Saturday, October 17, 2009

Lectio Divina – A Rising Mystical Phenomenon Among Evangelicals: Five Reasons To Avoid It

1. First of all, the lectio divina was spawned, nurtured, and matured in papistry.

“The practice of lectio divina was incorporated into the rules of Rome’s dark monasticism. It was systematized into four steps in the 12th century by Guido II, a Carthusian monk, in “The Ladder of Four Rungs,” or “The Monks Ladder.” The four steps are reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation, which are supposed to be the means by which ‘one can climb from earth to heaven’ and learn ‘heavenly secrets.’”

Dismissing the genetic fallacy by knowing Romish dogma (re: Justification by works and faith, instead of just by faith) , and understanding lectio divina based on it, we can see that it is a heresy.

2. The meditation that lectio divina advocates has little to do with Scriptural meditation. Scriptural meditation involves thinking about a passage (or passages), praying to God about it for understanding, and expecting that enlightenment by the work of the Holy Spirit so that we (and He) might apply it practically in our lives. Alternately, lectio divina involves meditating on a passage (with no regard to the content) as a device to lead us into a contemplative mood, so we can pray for an empty mind which somehow enters a numinous state with the Holy (ostensibly, God). Robert Webber, a very influential spokesman for neo-mysticism (ancient-future faith) and postmodern evangelical worship, gives a typical understanding of this meditation:

“ The goal of Lectio Divina is union with God through a meditative and contemplative praying of Scripture. … All such attempts at verbalizing the experience necessarily fail to express the reality for the simple reason that CONTEMPLATION TRANSCENDS THE THINKING AND REASONING of meditation … Contemplatio shifts praying into a new language (SILENCE). This silence does not ask us to do anything, it is a call to being. Thomas Merton says, ‘THE BEST WAY TO PRAY IS: STOP.’”

3. The technique, typically, leads the practitioner to seek revelation or experience outside of and beyond Scripture. Because the nature of lectio divina is mystical, union with the godhead is its goal. In order to achieve this union – not described or prescribed anywhere in Scripture – the contemplative must empty his mind, divorce himself from reality, and find some sort of experience which he can identify as being united (somehow) to the godhead. This extra-Scriptural experience – obtained through an altered state of consciousness, as is similarly achieved by drug usage - becomes his personal revelation from God. Madame Guyon, a 17th century Quietist explains:

“Once you sense the Lord’s presence, the content of what you read is no longer important. The scripture has served its purpose; it has quieted your mind; it has brought you to him. … You should always remember that you are not there to gain an understanding of what you have read; rather you are reading to turn your mind from the outward things to the deep parts of your being. You are not there to learn or to read, but you are there to experience the presence of your Lord!”

Brian Flynn, a former New Ager says:

“By taking passages of Scripture, which have an intended meaning, and breaking them down into smaller, separate segments, often for the purpose of chanting over and over, the true meaning of the passages are lost. Rather a form of occult mysticism is practiced – with the hope and intention of gaining a mystical experience that God never intended when He gave the inspired words to His servants.”

4. Often, whenever Scripture is affirmed, a secondary (from Origen’s influence in the origins of lectio divina), spiritual meaning is arrived at when contemplating a particular passage. For example, Thomas Keating - a papist mystic who is becoming more and more appreciated by evangelicals through the influence of people like Richard Foster – describes the result as:

“…sitting with a sentence, phrase or even one word that emerges from the text, allowing the Spirit to expand our listening capacity and to open us to its deeper meaning; in other words, to penetrate the spiritual sense of a scripture passage.”

5. Discernment is inherently lacking in the practice of lectio divina due to its mystical nature and focus: denying rationality, dismissing the plain meaning of Scripture, altering one’s state of conscience, and trusting in the experience of the numinous. Thus, if one is not willing to test the spirits and rely on Scripture as his standard of revelational authority, he becomes open to false doctrine based on experience or – worse – (demonic) spiritual deception.

