Lectio Divina (sacred reading): allowing God's words to

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rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have wanted to post on this a while now. Lectio Divina means 'sacred reading' in Latin. It is a spiritual discipline that I believe has been supressed by scholasticism. God's message in Scripture is dealing with concise specifics and we are to interpret it in such a way as it was originally written and originally read. But, 'lectio divina' is not strictly Bible interpretation. It is a spiritual discipline. It is feasting on every word of God. Lingering upon the sacred text. Allowing your heart to be tugged when it falls into the still, quiet, place of God's Spirit. It is meditation upon everything the Scripture brings to mind.

In a way, 'lectio divina' is very mystical. In a way, it resembles the communion of the Eucharist. Once we get the message of the text, it is not over. We meditate and gravitate over what we have read. We read and re-read until the very word of God is abiding in our hearts.

We allow the text to speak more than the message it was meant to contain. We allow this to apply to all things in us and in the world. We contemplate the great themes of the Fall and Redemption, and how this has played out in the history of our lives and in lives of our loved ones.

It is slow and prayerful reading. You can say it is [i:2a58aa8243]imaginative reading[/i:2a58aa8243]. It is listening to the majesy of God, and taking our hearts wherever his awe may lead us. St. Benedict spoke of listening with the "ear of our hearts." Can God be 'heard' today? Yes! We can hear him in creation and Scriptures. Silence and stillness causes the mind to drift away, here, it is drifting into the very hands of God.

'Lectio Divina' is an ancient art that doesn't see the Bible as a mere text book, but as direct communication with God. It is especially practiced by the Benedictine Monks. I think we could learn alot from them. It is amazing to read the Puritans and see this also practiced by them in a form. They didn't always treat the Scriptures the way alot do today. The Puritans often 'allegorized' from Scripture, not for its original meaning necessarily, but because the Scriptures are a good starting place for stories and ideas.

Certainly this is not our first task in Scripture. We must first be responsible exegetes. But this is a blessed result of God's communication to us. There is a very mystical aspect to our understanding of the Lord's Supper. When we come to God, there is also a very mystical aspect between our union with Christ. Jesus Christ is in the word. He is the word. We must feast upon the words revealed in Scripture.

I have been practicing 'lectio divina' for a couple months, by reading through the Psalms. Reading a Psalm a week, three times a day seems like a good rhythm. Spiritual rhythm and steadfastness is a great result. I have seen great increase in my spiritual life by pursuing this discipline. It has caused my heart to grow soft toward God. He is removing this stoney heart inch by inch.

Anyway, I thought I would like to share that. I suspect that there are many people who do not like some of my wording. If I get the charge that I am turning the spiritual life into anti-intellectualism, I will take it. However, this is the starting place for the profound theologian and intellectual mind. This is the great spiritual power of Apostle Paul and St. Augustine. I hope you will take it for what it is worth.

In Christ,
Paul

P.S. To satisfy the rationalists/scholastics, I have said that this is not Bible Interpretation, but sacred reading and meditation.
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
If the title "allowing God's words to speak" sounds a little fishy, I did it on purpose. We do not allow God to speak. He speaks anyway. But we must open the chamber of our hearts to receive his word. Of course he does this (opening our hearts) by his Spirit.

I said some things that appear a little over the edge: "We allow the text to speak more than the message it was meant to contain." But read the rest of the paragraph and listen to the spirit of what I am saying. Do not treat this post as some sort of logical framework of Scripture reading. It is simply the heart of God's saints througout the ages.

In Christ,
Paul

[Edited on 5-24-2004 by rembrandt]
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Paul - I would counsel against allegorizing the Scriptures. Bunyan is probably the best at this, but, he sis not allegorize the Scriptures, rather, AFTER meditating on the truth of the text, he created an entire allegory to explain the exegetical ideas contained in the text. That is different than allegorizing the text to say that Adam really does not mean it is a person, rather Adam is just a idea, or symbol. The Puritans did not engage in allegorizing, rather, they engaged in experimental Calvinism.


