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Yoga: More than Meets the Eyes?

 

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By the Rev. Dr. Ed Hird

You may find this a stretching article in body, mind and spirit.  I have intentionally avoided writing this article for years, because I knew that it might be unavoidably controversial.  To be honest, I have been waiting for someone else to write this article instead of me.  Like most pastors, I want people to like me.   With genuine reluctance, I eventually faced my conflict avoidance, obeyed the Lord and read hundreds of yoga books in our local public libraries.  In preparing this article, I have not read one book which warns against yoga.  All book citations in this article are from yoga advocates and practitioners.

               To many people, yoga is just the hottest new exercise fad for younger women.  Twenty million North Americans are now doing yoga, including around four million men.  These twenty million people are currently being trained by over 70,000 yoga practitioners in at least 20,000 North American locations.[1]  Many people confuse yoga with simple stretching.  Stretching and calisthenics are good things which I participate in weekly at the local gym.  The term ‘calisthenics’ comes from the combination of two Greek words ‘kallos’: beauty and ‘sthenos’: strength. Calisthenic exercises are designed to bring  bodily fitness and flexibility of movement.  Yoga has not cornered the market on healthy stretching and calisthenics.  Physical fitness does not begin and end on a yoga mat.  I am convinced that we do well when we take care of our bodies as part of our Christian stewardship.  God wants us to be healthier in body, mind, and spirit. We all need to get back to the gym on a regular basis, whatever our views of yoga.  Your body will thank you.

Science of Yoga Book

I unknowingly participated in yoga, in the form of martial arts, for twenty years before renouncing it.[2]  Many people are unaware that martial arts is yoga in motion, and originated with Buddhist monks.  After much prayer, I reluctantly gave it up because I didn’t want any gray area in my Christian life.   It is not an easy or light thing for someone to renounce this, even as a Christian.  For many, it is absolutely unthinkable.  To even imagine giving it up may leave some feeling unexpectedly threatened or even angry.  Most of us are more defensive and more emotionally attached than we imagine.  In hindsight, I realized that the ritual motions and postures (asanas or katas) had gotten very deep into my psyche, shaping my very identity.[3]  Somehow over twenty years, they had become ingrained in me and even became part of me.  Without intending it, I was to some degree serving two masters.  This was a hard truth for me to accept. Change is never easy.  I have heard of one Christian who is so entrenched in yoga that they have vowed to never give up yoga even if God himself told them to stop.  It makes you wonder sometimes who is in charge of our lives.

              Historically yoga was only taught in secret to high-caste male Brahmins.[4]  It was very much a guy thing for the wealthy and powerful.   In recent years, North American yoga has largely stripped itself of its more obvious Eastern trappings: gurus, incense, Sanskrit, and loin cloths.[5]  It has gone through a remarkable image makeover in a relatively short time period.  Yoga classes and paraphernalia have become a ten-billion+ dollar consumer-driven industry, involving designer spandex, yoga mats, and DVDs.[6]  Old-time Yoga purists have called this new development the yoga industrial complex.  In some parts of North America, yoga moms are replacing the demographic of soccer moms.  Yoga has become such a strongly entrenched cultural fad that in some parts of North America it is being taught to children, often using tax-payers’ money, in otherwise strictly secular public school systems.  Spiritually speaking, yoga has replaced the Lord’s Prayer which, you will remember, was bounced from our children’s classrooms for being too religious.  The unquestioned assumption is that yoga has no religious connection.

             This North American yoga industry has registered thousands of copyrights, patents and trademarks, sometimes resulting in threatening lawsuits.[7]  The Indian Government is so concerned about the yoga copyrighting that they have set up their own task-force to protect yoga from being pirated by Westerners:

“Yoga piracy is becoming very common, and we are moving to do something about it,” says Vinod Gupta, the head of a recently established Indian government task force on traditional knowledge and intellectual-property theft.

‘We know of at least 150 asanas [yoga positions] that have been pirated in the U.S., the UK, Germany and Japan,’ he says. ‘These were developed in India long ago and no one can claim them as their own.’ In an effort to protect India’s heritage, the task force has begun documenting 1,500 yoga postures drawn from classical yoga texts — including the writings of the Indian sage, Patanjali, the first man to codify the art of yoga.”[8]

Bhagavita                 There are seven main kinds of yoga: Hatha Yoga, Bhakti Yoga (devotion), Karma Yoga (action), Jnana Yoga (wisdom), Mantra Yoga, Tantra Yoga, and Raja Yoga (royal).   In the 15th Century AD Hatha Yoga Pradipika, its first three verses teach that the ignorant masses are not yet ready for the lofty Raja Yoga, and so Hatha Yoga has been developed as a “staircase” to lead them to Raja Yoga. [9]   The most popular yoga offered in one’s local Recreation Center is Hatha Yoga, so-called physical yoga involving numerous yoga techniques called asanas.  These yogic asanas appear to the uninitiated as if they are just stretching exercises.  The more fully initiated realize that yogic asanas are actually worship postures to Hindu deities.   The yoga insiders all know the real scoop.  They also know that North Americans are not quite ready yet for the full truth about the religious identity of yoga.  My question is this: Is it really honest and respectful to pretend yoga is just a physical activity without any spiritual implications?[10]  More importantly, should people get themselves bent out of shape over Christians doing yoga?

              For many Westerners, all that matters is that something seems to be working.  We rarely look under the hood of our cars.   Our practical bent is both a great strength and a greater weakness.  We naively think that we can arrogantly detach anything from its heritage, and snatch its alleged benefits without any downside.   Yoga has been carefully repackaged to appeal for North Americans to our strongly pragmatic side.  The yogic philosophy is initially minimized.  Some yoga advocates claim that  asanas are just poses, and mantras are just words.   Context becomes everything.  To argue that asanas and mantras have no inherent meaning is itself an unquestionably reductionistic statement.  It is ultimately meaningless to suggest that yoga is meaningless.  Is it really as easy to secularize yogic Hinduism as we individualistic North Americans may think?

                I.K. Taimini, Indian scholar and chemist, wrote that there is no subject like yoga which is so wrapped up in mystery and on which one can write whatever one likes without any risk of being proved wrong.[11]  The religion of Hinduism however is more than just cows, karma and curry.  Yoga is the very heart of Hinduism.  Yoga is the Hindu word for salvation.  Nine out of ten Hindus agree that yoga is Hinduism.[12]  Without yoga, there is no Hinduism.  Without Hinduism, there is no yoga.  There is no historical evidence for the popular New Age belief that yoga predates Hinduism and was originally non-religious.

In yoga asanas, one re-enacts the story of a particular Hindu deity, identifying as that specific deity.  According to Sanskritist Dr. N. Sjoman, verses from the 19th century yoga text Maisuru Maisiri  clearly indicate that “the asanas are assumed to have an inner nature that is associated with their specific name.”  The hand postures (mudras) in Hatha Yoga are a replication of the same hand postures in the statues of Hindu gods.  Yoga is spiritual embodiment.   Is it mere coincidence that yogic asanas and mudras re-enact the exact shape and position of Hindu graven images and deities?  The mudras are used to channel psychic energy through the body to alter consciousness.  They facilitate the process of yogic Self-Realization, and are designed to awaken and activate the root yogic chakra (psychic wheel).

