Several mystical practices have been making their way into the more conservative quarters of the faith. One has been contemplative prayer, or centering prayer. Another practice that crept in from the mystical religions was Lectio Divina.
First, what do we mean by ‘mysticism’? GotQuestions looks at the blending of the faith with mystical practices, called Christian Mysticism:
The term “Christian mystic” is an oxymoron. Mysticism is not the experience of a Christian. Whereas Christian doctrine maintains that God dwells in all Christians and that they can experience God directly through belief in Jesus, Christian mysticism aspires to apprehend spiritual truths inaccessible through intellectual means
Any practice that urges the adherent to avoid the intellect is not to be trusted. Christianity is a religion of the mind. I can’t stress this fact strongly enough. It is a thinking religion.
Paul said in Romans 12:2, Be transformed by the renewing of your mind, not by ‘the subjective impulses of the heart’.
Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 2:16, ‘we have the mind of Christ’, not that ‘some have the mind of Christ and if you adopt their mystical practices you, too, can know truth‘.
We read in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6,
For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.
See? We destroy mind-strongholds, we take thoughts captive, destroy base opinions, and seek knowledge. This is all about the mind.
So the first thing mystical, anti-Christian practices will do is the opposite of what the Bible tells us. The teachers of such practices will tell you to clear you mind, empty your mind, or not to rely on the mind.
A second thought to introduce this review. I am doing a follow-up on the not-new-news of Lectio Divina because of the way satan works. He will creep in, and introduce extra-biblical practices antithetical to our growth. These will be discovered sooner or later, and there will be an outcry. Then the outcry will die down. What the outcry does is two-fold, only one of which is actually helpful to us.
First, an outcry against anti-biblical practices raises the alarm and lets the faithful know an intrusion is underway. Such an outcry occurred at the 2012 Passion Conference when several leading members of the faith taught 60,000 youths a version of Lectio Divina and called on them to stand still, be quiet, and listen actively for a response. That rightly caused an outcry. More on that in a moment.
But secondly and sadly, not everyone is as vigilant a Christian soldier as they should be. The outcry serves to allow the terms of the false practices become familiar to us. We actually get used to the terms, like ‘contemplative prayer,’ or ‘Lectio divina’ or ‘impression on my heart’ and once used to the terms, without vigilance and knowledge, we accept them. We become inured to them, which means, “to accustom to accept something undesirable.” We’ve heard the terms, but without constant reminder and instruction against them, a new person to the fray might think they are acceptable practices, simply on the basis of their familiarity with the terms but not the content.
Lectio Divina is a Catholic practice. It is supposedly something innocuous-sounding, it’s just ‘praying with scripture.’ Lectio Divina actually teaches you to listen with your heart, not your mind. It teaches you to experience the text, not to understand the text.
In researching this essay I’d gone back to ground zero of Lectio Divina in its original intrusion into the evangelical faith. In 2012, three of then-Christendom’s most popular leaders taught and practiced Lectio Divina at the Passion conference with 60,000 youths in attendance. John Piper, Beth Moore, Francis Chan, and one or two others on stage led the youths in attendance through a lectio practice.
Subsequently, there was an outcry. What were these respected teachers doing at an evangelical conference showing youths how to do a Catholic mystical practice? Todd Friel of Wretched Radio did a spot answering these and other questions the incident raised, and thoroughly explained the pitfalls of Lectio Divina.
Essentially, the difference between proper study and the Lectio mystical way of study is that the evangelical student studies the text using proper cognitive methods, the Lectio student attempts to experience the text. Here’s John MacArthur on Lectio Divina and other mystical practices, When Study Isn’t Study
For many leaders in the spiritual formation movement, Bible study doesn’t really involve study at all. Instead, it’s an attempt to experience the text.
Many spiritual formation gurus advocate various meditative Bible-reading methods, most of them adapted from a Catholic Church practice called lectio divina. Regardless of the name they apply to it, the pattern is usually the same—slow, methodical, repetitive reading, with an eye toward words and phrases that pop out to the individual reader. It’s through those individual words and phrases, we’re told, that the Lord speaks directly to us.
Bible study, then, is not a question of digging deep into God’s Word but letting your imagination and intuition guide your own personal understanding of the text.
Dear sisters, avoid Lectio Divina and other mystical practices. As was said earlier today on Twitter,
Scripture never commands us to tune into any inner voice. We’re commanded to study and meditate on Scripture.
A teacher or leader may be teaching you Lectio Divina without calling it that. Here’s GotQuestions explaining it, so you’ll know if it appears in your lessons, Sunday School, book you’re reading, conference, etc.
Heroes of the faith that sadly allowed themselves to be led by subjective promptings AKA ‘woeful delusions’ and fancies:
When Fancy Is Mistaken for Faith
So how are we to determine God’s will, since indeed the Spirit does lead us?
Subjectivity and the Will of God