Category Archives: Book Chapters

Essay: Rewilding Christian Spirituality: Outdoor Sacraments and the Life of the World, by Lisa E. Dahill

Lisa Dahill contributed this essay to the collection she co-edited with Jim B. Martin-Schramm, Eco-Reformation: Grace and Hope for a Planet in Peril (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2016; pp. 177-196). In it, she addresses the problem of “the disconnection between much of contemporary human life from the living reality of the natural world.” In an early paragraph, she describes the goal of her essay:

This essay is my response to . . . the cries from all over Earth of those already suffering the effects of climate change and global economic injustice, and the great call echoing from the planetary systems necessary for the flourishing of life as we know it. How does Christian spirituality creatively cherish and respond to the new “Eaarth” we inhabit, the new geological age we have entered? Here I outline a Christian spirituality of biocentric sacramental reimmersion into reality: “rewilding” Christian spiritual practice for the Anthropocene. To summarize at the outset: I believe that Christian ecological conversion requires new and re-prioritized physical, spiritual, and intellectual immersion in the natural world. Thus I will argue for restoration of the early church’s practice of baptizing in local waters, for new forms of outdoor Eucharistic life, and for reclaiming primary attention to the Book of Nature alongside our attention to the Book of Scripture.

Note: Lisa’s use of the term “Eaarth” is based on Bill McKibben’s book, Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet (New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2011).

Essay:The Intersection of Sacramentality and Materiality: Testimony, by Rebecca A. Giselbrecht

Prof. Giselbrecht’s essay which appears in Sacramentality and Materialty: Locating Intersections (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016, pp. 183-190), a volume she co-edited with Ralph Kunz, begins with reference to the verbal exclamations of Mary and Hannah when they experienced God’s Spirit opening their wombs. She goes on to argue that their words were the result of the meeting of sacrality and materiality, a profound speech event, a testimony, that was at one with the experience of miraculous conception.

Not only was the theotokos [Mary] compelled by the light to speak of the light; all those who come into contact with the light are obliged to express what they have experienced, because at the intersection of materiality and sacrality the word became flesh. When men and women bear the light within, they must bear witness to it. . . . Testimony is an affirmation of the absolute as a matter of faith; it is a reflection of Trinitarian prayer. A look at the Reformer, Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) and his commentary on Romans 10 and a really short explanation of Paul Ricoeur’s hemeneutic of testimony will help to further clarify my point.

Essay: Interiority and Christian Spirituality: Why Our Inner Lives Are Not Quite as Inner as We Might Like to Think, by John Swinton

In this essay appearing in Sacrality and Materiality: Locating Intersections (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016), John Swinton challenges readers to reconsider certain common terms used in the scholarship of spirituality. In an early paragraph, he writes:

The approach I want to take is slightly different from the standard theological and philosophical discussions of interiority and materiality. My central focus will be on two groups of people whose perspective is rarely engaged with discussion around interiority and materiality: people with profound intellectual disabilities and people with advanced dementia. I want to use the life experiences of these two groups of people to offer a challenge to accepted views about interiority and to open up conversations about spirituality, embodiment, inwardness and action.

Essay: Embodied Knowing and the Unspeakable Sacred: Practice in Christian Spirituality, by Claire E. Wolfteich

In an essay appearing in Sacrality and Materiality: Locating Intersections (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016), Claire Wolfteich proposes to expand scholarship in spirituality beyond the more common approach of studying texts to exploring spiritual practices. She writes

I will address the theme of materiality and sacrality from the perspective of practical theology and spirituality studies. Spirituality scholarship has yet to address fully the important to turn to practice, lived religion, and material religion – as noted, for example, by Arthur Holder’s critique of the dominance of spiritual “classics” texts as focus of study within the field.* . . . Practical theology, on the other hand, clearly makes “practice” a central category of theological inquiry and embraces empirical research to unfold local, everyday, embodied religion. . . . I argue for the study of everyday, embodied practices such as work and mothering as important foci for the study of Christian spirituality while also advancing a conception of mystical practical theology that leaves space for the unspeakable sacred.

*Holder, Arthur, “The Problem with ‘Spiritual Classics’,” Spiritus 10, no. 1 (Spring 2010): 22-37.

Essay: Gazing at the Wounds: The Blood of the Lamb Imagery in the Hymns John Cennick, by Tom Schwanda

Appearing in the volume Heart Religion: The Reshaping of Protestant Piety, The Sources and Nature of British Pietism, 1690–1860 (edited by John Coffey, Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 113­–137), Tom’s essay explores a theme found in many hymns by John Cennick, (1718 –  1755) an early Methodist and Moravian evangelist. Here’s Tom’s summary:

Eighteenth–century evangelical hymnody reveals a fascination for the blood and wounds of Jesus Christ.  This chapter explores this development by comparing the hymns of two Moravians, John Cennick and Count Zinzendorf.  Cennick is little known today but was the author of some of the most popular hymns of the eighteenth century.  Zinzendorf was the leader of the Moravians and known for his extravagant language of devotion to the side wound of Jesus.  Hymns were one of the primary texts of evangelical spirituality and tended to focus on the heart for the stimulation of affections and deeper formation.  This essay traces the historical roots for the blood of the lamb imagery.   While neither author was aware of the medieval sources that Caroline Walker Bynum analyzes in her book, Wonderful Blood, Cennick traced his inspiration to an Ignatian text and Zinzendorf to early German Lutheran pietistic sources.  “Gazing at the Wounds” provides a contemplative approach to studying these hymns and suggests ways that the metaphor was intended to shape its readers.  The chapter concludes that while there were numerous similarities between Cennick and Zinzendorf, that Cennick’s more moderate poetic imagery has continued to inspire contemporary evangelical hymnody.

