Piper Blurs the Lines Again….Lectio Divina and the 2012 Passion Conference

John Piper is a great preacher and thinker whom I have learned a great deal from. He also seems to be on a mission of inclusivity that has caused him a great deal of trouble in the recent past. The latest issue connected to his name is the issue of Lectio Divina.

On his website Piper endorses this as a method of prayers and Bible study. So what is all the fuss about? Most have no idea what the words Lectio Divina mean, just like the majority of people at the 2012 passion conference didn’t know what they were doing. However I have seen this sort of thing increase in certain churches recently and it does need to be addressed because of how it is being used and who is driving it. As the reader will see, I think that the real problem here is not that Piper is engaging in some Catholic/mystical form of worship and prayer, but that he is engaged with people that are without drawing a dividing line for those that follow him and others.

First we need to understand what Lectio Divina is and where it came from, then see what it has turned into and how it changed.

Lectio Divina means “Divine Reading” and it is an ancient practice that dates back to the first century as far back as Origen and Augustine himself. This practice was not just reading the Bible by skimming the pages but combining prayer, thought and reflection on the passages through slow, careful study. Obviously Augustine benefited greatly from this practice as both Catholics and Protestants alike point to him as one of the greatest minds in the history of Christianity.

We can understand what people between the 1rst and 12th centuries meant when they talked about reflection or “reading and praying” on the scriptures. For example St. Gregory talked about contemplation in the 6th century as “knowledge of God impregnated with love” and “resting in he gift of God”. From what I read contemplation and reflection did not strip itself of knowledge or the Biblical text in any way. Reading, praying, and resting in the knowledge and word of God was a given for Christians of this time.

In the 12th century a monk Guigo formulated this practice into 4 steps based on 4 rungs of a ladder that man can use to reach God. It is primarily this version of the Lectio Divina that you hear denominations and others referring to which is unfortunate. The Reformation put a halt to most of this in the Protestant world as “Sola Scriptura” brought people back to a “Bible Alone” mindset. Now with the rise of postmodernism we have seen this rise again with an emphasis on the 4th point of contemplation that fits with the culture. Here we find a very subjective, pious and often mystic form of contemplation that is not at all found in the writings of St. Augustine or others prior to the 12th century. It is dangerous because it takes the person outside of the Scriptures as they wait for God to speak directly to them through the Holy Spirit.

In my view, John Piper knows better then this. I have read his books as well and there is nothing like this form of contemplative extra-biblical thinking in it at all. In fact in his book “Think”, which is that latest one I have read, he confronts postmodernism, subjective thinking, and anti-intellectualism. This does not sound like a guy who spends his time waiting for the Spirit to put his imagination to work.

Yet there he is on the stage with people who are most definitely caught up in this mystical world of God-speak. He reads the Bible and tells people to then listen for Christ’s words. I have no doubt that he means listen to them from the scripture and gain your knowledge that way, if not then he has contradicted his own writings and articulated beliefs. However that is not all his stage partners did. Listen to Louis Giglio close out the readings after John Piper, Beth Moore, and others were finished reading.

This is the kind of language that is pious and disturbing. It tells the people out in the audience that God is speaking to them, and if they don’t hear it and raise their hand then they are less then the person next to them that did. There was no preparation or serious study that led to a deeper knowledge of the scripture that I know Piper wants people to have. It is an appeal to emotion and extra-biblical feelings that is nothing like what Piper or his contemporaries support or write about.

So here is the problem. It is not that Piper is joining the emergent movement, or that it discounts all of the great preaching and teaching he does like some in the reformed faith have charged him with. It is that Piper does not repudiate a practice that he has to know is not Biblical. Even later on his website as I referred to above he reinforces Lectio Divina with this description for the 4th contemplative point.

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.

This is not what Giglio presented at the conference but Piper has nothing to say about it.

With all do respect to Piper who I have learned a great deal from, he seems to be on a mission to bring all forms of faith together by participating in events like these, sitting down with Rick Warren, and not drawing the lines where they are needed. This causes great confusion with his own flock and others that listen to him that now think that in order to be spiritual they have to hear the voice of God after reading a passage at a conference. He does a disservice to those he disciples by not calling these things out, but instead propping them up in the name of friendship.

This is not an attempt to bash John Piper, there is enough of that going on, but if he is going to continue down this road of “finding common ground” then he needs to point out the areas where the ground is not so common and repudiate error and false teaching when he interacts with it. Anything less then that is irresponsible on his part.

The good and the bad about Christopher Hitchens.

I liked “The Hitch”, I really did. He was articulate, intelligent and honest with a charming swagger that drew you in. He was courageous as well in his bold fight against totalitarianism that even led him to turn against some of his socialist friends who he saw as far too accepting of dictators, and far too compromising on issues for political gain. Personally I like people who are thinkers, they don’t run with the crowd because they hear something that sounds good. Critical thinking is something that is sorely lacking today in all areas of life. We want to label people quickly and assume we know everything about them by that label. Hitchens was someone that would not be labeled, telling you what he thought no matter the consequence or the label he might defy by his words.

