Friday, February 26, 2010

Spiritual Formation and Discipline and Donald Whitney

Don Whitney's book, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, has a table of contents that serves as a Biblical reality check on the subject of spiritual formation and discipline. While I haven't read the entire book yet, I was drawn back to it by a cursory review on the web of the subject of spiritual formation, as well as by a recent conversation on the subject with a denominational official.

When I see the terms spiritual formation and spiritual disciplines used by Christians in a non-Christocentric fashion, as if spiritual formation is a stand alone subject and can be treated as such apart from Jesus Christ, it concerns me. 

While Whitney's book includes chapters on Fasting, Silence and Solitude, and Journaling; it also has TWO Chapters on the Bible (he calls it "Bible Intake" - please Don?!), Prayer, Worship, Evangelism, Serving, and Stewardship. Assembling with God's people is one of Whitney's spiritual disciplines - I find that refreshing. 

Spiritual formation is not about technique; it is about transformation into the image of Jesus Christ in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers - Romans 8:29. It is as we behold Him that we are transformed into His image, 1 John 3:1ff. 

Now I happen to think that the process of spiritual formation looks different in individuals and in local congregations; but I also believe that there is commonality and overlay and that the nexus of transformation is the Bible. There is a sense in which I would rather have my congregation spend a year in Colossians and read nothing outside the Bible than read ten books on spiritual formation and never actually absorb a book of the Bible. Give me a Biblically-based people in Christ and I'll show you spiritual formation - how could it be otherwise? 

So I find Whitney's inclusion of chapters on Evangelism, Stewardship and other Biblical subjects refreshing.


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