Is the Lectio Divina a Practice to Be Encouraged?

April 13th, 2012 Post by

Recently, there has been some attention drawn to the advice of Dr. Bruce Hartung of Concordia Seminary to a reader’s comment as published in a recent edition of the Reporter:

[Reader:]I have prayed in the Lectio Divina process for a number of years. This involves reading a scriptural text, focusing on a particular word or cluster in the text, meditating on the text, prayer in response to the text, and silent resting as the meaning of the text really impacts you. Following this is the development of how all this moves into my daily life. This is the classic lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio and, for some, operatio. Most important for me is that this is not so much reading the Scriptures to gain more factual knowledge about what is in them, but rather the use of the Scriptures in a way that forms and changes me.

[Response:]This is a process dating back to the ancient church. Its focus is on a deeper reflection on the Scripture, with specific application to one’s personal formation. If our readers wish to consider this method, one reading to seek is Lectio Divina: Contemplative Awakening and Awareness by Christine Valters Paintner and Lucy Wynkoop (Paulist Press), for both theory and practical application. This is a venerable method of spiritual reflection, formation and support.

If you haven’t heard of Lectio Divina, it is a method of reading Scripture combined with prayer and meditation. Its root is in ancient monasticism and is generally mystical in nature — that is, that though the Word is the starting point, the Christian is looking for a special revelation apart from it. This is especially true of how Lectio Divina is taught and practiced in its revival of the past several decades. Consider the following from the blog of one of the authors of the above book:

Shimmering

The first movement is to read the sacred text and listen for a word that shimmers or catches my attention. I do this as I sit to pray each morning with my scripture reading, but also as I move through the day I find that there are moments that shimmer forth: a friend offers me an unexpected insight, I gaze upon my sweetly sleeping dog, I go for a long walk and find the gathering of crows cawing stirs something in my heart, my husband reaches for my hand and in that moment I feel so deeply loved. We all have these shimmering moments calling to us each day if we pay attention. Through lectio I cultivate the capacity to notice these and honor them as important, as sacred.

Luther was exposed to Lectio Divina in the monastery, and like so much else he had been taught, he reformed it into a practice which encouraged reading the Word for its actual content and not for a personal mystical experience. For a well-done examination on the practice of Lectio Divina, its history, goals, structure, and reform by Luther, the Rev. Jeffrey Ware has put together a great resource in his 2007 paper “A Lutheran Perspective on Lectio Divina.” From this paper:

John Kleinig has shown that Luther‘s life in the monastery most certainly exposed him to the practice of Lectio Divina.

“Luther distinguished his own practice of spirituality from the tradition of spiritual foundation that he experienced as a monk. This tradition followed a well-timed, ancient pattern of meditation and prayer. It‘s goal was ‘contemplation,’ the experience of ecstasy, bliss, rapture, and illumination through union with the glorified Lord Jesus.” (Kleinig, 4-5)

This “pattern of meditation and prayer” was none other than Lectio Divina. Luther’s reformation discovery of the Gospel led him, finally, to reject this brand of spirituality.

Luther‘s theological breakthrough was his discovery that the word of God is the reality in itself. “That the linguistic sign is itself the reality, that it represents not an absent but a present reality, was Luther‘s great hermeneutical discovery, his ‘Reformation Discovery’ in the strict sense” (Bayer). Luther had discovered that the word “does what it says” and “says what it does” (Bayer). It is clear that Luther‘s fully developed understanding of the word would have conflicted with the basic premise of Lectio Divina. Kleinig proposes that Luther‘s Oratio, Meditatio, Tentatio was his corrective to Lectio Divina.

In contrast to this rather manipulative method, Luther proposed an evangelical pattern of spirituality as reception rather than self-promotion. This involved three things: prayer (oratio), meditation (meditatio), and temptation (tentatio). All three revolved around ongoing, faithful attention to God’s word (Kleinig, 258).

Luther’s reforms of this practice, like so many other of his reforms, sought to restore the authority and centrality of God’s Word to the life of the Christian. If Lectio Divina is lectio, meditatio, oratio, contemplatio, (and sometimes) operatio, can we still refer to Luther’s formulation of oratio, meditatio, tentatio as Lectio Divina? If not, what do we call it? (I usually just call it oratio, meditatio, tentatio.) Assuming Luther’s practice is beneficial to the Christian life, how do we encourage Christians in their practice reading of Scripture? And why was an LCMS seminary professor pointing readers to the clearly more mystical understanding in the Paintner/Wynkoop book when there are fine non-mystical Lutheran books available on the subject?






