Spiritual Formation Thursday: What is Spiritual Formation?

I have been thinking about what Spiritual Formation is for the last few weeks.  Next week I will be starting a book discussion on Spiritual Formation Thursdays.  But I wanted to also talk about what Spiritual Formation is, because I think this book will be good to read in a Spiritual Formation mindset.

I ran across this quote from Life in the Spirit: Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective eds. Jeffery P. Greenman and George Kalantzis: “Spiritual Formation is our continuing response to the reality of God’s grace shaping us into the likeness of Jesus Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in the community of faith for the sake of the world.”  The quote comes from the essay “Spiritual Formation in Theological Perspective: Classic Issues, Contemporary Challenges,” by Jeffery P. Greenman.  I really like this quote, because unlike a lot of other explanations of Spiritual Formation I have seen, it has a Trinitarian format.  While Spiritual Formation’s goal is to shape us into the likeness of Christ, it is not done in a vacuum.  We must, first, respond to God the Father’s (I would have liked to see Greenman make the distinction that “God” is “the Father”) grace, beyond just the response of working toward sanctification and salvation, as we are not saved until we actually meet God face to face and he saves us.  This sanctification and salvation process shapes us into the likeness of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  But we are not just responding and grace is not just shaping us into Jesus, on its own, the Holy Spirit must work through us to do this; we must also be seeking the Holy Spirit to allow his work to fully penetrate our lives and beings.  Likewise we must, also, be seeking a community of faithful people to encourage us to grow into Christ-likeness.  All this is also done not for our own personal growth, but that we might be changed inwardly, to go out and shine the Light of Christ into a dark world, so that more might come to a saving knowledge of God.  While I like Greenman’s definition, I would place a lot more emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit in Spiritual Formation.  Since the Spirit’s role in the world and in our life is to reveal the Father and the Son to us, through the Bible, good works, the sacraments, and prayer.  I would also, define the “community of faith,” as “the catholic church;” making it a more specific community of faith since, the church is the community that Christ established.  I am not saying that para-church organizations cannot help with Spiritual Formation, sometimes they do a better job than the church; but the sacraments and spiritual authority were given to the church, not just a/the community of faith.


About Jesse

I am a graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary with a Masters of Arts in Theology focusing on Church History. I am a Third Order Benedictine monk, in the Company of Jesus. I am married to a wonderful woman, we just had a baby Michaela Rose. You can follow me and be alerted of new blog post by following me on Twitter @jtalexanderiv. Or following this blog.
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