Something that I have been giving a lot of thought to has been spiritual formation. I’m sure some of that has to do with my education, but when, honestly, was the last time you considered your spiritual life? This month’s book, Tending Soul, Mind, and Body: The Art and Science of Spiritual Formation, published by InterVarsity Press in October 2019, seeks to open the eyes of pastors and laypeople to consider taking care of one’s spirit/soul. This book is a published version of reflections and presentations made during the 2018 Center for Pastor Theologians conference. Topics in this book reflect the fields of theological anthropology, spiritual formation, and psychology and how they can be used to look at the person as a whole; not merely physical, mental, and spiritual health.
Part one of this book is called Biblical, Theological, and Historical Reflections. Within are seven essays that help the reader understand the approach from a philosophical perspective. What is most important is noticing that the Church has always had a perspective that allows for the total person approach. Far too often the Church has been resolved to handle strictly spiritual manners. Yet a person is more than simply a spirit. God created humanity with a physical body, and thought life, and the image of God imprinted upon us. Rachel Stahle even discusses Jonathan Edwards views on the importance to sanctification.
“In our zeal to emphasize the importance of the affections, personal experiences, and embodied practices in our understanding of spiritual formation, I think we run the risk of downplaying the clear biblical emphasis on the knowledge of God in his self-revelation.”Marc Cortez
The second part is all about the practical wisdom. While the first part built up the understanding of seeing a person as a whole, the second part teaches you how to apply it. No longer are the standard answers prayer and Bible study enough for understanding our spiritual lives. Once we recognize the whole person we can see new ways of practicing our spirituality. Personal relationships are not often thought about when it comes to the spiritual life, yet, Pamela Baker Powell writes a chapter recognizing friendship as a spiritual discipline.
“We are called to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. There is no place for loneliness in this calling.”Pamela Baker Powell
If you want a good primer on the discussion surrounding spiritual formation, this is certainly the book for you. While this book is certainly written for pastors and theologians, many laypeople will also find this book helpful as they seek to deepen their spiritual lives. Each essay is relatively accessible and easy to understand. I found it personally helpful in my own ministry setting, and found it to be an enjoyable read. I look forward to reading more from the Center for Pastor Theologians. Order yourself a copy, and let’s have a conversation!
PS: I’m having a hard time knowing how to write these reviews. I certainly don’t want to give everything away, but I’d love to start having conversations about them. Let me know what you think.