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):
Richard J. Foster
Robert E. Webber
Mike Pershon (Youth Specialties: Mike Yaconelli)
John Michael Talbot
*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.