Problems with the spiritual formation movement?
The term formation has a few meanings—
- A description of a process. As well as,
- a structure or arrangement.
Since the word “formation” was not widely used until the late 1400s, there are no “biblical” expressions of the term, though the intent of the phrase is strongly implied.
If interested, here are many spiritual formation examples in the Bible.
Additionally, the meaning of “spiritual” in our time, is all over the place.
Because of the difficulty of knowing language, in the sense of speaking the same meanings as opposed to merely the understanding of words—the words spiritual formation may have a different use depending on who is speaking this recently popular phrase.
The Dangers of Spiritual Formation
Dallas Willard, one of the “spiritual formation fathers” had this to say about the dangers and weaknesses of spiritual formation:
“The spiritual formation field lacks intellectual rigor and testable information needed to put the gospel and spiritual life in Christ on the cognitive map for the multitudes of people who are hungry for something real.”
You can hear him elaborating on this point starting at minute 3:07 in this video:
Like all sects of evangelicism, “spiritual formation” may be able to turn into a heresy. Just like the scribes and Pharisees adorned the law but had hearts far from God. Spiritual formation can become a hill to die on, an end unto itself.
12 Later his disciples came and told him, “Did you know how upset the Pharisees (Insert–spiritual formation guys, baptists, non-denominational peeps, any loud religious sect) were when they heard what you said?”
13-14 Jesus shrugged it off. “Every tree that wasn’t planted by my Father in heaven will be pulled up by its roots. Forget them. They are blind men leading blind men. When a blind man leads a blind man, they both end up in the ditch.” Matthew 15:12.
While most using this phrase are far from heretics, with the recent surge in spiritual formation certifications and masters programs, who knows what 20-years from now will look like?
It’s comforting to know there is a huge God and a little tiny world, “In God I trust; I shall not be afraid.” Psalm 56:4, instead of large problems and a little tiny god.