Lectio divina (pronounced “lec-tsee-oh di-vee-nah”) is gaining popularity coupled with contemplative spirituality, as seminaries are teaching the practice to budding pastors for a number of years now. Many new books are being published and an increasing number of evangelical/Protestant figures are writing about it, endorsing it, and teaching it.

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ID:	100In summary, lectio is a method of reading the Bible designed to feed the soul with minimum use of, or impact on, the mind. It was created by Catholic monks for those living in the monastic system and used almost exclusively within the monastic system for centuries. It is never taught, alluded to or modeled by anyone in Scripture and lost favor even among Catholics at the latter stages of the Middle Ages, until the 1970's.

This ancient practice stems from the Christian monastic tradition of the Benedictine monastics and oblates. The principles of lectio divina were expressed around the year 220 and later practiced by Catholic monks, especially the monastic rules of Saint Pachomius, Augustine, Basil, and Benedict. The practice is upheld by Catholics and Gnostics, and is gaining acceptance as an integral part of the devotional practices of the Emerging Church in Protestant circles.

“Spiritual formation” is a term used commonly by those of the Emergent or Progressive church, and it is distinguished from biblical discipleship primarily by its source of authority and its methodology. Discipleship as defined by the Bible turns to the Word of God as the final and ultimate authority over all matters of life and godliness. Meaning, if one truly desires to be a follower of Jesus Christ, he will turn to the inspired Scriptures to determine both truth and how to “observe all that I [Christ] commanded you” (Matt 28:20). Spiritual formation treats Scripture as a special doorway, as the true source behind the movement is the extra-biblical teachings and experiences of those in the past that supposedly have discovered the “secret” of deeper intimacy with God.

While Scripture is referenced by spiritual formation leaders, it is Scripture filtered through the experiences and insights of the “spiritual masters,” as they are often called, that set the pace in spiritual formation. Teachers today declare that some past saints have discovered “certain spiritual practices were highly effective in nurturing the inner man. These practices are usually called “spiritual disciplines” and are the supposed means by which we become more like Christ. There are dozens of these disciplines, drawn almost entirely from mystics and contemplatives throughout church history, which are being expressed as essential to our spiritual life. By means of spiritual formation advocates, we are told that if our lives are to be truly reformed by the Bible we must turn to an ancient technique, those never taught in the Word itself. This leads us into the subject of lectio divina.

"Lectio Divina", a Latin term, means "divine reading" and describes a way of reading the Scriptures whereby the participant gradually lets go of their own thoughts and opens ourselves to what God wants to say to us from our inward spirit, providing person spiritual insights. Lectio is also said to be adaptable for people of other faiths in reading their scripture—whether that be the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, or the Koran. Non-Christians may simply make personal modifications of the method to accommodate secular traditions. Through the efforts of teachers such as Richard Foster, John Calvin, Richard Baxter and a host of others, has lectio gained a foothold among Protestants.

Lectio’s modern attractiveness in the West stems from recent departures within the fields of philosophy and theology from literal, didactic thinking in combination with a resurgence of imagination and experience-based epistemologies, where the emotions become the guide. In fact lectio has little to do with the knowledge of Scripture. The participant is not using Scripture to grow in the knowledge and wisdom of the Lord, but to experience the presence of your Lord through the intuitive senses. Lectio is viewed as a means of hearing the voice of God in experiential, non-cognitive ways, so that in an inexplicable essence of God speaks to our hearts rather than our minds.

It is described by adherents as a slow, contemplative praying of the Scriptures. Time set aside in a special way for lectio divina enables practitioners to discover in their daily life an underlying spiritual rhythm. Within this rhythm, they are said to discover an increasing ability to offer more of ourselves and our relationship to God. With this methodology, a mantra-like word or phrase that has been chosen from a passage of Scripture, which, according to contemplatives, if repeated for several minutes will help you release thoughts and distractions, so that you can purportedly hear the voice of God and feel His presence.

