Anda di halaman 1dari 8

What are Christian Spirituality and Spiritual Formation? Christian spirituality encompasses the entirety of the Christian life.

A holistic approach to faith, it includes our beliefs and practices, as well as the way we live our everyday lives. As believers, our friendships, our acts of kindness, and our inner thoughts and attitudes reflect our spiritual well-beingand contribute to our formationas much as our spiritual disciplines, corporate worship and active evangelism. Christian spirituality is the character of our actual, lived relationship with God through the Spirit of Christ, as describing our practice of relationship with Christ (Howard, 16). A certain caution should be used, however, when employing the term spirituality, since it finds wide usage today, often carrying overtones of New Age thought, Eastern religion and/or nature worship. When assessing spirituality, we must see if what is being purported is genuine Christianity, rooted in Scripture and centered on Christ as fully God and fully man. Christian Spiritual Formation Often used synonymously with Christian spirituality, the term spiritual formation is valuable because it highlights the process of growth in the life of a believer. The life of faith was never meant to be staticconversion is the starting line, not the place to set up camp for the remainder of our time on earth! We indeed are on a pilgrimage. John Bunyans famous work, Pilgrims Progress, is a classic devotional work on the process of spiritual growth. In his Confessions, Augustine of Hippo masterfully describes the inner journey he took from unbelief to faith in Christ, and then his growth in faith toward intimacy with God. The Spiritual Espousals by John Ruysbroeck (Ruusbroec) is a lesser known classic that systematically and insightfully depicts states of Christian growth. Perhaps the best recent discussion of the process of formation is M. Robert Mulholland, Invitation to a Journey. God Initiates: We respond God designed us to mature spiritually. We cannot cause our own growth or transform ourselvesno matter how hard we tryany more than we can save ourselves. Rather, the Lord is the author and perfecter of our faith (Heb 12:2), and the One who began a good work in us will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil 1: 6). God works in us to will and to do his good pleasure, states Philippians 2:13. Nevertheless, as verse 12 asserts, we have a role to play: we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. While God is the one who forms us, we must respond to the divine initiative. We have the responsibility of acting in obedience to the Lords commands. The very terms spiritual formation and spirituality imply the role of Gods Spirit in our growth. While prayer and Scripture study, spiritual direction and the practice of various disciplines, may all be part of our journey, it is the Holy Spirit who works in our lives to convict of sin, to transform us and to bear fruit in our lives (Gal 5:22-23). Our role is to live in accordance with the Spirit and allow ourselves to be controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit (Rom 8:1-17). We must keep in step with the Spiritwalking by the Holy Spirit, and being led by Gods Spirit (Gal 5:16-25). Spiritual formation, then, is the study or the science of our responding to what the Lord is doing in our lives. It looks at the process of spiritual growth and what our role is in that process. That 1

role includes intentional rhythms of prayer, solitude, Scripture, worship and other spiritual disciplines. It involves our response to trials and the unexpected circumstances of life. Our task entails the cultivation of godly friendships and self-sacrificial service to others. The study of spiritual formation also looks at the various stages of growth along the journey. Because most believers progress through similar steps in their maturation process, it is valuable to explore the dynamics of those common experiences in our pilgrimage. While not trying to fit everyone into the same mold, the discipline of spiritual formation seeks to offer insights, encouragement and direction, especially during dark and dry times of life. 2010 by Glenn E. Myers Selected Bibliography on Christian Spirituality and Spiritual Formation Augustine of Hippo. Confessions. Translated by Henry Chadwick. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. ISBN: 0-19-281774-4. Boa, Kenneth. Conformed to His Image: Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003. ISBN: 978-0-310-23848-5. Collins, Kenneth. Exploring Christian Spirituality: An Ecumenical Reader. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000. ISBN: 0-8010-2233-9. Dunham, Maxie. Alive in Christ: The Dynamic Process of Spiritual Formation. Nashville: Abingdon, 1982. Francis de Sales. Introduction to the Devout Life. Translated by John K. Ryan. New York, NY: Doubleday, 1955. Howard, Evan B. The Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2008. ISBN: 978-15874-30381. John Ruusbroec: The Spiritual Espousals and Other Works. Translated and edited by James A. Wiseman. In The Classics of Western Spirituality. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1985. ISBN: 0-8091-2729-6. Lawrenz, Mel. The Dynamics of Spiritual Formation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000. ISBN: 08010-9097-0. Lovelace, Richard F. Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1979. McGrath, Alister. Christian Spirituality: An Introduction. Oxford: Blackwell, 1999. ISBN: 9780-6312-1281-2. __________. The Christian Vision of God. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress, 2009. ISBN: 978-0-8006-3705-7. Mulholland, M. Robert. Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993. ISBN: 0-8308-1386-1. Packer, James I. Knowing God. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1973. ISBN: 0-87784770-3. Scorgie, Glen. A Little Guide to Christian Spirituality: Three Dimensions of Life with God. 2007. Smith, Gordon T. On the Way: A Guide to Christian Spirituality. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001. ISBN: 1-56783-237-6.

