Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Top Ten Books: Spiritual Formation

In this series of blogs I want to look at a variety of categories and the top ten books for each category. Today we will look at Spiritual Formation.

By way of preface, there are four books that look at spiritual formation in a comprehensive, text-book fashion. I will avoid “linking” to Amazon on each of these.


M. Thompson, Soul Feast.
R. Foster, Streams of Living Water.
J. Ortberg, The Life You’ve Always Wanted.
T. Jones, The Sacred Way.

My Top Ten Spiritual Formation Books

1. St. Augustine, The Confessions.
2. John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress.
3. J. Edwards, Religious Affections.
4. D. Bonhoeffer, Life Together.
5. T. a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ.
6. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
7. The Way of a Pilgrim
8. Teresa of Avila, A Life of Prayer
9. A. Schmemann, For the Life of the World
10. H. Nouwen, Reaching Out



R. Foster, Celebration of Discipline
J. Wesley, The Journal of John Wesley
J. Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3.
M. Luther, The Freedom of the Christian
Br. Lawrence, Practicing the Presence of God
The Rule of St. Benedict
D. Taylor, The Myth of Certainty
The Little Flowers of St. Francis
T. Merton, The Inner Experience
W. Law, A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life
The Journal of John Woolman
D. von Hildebrand, Transformation in Christ

There are so many more

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posted August 3, 2005 at 12:46 pm

My personal favorite book on Spiritual Formation is “Renovation of the Heart” by Dallas Willard.By the way, you can see (free) video/audio of John Ortberg on the “Sanctuary” section of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church, and hear Dallas Willard on a few of the Chapel lectures at Wheaton College.

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posted August 3, 2005 at 2:05 pm

Great list. I would add “Spiritual Theology” by Diogenes Allen and “The Mind of Christ” by TW Hunt.”Training in Christianity” by Soren Kierkegaard is on my list…any comments?Thanks,PJ

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Scot McKnight

posted August 3, 2005 at 3:35 pm

For some reason, I’ve had a few business folks find this blog site and they are trying to advertise by saying “good post” and then giving their address. I am deleting this sort of thing.Also, I tried to add to the bottom of my blog this:There are so many more books to mention; maybe you have some absolutes I have forgotten.And, tomorrow I will post on Top Ten Books: Jesus studies.But, the blogger wouldn’t let me add this. By the way, I will soon be moving to another blog address, but I’ll let you know when it happens. We are building a nicer and more useful blog site.

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graham old

posted August 3, 2005 at 3:50 pm

Scot, I am surprised by some of these – particularly the first 2.And they generaly seem to be books concerned with an individual’s spiritual formation. To be honest, I was expecting something a little more societal from you (e.g Kreider’s Journey towards Holiness).

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graham old

posted August 3, 2005 at 3:51 pm

“individual’s” is meant to be in italics! :-)

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Scot McKnight

posted August 3, 2005 at 4:01 pm

Good point Graham. A point I have been making for a long time; most spiritual formation books are “community-less” books. Still, this is what we have. Bonhoeffer makes up for this.

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John Frye

posted August 3, 2005 at 4:25 pm

Scot, thanks for the list of books on formation. I’ve read a number of them and others are new to me.Dick Peace at Fuller lamented that the spiritual disciplines under the pressure of Christian marketing may be morphed into “it’s all about me” exercises. We must work to keep Christian formation a community-wide endeavor.

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posted August 3, 2005 at 4:47 pm

Wow…if Celebration of Discipline and Brother Lawrence didn’t make the top 10, there are definitely some books I need to read on there.I see someone mentioned Renovation of the Heart above, which I haven’t yet read. However, I would have to include Spirit of the Disciplines by Willard if I were making this list. Probably my personal favorite in terms of spiritual formation.

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john alan turner

posted August 4, 2005 at 12:06 am

I would have included CONFORMED TO HIS IMAGE by Ken Boa and WASTING TIME WITH GOD by Klaus Issler. And thanks for putting von Hildebrand on the list.

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Stan F.

posted August 4, 2005 at 10:21 am

I’ve been turned on to the novels by Dostoevsky, which help with spiritual formation in another way. I must admit that I sometimes turn to the Cliff Notes, however.I’m just learning about emergent and post-modernism. If both favor a narrative theology, I wonder if novels such as these might become a means of spiritual formation in ways that they haven’t been in some time.

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J. Michael Matkin

posted August 11, 2005 at 4:03 am

John Cassian ought to be there somewhere, as well. Don’t worry about his Institutes, which deals primarily with the monastic way of living. Instead, dive straight into Conferences, which distills the entirety of desert spirituality. Don’t let it’s length scare you, but read and digest each conference (there are 24) slowly.Bernard of Clairvaux’s commentaries on the Song of Solomon are worthwhile.Ignatius Loyola Spiritual Exercises would be a great addition. It essentially sums up western medieval wisdom on spiritual direction. Not sure why you have Lewis’s Mere Christianity there; it’s a great book, but for spiritual formation? Depends on how you define it, I suppose. I would probably bump it in favor of Lorenzo Scupoli’s Spiritual Combat (get the version which has been edited by Theophan the Recluse; it blends the best of the West with the best of the East). Speaking of the East, the Philokalia is a must-read, particularly as a follow-up to The Way of a Pilgrim. Great to see Schmemann on the list. His Great Lent is a wonderful book for that season. And I definitely agree with someone’s suggestion of Kierkegaard’s Training in Christianity. I would also recommend his Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing. Splendidly soul-searching.Wonderful to see you making these lists, Scott. By the way, I’m enjoying Jesus Creed.

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posted January 27, 2006 at 9:59 pm

Donald Whitney, “Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life.

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