Tending Soul, Mind, and Body, Edited by Gerald Hiestand & Todd Wilson. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019.
Summary: A collection of papers from the 2018 Center for Pastor Theologians Conference drawing from a variety of perspectives to consider how as whole persons we are formed in Christ.
The editors observe that there were three threads to the papers presented at the 2018 Center for Pastor Theologians conference on spiritual formation. Spiritual formation is an art. Spiritual formation is a science. And spiritual formation is a work of the Spirit forming us in the image of God in the likeness of the risen Christ. The pastors and theologians who contribute the bulk of the papers were joined by a couple of psychologists who add scientific perspectives to the discussion.
The papers were grouped in two parts. The first was on biblical, theological and historical perspectives on spiritual formation. It begins with a study of the first letter to the Corinthians from a civic and cultural formation perspective, inculcating the wisdom and vision to see themselves as a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, counter to their culture. Several other essays that stood out in this section were Kevin Vanhoozer’s essay on the formation of our human spirit in the character of Christ, Rachel Stahle’s mining the riches of Jonathan Edwards’ thoughts on sanctification, and a particularly insightful essay drawing on Dietrich Bonhoeffer on spiritual misformation. He observes Bonhoeffer’s counter-intuitive insight that conscience reflects, not the inner voice of God, but rather the self curved in upon itself that is the consequence of the fall, that is a defense against God. Vincent Bacote closes out this section with a study of the rich resources of formation in African-American Christianity with its emphasis on lament and embodied spirituality.
The second group focuses on practical wisdom. Todd Wilson leads off exploring how it is possible for pastors and leaders to be both godly and dysfunctional. He observes this comes of not taking either the body or the brain (our psyches with their wounds and scars) seriously and from the lack of interpersonal communion. Cherith Fee Nordling takes Eugene Peterson’s two word description of spirituality–“practice resurrection” and marvelously expands what this means for embodied Christians living in the hope of the resurrection. Andrew Schmutzer writes with candor that arises from experience of abuse and ministry with the abused. William Struthers offers a provocative essay on “neuropharmacoforation” exploring how we navigate a culture increasingly at ease seeking spiritual experience through chemical means.
I’ve touched on the essays that most caught my attention, but as in other proceedings from these conferences, what marks this collection are theologians, pastors, and other specialists working at the intersection of theology and pastoral care, where theology is informed by and connected with the care of people and pastoral care is informed by rigorous theological thinking in service of the people of God. What is heartening in this collection is to note the greater diversity of women and theologians who are persons of color. This is a great gain, and a model of the whole church learning from and instructing the whole church.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher. The opinions I have expressed are my own.