Tim Challies was at it again this week, this time bashing a centuries-old Bible study and meditation practice called Lectio Divina which enjoyed a bit of a resurgence a decade ago as post moderns and millennial searched for practices that could comprise an “ancient-future” approach to Christian life.
His attack on a Spirit-led consideration of the text really undermines the Pentecostal approach to sermon preparation and study and is reminiscent of John MacArthur’s recent attacks on that movement. He finds the methodology subjective, but realistically, every commentary you’ve ever read is going to be somewhat subjective, both in terms of what it says and also in terms of what it includes or leaves out.
But you don’t have to be Pentecostal to use this method; everyone who prayerfully tries to let the text speak to them is going to be embracing this at some level; furthermore, if you discard this you are one baby step away from discarding the inductive Bible study method taught by Kay Arthur (and others) and the idea of praying the scriptures which many find useful.
Fortunately, Mark Moore has written an excellent rebuttal. I want to encourage you to read all of it, but since some don’t click through, here are some highlights:
- I approached studying for a sermon series like I was studying for a dissertation defense at Oxford. I would read dozens of commentaries, monographs, journal articles, and just about anything else I could get my hands on…Yep, for the most part it was overkill. I dissected a book until I felt that I knew it inside and out
- …When I approach the text in order to be formed by it, rather than simply informed by it, I am submitting myself to the text–the opposite of mastering it…
- As I continue reading, I’m paying attention to where I feel apprehended by the text. I’m trusting that the Holy Spirit knows me well and wants to speak to me and wants to form me into the image of Jesus.
- Lectio divina is dangerous. There is a dangerous risk to your comfort when you begin submitting to Scripture rather than trying to master it.
This study method has four components and you’ll need to click through to see them explained, but here they are:
- Lectio (Reading)
- Meditatio (Meditation)
- Oratio (Prayer)
- Contemplatio (Contemplation)
If the use of Latin seems too Catholic for you, or the whole thing appears to be too far removed from your experience or how your church teaches devotional Bible study, may I remind you that if you had never heard the ACTS outline for prayer (Acknowledge, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) it would probably seem strange too.
At the end of the day, Challies’ is simply hyper-critical of anything that is outside of his spiritual life experience. “That’s not how we do it;” morphs into “That’s not how it should be done.” He is literally terrified of that which does not fit into his boxes. Unfortunately, he has a huge readership, many of whom would never question the various manifestations of the Christian world he condemns, especially considering the fear mentality that plagues much of the Church.
But so much of scripture — so much of God for that matter — is mystery. The Jews regarded the scripture as a multifaceted jewel; each reflection and refraction and each turning of the object revealed something never before seen.
That experience of the word is, I am afraid, is alwaysgoing to be somewhat subjective.