Dreyer, Elizabeth and Mark S. Burrows, editors. Minding the Spirit: The Study of Christian Spirituality. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

The following Prezi is a visual way to interact with the notes that come below it. I created this Prezi during an independent study with Dr. Mary Hess in the Fall of 2012.

My Notes


  1. A.Definition: the daily lived aspect of one’s faith commitment in terms of values and behaviors; how one appropriates beliefs about God and the world; the process of conscious integration and transformation of one’s life; the journey of self-transcendence; the depth dimension of all human existence; a dialectic that moves one from the inauthentic to the authentic and from the individual to the communal; the quest for ultimate value and meaning. this broader focus can include elements that are explicitly religious, such as prayer, spiritual disciplines, sacraments, retreats,, worship, and Bible reading. A particularly Christian spirituality is on that involves conscious discipleship, opening oneself to grace in the generosity of the Creator, through the love of God, by the grace of Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Spirit. (XV)
  2. Walter Principe’s three-tiered definition of spirituality:
    1. actual lived experience: attitudes, dispositions, and practices of daily Christian existence.
    2. communal aspects: experienced in the family, parish, or congregation. geographically or culturally located. i.e. Lutheran, Anglican, Augustinian, Carmelite, etc.
    3. formal reflection: academic reflection on the practice and meaning of the spiritual life.

Christian Spirituality:

  • Triune God
  • Lived Gospel for the World
  • Means of self-transcendence – personal and social transformation that is self-implicating

Historical Overview

  • sapiential approach
  • rise of dualism: spirit vs. matter

“Reason came to be seen as a surer way than the imagination to encounter and speak about God.” (XIV)

“Systematic theology became the “real” theology of the academy, no longer tethered to the messy world of the community’s lived faith.” (XIV)

Spirituality: Definitions and Descriptions

  • first level: actual lived experience
  • second level: communal aspects, i.e. Lutheran, Anglican, Latin, Eastern, Jesuit, etc.
  • third level: formal reflection (this book focuses on the third level)

Part One: Spirituality as an Academic Discipline: Foundations and Methods

Three noticeable dimensions of the field:

  1. the study generally goes on within existing fields, such as history and theology, while also creating its own methodological distinctiveness through the interdisciplinarity of this work.
  2. there is a close and complex relationship between scholars and practitioners of Christianity
  3. has already begun to change the classical disciplines of the theological curriculum by bringing a different set of questions, assumptions, and approaches to bear on the study of Christianity.

1 – The Study of Christian Spirituality: Contours and Dynamics of a Discipline by Sandra M. Schneiders

  • formal object – lived experience of the faith
  • interdisciplinarity
  • a self-implicating enterprise

Regarding the Interdisciplinary nature of studying spirituality

“mentors have to ensure that the interdisciplinary methodology which students develop to pursue their research is sufficiently broad and sufficiently focused that the student will be neither a shallow generalist nor an academic lone ranger.”⁠1 (13)

“One implication of this intrinsically interdisciplinary character of the study of spirituality is that the scholar in the field is usually not an ‘expert’ in the traditional sense of one who dominates the subject matter and controls the literature in a particular recognized academic sphere. I venture to affirm that no one is, or ever will be, a universal expert in spirituality. Rather, the scholar becomes a specialist in some area or aspect of spirituality and continue to learn throughout his or her career. However, the panic or sense of generalized incompetence that this can generate in students, and even in established scholars is probably unfounded….What we need to avoid in ourselves and prevent in our students is, on the one hand, and ‘undisciplined’ mixing of methods used without sufficient attention to the demands of the disciplines involved and, on the other hand, imprisonment in narrow disciplinary enclaves through fear of being less than expert.”⁠2 (14)

Regarding the Self-Implicatory nature of studying Spirituality

“Many of us probably felt drawn into spirituality precisely because our questions about spirituality were not heuristic devices to generate research projects or ways of participating in a scholarly guild. They were real, intensely personal questions that had implications for our own lives….Hidden in the attraction  to the study of spirituality is probably, for many people, a deep yearning to see God….Somehow, the researcher has to gain methodologically valid access to subjective data without denaturing the experience or getting mired in the purely private and idiosyncratic.”⁠3 (17-18)

