Spiritual Reading Of The Christian Classics: An Avenue To Faith Deepening And Faithful Living -- By: Susan Muto

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 26:0 (NA 1994)
Article: Spiritual Reading Of The Christian Classics: An Avenue To Faith Deepening And Faithful Living
Author: Susan Muto

Spiritual Reading Of The Christian Classics:
An Avenue To Faith Deepening And Faithful Living

Susan Muto

Dr. Susan A. Muto is Executive Director of the Epiphany Association in Pittsburgh, PA, and formerly a professor at the Institute of Formative Spirituality at Duquesne University. Her career of teaching and writing has taken her around the world, including guest lectureships at Ashland Seminary.

As fallible, finite creatures, we are always in need of God’s grace to sustain us in our quest to live faithfully. In cooperation with grace, we may pursue and practice as an avenue to faith deepening certain disciplines that help us to meet God in everyday life. One of those recommended by masters of spirituality in all classical faith traditions is that of spiritual or formative reading.

Formative reading requires that we become disciples of (obedient listeners to) the Word of God as it addresses us through the faith-filled words of scripture and the masters. This exercise in spiritual living prepares us for Christian service, since who of us can give to others what we ourselves do not live? How can we expect to radiate the values of a religious tradition if we are not living them on a day-to-day basis?

It is not enough to be knowledgeable in the literature of the natural and social sciences. Important as this information may be, it is insufficient for our purposes. If we read only to gather information, neglecting to deepen our interiority, we may widen rather than bridge the gap between us and God.

To preserve an appreciation for the spiritual classics, we must not focus so much on what is new (information-gathering) that we forgot to resource ourselves in the formational texts, traditions, doctrines, and directives of our respective churches. As formative versus merely informative readers, we share in the task of restoration while remaining open to the power of the Spirit to lead us to new direction disclosures.

I. From Mastery to Discipleship

Spiritual reading returns us to the classics of our faith tradition while readying us for Christian witness in new and challenging situations. Let me set the scene for these reflections by paraphrasing a passage from the contemporary poet and spiritual writer, T. S. Eliot.

In his poem, “Choruses from ‘The Rock,’” Eliot profiles our condition at this moment of history. He suggests in the opening lines that though ours is an age of technical progress, it may be, by the same

token, an age of spiritual regression. He observes that we live in an endless cycle of idea and action, endless inv...

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