What really is human nature and how does it pertain to the Christian walk in faith? The following article is a short introduction to spiritual formation and human nature. It is important to have a biblical perspective on these subjects because society and academia would have you believe that human nature is an entirely different entity defined by moral relevancy and humanism. This is not the Christian worldview and believers of the modern age need to take this seriously if they ever wish to successfully combat the growing hostility toward faith-based communities and their philosophies.
Spiritual formation is an inevitable byproduct of human existence. Everyone has formed some spiritual attributes regardless of race, gender, or creed. “Spiritual formation, without regard to any specific religious context or tradition, is the process by which the human spirit or will is given a definite “form” or character.” It is the result of this process that the need for believers to transform that spirit into the likeness of Christ is so important to the sanctification process. This relates to the fulfillment of Christ’s commandment to go forth and make disciples of all nations in that our human nature, naturally formed by the course of secular events in our history, is unable to fulfill that task without renovating our hearts first.
Theologian and professor Dallas Willard postulated that there are six dimensions related to human life composite human nature. These dimensions require spiritual formation, or transformation, to fulfill Christ’s great commission. He alludes to the advent of Jesus Christ as a spiritual revolution: “The revolution of Jesus is in the first place and continuously a revolution of the human heart or spirit.” It is out of this revolution, or renovation, of these dimensions that enable us to live in obedience to Christ and supersede our previously formed spirit (will/heart).
Six undeniable components of human life:
- Thought (images, concepts, judgments, inferences)
- Feeling (sensation, emotion)
- Choice (will, decision, character)
- Body (action, interaction with the physical world)
- Social context (personal and structural relations to others)
- Soul (the factor that integrates all of the above to form one life)
Each one of these makes up our conscience, existence, capabilities, reactions, and autonomy. Each one working either in unison or against one another for specific goals or purposes.
These dimensions create our personalities and desires which drive these dimensions to the desired goal within society. “All social intercourse between human beings is a response of personality to personality, grading upward from the most casual brush between man and man to the fullest, most intimate communion of which the human soul is capable.” That capability is contingent on its ability to work in unison toward a common goal. Either that goal is for Christ, being the will of God, or that goal is man-centered. If man-centered, then we cut off oneself from the blessings of God and stifle our ability to conform to his purpose in our life.
These six dimensions of human life affect and inflect our discipleship tactics and how we live in communion with God. When one dimension is struggling with sin or disobedience, it spiritually poisons the other five. This is why reformation of each dimension, in unity, is sought after fervently and without end from the true believer. This process of conforming these dimensions to Christ is, at its core, the total renovation of our inner person to properly reshape the outer person. Some seminaries refer to this as interior silence; “Interior silence is a disposition that cultivates a state of diminished interference between a man’s heart and the Trinity. Interior silence prepares a man to receive and remain in communion with God.” The goal is achieving a spiritual “nirvana” where thoughts, feelings, choices, physical worship, corporate interaction is working in tandem and with one purpose, to worship God holistically and persistently.
The Lord has given his directive: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:4-5, ESV). This is echoed by Jesus throughout the New Testament. That act can only be truly fulfilled by the process of transforming the nature of man into the likeness of Christ. However, knowing this cannot be fully accomplished in this temporal world, we wholeheartedly seek Him (Christ) first in that He (The Holy Spirit) empowers us to love one another in the way He (God) desires.
Keating, James. “Seminary Formation and Interior Silence.” Nova Et Vetera (English Edition) 10, no. 2 (2012): 307–19. https://www.thecampuscommon.com/library/ezproxy/ticketdemocs.asp?sch=suo&turl=https://search-ebscohost-com.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=76247772&site=eds-live.
Tozer, A. W., and Jonathan L. Graf. The Pursuit of God: with Study Guide. Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread Publishers, 2006.
Willard, Dallas. Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2012.
 Dallas Willard, Renovation of the Heart: Putting on the Character of Christ (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002), 19.
 Ibid, 15.
 James Keating, “Seminary Formation and Interior Silence.,” Nova Et Vetera (English Edition) 10, no. 2 (2012): pp. 307-319, https://www.thecampuscommon.com/library/ezproxy/ticketdemocs.asp?sch=suo&turl=https://search-ebscohost-com.southuniversity.libproxy.edmc.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=76247772&site=eds-live.