There are reasons to question the sequential and hierarchical nature of structural stage theories of faith development, especially in regard to adults. This article suggests a conceptual, two-dimensional model of spiritual development. The first dimension is the continuum of maturity defined as increasing complexity held together by integrity and is exemplified by the metaphor of a mosaic. The second dimension is a series of “facets” or themes that are understood to exist simultaneously, though one or more facets are typically highlighted during any particular season of a person’s life. A highlighted facet will often give shape and content to the growing edge of spiritual maturity.
The four facets of the second dimension are characterised by the central themes of 1) Chaos and Order, 2) Love, Forgiveness, and Community, 3) Freedom and Change, and 4) Mystery, Peace and Trust. These facets unpredictably recurthroughout a person’slife, and it issuggested that the third facet has a tendency (though not a necessity) to bifurcate into one of two pathways: a) Revolution and Resistance or b) Imagination and Hope. This model, though untested by formal research, is offered in the hope that it more functionally represents the varied complexity of human experience and can be taught in a manner that is free from some of the biases and elitism which are difficult to avoid with structural models.
Since 1981, James Fowler’s faith development theory (FDT; 1981, 2001) has largely held the imagination of practical theologians and developmental psychologists as the best model for understanding how we approach faith differently over the course of a life span. This has not been because FDT has been free of criticism or has silenced all of its critics; rather, as Stephen Parker (2010) concluded, in spite of mixed levels of support for components of FDT, “those inclined to look elsewhere for models of spiritual or religious development with more empirical support will not find the picture any better, and often not as well supported as Fowler’s model” (p. 246). And so it has remained the theory that underlies a variety of more popularized models (Peck, 1987; Schmelzer, 2008; McLaren, 2012).
The full article appears in the EMCAPP Journal, July 2015, page 57-66.
Editor's note: Dr. Mitchell is Professor Emeritus, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta.
This series of essays is written with Christian students in mind. Even in this new millennium tens of thousands of university students find little support in their home church, family or community for dealing with the intellectual challenges to their faith that they will encounter in the modern, secular university. Worse, those in Bible schools and Christian colleges will often still find reactionary curricula that want to explain away, debunk or simply ignore established evidence gained by the last hundred years of recognized scholarship. As a lifelong Christian, and an experimental biologist with more than thirty years research and teaching experience in a major secular university, it saddens me to have to acknowledge the truth of the sentences that I have just written.
This series of essays is offered in the hope and with the prayer that some students will find herein some intellectual and spiritual footholds that will help them come to a combined understanding of faith and science that is a blessing to them. All truth is from God, so we are most content when the truths we know, regardless of their source, fit together to form a consistent world view. So, humbly, these essays are presented to help you find a worldview that is a blessing to you, so that you may better bless others.
A major result of recent advances in science and other scholarship is to encourage many believers to enlarge their views of God, sometimes appearing to come into conflict with traditional views. Tradition is, of course, very important, and we must make progress together with a clear understanding of what our ancestors believed, and to the fullest extent possible, why they believed it and why they expressed their beliefs as they did.
Yet, like us, they were fallible, and adjustments to our thinking will always be necessary. We really do want to have the living faith of the dead, and to avoid having the dead faith of the living.
Editor's Introduction: This article is part two of a three part series by Jeff Imbach, a founding member of Soulstream. Soulstream is a dispersed contemplative community that offers training in spiritual direction and 'living from the heart.'
CONTEMPLATIVE RESPONSES TO OUR WORLD
How Do We Integrate Our Contemplative Action Both At The Level Of Interpersonal Relationship And At The Level Of The Larger Institutions of Society?
Thank you so much for your wonderful responses (both to me separately and to all the partners). They have been very honest and so true to our real experience. Many expressed fear that facing into the systemic and structural evil of our world will destroy us. Steve put it well in his response, “I tend to feel overwhelmed with the vastness and impossibility and will rationalize my way out of involvement. I easily excuse myself from involvement and getting caught in the heaviness of burdens that seem beyond my reach of attentiveness and action”
When we move toward attending to our responses to the world of systemic power we need to look at ourselves with a deep compassion. This journey is not easy. It is like looking at our false selves for the first time. We would rather look somewhere else, maybe anywhere else! It is important to allow the Spirit to lead us and care for us in this journey and not get down on ourselves.