Unlike Judaism, Christianity and Islam, one does not have to believe in  or worship something in order to be impacted by Hinduism.  This systemic religious difference is hard for many westerners to comprehend.  Because all in Hinduism is seen as maya or illusion, belief for yogic Hinduism is nice but not initially necessary.  Nothing is what it appears to be.  The actual belief or meaning structure is often introduced much later at a deeper level of initiation.  Because Hinduism is technique-based, the mere performance of the yogic asana, with or without belief, is sufficient to open up the chakra energies which produce the psychic interaction.[13]   Similar to the way that psychoactive drugs have mental, emotional and even spiritual impact regardless of what one knows about them, yoga also has a chemical impact regardless of one’s yoga knowledge or belief.  The initial irrelevance of belief and worship is one of the reasons why yoga practitioners often promote yoga to North Americans as either non-religious or religiously neutral.[14]  Transcendental Meditation, a form of Mantra yoga, initiated countless westerners with Sanskrit puja rituals that were never explained to them, but still had a significant impact on their core identity.[15]  Yoga is inescapably religious in a way that most North Americans will not notice.[16]   This is why many well-meaning North American Christians have uncritically or unwittingly opened their spirit to yogic Hindu philosophies that clash with  Christ’s teaching.

The term ‘yoga’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘yug’, which means to yoke.  Few people in community centre yoga classes ask what they are yoking themselves to.  Yogic practice is designed to yoke or bring psychic union with Brahman, the highest of the Hindu deities.  What looks to us like simple stretches are in fact powerful psychic techniques that have been shown to change the very core of our consciousness.  The purpose of yoga is to produce a mind-altering state that fuses male and female, light and darkness, good and evil, god and humanity.[17]  As the best-selling author Deepak Chopra said in The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga:

“Krishna teaches Arjuna (in the Bhagavad Gita) the essence of yoga, telling him that good and evil, pleasure and pain, and loss and gain are two sides of the same coin of life.   The solution that yoga offers is to go beyond the realm of duality and become established in the state of being that is beyond time, space and causality….Krishna tells Arjuna, ‘Go beyond the realm of good and evil where life is dominated by beginnings and endings.   Enter into the domain of yoga where all duality finds its unity…”[18]

  nataraja            Good and evil in yogic philosophy are ultimately just two sides of the same coin. All is one. The term ‘Hatha Yoga’ refers to the union of the sun (ha or male) and moon (tha or female) into one monistic whole.  Some scholars translate Hatha Yoga as ‘violent union’.[19]   The definitive symbol of yoga is the Nataraj asana, known as the dancing Shiva who ‘dances’ destruction upon any distinctions (avidya) between the Creator and creation, good and evil, male and female.[20]  Yoga philosophy believes that all matter and differences are illusion, and that all illusions can be overcome by the performance of yoga rituals.  Yoga  works systemically  to alter biochemical functions, including our hormones and endocrine system.  The so-called physical activity in Hatha Yoga is meant to achieve a changed state of consciousness, eliminating the distinction between subject [self] and object. Yoga is designed to gradually disconnect one’s thoughts and sensory perceptions from one’s sense of self and identity.  The result is a profound loss of personhood and individuality in an age when many people are already very confused about who they are.  Advanced yoga produces the impression that one no longer exists.  This perception can be very convincing.

               Yoga is the primary technique used by the yogis in attempting to become gods themselves.    Through mantric yoga chanting and asanas, the mind experiences both sensory deprivation and sensory overloading, causing a shutting down of the mind.  Unlike Christian prayer and meditation on God’s Word, the purpose of Eastern yogic meditational practices is to ‘kill the mind’.   Mantra or breath yoga causes one to enter into a meditational trance state in which the mind is first silenced and then emptied.  The ‘killing of the mind’ produces the experience of differences disappearing and all becoming one.   Yoga was crafted and developed to enable an escape from rational thinking and a direct access by nonverbal means to a specific psychic state.  Many would hold that yogic Hinduism produces a trance state through self-induced hypnosis.   Is it fair to wonder if intensive yoga has effects similar to psychological brain-washing techniques?  Is it merely accidental that yoga has the ability to cause a blanking of our minds, an actual cessation of our thought processes?   Will community centre yoga classes in the future be required to alert prospective candidates to  such risks, similar to warnings on cigarette packaging?

               While yogic philosophy is polytheistic, it is also monistic, in the sense that it holds that, through yoga, we become the universe and/or god.[21]  Yoga is the primary way that yogis attempt to be liberated from the karmic bondage of endless reincarnation.  While these tenets are rarely taught at community center yoga classes, they are often held by the community center yoga instructor who has gone to a deeper level of yogic initiation.  The further one enters into yoga, the greater the hold that this ‘other master’ has in one’s life. Those yoga instructors reading this article will have a greater sense of what I am referring to.

                Yoga promoters realize that most North Americans are not yet ready to hear about the deeper secrets of yoga.  Community Center yoga is largely drip-feeding lower-level yoga practices during this time of cultural shift.  Hatha Yoga is itself derived from the very secretive tantric yoga.  According to William Broad, author of The Science of Yoga, Tantric Yoga developed in India around 600 A.D:

“(Tantric yoga) worships female deities, roots its ceremonies in human sexuality, seeks supernatural powers for material gain, and cloaks its rites in secrecy.”

  India            In around 1200 A.D., Gorakhnath, a Hindu ascetic of western India, merged the traditions of Tantra and  body discipline, forming Hatha Yoga.[22]  Broad teaches that the path of enlightenment towards the ecstatic yoga union was known as Tantra.[23]  Hatha Yoga is designed to bring a tantric awakening of Kundalini, the Hindu goddess having a serpent power.[24]  The Sanskrit word kundalini means “she who is coiled”.[25]   The cobra asana is not mere stretching, but is a mind control technique that has been developed over many centuries with proven psychic results.  Few community centre yoga buffs realize that the cobra asana was developed to awaken the kundalini cobra chakra.  The Kundalini snake is said to reside in the lowest chakra at the base of one’s spine:

“When (Kundalini) is aroused by Yoga practice, she uncoils and travels up the spine toward her lover, Shiva. Traveling the spine through psychic centers called chakras, Kundalini reaches the top chakra to merge with Shiva and there receive divine enlightenment through the union with Brahman….”[26]

I was unaware for many years that there is a Lord of Yoga.  According to the Bhagavad-Gita Hindu Scripture, Shiva the Hindu god of destruction is the Lord of Yoga (Yogeshwara) and the first Hatha Yoga teacher.  The Bhagavad Gita used the word “Yoga” in chapter six where the deity Krishna declares, “Thus joy supreme comes to the yogi … who is one with Brahman, with God.”[27]  For many generations, the Hindu texts like Hatha Yoga Pradipikia has described yogis as “able to fly, levitate, stop their hearts, suspend their breathing, vanish, walk through walls, project themselves into other bodies, touch the moon, survive live burial, make themselves invisible, and die at will.”[28]  The magical and sexual aspects of Tantric Yoga have both embarrassed middle-class Indian Hindus while intriguing many Western New Agers.[29]  The Tantric aspect of Hatha Yoga has been linked to a number of high-profile New Age yoga scandals.[30]  Dr. Carl Jung, the father of the New Age movement,  remarkably concluded after two decades of study that advanced yoga can loose a flood of suffering of which no sane person ever dream.  In his advanced yogic awakening, Gopi Krishna said: “It was variable for many years, painful, obsessive…I have passed through almost all the stages of…mediumistic, psychotic, and other types of mind; for some time I was hovering between sanity and insanity.” [31]

