In addition to (or perhaps because of) his new The Rob Bell Show on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN channel, Rob Bell has been busy with his ZIMZUM of Love book promotions and now his new The Liturgists program, a podcast he has quietly launched with a dozen or so other theological partners who “do not actively promote our names and personal images” for ego reasons.
What do The Liturgists talk about when they talk about God the Father? Well actually, they talk about God the Mother. That’s not a typo. Says Bell:
Created in honor of Mother’s Day, God our Mother is a liturgy that explores both the scriptures that speak of God in a maternal context and the limits of human language in describing an infinite God.
God Our Mother includes an apophatic contemplative meditation. Apophatic disciplines seek to push beyond language and rational thinking in the context of God’s Holiness, and can be very powerful. For this reason, we recommend that spiritual practices like apophaticism are best moderated through scripture, tradition, and some form of spiritual community.
Wait…what in the world is Apophatic meditation? Glad you asked.
Apophatic meditation is also known as Daoist meditation, which refers to the traditional meditative practices associated with the Chinese philosophy and religion of Daoism, including concentration, mindfulness, contemplation, and visualization. Techniques of Daoist meditation are historically interrelated with Buddhist meditation, and goes back to the 6th-century Daoists who developed meditation from Tiantai Buddhist anapanasati “mindfulness of breath” practices. Here is an Apophatic website explaining more.
In other words, it involves the fine art of completely emptying your mind of everything, which is the goal of all “Christian” contemplative prayer practices promoted through Spiritual Formation leaders like Richard Foster and the late Dallas Willard. This is completely opposite of meditating on God’s Word and filling your mind with Scriptures as the Bible instructs us to do.
(I could go off on a whole tangent of who else in Christendom promotes Centering and Breath prayers for pastors, but check out the links at the bottom of this article for that.)
Back to The Liturgists. Who are they? According to Bell’s website, they are a growing community of creatives that includes Luke Askelson, Andrew Arndt, Rob Bell, Amena Brown, The Brilliance, Rachel Held Evans, Gungor, Mike McHargue aka “Science Mike”, Nichole Nordeman, Aaron Purdy and Sleeping At Last.