Reformation Spirituality

If evangelism is successful, it leads into the heart of Christianity: lifelong spiritual formation. How does this happen? Graham Tomlin offers a creative program for church-based spiritual development, drawing from biblical discipleship narratives & the stories & traditions of the Reformation, with emphasis on Martin Luther's life & struggles.


01. Consumer Context

Graham Tomlin explores the cultural forces of consumerism and freedom of choice and the church's relationship to these forces.  He asks how the church can exist in a consumer society without losing its soul, and what is it that contemporary consumers desire most deeply?  His conclusion is that consumerism is essentially a search for love, hope, trust, wisdom, and ultimately God.  And when the church becomes a place of real transformation, consumers will be provoked to look to her to find him. 

Tags: consumerism, capitalism, communism, history, enlightenment, culture, personal choice, freedom, enjoyment, contentment, love, hope, trust, wisdom, symbols, physical beings, worship style, doctrine, ethics, desires, church, The Provocative Church, church growth, soul, identity, meaning, The Paradox of Choice (book), postmodernism, ecclesiology, longing


02. Kingdom Gospel

What is the gospel? Graham Tomlin explains how the gospel message that begins with the question, “Where will you spend eternity?” was born out of the cultural concerns of the medieval church and has led to a separation of evangelism and discipleship.  He judges that  faulty eschatology is at the core.  If the gospel is about spending eternity in heaven, then why bother with anything except evangelism?  But if it is about Jesus being king over all, then the arts, work, and the environment are all relevant to Christian living, and he explores the implications of this for evangelism.

Tags: technology, discipleship, evangelism, savior, lord, lordship, salvation, Roman Catholic soteriology, Protestant soteriology, soteriology, heaven, hell, Purgatory, guilt, anxiety, Luther, Reformers, Reformation, Protestantism, faith, works, death, fear of death, eternity, eschatology, soul, Four Spiritual Laws, Alpha course, poetry, vocation, secular, King, resurrection, dualism, grace, medieval, image of God


03. Q&A: Creation

Graham Tomlin interacts with the audience on questions about the popular Left Behind series, Jesus’ lordship, the redemption of creation, our present responsibility, the message of the cross, bearing witness and bringing the Kingdom, the cost of discipleship, creationism, and the theology of creation.

Tags: eschatology, creation, recreation, Platonic ontology, lordship theology, kingdom theology, restoration, theology of the cross, evangelism


04. Martin Luther

Graham Tomlin introduces Martin Luther’s theology and begins to show how his experience can offer insight for today.  Martin Luther subscribed to the scholastic view that salvation was a four-stage process: initial good works, infused grace, meritorious works and internal transformation. And yet his experience told him he could never do anything to please God.  This dissonance led him to ask two questions of theology: does it offer a God he can love, and can it help him in his anguish? He returned to scripture to search for a theology that answered these questions satisfactorily. 

Tags: church history, soteriology, scholasticism, theology, Luther, infused grace, good works 


05. Luther's Faith

Graham Tomlin continues his narrative of Martin Luther's life with Luther’s breakthrough and the development of his faith.  For Luther, faith is not man’s contribution to salvation, but the means by which he receives it. Luther draws a hard line between justification and works, and Dr. Tomlin explores the implications, consequences and dangers of the dichotomous relationship between justification and discipline, between faith and works.  Graham also interacts on questions regarding the origin and implications of Luther’s tests for theology, Luther’s community and influences, the Lutheran Catechism, discipleship, and first century theology.

Tags: Luther’s cloaca experience, trust, faith, justification, good works, scholasticism, medieval, grace, Luther’s theology, experience, relationship with God, worship, freedom, discipline 


06. Luther & the Cross

Graham Tomlin maps out the development of Luther’s spiritual theology from his study of the Psalms to his theology of the cross, showing how Luther’s understanding of faith developed through his own suffering.  While many of his clerical contemporaries searched for power through relics, indulgences and the papacy, Luther insisted that the only true relic God left us is suffering. The suffering of the cross, Dr. Tomlin says, is normative for the Christian life. He paraphrases Luther: “Power is exercised best by those who have experienced their own radical powerlessness.”  He also takes some time to answer questions. 

Tags: cruciformity, theology of suffering, theodicy, paradigm of the cross, spiritual theology, practical theology, reformation, transformative grace, spiritual formation, psalms, atonement, Anselm, Luther, the cross, power, relics, worship, prayer, indulgences, 95 Theses, experience


07. Creation & Christology

Graham Tomlin challenges what he calls the anemic gospel of forgiveness and future hope and presents us with a more holistic gospel of transformation and recreation.  He examines the state of humanity and what it is that makes us the image of God.  He addresses the question of evil and suffering and explains how scripture describes God’s plan of re-creation.  He draws from the theology of Athanasius, Augustine, and Paul to explain salvation: the transformation from Adam to Jesus that allows us to once again share the image of God.

