"Living the Biblical text..."

Bowe, Barbara E., Biblical Foundations of Spirituality (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield
Publishers, Inc., 2003), 1-31.

Living the biblical text is the focus of Barbara Bowe’s chapters in “Biblical Foundations of Spirituality.” According to Bowe, spirituality should never be an abstract concept in the life of a Christian, it should be a living reality, or a response to the spirit of God “mediated” through Jesus Christ (12). Bowe states that the Bible is not the Christian’s source of spirituality, it is the source by which we prove or disprove real spirituality (13). Since God speaks through scripture, we use scripture as a guide toward godliness. God also speaks of his/her love for us through scripture (14).

While Scripture can bring about positive transformation in people’s lives, it can also be used to destroy one’s spiritual life. For this reason, Bowe said that reading scripture requires a “hermeneutics of suspicion” (15), or a critique. One should not take Scripture at face value; one should analyze it and discern what the text is saying in light of its entirety rather than developing an entire theology around one verse.

Bowe discusses two forms of spirituality. One form is that God is unknowable or apophatic; the other is that God is knowable or kataphatic (16, 17). Christianity is kataphatic spirituality. Kataphatic spirituality is then split into contemplative and apostolic spirituality (17, 18). Contemplative spirituality is when one turns away from the world for the purpose of growing closer to God. Apostolic spirituality is when one moves toward the world in an effort to take God’s love to others (19). Both are equally important and cannot be separated from the other.

Even though God is knowable, Bowe writes that we will never truly discover all there is to know about God. God is a mystery. Our many names, or metaphors, for God only describe who he/she is. These descriptions are interrelated and should not be separated (27). Bowe also emphasizes that although God has both masculine and feminine qualities, we tend to exclude those feminine qualities and only concentrate on the masculine. This is something that needs to be addressed in the church so that we don’t exclude or dominate either sex.

Bowe’s argument about the “ineffable mystery” of God is strong (24). God is knowable but there is much about him/her that we will never know because our minds cannot completely grasp God. In his/her grace, God has chosen to reveal him/herself through Scripture and in Jesus Christ.

Bowe’s statement that “no one” spirituality either Christian or non-Christian is the exclusive way to God sounds like she is saying that all religions are worshipping the one true God (12). A better way to explain this might be to say that Christians should not condemn someone of another religion because God, who is not limited by anything, is working in each person’s life to draw them to him/herself. God will only judge people according to the light that they have been given. Our attitude should reflect God’s love and our love will help God draw people to him/herself (John 13:35).