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Evan Howard: Three Temptations of Spiritual Formation


“Three Temptations of Spiritual Formation” Evan Howard. Christianity Today (Dec. 9, 2002), pages 46-49.

The spiritual formation movement is growing in significance and impact among Christians of all traditions. Numerous influences are shaping this movement, most of them positive, but there are real dangers lurking. Author Evan Howard writes that when we seek to be shaped by Christ, it is often difficult to keep a fully Christian approach. He says that “Christian spiritual formation is not simply fostering the experience of the Spirit but rather a radical formation, a shaping and molding of the believer into conformity with Christ through the Spirit” (p. 49).

Howard states that the Pentecostal/charismatic “movement has spawned a renewed sense of worship, and emphasis on the personal touch of God for believers, and a new sense of the church as a community of gifted believers. The renewed interest in and study of Christian spirituality has been a big boon for charismatics. Again and again, historians of Christian spirituality have pointed out that charismatic experience and expression are not isolated phenomena of recent American history. Some of the most respected saints in church history have experienced and even encouraged profound experiences of the Spirit” (p. 49). He goes on to warn that those who emphasize spiritual experiences often fall into the danger of shifting their focus from scripture to these experiences. By way of example he then critiques Guy Chevreau’s assessment of the Toronto Blessing Catch the Fire, saying that spiritual transformation must be part of the renewal.

All believers who are participating in organized prayer movements or rediscovering Christian disciplines need to be aware of the temptations that are ready to draw them away from Christ. I also recommend reading the article “Missing ingredient” by Eugene Peterson in The Christian Century, Mar 22, 2003 (Vol 120, No 6), pages 30-37. Probably no seasoned disciple of Jesus has not known of at least one person who has succumbed to such temptations and made a wreck out of their “formation.” Let us be careful to put our Living Messiah and His Word at the core of all we learn and practice.

Reviewed by Raul L. Mock

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Category: Living the Faith, Pneuma Review, Summer 2003

About the Author: Raul L. Mock is one of the founders and directors of the Pneuma Foundation and editor of The Pneuma Review. Raul has been part of an Evangelical publishing ministry since 1996, working with Information Services and Supply Chain Management for more than two decades. He and his wife, Erin, have a daughter and twin boys and live in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area. LinkedIn

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