A meme collection of major spiritual formation proponents, the major ideas, and texts
A meme collection of major spiritual formation proponents, the major ideas, and texts
Asian Christian Theology (2019). I enjoyed reading this volume as it is written mostly by Asians to give an Asian perspective. I count many contributors as my personal friends which is an added bonus. It is an excellent collection of contextual theology scholarship.
I am surprised that none of these Asian writers writes from the eastern (Asian not Orthodox) shame/honor perspective. Instead, all of them approach their contextual theology from a western guilt/innocence perspective. Yes, I know, all our theological education are taught from the western guilt/innocence perspective. I have hoped our Asian scholars will take up the challenge to address the imbalance.
Our interpretation of the bible has always been transactional. The analogy is that of a law court. If you are guilty, you will have to pay a price. Jesus Christ came and paid the price. That is guilt/innocence.
What if Adam and Eve brought shame the Lord and caused Him to lose honor by their disobedience? They have dishonoured God. The need to redress that for is reconciliation and a repair of a broken relationship which affects not only the people involved but also the community and society. That is shame/honour. Jesus came to remove our shame and restore our honor with God.
Two-thirds of the world population functions from the eastern shame/honor perspective. Yet, we approach them with the guilt/innocence approach.
Would not it be time for our Asian scholars to teach and write on the eastern shame/honor perspective?
What is more important, is not our bible written from the shame/honor perspective?
my new book
In an inspiring article written for his 78th birthday, Parker J. Palmer wrote about his ‘withering into the truth’. This phrase is taken from a poem by William Yeats
Though leaves are many, the root is one;
Through all the lying days of my youth
I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun,
Now may I wither into the truth.
-William Butler Yeats
Palmer offered six gems of withering into the truth, sharing from his life.
It is heart warming to be able to age gracefully and be wise. Old age comes for us all. On the other hand, how we age is up to us.
read the whole article here
This STM TEE module will be conducted over two weekends in June/July 2017
Vocational Holiness and Marketplace Spiritual Formation
Committed Christians are often concerned about discovering God’s will for their lives in terms of what occupation to take up or who to marry. The deeper question will be to discern what is God’s calling. Another concern is how they are to live and have their being in their workplace and marketplace. There are always questions on how to maintain the vitality of their spiritual life and growth in the modern lifestyle that is extremely hectic and exhausting. This course will deal with Christian discernment or decision-making and the theology of God’s calling and vocation. It will examine Ignatian, Quaker, Puritan and Wesleyan approaches to discernment. The issue of hectic and busy lifestyles will be examined and approaches developed to nurture the spiritual life. The concepts of Missio Dei and Sabbath in their vocations will be developed. Central to this course is how followers of Jesus Christ live out their Christian lives that are glorifying to God in their workplace.
Suitable for people who wants to know more about making important life choices, about Godly decision-making and God’s calling; about Christian discernment; about spiritual maintenance and growth in busy and stressful lifestyles.
Dr Alex Tang is a paediatrician, medical educator, practical theologian, spiritual director, author, preacher, Bible teacher, hospital administrator and grandfather. He regards being a grandfather as one of his more important vocations. Alex practise paediatrics at a private hospital and is associate professor of paediatrics in Monash University clinical school in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Aside from a busy preaching and teaching schedule in different churches he also leads retreats in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. He is an adjunct professor in East Asia School of Theology (EAST), Singapore and several other seminaries. His areas of research are Christian spiritualities, spiritual formation and biomedical ethics. He is married with two grown children and two growing grandchildren.
Some Christians reject contemplative prayer and spiritual formation because they think these are New Age practices. The fact that these two distinctive and different Christian spiritual traditions are lumped together shows a lack of understanding of contemplative prayer, spiritual formation and the New Age.
Contemplative tradition is part of the Church since its inception. A good example of a contemplative is the Apostle John, the writer of the Gospel of John, Revelation and three epistles in the New Testament. John wrote with a distinct contemplative flavor. Before you start to pick up and throw stones, please note that contemplative means to be in the presence of, and in this case, to be in the presence of God. What better presence to be with other than in the presence of God? The whole Bible may then be considered contemplative because the Bible, as Karl Barth often argues, is God’s revelation of Himself to His creatures. Spiritual formation concern spiritual growth as Christians become more like Christ, become a people of God and take part in God’s great redemption plan. It is the transformation that Paul meant in Romans 12:2.
The New Age is a modern spiritual movement that dates from the early 1960s that incorporates elements of paganism, Buddhism and Hinduism. The purpose is to be one with the cosmic energy/entity, to improve oneself, and be in harmony within self and with nature. The focus of the Christian contemplative tradition is to be in the presence of God. In Christian contemplation, we retain our separate identity. In New Age, one seeks to lose oneself into and become part of the universe. In spiritual formation, we seek to develop a character like Christ. New Age focus on self-development and empowerment for its own sake.
There are many reasons why some Christians are against contemplative prayer and spiritual formation.
First, there is misunderstanding and lack of knowledge. Many of those who oppose contemplative prayer and spiritual formation may not have investigated and understood these subjects deeply enough. Many obtain their information from books written by people who are against the subject, for example John MacArthur, who by the way is also against the Charismatic Movement. Others seem to obtain their information from anecdotal accounts of people who were involved in what they think was ‘contemplative’ and the ‘spiritual formation’ movement and were hurt by these. It is will good if antagonists of contemplative prayer and spiritual formation are willing to dialogue with and consider that their proponents are also well meaning Christians like themselves and not heretics.
Second, there are some Christians who believe that the Bible is all that they are required to know. Some of them are very suspicious of religious experiences. To them, an intellectual affirmation of biblical words are all that is required in the Christian life and have eternal life. Anything else, especially religious experiences are dangerously and should be excluded. It seems that they believe that God has voluntarily confined Himself to only the Bible (often a certain specific translation or version). Our God is a self-revealing God. Though the Bible is His Special Revelation, God also reveals Himself in His Creation which is General Revelation. We are his created creatures. God created us with rational minds that are able to think and reason. He also created us with emotions and feelings. It is unlikely that God does not want us to relate to Him with our emotions and feelings.
Finally, we must be aware that our minds are finite and none of us have the whole counsel of God. In other words, we behold Him but dimly. None of us can declare that we can know God fully and by implication, our way of Christian practice is the only way to Him. We need humility to accept that God is greater than we can ever conceive him to be, as Thomas Aquinas had discovered.
We perceive only facets of the Truth and until we stand before Him who is Truth, let us not decried others as misguided or followers of demons. Just as some who became infamously recorded in the Gospel when they accuse Jesus’s power comes from the Enemy; the man who was born blind and was healed by Jesus gave a powerful reply. He said he did not know who this man was but he was blind and now he see. Let us be judged by the fruit of our characters rather than the confession of our speech.
I have been thinking of two types of Christian faith communities in relationship to spiritual formation of Christians:
(a) The community that nurtures
In the community that nurtures, the community is the context in which spiritual formation takes place. People join a community for what the community may offer them. Then by taking part in the community undergoes spiritual formation. When they find that they cannot learn anymore from this community, they leave to find other communities that may help them. This is akin to a university where one joins the community to learn skills for a certain profession or to acquire a degree. Once that is achieved, the person leaves for other communities.
(b) Nurturing community
In a nurturing community, spiritual formation takes place because the person is the content of the community. One grows spiritually with the community because the community is growing. One becomes the community and takes on characteristics of the community. The analogy for this is the family. One is born into this and is always part of it even when relocated to a different geographic location.
I wonder which type of Christian faith community do you belong in?
Historically the term “spiritual formation” was used to denote the training of men and women for full time church ministry (Sheldrake 2005, 309). The content of the curriculum was academic training on scripture, theology, philosophy and liturgy. It also involved training in the spiritual disciplines especially in a disciplined prayer life. However, this is not the spiritual formation referred to in contemporary discussion of the subject.
Contemporary spiritual formation is difficult to study. It is a multidisciplinary subject involving psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, education and theology. A review of the literature will show a large variety of definitions and practices associated with the subject. The language used, different philosophies and worldviews are different to different authors. Various authors differ in their approach to theology, anthropology and psychology. Others struggle between practice and theory. The fundamental commonality among the different authors is that concept of spiritual formation is about spiritual growth. However, their different basis of approach has lead to fundamental differences in their definitions and outworking of their concept of spiritual formation.
First, some authors used the word Christian spiritual formation to differentiate it from spiritual formation that occurs in different worldviews and religious traditions. In this review, I shall limit myself to Christian authors. Second, many authors equate spiritual formation to spiritual growth in persons. However, an argument can be made that spiritual formation also occurs to communities. This will be taken into consideration in the review. Third, some authors fail to differentiate spiritual formation from discipleship or use these words interchangeably. Others use words like faith formation, spiritual transformation, Christian formation, and spiritual growth. Finally, there are not many studies done to establish an exegetical foundation for spiritual formation as currently practiced in evangelicalism. The word “spiritual formation” does not appear in the Bible. Most authors just skim around the theological aspects and focus on the practice.
