Thorsen - Pocket Dictionary of Christian Spirituality

Don Thorsen - Pocket Dictionary of Christian Spirituality

Don Thorsen - Pocket Dictionary of Christian Spirituality

Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2018. – 144 p.
ISBN 978-0-8308-8732-3 (digital)
ISBN 978-0-8308-4967-3 (print)
Spirituality has to do with the human spirit, and Christian spirituality has to do with our relationship with the divine Spirit—with God. In particular, Christian spirituality has to do with our relationship with God, who in Scripture is revealed as our heavenly Father, as Abba —a term of personal intimacy—by Jesus Christ. Jesus atoned for people’s salvation from sin and judgment through his life, death, and resurrection. Through him people are saved and are reconciled to God by grace through faith. However, the story of salvation does not end with conversion and the hope of eternal life. Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would continue to work in and through the lives of believers—of Christians—in healing, restoring, and transforming them spiritually and holistically. Salvation is as much for this life as for life hereafter as God’s Spirit works sanctifying grace in the lives of believers. In Scripture as well as church history, many activities, exercises, and disciplines of spiritual import have been practiced. God graciously intends for them to serve as a means by which believers may grow in faith, hope, and love; in intimacy in their personal relationship with God; and in their obedient maturation into Christlikeness.
One should beware of having an exclusively spiritualistic understanding of Christian spirituality. On the contrary, Christian spirituality ought to be thought of as something that is holistic, embracing all aspects of life: spiritual and physical, supernatural and natural, individual and social, gift and task, justification and sanctification, love and justice, scriptural and traditional, rational and experiential, sacramental and symbolic, extemporaneous and disciplined, and so on. The study of Christian spirituality is not intended to limit but to expand on its holistic relevance to people here and now.
The Pocket Dictionary of Christian Spirituality is my contribution to the InterVarsity Press reference series of pocket dictionaries. Certainly these topics are just as important to Christians as the information found in the other pocket dictionaries. Because this book is a part of a reference series, it will be more descriptive than prescriptive with regard to defining spiritual formation and Christian living.
Because of the varieties of Christian spirituality, it is difficult to present evenhandedly all the beliefs, values, and practices of each church tradition—east and west; north and south; liturgical and evangelical; Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. Because of the genre of the Pocket Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, terms have been defined simply, but not simplistically. If you want to learn more about specific beliefs, values, and practices related to Christian spirituality, then investigate them further as a spiritual study for yourself.
Let me give one example of differences among Christians with regard to spirituality. It has to do with the degree to which Christian spirituality (including its growth and formation) is considered a divine gift, and the degree to which it is considered a human responsibility or task. For example, in 1 Corinthians 3:6, the apostle Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.” Christians believe that God alone provides the salvation and spiritual growth people experience. However, they disagree with regard to the degree to which people have the responsibility or task of “abiding” in Jesus Christ, cooperating with God’s Holy Spirit for their salvation and spiritual growth (see John 15:1-11). What does it mean for Paul to “plant” and for Apollos to “water”? What do these words of Scripture mean for us today for our role in salvation and for our spiritual growth?
In answering these questions, some Christians emphasize how God sovereignly decrees all matters related to salvation and spiritual growth. At most, people are thought to act compatibly with God’s grace, but in no way do they work for or merit their salvation and spiritual growth. Other Christians, while they agree that they cannot work for or merit their salvation and spiritual growth, emphasize that God self-limits divine power over people, and preveniently gives them grace to decide—accepting or rejecting—God’s salvation and aid for spiritual growth.
On the one hand, those who emphasize God’s sovereign decrees may understand the definitions in this Pocket Dictionary of Christian Spirituality as descriptions of the effectual outworkings of God’s plan for their lives. On the other hand, those who emphasize God’s prevenient grace may understand the definitions as imperatives for synergistically cooperating with the Holy Spirit for their spiritual formation.
Both views believe that some degree of divine gift and human task is at work for people’s salvation and for their spiritual growth, despite differences with regard to the extent of their respective roles for people’s spiritual well-being, discipleship, and formation. As you read the Pocket Dictionary of Christian Spirituality, some definitions may seem to place greater emphasis on the role of God in people’s salvation and spiritual growth. Others may seem to place greater emphasis on God’s expectation that people act responsibly—aided by divine grace—in “planting” and “watering” for their salvific and spiritual well-being. All definitions affirm that it is God alone who gives the growth.
* * *
A summary of *Scripture and Christian teachings that provides an outline of Christian beliefs, values, and practices. Sometimes called an outline of the faith, catechisms are used by both Catholic and confessional Protestant churches for teaching foundational doctrines to new believers and children (see confirmation) before becoming full members of a *church. Catechisms may be used to inspire *spiritual formation as well for instruction in basic Christianity.
Christ-centered prayer (or Christocentric prayer)
Prayer focused especially on the person of *Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, often praying in the name of Jesus. Christ-centered prayer does not negate prayer to other persons of the *Trinity—Father and Holy *Spirit. Instead, it emphasizes the person and work of Jesus for our salvation, as a role model for how people are to live their lives as Christians, and for their *spiritual formation. Christ-centered prayers, for example, the “soul of Christ” (anima Christi), are used in *Ignatian spiritual exercises.
An initial act of devoting someone or something to God. Dedicating oneself involves making a choice to follow God, and making significant life changes to follow through on that choice. In nonsacramental church traditions, parents may dedicate their infant children rather than baptize them. Prayers of dedication are also offered on behalf of something new, for example, a new ministry or home, including prayers for *blessing and protection.
Hours (canonical Hours, liturgy of the Hours)
Specific times spaced throughout the day that are set aside for prayer. These typically include Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, *Vespers, and *Compline. Lauds is the first office of the day, traditionally prayed or chanted at daybreak, followed by the shorter Hours: Prime (practiced at 6:00 a.m.), Terce (9:00 a.m.), Sext (noon), None (3:00 p.m.), Vespers (6:00 p.m.), and Compline (night). Sometimes Lauds and Prime are combined. Among these Hours, Lauds and Vespers are primary, which both clergy and laity are expected to practice in high liturgy traditions. The Hours are also referred to as offices.
The day the Holy *Spirit came fully to work in and through Christians. In Acts 2:1-31, the Holy Spirit dramatically came on about 120 followers of Jesus Christ; they spoke in *tongues (other languages) and were empowered to minister. Some Christians consider Pentecost to represent the birthday of the *church, and it is celebrated as a *holy day among Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant churches. Pentecostals do not think that Pentecost represents a single historical event, but is paradigmatic of how all Christians should be baptized with the Holy Spirit, in the same way it happened on Pentecost.
The raising of believers in *Jesus Christ from the dead with new, heavenly bodies as well as the restoring of their personhood; what is more, resurrection has implications for believers’ spiritual well-being here and now. Jesus was the “first fruits” of resurrection, when he reappeared bodily after his crucifixion and death (1 Corinthians 15:20). Jesus said that all will be resurrected, some to eternal reward and others to eternal punishment (e.g., Matthew 13:49-50). But their *eternal lives will be embodied as well as spiritual; they will not have only an ethereal existence. Resurrection should be distinguished from the resuscitation of people from death (e.g., Jairus’s daughter, Lazarus), since the latter will die again. Resurrection is for eternity, and it represents the complete restoration of one’s life, bodily and spiritually. In this life, the hope of resurrection serves as a stimulus for the spiritual formation of believers, recognizing that one’s spiritual well-being is inextricably bound up with one’s bodily well-being.


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