Last year, I issued a plea for a greater appropriation of the spiritual riches in the Evangelical tradition. I am happy to report that I’ve come across a few resources that are moving in this direction.
First, I came across a talk given by Evan Howard, the founder of SpiritualityShoppe.org, in 2010 at the annual Evangelical Theological Society conference describing the task of re-appropriating the Evangelical tradition. In it he outlines:
- The definition of the task: “The study of Evangelical spirituality is the exploration of the actual character of the lived relationship with God experienced by people called Evangelicals.”
- The scope of the task: The genre of the primary resources to be mined, and how “overwhelmingly available” they are in the Internet age. He also conducts a whistle-stop tour of the history of the Evangelical movement.
- The practice of the task: He breaks it down into five sub-tasks:
- We have to collect names of people, institutions and determine what is this heritage that we are going to re-appropriate
- We need to begin to review the sources
- We need to summarize them (e.g. what was Cotton Mather’s understanding of mystical experience?)
- We need to compare within (e.g. how do we look at Lyman Beecher and Joseph Fletcher – a Wesleyan and a Calvinist – and their experience of God) and without (how do we compare Madame Guyon and Hannah Whitall Smith)
- We evaluate and appropriate
You can get the audio here, and I have prepared a transcript here. He has done some great preparatory groundwork for further exploration in the field, particularly in the creation of a 78 page bibliography on Evangelical spirituality, which you can find here or here.
Second, Tom Schwanda edited a wonderful collection of excerpts from Evangelical primary sources in the Classics of Western Spirituality series called The Emergence of Evangelical Spirituality: The Age of Edwards, Newton and Whitefield (Paulist Press, 2016). He includes texts on the following topics:
- New Life in Christ
- Holy Spirit
- Spiritual Practices
- Love for God
- Love for Neighbor
There familiar authors such as Jonathan Edwards, John Newton and George Whitefield, and lesser-known contributors like John Cennick, Anne Steele, and Joseph Hart. A wonderful resource for getting to know Evangelical history better.
Finally, I read a collaboration between Howard and James Wilhoit called Discovering Lectio Divina: Bringing Scripture to Life (InterVarsity Press, 2012). They not only do a great job of presenting the practice of Scripture meditation, they do so largely using Evangelical sources (see Howard’s earlier article in the Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care for his argument that the attributes of the Benedictine practice of lectio divina were independently re-discovered by Evangelicals).
It is immensely gratifying to see Evangelical scholars mining the rich vein of Evangelical spirituality and bringing their discoveries to the rest of us. Thank you!