The questions Dr. Collins raises in part, address the concerns he terms “...the health of contemporary developments in religion...(Collins 1993, 314).” Dr. Robert Tuttle affirms in his own chapter the need to examine spiritual practices in our day. It is hard to miss the nod to Wesley’s own questioning of not just mystical writings but any and all theological or spiritual practices in his own day. Collins begins by asking, “...are current trends in spirituality Christologically based?” This is the first question with which we will examine Ignatius’ writings in The Spiritual Exercises.
Ignatius has the excertiant focus upon Christ Jesus in this first exercise as well. In a most significant moment of reflection, the excertiant is asked to speak with Jesus about his role as the Christ. Specifically, one is to consider how God became human, possessed eternal life but suffered temporal death for our sins (Ibid, 56). As we move into the Second Week, “The Kingdom of Christ,” we find Ignatius leading excertiants to reflect on the Trinity and God’s plan and work of redeeming humanity (Ibid, 70). In addition, Ignatius makes a specific reference in the Fifth Contemplation, no. 4, which is a desire, “to know more thoroughly the eternal Word Incarnate (Ibid 72).” In such passages, it is hard to miss the careful acknowledgment of Jesus as both God and human as well as the trinitarian language of the orthodox faith.
There is a wealth of scripture references for the recommended meditations which Ignatius asks of excertiants. These passages all have to do with the life of Jesus. From the annunciation to the ascension, the focus of a person’s time in Scripture is to be upon the life of Jesus. As Methodists, this brings to mind our practice of doing theology based on the quadrilateral. The first and primary means of any of our theological work, begins with Scripture and Scripture is the most important of the elements among the four which include tradition, reason, and experience.
The second question which Collins proposes in his paper is to examine if the practice or trend encourages a “direct relation to God which detracts from the work of Christ as mediator?” A cursory reading of John Wesley’s writings and experiences shows this to be an area of great concern for him. Here, Tuttle notes the distinction being that on one side is the idea that implies, 'God helps those who help themselves.' Christianity insists that God helps those who cannot help themselves but who are willing to be helped by God (1989, 176).” This earlier thought Tuttle argues, is a sort pantheism, that God is all things. As such, the need for a mediator between us and God is not necessary. This is certainly in conflict with the Christology we noted before but it is also inconsistent with a theology of Christ as the mediator; our high priest as expressed in Hebrews,
(17) Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (18) For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” (2:17-18 NASB)
How does Ignatius’ Exercises respond to this questioning? To start, we return to the first weeks exercise and acknowledge the theme Ignatius establishes in stating, “…He [Jesus] submitted to temporal death to die for our sins (The Spiritual Exercises, 56, emphasis mine).” Ignatius continues this recognition of our sin and Christ Jesus as our mediator into the third exercise where he asks, “Him [Jesus] to intercede with the Father to obtain these graces [knowledge of our sinful state] for me (Ibid, 58).” While not as extensive as some may prefer, clearly, Ignatius acknowledges the work of Jesus Christ as the mediator.
Stay tuned for my next post regarding Examining Spiritual Practices Through a Wesleyan-Methodist Lens for an examination of the next two questions: "Is the practice rooted in the atonement? and Is it rooted in the means of grace? (ex: prayer, communion, Bible reading). "