Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Acta Theologica]]> vol. 33 num. lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>Discernment and biblical spirituality</b>: <b>an overview and evaluation of recent research</b>]]> This article briefly and very generally explores some of the developments in the field of biblical spirituality over the past six decades by analysing and discussing some seminal publications on the theme of discernment. It begins the overview with the articles on discernment and discretion in the Dictionnaire de Spiritualité (1957) and then focuses on publications of the past twenty years. It discusses how discernment has moved beyond uncritically assumed dichotomies, beyond the separation of discernment and discretion, and the division between the Bible and philosophy. It also points out how recent publications emphasised for the first time the importance of communal discernment and thus overcame the untenable dualism between personal and communal discernment. <![CDATA[<b>Discernment - the compass on the high sea of spirituality</b>]]> This article analyses and evaluates the need and nature of discernment in contemporary spirituality. It first describes the complexity of spirituality as a phenomenon that has, on a cultural, anthropological and mystical level, lost its boundaries and expanded beyond all existing horizons. It motivates how, like a ship sailing on the high seas, needs a compass, discernment is needed in the face of this complexity. The article then focuses on two paradigms for reflection on discernment. First, it examines discernment as it is practised in the house of study in the Jewish tradition, and describes how this practice reveals two seminal dimensions of discernment. It then analyses and evaluates discernment in the community of desert monks in the Christian tradition which illustrates the significance of discernment for spirituality. It describes the conversation within a spiritual community as an essential element of discernment as the highest form of spiritual practices. Discernment as seeing and appreciating differences of opinion is a sign of God's way. The article concludes that discernment permeates all spiritual practices and represents the exercise of all exercises without which one is without a compass on the high sea of spirituality. <![CDATA[<b>God's Holy Spirit</b>: <b>a back-story from the Joseph narrative (Genesis 37-50)</b>]]> The story of Judah within the longer Joseph story (Genesis 37-50) provides an apt place for readers to discern the work of the Holy Spirit and what is recognized in spirituality as the work of discernment. The character goes from venal and crass to empathetic and self-giving, and the question is how the narrative shows evidence of that process. With the help of the philosopher/theorist Mikhail Bakhtin, the narrated experience of the character in seven scenes is examined for evidence of Judah's journey of transformation - presumably guided by God's widening and inspiring Spirit, with special attention given to the scene (Genesis 44) where Judah must persuade his (unrecognized) brother Joseph, serving as Viceroy of Egypt, to allow Judah to take punishment in place of their brother Benjamin for the sake of their father. The larger Holy Spirit and discernment context of the story is the dreams of Joseph. <![CDATA[<b>Discernment in 1 Kings 19:1-18: biblical spirituality in works of art</b>]]> This article examines the story of 1 Kings 19:1-18 as a story of discernment. It is a story about a divine-human relational process of Elijah and his God, but also a story that draws the reader into a divine-human relational process. The article discerns a fundamental element of this relational process: a perspective change. This aspect of discernment is indicated in the text along the detour of looking at two works of visual art that refer to the biblical story. <![CDATA[<b><img src="/img/revistas/at/v33s17/05s4kings.jpg" align="absmiddle"></b><b></b><b> (1 kgs 3:9)</b>: <b>receiving and forming towards a listening heart</b>]]> This reflection article studies the request made by King Solomon to God for "a listening heart" (1 Kgs 3:9) at the beginning of his reign. It shows that this request entails a deliberate and conscious openness of the whole person to God as well as an attentiveness to the demands of the people whom he is called to govern. In Christianity, the "contemplative listening" is intimately linked with the theological tradition of the spiritual senses, which are referred to as the human capacity to know God. This capacity ought to be discovered and developed through formation and self-commitment. In the Christian tradition Spiritual Direction is highly esteemed as a most useful tool for the achievement of this ability, which would then help the person to be transformed into Christ. <![CDATA[<b>A hermeneutic