Although Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart
is an accessible handbook for learning about spiritual formation, it's not lightweight by any stretch of the imagination. It compels the reader to take in the concepts slowly, underline important passages, scribble notes in the margins, and slowly absorb and put into practice the ideas Willard espouses. "Although there is much talk about 'changing lives' in Christian circles, the reality is very rare, and certainly much less common than the talk," writes Willard. But, he adds, no one need live in spiritual and personal defeat. Rather, the way of change is through inner transformation and taking the small steps that lead one to it. Beginning with an introduction to spiritual formation, he then outlines the avenues through which transformation takes place, including thoughts, feelings, choices, social context, the body, and the soul. Each chapter concludes with questions for personal or group reflection. Read it once, then keep it close for further reference--it's a book that will continually refresh a spiritual journey. --Cindy Crosby
From Publishers Weekly
Willard (The Divine Conspiracy), a professor of philosophy at the University of Southern California who is also a Southern Baptist minister, here tackles the central Christian question of how to be more like Christ. He claims that the church's failures throughout history are a result of Christians' reading biblical passages that adjure them to Christ-like perfection and then trying to reach that perfection by behaving more perfectly. Instead, he argues that believers should allow God to transform them internally so that their actions, though never quite perfect, will at least be more aligned with God. Willard delineates six areas of such transformation thought, feeling, will, body, social context and soul and delineates a general process toward transforming each. The book's chapters are divided into very short subsections, which, especially in the first four chapters, are inchoate as Willard struggles to explain exactly what the "heart" is and why it is important. Though trained as a philosopher, he does not explicate philosophical discussions over, for example, human nature, settling instead for saying that "we cannot deal with [them] here." Such a position contributes to the book's early incoherence and to a consistent lack of support, and, therefore, power. However, many evangelicals will appreciate his fresh and less guilt-ridden approach to Christian spiritual growth. The book is heavily Bible-based, provides discussion questions and includes a chapter on spiritually transforming congregations as well as individuals.
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