1. What is Spiritual Formation?

Spiritual formation is God’s work of spiritual maturation in the life of a believer. Christians are called to become more like Jesus Christ through the process of the Spirit’s sanctifying work. This call, nonetheless, raises questions: What does this process of growth look like? Why don’t I always feel God’s presence? Where is God in the midst of the mundane? While many Christians affirm that Christianity is a relationship rather than a religion, equally as many feel confused, frustrated and bewildered by models of growth built solely upon diligence, hard work and self-effort. The “relationship” with God in Jesus seems pushed behind everything I am doing. Spiritual formation seeks to answer what it means to live in dependence upon God, trusting in his faithfulness for true Spirit-empowered growth.

  1. What is Spiritual Direction?

Spiritual direction is a ministry God uses to open believers’ hearts more deeply to His love, and provides a context for deeper discernment for His will. The Metamorpha spiritual direction ministry consists of a network of evangelical spiritual directors throughout the United States and United Kingdom. The spiritual direction ministry also integrates two other areas of ministry. First, Metamorpha provides spiritual direction in both group and individual formats at a variety of retreat offerings. Second, Metamorpha provides supervision services for ministry teams and church staffs. Supervision is provided for spiritual directors on the Metamorpha team as needed, but is also provided in a church consulting fashion.

  1. What are Spiritual Classics?

Spiritual classics are works that have proven themselves in the history of the church to be particularly fruitful for one’s devotional life. Some of these books, many of them actually, fall outside of the evangelical tradition. This should not cause us to avoid reading these works, but to read them with proper discernment. This can be, to put it lightly, difficult. Because we at Metamorpha Ministries are particularly concerned about evangelical spiritual formation, and helping evangelicals to think evangelically about the nature of formation, we have edited a book to help people read spiritual classics as evangelicals (see A Guide to Christian Spiritual Classics, ed. Jamin Goggin and Kyle Strobel (IVP Academic, forthcoming).

  1. What is the Evangelical Spirituality Initiative?

The Evangelical Spirituality Initiative is a Metamorpha Ministries project to help evangelicals grasp the nature of the Christian life with specifically evangelical concerns in mind. While Protestants have a rich history of spirituality, often people turn to Catholic spirituality because it is often more readily accessible. The main problem with this is that Catholic spirituality depends upon theological presuppositions that evangelicals tend to deny, such as the nature of the church, salvation, monastic orders, etc., all of which form Catholic spirituality. Instead, as evangelicals, those involved in the Evangelical Spirituality Initiative are devoted to mining distinctively Protestant and evangelical resources to help form how we live as those devoted to Christ. Evangelical theology should form evangelical spirituality, and when it does not, it ceases to be evangelical in any meaningful sense of the word (for more on this, see link on “Theology and Spirituality” and “Reforming Spiritual Formation”).

  1. Isn’t Spiritual Formation Catholic?

This is a particularly troubling question that continues to come up in discussions of spiritual formation. It is troubling because it is not often an honest question, but an attempt to trap someone into an answer that will make them sound less than evangelical (the Pharisees often are seen doing similar things to Jesus). That said, there certainly are people who genuinely have this question so we will provide an answer here. In short, the answer to this question is the same answer as the question: Isn’t Church Catholic? Just as there are Catholic and Protestant forms of church, there are Catholic and Protestant forms of spiritual formation. We will talk about those things in many different ways, but just as in the nature of the church, there will, at times, be significant overlap. For a quick example, Protestant forms of spiritual formation will follow along the lines of a Protestant understanding of salvation (see Reforming Spiritual Formation article). Rather than attempting to tag something as “Catholic,” which isn’t a valuable way to judge the value of something, we find it more important to address the imperatives and directions of the biblical text in an attempt to be faithful to the call of Christ.

  1. What are the Problems with Spiritual Formation?

It would be a mistake (and incredibly naïve) to assume that there are not problems with the spiritual formation conversation. In fact, it would be a mistake to neglect how deep some of these problems run. Rather than deal with them here, we will list several of the key problems we perceive and focus our attention on how we plan to address those problems. There is, we suggest, a distinctively Christian way to focus on problems in church conversations, one that is more often than not neglected.

First, theology and spirituality have been divorced, hurting both discussions (see our discussion of this issue in the Theology and Spirituality FAQ).

