The Spirituality of Dialogue
I am excited to explore what is for me a new adventure in the spiritual formation program: the spirituality of dialogue.
There is the far-too-narrow notion that spirituality is strictly one’s own business, something cultivated within one’s self with God, or in the company of others in prayer and Lectio Divina.
But I’ve come to discover that God’s presence can also be felt in active, edifying, challenging dialogue, particularly with those who see things quite differently from me.
“Where two or three are gathered in my name” (Matt 18:20) can include two or three (and more) engaged in genuine dialogue in Christ’s name.
Hence, this course.
The title comes from the psalmist: “Deep calls to deep at the thunder of your cataracts” (Psalm 42:7), in which the speaker testifies to being captivated, overpowered even, by a dialogue conducted within the watery depths of creation.
Perhaps such a scene resembles something of a liturgical call and response in a place that is typically associated with chaos but reveals itself to be a place of deep discernment.
In this course, I want to cultivate a spiritual appreciation for dialogue, something that is generally lacking today in American society, from the halls of Congress to families seated together for a meal to a church’s session meeting, all beset by polarizing fear and mutual suspicion.
Contrary to popular opinion, “dialogue” does mean a conversation held by only two individuals.
Rather, dialogue refers to words (logoi) that are meant to get “through” (dia) to something. While genuine dialogue does not necessarily arrive at a common ground or resolution of differences, it does strive toward mutual understanding and growth for all involved.
Indeed, dialogue can be a spiritual discipline that cultivates deep listening, empathy, and openness toward change and growth.
The Bible, in fact, can serve as both testimony and model.
One of the Bible’s best kept secrets is that it is a theological, spiritual, and literary e pluribus unum.
The Bible’s “unity” is founded upon its plurality as it holds opposing viewpoints together, sometimes in tension, sometimes in compromise, sometimes finding common ground.
The Bible’s own diversity is intentional, I believe, for it aims to elicit discerning dialogue among its readers.
Indeed, the Bible itself is a product of many dialogues hosted by many individuals and communities, whose diverse perspectives are interwoven into the canonical fabric we call Scripture.
This course will dive deeply into the dialogical dynamics of Scripture, particularly the Psalms, the most diverse, and thus the most dialogical, book of the Bible.
The Psalms represent 150 different voices, most of them crying out to God in praise or in prayer and lament, but each in their own way.
Imagine them sitting next to each other at a large, round table.
What would they say to each other as they together worship God, whose steadfast love knows no bounds?
The course will address topics that are given their dialogical due in the Bible and remain timely: wisdom, community, creation, human vocation, and justice, to name a few.
By studying how the Bible hosts its own dialogues, we will practice the discipline of dialogue with each other.
What makes for good dialogue?
How can we invite others into dialogue, particularly those who think much differently?
How do we overcome the temptation to polarize issues and see the “other” as an opponent rather than partner in dialogue?
How do we host as well as participate in genuine dialogue for the benefit of all participants?
We may not find all the answers, but we will explore them with our shared wisdom in dialogue with the Bible’s wisdom.
To register for the “Deep calls to Deep”: The Psalms in Transformative Dialogue course, click HERE.
William P. Brown is the William Marcellus McPheeters Professor of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary