Simon Chan

In his text Spiritual Theology  Simon Chan addresses these topics: nature of spiritual theology, doctrine of God, nature of sin, and elements in salvation.

Chan states that spiritual theology is quite different from spirituality: “spirituality is the lived reality, whereas spiritual theology is the systematic reflection and formalization of that reality” (16). Spirituality could be a cause someone believes in; spiritual theology desires growth using the Bible and experience as anchors (18). Spirituality must be comprehensive, cohesive, and evocable to be a significant system (22-24). Chan discusses the ecclesiologies within various liturgically diverse traditions recognizing inherent benefits and insufficiencies (30-39).

Next, Chan addresses the delicate balance between a personal, relevant God and the uniqueness of the Trinity (41). “A distinction must be made between the immanent Trinity and economic Trinity even if current explanation of their relationship is not fully adequate” (44). One portion of the Trinity cannot be without the others, and overemphasizing one causes imbalance and “fails to take in the full range of God’s self-revelation” (48-49). Chan discusses primary and second-order symbols (51) and man’s personal relationship with the Trinity (52) in which perichoresis is essential for both the behavior within the Church and between a Christian and the Trinity (53).

Chan asserts the need for holism when addressing sin: a single system of thought will not engender a whole relationship with God (57-59). He discusses the location of sin in the life of man: the will or the heart (59). A holistic approach balances the relational and juridical views of sin: “the juridical view needs to be balanced by the relational view, which understands sin as an offense against the person of God” (61). Chan explains the Trinity during worship: “God is no longer the object but the agent in our worship” and references Romans 8 as evidence (62). The nature of actual sin and tangible evil against the concept of original sin denotes the differing camps of Pelagius and Augustine (66). He distinguishes the sin within, the sin around, and the sin without (65-70). He concludes the chapter, conceptually, by almost painting a diagram of a family tree that illustrates the deadly sins (72-76).

Finally, Chan discusses grace and how we function within that idea. While grace is the means and the end, Chan admits inherent flaws in our approach to grace. He notes Augustine’s dim view of man and his promotion of prevenient grace (79). He discusses justification, sanctification, and glorification (84-99) and posits his perception: “We need a concept of grace as God’s unmerited favor to undeserving sinners or the cultivation of virtues will be reduced to mere moralism” (83). Similar to the image of a family tree of sin, he evokes a similar structure regarding virtues and uses the theological virtues (faith, hope, and charity) as the “first parents”, if you will, one begetting another (90-93).

Ultimately, Chan approaches these complexities of spiritual theology noting inherent inadequacies in an attempt to offer approaches that are both theologically and logically sound.

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