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  1. April 14th, 2012 at 23:09 | #1

    Andrew,

    It is a fine suggestion. The problem is, after countless attempts, one gives up. There is nothing in it for people to enter into some sort of discussion on these matters. The main reason I was flown down to St. Louis was because my pointing out the truth of what is going on at CSL (small groups and cowo) was because it was a threat to thier fundraising. It is sad but true.

    As to your contention that there is mystery in prayer – no one is quesitoning that. To say that prayer is to be practiced for some sort of mystical union is a problem though. As I said in a comment above, to recommend a Paulist Press book to a layman is a real problem.

  2. A Student
    April 14th, 2012 at 23:23 | #2

    I’m sorry, Mr. Troeger. I must have not been clear. I do not want to get caught up in criticizing individuals, those writing here or those whose written work is being examined (I have great respect for professors and pastors). That being said, I do want to understand what it is that is being criticized. I realize I am in a unique position to walk over to his office on Monday and ask him, but it’s not his point that I’m looking to understand at the moment.

    I was unclear. Please forgive me. I’ll start over:
    1. Is his advice to reflect on Scripture in this different way (as noted by the reader) the issue?
    2. Is the suggestion to read Paintner and Wynkoop’s book the issue?
    3. Can the practice of Lectio Divina become an orthodox way of reading Scripture? As in, is the issue the loaded term or the concept (as noted by the reader)?

    I simply want to understand more clearly.

  3. A Student
    April 14th, 2012 at 23:37 | #3

    @Pastor Tim Rossow #51
    Pastor Rossow,
    I mean this in all kindness and in love. I see that you feel strongly about certain things at CSL (small groups and cowo), and perhaps you have excellent theological points to support your thoughts and maybe you’re even right. At the same time, I would ask, as kindly and respectfully as possible, that you do not voice your continued disdain so loudly in a public forum. I do understand that we ought to test the practices of the church and make sure they line up with our doctrine (something I learned at seminary; good news, right?), but I think that fact has already been well-established here. I instead appeal to you on behalf of the students. The students suffer from negative talk that floats around about the seminaries. Both groups of students do. Criticize where necessary, but that comment felt needlessly critical.

  4. April 14th, 2012 at 23:44 | #4

    A Student,

    Mr. Troeger can answer your questions as well but here is how I would answer them.

    1) Yes
    2) Yes
    3) No

    Here is a quote from Wikipedia on Lectio Divina:

    “Although Lectio Divina involves reading, it is less a practice of reading than one of listening to the inner message of the Scripture delivered through the Holy Spirit.[1] Lectio Divina does not seek information or motivation, but communion with God. It does not treat Scripture as texts to be studied, but as the “Living Word.””

    Here we see clearly that the psychological effect of Scripture meditation is nearly divorced form the informative effect. This is the dangerous psychologizing that I warn of above. The emotive is not to be divorced from the informative. When it is, you have immediacy, i.e. God working apart from the means.

    Does Lectio Divina have some connection to the written word? Yes, but it is merely a jumping off point for something beyond what the written word offers. When one pits the “living word” against the written word, there is big theologocal trouble that follows.

    This is just not something to mess with. It is alarming, but not surprising that this is coming from Dr. Hartung, whose specialty is pastoral counseling.

    Would someone please let Dr. Hartung that pastoral counseling died several years ago and has been rightly replaced with pastoral care which is done via word and sacrament. Psychologizing the faith was a product of the 60’s and 70’s and grew out of theologies that gave up on the blood atonement and its delivery via the word and sacraments and in its place arose goofy stuff like Lectio Divina.

  5. April 14th, 2012 at 23:47 | #5

    A Student,

    Have you actually read Luther? I recommend you take a few days and read the Bondage of the Will and then come back here and see that the discussion that goes on here is rather tame when compared to the beloved Dr. Luther without whom there would be no Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

  6. A Student
    April 15th, 2012 at 00:07 | #6

    @Pastor Tim Rossow #55
    Dear Pastor Rossow,

    I have read Bondage of the Will. It would be hard not to notice the strong language Luther used (and I rather enjoyed it). At the same time, he was speaking against Erasmus who was completely destroying the message of the Gospel, and not his own church body.