Spiritual Formation as Restoring the Image of the Trinity (imatatio Trinitatis)
The doctrine of the Trinity is that God reveals himself in the Scripture as God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is only one God and in the essence of this one Godhead, there are three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three persons are neither parts of one another, facets, or modes of existence but are co-equal and co-eternal. According to theologian Stanley Grenz contemporary understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity stems from a consensus among theologians that view “theological language as metaphorical” (2001,7-8). Thus it allows theologians from different traditions to interact on this doctrine since a revival of interest stimulated by Karl Barth in the last century (Olson and Hall 2002, 95).
Malaysian theologian Albert Sundaraj Walters suggests a contextualized model of the Trinity which he named “Trinity from Below.” He constructs this model from interviews with Malaysian Christians and Muslims and then reflected on his findings theologically. Using the banana tree as a symbol of “fullness of life,” he writes, “Thus, this image of the banana tree is closely linked to the Trinity which portrays the essence of Being as a coming-from and a going-to, a giving and receiving” (2002, 276). A Korean theologian in the United States, Jung Young Lee uses the Chinese symbol of Yin-Yang to express his understanding of the Trinity. He starts with Jesus whose dual nature as man and God is reflected in the two portions of the Yin-Yang symbol. The feminine Yin represents the Holy Spirit which is female and Mother. The Yang represent the masculine and hence God the Father. (Lee 1996). These are just two examples of how Asian theologians are engaged in understanding the Trinity.
Catholic theologian Karl Rahner’s describes the Trinity in a short sentence, “The ‘economic’ Trinity is the ‘immanent’ Trinity and the ‘immanent’ Trinity is the ‘economic’ Trinity” (1967, 22). Olson and Hall broke that rather cryptic statement into “immanent Trinity”(beyond the world) and “economic Trinity”(within history). What Rahner is saying is that God created the world and relates to the world, but the world is not part of God. Otherwise, saving the world “becomes God’s self-salvation as well.” (Olson and Hall 2002, 3). Thus God is uniquely one: “The Lord, our God is one Lord” (Deu.6:4) who is the creator that stands outside of his creation.
The three persons of the Trinity relates to one another. The Father sends the Son and yet remains with him (Jn 8:29). The Son represents the Father and obey him willingly (Jn 8:28). Jesus proclaims that he is God (Jn 8:58) and accept faith and worship from his disciples (Matt.16:16, Jn 20:28). The Holy Spirit is part of this relationship (Jn 14-16). The close and intimate relationship and interaction within the Trinity is often referred to as perichoresis, the Greek word for a dance. As in a dance, there is a dynamic energy as each dancer moves in perfect partnership and equality with each other.
Volf in arguing for an anthropological model of “social trinitarianism” emphases that the Trinity is not just understood by God’s self-revelation but also by what was done in salvation history (2006, 5-7). He then elaborates that there is a role for a person with the image of God or of the Trinity (imatatio Trinitatis). According to him,
Because God has made us to reflect God’s own triune being, our human tasks are not first of all to do as God does – and certainly not to make ourselves
as God is – but to let ourselves be indwelled by God and to celebrate and
proclaim what God has done, is doing, and will do (2006, 6-7).
This role of human, created in God’s image and fulfilling the potential of that image by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is similar to our definition of Christian spiritual formation. I will argue that this aspect of the Trinity is the basis for Christian spiritual formation. I will use an anthropological approach which is consistent with my approach in the earlier parts of this section concerning shalom and the image of God.
