Excerpts from Lighthousetrailsresearch.com

Message Bible for Little Kids Instructs on Contemplative Meditation

March 12, 2009

See What kind of message is The Message [by Eugene Peterson]

Read an excerpt from this book in the box below


INDEX of previous reports from Lighthouse-Trails




This past spring NavPress released My First Message by Eugene Peterson. The book is meant to be a child's first Bible. A product description of the book suggests that the contemplative practice called lectio divina is being utilized: It states:

"My First Message: A Devotional Bible for Kids uses the time-tested practice of lectio divina (or "spiritual reading"), a simple but powerful practice used by Christians for centuries to deepen their devotional lives. It is based on four key elements: reading the Bible, thinking about what is means, praying in response to what is says, and living out the truth. (This section is taken from the book - p. 5.)

Lectio divina is indeed powerful, as are other contemplative practices, but it will not "deepen" the devotional lives of children. On the contrary, it will introduce kids to a spirituality that produce detrimental results on practitioners.

Friar Luke Dysinger, a present-day monk at Saint Andrews Abbey, describes lectio divina this way:

"Choose a text of the Scriptures ... Place yourself in a comfortable position and allow yourself to become silent. Some Christians focus for a few moments on their breathing; others have a beloved 'prayer word' or 'prayer phrase' they gently recite in order to become interiorly silent. For some the practice known as 'centering prayer' makes a good, brief introduction to lectio divina....

"Then turn to the text and read it slowly, gently. Savor each portion of the reading, constantly listening for the 'still, small voice' of a word or phrase that somehow says, 'I am for you today ...Next take the word or phrase into yourself. Memorize it and slowly repeat it to yourself, allowing it to interact with your inner world of concerns, memories and ideas.

"Learn to use words when words are helpful, and to let go of words when they no longer are necessary. Rejoice in the knowledge that God is with you in both words and silence, in spiritual activity and inner receptivity."

This practice has become extremely popular in today's Christian youth organizations and programs. Youth Specialties, a world renowned Christian organization, instructs young people and youth workers to incorporate lectio divina into their prayer lives. In their magazine, Youth Worker Journal, they describe lectio divina this way:

"This is a fancy Latin term for 'sacred reading' and has also been called 'meditation on the Word.' Sacred reading is the practice of reading scripture slowly in a spirit of contemplation. The goal isn't exegesis or analysis, but allowing God to speak to us through the word. Christians often refer to the Bible as God's love letter to mankind, and when we take the time to read it as such, we are practicing sacred reading."

The article then exhorts readers to:

"Take a short passage and repeat it over and over again aloud. With each repetition, remove extraneous words until you've broken the passage down to one thought. An obvious example is John 14:27, which could easily be broken down to the word 'peace.'"

The concept of allowing God to speak through His Word is perfectly legitimate. I experience that when I read or meditate on the Bible. However, in the context of this article the purpose is not to contemplate the meaning of a Bible verse by thinking about it but is rather meant to gain an experience from it.

There is a difference between reading the Word and understanding its meaning versus a method of focusing on a single word to gain a mystical experience. In light of NavPress' PrayKids magazine where contemplative prayer is encouraged, it makes sense that they would publish Peterson's contemplative promoting Bible for kids, but it is tragic to think of how many children could be drawn into a spiritual camp that ultimately negates the gospel and takes practitioners into what contemplative father Thomas Keating calls kundalini (serpent power),
3 a Hindu term for the deep trance state that meditators experience. While Richard Foster himself admits that this type of prayer can be very dangerous, (see RAW, p. 144) it is a mystery then why contemplatives would want to teach this to children.

In the
PrayKids magazine, NavPress says:

"Contemplative prayer is a form of meditative prayer that focuses on communing with God. Although sometimes confused with its Eastern (and non-Christian) counterpart, true Christian meditation has been practiced since Bible times."

Typically, we have found that if something sounds eastern or mystical, it's because it is eastern or mystical. Eugene Peterson's book rings of the mystical, and we hope parents will avoid putting their children in contact with it.

"And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea." Mark 9:42

Source article: http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=210

Compare the difference between the two sets of verses below -- shown in the standard NKJV version of the Bible and in Eugene Peterson's contemporary interpretation. Yes, a book for children should be easier to understand, but it would be far better to leave out the complicated parts than to -

  • distort God's Word and nature

  • teach a "softer" version of His ways

  • minimize the consequences of sin! 

In the standard New King James Version (and in the KJV and others) God shows Himself to be the sovereign King of the universe He created. He requires obedience to His laws and guidelines. Our rejection of His ways evokes His wrath and judgment. (That's why Jesus chose to take our punishment and die in our place!)

In the Old Testament, God repeatedly indicates that His people ought to fear and tremble before Him. He was not referring to today's "politically correct" meaning of "respect." He called for submission to His will and ways -- the only way to victory and peace. He kept showing His rebellious people His fierce wrath and His omnipotent power to punish rebellious nations as well as individuals.

But man's response of "fear and trembling" and humble obedience is not politically correct today. Therefore America will surely face the consequences its distortions of our holy God and its rejection of His ways!

Now as then, we have to choose to obey and submit to His will. He won't do it for us.

 NKJV: "Now all the people witnessed the thunderings, the lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood afar off.... And Moses said to the people, '“Do not fear; for God has come to test you, and that His fear may be before you, so that you may not sin.'" (Ex 20:18, 20)

My First Message: "All the people, experiencing the thunder and lightening, the trumpet blast and the smoking mountain, were afraid. Moses spoke to the people. Don't be afraid. God has come to plant a deep respect within you so that you won't sin."

This is just one example. I have ordered the book and will add more when I receive it.

For more information:
Eugene Peterson, The Message and Contemplative Prayer