Ken Boa, who received a master’s degree in Theology degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, as well as doctoral degrees from New York University and the University of Oxford, is president of Reflections Ministries as well as Trinity House Publishers. He is the author of several books including four journals in the Reflections series, all published by NavPress. The two journals under review, along with the other two journals in the series, Sacred Readings and The Psalms, all attempt to do the same thing: take the reader on a meditative journal through the Scriptures or creeds via the use of “the ancient art of sacred reading,” better known as lectio divina.
It is important to know that lectio is not found, promoted or prescribed anywhere in the Word of God. It is a technique invented by the “Eastern desert father John Cassian early in the fifth century” (all quotations come from Creeds p.12). Later the “sixth-century Rule of St. Benedict that guided Benedictine and Cistercian monastic practices” systemized lectio (p. 12), but it fell out of favor by the end of the Middle Ages and did not recover popularity among Roman Catholics until Cistercian monks such as Thomas Keating and Thomas Merton revitalized it (p. 13). Thirty years ago Protestants were exposed to these mystical and contemplative practices through the writings of Richard Foster and Dallas Willard. Now they are all the rage in many evangelical circles, and Boa is a leading proponent.
Boa explains that lectio divina involves four movements:
“Since lectio divina engages the whole person, your bodily posture is important. A seated position that is erect but not tense or slouched is best…. Remember that unlike ordinary reading, in lectio you are seeking to be shaped by the Word more than informed by the Word” (emphasis his) (pp. 14-15).
“Meditation is a spiritual work of holy desire and an interior invitation for the Spirit to pray and speak within us (Romans 8:26-27)…Meditation will do you little good if you try to control the outcome.” Incorporating the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola is recommended for meditation (pp. 16-17).
Boa informs us that “Oratio [Prayer] is a time for participation in the interpenetrating subjectivity of the Trinity through prolonged mutual presence and growing identification with the life of Christ,” (p.19) whatever that means.
To the uninitiated, contemplation is often confused with meditation but they are not the same. In ordinary circles meditation describes deep thinking and analyzing with a rational mind and some may use contemplation as a synonym for this activity. But contemplation in mystical circles “is a theological grace that cannot be reduced to logical, psychological, or aesthetic categories…It is best for us to stop talking and ‘listen to Him’ in simple and loving attentiveness. In this strange and holy land we must remove the sandals of our ideas, constructs and inclinations, and quietly listen for the voice of God” (p. 20).
“Centering prayer, a practice that was recently revived and updated by three Cistercian monks – Thomas Keating, William Meninger, and Basil Pennington,” and based on the “fourteenth-century classic of mystical theology The Cloud of Unknowing,” is recommended (p. 21). Another option is the prayer of the heart “that is described in the Philokalia, [as] an anthology of quotations from Eastern monastic Fathers from the third century to the Middle Ages. In this tradition, the invocation of the name of the Lord Jesus is used to create a state of receptivity and interior recollection of the presence of God” (p.21).
All of this background information is found within the first 30 pages of each book. The remainder of both books is filled with daily readings in which the reader practices the art of lectio divina.
As is obvious, Boa is taking his readers into the land of ancient Roman Catholic and Eastern mystical practices that have no basis in Scripture. This discerning reader will reject lectio divina along with these books, and return to the sure Word of God.