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Dynamics of Spiritual Life

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Richard Lovelace gives a history of spiritual renewals in light of biblical models. Isolating the elements of live orthodoxy, he proposes a comprehensive approach to renewal. Lovelace looks at such practical issues as renewal of the local congregation, the ways revivals go wrong, the evangelical thrust toward church unity, and Christian approaches to the arts and to social Richard Lovelace gives a history of spiritual renewals in light of biblical models. Isolating the elements of live orthodoxy, he proposes a comprehensive approach to renewal. Lovelace looks at such practical issues as renewal of the local congregation, the ways revivals go wrong, the evangelical thrust toward church unity, and Christian approaches to the arts and to social concern. A book for all concerned to revitalize the church.


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Richard Lovelace gives a history of spiritual renewals in light of biblical models. Isolating the elements of live orthodoxy, he proposes a comprehensive approach to renewal. Lovelace looks at such practical issues as renewal of the local congregation, the ways revivals go wrong, the evangelical thrust toward church unity, and Christian approaches to the arts and to social Richard Lovelace gives a history of spiritual renewals in light of biblical models. Isolating the elements of live orthodoxy, he proposes a comprehensive approach to renewal. Lovelace looks at such practical issues as renewal of the local congregation, the ways revivals go wrong, the evangelical thrust toward church unity, and Christian approaches to the arts and to social concern. A book for all concerned to revitalize the church.

30 review for Dynamics of Spiritual Life

  1. 5 out of 5

    William Randolph

    This book is what brought me back to the content of my Reformed heritage, and stopped my movement towards Catholicism. It might not be the most spectacular book out there, but Lovelace's generosity of spirit is there on every single page. On the other hand, he wrote in the seventies; sadly, his high hopes for the nascent Christian music industry would prove to be unfounded. This book is what brought me back to the content of my Reformed heritage, and stopped my movement towards Catholicism. It might not be the most spectacular book out there, but Lovelace's generosity of spirit is there on every single page. On the other hand, he wrote in the seventies; sadly, his high hopes for the nascent Christian music industry would prove to be unfounded.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jason Poling

    There is the American way to eat a meal and the French way. The difference can be measured in time: one takes four times as long as the other. I ate this book the French way. Yeah, I probably chewed too slowly and some of the ideas grew cold, but stopping to savor every thought of Lovelace was worth it. This book has given me a renewed hope in the future missional effectiveness of the Church. It also proved my long-held contention that a good grasp of church history is more essential to formulat There is the American way to eat a meal and the French way. The difference can be measured in time: one takes four times as long as the other. I ate this book the French way. Yeah, I probably chewed too slowly and some of the ideas grew cold, but stopping to savor every thought of Lovelace was worth it. This book has given me a renewed hope in the future missional effectiveness of the Church. It also proved my long-held contention that a good grasp of church history is more essential to formulating strategies for church renewal and kingdom expansion than many believe. If church leaders would read this book, along with the new Center Church by Tim Keller (which is indebted to Lovelace's work), the study of church history might regain a place of prominence and help us both to avoid repeating past mistakes and to emulate the godly practices of more "awakened" eras when the Church utilized holistic evangelistic efforts that included concern for social renewal.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Watson

    Easily one of the most important books I've ever read. I will be coming back to this time, and time again. Easily one of the most important books I've ever read. I will be coming back to this time, and time again.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tim

    I finished rereading Lovelace's large book for the first time in many years and I remember now the dual influence of his exercise in spiritual theology upon me. The first influence was in creating a sense of the place and the operation of renewal in the church argued from a firm basis in Scripture and in Lovelace's analysis of history. He sees renewal coming when the church realizes God's holiness and the depth of sin. Its primary elements are a connection of justification and sanctification an I finished rereading Lovelace's large book for the first time in many years and I remember now the dual influence of his exercise in spiritual theology upon me. The first influence was in creating a sense of the place and the operation of renewal in the church argued from a firm basis in Scripture and in Lovelace's analysis of history. He sees renewal coming when the church realizes God's holiness and the depth of sin. Its primary elements are a connection of justification and sanctification and a deep experience of the Spirit and authority in spiritual conflict. The secondary elements he describes are in mission (evangelism and socially), prayer (individually and communally), communion, disenculturation (aware of cultural constraints), and theological integration (having the mind of Christ). His discussion of all these elements is rich, descriptive, and challenging to the individual and to the church. The second influence on me was an awareness of church and especially American church history and the story that history tells. I have come to study a good deal more of church history in the interim, inspired in part by Lovelace. I like the story he tells with his history, even if I would disagree now, even vehemently, at points. At other points newer research/writing might alter his conclusions (it has aged, but with grace). Still, the basic narrative is one that shows the church to be much like Israel in its waywardness. He writes from amid the Charismatic renewal happening around him in the 70s and knows the necessity of the Spirit as well as the warpings of the spiritual that come so easily. He understands that because he is deeply rooted in the Puritans and especially in Edwards, who is quoted extensively throughout the book. Lovelace is Reformed and that affects his soteriology, but as he was converted reading Thomas Merton, he is not oppressively Reformed. This is a long work that does not have to be read all the way through to find it useful. If you do read all the way through though you will enjoy his style, which is sharp, and the enormous detail he does provide. Still really excellent work.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Classic. Such rich history in view of renewal.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Phil

    I am deeply indebted to this book which I first found in my Bible College's library after seeing it footnoted in a couple places in Keller's Prodigal God. I started working through it and it reshaped a lot of my thinking in really positive ways. I can't recommend it highly enough. I have returned to it time and again to clarify my own thinking and to be reminded of the precious truths he so helpfully distills from a lifelong study of the Scriptures and Church History. It contains what I think to I am deeply indebted to this book which I first found in my Bible College's library after seeing it footnoted in a couple places in Keller's Prodigal God. I started working through it and it reshaped a lot of my thinking in really positive ways. I can't recommend it highly enough. I have returned to it time and again to clarify my own thinking and to be reminded of the precious truths he so helpfully distills from a lifelong study of the Scriptures and Church History. It contains what I think to be a pretty phenomenal description of the nature of sin: "The structure of sin in the human personality is something far more complicated than the isolated acts and thoughts of deliberate disobedience commonly designated by the word. In its biblical definition, sin cannot be limited to isolated instances or [even] patterns of wrongdoing; it is something much more akin to the psychological term complex: an organic network of compulsive attitudes, beliefs and behavior deeply rooted in our alienation from God. Sin originated in the darkening of the human mind and heart as man turned from the truth about God to embrace a lie about him and consequently a whole universe of lies about his creation. Sinful thoughts, words and deeds flow forth from this darkened heart automatically and compulsively, as water from a polluted fountain. ... The human heart is now a reservoir of unconscious disordered motivation and response, of which unrenewed persons are unaware if left to themselves, for "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9). ... The mechanism by which this unconscious reservoir of darkness is formed is identified in Rom. 1:18-23 as repression of traumatic material, chiefly the truth about God and our condition, which the unregenerate constantly and dynamically "hold down." Their darkness is always a voluntary darkness, though they are unaware that they are repressing the truth."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jason Kanz

    I saw Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (1979) on a few different reading lists of people I trust. This large book written by a church history professor is wide ranging in scope, but highly readable. Essentially, the author explores the history of revivals and spiritual renewal in the church and especially the "evangelical" church, such as the first and second great awakenings. He spent quite a bit of time discussing Jonathan Edwards, who was a catalyst in the first I saw Dynamics of Spiritual Life: An Evangelical Theology of Renewal (1979) on a few different reading lists of people I trust. This large book written by a church history professor is wide ranging in scope, but highly readable. Essentially, the author explores the history of revivals and spiritual renewal in the church and especially the "evangelical" church, such as the first and second great awakenings. He spent quite a bit of time discussing Jonathan Edwards, who was a catalyst in the first great awakening in America and a fine writer to boot. I found this to be a theologically rich book covering a wide variety of topics such sotierology, eschatology, pneumatology, and eschatology but generally grounded in the history of the church. Although addressing evangelicalism, he ventures more broadly into Roman Catholicism, Lutheran Pietism, and Reformed Puritanism to name a few. There was much to commend about this book. I think it would be useful for church leaders to read even today to read and understand the dynamics of renewal. As a psychologist and one who is interested in the life of the soul, I found this book particularly sensitive to the role of soul care in the church. Lovelace does not commend a primarily exhortational method nor does he go so far as to wholly give way to modern forms of psychotherapy. In other words, his writings would seem to fit comfortably in the world of Christian Psychology, where I tend to identify myself. For the average reader, this book may be overwhelming. It is 455 pages long and he is prone to using technical terminology at times. If you are willing to wade through that, however, I think the extra work will be worth the reward.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rod

    If you are looking for something that chronicles a historical perspective of the development of Christian and Biblical spiritual development from a scholarly (but not super heavy) standpoint, Lovelace provides it in this book. He leaves no evangelical tradition's stone unturned and causes the reader to ask questions about his/her own evangelical tradition's heritage and convictions. An excellent objective (as much as possible - the author is Reformed in perspective) treatment of the subject. I w If you are looking for something that chronicles a historical perspective of the development of Christian and Biblical spiritual development from a scholarly (but not super heavy) standpoint, Lovelace provides it in this book. He leaves no evangelical tradition's stone unturned and causes the reader to ask questions about his/her own evangelical tradition's heritage and convictions. An excellent objective (as much as possible - the author is Reformed in perspective) treatment of the subject. I was fascinated by the book.

