Mysticism and Pragmatism: An Interview with Dr. Keith Anderson

This week on The Allender Center Podcast, Dan Allender continues a conversation with his long-time friend and colleague Dr. Keith Anderson, President of The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology and author of the recent book A Spirituality of Listening: Living What We Hear. Dan and Keith begin by talking about the section of the book in which Keith addresses how to read stories—including the story of your own life—from a variety of perspectives, like that of a reporter, artist, exegete, geographer, English teacher, classmate, writer, and librarian.

Keith: “The geographer looks for a point of view in a way that is different than the English teacher might. But I think each of those are an invitation to a rich school of ways of reading. There isn’t just one way. There are many ways that can draw us into the text and then become helpful for us as we try to listen for God in our lives.”

After Keith shares a beautiful story of an encounter with the writer and priest Brennan Manning, Dan asks about how Keith’s penchant for poetry and mysticism interacts with his Scandinavian pragmatism and his demanding role as President of The Seattle School.

Keith: “I have tried, often, to sit well with spiritual retreats and silence, and have in fact learned to do that reasonably well, but I’ve been drawn to wonder if our listening is also limited by our belief that somehow there are only a few spiritual practices through which God speaks.”

Even in the rigorous work of a graduate school President, Keith is reminded of what it means to listen well and to live with both pragmatism and mysticism when he remembers the mission of The Seattle School, reflecting on what it means to live toward an embodiment of text.soul.culture. “We have to live between pragmatism and mysticism,” he says. “As people of faith, we’re called to live in a world under the power of principalities, and we either believe that and engage it, or we move into the deism of much of our culture and far too many of our churches.”

Dan and Keith go on to talk about the ways Jesus looked for and listened for the Kingdom of God, and about the bold, beautiful way that the book of Deuteronomy invites us to listen for God. By the end of this episode, we think you’ll agree when Dan says that Keith’s words and ideas are far too thoughtful and beautiful to fit into two episodes—so tune in next week for the third and final installment of this conversation.