Thursday, May 03, 2018

Is spirituality a "mechanical quest"?

McIntosh notes that around the twelfth century the term spiritualitas shifted from being concerned with "the power of God animating the Christian life" to characterizing a privatized quality, one referring to a "highly refined state of the soul, with the focus on how one achieves such states of inner purity and exaltation." McIntosh further adds that, by the time of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the term "spirituality" in both the Latin and the vernaculars came to signify inner dispositions and "interior states of the soul." Put another way, "spirituality" gradually became an anthropologically oriented category in the West, in the sense that human interiority and maybe even a "technology of the self" (even if treated through explicitly theological categories such as "sanctification," moral theology," or even "mystagogy") became the focus. McIntosh concludes that " the mystical dimension of Christian spirituality, that transforming knowledge of God which early Christian writers often saw as the very foundation of theology, grew ever more estranged from theology" by gradually focusing on the "mechanics of the spiritual quest." [MacIntosh, Mystical Theology, 7, 8.].—Pentecostalism as a Christian Mystical Tradition, pages 71–72

<idle musing>
I find that a terrifying thought! Yet, I see it in all kinds of books: 10 Steps to this or that, How to become such and such a person, How to grow your faith, etc. Everything in me resists that. Over the years I have reacted here to some of those books, which while correctly identifying the problem with the Western church, have simply prescribed a different medicine of the same sort—you don't get better, but some of those nasty side affects disappear, only to be replaced by other equally nasty side affects. No thanks!
</idle musing>

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