Monthly Archives: February 2015

Reference Essay: Approaches to the Study of Christian Spirituality

SSCS members have written essays and other short pieces for a number of reference works. These texts are consulted by scholars seeking an introduction to a field or topic and by students needing definitions of terms and summaries of ideas and movements for research papers. In other words, SSCS members have been contributing to research tools that help shape future scholarship. A good example is the essay by Sandra Schneiders titled “Approaches to the Study of Christian Spirituality” appearing in The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality (2005), edited by another SSCS member, Arthur Holder. Here are its opening paragraphs:

Spirituality as an academic field is the study of spirituality as an existential phenomenon(the material object) under a formality (the formal object) which distinguishes it from theology, on the one hand, and religious studies, on the other. This requires, if not a definition, at least an identification of the phenomenon being studied and a description of the specific formality under which it is being studied. This task will be briefly addressed in the first part of this essay.

The second part will deal with the major topic of this essay: basic contemporary approaches to the academic study of spirituality. By approaches, I mean orienting frameworks within which specific methodologies are developed for the study of particular phenomena within the field of spirituality. Approaches reflect primarily the types of knowledge (or skills) the student seeks to attain which reflect the aspects of spirituality that she or he finds most interesting or important. Methodologies are articulated complexes of procedures (methods) which are developed to investigate what is of interest. Methods do not, or at least should not, dictate either what can be studied or how it should be studied. Rather, methods are systematic attempts to ensure the validity and fruitfulness of the research. Our concern in this essay is with approaches rather than with methodologies or specific methods.

This Blackwell Companion appears in both print and online formats. Here is the citation for the print version:

Schneiders, Sandra M. “Approaches to the Study of Christian Spirituality.” In The Blackwell Companion to Christian Spirituality, edited by Arthur Holder, 15-34. Oxford ; Malden, MA : Blackwell, 2005.