"The failure of mainline Protestant churches to nurture the spiritual lives of their members reflects a religious ethos that is out of touch with the spiritual needs of many human beings," writes Joseph D. Driskill, assistant professor of spirituality and assistant dean of the Disciples Seminary Foundation at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. Here at last is a book that explains why so many Protestants have been allergic to spirituality and what can turn them around to a more hospitable perspective.
Driskill points out that the theological emphasis of mainline Protestant churches has been upon a commitment to a transcendent God and the ethical mandates of social justice and critical reflection. Worship services affirm the importance of hearing the Word through Scriptures and sermons, but "discourse that claims a personal relationship with God at an experiential rather than an intellectual level is largely discouraged."
These Protestants are uncomfortable with those who speak of a personal relationship with God (evangelicals) or with those who talk of the sacred in everyday life (New Agers). They "live their faith in the paradoxical space between being too modest to speak for God except on social issues, and too reasonable to be truly dependent on God except in times of tragedy." This is unfortunate, Driskill concludes, because all the derision directed at the experiential has resulted in a lack of attention to nourishing spiritual practices. This is despite the fact that the Protestant heritage offers a rich spiritual legacy.
After outlining the five theological affirmations that have contributed to Protestants' self-understanding, the author shows how these beliefs can be deepened and enriched by spiritual exercises. Driskill discusses guidelines for spiritual development in the congregational setting and then presents eight spiritual practices emanating from Calvin, Luther, and other reformers (including the Prayer of Examen, the Rule of Life, the Four-Stranded Garland, and the Prayer for a New Earth).
This excellent volume is heaven-sent for adult education classes and small groups interested in spirituality. It is highly recommended to clergy who are charged with designing programs to address the diverse needs of their congregations. And, of course, it should be required reading in all Protestant seminaries.