Michael Spencer of internetmonk replies in the comments to one commenter, with a point that suggested the problem I identify in the title of this post: that the resistance to the idea of an intentional, structured, disciplined effort at “formation” is a secular force that many inside the church have fallen victim. The secular tells us that “religion” is a “private matter” for individuals, and that to be so insistent on the importance of formation is somehow challenging the secular spiritual dogma of “individual freedom”.
every tradition, including Lutheranism, contributes to the current state of deprived and demeaned spiritual practice. I know enough Lutherans to know that even serious talk of a devotional life will have someone crying â€œlegalism!â€ I am not talking at all about justification or salvation, but spiritual formation. The argument that there is no meaningful formation beyond justification is, in my opinion, part of the problem.
This is SO much a big problem in Southern Baptist life (I have seen how thoroughly versed most of us are in resisting the things which smack of “monastic”. A while back one of my commenters , himself a pastor of a large New York church, said that The Church of the Saviour is more like a “monastic community” than a church, which illustrates for me how far the church has secularized itself and become “domesticated” in this culture. It’s a form of looking condescendingly upon those whose actions communicate resistance and opposition to cultural forces. Many “evangelicals” identify such things as contemplative emphases and “spiritual disciplines” as somehow dangerous, luring the unaware into “pagan practices” such as “meditation” and that’s just too “Eastern” and “Hindu” and “Buddhist” and lately, “Muslim”. Did I just sort of scan the “Non-Western” religions?
Again, I have The Church of the Saviour to “blame” for my sensitivity to these issues of how we’ve departed from the contemplative and claim to have become people who can “appreciate” the value of such an endeavor even as we move further and further from the practice of it as a formative discipline, shared in community.