Is quietism a biblical practice? What is quietism?Quietism is a type of religious mysticism in which the practitioner attempts to achieve peace and spiritual perfection by thinking of God and divine things, favoring silent contemplation over positive action, singing, or praying out loud. Quietism has its roots in Hinduism and Buddhism and has been promoted at times within Roman Catholicism. Like the Buddhist, the practitioner of quietism seeks to subdue the will and become spiritually passive. The aim of quietism is to "quiet" the soul so that it can become one with God by turning inward for silence and contemplative stillness. The goal is to eventually achieve a sinless state. Quietism appeals to monks, religious hermits, and other ascetics.
Certain practices of some branches of the evangelical church have their roots in quietism. Soaking prayer and centering prayer, both of which emphasize quiet contemplation and listening, are common in many charismatic churches. However, in spite of its popularity within charismatic circles, the philosophy behind the practices of quietism is unbiblical.
Biblically speaking, a peaceful and quiet inner life is to be desired as indicative of a healthy spiritual life. David said, "I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother" (Psalm 131:2). Proverbs 17:1 conveys that peace and quiet in the home are more valuable than riches. The Apostle Peter encourages women to exhibit a quiet and gentle spirit which is of incorruptible beauty (1 Peter 3:4). Peace is part of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). As such, it is a gift given by the Holy Spirit to believers. It is not something achieved by practices such as those encouraged in quietism.
Quietism's most unbiblical claim is that one can achieve a sinless state by inward contemplation and ridding the soul of all passion and sinful desires. This is the practice of Buddhism, not Christianity. Stilling ourselves inwardly or outwardly can never result in a sinless state or union with God. The sinless state will never be gained in this life (1 John 1:8) and communion with God is achieved in one way only—through faith in the shed blood of Christ on the cross.
Some may try to equate the practice of quietism with biblical meditation, but the comparison is unfounded. Meditation is the active study and contemplation of God's Word in order to understand it, be sanctified by it, and apply it to our lives (John 17:17). Unlike quietism, biblical meditation is not a passive, mantra-like giving up of the will or mystical experience.
Further, quietism, with its exclusive focus on passivity, stillness, and inaction, is opposed to the Bible's encouragements to believers to "shout for joy" over their salvation (Psalm 20:5), sing songs, play instruments, and shout loudly in praise (Psalm 33:1–3). The soul that draws near to God sometimes does react with reverent silence. But just as often, it shouts and sings songs of joy (Isaiah 12:6).
Also, positive action is consistently shown in the Scriptures as a necessary part of the Christian life. Evangelism requires active interaction with others. Jesus told His disciples to "go" and "make disciples" and "teach" (Matthew 28:16–20). The apostles' outreach, like that of Jesus, involved taking decisive action as they impacted the world for Christ. Of course, Jesus also spent time in prayer, alone (Mark 1:35). But prayer and meditation are not the same as quietism.
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