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Christian Spirituality 1: What is Christian Spirituality? Types of Christian Spirituality

PDF and .doc files of the overheads used for this presentation are available from the Christian Spirituality Home Page or from the download page.

 

Topics

(These topics are from Chapter 1 in Christian Spirituality. An Introduction. Alister E. McGrath. Blackwell Publishers, 1999. ISBN: 0631212817)

 

1. Defining Spirituality

1.1. What is Spirituality?

1.1.1. A Working Definition of Christian Spirituality

1.1.2. Quotes from Other Authors on the Definition of Christian Spirituality

1.2. Mysticism and Spirituality

 

2. Types of Spirituality

2.1. Factors Which Shape Spirituality

2.2. Theological Variables

2.3. Historical Variables

2.4. Personal Variables

2.4.1. Introduction

2.4.2. Differences in Aesthetic Sensibilities

2.4.3. Psychological Differences

2.4.4. Sociological Differences

2.5. Denominational Variables

2.5.1. Introduction

2.5.2. Catholicism

2.5.3. Orthodoxy

2.5.4. Evangelical Protestantism

2.5.5. Anglicanism

2.6. Attitudes to the World, Culture, and History

2.6.1. Introduction

2.6.2. Christ Against Culture

2.6.3. Christ and Culture in Paradox

2.6.4. Christ Above Culture, The Transformer of Culture

2.6.5. Christ of Culture

 

References

 

 

1. Defining Spirituality

1.1. What is Spirituality?

1.1.1. A Working Definition of Christian Spirituality

"Spirituality" = is derived from Hebrew ruach, which had a range of meanings:

  • spirit

  • breath

  • wind

  • that which gives life and animation to something

 

Spirituality then is:

  • that which animates a person's life of faith

  • that which moves a person's faith to greater depths and perfection

 

To further flesh out a definition of Christian Spirituality, we may consider the elements that make up Christianity:

  • 1. a set of beliefs, found in the Creeds and doctrines of the Church

  • 2. a set of values, based on:

    • hope and promise of redemption

    • love of others

    • denial of self

  • 3. a way of life

    • The real, human life in which our beliefs and values are embodied and expressed

 

Christianity Spirituality is part of our way of life as Christians.

 

Putting all the above together, we may say:

 

 

Christianity Spirituality

 

is the quest for a fulfilled and authentic life, that involves

  • taking the beliefs and values of Christianity

  • and weaving them into the fabric of our lives

  • so that they "animate," provide the "breath" and "spirit" and "fire" for our lives

 

 

 

1.1.2. Quotes from Other Authors on the Definition of Christian Spirituality

Here are some quotes from other authors on the definition of Christian Spirituality

 

... spiritual maturity or spiritual fulfillment necessarily involves the whole person body, mind and soul, place, relationships in connection with the whole of creation throughout the era of time. ...spirituality encompasses the whole person in the totality of existence in the world, not some fragment or scrap or incident of a person

- William Stringfellow,

in Politics of Spirituality, p. 22

 

 

Spirituality is a lived experience, the effort to apply relevant elements in the deposit of Christian faith to the guidance of men and women towards their spiritual growth, the progressive development of their persons which flowers into a proportionately increased insight and joy.

- George Ganss,

in "Introduction" to Ignatius of Loyola, p. 61

 

 

Spirituality has to do with our experiencing of God and with the transformation of our consciousness and our lives as outcomes of that experience

- Richard O'Brien,

in Catholicism, p. 1058

 

 

Spirituality ... arises from a creative and dynamic synthesis of faith and life, forged in the crucible of the desire to live out the Christian faith authentically, responsibly, effectively, and fully

- Alister McGrath,

in Christian Spirituality, p. 9

 

 

These quotes emphasize that Spirituality:

  • involves the whole person (body, mind, soul, relationships), the entire fabric of our lives

  • is a lived experience, a quest throughout our lives that involves

    • the weaving, a dynamic synthesis, of the elements of the deposit of Christian faith (beliefs and values) into the fabric of our lives so that they animate, give fire to our lives

    • a growth, development, and flowering of our lives; a transformation of our consciousness and lives

  • involves experiencing and knowing God (not just knowing about God)

