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Towards a Theological Perspective on Christian Spiritual Formation

Dr Alex Tang

 

Contemporary spiritual formation is difficult to study. It is a multidisciplinary subject involving psychology, sociology, anthropology, philosophy, education and theology. A review of the literature will show a large variety of definitions and practices associated with the subject. The language used, different philosophies and worldviews are different to different authors. Various authors differ in their approach to theology, anthropology and psychology. Others struggle between practice and theory. The fundamental commonality among the different authors is that concept of spiritual formation is about spiritual growth. However, their different basis of approach has lead to fundamental differences in their definition and outworking of their concept of spiritual formation.

In this paper I will attempt to develop a theological perspective on Christian spiritual formation. I will first examine the biblical teachings. Then I will look at Christian spiritual formation from the perspective of the concept of shalom, the image of God and the Trinity.

Towards a Biblical Basis for Spiritual Formation

North American theologian Michael Burer, in an essay published in an online website comments,

The words ‘spiritual formation’ do not occur in any English Bibles to which I currently have access, but this does not mean the concept as a whole is invalid. A concept can be taught by a biblical text even if specific terms are absent since many different terms can be used to teach a concept. Such is the case with spiritual formation (2007).

Burer uses Romans 12:1-2 as “the passage central to the concept” of spiritual formation.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.

According to Burer, the two key concepts from this passage are (1) the presentation of the body as sacrifice (12:1), and (2) the renewing of the mind (12:2). From his exegetical work on the passage, Burer draws the following connections with spiritual formation:

·        Spiritual formation is a response to God’s grace and mercy

·        Spiritual formation is an act of worship

·        Spiritual formation begins in the inner person and ultimately involves the entire person

·        Spiritual formation counters the sinful power of the world through transformation of the inner person

·        Spiritual formation enables the believer to act in accordance with God’s will.

This leads to his definition of spiritual formation as “an act of worship in response to God’s mercy and grace which involves the intentional transformation of the character to be like Christ and the intentional transformation of actions to conform to God’s will” (Burer, 2007). Burer’s understanding of spiritual formation from Rom.12:1-2 includes (1) an act of worship, (2) intentional, (3) transformation to Christlikeness, and (4) transformative action to God’s will.

Theologian Douglas Moo makes a similar comment, though not in reference to spiritual formation, but about worship and transformation of the mind in the passage. Commenting on the “bodies” for living sacrifice, he thinks that it is more than the physical body but “refer to the entire person, with special emphasis on that person’s interaction with the world” (1996, 751). This call to action from the inner transformation to outer active engagement with the world is echoed by Leon Morris and John Calvin (Calvin 2003, 451-453; Morris 1988, 436).

Another passage which may be central to my understanding of spiritual formation is Matthew 22:37-40.

Jesus replied: " `Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

The context of this passage is that interactions between Jesus and his opponents who seek to trap him with his words. Instead Jesus summarises the whole teaching of Scripture as relationship and love.[1] There is the vertical relationship to love God. Love of man and self is the horizontal relationship. These relationships are grounded in love which is the key to understanding this teaching of Jesus. Jesus is saying that if our love for God is our priority, all else in our thinking and action will fall in place.  This passage connects with spiritual formation in that

·        Spiritual formation is loving and knowing God

·        Spiritual formation is loving and knowing your neighbours

·        Spiritual formation is loving and knowing yourself

·        Spiritual formation is ongoing process of developing right relationships of love (vertically with God and horizontally with others)

·        Right relationships mean wholeness and harmony which is akin to the concept of the Hebrew shalom. Hence spiritual formation is growing into shalom.

There are other passages and biblical books that teach about spiritual formation. Burer suggests 2 Peter 1:3-8 because it shows that believers are equipped for spiritual growth, given the means to grow, and the goal which is to “partake of the divine nature.” Willard writes that “Paul’s letter to the Colossians is perhaps the best overall statement on the spiritual formation of the disciples in the New Testament” (Willard 1998, 350).

Christian spiritual formation may be considered as synonymous with sanctification. According to theologian Millard J. Erickson “sanctification is the continuing work of God in the life of believer, making him or her actually holy. By ‘holy’ here is meant ‘bearing the likeness of God’” (1999, 980). Thus in a sense, sanctification or Christian spiritual formation is about the restoration of the image of God. Jesus is the perfect image of God (2 Cor.4:4) and is shalom (Eph.2:14-18). Hence sanctification or Christian spiritual formation is about growing into Christlikeness or shalom. The other theological term is regeneration.