  9. 4 out of 5

    BJ

    Fantastic book that should be more widely read among Christians for its gospel-centered study, reaching across many traditions, on revival and spirituality in evangelicalism. Like any book, one will not agree with all of Lovelace's opinions, but I'm convinced you will leave it challenged and helped. I will be revisiting it often. I found the first-half superb, and while its a touch slower on the back-end of its 435 pages, it's still darn good. Fantastic book that should be more widely read among Christians for its gospel-centered study, reaching across many traditions, on revival and spirituality in evangelicalism. Like any book, one will not agree with all of Lovelace's opinions, but I'm convinced you will leave it challenged and helped. I will be revisiting it often. I found the first-half superb, and while its a touch slower on the back-end of its 435 pages, it's still darn good.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    Lovelace, a church historian, traces the history of personal and corporate renewal. He establishes the primary and secondary elements of renewal through the church's history. This is a good read for examining why some ministries take off while others wallow in mediocrity. It gives a reader the opportunity to reflect on God's design for using His people and for those people to get in line with His purposes through their lives. Lovelace, a church historian, traces the history of personal and corporate renewal. He establishes the primary and secondary elements of renewal through the church's history. This is a good read for examining why some ministries take off while others wallow in mediocrity. It gives a reader the opportunity to reflect on God's design for using His people and for those people to get in line with His purposes through their lives.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Bradbury

    This is one of the most influential books in my life. I think about its conclusions everyday.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    have heard nothing but good stuff about this book. probably be a slow read.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Donner Tan

    This book has had a riveting spell on me since I first read it a decade ago and has continued to shape the fundamental landscape of my understanding of theology and spirituality ever since. He traces his conversion from atheism to his reading of Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain, that led him to a journey of spiritual inquiry, where he met Christians of different shades and backgrounds. It was however the Reformed tradition/Puritans that had the most profound impact on him and opened him up This book has had a riveting spell on me since I first read it a decade ago and has continued to shape the fundamental landscape of my understanding of theology and spirituality ever since. He traces his conversion from atheism to his reading of Thomas Merton's Seven Storey Mountain, that led him to a journey of spiritual inquiry, where he met Christians of different shades and backgrounds. It was however the Reformed tradition/Puritans that had the most profound impact on him and opened him up to the transforming power of the gospel. He sees a missing link between justification and sanctification among many believers which he dubs the 'sanctification gap'. He sees how it is possible to have confessed Christ, continue a life of religiosity and remain spiritually dead. In fact, either an encounter with the grace of God without an ensuing commitment to sanctification or an exposure to the righteous demands of God's law without a concomitant experience of his grace can lead to aberrant forms of the Christian life. He offers a way forward by explicating how justification and sanctification are brought together conceptually and in practice. Presenting his understanding from the Reformed perspective, he outlines the fundamental core of the gospel message that can truly set us on a vibrant course of growth and renewal. This includes depth conception of sin, and encounter with the life-transforming grace of God, justification as well as sanctification by faith, an experience of God's complete acceptance of us through the righteous achievements of Christ, claiming our authority through Christ's defeat over the diabolic, prayer and complete reliance on the Spirit, disenculturation (freedom from cultural binds)of our faith and theological integration. He includes some additional musings on music, eschatology, live orthodoxy and Christian social concern, each of which is inspiring and thought provoking. I have found the book to be beautiful and succint in its expression and spiritually and theologically challenging. He has written a simpler version of this book with discussion questions more recently for the benefit of some who found this original work less accessible but I have found that it is nothing like reading and drinking in again and again Lovelace's very fine book 'Dynamics of Spiritual Renewal' in all its depth and beauty.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Nelms

    This book is hard to narrow down in terms of genre. Tim Keller says that when you finish this book, you’ll feel like you’ve read at least three different books in one. I agree with him. But wow, what a book! Part systematic theology, part biblical theology, part historical theology, part church history, part devotional, part philosophical and part social critique, Lovelace’s scope is very broad. He even covers a theology of music to a significant degree (too bad his vision for a resurgence of Chr This book is hard to narrow down in terms of genre. Tim Keller says that when you finish this book, you’ll feel like you’ve read at least three different books in one. I agree with him. But wow, what a book! Part systematic theology, part biblical theology, part historical theology, part church history, part devotional, part philosophical and part social critique, Lovelace’s scope is very broad. He even covers a theology of music to a significant degree (too bad his vision for a resurgence of Christian music never happened... I wonder what he would have said about 90s Christian music, haha) At 400+ pages with not so large font, it is a lengthy read. It’s written from a reformed perspective but he is very generous and fair to all aspects of Christianity, sometimes to a fault. All to say, I found myself walking away from it wanting to be more and more charismatic than ever before. Of course I don’t agree with everything he said, he can be idealistic at times. I must say, his general concept of “Live Orthodoxy” that is the basis of the book will be something that will stick around in my ecclesiological filter for some time to come. It’s an inspiring read, a challenging read, and it has spurred me on in my current church planting endeavor. I’m so, so happy I’ve read this book, and I wish all church planters and pastors would read this book. If you want spiritual renewal in the American church, that we can grab his list and the process he found common throughout church history of renewals on pg. 75, create environments where these characteristics can be had, and pray for the Holy Spirit to activate them to renewal if he should wish. At minimum you will be having a biblical, active church. At best, we could see the Spirit renew a congregation. It’s exciting to think and pray about. Just make sure you get your pen out... mark up your copy.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Bradley Somers

