SP2040 Introduction To Christian Spirituality
Through Diverse Spiritual Practice
Liebert, San Francisco Theological Seminary
TIME: Thursday, 2:10-5:00 p.m.
PLACE: JSTB 2
Mature Christian spirituality is grounded in attention to personal and communal religious
experience, critical study, and loving action in the world. Through reading, discussion, experience
of a variety of spiritual disciplines and written reflection, students will examine the relationship
of spirituality to biblical criticism, theology, history, cultural context, study/scholarship, body,
environment, and vocation. Through practicing prayer disciplines relevant to each topic, students
will also be introduced to group spiritual guidance and discernment. This course is designed for
students who are seriously seeking to deepen their spiritual lives in preparation for ministry. It
will require commitment to regular spiritual practice, willingness to try a variety of spiritual
practices, to share these experiences with peers, as well as critical academic reflection. Learning
strategies may include web-based discussion.
To experience a spectrum of personal spiritual disciplines and begin to integrate
into one's life patterns those that are most helpful. To share the experience of the variety of
spiritual practices in a group setting.
To articulate an understanding of Christian spirituality that includes both its uniqueness
and its variety, its practice as well as its study.
To develop a holistic understanding of spiritual formation.
To reflect upon the implications of goals 1-3 for ministry.
McFague, Sallie. Super, Natural Christians: How We Should Love Nature. Minneapolis, Fortress,
1997. Intro, Ch. 1-2, 5-7.
McGrath, Alister. Christian Spirituality: An Introduction. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1999.
Chapters 1-5, 7.
Mulholland, M. Robert. Shaped by the Word: The Power of Scripture in Spiritual Formation. Nashville:
Upper Room, 1985. Chapters 4-5 and 10-13.
Oliver, Mary Ann. Conjugal Spirituality. Kansas City, Sheed and Ward, 1994. Chapters 1-7.
Paulsell, Stephanie. Honoring the Body: Meditations on a Christian Practice. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass,
Rice, Howard. Reformed Spirituality: An Introduction for Believers. Louisville: Westminster/John
Knox, 1991. Intro and Chapters 1-5, 7.
Sheldrake, Philip. Spirituality and History: Questions of Interpretation and Method. Second
Edition. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1995. Chapters 1-3 and 5-7.
Stewart, Carlyle Fielding III. Soul Survivors: An African American Spirituality. Louisville: Westminster/John
Several articles, on reserve in the GTU and SFTS libraries. If you so choose, you may make your
own copies from these.
Driskill, Joseph. Protestant Spiritual Exercises: Theology, History and Practice. Harrisburg,
PA: Morehouse, 1999.
Hayden, Christopher, “Lectio Divina and Historical Critical Method: A Dialogue” BSW 1 (1998):
1-10. (BSW= Biblical Studies on the Web) http://www.bsw.org/index. Click on BSW Journal on the top menu bar, select
Vol. I, scroll down table of contents to Hayden.
COURSE PROCESS/LEARNING STRATEGIES
Generally, each class session will begin with a period for "debriefing" a
spiritual practice done during the preceding week, followed by input/discussion on the day’s topic,
and conclude with the presentation and experience of a spiritual practice related to the day's topic
to be practiced during the subsequent week. Other teaching/learning strategies include brief response
papers, and a final reflection paper or creative summary.
Mastering and participating actively in discussion of assigned readings.
Experimenting at least one time with each week’s spiritual practice; writing a brief (one
paragraph to one page) reflection on the experience that will be shared orally in the “debriefing” and
handed in to the instructor, who will make brief comments on them. (The class may elect to share
these comments with all through the internet; if this option is selected, the discussion will center
more on the themes and issues discerned in the sharing via internet.) These reflections must be
completed as part of the class, but will not themselves be graded. In two classes, Sept. 25 and
Nov. 27, these papers will be replaced by content-oriented response papers. (The class may elect
to post these papers on line, as well)
Two content-oriented response papers of 3-4 pages typed:
State your working definition of spirituality both as a phenomenon and as an
academic discipline and your understanding of spiritual formation in relation to spirituality
as you have defined it. One way to approach this paper is to discuss spirituality in light
of the various topic headings for the weeks of class prior to this date. Due on Sept. 25 (no
spiritual practice response due today).
- State your understanding of the holistic nature of spirituality, commenting on
physicality, culture, vocation, nature, etc. Due on Nov. 27 (no spiritual practice response due
- A final integration paper (approximately 15 pages) which addresses, in any way
chosen by the student, the following topics:
- What description of Christian spirituality most communicates your current
understanding? What criteria would you use to identify such a spirituality
- How is your understanding of Christian spirituality related to the Bible,
the church and the world? (Locate it critically in some part of the scholarship.)
- What "rule of life" or embodiment of spirituality have you
adopted at this point in your life? What benefits and struggles have ensued from this process?
- How might spirituality affect your future ministry?
If you choose an artistic medium as the primary vehicle to convey the above points,
the written text may be shortened accordingly, but you must append a text which covers the above
points explicitly enough that the connection between the creative medium and the integrative issues
is clear to the instructor.
This integration paper is due on Dec.12. Late papers will entail a penalty and
none will be accepted after Dec.15.
Course grade will based on discussion of assigned readings, the two response papers
based on the content of the class, and the final integration paper. The written reflections on the
spiritual practices, though they must be completed in order to receive a passing grade, will not
themselves be counted in the course grade.
SPECIAL LEARNING NEEDS
Those who need special accommodation because of documented disability should make their
particular situation and needs known to the instructor early in the course so that appropriate accommodations
can be worked out.
