Bedford on Practice and Discernment

I define “a practice of the Christian faith” as a purposeful, creative outworking of a sequence of steps that empower persons in community better to proceed [pro-seguir] along the way of Jesus Christ. Negatively, to be engaged in such a practice means resisting evil. Positively, it implies the process of being drawn by God’s Spirit ever more deeply into a life pattern that responds to the rhythms of the dancing dynamic of the Holy Trinity. Both a sense of spontaneity and constant innovation and a sense of discipline and joyful conformity to the “mind of Christ” are inherent in any practice understood this way. Similarly, ambiguity (which is common to human beings and all of their manifestations of religiosity) is an inherent part of every practice of the Christian faith, even the best-intentioned ones. Both the innovative discipline and the inherent ambiguity of the practices of the Christian faith make the faithful practice of discernment a necessary component of every other practice, inasmuch as discernment is a practice that embodies a recognition that all practices (including itself) are “penultimate” and not “ultimate.” In other words, the practice of discernment incorporates a hermeneutic of suspicion and retrieval (Ricoeur) into every practice, in order to help people in community figure out which moves seem faithfully to resist evil and to address concrete needs amidst the multiple ambiguities of life. The practice of discernment entails both following creatively in the way of Jesus Christ and taking into account personal, social, and structural dimensions of reality.

Beyond this role, moreover, the practice of discernment would seem to be particularly central when people wh live under a great deal of pressure from structural injustice find it necessary to decide which “little moves against destructiveness” really promise to advance in a fruitful direction…

— Nancy E. Bedford, “Little Moves Against Destructiveness: Theology and the Practice of Discernment,” in Practicing Theology: Beliefs and Practices in Christian Life, 158-9.

See other thoughts on practice.

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One Response to Bedford on Practice and Discernment

  1. Pingback: Notes on Bedford’s Theological Reflection on Discernment | Gaudete Theology

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