Along the Way: The Formative Flow

I am grateful to Richard Foster for his development of a spiritual formation paradigm: vision, intention, means ]1] I use it often, and remind you about it occasionally.

Today, I had another opportunity to think about it as I read an article by Ilia Delio describing the metaphysical context for spirituality, which she describes as the interaction between epistemology and ethics, and the many expressions that emerge from it. [2]

Here is a list that offers you a way to see the formative flow through a variety of progressions. I begin with the way Ilia viewed it, and then add a few more…

      –Vision: Epistemology (meaning)     
      –Intention: Ethics (morality)       –Means: Expressions (manifestations)

     –Vision: God     
     –Intention: Cosmos (oneness/universility)     
     –Means: Creation (diversity/particularity)

Human (1Thessalonians 5:23)      –Vision: spirit (essence)      –Intention: soul (energy)      –Means: body (expressions)

     –Vision: God (Holy Love)
    –Intention: Holiness of heart and life     
     –Means: Means of grace             –institutional (works of piety)            
            –prudential (works of mercy)

This threefold flow can be seen in many other things, and it helps us to see how we mature in life and faith. I hope you find it useful.

[1] This paradigm is the structure used in ‘The Life with God Bible’ (HarperOne, 2005).  It is a spiritual formation oriented Bible published by the Renivaré ministry.

[2] Ilia Delio’s article in the September 2020 Omega Center e-letter.


About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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