In Uncategorized on June 2, 2005 at 3:50 pm


okay, now that I’ve pissed and moaned a bit too much about work, it’s time to return to my previous question. how does one pursue authentic spirituality? before I say anything more, allow me to confess that the whole time i’ve been writing this, david dark has been haunting my head and reminding me that every time I talk about stuff like God, confession and spirituality i don’t know exactly what i’m talking about. so, rest assured that i offer this with more than a little bit of fear and trembling.

first off, let me confess my ambivalence towards the term authentic. this therapeutic term has been utilized to such a great degree by the church growth movement and mass marketers (yes…sometimes I also wonder if there is a difference) that i question its usefulness. usually when people speak about being “authentic,” they are referring to their desire to share their unguarded thoughts, feelings and emotions with the other. instead of talking about “authentic” spirituality i would be much more willing to talk about “honest” spirituality. when i hear the term authentic i envision people sharing their thoughts and emotions in service of an agenda (such as evangelism or the new cell phone plan they are marketing), but when i hear the term honest, i envision people who are willing to share their most deeply held beliefs without discounting their most deeply held doubts. so let’s exchange the warm and fuzzy therapeutic term for a term that, has some sharper edges and carries a heavier weight of meaning.

second, since i am a Christian, when i talk about spirituality, i am restricting my thoughts to Christian spirituality. this does not mean that other spiritualities are without merit, but simply that i am speaking of that which I know (in part). namely, the spirituality which finds its roots in the Jewish and Christian scriptures, is self-consciously shaped by the life, death and resurrection of Christ, is constantly nourished by stories of the spiritual mothers and fathers who added their verse to the epic story of church history and works itself out within the context of Christian community.

now that the preliminaries are out of the way, i would like to share a few, admittedly provisional, thoughts. for Christians i think a better way to frame this discussion would be to talk about confessional spirituality. by using the term “confessional” i intend to convey two different, yet complimentary things.

one, i am using the term confessional to suggest that as we pursue God along this narrow road of faith that Christ has set for us, we should seek to do so humbly by admitting our manifold failures and fuckups, and generously, by listening to those who are upon other paths and those who walk the same path at a different pace and/or in a different way. my hunch is that all of us, from jean vanier and Eugene Peterson to the freshest convert and most naïve seeker have much more in common with the kindergartener who is “following the leader” than an expert who can hold court on how to follow Christ. as we walk upon this road let us be encouraged by one another’s confession that we don’t know the way we are going nor how we are going to get there. for it is this kind of humble confession that provides solace to our lack of certainty and compels us to put our faith in and follow the leader.

two, i am using the term confessional to suggest that confessional spirituality treasures the historic confessions of the scriptures, such as the Shema in Deut. 6:1-4 and Matt. 16:13, as well as the classic confessions of the Christian faith. I once heard andy crouch, creator of re:generation journal and current columnist for Christiannity Today, define orthodoxy as “being able to say the apostle’s creed without having your fingers crossed behind your back.” i really like that definition. i would also like to add that using the apostle’s or Nicene creed as a basis of confession does not require either that we understand the undulating depths of each doctrine or that we have begun to grasp the height and depth, length and width of the love of God. rather, the confessions simply give us a historically sound precipice off of which we can dive into the life of faith.

okay, that’s enough for now. i would like to nuance my explanation of confession a bit and say what I mean about spirituality, but i (a) doubt my ability to do so and (b) have to get back to work. of course, if you would like to question anything i have said, add further reflections or put forth your own ideas, please feel free to do so. as i’ve said before, all of us are smarter than any of us. i’d love to hear from you.

post scriptum–i haven’t had a ton of time to edit this. so i would like to ask the grammar queers for clemency.


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