When I discovered that the word salvation means “wholeness,” my eyes were open to a new way of viewing Jesus’ words and works. I saw that he was essentially about taking life fragments (of whatever kind) and putting them back together. Even the atonement (at-one-ment) bespeaks the ultimate reconciliation between the fallen world and God.
So, I was happy to see Henri Nouwen leading off his section on mature spiritual movements by describing the journey from exclusivity to integration. And as Nouwen puts it, this journey leads us into greater mystery and larger community (p 90). His words are further interpreted by the phrase that Richard Rohr uses to describe essentially the same thing: unitive thinking.
My own tradition, the Wesleyan tradition, advocates the same movement in the phrase “conjunctive theology” (see Paul Chilcote’s book, ‘Recapturing the Wesley’s Vision’). And my new book, ‘Fresh Wind Blowing’ represents a growing conviction that God’s new pentecost is about a coming together of people and things which have previously been separated.
It is a spiritual application of the phrase, “The whole is greater than the sum if its parts.” And I believe it is the principle that Jesus used to challenge the sectarian mindset of the Jewish religious leaders: “I have sheep which are not of this fold.”
Mature spiritual formation is about nailing down the Center (“Jesus is Lord”), and then expanding the circumference to include more territory than a single tradition can contain. It is about removing walls that divide– about building bridges to connect opposite riverbanks.
And as Henri Nouwen goes on to show, this is a movement that occurs inside our lives, as well as outside.