Spiritual Formation to Shalom

Shalom is a Hebrew word, often translated in English as peace. In the Old Testament, shalom is a frequently used word. Greek scholar Mounce notes that LXX translates Hebrew šālôm, which occurs 250 times in the Old Testament with eirēnē ( 2006, 503).  Examining the usage of the word in the Old Testament, Beck and Colin Brown discovered the usage of  šālôm covers wholeness, completeness, well-being, prosperity, health, contentment and salvation. However it has a social dimension in good relationships between countries, righteousness and justice (Beck and Brown 1986, 777). 

Theologian Hugh White uses a historical or developmental approach to understand the usage of the word šālôm in the Old Testament. He finds that šālôm are basically used in two settings. The first is its usage in a tribal setting in early Hebrew history where it denotes “an organic unity”, and secondly in a national setting as a covenant community (1973). In the tribal setting “the shalom of tribal life thus consisted of a dynamic, organically unified life process made stable by the institution of blood kinship” (1973, 9). The blood kinship was the static component but the dynamic life process involved living individually and corporately in such a way as to promote harmony and unity within the tribe. This concept was further expanded when the Hebrew became a covenant community. The promise of the covenant was “I will grant peace (shalom) in the land and you will lie down and no one will make you afraid.”(Lev.26:6a). However as the tribal šālôm demands blood unity, the national šālôm demands obedience to the Yahweh covenant. Whites notes that “it is in this context, then, shalom acquires its connection with love, faithfulness, justice and righteousness” (1973, 15). It is in the four prophets that White discovers the “eschatological prophetic visions of shalom” that links the Old Testament and the New Testament. These are Isaiah (prince of peace), Jeremiah (new covenant), Ezekiel (covenant of peace), and Deutero-Isaiah (suffering servant) (White 1973,20-24).

In the New Testament, eirēnē is found 91 times, 24 of which are in the Gospels (Beck and Brown 1986), 780). Beck and Brown comments that the meaning of eirēnē in the New Testament have the same “form and content” as its meaning in the Old Testament (Beck and Brown 1986, 180). The expansion is that Christ himself is eirēnē (Eph.2:14-18), he is the mediator of eirēnē, bringing reconciliation (Col.1:20), and a “sense of wholeness both for men and the world (2 Cor.:17; Gal.6:15)” (Beck and Brown 1986, 781). Beck and Brown notes “the whole process of believers’ sanctification, preservation and perfecting (1 Thess.5:23; Heb. 13:20) serves to deepen their participation in the peace of God” (1986, 781). Christian spiritual formation may be understood as growing into shalom.

The Bible presents the time of the Garden of Eden before the fall as paradise. It will be a time of shalom where there is what theologian Edward Powers describe as an ecology “of the relationship of people, creatures, and nature.”  (1973, 15). God is interested in a whole person, a whole people of his own, a whole earth and a whole creation which is implied in the concept of shalom. The Christian Story is about God recreating his shalom again. First, shalom is personal. It is a person finding wholeness by reconnecting to God and other people and learning to live without harming the environment. Theologian Norma Everist writes,

Jesus made shalom through the cross (Col.1:20; Eph.2:15-16). When Jesus healed and forgave people, he dismissed them by saying, “Go in shalom.” We are to “seek and pursue it.”(Ps.34:14b as quoted in 1 Pet. 3:11). We are to be at peace, pursue it, send it, and keep it (Rom.12; 18; 1 Thess.5:13; 2 Cor. 13:11) Rom.14:19; 1 Cor. 16:11). Shalom is an active fruit of the spirit and a mark of the realm of God. It is about the matrix of peace, harmony, and wholeness and is both a gift and task for the very goal of our teaching and learning life together. Shalom is an active fruit of the spirit and a mark of the realm of God. It is about the matrix of peace, harmony, and wholeness and is both a gift and task for the very goal of our teaching and learning life together. (2002, 68-69)

Shalom is about wholeness or completeness in an individual. Mounce notes that shalom is Jesus’ “parting gift”[2] to his disciples (2006, 503). Joldersma, in unpacking Wolterstorff’s idea of shalom writes,

Shalom means people living in right relationships with God, themselves, each other, and nature- and in taking delight in such relationships. Shalom involves finding meaning in our experiences and celebrating the actualizing of creation’s potentials. Shalom involves recognizing in ourselves that place where Gods’ goodness finds its answer in our gratitude. Shalom is an ethical community where all the members have a full and secure place in the community. As such, it embraces a “non-abandonment” view of the creation that involves redeeming it. (Wolterstorff 2004, xii)

Therefore it is to shalom that the process of Christian spiritual formation of an individual proceeds.