    My point is not to disagree with your opinions. I am still learning and only joined this conversation so that I might better understand the issues. The only problem I had with your comment was that I was saddened to hear you speak out so obviously against CSL when I did not see it as necessary for the conversation at hand. (I realize you were somewhat provoked by Andrew’s comment, and I apologize for not acknowledging that.) I hope my concern is a little more clear. I apologize if I’ve been rude or ignorant.

    Also, thank you for responding to my earlier comment and giving me something to consider. I would appreciate if more people would comment on the answers to those questions and the reasons for their answers. Thank you.

  7. April 15th, 2012 at 00:27 | #7

    @Pastor Tim Rossow #51

    @A Student #56
    I did intend to provoke, I beg forgiveness if I did. My intent was to give an example of what I was suggesting, not to get behind the scenes information.

  8. April 15th, 2012 at 00:29 | #8

    A Student,

    Thanks for haning in there on this string.

    I too am not so concerned about your disagreeing with opinions as I am with your reaction to the tone of this blog. How will you ever survive a voters assembly or elders meeting if this makes you feel bad?

    I fear that you and your fellow students are passionate about being passionate and feeling but are not passionate about defending the Gospel. Your work as a pastor is going to be much more about defending the Gospel than you might think. This should not be surprising. When we look at the New Testament we find Peter, Paul and John constantly fighting for pure doctrine.

    BTW – Erasmus was in the same church as Luther when he wrote the Bondage of the Will and I would argue that saying the Holy Spirit works apart from means of grace or in some sort of hyper way, does indeed threaten the Gospel.

  9. Rev. McCall
    April 15th, 2012 at 05:53 | #9

    I think we should just delete the first couple posts here. Why take a cheap shot at St. Louis as though somehow that plays into the merits of the article? One could list just as many faults with Fort Wayne or its professors, so can we discuss substance without bringing silly “St. Louis vs Fort Wayne” baloney into it?

  10. April 15th, 2012 at 06:11 | #10

    @Rev. McCall #59
    “…can we discuss substance without bringing silly “St. Louis vs Fort Wayne” baloney into it?”

    And in fairness, can we discuss rigid and unloving pastors who have no heart for the lost without bringing silly “St. Louis vs Fort Wayne” baloney into it?

  11. Rev. McCall
    April 15th, 2012 at 06:19 | #11

    @Ted Crandall #60
    Absolutely! Has anyone suggested otherwise? Let’s stick to the merits of the article any topic at hand. A joke about St. Louis of Fort Wayne (whether in jest or in truth) just sidetracks the conversation.

  12. April 15th, 2012 at 07:33 | #12

    Rev. McCall,

    No one mentioned Ft. Wayne until you did. Please heed your own advice.

    This is not a St. Louis vs. Ft. Wayne thing. This is about the poor advice that a pastor gave to people. That is what we are discussing here.

    Rev. Scheer’s comment was not a Ft. Wayne vs. St. Louis thing. It was a St. Louis thing. I agree with you that there are problems at both seminaries. However, at St. Louis there are problems that have risen to a systemic level. As we have posted here on BJS before, the St. Louis Seminary now officially endorses small groups and contemporary worship. That is astoundingly shocking. By his own admission in a comment above, Scheer’s point is “here goes St. Louis again” not “St. Louis is bad and Ft. Wayne is good.”

  13. Rev. McCall
    April 15th, 2012 at 08:02 | #13

    @Pastor Tim Rossow #62
    Again, what does it have to do with St. Louis? This is a synodical problem that is far beyond St. Louis. Now you yourself get caught up in it all by dragging out small groups and contemporary worship in relation to the seminary. I have never seen anyone go after Ft. Wayne in any such way and I highly doubt they are above such criticism. So tell me how I should read comment #1 without making any conclusion that, “St. Louis is bad”? I graduated from St. Louis and I don’t believe that Dr. Hartung’s views are representative of most of the professors I had. I specifically remember also in a worship class that Dr. Brauer told us that contemporary worship was un-Lutheran and not to be taught. The current dean of the chapel, Dr. Burreson, is one of the most liturgical professors I know. So systematic level corruption is a bit over the top. The tone of most of this sites blogs and posts always seems to slant towards St. Louis being the villain and that’s not always fair. And to start of the postings with a shot at St. Louis creates an unnecessary stereotype of the seminary does it not? (no matter what it’s intent or tone) As for your advice, I’m not sure where I have ever disparaged either Fort Wayne or St. Louis, but I will certainly continue to try to not do so.

