The Worship Quote of the Week for (01/11/2005):

Spirituality or Piety
How would you define the word “spirituality”? Is it a biblical commodity? The bookstores at the mall and the various entertainment media agree that spirituality is “in.” Today’s WORSHIP QUOTE tries to set some distinctions between a vague spirituality and a Christian piety centered in the truth of Scripture?

The contemporary obsession with spirituality, among Christians and pagans alike, surely betokens something worthy of the church’s attention. I am not convinced, however, that the current vogue for spirituality should be embraced without making important historical and theological distinctions. I contend, moreover, that these distinctions will lead us to prefer the term PIETY over SPIRITUALITY. Such inward piety, I argue, springs from the outward life of faith as it is lived in the church, especially through doctrinal preaching and sacramental worship. Only when it is focused and grounded and transformed, I conclude, can the church benefit from the resurgent spirituality of our time.

The term SPIRITUALITY is perilously vague. It is an abstract noun that has become so devoid of theological content that it can be attached to almost any modifying phrase.

—Ralph C. Wood, in chapter six, “Outward Faith, Inward Piety: The Dependence of Spirituality on Worship and Doctrine,” from FOR ALL THE SAINTS: EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY AND CHRISTIAN SPIRITUALITY, edited by Timothy George and Alistair McGrath. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004, p. 91. ISBN 0-664-22665-5.

[Each chapter in this volume reinforces this distinction between generic spirituality and a spirituality that springs from a life focused on and responding to the glory of God in Christ. Contributing authors include George Bray, Robbie Castleman, Marva Dawn, Timothy George, James Houston, Alister McGrath, Calvin Miller, Robert Smith, Jr. Mark Talbot, Stephen Todd, Dallas Willard, A. C. Williams, Ralph Wood, and Catherine Wright. Highly recommended.]

Have a great week,

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

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