Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Living Spirituality Study Guide - Chapter 3

Christian spirituality is both overwhelmingly communal and intensely personal. As you read slowly and carefully through this book, we encourage you to think deeply about the questions and ideas presented. Following are some questions for discussion in a group, personal reflection, or both.

Chapter 3 – The Map, Map Reading, and Living Spirituality

* When planning a path, a destination is assumed. What do you think is the destination of Christian spirituality? How does that affect the way you act towards others and in the world?

* How does the idea of following a “prescribed, mapped-out route” – not trailblazing – fit into your notion of spirituality? How does it relate to our cultural context?

* What do you think about the definition of theology as “chiefly about the study of God and the Scripture”? Do you see theology as related to your spirituality, or something better left to professional theologians? Why?

* Notice that theology is an added dimension to the three already mentioned in chapter two. Five reasons are given as to why spirituality would require a theological mapping:

      1.  To come to sufficient understanding of God.

      2.  To find our spiritual bearings.

      3.  To holistically enlighten our hearts and minds.

      4.  To have a greater degree of objectivity in what we affirm and critique as truly or falsely spiritual.

      5.  To discern how to live the whole of life in community with God and each other in God’s world.

Can you think of other reasons?

* Reflect on the notion of relation and distinction regarding the map of Scripture. Can you think of problems other than those mentioned when you make it up as you go along?


Teach me, O Lord, to follow your decrees; then I will keep them to the end. Give me understanding, and I will keep your law and obey it with all my heart.

--Psalm 119:33-34


Suggested Map Reading:

Psalm 119

Colossians 3:1-17

James 1:1-25

For Further Study:

How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth – G. Fee & D. Stuart

Eat This Book, E. Peterson


Michel said...

I agree fully and heartily with what is written, but how can we bring about change? The fact is, we live in this culture and I think that escaping from it to live in a castle (or church, or secluded community) that protects us from it is not really a solution. We need to be in this culture, but not of it. And this is the big problem and challenge: where are the models for such a living? We hear a lot of preaching and many good words are written, but where are the lives that show us the way? I long for such a life, but culture and everyday concerns have such an impact that they constantly draw me away from this life. This is where I long for a community of saints, standing jointly against this culture and supporting each other in their everyday concerns. And here is my question again: where is the model for such a life, such a community in our times?

Greg said...

Thanks for your comment and welcome to Living Spirituality.

You pose some good questions and have helpful insights.

How about this? There is indeed a reality to being in culture and not of it. Reading culture is a key to the spiritual life. Christianity doesn't offer us an escape from culture, but calls us to engage with it in what is good and to enhance redemptive and life giving ways where it is bad. Both a task and a calling.

It is possible there is value in community life that offers others shelter for a period of time in order to help them see how they might better live out what was mentioned above. There are shelters around. Some communities and churches have this as part of their mission, and I believe it is here that we find people struggling together to know how to best live in the culture as followers of the crucified and risen One.

In my book Living Spirituality I try to bring out stories of these kinds of people in the context of a community life. My hope is that this provides a signpost for others to create and participate in communities with similar concerns and passions. They do exist here and there, even though they may not be on every corner or in every church.

Michel said...


What I'm dreaming of is a true community of saints, not just a community to put others on their feet again or help them on their way, although as you mention this has its value, and would certainly also be part of this 'true community'. I realize, this sounds very idealistic... But could a community as described in Acts 2 not work in our individualistic age? We have tried this, on a small scale, but the forces of our culture and everyday concerns have meant it's quiet death.
I'm dreaming of a community, that stands in this culture like a beacon, like a city on a hill. A community in which the love of God and for God would be a visible reality. In which spirituality would not just be a discussion topic, but a way of life, spilling over in our surrounding culture, instead of the opposite happing now. Am I expecting too much? Is this an utopia, that's reserved for the new earth? There are so many opposing forces on all levels: on the individual level there is sin we have to fight, on a cultural level, there is indivdidualism, abandonment to entertainment, consumerism and lack of commitment to fight, on a spiritual level there is 'laid back' faith, soft and sweet spirituality and me-oriented beliefs to fight, among other things. From Acts and Paul's letters we learn that the first churches and communities did also have their struggles on the above mentioned levels. But they were living their faith!
It seems to me that in our culture and society faith has been disassociated from everyday life: we have our faith life on the one hand and our everyday life on the other. That is what I experience and what I observe around me. I believe, the Gospel only has true power when both, faith and everyday life, come together. But this is nearly impossible in our current culture. That is why I'm dreaming of a community that would provide a frame for bringing the two together again, showing that true discipleship is not unattainable.
I realize that this community starts with me and my family and that is where I'm putting the focus. But it's a tough fight if your struggling (almost) alone... We also have a vision for a project, and that is the reason for my asking if there are such communities.

Your book sounds really interesting and I've put it on top of my reading list.

Greg said...

Thanks. Good points. I think there has to be a true community that is already there for others to take part in if they too are going to move in a direction of creating and participating in community for themselves. I have lived in community for over twenty years.

I do believe that to attempt to be an Acts 2 type of community today would be idealistic. After all, what was taking place in Jerusalem is not even practiced in the churches of the NT period, and therefore doesn't seem to be a suggested model. I don't mean to say there is no direction here for community, but I think any framing that's too tight will not work.

You make some insightful comments about the state of opposing forces. Perhaps, there is something in-between this and utopia that is actually real and livable, where some communities and churches are providing cutting edge ways to live together.

I do very much agree that faith has to be lived out into the world, but also believe that there are a diversity of ways and missions for doing this in our current situation.

Michel said...


Thanks for your insights.

What do you understand by true community and in your experience, what are the elements of community (in light of Acts 2) that can realistically be lived in today's culture and society?

I do believe there is a livable in-between, else I would have abandoned faith a long time ago. Nevertheless, the conflict between the longing in my heart for God and his Kingdom and the reality of my sinful life and the power of a worldly culture and society sometimes does drive me near to despair.

I also believe that there is diversity in how our faith is lived out into the world, but where do we draw the line? I'm not pretending that it's up to me to draw that line, and this line may vary from situation to situation, but at what point do I stop nodding my head and say stop! you're probably aware of the discussion going on about the emerging movement in the US. A lot of the points they're making is about how we live our faith in this world and I can agree with them. Some statements however make me feel uncomfortable. I see quite some of that spirit in the Swiss reformed church and I do not like it: basically what they're saying is, that (almost) everything is ok and (almost) everybody is ok. I know Jesus was not exactly picky (by his society's standards) about the people he hung out with. The difference however is, that he chose exactly those standing at the border or outside of accepted society. What the church here is doing, seems to be the similar: including those that by biblical standards are not ok (which is what Jesus also did), but then, conforming to society, saying that they are ok and that their views of life are ok. What is your view on this?

Greg said...

True community is living in community with God and each other both globally and locally. We are part of one body - the body of Christ - with local expressions. For the local this means at least shared stories, lives, teaching, times, resources within the context of following Christ as Lord of all of life.

Yes, emerging does have some insights that are valuable, but the de-emphasis on teaching in some repesentations is unhelpful. Making it up as we go along will not get us very far if we are seeking to follow the map of scripture as well as possible.