What is the Goal of Spiritual Formation? The goal of spiritual formation is Christian growth. That growth entails development of character, inner transformation and deepening friendship with God and others. First, spiritual formation means growth in character. The objective in the Christians life is not simply to get saved but to be changed into Christs character, conformed to Christs very image (Rom 8:29). In his Invitation to a Journey, Robert Mulholland provides a concise definition of spiritual formation as (1) a process (2) of being conformed (3) to the image of Christ (4) for the sake of others (p. 15). As Paul stated in Galatians 4:19, he was in labor until Christ is formed in us. Second, spiritual formation is inner transformationit is not simply conforming to a set of expected rules of conduct. Some Christian communities fall into this trap, assuming that outward compliant insures inner growth. Rather, formation means that we are in the process of a substantive metamorphosis. Sometimes referred to as the deeper Christian life, we are to be changed from the inside out by Gods work in our lives. We are to be transformed by the continual renewal of our minds (Rom 12:2). We become like what we worship. Thus as we adore the Lord and contemplate his glorious splendor, we are transformed from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18). Such inner transformation necessitates that we honestly face the manifestations of our old manthe old self or old natureoften referred to as the false self. We are called to put off the old nature that we all have because of the fall indeed, put to death that old selfand instead put on our new nature in Christ (see especially Eph 4: 17-32 and Col 3:1-17). Mulhollands Deeper Journey and various other works listed below provide practical guides to recognizing our old nature and walking in genuine transformation. Third, spiritual formation leads into ever-deepening intimacy with God. Christianity is not simply moral livingit is by necessity a personal relationship. From the opening chapters of Genesis through the final pages of the New Testament, God seeks a vibrant friendship with us as human persons. Even in his old age, the Apostle Paul prayed, I want to know Christ, desiring an ever deeper relationship with the Lord (Phil 3:10). In devotional classics, perhaps nowhere is that journey toward intimacy more beautifully described than in Teresa of Avilas Interior Castle. Christian Tradition Although the terminology of spiritual formation may be new in some Christian circles, the concept is clearly stated in the New Testament, using various phrases, such as putting on our new nature, walking in Spirit, bearing the fruit of the Spirit, and growing in sanctification. Such an emphasis upon Christian growth has followed through the centuries of the church, sometimes with different nomenclature: Moral theology Practical theology Christian education Christian living. The discipline of spiritual formation overlaps substantial with each of these fields. While each of these terms has a slightly different emphasis and approaches Christian formation from a unique angle, all share the same goal of transformation and growth in Christ. 3

