Christian and Eastern Silence

“The LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” exhorts the prophet Hosea (2:20). Our world is famished for silence, but does not know it. Our needs often hide from our wants. We want more noise—music piped in everywhere, talking screens in multiple rooms of our homes and work and public spaces, words assailing us by displays in stores. Magic phones speak to us even as we attempt to speak to others. Our ears should be ringing, but only our phones do.

But some are waking up from the roar of words and noise. Several books warn us about the noise that is disquieting our souls. Some are secular, but give good advice. Other books, articles, and teachings are spiritual, but in an unbiblical sense. They seek to still the din within by emptying the mind through yoga and other forms of Hindu or Buddhist meditation. Buddhism is seductive, since it promises inner peace, required no worship, and is usually adopted by Americans in a piecemeal and uninformed way. Mindfulness is pursued, but the temple is ignored.

Humans, as fallen mortals, have a limited ability to sort things out. We often hurry through instead of think about. Then, not surprisingly, we act ignorantly—if quickly. But God gives wisdom.

Christian silence carved an opening to quiet the buzzing mind and twitching body in order to hear from The Word (John 1:1). This God is a God who speaks truth and reveals us our condition before “the audit of eternity” (Kierkegaard). But we are often deaf to God himself because of the noise that assails us on every side. Scripture commands us to listen to God, to harken to his speech.


Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).


Listening is done best without distractions. Silence creates that space. As Kierkegaard wrote in the middle of the nineteenth century:


The present state of the world and all of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I should reply: Create silence! Bring men to silence. The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today.


The great melancholy Dane wrote this before the advent of telephones, radio, television, or the Internet. Needless noise has emanated ever since the Fall. There is no need to keep silence at all times. There is a time to speak and a time to be enmeshed in noise for the sake of the Kingdom. However, we need to be replenished and rewarded with solitude and silence. Although it is not explained, and is difficult to interpret, the following passage may spark some needful reflection:


When he [Christ] opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them (Revelation 8:1-2).


Even in heaven, silence had its place. It should have its place with us now as well.

DG CONTRIBUTOR PROFILE

Author: Douglas Groothuis

Author of Christian Apologetics, Truth Decay, On Jesus, On Pascal, and others. Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary since 1993. Head of The Apologetics and Ethics Masters Degree Program and Co-Director of The Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture. Senior Fellow for Apologetics.com.

2 thoughts

  1. Professor Groothuis,
    Great post!! We need quiet and stillness to hear from God. This can often be in the form of thoughts and memories that He wants us to pray over and process which can lead repentance and forgiveness. We have to own the pain associated with the past so that we can give it over to Him. You cannot give way what you do not own or God will not accept it. “Mindfulness” seems to involve dissociating from the pain or “non-judgmentally” letting these thoughts pass through our consciousness without engaging them. This is the opposite of the what I believe to be the Christian path.

    I also wanted to let you know about an interesting new book by Oxford professor Miguel Farias, called “The Buddha Pill: Can Meditation Change You?” It includes a chapter called the “The Dark Side of Meditation” which was reprinted in edited form by the UK Independent here: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/meditation-is-touted-as-a-cure-for-mental-instability-but-can-it-actually-be-bad-for-you-10268291.html

    It is the first book coming from a secular perspective that does not spin the benefits of “Mindfulness'” and exposes so much of the spin on the topic. I have only skimmed it but it seems a worthwhile read so far. However, given its more secular viewpoint, it does not appear to focus on the spiritual dynamics behind many of the techniques.

    Many blessings in Christ,

    Roger Corbin
    yogadangers.com

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