Bruce Demarest is a professor of Christian Theology and Spiritual Formation at Denver Seminary. He received a Ph.D in biblical and historical theology from the University of Manchester, England, an M.A from Trinity Divinity School, an M.S from Adelphi University, and a B.S. from Wheaton College.
Dr. Bruce Demarest joined the Faculty of Denver Seminary in 1975. He is currently a professor of Spiritual Formation and a member of the Evangelical Theological Society. He is a theological thinkers, Cultural Group, and Spiritual Formation Forum. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including “Four Views on Christian Spirituality.”
SUMMARY OF THE CONTENTS
The Christian life is a journey which never ends until we leave this world to meet our heavenly Father, God. It is like a visiting a national park where one sees different natural features of geography. The emotionality of the being is affected due to the visitation; however, some undesirable creatures such as sneaks can also be seemed during the adventure. The Christian life can also be seemed as a journey which is both individual and corporate. This means that Christians need the body of believers in the community to get involved especially when it comes to corporate worship or fellowship. This journey must be involved with other people to serve as driving encouragement until they reach to their final destiny. It must involve faithful brothers and sisters who become their counselors and drivers to the spiritual adventurism. The Christian journey is full of many things as the result of spiritualism and spirits’ activities in this complex universe of the unseen. Sharon’s story is told wherein she got encountered with the evil fourth dimension of the demonic world. It took the help of believers to secure her through the power of God. As the result of the involvement of believers, Sharon runs a Christian ministry today where lives have been impacted.
It gives account of Ruth, Saul of Tarsus, Augustine of Hippo, and C.S Lewis, who formerly became an atheist and later turned to Christ after having thought of many questions regarding the existence of God. All these stories told indicate the Christian journey involve dramatic conversion through the presence of Christ grace. The Christian life begins when regeneration has taken place through the power of the Spirit. As we journey, we study the word of God, pray, and get involved in daily spiritual exercises which help to enrich our souls for the moment and contingent. During the spiritual journey, we are encouraged by fellow believers in Christ. It is true that we are saved; however, we still struggle with our fallen nature of sin. Characters like Noah, Abraham, Jacob, David, and Peter fell short of God’s glory as the result of sin. All these characters in the Bible indeed loved God. It gives account of John who killed his sleeping wife and children while under the influence of alcoholism. There destructive sinful behaviors which influence church goers are real. People who pretend to be Christians but are not can suffer severely from demonic spirits who come to attack them. Sins such as arrogance, greed, envy, selfish ambition, jealousy, hatred, anger, lust, love of money, obscene talk, lying, gossiping, cheating, stealing, drunkenness, and sexual immorality can influence and have control over church goers who have not grown and developed in the Christian life.
The Christian life is a journey wherein we see many enticements on the way which tend to distract us from following Christ. The fancy of life and materialism are barriers to this spiritual journey. Jesus warns us to watch out because life does not consist in the abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15).
Intellectualism is the barrier to knowing and experiencing God. The nature of intellectualism is the characteristics of pride spirit where the individual instead of seeking God, wants to study theological implication regarding God’s word. This person is caught up from the reality of the Christian life. Knowledge of the Bible takes priority over experience and the love for God.
The spiritual journey starts with spiritual infancy until the believer comes to the knowledge of the truth through experience and knowing who God is in his or her life. As the believers journey, they go through the transition of life situation until they past and become mature bearing fruits unto righteousness. New believers or beginners are faced with seven capital sins of the soul. They include spiritual pride with respect to one’s achievements, spiritual avarice prompted by dissatisfaction with God’s blessing, spiritual luxury prompted by dissatisfaction with God’s blessing, bitterness and anger, experienced when spiritual satisfaction fades, spiritual gluttony, spiritual envy and spiritual sloth.
New believers must be careful because they are faced with threats of life and they must take heed to the peril of the devil. Deciding for Christ is the beginning of the Christian journey; however, conversion is the ongoing process of the spiritual journey and transformation. We must allow the spirit to put to death every sinful habit which takes us from the presence of Christ.