Unfortunately he was influenced early on by a “Trotsky lite-Marxist” worldview that led him down a path of socialism and leftist leanings. In true Hitch style though he was able to break from the left when they did not live up to their teachings. He bonded with the left on their attack against Stalin and against the moral outrages of Hitler. He ended up with a hatred for the “totalitarian” that transcended politics and when the left did not adhere to this he broke with them, even to the extent of supporting George W. Bush and the war on terror.

He was not shy in taking his hatred of totalitarianism to it’s ultimate conclusion of hating what he saw as the ultimate totalitarian in God himself, referring to Heaven as a “Celestial North Korea”. There was so much suffering in the world that a God who was in control of such a world was diabolical to Hitchens, and even worse then Hitler as I heard him say on more then one occasion in debates against Christians.

Hitchens had read his Bible as he had read so many books. By his own admission he read many things quickly instead of only a few selections in depth. This allowed him to speak intelligently on a wide array of subjects but he was an expert in no one area with possible exception being literary critique. He knew enough to make him dangerous and this was definitely the case in regard to the “Abraham Religions” as he called Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. When he combined his cursory reading of the Bible with his Trotsky type worldview he went down a terrible path of hatred for all people or beings that might attempt to take away what Hitchens idea of individual freedom was.

Many people fake a belief in God to make themselves feel better. Others take an agnostic position of convenience to say that there just isn’t any proof or maybe they would believe. Hitchens would have none of this proclaiming that he would never worship a “vicious tyrant” such as the God of the Bible who was no better then Kim Jong Il.

I admire Hitchens for this. I am sad that he has passed without truly seeing God for who he is, but he was honest about his feelings as I believe all people who do not believe in God should be. They should hate God too instead of pretending to love him like so many do, or making up their own God that makes them feel warm and fuzzy inside. Hitchens cursory reading of the Bible was probably more then many Christians have done, so he knew what God had said and didn’t try to form God into something he liked. He hated God for who he thought God was and was not shy about proclaiming this.

Self proclaimed Christians want to talk about God on Sunday’s because they are told he had a wonderful plan for their lives and that He loves them. Then they want to forget about this God and have their freedom to do whatever they want to do the rest of the week. Hitchens would have had no part of this either. To him God was an omniscient and sovereign being that claimed to know his thoughts and his final outcome and therefore limit his freedom to act apart from that. He knew what that meant and he hated it as he should as a non-believer.

You see guys like Hitchens borrow from Christianity while they are proclaiming their hatred for it. Hitchens used his God given gifts to formulate a concept of morality that only a humanist could. A set of moral laws with no moral law giver. Purposeful lives in a purposeless world. He thought that having pure freedom to make our own morality and purpose was much better then having that defined by a transcendent being. However this is foolish as the Bible says it is when a man says to himself “There is no God” It is foolish because man is finite and can’t see past the present. If we make up our own morality then what is good today might be bad tomorrow. It would take a sovereign God to be able to see all of time for what it is to turn bad things for good. Hitchens could not see past himself to realize that without God there is no transcendent “good” and therefore holding Kim Jong Il to a standard of morality is impossible.

Christopher Hitchens brought much good to us, something the reader might be shocked to hear. He told us to think about what we believe in a time where many Christians and people in general don’t. He challenged the worldviews of others instead of letting them rest. He demanded that one have intelligent answers to questions of God and morality.

However he hated God.

His hatred of God was the bad part of Hitchens that flowed out of him like water breaking from a compromised dam. His thinking was backward in regard to God because his humanism sought to achieve precedence over everything. God was the supreme dictator that attempted to rule over man in what could only be evil as a slave owner is to the slave. However Hitchens missed who God is and because of this he missed who he was. His hatred for God blinded him from the true nature of God which is good and his humanism told him that man was really better then he was. Therefore God was the evil tyrant holding back man from what was possible.

Mr. Hitchens showed us how a brilliant mind blinded from the things of God operates. That our intellectual capacity to understand who God is does not rely on our own understanding but on God’s revealing to us.

If Calvinism is true then Roger Olson would not worship God

I was going to review Roger Olson’s book Against Calvinism but what could I say that James White has not. In this first video We hear Dr. White respond to the main idea in Olson’s Book that he could not worship the God of Calvinism. Dr. White shows how the arguments of Olson and others with the Arminian view against Calvinism in this regard are the same as Atheists.

