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Evidence of Spiritual Formation in Virtuous Character

Psychologist Everett Worthington (Virginia Commonwealth University) presents findings from positive psychology on how spiritual formation occurs. His main contention is that spiritual formation is not primarily a conscious, rational imposition of a belief, value and practice structure over our lives. In fact, he suggests, psychology has told us incontrovertibly that most of our behavior is driven by intuitive, fast cognition of which we have little awareness. This does not mean we should not try to control intuitive impulses. We should. But we must realize that more often than not, rationality operates in service of gut intuitions post hoc, to justify those intuitions. Rarely does reasoning come first. Usually gut impulses come first and stimulate us to look for rational justifications that make us look socially good. Thus, the precondition for healthy living that psychology teaches us is that humility is necessary for good living. This message is square on with Reformed and other Christian theologies. Our theme is that modern psychology moves us from a Socratic, Kantian rationalism, away from a view of humanity that is ensconced in modernity toward a sense of Christian virtue rooted in humility, forgiveness of self and others, and love and experienced in various communities of which we are part.