Conversatio Divina

Part 12 of 15

Classical Exercises

Conversations Journal

By now you may have noticed the method that underlies what may have seemed like a mad use of section titles in this journal. It’s time to confess. Our choice of divisions was inspired by Dallas’ Willard’s observations about the different components of a person—thoughts, emotions, behavior, social interactions, and will—found in Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. We wanted to force ourselves to consider each of the most basic elements of a person–of you–as we constructed each issue of the journal.

“Transformational Theology” is, by design, a bit heady. Honesty about the Journey is the place for writings that come directly from the heart.

“Life Together” is concerned with relationships, and “Streams of Living Water,” while lacking some face validity, will focus on two millennia of writings concerned with the place of the will in authentic transformation. And the present section, “Classical Exercises,” is devoted to the role of the body and spiritual disciplines in the process of soul making.

Arguably, one of the more inspired titles in the history of book writing was Richard Foster’s choice Celebration of Discipline.

We don’t usually think of discipline as something to celebrate. Festive isn’t a word one associates with boot camp. Sweat doesn’t make me want to clap my hands. So the juxtaposition of those three words is a real head-slapper and forces me to reconsider what I’ve come to associate with discipline.

“When the dust of history is blown away, [a spiritual discipline is] nothing but an activity undertaken to bring us into more effective cooperation with Christ and his Kingdom.”Dallas Willard, The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives (New York: Harper Collins Publishers Inc., 1988), 156 Classical spiritual disciplines, if you will, are exercises unto godliness, activities we do that place us in the position of receiving more of the life, light, and power of God. Far from causing us to perspire, classic spiritual disciplines become a means to fall in step with God and work without sweat. And that is a cause for ­celebration.

In this section we will explore classical spiritual exercises as a methodology of being with God so that we may become more like him. The purpose here is both practical and experiential. We kick things off with an interview with Maxie Dunnam, president of Asbury Theological Seminary, assuming a good Arminian could teach us something about discipline. An essay on misplaced passions follows as a reminder that the biggest part of success in spiritual formation has to do with ­showing up.