At a time when religious conservatives claim a mandate and the best-selling Left Behind novels gleefully contemplate the destruction of all but a small remnant of humanity, the works of the Cambridge Platonists speak with particular resonance. These 17th-century rational theologians also lived in a remarkably fractious age.
I once owned an ambitiously titled book, All the Doctrines of the Bible. Too many apologetics are muscularly evangelical, seeking to answer definitively all questions, enumerate every important theological theme, and quash questioners. One thinks of John Stott’s Basic Christianity, J. I.
It’s amazing and comforting to realize that world religions scholar Huston Smith, 84, has been toiling in the fields of the Lord for more than 40 years, teaching more than one generation of students and readers the many names by which the Lord is called.
There are some of us who read more than we pray. We know we should pray more. We mean to pray more. But something happens to us when we read that does not happen when we pray. We find our lives by losing them. We enter into communion with people whom we have never met, some of whom never existed in the world we call real.
It is tempting to view the fracas over a gay bishop as another instance of liberals sparring with conservatives. Like revision of the Book of Common Prayer and approval of the ordination of women, Gene Robinson’s confirmation as a bishop in the Episcopal Church could be interpreted as a victory for liberals intent on affirming diversity and securing justice for excluded minorities.
Somehow I managed to get a theological education and practice several decades of parish ministry without encountering the idea of spirituality. In fact, I don’t recall even hearing the word until about ten years ago.
The seething energies of spirituality are evident everywhere. That is good. What is not so good is that spirituality is also prone to lack of clarity, making it difficult to carry on a conversation about it.