I wrote the following passage today while working on the Spiritual Formation Frame of my dissertation. It kind of wrote itself as I was working. What I mean is that I had no intention of including Willard in this section. Then, when I looked more closely at Schneiders’ definition of spirituality, the following ideas just jumped out at me. I love those moments. I’m putting it up here to see if anyone who reads it thinks it makes any sense.
Schneiders makes a distinction between the definition of spirituality and the definition of Christian spirituality. Spirituality, she says, is “the experience of conscious involvement in the project of life-integration through self-transcendence toward the ultimate value one perceives.” Christian spirituality “as an academic discipline is an attempt to realize, by bringing serious and personally transforming study to bear on the ultimate human value of union with God, what is arguably the most cited text in the Christian canon, Jesus’ promise, ‘if you remain in my word you will become my disciples and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free: (Jn. 8:31-33).’” She states that “the primary aim of the discipline of spirituality…is to understand the phenomena of the Christian spiritual life as experience…it is a function of interpretation (hermeneutics).”
The DITB project is an exercise both about and of spiritual formation. It is necessary, therefore, to clearly define this term. What is spiritual formation, and more precisely, how do I use this term in the context of this research? In order to answer that question, I must briefly address the relationship between the terms spiritual formation and spirituality. Many people today are more comfortable with the term spirituality, because it has broader application than Christianity or any form of organized religion. I prefer the term spiritual formation because it implies movement and change. This is, admittedly, a personal preference and I will use the terms interchangeably throughout this paper.