Reforming lectio divina

Spirituality is still a huge topic with evangelical Christians, and increasingly practices such as lectio divina are encouraged even for Reformed Christians. But is this practice helpful? And how can it be used by Christians in the Reformed tradition?

Lectio divina (or, divine reading) as described by Kenneth Boa in his book Conformed to His Image, (Zondervan, 2001), 96-97.

The ancient art of lectio divina, or sacred reading, was introduced to the West by the Eastern desert father John Cassian early in the fifth century.

It consists of four elements.

  1. Lectio (reading). Select a very short text and ingest it by reading it several times. Normally, one chooses a verse or a brief passage from the chapters read from the Old and New Testaments in morning Bible reading.
  2. Meditatio (meditation). Take a few minutes to reflect on the words and phrases in the text you have read. Ponder the passage by asking questions and using your imagination.
  3. Oratio (prayer). Having internalized the passage, offer it back to God in the form of personalized prayer.
  4. 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. Contemplation 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 hearts.

I think there is much to appreciate about lectio divina, especially its Agassiz-like focus on a text. Further, that Scripture ought to bid us pray and that our prayers ought to be filled with Scripture is an axiom of this discipline, so to the extent that the lectio divina encourages this is a boon. I would even go so far as to say – due to the importance of prayer in the Christian life – that anything that encourages prayer in the life of believers is a good thing. But having said all of this, let me turn to a few concerns. Continue reading

Aquinas and Calvinism

I once remember hearing that not only was the predestination of John Calvin not unique, it wasn’t even controversial among the deeper thinkers in Christian history. In fact, no less than Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274) could said to be something of a “5 Point Calvinist!”

The idea that Aquinas had a clear and strong view of predestination should be beyond dispute. No only does Aquinas’ masterpiece, Summa Theologica, contain several pertinent sections related to predestination, but Robert Mulligan translates several other relevant sections from his writings in Thomas Aquinas: Providence and Predestination (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1953). He can say things like, “Clearly predestination is like the plan, existing in God’s mind, for the ordering of some persons to salvation. The carrying out of this is passively as it were in the persons predestined, though actively in God. When considered executively in this way, predestination is spoken of as a ‘calling’ and a ‘glorifying’, thus St. Paul says, ‘Whom he predestinated, them also he called and glorified.'” (Mulligan, 164).

But can Aquinas account as a 5 Point Calvinist? I rooted around for some quotes, and all of the following come from the Summa unless otherwise noted. Any emphasis is added by myself.

Total Depravity

“I answer that: Man’s nature may be looked at in two ways: first, in its integrity, as it was in our first parent before sin; secondly, as it is corrupted in us after the sin of our first parent. Now in both states human nature needs the help of God as First Mover, to do or wish any good whatsoever, as stated above. Continue reading

The Problem with Most Bible Studies

You know that feeling you get when someone perfectly describes something you have witnessed or seen dozens of times, but never been able to articulate yourself? I had that feeling as I listened to Christian Smith describe the average, American Evangelical Bible study. The following quote is taken from an interview at The White Horse Inn:

Basically, what gets reported [by anthropologists studying evangelical Bible studies], and what I think I agree with, is:
The text is read, umm… what the text actually says is not all that much paid attention to. People, rather, sort of search around in their heads and their memories and their feelings for something that seems to connect to the text. And then, they conclude, “Oh yeah, well that makes me feel like this…” or, “What I think is that…” or, “In my opinion what it means is this…” And usually, the text is serving as a pretext to affirm something they already believe, rather than as an authoritative text to challenge what they already believe.

Nailed it.

Reformation Day Lesson 2011: Standing Firm in the Faith to the End

Things have been pretty busy for myself, my church, and my family lately, so I doubt I’ll put up the whole text from our Reformation Day festivities at church, but what follows is the outline for Reformation Day conference that encouraged us to stand firm in the faith. May we all stand firm in the power He provides. “Our hope is in no other save in Thee / Our faith is built upon Thy promise free / Oh grant to us such stronger help and sure / That we can boldly conquer and endure.”

Standing Firm in the Faith
I. Introduction
A. How Scripture Exhorts Us to Stand Firm
1. And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. (Exodus 14:13)
2. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)
3. Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. (Philippians 4:1)
4. But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits1 to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father, who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word. (2 Thessalonians 2:13-17)
5. I have written briefly to you, exhorting and declaring that this is the true grace of God. Stand firm in it. (1 Peter 5:12)

B. How the Reformation Exhorts Us to Stand Firm

II. The Uniqueness of the Protestant Reformation
A. The General Consensus on the Need for Reforming the Church
B. Previous Reformation Attempts
C. What Was Unique About the Protestant Reformation

  1. Creeds vs Deeds
  2. Reformation vs Revolution
  3. New Technology – the Gutenberg Press
  4. Continue reading

Update: New Reformed Church in Twin Cities

Getting biblically solid, confessionally Reformed churches in the Midwest is not easy, and St. Paul & Minneapolis MN prove no exception. So it is exciting to see that fellow WSCal grad Rev. Ryan Kron is starting a church plant in the Minneapolis and Eden Prairie area. So if you’re in the southwest Metro area, give Emmaus Road Reformed Fellowship a look.

