Spiritual Formation

Discussion in 'Spiritual Warfare' started by Stephen L Smith, Jan 16, 2018.

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  1. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Just wondering if anyone knows of reliable critiques of Spiritual Formation leaders such as Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. This movement seems to be affecting many churches, and I am not convinced it is Biblically grounded. Thoughts?
     
  2. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Willard and Foster aren't always saying the same thing. Further, not all of Foster's ideas are necessarily related to his Quakerism.

    Willard's book on Spirit of the Disciplines is actually rather reserved on actual spiritual practices and disciplines. It's more theoretical.

    I take more from Willard's student JP Moreland than I do from Willard himself. I've only cringed once from Moreland and that was on Second Commandment issues (but that's more or less the case for most of Evangelicalism in America).

    Do you have a specific claim from Willard that you find troubling as relates to spiritual disciplines and practices?
     
  3. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Both men promote the mystical practice of listening inwardly for God's voice for specific guidance, approbation, confirmation, and such. They promote an unbiblical mysticism and they subtly undermine and denigrate the written word of God. I think they've done a lot of damage to the church, even though many wouldn't recognize their names. If you google their names, include "listening for God" with it, and maybe add "discernment" or "critiques" you'll likely find something. A few years ago it was talked about quite a bit.
     
  4. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    They would seem to be into the reflection upon the scriptures inwardly, but that does tend to open the door to start experiencing non biblical situations, for the objectivity of the scriptures being true gets watered into subjective voices, hearing from God, etc.
    The Baptist version of this was from Dr Blackabee, under His Experiencing God.
     
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Subjectivity will always be in the Man-Bible relation. There is no such thing as a Platonic deposit of pure interpretation which we can tap into. That's inevitable. Further, they also say that if your subjective experience contradicts the Bible, then it is wrong.

    I have some issues with "contemplative" spirituality, but there are ways to soak one's being in meditative reading that isn't Papist (which everything seems to be these days).

    Willard is very clear that you shouldn't be expecting God to audibly speak to you. That's a red herring that gets thrown around. What he is getting at is you are always already hearing different subjective impressions almost every minute of the day. He offers some guidelines on weeding out bad ones.
     
  6. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    There is a way to biblical meditate upon the scriptures, as the Psalmist himself instructs us to do just that, be just make sure this does not wandering into forbidden areas such as visualization and other things.
     
  7. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    No, he doesn't teach to expect that God will audibly speak, but he teaches to expect that one or some of your subjective impressions is God trying to guide or communicate with you, and that you must learn to distinguish God's 'voice' inside you from the other inner, subjective 'voices.' This teaching has become so widespread, helped along also by Henry Blackaby as David mentioned, Beth Moore, Priscilla Shirer, and others, that even cessationists believe this is a biblical spiritual activity.
     
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  8. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    When I hear the phrase "Spiritual Formation" I think of the Roman Catholics.
     
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I know. I've read the book. Let's take the Macarthurite Cessationist claim:

    C1: God only speaks to me through the Bible.

    Let's then say we are presented with two (non-sinful) alternatives (career choices, etc). The Bible says zero about that. Nonetheless, I go to the Bible for guidance and wisdom

    C1* God gives me guidelines from his word.

    Most cessationists I know probably go with C1* instead of C1. I just did that to show they are indeed two different claims.

    Yet, any time I go to God's revelation (which also includes nature), and assuming he doesn't talk to me, I am going to have to make subjective logical inferences that may not always be accurate.

    The cessationist can be just as sloppy as the continuationist. If we think that "God speaks to us" through the Bible, then we are going to conceptualize that "speaking" in a subjective manner.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018
  10. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I may not be tracking with what you're saying. My understanding of God 'speaking to us in the Bible' doesn't have much of a subjective quality as far as guidance- he tells us what is good and what he requires of us. We make our best decisions accordingly. Maybe I'm not getting what your meaning.

    Anyway, that's not what contemplative prayer is for (covered in the second link I posted above). It's a mystical stillness and tuning in to an inner voice in order to 'hear from God.' It's done quite apart from the Bible.
     
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I see. That's a bit more restrained than what most cessationists would say. My point was that our response to God's communication, especially on issues that he hasn't spoken in the Bible, is always going to involve subjectivity.

    I agree on contemplative prayer.
     
  12. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    A great many broadly evangelical, maybe even broadly reformed, have been influenced by the spiritual formation movement in ways they don't realize.
     
