Category Archives: Papers

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.

Paper: Spirituality and Culture in Interaction: The Illustrative Recurring Debate on the Role of the Oldest Testament in Christian Theology and Broader Culture, by Christo Lombaard

Christo Lombaard‘s paper was presented at the inaugural Lumen Research Institute Conference held at Excelsia College, Sydney, on 4th and 5th October 2016. According to the Foreword in the conference proceedings, “The conference considered a broad range of theory, scholarship and research at the interface of theology, spirituality, culture and well-being with a core emphasis on how theology and spirituality can contribute to a richer understanding of culture and well-being – and vice versa.” Here is the abstract for Christo’s paper:

During the past two years, an ancient controversy – running from the first to second century theologian Marcion via, in more modern times, for instance contemporaries Adolf von Harnack’s culture-critical theology and Friedrich Delitzsch’s Babel-Bibel oppositioning, to Zimbabwean theologian-politician Canaan Banana’s call for an Africanized Bible, to British rationalist Richard Dawkins and others – has resurfaced anew with the Berlin theologian Notger Slenczka: that the Old Testament in/and the Christian canon is reconsidered. The options proposed range from excluding the Old Testament from the canon to altering its scope to revising its contents. These proposals and some of the culturally related reasons for them are in this contribution taken into review. Is it however not perhaps precisely the “non-harmonious” characteristics of the Hebrew Bible, and by extension the Christian Bible, which have contributed to the resilience of the Jewish faith, to the influence of the Old Testament in Christianity, and to the intellectual-cultural contributions of these texts in the Judean-Christian spheres of influence across two millennia?

SSCS members may obtain a copy of the PDF version of the Proceedings of the Spirituality, Culture and Well-Being Conference by e-mailing the CSS moderator.

Paper: The Spirituality of Óscar Arnulfo Romero, by David B. Perrin

David Perrin‘s paper was presented at the University of Notre Dame during its annual conference “Romero Days” (March 24-28, 2017).  The annual conference brings together scholars from around the world who do research directly on Romero or are connected to some aspect of his life journey. Here is the paper’s abstract:

Óscar Arnulfo Romero y Galdámez (1917-1980), a Salvadoran bishop, lived during a time of great political and civil turbulence.  The local Roman Catholic Church, regrettably, did little to quell the suffering of its people.  Romero, in the earliest part of his episcopacy and similar to the bishops around him, fell into this space of complacency.  Quite remarkably all of this was to change for Romero in a radical way with the turn of events in 1977.  At this time Romero changed from an introverted conservative to an outspoken champion of his people.  This conference is a theological analysis, one of many possible others, of how such a change, such a conversion, can be framed within the tradition of Christian spirituality: in the clash of transcendence and history, that is, an understanding that God meets God’s people in the events of their lives – even tragic ones as is witnessed in the people of El Salvador – is conversion wrought.  What is special about Romero’s conversion in the clash of transcendence and history is the similarity of it with the lives of those whom the Church has come to know as “mystics.”  Romero, in the end, gave his all to become the very Face of God, for his own people but as importantly for those of Latin America and now for the whole world.  The sign and spirituality of a mystic, martyr and saint indeed.

SSCS members can obtain a copy of the paper by contacting David by e-mail.

Paper: Pilgrimage Sanctification through Effective Communication, by Nico de Klerk

Nico de Klerk, in his paper presented at the SSCS meeting held in Johannesburg, South Africa in May 2015, describes the importance of spiritual practices for the Reformed Church, in particular the practice of pilgrimage. His essay makes the following two statements:

  • Pilgrimage has a lot more potential for spiritual life than we can imagine.
  • By “modernising” the pilgrimage concept we can enrich our spiritual lives with His grace and presence.

De Klerk’s purpose is first to describe the current place of pilgrimage in the Reformed tradition, and then to begin suggesting ways of communicating the meaning of pilgrimage for the spiritual life. To quote from his paper:

Given the Reformed traditions Calvinistic background we have a challenge in terms of skills for what I would like to call: “spiritual communication”. Communication in a spiritual context towards self, others and God. In this I would like to be practical and share some of the practical things I am doing and experimenting with, in a while. The foundation will still be the personal relationship between the individual and God. Question is can we explore pilgrimage to be more influential than what it is currently?

