Final Thoughts -- By: John H. Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 13:3 (Summer 2004)
Article: Final Thoughts
Author: John H. Armstrong


Final Thoughts

John H. Armstrong

The noun “spirituality” never occurs in the Bible. The Latin form, spiritualitas, appeared first in a fifth-century letter. The idea expressed by this first use seems quite close to Paul’s use of the term spiritual (pneumatikos) in Romans 8:14 and Galatians 5:25. Christian spirituality is about life in the Spirit if the biblical and historic uses are properly understood and balanced.

Spiritual formation seems to be the rage today, at least in some evangelical circles. Magazines and articles, a whole line of books, hundreds of websites, personal and group retreats at monasteries, and organized prayer walks indicate that this topic is truly alive and well. But will this movement impact our lives, our churches and our prayer for the renewal of the church? I wonder.

I am not skeptical about this. I believe finding various traditions and ancient Christian paths is a good thing generally. It should be fostered by pastors and lay leaders. But will it be another passing fad? I have lived long enough to see programs burst on the scene with great force, involving thousands of Evangelicals for a season, only to disappear again, seemingly leaving us not that much better for the experience. In an age of marketing, could this be another “fad” we try for a time?

I, for one, need the insights of various spiritual traditions and classical Christianity. I find prayer a struggle, fasting a challenge, and spiritual retreat a necessity but something hard to plan and do well. I find reading in general a joy but spiritual reading very difficult to do. I do not like memorization but I need to do more of it. I certainly do not find it easy to

account for my life to any other human person, mentor, director or whatever. For all these reasons, and many more, I need the spiritual formation renewal that has grown over the past decade or so. My guess is that you need it too.

Spiritual direction has a long history in the Christian church. Richard Peace has suggested that it “might even be argued that the roots of spiritual direction are found in the relationship between Jesus and the small group of men whom he called to be apostles or between Paul and the various individuals (such as Timothy) to whom he gave guidance” (Evangelical Dictionary of Christian Education, Warren S. Benson, Daryl Eldridge, and Julie Gorman, editors, 655).

As we know this discipline evolved in the fourth to sixth centuries following the conversion of Constantine. The more the Roman Empire became officially Christian ...

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