 

To recap:

Christianity Spirituality is the quest for a fulfilled and authentic life, that involves

  • taking the beliefs and values of Christianity

  • and weaving them into the fabric of our lives

  • so that they "animate," provide the "breath" and "spirit" and "fire" for our lives

 

 

1.2. Mysticism and Spirituality

McGrath suggests the word mysticism should probably be avoided, as it has assumed multiple definitions and connotations:

  • 1. an approach to faith emphasizing relational, spiritual, experiential aspects of faith rather than intellectual

  • 2. an approach to faith emphasizing inner experience, perhaps to the point of actively rejecting intellectual approaches

  • 3. a specific schools of Spirituality in the 14th Century, including:

    • the "English Mystics" (e.g. Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton)

    • the "German Mystics" (e.g. Meister Eckhart, Johannes Tauler)

 

The definition of Mysticism as an approach to faith emphasizing relational, spiritual, experiential aspects of faith, the inner experience of faith = is encompassed in the definition of Spirituality

 

 

2. Types of Spirituality

2.1. Factors Which Shape Spirituality

Factors important in shaping Spirituality include:

  • theology (beliefs and values; dogma and ethics)

  • personal issues

  • denominational issues

  • attitudes to the world, culture, and history

 

 

2.2. Theological Variables

There are variations in the set of beliefs and values (the theology) of different Christians that can give rise to different Spiritualities

Examples:

  • the veneration of Mary among Catholics and the Orthodox

  • different views of the sacraments

    • "doors" or "windows" to the real presence of God in the world, to the divine presence within creation, versus

    • "tokens" and "placeholders" to remind us of the presence of God's grace

  • different emphases on redemption and salvation

    • salvation through the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross, versus

    • salvation through the Incarnation, the assumption, the "taking-on" of part of the created order by God

 

 

2.3. Historical Variables

History defines the "horizons" of a Christian and the available resources for Spirituality. The spiritualities of men and women of different centuries will be of course influenced and limited by those "horizons" and resources.

Examples:

  • availability of the Bible

  • ability to read

 

 

2.4. Personal Variables

2.4.1. Introduction

Personal variables that influence types of Spirituality can be subdivided into:

  • aesthetic (appreciation of, responsiveness to beauty) differences

  • psychological differences

  • sociological differences

 

 

2.4.2. Differences in Aesthetic Sensibilities

Differences in aesthetic sensibilities:

Examples: different views on what is the "beautiful" language, music, architecture for the worship of God lead to different types of Spirituality

 

 

2.4.3. Psychological Differences

Psychological differences:

Examples:

  • verbal thinking. Spiritualities might include spoken devotions, sermons

  • visual thinking. Spiritualities might images, pictures, art, icons (as in the Orthodox church)

 

 

2.4.4. Sociological Differences

Sociological differences includes differences in gender, race, class. Examples:

  • Gender: different ways of talking about God

    • Julian of Norwich (1342- after 1416) envisioned Christ in terms of motherhood

    • Feminist theology

  • Race: spirituality in Black Holiness Churches

  • Class: 20th century New York City office workers and monks in medieval France would likely have significant differences in their aesthetic tastes and literacy

 

 

2.5. Denominational Variables

2.5.1. Introduction

While all mainstream Christian denominations share the same core beliefs, there are also differences,

  • sometimes substantive

  • more often a difference in emphasis, 

that create opportunities for differing spiritualities

 

In the following sections, we list some of the denominational differences that can lead to distinctly different "denominational spiritualities" (Catholic Spirituality, Orthodox Spirituality, Protestant Spirituality, Anglican Spirituality).

