Wherever the concept of religion as used in science of religions becomes predominant, "religion" is mostly understood in a general, generic sense. It is described in its phenomena, structures and historical data; there is hardly an invitation to identify oneself with the study object "religion." Personally the individual scholar might belong to a certain religious community; however, he can just stand totally aloof from any religion. Since "religion" today has little to do with its original historical meaning, in the meantime together with the concept for the organization "religion" another concept gains ground. It refers to the subjective religious existence of the individual: religiosity.5
5 I thank Dr. Irfan Omar for calling attention to the different use of the term Islam. See M. Ayoub, Islam and the Challenge of Religious Pluralism, in: Global Dialogue (Nicosia, Cyprus) 2/2 (2006), p. 62: "Islam is not, according
"Religiosity" refers to a human person as existentially related to God, and begins with the inside of religion. It stresses not so much the belonging to a religious organization or community, but rather the core and origin of a religious way. People are religious who form their life from the center of their faith and live by being inspired by faith.
Actually "inspiration" is a theological concept which is especially used when we talk about the origin of Holy Scripture. It refers to the "Holy Spirit" who guided the author in the writing. The way we use the term here directs our view to the people of today as far as they are enlivened by the Spirit. In Christian understanding it is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son.6 How much the attention of the public is focused today on the Spirit, is evident when we realize that instead of "religiosity" more often people speak about spirituality. "Spirituality" includes the Latin spiritus, which in Greek is pneuma and in Hebrew ruach. Actually the gender of the terms changes in the different languages, which indicates that the question of gender is unimportant with regard to the Spirit. However, considering the importance of Jesus Christ some change in emphasis cannot be overlooked. For a long time logos-Christology was predominant, because theological interest concentrated on the connection between Jesus and the divine Word (Greek logos). In our days the interest shifted to the relation of Jesus and his Spirit (Greek pneuma) and his activity and salvific effectiveness even in the kosmos so that a pneuma-Christology developed.
to the Qur'an and early Prophetic tradition, the name of a religion. Rather, it signifies the attitude of the entire creation before God. The term islam in this sense applies to the heavens and the earth and all that is in them, to humankind and to everything that God created. This is the first and universal plane of the meaning of the term islam. On another plane, islam applies to any human being or human communities, which profess faith in the one God and seek to obey God in all they do and say... The Qur' an clearly distinguishes between Islam as an institutionalized religion and islam as the framework of true faith (Iman) and righteous living (Ihsan) The third and most concrete plane of islam is the Islam of a given community, following a particular divine law, revealed to a particular prophet. In the case of Islam, it is the sacred law (sharia) revealed to the Prophet Muhammad."
6 See H. Waldenfels, Gott. Auf der Suche nach dem Lebensgrund. Benno: Leipzig 2nd ed. 1997, pp. 73-86.
Spiritus is derived from Latin spirare = to breathe, to inhale and exhale. "Breath" is what animates a person, vivifies him and creates him ever anew. "Spirit" is the atmosphere which surrounds us. At first glance it is without form and shape; it cannot be touched and comprehended. Precisely for that reason it is not at our disposal, but reversely humans and all animals as well are at the disposal of the spirit. In Christian understanding in which God is personal, Holy Spirit, too, is a "person." Walter Kasper once asserted that we cannot deny the positive character of the occidental concept of person to the all-comprising spirit because in its power and might it cannot be placed below human personality but only above.7This applies to the Holy Spirit. He cannot be less or below human personality and thus impersonal, in case of doubt he can only be super- or trans-personal.