    For years I was finding Lovelace’s Dynamics of Spiritual Life referred to in footnotes from notable evangelical reformed writers when they touched on revival in our modern age. It is no wonder, his thinking on the subject of revival/renewal is expansive. It reaches back to the reformers and puritans who influenced Jonathan Edwards’ own experience of revival. It also stretches ahead of Lovelace’s own generation to paint a picture of how and what a true Gospel revival could look like in the Church For years I was finding Lovelace’s Dynamics of Spiritual Life referred to in footnotes from notable evangelical reformed writers when they touched on revival in our modern age. It is no wonder, his thinking on the subject of revival/renewal is expansive. It reaches back to the reformers and puritans who influenced Jonathan Edwards’ own experience of revival. It also stretches ahead of Lovelace’s own generation to paint a picture of how and what a true Gospel revival could look like in the Church and in our Society. He pulls together so many threads that, although I don’t agree with all of his conclusions, the presentation of modern church history with several theological systems is a helpful learning experience.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steve Nation

    Read this book after seeing it recommended by two men I respect a lot - David Powlison and Tim Keller. And am so thankful I read it. It's such a wonderful book on spiritual formation. I read it a number of years ago, and keep going back to it again and again. Covers pretty much every part of the Christian life, is sometimes a bit dated (written in 1979 with a number of cultural discussions based then), but is so deeply grounded in the glorious and gracious work of Christ, specific in application Read this book after seeing it recommended by two men I respect a lot - David Powlison and Tim Keller. And am so thankful I read it. It's such a wonderful book on spiritual formation. I read it a number of years ago, and keep going back to it again and again. Covers pretty much every part of the Christian life, is sometimes a bit dated (written in 1979 with a number of cultural discussions based then), but is so deeply grounded in the glorious and gracious work of Christ, specific in application, and generous with people who love Jesus but who may think differently to how the author or we might. My go-to book on spiritual formation and spirituality.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Nick Abraham

    Lovelace provides a helpful paradigm to understand renewal in the church. His preconditions of renewal, primary elements of renewal, and secondary elements of renewal are sound biblical categories through which we can understand God’s work in his church. Though this book is almost 40 years old, it’s insights are fresh for today.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Howlett

    Stirring, convicting, biblical, and practical. Altogether a worship inducing experience. Lovelace writers well and is well read. His command of philosophy, history, and multiple traditions of theology causes this book to be balanced and a delight to read. A must read if you're interested in the renewal of the Church. Fair warning, the book is academic in its nature. Stirring, convicting, biblical, and practical. Altogether a worship inducing experience. Lovelace writers well and is well read. His command of philosophy, history, and multiple traditions of theology causes this book to be balanced and a delight to read. A must read if you're interested in the renewal of the Church. Fair warning, the book is academic in its nature.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Whitman

    Brilliant and challenging book bringing us through the history and future of the evangelical movement, and giving us a vision for the Church, the living body of Christ, to pray for and aspire to.

  20. 5 out of 5

    James Horgan

    This one's a bit of a curate's egg. There are some profoundly helpful comments in the first half of the book, but the second half, opining on 'renewal' movements current at the time it was written, have dated badly, and seem naively open to ecumenical opportunities that would have been folly to follow over the succeeding forty years. This one's a bit of a curate's egg. There are some profoundly helpful comments in the first half of the book, but the second half, opining on 'renewal' movements current at the time it was written, have dated badly, and seem naively open to ecumenical opportunities that would have been folly to follow over the succeeding forty years.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nathan Carter

    A little bit disorganized, but some amazing gospel nuggets in here!!!!! Reading this helps you better understand Tim Keller (Lovelace was his professor at Gordon-Conwell).

  22. 4 out of 5

    Chris Dang

    Really long sentences.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Charity

    Great book. Theology. Slightly dated, but has transferable and big thoughts. Used to be seminary reading.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Brandon Rickabaugh

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nima

  26. 4 out of 5

    Brent Crass

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jordan Adams

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andy

  29. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fernando

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