SSCS members can request a copy of de Klerk’s paper from the moderator.

Paper: Medical Science and Spirituality in Dialogue, by Marlene Martin

Marlene Martin’s paper, presented at the SSCS meeting held in Johannesburg, South Africa in May 2015, reports on research that found “that there are those who exercise a spirit or attitude of entitlement to healing and perfect health and this spirit of entitlement is spiritually destructive to the Christian, to the pastor ministering to him and to the medical doctor responsible for his treatment.” Any SSCS member can request a copy from the moderator. Here’s the abstract for Martin’s paper:

The theme of this particular conference is an exploration of Holiness. I therefore felt that Pope John Paul II’s paper on the Theology of the Body gave relevance to a discussion related to Medical Science and Spirituality. Holiness, the Pope points out is always expressed through the body. All human communication, argues Pope John Paul II, is conducted through our bodies; it is how we share our spiritual dimension. He argues that Jesus taught us this lesson when He pronounced “this is my body which is given up for you”.  It was also in this body that He expressed his love for his Father and it was the sacrifice of his body that brought about our redemption

Paper: The Difference Bhaskar’s Philosophy of Meta-Reality Makes for Post-Secular Holism and the Makings of Holiness, by Dudley Alexander Schreiber

The SSCS meeting held in Johannesburg, South Africa in May 2015 was a wonderful opportunity for scholars of Christian spirituality to share their research. This paper is the first of several that will be posted on this blog as a way of sharing papers given at the meeting beyond the the physical event itself. Any SSCS member can request a copy from the moderator. Here’s the abstract for Schreiber’s paper:

Of no small concern, dualism in Western mind – reaching a zenith under the philosophical discourse of modernism, has enacted a wounding of perception/knowledge, wherein we are delivered into a transformation-devoid demi-reality of intractable antinomy and dichotomous relations in world society. Liberating discourse on being and spirituality is the holy work of philosophers under a loose co-operation here aptly called post-secular holism. The work is foundational and new, legitimizing a more conciliatory relationship between the sacred and profane, a negotiation important to recent conversations and here enriched by Bhaskar’s re-conceptualization of co-presence and transcendence said to emerge from non-dual, sui generis ground states or conditions upon which the world of duality, splits and enmity, nevertheless depends. It is hoped, this excursion into meta-theory and philosophy of meta-Reality, may empower our contemporary reach for the “holy”.

Paper: Co-authoring Stories of Hope: Narrative Approaches to Spiritual Direction, by David Crawley

David Crawley (Laidlaw College, New Zealand) delivered this paper at a session of the Christian Spirituality Group during last year’s AAR conference.  The theme of the session was Perspectives on Spiritual Direction: Historical and Contemporary. Here are a couple of introductory paragraphs from David’s paper:

While spiritual direction is not therapy, various psychological and therapeutic paradigms have influenced spiritual direction training and practice in recent decades. Rogerian principles shape our approach to listening. Elements of Jungian psychology informed my training as a spiritual director, and Freudian conceptions of projection, transference, and counter-transference were applied to the dynamics of director-directee relationships. To my knowledge—admittedly a slender resource—a thoroughgoing exploration of what narrative therapeutic perspectives might offer to spiritual direction is yet to be undertaken. Helpful work has been done in the areas of pastoral and spiritual care, and some of this has relevance to spiritual direction. Sadly, it was just before I left from New Zealand that Dr Janet Ruffing’s recent book, To Tell the Sacred Tale: Spiritual Direction and Narrative (2011), came into my possession. It touches on narrative therapy only briefly, but is likely to influence future versions of this paper.