“While we affirm the critical ideals of modern scholarship, it is past time to admit that the Enlightenment ideal of scientific objectivity is, and always has been, an illusion. A benefit of the recent explosion of “social location” theory has been to make us all aware that the only kind of knowing available to us as humans is subjective. There is no presuppositionless, non-perspectival knowing mind that conforms to a free-standing object known in its totality and without affecting it. All human inquiry is self-implicating and all knowledge is personal to some degree. The only true critical approach  to the knowing process is self-knowledge and honesty about our social location and presuppositions, and methodological control of their effects.”⁠4 (20)

“Such constructive postmodernism is perhaps a context in which Christian spirituality as an academic discipline can find dialogue partners. The conversation will be humbler, no doubt, but perhaps more in tune with reality than either the totalizing discourse of medieval Christendom which knew it was the only game in town, or the inflated rhetoric of the Enlightenment “man” who was the exultant measure of all things, or yet the deconstructivist who makes and unmakes a tinker toy reality as a playful diversion until cosmic bedtime. For the immediate future, spirituality, in the context of the modern academy, will have to march to a different drummer. But the postmodern beat is getting louder. In a constructive postmodern context, spirituality as a self-implicating discipline will be no stranger.”⁠5 (21)

“When all is said and done, Christian spirituality as an academic discipline is an attempt to realize, by bringing serious and personally transforming study to bear on the ultimate human value of union with God, what is arguably the most cited text in the Christian canon, Jesus’ promise, ‘if you remain  in my word you will become my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free’ (John 8:31-33)”⁠6 (22)

2 – The Letter and the Spirit: Spirituality as an Academic Discipline by Bernard McGinn

explores the origin and development of the word “spirituality.”

three expressions:

  1. dogmatic – “from above”
  2. anthropological – “from below”
  3. historical-contextual

3 – Broadening the Focus: Context as a Corrective Lens in Reading Historical Works in Spirituality Walter H. Principe

context is a necessary corrective lens in reading sources of spirituality

“we locate the spirituality discerned in a given text or tradition within the particularity of its own time and place.” (3)

“The critical study of texts is not one task among others but a necessary and unavoidable prerequisite for an accurate understanding of the spirituality studied.” (3)

4 – A Hermeneutical Approach to the Study of Christian Spirituality by Sandra M. Schneiders

hermeneutical approach

“…exploring the significance of ‘an interdisciplinary hermeneutical approach which entertains a certain tensive openness toward the praxis issue even while eschewing any explicit formational agenda.” (4)

Part Two: The Self-Implicating Nature of the Study of Spirituality

“Organized reflection on the spiritual life requires that we attend to our existential encounter with the world and with the transcendent-immanent, very far and always near, God.” (64)

5 – Spiritual Discipline, Discipline of Spirituality: Revisiting Questions of Definition and Method by Mary Frohlich

“Frohlich poses a compelling question when she wonders whether the mission of the academic discipline of spirituality may be to repair the breach between life and knowledge that began in the late Middle Ages and became solidified in the modern period.” (62)

6 – The Role of Practice in the Study of Christian Spirituality by Elizabeth Liebert

argues that the practice of spirituality is a constitutive dimension of the study of spirituality.

“When lived spiritual experience comes into the room, it makes the study of Christian spirituality immediate, transformative, compelling, self-implicating, and life changing.” (62)

7 – The Cost of Interpretation: Sacred Texts and Ascetic Practice in Desert Spirituality by Douglas Burton-Christie

leads us through the tension between personal engagement and scholarly distance.

Desert Monk experience

8 – Spider as Metaphor: Attending to the Symbol-Making Process in the Academic Discipline of Spirituality by Belden C. Lane

reflections of a student’s experience with a spider spinning a web.

spider metaphor in Jonathan Edward’s work.

9 – Why Bodies Matter: A Sociological Reflection on Spirituality and Materiality by Meredith B. McGuire

takes on the age-old problem of dualism.

most religious practice is embodied in ways that activate memory, deeply felt emotion, social connectedness, and spiritual meaning.

10 – The Language of Inner Experience in Christian Mysticism by Bernard McGinn

the inner experience of the mystics

examines the quite different ways in which patristic and medieval writers articulated the inner and outer dimensions of the religious experience.

Part Three: Interpreting the Tradition: Historical and Theological Perspectives

  • A theme of integration.
  • tradition as a dynamic fore grounded in experience
  • spirituality as the context for theological reflection.
  • broadening the scope of theological reflection
  • theology is a spiritual discipline and that spirituality is unavoidably theological.

