Paper: Towards Wholeness: Christian Wisdom and Prayer Today, by Christopher Morris

Christopher Morris presented his paper in June at the third Biennual International Conference of The Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality: Prayer without Ceasing: Perspectives in Spirituality Studies. Attended by 70 participants from fourteen countries and five continents, the conference took place in Kloster Kappel, Switzerland, a seminar hotel and education center of the Protestant Reformed Church of Canton Zurich. Here is the paper’s abstract:

Christian wisdom…is the rediscovery of the Christ-event in the context of this larger, dynamic and interrelated world of reality. (Bruno Barnhart)

This paper will develop the Christian wisdom perspective of the Camaldolese Benedictine monk Bruno Barnhart who died in 2015. He defines wisdom as participatory knowing: a knowing that is personal, experiential and tending towards union with that which is known. Barnhart argues that from its beginning Christianity expressed itself as ‘wisdom’ and that a participatory approach was central for the first twelve centuries. Intrinsic to theological discourse therefore was deep personal engagement (and transformation) and this was related to the practice of prayer. As Evagrius of Ponticus stated in the fourth century: The true theologian prays, and to pray is to do theology truly.

This wisdom approach then began to wane with the advent of scholastic theology and the ongoing emphasis on objectivity leading to an increasing separation between the knower and that which was known. Despite these developments Barnhart believes that today’s plural and global context is ripe for the rebirth of a Christian wisdom approach. His approach entails four movements (the Sapiential Awakening, the Eastern Turn, the Western Turn and the Global Turn) and maintains participatory knowing as its defining feature (in continuity with early Christianity) while at the same time integrating (and confronting) the developments of history and especially the dominance of a purely rational approach to knowing.

The paper will argue that Barnhart’s approach offers two interpretative principles: unity and generativity. It will propose that they suggest a path towards wholeness that attempts to reimagine the Christ-event in today’s larger, dynamic and interrelated world.’ It will explore how this perspective might offer insights into ‘prayer without ceasing’ today with reference to the notions of ‘lived experience and self- implication’ from the discipline of Christian Spirituality and which may be understood as parallel to Barnhart’s participatory approach.

SSCS members can obtain a copy of the paper by contacting the blog moderator.

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