  13. JimmyH

    JimmyH Puritan Board Junior

    The Reverend D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, from his introduction to Studies in the Sermon On the Mount;
    "There is nothing more important in the Christian life than the way in which we approach the Bible and the way in which we read it. It is our textbook, it is our only source, it is our only authority.

    We know nothing about God and about the Christian life in a true sense apart from the Bible. We can draw various deductions from nature (and possibly from various mystical experiences) by which we can arrive at a belief in a supreme Creator. But I think it is agreed by most Christians and it has been traditional throughout the long history of the Church that we have no authority save this Book.

    We cannot rely solely upon subjective experiences because there are evil spirits as well as good spirits' there are counterfeit experiences. Here, in the Bible is our sole authority."
     
  14. Berean

    Berean Puritan Board Doctor

    I think they phrase it as "Faith Formation". No Holy Spirit needed?
     
  15. RBachman

    RBachman Puritan Board Freshman

    I remember being a bit envious of some of my friends who could afford going to Willard and get the big red binder, I had to borrow it and was delighted with ‘the manual’. The rules, techniques, etc! The spooky spiritualism he used was running amuck through much of my life, prompted in part by Willard but others as well. It has taken me years to drive out the temptation to ‘hear God’s specific revelation speaking to me’ while praying or reading Scripture. But it is very liberating to take the wisdom in Gods word and apply it to my circumstances as best I can. And not worry about discerning Gods secret will for me - he will direct my paths without gnostic nonsense. So bye bye Willard and other false gnostic teachers. This is one of several big aspects of current Evangelicalism that keep me from calling myself an evangelical.
     
  16. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    It also seems to have allowed for some such as a Dr Grudem and Piper to see some type of prophecy to be present today, as a more subjective understanding of the Spirit making impressions on some that they then give forth to the body.
     
  17. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    It also can get into things such as visualization and journaling thoughts to us from the Holy Spirit, and that can become very dangerous activities.
     
  18. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Not until we have mastered their beginning techniques and practices.
     
  19. Edward

    Edward Puritan Board Doctor

    I googled it to make sure that I was recalling correctly. Spiritual formation, or sometimes having a 'spiritual director'.

    And this from Wikipedia on Spiritual Formation: "James Houston traces the history of the movement to post-Vatican II reformers within the Roman Catholic church, who sought to find ways to educate and train new priests in a manner that was appropriate to Vatican II ideals. " (I have no idea who James Houston is, but if he agrees with me, he must be on the right track about something). Also: "Some individuals and organizations, ... interpret spiritual formation as a front for non-Christian mysticism or Roman Catholic influence to enter the Protestant church"
     
  20. Berean

    Berean Puritan Board Doctor

  21. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    This brief discussion by John MacArthur is a helpful critique
     
  22. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I think it is helpful to distinguish between practices like "contemplative prayer," which are often more silly than anything else, and the practice of creating good background habits. I immerse myself in the Book of Common Prayer and in listening to the Psalms chanted (not simply sung or spoke, but chanted). This means I find myself singing and saying Scripture and prayers without forcing myself to do so. It becomes second nature (though I do a bad job at it). We always already have habits. They are either good or bad.
     
  23. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    I disagree that contemplative prayer can ever be dismissed as silly or harmless; the philosophy and theology behind the practice is harmful and to practice contemplative prayer is to buy into the theology, thus having a very wrong view of God and how he works.

    And, Jacob, good background habits? Background for what, may I ask?
     
  24. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Many people have "white noise" in their head or sing pop culture. I just figured it is better to have Scripture chanted in my head than Taylor Swift songs. A respected TR guy called me a non Christian for that. As for practices, I put chants of the Psalms on my mp3 player and listen to that all day.
     
  25. Jeri Tanner

    Jeri Tanner Moderator Staff Member

    Ha! I gotcha. I listen to King's College Psalm chants (Anglican).
     
  26. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    One night I woke up singing a Taylor Swift song (listened to the radio that day) and I promised myself this would never happen again.

    I used to love country music, but since they started importing effeminate emo hipsters onto the country stations, I stopped listening. Now I listen to Scripture chants.
     
  27. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    Burn your mancard.
     
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  28. ZackF

    ZackF Puritan Board Graduate

    We mustn't ditch the baby with the bathwater. I think what many of the Puritans did for meditation could lead one into prayer. Not such a bad thing.
     
  29. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    But don't confuse Puritan meditation (which is a blessed Reformed approach) with the modern mystical spiritual formation. Joel Beeke's helpful book on biblical meditation is clear on this distinction.
     
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