Second, and building upon the first concern, is the fact that spirituality is developed as if it can somehow be abstracted away from central doctrinal commitments. For instance, one’s belief in justification by faith alone, the nature of the church and the church’s ordinances, and things like the nature of sanctification will form one’s understanding of spirituality. Instead, many in the conversation act as if a discussion of spirituality is completely isolated from our other doctrinal commitments. Doing so is nothing short of selling out to the world’s development of spirituality. If this does not change, the spiritual formation conversation will inevitably be fruitless and short lived. One of our desires as a ministry is to help change this, focusing on our evangelical theological commitments.

Third, again, building on what has already been noted, because of the lack of deep theological insight driving the conversation, it is governed primarily by non-theological disciplines. Sociology, psychology, philosophy and other disciplines like education are given prominence in orienting spirituality. When this happens, we suggest, what ends up being developed is an account of human formation that is merely colored by Christian themes, rather than a robustly Christian account of a Spirit-driven formation.

Fourth, as a fruit of the problems noted above, accounts of spiritual formation can often end up being little more than advanced forms of self-help.

Fifth, in certain areas of the spiritual formation conversation, the objective reality of the Gospel is almost entirely given up for the subjective reality. In this sense, if something doesn’t have specific and immediate existential import into my life, then it is not important. Along these same lines, this error can feed into central truths of Christianity, re-reading them to be existential realities alone.

Sixth (and this is one of the more subtle errors), people can come to believe, mistakenly, that spiritual formation is primarily about me. Rather, we suggest, spiritual formation is primarily about God’s work of redemption, securing a people through the blood of Christ for God’s own use. Spiritual formation is not about becoming a better person, fixing one’s life, or getting one’s relationships in order. These may be fruits of spiritual formation, depending on how they are understood, but are not its primary focus. The focus of spiritual formation is always God, in Christ, by the illuminating presence of the Spirit (For more on this, see the question, “Is Spiritual Formation Dangerous?”). Spiritual formation is not about growth, per se, but about faith and grace. If growth becomes our goal, then God ceases to be.

It is no secret that evangelical Christianity has become somewhat enamored with a self-help oriented gospel. The idea of counting the cost is usually left to the wayside, replaced with a “here’s what Jesus can do for you” message. The shape this takes in spiritual formation is in making the tools of spirituality into leverage for a better life – or a life more free from guilt, shame, suffering, etc. – or simply a way to become successful (defined in a variety of ways). Growth becomes the very idol that shuns true growth, and focuses in on self-improvement rather than a true openness to God. Sadly, I believe the evangelical church has nourished this idol through its endless desire to satisfy congregations whims out of fear of losing them to other churches. Preaching, worship and small groups become focused on what will keep people rather than what will actually help true growth – a deep and abiding relationship with God, through Christ, by the illuminating and sanctifying work of the Spirit. Of all the various temptations we face when living the Christian life, the idol of growth is often the most subtle, being praised for its “devotion” and “fruit.”

 

  1. Is Spiritual Formation Biblical?

It is not necessarily an easy question to point to specific passages that show spiritual formation to be biblical, not because those passages do not exist, but because spiritual formation is so central to the heart of the Gospel that it undergirds the entire biblical witness. Take Romans 12:1, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Or, Romans 6:12-14, “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.” Or, again, John 15:5, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” Spiritual formation addresses these realities and many more, such as what it may mean to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29), that God is at work within you (Philippians 2:13), that we are not sufficient in ourselves (2 Corinthians 3:5) and that we are to put on the new self, being renewed in the spirit of our minds (Ephesians 4:24, 23).

Spiritual formation sets out to answer the imperatives of the Christian life as set out in the Bible. Or, in other words, when the Word of God offers descriptions and imperatives of the Christian life, those of us in spiritual formation ask, “What does it mean that…?” For example, What does it mean to pray without ceasing? (1 Thessalonians 5:17) What does it mean that we should set our minds on Christ, seated at the right hand of God? (Colossians 3:1-2) What does it mean that the Father has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His Son? (Colossians 1:13) Really, what does that mean for life now? How we answer these and the hundreds of other biblical mandates will form our understanding of the Christian life. Answering these questions according to the lived reality of life under God is the imperative for spiritual formation.

Spiritual formation is biblical because its whole identity is formed by the call of the Scriptures to be transformed into the image of the Son, Christ Jesus. If you have genuine questions about how biblical this is, please reference one of several of the books listed below. The introductory and intermediate books, in one way or another, lay out the biblical case for spiritual formation. The advanced books offer some deeper theological reflection on the nature of spiritual formation.

