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Joel Dorman - Westerhoff Book Critique (Module 2) | 1 Introduction Often overlooked in the courses of study and disciplines for

the pastor, spiritual formation and a life of walking with God are generally assumed. These assumptions lead to dangerous results: spiritually stagnant preachers and teachers attempting to unfold the active, living Word of God without the pulse of that Word resonating in their own hearts. Westerhoff attempts to change this assumption in his book Spiritual Life: The Foundation for Preaching and Teaching. This critique, then, will evaluate the attempt through providing an overview, strengths, weaknesses. Included throughout will be responses to the issues presented. Overview Having silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees asked Jesus a simple question: what is the greatest commandment? Granted, this question was an attempt to trick Jesus but his response, as Westerhoff asserts, is the foundation for spiritual life in general. Jesus answered them, ³Lord the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind«and«love your neighbor as yourself´ (Matthew 22:37-39, NIV). Taking this is a foundation, Westerhoff concludes ³the spiritual life«and the moral life«are directly related. The spiritual life, however, is prior to the moral life´ (Westerhoff, 1). Through Scripture, experience, and anecdote, the author proceeds through his foundation for the rest of the book. Next, the author himself best summarizes his second chapter, ³Preaching and Teaching in a New Day´ writing, ³Few have questioned this approach [³back to basics´ in Christian education] and its potential to create magna cum laude atheists who know all about Christianity but do not intend to be Christians or who become unthinking, unimaginative followers of authority figures´ (Westerhoff, 17). His emphasis, then, is that Christianity is not only data but also a relationship to be experienced and enjoyed.

Joel Dorman - Westerhoff Book Critique (Module 2) | 2 Turning toward the key emphasis of his book, chapter three treats the subject of preachers and teachers and their spirituality. Westerhoff asserts that preachers and teachers must ³embrace suffering´, entertain moments of ³silence and solitude´, find awareness of the restlessness their lives, and seek to provide a model of living in the ³Image of Christ´ (Westerhoff, 30-37). The marks of spirituality, then, will infiltrate the entire existence of the preacher or teacher and allow them to grow spiritually while genuinely leading others to do the same. Focusing on the ³Spirituality of Preaching and Teaching´ in chapter four, Westerhoff asserts, as Henri Nouwen did, there are ³three foundational truths of all profound spiritual teaching and learning: someone must be searching, someone must be«a resource«and if there is any truth, it will break in from the outside´ (Westerhoff, 41). In this chapter, the author expounds through each of these three areas and how preaching and teaching, from the lives of the preacher or teacher, aids others in spiritual development. The book turns from the metaphysical and abstract to the empirical and concrete with the turn of page in chapter five, ³Various Ways of Living Spiritually´. In this chapter, the author demonstrates how the four spirituality ideologies are in constant tension and how this tension prevents each sphere from heretical practices. This chapter also presents, briefly, how one¶s personality influences in which sphere they would find themselves. ³A discipline,´ Westerhoff writes, ³is something we practice, an exercise´ (Westerhoff, 65). This begins his penultimate chapter. This is the application section of the message he has preached to the reader in his book. Here, Westerhoff stresses the following necessities for successful spiritual disciple: time and place, preparation, presence, journaling, and spiritual friends. He concludes this chapter with a suggested methodology for the actual time spent with

