Thursday, February 16, 2012
[Opinion] Meditation and the Bible
1. What does one do when one meditate?
That all depends on one's purpose for meditation and the context in which one meditate.
Even if one narrows the context to religious meditation, there is still a bewildering variety of meditative practices.
A Hindu who believes in some form of pantheism might want to achieve unity with the One through meditation.
(Pantheism is the belief that God is everything and everything is God.)
A Zen Buddhist who believes in ontological emptiness might want to empty the mind of all intellectual content through meditation.
(Ontology is that branch of philosophy that answers the question: What is there?)
A New Age believer might want to be in an alter state-of-consciousness through meditation.
Religiously, I am a Christian - this will narrow the context for meditation somewhat.
But even within Christianity, there are many varieties of meditation.
In order to narrow down to a unique set of meditative practice, I must say that I belong to the Reformed or Calvinistic tradition of Christianity.
2. Reformed Christianity puts a premium on the Bible as truth.
Reformed Christians put a premium on the Bible because we believe the Bible is the Word of God.
Reformed Christians put a premium on truth because we believe the God of the Bible is a God of truth.
There are two important relationships between a person and truths:
(a) to think truths; and
(b) to believe truths.
(To believe is to think as true; thus, a person believe a truth if he thinks the truth as true.)
For a person, the faculty that thinks is call the intellect.
Because Reformed Christianity puts a premium on the Bible as truth and because it is the intellectual faculty of a person that thinks truths, therefore, many Reformed Christians believe in the "primacy of the intellect".
Reformed Christians believe in the primacy of the intellect because we believe our thought, desire and action should be guided by truths.
We believe our thought, desire and action should be guided by the Bible because being the Word of God:
(a) the Bible is true; and
(b) the Bible is authoritative.
3. So what does a Reformed Christian do when he meditates?
Lit-sen CHANG puts it well: "Most of us who are Christians use the word 'meditation' to mean reflection or thinking about a particular Scripture passage." (Chang 1978, 44)
Chang further expands: "From a spiritual and biblical viewpoint, meditation means reflection and thinking about God's Word, His laws, precepts, statutes and commandments, things that are true, noble, just, pure and lovely and acceptable in His sight, accompanied by supplication and prayer, praise and thanksgiving." (Chang 1978, 55)
4. If meditation is "reflection and thinking about God's word", then what does "reflection and thinking about God's word" entails?
For generality sake, let "p" stands for any Biblical proposition.
Reflecting and thinking about p means:
(a) reflecting and thinking about what p implies (p => ?);
(b) reflecting and thinking about what implies p (? => p); and
(c) reflecting and thinking about how p is related to the rest of the Bible.
For example, take (John 1:1 HCSB): "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."
In reflecting and thinking about John 1:1, one would try to answer the following questions:
(a) What does John 1:1 implies?
(b) What implies John 1:1?
(c) How does John 1:1 relates to the rest of the Bible?
5. "How happy is the man who does not follow the advice of the wicked or take the path of sinners or join a group of mockers! Instead, his delight is in the Lord’s instruction, and he meditates on it day and night. He is like a tree planted beside streams of water that bears its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalms 1:1-3 HCSB)
"May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, Lord, my rock and my Redeemer." (Psalms 19:14 HCSB)
"Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable —if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise —dwell on these things. Do what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8,9 HCSB)
6. Names, Words and Phrases
Lit-sen Chang (Traditional Chinese: 章力生; Simplified Chinese: 章力生).
Chang, Lit-sen. 1978. Transcendental Meditation: A Mystic Cult of Self-Intoxication. Nutley, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.