2010 by Glenn E. Myers Selected Bibliography Barton, Ruth Haley. Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing Gods Transforming Presence. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004. ISBN: 0-8308-2386-7. Bridges, Jerry. The Pursuit of Holiness. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005. ISBN: 1-57683463-8. Crabb, Larry. Inside Out. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1990. ISBN: 08910-91963. Hougen, Judith. Transformed into Fire: An Invitation to Life in the True Self. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2002. ISBN: 0-8254-2890-4. Houston, James M. In Pursuit of Happiness: Finding Genuine Fulfillment in Life. Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1996. Manning, Brennan. Abbas Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1994. May, Gerald G. Addiction and Grace. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988. ISBN: 0-06-0655372. Mulholland, M. Robert. The Deeper Journey: The Spirituality of Discovering Your True Self. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006. ISBN: 0-8308-3277-7. __________. Invitation to a Journey: A Road Map for Spiritual Formation. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993. ISBN: 0-8308-1386-1. Smith, Gordon T. Beginning Well: Christian Conversion and Authentic Transformation. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001. Teresa of Avila. Interior Castle. Translated by E. Allison Peers. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1961. ISBN: 0-385-03643-4. Thrall, Bill, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch. TrueFaced: Trust God and Others with Who you Really Are. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2003. ISBN: 1-57683-446-8. Thomas, Gary. Sacred Pathways: Discover Your Souls Path to God. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996/2002. ISBN: 0-310-24284-3. Tozer, A. W. The Pursuit of God. Harrisburg, PA: Christian Publications, 1982. ISBN: 0-87509366-3. Willard, Dallas. The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering our Hidden Life in God. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998. __________. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002.

What is Spiritual Theology? Perhaps the strongest term for Christian spirituality is spiritual theology. Our lived faith can never be separated from our understanding of God as revealed in his Word. This is what separates true Christian Spirituality from the many other spiritualities in circulation today. The term spiritual theology is valuable because it seeks to keep together the content of our faith as Christians and the outworking of that faith in our lives. Traditional Use of the Term Classically, spiritual theology has been the academic study of Christian formation. It has been divided into two fields: ascetic theology and mystical theology. Ascetic theology focuses upon what we term discipleship today. It looks at our training (askesis), especially in terms of practicing various spiritual disciplines, as practical steps in putting to death our old nature of sin so that we can walk in the freedom of the Spirit. Building upon that foundation of discipleship, mystical theology looks upon our intimate encounter with God. What we call experiencing Gods presence in prayer or feeling God in worship, is what Christian mysticism is about. While the word mystic has developed a negative connotation in its contemporary usage, in its classical usage it simply emphasizes the heart-felt love for God and the experiential relationship with the Lord to which all believers are called. Although the term spiritual theology has maintained this traditional, narrower definition since the nineteenth centuryand though it was often seen as a subset of systematic theologythe term today often carries a broader connotation. In particular, spiritual theology seeks to integrate our faith with our practice, especially emphasizing the Trinitarian foundation of our Christian faith. God is a Trinity of Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit Christian Spirituality, by definition, needs to be Trinitarian. Orthodox Christianity has always worshiped a God who exists eternally as three Persons. God is love (1 John 4:8), and by definition love is essentially relational. From all eternity the Father and the Son share intimate communion with each other, as seen especially throughout the Gospel of John. By the Holy Spirit, the Godhead invites us to participate in that love relationship. Our Trinitarian faith shapes our relationship with the Lord. Spiritual formation is essentially relational. God is personal. That personal God invites us into the same love relationship that the Father and Son share (see John 17). For a valuable discussion of Trinitarian theology and spirituality, see Philip Sheldrakes Spirituality and Theology: Christian Living and the Doctrine of God. Spiritual theology keeps our Christian formation from becoming simply one more selfimprovement program on the market. It ties our practice with our personal relationship with God. Moreover, it emphasizes that relational character of our livesspiritual growth is lived out in friendships with others and friendship with God. 2010 by Glenn E. Myers Selected Bibliography Spiritual Theology and Theological Anthropology 5

Allen, Diogenes. Spiritual Theology: The Theology of Yesterday for Spiritual help Today. Cambridge/Boston: Cowley Publications, 1997. Chan, Simon. Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998. Grenz, Stanley J. The Social God and the Relational Self. Knoxville: Westminster John Knox, 2001. Houston, James M. The Prayer: Deepening Your Friendship with God. Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2007. ISBN: 07814-44268. McIntosh, Mark A. Mystical Theology: The Integrity of Spirituality and Theology. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 1998. ISBN: 1-55786-907-3. Sheldrake, Philip. Spirituality and Theology: Christian Living and the Doctrine of God. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1998. ISBN: 1-5707-5224-9. Torrance, Alan J. Persons in Communion: Trinitarian Description and Human Participation. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996. Zizioulas, John. Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimirs Seminary Press, 1985, 1997. ISBN: 0-8814-10292. __________. Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church. Edited by Paul McPartlan. New York, NY: T&T Clark, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-56703-1488.