1. Fear of Being Overwhelmed
First of all anybody, with any kind of heart at all, has to feel like they are being torn apart by the kind of evil in things such as human trafficking. The magnitude of the scope and the horror of such evil would easily crush anyone. We are very sensitized to the helplessness of children, and that kind of evil fills us with crushing horror that makes us wonder if we can survive.
Editor's Introduction - This article represents part 1 of a 3-part series by Jeff Imbach, a founding member of Soulstream, a dispersed contemplative community that offers training in spiritual direction and 'living from the heart.' This series was addressed to the Soulstream partners and Clarion has asked permission to post them on Clarion for the broader public.
CONTEMPLATIVE RESPONSES TO OUR WORLD
Question: How Do We Integrate Our Contemplative Action Both At The Level Of Interpersonal Relationship And At The Level Of The Larger Institutions of Society?
Our SoulStream community is growing very beautifully in our desire to link our contemplative posture with very practical responses to life around us. It has been hugely important to focus on opening our hearts to receive the love of God so richly present in our lives. We have come to realize that it is not only in the good times but also in times of great suffering that our hearts are opened up in this way – sometimes even broken open into God as the Jewish tradition says! It seems now that, by a wonderful grace of the Spirit among us, we are hungry to deepen our contemplative posture and practice in our responses to the world in which we find ourselves. As we say in Living From The Heart, the fourth pillar of the Way of the Heart is, “Contemplative Transformation Leads to Compassionate Living”
In this reflection I will attempt to bring two themes of our contemplative responses to the world into a unified perspective. It is not easy and we may all have resistances somewhere along the way, but if this reflection can spark more conversation and deepened trust in God then the stumbling words will have been well worth while.
In recent SoulStream conversations we have talked about dancing and weeping in the face of our present world situation. The imagery comes from Dorothee Soelle’s book, The Silent Cry: Mysticism and Resistance. It is a great image to help us process the whole spectrum of responses. Let’s look at both sides of the image.
There are many methods of interacting with God, maybe as many as there are people, but my favorite is the Orthodox method, handed down by the Desert Fathers. Technically this prayer would be known as Hesychasm, the prayer of rest or quiet. But it comes to us today maybe better known as, “The Jesus Prayer.”
Many of you know this little prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me." And there are a few variations, including a very short one, "Lord, mercy."And I am going to assume here that if you are reading this blog you know all about being still, breathing, attention, repeating the prayer, etc...Therefore I am going to focus on an aspect of the Orthodox model that often gets over looked: the factor of where in our being the Orthodox Fathers would like us to say our prayer from - our “nous,”which dwells in our heart. In the Orthodox view1 it is our heart that steers the ship of our being, (and I think we would agree with that, to a point, as we are to “Watch over our heart with all diligence, for from it flows the spring of life (Prov 4:23)).” However in our heart, in the Orthodox view, is the core of our being - our “nous.” In our Western thinking we would equate the nous with the “inner man,” however the Orthodox concept is a bit more difficult to grasp, and I must admit I am still struggling with it. Therefore let me give you the Orthodox definition out of the Philokalia:2
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To visit Murray Dueck's website, click here: http://www.samuelsmantle.com/
Continuing to expect Jesus’ healing here and now is often harder than writing it off as unrealistic or something to be awaited on the other side of death. Everywhere I travel lately I meet people and communities crippled by disappointment.
A man in Iceland prayed for days that his sister would come back to life after a drug overdose. A pastor of a church in the UK died of cancer in spite of massive prayer efforts. A close friend’s Pakistani Christian friend who advocated for minorities was gunned down in Islamabad in March. I myself have been discouraged by the slew of revenge killings in a Honduran community dear to my heart—and now by a close friend’s decline in a long prayer-bathed battle against cancer. What disappoints do you have, small or big?