SwamiYoga came to North America in 1893 when Swami Vivekananda, a disciple of the famous Guru Ramakrishna, taught about yoga at the Chicago World Fair.  Laurette Willis, an ex-yoga teacher, calls yoga the missionary arm of Hinduism and the New Age movement.  In “An Open Letter to Evangelicals”, Swami Sivasiva Palani wrote:

“A small army of yoga missionaries – hatha, raja, siddha and kundalini – beautifully trained in the last 10 years, is about to set upon the western world. They may not call themselves Hindu, but Hindus know where yoga came from and where it goes.”[32]

As Yoga Guru B.K.S Iyengar notes in his book Light on Yoga, “Some asanas are also called after Gods of the Hindu pantheon and some recall the Avataras, or incarnations of Divine Power.”[33]  Because the Hindu deities rode on animals, many yoga asanas are devoted to these deified animals.[34]  In the Sun Salutation asana, one is yogically paying direct homage to Surya, the Hindu Sun deity.  The Cobra asana is about identification with and worship of the Kundalini snake, yogically awakened in the chakras.  The fish asana (Matsyasana) is the yogic worship and reenactment of the Hindu deity Vishnu who turned himself into a fish to rescue people from a flood.[35] The Half Moon asana involves the yogic identification with and worship of Ganesh, the elephant-headed god who threw part of his tusk at the moon.[36] The Tortoise asana is dedicated to the yogic worship of Kurma the Tortoise incarnation of the god Vishnu.[37]  The Downward Dog asana reenacts the Hindu worship of the dog as happens for five days each November.[38]  The Hanuman asana is dedicated to the yogic worship of the Monkey god, Hanuman.[39]

The Warrior asana is identified with the yogic worship of Lord Virabhadra who is described as having a thousand arms, three burning eyes, and a garland of skulls.[40]  The Corpse asana is the death or extinction of the person when yogic unification with the Hindu deity Brahman wipes out one’s own identity and existence.[41]  The Lotus asana is identified with the yogic worship of the Hindu deity Lakshmi who sat on a lotus.[42]  The Marichi asana is dedicated to the yogic identification with and worship of Marichi, one of the seven Hindu Lords of Creation and the Grandfather of the Sun god Surya.

A number of well-intended Christians have been recently promoting Christianized yoga in North America.  In their classes, they usually do the same hatha yoga asanas as the new-agers, but add scripture quotes and Gospel music.  Subhas R. Tiwari, a Hindu University of America professor who has a master’s degree in yoga philosophy, comments: “Such efforts [to Christianize yoga] point to a concerted, long-term plan to deny yoga its origin. This effort . . . is far from innocent. It is reminiscent of the pattern evident throughout the long history and dynamics of colonizing powers.”[43] Tiwari holds that efforts to Christianize yoga are unjust “encroachment” and thinly veiled Christian proselytism of Hindus.

Some Christians claim that 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14 gives them the right to christianize yoga, saying that because Paul ate meat sacrificed to idols, then we can similarly do yoga that has been dedicated to idols.  They claim that because they are strong, Spirit-filled Christians, they can do yoga with no downside.  Paul however never encouraged Christians to participate in idolatrous Greek or Roman temple rituals as a way of proving how protected they are by the Holy Spirit.  In fact, in 1 Corinthians 10: 1-13, Paul stated that Christians needed to flee idolatry and syncretism.  Sometimes the wisest thing to do is to simply say no, and remove ourselves from a compromising situation.  Never did the Bible encourage us to christianize idolatry or to hang around the idolatrous temple to prove how strong we are.  Not everything can be redeemed.  Some things need to be renounced.  It goes without saying that sacrificing animals to the  local temple statue would have been unthinkable for New Testament Christians.

What Paul was encouraging in 1 Corinthians 8 was the practice of saying grace before eating meat at dinner.  He knew that most meat would have been sacrificed to idols at the local temple before making it to the butcher.  Rather than becoming vegetarian, Paul advocated saying grace as a cleansing prayer.  The parallel passage in 1 Timothy 4:3-4 says that saying grace is not just a nice religious thing we do before Sunday dinner, but rather is a significant act of thanksgiving (in the Greek, eucharist), which actually consecrates or sanctifies the meat through prayer and God’s Word.

Saying grace at dinner, however, is radically different than adopting ancient yogic mind-altering techniques.  Because yoga physically embodies the spiritual philosophy of Hinduism, it inhibits the Lord’s command to take every thought captive in obedience to Christ.  It also  disregards Paul’s encouragement in Colossians 2:8 to not be “taken captive by philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”  This is not at the same level of whether or not one chooses to have a Christmas tree in one’s living room, or what kind of worship music one prefers.   Yes, there is great freedom on non-essentials for Christians.  But on more essential issues like idolatry or  immorality, the bible is clear that we are to have clear boundaries.  Some, coming out from legalistic church backgrounds, defend yoga in the name of freedom.  But does christianized yoga bring freedom or bondage? Syncretistically dabbling in things that the bible cautions against leads to great confusion.

JesusUltimately from a biblical perspective, the deities of yoga are no deities at all, and their devotees have no power to proscribe or limit what Christian believers may do with their bodies.  Jesus is Lord of our bodies, which are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19).  That is why many Christians make use of their bodies in worship, kneeling , arms elevated, or even prostrate.   How we use our bodies is an expression of our identity in Christ.  We need not be afraid that through involvement in stretching and calisthenics, we may accidentally be stretching in a way that might look like yoga.  Even with its 1,500 asana poses, yoga does not own the world of calisthenics and stretching.

             With yoga and Hinduism, nothing is what it seems.  This is why it has been described as the embrace that smothers.  Trying to separate the so-called physical from the spiritual in yoga is like attempting to remove arsenic from a bowl of sugar.  Yoga has always been shrouded in illusion and secrecy, and can intentionally look like whatever you want it to in the short term.  Hindus are well aware that yoga is an ancient form of divination.  The bible does not encourage us to see how close to the line we can get before we fall in, but rather to flee idolatry.   In the end, the yogic road leads to idolatry and monism, to serving two masters.   The Lordship of Jesus is what is at stake.

