Reflection on Two Spirits of Christian Thought

Robert Wilken describes the milieu and life of the Christian communities of the first few centuries. These were the cultures, habits, practices, and convictions — the "forms of life" — from the midst of which the Christian doctrine of God developed.

Michael Downey sketches a "trinitarian spirituality" that describes the spiritual sensibilities of the broad Christian tradition in terms of the doctrine of the Trinity and posits determinative connections from who God is to what God does, who we are, and how we live as God's people.

(The two pictures are compatible, but you may notice that Wilken the historian and Downey the theologian are more or less running in opposite logical directions. Wilken is moving inductively from churchly life to the God of that life, while Downey is moving deductively from God to godly life. Isn't that fun? Er, hello? Is anyone there?)

Describe the overall relationship between life, theology, and spirituality as you see it displayed across Wilken's various chapters.

Now consider the specific forms of life of the specific community (or communities) through which you learned to speak of, think about, and relate to God, along with your community's doctrine of God. Describe the relationship between its life, theology, and spirituality. How does it compare to the relationship you see in Wilken?

How well do these two pictures fit Downey's Trinitarian "grammar" of Christian spirituality? In other words — assuming Downey's grammar of the connections among God, worship, doctrine, and life is basically accurate — how healthy are Wilken's communities, and how healthy are yours?

This is basically a three-part question. As you write I would like you informally to consider another underlying question: How reliable are these communities and their insights? You are not yet qualified to answer definitively, but this is a good time to begin thinking carefully about the question.

Please keep your paper four pages, double-spaced, and follow the directions in my handout for writing papers. Remember, I want to see proper style, clear writing, a thorough answer to the question, and explicit citations of course materials.

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