The Christian journey can inevitably be a season of distress where the Christians question God’s existence and care for them. When Christians experience disappointments, chronic illness, terminal illness, lack of needs etc, there are questions which come to mind regarding the existence of God. These trials are life inevitable ones that one cannot escape. An unexpected disappointments, illness, or trials can disestablish the soul and lead the Christians unbalanced emotionally and psychologically. These experiences help the Christians to develop stronger faith and to enable them stand strong in the face of provocation. These biblical characters face trials in their days of adversity. They include Job, Abraham, Joseph, the Israelites, Elijah, and Jeremiah. These characters experienced painful distress of the soul which better prepared them to become people of God who can be remembered today in our biblical history and theology. New Covenant characters such as John the Baptist, Apostle Paul, and first-century believers also faced the same. God wants us to experience what we believe and wants us to pass the message to others. Experience is the best teacher. Some Christians have misconception regarding suffering; as the result, they practice asceticism. This practice is intended to mortify the body. God uses trials through spiritual journey to redirect us to our call in ministry. Our failure to execute what God has called us to do and be, will eventually lead us to face test of time until we surrender to him in total obedience.
There are times, God can withdraw his presence from his people; as the result, we experience the dark night of the soul or spiritual dryness. Such situation involving terminal illness, divorce or family crisis etc is used to strengthen us in God. The writer gives his personal experience regarding the episode of medical implications he faced while writing this book.
Darkness is recorded in scripture to indicate confusion. There are characters mentioned in the bible who suffered from this spiritual darkness. They include Job, the Hebrews in Egypt’s slavery, the Israelites in foreign captivity, Jonah, Jesus, Mary and Martha, and Mary the Mother of Jesus. All experienced darkness in their lives. Christians throughout history have suffered distressing darkness and they have offered us wisdom to deal with such circumstantial situation. Martin Luther believes that God uses affliction to indicate his providence and sovereignty.
The dark night of the soul in our contemporary Christian society today is unfamiliar to many because they look at the Christian life to be different from what the bible perceives it. The lack of understanding regarding the dark night of the soul where God is no longer present in our lives is being defined differently based on how people understand scripture and Christian history. They eventually link the clinical depression to that of the dark night of the soul. In conclusion, the dark night of the soul is the place of emptiness, recognition of one’s perversity, and sinfulness.
While understanding that dryness in the spirit is obvious and inevitable, Christians are reminded and encouraged to put into place activities which will enable them recover from spiritual dryness. Christians must do their part while God does his part to redeem them from the penalty of dryness. Believers must examine their lives and condition of their hearts. Sin is a root of anguish and pain. Sin invites guilt that casts a cloud over hearts.
God is love and nothing uplifts our heart more than knowing that we are loved. He knows completely as deeply even in our confusion and doubt. David says that the Lord is compassionate and gracious; slow to anger, abounding in love. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.
When men are distressed, they seek God for intervention. When men are honest before God regarding pitfall in lives, God honors their sincere heartfelt longing.
The fundamental principle of the spiritual life requires testing of our faith to prove our standing before God what we are. Before believers attempt to lunch into new of territory of the unseen, they must examine their inner self because they are under multiple obligations which encase them and they tend to live on life outer boundary. In spite of these, life distressing seasons call for fortitude and courage. One does not become the unthinkable until one enters into the realm of the unthinkable. The use of God in one’s life determines the usability and impartation the person conceives and releases.
The writer explains how his dryness was restored after he had attended a school of refreshing of the soul encouraged by the Catholic priest. His encounter with the Lord during these days at the school refreshes and puts him back to the first-century in the book of Acts. He received fresh illumination through the power of the Holy Spirit. He comments that since we shared in Christ’s death through the darkness, we will eventually participate in his mighty resurrection. During the refreshing of the spiritual man, we also gain wisdom and grace to drive us to the reoriented life. The refreshing of the spiritual man reminds us the regeneration we received formerly when we accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. It is a retrospect of what we have experienced in the past. God allows his children to suffer so that they have the passion to help others who suffer the same experience. This brings us to a place of other-center love for people in the kingdom and outside of the kingdom. This is the reason of the spirit filled life which has been reignited as the result of the Spirit refreshing. The glory of Christ will continue to shine on the believer as the individual experiences this phenomenon of the refreshing of the soul. This brings us to place of Christ likeness individual who is prepared to venture into spiritual horizon.
ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION OF THE BOOK
The Season of the Soul is a practical book reasonably applicable in the every day Christian journey. The writer’s remark and assertion can be analyzed and evaluated to help us understand what the Christian life is like. He uses the term “journey” which I personally agree with. Journey indicates a systematic travel from one environment to another. During the journey, experiences are gained through observable procedural adventurism through exploration. He likens the Christian life as a journey endeavor which naturally and practically takes place in a natural geographical park. During the park journey in the wood, creatures undesirable can be seen. Such creatures such as sneaks are common.
The Christian life is a journey which never ends until we reach heaven. We all hope to reach this wonderful place of celestial setting; unfortunately, the Christian life is not an easy journey for some who have fallen short of God’s glory. No matter the frequency of the fall, Christians still remain the pilgrims on this journey. We have not yet arrived. When Jesus returns to earth, we will see him as he is and our vile bodies will be changed into a glorified body. Indeed, the writer is right to say that this journey never ends until we reach our heavenly Father.
The Christian life is individual and corporate project. We need one another in various ways to enable us run this race of the Christian journey. Through individual and community initiative, we strive to live for God. There is a saying which states that no man is an island. This is true. We need corporate effort through prayer and encouragement to live this Christian life as to complete the journey. Indeed the Christian life is an individual and corporate effort.
Christian journey is full of many spiritual activities to the extent if not careful; the believer could unknowingly contact the unseen world of demonism. This is true especially Christian who prays and seeks for power. Praying to be empowering from above could lead to spiritism. In 1995, one of my sons in the Lord fasted and prayed to be empowered. He spent forty days and nights fasting and praying. At the end of his prayer, he got in contact with the evil spirit which tormented him for three years. We took him through deliverance. I personally took him into a room for seven days fast and prayer for deliverance. After seven days of prayer, the Lord delivered him from these evil spirits. At the time, I did not know that the Lord was calling me into ministry. The writer’s comment on demonism is well taken.
The Christian journey begins when regeneration takes place. This is true in that without regeneration, there is no salvation. We need the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives to live and carry out this journey. We cannot pretend to be Christians when we are not. The writer stresses this in his book which is biblically true.
The journey is full of enticements wherein we encounter temptation along the journey; notwithstanding, we must remain faithful to the call we have received. We are encouraged and admonished to separate ourselves from the things of this world. The writer comments on intellectualism which tends to take over having personal relationship and experience with God. Intellectualism is not bad; but, when the Christian places humanistic reasoning over loving God and experience, he or she indirectly welcomes idolatry. Our education can become an idol when we are not careful. The writer’s comment regarding intellectualism is practically true.
The journey begins with spiritual infancy until we reach to the measure of the faith and no longer be infants driven by every wind doctrine and come to the unity of the faith. Being born again is the beginning of spiritual infancy in the kingdom of God. As we study God’s word and pray and become obedient to the voice of God and scripture, we gradually grow into adulthood of spiritual maturity. After infancy, the journey encounters many peril of the devil; therefore, new believers are encouraged to be on guide for the devil devices. This continues with the season of distress where the Christians question God’s existence because they have encountered some undesirable things or episodes in life such as illness or death. During the process of grieving, the individual conceives some psychological imbalances. The writer’s comments regarding these issues are in place. I totally agree with him.
The time God withdraws from his people according to the writer is called the dark night of the soul. During this period, the individual believer can experience dryness in his or her soul for the fact that he or she thinks God is no longer present. I do not think that God withdraws his presence, but he allows the enemy to attack the believer. During this period, the believer is placed under test to see his or her faithfulness in the Lord.