LTRP Note: For an understanding of Lectio Divina, please refer to several links below this Letter to the Editor and our comments.
I live in South Africa and even here the Dutch Reformed church is doing the contemplative route.
Some writers have even written some books on the subject in which they actually encourage their members to explore that route!
I put an enquiry to one of the blokes on this subject and he explained as follows:
(trying a translation from Afrikaans)
. . . In the years after Christ ascended to heaven, there were actually two ways of reading the Bible…
The school of Antioch read it as a historic/grammatical narrative and the school of Alexandria took the more ‘spiritual’ route of reading.
Both ways are/were apparently valid.
The Antioch model ensured that God’s Word was read with intellectual integrity and the Alexandrian model ensured that it was read as God’s Word. (i.e. meditative and contemplative reading)
From the 12th century onwards, universities then created a platform on which the Word could be challenged or critiqued which led to the questioning of the “Godly Dimensions” thereof . . . Lectio Divina was then neglected and by now starting the Lectio Divina method, the idea is to reclaim the ‘Godly Dimensions” of the Word!!”
End of translation . . . this as true as I could get it.
Question . . . how could we as children of God ever have missed this (tongue in cheek) and is there really a different way of reading the Word?
God’s Word is His Word, and we read it as it stands, right, with recognition of the metaphors that is used? ( maybe I am missing something)
Your comments on this will be appreciated, since people just accept this and follow as it is fine!
If you do challenge them on this, you are in the wilderness and should wake up and smell the roses [they say] . . .
The contemplative prayer movement (i.e., spiritual formation movement) has found its way into virtually every Christian denomination throughout the world. Thank you for reporting on what is happening in South Africa with the Dutch Reformed.
In your letter, you ask, “how could we as children of God ever have missed this . . . ?.” That’s a good question. If Lectio Divina and other contemplative practices were so utterly vital to sustain our relationship with Christ (some Christian leaders state we must have the “stillness” to really know God), how is it that no where in the Bible is there any indication at all that we are to use God’s word as a tool to go into a state of silence to reach “‘Godly dimensions’ of the Word.”
If indeed such practices were vital for the Christian believer, surely Jesus Christ or the apostles (especially the apostle Paul) would have explicitly instructed us on this. In Ephesians 2, we are told that the “saints” (i.e., “the household of God”) are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone,” and that it is through Christ that we become a “holy temple in the Lord . . . for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (vs. 19-22). But the contemplative prayer movement says we must draw from the ancient Catholic mystics and desert fathers in order for us to become all that Christ desires for us. Basically, the foundation that was laid out in Scripture (which is the Gospel) with Christ as the chief corner stone (the sacrificial Lamb for our salvation) was not enough, but the foundation of the ancient mystics is laid down instead. And as Ray Yungen points out in A Time of Departing, one mysticism proponent admits that the practices these earliest monks drew from were so strongly similar “to those of their Hindu and Buddhist renunciate brethren several kingdoms to the East” that “the meditative techniques they adopted for finding their God suggest either a borrowing form the East or a spontaneous rediscovery” (ATOD, 2nd ed., p. 42).
With Lectio Divina (as with other contemplative practices), the Word of God is used as a tool to perform a ritual that will bring on a mystical experience. A word or phrase from a passage of Scripture is turned into a mantra-like practice, where it is repeated over and over. No longer do the words have the meaning they were intended by the authors (the apostles and prophets inspired by the Holy Spirit) but rather an experience to “feel” closer to God is sought.
The contemplative says we must seek after a “deeper” relationship with God. But for the born-again believer who has been united with Christ through faith by His grace and “sealed” for the “day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30), a method or ritual is not needed to draw near to the Lord for He is already in our hearts established and “we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:9-10). That is the main theme of A Time of Departing (Ray Yungen’s book) that simply being indwelt by the Holy Spirit and being in the body of Christ is all that is necessary to fulfil your relationship needs for God. There is no esoteric tradition that will give you more of the Holy Spirit.
In answer to your question, no, we as believers did not miss anything. Contemplatives such as Richard Foster say that Christians are missing something, that our lives are empty and lacking in vitality, and thus we need, they say, these meditation techniques. But if we truly do have a relationship with Jesus Christ, if we have allowed Him to be Lord and Savior of our lives, then He promises to live in our hearts and commune with us. Surely, if we needed to repeat words and phrases over and over in order to have that fellowship with Christ, He would, at some point, have told us in His Word and laid out these contemplative instructions. But rather, the Word tells us that His “grace and peace” have been given to us “through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord and that His “divine power” has given us “all things that pertain unto life and godliness” and that through “exceeding great and precious promises” we can be “partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:2-4).
The biblical way to draw near to God is one in which the work has already been done at the Cross and is offered to “whosoever believeth,” with a free and clear invitation of communion with God, a communion that is ours for the asking. The contemplative way to “draw near to God” is riddled with man’s efforts, mystical eastern practices, altered states of consciousness, an eventual change in attitude toward the atonement, an exaltation of man (as having divinity), and a growing view that the Bible is more of a ritualistic tool and a poetic piece of literature rather than an authority (unchanging, solid, and trustworthy) for our spiritual lives. Simply look at the views of the emerging church (which is propelled by contemplative prayer) to see the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality. Or consider what the occult prophetess Alice Bailey said,
It is, of course, easy to find many passages which link the way of the Christian Knower with that of his brother in the East. They bear witness to the same efficacy [efficiency] of method.
Or the words of Thomas Merton’s biographer and advocate, William Shannon:
If one wants to understand Merton’s going to the East it is important to understand that it was his rootedness in his own faith tradition [Catholicism] that gave him the spiritual equipment [contemplative prayer] he needed to grasp the way of wisdom that is proper to the East.
Simply put, what these quotes reveal is that these “dimensions” of God are not really dimensions of God at all, but pathways to the mystical occult practices and teachings of the East. Ironically, Lectio Divina will lead practitioners away from the very thing it claims to embrace: the Word of God.
Thus, as believers, let us reject this practice, and let us cling to and “contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3).
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)