Before becoming a Christian, Marcia Montenegro was a former professional (certified) astrologer and New Age Spiritualist, involved for many years in Eastern spiritual beliefs (Hindu and Buddhist), New Age, and Occult practices. Marcia now has a Master’s degree from Southern Evangelical Seminary, and is a writer for Midwest Christian Outreach. You can find this articles on Marcia’s “Christian Answers for the New Age” Facebook page, as well as on her website with the same name (click here). Video resources are added below; however, these resources were not a part of Marcia’s article.
Lectio Divina is part of the new Contemplative Spirituality that is spilling into the church. It can be defined and practiced in different ways, and often is called “praying the Scriptures.” Normally how it is practiced now is done with the goal of hearing from God directly and/or with the goal of using the words of Scripture to mystically experience something.
Using the words to get an extra-biblical revelation is a supreme irony considering that the words are God’s revelation given to us in and of themselves! Using God’s words to get unrevealed words is a head-scratcher. Words are not mystical in nature; they are vehicles of meaning.
🔹 Lectio Divina as “Ancient”
Here is a description from a pro-Lectio Divina site:
“Lectio Divina, literally meaning “divine reading,” is an ancient practice of praying the Scriptures. During Lectio Divina, the practitioner listens to the text of the Bible with the “ear of the heart,” as if he or she is in conversation with God, and God is suggesting the topics for discussion. The method of Lectio Divina includes moments of reading (lectio), reflecting on (meditatio), responding to (oratio) and resting in (contemplatio) the Word of God with the aim of nourishing and deepening one’s relationship with the Divine.
Like Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina cultivates contemplative prayer.
Unlike Centering Prayer, Lectio Divina is a participatory, active practice that uses thoughts, images and insights to enter into a conversation with God. Lectio Divina also is distinguished from reading the Bible for edification or encouragement, Bible study, and praying the scriptures in common, which are all useful but separate practices.” — From Contemplative Outreach
CANA: Lectia Divina’s claim to be “ancient” is a fallacious appeal to the idea that if it is “ancient,” it must be valid or it must be Christian.
However, there is no need for LD (Lectio Divina) if one is reading and studying scriptures in the normal way. LD contends that reading God’s word rationally in order to learn and understand it is insufficient and even inferior to experiencing subjective meanings of scripture through contemplative techniques. Reading the text with a mystical approach supposedly brings one closer to God.
Yet language is based on logic and reason; it could not exist apart from reason. Advocating going beyond a rational understanding of words uses reason to assert this, making it self-refuting! Click here for source (apparently it has been removed).
🔹 Thomas Keating
Thomas Keating in the video at the link above asserts that LD “moves you from a kind of awkward acquaintanceship with God to ever deepening levels of friendship, commitment, and experience and beyond experience…” preparing us for the “Divine Presence.”
He emphasizes experience and conversation/communion with God and states that this is the goal of LD. He also talks about the levels and the spiritual levels in a very esoteric way, without giving any basis for these ideas. He has a chart showing the levels and talks of “resting.” Listening to this video (about an hour long) takes you into layers and layers of esoteric mumbo-jumbo.
If you doubt this, I challenge you to listen to the first 30 minutes of his lecture, especially minutes 20 to 30 when he speaks of the “levels” and “tilting levels” up to God.
Benefits of reading and studying Scripture are to get the message and meaning in the content, not to get a message by trying to experience or go “beyond” anything. God gave us words for a reason, because he wired us with language in order to receive his communication.
Keating refers to “rest.” I do not think Keating understood the biblical meaning of “rest.” It is not about being quiet or still or mystically moving towards a union with God as Keating seemed to think. Rest is the rest from work offered by Jesus when we have faith in him as the Savior who paid the penalty for sins (see Matthew 11:28-30).
Hebrews chapter 4 talks about the rest one has in Christ that remains for those who have trusted in Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament Sabbath, which was a rest from labor and prefigured the rest offered by Jesus. This is why there is no command in the New Testament for the Sabbath; it was fulfilled in Christ (and the Sabbath was part of a covenant with the Jews). Resting in Christ is trusting in what he did on the cross, not our own efforts, and knowing one’s eternal life is in his hands.
The letter to the Hebrews is urging the Jewish believers to enter that rest and not go back to the now useless rituals of their past. There is no other rest like this and those who are in Christ have this perpetual rest starting on earth.
This biblical rest has nothing to do with the rest Keating discussed as part of a technique nor is it related to stillness. This is one of the key errors of Contemplative Prayer: the idea that being physically still and quiet brings us closer to God. It is a pagan belief based on our efforts and a physical condition, neither of which accomplishes anything in terms of relating to or resting in God.
🔹 “Be Still?”
Below is an excerpt from the CANA article on the Be Still DVD.
“Lectio Divina, described by Foster as “spiritual reading” of the Bible, has its own section on Be Still. Lectio Divina, meaning a “sacred reading,” and sometimes called “praying the Scriptures,” is defined and practiced differently by various Christian groups. Although one source claims its origins are unknown, it allegedly was practiced by the “Desert Fathers” and in monasteries. One definition describes it as “a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures which enables the Bible, the Word of God, to become a means of union with God” …..The majority of teachings seem to involve choosing a Bible passage and reading it silently and very slowly several times; noticing a portion that speaks to you; repeating that portion aloud over and over but without thinking about it; and then “listening” for what God is saying through the text to you, often ending with a prayer……
It differs from regular Bible reading and study since Lectio Divina is not based on thinking about or analyzing Scripture in context, but rather uses Scripture to lead one into an Eastern-style meditation (i.e., a state achieved by bypassing or turning off the mind). In recent years, forms of Lectio Divina have become increasingly linked and promoted with Contemplative Prayer as part of a larger “Contemplative Spirituality.”
The method taught here appears to use God’s word as a mystical and subjective tool rather than reading the Bible as the objective word of God, letting the text speak for itself, and then allowing the personal application to flow from that. The Holy Spirit aids Christians as we read and study the Bible in the normal fashion; that is, we can derive both comprehension of the words and at the same time experience God’s presence without practicing a technique. We should not be looking for personal messages in the Bible, but rather personal applications of the message. In teaching that one must read the Bible in a distinctive way in order to get a personal message from the text, Be Still makes a false dichotomy between head and heart, a mistake common in this DVD.” — From CANA article on the Be Still DVD, “Ode to Silence,” click here.
CANA article on Thomas Keating lecture which I attended and wrote up, click here.
After instructing everyone on choosing a “sacred symbol,” which, he told us, could be any word we like (Jesus, peace, stillness, calm, etc.), Keating told us that if a thought came into our minds, we were to return to this word. The goal was to get to a state of no-thinking and to get beyond any perceptions, bodily sensations, or purposes. He also said this should be done at least 20 minutes twice each day, and one should gradually do it for longer periods of time.3
The instructions given by Keating for doing this CP (CP is for Centering or Contemplative Prayer) are almost identical to what I was taught for Buddhist meditation, minus the “sacred symbol” or “sacred word.” However, the idea that one has a word to return to in order to get away from thinking is part of most forms of Hindu meditation, including Transcendental Meditation. This word is called a mantra. It is not always used as a mere repetition, but as a way to get into a no-thinking state. This is a form of self-induced hypnosis. — From article
For more on Contemplative Prayer, please click here to read CANA’s article.
CANA’S article pertaining to the Be Still CD: click here.