Drawing on narrative therapeutic principles, this paper suggests ways in which spiritual directors might facilitate hope-filled conversations with the people who come to them. ‘The archaeology of hope’ is the subtitle of a text produced by my own narrative therapy tutors. As the metaphor suggests, narrative therapists enter into conversations with the conviction that even in the most dismal of circumstances there are hints of hopeful stories waiting to be unearthed and given fresh life. I begin with a brief explanation of narrative therapy and then offer a three-stage practical application of its principles to the work of spiritual direction.

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

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.

Paper: When Theology Unites and Divides: The Changing Relationship between George Whitefield and John Cennick, by Tom Schwanda

On June 25th during the George Whitefield at 300 Conference held at Pembroke College, Oxford University, Tom Schwanda (Associate Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry, Wheaton College, IL) presented a paper about the relationship between two important figures in 18th century evangelical Christianity. Here’s an abstract:

Unlike John Wesley, who could be prickly in his dealings with colleagues and hold grudges for a lifetime, George Whitefield was more even tempered and balanced in his relationships with others.  Whitefield also demonstrated a graciousness that could forgive even when he was wronged.  This paper examines the changing relationship between George Whitefield and John Cennick.  Once converted Cennick associated with Wesley and became one of his early top assistants.  However when Cennick became more aware of his own Calvinistic theology and alert to the growing divide between himself and Wesley he united with Whitefield.  Initially Whitefield had expressed reservation about lay preachers, maintaining the importance of ordination.  His views soon changed once he heard Cennick’s preaching.  Cennick’s importance to Whitefield continued to soar until he became enamored with the Moravians and eventually sought to unite with them.  Whitefield demonstrates his tender heart when in a 1747 letter written after Cennick had withdrawn from the Calvinist Methodists he was still able to express love and prayers for the continuation of Cennick’s new ministry.  In that same letter Whitefield bemoans his growing weariness with the lack of unity and dividing walls between the various groups within the English Revival.  In 1753 Whitefield addressed a highly critical letter to Count Zinzendorf about his concerns with the Moravians.  While he did not name Cennick specifically, how did his old friend respond to Whitefield’s judgment?  Through a careful reading of the extant correspondence between these two revivalists I will seek to develop a more nuanced understanding of Whitefield’s relationship with Cennick and make an assessment of how they perceived each other at the time of Cennick’s death in 1755.

Paper: Renewing Memory: Francis, Ignatius and Mystical Seeds of Reform, by Elizabeth Dreyer

In March, Elizabeth Dreyer, (Professor Emerita, Religious Studies, Fairfield University) gave a paper at a conference held at Fordham University. The conference theme was “Franciscans, Jesuits, and a New Pope: Medieval Lessons for Modern Reform.” A copy of her paper can be requested from the moderator. Here is an introduction to her presentation:

Two formative strains in the life of Francis, the Bishop of Rome, include the Franciscan and Jesuit traditions.  Our trust that Tradition is a living, breathing Spirit-inspired reality leads us to examine it anew, with new questions, needs and curiosities. An honest, open, critical appropriation of the past has the potential to renew and enrich Christian identity as well as create a healthy “decentering” effect due to the amazingly broad and diverse range of Christian experience and expression. Rowan Williams suggests that being open to the “strange and recognizable ‘otherness’ of the past may help us” be open to, and deal with, what is strange in the present.”

The desire to become a constantly renewing church in the 21st century led to the the topics of poverty and humility, central to both Franciscan and Jesuit traditions. These topics are addressed through a fourfold schema. The first is historical. What is important about poverty and humility in the lives and times of Francis of Assisi (13th century) and Ignatius of Loyola (sixteenth century)? Part II turns to theology. Francis and Ignatius followed a poor Christ, whose life and especially death, made visible a kenotic, self-emptying God. Part III explores how art  contributes to our theological understanding of the Trinity’s kenotic love. To this end, we will view a series of images of the Trinity at the cross from a range of historical periods from the 12th to the 17th centuries.  In Part IV, I point to ways we might renew the church by mirroring Francis and Ignatius as they were inspired to humility and poverty by a poor Christ who, in the power of the Creator and Holy Spirit, did not cling to his divine status within the Trinity (Phil 2.6).