of justice. Justice as discernment in Matthew</b>]]> In some important dictionaries for the study of the New Testament, δικαιοσύνη has two meanings: justice in the sense of distributive justice and righteousness as a relational notion. In Matthew, we discover that the word concerns a threefold loyalty: loyalty to the law, loyalty to fellow people, and loyalty to the will of God. In the Sermon of the Mount, the word is used in a polemical context. Δικαιοσύνη is the congruency of the explanation of the law and doing the law. It is the opposite of ύπόκρισις which is the incongruence of explanation and doing. Δικαιοσύνη is an eschatological reality. This means that it is a result of the coming of the kingdom of God in history. This coming is thought to occur at the end of time, but it is also a reality in the present. One can observe it at work in the conduct of people. It is a criterion in the discernment of the correct explanation of the law, and it is a criterion in the discernment of the correct doing. <![CDATA[<b>Discernment as "not knowing" and "knowing"</b>: <b>a perspective from Matthew 25:31-46</b>]]> The article deals with Christian discernment as taking place at the juncture of God's Spirit and the human mind at work. To illustrate this, the concept of "not knowing" in Matthew's Parable of the Sheep and the Goats (25:31-46) is examined, as well as the implicit presence of "knowing". The article starts by treating the concepts of "all the nations" and "the least" in the parable. It is suggested that the traditional particularist and universalist interpretations need not oppose each other. Subsequently the "not knowing" of the sheep is treated. This is related to the grace of God and being empowered by the Holy Spirit. In addition, it is submitted that "knowing" is also present, in terms of actively seeking the will of God. Thus, Christian discernment takes place at the juncture of "not knowing" (being empowered by God) and "knowing" (purposefully seeking the will of God). <![CDATA[<b>Communal discernment in the early church</b>]]> This article investigates the often-neglected communal dimension of discernment by focusing on the way in which the early church responded to the controversy about the circumcision for gentiles in Acts 15. It analyses how discernment takes place mostly in times of ambiguity and crisis in which a faith community is challenged to seek the divine will. The article then investigates the way in which discernment takes place: it is first and foremost a communal matter which brings together all parties in order to participate in intense debate and weighing of possibilities. Before examining the awareness that discernment is about a contemplative gaze, the article analyses the way in which wisdom of community leaders and wisdom of the past play a role in discerning the right way. <![CDATA[<b>Discernment in the letter to the Galatians</b>]]> Although discernment is not the primary focus of the Letter to the Galatians, a few references to this issue are found in the letter. These references are the focus of this study. After a brief overview of some approaches to discernment, three core elements of discernment are identified, namely reflection, choice and one's relationship to God. Taking these elements as a point of departure, references to discernment in the following passages in the letter are investigated: 2:1-10; 2:11-21; 3:1-5 and 5:12-6:10. <![CDATA[<b>Discernment in 1 Thessalonians</b>]]> This article analyses Paul's use of δοκιµάζειν in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 within the context of verbs for discernment (δοκιµάζειν, πειράζειν, διακρίνειν and their cognates). It discusses Paul's use of these verbs against the background of discernment in the Septuaginta. Paul's own understanding of discernment is then further investigated in terms of his socio-religious background and other New Testament books. It shows how he links discernment with a concrete situation and how discernment enables the human heart to realise its full potential by purifying it from all obstacles. It then discusses how the present tense of the imperative δοκιµάζετε in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 points towards the ongoing nature of discerning God's will and, finally, how Paul's eschatological context in 1 Thessalonians implies that discernment also has a future dimension. <![CDATA[<b>Discernment in Origen of Alexandria</b>]]> Origen was the first Christian writer to reflect more systematically on the theme of discernment; his views have greatly influenced later spiritual writers. This article aims at situating Origen's understanding of discernment within his view of creation, of anthropology and of spiritual growth. Discernment is viewed as an operation of the higher part of the soul (νους), whereby the soul opens itself to its spirit. As such it is able to