The Hard Sayings – 1 Timothy 2:4

Is Paul telling Timothy that God desires to save ALL men? Is Paul a psychotic man that contradicts himself? Pastor Jim McClarty takes on this passage as part 3 in the “Hard Sayings” videos using context and word usage to explain how these passages support the completed atonement of the cross for the elect instead of the Arminian view of salvation. If you missed videos 1 and 2 watch those first as they provide some support for what is said in this third video.

Another day of reflection

Yesterday was a hard day for many as America remembered the 9-11 tragedy. We have heard the many stories of how God used that tragedy for good from the mouth of the survivors and their families. We understand that evil does not emanate from God or he could not be God, and we also see God’s work more clear through tragedy when the contrast between good and evil is most evident.

I take this thought to September 12 2011 which is the 19th anniversary of my Dad’s death. Not even a year before this incident my grandfather who had a big hand in raising me had also passed away. Ironically I am 38 which means I have lived half of my life, and basically all of my adult life, with no earthly father figure providing guidance and answering questions.

These last 19 years began with a new introduction to a heavenly father, alone on my bunk bed thousands of miles away from anyone I knew. Since that time I have been on a journey to understand and know Him as best as I possibly can and He, both through his own words and working through many other men that I am grateful to for their writings and discussions, have kept me grounded in knowledge and faith.

However I can’t forget how the journey started, through the untimely death of the two men I relied on up to that point for most things. Something that I now look back on and know was necessary to get me started down the path I have been on for half of my life.

It hasn’t just been me either, and of course this isn’t all about me. This is about God and how He works, something that is hard for us to see until we look back and reflect on our lives and the lives of others. Something that many people across America have done over the course of the last 2 days. To all of us who are thinking about lost loved ones today I say to you the same thing that Joshua said to his family when they found him in Egypt after selling him into slavery, they meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.

Bad things happen to innocent people because the world is fallen and evil exists. The Bible says that God allowed evil to exist as a result of creating finite beings capable of love and doing good, but also capable of hate and doing bad. How can one know love if hate is not available, or as C.S. Lewis said, a man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of what a straight line is. Therefore a world with life and love is a world with death and hate and the two are inextricably tied together. “Try to exclude the possibility of suffering which the order of nature and the existence of free-wills involve, and you will find that you have excluded life itself” – C.S. Lewis.

God is the greatest thing we can think of, so he is omniscient and knew all of this, he is omnipotent so he could create all of this, and He chose to do so even though knowing that evil and death would come of it because being omnipotent does not mean anything can be done, but that anything possible can be done. So the question isn’t why does evil exist, but why do any of us exist at all. Nobody knows the answer to that question of why God created at all, but I am positive that all of us that are alive are glad he did even through our tragedy of death and suffering.

Through all of this we know that the death and suffering of those we love never goes in vain, but is worked out to the good of the God who created the world. I am thankful for the time that my father and grandfather had with us, and the impact they had on the lives around them including my own. I am also thankful for all of the stories of courage, love, and grace that have come out this week as a result of the 10th anniversary of the tragedy of 9-11. How appropriate it is for the Christian faith to show us life through the death of Christ.

My thoughts for the day…..Finally….God and 9-11

Wow, it has been a busy 3-4 months with moving, working and writing papers for my MAT. I have not had any time to write here on my blog. Now that I have the move behind me I should have some time to write, and possibly incorporate some of my writings for the MAT here as well.

Tomorrow is the 10th anniversary of 9-11. I still remember the day vividly. It has been wonderful to listen to the stories from those who survived that dreadful day. It leads me to the story of Joseph and his brothers and specifically this verse in Genesis 50:20

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive

Rob Bell’s new book “Love Wins” Loses the Gospel

Rob Bell is a guy that I am sure means well. He is also a guy that says a lot of wonderful things. However in this new book he exposes himself for having a view of God that is simply not supported by the Biblical text.

In the first interview he is called out by Martin Bashir on a theological and philosophical level. In the second video you have a proper Biblical response correcting Bell. In the third video you have another error from Bell’s own video refuted from way back in 2007.

Recently Rob Bell called on his congregation of thousands at Mars Hill to not allow others to take him out of context, and issued a warning to others not to condemn him because the Spirit might be working. Read the book for yourself and listen to his own words, then hold it up to scripture and the words of Jesus himself, then ask yourself if Rob Bell’s idea of God and Hell measure up.

In fact first, just listen to his own words in his own marketing for the book

Then listen to Martin Bashir ask him basic questions that he simply can’t answer. As far as I know this is in no way edited to take him out of context. Martin explains his questioning on Paul Edward’s program here Brashir explains Bell\'s seeker sensative approach and the problem with truth

Then see what Bell says about faith back a few years ago, and listen to someone critique him against the Bible.

Like I said, Rob Bell seems passionate about what he does, and I am sure he has the best of intentions. But he is loaded with error and bad Theology and to make matters worse teaches this to thousands every Sunday. One day he will have to give an answer for this, I wonder what that answer will be