  14. A Student
    April 15th, 2012 at 08:32 | #14

    @Pastor Tim Rossow #58
    Pastor Rossow,

    Thanks for hanging in there with me. I know that I have had a rather gentle and careful tone, but please don’t interpret that wrongly to think I have lost sight of what matters or am being passionate about nothing. My time at the seminary so far has led me to have an even greater appreciation of the sound doctrine that keeps the Gospel pure. Note that I have been asking questions concerning this topic. Your fear leads me to exactly my point.

    When we attack the seminaries and stereotype them, the students tend to suffer from that. People make assumptions all the time (I used to) that they know what students from “that seminary” (could be either) are like. Even if either seminary has professors who have poor theology (I don’t make that claim), it does not mean that is indicative of the atmosphere of the seminary. How many churches are there who are unwilling to call a pastor from one of the specific seminaries? (Speaking of poor practice.) I do not mean to imply that you are the cause of this. I just mean to say that we should be careful not to criticize our seminaries/church body except when absolutely necessary. And I felt your comment was not necessary in the context of the conversation.

    I do appreciate your concern for me in the parish. I am inexperienced and a sinner and always could benefit from prayers.

    (I see your point about Erasmus, though really Luther’s situation is hard to compare to our own in the 21st century in terms of church bodies. However, your comment that I initially responded to was not about Dr. Hartung’s published words–the ones you say threaten the Gospel–but about your experience while confronting CSL over its practices, which were not a direct threat to the Gospel, though all church practice does relate to doctrine; I understand.)

    (Tangentially, I think you could use a better picture of what small groups and cowo are on this campus. Not that I think you’d like them if you knew more, but you’d understand what you’re (still) fighting about better. If you’d like a student’s perspective, please let me know how I can contact you privately, and I can share mine.)

  15. April 15th, 2012 at 09:17 | #15

    Rev. McCall,

    Let me try this one more time. A while back there was an ad campaign featuring Phil Mickelesson the golfer who is known for out of the box shots. The ad campaign was titled “What will Phil do next?”

    When Scheer said “St. Louis again” he was saying, “this is the same place that introduced small groups and cowo and are now promoting lectio divina. What will St. Louis do next?” He is not saying “Ft. Wayne good, St. Louis bad.” That is something you imported into the discussion.

    BTW – Dean Burreson introduced cowo at St. Louis and wrote a paper defending it using the gobbledy gook of “contextualization.” When I raised issues with this here on the blog Dale Meyer flew me down to St. Louis for several hours of discussion and debate with his faculty including Dean Burreson and it was he that wrote the defense of cowo at St. Louis. Now, if you want to argue that Burreson was forced to do this by others at the sem and you have evidence of such, let us know and we would be happy to defend Dr. Burreson. But, for now, I will take Dr. Burreson at his word and the other professors who said that the rationale for cowo was penned by Dr. Burreson.

    I think we agree, the whole cowo thing at St. Louis – it just doesn’t make sense does it?

  16. April 15th, 2012 at 09:18 | #16

    A Student,

    I will take you up on your offer concerning small groups at St. Louis. E-mail is on the way.

  17. Dutch
    April 15th, 2012 at 11:31 | #17

    Jim #46,
    Children of Christ, are like little magnets, we “seek” each other! Anyone is allowed to post here, but they don’t “know” us. I’ve made dear friends here, I never would have been allowed or able to, unless for BJS. All I ask, in the utmost humility, chief of sinners I know I am, is…please I beg ya all, please give me back my Church, I beg you, please give what stood for centuries, back to me~the Church/Congregation/Shepherds, I knew & depended upon, for far more than I can list, here. They left me, far before, I was forced, to depart, from all I knew, trusted, depended upon, & was willing for forfeit my life, for. Please, give It back!!!
    We choose, to keep it private, close to our hearts, we think on each other, we pray for each other, we leak from the eyes, for each other, we rejoice & offer Doxologies, Above, for each other! The Christ Philio, crosses oceans & continents, here at BJS!

