Spiritual director, soul friend, and spiritual friendship—these new buzz words in Protestant circles make us suspect someone has imported another fad from our society’s “culture of novelty.” Do they signal one more encroachment on evangelical faith and practice?
Some who are aware of these phrases’ origins fear that “spiritual direction” is the Trojan horse of Catholicism. After all, they ask, who are the great exemplars of spiritual direction? Julian of Norwich, Walter Hilton, Teresa of Ávila, John of the Cross, Francis de Sales, Abbé Huvelin, and Adrian Van Kaam—Catholics all! Protestant anxiety is further aggravated by the recognition that a number of recent books on spiritual direction are doctrinally eclectic, quoting from biblical, Neoplatonic, and even non-Christian traditions.
And while we might be encouraged by reforms in the Catholic church begun in the late sixties through Vatican II, we cannot afford for our ministry and pastoral care to be indifferent to theological truth. Clarity of doctrinal vision is too important for evangelicals. Unfortunately, contemporary Protestantism has had no pastoral reform akin to Vatican II. Could a new understanding of such terms as spiritual direction provide pointers to what is needed in our congregational life? Could it be that in our search for “revival,” making our pastoral care more holistic would save us from what seems like a constant need to pump air into leaky tires?
Leaks In Our Corporate Life
Unfortunately, there are too many such “leaks” in evangelical life and ministry.
One such leak is our mistaken notion that if only we preach and teach enough, the congregation will “know the ...1