Yoga and Christianity go together like ice cream and beach sand.  Just as there is no Christian Ouija board, no Christian astrology, and no Christian tarot card reading, there is no Christian Yoga that is either truly Yoga or truly Christian.  I invite you to do the stretching, perhaps unthinkable thing of turning from Yoga towards healthy stretching and calisthenics.  This will not be easy for you, but it will be life-giving.  Please pray about it, like I did.  Ask Jesus to reveal to you the truth about yoga.  Does he want you to renounce it?  Prayer is the way forward.  Have you ever prayerfully asked Jesus whether he wants you to give up yoga?  Why not ask him now? You will not regret choosing to serve one master.  Jesus is Lord.  Yoga is not.

p.s. For those who would like to do healthy stretching, I recommend your checking out these two websites: Mayo Clinic Stretches and Sport Injury Stretches.  Another healthy option would be to check out Praise Moves with Laurette Willis, a Christ-centered alternative to yoga.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

 -award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback andebook form.  Dr. JI Packer wrote the foreword, saying “I heartily commend what he has written.” The book focuses on strengthening a new generation of healthy leaders. Drawing on examples from Titus’ healthy leadership in the pirate island of Crete, it shows how we can embrace a holistically healthy life.

In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook. It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ED HIRD, 102 – 15168 19th Avenue, Surrey, BC, V4A 0A5. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $4.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to purchase the Companion Bible Study by Jan Cox (for the Battle of the Soul of Canada) in both paperback and Kindle on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca 

[1] Colleen Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga (MaranGraphics, Wiley Publishing Inc, New York, NY, 2003), p. 33.; William J. Broad, The Science of Yoga (Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 2012), p. 2 “twenty million in the USA…more than two hundred and fifty million (yoga practitioners)…”; “Yoga in America Study 2012”, Yoga Journal. http://www.yogajournal.com/press/yoga_in_america  “82.2 percent are women; 17.8 percent are men.” (Accessed April 28th 2013)
[2] Nathan Johnson, Zen Shaolin Karate, “Ch’an (zen) monks of the Shaolin Temple” (Ch’an comes from an Indian word dhyana meaning meditation.)
[3] Taekwondo and other martial arts can be traced to a 6th century Buddhist monk Bodhidharma who travelled from India to China and established Zen Buddhism at the Shaolin temple of Ko San So Rim.  There he taught them both sitting meditation and the martial arts (moving meditation) to enable his disciples to free themselves from all conscious control in order to attain enlightenment. The karate equivalent to the poomse is the kata patterns.  As the Taekwondo author and instructor Eddie Ferrie puts it, “Many of the patterns of taekwondo are rooted in semi-mystical Taoist philosophy and their deeper meaning is said to be far more important than the mere performance of a gymnastics series of exercises.  This is not immediately obvious, either when performing or watching the poomse being performed…”
[4] Timothy McCall, Yoga as Medicine: a Yoga Journal Book (Bantam Dell, New York NY, 2007), P. 112 “At one point yoga was only taught to the elite of Indian society, male Brahmins, and then only to those who dedicated their life to it. The teachings and practice of yoga were kept secret from the rest of the world.”
[5] John Capouya, Real Men Do Yoga (Health Communications Inc., Deerfield, Florida, 2003), p. xiii “No chanting, no incense, no gurus…”
[6] Cain Carroll and Lori Kimata, Partner Yoga (Rodale Books, Emmaus, Pennsylvania, 2000), p. 21 “Unlike their predecessors, modern yogis now wear spandex and nail polish and practice postures on thin purple mats.”; “Yoga in America Study 2012”, Yoga Journal. http://www.yogajournal.com/press/yoga_in_america “The previous estimate from the 2008 study was 5.8 billion dollars.” (Accessed April 28th 2013)
[7] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 3.
[8] “India makes moves to reclaim heritage from ‘yoga piracy’”, David Orr, Washington Times, September 22nd 2005, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2005/sep/22/20050922-114821-4035r/
[9] Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 7.; Svatmarama, The Hatha Yoga Pradipika, The Sacred Books of the Hindus, ed. Major Basu, I.M.S. (retired) (Bahadurganj, Allahabad: Sudhindranatah Vasu, 1915), http://www.geocities.com/kriyadc/hatha_yoga_pradipika_chapter1.html.
[10] Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 11 “…Yoga is not simply a system of physical exercise or a means of releasing psychic stress, as so many in the West have come to believe…”
[11] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. ix.
[12] Laurette Willis, “Why A Christian Alternative to Yoga?” http://praisemoves.com/about-us/why-a-christian-alternative-to-yoga (Accessed Dec 14th 2012).
[13] www.yogabasics.com  : “More than just stretching, asanas [yoga postures] open the energy channels, chakras and psychic centers of the body. Asanas purify and strengthen the body and control and focus the mind.” (Accessed Dec 12th 2012)
[14] Capouya, Real Men Do Yoga, p. xiii “Yoga’s not some weird Eastern religion. In fact it’s not a religion at all.”; Capouya, p.xvii “He’s not looking for a religious experience, and hasn’t found it. You don’t have to sit around and say ‘Om’ to do yoga…It doesn’t have to be all Eastern and mystical.”; Pat Shapiro, Yoga for Women at Midlife & Beyond (Sunstone Press, Santa Fe, 2006), p. 15 (Yoga) “is not connected with any particular religion and does not require a specific belief system.”; Dr. Candy Gunther Brown, Encinitas School Yoga Lawsuit,  p. 5, “Many Americans fail to recognize non-Christian (e.g. Hindu) religious practices as ‘religion’ and fail to understand the inseparability of certain bodily practices from spiritual purposes.”  http://bit.ly/11HChls
[15] “Transcendental Meditation”, http://biblefacts.org/cult/tm2.html
[16] According to the Webster’s New World Dictionary, yoga (coming from an east Indian Sanskrit word which means “union with god” or “to yoke”) is “a mystic and ascetic Hindu discipline for achieving union with the supreme spirit through meditation, prescribed postures, controlled breathing, etc.” Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines yoga as “Hindu theistic philosophy teaching the suppression of all activity of body, mind, and will in order that the self may realize its distinction from them and attain liberation.”
[17] Carroll and Kimata, Partner Yoga, p. 227 “In these moments of absorption, it is said that we are ‘yoked’ to the underlying force behind all creation. In this place, there are no questions, no opposites, and no struggle; there is only union. This is the essence of yoga.”
[18] Deepak Chopra and David Simon, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga (John Wiley and Sons Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey, 2004), p.197.
[19] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 17 “The Sanskrit root of Hatha is hath – to treat with violence, as in binding someone to a post…” P. 17 …a number of scholars translate Hatha Yoga as ‘violent union.’…
[20] http://www.theyogatutor.com/natarajasana The Yoga Teacher, “The definitive symbol of yoga is the Nataraja, otherwise known as the Dancing Shiva.”; http://bit.ly/TNFTRV Tirusula Yoga, “Nata= Dancer. Raja = King / Lord” (Accessed Dec 23rd 2012)
[21] David Frawley (Vamadeva Shastri) “Hindu View of Nature”, Hindu Voice UK, http://www.vedanet.com/2012/06/hindu-view-of-nature “Ultimately for the Hindu as the Upanishads say, ‘Everything is Brahman’ Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma.” (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[22] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. xxv.; Broad, p.16 “In truth, Hatha is a branch of Tantra.”
[23] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 15.
[24] Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 16.
[25] Lee Sannella, The Kundalini Experience (Integral Publishing, Lower Lake, California 1987, 1992), P. 8.; Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, P.7 “Two popular forms of Tantra Yoga are Kundalini and Kriya Yoga.”
[26] Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 26.; Capouya, Real Men Do Yoga, p.89 “In the yoga tradition…there’s a ‘chakra’, or an energy center, around the solar plexus…”
[27] Laurette Willis http://praisemoves.com/about-us/why-a-christian-alternative-to-yoga “…according to Hatha Yoga Pradipika.”; Titlman, Teach Yourself Visually Yoga, p. 12 (Bhagavad-Gita is) “a classic Hindu text believed written between the Fifth Century B.C. and the Second Century A.D.”
[28] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 17.
[29]Capouya, Real Men Do Yoga, P. xv (yoga) “…recharges your sex life.”; p.172” …in the Kundalini tradition, the perineum is where energy supposedly enters the body. The more energy you take in there, it’s believed, the hornier you get…”; Carroll and Kimata, Partner Yoga, p. 27 “…contrary to popular belief, not all Tantric yoga is sexual.”; Broad, The Science of Yoga, p.24 “Middle-class Indians found (yoga’s) its obsession with sex and magic to be an ’embarrassing heritage,’ according to Geoffrey Samuel, a yoga scholar…”; Broad, p. 26 “Throughout his career, Gune maintained a virtual taboo on the word ‘Tantra’- the parent of Hatha which Hindu nationalists had come to abhor.”;
[30] Broad, The Science of Yoga, p. 164 “…modern yoga throbs with open sexuality ranging from the blatantly erotic and the bizarrely kinky to the deeply spiritual.”; Broad, p. 164 “…the discipline (of yoga) itself began as a sex cult …”; p. 175 “Even Kripalu came under fire. Former devotees at the Berkshires ashram won more than $2.5 million after its long-term guru–a man who gave impassioned talks on the spiritual value of chastity- confessed to multiple affairs.”; McCall, Yoga as Medicine, p. 109 “Kripalu: This system is perhaps the most New Age in feel of the Yoga styles common in the West.”
[31] Broad, Science of Yoga, p. 10; Gopi Krishna, The Awakening of Kundalini (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1975), p. 124
[32] Sivasiva Palani, “An Open Letter to Evangelicals”, Hinduism Today, January 1991, http://bit.ly/10Bzxr1.
[33] http://www.hafsite.org/media/pr/yoga-hindu-origins Hindu American Foundation, “Yoga Beyond Asana: Hindu Thought In Practice”,  “Yet, even when Yoga is practiced solely in the form of an exercise, it cannot be completely delinked from its Hindu roots.” (Accessed Dec 23rd 2012)
[34] “The Significance of Animals in Hinduism” http://www.hinduwebsite.com/hinduism/essays/animals.asp “Hindus revere many divinities in animal form.  Lord Vishnu incarnated upon earth first as a fish, then as a tortoise and then as a boar… In the Hindu pantheon, each god and goddess is associated with an animal as a vehicle.” (Accessed April 5th 2013); “Why Animal Worship in Hinduism?”, http://bit.ly/XZ4mbS  “Almost all the deities in Hinduism have animals as their mode of transport (vehicle) or are associated with animals… Brahma travels on a humongous swan Hamsa, Lord Shiva on the Divine Bull Nandi and Lord Vishnu travels on the Golden-Eagle Garuda”  (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[35]“Fish Pose”, http://www.yogajournal.com/basics/2335 (Accessed Dec 26th 2012)
[36]  History of Yoga Postures,  http://bit.ly/12puYFs (Accessed Dec 29th 2012)
[37] “Sitting like a Tortoise”, http://bit.ly/ZErk2K  (Accessed Dec 29th 2012)
[38] “Animal Worship” http://bit.ly/2ogQaB (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[39] http://www.yogajournal.com/practice/889 Hanumanasana: Pose Dedicated to the Monkey God, Hanuman, By Aadil Palkhivala
[40]   “Viradhadra” http://bit.ly/K1fK0R (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[41] Mike Stokes, “Shavasana the dead pose”, http://www.godrealized.com/Shavasana.html (Accessed April 5th 2013) “Why is it that in nearly every yoga class, no matter what the style, we end with Savasana?… Why practice death pose? …The reason lies in the fact that death brings us face to face with total annihilation of the self… the essence of Savasana and the essence of yoga, namely total annihilation of separateness and unification with the whole.  Annihilation of the self is the access to the experience of yoga.”
[42]“Lakshmi: Goddess of Wealth & Beauty!” http://hinduism.about.com/od/hindugoddesses/p/lakshmi.htm “Lakshmi is the household goddess of most Hindu families.”; “Name: Padmasana” http://babynamesworld.parentsconnect.com/meaning_of_Padmasana.html (Accessed April 5th 2013)
[43] “Pose dedicated to Marichi” http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/939; “Urban Ashtanga Teacher Training” http://bit.ly/XZ2xf3 (Accessed April 5th 2013); Subhas R. Tiwari, “Yoga Renamed is Still Hindu,” Hinduism Today, January-February-March 2006.
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The Prayer Book: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Three addresses were given at St. Paul’s Church, Bloor Street, Toronto, on May 1, 1999 at a special event organized by
the Prayer Book Society of Canada, Toronto Branch, in celebration of the 450th anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer

by

The (late) Revd. Dr. Robert Crouse, retired Professor of Classics at King’s College, Halifax;

The Revd. Dr. James Packer, Professor of Systematic Theology at Regent College, Vancouver

The Revd. Ed Hird, rector of St. Simon’s Church North Vancouver

“FILLED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL”  (Col. 1:1-14)

    The Revd. Dr. Ed Hird, BSW, MDiv, DMin

The Revd. Ed Hird was ordained in 1980.  He served in the parishes of St. Philip’s, Vancouver, and St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford, before becoming the rector of St. Simon’s Church in North Vancouver in 1987.   Ed is the past National Chair of Anglican Renewal Ministries Canada, and has spoken at Renewal, Essentials and Prayer Book Society conferences in Honduras and in various locations across Canada.  Inspired by the Essentials movement, he re-introduced the Prayer Book as one of the two main Sunday services in his congregation.

   We live in an age in which the knowledge of God’s will is deemed by many to be either unknowable or irrelevant.  Our society reminds me of the story of the roving TV reporter who was sent out to the shopping malls on Saturday morning to investigate the problem of teenage apathy and ignorance.  Every teenager had the same response: “I don’t know and I don’t care”!   And to be fair, teenagers are not the only Canadians suffering from spiritual ignorance and apathy.  I remember an adult coming up to me after a sermon I preached in a previous parish.  This person said, “I’m totally shocked.  I have never made it before to the end of a sermon.  I would always just doze off and wake up at the end of the message.  But this time I actually heard it through to the end.”

This problem of apathy and ignorance can be traced back to the ancient disease of Pyrrhonism.  Pyrrhonism is a system of skeptical philosophy, expounded in 300 BC by the Greek thinker, Pyrrho of Elis.1  The heart of Pyrrhonism is the denial of all possibility of attaining certainty in knowledge.  All one is left with is the classic west-coast phrase: “Well, whatever works for you”.   With the collapse of confidence in objective truth, our Canadian culture is sinking in intellectual subjectivism and moral anarchy.  We have seen a Canadian judge strike down child pornography laws while claiming that our Canadian Constitution and our Charter of Rights somehow protect the possession of child pornography.  We live in an age where there “is no king and everyone does as they see fit.” (Judg. 21:25).  We live in an age of leadership crisis.  It is not just our politicians, our police officers, our school teachers, our military leaders.  Even in the Church, yes, in the Anglican Church, there is a profound leadership crisis that is crippling our corporate ability to get on with the task of making disciples of all nations.  Perhaps the never-ending “sexual politics” in the Anglican Church of Canada is really a symptom of a deeper leadership crisis.

