Is Propositional Revelation Essential to Evangelical Spiritual Formation? -- By: Gordon R. Lewis

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 46:2 (Jun 2003)
Article: Is Propositional Revelation Essential to Evangelical Spiritual Formation?
Author: Gordon R. Lewis

Is Propositional Revelation Essential to Evangelical Spiritual Formation?

Gordon R. Lewis

[Gordon R. Lewis is senior professor of theology end philosophy at Denver Seminary, P.O. Box 100,000, Denver, CO 80250–0100.]

On a pluralistic planet of numerous world religions, Christian denominations, and cults, does spiritual passion need to be directed by true information? It is often hazardous to speak, not only of religion and politics, but also of spirituality and discernment. In a Peanuts cartoon, after Woodstock lectured Snoopy for three frames, Snoopy exclaimed, “I don’t care if you are a friend, you have no right to criticize my lifestyle!” In spite of such possible reactions, conflicting accounts of God’s nature and spiritual formation require evaluation.

During the first fifty years of my teaching ministry, some of the most influential varieties of spiritual formation have denied the necessity of any guidance by divinely originated assertions about the object of one’s ultimate spiritual affection. Following a brief assessment of these, your consideration is invited to the thesis that, in addition to God’s supreme revelation in the person of Jesus Christ, some propositional revelation is necessary, although not sufficient, as a guide for authentic evangelical spiritual experience. First, some definitions of significant terms involved.

First, what is meant by spirituality? Spirituality is devotion, desire or longing for a loving relationship with the ultimate reality with which, or with whom, we have to do. The pre-eminent love of some is for themselves, their pride, their pleasure, or their net worth. Humanists value more highly a transcendent object beyond themselves, such as temporal causes for the good of humanity. The ultimate devotion of many in the East and the West is for harmony with the inner energy of the cosmos. As good as these ultimate concerns may be, they are not transcendent enough.

Augustine found that we were made for devotion to an even higher reality. “ahou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless, until they find their rest in Thee.”1 Do what we will, a temporal happiness that can be lost will not permanently satisfy. The ultimate longing (Sehnsucht) of every person, C. S. Lewis emphasized, is not satisfied by any natural happiness. Fairy tales and philosophies of inevitable progress and evolution imagine a future heaven on earth. But what satisfies this longing is a relationship with a personal, living, moral, and gracious God distinct from creation, but

active in it. The Oxford Professor adds, “I read in a periodi...

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