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If you missed BBC2’s The Big Silence with Fr Christopher Jamison, OSB, who was still the Abbot of Worth Abbey in Sussex at the time of filming, you might be able to catch up with it on BBC iPlayer.

Incidentally, Fr Jamison is now the Director of the National Office for Vocation for the Catholic Church in England and Wales.

Out of the five seekers of silence, only one — the young woman who works in advertising — began going to church regularly.  She was baptised, the full immersion ceremony shown in the final episode last Friday.

The others all had an epiphany of sorts.  Trish, the media teacher / radio announcer, started going to Mass again and her partner was quite helpful in taking time out himself for silence.  (After 18 years and three children, why don’t they marry? Or is it a case of ‘love the sin you’re in’?) John, the successful entrepreneur who had a difficult time as a teenager, was planning on winding down his businesses to pursue a new career in psychotherapy.  The former HR director attended Wednesday night silent meditation at a nearby church.  The young Glaswegian had handed in his notice after he returned from the eight-day silent retreat, although, fortunately, his manager refused to accept it.

I share Fr Jamison’s disappointment that only one of them sought God and Jesus Christ after the retreat.  I hope that Trish is still attending Mass now and then.  The other three had experiences of God, but perhaps Fr Jamison is correct in thinking that they feared what might be expected of them were they to make a true, formal and lasting commitment to God and His Son.

It seems as if he will continue to keep in touch with them.  He seems the type of priest whose door is always open.

I don’t know why people don’t come to Christ after this type of retreat.  Partly, I suspect that St Beuno’s in Wales might not have been quite the right venue.  The silence and settings, yes, but the Jesuits, the nuns and the other spiritual directors there seemed to be missing the Christian element, the ‘unique selling point’. When only one person out of five gets the message, what are we to think of the method?

If we don’t talk about Christ, how can we expect to convert others to the Church?  St Beuno’s, for all its fine qualities of actually getting five secularists to stay there in silence for eight days, is missing a trick.  The chapels were very New Age: the cross — shaped in a circle (!) — was off to the side.  The tiny, older chapel had lawn chairs in it.  The houses of worship were a disgrace.  I also am not sure with the spiritual directors whether they were more New Age than Christian.  I tend to think they were, because the place reeked of New Ageism.

So, in the end, we were left with four people who were encountering God at various levels.  Trish seemed the next best person to rediscover her faith.  The others walked away with a greater serenity, certainly, but theirs was an amorphous God.  I pray that God keeps tapping them on the shoulder during their periods of silence.  As John said to camera (paraphrased), ‘It was as if God were saying, “I’ve been here all along.  You just weren’t listening”.’

This is a problem people confront continually.  ‘Do I want God?  No, because I’m unfamiliar with what He wants.  What if I decided to commit my life to obeying Him as a Christian?  What then?  My life might change too much.  No, I think I’ll stick with the New Age thang instead.  Much easier because it gives me wiggle room.’

Which brings me to Joel Osteen and John MacArthur.  I wonder if the three who experienced a New Age God would have come closer to the truth if they had heard either man.  Now, I know that you are thinking, ‘Churchmouse, how can you possibly compare the two? One is a false preacher and the other really does preach and teach the Bible.’

Yes, that is true.  However, it would have been interesting to see how they would have reacted to a Joel Osteen sermon and one from John MacArthur.  What would their impressions have been?  Would they have said, ‘Hey, I like this Osteen guy’?  I don’t know.  Would they have preferred MacArthur?  I don’t know.  The one thing from Osteen that will stick with me is when he said of marriage, ‘Gentlemen, treat your wife like a queen and she’ll treat you like a king’.  In this particular instance, truer words were never spoken — and they are biblical.  You want your wife to submit to you as St Paul says?  Then treat her the way Christ treats His bride, the Church — pure devotion.

But, by and large, one must shy away from Osteen’s prosperity gospel and easy-believism. On the other hand, MacArthur is solid food, meat.  He’s the real deal amongst evangelicals.  I don’t agree with everything he says (e.g. Dispensationalism) but for teaching Scripture and a godly life, he’s one of the best.

I would be interested in knowing how long the people in Osteen’s congregation attend his church.  I would hope that a majority ‘graduate’ (my term) from his church quickly and move on to the MacArthurs of this world.  And maybe that’s the way it might have worked out for our three New Age God types from The Big Silence.   In that case, I’m sorry to say that even a Joel Osteen sermon would have been better than the New Age spiritual guidance they received at St Beuno’s.

Speaking of John MacArthur and Joel Osteen, here’s MacArthur’s view on the ‘satanic’ words of Osteen. (H/T: Reformation Anglicanism — many thanks!) Enjoy — well worth a listen (you’ll see MacArthur at his pulpit — no stills in this video):

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