CUP Undergraduate Research


The Dialectic of Contemplation and Action: The Mystical Struggle of Christian Sanctification

Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2009

Document Type

Restricted Access Thesis


College of Theology, Arts, & Sciences



Degree Name

Theology, BA

First Advisor

Dr. Norman Metzler


Contemplation and action has been a common theme in Christian writings and in Church practice over the centuries. Authors and practitioners have struggled to determine how contemplative experience of God and active service toward neighbor interact and what role each of the two aspects play in the Christian life. Simultaneously, the Christian life has often been summarized as the life of sanctification, which, in the more recent developments of futurist and process theology, has been viewed as a transformative process rather than a static state. If contemplation and action are the two poles of the Christian life, and if that same Christian life is summarized as the process of sanctification, then the question arises as to how contemplation and action relate to that process of sanctification. Do contemplation and action serve sanctifying functions? If so, what functions? How do contemplation and action interact in the sanctified life?

In order to answer the overarching question of how contemplation and action relate to sanctification, the author conducted a literature review of the topics of prayer, contemplation and action, the doctrine of sanctification, Christian mysticism, and philosophical systems. Biblical study of sanctification and Christian mysticism was also conducted. Following this research, the author used a creative, systematic approach to arrive at three answers. First, contemplation and action function as a dialectic connecting sanctification to the developments of futurist and process theology. Second, through contemplation and action, the existential experience of the dialectic is understood as sanctifying struggle. Third, the dialectic becomes participatory Christ mysticism in which we put on Christ’s lifestyle of contemplation and action and become “Christ-like,” which is validly asserted as synonymous with being sanctified.

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