Second, shalom is also for a community. Luke uses the word shalom to describe the early struggling Christian church (Acts 9:31). Expanding on this Everist writes,

Shalom is communal, meaning the right relationship between friends, neighbours, a community, nation, or even all the inhabited world (oikoumene). The heart of the meaning is close to life itself.

Shalom is linked with truth and justice in the Hebrew Bible, especially by Jeremiah[3]. Forgiveness, righteousness, justification, reconciliation, pardon, restoration, good news, and salvation - all words which point to harmony in any relationship- are all part of the semantic domain of shalom. In Paul’s theology in the New Testament Bible, justification by faith gives shalom with God through Jesus Christ.”(2002, 68)

The shalom concept of tribal and national or covenant community is now carried on by the laos or people of God (1 Peter 2:9-10). This means that a community must work together to create this shalom. Shalom is both something to work for and is also a gift from God (Rom.1:7; 1 Cor.1:3).

Finally, shalom is when the wholeness of all creation is restored with the creation of the new heavens and earth. This eschatological concept of shalom gives us hope and motivation in working to achieve it.

The concept of shalom gives an idea of what Christian spiritual formation should be achieving. Christian spiritual formation should be producing wholeness or completeness in individuals, communities and in the world. It also looks forward to an eschatological shalom. However shalom cannot be achieved without the restoration of the image of God in mankind. Christian spiritual formation is part of the process of the restoration of the image of God or imago dei which was perverted during the Fall (Demarest 1984, 404). The complete restoration process or salvation[4] starts with justification by faith which is followed by Christian spiritual formation or sanctification and ends with glorification (Erickson 1999, 960-1013).

Christian Spiritual Formation as a Process in Restoring the Image of God

God created the present creation in six days and on the seventh day he rested (Gen.1:1-2:1). He made man and woman in his own image, the imago dei (Gen.1:26-27). Theologian Anthony Hoekema in his exhaustive study of the image of God discerned two aspects; a functional aspect as “involving man in his threefold relationship – to God, to others, and to nature” (1986, 75-82), and a structural aspect as moving from the “original image” to the “the perverted image” after the Fall, and the “the renewed image”, to “the perfected image” in God’s redemptive work (1986, 82-96).

Man and woman are created for a relationship with God (Gen.3:8-9). Unfortunately the man and woman disobeyed him, and fell, distorting his perfect creation in what is known as the “original sin” or Fall resulting in Hoekema’s “perverted image”(Gen.3:1-24). There is also a break in the threefold functioning relationship with God, others and nature. Theologian Demarest presents this as historical fact while others like Karl Barth and Emil Brunner argues that the fall is not historical but “saga or legend”  (Demarest 1984,405). It is beyond the scope of this dissertation to examine in depth this theological topic. As theologian Henri Blocher has noted, “the controversies has continued unabated through the centuries” (1997, 15). I am more in agreement with the perspective of Demarest and Blocher.

God sent his Son to redeem fallen human beings by his death on the cross and by his resurrection. Those who receive his Son are restored in union and justified. He sends the Holy Spirit to empower them as they are restored into the image of Christ (renewed image) and as his special people. God the Father wants to work in partnership with his restored human beings in his plan to redeem his whole creation[5]. The end result is the “perfected image” of God for humankind and a new heaven and earth. As Hoekema summarises “the purpose of redemption is to restore the image of God in man” (1986, 27).

The restoration of the image of God is not just limited to individual human beings but also involve the Church. This is because all believers are part of the Church which is the body of Christ (Eph. 5:26). The Church is the laos, the special called-out people of God. The restoration of the image of God has a corporate component, or “ecclesiastical aspect” as Hoekema indicates (1986, 89). Approaching from the epistemological rather than anthropological angle, theologian Ian McFarland postulates that in restoring the divine image, one receives more revelation and knowledge of God (2005). In this dissertation, I will follow the anthropological approach of Hoekema.

