Following Christ: Streams of Christian Spirituality
In a couple of weeks I will begin teaching ‘Introduction to Christian Theology’ for 2016’s new students at Charles Sturt University. For many students it is their first theological subject and they will be watching me closely. Some have become suspicious or cynical of Christian teachers through hurt or disappointment: their caution is quite reasonable. It is the most devoted Christian students, however, who are sizing me up most carefully. Their internal checklist of what qualifies (or disqualifies) me from teaching them about God varies according to their Christian heritage. For the reformed evangelical students, am I biblical enough? For the charismatic or pentecostal students, have I been filled with the Spirit? For the social justice students, am I active enough? And so it goes on. I sometimes wonder if students with a passion for holiness or the sacraments even bother to sit down in that first class …
In the broad context of a university I can expect students from each of the six streams throughout Christian history that have characterised different ways of living authentically with God and living as an authentic person. I cannot possibly embody all of this Christian heritage and will certainly disappoint some – if not most – of the students. But I do hope I can persuade these students of this rich and varied history that is central to studying Christian theology. Of living a virtuous life from within the Holiness tradition; a prayer-filled life from within the Contemplative tradition; a word-filled life from within the Evangelical tradition; a spirit-filled life from within the Charismatic tradition; a compassionate life from within the Social Justice tradition and a sacramental life from within the Incarnational tradition.
Our Lenten series this year – accompanied by various small groups – is going to think about each of these ways in which we are called to deepen our spiritual lives, to:
- grow in Holiness and become more like Jesus
- deepen our prayer life and experience communion with God
- increase our love and knowledge of the Bible and be credible witnesses in the world
- sense God’s Spirit at work in our hearts and lives and reflect the fruit of the Spirit
- love justice and work to bring healing and wholeness to our community.
- discern God’s presence in the physical, daily aspects of our lives.
None of us – alone – can or should exhibit all of these traits. Together, however, as the body of Christ we can become more aware and accepting of each other’s particular heritage and the ways we complement each other. I strongly urge you to join one of the small gatherings as we work through each of these traditions, discovering how they have shaped us in the different seasons of our lives.