11 – The Turn to Spirituality? The Relationship between Theology and Spirituality by J. Matthew Ashley

Such is the context in which Christians in our time face the ancient responsibility to re-member the story that grounds the faith. (154)

The turn to spirituality reminds us that it calls us into conversation not only with ‘the broader, dynamic, and unfinished Great Tradition’ but with the particular diversities of race and culture, of ethnicity an nationality, as a means of ‘walking according to the Spirit. (154)

Spirituality and theology are inevitable partners in the conversation necessary for shaping and guiding Christian life, advocates a turn to spirituality not as n ironclad methodology but rather as ‘a fruitful locus for posing questions correctly and interrelating them productively.’ (154)

12 – Extra Arcam Noe: Criteria for Christian Spirituality by Lawrence S. Cunningham

distinguishing “the great tradition” from “traditions”

authentic Christian spirituality is determined by how we apprehend the the tradition as “a dynamic process rather than a finished edifice.”

continuity and change

a past that always has a future

13 – Spirituality as a Resource for Theology: The Holy Spirit in Augustine by Elizabeth A. Dreyer

Augustine’s view of the Holy Spirit

if we appreciate the Spirit as an “existential force,” as Augustine argues we must, and not merely as a metaphysical topic of the theological curriculum, we might begin to understand that spirituality is not a possible partner in, but an indispensable dimension of, the theological conversation. (155)

14 – The Mozartian Moment: Reflections on Medieval Mysticism by Barbara Newman

Mozartian moment

It is a period of an almost unbounded optimism about love, both divine and human. Its dominant voices from the Cistercian and Victorine traditions, which she describes as the “undaunted doctors of desire,” teach us that desire is finally rational, even though it transcends reason; that desire begins and ends with the body as s locus of struggle and triumph; and that desire is insatiable, since it is a union of “endless yearning and utmost fulfillment n the love of an inexhaustible object.”

15 – Words that Reach into the Silence: Mystical Languages of Unsaying by Mark S. Burrows

revisiting apophatic traditions, but not through Kantian lenses

a mystical text–and, more broadly, spiritual themes or traditions–must always be understood in terms of the positive assertions and practices, personal and communal, within which such sources function.” (156)

16 – Lover without a Name: Spirituality and Constructive Christology Today by Mark McIntosh

asks if it is possible for academic theology to recover its relationship to spirituality.

insists that a theology informed by the dialogue with spirituality, far from being “anti-noetic,” actually enlivens the quest for God through ‘an awareness that the source of one’s desire is beyond the grasp of intellect.”

Part Four: Spirituality and Healing

healing in five areas:

  1. oppression
  2. abuse of planet Earth
  3. ignoring the particularity of context
  4. illness
  5. exclusive preoccupation with interiority at the expense of the communal and public dimensions of spirituality

each essay confronts a type of dualism that stigmatizes material reality as second-class or irrelevant to the spiritual life. (227)

Authentic spirituality must both confront the evils of the marketplace with courage and fidelity, and embrace and celebrate once-banished things as potentially godly and full of Spirit. (227)

17 – Monsignor Romero, A Salvadoran and a Christian by Jon Sobrino

describes his spirituality in terms of incarnation, mission, cross, and resurrection

18 – An Ecologically Sensitive Spirituality by Thomas Berry

the limitations of the biblical worldview held by the European settlers of North America that prevented them from appreciating and benefitting from the nature spirituality of native peoples

19 – Reading from the underside of Selfhood: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Spiritual Formation by Lisa E. Dahill

from a feminist perspective, Bonhoeffer’s  understanding of the self and its need to surrender in order to move from aggression to intimacy does not fit well when the subject is an abused woman.

offers an alternative journey that includes self-awareness, self-defense, and self-investment.

20 – Lourdes: A Pilgrim After All by E. Ann Matter

physical healing and pilgrimage of a cancer survivor

21 – Christian Spirituality as a Way of Living Publicly: A Dialectic of the Mystical and Prophetic by Philip F. Sheldrake

inner and outer life

Overemphasis on what he calls a rhetoric of interiority has had serious moral and cultural consequences inasmuch as it envisions a spirituality that excludes the public aspects of living in cities and urban centers.

urban living as spiritual practice.

spiritualities that extend to the public realm must be based on a dialectic of mystical-contemplative and prophetic-transformative practice.

rereading Augustine’s City of God.