There are some connections between the image of God and Christian spiritual formation. First, Christian spiritual formation is the process of restoring the fallen imago dei in each human being so that he or she become more like God. Hoekema notes that “because Christ is the perfect image of God, becoming more like God also means becoming more like Christ” (1986,89). Hence Christian spiritual formation is to restore our fallen nature to become like that of Christ’s or Christlikeness (Gal. 4:19; Rom.8:29; 2 Cor 3:18). It is after being restored that we can be who God has created us to be.

Second, Christian spiritual formation in restoring the image of God is also restoring its functioning as relationship builder. This means restoring our vertical relationship with God, and horizontal relationship with other persons and nature.

Third, restoring the image of God in individuals has a corporate effect. Individual members of the body of Christ contribute to the body and come to a deeper knowledge of God; and to partake of the nature of God (2 Peter 1:4; 1 Jn. 3:12).

Finally, this process of restoring the image of God is a cooperative effort between the Holy Spirit and individuals. The work of the Holy Spirit works through Scripture and the means of grace[6] which slowly transforms believers into his likeness. It involves making tough choices and sometimes being placed in painful circumstances.

 

The Triune God and Christian Spiritual Formation

The doctrine of the Trinity is that God reveals himself in the Scripture as God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. There is only one God and in the essence of this one Godhead, there are three persons: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. These three persons are neither parts of one another, facets, or modes of existence but are co-equal and co-eternal.[7]  According to theologian Stanley Grenz contemporary understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity stems from a consensus among theologians that view “theological language as metaphorical” (2001, 7-8). Thus it allows theologians from different traditions to interact on this doctrine since a revival of interest stimulated by Karl Barth in the last century (Olson and Hall 2002, 95).

Malaysian theologian Albert Sundaraj Walters suggests a contextualized model of the Trinity which he named “Trinity from Below.” He constructs this model from interviews with Malaysian Christians and Muslims and then reflected on his findings theologically. Using the banana tree as a symbol of “fullness of life,” he writes, “Thus, this image of the banana tree is closely linked to the Trinity which portrays the essence of Being as a coming-from and a going-to, a giving and receiving”  (2002,276).  A Korean theologian in the United States, Jung Young Lee uses the Chinese symbol of Yin-Yang to express his understanding of the Trinity. He starts with Jesus whose dual nature as man and God is reflected in the two portions of the Yin-Yang symbol. The feminine Yin represents the Holy Spirit which is female and Mother. The Yang represent the masculine and hence God the Father. (Lee 1996). These are just two examples of how Asian theologians are engaged in understanding the Trinity.

Catholic theologian Karl Rahner’s describes the Trinity in a short sentence, “The ‘economic’ Trinity is the ‘immanent’ Trinity and the ‘immanent’ Trinity is the ‘economic’ Trinity” (1967, 22). Olson and Hall broke that rather cryptic statement into “immanent Trinity” (beyond the world) and “economic Trinity” (within history). What Rahner is saying is that God created the world and relates to the world, but the world is not part of God. Otherwise, saving the world “becomes God’s self-salvation as well.” (2002, 3). Thus God is uniquely one: “The Lord, our God is one Lord” (Deu.6:4) who is the creator that stands outside of his creation.

The three persons of the Trinity relates to one another. The Father sends the Son and yet remains with him (Jn 8:29). The Son represents the Father and obey him willingly (Jn 8:28). Jesus proclaims that he is God (Jn 8:58) and accept faith and worship from his disciples (Matt.16:16, Jn 20:28). The Holy Spirit is part of this relationship (Jn 14-16). Volf in arguing for an anthropological model of “social trinitarianism” emphases that the Trinity is not just understood by God’s self-revelation but also by what was done in salvation history (2006, 5-7). He then elaborates that there is a role for a person with the image of God or of the Trinity (imatatio Trinitatis). According to him,

Because God has made us to reflect God’s own triune being, our human tasks are not first of all to do as God does – and certainly not to make ourselves as God is – but to let ourselves be indwelled by God and to celebrate and proclaim what God has done, is doing, and will do (Volf 2006), 6-7).

This role of human, created in God’s image and fulfilling the potential of that image by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is similar to our definition of Christian spiritual formation. I will argue that this aspect of the Trinity is the basis for Christian spiritual formation. I will use an anthropological approach which is consistent with my approach in the earlier parts of this section concerning shalom and the image of God.

