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Houston Graduate School of Theology CS 501 Introduction to Christian Spirituality. Spiritual discernment and Direction. Spiritual Discernment. What is discernment?. Sources Chan, Simon. Spiritual Theology , chapter 11

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what is discernment
What is discernment?
  • Sources
    • Chan, Simon. Spiritual Theology, chapter 11
    • Smith, Gordon T. The Voice of Jesus: Discernment, Prayer, and the Witness of the Spirit. Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press.
  • Discernment Defined
    • Insight – the capacity to see something clearly
    • Discretion – the capacity to distinguish between good and evil and good and better
    • Judgement – assessment informed by knowledge and understanding
the two paths
The two paths
  • Through the regular practice of discernment, a person grows in wisdom, which becomes increasingly evident in the quality of one’s choices
  • The ability to discern the voice of Jesus is a critical spiritual skill, basic to our capacity to make vocational and moral choices – read John 10:1-5
the exercise of discernment
The exercise of discernment
  • External – concerning the veracity of events, situations, and people; God’s work in the world and one’s participation in it; and extraordinary phenomena
  • Internal – determining the source of inner impulses has always been difficult and may be the reason why most of the work on discernment has concentrated on this area
divine initiative human response
Divine initiative/human response
  • God is the initiator
  • Christian spirituality is a spirituality of response
  • In spiritual discernment, the believer learns how to respond to God’s initiative
  • Discernment rests in the tension between the priority of God and the call for genuine human action and responsibility
context of life voice of jesus
Context of life/voice of Jesus
  • God speaks into the particulars
  • We learn to be attentive to the details of our lives
  • We have a greater capacity to listen to Jesus if we are frank with ourselves about who we are, where we have come from, what we have experienced, and what we hope for.
  • As a result, we develop the ability to attend to the inner witness of the Spirit.
jesus voice in prayer and in the world
Jesus’ voice in prayer and in the world
  • A discerning person learns to be alert and attentive to the voice of Jesus in every context of life, even through unexpectedchannels of communication
  • Effective discernment requires an openness to surprises, to the strange and wonderful ways in which God may choose to speak
  • We will not recognize Jesus’ voice unless we listen to the Spirit while in prayer
the individual and the community
The individual and the community
  • The community is both a threat and an indispensable aid to discernment
  • To foster spiritual maturity, the community enables individual Christians to hear the voice of Jesus and encounter the living bread and water for themselves
  • Though a believer learns discernment foroneself, it is not learned byoneself
the role of leadership
The role of leadership
  • The leader finds a responsible place withinthe process, as part of the group
  • Leadership is one of the gifts given to the community
  • The community takes seriously the perspective, skills, and gifts of the leader
  • The leader listens to the community and to the voice of the Spirit throughthe community
the voices of the community
The voices of the community
  • Each member plays a significant role
  • Communal discernment seeks to affirm the appropriatevoice and contribution of each person, corresponding to each person’s giftedness and role within the community
gift of discernment
Gift of discernment
  • Individual contributions that enable the group to discern well.
  • Varieties of expressions
    • Seeing beyond the immediate (vision)
    • Understanding the issues and facts (critical analysis but beyond rational analysis)
    • Identifying the emotional dimension
    • Sharing of wisdom and insight (sage)
spiritual direction1
Spiritual Direction
  • Freeing and empowering others to know with greater confidence what God is saying to them
  • Empowering others to hear more clearly the voice of Jesus
  • Distinct from both counseling and mentoring
distinctions
Distinctions
  • Counseling
    • The agenda is set by the emotional needs of the one being counseled
    • Spiritual directors and mentors know that when it comes to emotional pathologies, they are well advised to refer others to trained counselors
  • Mentoring
    • The agenda is set by the one who mentors
    • One has a set of skills and trains the other in those skills
distinctions1
Distinctions
  • Spiritual direction
    • The agenda is not so much emotional needs nor is it a training program
    • The witness of the Spirit determines the course of the conversation
    • Fundamental posture is in being with the other in a manner that enhances the capacity of the other to know how God is speaking
peterson s assumptions
Peterson’s assumptions
  • God is present and at work in each person’s life
  • A wealth of spiritual wisdom exists on which we can draw as we seek to respond to the work of God
  • Every person is different, therefore, directors should not work with a predetermined outcome
the bottom line
The Bottom Line
  • Spiritual direction is not a ministry of giving counsel about decisions
  • Rather, in spiritual direction, one of the most effective ways in which we can serve the other is by probing to see how the other can choose well, in intentional response to God