“How many of you have been disappointed by God?” I asked a group of inmates back in July. Many were honest enough to admit frustrations at God not apparently answering prayers: their girl friends’ refusal to turn away from drug habits or the courts denials of their requests to be admitted into drug court rather than going straight to serve long prison sentences. Others were afraid to admit their disappointments—especially at a time when they really need God’s help. Many assume that being honest with God might get you on God’s bad side.
If I can unite in myself the thought and the devotion of Eastern and Western Christendom, the Greek and the Latin Fathers, the Russian with the Spanish mystics, I can prepare in myself the reunion of divided Christians. From that secret and unspoken unity in myself can eventually come a visible and manifest unity of all Christians…. We must contain all divided worlds in ourselves and transcend them in Christ.
Thomas Merton -- Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
The centre of Thomas Merton Studies in Canada, since the historic 1978 ‘The Thomas Merton Symposium’ in Vancouver, British Columbia, has been on the West Coast. The Thomas Merton Reading Room is at Vancouver School of Theology (where the symposium was held), and most on the national executive of the Thomas Merton Society of Canada (TMSC) live on the West Coast of Canada. There is, therefore, a thriving interest in Merton on the West Coast of Canada.
There have also emerged in the last decade from the West Coast two challenging books from the probing mind of Hans Boersma from Regent College: Nouvelle Theologie and Sacramental Ontology: A Return to Mystery (2009) and the more popular Heavenly Participation: The Weaving of a Sacramental Tapestry (2011). These two books have brought into sharp focus the essential role the 19th-20 century New Theologians of the Roman Catholic church played in calling the church back to her grounding, rooting and ancient sources of renewal. The Roman Catholic tradition had become stalled and frozen, in many ways, in the Tridentine paradigm and confessional commitment, between the 16th century and Vatican II. There was a narrowing between Trent and Vatican II within the much fuller and deeper Roman Catholic way. The earlier 16th century humanists such as John Colet, Thomas More, Erasmus and Juan Vives, for example, had a broader understanding of their faith than Tridentine Catholicism. Erasmus was even put on the Index at Trent and remained there until Vatican II.
Believing means liberating the indestructible element in oneself, or, more accurately, being indestructible, or, more accurately, being.
In the year he died, the Trappist monk and best-selling author, Thomas Merton, published an essay addressed to “Unbelievers” apologizing for the inadequacy and impertinence of what had been inflicted upon them in the name of religion. It was not just because the manipulative antics and “vaudeville” of the defenders of the faith embarrassed him but also because it seemed to him that their “defenses” constituted “a falsification of religious truth.”1
“Faith comes by hearing, says St. Paul, but by hearing what?” he asked. “The cries of snake-handlers? The soothing platitudes of the religious operator? One must be able to listen to the inscrutable ground of (one’s) own being, and who am I to say that (the atheists’) reservations about religious commitment do not protect, in [them], this kind of listening?”2
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Review: Compassionate Fire: The Letters of Thomas Merton & Catherine de Hueck Doherty (Indiana: Ave Maria Press, 2009) ed. Robert Wild.
Father Louis, in some strange mysterious way I never quite understood, was in part my spiritual son.
Thomas Merton (1915-1968) was one of the most significant writers on the contemplative life in the 20th century, and his life and writings continue to have a meaningful impact on the lives of many. Catherine de Hueck Doherty (1896-1985) was almost twenty years Merton’s senior, but when they met at Friendship House in Harlem (NY) in 1941, a friendship was birthed that lasted until Merton’s untimely death in 1968. Robert Wild edited two books on Catherine de Hueck Doherty in 2009: Comrades Stumbling Along: The Friendship of Catherine de Hueck Doherty and Dorothy Day as Revealed through Their Letters and Compassionate Fire: The Letters of Thomas Merton & Catherine de Hueck Doherty.
Steve Bell is a seasoned, Juno Award winning song-writer / musician based in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In recent years, his thoughtful folk messages have caught the notice of symphony crowds with touring performances backed by a variety of city orchestras. But behind and beyond the pristine quality of his musicianship and lyrics, Steve stands in the tradition of Canadian artists with a heart for integrating spirituality and justice (Bruce Cockburn for example). He is involved in humanitarian work both locally and nationally. In a recent interview with Bell, I asked him to share the backstory to his social concern. Two items from his childhood especially caught my attention.
