Volume 28, Issue 1, Spring 2023
Christian Philosophy and Its Challenges
Daniel H. Spencer
Athens and Jerusalem Redux
Monastic Mystical Discourse and the Rule of Faith
In this essay, I evaluate the extent to which some currents in classical Christian mysticism might count as properly “Christian” against the rules of faith and theological methodology of thinkers like Tertullian, Irenaeus, and Justin Martyr. I begin by expounding this methodology as it relates to non-Christian philosophical traditions, and from there explore the rules these thinkers offer, suggesting that the beating heart of these rules is not a string of propositions to affirm so much as it is a commitment to a certain rendition of biblical narrative grammar. After exploring this grammar, I turn to a brief discussion of the foundations of Christian mysticism and the thought of Evagrius Ponticus. The aim here is to illustrate the theoretical foundations of much Christian mysticism, as well as to provide a test case to evaluate how far some prominent elements of this discourse might, or might not, cohere with the biblical narrative grammar elucidated above. I argue that there is ample room to question the legitimacy of Evagrius’s claim to properly Christian theorizing, and suggest this has serious implications for future Christian work in the philosophy of mysticism.