Is Lectio Divina and Mysticism The Future Of Nazarene Theology and Practice?

[Evidence: Lectio divina is promoted by Nazarene Publishing House and Barefoot Ministries.  Lectio divina is promoted by at least one theology professor at Nazarene Theological Seminary.  Lectio divina is part of at least one theology degree program at NTS.  It is also either part of a degree program, or it is promoted in many of the books and authors recommended as spiritual formation resources.  So the evidence is there.  I am planning a deeper study of all the components of these programs, but it's there.  Let's not pretend it does not exist.  Spiritual formation, aka contemplative spirituality is here, and every one of us will have to answer the question sooner or later: is it biblical or not?]

If any pastor preaches a sermon, it must always be assumed to be good and biblically solid, right?  If the professor at the university says something is okay, he must be right, right?  If a District Superintendent recommends The Shack as a great book for pastors to read, we should not question that, should we?  If a speaker comes to your Christian university or church, students should take for granted that he is biblically sound, right?  Why else would he have been invited in the first place?

In fact, does not the Bible teach us to never question our leaders, never question our pastors, no matter what they say?  I’ve been told that by several teachers.  Does not Matthew chapter 7 give us clear teaching that we should never, ever judge anything any leader, pastor, preacher, or church administrator say?  I do recall something about Bereans in the books of Acts, but perhaps someone can clear up what that passage means to us as Christians.  Must we accept at face value anything that is taught by a Sunday School teacher or a pastor, because if we challenge what he says, we are violating scripture?  “Touch not mine anointed” is what is often said, right?

So then… if the Nazarene Publishing House or our seminarypromotes it, it must be good, right?  I mean, after all, it is THE Nazarene Publishing House, which has put out new “solid” books such as the one titled 180.  Just read Pastor Peter Migner’s review of this book, or the review by Eric Barger of Take A Stand Ministries.  Once you read the reviews, you will have a good idea of the discernment at Nazarene Publishing House, or the lack thereof.

But I have a problem, which has been bugging me for a long time.  I’ve already posted several times on this issue, and what vexes me is that lectio divina is not as flat out blatant, in-your-face stuff like prayer labyrinths, which is why it is so dangerous.  It has that ability to fool many people that it is a biblically sound practice.  Such is what good deception is all about.  Satan does it very subtly, very cleverly, and with smooth words, as he did with Eve so long ago.

Doug Hardy, professor of religion at Nazarene Theological Seminary, gives much praise to the practice of lectio divina.  In his article, Lectio Divina: A Practice for Reconnecting to God’s Word, he explains lectio:

It means “sacred reading” of Scripture and its roots are with the Benedictines, a religious order founded by St. Benedict of Nursia in the sixth century c.e. It is still a vital presence throughout the world today. You may already be familiar with this classic Christian practice, or at least heard of it.

So here is at least one Nazarene theology professor (oh there are more) who is drawing on a Roman Catholic ritual that was invented by Benedictine monks in the sixth century.  So much for the Protestant Reformation.  So much for Luther’s theses nailed to the doors of the church, protesting the very rituals and man made practices that brought so many of us out of Rome and its false systems.  Now Nazarenes are borrowing from Roman Catholicism to help us “grow” as Christians, and where is the outcry?  And Professor Hardy calls it a “classic Christian practice.”  But is it a classic Biblical practice?  The answer is no, because you won’t find anything like this taught in the Bible, instead it’s origins are from man’s imagination, not God’s word.

Another quote:

As with all classic Christian practices that are “re-discovered” and “brought forward” for use in a contemporary context, lectio divina is not just another spiritual technology that can be easily learned and applied.

Was this practice lost, and if so, where was it when it was lost?  Again, it was not in the Bible.  And would God really make it so that whatever He wants us to learn, would be hard to “learn and apply?”  Is it really difficult for someone to learn how to pray, if they simply read what the Bible has to say about it?  Or do I need guidance by specialists in doing a new kind of method or ritual so that I can unlock the secrets of God’s word?  What about the Christian who has his Bible, but there is never anyone around to teach him this practice?  Is he losing out on personal spiritual growth, and therefore the sufficiency of scripture does not really hold true?

This practice like all the other contemplative practices, has in it the flavoring of Gnosticism, that idea that only a few have some special knowledge and special practices to get closer to God, but don’t worry, they will teach us.  It is dangerous, and can easily invite us and entrap us into other mystical practices that draw us away from focusing and relating directly with Christ, and instead brings us into a more closer relationship with ourselves in “how” we do something, and possibly with familiar spirits that are not of God.  It’s Christianized transcendental meditation, just re-packaged for Nazarene consumption.  But hey, if the publishing House says its okay, don’t question it, right?
When did lectio divina first get started in the Nazarene denomination?  What do our General Superintendents think about lectio divina?  Have they studied what contemplative spirituality is all about?  How many Nazarenes know about this practice?  Has it been officially introduced, or is it really still flying under the radar to most Nazarenes?  It is growing in popularity, because I had previously written some posts on the outrageous promotion of several books by Barefoot Ministries, which is the youth arm of the NPH.   In my opinion, they have proven themselves as recklessly irresponsible as the leadership of NTS and all the other schools who are pushing this practice into the Nazarene denomination and in our seminaries.  And by the way, Doug Hardy is a member of Spiritual  Directors International.  On the following page, you see Lauren Artress at the very top.  She popularized prayer labyrinths in America.  Scroll down more, and Doug Hardy is one of the panelists for the organization’s magazine.