Introductory

    • Spiritual Formation: Ever Forming, Never Formed, by Peter K. Nelson (Biblica, 2010).
    • Knowing Grace: Cultivating a Lifestyle of Godliness, by Joanne Jung (Biblica, 2011).
    • Invitation to a Journey: A Roadmap for Spiritual Formation, by M. Robert Mulholland (IVP Books, 1993).
    • The Knowledge of the Holy, and The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer (multiple editions).
    • Soul Keeping: Ancient Paths of Spiritual Direction, by Howard Baker (NavPress, 1998).

Intermediate

    • Keep in Step with the Spirit, by J.I. Packer (Baker Books, 2005).
    • Knowing God, by J.I. Packer (IVP, 1977).
    • Satisfy Your Soul: Renewing the Heart of Christian Spirituality, by Bruce Demarest (NavPress, 1999).

Advanced

Classic

    • Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections (many editions).
    • Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits (many editions). See new edition, Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Love of God, ed. Kyle Strobel (Crossway, forthcoming).
    • Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man (many editions).
    • John Owen, Communion with God (many editions).

Modern

  • Life in the Spirit: Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective, ed. Jeffrey P. Greenman (IVP Academic, 2010).
  • Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life, by Simon Chan (IVP Academic, 1998).
  • Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality, by Evan Howard (Brazos, 2008).
  1. If I want to start reading in the area of spiritual formation, where do I start?

The following is by no means a complete list, but will offer a taste of what is available in books on spiritual formation.

Introductory

    • Spiritual Formation: Ever Forming, Never Formed, by Peter K. Nelson (Biblica, 2010).
    • Knowing Grace: Cultivating a Lifestyle of Godliness, by Joanne Jung (Biblica, 2011).
    • Invitation to a Journey: A Roadmap for Spiritual Formation, by M. Robert Mulholland (IVP Books, 1993).
    • The Knowledge of the Holy, and The Pursuit of God, by A.W. Tozer (multiple editions).
    • Soul Keeping: Ancient Paths of Spiritual Direction, by Howard Baker (NavPress, 1998).

Intermediate

    • Keep in Step with the Spirit, by J.I. Packer (Baker Books, 2005).
    • Knowing God, by J.I. Packer (IVP, 1977).
    • Satisfy Your Soul: Renewing the Heart of Christian Spirituality, by Bruce Demarest (NavPress, 1999).

Advanced

Classic

    • Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections (many editions).
    • Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits (many editions). See new edition, Jonathan Edwards, Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Love of God, ed. Kyle Strobel (Crossway, forthcoming).
    • Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man (many editions).
    • John Owen, Communion with God (many editions).

Modern

  • Life in the Spirit: Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective, ed. Jeffrey P. Greenman (IVP Academic, 2010).
  • Spiritual Theology: A Systematic Study of the Christian Life, by Simon Chan (IVP Academic, 1998).
  • Brazos Introduction to Christian Spirituality, by Evan Howard (Brazos, 2008).
  1. Why does Spiritual Formation Matter? Or, Why Should I Care?

There is a certain reaction to spiritual formation that treats it as a temperament. In other words, just as some people are “coffee people,” “car people,” or maybe even “fashion people,” so, it is thought, there are just some people in the church who are into spirituality. Spirituality is treated like an add-on to the Christian life that is as arbitrary as one’s personal hobbies and interests. There are a couple of mistakes here. First, this understanding of spirituality is very worldly. The world offers something it calls “spirituality” that has nothing to do with Christ and his Spirit, but is simply about one’s own personal existential situation. It is a way, in short, to “better” oneself. Christian spirituality is not primarily concerned with being better, but with being holy. Even that, it should be said, is the wrong focus. Christian spirituality is concerned with Christ – and his call, through his Spirit, to be faithful followers of his. Second, as evangelicals, we come to this discussion with very specific evangelical ideas. One of those ideas, one we wholeheartedly believe in, is that Christianity is a life matter and not merely a Sunday morning matter. One’s beliefs about God, in short, form everything you do. Therefore, spirituality is not a personal hobby-horse of some who are so inclined, but should be one of the central conversations of followers of Christ. In this regard, we turn to our Puritan forebears (Jonathan Edwards, John Owen, John…just kidding, Henry Scougal, etc.) as fantastic examples of this (see the last FAQ question for a defense of the Puritans).

