Spiritual Virtuoso


A couple of months ago I read James K. Wellman's book entitled Rob Bell and the New American Christianity. It is interesting to use Rob Bell as a case study for speculating the future of American Christianity because Bell's theological understandings have been over simplified from the back lash of Love Wins*. 

Bell's theology not only is influenced by Process Theology and Rene Girard but also things like spiral dynamics integral and Radical Theology and Evangelicalism. Bell, like each one of us, is much more complex than we like to believe. 

Anyway, one of the things that Wellman talks about are people who are "Spiritual Virtuosos". I cannot recall if he coined this term or is citing some research on this sort of topic, but nonetheless the phrase "Spiritual Virtuoso" captured my imagination. 

Here are a list of embodied qualities of a "Spiritual Virtuoso":

  • inner personal authority
  • confidence mixed with vulnerability
  • willingness to break with religious customs for the sake of spiritual and moral principles
  • detachment from, though not a rejection of, social structures
  • ascetic—practicing self-denial relative to physical and sexual needs
  • little interest in gaining followers, or creating a social movement
  • focused on personal salvation and more other-worldly
  • willingness to embrace martyrdom
  • followers are attached to principles over person (less forgiving of a leader’s faults)
  • authentic humility and openness

I don't know what to do with this at this point, but I wonder if one is born or one becomes a virtuoso. Do the Spiritual Disciplines help create virtuosity? 

There are a number of great insights in this book and I encourage anyone interested in the future of American Christianity to consider reading this. 

One of my favorite lines from this book? 

Laughing as he said, ‘One of the most lethal aspects of that word—heretic—is that it ends discussions, rather than starts them.’ Turning more serious, Bell warns, ‘And that’s why I think it’s so dangerous. It ends discussion, and it’s holding hands with violence.’

*The thing about it though is that Love Wins is really not as controversial as Jesus Wants to Save Christians, but Love Wins is a 'sexier' topic.