In September 2005, Pope Benedict XVI stated:
"I would like in particular to recall and recommend the ancient tradition of Lectio divina: the diligent reading of Sacred Scripture accompanied by prayer brings about that intimate dialogue in which the person reading hears God who is speaking, and in praying, responds to him with trusting openness of heart (cf. Dei Verbum, n. 25). If it is effectively promoted, this practice will bring to the Church - I am convinced of it - a new spiritual springtime." (Online source)
Ok, so let me understand this. We (Christians) are receiving advice from Catholics to experience God's presence? Or are we just including Catholic and other religion's practices into our personal lives to be more... (how do they say this?)... "Relevant"?
Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan and rock-star of in the Emergent movement is now openly promoting the use of the so-called spiritual practice of Lectio Divina. You can download a pdf document that explains this practice directly from the Mars Hill Church Web-site.
Many people would argue that this practice is a powerful ways of connecting with God and growing in Christ. We want to challenge that notion by simply applying some Biblical and critical thinking.
According to Rob Bell's explanation of the Lectio Divina"
Lectio Divina is an ancient spiritual practice from the Christian monastic tradition. In Lectio Divina, we seek to experience the presence of God through reading and listening, prayer, meditation and contemplation. (Emphasis Added)
Wow!! It is VERY BOLD to make the claim that by practicing Lectio Divina one can 'experience God's presence'! Remember we are dealing with the God who not only made the universe, He also destroyed the Earth via a flood, destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah via fire from heaven, practically wiped out Egypt via plagues, thundered from Mt. Sinai as Israel received the 10 commandment and is the very same God that we will all have to stand before on judgement day. If you are going to make the claim that someone can 'experience God's presence' then you had better be sure that you've got your facts straight because God doesn't turn a blind eye to false man-made religious practices. In fact, God promises to judge them.
So, How does Lectio Divina work? According to Rob Bell:
Begin by choosing a section of scripture that you would like to read and pray. You can choose the text randomly or use a liturgical book like the Book of Common Prayer. Try not to set a goal for how much content you will cover. The goal is to listen for God and experience his presence.
Preparation - Next, do what you must to quiet and prepare yourself to hear from God. If you need to find a quiet room, or sit in silence for several minutes, or sit in a comfortable chair, take whatever posture will help you prepare to receive and experience God's presence.
Reading/Listening - When you sense that your heart is prepared, begin by slowly reading the passage of scripture that you have selected. Don't move quickly through any sentence or phrase. As you read, pay attention to what word or phrase or idea catches your attention.
Meditation - Next, begin to meditate on the word, phrase, or idea that captured your attention. Repeat it again and again. What thoughts come to mind as you meditate on this word, phrase or idea? What are you reminded of in your life? What does it make you hope for?
Prayer Now begin to speak to God. Tell God what word, phrase or idea captured your attention and what came to mind as you meditated upon it. How is God using this word, phrase or idea to bless and transform you? Tell God what you have been thinking and feeling as you've listened and meditated. Tell God how you hope this word, phrase or idea will change your heart to be more like his.
We have some very simple and basic questions we'd want to ask Rob Bell or any other Emergent leader promoting this so-called spiritual practice.
1. Can you provide us with even one example from the Bible of people who practiced Lectio Divina?
The answer to this question would be a resounding no.
2. Can you provide us with a single passage of scripture that promises that we can "experience the presence of God" through the use of this or similar practices?
Again the answer would be "NO"! God no where sanctions this practice nor promises that people can 'experience His presence' through such practices.
3. What type of hubris and arrogance does it take to for a person to believe that they can experience God's presence through whatever methods they choose to concoct or practice?
The answer is simple. The Creator of the Universe has no where promised anyone that they can 'experience His presence' through such man-made monastic methods. Therefore, it is pure arrogance and folly to believe that God would allow you to experience His presence through any such methods including Lectio Divina, Peyote, or dancing around oak trees naked while waving chicken feathers.
If you actually read your Bible rather than randomly picked texts in order to find words or phrases to meditate on you'd learn that it is no small thing to experience God's presence. Here's what happened to the prophet Isaiah when he experienced God's presence.
Isaiah 6:1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" 4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: "Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!"
Marty Python's Flying Circus Church has just finished a satirical radio sketch on Rob Bell's Lectio Divina that utterly decimates the absurdity of this so-called spiritual practice. Click Here to Listen