Tuesday, May 15, 2012

"To speak at all about Christian holiness"

“Talking about spirituality simply in terms of an undefined intensity or ‘authenticity’ of human life has little to do with talking of holiness, because holiness presupposes a transcendent source and measure for itself. To speak at all about Christian holiness is to seek for the criteria by which a life can be recognized as communicating the holiness of God as made known in Jesus. A doctrine-free spirituality risks descending into sentimentality, to the level of what makes us feel generally better about ourselves or reminds us in a wholly unsystematic way of the mystery around us; it is a weak support for resistance to the political and cultural tyrannies of our day. Without the structures of both discipline and doctrine, ‘spirituality’ can be vacuous and indulgent. Equally, doctrine that loses sight of its own roots in the painful and gradual re-formation of how holiness is experienced and understood becomes idle, even idolatrous. Christian language began its distinctive life as the speech the community developed for new, shared senses of what was possible for God and humanity. So, if some area of doctrinal language has become apparently arid, the question demanding to be asked is not first whether it makes sense before some imaginary tribunal of disengaged intellect or contemporary relevance, but what possibilities for Christian life and discipleship it was meant to ‘encode’ and whether the problem lies in a shrinking of our imagination in respect of this discipleship.” 

~ Geoffrey Rowell, Kenneth Stevenson, and Rowan Williams, 

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