The Story of Christian Spirituality: Two Thousand Years, from East to West

By Gordon Mursell | Go to book overview

EPILOGUE
A Spirituality for
a New Millennium

Christianity enters its third millennium in the eontext of a world changing more rapidly and unpredictably than ever before. That makes generalizations about the past, or predictions about the future, so uncertain as to be scarcely worth attempting. Even so, it is fairly clear that the new millennium will see a steady shift of gravity within Christianity from northern to southern hemispheres. Churches are. in general, growing far more vigorously in the latter than they are in the former. International headquarters, at present located in northern centres like Rome, Geneva and Canterbury, may in the next century be relocated in Africa, Asia or South America.

Such relocations can only increase the importance of the relationship between Christianity and other historic world faiths. Spirituality may have a vital part to play here, not least in insisting that such a relationship must be based on far more than doctrinal formulations, and needs to acknowledge the growing recognition of how much the great spiritual traditions of humanity have in common. This is not at all to argue for some bland synthesis between them, or even for a postmodern consumerist temptation to fashion one's own designer spirituality by drawing small amounts from all of them. But it is to emphasize that the search for shared moral and spiritual values, and the longing for a deeper mutual respect and understanding between different religious traditions, must continue and grow. At the academic and leadership levels it is in many respects far advanced. At the grass roots, it has hardly begun. And interreligious clashes in the Balkans, Indonesia and Nigeria (to name only a few flashpoints) remind us of why it matters.

At the dawn of the new millennium, it is not only the human societies of the world that face an unpredictable and rapidly changing future. The earth itself docs too. The enormous increase in human population, and the threat to the earth's delicate ecological balance as a result of global warming, are only the two most prominent threats on the horizon: there are many more. A Christian spirituality whose primary concern is with the inner processes of the psyche, or the search for self-fulfilment on the part of the leisured, may find itself doing little more than rearranging deekchairs on the Titanic.

Yet these very challenges may serve to send us all back to our roots, and to rediscover, in the inexhaustible riches of the Bible, resources which

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