Moody’s Pastors’ Conference Features Lectio Divina


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)

Lectio screen cap

Says Spychalla:

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 Evangelical Church seems eager to embrace Catholic mystics like Thomas Merton, the man who said that he wanted “to become as good a Buddhist as I can.”

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).

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19 Responses to Moody’s Pastors’ Conference Features Lectio Divina

  1. John says:

    Looking at the speaker list, I noticed Henry Cloud is scheduled to speak on some level. I am not questioning his salvation but he is involved in the leadership model of growing churches, thus verging on the seeker movement. Check out "World Leaders Conference" sponsored by the World Leaders Group for more info on Cloud's work and others in the man centered leadership model.


  2. ali says:

    This is such sad news. One by one it appears the righteous are moving further and further away from solid biblical teachings and closer and closer to heresy and doctrines of demons.

    I had always felt Dr. Lutzer was solid in his teaching of the Word. With all that is happening now at Moody Church I am beginning to wonder….


  3. Despeville says:

    Voddie Baucham and Alistair Begg? On the list but would they participate in this or even tolerate which they had to by attending? What is going on?


    • Amy Spreeman says:

      They probably didn't know about the breakout sessions, which are different from the speaking sessions. I've been told that each of these speakers probably learned of this as the news was breaking.


  4. NMH says:

    JUST TO CLARIFY – the Moody Pastors' Conference is put on by Moody Bible INSTITUTE (also known as MBI), not Moody CHURCH. They are two completely separate organizations that share a founder, a "first name" and sometimes facilities. Erwin Lutzer is the Senior Pastor at Moody CHURCH and has nothing to do with what is planned for MBI's conferences.

    Now, it is true that Larry Crabb did speak at Moody CHURCH last year, primarily educating the pastors in counseling, from what I understand. BUT, Lutzer and Moody Church have nothing to do with Lectio Divina being part of MBI's Pastor's Conference. Yes, MBI is historically a conservative place – this may be a mistake that they regret later.

    — MBI alum; former member and employee of Moody Church (former only because I've moved out of state)


  5. rYAN says:

    Voddie Baucham posted on Twitter this morning that he did not know that there was a break out session promoting Lectio Divina at the MPC. He states that he does not endorse LD and had no idea that it was even included until after. I am glad that he has made somewhat of a statement on his stance with LD. I pray that Alstair Begg either makes a statement or clarifies if he endorses LD or not. I do not believe he does, but one never truly knows. Grace to you all.


  6. Marie says:

    I was wondering how much money Jesus charged His disciples to sit under Him and learn the Way that would change the world?

    Was it $250 or was it free?

    Just wondering.

    Why do we spend so much money to "get" more spiritual? An observation… seems to me that here in America, we spend vast amounts of money on conferences, books, CD's and every other paraphernalia that is marked christian….. and as a result, christians resemble more of the characteristics listed in 2 Timothy 3:1-5. And, instead of growing closer to Jesus Christ, perhaps all of these venues are contributing to the "falling away."


  7. Gary Lee Fennimore says:

    Denying the sufficiency of scripture and adding spiritual feelings as "in getting in touch" with GOD by Lectio Divina is absolutely opposite to what Jesus Christ indicates in His prayers to His Father. All of Christ's prayers and the Apostle's were objective never subjective in nature. This subjectivity denies that the Words of God are able to make one wise that leads to salvation, why should anyone add this deceptive practice that could deceive you.


  8. Stef says:

    That gent that called in and said the professor presented lectio in all innocence – I don't buy that! A professor should know better and do research on things first, as should any one making a teaching presentation to others.

    Chris Rosebrough did a piece on this lectio stuff and played a recording by the chap who had reintroduced it and what the intentions are with it.

    I agree with Gary Lee, why do Christians run around trying to find how to get 'deeper' with God when the Bible is there all the time – study the Bible!


  9. Mary Cruz says:

    Centering prayer is NOT Catholic and is NOT approved by the Catholic church.Lectio Divina is praying with scripture.I hope that people will do more research before talking about something they do not know.


    • Despeville says:

      We hope you will eventually do the very same thing you so superciliously prescribe…

      "Benedict envisaged his monks making about three hours a day available for personal lectio. He sees reading as one of the sources of spiritual energy, something that puts us into contact with grace and thus makes possible an enhanced level of fervor and unselfishness in daily living. It is clear that what Benedict has in mind is a very existential, life-related reading and not just mindless paging through any volume that comes to hand "

      Page 5 – Casey, Michael, Sacred Reading: The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina,Liguori,MO, Ligouri/Triumph Publications, 1996.

      Yes this speaks about the Benedict an official saint of Roman Church who was teaching this and obviously way before Guigo.


  10. Ruben says:

    To writer of this article, my brother, nowhere in the Bible (that i know of) does it say (anywhere) that scripture is "ALL" you need OR "sufficient." 2 Timothy 3:16 says scripture is "profitable." Why do you use the word "sufficient" to describe scripture when the Bible uses the word "profitable?" "Profitable" means 'beneficial, useful, advantageous, valuable, productive, worthwhile, does it not?" Brother, I actually mean no offense by my inquiry. Your brother in Christ, Ruben.


    • Janice says:

      So, are you suggesting it is not sufficient and that every fake can say that he/she has had a "word from god"? Or that people should empty their minds, stop thinking about God, and then listen to the demons instead of read and meditate (think upon God's Word in a conscious way)?
      You should read Colossians 2 to read about the dangers a church faces when the sufficiency of Scripture is challenged/undermined and mixed/replaced with evil, non-biblical writings.

      Extra-biblical revelation is well . . . have a look at the demonic fable called "Jesus Calling" to see what it is.


  11. Moody Pastors' Conference is a product of Moody Bible Institute, not Moody Church. This conference has nothing to do w Dr Lutzer. It is a tragic and disturbing development that my alma mater would go this route, but don't throw a good man under the bus for the actions of another.


  12. Sean Nemecek says:

    I was taught lectio divina as a way to meditate on scripture not to seek extra revelation. I believe it was this type that was taught. Moody is a solidly biblical institution.


    • rosinavoz says:

      What is the problem with 'lectio divina'? Is it ok for a born again believer to engage in this practice? What is the product of this type of meditation…sound biblical knowledge and growth in holiness or mystical experience, feeling of personal power, and inner peace?

      As to Moody, no…not too solid biblically anymore.

      Concerns Grow as Moody Presses Forward Down Contemplative Path

      Embracing Contemplative Shows Ill Effects at Moody Bible Institute in Ecumenical “Road to Rome” Event

      And many more related articles at Lighthousetrails


    • Despeville says:


      There never was an orthodox kind of lectio divina. Only the one resulting from Roman Catholic heterodoxy. Moody Bible Institute was never "solid" as a whole but only at times as to certain teachers. Moody Bible Institute was and is a thoroughly Arminianian institution where free willism of men rules albeit not absolutely but enough to be a greading ground for all kinds of nonsense and man made traditions including Roman lectio divina.


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