    We choose, to be humble, quiet, & private, when called to. However, we are also, called to be of courage & brave, when called to. Such are those, who belong & dwell in Him.

    Hugs & Doxologies, for ya, my dear & sweet friend. Confessionals, are like that, we don’t think it’s fodder, or sully thus, for show.
    Pax Christi Semper Fidelis,!!!! Dutch

  18. Rev. McCall
    April 15th, 2012 at 12:37 | #18

    @Pastor Tim Rossow #65
    No, CoWo does not make sense. I agree there. No matter what the intent of the opening shot at the seminary, every seminarian and pastor and most lay people know the stereotypes that the sems make of each other. So again, what benefit does it serve to say, “There goes St. Louis again”? It re-enforces the St. Louis stereotypes out there that isn’t always fair nor accurately reflective of all the pastors who graduate from there. I admit I am probably sensitive since it is coming from the lips of a Ft. Wayne grad. I am probably also sensitive since BJS tends to be way harder on the St. Louis seminary as opposed to Ft. Wayne. And I am sure I am sensitive since St. Lois is my alma mater. But I still know a lot of good professors at St. Louis and know a lot of confessional pastors who have come out of St. Louis. So in an article that had nothing to do with the seminary, did we really need to open up commenting with a stereotype about St. Louis?

  19. Jean
    April 15th, 2012 at 15:11 | #19

    I haven’t heard of this prayer practice in name before. However, this seems very similar to the idea behind the devotional book “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young.

    “Jesus Calling is a devotional filled with uniquely inspired treasures from heaven for every day of the year. After many years of writing in her prayer journal, missionary Sarah Young decided to listen to God with pen in hand, writing down whatever she believed He was saying to her. It was awkward at first, but gradually her journaling changed from monologue to dialogue. She knew her writings were not inspired as Scripture is, but journaling helped her grow closer to God. Others were blessed as she shared her writings, until people all over the world were using her messages. They are written from Jesus’ point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling. It is Sarah’s fervent prayer that our Savior may bless readers with His presence and His peace in ever deeper measure.”

    A search of Jesus Calling and LCMS brought up a recommendation on the Concordia University-WI website http://blog.cuw.edu/wli/2011/02/08/devotional-disciplines/

  20. Diane
    April 15th, 2012 at 16:30 | #20

    Here are two books from CPH – John W. Kleinig, ‘Grace upon Grace: Spirituality for Today’ and ‘Light of Life, A personal journey of Prayer and Meditation on the Gospel of John.’ The Kleinig book has a section on how to meditate on God’s Word and the other one is a program (CD, journal. etc.) for a Sunday morning Bible class.

  21. helen
    April 15th, 2012 at 20:57 | #21

    @Jean #69
    They are written from Jesus’ point of view, thus the title Jesus Calling.

    Hmm. I have a colleague who tells me he’s a prophet, in the manner of Daniel… or Solomon.
    I’d volunteer a sample of his “truths” but he can’t seem to get under 10 screens, so I don’t think Norm would approve. :(

  22. Roger Gallup
    April 16th, 2012 at 10:07 | #22

    I am a little loathe to enter into this discussion because I suspect I will make everyone a little unhappy. I worked with Dr. Hartung for many years and while our contact has been very limited in more recent years I still consider him a friend.

    Dr. Hartung is responding to a reader who has sent him a question. I think at times he tends to respond more from the heart than the intellect. There are others who tend to respond more from intellect than the heart. In this article I think he simply wanted to be helpful to someone. I am confident that he did not intentionally want to encourage non Lutheran doctrine. He well may have not even thought trough all the theological implications of what he was saying.

    Should he then be open to criticism? Yes. When you are a seminary professor and publish something you put yourself into the public arena of ideas and open yourself to criticism. there is nothing wrong with that. I think that if Dr. Hartung has been made aware of this discussion that he is the type of person who will listen and see if there is merit in the objections. If there is he will make changes in the future. That is the benefit of this type of discussion.

    As long as we keep in the relm of critiquing the public ideas of people and not making condemnations of the people themselves I really see no eighth commandment issues here.

