This is a great book. Roberta Bondi explores the spirituality of the desert abbas and ammas to discover what they have to say about cultivating hearts...moreThis is a great book. Roberta Bondi explores the spirituality of the desert abbas and ammas to discover what they have to say about cultivating hearts full of love for God and others. For such a strange ascetic lot, Bondi manages to picture them as full of grace.(less)
Frances Young is a patristic scholar, a mother of an adult child who is profoundly disabled and a Methodist preacher. In this book she draws together...moreFrances Young is a patristic scholar, a mother of an adult child who is profoundly disabled and a Methodist preacher. In this book she draws together these three different horizons as she locates her own experience of brokenness, locating it within the framework of the Biblical story in conversation with the Fathers of the early Church. I appreciate her honesty as she shares her own journey and her struggles with her own brokenness and the ways she draws on the wisdom of the Christian tradition (though not-uncritically). Well worth reading.(less)
Thus far the best of the Gordon Smith books I've read (I have read a few and have more on my list). Smith does a good job of challenging reductionist,...moreThus far the best of the Gordon Smith books I've read (I have read a few and have more on my list). Smith does a good job of challenging reductionist, and minimalistic accounts of primal religious conversion and tries his best to give an account of religious conversion which rings true to our experience, as well as the Biblical text.
There is much worth chewing on in this book, and certainly more than I want to name in this review. But one thing that I found particularly instructive is his seven elements of Christian conversion. They are: Intellectual, Penitential, Affective, Volitional, Sacramental, Charismatic, and Communal. If this seems like a lot, it is mitigated by the fact that Smith argues that generally people undergo a process of conversion rather than a punticular event (in the case of John Wesely, conversion lasted 13 years).
There are more great things in this book. I plan to read his newer volume on conversion, Transforming Conversion. As I understand he has reworked some of the material from this book, but that these books are not simply redundant. As of yet I can't tell you which one I think you should read.(less)
Mcknight's approach to fasting avoids dualistic body-hating asceticism. Instead he casts fasting as a whole person response to a grievous sacred momen...moreMcknight's approach to fasting avoids dualistic body-hating asceticism. Instead he casts fasting as a whole person response to a grievous sacred moment. For the most part he is helpful and thoughtful in his approach, and the book is accessible in its engagement with the Christian tradition. (less)
Paulsell does an adequate job of talking about how our bodies are important in Christian spirituality. This book is really one extended reflection on...morePaulsell does an adequate job of talking about how our bodies are important in Christian spirituality. This book is really one extended reflection on our embodiment. Worth a read, though I think there is much which she doesn't address (i.e. she seems to celebrate the unity of soul and body and the gift of embodiment, but she doesn't go very far in suggesting how our bodies are used by God and us to make us holy). Perhaps there is inevitability in this regarding the subject matter, but this anthropocentric spirituality (vs. theocentric).(less)
My standing critique of books on spiritual disciplines is that they are too individualized in their expression and too anthropocentric. That is, they...moreMy standing critique of books on spiritual disciplines is that they are too individualized in their expression and too anthropocentric. That is, they give you a set of practices which you can apply in the privacy of your own home as a means to deepen your spiritual life (whatever that means). What often is missing is the communal practices of the church (worship, word, sacrament) and a sense that the practices commended are less about bringing you into a more satisfying religious experience and more about tuning into the reality of God's presence.
So how does Barton measure up? Pretty good. She does stress the importance of community (everyone always does) but occasionally this book does feel like what she is advocating is a deeper, privatized religious experience. But this was mediated for me by the fact that I read this book with my church. Also, where she begins more individualistic and self-centered, the book moves towards a Spirituality which is more appropriately communal and Godward.
There are some really helpful and thoughtful suggestions about how to integrate Spiritual practices into your life. But the real value of this book is its accessibility. As someone who is read a lot on the Spiritual life, I can point to books that are deeper, better framed and more comprehensive than this book. But a lot of that would be lost on most people. What Barton offers is something thoughtful and engaging that normal people without theological education and academic proclivities can get into. And she is helpful. I especially liked her thoughts on developing a rule of life.(less)
This thin volume, written by the late great Swiss Catholic Theologian, von Balthasar, discusses Christian Meditiation (hence, the title). By this, von...moreThis thin volume, written by the late great Swiss Catholic Theologian, von Balthasar, discusses Christian Meditiation (hence, the title). By this, von Balthasar doesn't mean extended silent prayer, centering prayer, days of solitude, etc. Instead, this is Word-centered meditation, where one encounters Triune God through the pages of scripture.
This book is short but difficult to read, and I am not sure I would recommend it to anyone who doesn't at least have a sense of where Balthasar is writing from. It explicates a theological and Christological reading of scripture informed by a meditative approach given to Balthasar by his early Jesuit instruction. It is therefore peppered with references to the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius.
I really liked this book and found myself reading passages slowly and going back and rereading them to make sure I got them. Others of Balthasar's shorter works, do not seem this dense to me. What I particularly appreciated was that although Balthasar's focus was on what we call 'Scriptural meditation,' he was clear that the focus was not the written word. Instead, he advocated for a meditative practice which is centered on an encounter with Christ in the text. This meant he wasn't antagonistic to other meditative practices, but he does find the spiritual exegesis and Ignatian approaches most helpful in focusing on the Christological character of the Bible.
The final chapter on Union, is divided into " the Marian Way," "the Ecclesial Way" and "The Paths to the World." Certainly as a protestant I adjust some of what Balthasar has to say here, but I found it a helpful approach to looking for Christ in our personal adoration of him (the Marian way), hearing him through the liturgy with the church (ecclesial way), and being attentive to the Mission of the Triune God and where Jesus is speaking in the world (Paths to the World). Perhaps a good way to think of it is the personal, communal and missional. These are dimensions which I want my little rule to lead me into.
This book is dense and layered and I feel like any attempt I make at summarizing its content would fail to do it proper justice. It is a study of inte...moreThis book is dense and layered and I feel like any attempt I make at summarizing its content would fail to do it proper justice. It is a study of intertextuality.
This book is an extended meditation on the nature of the physical landscape of desert and mountain's and their relationship to the desert and apophatic spiritual tradition (mostly) within Christianity (mostly). Lane's exploration of this theme is interposed with stories of Lane's own exploration of mountain and deserts and the story of his mother's diagnosis with cancer and Alzheimer's and death. The themes and stories are organized by the Christian tradition's stages of the spiritual life: purgation, illumination, union.
I found this book intermittently fascinating and frustrating. The central premise saves the apophasis from denigrating into neo-platonic encounter with an abstract Nothing. The apophatic tradition was in fact a theology of place where the spiritual insights of monks and mystics were reinforced and sometimes taught by the location they lived and worked in. It is the desert, where physical death always threatened that the desert father's articulated dying to the ego. The mountains taught mystics of a world that defied and transcended their understanding.
Lane contends that the physical experience 'of desert mountain territory and the personal experience of "spiritual dryness" are mutually illuminating horizons of meaning"(7).
In my exploration of a theology of place, this was helpful in getting me to think about how different environments shape the insights of those who live, work and pray there.(less)