The Table Video

James K.A. Smith, Betsy Barber & Todd Pickett

Suspicions About Psychology & Spiritual Formation

Professor of Philosophy / Gary and Henrietta Byker Chair in Applied Reformed Theology and Worldview, Calvin College
Director, Center for Spiritual Renewal and Associate Professor of Spirituality and Psychology, Biola University
Dean of Spiritual Development, Biola University
March 28, 2014

In recent history, pockets of Christianity have been resistant to thinking about sanctification in terms of psychology or spiritual formation. Why is that so, and what lies beneath that suspicion? James K.A. Smith, Betsy Barber, and Todd Pickett in a CCT Conversation on Embodied Spirituality: Exploring Christian Spiritual Formation.


Betsy, do you find that some Christians would be puzzled that we would put together psychology and spiritual formation?

I think actually the church probably has a better idea of what psychology is than spiritual formation is right now.

Todd: Very good, yeah.

And for me, they’re overlapping disciplines and both developmental in nature. Both come straight out of a creation mandate of, God created us to be certain ways.


So spiritual formation, of course, is by far the more ancient discipline, but I think the church probably has a better handle on psychology, overall, than spiritual formation by that name.

Yeah, do you mean there’s something about calling, say, talking about spiritual formation as opposed to, say, discipleship?


That makes a difference.

Or progressive sanctification. Many of the things we do in spiritual formation go beyond traditional discipleship. We certainly begin there. It’s a necessary, but perhaps not sufficient trajectory for our lives in Christ.

About the Authors