I keep hearing all these awesome things about a guy named Henri Nouwen. And then a while back in my RSS feeder, I saw this quote from page 51 of his book, Sabbatical Journey:
Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.
Is anyone else who would consider themselves to be an evangelical a little disturbed by such a statement? I want to get this book now and give it a good read so that I can hear his whole argument. If this is ripped out of context, I’d like to see what that context is, because this doesn’t sound much like biblical teaching on this topic (John 14:6, Acts 4:12, etc.).
Josh Goeke said:
In fact I do find those bits of Nouwen a little disturbing. He’s so right about so many other things though. Since Nouwen isn’t the Bible, I think I can pick and choose. 🙂
Josh Goeke said:
Also something to consider about Nouwen is his many close workings with people who suffer from mental retardation. What of those souls who literally do not have the brain capacity to understand who or what Jesus is?
Well, great question. I would say that Scripture teaches one way of salvation, both for Jew & Greek, slave and free, adult and infant: namely, faith. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” So preaching the Gospel creates faith in hearers similar to that of the dry bones being resurrected in Ezekiel 37.
Because of this, people do not find their own way to God. The state and circumstance of the regeneration of an individual may be different, but the method is always the same: repentance and forgiveness of sins must be proclaimed, per Luke 24:47. Even to the Apostle Paul, this was the message given to him by the risen Christ. Jesus really is the only way to God.
College Jay said:
So are you saying that the mentally handicapped who do not have the mental capacity to repent of their sins (or even understand concepts such as God, sin, and repentance) are Hell-bound?
Am *I* saying that? Absolutely not. That’s my whole argument…faith not being a fundamentally cognitive act that *we* do, but rather a gift of God, apart from our IQ.
Nouwen was a Catholic Mystic who was also a pantheist who promoted contemplative prayer. Nothing good comes from this guy, stay away, far away. If you want more information read this: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=1355
I have to side with Josh here….
While I agree that there is much to be concerned about with Nouwen, I have to also say that reading with discernment we can discover wheat amongst the chaff. I have read Nouwen extensively and have been struck by things he got write and by how dramatically his tune changed when he was challenged to minister to (or to be ministered by) the people at Daybreak in Tornoto.
Part of this “wheat/chaff” of Nouwen is that while “contemplative prayer” may be an issue right along with Lectio Divina, these are deviant versions of what we are called to do in meditation on the Scriptures and devotion to prayer. I am eager to find work that instead of throwing out the wheat and chaff together on this seeks instead to discern the difference.
“nothing good comes from this” — woah, what a god-like statement! good to know some of your readers can know exactly what will and what will not come from our human words and thoughts!
i guess i’m generally in agreement with most of this discussion. i like the discernment thoughts from aaron and josh. the only thing i would add is that God is able to save whomever he will. (sorry, i’m drawing on catechisms and confessions here… don’t have chapter and verse handy!) so while God chooses to attach our salvation to faith, it would be good to remember that he is also the giver of faith and able to save the still births, the mentally retarded, the paranoid schizophrenics, the SIDS victims, those who have heard the gospel only after succumbing to Alzheimer’s… something i am willing to leave with him, also an act of faith on my part.