Scot McKnight's The Jesus Creed: Loving God, Loving Others (Paraclete, 2004) shows how an ancient Jewish prayer, the Shema, encouraged early Christians to emphasize love—and how it can form us spiritually today. A professor of religious studies at North Park University, McKnight complements his study of first-century Christian/Jewish practices with stories from history and his life. Joseph B. Modica, chaplain at Eastern University, interviewed McKnight at a recent talk at the school.

How is your book different from other books on spiritual formation?

Most books emphasize the things we have to do to be better Christians, and I focus on the end of spiritual formation—namely, loving God and loving others.

This book also is more historically concerned with what formation was like in the first century for a follower of Jesus. And it is more of an organic, historical presentation of the life and teachings of Jesus to help us understand spiritual formation, rather than a theory of spiritual formation that finds proof texts.

What was Jesus' process of spiritual formation?

Because Christians believe Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, there's a sense for some that Jesus just automatically was a spiritually mature person from the beginning. This, if you read between the lines, is Docetism [the heresy that Jesus only seemed to appear in the flesh].

The Gospels teach us in Luke 2 that Jesus grew in stature and wisdom. So we can assume that Jesus as a human being grew spiritually. The first formative factor was his parents.

Joseph was a righteous man, totally committed to the Torah. Suddenly, God reveals to him that he's going to marry a woman who's pregnant by means of the Holy Spirit, and that he will have to learn to ...

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