Some of the many practioners/promoters of Lectio Divina (or similar practices):

Thomas Keating

Richard J. Foster

Robert E. Webber

Madame Guyon

Luke Dysinger

Thomas Merton

Mike Pershon (Youth Specialties: Mike Yaconelli)

John Michael Talbot

Thelma Hall

Basil Pennington

Dallas Willard

Brother Lawrence

Rick Warren

*Loosely based on David Cloud’s Contemplative Mysticism: A Powerful Ecumenical Bond (Port Huron: Word of Life, 2008), pp.77-84. All quotes, as they appear in Cloud.



Saturday, September 19, 2009

Keegstra, the Holocaust, Zionism, Free Speech and Christianity: Initial Observations

Keegstra

The Central Alberta teacher who – in the mid ‘80s - was fired from his job, his teaching license suspended, and found guilty in Court for “promoting hatred” against an identifiable group. He was alleged to have been teaching a form of Worldwide Zionist/Jewish Conspiracy to his grades 9 and 12 Social Studies students for over a decade. The particular conspiracy theory he advocated postulated a nebulous cadre of Talmudic Jews, and their cobelligerents, who, beginning with Adam Weishaupt’s Illuminati began to, and now do, secretly rule the world and control events behind the scenes.

Keegstra based his teachings on several things: a) the Social Credit (political) ideology of C. H. Douglas, b) the preponderance of Jews in key influential industries like Entertainment and Finance, c) the sometimes anti-semitic and so-called revisionist literature available through Social Credit connections and Ron Gostick’s Canadian League of Rights, and d) his own brand of Christian theology.

Holocaust

Keegstra, on the side so-to-speak, doubted the alleged and/or mainstream version of the Holocaust and its numbers. He, like many (including me) agreed that Jews (among many other groupings) had been targeted for detention and even killed. However, he disagreed with the establishment conception of the final solution and the extraordinary numbers allegedly gassed. Subsequently, he felt (as do many others, including Jews) that the Shoah was used as a PR device to initially establish the state of Israel, then to leverage Israel’s ongoing security and sovereignty demands.

Zionism

There seems to be several factions in regards to this topic: a) the political Zionists – who have believed in the establishment of the state of Israel by any means necessary, they are usually irreligious or – at the most – nominally religious Jews; b) the religious Zionists – who are religious Jews that look to the Torah and Talmud for inspiration regarding their return to and occupation of the promised land; c) the Christian Zionists – who are usually dispensational premillennialists (mainly Evangelicals) who interpret biblical eschatological passages literally and see the state of Israel as a necessary fulfillment of prophecy and their bounden duty to support/promote; d) the so-called Israel Lobby – a political segement of (predominantly) American society which sees the (geopolitical, economic, etc.) interests of the West (specifically, in most cases – the U.S.A.) best served by a vigourous defense of a non-Arab state – Israel – in the Middle East. This lobby is, naturally, aided and abetted by the political arms of the Christian Zionists (Falwell, Robertson, etc.); e) various other minor groupings of individuals and/or organized entities who have reason to support the state of Israel at one time or another (political coalitions, economic co-operatives, etc.).

Free Speech

During the Keegstra Trial, Douglas Christie, Keegstra’s lawyer, made this prediction:”Fear will grow and silence will grow and people will be more and more suspicious about what they say and who they say it to.” This points up one of the focuses of (and surrounding) the trial: freedom of speech. Though the Alberta government (through the Attorney General’s department) prosecuted and found Keegstra guilty of promoting hatred, many citizens (including parents of and students of Keegstra), and civil liberty, media and church groups either cautioned against prosecution or suggested the trial was a mistake (esp. against freedom of expression). A vocal lobby of free speech supporters (Keegstra, for example, supporters wore “Freedom of Speech” buttons to the trial) were heard before, throughout, and after the trial. Initially, the Crown (government) lawyer was hesitant to prosecute Keegstra due to the perceived difficulty of convicting him of ‘promoting hatred’ when a basic human right was supposed to be (even by Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) freedom of expression. Regardless, the Crown went ahead with the support of a Canadian interpretation of this right – that it was limited by some greater societal good/peace, etc. in special circumstances, and by legal precedent (the Zundel Trial and one other). Obviously (or, maybe not), this could not have happened in the United States, due to their supposed enshrinement of an unassailable right to free speech. (However, a case in California I hear, during the same time frame and with similar grounds, was successfully prosecuted.) Freedom of speech (or, expression) may be seen to be the secular dilemma mirror of the Christian’s liberty in Christ – both being circumscribed by responsibility and consideration of their brethren.