accept divine guidance from the Holy Spirit and the Logos in order to assess the movements of the soul and to manage these correctly so that the soul may preserve what is good and continue to strive for better things. As the "intelligence" is created after the image of God, the Logos, its fulfilment lies in a cooperative movement with the Logos towards ever greater likeness with God. Progress in virtue, knowledge and happiness are an ever more intense participation in the Logos who himself is every virtue, all wisdom and love. As a result of this participation, the "intelligence" becomes ever more "like" the Logos and, therefore, becomes ever more capable of understanding and discerning. <![CDATA[<b>Catherine of Siena's wisdom on discernment and her reception of Scripture</b>]]> Catherine of Siena's wisdom on discernment represents a significant development in the history of this essential Christian theme. Her teaching is the fruit of personal wisdom rather than formal study as she was an uneducated lay woman in fourteenth century Italy. In this article I show how Scripture was central to Catherine's wisdom. First I show that she was exposed to Scripture primarily orally and that she assimilated what she heard through her life of prayer and relationship with God. I describe the central biblical themes at the heart of her teaching on discernment, namely growth in charity and capacity for truth, and I show how these are related to her wisdom on discernment. I then examine how Catherine applied her teaching through an analysis of a letter to Pope Gregory XI. In this article I will show that central New Testament themes are at the heart of Catherine of Siena's teaching on discernment and I will describe how the knowledge of Scripture that suffused her teaching was not internalized as a result of formal study, but rather as a result of her experience of God in prayer and of her personal reflection. Her oral reception of Scripture became transformed through her mystical experience into wisdom that has become a major Christian classic; indeed Catherine is one of only three women named Doctor of the Church in the Catholic tradition. <![CDATA[<b>Pavel Aleksadrovi</b><b>č</b><b> Florenskij's method of discerning spiritual truth</b>]]> This article explores Pavel Florenskij's dialectical method as the preferred way to discern spiritual truth. It presents the Russian polymath's method within his sociopolitical and ecclesiastical contexts and two of his works, namely his magnum opus entitled The pillar and ground of truth, and his lecture Reason and dialectics, both of which are significant for interpreting Florenskij's thought. The article also provides an intertextual reading of Florenskij's Pillar to argue that its context is 1 Timothy 3:14-16. It then analyses the similarities between the context of 1 Timothy and that of The Pillar. As they fall within a period during which particular churches faced certain challenges, both texts call for discernment of the true identity of the church. <![CDATA[<b>Discerning the mystical wisdom of the <i>Bhagavad Gita</i> and John of the Cross</b>]]> The 21st century is characterised by a global spirituality. Presently, and more than ever, access to the great religious traditions has enabled many to tap into the wisdom of other cultures. While the respective epistemological foundations of diverse traditions may differ, mutual understanding and respectful dialogue nevertheless facilitate respect for the other and offer opportunities for mutual enrichment. This leads to the recognition that there are multiple dimensions and expressions of the sacred. From within this interspiritual approach, an analysis of the mystical wisdom of the Bhagavad Gita and John of the Cross clearly points to the central theme of discerning the real from the unreal. This leads to detachment from/lack of desire for and, finally, surrender to the Divine. <![CDATA[<b>Discernment</b>: <b>the message of the <i>Bhagavad-Gita</i></b>]]> The Bhagavad-Gita is an intelligent response to a perennial human predicament which other religions and philosophies also tried to resolve in their own way. Human beings often stood perplexed and mystified as they confronted paradoxical situations in life that demanded action. Discerning right from wrong often became an existential predicament. The Pandava prince Arjuna found himself standing on the shaky ground of Kurukshetra not knowing the way forward. Lord Krishna outlines for him the path towards gaining flawless self-knowledge and self-mastery from his sorrowful state of confusion and opened his eyes to perceive the truths beyond appearances. Krishna instructs him that, when a person is capable of watching everything that happens within and around him dispassionately and acting with an attitude of detachment, he attains sthithaprajna (equanimity) and samadhai (liberation).