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Richard Woods & Peter Tyler (Eds) The Bloomsbury Guide to Christian Spirituality

Richard Woods & Peter Tyler (Eds)

The Bloomsbury Guide to Christian Spirituality

ISBN: 9781 4411 8484 9

Bloomsbury, London, 2012, 422pp, £30

‘What is Christian Spirituality?’ is the title of the introduction to this book, but it is really the theme of the whole. Over the course of 32 chapters, each written by a specialist in their particular field, the boundaries of Christian Spirituality are explored in great and broad brush strokes of text. The book is not so much about how Christianity is unique or different from other traditions, but how the currents of spirituality flow into and around Christianity in an almost bewildering number of directions. This is a river rushing through many sub-dividing courses, not a stately, clearly defined passage to the sea.

After exploring some of the ‘building blocks’ of Liturgy, Scripture, Mysticism and the Desert, the second part follows the traditional approach of ‘schools of spirituality’, such as Augustinian, Dominican, Ignatian etc. Of course not every-thing can be covered, but it was a shame to have only one chapter on Orthodoxy (albeit a gem), and hardly a mention of writers such as Thérèse of Lisieux, or Julian of Norwich. The Franciscan chapter would make a good précis for any talk on Franciscan spirituality. Part three then spreads the net a bit wider to explore, among other things, spirituality and politics; and an essay on Christian spiritual direction gives a very helpful overview.

Then comes a section on dialogue with Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism and Islam, which I found respectively guarded, inspired, illuminating and measured. Each essay comes complete with a short bibliography of about ten books, inviting further study. Part 5 explores Christian and indigenous spiritualities from Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Finally part 6 addresses contemporary issues in spirituality for women, men, the arts, the creation and atheism.

Many of the chapters are entitled: ‘Christian Spirituality and…’ which gives the flavour of the whole. This is an invitation to explore the vast inter-connectedness of the spiritual life, and how each current adds its energy and inspiration to the whole.

Nicholas Alan SSF