Christianity

Christians – based on a biblical understanding - should consider Judaism just another ‘faith’ or ‘world religion.’ This is not the case. Generally. Many Christians either from the misguided 19th Century doctrine of dispensationalism, or from a poor application of Romans 11 (and similar passages), have viewed the Jews through ‘rose-coloured glasses.’ They forget or simply ignore the fact that the Judaism of the New Testament is far removed from the holy nation or royal priesthood or chosen nation of Israelites and their peculiar cultus in the Old Testament (never mind the Talmudic transformed and Zionist informed Jewish sects which abound today). This arises from a misunderstanding of the Israel of God: God’s elect people (in Christ Jesus) from Adam to the End of Time. This was the foundation for Keegstra’s outlook on modern Jews. Obviously, he added other influences that aggravated the negative perception which informed his beliefs and teaching. But, essentially, Judaism is to Christianity just another anti-Christian religion like Hinduism, or Islam, or Buddhism, and its adherents need to be presented with the evangel just like everyone else.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We Are All Hindus Now ?!

"America is not a Christian nation. We are, it is true, a nation founded by Christians, and according to a 2008 survey, 76 percent of us continue to identify as Christian (still, that's the lowest percentage in American history). Of course, we are not a Hindu—or Muslim, or Jewish, or Wiccan—nation, either. A million-plus Hindus live in the United States, a fraction of the billion who live on Earth. But recent poll data show that conceptually, at least, we are slowly becoming more like Hindus and less like traditional Christians in the ways we think about God, our selves, each other, and eternity." - See the rest of the story here [HT: Lighthouse Trails]

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Fundamentalist?

"It is a mistake, often made by educated persons who happen to have but little knowledge of historical theology, to suppose that Fundamentalism is a new and strange form of thought. It is nothing of the kind: it is the partial and uneducated survival of a theology which was once universally held by all Christians. How many were there, for instance, in Christian churches in the eighteenth century who doubted the infallible inspiration of all Scripture? A few, perhaps, but very few. No, the Fundamentalist may be wrong. I think that he is. But it is we who have departed from the tradition, not he, and I am sorry for the fate of anyone who tries to argue with a Fundamentalist on the basis of authority. The Bible and the corpus theologicum of the Church is [sic] on the Fundamentalist side." —Kirsopp Lake, The Religion of Yesterday and To-morrow (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1925), 61-62. [HT: Kevin Bauder, In The Nick of Time; emphasis mine.]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs

This is from a discussion on a yahoo group list:

Another list member wrote:

I have not 'shouted' at you for quite a while now so thought I would chime in here though uninvited.

Hi, No problem.

I recognize with you that the Psalms we have in our Bibles is the Hebrew Psalter. With that being said and given due recognition, I call your attention to the NT passages speaking of singing (Eph 5; Col 3) and to notice they speak of the saints making use of three categories of praise; not one. Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.

"A candid examination of the above evidence [linguistic usage by apostolic and post-apostolic writers], we believe, leads to the inevitable conclusion that the phrase 'psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs' is a rhetorical device intended as a reference to the biblical Psalms." - Michael Bushnell, Songs of Zion (Crown & Covenant, 1977). p.88 of the 3rd ed., 1999.


I submit to you, Harry, that while Psalms, as spoken of by Paul, might have been in Paul's mind fairly well limited to the book of Psalms in our OT, hymns are another matter.


