A Communal Theological Project: Our "Rule" of Christian Practice

Dear Reader,
During the weeks of inactivity on this blog, I'll be thinking about this post and returning with a list of what I think are the distinctive components of Christian practice. Toward that end, I'm taking along on my trip the Rule of St. Benedict. The Rule is one of the most influential Christian works in thinking through the communal practice of Christianity. The Rule also is focused on practice. For example, the Rule just doesn't tell you to "be humble." Rather, the Rule tells the monks how to PRACTICE humility. And that is what I'm after.

I'd like to invite you to explore with me this notion of Christian practice. If you'd like to participate in this project, I invite you to post your ideas concerning Christian practice. Specifically, what list would you create to specify the distinctive components of Christian practice/observance? If you, like Benedict, were to write your own Rule for Christian Practice what would you include in your Rule? When I return to blogging in a few weeks, I'll summarize, react to, and expand on any activity on this post. I'm very interested in what you have to say on this subject.

Let me prime the pump a little. When I first thought of this, lots of things came to mind. One thing was forgiveness. I thought that, to be a practicing Christian, one should forgive as Jesus did ("Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing."). Okay, so how might one practice forgiveness? Well, you could recite the Lord's Prayer ("forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors"). Or, what about this idea, as a brainstorm: What if a component of Christian practice was to go to someone, like in a Catholic confession, but not to talk about your sins. Rather, what you "confess" are all those people you need to forgive. And then, at the end of the time of recitation, you pray a prayer of forgiveness upon these people. And you do this on a fairly regular basis (like once a month). Or: During every Christian service there is a built-in time of reflection to think of those who have wronged us. Then, after the time of reflection, we pray a prayer of forgiveness upon these people. These might not be great or particularly novel ideas, but you get my drift: Specify a component of the Christian faith and then think about how it might be practiced.

One clarification. When I say "distinctive" Christian practice, I'm speaking of the configuration of the end product. That is, any given component of Christian practice might be shared with other faiths (e.g., Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc.). The distinctiveness, I'd expect, would be in the sum total of the final list of components, where some components might be shared with other faith systems and other components might be unique to the Christian faith.

I hope some of you join in this project.

This entry was posted by Richard Beck. Bookmark the permalink.

One thought on “A Communal Theological Project: Our "Rule" of Christian Practice”

  1. Did you catch "Speaking of Faith" on NPR the other day? They had a nun (I think) on and she was talking about "The Rule." She made a point of going into the etymology of the Latin regula and how it didn't mean, in its original usage, what we understand today by rule or law. I was struck by her explanation: a regula was a sort of guide, a helpful way of getting where you want to go, a sort of hand-rail on the stairs you are trying to ascend.

    Perhaps if we think of our Christian "practice" in those terms we can talk about orthopraxy without being pharisaical...

Leave a Reply