[quote:6382d03f09]
We allow the text to speak more than the message it was meant to contain.
[/quote:6382d03f09]

Even in your context, I would give this one a big "NO WAY." The Scripture holds a specific meaning in the text. If it does not, and we have license to "allegorize" then I can "jimmy fit" any text to mean just about anything I want it to mean. If you want a "classic" statement of puritan exegetical guidelines, then read William Perkin's "The Art of Prophesying." 1) Read the text and explain the exegesis of the text, 2) Pull out one or two doctrines from the text that the text teaches, and 3) Apply the text in practical application.

Let's change the idea of the Benedictine "mysticism" to "experimental Calvinism" which is a horse of a different color in many ways, and you have my vote.
 

Ianterrell

Puritan Board Sophomore
Yeah I used to actually consider myself something of a Christian mystic in my charismatic days. I used to practice what you described actually. I don't think it gives you any real spiritual power. Maybe it makes one [i:c17f34697e]feel[/i:c17f34697e] spiritual. But real spirituality is found in meditating on the right-minded applications of the text. This has little to do with being scholastic much less a rationalist. It has everything to do with keeping things grounded.
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:7fd55078da][i:7fd55078da]webmaster[/i:7fd55078da]
not allegorize the Scriptures, rather, AFTER meditating on the truth of the text, he created an entire allegory to explain the exegetical ideas contained in the text.[/quote:7fd55078da]

This is what I said:
[quote:7fd55078da]Certainly this is not our first task in Scripture. We must first be responsible exegetes.[/quote:7fd55078da]

"We allow the text to speak more than the message it was meant to contain." All I meant by that is that we take into account not only the precise meaning of the author in the context, but we also generalize after we have found the precise meaning. And again, I am NOT talking about interpretation, but meditation.

[quote:7fd55078da]That is different than allegorizing the text to say that Adam really does not mean it is a person, rather Adam is just a idea, or symbol.[/quote:7fd55078da]

That kind of allegorizing is not what I am talking about. I am not talking about coming up with symbolic meanings. I was thinking more in terms of homiletical application to various areas of our lives. I admit that the term 'allegory' is misleading.

[quote:7fd55078da]If it does not, and we have license to "allegorize" then I can "jimmy fit" any text to mean just about anything I want it to mean.[/quote:7fd55078da]

I am not talking about reading into the text. I am talking about meditating on the meaning of the text and applying it to all areas of life.

Certainly this is not the correct way to 'interpret' God's word. But I am not talking about interpretation. I am talking about pondering the manifold riches of a text and applying it to the whole Bible, our whole lives, and the whole world.

Rembrandt
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:91e266b680][i:91e266b680]Originally posted by Ianterrell[/i:91e266b680]
Yeah I used to actually consider myself something of a Christian mystic in my charismatic days. I used to practice what you described actually. I don't think it gives you any real spiritual power. Maybe it makes one [i:91e266b680]feel[/i:91e266b680] spiritual. But real spirituality is found in meditating on the right-minded applications of the text. This has little to do with being scholastic much less a rationalist. It has everything to do with keeping things grounded. [/quote:91e266b680]

Um, even in my rationalistic days, after I had departed from all charismatic mysticism, I still used terms like "soaring the heights of heaven." But I was (and still am) ONLY thinking of soaring the heights of heaven with our intellects. I think you missed my whole point. Meditating on the Majesty of God is where all true theology starts. In no way am I talking about being lost in some sort of 'spirit realm'. In all the things I described in my first post, it was all intellectual. When you dwell on the things of God, you don't feel like you are enraptured in the heights of heaven, just because of the sheer brevity of the 'thought of God'?

Real spiritual power? Um, you know I am talking about intellectual power? This first starts with a sence of Divine awe. Agustine's confessions are a perfect example of everything I talked about! The dense meditative spirit: that is the heart of the profound theologian!

It is grounded in our interpretation. But what from there? The pious mind is driven to meditation. Well, what does this look like?

Rembrandt
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:9f32a05542]If you want a "classic" statement of puritan exegetical guidelines, then read William Perkin's "The Art of Prophesying." 1) Read the text and explain the exegesis of the text, 2) Pull out one or two doctrines from the text that the text teaches, and 3) Apply the text in practical application.[/quote:9f32a05542]

I will.

