Monthly Archives: August 2013

Paper: ‘Holy, Solemn, Humble Awe’ in the Spiritual Writings of Susanna Anthony

Another paper from the recent SSCS conference “Wondrous Fear and Holy Awe” at the University of Notre Dame, this time by Tom Schwanda, associate professor of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College.   Here is the abstract:

Healthy and balanced Evangelical spirituality in the eighteenth century included a deep awareness of the depravity of the human condition as well as the liberating experience of God’s grace.  Susanna Anthony (1726–1791), a Congregationalist woman from Rhode Island, was recognized as an exemplar of this noteworthy piety.  Her extensive letter and diary writings compiled by her pastor Samuel Hopkins, a disciple of Jonathan Edwards, as the Letters and Character of Susanna Anthony has been ranked among the top one hundred writings of eighteenth–century Evangelicalism.  Her memoirs are a prime example of the tension between holy fear and doubt of one’s salvation and the grateful assurance of divine love.  She records both the frustration that her life is not maturing in sanctification to the extent that she desires or feels God expects but also the assurance that she is loved and accepted in the presence of this holy God.  These experiences of “holy, solemn, humble awe” were not limited to the early years of Anthony’s spiritual pilgrimage but felt at various points throughout her life as she intentionally sought to grow in holiness.  Anthony’s processing of this paradox is often resolved through her prayerful conversation with God and expressed in her mystical language that soars with the contemplative transports of love and delight to heaven.  Significantly, Anthony’s spiritual writings reveal that grace sustained and relieved her from the abyss of fear and points to a balanced spirituality built upon the foundation of gratitude for God’s redeeming presence.

Paper: To Praise and Live as ‘Love’s Apprentice’: The Poetry of Anne Porter

This paper by Dana Greene was presented at the recent SSCS conference “Wondrous Fear and Holy Awe” at the University of Notre Dame.   Here is the abstract:

Anne Channing Porter’s poetry gives witness to an inner life nurtured by a love of the natural world and purified by suffering from a turbulent marriage.   At age eighty-two she was named a National Book Award finalist for her first collection of poems.  In these she aims for transparency and the revelation of mystery inherent in everyday life.  A convert to Catholicism, Porter rejected  the designation “religious” poet, nonetheless her poems  combine a contemplative seeing, an incarnational awareness of spirit in matter, and a prophetic urgency to live as “Love’s apprentice,” responding with compassion toward those of “humble goodness.”

Paper: The Reformation Recovery of the Wrath of God

This paper by Ralph Keen was presented on June 30 at the recent SSCS conference “Wondrous Fear and Holy Awe” at the University of Notre Dame.  SSCS members may contact the blog’s moderator for a copy of the paper.  Here is an excerpt:

“If the Scholastic understanding of the process of justification seemed to elevate the human capacity for merit, the early Evangelical challenge to it elevated the working of grace and denied the possibility of meriting salvation. In the theological anthropology of the Reformers, the loss of original righteousness and the inability to gain merit in the eyes of God is met with a divine anger that strikes terror into the believer and sends him or her to the consolation of the gospel. Embracing this consolation does not banish the fear of God’s wrath: it is a protection against being consumed by such fear. The experience of grace is incomplete without such fear.

“In the following discussion I would like to point out some features of divine wrath and the fear of it as they appear in the work of some Reformers, in the hope of clarifying the centrality of this adversarial experience in the Christian life. In recovering what they saw as the Pauline doctrine of justification, the Reformers retrieved a conception of divine wrath crafted during the centuries in which the church was under persecution and the course of history was the divine plan executed through flawed human instruments. As with their Pauline and Patristic predecessors, the Reformers gave material force to the biblical language of a wrathful deity, throwing it into relief as an experience genuinely threatening to the equanimity of the believer.”