Roger HAIGHT. Spirituality Seeking Theology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Press, 2014. pp. 194. $26 pb. ISBN 978-1-62698-077-8. Reviewed by Jeffrey KIRCH, Saint Joseph’s College, Rensselaer, IN 47978
Roger Haight’s book Spirituality Seeking Theology is a welcome addition to the field of spirituality. In the preface he makes clear that the purpose of the book is to serve as a companion to his Christian Spirituality for Seekers and he is intending on addressing the “decline of Christianity and the steady flow of people out of the churches” (ix).
Haight begins by outlining his understanding of spirituality. Spirituality is how people live their lives in relation to God. He grounds his thought in Tillich’s notion of faith, specifically three qualities of faith: “faith is a common subjective phenomenon; its problematic character lies in its object; and its most clearly manifests itself in action” (3). Haight repeatedly connects back to these three qualities throughout the bulk of the text. The method he employs to address this significant problem works.
Within each of the nine chapters he presents specific Christian doctrines and helps the reader see the relevance of that doctrine for their lives. He begins in the beginning with God creating. Each subsequent chapter narrows the field. Haight is able to weave together much of Catholic systematic theology into the text, and does so not as an addendum to his presentation of spirituality, but as the core component of a Christian spirituality.
He treats Christian anthropology, sin, Christology, moral theology, the Paschal Mystery, ecclesiology, missiology, eschatology, and the Trinity. For example, in chapter three Haight, in just a few pages, lays out a cogent presentation of original sin that neither dismisses the tradition, nor bogs down the individual Christian in a mire of nonsense. He points to three different ways of understanding original sin: evolutionary, existential, and social (53). His explanation makes sense for an educated Christian who is seeking a deeper meaning to original sin today. The genius of the text, though, is the coupling of the doctrine with its meaning in the journey of the Christian. So, not only is Haight’s understanding of original sin clear, it makes sense in the life of the individual reader.
Chapter seven’s treatment of the Paschal Mystery from a “historical” perspective is particularly helpful for the reader. He notes how the few historical details that are present are enough to draw theological interpretations. Each of the details of the death of Christ offer an entry into a deep spirituality for the reader. Likewise, in his treatment of the Resurrection, Haight is able to make an often confusing doctrine make sense for the reader.
Spirituality Seeking Theology is a comprehensive text that guides the reader over confusing terrain in the search for a relationship with God. Haight does not neglect any significant Christian doctrine. This comprehensiveness can lead to some confusion for a reader who is not sufficiently schooled in theology. There are sections in which the presentation of theology might seem to over shadow the primary goal he set forth in the introduction. However, this challenge is not insurmountable. Though the text presumes some familiarity with the major facets of theology, it is not out of reach for a parishioner who has access to a handy reference work. Haight is clear in his writing and his footnotes are helpful as well. He notes when he is following the thoughts of other theologians, so, if the reader wanted a fuller treatment of the topic, it would be easy to find. The book is clearly geared towards those seeking to move beyond a simplistic understanding of spirituality to a spirituality that sees in Christ a model to follow.