First, Christian spiritual formation is a process of being in communion with the Trinitarian God. Grenz describes the influence of social personalism as the realisation the self who is not a “what” but a “who.” This “who” emerges out of conversations with other “whos” to become persons-in-communion. However it is when persons-in-communion become part of a conversation with God that the “who” discover discovers its identity as a person-in-relationship (2001, 12-14). It is in community with a Christian faith community that we discover who we are. This is only possible in relationships with others in the community and with God. When God created us, it is to enjoy a relationship with him (Gen.3:8, 9). Our spiritual growth is a process of self discovery in relationship with God and with others. Puritan theologian John Owen in his 1657 book, Communion with the Triune God described in detail the communion possible with the Triune God, and individually with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Owen 2007). He noted,
Our communion, then with God consists in his communication of himself unto us, with our return unto him of that which he requires and accepts, flowing from
that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him (Owen 2007, 94 edited by Kelly
M.Kapic and Justin Taylor)
The Trinitarian God engages individuals in Christian faith communities in communion. Communion helps us to know God by moving from a cognitive state to an experiential state. This is sometimes called faith. We learn about love too. In order to save us and to reveal himself to us, God became incarnate. Jesus Christ is God incarnate; fully human and fully God (1 Jn. 1:1-3). God the Father shows us love in action as Jesus the Son suffers and dies on the cross. The persons of the Trinity are so close that when Jesus suffers, the Father and the Holy Spirit also experience suffering. Erickson comments, “This says that God is not merely aloft and indifferent to suffering in the world. The second person of the trinity has acted to take some of that evil’s effects on himself ” (2000, 74).
Second, Christian spiritual formation is about a process of building relationships. Theologian Jürgen Moltmann suggests that it is the interpersonal relationship within the Godhead that gives us the model to love our neighbours (1981, 199). Within the Godhead, there is mutual respect, submission, harmony and equality. This should then be the model for us to respect, submit and live with one another in harmony and equality (Erickson 2000, 84-98). Walters suggests that hospitality and friendship are important elements in learning from the interpersonal relationship within the Trinity (2002, 265- 278).
Third, Christian spiritual formation is a process of forming a people for the Trinitarian God (Rom.8:29, 30: 1 Peter 2:9-10). The Biblical record is a meta-narrative of how God is calling a people to himself, those whom he has prepared before creation began. Gabriel Franke illustrates, “In the most elementary of terms, these refrains are the chapter heading of The Christian Story: Creation, Fall, Covenant, Jesus Christ, Church, Salvation, Consummation, with their Prologue and Epilogue, God.” (1996, 5). God, the Father intervenes in history to create this group of people. To prove his commitment, God has sealed this group of people with the Holy Spirit. This special group of people is the ecclesia (the called out ones) or the Church who will praise and worship him for all eternity. In a series of lectures on The Promises & Problems of Evangelical Spirituality given in Regent College, Vancouver, Simon Chan said that the “church is pre-existing. God uses creation as a means to bring the church into existence for communion with him.” Grenz in his examination of the postmodern self, identifies the “ecclesial” self that is formed in the Church in communion and as an image of the relational Trinitarian God (2001, 331-336). Theologian Miroslaf Volf, writing from the perspective of Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologies concludes also that the Church is the image of the Trinity (Volf 1998).
Finally, Christian spiritual formation is a process of being the body of Christ on earth after Jesus has ascended to heaven. This body of Christ or the Church will carry on Jesus’ mission here on earth. To enable them to complete this mammoth task, God the Father sent the Holy Spirit to indwell them and empower and guide them with spiritual gifts and other divine powers. Jesus’ mission is to carry out to completion the Father’s plan of redemption for all fallen men and women, and the fallen creation itself. The idea of mission dei (mission of God) was first mooted following the lead of Karl Barth at the International Missionary Council held in Willingen, Germany (Seamands 2005,160). The one-in-three or plurality of the Trinity also helps to explain the relationship of the Trinity to creation or the natural world. Theologian Colin Gunton, using T.F. Torrance “parallel rationalities” argues that
the plurality in unity of the triune revelation enables us to do justice to the diversity, richness, and openness of the world without denying its unity in
relativistic versions of pluralism. It is that vision that trinitarian theology
has to offer the fragmented modern world (Gunton 1997,103.
Missio dei is the restoration of human beings and nature, through the empowering of the people of God by the Holy Spirit. Canadian theologian Paul Stevens explains, “Mission is God’s own going forth – truly an ekstasis of God. He is Sender, Sent and Sending,” (Stevens 1999, 194).
