An Introduction to Christian Mysticism
Recovering the Wildness of Spiritual Life
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This brief, accessibly written volume introduces key figures, texts, and themes of the mystical tradition and shows how and why the mystics can speak to the church today. Jason Baxter, an expert educator and storyteller, explains that the mystical tradition offers a more robust understanding of God than our current shallow conceptions. Featuring engagement with primary sources and suitable for use in a variety of courses, this book argues that the mystics have much to say to contemporary Christians searching for authentic modes of spirituality.
Introduction: The Soul from Whom God Hides Nothing
1. The Christian of the Future in the Desert of Modernity: The Twentieth-Century Rediscovery of Ancient Mysticism
2. Pagans Grope toward God: Piety and Prayer in Antiquity
3. The Inward Turn: What Augustine Learned from the Pagans
4. The Darkness of God: Dionysius the Areopagite, Gregory of Nyssa, and Meister Eckhart
5. Praying with the Whole World: Natural Contemplation and the Legacy of the Desert Fathers
6. How to Perform Scripture: Lectio Divina and the Renewal of the Heart
Conclusion: The Wildness of the Spiritual Life
"Any undergraduate or general reader who wishes to take his or her first steps in learning about Christian mysticism can do no better than to read Jason Baxter's remarkable, clear, and thorough Introduction to Christian Mysticism."
Kevin Hart, University of Virginia
"In reassuring prose, Jason Baxter gives us Christian mysticism undomesticated--bold, inflamed, insistent, pushing to the very boundaries of speech, and communing with God beyond every merely human mode of communication. He reminds us that lectio divina is not merely pious but wild, and that yearning for God cannot be kept politely fenced in. He does this while showing that the greatest mystics were not anti-intellectual but rather wrote and prayed with a powerfully intelligent faith, grounded firmly in divine revelation in Christ. Baxter is one to watch--will he too be among the mystics? May it be so!"
Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary
"Jason Baxter begins his story in the wasteland that is our culture. An Introduction to Christian Mysticism shows how the dark night of the soul has extended across society. For Christians who desire the light, Baxter argues, we must become mystics or die. Yet the light that draws us out of darkness will be blinding, painful, and shocking. Tracing the mystic experiences of God from the pagans to Julian of Norwich and Nicholas of Cusa, Baxter reorients us to the tradition that we lost after the Reformation and the Enlightenment. To ignore this book is to succumb to a weak, domesticated version of our faith. To read this book is to be lit up again by our bright, burning, wild, and unfathomable God."
Jessica Hooten Wilson, Louise Cowan Scholar in Residence for Humanities and Classical Education, Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts, University of Dallas
"A wise man once quipped that mysticism begins in mist and ends in schism. This is true of those mystics who endeavor to divorce faith from reason but not of those profoundly orthodox mystics who have enlightened and enlivened the Christian faith with their mystical encounters with the Divine. In this invaluable volume, Professor Baxter guides us into the realm of ineffable wisdom."
Joseph Pearce, Augustine Institute
"The word 'mysticism' is often loaded with misunderstandings and underlying assumptions that are not clearly understood, so much so that one wonders if the word has lost its currency, specifically in the discipline of Christian theology. It may still have a home in anthropology or comparative religions, but not theology. Jason Baxter, however, competently and convincingly shows in An Introduction to Christian Mysticism that such is not the case. In fact, he shows that mysticism is not only a viable and venerable Christian concept but one that needs to be recovered in the contemporary church. With ease he introduces his readers to the 'greatest hits' of the early and medieval Christian mystical tradition, revealing their own systems of thought while also connecting them thematically to one another. As an introduction to a frequently neglected topic, this book goes a long way in making 'mysticism' part of our daily theological vocabulary."
Greg Peters, Biola University and Nashotah House Theological Seminary
"An impressively informative, inherently fascinating, and ultimately inspiring read, An Introduction to Christian Mysticism: Recovering the Wildness of Spiritual Life is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to church, seminary, community, college, and university library Christian Theology & History collections."
Willis M. Buhle,
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