The following outline was used for my talk at the Spiritual Formation Forum in Milwaukee last week. My week was more hectic than I wanted — owing to about five things happening at once, not the least of which was major house repairs, and so was unable to attend the whole forum. Next year I hope to. But, this is my outline. My central thesis, which I outlined in Embracing Grace, is that a theory of spiritual formation is at work in how we present the gospel and that everything flows from that gospel. To change spiritual formation from an individual emphasis to an ecclesial emphasis will mean that we have to broaden our sense of the gospel so that Church is vital to the gospel.
Robust Gospel, Robust Spiritual Formation
North Park University
Spiritual Formation Forum
Introduction: Here I talked about developing “skills” in basketball — like shooting and dribbling. But some skills can’t be learned alone in your driveway — like passing and rebounding and team play. Spiritual formation is too often too much about shooting and dribbling and not enough about about passing and rebounding. (And reading the defense.) So, this talk is dedicated to a one-sided emphasis on the need for a gospel that will lead Christians to realize that spiritual formation is not just about individual spiritual formation but also about ecclesial spiritual formation.
1.0 The Standard Gospel Presentation
God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.
Your problem is that you are sinful; God can’t admit sinners into his presence.
Jesus died for you to deal with your “sin-problem.”
If you trust in Christ, you can be admitted into God’s presence.
1. No one in the NT really preaches this gospel.
2. This gospel is about one thing: Humans gaining access to God’s presence.
3. This gospel creates an individualist Christian life.
4. This gospel sets the tone for the entire evangelical movement.
5. This gospel leads to spiritual formation being entirely about “me and God.”
6. The evangelical gospel has created a need for evangelical monasteries.
7. The evangelical gospel turns local church into a volunteer society.
8. The evangelical gospel is rooted in Theism or Deism, but not perichoretic Trinitariaism.
2.0 A Robust Gospel Presentation
1. A Robust gospel can’t be “tractified.”
2. God made you as an Eikon to relate in love to God, to self, to others and to the world.
3. The “fall” cracked the Eikon in all four directions.
4. Bible readers can’t skip from Genesis 3 to Romans 3.
5. Genesis 4—11 reveals the “problem” of sin: the climax is a society of Eikons trying to build their way to God.
6. Genesis 12 begins to restore the Eikon by (1) covenantal commitment and (2) forming the family of faith. THE REST OF THE BIBLE IS ABOUT THIS ELECTED FAMILY OF FAITH.
7. The “problem” is finally resolved in “four atoning moments”: the life of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
8. The “locus” of resolution is the family of faith: three big words in Bible are Israel, the Kingdom, and the Church.
3.0 Robust Gospel, Robust Spiritual Formation
Individual spiritual disciplines are important; they aren’t the point.
I assume their importance and their disciplined practice.
1. Jesus thinks with the term “kingdom”: society in which God’s will is done.
2. Jesus’ primary category for spiritually formed people is the Jesus Creed: Mark 12:28-32.
1. Paul thinks with the term “church”: the fellowship of the Spirit that realizes through the Spirit the kingdom vision of Jesus.
2. Paul’s primary category for spiritually formed people is “giftedness”: 1 Cor 12—14.
1. John thinks with the term “life” or “fellowship”: the light of God invading a person’s life so that they live in the light of fellowship and love.
2. John’s primary category for spiritually formed people is “love God, love one another”: 1 John.
1. The Church is what God is doing in this world.
2. Spiritual formation is both personal formation and ecclesial formation.
3. The gospel is something that is both proclaimed and performed and what we see is what we are really preaching.
4. Our biggest needs:
A gospel that is robust.
A spiritual formation that flows out of that robust gospel.
A spiritual formation that is shaped by the kingdom/church vision.