Yearning For God: The Potential And Poverty Of The Catholic Spirituality Of Francis De Sales -- By: Glen G. Scorgie

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 41:3 (Sep 1998)
Article: Yearning For God: The Potential And Poverty Of The Catholic Spirituality Of Francis De Sales
Author: Glen G. Scorgie

Yearning For God: The Potential And Poverty
Of The Catholic Spirituality Of Francis De Sales

Glen G. Scorgie*

* Glen Scorgie is professor of theology at Bethel Seminary San Diego, 6116 Arosa Street, San Diego, CA 92115.

There is renewed interest among evangelicals, as well there might be, in what is now known as spirituality or spiritual formation. For too many the distinctively evangelical phrase “a personal relationship with Jesus Christ” has deflated to a cliché, and the vital experience it once honestly represented has faded to a memory or, sadder still, remains a plaintive wish. A new generation of evangelicals wants to know just how personal and transforming the presence of God can actually be in its experience today.

To some extent the renewed evangelical interest in spirituality is our own in-house expression of the much larger (indeed, culturewide) recoiling of the human spirit from the ethos of our materialistic, technological and ultimately alienating way of life. The contemporary cry of the human spirit is our cry too. We must not dismiss the divine impulse in all of this simply because spiritual hunger spills out beyond ecclesiastical boundaries or because it often manifests itself in offensively narcissistic ways.1

Whatever the generic and very slippery word “spirituality” may mean to others, for Christians spirituality is about experiencing the Triune God in a personally transforming way. Intimacy with this God, by reason of his infectiously holy nature, is necessarily purging and sanctifying. For this reason there can be no artificial division between spirituality and ethics.

An assumption underlying the renewed evangelical interest in spiritual formation is that such a “transforming friendship”2 is not automatic: It requires an intentional and disciplined approach. Here we have been at a bit of a loss. It is not as though the evangelical tradition lacks a heritage of spirituality. But our collective memory is weak, and we have grown unfamiliar with the rich resources of a host of evangelical mentors, women and men alike, from John Bunyan to Hannah Whitall Smith to A. W. Tozer.

Yet there is also another factor involved here. One of our strong suits as evangelicals has always been our vigorous activism,3 which has led to many achievements for which we may be properly grateful. But busy people tend not to cultivate the interior life with a lot of sophistication. Often we are at a loss when we try to move, as Charles Nienkirchen has put it, “beyon...

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