Update: “Fellowship” no more! Emmaus Road Reformed Church is officially up and running online, and you can join them for corporate worship this Sunday at:
Eden Lake Elementary School
12000 Anderson Lakes Parkway
Eden Prairie, MN 55347
(Google maps & directions)

Emmaus Road pastor Rev. Kron says: Continue reading

Headline: Reformation Day 2011

Featured

Reformation Day Worship Service

As a congregation that stands proudly in the tradition of the Protestant Reformation, we are grateful for an opportunity to remember God’s gracious kindness to His Church around the anniversary of the Reformation. On the Sunday closest to October 31, the day history tells us Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenburg, Germany, we pay special attention the details of the Reformation.

Our worship service will take special care to reflect the liturgies of the Reformed tradition of Christianity, especially in the songs and arrangement of psalms that came out of this historical era. Then, be sure to join us later… Continue reading at Zion Ev & Reformed Church…

Reformation Day Liturgy

Order for the Divine Service on Reformation Sunday While the entire liturgy is largely based off of Calvin’s post-Strasbourg order, especially the Call to Worship from Psalm 121 reflects this influence. For more on how Calvin was affected by Bucer and Strasbourg, see Charles Baird The Presbyterian Liturgies. Continue reading Reformation Day Liturgy…

Reformation Day Sermon

I John 4:7 – 21 “The Effects of God’s Love”

Reformation Day Lesson: Standing Firm with Luther, Zwingli and Calvin

Things have been pretty busy for myself, my church, and my family lately, so I doubt I’ll put up the whole text from our Reformation Day festivities at church, but what follows is the outline for Reformation Day conference that encouraged us to stand firm in the faith. May we all stand firm in the power He provides. “Our hope is in no other save in Thee / Our faith is built upon Thy promise free / Oh grant to us such stronger help and sure / That we can boldly conquer and endure.”

Standing Firm in the Faith
I. Introduction
A. How Scripture Exhorts Us to Stand Firm Continue Reading “Standing Firm in the Faith to the End…”

 

Robert Farrar Capon:

“The Reformation was a time when men went blind, staggering drunk because they had discovered, in the dusty basement of late medievalism, a whole cellar of 1500-year-old, 200 proof grace—a bottle after bottle of pure distillate of Scripture, one sip of which would convince anyone that God saves us single-handedly. The word of the gospel—after all these centuries of trying to lift yourself into heaven by worrying about the perfection of your own bootstraps—suddenly turned out to be a flat announcement that the saved were home-free before they started. Grace was to be drunk neat: no water, no ice, and certainly no ginger ale.”

Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Ordinances

The Genevan Book of Order

The Form of Prayers and Ministration of the Sacraments, etc.
Used in the English Congregation at Geneva (1556)

Of Ministers and Their Election
What Things are Chiefly Required in the Pastors and Ministers

First, let the church diligently consider that the minister which is to be chosen[a] be not found culpable of any such faults which St. Paul reprehends in a man of that vocation,[b] but contrariwise endowed with such virtues, that he may be able to undertake his charge, and diligently execute the same. Secondly, that he distribute faithfully the word of God, and minister the sacraments sincerely,[c] ever careful not only to teach his flock publicly, but also privately to admonish them;[d] remembering always, that if any thing perish through his default, the Lord will require it at his hands.[e]

a. Acts 1:21-23; 13:2-3; 14:23 Continue reading

Bumper Sticker Theology

“There was; when He was not” – Arius
“As soon as a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs.” – John Tetzel
semper eadem” (always the same) – Romish Counter-Reformation
“I can write the Gospel on a dime.” Dwight L. Moody
“Once saved always saved.” (large swaths of) American Evangelicalism
“Let go and let God.” Am. Evangelicalism
et cetera ad nauseum

Clearly, there have been some less than helpful slogans running through the corridors of church history. However, aren’t the solas more or less slogans? Reformed churchmen have utilized pithy sayings as well. So how should we think about sloganeering? Useful if it has the right theology (pragmatic)? Fight fire with fire? Or is there another means for addressing this phenomenon?

Ancient Hymns for A Future Faith

Why Young People Are Returning To Old Hymn Texts

by Kevin Twit

Not too long ago I saw a sign in an antique store: “My grandmother saved it, my mother threw it away, and now I’m buying it back!” That little sign captures the story of church music in the last fifty years… For many, the church’s hymn tradition has become a treasured resource; students around the country are scouting out used bookstores for antique hymnals, searching for gems that have fallen out of use and yet resonate with their faith and longing to connect with God in a deeper way… we still need hymns in a postmodern world! Here are several reasons why: Continue reading

God’s Attributes and Poverty in Ethiopia

Pastor,
Why do we see starving people in countries like Ethiopia? More or less; why does God allow things like this if he is love?

Dear [redacted],
Those are great questions. And difficult ones. I think the place to start is to remember God’s sovereignty over all things as Creator and Sustainer. He is sovereign over the sparrows (Matthew 10:29), the rolling of dice (Proverbs 16:33), the decisions of kings (Proverbs 21:1), the rise and fall of governments and kingdoms (Daniel 4:34-37) and traveling and business plans (James 4:15).
Continue reading