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Critique of Westerhoff’s Spiritual Life


This is a critical analysis of the book entitled “Spiritual Life” by Westerhoff. Westerhoff says that it is not possible for preachers as well as the teachers to have a ministry that is fully effective if their personal divine lives are not effervescent. He therefore offers a resource to help them rejuvenate their lives together with the ministries.

Chapter I

Chapter one tackles issues that “enhance and enliven” our affiliation with the creator, God. Throughout the chapter, the author makes it clear that the spiritual development is based upon the thoughts as well as the actions. No one should imagine that there is a difference between the precision of the soul and the normal routine of life. We can not ditch the world and expect to achieve perfection. Westerhoff builds upon this particular scheme by stating that the health of our divine life is closely related to the God’s image.

The issue about God being our close friend is also clear within the chapter. The point is that there exist similarities in our involvement with God and other people. We surely need to spent time with other people so that we can be in position to reinforce our relationship. However, I do not agree with the idea that someone needs to share to be able to grow and become mature. The author inquires, “Do they care for God enough to be angry with Him1?” This kind of attitude does not portray maturity.

The author further states that God speaks to us through visions and our inner emotions. According to me, God talks to us exclusively through the Bible. Though their may be other ways through which God can communicate to his people, the Bible should be not left out. I suppose that God speaking through our intuitions and feelings as claimed by Westerhoff is a confirmation that we are not emotionally separated about what God may be relaying to us in his own words.

Chapter II

Chapter two begins with a contemptuous assessment of the modern day sermon making. The author concludes that some people have questioned the approach together with its ability to bring about magma cum laud atheists who have the required knowledge Christianity but would not want to be Christians. This seems to be a historical-critical form of elucidation. May be that is why he says “few persons have questioned its credibility”. Westerhoff concludes the chapter by quoting Louth; “The tradition of Christian is not an theoretical message but rather a practice; not a list of principles which can be preached about but a way of life”. This form of statement affirms that beliefs need to back by practice.

The greatest declaration in the chapter is that we seem to have forgotten about the knowledge of our personal God who is at all the time present and very active in our personal lives. Nevertheless, I do not agree with the fact that because we have placed our concentration on theology as a doctrine of truth, we have abandoned the faith as well as subjective consciousness. High level analytical thinking is likely to affect the ability of a person to be able to get in touch with the emotions.

Chapter III

Chapter three mainly addresses ways upon which spirit can be nurtured. The author talks about embracing pain and suffering. Westerhoff makes use of irony which no one can ever forget, that is, about silence and seclusion. Within the text, he poses a question, “Why is it that people are not always willing to at least spend an hour in a day with the self they exact on others each single day2?” The author further strengthens the theme of spiritual formation by the use of faith and action. The existence of God is not just important but also His glory the way it is shown in our actions. Westerhoff provides a conclusion of the chapter by coagulating the view when he clarifies the way the image of God needs to be exhibited in our lives.

Chapter IV

The introduction to chapter four elaborates on the reflective truth which I do believe, is missing in our current churches. I most cases it is brought about as accountability issue. Nevertheless, it is one of the problems of the incapability of many to share their lives along with other individuals. Westerhoff says that someone has to search and be willing to let his or her life to be a source of learning for others. Within the chapter, the writer tries to explain the way we need to ebb and move along within the learning process by use off an apprentice form of learning. Westerhoff concludes the chapter through talk about how the Holy Spirit enhances growth.

Chapter V

Chapter five of the book is of little consequence compared to other chapters. The chapter leaves any reader to ask whether the writer was a theologist or a sociologist. At the beginning the writer starts by writing about the schools of spiritually; some closely linked to heart yet others are related to the mind. The author seems not to make any difference in light of the fact that most things are not good in surplus. To add on that, spiritual growth is depended on the heart and not a spiritual typology the way the writer seems to claim. It should be eminent that the issue of isolating people into spiritual school when in real sense no one fits into any given category.

It is a bit ironical when the writer of the book himself says, “These identifications throughout my understanding have never proven to be of much help.” Why, then , did the author go into full explanation in an effort to explain ways through which people are associated to God then finally discount the entire system of accomplishing his work. However, I can undoubtedly state that with the many ways people may try to relate to God, a good number of them may not be helpful.

Chapter VI

In Chapter Six, the writer says that when he thinks of divine discipline, he thinks of jogging. This implies that we serve God in various ways. The author further puts forward the issue about time and place as well as silence and solitude. He talks about preparation as a way of being focused to God. Friends who assist in spiritual pilgrimage together with spiritual journals are some of the factors strength our faith.

I personally feel that the information provided by the author in the chapter is full of encouragement and fully helpful. There is however, one idea that needs to be approached cautiously; that in contemplation to the creator, “we empty our consciousness and give up control”. This, in a way sounds like meditating whereby one empties the mind with the likelihood of releasing control to erroneous influence.


I found myself at odd with the writer of the book basing on the way he approached God. I generally found it discourteous to approach God the way he did. To add on that, the aspect of approaching God is not an assessment of spiritual growth. It is also a bit hard to relate to the writer’s strong emphasis on the aspect of art and intuition. Nevertheless, what is clear is that people approach God in different ways basing on their personality. The author makes an exceptional conclusion with various short culminations to the points talked about in the whole text. He finally says that the preachers and teachers whose lives are inclined towards prayers are bound to always communicate the needed gospel due to the fact they have been given the ability to reveal its attractiveness. This, according to me is vital in spiritual formation.


Westerhoff H. John. 1994. Spiritual Life: The Foundation for Preaching and Teaching. Geneva: Westminster John Knox Press.


  1. Westerhoff H. John. 1994. Spiritual Life: The Foundation for Preaching and Teaching. Geneva: Westminster John Knox Press.
  2. Westerhoff H. John. 1994. Spiritual Life: The Foundation for Preaching and Teaching. Geneva: Westminster John Knox Press.

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