Evangelical Spirituality: A Biblical Scholar’s Perspective -- By: Bruce Waltke

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 31:1 (Mar 1988)
Article: Evangelical Spirituality: A Biblical Scholar’s Perspective
Author: Bruce Waltke


Evangelical Spirituality:
A Biblical Scholar’s Perspective

Bruce Waltke*

Christians define spirituality differently. For many Roman Catholics spirituality means the veneration of saints, the worship of relics, pilgrimages to shrines, the mediating and propitiatory function of the priest in celebrating the mass, and the propitiatory function of prayer. In some monastic orders the spiritual person is equated with the ascetic, one who dedicates his life to a pursuit of contemplative ideals and who, for religious reasons, practices extreme self-denial or self.mortification. For Pannenberg spirituality is the quest for self-identity, for human meaning through the Christian message. For some evangelicals spirituality is equated with exercising spiritual gifts, for others it is measured by souls won to Christ, and for still others it is the quest for self.improvement through sound doctrine.

Most evangelicals will agree with Augustine and Calvin that spirituality is best defined as love of God and love of man. Richard Lovelace wrote: “But the goal of authentic spirituality is a life which escapes from the closed circle of spiritual self-indulgence, or even self-improvement to become absorbed in the love of God and other persons.”1

This definition of spirituality is grounded in both Testaments. J. Gerald Janzen notes:

It can hardly be doubted that the Shema constitutes the theological center of the Book of Deuteronomy: “Hear, O Israel: Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one; and you shall love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (6:4–5) … Every act of Torah-obedience finds its motivation, its purpose, and its criterion of appropriateness in Israel’s love for Yahweh.2

“Love” in this treaty context, as William Moran has convincingly argued on the basis of relatively similar political documents in the ancient Near East, means steadfast commitment, undivided allegiance.3 It is an act of the will that cannot be coerced. Synonyms of love are “trust” (Deut 1:32), “hold fast to” (4:4; 11:22), “serve” (10:16), and various expressions for obedience (11:1, 13, 22). Once allegiance is sworn, instruction is appropriate.

*Bruce Wa...

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