Home Youth Leaders Youth Leaders Blogs Questions for John Piper, Louis Giglio, Francis Chan and Beth Moore about...

Questions for John Piper, Louis Giglio, Francis Chan and Beth Moore about Passion 2012

The blogosphere is raging around the grand finish of Louis Giglio’s Passion 2012 where Piper, Giglio, Chan and Moore led thousands of 20-somethings (mainly) in a lite version of the ancient spiritual Roman Catholic Monastic Mystical practice of Lectio Divina.  I have been praying, thinking, watching the videos and seeking others about this for the last few weeks. 

The bottom line for me…I have great concerns and questions.

First, I like many of these leaders and have learned Biblical principles from many of them for years.  I have saught their wisdom and have quoted them while preaching and teachings.  I have attended conferences that they have spoken.  Thus, I have had a high level of respect for them.  This is why I am concerned and I think all of us should stop, think and seek others on this issue.

Why am I concerned?  Let me answer that by answering some other questions…

What is Lectio Divina?

According to Wikipedia which is well referenced on this issue, it is this…

“Lectio Divina (Latin for divine reading) is a traditional Roman Catholic practice of scriptural reading, meditation and prayer intended to promote communion with God and to increase the knowledge of God’s Word. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the Living Word.

Traditionally Lectio Divina has 4 separate steps: read, meditate, pray and contemplate. First a passage of Scripture is read, then its meaning is reflected upon. This is followed by prayer and contemplation on the Word of God.

The focus of Lectio Divina is not a theological analysis of biblical passages but viewing them with Christ as the key to their meaning. For example, given Jesus’ statement in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you” an analytical approach would focus on the reason for the statement during the Last Supper, the biblical context, etc. But in Lectio Divina rather than “dissecting peace”, the practitioner “enters peace” and shares in the peace of Christ. In Christian teachings, this form of meditative prayer leads to an increased knowledge of Christ.

The roots of Scriptural reflection and interpretation go back to Origen in the 3rd century, after whom St. Ambrose taught them to St. Augustine. The monastic practice of Lectio Divina was first established in the 6th century by Saint Benedict. It was then formalized as a 4 step process by the Carthusian monk, Guigo II in the 12th century. In the 20th century, the constitution Dei Verbum of Pope Paul VI recommended Lectio Divina for the general public. Pope Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of Lectio Divina in the 21st century.” (SourceEmphasis mine.

I was aquainted with this practice when it surfaced (again) while I was a youth pastor in youth ministry as the Emergent Church and it’s leaders raised this “new” but old spiritual practice as a cool way to connect with God. 

So what is wrong with it?

Well, a few things things come to mind…

1. First, as the definition of this practice states, “It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied.”  This means we set aside proper hermenutical interpretation principles that you would apply to any historical work in order to engage with the “Living Word.”  It is always dangerous to not treat Scripture as a historical document (as it is) to be studied.  Yes, the Bible is the “Living Word”, but not literally living in the sense that a human being is living.  Jesus was the Word incarnate as a literal man who walked the earth and the Bible is a book of God’s Words of authority to us.  Let’s not get confused.

2. Second, as the definition of this practice states, “Lectio Divina is not a theological analysis of biblical passages but viewing them with Christ as the key to their meaning.”  Anytime we do not engage our minds when reading Scripture (i.e. theological analysis), we are heading off the road.  Not all Scripture can be “viewed with Christ as the key to their meaning.”  This is why proper Biblical hermenutics is all important.  Asking questions like, “Who wrote this?”, “What is the author’s intended meaning in writing this passage?”, “Where does it fit in the whole Biblical record?”, “What genra of language are we studying (poem, prophecy, history, parable…)?” and the like are essential to understanding God’s intent for our lives.

3. As the example listed illustrates, yes, the application of the passage in John 14 might be to have more peace as a believer in Jesus Christ, but how do we know unless we read the passage in context, ask interpretation questions and seek the author’s intended meaning?  We don’t just set our brains at the door.

