Thursday, September 24, 2009


Spiritual Intelligence: A New Way of Being, Brian Draper, Lion, 2009.

We know about rational intelligence (remember those IQ tests at school?). And emotional intelligence (you’ve read Daniel Goleman’s best-seller Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ). So if our cognitive and affective behaviors can be measured in terms of performance, someone had to come up with an equivalent for the dimension of the spirit. And this happened quite recently, apparently, when in the year 2000 Oxford academic, philosopher and spiritual writer Danah Zohar coined the phrase ‘spiritual intelligence’. ‘She suggested that it forms the central part of our intelligence, the part in which our values and beliefs are nurtured and in which we can work towards our full potential as created beings’ (p. 12).

Brian Draper, British freelance writer, seminar-leader, contributor to BBC Radio 4’s thought for the day etc. says spiritual intelligence is figuring out who we were created to be in the first place – the ‘unique you’. (Parker Palmer teaches similarly in the United States). It’s about listening to the child’s voice within us, and to the riches buried in our traditions – ‘riches that help us to make those soulful reconnections that many of us, deep down, yearn to make – with the world around us, with each other, with our selves, and with the higher power often called God’. It’s really all about common (or uncommon?) sense. Or a ‘spiritual’ person’s equivalent of ‘smelling the roses’.

The standard contemplative wisdom is here: listening to our breathing, eliminating invasive noise (eg. by trying a week without TV), and being still. One of Draper’s favorite questions is the Gen X writer Douglas Coupland’s: What do we do when the power fails? It’s not about conquests but connecting with our reality. As Marcel Proust wrote, ‘The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes’. It’s about ‘seeing the world from up here’ as Robin Williams’ character Mr. Keating tells the boys when he climbs on to his desk in Dead Poets Society.

Spirituality is about the tension between contemplation (being) and action (doing). It’s about what you’re not (a consumer of this world) versus what you are (in communication with the world). Take some time to write your obituary. Our ego attaches itself to things around us, or the desired perceptions of others. So in this uncertain world, as Eckhart Tolle reminds us (Draper probably quotes Tolle more than any other wise person) ‘you can assume that virtually everyone you meet or know lives in a state of fear. .. Most become conscious of it only when it takes on one of its most acute forms’.

You get the idea… This is the book to read before Tolle’s The Power of Now. It connects us with ancient wisdom (though I reckon Draper could have used more biblical material: conservatives might accuse him – and they’d be wrong - of being ‘New Age-ish’). And he could have tapped more into the traditional wisdom of the church, which has been wrestling with all this for 2000 years under the rubric of ‘Spiritual Theology’ (he quotes Augustine, but I don’t think Meister Eckhart gets a mention, though, surprisingly for a Brit, American Franciscan Richard Rohr does, fairly frequently).

Near the end is a quote from D H Lawrence: ‘I am not a mechanism, an assembly of various sections./ And it is not because the mechanism is working wrongly that I am ill, / I am ill because of wounds to the soul’. Yes!

Get it for your family-member or friend who’s not yet had their mid-life crisis and is still moving too fast across the face of the earth trying to prove their worth by out-performing others. (You know the best description of a mid-life crisis? It’s realizing you’ve reached the top of the ladder, but it’s leaning against the wrong wall). And read it slowly – digest a couple of pages a day for a couple of months. Write ‘ouch!’ occasionally in the margins (as I did), and it could even be life-changing.

Rowland Croucher

August 2009

Shalom/Salaam/Pax! Rowland Croucher

Justice for Dawn Rowan -

Tuesday, September 01, 2009


Review: 'Exploring Ecclesiology: An Evangelical and Ecumenical
Introduction' (Brad Harper and Paul Louis Metzger, 2009).

Here's a good textbook for a basic course in 'Ecclesiology 101' (or what
used to be called 'Church, Ministry and Sacraments' back in my seminary
days). Though written 'densely' in text-book fashion (a few good
stories, lots of Bible texts, with some useful quotes and endnotes) it
would also comprise an excellent study-guide for church leaders.

The Recommended Reading List features authors like Donald Bloesch, Tony
Campolo, Mark Noll, D. Elton Trueblood, and Robert Webber: for those in
the know, they're more (progressive) evangelical than 'mainline' (eg.
the Alban Institute isn't, I think, mentioned) or ecumenical (eg.
published statements from 20th century Conciliar conferences don't
feature either). But there's a good balance between history ('the church
did not begin with us') and postmodern concepts (eg. the way many/most
churches are imprisoned within their secular cultures).

It strongly critiques conservative evangelical churches' addictions to
individualism (individual persons, families, churches - and note the
words of their 'praise choruses') and consumerism (there's more movement
of 'consumers' between churches and even across denominations than ever
before). And since the 'Scopes Monkey Trial' in the U.S. conservative
Christians have had a tendency to operate outside of the public square -
except for the two 'Focus on the Family' issues of abortion and gay
marriage - and marry their eschatology with 'left behind' Dispensationalism.

A summary of the authors' theological approach: the church is a
trinitarian community, constituted through its communion with the Triune
God: and the likeness between God and humanity is fundamentally
relational; eschatologically understood: the church is 'the instrument
of the coming kingdom' which involves the redemption not only of the
church but of the whole creation; missionally driven: not simply having
'missions' as one emphasis-among-many; varied in terms of ecclesial/
authority models; and ideally 'community' in Henri Nouwen's sense:
'community is the place where the person you least want to live with
always lives'.

As I said, it's more 'Evangelical' than 'Ecumenical'. Only
Fundamentalist/Evangelical 'scholars' use the Bible as a 'flat text'.
For example, it's mostly poor scholarship to quote ecclesial concepts
from Paul's early letters and 'the pastoral epistles' in the same
sentence without noting the progression in thinking between these
contexts. And only conservatives keenly anticipate 'the marriage supper
of the Lamb' (mentioned probably a dozen times).

But on the other hand there's a fairly strong social concern/justice
message throughout the book. Item: Archbishop Oscar Romero got into
trouble with the rich and powerful because he refused to baptize their
babies in segregated services - away from the poor - or separate rich
and poor at communion. A nearby comment: A church in the U.S. decided to
focus on outreach to the wealthy, 'cos you get more 'bang for your buck'
that way.

And there's both praise and criticism of the Emerging Church movement:
hanging out at Starbucks is not the same as kneeling together at the
communion rail; a latte is not an adequate substitute for bread and wine.

I wrote 'Yes!' to these statements:

* [Modern] Churches [mostly] focus on being vendors of religious goods
and service providers to expectant consumers... doing what it takes to
make sure their fellowships survive in the religious free market, where
only the fittest survive (p. 43)

* It is typical among Evangelicals... for worship... to be a 'warm-up'
for the main event, which is the preaching of the scriptures (p.106)
[which, I noted, is a very limited understanding of the concept of

* The one category of prayer that has not been as widely retained,
especially among American evangelical churches, is that of confession
(p. 109)

That's enough. This book emphasises corporate as well as individual
faith. It has a more 'holistic' approach than most books in its genre.
Although the authors are evangelicals they've done their best - with
mixed success - to incorporate insights from Roman Catholic, Orthodox,
and progressive Protestant traditions and thinking.

Rowland Croucher

September 2009


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