Spiritual formation is nothing short of the Christian life. It is the calling of Jesus’ followers to trust in him for more than just salvation, but for the Jesus way of life. It is a call to faith – to see the world the way he proclaimed it to be, and to trust that he, even now, reigns as our eternal prophet, priest, and king. Spiritual formation is not a periphery conversation, but is the nature of the Gospel played out in the day-to-day lives of people. It seeks to wrestle with the hard questions of the struggle to be made righteous, all the while grasping the depths of your own sin. To quote a Puritan prayer, “I am guilty, but pardoned, lost, but saved, wandering, but found, sinning, but cleansed” (The Valley of Vision, 151). This is not a personal hobby, but the call of all who call upon Jesus Christ as Lord.

  1. How does Spiritual Formation differ from Spirituality as offered by the World?

Another way of stating this question would be: Is spiritual formation different from coffee-house spirituality? You know the kind I am talking about. This spirituality is the kind touted by coffee-shop inhabiting beatnik-types who love to talk about spirituality but want little to do with God, the Bible, church, etc. (but, oddly, they think they actually want to talk about Christ, which is typically a version of Christ with no resemblance to him at all). The spirituality of the Bible has nothing in common with this. Let me explain.

In Christianity, words matter. As a professional theologian (this is Kyle speaking), I try to think and pray hard about how we should talk about God and our life under God. But, this is not merely a job for academics, but should hopefully be something we all do to varying degrees. Holding our language about God with open hands allows us to see when the way we talk about God actually cuts against the gospel. It is in light of this that I want to open up a discussion on the terms spirituality, Spirituality and Spiritual Formation. At first glance, these may seem to be all the same thing, but I hope to show that there is are important and necessary distinctions to be drawn between them.

First, how are we to understand “spirituality?” The term spirituality has become popular among all kinds of groups in our day. I use a lowercase “s” in reference to this kind of spirituality, and we can think of it as those who are spiritual but not “religious” (or, in other words, do not adhere to a religious or theological system – the coffee-shop inhabiting beatnik mentioned above). This poses some interesting possibilities for us (as it did Paul at Athens: “I see you are very religious”), but more so, it poses difficulties. Although I have no interest in this kind of spirituality, let me try to offer a brief glimpse of some of its essentials. First, there is a belief that everyone has a “spiritual” side. This isn’t usually in reference to their make-up as a person (body/spirit), but is in reference to some potential for transcendence – that we can somehow move beyond the mundane in our lives through our own powers and potentialities. Second, tied in with this is the idea that being spiritual is directly connected to living well and happiness. Therefore, in these circles, being spiritual means living up to your potential, and is about making the most out of your life. Thirdly, spirituality in this vein is able to be mass-produced. In other words, just like weight-loss tips and work-out plans, you can buy into any number of strategies and simply make it happen.

Let me just reaffirm that this kind of “spirituality” has nothing in common with Christian Spirituality. While there are, sadly, parallels in the church today, that reality points more to our lack of thinking well about life under God than it does with true Christian living.

Therefore, secondly, how are we to understand Spirituality? Notice I now capitalize the “S” here. This is to highlight that we are now talking about Christian Spirituality. This is not merely a way to demarcate between non-religious and Christian “brands,” but instead refers to what Christian Spirituality is in reference to. In other words, Christian Spirituality is in reference to the work of the Spirit of God. I capitalize Spirituality here to highlight that I’m referencing Christian Spirituality because it is the work of the person of the Spirit, the third member of the Trinity, and not something we achieve or make happen. This emphasizes the reality that it is not our work, it is not about our transcendence or ability to better our existence and highlights that it is unable to be mass produced. Therefore, it should be said, we need to distinguish between someone’s use of the term spirituality, as either spirituality or Spirituality. Unfortunately, we don’t offer capitalized and non-capitalized versions of the term as I am doing in this article, so we have to actually read or listen to someone to find out which they mean. Sometimes, maybe too often, in evangelical circles it can be hard to distinguish between the two.

Christian Spirituality, real Spirituality dependent on the Spirit, is about God’s work in his people to sanctify them for himself. We do and will have work to do in this activity, but it is not our work which accomplishes it. Likewise, we do not engage in this kind of activity to better our lives, and we are not allowed to develop the agenda. Christian Spirituality ultimately rests at the cross, because the work has been done by Christ, culminated with his proclamation, “It is finished.” A truly Christian Spirituality will focus on praying, “Not my will but yours be done.” We have to recognize that Jesus, who was the most Spiritual person ever to live, was called to the desert, to Gethsemane and to the cross.

