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Descriptions of Spirituality



·   Spirituality is one typical way of handling the human condition. (Panniker) 

Focus   : Generic spirituality – that is, it is neither confined to nor defined by Christianity or by religion. Spirituality is seen in an experiential and generic sense – with a wide application so that it is difficult to achieve a clear perspective. However, this description has the advantage of attracting an increasing number of people (both lay people and scholars) and it is sufficient for cross-denominational and inter-religious dialogue. 


·   Fundamentally spirituality has to do with becoming a person in the fullest sense. (Macquarie) 

Focus   : Self-transcendence – the human being as spirit in the sense of self-transcending. Spirituality involves our capacity for self-transcendence – a capacity demonstrated in our ability to know the truth, to relate to others lovingly, and to commit ourselves freely to persons and ideals. 


·   Spirituality is that attitude, that frame of mind which breaks the human person out of the isolating self. As it does that, it directs him or her to another in relationship to whom one’s growth takes root and sustenance. (Hardy) 

Focus   : Spirituality as experience. A conscious “striving to integrate one’s life in terms not of isolation and self-absorption but of self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives.” (Schneiders) 


·   Spirituality is a word . . . to describe those attitudes, beliefs, practices which animate people’s lives and help them to reach out towards supersensible realities. (Wakefield) 

Focus   : Integrative spirituality – that is, spirituality that seeks an integration of all aspects of human life and experience. Spirituality is not limited to only the interior life, but highlights the importance of life-style issues within Christian spirituality. 


·   Spirituality is the lived unity of human existence in faith. (Dupoc) 

Focus   : The whole of human life in depth. “Spirituality is understood to include not merely the techniques of prayer but, more broadly, a conscious relationship with God, in Jesus Christ, through the indwelling of the Spirit and in the context of the community of believers” (Sheldrake) – it is a conjunction of theology, prayer, and practical Christianity. 


·   Spirituality is the lived experience of Christian belief. (McGinn) 

Focus   : Lived experience. “Involves intrinsically some relatively coherent and articulate understanding of both the human being and the horizon of ultimate value (i.e. in Christian terms, theology), some historical tradition, some symbol system, and so on.” (Schneiders) 


·   And if ‘spirituality’ can be given any coherent meaning, perhaps it is to be understood in terms of this task: each believer making his or her own that engagement with the questioning at the heart of faith which is so evident in the classical documents of Christian belief. (Williams) 

Focus   : Biblical spirituality. “Exegetically-based interpretation of Scripture for the purpose of understanding and living the faith and/or a biblically elaborated theological exploration of spiritual experience.” (Schneiders) 


·   Spirituality is the life of the Christian communicated by the Holy Spirit and governed by divine revelation. (Bernard) 

Focus   : Life in the Spirit – that is, life according to the Spirit of God in the Pauline sense. One’s whole being and life are ordered by, led, or influenced by the Spirit of God. 



Bradley Hanson, “Spirituality as Spiritual Theology”, in Modern Christian Spirituality: Methodological and Historical Essays (Georgia: Scholars Press, 1989), 46. 

Broken Bay Institute (a member institute of the Sydney College of Divinity), SRG400 Introduction to Spirituality: Study Guide (Pennant Hills, Australia: Broken Bay Institute, 2006), 20-21. 

Joann Wolski Conn, Women’s Spirituality: Resources for Christian Development (New York: Paulist, 1986): 3, quoted in Bradley Hanson, “Spirituality as Spiritual Theology”, in Modern Christian Spirituality: Methodological and Historical Essays (Georgia: Scholars Press, 1989), 46. 

Philip Sheldrake, Spirituality and History: Questions of Interpretation and Method (London: SPCK, 1991), 50. 

Sandra M. Schneiders, “Spirituality in the Academy”, Theological Studies 50 (1989): 683. 

W. Principe, “Spirituality, Christian”, in The New Dictionary of Catholic Spirituality, ed. M. Downey (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 1993), 931. 


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