  23. helen
    April 16th, 2012 at 11:04 | #23

    @Roger Gallup #72
    As long as we keep in the relm of critiquing the public ideas of people and not making condemnations of the people themselves I really see no eighth commandment issues here.

    Thank you, Roger Gallup.
    Sticking to critiquing ideas would make threads shorter, too. :)

    [No side discussions about personalities?] ;)

  24. helen
    April 16th, 2012 at 11:05 | #24

    Thanks to Norm, who found what was wrong with my picture link, and evidently fixed it before I got around to it.

  25. Joe Olson
    April 16th, 2012 at 15:42 | #25

    @Roger Gallup #72

    My disappointment is in the substance of his answer. Here he had a great opportunity to teach this person, to inform him or her about what Luther thought of this mystical practice and instead he offered a book about how to do it. This is just wrong. I hope you are correct that he is the kind of man would who, upon deeper reflection, would correct this err.

    I also question why this question was selected for publication. This is where I am having a hard time believing that this is all just a mistake that wasn’t properly thought through. I have a hard time believing that they answer every question submitted. So why pick this one? The selection suggests that you want to communicate to the Lutheran world that Lectio Divinia is good, meet and salutatory.

  26. Rev. David Mueller
    April 16th, 2012 at 15:44 | #26

    @Rev. Daniel A. Hinton #45
    I skipped ahead here, so if someone else mentioned this already, I apologize for the “repeat”: One of the most helpful books to read in order to sort through the value or lack thereof in this Lectio Divina thing would be The Quest for Holiness, by Adolph Koeberle.
    On the “positive” side–the encouragement of the reading of the Holy Scriptures is certainly a good thing.
    However, on the definitely negative side, it is Scripture reading in a manner that *minimizes* the actual growth in the knowledge of the Content because it veers in the direction of seeking a “mystical experience” of sorts through the “meditation” on a “shimmering” word or whatever. Faith is more than knowledge, certainly, but it is *not* *less* than knowledge.

    Mysticism seems to be “in the ascendance” in our culture these days, amongst the 3 false routes to “holiness” that Koeberle examines (holiness via the will, via the emotions/experience, via wisdom of the human intellect–this one can be illustrated by classic Calvinist teaching regarding predestination–“there has to be an intellectually satisfying answer to the Why Some Not Others question!”). Respectfully to Dr. Hartung, I think it was, well, unwise not to give a warning regarding the mystical aspects of this Lectio Divina practice.

  27. Rev. David Mueller
    April 16th, 2012 at 15:51 | #27

    @Jean #69
    “It is Sarah’s fervent prayer that our Savior may bless readers with His presence and His peace in ever deeper measure.”

    Then I hope Sarah unwaveringly steers her readers to the Divine Service–Word and Sacrament, and “not forsaking the gathering together” (ala Hebrews) for some “personal” “experience” of Jesus’ “presence” and peace. Personal devotional time is valuable, but it is *only* valuable as it is “sourced and normed” by the Divine Service where Christ constitutes His Body by His Presence and Peace in Word and Sacrament.

    I am leery of anything that looks like it advocates a “and the joy we share as we tarry there none other has ever known” sort of “Christianity”–that is, a very individual-focused, individual-experience-based” (even if it’s supposed to be grounded in the Scriptures) sort.

  28. Rev. David Mueller
    April 16th, 2012 at 16:00 | #28

    @Pastor Tim Rossow #51
    Hey, new thread needed–discussion of the new CTCR document on Prayer. I picked it up and started on it last week and haven’t finished yet. So far, it looks pretty good–like something I’d like to take my elders through.

    If I can swing it, I’ll get it read and maybe throw some thoughts together on it to start a thread in the next several days, unless someone else beats me to it.

  29. Rev. David Mueller
    April 16th, 2012 at 16:13 | #29

    ” Most important for me is that this is not so much reading the Scriptures to gain more factual knowledge about what is in them, but rather the use of the Scriptures in a way that forms and changes me.”

    This bothers me. The “factual knowledge” of our Lord’s bodily resurrection is precisely what forms and changes me. The “factual knowledge” that His Body and Blood are given into my mouth for the forgiveness of my sins in the Sac. of the Altar is precisely what forms and changes me. It worries me when people downplay “factual knowledge.” What is this question-asker really concerned with, that he/she has turned to this method of Lectio Divina for an answer or cure? Since “forms and changes me” is what’s mentioned, is it a frustration over a lack of a visibly, measurably improved sanctified life? If that’s the case, I would steer that person toward Holy Absolution, much more than a semi-mystical method of “Bible study”. Bible study is, to be sure, of *great* value, but never in isolation from the Church and her Ministry.

