Paper: Theorizing Christian Spirituality: The Sacred, Identity & Everyday Practices

In January, Philip Sheldrake gave the keynote address “Theorizing Christian Spirituality: The Sacred, Identity & Everyday Practices” at a spirituality conference titled “Sacrality & Materiality: Locating Intersections” organized by the Faculty of Theology, University of Zurich. A copy is available by contacting the moderator. Here is the first paragraph:

My fundamental contention is that Christian spirituality cannot transcend the realm of materiality or escape the limitations of historical context. However, the way “spirituality” has sometimes been presented in the past masked certain anti-material theological positions represented by a number of polarities. These expressed a hierarchy of values.  Examples are interiority versus social existence, the experiential versus action (which encourages a separation of spirituality and ethics), and an elevated spiritual realm versus the mundane and the material. I want to begin by mentioning briefly two core problematic issues – the nature of the sacred and the question of inwardness.  I then want to suggest  that an important corrective in relation to spirituality is the theological notion of “sacramentality”. Finally, the main part of this lecture will concentrate on the multidisciplinary thought of the French Jesuit scholar, Michel de Certeau. De Certeau was a major figure in the development of the modern study of Christian spirituality and of mysticism. However, what interests me here is how his later social scientific work on The Practice of Everyday Life, including essays on the city, was influenced by spiritual values alongside social theory.

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