The editors are convinced that the way to really live “is to do so before God in the transforming and empowering presence of his spirit.” They believe “the spirit of God is prodding the amnesiac people of God to reclaim the spiritual resources that have inspired and sustained believers through the centuries.” They felt a new resource was needed on spiritual formation, offering an orientation to the wealth of resources available while highlighting the heritage and core values of classic evangelical spirituality. (Preface)The first part of the book has thirty four essays followed by a section of seven hundred smaller alphabetized articles, giving details on topics impossible to include in the larger essay section.
“Christian spirituality is the domain of lived Christian experience.” It is about living all of life before God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. There are various means of spirituality that have developed over the two millennia of Christianity with influence from around the world. The literature of Christian spirituality includes that of the mystics, those from the monastic tradition, and the mission minded.
The study of Christian spirituality is defended, not as a substitute for spirituality, “but rather the means by which the dynamics of such spirituality can be understood more deeply, and thus commended more clearly and facilitated more effectively.”
The Old and New Testament foundations of Christian spirituality are investigated. Spiritual theology generally traces the progress of spiritual life from its beginning to its final perfection and studies the various means needed for the progress. Historically, the emphasis was on the individual but recently has been on community, with church life. The spiritual theologies of various parts of Christendom are reviewed.
Other topics covered include the spirituality of Jesus, the work of the Holy Spirit, eschatology, and much, much more. The nature of the human being is discussed: spirit, soul, and body verses duality, the effects of sin, and rebirth. To be spiritual requires the presence of others so community spirituality is reviewed. The importance of education is noted, “For spiritual growth depends on growth in understanding...”
Gerald Sittser has a good historical overview with several articles following on the spirituality during various eras. Following is a comparison of the spirituality of the major Christian traditions: Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant. Liturgical spirituality (including corporate worship and spirituality), prayer (theology and practice), experiencing God, mysticism, music and the arts, psychology and therapy, the created world, and more are also reviewed. Sources are cited after each article as well as suggestions for further reading.
The rest of the book consists of the smaller articles arranged alphabetically.
This book is a great resource for anyone desiring to understand the long and broad scope of Christian spirituality. Laymen, pastors and scholars will find much in this volume that would otherwise take days of research to discover.
Zondervan, 864 pages.
I received an egalley of this book from Zondervan for the purpose of this review.