Contemplation and the Bible

The Bible: You can find contemplation in it, but you have to know where to look!

The latest installment of Let the Earth Keep Silence, my column for Patheos, has been published. It is a look at the evidence for contemplative spirituality in the Bible. You can read it by following this link: Let the Earth Keep Silence: Contemplation and the Bible.

I’d love to get your thoughts on this column, since this question of “Is contemplation in the Bible?” seems to be a significant concern for many Christians, particularly those who are theologically conservative.

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Creative Conversation Begins with Contemplative Compassion
When Contemplation Feels Like Dying
Why Trappists Make Great Spiritual Guides
About Carl McColman

Author of Befriending Silence, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism, Answering the Contemplative Call, and other books. Retreat leader. Speaker. Professed Lay Cistercian.

  • Sr.Sheila Patenaude, FMM

    I agree fully with your article on Contemplation in the Bible. If Moses was not “contemplating” those 40 yeaers in the desert, and if Jesus was not “contemplating” those 40 days in the desert, what on earth were they doing? Thanks so much for clarifying this issue for many.

  • Jeff

    I think contemplation is in the Bible in the sense of prayer, focused attention on the Presence, worship, direct perception of the divine. What I don’t see is the various schemes and programs of step, by step mystical systems, often monastic, like some sort of Christianized Buddhist eightfold path. What I see in the New Testament is the Gospel, turning to Jesus, humbly trusting in him, receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, knowing the Father and growing in the grace and knowledge of that. I like the example of Saint Patrick who displayed that type of New Testament Gospel spirituality in his autobiographical Confession. For me Contemplative Christian methodologies were an extra unneeded complexity on top of the simplicity of Christ. When I first trusted in Christ in my early twenties, I gasped in shock at the sudden closeness of the Father, simple renewed trust in Jesus as Savior and Son of God, readily brings me close to God when I drift.

    “Whosoever acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God lives in God and God in him” I John 4:15

    When I would apply a contemplative system approach it represented an unbelief in Jesus as the way, and I would dry up spiritually. In John when Jesus was asked what it was God’s work or his requirement, he said “This is the work of God to believe (trust, is another translation) in the one he sent (Jesus).

    • Sr.Sheila Patenaude, FMM

      I was so happy to read what you said about trust. As I grow older, I am ever more convinced that trust in God is the highest form of adoration, and the more I see Divine Providence acting in my life–in big or even tiny ways–I realize this truth even more deeply.

      • Jeff

        I agree trust in Christ is the highest form of worship. I think whenever we trust in Jesus as Savior and Son of God we imitate Abel and God receives the Lamb of God as our worship and righteousness and sends the fire of the Holy Spirit down upon the sacrifice and we have life and peace. We can’t base our spirituality on our own love and devotion for God as it’s always imperfect but on the grace of Christ given to us through our humble trust in him.

        “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” I John 4: 10

        “We love because he first loved us.” I john 4:19

        I prefer the word “trust” to “faith”, though they’re synonyms, as faith to many people now means “believing something is true even though you know it’s not”. I think faith is trusting in something you have good reasons to think it’s true We are blessed indeed when we know we have good reasons to trust in Jesus as the living Son of God and Savior.

        “She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” “ John 11:27

  • TB Pasquale

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for a wonderfully Biblical and edifying synthesis of contemplative practice in relationship and union with the Bible.

    Your words are just the right temperature to bridge the gap between some people’s uncertainty about the practice and the sound theology behind it.

    This article speaks the language of both the contemplative mind and the knowing mind–it gives weight and grounding to the practice and hopefully can open more doors to understanding for skeptics.

    The grace of your wisdom is much needed to un-polarize faith & give the permission and intimate freedom of prayer in,with, and of God to anyone who wants to share in it.

    Also, as a side note, I love your book on Christian Mysticism! It is a recommended reading for my contemplative prayer students/participants!

    • Carl McColman

      Thank you, I’m glad you’re finding the book and blog helpful.