A Brief History of Spirituality / Edition 1

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A Brief History of Spirituality tells the story of Christian spirituality from its origins in the New Testament to the present day.
  • Charts the main figures, ideas, images and historical periods, showing how and why spirituality has changed and developed over the centuries
  • Draws out the distinctive themes of Christian spirituality, exploring the historical and cultural events and experiences that changed people’s attitudes and practices
  • Coverage extends right up to the modern day, exploring the huge changes in spirituality in recent years and the way it is nowadays often contrasted with ‘religion’
  • Written by a leading commentator on spirituality, and published in the popular Brief Histories of Religion series
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[Sheldrake's] grasp of the key figures and movements within the western Christian tradition is consistently sure-footed, and the book will be very useful for those seeking an accessible one-volume introduction to the subject by an acknowledged authority ... This is an excellent book and can be safely recommended to students and others alike." Theology

“Wonderfully encapsulates the complex manner in which the term spirituality has taken on various meanings within the Christian tradition … Those who are interested in learning more about the major movements in the Christian tradition are sure to find this book a wonderful introduction into learning more about thinkers who have ardently longed to attain wisdom.” The Heythrop Journal

“One gets the sense that Sheldrake knows and loves his subject, and more importantly, wants to share his knowledge with others. I strongly recommend this book.” Anglican Theological Review

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Philip Sheldrake is William Leech Professorial Fellow in Applied Theology at the University of Durham. He is also Honorary Professor at the University of Wales Lampeter and is regularly a visiting professor at the University of Notre Dame and other North American universities. He has taught and written extensively in the field of Christian spirituality and spirituality more generally. His books include Spirituality and History (2nd edn 1998), Spaces for the Sacred: Place, Memory and Identity (2001) and, as editor, New SCM Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (2005, in the USA New Westminster Dictionary). He is Past President of the international Society for the Study of Christian Spirituality.
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Table of Contents


Introduction: What is Spirituality?.

Contemporary Meaning.

Spirituality and History.


Periods and Traditions.

1 Foundations: Scriptures and Early Church.

Christian Spirituality and the Scriptures.

Scriptural Markers.

Spirituality in the New Testament.

Spirituality and the Early Church.


Spirituality and Martyrdom.

Spirituality and Doctrine.



The Cappadocians.



Christian Spirituality as Transformation and Mission.

Theories of Spiritual Transformation.


2 The Monastic Paradigm: 300-1150.

The Emergence of Monasticism.

Widows and Virgins.

Syrian Ascetics.

Egyptian Monasticism.

Wisdom of the Desert.

Monastic Rules.

Benedictine Expansion.

The New Hermits.

The Cistercians.

The Spiritual Values of Monasticism.

Spirituality and the Conversion of Europe.

Local Spiritualities: Ireland.

Spirituality in the East.

Syriac Spirituality.


3 Spirituality in the City: 1150-1450.

The Gregorian Reform.

The Vita Evangelica.

Twelfth-Century Renaissance.

The Rebirth of Cities.

Cathedrals and Urban Vision.

The City as Sacred.

Universities as Sacred Space.

Vita Evangelica and Urban Sensibilities.

The Mendicant Movement.

Dominic, Francis, Clare, and Bonaventure.

The Beguines.

Fourteenth-Century Mysticism.

Devotional Spirituality.

Spirituality and Eastern Christianity.

The Renaissance.


4 Spiritualities in the Age of Reformations: 1450-1700.

Seeds of Reform: The Devotio Moderna and Christian Humanism.

The Crisis of Medieval Spirituality.

Spirituality and the Lutheran Reformation.

John Calvin and Reformed Spirituality.

Anabaptist Spirituality.

Anglican Spirituality.

Puritan Spirituality.

Early Quakers.

The Catholic Reformation.

The New Orders.

Ignatius Loyola and Early Ignatian Spirituality.

Carmelite Mysticism.

Lay Devotion.

Seventeenth-Century French Spirituality.


5 Spirituality in an Age of Reason: 1700-1900.

Spirituality in the Roman Catholic Tradition.


Wesleyan Spirituality.

American Puritanism and the Great Awakening.

Shaker Spirituality.

Orthodox Spirituality.

Post-Revolutionary Catholicism.

The English Evangelicals.

The Oxford Movement.

John Henry Newman.

A Distinctive “American Spirituality”.


6 Modernity to Postmodernity: 1900-2000.

The Impact on Spirituality.

Evelyn Underhill.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Simone Weil.

Dorothy Day.

Thomas Merton.

Spiritualities of Liberation.

Gustavo Gutiérrez.

Feminist Spirituality.

Spiritualities of Reconciliation.

Ecumenical Spirituality: The Example of Taizé.

Spirituality and Inter-Religious Dialogue: Bede Griffiths.

Making Spirituality Democratic: The Retreat Movement.

Making Spirituality Democratic: The Charismatic Movement.




Select Bibliography.


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