This past week the Lower Mainland in British Columbia has been abuzz with a visit by N. T. Wright. Wright has thoughtfully challenged the reformed and evangelical clan to be more deeply reformed and evangelical.
Wright’s more catholic approach to the reformed exegetical tradition has challenged a way of doing exegesis. But, has it? I will return to this question shortly. There is no doubt that Wright has taken to task the Packer-Piper position, and he has done so in an informed manner. All are agreed that the Bible is the foundation and authority, but it has become obvious that how the Bible is interpreted is another form of authority. Why are some books in the canon elevated and others subordinated, some texts prized and others demoted, some sections cherished and others ignored? There are, therefore, two levels of authority both within the Old and New Testaments: the Bible and its interpretation. It is this deutero-canonical authority that Wright is, rightly so, questioning. There are those that so equate Bible-interpretation that they do not know the difference between the authority of the one and the questionable authority of the other. But, let us move on.
In some ways human history can be summed up in the search for freedom. Not only to be free, but more profoundly, what it means to be free. The path goes something like this: if we can figure out how to be free we will as a result be happy, satisfied, and fulfilled. The search for freedom, as you can imagine, has followed many different routes each attempting to define those elusive elements needed to ensure true human freedom. Ancient and modern philosophers, most religions and spiritual systems, science, technology, and social systems have all sought the answer. After thousands of years and diverse propositions the world has come no closer to a real answer, for every human effort invariably fails to provide the freedom that the human heart is seeking.
'We are free,' many have claimed, 'yet we are miserable', they conclude. 'We are free,' they say, 'yet we are corrupt' they realize. Oppressive systems have attempted to impose control on societies valuing order over personal freedom, leaving populations far from happiness. Democratic or 'free' societies have placed freedom so high upon a pedestal that restraint of any kind is revolted at, yet they are amongst the most depressed populations in the world. To do as I want when I please is the order of the philosophical day, but it has not led to happiness. One might conclude that 'freedom' is a kind of will'o'the'wisp, an illusion always just out of reach and that true happiness is also an illusion fooling us all as we grasp at empty air pursuing it through a dark forest.
People have asked for the “BZV” Beatitudes. So here they are.
Blessed are those who are poor at being spiritual,
For the kingdom of God is well-suited for ordinary people.
Blessed are the depressed who mourn and grieve, Blessed are the quiet and content, the humble and unassuming, the gentle and trusting who are not grasping and clutching, for God will personally guarantee their share when heaven and earth become one. Blessed are those who ache for the world to be made right, Blessed are those who give mercy, Blessed are those who have a clean window in their soul, Blessed are the peaceful bridge-builders in a war-torn world,
For they create space to encounter comfort from another.
For them the government of God is a dream come true.
For they will get it back when they need it most.
For they will perceive God when and where others don’t.
For they are God’s children working in the family business.
Blessed are the depressed who mourn and grieve,
Blessed are the quiet and content, the humble and unassuming, the gentle and trusting who are not grasping and clutching, for God will personally guarantee their share when heaven and earth become one.
Blessed are those who ache for the world to be made right,
Blessed are those who give mercy,
Blessed are those who have a clean window in their soul,
Blessed are the peaceful bridge-builders in a war-torn world,
Blessed are those who are mocked and misunderstood for all the right reasons,
For the kingdom of heaven comes to earth amidst much persecution.
(The painting is The Sermon on the Mount by Fra Angelico)
I did my Masters in Christian Studies (MCS) at Regent College from 1979-1981. I was a Teaching Assistant (TA) of Jim Houston, when at Regent, and we had many a lingering and searching discussion about the classics of the Christian contemplative tradition. Jim had lived with Nicolas Zernov (an important leader in Orthodox-Anglican Sobornost dialogue in England), and Jim met often with C.S. Lewis. The broad catholic evangelical tradition that Jim was shaped and formed by was grounded and rooted in the best of the classical and patristic tradition, and it was this sensitivity to both the riches of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions that was at the core of Jim’s commitment to the renewal of Christian spirituality.