First, Christian spiritual formation is a process of being in communion with the Trinitarian God. Grenz describes the influence of social personalism[8] as the realisation the self who is not a “what” but a “who.” This “who” emerges out of conversations with other “whos” to become persons-in-communion. However it is when persons-in-communion become part of a conversation with God that the “who” discover discovers its identity as a person-in-relationship (2001, 12-14). It is in community with a Christian faith community that we discover who we are. This is only possible in relationships with others in the community and with God. When God created us, it is to enjoy a relationship with him (Gen.3:8, 9). Our spiritual growth is a process of self discovery in relationship with God and with others. Puritan theologian John Owen in his 1657 book, Communion with the Triune God described in detail the communion possible with the Triune God, and individually with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit (2007). He noted,

Our communion, then with God consists in his communication of himself unto us, with our return unto him of that which he requires and accepts, flowing from that union which in Jesus Christ we have with him (Owen 2007, 94)

The Trinitarian God engages individuals in Christian faith communities in communion. Communion helps us to know God by moving from a cognitive state to an experiential state. This is sometimes called faith[9]. We learn about love too. In order to save us and to reveal himself to us, God became incarnate. Jesus Christ is God incarnate; fully human and fully God (1 Jn. 1:1-3). God the Father shows us love in action as Jesus the Son suffers and dies on the cross. The persons of the Trinity are so close that when Jesus suffers, the Father and the Holy Spirit also experience suffering. Erickson comments, “This says that God is not merely aloft and indifferent to suffering in the world. The second person of the trinity has acted to take some of that evil’s effects on himself ” (2000, 74).

 Second, Christian spiritual formation is about a process of building relationships. Theologian Jürgen Moltmann suggests that it is the interpersonal relationship within the Godhead that gives us the model to love our neighbours (1981, 199). Within the Godhead, there is mutual respect, submission, harmony and equality. This should then be the model for us to respect, submit and live with one another in harmony and equality (Erickson 2000, 84-98). Walters suggested that hospitality and friendship are important elements in learning from the interpersonal relationship within the Trinity. (2002, 265- 278).

Third, Christian spiritual formation is a process of forming a people for the Trinitarian God (Rom.8:29, 30: 1 Peter 2:9-10). The Biblical record is a meta-narrative of how God is calling a people to himself, those whom he has prepared before creation began. Gabriel Franke illustrates, “In the most elementary of terms, these refrains are the chapter heading of The Christian Story: Creation, Fall, Covenant, Jesus Christ, Church, Salvation, Consummation, with their Prologue and Epilogue, God.” (1996, 5). God, the Father intervenes in history to create this group of people. To prove his commitment, God has sealed this group of people with the Holy Spirit. This special group of people is the ecclesia (the called out ones) or the Church who will praise and worship him for all eternity. Grenz in his examination of the postmodern self, identifies the “ecclesial” self  that is formed in the Church in communion and as an image of the relational Trinitarian God (2001, 331-336). Theologian Miroslaf Volf, writing from the perspective of Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologies concludes also that the Church is the image of the Trinity (1998).

Finally, Christian spiritual formation is a process of being the body of Christ on earth after Jesus has ascended to heaven. This body of Christ or the Church will carry on Jesus’ mission here on earth. To enable them to complete this mammoth task, God the Father sent the Holy Spirit to indwell them and empower and guide them with spiritual gifts and other divine powers. Jesus’ mission is to carry out to completion the Father’s plan of redemption for all fallen men and women, and the fallen creation itself. The idea of mission dei (mission of God) was first mooted following the lead of  Karl Barth at the International Missionary Council held in Willingen, Germany (Seamands 2005, 160). The one-in-three or plurality of the Trinity also helps to explain the relationship of the Trinity to creation or the natural world. Theologian Colin Gunton, using T.F. Torrance “parallel rationalities” argues that

the plurality in unity of the triune revelation enables us to do justice to the diversity, richness, and openness of the world without denying its unity in relativistic versions of pluralism. It is that vision that trinitarian theology has to offer the fragmented modern world (Gunton 1997, 103).

Missio dei is the restoration of human beings and nature, through the empowering of the people of God by the Holy Spirit.

