ebenim

Silence and Solitude

In Church, Religion and Worldviews, Scripture, Testimonies on March 12, 2009 at 7:47 pm

promenade
The Promenade, photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

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In the Gospels we see Jesus regularly getting alone to pray and comune with His Father.  Often times, it occured in the midst of very busy times of ministry.   In our age of Twitter updates, iPod ear buds and Bluetooth cell phone headsets perhaps we need to be reminded to do the same–not in some mystical or monastic way, but rather to intentionally set aside the distractions of this life to actually pray and listen to what God is saying through His word.

This conversation with Dr. Don Whitney, Professor of Biblical Spirituality at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, focuses on the importance of solitude and silence in the life of the modern-day believer.  It is based on a chapter from Dr. Whitney’s book: Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, published 1991 by NavPress.

If you’d like to order a copy of the book from CDB, click here.

If you like to read the chapter on: “The Discipline of Silence and Solitude,” click here.

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  1. This is a great interview. I greatly appreciate Dr. Whitney and his ministry. Thank for posting this.

  2. Donnie, thanks for continuing to remind us of these things. I recently got an iTouch and put a number of books and sermons on there to listen to as I travel. You have reminded me how quickly I can get carried away listening to “man” and forget the importance of consciously turning things off to focus on LISTENING to God in stillness. The scriptures you quoted re-convicted me. I appreciate your vigilance in reminding us to stay on top of these matters and stay on track. You are a good shepherd! I thank God for nudging me, again, through you.

  3. Sensible encouragement in an age of perpetual sound. Thanks Paul for the focus on this forgotten art and spiritual discipline. It seems people today are almost afraid of being alone, only themselves and God in attendance.

  4. I thoroughly support the idea of getting alone to pray, read Scripture and meditate on the Word of God; however, if you read Chapter 10 in Prof. Whitney’s book, you’ll see that he means more than this. First, he implies that ‘silence’ has power, that is why Satan tries to find ways stop us from having ‘silence’. There is nothing in Scripture that teaches that ‘silence’ has power (i.e. if you pray with the mind, it’s more spiritual than praying out loud). Secondly, he does not limit silence to times of praying with the mind, or thinking to oneself (meditating on Scripture), but includes an ‘internal’ silence. In context, he can only be refering to stopping all internal dialogue (praying, meditating on Scripture, or even thinking to oneself). Without saying the words, he has promoted emptying the mind. This is a component of contemplative mysticism.

    As for the Scripture that he references in this interview, the ones He partially quotes “Be silent before the Lord…” have nothing to do with sitting before Him in ‘silence’ (not talking or maybe even thinking). These verses do not reference a spiritual discipline. Every commentary I looked at said that the ‘silence’ referenced in these verses means ‘submission’. The nations will submit to God’s will. David said that he would be silent before the Lord (not a spiritual discipline), but that he would trust God’s will and not speak against Him. Jesus telling His disciples to come away by themselves (mentioned in the interview), was not Him telling them to practice a spiritual discipline. According to the passage, they didn’t even have time to eat. Jesus said that they should try to get away from the crowds and rest. Notice, they all went together in the boat (no solitude), and there was no indication that they didn’t speak (no silence). Based on this interview, I’m afraid that Prof. Whitney is still misusing Scripture to promote the ‘spiritual discpline’ of ‘silence and solitude’. If you read the chapter, Prof. Whitney also says that Paul and Moses were transformed by years in virtual isolation. The only problem with this, is there is no biblical evidence that either man spent years in virtual isolation. Prof. Whitney also promotes the unbiblical idea that we can ‘hear’ God better if we practice silence and solitude. He speaks of ‘promptings’ and implies an ‘inner voice’. I know this is popular, but it’s not biblical. God speaks to us in Scripture. There is nothing in Scripture to indicate that He will speak to us through an ‘inner voice’ or promptings. I’m sorry to be a downer on this. I agree with Prof. Whitney regarding spending time alone to pray, read and meditate on Scripture, but I hesitate to call it a ‘spiritual discipline’.

  5. Michael, just because you personally haven’t experienced ‘promptings’ or ‘inner voice’ connections with the Lord does not mean that they don’t exist. Speaking has to do with a voice being projected, not a book to read. When Jesus said’My sheep hear My voice’, that’s exactly what He meant. He didn’t say,’My sheep read my book.’ A relationship based on reading about someone is really no relationship at all. There must be real communication and an exchanging of thought to have a meaningful relationship. I hope that you find such a relationship and are able to hear the still small voice of the Lord Jesus.

  6. John,
    Just because you’ve experienced ‘promptings’ or ‘inner voice’ connections, doesn’t mean it was with the Lord. I think everyone has experienced what could be described as promptings, including lost people (do they have a close relationship with God?). This does not mean that it is extra-biblical communication from God. I know this is very popular today, but as I said, it’s not biblical. I suggest that you get Gary Gilley’s new book titled “Is That You Lord?:Hearing the Voice of the Lord, a Biblical Perspective”. You can find it at the Southern View Chapel website, along with articles. When the Lord said, “My sheep hear My voice”, He was not referring to an ‘inner voice’ or promptings. This was in relation to following Him, that is believing in Him and coming to Him for salvation. It had nothing to do with extra-biblical guidance/communication, but everything to do with the effectual call of the Holy Spirit. Do you believe that the Bible is the word of God? It doesn’t sound like it. You definitely don’t hold to the sufficiency of Scripture. Even Whitney has said that during Biblical times, the most common way that man “heard from God”, was through the Scriptures (the written word), which meant that they had to read it. No where does Scripture teach that we will receive an ‘inner voice’ or promptings from God, and for you to say that if I don’t have ‘promptings’ (that I attribute to Jesus) or hear an ‘inner voice’, then I really don’t have a relationship with Jesus shows the pietism of your position. My faith/relationship is based on the finished work of Christ, not whether I can practice a spiritual discipline that allows me to receive supposed extra-biblical communication from God. You might also check out the Critical Issues Commentary website. There are some good articles on mysticism and other topics there.

  7. John,
    You do realize that the still small voice (1 Kings 19:12) does not refer to an ‘inner voice’. It was an external, audible voice that Elijah heard.

    After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire (N)a sound of a gentle blowing. NASB

    And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. KJV

    After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. NIV

    And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire [a sound of gentle stillness and] a still, small voice. Amplified Bible

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