The Eye of the Storm
Mystical Theology in Dialogue with Teacher Education
Keywords:religious education, mystical theology, teacher education, religious literacy, religious experience, interdisciplinarity, Hadewijch
In this interdisciplinary paper we explore ways in which medieval mystical theology can inspire religious education teachers in their work in the classroom. One of the major challenges to them is to (help to) understand the tension between religious literacy and religious experience. By using an experiential and imaginative rather than a rational theology, based on the work of the mystics, we hope to clarify this tension. Firstly, we describe the “hermeneutical storm”: a metaphor to understand the complexity of the religious learning process in the context of friction between worlds. Teachers bear witness and need to stand firm at the centre of this clash. Secondly, we present medieval mysticism as a frame of reference to deal with this situation that challenges the modern urge for rational control. We discuss the historical context of the democratization of mystical theology, the multiple genres and the imaginative language mystics use to guide their students during their personal development, exemplified by Hadewijch’s mystical experience as an interplay between Love and Reason. This imaginative theology can offer contemporary religious education teachers insight into the “hidden presence of God” when faced with hermeneutical storms in the classroom and can help them in clarifying the tension between religious literacy and experience.
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