It really seems that "Reformed" is a matter of being so cautious that we don't enter anyone else's theological domain because it is mistaken. Well, there are great truths in all religions. I am being serious here! I mean, they all borrow from our worldview. Islam holds to the truth that there is only one God. They have the wrong God, but they are correct, right? Postmoderns believe that all thoughts are filtered by our interpretations. They are correct in that respect. Hinduism believes that the world is more than a material reality. They are correct in that respect. The majority of Proverbs in the Bible were taking from Pagan religions. 'Reformed' ecclesiology is based on Rome's example, except only reformed. There are aspects of early Christianity that are not entirely right, but they are correct in some respects.

These ideas (in first post) are thoroughly Catholic. I will admit that. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Could the Puritans be a more accurate example of piety? Possibly. But they could also lack some aspects that are very much needed...

Rembrandt
 

Ianterrell

Puritan Board Sophomore
Rembrandt,

I find that in many places your clarifications don't sound like the material you are defending in your original posts. It seems like the ideas you describe in your response to my post are a lot tamer then the words in your original post suggest. I don't think the mystics that I read meant the same things you read. No Christian would think it a new novel idea to meditate on scripture. I can't think of many theologians who don't talk about the subject at least in passing.

:gpl:
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:a7daf4aade]No Christian would think it a new novel idea to meditate on scripture. I can't think of many theologians who don't talk about the subject at least in passing.[/quote:a7daf4aade]

Who said that it is a novel idea to mediate on Scripture? All I said is that the practice of [i:a7daf4aade]lectio divina[/i:a7daf4aade] has virtually ceased. If you understood lectio divina you would see that this is far different than the contemporary meditation.

[quote:a7daf4aade]I find that in many places your clarifications don't sound like the material you are defending in your original posts. It seems like the ideas you describe in your response to my post are a lot tamer then the words in your original post suggest.[/quote:a7daf4aade]

Uh, no, sorry. The problem is that you assume that I have no idea about what I am talking about unless I write it down. This is clear evidence that you do not understand [i:a7daf4aade]lectio divina[/i:a7daf4aade]. [b:a7daf4aade]Even the word itself is an intellectual word[/b:a7daf4aade]. I thought that I wouldn't have to start out talking about the correct mode of bible interpretation and the role of the intellect in the spiritual life. You started out reading my first post with the idea that I didn't take these things into account.

Everything in my first post, were very strong words to describe the powers of the intellect in reaching to the attainment of the 'thought of God'. I think you need to read "Habits of the Mind" by 'James Sire' to see what I am talking about. Also, the Catholic intellectual, John Henry Newman, who many Protestants adore.

Its all in your interpretation of what I said. It could be read differently depending on your assumptions.

Rembrandt

[Edited on 5-24-2004 by rembrandt]

[Edited on 5-24-2004 by rembrandt]
 

Ianterrell

Puritan Board Sophomore
Rembrandt,

I strongly disagree with your conclusions about my post. Both the communicator and the receiver have a responsibility in a dialogue. And please don't take these objections personally.
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
[quote:1062f974ab]Both the communicator and the receiver have a responsibility in a dialogue.[/quote:1062f974ab]

What exactly are you talking about here?
 

rembrandt

Puritan Board Sophomore
Ah, okay. I realize I can be very unclear at times. I assume too often that everybody knows what I am talking about.

Rembrandt
 

PastorKevin

Inactive User
May I interject a question at this point of a conversation that ceased a few months ago?

I just spent a week at a Pastor's Retreat Center for a time of quiet rest in the presence of the Lord. It was mostly "self-directed" (I didn't have a "teacher" but just some notes to guide my thinking). It was a practice of lectio divina, which I had only heard of minimumally, but never investigated or practiced. I found it quite beneficial and a gentle, humbling balance to my more sinful tendency to "Let's read through this Bible in the next three months so I can do it again and keep checking it off my list of things to do"

I'm terribly uncomfortable with using my imagination to interpret the Scripture. I believe that's led to some serious problems in the past and even now in the present.

Now to my question: What would any of the Puritans have said or called the new "trend" in regard to "Spiritual Formation"? There are many books being written on this subject, there's a new Spiritual Formation Bible (should that surprise any of us!) and the lines of evangelical and "mainline" are being blurred in the writing and practicing of this set of disciplines. Any thoughts, suggestions, help out there?

Thanks,

Kevin
 
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