For two reasons I would like to discuss the concept of person here expressly. First, the concept of person developed relatively late and entered occidental philosophy and Christian theology differently. In philosophy Boethius (480-524/5) defined "person" as "naturae rationalis individua substantia" (= individual substance of a rational nature), in other words, he determined it as human individuality. In such a way "person" has been understood in the history of the western civilization up to the present time. "Person" implies human singularity which cannot be communicated any further (Latin in-communicabilis), and it contains the mystery which is given with every single human being. In theology, however, we speak about "three persons" in one God. Consequently, individuality in the way of three substances which would lead to a belief in three gods had to be excluded. Instead the true essence of"person" in God was understood as "relation" so that we meet in God with the interrelatedness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. According to Gisbert Grehake,8 both elements of the concept - "individuality" resp. "incommunicability" as ultimate being-oneself and "relationality" as radical openness-for-any-communication - have theological roots. Only in the middle of the last century both lines joined to the point that a human person is seen both as an individual and a relational being. In our days this concept of "person" is highly important for the discussions in comparative anthropology and interfaith dialogue, especially while
7 See W. Kasper, Glaube und Geschichte. Grünewald: Mainz 1970, pp.136f.
8 See G.Greshake, Der dreieine Gott. Eine trinitarische Theologie. Herder: Freiburg 1997.
discussing the understanding of human beings in Asia, in India and in China.
A second deliberation had to clarify whether in the case of personality we have to think from God to man or from man to God. In the first case the perfect realization of personality is being found in the triune God, and the human person is only a limited image of divine personality. In the second case human personality in its limitations has to be broken up into a super- or trans-personality in God. The Japanese philosopher Keiji Nishitani (1900-1990) interpreted the western concept of person in the sense of Descartes' ego as a limited individuality which in its radical egocentrism needed to be broken up. Consequently he opted for a concept of person which overcomes all limitations; he did it by confronting it with or holding it in what he calls "absolute nothingness" or "emptiness" (Sanskrit sunyata). Nevertheless, contrary to many Asian thinkers, he confesses: "The idea of man as person is without doubt the highest idea of man yet to appear. The same may be said of the idea of God as person."9
Thus religiously living means living by virtue of the Holy Spirit who works in a religion or on a religious path. However, as we ask for the "true God" among all gods, we have to ask also for the true Spirit among the spirits. The first question about the true God has been solved in a first step where we overcome the multitude of gods - polytheism - by the vote for one God - monotheism. In a second step the question has to be discussed whether the one God whom is spoken about in the various religions, is truly one and the same God. This could be illustrated by looking at the different estimations of the God of Islam, Allah, and the Jewish God, Jahwe, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whom Christians adore also as the God of Jesus Christ. In view of Allah, there are on the one hand those who identify Allah and Jahwe - they are the majority; on the other hand there are others who emphatically doubt or even deny it. The contest for one God is unfinished.
Less distinct than the question of God and gods is the question of Spirit and spirits, even less the question of the total loss and absence of spirit, although many segments of life appear spiritless and simply dull. Different from the theological discussion of the question of God,
9 See K. Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness. University of California Press: Berkeley - Los Angeles 1982, p.69; see also H. Waldenfels, Absolute Nothingness. Foundations for a Buddhist-Christian Dialogue. Paulist: New York 1980.
there is a long history of the discernment of spirits, Latin discretio spirituum; it starts long before the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, which by itself has become a very important date in the history of spirituality, of spiritual practice and methodology. We can easily imagine that the theme gains a high grade of actuality in today's encounter of religions, especially where we experience it as an intersection of spiritualities. Spirituality, spiritual practice, and spiritual experiences receive a new momentum in a time where institutional strengths of religious communities and spiritual weaknesses contradict each other. In fact the admonition which late Pope John Paul II gave in his letter to the German Cardinals and the German Church on January 22, 2001 hits the point:
Gratefully I confirm that the Church in your country possesses solid organizational structures and is present in public life by many institutions. At the same time we cannot overlook that an increasing number of people withdraw themselves from an active life of faith or accept the Gospel and the ecclesial doctrines only partially. The progressing process of secularization and the loss of faith connected with it threaten the Church to become undermined from within, so that it might be appear strong from the outside, it is true, but interiorly it gets weak and loses its authenticity.
In our days religion and religiosity fit together like structure and content. Where religion exhausts itself in elements of structures, it tends to become a museum, which holds its interest, but does not stand for vital energy. Therefore, today's call for spirituality in all religions is an invitation to consider the sources from which a religion lives.
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