UPDATED 5/16/2014: Tim Challies left the following comment below, and I’m copying it here so that readers won’t miss it. I thank him for his cordial response.
Hi, Collin. Thanks for pointing out the citation sloppiness. It has taken me some time to reply and to fix the citation as I’ve been traveling (and, strangely, lost Internet connectivity for 24 hours immediately after posting the article on Teresa, due to being in airplanes with no wifi, airports with inadequate wifi, and a home with a water main break outside it that cut the Internet as well!).
I just appended this to the bottom of my article:
Note: Readers pointed out that initially I did not properly cite Wikipedia’s entry on Teresa of Avila; I appreciate having that pointed out and added a footnote as appropriate. It was clearly marked as a quote in my research notes but that did not make it to the article. As for the general tone of the article, it is meant to be informational more than biographical, by which I mean I do not provide exhaustive information about the false teachers; most of my interest is in the false teaching. Of course this does not excuse sloppy or inaccurate information and this article did not adhere to the standards I would want it to. I am traveling this week and, being away from my usual routines and my usual reference works, allowed myself to be sloppy in both research and writing. It would have been far better to save this for another week and to ensure it was of better quality. I will attempt to revisit this article soon and to do a better job of it. For the next few days I am in Australia preaching two to three times a day and I need to prioritize that (I’d really appreciate your prayers in this time as I have not adjusted well to the fourteen time-zone difference and am extremely tired); I will return to the article after I return to Canada. In the meantime, please do forgive me for my sloppiness.
As for the accusations of trolling, I will get in touch with David, who helps moderate the discussions. I have not yet touched base with him.
This morning I took a look at Tim Challies blog, as I habitually do. I have often enjoyed his writings.
Challies is in the middle of a series on false teachers. Some of the posts are helpful, some less so. This morning’s post was less so.
In this morning’s post, he denounces the mysticism of Teresa of Ávila. I’m not a fan of Teresa’s writings, but even so I was disappointed with Challies’s lack of engagement with her texts. It was as if he had never even held one of her books in his hand.
And then I started Googling.
It turns out that he copied and pasted, with slight rewording, a section of the Wikipedia entry on Teresa.
Here’s what the version of Wikipedia between May 8th and May 11th said.
The kernel of Teresa’s mystical thought throughout all her writings is the ascent of the soul in four stages (The AutobiographyChs. 10-22):
The first, or “mental prayer“, is that of devout contemplation or concentration, the withdrawal of the soul from without and especially the devout observance of the passion of Christ and penitence (Autobiography 11.20).
The second is the “prayer of quiet“, in which at least the human will is lost in that of God by virtue of a charismatic, supernatural state given by God, while the other faculties, such as memory, reason, and imagination, are not yet secure from worldly distraction. While a partial distraction is due to outer performances such as repetition of prayers and writing down spiritual things, yet the prevailing state is one of quietude (Autobiography 14.1).
The “devotion of union” is not only a supernatural but an essentially ecstatic state. Here there is also an absorption of the reason in God, and only the memory and imagination are left to ramble. This state is characterized by a blissful peace, a sweet slumber of at least the higher soul faculties, or a conscious rapture in the love of God.
The fourth is the “devotion of ecstasy or rapture,” a passive state, in which the feeling of being in the body disappears (2 Corinthians 12:2-3). Sense activity ceases; memory and imagination are also absorbed in God or intoxicated. Body and spirit are in the throes of a sweet, happy pain, the body alternating between a fearful fiery glow, a complete impotence and unconsciousness, and the spirit in fear of God by such an ecstatic flight that sometimes the body is literally lifted into space. This after half an hour is followed by a reactionary relaxation of a few hours in a swoon-like weakness, attended by a negation of all the faculties in the union with God. The subject awakens from this union in tears; it is the climax of mystical ecstasy, along with the gift of miracles and prophecy. Indeed, she was said to have been observed levitating during Mass on more than one occasion.
Here’s what Challies posted today without citation.
At the heart of Teresa’s teaching was the ascent of the soul into sweet and unbroken mystical communion with God. She described four progressive stages in this ascent.
- Mental Prayer. The first is mental prayer, devout contemplation and concentration, through which the soul withdraws from everything physical around it. This happens especially during penitence and during times of observing Christ in his suffering and death.
- Prayer of Quiet. In prayer of quiet, the human will becomes lost in God’s will in a kind of supernatural state. Faculties such as memory, reason and imagination have not yet been quieted from outside distraction, but the mind and will are quiet in a growing experience of Christ’s presence.
- Devotion of Union. The devotion of union is a supernatural, ecstatic state in which human reason has become absorbed in God and only memory and imagination remain unclaimed. This is a state of bliss and peace where the higher faculties experience a sweet rest and the devotee experiences conscious rapture in God’s love.
- Devotion of Ecstasy or Rapture. This is a passive state in which the feeling of having a physical body disappears. Sense, memory and imagination are all absorbed in God. “Body and spirit are in the throes of a sweet, happy pain, alternating between a fearful fiery glow, a complete impotence and unconsciousness, and a spell of strangulation, sometimes by such an ecstatic flight that the body is literally lifted into space . This after half an hour is followed by a reactionary relaxation of a few hours in a swoon-like weakness, attended by a negation of all the faculties in the union with God. The subject awakens From this in tears; it is the climax of mystical experience, producing a trance. Indeed, she was said to have been observed levitating during Mass on more than one occasion.”
When I left a comment noting this “sloppiness,” the moderator called me a “contrarian troll” and blocked me from making further comments.
So that’s what it takes to be branded a troll, eh?
It’s no wonder my undergraduates think that it’s okay to steal other people’s ideas and pass them off as their own. They’re just doing what their pastors model for them.