"Humnos
occurs some 17 times in the Septuagint [Greek trs. of OT], 13 of which are in the Psalms, six times in the titles. In 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Chronicles and Nehemiah there are some 16 examples in which the Psalms are called 'hymns' or 'songs' and the singing of them is called 'hymning.' Philos (d.A.D.40) frequently designates certain Psalms as 'hymns.' The historian Josephus also repeatedly alludes to the Psalms as 'hymns.' According to Trench, humnos occurs nowhere in the Apostolic Fathers or Justin Martyr or the Apostolic Constitutions, and only once in tertullian (ad Uxor.II,8), perhaps because the word had by then taken on profane associations. But this consideration does not materially affect our understanding of the usage of the term during New Testament times. Generally humneo means 'to sing praise' or 'to praise in song,' but it can mean simply 'to praise' without any musical reference at all. There is, however, no clear instance of the latter usage in the New Testament (Heb.2:12 and Acts 16:25 are the only possible instances). What we see, then, in the Septuagint and in the early theological literature is a pattern of instances in which the noun humnos is used either in connection with or in reference to the inspired Psalms." - pp.85,86 ibid.

There are other praise passages in scripture that might well be called 'hymns.' Or a hymn might be a composition of any person and not taken from holy writ.

Disputed.

I further suggest that by "spiritual songs" Paul had reference to songs one would sing in the Spirit just as Paul said in I Corinthians 14 that he would sing with the Spirit and he would sing with his mind. One might also express it as "singing in tongues" (a spiritual gift).

"Odee [songs] occurs some 80 times in the Septuagint, 45 of which are in the Psalms, 36 in the Psalm titles. Josephus (Antiquities 2, 346) refers to Exodus 15 as a 'song of God.' At a later point odee came to be used only for biblical songs (apart from the Psalms) used in the liturgy, but usage in New Testament times is broader, there being no precise differentiation odee, psalmos and humnos. Philo, for example, in connection with Exodus 15 first uses the term 'sea song' and then simply humnos. As we shall see momentarily, the term odee is used quite frequently in conjunction with other musical terms to denote the biblical psalms." - ibid., p.86.

"Assuming for the moment that Paul is, in fact, speaking here of some kind of charismatic hymn singing, it ought to be clearly understood that such a situation in no way militates against exclusive psalmody. There are two very good reasons for this. In the first place, the charismatic gifts present in the Corinthian church at the time this epistle was written, passed away with the close of the New Testament canon and are not normative for today's church. If the advocates of non-canonical hymnody wish to use this passage to support their position, they are bound to produce Spirit-given, charismatic songs. But it ought to be obvious that such songs as these could never become the foundation for the Church's hymnody. Such songs may be interpreted by someone with the appropriate gifts, but their spontaneous origin and glossolalic [tongues] character prohibit their reproduction for corporate use. The singing alluded to in this passage is, in fact, not congregational singing at all. There is 'no thought here of liturgical music; it is the individual spontaneously using a special gift in the congregation.'
In the second place, it is important to note that the charismatic song interpretation of the passage places worship song in the same category as that of inspired prophecy or revelation and thus represents an implicit prohibition of uninspired worship song. [Thus, confirming exclusive psalmody!] It may be objected that the need for charismatic song in this instance implies the insufficiency of the psalter for New Testament worship. We reply that the Old Testament psalms are in a sense insufficient for the worship needs of the Church in this dispensation , but only in the sense that they require the interpretation of a completed New Testament canon to be properly understood, used, and sung. Go may well have given the Corinthians such charismatic songs to 'fill the gap' until this interpretive need was met. This was, in fact, what the charismatic gifts were all about. So the presence of charismatic singing in the early days of the Church cannot be offered as justification for composing new songs now, any more than the exercise of prophetic gifts in the same context can be seen as suggesting the need for new prophetic oracles in the present day." - ibid., pp.80,81.

So, yes, the Psalms are meant to be sung. Years ago, some of us would sing many scriptures and not just the Psalms and I would many times play my guitar. It is a great way to praise the Lord and memorize scripture.

So we are not limited to using only the Hebrew songbook.

Disputed.

You might notice that the very last Psalm in that book enjoins that everything that can make a sound should praise the Lord. Why limit ourselves when God is worthy of more praise that we can give at our best and most efforts?