Canadian theologian Paul Stevens explains, “Mission is God’s own going forth – truly an ekstasis of God. He is Sender, Sent and Sending,” (Stevens 1999, 194). In examining the Trinitarian influence on ministry, theologian Stephen Seamands discovers seven characteristics: (1) relational personhood, (2) joyful intimacy, (3) glad surrender, (4) complex simplicity, (5) gracious self-acceptance, (6) mutual indwelling, and (7) passionate mission (2005). These seven characteristics should not only influence ministry but also Christian spiritual formation.

A Theological Perspective on Christian Spiritual Formation

 The Trinitarian God is involved in our spiritual formation. The author of Hebrews states, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb.12:2). I will suggest a theological perspective on Christian spiritual formation be anthropological with the metaphor of restoring the image of God in the context of the Trinitarian engagement with the created order.

This will correlate with my definition of Christian spiritual formation as an intentional process of believers growing into shalom; characterised by knowing and loving God, knowing and loving themselves, knowing and loving other people and experiencing the Presence of God in their everyday lives in a community of faith. The basis of Christian spiritual formation is Trinitarian in the call of God the Father, the finished work of Jesus Christ the Son and the transformative work of the Holy Spirit. The goals of Christian spiritual formation are growing into imago dei or Christlikeness in persons, restoring the imago dei in a people of God, and carrying out the missio dei.

soli deo gloria

 

Bibliography

Arnold, W. T. (1996). Salvation. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. W. A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI, baker Books: 701-703.

Beck, H. and C. Brown (1986). Peace. The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology. C. Brown. Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan. 2: 776-783.

Blevins, D. G. (2005). "Renovating Christian Education in the 21st Century: A Wesleyan Contribution." Christian Education Journal: Series 3 2(1): 6-29.

Blocher, H. (1997). Original Sin: Illuminating the Riddle. Downer Drive, IL, InterVarsity Press.

Burer, M. H. (2007). "Towards a Biblical Definition of Spiritual Formation: Romans 12:1-2."   Retrieved 4 July 2007, from http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=4816.

Calvin, J. (2003). Calvin's Commentaries: Volume XIX. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books.

Demarest, B. A. (1984). Fall of Man. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. W. A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books: 403-405.

Dykstra, C. (2005). Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices. Louisville, KN, Westminster John Knox Press.

Erickson, M. J. (1999). ChristianTheology. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books.

_____,(2000). Making Sense of the Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books.

Everist, N. C. (2002). The Church as Learning Community: A Comprehensive Guide to Christian Education. Nashville, Abingdon Press.

Fackre, G. (1996). The Christian Story: A Narrative Interpretation of Basic Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids. MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Grenz, S. J. (2001). The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei. Louisville, KY, Westminster John Knox Press.

_____,(2004). Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology. Minneapolis, MN, Fortress Press.

Gunton, C. (1997). The Trinity, Natural Theology, and a Theology of Nature. The Trinity in a Pluralistic Age: Theological Essays on Culture and Religion. K. J. Vanhoozer. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company: 88-103.

Hagner, D. A. (1995). Matthew 14-28. Dallas, TX, Word Books, Publisher.

Hoekema, A. A. (1986). Created in God's Image. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Lee, J. Y. (1996). The Trinity in Asian Perspective. Nashville, Abingdon Press.

McFarland, I. A. (2005). The Divine Image: Envisioning the Invisible God. Minneapolis, MN, Augsburg Fortress.

Moltmann, J. (1981). The Trinity and the Kingdom of God. London, SCM Press.

Moo, D. (1996). The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Morris, L. (1988). The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI, William. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

_____,(1992). The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Mounce, W. D., Ed. (2006). Mounce's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words. Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan.

Olson, R. and C. Hall (2002). The Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Owen, J. (2007). Communion with God. Kelly M.Kapic and Justin Taylor, Wheaton, IL, Crossway Books .

Powers, E. A. (1973). Signs of Shalom. Philadelphia, Joint Educational Development United Church Press.

Rahner, K. (1967). The Trinity. New York, Crossroad Publishing Company.

Seamands, S. (2005). Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service. Downers Groove, IL, InterVarsity Press.

Stevens, R. P. (1999). The Other Six Days: Vocation, Work and Ministry in Biblical Perspective. Grand Rapids, MI., William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Volf, M. (1998). After Our Likeness: The Church as the Image of the Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

_____,(2006). Being as God Is. God's Life in Trinity. M. Volf and M. Welker. Minneapolis, MN, Fortress Press: 3-12.

Walters, A. S. (2002). We Believe in One God? Reflections on the Trinity in the Malaysian Context. New Delhi, ISPCK.

