26 May - 1 June 2008
Issue No. 21
(This is the second of a three part article on Spiritual Disciplines. Last week, in issue 20, we reviewed two key titles on this subject: Celebration of Disciplines by Richard Foster, and The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard. In this issue, we continue the review for three more titles.)
Donald S. Whitney, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life (NavPress, 1991)
Whitney defines spiritual disciplines as the “God-given means we are to use in the Spirit-filled pursuit of Godliness.” (pg. 17) He takes his scriptural bearing from 1 Tim 4:7: “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness.” In his view, there are three primary catalysts that God uses to change and conform us to Christ likeness: people, circumstances and the spiritual disciplines. (pg. 17) The spiritual disciplines are the only catalyst where “God works from the inside out.” (pg. 18) They promote spiritual growth, are like spiritual exercises and are channels of God’s transforming grace.
In the book, he lists ten such disciplines: Bible Intake, Prayer, Worship, Evangelism, Serving, Stewardship, Fasting, Silence & Solitude, Journalling and Learning. A surprising inclusion is that of Evangelism as a spiritual discipline. He also listed two other disciplines not mentioned by Foster and Willard: stewardship and journaling.
This is a good how-to book for those looking for a step by step approach, with lists of suggested activities to cultivate the various spiritual disciplines. A closing section in each chapter entitled “More Application” shows further the practical focus of this book.
T.M. Moore, Disciplines of Grace – from Spiritual Routines to Spiritual Renewal (InterVarsity Press, 2001)
Moore writes that his book is “more a handbook for personal spiritual renewal than a theology of spiritual disciplines.” (pg. 11) Nonetheless, it is full of the author’s elaboration of his convictions and attendant perspectives related to spiritual disciplines. Indeed, Moore crafted a particular definition of spiritual disciplines, which he called the disciplines of grace. They “constitute a special arena of grace in which, through intensive personal encounter with the living God, in the presence of his Spirit and the power of his Word, our love for him is renewed and deepened, and we are further enlivened in Christ to love our neighbours as ourselves.” (pg. 19) This is his working definition to which he devotes a whole chapter to its explanation. (chapter 2)
The book is divided into two parts. The first part, “The Way of Renewal”, is the theory or teaching section. The second part, “From Routine to Renewal” is where Moore tackles various routines of the Christian life providing practical, specific examples and stories to show how the disciplines of grace can bring about renewal.
Like Willard, he asks the question “why the church appears to be so lacking in power?” (pg. 17) Moore’s overview and descriptions of the various spiritual disciplines is the briefest of all the authors. He lists only eight spiritual disciplines: the Word of God, Prayer, Public Worship, Observing the Lord’s Day, Giving, Fasting, Solitude, Silence (chapter 3). In the last chapter, he adds three more because each of these “is generated from within the disciplines of grace.” These three are the discipline of repentance, the discipline of faith and obedience and the discipline of thanksgiving. According to him, these three disciplines can only be nurtured in the practice of spiritual disciplines.” (pg. 186)
Like all the authors in our review, he warns that the spiritual disciplines should not become an end in itself. Our purpose in engaging in them must be to meet with God. “Spiritual growth is the Lord’s work. Only he can show us his glory in life-changing ways.” (pg. 75) Rightly, he did mention that it is the presence of God’s Spirit that makes the spiritual disciplines so powerful (pg. 31).
Tan Siang Yang & Douglas H. Gregg, Disciplines of the Holy Spirit – How To Connect to the Spirit’s Power and Presence (Zondervan Publishing House, 1997)
The two authors Tan Siang Yang and Douglas Gregg begin their book with their testimonies of the filling and empowerment of the Spirit. The subtitle gives the clear emphasis of this book, that it is a how-to book. The spiritual disciplines are the means to connect to the Spirit’s Power and Presence. The opening chapter (with their testimonies) closes with a tract like write-up entitled “Steps to Being Filled with the Spirit”. Chapter 2 is a very helpful chapter. The authors explain the role of the Holy Spirit in relation to spiritual disciplines and to our spiritual growth. A helpful summary is given:
The goal: for us to become more like Jesus.
The Holy Spirit’s part: He is the change agent, acting with power and purpose to grow us up into Christ.
Our part: We need to be changed, but we cannot change ourselves. We can, however, cooperate with the Holy Spirit in changing us…
The means: The disciplines are the conduits for the Holy Spirit’s power ……..” (page 29)
They list a total of twelve spiritual disciplines under three groupings: (1) Drawing Near to God: Disciplines of Solitude, (2) Yielding to God: Disciplines of Surrender, (3) Reaching Out To Others: Disciplines of Service. The disciplines in the first grouping are: solitude and silence; listening and guidance, prayer and intercession, study and meditation. The second grouping consists of repentance and confession, yielding and submission, fasting, worship. The last grouping: fellowship, simplicity, service, witness. (The first grouping consists of a pair of disciplines e.g. study and meditation. They were treated as separate disciplines in Foster’s book.)
An important contribution of this book to the subject of spiritual disciplines is the authors’ explicit emphasis on the Holy Spirit. The title of their book aptly re-states what the spiritual disciplines are about. They are essentially the disciplines of the Holy Spirit, the disciplines that the Holy Spirit instills in the Christian and through these disciplines, transforms the Christian to be more like Christ.
A third and concluding segment will be published in next week’s issue where we will take a closer look at the twin disciplines of solitude and silence and offer some observations and critique about spiritual disciplines for your further reflections.
Spiritual Disciplines ~ A Comparative Review of Five Titles
By John Chong Ser Choon
Biblical GRADUATE school of theology
BGST This Week
Congratulations to Koh Chin Kok and Crystl Foong who were united in Holy Matrimony on 24 May 2008.
Chapel (21 May 2008)
Mr Joseph Dakhum, MTh student from Myanmar shared with us some updates of the situation in Myanmar for prayer.
Our speaker for next week is Dr Augustine Pagolu. Do come and join us.
Tentmakers Equipping “N” Training 2008
TENT course is a part-time modular course specially designed to equip and prepare professionals for ministry and service in a cross-cultural context. Classes will be held from 7.20-10.00pm at 31 Tanjang Pagar Road.
Who should attend? Christian professionals, executives and business associates and people who are seriously considering or preparing for tentmaking service in another culture or country.
· Biblical Basis for Tentmaking Mission - Jun 17, 24, Jul 1, 8
· Theology of work - Jul 15, 22, 29
· Tentmaker & Ethical Issues - Aug 5, 12, 19
· Religions of Asia - Aug 26, Sept 2, 9
· Personal Ministry Skills: Practical Considerations for a Tentmaker’s Ministry - Sep 23, 30, Oct 7
· Understanding Culture - Oct 14, 21, 28
· Country/People Profile Studies - Orientation: Jul 18 ; Presentation: Nov 28
· Coping With Stress - Nov 4, 11, 18
Visit our website for registration and course details.