I was quite taken, when at Regent College, by the publication of Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline (1978). I avidly read, absorbed and did my limited best to put into practice many of the leads Foster offered in his book. Celebration of Discipline was, in the late 1970s-1980s, one of the more important books doing the rounds in the spirituality circuit. The disciplines, if practiced aright, were meant to renew and deepen the faith journey. The sheer success of Celebration of Discipline launched Foster in a way he probably did not anticipate. I was, when immersed in the insights and recommended practices of the book, doing much study in the Classical languages of the Greek East/Latin West and the contemplative theology and ascetic life style of the Fathers (Abbas) and Mothers (Ammas) of the church. I soon came to see that Foster’s traditions approach to the Tradition had a questionable and most modern and protestant read of the Great Tradition. I will return to this later.
From Abba Isaak the Syrian:
Even if such words as wrath, anger, hatred, and many meager others are pressed into speaking of the Creator, we should not suppose that He ever does anything in anger or hatred or zeal.
Many such figures are employed in the roiling span of Scripture, provisional terms far removed from Who He Is.
Even as our own, relatively rational persons have already been tweaked, increasingly if slowly made more competent in holy understanding of the Mystery -- namely, that we should not take things quite so literally, but should suspect (concealed within the corporal surface of unlikely narratives) a hidden providence and eternal knowledge guiding all – so too we shall in future come to see the sweep of many things to be quite contrary to what our current, puerile processes afford us.
-- Saint Isaac of Nineveh
Faith, Freedom and the Human Vocation
Archbishop Lazar Puhalo Abbot of the Monastery of All Saints of North America
Civil Liaison for the Orthodox Church of Canada
An Invited Paper
The Risale-i Nur: Faith, Morality and the Future of Humankind
An international conference of The Istanbul Foundation for Science and Culture
THE LAMP OF BELIEF
(The illumination of the soul)
For those of us non-Moslems who have recently been introduced to Sa’id Nursi, his writings are enlightening. The more I read of his thought, the more attracted to him I become. His views and concepts should especially resonate with Orthodox Christians whose formation is rooted in the spiritual milieu of the near and Middle East.
Had I been able personally to dialogue with Nursi, I should want to have begun with a discussion of "relationships as the manifestation of belief and faith." When we in the Orthodox Christian community speak of "energies," this is precisely what we are referring to, so let me begin with a few words about energy as relationship. In both physics and Orthodox theology, this is the essential meaning of "energy." "Energy" is the manner in which our inner person relates to God and to other human beings. The uncreated energy of God is the manner in which He establishes His relationship with us. We call this uncreated energy of God "grace." The energy with which we establish our relationship with God, we refer to as "faith." Faith is a higher fruit of "belief," for belief opens our hearts toward God so that we can receive the illumination of faith by means of grace. Our energies form the mode in which we relate to other human beings, and this relationship is truly appropriate only when we have a vital relationship with God.
In the Signs of the Miraculous (V3, p.50.), if I understand Nursi correctly, he tells us that belief in God shines a light into our minds that allows us to seek a reconciliation with our own conscience. Belief is ultimately a gift to those who seek it. Once established in us, belief — which has opened for us the possibility of a relationship with God — provides us with consolation in the face of adversity, and the strength to endure even in the midst of suffering.
In the Orthodox context, we would refer to this light or lamp of consolation in belief as "the Holy Spirit." Though we express this gift in different forms, the end result, the "relationship" is the same. Here, then, we begin to see the fount of loving dialogue. Nursi would lead our souls to the green pastures that are ever verdant even when the world around us is perishing from spiritual drought and desiccation. This is a quest which is mutual for both Orthodoxy and Islam.
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It was with much anticipation that I picked up and read through Juliana Schmemann’s My Journey with Father Alexander. Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983) was surely one of the most significant Orthodox theologians in North America in the second half of the twentieth century. The Orthodox journey taken by Schmemann from Estonia (roots being in Russia) to France (St. Sergius Theological Institute) and finally to the USA in 1951 is a touching and telling tale. Juliana Schmemann has an eye for endearing details, and the life of Alexander and Juliana unfolds in an inviting manner. The missive is not long, but the text and many photographs enliven the gentle but committed life of Father Alexander in a way that few could.