.

The same copy writing web page advises that if you want your books to sell there are ten key words to use: love, heart, secret, King, Queen, Princess, Prince (or some other honorable title), Temptation and Forbidden, Cloud, Moon, Stars (and other celestial bodies), heaven, paradise, kiss, Magic, Enchanted, Bewitched (and other references to the supernatural), and virgin.

We especially see this trend of romantic words in contemporary lyrics. It is a problem that women are succumbing to these ploys. 2 Timothy 3:6 says that a favorite ploy of satan is to capture weak willed women burdened with sins who then in turn influence the men.

MacArthur explains the 2 Timothy 3:6 women verse,

The false cults and isms of today are no different than this, they go after weak defenseless women. That’s their target audience. Why do you think they go door to door all day long and not at night? Who do you think they’re after? Weak women who are vulnerable because they’re out from some protection and who are captivated by these people because they promise them deliverance from the burden of sin and guilt and they promise them a system of truth. Those are the kinds of victims they pick on. They come from all kinds of angles. They come at them on the radio during the day. They come at them on the television. They come at them through the printed page. They come at them door to door. The word “weak women” is one word, it’s used in contempt here, feeble women, easy prey, literally means little women. But it’s the idea that they’re just defenseless. Just as Satan’s strategy was to deceive Eve, so heretical false teachers have frequently chosen to spread their falsehoods by the same method.” [emphasis mine]

And then in verse 7 it says they probably are the kind of women who have a curiosity about religion. They’re attracted to easy solutions that don’t really call for a radical change and don’t deal with the real issue, the issue of sin before a holy God and salvation in Jesus Christ.” 

So you find an attraction by women to a book that advocates turning off the TV and recycling as means for closeness to God rather than repenting and taking up one’s cross daily. The former is easier, the latter is harder.

I’m not saying that every woman who loved Hatmaker’s book, or The Secret, or Jesus Calling, One Thousand Gifts, or Seven Sacred Pauses are weak-willed. But rather, these books are the ploy of satan that match the verse in 2 Timothy where he will come after the women. And this is one way- slyly romance them. Thanks to Beth Moore and her spiritual daughters, we have a plethora of books and devotionals that use the exact methods we were warned about to get at the women, just as satan did in the Garden with Eve.

“For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Tim 4:2-4)

“7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” is not recommended.

As a final PS, I put the call out to men: in general, today’s female Christian book market is a mine field of falsity and sly enticement. Most of it is bad. Only a little is good. Just in this one blog entry I noted the dangers of the following best selling books–

–One Thousand Gifts ( #14 in Christian Living Books)
–Jesus Calling ( #4 Christian Living Books)
–The Secret ( #16 Books > Religion & Spirituality )
–7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess (released 4 months ago,  #24 in Books > Christian Books & Bibles > Theology) THEOLOGY???!!!
–A Year of biblical Womanhood (#18 in Religious Studies > Theology)
–Beth Moore (The sales of her book about Esther alone were credited as part of what made a “strong” quarter for Lifeway Christian Stores during the height of the Great Recession- source)

These women make a lot of money for their publishers and women are buying their stuff in droves. Men, I’d recommend monitoring your wife or daughter or girlfriend’s book consumption vigilantly.

Part 1 of Book Review, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

Posted in discernment, jen hatmaker, monastic, simplicity, social gospel

Book Review & Discernment- "7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess" by Jen Hatmaker, part 1

Part 2 here

The Shack got women talking. The Secret titillated them. A Thousand Gifts made them swoon. Now, 7:An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker is causing another stir among the female brethren. Here is the book blurb-

American life can be excessive, to say the least. That’s what Jen Hatmaker had to admit after taking in hurricane victims who commented on the extravagance of her family’s upper middle class home. She once considered herself unmotivated by the lure of prosperity, but upon being called “rich” by an undeniably poor child, evidence to the contrary mounted, and a social experiment turned spiritual was born.”

“7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.”

“Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. They would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe “seven sacred pauses.” So, what’s the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It’s the discovery of a greatly increased God—a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends social experiment to become a radically better existence.”

Where do I begin.

OK, as always begin with the language that is being presented and carefully scrutinize it, and then compare it to the bible.

First, the impetus of the book worrisome. A kid called them ‘rich’ so they changed their life? Were they ashamed to be called rich by a poor child? Guilty of the blessings God had sent them? If they were prosperous in contrast to a poor kid, then it was an opportunity to do more with their means. It is not a sin to be rich, even by comparison to others. Abraham was wealthy. So was Job. David. Solomon. Nicodemus. Joseph of Arithamea. Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household, and Susanna; helped Jesus out of their own means. (Luke 8:3). It is the love of money that rots. Was this family loving money too much? Or just ashamed of what they had? There is a difference.

If they were attempting to shepherd their means in more Godly fashion, then that is fine. But it seemed that they were ashamed of their status in life. The bible has much to say about money, Godly living, shepherding resources, and excess, yet they did not consult with the word. They are off to a bad start.

What was their source for proceeding? They created a man-made outline to guide their behavior rather than consult the bible. By what standards did they decide on seven? On food, clothing, spending? What about giving?

Stress? Stress is part of life. Ask Paul. Peter. Stephen. Any martyr. Any Christian. We are at war with the powers and principalities of this world, and that is stressful. Do they think they deserve a stress-free life? What was the source of their stress? If they had made unGodly decisions about work, to the expense of their children, that is one matter. If they simply want the ‘good life’ that is another. Achieving it by man-made means and monastic ‘simplicity’ is not the way.

