Whitney updates spiritual disciplines book

Baptist Press
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Posted: Sep 16, 2014 5:22 PM
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) -- "Discipline without direction is drudgery," Donald S. Whitney writes in the familiar opening to his classic NavPress book, "Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life," newly released in a revised and updated edition.

Whitney said the newly released edition contains new material with more emphasis on the Gospel as a help to first-time readers as well as others intent on grounding their disciplines soundly in Scripture.

The 1991 bestselling Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life is widely used in seminary classes across the country.

Whitney said NavPress approached him to revise the book for a 20th anniversary edition in keeping with a tradition established with the spirituality books of Dallas Willard and Richard Foster. "As it turns out, it is a 23rd anniversary edition, so it is just called revised and updated," said Whitney, professor of biblical spirituality and associate dean of the school of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky.

Whitney improved on the 1991 edition of the book by adding 11 new methods of meditation on Scripture and including a more explicit Christocentric focus in each chapter. He bolstered the content with more Scripture references in order to distance himself from a mystical approach to spirituality and removed any cultural references that would fade with the passing of time.

"If you do not get justification right, you are not likely to get sanctification right," Whitney said. "In my revision, I removed some sources and statements that might be misconstrued or implied to support connections to mysticism," he said, referring to the absence of Christian spirituality writers Willard and Foster. "I want students to focus primarily on trusted sources as it relates to the Gospel and living out the Gospel," he said.

The expanded methods of meditation on Scripture carry on the legacy of the original edition, which introduced praying through the text as an enriching exercise for many Christians.

"That's the most instantaneously and permanently transformational thing I think I teach outside of the Gospel," Whitney said. "Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer said statistics show the most important pitch on which to throw a strike is the one-and-one count -- that's the most determinative in getting the batter out. For me, the one-and-one count in the devotional life is meditation on Scripture. That tends to make all the other disciplines fall into place."

Newer methods prescribed in the revised edition include formulating a principle from the text, asking how the text points to Jesus, creating an artistic expression and using meditation mapping.

"A mind map is a diagram that outlines information in a more visually appealing and memorable way than words on lines," Whitney writes, explaining the intellectually stimulating practice of meditation mapping with the example of Romans 8:28. "It's not a different way to think," he notes, "just a different way to write down what you think."

Whitney also revised and updated the companion study guide for the book, a 140-page resource for small group discussion and personal study.

"I hope it continues the impact on Christian spirituality a biblically based, theologically driven spirituality but that is clear, plain and workable," Whitney said. "Anything God expects of all of His children like spiritual disciplines has to be fundamentally simple."

S. Craig Sanders writes for Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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