UBC Community, Partners, and Alumni Publications

The church in the wilderness : Christianity's conflict with contemplative prayer Foster, Deborah Ann


Protestant Christianity has had a five-hundred year history of unease with contemplative prayer and spirituality, ranging from an arm's length discomfort to active suspicion. Among the numerous reasons expressed for this distrust, four stand out: contemplative prayer is seen as 1) irrational and lacking valid scholarship, 2) Gnostic, 3) Quietist, 4) passive and disengaged from te essential active societal work of Christianity. These assumptions are perilous in our current culture which is clearly hungering for contemplative experience and the accompanying fruits of transformation. In the absence of perceived interest or expertise in the Church, many seeking people have turned from Christianity to other paths or to no path at all. This thesis seeks to address the above four points and demonstrate that they are based o 1) out-of-date scholarship; 2) misunderstanding of the teachings, practices, and experience of contemplative prayer; and 3) miscommunication often based on loaded language and an incomplete understanding of contemplative terminology in its own frame of reference.

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