How does Christian Spirituality Fit with Evangelicalism? While the concepts of the Christian growth and maturity have always been a part of biblical faith, the terminology of spiritual formation is rather new to evangelicalism. The year 1978 served as a watershed as Richard Foster published his first edition of Celebration of Discipline and James Houston assumed the Chair of Spiritual Theology at Regent College. Although a few Evangelical publishers have been reluctant to broach the subject, most have recognized that spiritual formation is part of the mainstream of evangelical faith. A quick look at the bibliography below shows the tip of the iceberg of evangelical works on spiritual formation and the history of Christian spirituality. As mentioned previously, there is good reason to be cautious about anything promoting spirituality in our day, since so much of what is written comes from a perspective of New Age or Eastern Religion. An alarming number of Protestant and Catholic writingsas well as retreat centershave uncritically adopted New Age thought. Nevertheless, we do not need to abandon the concept of Christian growth simply because various writers and speakers have distorted it. While soundly biblical and evangelical, the study of Christian spirituality or spiritual formation includes a much broader Christian discussion. Such a broader approach is absolutely necessary to save evangelical thought from its limited perspective. Because of this broader appreciation of the Christian faith, many fundamentalists will not subscribe to the developments in Christian spiritual formation. Nevertheless, the vast majority of evangelicalism recognizes its value. Throughout the centuries, great figures have clearly articulated Jesus atonement and salvation by grace, especially Augustine of Hippo, Bernard of Clairvaux, Anselm of Canterbury, and lesser known figures such as the German preacher Johannes Tauler. Although many Protestants today do not realize it, Martin Luther and John Calvin deeply appreciated Augustine, building most of their theology on the foundation he laid. They also respected Bernard, with his unflagging commitment to Scripture, and Anselm, with his emphasis on Christs substitutionary atonement on the cross. Luther stated that next to the Bible itself, the Johannes Tauler had the greatest impact on his theology. Therefore, spiritual formation today seeks to bring the writings of such key figures to a contemporary audience. Thus the best thinking on spiritual formation includes Protestant, Roman Catholic and Orthodox perspectivesall Christians who recognize that faith must be lived out personally in a vital relationship with Christ and who receive salvation through Christs death and literal resurrection. Such an orthodox understanding of the faith has always been part of the historic Church and is perhaps summarized most clearly by the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed.

2010 by Glenn E. Myers Selected Bibliography on Christian Spirituality and Evangelicalism Bloesch, Donald G. Spirituality Old and New: Recovering Authentic Spiritual Life. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-8308-2838-8. Chan, Simon. Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998. 7

Foster, Richard J. Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christian Faith. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1998. ISBN: 0-06-062822-7. Foster, Richard and Gayle Beebe. Longing for God: Seven Paths of Christian Devotion. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2005. ISBN: 978-0-8308-3514-0. George, Timothy and Alister McGrath. For All the Saints: Evangelical Theology and Christian Spirituality. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2003. ISBN: 06642-26655. Gordon, James M. Evangelical Spirituality: From the Wesleys to John Stott. London: SPCK, 1991. ISBN: 0-2810-4542-9. Richards, Lawrence O. A Practical Theology of Spirituality. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987. ISBN: 0-310-39140-7. McGrath, Alister. Beyond the Quiet Time: Practical Evangelical Spirituality. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995. ISBN: 0-8010-5708-6. __________. Spirituality in an Age of Change: Rediscovering the Spirit of the Reformers. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994. ISBN: 0-3104-2921-8. Schmidt, Richard H. God Seekers: Twenty Centuries of Christian Spiritualities. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008. ISBN: 978-0-8028-2840-8. Scorgie, Glen, et al, eds. Dictionary of Christian Spirituality. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2010. Sittser, Gerald. Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007.