Oro, Ergo Sum: The Pedagogy of Spiritual Formation Among Protestant Seminarians in the United States: Toward a Post-Cartesian Framework
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Contemporary Protestant seminaries have been built, largely, on the university model established in Berlin in the 19th century, especially with its commitment to Enlightenment epistemology and its rejection of spirituality (and subjectivity) as knowledge. As such, these seminaries are often thoroughly modernist institutions, grounded in a positivist and “scientist” mode of knowing grounded in Cartesian epistemology. Students in seminary often find the process devoid of spiritually formative experiences insofar as seminary education tends to value rational, intellectual knowledge and devalue experiential, spiritual knowledge. This study seeks to describe and understand the experience of spiritual formation by seminary graduates currently involved in ministry. It seeks to do so using the tools of phenomenological study in order to describe and thickly as possible the ways in which the participants experienced spiritual formation, both within and without their lives in seminary. The study employs spiritual autobiography, akin to autoethnography and testimonio, in order to facilitate participants’ description of these formative moments in their spiritual lives. Engaging the data from the standpoint of critical realism as a theoretical framework, the study attempts to interweave the participants’ experiences with literature surrounding spiritual formation and seminary education in order to provide a holistic examination of the ways in which seminary education, with its commitment to Cartesian epistemology as well as Enlightenment commitments to rational ways of knowing, has facilitated or discouraged spiritual formation. The hope of the study is to offer insight into ways in which seminaries, as institutions thoroughly grounded in modernity, might adapt to a post-modern age and offer a course truly transformative study for students seeking to be spiritually formed into the imago dei.