I love reading about Eastern Orthodoxy, scripture, and nonfiction works that challenge me to expand my view of the world.
Gary Neal Hansen, Love Your Bible: Finding Your Way to the Presence of God with a 12th Century Monk (Climacus Publishing: 2015). Pp. 46.
In today’s world, many people are searching for a connection with Christ. Unfortunately, there aren’t many aids out there to help people find a truly deep connection with Him; so many go hungry. Many of those who do search for a meaningful spiritual path turn to the Bible, but many of them easily become frustrated looking for a way to read Scripture in a way that will feed their soul. Hansen’s book seeks to correct this by giving people a resource to connect to Scripture in a way that will lead them into a deeper relationship with Christ.
Hansen draws on the work of a 12th century monk, Guigo II, and makes it accessible to us in the 21st century. Guigo, in The Ladder of Monks, lays out a plan for lectio divina that consists of 4 steps: reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation. Hansen draws on this work to expertly explain each of these steps, and he does so by giving us Guigo’s practical examples (from the Beatitudes), and by giving us his own examples (from Psalm 1:1).
While lectio divina is becoming more and more popular in our contemporary society, much of it is very superficial and not rooted in the historical practice of it. By introducing us to Guigo’s work through this little introduction, Hansen is correcting this problem, and giving us a way to mine the deeps of this spiritual practice.
Though the author is very ecumenically minded, this book does lean towards a Protestant mindset. For example, in the “reading step,” the practitioner of lectio divina is encouraged to do one’s own research into the biblical verse being used. Though one is encouraged to use the Bible as a reference, at no point is one encouraged to read the Bible in context. For me, as an Eastern Orthodox Christian, this context is what St. Irenaeus would call the Rule of Faith (such as the Creed). As 40,000 different denominations have demonstrated, context as a starting point is very important.
The other Protestant influence is in the discussion of the “prayer step.” Here Hansen takes the Lutheran perspective of Law and Grace. He writes that our reading, and meditation of Scripture, allow us to see our brokenness and sinfulness, and then our prayer is our opportunity to call out for God’s grace. From Orthodoxy’s point-of-view, a distinction between law and grace is not made, and one’s works are to be a synergy of cooperation with Grace.
One possible weakness of using lectio divina in a modern context is the difference in approach to Scripture in the 21st century. Historically, the ancient Church approached Scripture either allegorically, or typologically. It is this sort of approach that allowed the early Christians to look back at the Hebrew scripture and see it not as the history of the Israelites in the Middle East, but as the Old Testament – a set of writings that foreshadow Christ. It is also this sort of approach that allowed the early Christians to form basic Christian doctrine such as the dual nature of Christ, God as Trinity, and Mary as Theotokos. However, modern Christians will approach Scripture using modern academic approaches taught to them in school, such as scholasticism, critical-historical methods, etc. So, even though one may be following the steps of lectio divina set out by Hansen and Guigo, the approach – and, perhaps, the results – will be very different. However, Hansen does suggest using a Concordance in one’s research, which points one to these more ancient approaches.
To make the book even more ecumenically minded – as Hansen did with his earlier book, Kneeling with Giants – there could have been a connection between the “contemplation step” and Orthodoxy’s understanding of theosis, which is an experience of transfiguration.
In all though, this book is a welcomed addition. It isn’t meant to be a deep academic or all-inclusive magnum opus into lectio divina. It’s meant as a guide to get one started, and as a meditation for reflection. In this respect, it does a marvelous job!
Disclaimer: I received a free promotional copy of this book in exchange for this honest review.
P.S. You can get a free copy by going here: http://bit.ly/LoveYourBible-eBook