Spiritualitas—Another Reformation of Martin Luther

Pilgrim W. K. LO

A new movement of spirituality during the late 80’s of the last century in Hong Kong expresses interest in contemporaries like Richard Foster, Mother Teresa and Henri Nouwen. With respect to spirituality Protestant Christians are no longer under the influence of the great Chinese spiritual leaders of the middle-20th Century, such as Watchman Nee and Wang Mingdao; instead, they turn to the Western Church for the heritage of Christian spirituality.

Christian spirituality has a very rich heritage through the millennia and the Chinese Christian Church should learn from it regardless of denominational differences; however, it is unwise to follow any denomination or tradition blindly. Martin Luther’s reformation of spiritual formation provides a good example. As a monk of the Augustinian friary he dedicated himself to monastic life, devoting himself to fasting, confession, prayer, and pilgrimage, just as the Roman Church taught with regard to sanctification. He was once a follower of Dionysius the Areopagite, practicing the spiritual exercises of monastic mysticism. But after he had discovered the theology of the cross and the Gospel of justification by faith in the letters of Paul, he contributed to the reformation of the Church not only by correcting the wrong teaching of the scholasticism, but by correcting the practice of spiritual exercise too. He transformed lectiomeditatio, oratio and contemplatio of the LectioDivina to oratiomeditatio and tentatio for studying theology as the correct way of understanding and communicating with God. Moreover, he criticized the ImitatioChristi of the late medieval spiritual formation, for in his view Imitatio Christi was wrongly understood as imitatio operis; consequently, he advocated ConformitasChristi. This was because ConformitasChristi emphasizes imitatiomentis, namely to have the spirit of Christ which is the essence of ConformitasChristi and the foundation of imitatiooperis. With respect to the concern for spirituality of Protestant Christians in Hong Kong, Luther’s theological understanding and reform of spirituality are worth learning.