So, I just wanted to try and clarify a few things about Lectio Divina and also Roman Catholicism and maybe even pantheism. Your post is very good, well written and thorough, so I don’t have too much to push back on, but I think that I can alleviate some of your concerns over Lection Divina.
First, it is a practice that goes back some time in the Church, prior to the Reformation easily, and perhaps as far back as the early Church Fathers (Origen, etc.) If done properly, I don’t think it is something that needs be confused with New Age or even post-modern Christianity. It is a historical Christian practice.
Second, I attended a pretty conservative, Evangelical Seminary here in Southern California, and we have a very good and rather well regarded Spiritual Formation program here that is mandatory for anyone doing an MA. Lectio Divina was encouraged as part of our training, but not required. So, I think if we understand Lectio Divina as something that can be entertained as a spiritual discipline, a way of reading scripture and encountering Christ in our life, then it can be fruitful. Certainly, however, it is not something that must_be done. And, like any other Christian endeavor it can have its pitfalls (e.g. one can be a missionary, but neglect his family, or be an expert bible scholar, but neglect to care for his neighbor, etc.)
Third, I think you are correct in pointing out that a Reformed lectio divina can be different than a Roman Catholic one, and that is probably a very appropriate distinction to make. Calvin, in the first paragraph of his _Institutes says that there are two kinds of knowledge: Knowledge of God, and knowledge of Self. To be ignorant of one, will lead one down the road of subjective experience untethered from the true God. But, to be ignorant of the other will lead to dead religion, i.e. propositional knowledge of God, but without personal transformation. Thus, I would say that something like lectio divina can be a tool or method for gaining knowledge about one’s self as the self relates to God. If it is only to gain knowledge of self, then I would see it as useless, even dangerous. But, if it is knowledge of self as the self relates to God and the Word of God, then I think lectio can be a good and beneficial practice.
That said, I don’t see it as necessarily a bad thing if some spiritual discipline emphasizes the subjective experience of God over against the propositional knowledge of God. After all, it is how God relates to us as subjects that matters to our sanctification. Thus, if lectio divina can help some people learn more about themselves and in the process more about how Christ redeems even very specific aspects of our lives (particularly aspects of our pasts and the habituated sin patterns that have accrued) then I say, go for it. It is a worthy practice, even if it is one that should be done with caution. I, for one, have tried it, but have little patience for it. Also, to practice this does not mean one has to neglect the propositional knowledge of God that we find in the study and exegesis of Scripture.
Finally, with regard to your statement about the catholic priest Thomas Keating, who I do not know nor am I familiar with his work, I would say this. I do not think that the quote you provided is pantheistic. It would be one thing to say that we become more aware of our place in the universe, of our life in Christ and our awareness of others, i.e. that we transcend ourselves. I think this is actually a rather orthodox and biblical statement since 1) we are members of the “body of Christ” (Rom 12:4-5; 1 Cor 12; Eph 4:15) a body which has often been construed ontologically, 2) Paul confirms the concept of God’s omnipresence in Acts 17:28 "For in Him we live, and move, and exist (or have our being, and 3) our lives really are “caught up in Christ” and there is a real ontological connection between the believer and God, and perhaps even to other believers. It does not mean that the believer and God are identical, just connected. A pre-born baby is connected to his mother and even indwells her, but is not identical to her.
Thus, if Keating is saying that we become more aware of the Word of God (i.e. Christ) in all of creation, that we come into some kind of more intimate contact with the “source of all creation” (i.e. again Christ), and that we transcend ourself and our limited worldview (perhaps meaning our subjective worldview), then I think his statement is rather biblical. I think it is biblical if the result of contemplative prayer is a greater awareness of our own limits, a greater intimacy with Christ and a greater sensitivity toward others. I see no problem with this. Now, this should not be confused, however, with someone who might claim that we actually become Christ. That would be something quite different. Or, if the claim was that Christ _is _us or that God is me, well, then that I would say is pantheistic and should be renounced in full. But, I don’t think it is pantheistic to claim that we come to a greater awareness of God in Christ through prayer, or that we come to transcend the limits of our own worldview, so long as that doesn’t mean we transcend the truth claims of Christianity in some way that now makes them seem untrue.
Also, with regard to “feeling one with other people,” again, I would say, especially if this relates to other believers, i.e. the Body of Christ that is the Church, then I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to feel more unified with others in the church. That seems like one of the primary purposes of our sanctification is that we come to know the “other” in a more intimate way. _
Just to reiterate, if the claim is that God is me or that I become God, then I would be wary of a pantheistic agenda. But, if the claim is just that I become more intimate or more aware of God, or of His creation, or of His people, well, I don’t see any problem with that and, in fact, I think that is what we are called to do.