Q & R: Authors who nourish you?
Here's the Q:
I finished your book A Generous Orthodoxy, and am in the process of reading Naked Spirituality. Thank you for your heart-felt, yet challenging words! Your books have got me thinking a lot about the diversity of Christian traditions and experiences, especially within the realm of spirituality. Your post on May 16 about St. Teresa helped stimulate my thoughts as well.
Coming from an Evangelical background, I sometimes feel a lack of depth in how many around me look at spiritual growth. It is often advertised as the natural result of predetermined spiritual actions: regular reading of Scripture, daily times of prayer, consistent church attendance, integration with a small group, involvement with various church ministries, etc. Growth is often quantified and calculated, and we lose the wonder and mystery of God working in and through us, transforming us one small piece at a time. I’m often embarrassed to admit it to others around me, but I am drawn to the Catholic contemplative tradition that puts much of the emphasis on God’s activity within us, rather than our own feeble attempts to transform ourselves. I devour books by Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Jean Vanier, Brennan Manning, Mother Teresa, and St. John of the Cross.
I’m sure I am missing something… but are there authors within the Evangelical tradition that reflect that same contemplative direction? Writers who have found a “simple” faith of dependence and obedience, yet are full of wisdom, maturity, and depth? I’m especially interested in spiritual writers who see the vital connection between an inner walk of contemplation and a life lived in community with others. (Thomas Merton wrote extensively on civil rights issues and peacemaking. Henri Nouwen discovered his own desperate need for God within a community of individuals with intellectual disabilities.) I would love to hear from you about writers that have aided you personally on your own spiritual journey, perhaps ones that you keep coming back to for refreshment and rejuvenation. Your ministry has been a great blessing to me and many others.
Here's the R:
Thanks for your comments. Like you, I've gained so much from the Catholic contemplative tradition (Merton, Nouwen, Rohr, Chittister) - and from other Catholic writers as well. For example, Romano Guardini's "The Lord" is a book I return to again and again.
Thankfully, there are Evangelicals who teach contemplative spirituality. Richard Foster and Dallas Willard (recently deceased) introduced many of us, as did A. W. Tozer of a generation earlier. Keith Matthews was a protege of Dallas Willard, and he is a gifted teacher on the subject, as are Ruth Haley Barton and Mary Darling - their books are excellent.
One author whose work I keep coming back to is Paul Tournier. Unfortunately, many of his books went out of print. I hope a publisher will reprint them, or make them available digitally. His "Adventure of Living" is a special book in my life.