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Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal Paperback – August 13, 1979

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Editorial Reviews


"Why is Lovelace's writing a must-read? It's a madly efficient use of your mental and spiritual energy. For pastors, church planters, missional leaders, and thinking Christians, the benefits of this book will be well worth the effort." (Coram Deo (, July 22, 2008)

"Here is more evidence of growing Evangelical concern with renewal, spirituality and the historic witness of Christianity. Dynamics of Spiritual Life is a major new contribution to our understanding of God's action in the church and in history. While writing from an essentially Reformed perspective, Lovelace remains open to other traditions, including contemporary Neo-Pentecostalism, and is sensitive to God's renewing action historically within Roman Catholicism as well as in Anabaptism, Pietism and other Protestant renewal movements." (Howard A. Snyder, author of The Problem of Wineskins and Liberating the Church)

"We need a book like this at this time. Lovelace has done the job in a sensitive, insightful, readable way. His work deserves a readership far beyond the Evangelical tradition out of which it grows." (Mark J. Link, S.J., author of These Stones Will Shout and The Seventh Trumpet)

"Disciples of Jesus Christ who know the cost of discipleship, heirs of grace who treasure its costly gifts, and men and women of taste and scholarship and civil impulse have good reason for wishing the author luck. No, put that not 'luck' but 'steadfastness' and 'grace.'" (Martin E. Marty, University of Chicago)

About the Author

Richard F. Lovelace (Th.D., Princeton) is emeritus professor of church history at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and the author of Homosexuality and the Church (Revell) and The American Pietism of Cotton Mather (Eerdmans).

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 455 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (August 13, 1979)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087784626X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877846260
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #426,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Wayland Wong on February 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
In Dynamics of Spiritual Life, Lovelace gives a scholarly, yet non-technical, analysis of the elements of revival (which Lovelace correctly dubs normal "spiritual life"). The book looks at scriptural principles, examines past revivals, and establishes a theologically sound model for implementing the lessons learned from the scriptures & the wisdom of the past. Drawing much upon Jonathan Edwards, Lovelace proposes that the elements of revival are: conviction of sin, deep understanding of justification, movement of the Spirit, prayer, community, missions, & social compassion.
Richard Lovelace is an under-recognized great Christian thinker. This volume is scholarly, insightful, and surprisingly devotional. The principles are applied and oft quoted by Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York. Redeemer has grown and planted about a dozen churches over the last decade. I consider this a must read for anyone who wants to understand how God works radically in normal "spiritual life."
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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Donner C. S. Tan on July 25, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book has had a riveting spell on me since I first read it a decade ago and has continued to shape the fundamental landscape of my understanding of theology and spirituality ever since. He traces his conversion from atheism to his reading of Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain, that led him to a journey of spiritual inquiry, where he met Christians of different shades and backgrounds. It was however the Reformed tradition/Puritans that had the most profound impact on him and opened him up to the transforming power of the gospel.

He sees a missing link between justification and sanctification among many believers which he dubs the 'sanctification gap'. He sees how it is possible to have confessed Christ, continue a life of religiosity and remain spiritually dead. In fact, either an encounter with the grace of God without an ensuing commitment to sanctification or an exposure to the righteous demands of God's law without a concomitant experience of his grace can lead to aberrant forms of the Christian life. He offers a way forward by explicating how justification and sanctification are brought together conceptually and in practice.

Presenting his understanding from the Reformed perspective, he outlines the fundamental core of the gospel message that can truly set us on a vibrant course of growth and renewal. This includes depth conception of sin, and encounter with the life-transforming grace of God, justification as well as sanctification by faith, an experience of God's complete acceptance of us through the righteous achievements of Christ, claiming our authority through Christ's defeat over the diabolic, prayer and complete reliance on the Spirit, disenculturation (freedom from cultural binds)of our faith and theological integration.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Douglas Groothuis on November 2, 2008
Format: Paperback
For four years in the early 1980s, I taught from this book in a year-long course I taught at the University of Oregon (Eugene), the third quarter of which addressed Christian social ethics and theology of culture. What a feast it was.

Dr. Lovelace approaches the theology of renewal as a church historian, who draws wisely from many movements and thinkers, of whom Jonathan Edwards features prominently. While Reformed theologically, Lovelace appreciates the best of the Protestant traditions and accept the ongoing power of the charismatic gifts. His reflections are deeply biblical, theologically rich, and spiritually heartening. To give just one example, his discussion of justification and sanctificatin is clear and cogent. It is also foundational to any Spirit-led renewal. Twenty years after I taught this material, one of my students email to say how helpful this was in her young Christian life.

The American church desperately needs renewal and reformation. This book, though written in 1979, can help chart the way. I cannot think of any book as profound, wise, and challenging on these matters. Yes, it is high time to reread this modern classic. Thanks to InterVarsity for keeping it in print all these years.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Stephen M. Anderson on September 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
This book was one of the first to reveal that my sanctification is part of a larger, grander scheme than my private, personal spirituality. Dynamics reaches back into Church history and outlines the spirit's work through men and events, culminating in a premise for renewal that is bigger than "I." This book is both history and spiritual journey, with a framework of theological reflection similar to the book of Acts mixed in. A book like this needs to be re-read in this generation of church-growth gurus and mega-church ideology.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jason Kanz on March 21, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I saw Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (1979) on a few different reading lists of people I trust. This large book written by a church history professor is wide ranging in scope, but highly readable. Essentially, the author explores the history of revivals and spiritual renewal in the church and especially the "evangelical" church, such as the first and second great awakenings. He spent quite a bit of time discussing Jonathan Edwards, who was a catalyst in the first great awakening in America and a fine writer to boot.

I found this to be a theologically rich book covering a wide variety of topics such sotierology, eschatology, pneumatology, and eschatology but generally grounded in the history of the church. Although addressing evangelicalism, he ventures more broadly into Roman Catholicism, Lutheran Pietism, and Reformed Puritanism to name a few.

There was much to commend about this book. I think it would be useful for church leaders to read even today to read and understand the dynamics of renewal. As a psychologist and one who is interested in the life of the soul, I found this book particularly sensitive to the role of soul care in the church. Lovelace does not commend a primarily exhortational method nor does he go so far as to wholly give way to modern forms of psychotherapy. In other words, his writings would seem to fit comfortably in the world of Christian Psychology, where I tend to identify myself.

For the average reader, this book may be overwhelming. It is 455 pages long and he is prone to using technical terminology at times. If you are willing to wade through that, however, I think the extra work will be worth the reward.
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