The challenge is to explain the Trinity to a multicultural pluralistic society like Malaysia. Simon Chan posed some interesting questions
How do we teach the Trinity vis-avis the world religions such as Hinduism,
Buddhism and Islam?…How does the Christian doctrine of the Spirit relate to the
traditional Asian animistic instinct?… What do we make of the hierarchical
structure of the Asian family?…How does Christian prayer differ from the idea
prevailing in popular religions that it is an “exchange” between a person and
the deity? (2006,116-117)
In examining the Trinitarian influence on ministry, theologian Stephen Seamands discovers seven characteristics: (1) relational personhood, (2) joyful intimacy, (3) glad surrender, (4) complex simplicity, (5) gracious self-acceptance, (6) mutual indwelling, and (7) passionate mission (Seamands 2005). These seven characteristics should not only influence ministry but also describe Christian spiritual formation. At least it may offer a common ground to dialogue with other religions and Asian cultures.
Chan, S. (2006). Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community. Downers Grove, Illinois, InterVarsity Press.
Dykstra, C. (2005). Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices. Louisville, KN, Westminster John Knox Press.
Erickson, M. J. (2000). Making Sense of the Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books.
Fackre, G. (1996). The Christian Story: A Narrative Interpretation of Basic Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids. MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Grenz, S. J. (2001). The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei. Louisville, KY, Westminster John Knox Press.
Grenz, S. J. (2004). Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology. Minneapolis, MN, Fortress Press.
Gunton, C. (1997). The Trinity, Natural Theology, and a Theology of Nature. The Trinity in a Pluralistic Age: Theological Essays on Culture and Religion. K. J. Vanhoozer. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: 88-103.
Lee, J. Y. (1996). The Trinity in Asian Perspective. Nashville, Abingdon Press.
Moltmann, J. (1981). The Trinity and the Kingdom of God. London, SCM Press.
Olson, R. and C. Hall (2002). The Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Owen, J. (2007). Communion with God. Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books.
Peterson, E. H. (2005). Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology. Grand Rapids, MI., William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Rahner, K. (1967). The Trinity. New York, Crossroad Publishing Company.
Seamands, S. (2005). Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service. Downers Groove, IL, InterVarsity Press.
Stevens, R. P. (1999). The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work and Ministry in Biblical Perspective. Grand Rapids, MI., William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Volf, M. (1998). After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Volf, M. (2006). Being as God Is. God’s Life in Trinity. M. Volf and M. Welker. Minneapolis, MN, Fortress Press: 3-12.
Walters, A. S. (2002). We Believe in One God? Reflections on the Trinity in the Malaysian Context. New Delhi, ISPCK.
 Following Karl Barth, some of the Protestant theologians like Jürgen Moltman, Wolfhart Pannenberg and Eberhard Jüngel in Germany; T.F. Torrance and Colin Gunton in the United Kingdom; Ted Peters, Miroslav Volf, Elizabeth Johnson, Emil Brunner, Paul Tillich, Robert Jensen and Millard Erickson in the North America; Leonardo Boff, Okechukwu Ogbonnaya and Jung Young Lee in Latin America, Africa and Asia; Roman Catholics theologians like Karl Rahner,and Catherine Mowry LaCunga; Orthodox theologians like Vladimir Lossky and John Zizioulas, have been influential in developing our theological understanding of the Trinity. Olson and Hall have written a comprehensive historical and theological survey of the doctrine of the Trinity with a very useful bibliography on books published in English on the Trinity . see Olson, R. and C. Hall (2002). The Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. See also Rahner, K. (1967). The Trinity. New York, Crossroad Publishing Company.; Grenz, S. J. (2004). Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology. Minneapolis, MN, Fortress Press.
 The Greek word perichoresis is not in the Bible. It is a word from classical Greek and was introduced by Greek theologian John Damascene in the eight century. Damascene used it “to highlight the dynamic interpersonal character of the Trinity in contrast to impersonal images and abstraction.” See Peterson, E. H. (2005). Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology. Grand Rapids, MI., William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p.344.
 Grenz attributes much of the thinking behind “social personalism” as based on the works of Martin Buber, Michael Polanyi, and John Macmurray. Grenz, S. J. (2001). The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei. Louisville, KY, Westminster John Knox Press. p.10-14.
 Dykstra makes this point, “…that faith is still primarily a matter of knowing some thing, however, we have missed what is fundamental about it. For faith is not only knowing the message, it is knowing the Messenger. (italics author’s) Dykstra, C. (2005). Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices. Louisville, KN, Westminster John Knox Press. p.21. Hence faith is not blind.
