Monday, June 28, 2010

Get Off the Spiritual Rollercoaster


The Reformers (& their spirituality), in spite of their return to the church fathers, were still influenced by a more mathematical (rational) view of God passed down thorough the scholastics. By replacing contemplation and participation with justification and sanctification, the reformers set up what was to become a severe problem in the modern era- the separation of spirituality from a relational, lived theology to a spirituality rooted in forensic justification that did not encourage the mystery of contemplation or participation but instead turned spirituality toward intellectual knowledge.

This turning eventually meant that justification became the focus on an intellectual spirituality and sanctification became was turned towards a preoccupation with experience. Reason and experience now in conflict produced two kinds of spirituality among Protestants: the spirituality of intellectualism and the spirituality of experimentalism… Speaking autobiographically he says: the journey into intellectualism and experientialism was never satisfying. It was only an exhausting spiritual rollercoaster. (The Divine Embrace, Robert Webber, 2006)


A person can spend long periods of time sorting out their mind and heart, but, only if one is fortunate, will he find someone who crystallizes one’s own conclusions in clearly. For years I have been focused on discovering the authentic ancient, apostolic faith and practice, and then contracting those discoveries with my previous misunderstandings. Much of my labor has been to overcome the effects of “post-great schism” thinking upon my own Christianity. The separation that began with Augustine’s dualism, mind & matter, the spiritual up there physical down here, eventually led the church to the dichotomy that Webber identifies so clearly in the above statements. His assessment that “the spirituality of intellectualism and the spirituality of experimentalism” are now the norm is right on target. Consequently, like his own experience, most western Christians live on a carnival ride, which he calls “an exhausting spiritual rollercoaster.”

The way off of this rollercoaster is a return to the church father’s spiritual disciplines of contemplating the Trinity, and participating in the Trinity. These two practices employ the whole person and not just the mind, and as a result they bring about within the human precisely what those who go after God through knowledge and experience are seeking. Nevertheless, those who live in world the knowledge and experience will find these practices strange and even scary. In my next several posts I will address some of the contemplative spiritual disciplines as well as the participative disciplines.

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