A Brief History Of Christian Devotion -- By: Loyd Allen

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 07:2 (Spring 1990)
Article: A Brief History Of Christian Devotion
Author: Loyd Allen


A Brief History Of Christian Devotion

Loyd Allen

Assistant Professor of Church History
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

A history of Christian devotion is concerned with the personal encounter between Christians and God. It is a history of spirituality. The sources for a history of Christian devotion are the means by which persons have most clearly experienced a sense of consecration, of being together with the sacred.

The Gospel Models of Jesus

The paragon of devotion in a specifically Christian sense is the encounter between Jesus of Nazareth and the one he called Abba. This idea is known mainly from the four Gospels. Like its Jewish antecedent Christian devotion is a unity in diversity. Dissimilarities between the Gospel viewpoints have resulted in attempts either to harmonize these perspectives or to uphold one at the expense of the others, but the church has held fast to a multiplicity of witnesses to the doorway of Christian devotion. It canonized four Gospels, four viewpoints on the one Christ.

The history of Christian devotion may be viewed as varying patterns produced by four basic interwoven strands of Gospel perspective: the Matthean, Markan, Lukan, and Johannine styles. Each Gospel’s perspective is visible to a greater or lesser extent in every chapter of devotion’s story.

The Matthean Devotional Style. Wisdom is the trademark of Matthew. Devotional distinctives from the Matthean perspective are conservation of order, loyalty to heritage, duty to society, concrete understanding of procedures, and respect for ancient authority.1 Matthew begins with a genealogy, rooting Jesus—the new Moses, the new David—in his tradition. The future is something to be prepared for. The Sermon on the Mount and other teachings on believers’ duties in society build for the ekklesia (unmentioned in other Gospels) a system of do’s and don’ts to hold community together. Over and over again Matthew quotes the Old Testament, showing the past’s continuity with the present to confirm Jesus’ authority. This Gospel ends with an appeal to authority, teaching, and obedience (Mt. 28:18–20). In these Jesus will be with his disciples always. Matthean Christian devotion is an orderly, dutiful approach to the divine, a wise mix of old and new (Mt. 13:51–52). Encounter with the divine in Matthew is discovered in making fully present the faith delivered to the ancestors.

The Markan Devotional Style. Action is the accent of Mark. Markan devotion stresses the presence of God in the going...

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