Joel Dorman - Westerhoff Book Critique (Module 2) | 3 God: lectio divina. Utilizing a four step approach (reading, meditation, prayer, and contemplation), Westerhoff presents this discipline for establishing time with the Creator. Westerhoff finishes his work with connecting the ending of his book to the beginning: ³preachers and teachers whose lives are centered in prayer, that is, whose relationship with God comes first, will always communicate the gospel, because they have been enabled to reveal in their personal lives its attractiveness and transforming power´ (Westerhoff, 76). Connecting the call of God with the need for spiritual discipline, Westerhoff finishes by reminding his readers of the necessity of the personal experience with God so others may see this relationship (Westerhoff 78). Strengths This foundation serves as the book¶s greatest strength; the ideology is based in Scripture. Scripture teaches those who call Christ as Savior to ³seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness´ (Matthew 6:33a, NIV). The Scriptural foundation is critical to understanding the heart behind what the author is stressing. A second strength of Westerhoff¶s offering is its necessity. The experience of this writer has witnessed the dangers of growing cold in one¶s walk with the Lord though others and himself. To neglect one¶s spirituality and then attempt to correct someone else¶s quickly draws the counsel of Scripture ³you hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother¶s eye´ (Matthew 7:5, NIV). The dangers of ignoring one¶s spirituality cannot be overstated. A spiritually blind leader is only a detriment to the Kingdom of God (cf. Matthew 23). Last in this list of strengths is Spiritual Life¶s practicality. Instead of merely ³throwing stones´ at preachers and teachers whose spiritual lives are less than desirable, Westerhoff

Joel Dorman - Westerhoff Book Critique (Module 2) | 4 actually teaches of its importance and necessity. Furthermore, the author demonstrates the process of spiritual discipline in tangible and repeatable ways. Chapters five and six are principally useful as Westerhoff takes the reader through the process of self-analysis and practical application through authentic demonstrations. Weaknesses For the wealth of practical advice Westerhoff provides, his book might oversimplify spiritual growth. This is not to say the author never delves into harder issues. On the contrary, he writes of ³a willingness to embrace suffering´ (Westerhoff, 30). While this writer appreciates the practicality of lectio divina, for example, merely sitting and thinking good thoughts does make one a better Christian. Granted, the Apostle Paul wrote, ³be transformed by the renewing of your mind´ (Romans 12:2b, NIV) and as many Christians have rightly stated, ³the mind is the battlefield´, but this transformation is not brought about by merely positive perceptions or pious pontifications. This transformation is an active rejection of darkness in favor of light. This presents another, more serious, weakness. The advice to ³empty your conscious, controlling mind, give up control, wait patiently, and watch expectantly for God¶s action in your life´ (Westerhoff, 74) seems, on the surface, as a good methodology for hearing God. Certainly, Westerhoff has framed lectio divina in an arena that provides some safeguards, but the Christian faith is not one of empty heads. While there are some advantages to the monastic theology of lectio divina, the theological framework of monasticism, in which it was born, must be analyzed carefully (Ferguson and Packer, 442). Christians are not called to retreat from the world, but to engage the world. Called to be salt and light (cf. Matthew 5:13-16), Christians carry the message of the Gospel to the world. Is this to say Christians should not have a time that resembles lectio divina? That is not the assertion of this writer; however, it often proves very difficult to rewrite

Joel Dorman - Westerhoff Book Critique (Module 2) | 5 that which has hundreds of years of tradition and purpose behind it and whose traditions and purposes resemble Gnostic meditation more than Scriptural meditation (cf. Philippians 4:8-9). Conclusion Westerhoff¶s book, Spiritual Life: The Foundation for Preaching and Teaching, has a very noble purpose. This writer acknowledges that without reservation. The necessity and Scriptural framework needed for proving his thesis is adequately presented. Overall, however, this writer would hesitate in suggesting this book to all but the most spiritually mature. This was clearly not Westerhoff¶s intention (cf. Westerhoff, xi); nevertheless, this writer cannot recommend a book whose final chapter presents some questionable practices. The heart of this work is not in question: Westerhoff appears to care about preachers, teachers and those they lead. Christians at any level of spiritual growth, however, are required to apply the Scriptures into their lives, not merely empty their heads and wait on a mystical experience. ³Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves,´ James writes, ³Do what it says´ (James 1:22, NIV).

Joel Dorman - Westerhoff Book Critique (Module 2) | 6 Bibliography Ferguson, Sinclair B. and J.I. Packer. 2000. New Dictionary of Theology. electronic ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. Westerhoff, John H. 1994. Spiritual Life: The Foundation for Preaching and Teaching. Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press.