Tending Soul, Mind, and Body

The Art and Science of Spiritual Formation

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Gerald L. Hiestand, Todd Wilson
  • Downers Grove, IL: 
    IVP Academic
    , October
     216 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.


Gerald Hiestand and Todd Wilson’s volume, Tending Soul, Mind and Body: The Art of and Science of Spiritual Formation is a critical addition to the canon of spiritual formation literature.

Their collection is based on a gathering of pastoral leaders, theologians and psychologists at the Center for Pastor Theologians conference, which explored key questions such as: How should the church attend to matters of mental health? How might psychology and counseling aid us in our spiritual formation? In addition to underscoring the complexities of what is entailed in being more like Jesus within evangelical and sociocultural contexts, what makes this volume distinct is its examination of the process of spiritual formation with an acknowledgement of the latest advances made in psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience in the 21st century. The book is divided into two parts: part 1 focuses on biblical, theological, and historical reflections while part 2 focuses on practical wisdom. The editors set the tone for the volume in the introduction by highlighting three key themes: spiritual formation as an art, science, and mechanism to allow the Holy Spirit to be the Lord of spiritual formation. Overall, the volume builds upon three distinct areas of study: theological anthropology, spiritual formation, and modern psychology.

Part 1 underscores the need to appreciate various approaches to spiritual formation. Daniel Brendsel’s essay on socialization and the sanctuary raises a key question on the importance of temple worship and cultural renewal: “If the church’s liturgical practice is itself disordered, if it is simply a subcultural reproduction of the majority culture, then what hope is there of being truly transformed and rightly ordered in life?” (19). Paul’s admonishment to the Corinthian church was to cultivate “a new socialization” with a set of practices and habits, which resulted in a “new kind of cultural liturgical formation” (18). This admonishment is still relevant in our contemporary context.

Siang-Yang Tan’s essay, “The Holy Spirit and Positive Psychology in Spiritual Formation” is a critical piece in this collection. Tan provides a useful framework for understanding the nexus between spiritual disciplines and the work of the Holy Spirit. In addition, Tan underscores the need for the church to provide a psychology of religion that compliments positive psychology, especially as it relates to virtue and the utility of a metaphysic framework. Thus, the focus is on love of God and love of neighbor, rather than a preoccupation with self. Kevin Vanhoozer’s piece centers on human pneumatology. In Christian systematic theology, “pneumatology” refers to the study of the biblical doctrine of the Holy Spirit—especially the deity of the Spirit, and the work of the Spirit throughout scripture. Vanhoozer challenges readers to not only be mindful of the human spirit and the Holy Spirit, but to also embrace the process of becoming more like Christ in the human spirit. It is indeed a great privilege and responsibility for pastors and theologians to form human spirits, which Tan defines as finite shapes of freedom that display the light and life of God in everyday experience (66).

Rachel Stahle’s essay on Jonathan Edward and the need for regeneration and sanctification and Joel Lawrence’s study on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the nature of human formation provide illustrative historical models on spiritual formation. Vincent Bacote’s essay on African-American Christian formation provides an important sociocultural analysis that draws upon significant data from Barna Group research on spiritual practices in congregations. He also raises several critical points related to the ethics of spiritual formation and utilizes the late Katie G. Canon’s lens of analysis from her monumental work, Black Womanist Ethics. Bacote writes:

Due to the extraneous forces and the entrenched bulwark of white supremacy and male supremacy which pervade this society, Black and whites, women and men are forced to live with very different ranges of freedom. As long as the white-male experience continues to be established as the ethical norm, Black women, black men and others will suffer unequivocal oppression. (101)

Bacote articulates the need for the reader to approach spiritual formation with integration and embodiment as well as ecclesiastical humility and curiosity. He encourages us to have “the courage to truly look at the horror of racialized society” and honestly interrogate “our beliefs and expose idols including idols of nation, race and culture” (103).

Part 2 of the volume focuses on practical wisdom. Todd Wilson’s essay on “The Integrated Pastor” crystallizes the meaning of embodied, embedded formation and integration. Integrare in Latin means “to make whole,” and so often spiritual formation lacks an integrative approach. This means that “pastors can be godly and dysfunctional, holy and not whole, biblically faithful and psychologically maladjusted. They can be spiritually mature and emotionally immature” (107). Wilson challenges the reader to take the body, brain, and interpersonal communion more seriously.

William Struthers’s piece on neuropharmacoformation charts the evolution of neuropharmacology of spiritual formation, pharmaco-therapy of psychological disorders, and the cultural attitudes towards drugs (172). This is especially noteworthy given the current cultural significance of psychoactive drugs (alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and marijuana) and their effects, which range from stupefaction (escape, release, and relief) to increased focus and attention (for productivity) (160). Andrew Schmutzer’s piece on shepherding sexual abuse survivors underscores the need for healing and lamentation, while Pamela Baker Powell’s essay highlights how friendship in our contemporary era has become a lost spiritual discipline. Cherith Fee Nording’s “Practice Resurrection” challenges us to imagine what our lives would be like if we not only lived like Jesus, but in our spiritual formation process made Jesus, the indicative of our spirit-filled imperative.

Marc Cortez’s essay, “Beyond Imitation,” challenges the reader to embrace imago Dei, the image of God as a vision for spiritual formation, while Jamin Goggin’s piece stresses the importance of reading with a Christological lens, which necessitates Jesus as the fountain and fulfillment of wisdom. Overall, this volume provides rich areas of inquiry and analysis that cultivate a deeper connection to God and a more holistic approach to spiritual formation.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Karen Jackson-Weaver is a visiting scholar in religion, ethics, and politics at Oxford University.

Date of Review: 
February 16, 2021
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Gerald L. Hiestand (PhD, University of Reading) is the senior pastor at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois, and the cofounder and director of the Center for Pastor Theologians.

Todd Wilson (PhD, University of Cambridge) is the president and cofounder of the Center for Pastor Theologians and the former senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois.


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