More than ever, we need to discover afresh what it means to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and given the power to carry out that will.  As J. John at the Canterbury ‘98 Conference put it, “We only have enough time to do the will of God”.  So many of us in the Church are like Martha whom Jesus said was distracted by many things, but missing the main one of sitting at Jesus’ feet.

One of the many things I appreciate about the Prayer Book Society is the clarion call to prayer.  The Prayer Book Society is not a Colonel Blimp English Memorial Society.2  Rather it constitutes a mobilization of God’s troops to the sacred calling of spiritual warfare through sustained and intensive prayer.  If there is anything that we know about God’s will, it is that God wills that we “pray without ceasing”.  Let’s be honest.  How many of us need to cut back on our prayer life, because it is getting in the way of doing God’s will?  Despite any fears that prayer will make us so heavenly-minded that we are no earthly good, the truth of the matter is that only the prayerful and heavenly-minded are ultimately any earthly good.  The late Mother Teresa of Calcutta was a living testimony to the intimate relationship between prayer and resulting action.

It is not without reason that the Apostle Paul calls us again and again to “devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (Col. 4:2).  Prayer is the backbone of all lasting renewal.  As Dr. E. Stanley Jones, the famous Methodist missionary to India put it, “there can be no great spiritual awakening either in the individual or in the group unless and until the individual or the group give themselves to prayer.”3  Dr. Jones goes on to say: “When we feel that there is something wrong and that it is all ending in futility, instead of giving ourselves to prayer, we appoint a committee!  If a monument”, says Dr. Jones, “were erected over the dead situations in Christendom, we might inscribe on it ‘Committeed to Death’.  We call a committee instead of calling to prayer.”  It has been said that the 16th century Reformation began in Luther’s prayer closet.  The truth is that all reformation, all renewal, all restoration begins in someone’s prayer closet.  Quoting Dr. Jones again, “we find sooner or later that in prayer we either abandon ourselves or we abandon prayer.  Prayer will keep us from self-withholding or self-withholding will keep us from prayer.”4

I would encourage you, if you have your Bibles with you, to turn in the book of Colossians to Chapter One, which deals with one of the greatest prayers in the New Testament.  I believe that it would be presumptuous to try to improve on the New Testament prayers.  Rather, our goal as 21st Century Anglicans should be to model all of our prayers on the biblical pattern of prayer shown especially by Jesus and the Apostle Paul.  I remember my rector, Ernie Eldridge,  telling me that one of the great strengths of the Book of Common Prayer is that something like 80% of it is straight from the Bible.  The prayers in the BCP were written by people who were steeped in the biblical thought forms, and so produced biblically sound and lasting prayers.

Paul is writing here to a formerly great and flourishing city that had been in a recession for the last three to four hundred years.  Colossae, whose name means “Monstrosity”, had become a backwater no-name town that had been left behind in the busy pace of 1st century Greek life.  Its neighbouring towns, Laodicea and Hierapolis were well-known respectively for their financial and administrative prowess, and for their burgeoning tourist and hot springs industry.  They, like Colossae, were located on the River Lycus, a river famous for overlaying its surrounding river banks with thick deposits of chalk.  As Bishop J.B. Lightfoot put it, “Ancient monuments are buried; fertile land is overlaid; river beds choked up and streams diverted; fantastic grottoes and cascades and archways of stone are formed, by this strange, capricious power, at once destructive and creative, working silently throughout the ages.  Fatal to vegetation, these incrustations spread like a stony shroud over the ground.  Gleaming like glaciers on the hillside, they attract the eye of the traveller at a distance of twenty miles, and form a singularly striking feature in scenery of more than common beauty and impressiveness.”5  In some ways, Bishop Lightfoot’s description seems like a parable of the Canadian Church … beautiful, impressive, but calcified and choked up by double-mindedness and fear.

Paul had never personally visited Colossae.  Rather, he preached extensively in the coastal city of Ephesus, with the result that his new converts spread the gospel extensively to many lesser-known cities and towns that were further inland.  There is a remarkable similarity between the books of Ephesians and Colossians, especially in the structure of Paul’s prayers in both epistles.  In both Colossians and Ephesians, Paul centres his prayer in thanksgiving.  You will notice in verse 3 how Paul says: “We always thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you …”.  In a structure similar to that of the Lord’s Prayer, Paul pays the debt of gratitude before he moves into his personal requests.  “Thy kingdom come” needs to come before “Give us this day our daily bread.”  In the Alpha Course, Nicky Gumbel says that the three key prayers that we can pray are “thank you”, “please”, and “sorry”.   Back in 1931, Bishop Lewis Radford of Goulbourn, Australia commented regarding this passage that “a survey of the grounds for thanksgiving revives the spirit of hope, and provides fresh material for petition.”6  The Christian life is not a life of Pollyanna-style positive thinking, but rather that of eucharistic thanksgiving in all circumstances, trusting that God can turn everything that is against us to our advantage, that all things work to the good for those who love him.

Why was Paul so thankful?  Verses 4 and 5 tells us that Paul was thankful because of the great triad of Christian graces: faith, hope, and love.  So often when Paul prays, he prays according to the three-fold pattern of the only things that will remain in the end.  Faith: their faith in Christ Jesus; Hope: hope stored up for us in heaven; and Love: love for all the saints.  As Bishop J.B. Lightfoot put it, “faith rests on the past; love works in the present; hope looks to the future”.7  Does the Prayer Book Society, indeed does the Anglican Church have a future as we celebrate the 450th Anniversary of the Book of Common Prayer?   I believe that the answer to both questions is yes, if we will ground our Christian life more and more on the three-fold graces of faith, hope and love.

I will always remember Dr. Robert Crouse’s presentation at the Montreal Essentials ‘94 Conference when he spoke of “despair, that most dangerous of all sins.”8  Satan, the ultimate deceiver and seducer of God’s people, is a past master at the use of discouragement and despair in crippling the saints.  He would love us to believe that Anglicanism is beyond hope, that there is no point in praying and working for the restoration of biblical orthodoxy.   We can thank our Lord Jesus Christ that he will always have a faithful Anglican witness in Canada, even if someday it may require missionaries from Africa and Asia to come and re-establish the gospel in our own homeland.

The good news found in verse 6 of Chapter 1 of Colossians is that “all over the world the gospel is producing fruit and growing”.  Lambeth ‘98 was a powerful reminder of that truth with the hundreds of Asian, African, and South American bishops making their presence felt in unforgettable ways.  The gospel, as Bishop Lewis Radford put it, is both a transforming force and a travelling fire.9  It is a fire that cannot be stamped out no matter how hard secularists and revisionists may try.  Verse 7 tells us about Epaphras, the founder of the Church at Colossae.  Some early church traditions make him the first bishop of Colossae.10  Verse 7 describes him as “our dearly loved fellow servant”, as a faithful minister of Christ on our behalf.  Both Paul and Epaphras were passionate that the Colossians should be filled with the knowledge of God’s will.  Epaphras was so passionate about this that Paul commented in Colossians chapter 4, verse 2 that Epaphras was “always wrestling in prayer for you that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.”  The Greek word for wrestling is agonizomenos which means to agonize.  It is God’s will that each of us agonize in prayer for the restoration of faithful Anglicanism in Canada.  Wrestling in prayer is the key to being filled with the knowledge of God’s will.

