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Spiritual formation in a Christian tradition answers a specific human question: 'What kind of person am I going to be?' It is the process of establishing the character of Christ in the person. That's all it is.
When I left home after graduating high school, I left as a migrant agricultural worker with a Modern Library edition of Plato in my duffel bag. It sounds kind of crazy, but I loved it. I loved the stuff. Before I knew there was a subject called philosophy, I loved it.
The aim of God in history is the creation of an all-inclusive community of loving persons with God himself at the very heart of this community as its prime Sustainer and most glorious Inhabitant.
We Christians should be aware that there's something at stake in cultural participation that we wouldn't have been concerned about if all we did was worry about the messages in culture.
If you have a group of people come together around a vision for real discipleship, people who are committed to grow, committed to change, committed to learn, then a spiritual assessment tool can work.
Many churches are measuring the wrong things. We measure things like attendance and giving, but we should be looking at more fundamental things like anger, contempt, honesty, and the degree to which people are under the thumb of their lusts. Those things can be counted, but not as easily as offerings.
Spiritual formation is character formation. Everyone gets a spiritual formation. It's like education. Everyone gets an education; it's just a matter of which one you get.
The core of the person is what he or she loves, and that is bound up with what they worship - that insight recalibrates the radar for cultural analysis. The rituals and practices that form our loves spill out well beyond the sanctuary. Many secular liturgies are trying to get us to love some other kingdom and some other gods.
What you present as the gospel will determine what you present as discipleship. If you present as the gospel what is essentially a theory of the atonement, and you say, 'If you accept this theory of the atonement, your sins are forgiven, and when you die you will be received into heaven,' there is no basis for discipleship.
Human beings are at their core defined by what they worship rather than primarily by what they think, know, or believe. That is bound up with the central Augustinian claim that we are what we love.
So many people would like to have guidance from God because obviously, if you have a word from God, it's the best possible thing. But they don't relate that to life as a whole. Often they want guidance as a way of opting out of the responsibility of making decisions.
God may not guide us in an obvious way because he wants us to make decisions based on faith and character.
If you don't have a teacher you can't have a disciple.
When pastors don't have rich spiritual lives with Christ, they become victimized by other models of success - models conveyed to them by their training, by their experience in the church, or just by our culture.
I believe that every human being is sufficiently depraved that when we get to Heaven, no one will be able to say, 'I merited this.'
What sometimes goes on in all sorts of Christian institutions is not formation of people in the character of Christ; it's teaching of outward conformity. You don't get in trouble for not having the character of Christ, but you do if you don't obey the laws.
Reality is what you can count on.
The basic question 'will I obey Christ 's teaching?' is rarely taken as a serious issue. For example, to take one of Jesus' commands, that is relevant to contemporary life, I don't know of any church that actually teaches a church how to bless people who curse them, yet this is a clear command.
I think that when I die, it might be some time until I know it.
'Discipleship' as a term has lost its content, and this is one reason why it has been moved aside. I've tried to redeem the idea of discipleship, and I think it can be done; you have to get it out of the contemporary mode.
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Robert M. Pirsig
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