Friday, October 29, 2010


I'm in the midst of preparing a short course on Christian spirituality for the university. I loaned out the primary go to texts for such a course - which turns out to be a great thing as I've pulled a few unusual suspects from my shelves to read. One that I've had for a while is Michael Downey's Understanding Christian Spirituality. What a great little book! Downey is clear and the text moves along nicely. The guidelines for developing the course were to stay within the parameters of David Perrin's Studying Christian Spirituality, which is also a great undergrad level book on the subject. I just finished reading that one. But I've also pulled down books on spirituality from evangelical, feminist, liturgical, liberationist, and historical perspectives. A lot of this I've read before - but it has been great to refresh my relationship with each of these books. I've been thinking a lot about the problem of defining spirituality. Downey does a great job of showing how we get to our very broad and often religion-phobic definitions of spirituality. But I seem to think that we are looking for new referents to spirituality. One of the exercises I plan on doing with my students is to have them write out how they would define spirituality at the beginning of the course - and then to revisit this at the end and see what, if anything, has shifted. I'd love to hear how you define spirituality too. I wonder what things you want to make spirituality refer to in your definition? Is it your religious tradition or your experiences? Is it historical forms or perhaps a perceived horizon of meaning that you value? If nothing else - it is worth reflecting on.


byron smith said...

To be spiritual is to be enlivened and purified by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Life.

One of Freedom said...

Hey Byron.

That is interesting, mind if I try to unpack it a bit. This is what I was hoping to be able to do with posts here.

You seem to be saying that for you spirituality is about being spiritual - or at least attentive to that dimension of the self. You define this further in terms of God's activity in transforming the spiritual person - which you give a chiastic presentation of: highlighting life and holiness both of which you identify with God's Spirit.

What do you say is the role of the individual in this? Is it purely receptivity or is this something we actively pursue - and if so how? In other words, you describe a being, is there a corresponding doing?