The book titled Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney deals with religion and how it can be engraved in one’s life. These guidelines can be extremely useful for today’s generation that is finding it a considerable task to make religion a part of their daily lives. A broad statement that covers the entire intention behind this book is; “to naturally express Christ’s character through your own personality”. The sections in this piece of writing are divided on the basis of certain religious practices that are inclusive of prayer, worship and fasting, and are the very titles of these chapters. Incorporating the rich heritage and esteemed past of Christians this writer discusses important aspects such as reading of the Holy Scriptures, application of those readings and the importance of time and solitude. Moreover, the complications associated with time and money and how they might be viewed as a possible deterrence in the application of religion in one’s life are primary concerns of the author. First, the author mentions each act and discipline and then draws upon how it’s integral for life, and how following it will increase piousness. Furthermore, practical suggestions are also formulated in Whitney’s writing.
I feel that Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is a remarkable work of art that not only exemplifies on what many of us might not consider discussing, but also majorly concentrates upon its practical implementation. In a time where religion has lost its meaning, and Christianity, is divided into various sects, like the Catholics and Protestants, I view it to form some common ground, that everyone looking for spirituality might need to adhere to. However, there were some aspects that were rather weak, and would be noticeable by those more mature and aware of Christianity and its associated requirements. I agree with the portions where the author focuses on the Gospel and explains it. Moreover, for all avid believers of Christianity, it is applicable that the Holy Spirit drives and motivates one toward pious and holy acts. His proposed methods for offering grace to the higher power, with support from the Holy Book are valid, especially prayer and enjoining upon self the Word of God. He sufficiently supports the information in this regard with references from orthodox preachers. His concept of evangelism is also very intricately defined and accurate when linked with the need to repent from within, and that despite what people think the Gospel does comprise of the truth alone. What I found most appreciative in his exemplified work was the realization and unique force laid upon understanding the complexities of the Bible, which form the foundations of religious learning.
Godliness is frequently linked with achieving high ends of spirituality by Whitney, and the connection is positive in its pure manifestation, to the point that it discusses the Holy Scriptures and quotes from them. Where I begin to disagree is the point where the character of Christ engraves itself, in the minds of readers. It is crucial to identify that Whitney’s book contains references to spirituality that are not bound by the Holy Book. He goes on to incorporate the character of Christ, and how mimicking him can make one more pious or virtuous to say the least. It’s a massive claim to state that one’s spirituality or godliness can be defined by following Christ and his practices. Holy acts and acts that will be rewarded in the Hereafter are not decided based upon a person, but on the word of God, that is contained in the Holy Scriptures. Therefore, Scriptures can only determine how one is supposed to act in the light of Christianity, and the acts of Christ are just mere guiding principles, that are not necessary to be followed. It is rather impossible, for any human being to be what He was. A particular instance of this topic was witnessed in Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life where the author encourages “silence and solitude” in particular. There is no specific mention in the Bible that requires people to live in silence, and not speak when and if they wish to. However, this tip or suggestion for spirituality is not prohibited, but has somehow been passed off as a commandment from God, and that is the tone is particular that ensues throughout the book. Moreover, there are certain empty gaps and voids need to be filled by the readers or by the author, because in some places it is complete. Christianity, or rather, religion is something that is absolute and can’t constitute of unfinished details. In the first chapter of the book titled Spiritual Disciplines the author states; “A survey of other literature on this subject would reveal that confession, accountability, simplicity, submission, spiritual direction, celebration, affirmation, sacrifice, ‘watching,' and more also qualify as Spiritual Disciplines” . The problem here is the mention of the phrase ‘and others’. I believe that this claim is disputed because religion and its inculcation are definitive and not open to different ideas and speculations.
Lastly, although many of his claims can be seen not being supported with adequate reference from the Holy Scriptures, but instead more hindered to cover views from Puritan writers and early Church figures, can be seen to form the basis for a code of guidance.
I regard the application of this book as being divided into two distinct parts. The effect that this book would have on those who have adequate knowledge and those are new to the banner of Christianity and just exploring it. If this book is exposed to someone who is looking for spiritual guidance and searching for atonement, it would have a considerable effect. The power of literature and how it can impact those looking for reverence is extreme and can go to many lengths. In this regard, Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life would have a significant link with ministry, and the spreading of Christianity. It might force some souls to see that joining a monastery is the only way to achieve godliness, which many educated and religiously aware people know isn’t necessary. It might mislead young people into believing that every word being written is the work of God, and a situation of spontaneous consent may occur, where readers are unable to differentiate between realities and misleading truths, conform to the idea the actions of Christ are indeed the commandments of God. In this manner, Whitney’s word might be influential, but the role of its ministry function is not that excessively dictated when it comes to applying the knowledge on my own self. This is because I have been able to decipher the errors in the text, which any capable person could manage. If one flaw is spotted then the entire book might be considered dubious or ambiguous by some. For the ministry function to be appropriately worked upon it becomes needless to mention that no flaws must be detected within the text, and it must not support matters that are not vividly stated in the Holy Scriptures.
Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life. NavPress, 1994.