White, H. C. (1973). Shalom in the Old Testament. Philadelphia, Division of Christian Education of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries.

White, R. E. O. (1984). Salvation. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. W. A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books: 967-969.

Willard, D. (1998). The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. New York, HarperCollins Publishers.

Wolterstorff, N. (2004). Educating for Shalom: Essays on Christian Higher Education. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

 

Endnotes
 

[1] For a more detailed examination of the context of Jesus’ interactions with the Pharisees and Sadducees see Morris, L. (1992). The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p.553-567. Morris comments “In one way or another all commandments are expressions of God’s love. Love is the thrust of them all, and it is only as we love that we fulfil them.” p.564. see also Hagner, D. A. (1995). Matthew 14-28. Dallas, TX, Word Books, Publisher. p.643-648.

[2] Jn. 14:27; 16:33; 20:19, 21, 26

[3] Jer. 6:14; 8:11

[4] In this dissertation, I shall be discussing salvation from the evangelical view, as distinctive from the view of liberation theology and of sacramentalism. See Erickson, M. J. (1999). ChristianTheology. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books.  p.1021-1025.

[5] This is a brief outline of God’s great plan of redemption or salvation. See White, R. E. O. (1984). Salvation. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. W. A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books: 967-969. also see Arnold, W. T. (1996). Salvation. Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. W. A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI, baker Books: 701-703. A more detail treatment see Erickson, M. J. (1999). ChristianTheology. Grand Rapids, MI, Baker Books. p.901-1032. These are all from the evangelical view.

[6] Means of grace was coined by John Wesley. Unfortunately Wesley varies his definitions in his various sermons and writing. Basically, he divided means of grace into two groups: acts of piety and acts of mercy. Later, as the Methodist movement matures, he divided the means of grace into instituted and prudential means. Dean Blevins elaborates, “The instituted means are very similar to Wesley’s understanding of ordinances or acts of piety, and include prayer (private, family, and public), searching the Scriptures (by reading, meditating, and hearing), the Lord’s Supper, fasting, and Christian Conference…The prudential means include particular rules, arts of holy living, acts of ministry, and larger attitudes toward daily living listed under the headings of watching, denying ourselves, taking up the cross, and exercising the presence of God.” Blevins, D. G. (2005). "Renovating Christian Education in the 21st Century: A Wesleyan Contribution." Christian Education Journal: Series 3 2(1): 6-29.p.14

[7] Following Karl Barth, some of the Protestant theologians like Jürgen Moltman, Wolfhart Pannenberg and Eberhard Jüngel in Germany; T.F. Torrance and Colin Gunton in the United Kingdom; Ted Peters, Miroslav Volf, Elizabeth Johnson, Emil Brunner, Paul Tillich, Robert Jensen and Millard Erickson in the North America; Leonardo Boff, Okechukwu Ogbonnaya and Jung Young Lee in Latin America, Africa and Asia; Roman Catholics theologians like Karl Rahner,and Catherine Mowry LaCunga; Orthodox theologians like Vladimir Lossky and John Zizioulas, have been influential in developing our theological understanding of the Trinity. Olson and Hall have written a comprehensive historical and theological survey of the doctrine of the Trinity with a very useful bibliography on books published in English on the Trinity . see Olson, R. and C. Hall (2002). The Trinity. Grand Rapids, MI, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. See also Rahner, K. (1967). The Trinity. New York, Crossroad Publishing Company.; Grenz, S. J. (2004). Rediscovering the Triune God: The Trinity in Contemporary Theology. Minneapolis, MN, Fortress Press.

[8] Grenz attributes much of the thinking behind “social personalism” as based on the works of Martin Buber, Michael Polanyi, and John Macmurray. Grenz, S. J. (2001). The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei. Louisville, KY, Westminster John Knox Press. p.10-14.

[9] Dykstra makes this point, “…that faith is still primarily a matter of knowing some thing, however, we have missed what is fundamental about it. For faith is not only knowing the message, it is knowing the Messenger. (italics author’s) Dykstra, C. (2005). Growing in the Life of Faith: Education and Christian Practices. Louisville, KN, Westminster John Knox Press. p.21. Hence faith is not blind.

 

|posted 7 April 2008|

 

               

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