Metaphors of Spiritual Reality Part 2: Botanical Metaphors of Development -- By: Ted W. Ward

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 139:555 (Jul 1982)
Article: Metaphors of Spiritual Reality Part 2: Botanical Metaphors of Development
Author: Ted W. Ward


Metaphors of Spiritual Reality
Part 2:
Botanical Metaphors of Development

Ted W. Ward

[Ted W. Ward, Professor of Curriculum Research, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan]

[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series based on the author’s W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 9–12, 1982.]

Every teacher and pastor, every parent and true friend—indeed, everyone who cares about another person—is involved in the processes of development. Not many years ago the study of human development was left largely to teachers, psychologists, and pediatricians. In recent years the popular awareness of the “stages of life” has made the literature of development everybody’s business.1 That is a healthy change.

Christians need to be knowledgeable about what development is and how it works. This is true not only because each Christian, as a person, is in one way or another in the development process but also because Christians are directly participating in the development of others.

What Is the Place of Spiritual Development?

All aspects of human development are interrelated. The fact that many religious educators and pastors claim to be concerned mostly (or exclusively) with spiritual development does not change things. Spiritual development does not occur in a vacuum. To argue that one’s ministry, as a pastor or educator, is exclusively a spiritual matter may reflect profound truth or dismal misunderstanding.

Certainly spiritual concerns are central in the sense that all human matters are ultimately spiritual matters. But this should not be taken to mean that spiritual matters are separable from

other aspects of life. An individual’s spiritual reality involves a composite of the whole person revealed in his natural attributes. In the new birth a person is made alive spiritually, and he is thus a spiritual being invested in corporal substance. In general, spiritual development interacts with all that it means to be human, and at the same time spiritual development depends on conformity to the mind of Christ. Spiritual development is not equivalent to intellectual development, yet the appropriation of wisdom (making God-informed decisions about life) is basic (Prov 9:1–6).

The dichotomizing mind prefers to split the human being into separate parts, sometimes called “sectors” or “aspects.” Clearly there is a difference between physical strength and emotional strength. And no one would argue (in Western traditions, ...

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