Some thoughts on Bowe's "Biblical Foundations of Spirituality"

In her book “Biblical Foundations of Spirituality,” Barbara Bowe writes about the apostle Paul and brings his writings down to two essential elements: life in the Spirit and life together in the Spirit (163). Ever since Paul’s dramatic meeting with Christ, his life was dedicated to spreading the gospel. According to research, Bowe said that during his ministry, Paul traveled over 3,100 miles—1,800 by land and 1,300 by sea (155). He died a martyr’s death in Rome at the hand of Nero, but his writings take up over half of the New Testament and have influenced millions of people (153). Though an imperfect human, Paul’s example of life in the Spirit and his writings give Christians hope in Jesus and in his power to help us live the Christian life.

Bowe then moves into the book of Revelation and explains a little of the relational history between Christians and Jewish peoples. She writes about the differences in the letters before Revelation and how their differences create a tension that become a debate between the “voices of pragmatism, boundary maintenance and social order … and the voices of prophetic visionaries, boundary breakers and imaginative risk takers …” (168). This tension is between “embracing citizenship in the world” as stated in 1 Peter and “resisting the beast,” as stated in Revelation. Bowe says that keeping this creative tension alive and paying attention to it is essential in our “religious quest” (169).

Bowe’s last chapter addresses the importance of exegesis in the quest for Biblical spirituality. We are to “eat” the word of God, to “ingest slowly” and reflect on what we have eaten (177). The words of Scripture require serious thought and if we are to grow spiritually, Bowe says that exegesis is a must (178). In closing, Bowe explains the elements of a renewed spirituality, which include recognizing the mystery of God and “knowing who we are before God with our finitude and human limitations” (178). She concludes by writing that we will live a life of peace if we integrate the elements of Micah 6:8 into our lives: acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with God (181).

My favorite chapter this week was the last chapter. It is a perfect ending to our course work in Spiritual Formation because Bowe encourages thoughtful exegesis. Through our study of the Johannine books and in our other classes, I have realized how important Bowe’s words are in our own quest for spiritual formation and in our endeavors to guide others in the process. I appreciate Bowe’s words on the creative tension that we all face in our spiritual quest—the tension involving how deeply we are to be involved in the world and in God’s kingdom. If we are to live an effective Christian life in which we help others grow, we must address this tension and depend on the Holy Spirit to guide us and strengthen us for the task at hand.