Thirdly therefore, how are we to understand “Spiritual Formation” in all of this? Basically, Spiritual Formation can be equated with the latter Spirituality and not the former spirituality. It is about God’s work in us to make us holy, and to draw us to himself, for himself. The Spiritual Formation conversation will, therefore, talk about the dynamics of this life under God, but should not, I believe, try to develop any practices claiming: “if you just follow the direction you will find yourself holy.” God is ultimately free in his work, therefore Spiritual Formation is about submitting to his will for your life. Spiritual formation is the work of his people to be His church, faithfully following in the way of Jesus, always coming back to this following again and again, holding it with open hands before the Lord.

 

  1. Is Spiritual Formation Dangerous?

All conversation about God is potentially dangerous. These are not unimportant things, but are of the most central importance. Getting our beliefs about God and his way wrong, hinders our ability to follow God in this world, and can even potentially lead us to a different god altogether. There are groups today that question if spiritual formation is properly evangelical (see the question on whether spiritual formation is Catholic), and groups that believe it is dangerous. Let me explain why this is both naïve as well as unbiblical. First, it is naïve because the term spiritual formation doesn’t tell us much. If someone tells you they are “into” spiritual formation, there are many questions to ask, such as: What kind? Catholic? Protestant? Eastern Orthodox? Who are you turning to as you discuss these things? To what end are these conversations being had? What understanding of salvation are you working with, particularly justification and sanctification?

You see, it is easy (and lazy) to just take a term like spiritual formation and simply link it to people who are wrong, bad, or dangerous, and then call spiritual formation dangerous. This is called, in philosophical circles, the ad hominem fallacy. It is equivalent to saying that since Hitler designed the Volkswagen Beetle (let’s assume), then it must be a bad car. That is a false statement. The Pharisees were fantastic at using the ad hominem argument, and Jesus simply cut through the cloud they were seeking to create by pointing to their faithlessness. We, on the other hand, are called to deeper thinking and more faithful discourse. We are called, not simply to write something off because someone (or even a handful of people) who are misguided use the same term (Hitler, after all, called himself a Christian, and yet we don’t write off Christianity on that account). Rather, we take the raw material offered to us in the church today and we bring it before the God of grace and seek his face. My point here, and let me be very clear about this, is that as Christians, we are called to do just the opposite. There is never a point where we take terms and categories as they are handed us and simply say, “Ho hum, this is what this will always mean.” To do so, as I will argue, is akin to idolatry. We are called, to the contrary, to reform what the church (and even the world) hands us, not because we necessarily know better, but because we follow a living God.

To call yourself Reformed, as I do, is to accept the axiom that we are “reformed and always reforming.” In other words, being Reformed can never simply be quoting Calvin (or pick your Reformed theologian), because that just isn’t what it means to be Reformed. Likewise, as evangelicals, Reformed or not, I believe it is imperative that we take on the yoke of “always reforming.” We do so because that is exactly what Jesus did, Paul did and the early church did. Jesus reformed what it meant to be a child of Abraham as well as, for instance, what the temple was. Paul, likewise, redefined the Athenian idol, the Greek Poets who claimed that we are God’s offspring (Acts 17:28), and even redefined the phrase “height, length, depth and breadth” (Ephesians 3:18) in reference to God – whereas in his day it was only used in magical texts and spells. The early church, following their lead, took pagan holidays and sought to redeem them for the kingdom of God.

Likewise, when we use the term “spiritual formation,” what we are proclaiming by it is that we are formed by the Spirit of God. As such, there are no practices, theories, or definitions which can contain it. Our God is unparalleled in his freedom, and, in talking about formation, we call out the work He does in our hearts, leaving all boasting aside. Therefore, we must be “always reforming” when we talk of this activity because it is not ours to hold and define. We stand under the great Prophet, Christ, and therefore are always called into correction by His Word. The Spirit in our hearts is sent by Jesus to do His will and continue the work He started and continues to achieve. Therefore, the Word of God, to quote Dietrich Bonhoeffer, is the “dagger at the heart of the church.” We stand under and within the reign of Christ in this world, and therefore when we talk about His work we must do so with open hands, trusting that we do not have it all figured out and that our sin still blinds us from His grace and truth.

