The crisis Christian spirituality faces is how it came to pass that spirituality became separated from the divine embrace. This is discussed by Robert Webber in chp 2 of The Divine Embrace.
Webber summarizes lots of history in a few pages and I’m trying today merely to whet your appetite for his discussion and that larger history. The disconnection of spirituality from the divine embrace occurred through Platonic dualism. The connection was there, but it was lost. I cannot emphasize enough the value of this kind of exposure for how we need to understand the Christian life. The gnostics haunt far too much of Christian thinking.
The Gnostics challenged God as creator. It denied the body in order to release the soul. The Church responded, say in the Apostles’ Creed, was to affirm creation.
The Arians challegned the Incarnation of God in Christ. Athanasius defended orthodoxy (one might say he created orthodoxy) and this is all bundled up in the creeds from Nicea to Chalcedon.
The divine initiative was challenged by Pelagius and Augustine met the Pelagian challenge with the teaching of God’s grace.
The union of God and the human was challenged and the only fair resolution was to say that Jesus was 100% God and 100% Human.
The human will of Jesus was challenged: did he have a human will? Once again, the Church agreed that it was two wills perfectly united.
Theosis was the early church teaching: “participation in God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit” (41). This teaching has been the teaching of the Church from the beginning and it respects a proper human and a proper divinity so that a proper spirituality can arise. The earliest spirituality was a robust theological spirituality.
Two shifts messed us up — both occurred in contemplation: the Platonic dualism frame and the medieval mysticism frame. God shifted from subject to object and we seek to attain to his location by escaping from this world. He finds traces in both eastern and western monasticism, including some extravagances in the desert fathers. Some of late medieval mysticism got too much into the self journeying and of the interior life. The focus needs to be on God.