4. I also have trouble with where this practice originated.  It came from a group called the Desert Fathers, because they spent most of their lives (literally) in isolation from community in order to connect with God.  Biblical Scripture is clear…we are to stay connected in community (with times of refeshment alone with the Lord), but not isolation almost your whole life.  This is dangerous and leads to false teaching.  Leaders like Joseph Smith, Mohammed, Buddha, Confucius, and Karl Marx come to mind.  These were men who spend long periods of time in isolation and the result were writings that led many people astray.  And yet, some in the Christian community have lifted up the Desert Fathers as hereos of the faith.  When did isolating yourself from community become cool and cutting edge Christianity?  Not to mention, the inability to share the good news of Jesus with others when you are alone in the desert or silent in a monastery. 

5. Church Father, Origen said in a letter to Gregory of Neocaesarea Origen wrote: “when you devote yourself to the divine reading … seek the meaning of divine words which is hidden from most people”.   This is concerning and is closely associated with Gnosticism, a false teaching during the time of Christ, the Apostle Paul and the Disciples.  Paul wrote much of the New Testament to combat against this false belief that you can gain some “secret knowledge” that only you know and many people don’t know about God.  Origen was into Lectio Divina.

6. Much of the principles and practices of Lectio Divina can be connected New Age, Buddhism, Mysticism, and Neo-orthodoxy theology.  Neo-orthodoxy questions the authority and inspiration of Biblical Scripture and in some camps the historical Jesus Christ.  

So, I have some concerns…

This blog will probably not be read by these Christian leaders, but I still have some questions for them.  Here they are…

1. Do all of you know the history of Lectio Divina and it’s roots? I am sure you do, so why lead this group in the ancient practice of Lectio Divina and not just a prayer time praying back the prayers of the Bible?  Instead, you just opened up a silent time without context of the passage and without boundaries.  This takes the guardrails possibly causing some to head into a ditch.

2. With a younger and easily influenced group, why open them up to hearing something contrary to God’s voice?

3. Louie, How do you know they heard God’s voice at the end?  Just because they cheered?  Is that the test to hearing and confirming it was God’s voice?  What would be the accountability for this group?

4. Are you encouraging this group to use Lectio Divina in their own personal prayer times?  Where does this fit with Hermenutics?

5. Why did you create a dramatic emphasis at the end where many of the students might have thought this “contemplative prayer time” was more important than proper expository preaching of the Bible (which took place earlier in the conference by all of these speakers)?

6. Pastor Piper, why did you have a 2012 Prayer Emphasis for Lectio Divina on your blog a day after the Passion Conference (written by someone else), but take it down a day later with this explanation?

Update: Formerly I listed Lectio Divina as a third system for prayer. I’ve since removed it for the confusion it has caused. We do not endorse contemplative spirituality. The main point I’d like to recommend is using the text of Scripture as an organizer for our prayers — prayers that are exegetically faithful and gospel rich. I’m sorry for introducing the category.

7. Were all of you “on board” with this idea before the conference or did Louis (the leader of the conference) put you up to it?

8. Beth Moore, I understand that you are Sessationalist because of your writings (source).  So, I can understand why you were involved with Lectio Divina, but with your Bible study resources listed on your webpage, how do you reconcile these two practices (Lectio Divina and proper Biblical Interpretation)?

9. Francis, I know you are a student of the Word of God and a very good Bible Teacher, so why enter into this Mystical Monastic practice?  You might have the proper filters Biblically, but did you consider that your audience might not?

I have more questions, but I will stop here.

I am not asking these questions with judgement, but with curiosity as I have respected these leaders for various reasons throughout the years.  I would love to know the thinking behind all of this and why we are embracing this unorthodox monastic practice.  It leads to dangerous places.

To see all of the videos of the end of the Passion 2012 go here.  I am not endorcing everything this blog link, but this particular article is informative.

If anyone reading this blog has answers for these questions from Piper, Giglio, Chan or Moore, I would love to read them.  What do you think?