Meditation is a “hot topic” in today’s culture, and the church is no exception. As Christians, we are called to be in the world, but not of the world; to be wise as serpents, and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16, Romans 12:2). So how do we navigate complex issues like meditation?
As Christians, we recognize that Scripture is our standard. What does the Bible say about meditation? Throughout Scripture, we see references to meditation, with it being a subject heavily dealt with in the Psalms. But obviously we reject the Eastern spiritual practices so common today, so what is the Biblical view of meditation?
One of the most helpful ways of better understanding Biblical practices such as meditation is to look back, rather than around. We live in a world where it is fashionable to be extremely syncretistic, selecting what we like from various world religions. Thus, studying the writings of church fathers and leaders, from Augustine and Athanasius to Calvin and Baxter, is often useful in bringing clarity to a difficult topic.
That is where God’s Battle Plan for the Mind: The Puritan Practice of Biblical Meditation by David W. Saxton comes in.
An in-depth look at how the Puritans viewed meditation, God’s Battle Plan for the Mind is both easy to read and understand, written with the layman in mind. Drawing extensively from the works of many beloved Puritans such as Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, Matthew Poole, and Thomas Watson, Saxton covers a great deal of information in his small book, with it never seeming dry or repetitive.
I did, however, feel that Saxton was unduly critical of Catholic forms of contemplative prayer (p.17-19). Contemplative prayers, such as Centering Prayer, Jesus Prayer, and Lectio Divina, trace their Christian roots as far back as the second and third century, and like prayer beads, are still used and valued by many Christians, even outside of Catholicism.
Also, I believe Saxton neglected an important point in his discussion of yoga (p.19-20): it is both possible and helpful to practice a “reformed” style of yoga. The stretches and breathing involved in yoga are not inherently evil, as the human body is the temple of the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:16), and the Christian can easily meditate on Scripture while doing the stretches and breathing. (I highly recommend PraiseMoves, which is available from Amazon, but there are other resources, as well.)
While not perfect, God’s Battle Plan for the Mind is ideal for those interested in either a Biblical view of meditation, or a better understanding of Puritan thought. I would give it a “B”.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the Cross Focused Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.