ALVIN PLANTINGASpiritual AutobiographyWhen Kelly Clark asked me to write a spiritual autobiography, my first impulse was todecline. That was also my second impulse, and my third. For I have at least three good reasonsnot to do such a thing. First, I have already written something called an "IntellectualAutobiography";
At most one to a customer
seems to me an excellent one forautobiographies; more than one is unseemly. Second, my spiritual life and its history isn'tstriking or of general interest: no dramatic conversions, no spiritual heroism, no internal life of great depth and power; not much spiritual sophistication or subtlety, little grasp of the variousdepths and nuances and shading and peculiar unexplored corners of the spiritual life: very muchan ordinary meat and potatoes kind of life. (It is also, I regret to say, a life that hasn't progressednearly as much as, by my age and given my opportunities, it should have.) Third, writing anykind of autobiography has its perils; but writing a spiritual autobiography is particularlyperilous.
The main problem has to do with truthfulness and honesty: there are powerfultemptations toward self-deception and hypocrisy. According to psalm 51, the Lord desires truthin our innermost being; but according to Jeremiah, "The human heart is deceitful above allthings; it is desperately sick; who can understand it?" Truth in our innermost being is not easy toachieve. It is hard to see what the truth
; it is also hard to
the truth, to say what you seewithout imposing some kind of self-justificatory and distorting framework. (For example, youfind good or even just coherent motives where in fact there was really no discernible motive atall, or perhaps a confusing welter of motives you can't yourself really sort out, or don't
tosort out; or maybe you subtly slant and shift things for no better reason than that it makes a bettertale.)
, ed, James Tomberlin and Peter van Inwagen (Dordrecht: D. Reidel Publishing Co., 1985) pp. 3-97.
My thanks to Neal and Kathy Plantinga, Eleonore Stump, Trenton Merricks and Leonard Vander Zee for wisecounsel and good advice on this dicey project.