 Notes transcribed while listening to lectures. Spring School, Regent College, Vancouver. 29 May-9 June, 2006
God created the present creation in six days and on the seventh day he rested (Gen.1:1-2:1). He made man and woman in his own image, the imago dei (Gen.1:26-27). Theologian Anthony Hoekema in his exhaustive study of the image of God discerned two aspects; a functional aspect as “involving man in his threefold relationship – to God, to others, and to nature” (1986, 75-82), and a structural aspect as moving from the “original image” to the “the perverted image” after the Fall, and the “the renewed image”, to “the perfected image” in God’s redemptive work (1986, 82-96).
Man and woman are created for a relationship with God (Gen.3:8-9). Unfortunately the man and woman disobeyed him, and fell, distorting his perfect creation in what is known as the “original sin” or Fall resulting in Hoekema’s “perverted image”(Gen.3:1-24). There is also a break in the threefold functioning relationship with God, others and nature. Theologian Demarest presents this as historical fact while others like Karl Barth and Emil Brunner argues that the fall is not historical but “saga or legend” (Demarest 1984,405). It is beyond the scope of this post to examine in depth this theological topic. As theologian Henri Blocher has noted, “the controversies has continued unabated through the centuries” (1997, 15). I am more in agreement with the perspective of Demarest and Blocher.
God sent his Son to redeem fallen human beings by his death on the cross and by his resurrection. Those who receive his Son are restored in union and justified. He sends the Holy Spirit to empower them as they are restored into the image of Christ (renewed image) and as his special people. God the Father wants to work in partnership with his restored human beings in his plan to redeem his whole creation. The end result is the “perfected image” of God for humankind and a new heaven and earth. Hoekema summarises “the purpose of redemption is to restore the image of God in man” (1986, 27).
The restoration of the image of God is not just limited to individual human beings but also involve the Church. This is because all believers are part of the Church which is the body of Christ (Eph. 5:26). The Church is the laos, the special called-out people of God. The restoration of the image of God has a corporate component, or “ecclesiastical aspect” as Hoekema indicates (1986, 89). Approaching from the epistemological rather than anthropological angle, theologian Ian McFarland postulates that in restoring the divine image, one receives more revelation and knowledge of God (McFarland 2005).
There are some connections between the image of God and Christian spiritual formation. First, Christian spiritual formation is the process of restoring the fallen imago dei in each human being so that he or she become more like God. Hoekema notes that “because Christ is the perfect image of God, becoming more like God also means becoming more like Christ” (1986,89). Hence Christian spiritual formation is to restore our fallen nature to become like that of Christ’s or Christlikeness (Gal. 4:19; Rom.8:29; 2 Cor 3:18). It is after being restored that we can be who God has created us to be.
Second, Christian spiritual formation in restoring the image of God is also restoring its functioning as relationship builder. This means restoring our vertical relationship with God, and horizontal relationship with other persons and nature. Christianity is relational because of its characteristic of relationship building. The image of God is also the image of the Trinity. The three persons in the Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) are in close relationship to one another. When we are restored to the image of God, we are also restored to a relationship to the Triune God. This is because as we restore the image of Christ in us, we are drawn into the Trinitarian relationship through Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Third, Christian spiritual formation in restoring the image of God in individuals has a corporate effect. Individual members of the body of Christ contribute to the body and come to a deeper knowledge of God; and to partake of the nature of God (2 Peter 1:4; 1 Jn. 3:12). As each of us individually restores our divine image, we are also doing so corporately because we are the body of Christ. Therefore, the restoration of the image of God also restores the body of Christ which is the church.
Finally, Christian spiritual formation in restoring the image of God is a cooperative effort between the Holy Spirit and individuals. The Holy Spirit works through Scripture and the means of grace which slowly transforms believers into his likeness. For the believers it may involve making tough choices and sometimes being placed in painful circumstances. Christian spiritual formation is a continuing process of making choices that will result in the restoration of the image of God within us.
Arnold, W. T. (1996). Salvation. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. W. A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books: 701-703.
Blevins, D. G. (2005). “Renovating Christian Education in the 21st Century: A Wesleyan Contribution.” Christian Education Journal: Series 3 2(1): 6-29.
Blocher, H. (1997). Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle. Downer Drive, IL, InterVarsity Press.
Demarest, B. A. (1984). Fall of Man. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. W. A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books: 403-405.
Erickson, M. J. (1999). ChristianTheology. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books.
Hoekema, A. A. (1986). Created in God’s Image. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.
McFarland, I. A. (2005). The Divine Image: Envisioning the Invisible God. Minneapolis, MN, Augsburg Fortress.
White, R. E. O. (1984). Salvation. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. W. A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books: 967-969.