TENTATIVE COURSE OUTLINE, Fall 2003
Note: The readings listed are to be prepared prior to that day's class. Articles
are placed on reserve in a looseleaf binder in each library. You may copy them for your own personal
September 4: Introductions, evolution, purpose and organization of the course, student expectations,
Spiritual practices: Silence and Spiritual Journal
September 11: Describing spirituality.
Read: Rayan, “Spiritual Formation,” Ministerial Formation, Programme on Theological
Education, World Council of Churches (Sept. 1987: 4-13. (on reserve). See also the brief description
of the author filed with the reserves.
Schneiders, “Spirituality as an Academic Discipline,” Christian Spirituality Bulletin (Fall,
1993): 10-15 (on reserve).
McGrath, Christian Spirituality, Ch.1, 2.
Sheldrake, Spirituality and History, Intro, Ch. 2, 8.
Spiritual practice: Spiritual Reading (You might wish to use the Rayan article
or some other devotional material from your personal library or from Scripture as the spiritual reading.)
September 18: Reformed Spirituality as an example of a particular Christian Spirituality
Read: Rice, Reformed Spirituality, Intro and Ch. 1-5, 7.
Spiritual practice: Closet/“Secret” Prayer
Write: Your working definition of spirituality, both as phenomenon and as
academic discipline, and your understanding of spiritual formation in relation to the above. Due
September 25: Bible and Spirituality
Mulholland, Shaped by the Word, Ch. 4-5,10-13 (on reserve)
Schneiders, “Biblical Spirituality: Life, Literature and Learning,” in Doors of Understanding:
Conversations in Global Spirituality in Honor of Ewart Cousins, ed. Steven Chase. (New
York: Franciscan Press, 1997): 51-76 (on reserve)
First reflection paper due (See Sept. 18). No written debriefing of spiritual practice
Spiritual practice: Lectio Divina
October 2: Theology and Spirituality
Schneiders: “Theology and Spirituality: Strangers, Rivals or Partners?” Horizons 13:
(Fall, 1986): 253-274 (on reserve)
Spiritual practice: A Study Prayer
October 9: Spirituality and History
Read: Sheldrake, Ch. 1, 3-4, 7
McGrath, Ch. 7
Spiritual practice: Recalling Spiritual Mentors
October 16: Holistic Spirituality
Read: Callahan, "Noisy Contemplation" Wind is Rising: Prayer Ways for Active
People. Washington DC: Quixote Center, 1978 (on reserve)
Rice, Ch. 6
Spiritual practice: Noisy Contemplation
October 23: Reading Week (no class)
October 30: Embodiment and Spirituality
Read: Paulsell, Honoring the Body
Spiritual practice: Lectio with the Body
November 6: Spirituality and Vocation
Read: Oliver, Conjugal Spirituality, Ch. 1-7
Rice, Ch. 6
Spiritual practice: A Prayer of Light for the Active Life
November 13: Spirituality and Cultural Context
Read: Stewart, Soul Survivors
McGrath, pp.19-23 (review)
Write: Second reflection paper on the holistic nature of spirituality, commenting on physicality,
culture, vocation, nature, etc. Due Nov. 27.
Spiritual practice: Laments of the World
November 20: Happy Thanksgiving (holiday)
November 27: Environment and Spirituality
Read: Mc Fague, Super, Natural Christians, Intro, Ch. 1-2, 5-7.
Second reflection paper due today: on holistic nature of spirituality and spiritual formation;
see Nov. 13 for details. (No written debriefing of spiritual practice due today).
Spiritual practice: Prayer With a Natural Object
December 4: Integration: student summaries of personal learning I
Spiritual practice: Awareness Examen
December 11: Integration: student summaries of personal learning II
Integration Papers due December 12 by 5:00 p.m.
The following "virtues" of the SFTS MDiv program will receive particular attention:
knowledge of and respect for the Church and its mission; knowledge of, respect
for, and intelligent use of its manifold tradition; a sense of how and why theological reasoning
has been done in earlier times. In particular, students should become aware of and experience
spiritualities out of which theology grows. Students should articulate, at a beginning level,
the spirituality of the tradition to which they belong--for example, the particular characteristics
of Reformed spirituality. This course touches upon the historical tradition from the point of
view of spirituality, but its main goal with respect to this virtue is to raise consciousness
that spirituality is indeed an essential aspect of the lived tradition of the Church.
personal integrity, reflecting a healthy sense of self, healthy relations with
other persons in which ethically appropriate behavior is enacted, boundaries respected and compassion
exercised, and a well nurtured relationship with God. In particular, students should learn
ways to foster their own relationship with God; such a relationship fosters and sustains a healthy
sense of self. This course offers a model of collegial spiritual companionship upon which other
ministerial support groups may be based.
a sense for grounding theology in practical reality; awareness that theoretical
reflection builds on practical wisdom and theological propositions must be tested by their consequences
for the persons or congregations that hold them. In particular, students should learn to
balance both experiential and critical approaches to spirituality without reducing one to the
other. Students should also begin to articulate the relationship between their own experience
of God and the theological language with which they articulate that experience
sensitivity to contrasting experiences and cultures and respect for otherness
in the faith. In particular, students should gain some sense of the variety of personal
responses to a given spiritual discipline, and to respect the responses which differ from their
At the conclusion of this class, students should show concrete development in the following skills:
The following skills will also be fostered, though more indirectly:
lead a congregation in (Reformed) worship
preach literate, thoughtful scripture-based sermons
educate a congregation in the faith
provide pastoral care and counseling