Monthly Archives: July 2014

Article: “To Gaze on the Beauty of the Lord”: The Evangelical Resistance and Retrieval of Contemplation, by Tom Schwanda

In a recent article published in Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care (Spring 2014, v. 7, n. 1, pp. 62-84), Tom Schwanda argues that, contra some Evangelical critics of contemplative practice, contemplation has a place in the Evangelical church. Here’s the article’s abstract:

The term “contemplation” has played a significant role in the history of Christian spirituality. Regardless of the tradition, whether Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, contemplation has been valued. Recently, however, some Evangelicals have raised various concerns about contemplation, including its Roman Catholic origin, the tendency to devalue Jesus Christ and his atonement, the marginalization of Scripture, and the assertion that a person who seeks to grow in the contemplative life will no longer be active to witness to the gospel in the world. This article while recognizing the potential for possible theological distortions argues that there is a biblical and theologically accurate manifestation of contemplation. In particular, this essay seeks to examine the presence of contemplation within the Evangelical church. To that end, the writings of four Americans representative of the beginning of eighteenth–century Evangelicalism are examined to discern whether they display a biblical and orthodox expression of contemplation. In all cases, whether male or female, Calvinist or Wesleyan, this quartet of spiritual leaders reveal and challenge contemporary Christians of all traditions to be more intentional about cultivating a loving and grateful gazing on God and desire to delight in and enjoy God more fully.

Article: The Deus Absconditus of Scripture: An Apophatic Hermeneutic for Christian Contemplatives, by Vincent Pizzuto

In his article appearing in the May 2014 issue of Biblical Theology Bulletin (v.44,n. 2, pp.100-108), Vincent Pizzuto argues that negative theology can make a valuable contribution to contemporary biblical scholarship. Here’s the abstract:

The profusion of conflicting images of God in the Bible are often effectively categorized and segregated by historical-critical readings of the text in which some images are accepted at the expense of others. The result, however, is the establishment of a “canon within a canon” comprised of more palatable images of the divine while effectively ignoring those deemed to be vulgar or offensive. However, when we read through a hermeneutic rooted in a negative theology (i.e., an “apophatic hermeneutic”), conflicting images of God in the Bible may be understood as a necessary aspect of the verbal profusion that leads the contemplative not to logical contradiction, but to “linguistic self-subversion” (Turner). This can serve to dismantle our secret attachments to our preferred images which are themselves exposed as falling infinitely short of the God revealed in Christ precisely as the Deus absconditus.