 

 

2.5.2. Catholicism

Catholicism

  • church is a visible institution grounded in divine reality (a "sacrament")

    • includes a corporate sense of Christian community ("Body of Christ")

    • includes a corporate sense of Church authority

  • strongly liturgical

    • lex orandi, lex credendi. The way you pray and worship determines the way you believe

  • strongly sacramental

    • emphasizes the "sacramental economy" the idea that the benefits of Christ's saving work are communicated through the sacraments

    • sacrament of the Eucharist dominates the regular liturgical life of the Church, making present now the body and blood of Christ

  • emphasizes role of saints and the Virgin Mary as intercessors for the living and the dead

    • veneration of Mary: Hail Mary, Rosary

    • prayers to the saints: novena: 9 days of prayer invoking a particular patron saint for a cause

 

 

2.5.3. Orthodoxy

Orthodoxy

  • strong sense of historical continuity with the early church

    • emphasis on the writings of the early Church fathers such as Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, John of Damascus

  • strong sense of tradition as a living resource for the present

  • emphasis on salvation through the Incarnation and "deification." God became human so that we might someday become divine

  • use of Icons as "windows of perception" allowing a glimpse of divine reality (made possible through the Incarnation)

  • emphasis on the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me (a sinner)"

  • high regard of monastic life

    • most bishops are former monks

    • Mt. Athos: ancient Orthodox monastery high on Mount Athos, a peninsula stretching out into the Aegean Sea

 

 

2.5.4. Evangelical Protestantism

Evangelical Protestantism

  • emphasis on the Bible

    • spiritualities often involve public and private readings of the Bible

  • emphasis on salvation through the death of Jesus on the cross

    • for example: Lutheranism and its "theology of the cross" versus the "theology of glory" in Orthodoxy

  • emphasis on the need for personal conversion, sometimes to the point of emphasizing a need to be "born again"

    • emphasis on converting others to Christ

 

 

2.5.5. Anglicanism

Anglicanism

  • strongly liturgical

    • lex orandi, lex credendi. The way you pray and worship determines the way you believe

  • sacramental

    • "doors" or "windows" to the real presence of God in the world, to the divine presence within creation

  • emphasis on the Incarnation, the "taking-on" of part of the created order by God

  • emphasis on the goodness of creation and the physical world (based on a sacramental view of the world and the emphasis on the Incarnation)

 

 

2.6. Attitudes to the World, Culture, and History

2.6.1. Introduction

Views of the relationship between Christianity and culture can be divided into four basic groups:

  • 1. Christ against culture

  • 2. Christ and culture in paradox

  • 3. Christ above culture, the transformer of culture

  • 4. Christ of culture

 

1 and 4 are the extremes views, the former emphasizing the conflict between Christian faith and culture, the latter affirming a radically positive view of the relationship between Christian faith and culture.

2 and 3 are more "centrist" views.

 

 

2.6.2. Christ Against Culture

Christ Against Culture

In this view, the world is seen as a hostile environment for Christian belief and practice. We should renounce the world, for the Kingdom of God is in conflict with the "secular Behemoth." Examples of this attitude include:

  • monastic spirituality of "contempt for the world"

  • formation of alternative Christian communities among the Radical Reformers (e.g. Amish)

 

 

2.6.3. Christ and Culture in Paradox

Christ and Culture in Paradox

In this view, the world is sometimes in direct conflict with Christian belief and practice, and sometimes not. An authentic Christian life therefore:

  • involves a tension between the world and faith

  • at times it must involve a struggle against the world

 

 

2.6.4. Christ Above Culture, The Transformer of Culture

Christ above Culture, the Transformer of Culture

In this view:

  • culture is not perfect or evil, but can be elevated and transformed through the faith and work of believers, and

  • the world and creation is good, but imperfect, awaiting fulfillment

 

This attitude towards the world and secular culture often includes spiritualities emphasizing a sacramental view of the nature and the Incarnation

 

 

2.6.5. Christ of Culture

Christ of Culture

This view is a strongly positive understanding of the relationship between faith and secular culture

Examples:

  • the "Imperial Theology" when Christianity was the official religion of the Roman Empire. Rome was viewed as the New Jerusalem, divinely ordained to govern the world.

  • 19th Century German Protestant Liberalism, which posited that human history and civilization were being divinely guided towards perfection. The Kingdom of God would arrive in all its fullness through the flux of history.

 

 

References

 

 

 

 

Christian Spirituality

 

1. What is Christian Spirituality? Types of Christian Spirituality

2. Theological Foundations for Spirituality

3. Biblical Images and Christian Spirituality

4. Faces, Places, and Spaces: Visualization and Spatialization in Christian Spirituality

5. Introduction to Anglican Spirituality