A Christian spirituality of imperfection: Towards a pastoral theology of descent within the praxis of orthopathy



Christian spirituality of imperfection, Theology of ascent, Theology of descent, Orthopathy


The endeavour towards perfectionism in a praxis pietatis is most of the time described and portrayed as the preferential “narrow way”, resulting in a kind of “theology of ascent” (the legalistic upgrading of human beings equipped with super, spiritual abilities). Rather than a spirituality of self-improvement, the article proposes a theology of descent (engaging with human suffering, weakness, brokenness, frailty, and imperfection), as well as a paradigm shift from orthodoxy to orthopathy. In a theology of descent, the following question emerges: How does the pastoral ministry address the painful realities of failure and existential imperfection as related to the limitations of suffering human beings? The author develops a Christian spirituality of imperfection, which implies the following spiritual movements of the human soul, namely from having to sharing; from possession to communion; from competition to compassion, from withdrawal to solidarity; from estrangement to engagement, and from hostility to hospitality. In this regard, Henri Nouwen’s notion of a “wounded healer”
plays a decisive role.


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