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Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ (Designed for Influence) Hardcover – May 1, 2002
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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.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
Willard’s book is essentially divided into two major sections. The first section begins by defining authentic spiritual formation. Willard emphasizes how true spiritual formation is not just about the external, but it is more about inward obedience and conformity to Christ (Chapter 1, Location 215). In setting up the second half of the book, Willard states that the major obstacle to spiritual formation is self-worship, whereas self-denial is the foundation of its renovation (Chapter 5, Location 983). For spiritual formation to be effective, this self-denial needs to happen in one’s whole self – namely, these six areas: spirit, mind, body, social context, and soul (Chapter 2, Location 330). As a result, a strategy to transform each of these essential dimensions to Christlikeness composes the second section of his book.
I love how Willard focuses on the change that needs to happen in the inner world of the individual, instead of merely trying to focus on changing one’s behavior. It is powerful when he mentions what has already happened in Western Christianity because of our overt focus on the external – all of the “notorious failures of Christian leaders.” (Chapter 5, Location 1013). This point is especially relevant to me as I tend to have very legalistic tendencies, coupled with a love to please others and look good in front of others. In order to not be one of those “notorious Christian leaders,” I need to keep the vision of the Kingdom of God in front of me constantly. In addition to the right vision, I need to have the intention to obey Jesus, and also develop the means to change my inner being “until it is substantially like his, characterized by his thoughts, feelings, habits, and relationship to the Father.” (Chapter 5, Location 1186). I love how all the means for spiritual formation are not under my control; I need to constantly depend on God’s grace, believing that he is the one enacting this formative process in me (Chapter 5, Location 1062).
Rather than haphazardly referring to individuals as needing spiritual transformation and then giving suggestions on how to do so, I appreciate how Willard divides the six areas of one’s life and presents a plan for spiritual formation within each of these areas. By differentiating these six areas in an individual, Willard faced the potential to present a compartmentalized path to spiritual formation, though I am not convinced he did so. He differentiated these six areas, while noting that each of these areas need to work in an integrative and holistic manner for spiritual formation to truly occur. Consequently, I find this book to be so beneficial for ministry as it provides a simple and comprehensive guide to discipleship that one can lead another individual through to grow in Christlikeness.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Is. Although I read it over the course of an entire year as I stopped to reflect and internalize every...Read more