  30. April 19th, 2012 at 13:10 | #30

    The devil confesses all the facts, the Christian trusts they are true, for him/her. That’s the difference.

    Fides historica
    Fides amplectens

    Significant difference between the two.

  31. Our God Reigns
    April 19th, 2012 at 21:51 | #31

    I have called lectio divina “Bible Study” for years and didn’t realize what I was doing naturally. I think reading the Bible for facts is wonderful. But reading the word of God as your bread and meat and the air you breathe is spiritual and can pull you into a moment with the God of the universe that you don’t get anywhere else. Reading and absorbing can give you a glimpse into what “personal relationship” really entails. I can’t imagine why anyone would not want to practice this unless there is something hidden that is not beneficial that I am unaware of.

  32. Rev. David Mueller
    April 20th, 2012 at 15:22 | #32

    @Rev. Paul T. McCain #80
    I’d only add that the devil only confesses all the facts when he’s *forced* to by Him who is the Truth. He is the father of lies, after all.

    @Our God Reigns #81
    I still don’t know what this “personal relationship” thing is that people keep talking about having with God. I certainly believe I have one–how much more “personal” can you get than to actually eat and drink the body and blood that belongs to God, and to believe that He gives me this for my forgiveness, life, and salvation? But I don’t think that’s what most people who talk about a “personal relationship” with God mean. I also don’t know what the word “spiritual” means, at least, as its used by most of the world around me. Learning the *facts* of the Scriptures is enormously “spiritual”. E.g., the fact that God created me and all creatures, that He has redeemed me from my sin, death, and hell by the historical fact of the Incarnation and Atonement, and has delivered to me, along with all the Church, this redemption through the historical fact of my baptism (the certificate of which I just found in my mom’s basement) which took place less than 2 weeks after my birth, as well as through my mom and dad reading Bible stories to me, praying with me, through many Sunday School and Day School teachers, through my dad’s sermons and conduct of the Divine Service, through his Confirmation lessons, etc., etc.

    The distinction Rev. McCain pointed out is valuable and important, but as he said, the Christian doesn’t simply believe these facts floating out there, he believes that since they are true, they are true *for me*. (And for that matter, they are true for everyone else, too–“He died for all”, after all.)

  33. Rev. David Mueller
    April 20th, 2012 at 15:26 | #33

    Okay–more thoughts on this.
    If a person has this “fides historica” but has not the “fides amplectens”, can we really say he has “all the facts”–believes “*all* the facts”? He doesn’t believe *all* of them, because it is an objective fact that Jesus’ blood was shed “for *me*”, for my salvation, and thus, I am forgiven. And if I believe everything but that fact, then I don’t believe the whole corpus of the “facts”, do I. So, though we can *distinguish* fides historica from amplectens, we can’t *truly* separate them. (Kinda like justification and sanctification, I suppose.)

  34. Win
    April 21st, 2012 at 11:54 | #34

    Earlier in the same column, a reader mentions journaling. Here’s Dr. Hartung’s response:

    “Two things are central in this reader’s response: 1) a time at the end of the day for reflection about the day in an organized and meditational way, and 2) a journaling process through which a person keeps a record of his or her reflections. The journal itself then promotes further reflection and, as the reader suggests, allows for the recognition of patterns and repetitive concerns and issues. Add to this a self-examination process and journaling meditation on a portion of Scripture, and I think you have a process with considerable power — Holy Spirit-driven to strengthen a person spiritually. I will take the reader’s word on the book reference, since I am not familiar with it.”

    Makes me uneasy.

    BTW, this emphasis on mysticism has been around the LCMS for a long time. The RIM influence is alive and well: “My experience trumps your doctrine.”

  35. Rev. David Mueller
    April 21st, 2012 at 13:53 | #35

    @Win #84
    Yep. It’s all just the original heresy, which, in the early centuries of the NT Church was called “Gnosticism.” But it was a “hidden knowledge” above and beyond God’s Word that the serpent promised to Eve, wasn’t it.

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