So if you go to this site, you ought to ask yourself, why is a Christian professor, who belongs to a holiness denomination, part of an interspiritual organization that promotes prayer labyrinths and contemplative spirituality practices?  Professor Hardy also has a famous list of recommended books for Windsor Hills Camp, of which the vast majority at the time were books by Roman Catholic monks and mystics.  What happened to the holiness material, and biblically sound resources?  Instead, books by heretical writers who practiced asceticism, worship of Mary, and teachers of false doctrines.

Frankly, I find it all appalling, dangerous, un-Nazarene, and most importantly, unbiblical. And I am not saying Doug Hardy is the problem, far from it.  Dr. Ron Benefiel is the President of NTS, and perhaps some letters or emails could be sent to ask some questions.  This goes much deeper than one person, he is just an example of the many who are pushing the new spirituality onto so many students and church members.  But I’m just one uneducated Nazarene sticking his nose into business left to the educated, and I suppose I ought to trust them unconditionally and without question.

Perhaps a “House” cleaning is in order?


I conclude with some thoughts from my friend Brenda about Spiritual Directors International:

The attraction today is to become….one. For all the religions of the world to unite and connect through a form of commonality. Spiritual formation and contemplation is the cement to unite the world religions. There is a call for ecumenism and interfaith spirituality networks to meet the needs of society, not with …the gospel of repentance for the forgiveness of sins settled at a blood-stained cross, no….the new gospel of grace (only) leaves sin out of the equation. It’s an offense. Spiritual Directors international will help realize world peace through their ecumenical efforts via contemplation techniques and spiritual direction…….

A look at their logo reveals that it’s all about sharing “the light”…..be it from a Catholic mystic, like Henri Nouwen, or from Buddha. Spiritual Directors find common ground in the light. (Hmm…..now who is that angel of light, again spoken of in scripture?)

Remember that the last Sunday in January is set aside for churches to give to Nazarene Theological Seminary because as this links states:

“The Seminary Offering – annual church giving – is the lifeline of NTS.”
http://www.nts.edu/seminary-offering

In order to bring about world peace, social justice through an economic level playing field, and unity of all faiths…..you must continue to fund professors like Doug Hardy and the Spiritual Formation major offered through NTS so students can continue to be enlightened.

After all, it’s ultimately about a one world peace and unity of faiths….which is a good thing, right?
http://www.nts.edu/dr-douglas-hardy

Related links And Study Resources:

Here is a link by Franciscan Fr. Richard Rohr explaining how Spiritual Directors International can lead to world peace and liberating the world of its social problems.
http://sdiworld.org/resources/videos/spiritual-directors-international-le…arns-from-franciscan-father-richard-rohr-ofm.html

In this link, you can learn how to be at peace with ecology through finding God in everything via Spiritual Director International’s Sister Alexandra Kovats.

http://sdiworld.org/resources/videos/spiritual-directors-international-learns-from…-alexandra-kovats-csjp.html

Yes, it’s all about Nazarenes, Catholics, and Muslims together as they connect to a higher reality through their association through Spiritual Director’s International.

What is lectio divina?

http://reformednazarene.wordpress.com/emergent-church-what-is-it/lectio-divina/

Listen to what is really being said here by Richard Foster: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKvdUZ6c074&feature=player_embedded

Sojourners staff describe contemplative practices:

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3 responses to “Is Lectio Divina and Mysticism The Future Of Nazarene Theology and Practice?

  1. Having had two students graduate from PLNU in San Diego, and having become aware of a theology promoted at the university which embraced books by Rob Bell and chapel speaker Brian McClaren, I listened to the 9/22/10 chapel audio on-line and heard PLNU chapel director, Mark Carter, proclaim himself to be a “mystic” before students in the assembly. His biography on-line provides information that he has been somewhat influenced with Taoism. My attempts to communicate my concerns to PLNU directly to the university president, university spiritual director and this chapel director have been unproductive. Parents need to be warned that post modern theology is alive and well at PLNU. No parent sends a student to a private Christian University at great cost and personal sacrifice to have their faith derailed in mandatory chapels.

  2. The mystical is often shaded and presented outright with no mention of it’s various titles. In my former church, not Nazarene but non-denominational, the pastors introduced silence by actually having moments of silence before starting prayer. Funny, one pianist messed with it by accident I think. The pastor called for everyone to be quiet and then he began prayer time…and he uttered no word, neither did anyone in the congregation. The pianist just began playing music. I laughed, knowing he was trying to impliment contemplative prayer and “the silence.” Lectio Divina is more tricky. They don’t come right out and read a word over and over again. It’s very subtle I think.

  3. Have you looked to see who the contributors are for that 180 book?

    Nancy Sleeth (wife of Matthew Sleeth)
    Leonard Sweet
    Karl Giberson (Nazarene)
    David Brush (Nazarene)
    Daniel Chesney (Nazarene)
    J. Paul Pepper (Nazarene)

    (Just to name a few)
    Oh, here’s the link:

    http://180stories.com/contributors/

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