Essay: Spiritual Capital and Authentic Subjectivity, by Michael O’Sullivan, SJ

Michael O’Sullivan’s essay appeared in Sacrality and Materiality: Locating Intersections, pp. 49-57. Drawing on the research of Alex Liu and others, Michael argues for the importance of  the fourth of the four capitals (material, intellectual, social, spiritual) within the context of modern society.

In an article in The Tablet (25 May 2013), (Cardinal Kurt) Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity, is quoted as saying that Europe needs a “spiritual currency besides the euro.” Koch in this quote is recognizing, it seems to me, that there can be such a thing as spiritual capital, and that there can and indeed needs to be resources rich in spiritual value we can draw from and for the sake of meeting the needs of our world and enhancing  its wellbeing. He is calling for the people of Europe to work out the meaning and value of this currency so that they can dialogue, relate, and cooperate on a shared spiritual basis and with a common spiritual way of proceeding.

Essay: Theorizing Christian Spirituality: The Sacred, Identity & Everyday Practices, by Philip Sheldrake

Philip Sheldrake’s essay appears in Sacrality and Materiality: Locating Intersections (2016, pp. 27-40). Here is Philip’s opening 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 masks certain anti-material theological positions represented by a number of polarities. These express a hierarchy of values. Examples are interiority versus social existence, the experiential versus action (encouraging the separation of spirituality and ethics), and an elevated spiritual realm versus the mundane. I wish to begin by mentioning briefly two core issues – the nature of the sacred and the question of inwardness. I then want to suggest that an important corrective is the theological notion of “sacramentality.” Finally, the main part of this essay 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, my focus will be on how his later social scientific work on The Practice of Everyday Life, including essays on the city, was influenced by spiritual values.

Essay: Exegesis as Metaphysics : Eriugena and Eckhart on Reading Genesis 1-3, by Bernard McGinn

In Eriugena and Creation: Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Eriugenian Studies, held in honor of Edouard Jeauneau, Chicago, 9-12 November 2011 (Brepols, 2014, pp. 463-499), McGinn begins and ends his essay with references to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. This sets the context for his discussion about the metaphysical approach to biblical exegesis by two major apophatic theologians. Here is his essay’s abstract:

The first three chapters of Genesis have attracted numerous interpreters in both Judaism and Christianity for millennia, with readings ranging from the crudely literal to refined philosophical, theological, and mystical interpretations. Two of the most profound Latin interpreters were the ninth-century Irish savant John Scottus Eriugena and thirteenth-century Dominican Meister Eckhart. Both wrote long commentaries on Genesis 1-3 in different genres, and both thinkers display remarkable similarities, as well as some crucial differences. Without denying the foundational role of the biblical letter, Eriugena and Eckhart insisted that Genesis 1-3 can only be understood from a rigorously philosophico-theological standpoint, one in which exegesis reveals the depths of Christian metaphysics. In the interchange between positive and negative language about God and the world as revealed in Genesis, as well as in their modes of relating the letter and the spirit of the text, these two great thinkers made unique contributions to the history of exegesis.

Book Chapter: Teresa of Avila’s Evolving Practices of ‘Representing’ Christ in Prayer by Mary Frohlich

Appearing in Meditation in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: Cultural Histories, a volume of essays edited by Halvor Eifring (New York: Bloomsbury, 2013), Mary Frohlich’s essay describes the various forms of prayer found in Teresa’s writings and how Teresa eventually developed “a far more holistic and integrated understanding of the life of prayer.” Here’s an excerpt from the essay’s first section:

. . . Teresa limits [the term meditation] to active, linear, intellectual reflection on the teachings and ‘mysteries’ of her religious faith. Although she recommends it as a necessary practice for beginners and even at times for the more advanced, she strongly emphasizes that it is superficial in relation to the forms of prayer that she is most interested in teaching.

Teresa’s term for the entire range of spiritual practices is ‘prayer’ (oración). Prayer may be vocal, mental or contemplative, discursive, imagistic or with all faculties ‘suspended’; petitionary, laudatory, devotional or mystical, to name only a few of the elements that she distinguishes. Prayer for Teresa is also a state of being, for she frequently uses the phrase ‘in prayer’ (en oración) to refer to a state within which various experiences occur. The remainder of this chapter will examine in detail what she teaches about the state and practice of prayer.

Book Chapter: Hidden God and Hidden Self: The Emergence of Apophatic Anthropology in Christian Mysticism by Bernard McGinn

In Histories of the Hidden God: Concealment and Revelation in Western Gnostic, Esoteric, and Mystical Traditions,
edited by Grant Adamson and April D. Deconick (Acumen Publishing, 2013), pp. 87-100.  Here’s an excerpt from McGinn’s introductory section:

It is important to note that apophatic theology comes in many varieties and that not all forms of insisting that God is unknowable also claim that the human self is incomprehensible.  All Christian theologians pay homage to the divine mystery, insisting that God is in some sense beyond the human mind, but there is an important difference between “soft apophatism,” that is, an admission of general divine unknowability, and the various forms of “hard apophatism” that develop full-fledged accounts of speaking about God designed to subvert all human modes of conceiving and predicating.  It is among the more rigorous forms of apophatic theology that the possibility of apophatic anthropology emerges.  I will take a brief look at five examples of such hiddenness in the Christian tradition.