A Sketch Of Christian Spirituality: From The Patristic Period To The Evangelical Era -- By: Brian G. Najapfour

Journal: Puritan Reformed Journal
Volume: PRJ 05:1 (Jan 2013)
Article: A Sketch Of Christian Spirituality: From The Patristic Period To The Evangelical Era
Author: Brian G. Najapfour


A Sketch Of Christian Spirituality:
From The Patristic Period To The Evangelical Era

Brian G. Najapfour

Christian Spirituality: An Introduction, by Alister E. McGrath (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1999); 204 pp.

The Spirit of Early Christian Thought: Seeking the Face of God, by Robert Louis Wilken (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003); 368 pp.

The Law of Love: English Spirituality in the Age of Wyclif, ed. and trans., David Lyle Jeffrey (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988); 404 pp.

Puritan Reformed Spirituality, by Joel R. Beeke (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2004); 475 pp.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus: The Evangelical Tradition, by Ian Randall (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books, 2005); 230 pp.

In the course of the history of the church, from the patristic period to the present, various patterns of Christian spirituality developed mainly along four lines: patristic, medieval, Puritan Reformed, and Evangelical. Each of the books above, with the exception of McGrath’s Christian Spirituality: An Introduction, represents a certain type of spirituality. Before I survey these various forms of spirituality, it is important to define the word “spirituality,” especially as this term is understood in diverse ways. For this task, McGrath is very helpful—a reason why his text has been included in this review article.

Definition Of Spirituality

In the introductory chapter of his book, McGrath, head of the Center for Theology, Religion, and Culture at King’s College, London, has done a remarkable job in defining and clarifying the complex term “spirituality.” He first explains the term by stating that “spirituality

is the outworking in the real life of a person’s religious faith—what a person does with what they believe.”1 He then elucidates the more particular term “Christian spirituality,” writing that “Christian spirituality concerns the quest for a fulfilled and authentic Christian existence, involving the bringing together of the fundamental ideas of Christianity and the whole experience of living on the basis of and within the scope of the Christian faith.”2

While some writers use the terms “mysticism” and “spirituality” interchangeably, McGrath prefers to utilize the latter because the former “has so many unhelpful associations and misleading overtones that its continued use is problematic.”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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