A Bible-study leader had been concerned about one of her group who was reluctant to study Scripture but instead was determined experience it. She had been practicing a technique called Lectio Divina (LD) and wrote me for whatever insight I might have to offer.
I consulted Wikipedia and found that:
- In Christianity, Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Benedictine practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God's Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.
- Traditionally Lectio Divina has 4 separate steps: read, meditate, pray and contemplate. First a passage of Scripture is read, then its meaning is reflected upon. This is followed by prayer and contemplation on the Word of God.
- The focus of Lectio Divina is not a theological analysis of biblical passages but viewing them with Christ as the key to their meaning. For example, given Jesus' statement in John 14:27: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you" an analytical approach would focus on the reason for the statement during the Last Supper, the biblical context, etc. But in Lectio Divina rather than "dissecting peace", the practitioner "enters peace" and shares in the peace of Christ.
We all have our own ways of approaching Scripture and prayer. We find that certain ways work better for us than others. I have my own methods. I like to pray as I am walking. Praying on my knees is a sure prescription for discomfort, while praying in bed guarantees sleep. Walking helps me focus on my Savior.
However, I would never suggest that you have to pray as I do in order to receive prayer answers from God or to experience Him. However, this tends to be what a wide variety of mystics claim – that if you don’t use their techniques, you will miss out on the blessings of God.
Implicit in this insistence is the denial of the sufficiency of Scripture:
- All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Tim. 3:16-17)
In many ways, Scripture informs us that God has given us all of the counsel we need to be “thoroughly equipped for every good work.” However, the mystics, in claiming that we require their techniques, deny this truth.
However, the LD practitioner would object:
- This isn’t a matter of promoting our techniques but rather the teachings of Scripture.
Perhaps I’m being a bit picky here. While Scripture does require meditation on Scripture (Psalm 1), it does not seem that Scripture requires LD meditation. In this regard Wikipedia claims:
- When the passage is read, it is generally advised not to try to assign a meaning to it at first, but to wait for the action of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the mind, as the passage is pondered upon.
Although traditional Christians all acknowledge the vital role of the Spirit in illuminating Scripture (1 John 2:19-20, 23-27; 1 Cor. 2:14; 2 Cor. 3:14-18), non-mystics trust in this illumination and guidance apart from any practice of waiting, listening, sensing or silence.
However, this not what should cause any alarm or division. Rather, it’s LD’s insistence upon approaching Scripture apart from mental understanding. Can Scripture benefit apart from understanding? Not according to Paul! Even speaking in unknown supernatural tongues, if not accompanied by understanding, was useless for spiritual growth:
- Now, brothers, if I come to you speaking in tongues, how will I benefit you unless I bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching? (1 Corinthians 14:6)
Can the Spirit illuminate while the mind is trying grasp the meaning of a passage? There is a mistaken assumption that the Spirit cannot illuminate our minds while our minds are actively engaged in thought and prayer. However, in many ways, Scripture shows us that the Spirit is not sidelined by our thinking. Rather, He works in conjunction with our mental activity:
- Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2)
Knowing God’s will or leading is not a matter of turning our minds off but of transforming them. We therefore cannot separate the serious study of the Scriptures from the Spirit illuminating Scripture. They go together.