10 January 2012

Desiring God Quietly Pulls Lectio Divina Recommendation

In the post, "Biblical Silence vs. Mystical Silence and What Really Happened at Passion 2012?" we offered evidence and argument against engaging in contemplative spirituality, i.e., mystical practices such as centering/contemplative prayer, breath prayer, or the Roman Catholic practice of Lectio Divina. In that post, it was reported that a December 31, 2011 post at the Desiring God website (the ministry of John Piper), recommended Lectio Divina as a viable prayer practice. At that time, part of that article, written by Jonathan Parnell, read as follows:
Lectio Divina 
Kenneth Boa,Conformed to His Image, (Zondervan, 2001), 96-97. 
The ancient art of lectio divina, or sacred reading, was introduced to the West by the Eastern desert father John Cassian early in the fifth century.
It consists of four elements.
  1. Lectio (reading). Select a very short text and ingest it by reading it several times. I normally choose a verse or a brief passage from the chapters I read from the Old and New Testaments in my morning Bible reading.
  2. Meditatio (meditation). Take a few minutes to relfect on the words and phrases in the text you have read. Ponder the passage by asking questions and using your imagination.
  3. Oratio (prayer). Having internalized the passage, offer it back to God in the form of personalized prayer.
  4. Contemplatio (contemplation). For the most of us, this will be the most difficult part, since it consists of silence and yieldedness in the presence of God. Comtemplation is the fruit of the dialogue of the first three elements; it is the communion that is born out of our reception of divine truth in our minds and hearts.
(Online Source, emphasis mine) 
Knowing that Piper has spoken against contemplative prayer in the past, many were rather confused by this obvious endorsement of a Roman Catholic, mystical practice, admittedly "introduced to the West by the Eastern desert father John Cassian," who was in fact a Roman Catholic monk. This recommendation did not go unnoticed and we now see that the mention of Lectio Divina has since been removed from this post at Desiring God and has been replaced with the following:
(Online Source)
If the desire was simply to recommend using Scripture as "an organizer for our prayers," then why wasn't that stated so simply in the first place? Why turn instead to Kenneth Boa, who readily quotes mystic Thomas Merton, the man who said that he wanted "to become as good a Buddhist as I can?" It's little wonder that the original post caused "confusion."


  1. It's good that the endorsement was removed but I still wonder how the endorsement could have been made in the first place!

  2. Humbleness. Now that is refreshing...

  3. It's absolutely inexcusable for any responsible "leader", blogger, teacher, or theologian in the Protestant camp to publish ANY post, author, book, or resource without knowing about what is being published. I don't think this happens much at all.
    Consequently, the oft seen defense of "we meant otherwise", or "we don't concur with it, we just added it because do and so likes it" ring hollow. Any Christian organization or Church, or ministry cannot simply say "we were wrong" and expect to have it accepted. The credibility goes to having it on in the first place, the history of the persons responsible and their off base theology that caused it to even exist withing their realm.
    There are so many red flags, a blind bull could see them when it comes to lectio, and we might start out with "Catholic Monks", or "mystic". Anyone in Protestantism who thinks the RC and monk ism at any stage of Church history is OK has a serious mis-understanding of scripture. There are no mulligans or Warrenesque "do-overs" in theology. Eternal lives are at stake, and God's glory rather than man's.
    We all know the warning about a little leaven. So if a baker bakes 1000 loaves of bread and 999 are good and one contaminated, do we give him credit for the 999? Yes, we do, but does God work that way? Certainly not. He who keeps the law in all but one thing is condemned. If we let slide this invitation to a heretic, or that comment that critics are Nazis, are we not giving the seat to the rich man and saying to the lesser "go, and sit there"?
    Beyond the constant, "we are sorry" every time one of these issues comes up, which is really "sorry we got caught", it's the praise the past work and excuse the leaven that bothers me the most.

  4. Committed Christian and mwhenry,

    I share your sentiments. It's extremely disturbing that someone under the employ and authority of Desiring God, and hence John Piper, would ever think it was okay to recommend Lectio Divina in the first place! And, considering what happened a week ago at the Passion Conference, wherein Piper led a session of Lectio Divina-lite, along with the other speakers, what are we now to think? I would like to see a louder renunciation of this practice than simply "updating" a two-week old blog post. Time will tell.

  5. Sola Sisters also mentioned that they still have books for sale by Richard Foster and Dallas Willard.


  6. Thank you for sharing this, Amanda.

  7. EBenz, I agree with the fact that I'd also like to see a clear denunciation of these books--

    I'm not holding my breath as I believe this is a ponzi scheme. It's incrementalism to the highest.

    However as Christians we should pray for and hope for what's best for John Piper. I know if it were me, I'd sooooo want people to pray for me even though I probably wouldn't see it like that. But, inn the end if I were to repent and be restored, I'd praise GOD that people cared enough to pray for me~~Same goes with John Piper

  8. Amen, JM. We most certainly should be praying that such a thing will happen!

  9. Just read this older article from a facebook post. Noticed the name Kenneth Boa. His book Face to Face is recommended on the December 2012 Bible Study Fellowship newsletter.


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