Monday, December 28, 2009

Demarest's Seasons of the Soul

Bruce Demarest (2009), Seasons of the Soul: Stages of Spiritual Development, Downers Grove IL: IVP Books

Spiritual staged-development has become generally accepted in the last few decades with the acceptance of psychosocial development theories. Psychologist Erik H. Erickson identified that all human goes though eight stages of psychosocial development. Lawrence Kohlberg observed that there are six sequential stages in the development of human moral reasoning. Building upon this psychologist and Methodist minister, James Fowler identifies six stages in which faith develops in a person. However it must be be noted that Fowler definition of 'faith' is a universal faith and not the Christian faith.

In this book, Bruce Demarest, professor of Christian formation at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado seeks to categories spiritual staged-development into

stage one: putting our faith in Christ
stage two: experiencing struggles and doubts
stage three: coming to deeper faith

Demarest suggests that these stages are sequential and is an upward spiral. This is based on a model of the the spiritual life by Old Testament scholar Walter Bruggemann who suggests a three-fold pattern: spiritual beginnings (orientated), spiritual trials (disorientated) and spiritual renewal (reorientated). In a useful appendix, Demarest gave some examples of spiritual development or journey paradigms from ancient and contemporary sources.

While the idea of spiritual journey is not new, Demarest put it into perspective by using examples from the Bible and also some contemporary examples. He made it personal by sharing his own journey which include how his interest in spiritual formation come about.

His incorporation of the dark night of the spirit and the dark night of the senses (both from St John of the Cross) into the stages give a distinct flavour to the book. Where once Evangelical writers steer clear of Roman Catholic writers, now it is heartening to see them interaction with the numerous spiritual writers from both the Roman Catholic and the Orthodox traditions.

This is a good book for those who wants to understand the Christian spiritual life.

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