Link between Religion, Spirituality Needs Nurture Pt2

By Hay, David | Anglican Journal, January 1997 | Go to article overview
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Link between Religion, Spirituality Needs Nurture Pt2


Hay, David, Anglican Journal


Prof. Alister Hardy's positive evaluation of spirituality - that it evolved in humans through the process of natural selection because it had survival value - contrasts radically with other better-known scientific interpretations which dismiss it as illusory or pathological. Nevertheless, his opinion has offended some Christians who see it as an attack on the doctrine of grace. I would rather construe it as an insight into the operation of grace.

For example, very many people say they are aware of an emerging unfolding pattern of life, not imposed by themselves but experienced as a gift, that links them in a meaningful way with the rest of reality.

Others speak of being aware that they are cared for by God or, if they are alienated from religious language, by an un-named protective presence.

Still others are like Wordsworth, aware of a unifying presence in nature or of feeling at one with the rest of reality. From the naturalistic perspective, all of these experiences are forms of spirituality.

To make this clear one can imagine the contrary; an example of someone whose awareness has been brutally damaged by extreme spiritual poverty. The image that comes to mind is of a gaunt figure who appears to be very far beyond love, either in the ability to give it or to receive it. His gaze carries in it suspicion, calculation and private desire to an extreme degree.

Could such a person ever be a churchman? History offers frightening examples of damaged spirituality within the church. Not so much nowadays one hopes, but definitely now and again. As once when I glimpsed something like it in a church in Dublin; a priest leading empty prayer, prayer that negates prayer.

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