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Contemplative spiritual disciplines are being engaged by American Evangelicals who are drawn to an experiential spirituality, expanding the traditional pietistic practices that emphasize biblical knowledge and moral behavior over the pursuit of union with the Divine. Apophatic Christian theology speaks of God in terms of what God is not. It transcends words and positive assertions. A survey of the history of apophaticism in the Eastern Orthodox Church will explain the holistic potential of apophatic theology and practice as a corrective to an Evangelical spirituality often limited by statements of propositional truth and a wrath-based concept of atonement.
Modern mindfulness meditation practices, as applied in wellness and mental health disciplines today, are rooted in the principles of non-theistic Buddhist philosophy. This may seem antithetical to orthodox Christianity, but a study of the science and therapeutic practice of mindfulness reveals a remarkable resonance with Christian contemplative disciplines, particularly in those practices of an apophatic nature.
The thesis put forward in this dissertation is that the goals of contemporary mindfulness meditation practice—becoming fully aware of one’s experience, being grounded in the present moment, and being immersed in an atmosphere of non- judgmental acceptance—are philosophically aligned with apophatic theology and beneficial to enhance prayer practices in the Christian tradition. A survey of the primary thought and practice in the apophatic tradition through Christian history will be placed alongside the foundations and practice of contemporary mindfulness, leading to a theology of contemplative practice which integrates mindfulness, particularly in relation to personality types. The conclusion will provide a description of the challenge and potential benefits of the proposed practices within the American Evangelical tradition.
Doctor of Ministry
Apophatic, Mindfulness, Evangelical
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Johnson, David Arthur, "Apophatic Spirituality in Contemporary Christian Practice: A Mindfulness Approach" (2018). Doctor of Ministry Projects. 334.