Some of my favorite pastors/speakers are part of this year’s ReFocus Pastors’ Conference 2013, and it saddens me that one of the featured teaching sessions this year is on the contemplative spirituality practice of Lectio Divina, an ancient Catholic mystical practice that involves centering prayer meditation and altered states of “silence.” (Please note that we should be careful not to suppose any “guilt by association,” as the keynote speakers, who were booked well in advance, probably knew nothing of the speaking session content.)
The course is taught by Peter D. Spychalla, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of New Testament & Spiritual Formation.
(Hat Tip: John Broom)
A rich tradition of lectio divina is found in Benedictine spirituality (patterned after the sixth-century Rule of St. Benedict) which is widely followed in the present day.
Count me among the novices learning this venerable spiritual practice! This Latin phrase means “sacred reading” or “divine reading.” Lectio divina is a slow, contemplative reading and praying of the Holy Scriptures in order to encounter God and be spiritually transformed.
(Source: Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading) by Peter Spychalla)
For years, Lectio Divina and other spiritual practices that negate sola Scriptura in favor of feelings and experiences have been promoted by mystic Richard Foster and his protoge Dallas Willard within the mainstream of evangelicalism.
Why would Moody Church’s senior pastor Erwin Lutzer, known for standing strong against liberal compromises of the day, allow “Christian” mysticism to be a part of this conference? Last year Lutzer invited Larry Crabb, a psychologist-turned-spiritual-formation-expert, to preach at Moody. Crabb’s popular books tend to promote contemplative prayer, mysticism, and elevate subjective experience over and above objective truth. (Source)
You may recall that John Piper’s Desiring God Conference 2012 quietly pulled its Lectio Divina recommendation as a viable prayer practice:
The Dangers of Lectio Divina:
Those who take this supernatural approach to the text can disconnect it from its context and natural meaning and use it in a subjective, individualistic, experiential, even name-it-and-claim-it way for which it was never intended…
…Naturally, the idea of having inside information is very appealing and makes the “knower” feel important, special and unique in that he/she has a special experience with God that no one else has. The “knower” believes that the masses are not in possession of spiritual knowledge and only the truly “enlightened” can experience God. Thus, the reintroduction of contemplative, or centering, prayer—a meditative practice where the focus is on having a mystical experience with God—into the Church. Contemplative prayer is similar to the meditative exercises used in Eastern religions and New Age cults and has no basis whatsoever in the Bible, although the contemplative pray-ers do use the Bible as a starting point.
Further, the dangers inherent in opening our minds and listening for voices should be obvious. The contemplative pray-ers are so eager to hear something—anything—that they can lose the objectivity needed to discern between God’s voice, their own thoughts, and the infiltration of demons into their minds…
Finally, the attack on the sufficiency of Scripture is a clear distinctive of lectio divina. Where the Bible claims to be all we need to live the Christian life (2 Timothy 3:16), lectio’s adherents deny that. Those who practice “conversational” prayers, seeking a special revelation from God, are asking Him to bypass what He has already revealed to mankind, as though He would now renege on all His promises concerning His eternal Word. Psalm 19:7-14 contains the definitive statement about the sufficiency of Scripture. It is “perfect, reviving the soul”; it is “right, rejoicing the heart”; it is “pure, enlightening the eyes”; it is “true” and “righteous altogether”; and it is “more desirable than gold.” If God meant all that He said in this psalm, there is no need for additional revelation, and to ask Him for one is to deny what He has already revealed (source).
- Christians mystically encountering God (standupforthetruth.com)
- Dallas Willard, Author and Leading Spiritual Formation Proponent, Dies at 77 (christianresearchnetwork.org)
- SPECIAL REPORT: Assemblies of God “Believe” Conference Makes Bold Move – Brings in Contemplative Key Player Ruth Haley Barton (lighthousetrailsresearch.com)
- Theological Seminaries Going Contemplative! (standupforthetruth.com)
- Truth & Trends: Everyman’s church (standupforthetruth.com)
- 2 Letters to the Editor: Emergent-Leaning Ann Voskamp (One Thousand Gifts) to Speak at NACC (North American Christian Convention) in July (lighthousetrailsresearch.com)
- Evangelicals Turning to Roman Catholic Contemplative Spirituality (wayoflife.org)