Embracing Contemplation: Reclaiming a Christian Spiritual Practice, Edited by John H. Coe and Kyle C. Strobel

Embracing Contemplation

Reclaiming a Christian Spiritual Practice

Edited by John H. Coe and Kyle C. Strobel

Embracing Contemplation
  • Length: 304 pages
  • Published: February 26, 2019
  • Imprint: IVP Academic
  • Item Code: 5230
  • ISBN: 9780830852307

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What does a Christian life lived "by the Spirit" look like?

For many Christians throughout history, fulfilling Paul's command in Galatians 5:25 included a form of contemplation and prayer that leads to spiritual formation. But in large part, contemporary Christians—perhaps especially evangelicals—seem to have lost or forgotten about this treasure from their own tradition.

Bringing together scholars and practitioners of spiritual formation from across the Protestant spectrum, this volume offers a distinctly evangelical consideration of the benefits of contemplation. The contributors draw on historical examples from the church—including John Calvin, Richard Baxter, Jonathan Edwards, and John Wesley—to consider how contemplative prayer can shape Christian living today. The result is a robust guide to embracing contemplation that will help Christians as they seek to keep in step with the Spirit.

"What a great gift from John and Kyle. These are rich ores of spiritual life that all too often are left unmined. May they teach us again what and how to read."

John Ortberg, senior pastor, Menlo Church, author of I'd Like You More If You Were More Like Me

"In popular Christian culture where contemplation often is dismissed as Buddhist or New Age, this collection of essays convincingly argues, biblically and historically, that Spirit initiated abiding in and communing with the divine presence powerfully enriches love for God. Here is an apologia for a core Christian habit that is crucial for the good of the soul and the church."

Bruce Demarest, senior professor of Christian formation, Denver Seminary

"We have been waiting a long time for this book . . . a couple of centuries, perhaps. We've been reading the early Fathers and the Catholic mystics, but few have put into our hands the rich resources from the evangelical tradition that might help us pray contemplatively. So with all due respect, let us read . . . and let us pray."

Julie Canlis, adjunct professor of graduate studies in theology, Whitworth University, author of Calvin's Ladder

"This book is an important contribution in a time when there is growing evangelical interest in contemplative spirituality. For the skeptical, this work addresses many of the common concerns. For the curious, this is an excellent introduction to the major themes and unique voices of contemplative spirituality. For all, this is a deep dive into a broad and rich Christian tradition in which you'll discover hidden treasures you didn't know were available to you—right here in your very own theological home. I'm grateful to Strobel and Coe."

Chuck DeGroat, professor of pastoral care and Christian spirituality, senior fellow, Newbigin House of Studies

"I often get fairly nervous about the trendiness in contemporary spirituality. Therefore, I am pleased by this new volume which provides some needed context for the historic and contemporary discussion about contemplation in the Christian life. Evangelicals sometimes have strong opinions about contemplation—whether positive or negative. But sadly, those opinions are too often ignorant of historic Christian practices and relevant theological debates. Thankfully, this volume is aware of the promises and perils of contemplation and contemplative prayer; consequently, these authors can help inform our discussion and even our practices. You likely won't agree with everything here, but you will learn and be challenged."

Kelly M. Kapic, professor of theological studies, Covenant College, author, Embodied Hope

"We have needed this resource for quite some time—a thorough consideration of the character of Christian contemplation that is biblical, historical, theological, comparative, and practical. And thanks to the editorial work of Coe and Strobel we have it—an invaluable guide to the state of the current evangelical conversation regarding this essential dimension of the Christian life."

Gordon T. Smith, president and professor of systematic and spiritual theology at Ambrose University, author of Called to Be Saints and Evangelical, Sacramental, and Pentecostal

"A collection of essays is tricky business, often some are good and others are poor. Things get even trickier when the topic is somewhat controversial, as contemplation tends to be among evangelicals. Happily, John Coe and Kyle Strobel have done excellent work in Embracing Contemplation. The essays are uniformly excellent and present a cogent argument for understanding and practicing a spiritual discipline that has helped believers for hundreds of years. Thanks for a job well done."

Chris Hall, president of Renovaré

"This is a rich collection of essays about the contemplative life. All serious Christians need this wonderful resource."