That is why the Rev. Samuel Shoemaker, the Anglican priest who wrote the “12 Steps” and helped to found Alcoholics Anonymous, quoted Colossians Chapter 1 in writing step 11.  What does Step 11 encourage us to pray for: “… the knowledge of His will for us and power to carry that out.”

What is the use of knowing what to do, if we haven’t the power to do it?  What is the use of studying the Bible if we never do the Bible?  What is the use of praying the Prayer Book if we never live out the Prayer Book?  The key to doing the Bible and living the Prayer Book is Colossians chapter 1, verse 8: “love in the Spirit”.  It is not the love of power that will set the Anglican Church free, but rather the power of love.  Dr. Gordon Fee, the well known New Testament Scholar from Regent College, notes that virtually everywhere that the word “power” is used in the New Testament, it is referring to the power of the Holy Spirit.11  Only the Holy Spirit can give us the power to change.  Only the Holy Spirit can give us the power to love.  Only the Holy Spirit can give us the power to forgive.  Verse 8 tells us the secret of lasting renewal: “love in the Spirit”.

In the early days of Anglican renewal, a bishop in northern B.C. fired his dean because some of his parishioners had had the nerve to pray that the bishop be filled with the Holy Spirit.  If only they had just prayed forthe bishop to be filled afresh or anew, the Dean might have kept his job.  Why do all of us need to be filled with the Spirit again and again? (Eph. 5:18).  The reason, as D.L. Moody put it, is that we leak.  It is always touchy to pray for one’s bishop without sounding like one is trying to give his bishop advice.  It is so easy for us to dump all our unmet dreams and frustrations on the back of our bishops.  Yet God calls us to bless and not curse.  God calls us in verse 9 to never give up praying for each other, and that certainly includes our bishops.  Verse 9 is a wonderful way to pray for your bishop, your rector, and your wardens in a way that none of them could possibly object to.  Just pray that God will fill them with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  All of us need to be filled up, to be more full of God’s grace, peace, joy, hope, and faith so that we will be more full, more grace-full, more peace-full, more joy-full, more faith-full.  The point of the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22) is to fill us up inside with more of the character of Jesus Christ.

What will being filled with the knowledge of God’s will really do for us?  Paul tells us in verse 10 that such filling will result in our walking worthy of God, in our pleasing the Lord in every way, in our bearing fruit in every good work, in our growing in the knowledge of God.  Being filled with the knowledge of His will is the key not only to living in the Spirit but also to walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:25).  As our AA friends remind us, it is not enough to talk the talk; we also need to walk the walk.

Yet all of us are powerless in ourselves to change our lives.  In fact, no change is possible until we admit in the words of Step 1 that “We are powerless over our (addictions and sins) and our lives have become unmanageable”.  The reason why “12 Step” people talk so much about a Higher Power is that our own power, our own resources, are never enough to make a lasting difference.  We need, in the words of Luke 24:49, to be clothed with power from on high, the very power of the Holy Spirit.  That is why Acts 1:8 says that “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.”.  That is why Colossians chapter 1 verse 11 talks about our being strengthened with all power: in the Greek, “being powered with all power”, with all dunamis, all dynamite.  There are logjams in Anglicanism that nothing but the power, the dynamite, of the Holy Spirit can possibly remove.  All of us know many faithful Anglicans who have given up in despair and left our church, perhaps returning occasionally for their Communion “fixes”.  When we think of the mother/father God/Goddess apostasy that the new ACC “Common Praise” hymn book is leading us into, only the power of the Holy Spirit will be able to lead us out of that syncretistic swamp.  Yet with God, nothing is impossible!  Would anyone like to become the founders of a Blue Hymn Book Society of Canada?

Dr. E. Stanley Jones holds that “the difference between a river and a swamp is that one has banks and the other has none.  The swamp is very gracious and kindly, it spreads over everything, hence it is a swamp.  Some of us are moral and spiritual swamps.  We are so broad and liberal that we take in everything from the shady to the sacred.  Hence we are swamps.  A river has banks – it confines itself to its central purpose.  The civilizations of the world organize themselves not around swamps, but around rivers.”12

To me, the Book of Common Prayer and the Bible are rivers.  The new Common Praise hymn book in contrast is a gracious and kindly swamp.  The river that is the Holy Spirit confines Himself to His central purpose, which is to fill us with the knowledge of the Father’s will and to give us the power to carry that out.  The Colossian Christians were a tiny, faithful minority living in a “new-age” spiritual scene.  As with the original Colossian church, one of the greatest challenges facing our Anglican Church is well-meaning interfaith syncretism.  In our worship of newness and inclusiveness, we are rushing to replace the riverbanks of our BCP with the neo-gnostic swamp of centering prayer/mantra yoga, enneagram workshops, labyrinths, Jungian-based MBTI personality tests, and invocations of “God our Father and our Mother”.13  Lord, forgive us for our naïve worship of the seemingly new and trendy, and for our disrespect for the wisdom of our Anglican forebears.  Genuine renewal is actually about renewing the riches of our inheritance in Christ Jesus, not about uncovering secret “new revelations”. (Eph. 1:18)

Most renewal movements in the past few centuries, including the various holiness, pentecostal, charismatic, and third-wave expressions, can be traced back to the influence of two Anglican priests, John and Charles Wesley, the founders of Methodism.  Canadian Methodism was the largest of the bodies which came together to form the United Church of Canada in 1925.  Few people realize what a high view the Wesleys had of the Anglican prayer book and of the Anglican Church in general.  Even on the verge of being forced to ordain his own preachers, John Wesley commended the Church of England to his leaders as “the best constituted national church in the world”.14  John Wesley also taught his followers that “there is no LITURGY in the World, either in ancient or modern language, which breathes more of a solid, scriptural, rational Piety, than the COMMON PRAYER of the CHURCH of ENGLAND”.15  John Wesley did not just appreciate the Prayer Book theology.  He even loved its language, language which he described as “not only pure, but strong and elegant in the highest degree.”16  John and Charles Wesley experienced manifestations of the Holy Spirit that would make the Toronto Airport Fellowship look tame, yet the Wesleys still held up the Prayer Book as a vital tool for orthodoxy and renewal.  And John Wesley was even radical enough that he advised all his clergy to administer the Lord’s Supper every Sunday at the main service.17

As Dr. Bard Thompson put it, “It was the way of John Wesley to espouse extempore prayer, yet esteem the prayer book; to give free expression to evangelical power, yet prize the structures of the church …”18  Yet sadly Wesley’s wisdom was largely ignored.  His followers decided that they could pray better and with more devotion when their eyes were shut, than they could with their eyes open, praying from a book.19  So they cast aside the Prayer Book and produced the United Church of Canada instead.  Wesley drew the balance between the stability of tradition and the dynamism of the Spirit.  His followers, however, became progressively less rooted generation after generation.  It is so easy to cast aside “the riches of our inheritance”.  It is much harder to humble ourselves enough to go back home and start afresh.  I remember how hard I tried to convince my Grandma Allen to “get with it” and give up on the Book of Common Prayer.  But she was so “stubborn and inflexible” that she died with the Bible and the Prayer Book by her bedside.

