Contemplation and Action in Scripture

One of the things I’d like to do some day is make a really good case for contemplation/mysticism using the Bible as a way to get low Protestants across the threshold of some truly great literature of the Christian life. I see that Greg Peters has already beat me to it in the first chapter of The Story of Monasticism, although his approach is different from what mine would be (so there’s room for both of us). Towards the end of his series of biblical exempla of contemplatives he writes:

Biblically, the active life and the contemplative life are not in tension with each other but are meant to complement each other. This has not always been the case in the history of the Christian church, where oftentimes the so-called contemplative life was valued much greater than the so-called active life. Putting aside this imbalance, however, does not change the biblical revelation that presents a calling to active ministry coupled with the expectation that active ministry serves and complements contemplative ends. The Bible not only depicts God calling people to a particularly active apostolate — such as pastor, missionary, or evangelist — but it also depicts inidividuals called to the practice of lovingly gazing on God’s presence, most often evidenced in a direct one-to-one encounter with God. (pp. 14-15)

Today, especially amongst low-church Protestants as well as in ‘the world’, the active life is prized very, very highly. Too highly, at times. We would do well to wed it with the contemplative.

2 thoughts on “Contemplation and Action in Scripture

  1. This is something that I’ve been working through subconsciously for a couple of months (I was drawn to read Job again, for example), and it wasn’t until I saw this post that it crystallized in my mind in one of those “ah yes, THAT is what has been fluttering in the back of my mind so much lately” moments.

    I’ll likely read that book and whatever you write on the topic as well. And more importantly, spend some time contemplating it.

    • I’m glad that providence has brought my blog and your subconscious together! We’ll see where I get with my own thoughts on the question…

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