We have had a wave of these try harder “faith” type books these last couple of years. We suffered through Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs and A Year of Biblical Womanhood Rachel Held Evans. In my opinion, this current wave of ‘do something, try harder, strip away the consumerism so we can get close to God’ kind of books began with David Platt’s “Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.” That was a book that made it seem like those who were not doing big and bold things for God and coming home after work to sit on their American couch were second rate.

This past January, I wrote,

“You might remember I talked about the time when David Platt’s book Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream came out. Christians all over the place got on the bandwagon and decided that their plain-jane faith was unremarkable and they needed an adrenaline shot of daring and a radical change to prove to God that they’re really a Christian who means it. Let’s contrast the fancy lights and high volume indoctrination of charismatic faith preached at Passion 2013 with this-” and I linked to John MacArthur’s essay called “An Unremarkable Faith“.

MacArthur’s essay extolled the virtues of a plain old Godly life lived by biblical standards (which is actually harder to do than sell everything and run off to Burma.). And I mentioned Radical again this past March, referencing Southern View Chapel’s treatment of Platt’s book in fall of 2011. They write,

“A similar voice is David Platt’s and his book Radical: [Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream]. Platt offers better balance than Chan but still propagates a two-tiered gospel composed of the true gospel of redemption and the social gospel. While Platt is careful to elevate the true gospel, the social gospel of feeding the hungry and giving to the poor is the primary focus of the book and accounts for its popularity.[26] He writes, “As we meet needs on earth, we are proclaiming a gospel that transforms lives for eternity.”[27] The author does not advocate the social agenda as opposed to true evangelism, as mentioned above, but he does say that caring for the poor is evidence of salvation. As a matter of fact “rich people who neglect the poor are not the people of God.”[28] However, when we turn to the New Testament, we find that, while Christians are to be loving and generous to all people, they are never told to attempt to remedy the consequences of the sin of unbelieving humanity through social action.”

7:An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess is a natural outgrowth of books like Platt’s Radical. We can see influences of Platt in the blurb when we read that following the author’s example will lead to “a radically better existence.”

Are we to seek a radically better existence for ourselves on this earth? It is not our home. It is our battleground. Are we to seek a radically better existence for others on this earth through experiments like social gospel? No. Better their book be titled “An Experimental Mutiny Against Sin because that is what Christians are called to do, witness for Christ against sin and Him alone as the way to overcome it.

I sidetracked about the Jacobs, Evans, and Platt books because I wanted you to see how these things are connected in waves. Platt’s book was seminal and damaging. We see that now.

Back to An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. The blurb says the family discovered that once they dispensed with their stuff, they found “a greatly increased God”? So, God ‘increases’ if we recycle? People, God doesn’t change depending on what WE do.

The phrase in the blurb says it all: “a social experiment turned spiritual was born”. They didn’t consult the bible and adopt biblical standards in repentance and to seek God, they performed legalistic and rigid actions and a byproduct of that was that their own experience seemed to bring them closer to God. It’s backwards. That is how one knows they are false.

Now, let’s see what the bible has to say about riches.

Let’s substitute Abraham’s name for their name and see if this social experiment makes as much sense. From the blurb:

American life can be excessive, to say the least. That’s what Jen Hatmaker had to admit after taking in hurricane victims who commented on the extravagance of her family’s upper middle class home. She once considered herself unmotivated by the lure of prosperity, but upon being called “rich” by an undeniably poor child, evidence to the contrary mounted, and a social experiment turned spiritual was born.

From the bible-

Now Abram was very rich in livestock, in silver, and in gold. And he journeyed on from the

A painting of Abraham’s departure by József Molnár

Negeb as far as Bethel to the place where his tent had been at the beginning, between Bethel and Ai, to the place where he had made an altar at the first. And there Abram called upon the name of the Lord. (Gen 13:2-4).

Blending the two-

“And Abram was called “rich” by a poor slave from Pharaoh’s house and Abram felt guilty for his excesses. And lo, Abram chose the number seven and gave 7 cows to the child, and 7 pieces of silver to the beggar by the gate and 7 pieces of gold to the cripple by the road. And a grand social experiment was born, and behold, Abram felt closer to God and God was increased because of Abram’s works.”

BAH HA HA HA — stupid, eh?

Now, it is not stupid to shepherd your means wisely. It is not stupid to care for the poor. It is not stupid to have compassion on those less fortunate. All those things are good. We are reminded of the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). Some people are richer than others and that is the way God set it up (Matthew 25:15). It is what we do with what we have that He is looking for. (Matthew 24:28). How we go about witnessing for Jesus regarding those important topics is what matters. How we share our means is what is at stake. Is what we are doing for the right reasons and done in the right way? Because there are right and wrong reasons and a right and a wrong way, as the parable shows.

In the next part of this book review, I’ll explore what the reference in the book’s “seven sacred pauses” means. The meat of the problem with the book “7: An experimental Mutiny Against Excess” is contained in that phrase, and I’ll explicitly tell you why this ‘discipline’ is very, very bad. Is what we are doing for the cause of Christ Godly and deep, grounded in His word? Or is what we are doing for the cause of Christ superficial and wrong headed, off track and thus of the kingdom of darkness? This book is in the latter group and in the next part I’ll clearly show you how they went about it in the wrong way, and thus why the book is to be avoided.

Part 2 here