Our parish of St. Simon’s had not used the Book of Common Prayer at its main service for over 25 years.  When I came back from the Montreal ‘94 Essentials Conference and suggested that we might try doing the Prayer Book on fifth Sundays, some of my leadership secretly wondered if I might have lost my mind.  But eventually they came to see in unity what I was talking about.

Reintroducing the Prayer Book as one of our two main services has brought 30% growth in average Sunday attendance over the next two years.  I am not saying that it was easy to reintroduce the Book of Common Prayer.  Many Anglicans don’t like change, even if it means restoring the riches of their inheritance.  There are many well-meaning Anglican clergy out there who would rather die than admit they may have made a mistake in abandoning the classic Book of Common Prayer.  Many clergy have battle scars from liturgy wars in the 1970’s and early 80’s.  They have finally achieved relative liturgical calm in their parishes and they are reluctant to “open up old wounds”, and disturb the relative truce.

But God’s will for us as clergy is not merely for us to preserve the peace or to be keepers of ecclesiastical aquariums, but rather to be fishers of men and women.  Our greatest desire as Anglican leaders must be our desire to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and to have the power of the Holy Spirit to carry it out.  Why else do we pray every day “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done”.  What is God’s will?  The Bible is clear that God’s will, among other things, is that we go into all the world, preaching the gospel to all creation, and that we make disciples of all nations (Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19).  1 Timothy chapter 2, verses 4 and 5 tells us clearly that God’s will is that all people be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, and that there is only one mediator, one bridge between God and humanity, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all.

The leadership crisis in Anglicanism is directly linked to a growing fuzziness of vision regarding God’s will that the lost be found.  Many church leaders are beginning to publicly question whether the lost are really lost after all, and whether God really wants to find them.  Unless we are convinced that the man Christ Jesus is the only mediator between God and humanity, and that he really gave himself as a ransom for all, not just for those raised in the church or in the west, we will not have the power to carry out this great and lasting commission.  As Dr. John Stott put it at an Vancouver Anglican Essentials gathering, we claim uniqueness and finality in Christ alone.

If all we do is squabble about liturgical preferences and do not reach the lost, we are a people most to be pitied.  The Book of Common Prayer is not an ingrown book.  It is a book with a passion that the lost might be found.  In contrast to the BAS, the BCP is clear that God wants us to win the world for Christ.  The BAS, if you read it carefully, is written in a way that it can either encourage you to do evangelistic mission work for Christ or merely to affirm God in all cultures.  The BCP, however, is uncompromising in its biblical stance that “God is not willing that any should perish but that all may come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)  As the former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, said at Kanuga, “Evangelism is not a matter to be debated but a command to be obeyed.”  God’s will, as expressed in Colossians 1 verse 13, is that he might rescue (many) from the dominion of darkness and bring (them) into the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we might have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  We say each Sunday in the Creed that we believe in the forgiveness of sins.  Are you sharing that forgiveness with your lost neighbour, family member, co-worker?

I pray in conclusion that God may fill each of us with the knowledge of His will, that none should perish, that all may come to repentance, and that God may give us the power of the Holy Spirit to carry out his will to the very ends of the earth, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

The Rev. Dr. Ed Hird, Rector

BSW, MDiv, DMin

St. Simon’s Anglican Church North Vancouver

Anglican Mission in Canada

Past Chair, Anglican Renewal Ministries of Canada

-award-winning author of the book Battle for the Soul of Canada

-The sequel book Restoring Health: body, mind and spirit is available online with Amazon.com in both paperback and ebook form. In Canada, Amazon.ca has the book available in paperback and ebook.

It is also posted on Amazon UK (paperback and ebook ), Amazon France (paperback and ebook), and Amazon Germany (paperback and ebook).

Restoring Health is also available online on Barnes and Noble in both paperback and Nook/ebook form.  Nook gives a sample of the book to read online.

Indigo also offers the paperback and the Kobo ebook version.  You can also obtain it through ITunes as an IBook.

To receive a signed copy within North America, just send a $20 cheque (USD/CAN) to ED HIRD, 1008- 555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC, V7N 2J7, Canada.

– In order to obtain a signed copy of the prequel book Battle for the Soul of Canada, please send a $18.50 cheque to ‘Ed Hird’, #1008-555 West 28th Street, North Vancouver, BC V7N 2J7. For mailing the book to the USA, please send $20.00 USD.  This can also be done by PAYPAL using the e-mail ed_hird@telus.net . Be sure to list your mailing address. The Battle for the Soul of Canada e-book can be obtained for $9.99 CDN/USD.

-Click to download a complimentary PDF copy of the Battle for the Soul study guide :  Seeking God’s Solution for a Spirit-Filled Canada

You can also download the complimentary Leader’s Guide PDF: Battle for the Soul Leaders Guide

 Endnotes:

  1. The Oxford Dictionary of the Church, F.L. Cross, ed. (Oxford University Press, 1957), p. 1128.

  2. Colonel Blimp was a humorous anachronistic figure in the British WW2-based television series “Dad’s Army”.

  3. Dr. E. Stanley Jones, Pentecost: the Christ of Every Road, (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1930), p. 247.

  4. Ibid., p. 248.

  5. The Rt. Revd. Dr. J.B. Lightfoot, as quoted in Dr. William Barclay’s The Daily Study Bible: the Letters to the Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (Toronto: G.R. Welch Co. Ltd.), p. 91.

  6. The Rt. Revd. Dr. Lewis B. Radford, Colossians (London: Methuen & Co. Ltd, 1931), p. 3.

  7. Ibid., p. 151.

  8. Anglican Essentials, George Egerton, ed. (Toronto: Anglican Book Centre, 1995), p. 289.

  9. Radford, op. cit., p. 153.

  10. Ibid., p. 154.

  11. Dr. Gordon Fee, God’s Empowering Presence (Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishers, 1994), p. 35.

  12. Dr E. Stanley Jones, op. cit., p. 227.

  13. As done in the Canadian Anglican “Common Praise” hymn book (1999), which tragically alters the much-loved “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” hymn from “God our Father, Christ our Brother” to “God our Father and our Mother”.

  14. Liturgies of the Western Church, “The Sunday Service”, ed. Bard Thompson, (Cleveland and New York, Meridan Books, The World Publishing Company, 1961), p. 416.

  15. Ibid., p. 416.

  16. Ibid., p. 416.

  17. Ibid., p. 416.

  18. Ibid., p. 416.

  19. Ibid., p. 410.

This booklet is published by the Toronto Branch of the Prayer Book Society of Canada.  Additional copies can be ordered at a cost of $2 each from Dr. Diana Verseghy, 16 Capilano Court, Concord, Ontario, L4K 1L2.
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