Why not give Him the best and most perfect praise, His Word?
Limiting ourselves, as you say, is only another way of saying: "I want to worship God according to my own will, after my own fashion, and whenever I want to."
This is 'will worship."
This is the sin which, I believe, Nadab and Abihu committed: offering strange fire to the Lord.

As far as it goes, the only mention of singing in the NT scriptures is not indicated as limited to times when the church is assesmbled as such. We should speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs any time we have opportunity.

Think about it some more, Harry.

Yes, well, I have gone through all this, and am settled with the objective propositional truths of Scripture.
Hope this gives you a better understanding of where I am coming from.

Yours, for the Cause of God and Truth,

Witsius

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Three Covenants

"First, God established a Covenant of Works with Adam as federal head of mankind. In this covenant, eternal life was acquired by perfect obedience to God's commands. After the fall God established the Covenant of Grace as 'that particular form of the administration of salvation in which God, in Christ, gives himself as Mediator to the sinner who, in the way of the covenant, becomes the possession of God.' The foundation of the Covenant of Grace is the Covenant of Redemption or the Pactum Salutis, which is 'that arrangement in God's triune being, whereby the Father ordained the Son to be Mediator and demanded the fulfillment of all righteousness, with the promise of glory; and the Son freely gave himself thereto; while the Holy Spirit took on himself, to apply the work of salvation according to the will of the Father and the Son.'" - David Kranendonk & J.J. van der Schuit (Vital Balance, FRP, 2006).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hermeneutics 101

Here are some basic points (in no particular order) to consider when interpreting Scripture:

1. Perspicuity - The Bible is simple and clear. Literate people can read and understand the Bible - esp. its general concepts and narratives. Obviously, there are some concepts that are above us (like the Trinity) which we can apprehend as comprising part of God's authoritative revelation; and there are some issues which may require research/study to discern (see, for instance, 2 Pet.3:16).

2. Analogy of Faith - Scripture interprets Scripture. Let the more clear passages interpret the less clear (esp. w/secondary doctrines).

3. Context - The word or phrase in its sentence; then in its paragraph or topical passage; then in its book (esp. audience); then in the context of the whole Bible.

4. Genre - Narrative, Poetry, History, Prophecy, Wisdom Literature, etc. Knowing which genre a passage falls into, helps us understand whether to, for instance, be aware of allegory, metaphors, literalness, typology, symbolism, etc.

5. Authorial Intent - A more difficult factor, but discoverable with the help of the other points listed here.

6. Setting - Including time, place, and audience, this consideration concentrates on the immediate intention and application of the Word.

7. Grammar - More technical, esp. for those working with the original languages. However, a simple part of grade school English regarding how sentences work, parts of speech, etc.

8. History - or Background. It helps to know a bit about the historical context of a passage (or Book), and sometimes even geography.

9. Presuppositions - Whether you actively pursue or unknowingly have, presuppositions are a significant consideration. Examine your worldview - the self-made, or learned from school, parents, peers, or catechism lens/filter through which you look at, categorize, judge, and act on the data of the world beyond your self - and you will find it affecting your interpretation of Scripture. If your worldview is deficient, correct it, make it biblical (through good shepherding, catechesis, Bible reading/study, and holy fellowship), and it will help you to understand the Bible better. Simple (basic) presuppositions like: God is the Creator, we are Creation, and all man is fallen and awaiting the wrath of a just God unless he finds a mediator (Christ) to redeem him, and God is true, etc. are fundamental concepts that inform our biblical interpretation; while systematic theology, the Creeds and Confessions form macro presuppositional grids with which we interpret Scripture.

10. Faith - This is a general category founded on the necessity of a person's faith (1 Cor.2:14, etc.). Regeneration is a prerequisite for proper biblical interpretation. The Holy Spirit must be indwelling a redeemed sinner to enable his sanctification and understanding (Eph.1:18, etc.). Then prayer is a means of Grace and a sure help in interpretation. Obedience to God, hiding His Word in our hearts, delighting in it and meditating on it are also beneficial considerations. Finally, Hearing the Word faithfully expounded is also a biblical means of Grace and sure help in interpreting Scripture.

Hope these are helpful, and that I didn't miss anything.