On the other hand, as I mentioned before, failure to do this is akin to idolatry. There is a temptation to simply solidify what we are comfortable with and then attack and judge anyone who thinks differently (the Pharisees, again, are good examples of this). To sit back and judge and criticize spiritual formation therefore, is to fail to engage with God’s people wrestling with the process of reformation. This is idolatry because it has turned one’s own views into Truth (capital “T”), as well as solidified terms it finds comfortable and is willing to persecute others who simply use different terminology. This fails to recognize one’s own finitude and sinfulness, undermining Christ’s office of Prophet with one’s own status as Truthfulness. The person who judges in this manner no longer stands under the Word of God, allowing it, in the words of Hebrews 12, to leave them naked and exposed to the One whom they must give an account. They, instead, put themselves in the place of judge, wielding the sword of the Spirit instead of standing under its blow.

The church is called to reform and always reform. Faithfulness, in regard to things like spiritual formation, is to turn our attention to the Word of God, standing under and within the reign of Christ, trusting that God is Truth while we are merely seeking to be faithful. It is impossible, in other words, to simply point to someone and say, “Look, he says spiritual formation is x, y, and z and therefore everyone who does must mean the same thing.” Spiritual formation is not ours to claim nor is it ours to claim for others. Spiritual formation is the Spirit’s work which we must seek to grasp that we may offer ourselves as living sacrifices to the God to whom we all will give an account. As we engage one another, we must do so as followers of Christ, offering grace, mercy, and thinking others better than yourself (Philippians 2:3).

  1. What is the relation between theology and spirituality?

One of the greatest problems in the spiritual formation conversation has been the divorce between theology and spirituality. One modern thinker bemoans that our saints used to be theologians and our theologians used to be saints. We might add that our theologians used to be our pastors and song-writers, while now most disappear to the academy with little influence on church and ministry. What might be more disastrous than our theologians failing to speak meaningfully into the Christian life, is the fact that those who pick up this task are often theologically illiterate. Those who seek to form our understanding of life under God often do so through modes of reason that are not theologically informed. What happens, inevitably, is that we are offered secular accounts of human formation rather than a development of truly Spiritual formation (formation through the work of the Spirit of God).

Theology serves the discussion of spiritual formation by constantly calling it back to the Gospel and the work of God to redeem his creatures by sending his Son and Spirit. Theology seeks to think along the contours of the Gospel such that our reasoning about this life under God is distinctively Christian. What must not happen, but has, is the baptism of various secular accounts of human formation that are simply colored with Christian themes. Rather, the Gospel itself is the engine by which we understand Christian formation. Spiritual formation, at its heart, is not human formation, but formation by the Spirit of God. For Christians, therefore, theology and spirituality must not be seen as isolated disciplines, but, rather, are two necessary components of being faithful to the call of Christ.

  1. What Historical Figures do You Turn To?

In an attempt to be faithful to the Scriptures, recognizing our own modern presuppositions influence how we read the Bible, we turn to the entirety of church history to help us hear what the Lord is saying through his Word. That said, there are specifically evangelical figures we turn to in the history of the church who have influenced us in important ways. We provide a short list of the individuals and their works here:

    •  Jonathan Edwards, particularly Edwards’s Religious Affections and Charity and Its Fruits Because of Edwards’s influence, Kyle Strobel is re-releasing Charity and Its Fruits in an edition with an introduction, text notes, and conclusion to increase readability. If you are interested in Jonathan Edwards, it is a great starting point. See Charity and Its Fruits: Living in the Love of God, ed. Kyle Strobel (Crossway, forthcoming).
    • Henry Scougal, The Life of God in the Soul of Man
    • A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God and The Knowledge of the Holy
    • John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion
    • John Owen, Communion with God
    • Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed
    • Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together and The Cost of Discipleship
    • Augustine, The Confessions
  1. You seem to rely on the Puritans. Why? Aren’t they overbearing, judgmental bigots?

Unfortunately, the Puritans have, more often than not, received an unfair judgment concerning who they were and what they were about. The Puritans, above all else, where fun-loving, God-fearing, and deeply spiritual people who believed that every aspect of the Gospel should invade and saturate life. They were not the overbearing, judgment hypocrites they are often labeled as. If you want a taste into Puritan spirituality, pick up and read The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions ed. Arthur Bennett (Banner of Truth. 1975). I, Kyle, have found it incredibly fruitful in the morning to pray along with my Puritan brothers from the past, and I imagine you will too.

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