James M. Houston, emeritus professor of spiritual theology, founding principal of Regent College, Vancouver, Canada

"I am so excited about this work, particularly the aim of it—to generate the right sort of conversation about contemplation, a topic central to any fulsome perspective on Christian spirituality. And what a life-giving conversation it is! Aided by rich historical, biblical, and theological inquiries and followed by constructive proposals, this work clearly demonstrates the fact that contemplation is fundamental to a maturing Christian life. Thanks be to God!"

Ruth Haley Barton, founder of the Transforming Center, author of Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Sacred Rhythms, and Invitation to Retreat

"Does Christ invite his followers into 'contemplative' prayer, that is, into a graced and ineffable sharing in his own prayerful communion with the Father in the Spirit? Put another way, what might the indwelling of the Trinitarian persons in the believer and the incorporation of believers into Christ mean for the life of prayer? And what testimonies might Christians of the past and present offer as we seek to avoid the twin pitfalls of a pseudo-spiritual escapism, on the one hand, and a failure to embrace the riches of our life hidden with Christ in God, on the other? This Christ- and Spirit-centered book goes right to the heart of the matter. A breakthrough both spiritually and ecumenically."

Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

"Contemplation doesn't come naturally to Christians in the modern West, but John Coe and Kyle Strobel have gathered a fabulous set of essays to help us re-encounter a deeper, higher Christian witness across the centuries. We need to retrieve their practice and faith, but we also need to avoid the undiscriminating character of many calls toward a more contemplative praxis today. Here is real theological discernment about the centrality of setting one's mind on things above. Read on and look up!"

Michael Allen, John Dyer Trimble Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, author of Grounded in Heaven


Introduction: Retrieving the Heart of the Christian Faith—John H. Coe and Kyle C. Strobel
Part 1: Historical Inquiries
1. The Controversy Over Contemplation and Contemplative Prayer: An Historical, Theological, and Biblical Resolution—John H. Coe
2. Is Thoughtless Prayer Really Christian? A Biblical/Evangelical Response to Evagrius of Pontus—Evan B. Howard
3. Medieval Ressourcement—Greg Peters
4. Sabbatical Contemplation? Retrieving a Strand in Reformed Theology—Ashley Cocksworth
5. "To Gaze on the Beauty of the Lord": The Evangelical Resistance and Retrieval of Contemplation—Tom Schwanda
6. Christian Contemplation and the Cross: The Pathway to Life—Diane Chandler
Part 2: Constructive Proposals
7. Biblical Spirituality and Contemplative Spirituality—Steven L. Porter
8. Contemplation by Son and Spirit: Reforming the Ascent of the Soul to God—Kyle C. Strobel
9. Gospel-Centered Contemplation? A Proposal—Ryan A. Brandt
10. The Beatific Vision: Contemplating Christ as the Future Present—Hans Boersma
11. Contemplative and Centering Prayer—James Wilhoit
12. Contemplative Prayer in the Evangelical and Pentecostal Traditions: A Comparative Study—Simon Chan
13. A Distinctively Christian Contemplation: A Comparison with Other Religions—Glen G. Scorgie
Conclusion: Recovering Contemplation—John H. Coe and Kyle C. Strobel
General Index
Scripture Index


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John H. Coe

John H. Coe (PhD, University of California, Irvine) is director of the Institute for Spiritual Formation at Biola University in La Mirada, California. He is also professor of spiritual theology and philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology and Rosemead School of Psychology. He is the coauthor of Wildlife in the Kingdom Come and Psychology in the Spirit, and contributor to Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics and Psychology & Christianity.

Coe's research and speaking is in spiritual formation and the interface between psychology, spirituality and philosophy. He was the founding editor of the Journal of Spiritual Formation and Soul Care and has contributed articles to the Journal of Psychology and Theology and the Journal of Psychology and Christianity. He is married to Greta and they have two daughters.

Kyle C. Strobel

Kyle C. Strobel (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is associate professor of spiritual theology and formation at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University, where he teaches in the Institute for Spiritual Formation. He is the author of several books, including Jonathan Edwards: An Introduction to His Thought, Jonathan Edwards's Theology: A Reinterpretation, and Formed for the Glory of God: Learning from the Spiritual Practices of Jonathan Edwards.