Tag Archives | spirituality

Practical Theology | Mark J. Cartledge

The cover of Cartledge's Practical TheologyEmpirical and Theology are unlikely partners. Empirical refers to that which is verifiable through observation. Theology (at least in the more conservative traditions) is rooted in revelation and textual studies. In Practical Theology, Mark Cartledge demonstrates how these two ideas play well together in a Charismatic milieu.

Practical Theology is written in two parts. In the first three chapters, Cartledge explains his methodology along with a variety of research methods that suit. Particularly enlightening is the way he weaves contemporary philosophy and charismatic scholarship together to define truth.

The chapters in the second half of Practical Theology illustrate the methodology of the first half. Cartledge has used both quantitative and qualitative research methods in his career. He uses the data he gathered throughout his research to demonstrate various ways of doing sociological studies. These chapters are interesting on two levels. They illuminate some key ideas in charismatic theology: prophecy, the role of women, and glossolalia to name a few. At the end of each study Cartledge offers a reflection on the methods used to interpret the data.

Practical Theology should be read by anyone interested in doing sociological research from a charismatic perspective.

Cartledge, Mark J. Practical Theology: Charismatic and Empirical Perspectives. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, 2003.

No Man is an Island | Thomas Merton

1d933773f73598c596b77326977444341587343No Man is an Island is a reflection on the spiritual life. I’m aware that by using the word “spiritual,” some assume “otherworldly.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Merton has the entire person in mind—the person in relationship to God. He is concerned with our “integration in the mystery of Christ” (xxii).

The range of topics Merton covers is broad. He deals with everything from Love to Conscience, Solitude to Vocation, Intention to Charity. You can tell by reading these chapters that he has lived out his thoughts and ideas. He drills deep into human nature as he examines every aspect of our being in the light of God.

This book makes for great spiritual reading. I found that the best way to read it was to take it in small portions. To rush would be to miss his wisdom. I found his insight beneficial especially when I saw the tendencies he described in my own life. It takes time to make these discoveries.

My only frustration with Merton is the influence of Eastern Philosophy on his work. A good example of this is his words on Asceticism:

In order to spiritualize our lives and make them pleasing to God, we must become quiet. The peace of a soul that is detached from all things and from itself is the sign that our sacrifice is truly acceptable to God. (108)

In a few places like these, he makes the spiritual life sound like something Jesus certainly didn’t experience. Jesus, who cried at Lazarus’ tomb, who braided a whip to drive out money changers from the temple, and who begged God to relieve him of his burden, was anything but dispassionate!

That said, this volume is abundant in material to enrich the spiritual life of any thoughtful Christ follower.

—Thomas Merton, No Man Is An Island (New York: Harvest/HBJ, 1955, 1983).

Letters to a Spiritual Seeker | Henry David Thoreau

Let me just confess something up front: I bought this book because of the beautiful canoe on the cover. Sure, I rationalized it in other ways. “Spiritual” in the title peaked my interest, and I did appreciate Walden. But it was the canoe sold it.

To read the blurbers, you’d think this book was a new gospel. Here’s what Terry Tempest Williams said: “I open this book at random and find daily strength in Thoreau’s words that gives me courage. . . . This is a book I keep on my desk as a record of shared faith.” I can’t agree.

While there were occasional moments of brilliance, I found this collection of letters increasingly self-indulgent. The off-hand references to scripture and mythology came off as pretentious.

The layout of the book was another problem. Because of the culture gap and Thoreau’s wide range of references, there were copious notes. This would be good if they were printed on the same page as the letter. Instead, all 64 pages of footnotes were tucked away at the end of the book. That means you have to flip back and forth to read just under a third of the content of the volume.

Read and enjoy Walden. Don’t get sidetracked here.

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