Monthly Archives: March 2015

Article: Hermeneutical Methodology in Christian Spirituality, by David B. Perrin

In his article appearing recently (despite the publication year) in Theoforum (vol. 44, no. 2, 2013, pp. 317-337), David Perrin draws on the work of Paul Ricoeur and Sandra Schneiders and concludes that “the academic community doing research in spirituality, and in Christian spirituality in particular, ought to be a hermeneutical community.”

Here is the article’s abstract:

This article examines how hermeneutical methodology offers the researcher in Christian spirituality a way to understand “movements of meaning in life” such that the meaning of human existence within the movement of the Divine in the world can be discerned.  In order to accomplish this task as it applies to Christian spirituality, hermeneutical methodology pushes the researcher beyond a singular conceptual framework, theological or other, to advance and adjudicate the results of research projects.  Furthermore, hermeneutical methodology evaluates the perspective (bias and prejudice) of the researcher as a positive contribution to the research analysis.  As such, the article explains why the study of experience as experience – the formal object of study in Christian spirituality – is seen as the door to seeing new and exciting ways that the Divine is active in “making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5)

Article: Friendship with Teresa of Avila: Spiritual Companionship Across Time and Space, by Tara K. Soughers

Published in the Fall 2014 issue of Spiritus (v. 14, n. 2, pp. 166-186), Tara Sougher’s article explores how academic study of a spiritual writer’s works can lead to a personal relationship with the author. An earlier version of this article was awarded the 2012 Founders’ Circle Award by the Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality and was presented at its Annual Meeting. Here is the article’s abstract:

What might it mean to describe a historical figure—a saint —as a spiritual companion? Although spiritual companionship with contemporaries has been well described, analogous relationships with the saints have not been. Separated by time and space from contemporary Christians, saints may seem to be unlikely spiritual companions for Christians today. Yet, saints and other historical figures often continue to influence those still living, providing a continuing relationship across the ages, a relationship theologically supported by the doctrine of the communion of saints. Although not present physically, their writings and the stories of their lives, like those of contemporary companions, may have a significant impact on those who encounter them, even centuries later. This is true not simply for contemporary Christians whose forms of worship and piety include devotions to the saints; it can also be true even for those who engage in a more academic study of these figures, for a deep and sustained reading of the works of a historical figure can also bridge the gap of time and space. Through such deep study, a relationship with the author may develop. Unlike traditional understandings of relationships with saints, which have often been described as relationships of patronage or benefaction, the relationships developed in this way are more likely to be described in terms of friendship or companionship. If a relationship with a saint is to be seen as one of spiritual friendship or companionship analogous to that between contemporary Christians, it might be expected to share certain characteristics with such relationships, including a sense of mutuality or of a shared journey. This essay will suggest how a close reading of the writings of a saint can facilitate the development of such a relationship.

Paper: Julian as Spiritual Director: Julian’s Theodicy of Sin and Soul Growth , by Janna Gosselin

Janna Gosselin gave a paper at the Christian Spirituality Group’s session “Perspectives on Spiritual Direction: Historical and Contemporary” which took place during last November’s AAR conference. It was titled “Julian as Spiritual Director: Julian’s Theodicy of Sin and Soul Growth,” and here are the first two paragraphs:

The argument for reading Julian of Norwich as a spiritual director is not new.  Margery Kempe was the first to make such a claim. In Margery’s book, she extolls Julian as an “expert” in spiritual matters who could give good advice. More recently, scholars have turned to Julian for guidance as well.  Julia Gatta and Kenneth Leech have looked to Julian as an inspiration for spiritual directors.  Gatta sees Julian as a director of both passion and compassion, who contemplates a God who suffers.  Gatta addresses Julian’s view of “the larger, cosmic problem of sin” yet she finds hope in Christ’s assurance that “all shall be well.” In Soul Friend, Kenneth Leech, calling Julian one of the greatest spiritual guides of all time, astutely claims that, for Julian, God permits sin in order that good may be achieved.  He notes that Julian “seems to mean by this that sins are disguised virtues for ‘in heaven what sin typifies is turned into a thing of honour’”.

In this paper, I will argue that Julian steps beyond both Gatta and Leech’s assessment of her theology of sin and soul growth. For Julian, Christ not only assures us that all will be well, and that our sin will be turned to good, but that the Holy Spirit will lift us higher than where we were before we had sinned in the first place.  As Bernard McGinn has observed, Julian’s theology of sin can be likened to the notion of felix culpa, whereby Adam’s sin is a happy sin because, with Christ, we are left better off than we were before. Yet, Julian applies this concept to all of our sins.

Copies of this paper are available to members of the SSCS by contacting the blog moderator.