“From this perspective, the mystical-contemplative dimension of spirituality–often described in terms of interiority–is a vital ingredient in our engagement with transformative practice in the outer, public world. Unfortunately, however, Western culture remains deeply polarized. The private sphere (inwardness, family, and close friends) is privileged as the backstage where the individual is truly him/herself, relaxing unobserved before putting on various personae which the self needs in order to play out different roles on the stage of social life. But, from a Christian point of view, is living in public a matter of a role that it is possible to shed or opt not to play? If there is a pre-existent self prior to all roles, then public life becomes detached from identity. However, the Christian theological tradition suggests that there is, strictly speaking, no absolutely private life. Human existence and Christian discipleship inherently embody a common task. “The public” is thus better thought of as a dimension of identity, an aspect of the individual self. There will be different emphases depending on circumstances, but the public element of identity is inherent to Christian discipleship rather than merely contingent.

It is important also to recall the intimate link between Christian discipleship, including the association between public, social life and human identity, and Trinitarian theology. The core of the Christian life is to be untied with God in Jesus Christ through a Spirit-led communion with one another. God’s own relational nature is fundamental to this life. God is persons-in-communion, a mutuality of self-giving love. Communion underpins existence. Nothing is without communion, including human life. The missio Dei (mission of God) is the divine activity of self-disclosure in creation, salvation history, and Incarnation, drawing all things into the limitless embrace of God’s unifying love. The life of discipleship is to participate ever more deeply in the missio Dei through a faithful following of the way of Jesus, the bearer and expression of God’s mission. For this reason, the biblical notions of mission and discipleship are at the core of the Christian life and are vitally important as we reflect on the public, social nature of spirituality.

I prefer to define “living publicly” more broadly than what Jose Casanova refers to as “the arena of moral and political contestation.” The public is fundamentally our social existence, including what is often referred to as civic life or civil society. The public is the arena where diverse people establish some kind of common life. This includes the relatively anonymous sociability of such contexts as local neighborhoods and less anonymous (yet not necessarily intimate) situations such as church. In other words, living publicly goes beyond an incidental sharing of space with others where the individual self is still primary and demands protection. Richard Sennett suggests that the Western emphasis on inwardness is based on fear–the fear of exposure and of the diversity and difference so characteristic of an outer, public world. Michel de Certeau, in his writings on spatial practices, also refers to the fear of mixing and of the disintegration of social boundaries that motivates spatial purification in modernist urban discourse.

In contrast, to live publicly means letting go of a life focused on the survival of the autonomous self. It involves engaging the other in ways that embrace diversity as part of the process of establishing and reinforcing the self. Living publicly implies real encounters, learning how to be truly hospitable to what is different and unfamiliar, and establishing and experiencing a common life. Living publicly excludes social or political quietism, it excludes existing passively in the midst of the world. Interaction, participation, and active citizenship thus should be seen as forms of spiritual practice.” (289-290)

Part Five: Spirituality and Aesthetics

do not resolve the public disputes surrounding the arts, not do they assume that aesthetics offers and easy partner in dialogue for Christian spirituality. What they do point to is the complex and necessary role this inquiry has to play within and beyond the boundaries of religious communities, whether Christian or other.

artistic form is not an end in itself

move us into the restless dynamics of creativity and imagination that belong to the very heart of a wider public conversation about meaning–including, but not limited to, that related to contemporary Christian spirituality and its study.

22 – Beauty and Terror by Don E. Saliers

sees beauty and terror as realities of human experience that are of crucial importance for Christian spirituality if it is to draw us toward the depths of human life.

23 – “A Wide and Fleshly Love”: Images, Imagination, and the Study of Christian Spirituality by Wendy M. Wright

the role of images and the visual arts in the transformations of the spiritual life

we need to broaden our approach to Christian spirituality by paying greater attention to image and ritual and cultivating “the tender art of contemplative seeing

24 – Sound Spirituality: On the Formative Expressive Power of Music for Christian Spirituality

each of the human senses has played a role in the formation and expression of Christian Spirituality across the ages.

acoustical or auditory domain

25 – “Raiding the Inarticulate”: Mysticism, Poetics, and the Unlanguageable by Mark S. Burrows

poetics…whether the poet’s sense of language as what T.S. Eliot once called a ‘raid on the inarticulate’ might move us beyond the modern fascination with argument toward a more complex notion of reason and a less dogmatic approach to revelation.

1 Schneiders in {Dreyer, 2005 #270@13}

2 {, 2005 #270@14}

3 {Dreyer, 2005 #270@17-18}

4 {Dreyer, 2005 #270@20}

5 {Dreyer, 2005 #270@21}

6 {Dreyer, 2005 #270@22}

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