Tags: cultural mandate, spiritual formation, doctrine of man, imago Dei, calling, ecology, doctrine of the fall, theodicy, parable of the tenants, parable of the wheat and tares, freewill, predestination, determinism, the problem of evil, original sin, imputed sin, sanctification, gospel, soteriology, christology


08. Spiritual Formation

Graham Tomlin continues his exploration of spiritual formation by taking a close look at Paul's letter to the Ephesians. For Paul, the gospel was a mystery characterized by love, hope, wisdom and forgiveness.  Churches formed by such a gospel were to be places of transformation where people learn to be humble and to bear with one another - a place where God distributes spiritual gifts for the benefit of community and individuals. Dr. Tomlin also addresses questions about Satan and evil,  the value of creation, the divinity of Christ and life in heaven.

Tags: spiritual formation, sanctification, gospel, soteriology, Christology, ecclesiology, Kingdom, eschaton, eschatology, church, reconciliation, power, cross, discipleship, spiritual gifts, selfishness, selflessness, transformation, the gospel


09. Q&A: Church

In this interactive session, Graham Tomlin explores the relationship between evangelism and discipleship as two loci of worship as defined in Romans 12.  He also speaks to issues of understanding past theologians in a contemporary context, the concept of perfection as the image of Christ, church growth, and assurance of salvation.

Tags: justification, sanctification, historical theology, simplicity, ecclesiology, assurance


10. The Reformation

Graham Tomlin looks back at the Reformation and its influences to see how it can offer resources for the church today. The Reformation evolved in a rapidly changing world characterized by new technology, growing cities, spiritual interest, a disconnected church and doctrinal confusion. Dr. Tomlin looks at the Reformers' responses through Luther’s priesthood of all believers, Calvin’s view of the church as the society of Christ, and Bucer’s idea that the Kingdom of Christ becomes visible in the community of the church.  He concludes that the goal of evangelism is not simply saving souls, but perfecting people.  

Tags: missiology, mission, evangelism, ecclesiology, discipleship, spiritual formation, Luther, Reformation, Reformers, eschatology, John Calvin, technology, reflective theology, pragmatics, church, priesthood of all believers, church polity, visible Kingdom, spiritual health, discipline


11. Luther & Scripture

Graham Tomlin continues his fascinating look at Martin Luther's life and theology with a brief summary of the medieval view of the church’s authority and the developments of Renaissance humanism. He examines factors that led Luther to develop his doctrine of sola scriptura and goes on to explore the biographical, personal, theological and ecclesiastical reasons behind Luther’s reformation. He points to Christ, not scripture, as the center of Luther’s theology and describes why Luther believed the church needed to be held in check by scripture.  Dr. Tomlin closes the session with Luther’s threefold hermeneutic – prayer, meditation, and temptation.

Tags: ecclesiology, discipleship, spiritual formation, hermeneutics, reformation, papal authority, church authority, church abuse, power, medieval, tradition, Luther, technology, indulgences, priesthood of all believers, laity, sola scriptura, scriptural authority, scripture, exegesis, Christ in Luther’s Theology, culture, cultural authority, ecclesiology, church polity, suffering, gospel, education


12. Q&A: Scripture

Graham Tomlin interacts with the following questions: Did anyone debate Luther on purely scriptural grounds? How do we guard biblical interpretation from entirely degenerating into private judgment?  How did Luther get his authority?  What is the relationship between robust dialogue and sola scriptura?  Is the meaning of scripture every unmediated?  How do we guard against fragmentation in our theology, while maintaining a healthy amount of diversity? 

Tags: church history, historical theology, hermeneutics, hermeneutical spiral, proper authority, church unity


13. Q&A: Luther

Graham Tomlin takes more questions from the audience.  Does Luther contradict himself in regards to the role of personal experience in shaping our theology?  Did Catholicism change in response to Luther and what is the modern Catholic church’s view of Luther?  If we can’t take the Bible completely literally than how do we preserve the mysterious power of God in scripture?  How was the canon formed?  How in touch were the Reformers with the life of common people?

