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Spiritual Criticism
This is my label for the attempt to meld heart and head, the academic and the spiritual - a way to read the Bible that is critical, but is aimed at the spiritual meaning of the text. It is not a term I've heard anyone else use, but I think many try to do it and hunger for more of it.

Some aspects of a definition for this activity can be given.

Relation to Historical Critical methods. Spiritual Criticism is in dialog with the full range of historical critical methods, accepting them in their area of authority, but rejecting the reductionistic ideology that asserts they are the only way to knowledge of the Bible. In particular, the history of interpretation is of interest and any techniques that assist a close reading of a passage.

Relation to the Spiritual Writers. SC will be in dialog with the patristic authors and the monastic writings and contemporary spiritual writers.

Relation to the human question. SC explicitly sees texts as being a comment on the human condition, in particular the human in relation to God. Thus the behavior of people in terms of sin, repentance and grace is material to be considered.

The purpose of Spiritual Criticism is a process of discovery. The assumption is that the Biblical texts are a message, but not a simple message, from the divine. The reason for analyzing the text is ultimately to discover what truth, wisdom and beauty is being conveyed. SC explicitly recognizes that the Bible is a religious text with a religious message. It is a text read with interest and love by the interpreter.

There are some things that SC is not.. It is not detached study where the reader/analyst has no stake in the text. It also isn't goofy "feelings" that the self-obsessed brought to the text and found support for by misreading a translation.

I've taken a couple of runs at this in analysis of various Psalms.


Last updated 1/28/06; first posted 11/5/00; © 2006 John P. Nordin