Friday, April 25, 2008

Please Explain...

Can someone please explain to me "The Ancient Art of Lectio Divina"?

I read about it again in CT today. I have heard more and more people in the evangelical tradition suggest that it is a valid way to know God and to hear from God in the Scripture.

But it is totally lost on me...

Can someone out there please help me?

Pic on Flickr by Depone.


Seumas Macdonald said...

no doubt someone more learnéd will wander past and explain it better shortly. In brief: a method of reading scripture meditatively, usually involving reading small segments, and slowing down and re-reading many times an even smaller text if it seems to catch your mind.

Scott said...

the way seumas explained it, sounds good!

but when i read the link - I groaned. It's the 'small still voice' in a fancy monastic wrapper. Like shooting fish in a barrel.

Anonymous said...

Hey Justin,
I just picked up the devotional based on "The Message" called "SOLO". It uses the Lectio Divina method...

I don't know yet what to think of it. My protestant upbringing has me using it with caution, although I do hope it is useful/faithful.

However, the style seems to focus to much on how a particular text makes you "feel" and draws straight applications to the reader, which goes against my instincts after being brainwashed by Goldsworthy books!

On the upside, however, it is helping my avoid my natural tendency to read a text "mechanically", that is, to ask questions in a very "academic", "exegetical" sort of way. It presses onto the reader the need to actually listen to what the text says to "you". But its tricky. I haven't made up my mind yet.

Martin said...

Lectio divina should not be the single way to study the scripture, but it has its benefits. It is as much a time of prayer as it is a time of Bible reading. I've often found it difficult to respond to God in prayer WHILE I'm reading scripture; lectio divina offers a structure for it.

I can see the danger in it: a big part of lectio divina is choosing a word or phrase that jumps out at you, and then just meditating on that word or phrase. There's a risk there that you'll rip the word or phrase out of context, and then impose your own ideas on it, and then take those ideas as God's word to you.

So you certainly have to be cautious. No one should expect to discover profound theological truths as a result of lectio divina; that's not the point.

But remember, you are coming to God in prayer and listening for his voice in his scripture. It is a helpful prayer exercise and can occasionally give you good insights into the Bible.

Martin T.

Justin said...

On the upside, however, it is helping my avoid my natural tendency to read a text "mechanically", that is, to ask questions in a very "academic", "exegetical" sort of way.

Sam -- thanks for the insights. But why not just repent of reading it 'mechanically', or merely 'academically'? That's a sin of the heart, as Jesus alludes to.

So when the Bible says: "Love an another, as I have loved you", you can take that apart academically, and exegetically, and have it mean nothing.

The alternative is to start loving as Jesus loved. The words themselves there on your page are the Spirit's voice. Why would you need something other than the Spirit's words (there in the text) to determine what the text says to "you".

I know what the Spirit has to say to you: "Love like Jesus loves". That's not mechanical. It is profoundly spiritual.

Come back at me...

But remember, you are coming to God in prayer and listening for his voice in his scripture. It is a helpful prayer exercise and can occasionally give you good insights into the Bible.

Martin, I appreciate the comments you have made about the benefits as well as the limitations of this 'art'. The limitations help me to see what you are getting at.

But still, I'm thinking something similar to Sam. His voice is already there to read. You listen to him by reading the words.

Let me be clear -- I believe wholeheartedly in the discipline of meditating on the words of God: Chewing, pondering, discussing, internalizing, thinking, mulling over etc etc. But I percieve in Lectio Divina something different to this very important discipline.

Justin said...

I perceive a different expectation...

Seumas Macdonald said...

I think your last comment nails it exactly, lectio divina as it is now 'marketed' (and it surely is), gives an expectation that scripture will speak to you, or better yet God will speak to you as you read scripture in a way that seems to be separate from the reading of scripture. It sets up an experiential expectation.

I do think Sam has a point though. Things that become familiar to us lose their impact. My wife works in webpage design, and talks about 'banner blindness' - we mentally refuse to look at our take-in internet advertisement. Likewise, when I read a theological text, I am inclined to skim over the scriptural quotations. Even when reading a portion of scripture, my mind's familiarity can halt the input.

Whether one calls it 'lectio divina' or not, a forced slowed repetitive reading of scripture can help defamiliarise it in a way that may allow you to read it afresh, anew, insightfully, without necessarily expecting some extra-textual experience.

Anonymous said...

I've had to sit through some instruction on the use of Lectio Divina in my ordination training. The way it was explained here in Perth was similar to to what has already been explained above - slow reading of small parts of scripture repeatedly. Eventually one word - sometimes small phrase will stick in your head. You are then to repeat that word and ask questions using it. eg the may be gift. What am I being given? what am I giving someone? who is a gift?
The result is that you listen to God when the Holy Spirit applies this word or phrase to your heart and respond by praying to God.

Unfortunately, this process leaves the context of the word or phrase behind completely. That word loses all its original meaning as words only have meaning in context. There is no reason why you couldn't do exactly the same process with a newspaper article or even Mein Kampf. It is the single word that is the object of meditation so it is ultimately irrelevant where it comes from.

THere is great benefit to slowing down and reading the text with great attentiveness multiple times. It is important to become familiar with the vibe of the passage. But to choose one word or short phrase and give it a life of its own is to remove it from the flow of the very reason it was included by the writer.

I was not a fan.

Scott Rowland

Anonymous said...

Hey Justin,

I shouldn't have used the term "exegesis", as Exegesis is never "bad", really, i of itself. And as Scott Rowland has said, its a techniqie that tends to leave the context aside.

However, the "SOLO" book DOES get into the context, and actually give you a general idea of what's going on around the passage. What it does do, is go from there to trying to "connect" the passage in different ways to your experience, getting you to medidate and think of applying a particular aspect, phrase or theme of the passage.

The technique has its problems, but I think if its used along with careful exegesis of the passage and a knowledge of whats going on a grander scale, it helps.

Asd for repenting from what you're doing wrong, I wholeheartedly agree! But I can repent from Lust and still continue to have lustful feelings. One also has to learn to develope new habit that counteract old sinful habits. I'm hoping that Lectio Divina will help in pointing in the right direction, albiet with qualifications.

I'd never sugest Lectio Divina as an alternative to Biblical Theology, or historic/grammatical Bible study, but rather as a smaller tool to work with within the larger framework of biblical studies, and linked to devotion, more than "pure" theology/praxis.

Justin said...

Sam I am. Good man. Let me know how it goes.

Justin said...

Scott. No way. How goes it? Are you on Facebook?