Naturally, the connection between Bible reading and prayer is one to be encouraged; they should always go together in concert. However, the dangers inherent in this kind of practice, and its clear similarity to transcendental meditation and other pagan rituals, should be carefully understood. It enviably becomes a pursuit of mystical experience where the goal is to free the mind and empower oneself. The Christian should use the Scriptures to pursue the knowledge of God, wisdom, and holiness through the objective meaning of the text with the aim of transforming the mind according to truth. Those who take a mystical approach to the text tend to disconnect it from its context and natural meaning and use it in a subjective, individualistic, experiential way for which Scripture was never intended to be interpreted.

Lectio divina and Gnosticism share a similarity, where Gnosticism is the belief that one must have a "gnosis" (from Greek Gnosko, "to know") or mystical, inner knowledge obtained only after one has been properly initiated. Only a few can possess this mystical knowledge. Naturally, the idea of having special knowledge is very appealing and makes the “knower” feel important and unique in that he/she has a special experience with God that no one else has. The “knower” understands that the majority of others are not in possession of spiritual knowledge and only the truly “enlightened” can experience this special approach of God.

Lectio divina is the counterpart to contemplative prayer within spiritual formation. As contemplative prayer is a mystical, non-cognitive method of prayer which has as its goal a mystical union with God, so lectio uses the same approach with the same goal in regard to Scripture. Lectio is essentially the reintroduction of contemplative, or centering, prayer—a meditative practice that focuses 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 support from Scripture, although the contemplative prayers do use the Bible as a starting point, as do many religious cults.

Former New Ager Ray Yungen delineated the errors in his book A Time of Departing, "Keeping the mind riveted on only one thought is unnatural and adverse to true reflection and prayer. The goal of prayer should not be to bind the mind with a word or phrase in order to induce a mystical trance but rather to use the mind to glory in the grace of God. This was the apostle Paul’s counsel to the various churches: ‘Study to shew thyself approved’ (II Tim. 2:15) and ‘we pray always’ (II Thessalonians 1:11) as in talking to God with both heart and mind."

The dangers inherent in opening our minds and listening for voices should be obvious to a discerning Christian. The contemplative practitioner is 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 demonic influences into their minds. Satan and his cohorts always seek vulnerabilities into the minds, and to open our minds in such ways is to invite infestations.

The sufficiency of Scripture is a challenged with the practice of lectio divina. Where the Bible states that it is all we need to live the Christian life (2 Timothy 3:16), lectio’s adherents bypass this. Those who practice “conversational” prayers, seeking a special revelation from God, are asking Him to expand upon what He has already revealed to mankind through the sufficiency of 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.”

In order to understand the nature of contemplative spirituality and spiritual deception, it is important for us to understand how lectio divina plays a significant role in leading people toward unbiblical meditative practices derived from Eastern pagan religions. Spiritual formation leaders, however, do not find their teachings and practices in Scripture but in the writings of ancient mystics that have been revitalized by modern mystics. Biblical Christianity holds that the final authority for life, doctrine and experience is the Word of God, which we cherish and guard (2 Tim 3:16-17; Mark 7:6).

We can read from Scripture, as biblical academia has taught us for centuries, the Bible is the complete revelation of God for this age. Since the Bible is God’s complete and final revelation to mankind, it also repeatedly warns about those claiming to have other revelations from God. Paul warned we are not to believe anyone who brings another revelation, even if it was from an angel (Galatians 1:8-9). Do not let anyone deceive you otherwise with words of guile or cunning, such as the serpent was skilled. Those who practice these ancient spiritual conjures of divination to gain secret spiritual insights argue their personal revelations are not of another gospel but the same gospel, as did Lucifer insist likewise.

The apostle Peter said, “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). The apostle Paul confirmed, “The mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:4-5). The Lord revealed to his apostles and prophets in the first century “all things” giving them a complete revelation. The finality of God’s revelation by the Bible is seen in the instructions disciples are given to “give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” (Hebrews 2:1-4).