Dr. Douglas Hardy, Professor of Spiritual Formation, Nazarene Theological Seminary.
Please take time to listen to the audio at the end of this article. The audio will be one of Mr. Hardy teaching at Oxford Church of the Nazarene. “Spiritual Formation”
Ge 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die Ge 3:4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
2Co 11:3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty,so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.
Does “Spiritual Formation” Line up with God’s Word?
Spiritual Formation is common in our churches now. What exactly is it? The definition can vary from church to church. From research, I believe it is meant to push people to have a deeper spiritual life while emphasizing holiness. This in itself is not a bad goal. The problem is that it takes its direction from unholy roots. Some would claim that the roots lie in Wesleyan theology, but I could not find this. Holiness, yes. Labyrinths, prayer beads, breathing exercises, cannot be found with Wesley, but rather in Catholicism and eastern religions. Spiritual formation contains many good attributes, such as self-examination and encouraging the practice of prayer and holiness. But where it strays and becomes a snare is when it entangles ancient heathen practices and ritualism in its teachings. In Jeremiah 10:2, Israel is commanded,” Learn not the way of the heathen…”and v.3 says, “For the customs of the people are vain…” By adding traditions that are used primarily in unholy religions, the will and work of the Holy Ghost is not aided. The Holy Spirit will always lead you plainly and clearly to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.
The fruits of the teaching of “Spiritual Formation” in our churches are many. I would address a few here. First, I believe it has resulted in spiritual relationships with people who are not saved. We are not to bond with unsaved people, religious or not. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 clearly tells us to “Come out and be separate.” We cannot study with the Catholics, who believe Mary is superior to Jesus and pray to idols, and be right with God. We cannot, in good faith. practice prayer meditation in the same manner the Buddhists do, and expect to please the God of Israel. Remember in the Old Testament how God got very angry when his people did not tear down the groves that the heathen had used for prayer. Surely, they could have prayed there, but God wanted them to have no part in even the appearance of evil. In I Kings 14:22-24, the Lord deals with this. In 2 Chon.19: 3, God blesses them for removing the groves.
This brings me to my second point; we are engaging in practices that we have learned from the ancient Easter religions. Such as meditations, centering prayer, lectio divina practices, among others. Christianity has always stood apart from such mystical practices. Now we are teaching it in our Sunday School curriculum!! Another result from this emphasis on “Spiritual Formation” is our inclusion of those who do not worship Christ. “Spiritual Formation” always leads people to ultimately define God for themselves. In other words, I could pray to the God of Isaac, while you might pray to a “higher power”, or “Allah.” Follow the writings of those who are leading us in this movement. They start out pretty ordinary, but as they progress in the movement it always leads to the joining of saved people with those who may not even acknowledge His blood sacrifice for salvation. I believe this is an abomination in the sight of God.
2 Tim. 2:15,16,17a “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker:”
One last fruit of this movement, which I would like to draw your attention to is this: Watered down preaching. This movement encourages a therapy couch type preaching. Where we read and you tell me how it makes you feel and I tell you how it makes me feel. The pastor asks, “What do you think it means?” Instead of the Bible, the pastor reads from manmade lesson plans that incorporate, at best, the opinion and quotes of saved and unsaved alike!! What are you being fed at the house of God? Is it similar to watching a Dr. Phil show??? Pastors are to preach the WORD! They are to exhort us to live holy, God fearing lives. Not by teaching us how to walk a labyrinth, but by teaching the unblemished Bible!
In conclusion, I say we do not need to go to the heathen to learn how to worship or become holier. We just need to go to the Bible. It will teach you the difference between the holy and profane. And, if you are sitting under a pastor who does not preach the Word and you feel like you are starving to death, please, pray for wisdom. Ask God to lead you to the right pastor who can instruct you in righteousness, not in only a “form of godliness.”
2 Timothy 3:5 “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” V.7 “Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Oxford Nazarene Church.
Speaker: Dr. Douglas Hardy, Professor of Spiritual Formation, Nazarene Theological Seminary.
You can hear this in entirety at : Practicing Holiness: Spiritual Formation in every day life.