Christian Research Service
Are you a parent of a college student? Are you aware of what Spiritual Formation is? No matter how you answer these questions Christian parents must step up to the plate on behalf of their children and know what they’re being exposed to, and in many cases what they’re being indoctrinated into while at Bible College. For parents of these children, it has never been more important to understand what many of these modern-day purveyors of so-called higher “Christian” education teach.
Here’s an example of program objectives the Moody Bible Institute Certificate in Spiritual Formation1 offers to teach your child:
- begin to understand through experience and teaching that growth and intimacy with Christ is based upon an encounter with God that touches every aspect of the human experience and the very core of their beings
- be provided avenues in which they can honestly assess themselves in light of God and His truth
- grow in courage to face into sinful patterns and blocks that prevent them from intimacy with Jesus Christ
- interact with and come to appreciate the biblically informed sources that have been influential throughout the history of the church
- develop skills in selecting disciplines, practices, rules, circumstances and relationships through which they can be matured into Christlikeness
- cultivate deeper intimacy with Christ in prayer by exploring how best to strengthen their own personal communication with God
- be learning how to integrate spiritual formation as a vital part of their everyday life and ministry
A cursory reading of these objectives sounds just fine. However, what might sound reasonable on the surface for a Christian to embark upon may well prove otherwise. Look beyond the Christian-sounding rhetoric into the bones of the program.
Consider the following:
In broad terms, spiritual formation is the process of spiritual shaping and growth. Sending your children to a Christian school would fall under the wide canopy of spiritual formation. The same could be said of any education tied to a specific religion—Catholic, Jewish, Buddhist, or Muslim schools all contribute to the spiritual formation of their students.
However, in Christian circles, spiritual formation refers to more than mere academic instruction. Most often, it’s a reference to the dynamic means of sanctification. It deals with the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit and the various methods He uses to bring about spiritual growth in our lives.
It’s at this point things can become confusing. On one hand, there are the time-tested, practical Christian disciplines we’re all familiar with—things like personal and corporate Bible study, worship, prayer, discipleship, and service.
On the other hand, many of the leading voices in the spiritual formation movement stress the need for more intuitive interpretations of spirituality. They encourage believers to incorporate a wide variety of extrabiblical spiritual practices, such as contemplative prayer, silence, meditation, creative expression, and yoga. In fact, some of the most popular methods of spiritual formation have been lifted from Catholicism, new age mysticism, or other religions and rebranded with biblical-sounding terminology.
But any kind of subjective spirituality that draws your focus away from the Lord and His truth can have disastrous results, derailing your spiritual growth and cutting you off from God’s plan for your sanctification.2 [emphasis mine]
For Christian parents desiring to be good Bereans3, here’s a list of Christian colleges promoting Spiritual Formation: