A few months ago, I read four books in five days. I relished this seasonal opportunity (over Christmas) to do a lot of reading and reflecting. As I promised in my initial Medenblog, I will share some of the gleanings from these readings.
Spiritual Theology: The Theology of Yesterday for Spiritual Help Today by Diogenes Allen.
Dr. Allen died just a few months ago, but this book, among others, will make sure that his wisdom will continue to be available to us. He proposes seven simple questions that can be asked of any book on spirituality that will help inform what to look for as you read:
- What is the goal of the spiritual life?
- What is the path of the goal?
- What motivates us to begin in the spiritual life?
- What helps us make progress in the spiritual life?
- What hinders us from making progress in the spiritual life?
- How do we measure progress?
- What are the fruits of the Spirit?
The key to answering this question is that “in meditation and contemplation Christians seek to grow in knowledge and love of God by increasing their understanding of what it is they believe and love.” (p. 105)
In an age of increased spirituality, Allen speaks for the importance of Christian doctrine and teaching as the nourishing roots for true spirituality.
“If we neglect Christian teaching, we will miss a great deal. People who try to understand and live in accordance with Christian teachings often find that their entire outlook changes. Both their hearts (what they treasure) and their minds (what they find important) are transformed as they rise to a new awareness of themselves, the world, and God. But if we treat Christian teachings casually and only concern ourselves with spirituality, those things that Christian doctrines enable us to perceive about ourselves, our world, and God are likely to remain hidden. We remain enclosed within our limited perspective, unable to understand even the most elementary Christian teaching. …To ask that Christian doctrines be taken seriously by those who are concerned with spirituality is not a baseless demand for conformity, but an invitation into contact with God, who will help us and lead us to greater knowledge.” (p. 160)
Another thought to ponder is Allen on G.K. Chesterton eventually coming to the conviction that life was like a story – an adventure story.
Chesterton discovered for himself what today is widely called “the narrative form of human life. We quite naturally express who we are in the form of a story about ourselves. We introduce ourselves to other people by telling them where we are from, where we were educated, who we know, whether we are married and have a family, what are our goals, and so on. We do this because our identity is achieved slowly, through time, and it cannot be expressed apart from an account of our specific passage through time.” (p. 21)
Key Gleaning Question: What are you learning about God in the time that you have been given and how is that shaping your identity?