The SBJT Forum: Thinking about True Spirituality -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 10:4 (Winter 2006)
Article: The SBJT Forum: Thinking about True Spirituality
Author: Anonymous

The SBJT Forum:
Thinking about True Spirituality

Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the forum’s format. D. A. Carson, Mark Coppenger, Joel R. Beeke, and Pierre Constant have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. The journal’s goal for the Forum is to provide significant thinkers’ views on topics of interest without requiring lengthy articles from these heavily-committed individuals. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.

D. A. Carson is Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfi eld, Illinois. He is the author of numerous commentaries and monographs, and is one of this countr y’s foremost New Testament scholars. Among his many books are The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Zondervan, 1986), Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church (Zondervan, 2005), and How Long O Lord: Reflections on Suffering and Evil (2nd ed.; Baker, 2006).

SBJT: Could you briefly lay out the opportunities and dangers in the current interest in spirituality?

D. A. Carson: So many books on the subject of spirituality have been written during the last two or three decades that it is an impertinence to address the topic in a few paragraphs. In the hope that brevity may serve some useful functions, however, I’m inclined to say at least the following.

Before I answer the question directly, it is worth remembering that “spirituality” has an intellectual history that is worth thinking about. I summarized that history elsewhere (in an Appendix to The Gagging of God), and I need not repeat here everything I said there. Nevertheless a handful of remarks from that survey will not go amiss. (1) Until a few decades ago, “spirituality” was not an expression much used in Protestantism. Nowadays, however, the expression is used not only by Catholics and Protestants alike, but also by almost everyone, including completely unchurched people who think of themselves as in many respects secular. “Spiritual” may hint at some sort of connection to eastern religions or to new age thought, but it might mean something like “aesthetic,” and it might be tied to fairly mystical quasi-materialist beliefs (e.g., some keep crystals close to them in the belief that they vibrate and improve the holder’s “spirituality”). (2) In the Western world, the term was, as I’ve just said, until recently tied to Catholicism. But what did Catholics mean by it? One of their usages meant something like “devotional.” While Protestants might write either academic or “devotional” commentaries, ...

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