Saving Fear in Christian Spirituality

  • Edited by Ann W. Astell

  • 432 pages, 6.00 x 9.00

  • Hardcover | 9780268106218 | November 2019

  • eBook (EPUB) | 9780268106232 | November 2019

  • eBook (Web PDF) | 9780268106249 | November 2019


Hailed in Sacred Scripture as the “beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10), the “fear of the Lord” is seldom mentioned and little understood today. A gift of the Spirit and a moral virtue or disposition, the “fear of the Lord” also frequently entails emotional experiences of differing kinds: compunction, dread, reverence, wonderment, and awe. Starting with the Bible itself, this collection of seventeen essays explores the place of holy fear in Christian spirituality from the early church to the present and argues that this fear is paradoxically linked in various ways to fear’s seeming opposite, love. Indeed, the charged dynamic of love and fear accounts for different experiences and expressions of Christian life in response to changing historical circumstances and events.

The writings of the theologians, mystics, philosophers, saints, and artists studied here reveal the relationship between the fear and the love of God to be profoundly challenging and mysterious, its elements paradoxically conjoined in a creative tension with each other, but also tending to oscillate back-and-forth in the history of Christian spirituality as first one, then the other, comes to the fore, sometimes to correct a perceived imbalance, sometimes at the risk of losing its companion altogether. Given this historical pattern, clearly evident in these chronologically arranged essays, the palpable absence of a discourse of holy fear from the mainstream theological landscape should give us pause and invite us to consider if and how—under what aspect, in which contexts—a holy fear, inseparable from love, might be regained or discovered anew within Christian spirituality as a remedy both for a crippling anxiety and for a presumptive recklessness. This book will be of interest to students and scholars of Christian spirituality, theology, biblical studies, religious studies, and religion and literature.

Contributors: Ann W. Astell, Pieter G. R. de Villiers, Donna R. Hawk-Reinhard, John Sehorn, Catherine Rose Cavadini, Joseph Wawrykow, Robert Boenig, Ralph Keen, Wendy M. Wright, Ephraim Radner, Julia A. Lamm, Cyril O’Regan, Brenna Moore, Maj-Britt Frenze, and Todd Walatka