Tags: church history, historical theology, reason and experience, canon history


14. Jesus & Church

In this session Graham Tomlin discusses twelve prominent values of Jesus’ community and the implications of those values for the Church today.  The twelve values are: the centrality of Jesus, companionship, hospitality, eating meals together, wasting time together, practicing the actions of Jesus, retreat, teaching, scripture, observation of the world around us, commitment to the poor, and simplicity.  This discussion has significant implications for the way the local church handles evangelism and discipleship.

Tags: ecclesiology, church, Jesus’ theology, apostolic, community, disciples, community values, evangelism, discipleship, spiritual formation


15. Q&A: Discipleship

In this interactive session, Graham Tomlin explains that spiritual formation is not so much about behavior modification as it is about being transformed by Jesus.  Therefore evangelism is an outflow of the glory of God being formed in us.  Dr. Tomlin argues that in some churches efforts towards evangelism has replaced concern for God’s glory.  He also speaks to the dangers of the discipler/disciple relationship, the place of community in discipleship, the role of social reform in Jesus’ model of discipleship, and the value of communion. 

Tags: sanctification, church growth, spiritual direction, spiritual authority, individualism, activism, sacramental theology, sacraments


16. Spiritual Fitness

Graham Tomlin compares the asceticism of the desert monks to that found in today’s gyms and fitness centers.  While the church has become wary of discipline and works-based salvation, our culture is as ascetic as ever. Members of these gyms are willing to sacrifice to get results because they understand the value of physical transformation.  Dr. Tomlin argues that people also desire spiritual transformation - they just don’t know where to find it.  The church, therefore, must become, once again, a center for spiritual fitness.

Tags: discipline, practice, pragmatics, church, transformation, spiritual formation, church history, early church, asceticism, ecclesiology, church fathers, desert fathers, monasticism, monks, wisdom, competencies, evangelicalism, postmodernism, postmodernity, perfection, sacrifice, cost of discipleship, small groups, spiritual health 


17. Q&A: Evangelism

Graham Tomlin facilitates a discussion on the relevance issue that faces the evangelical church today.  With reference to Paul’s desire to be “all things to all men,” Dr. Tomlin and others look at the need for the church to effectively relate to and reach the world without being diluted by consumerism.  What are the idols of our time that we must avoid and denounce?  What is a legitimate use of culture in the service of the church’s mission?  

Tags: evangelism, missiology, ecclesiology, sanctification, church and the world, Christianity and culture


18. Power

Graham Tomlin contrasts the world’s use of power with God’s.  He argues that the cross, far from being simply a doorway to faith, should be the defining framework for a Christian faith.  He looks at the cross in the story of the Prodigal Son – the display of love at great cost and the change that it brings.  He then explores the ultimate paradox of the cross – the most powerful accomplishment in the entire world made through the greatest display of powerlessness and humiliation. What are the implications of the theology of the cross for the church? 

Tags: cultural mandate, cruciformity, foolishness of God, power, humility, will to power, postmodernism, postmoderns, philosophy, church abuse, trust, the cross, suffering, leadership, Corinthians, Church in Corinth, Paul’s theology, wisdom

19. Luther & Creation

Graham Tomlin begins this session by interacting on questions of power and weakness. Then he introduces Luther’s view of creation by contrasting two of Luther’s predecessors: Irenaeus and Augustine. Luther initially shared Augustine's ascetic tendencies, but then has cause to rethink the contemporary negative view of creation and comes to the conclusion that creation is good. Dr. Tomlin explores what Francis Schaeffer called evangelical Platonism and suggests that creation be neither worshipped nor despised, but recognized as both fallen and good.

Tags: early church, Luther, creation, asceticism, dualism, Gnosticism, Platonism, body, re-creation, redemption, imago Dei, second Adam, reformers, sacraments, incarnation, now but not yet, already but not yet, time between the times, eschatology


20. Q&A: Sacrament

In this interactive session, Dr. Tomlin answers several questions, most of which revolve around the sacraments and communion.

Tags: Old Testament biblical theology, sacramental theology, sacraments, real presence, historical theology, ontology, New Testament biblical theology


21. Resources for Virtue

Graham Tomlin develops the gym metaphor that he began in a previous session.  He gives practical suggestions of classes that might be offered for “spiritual fitness” in much the same way that a gym offers Pilates or yoga classes. What would a course on loving our enemies look like?  Using Matthew 5:43-48 as his framework, he contrasts ordinary ethics and behavior of respectable citizens with the extraordinary actions to which Jesus calls us, discovering that love for enemies is actually a uniquely Christian virtue.  He then takes participants through a series of in-depth exercises toward that end. 

Tags: discipline, practice, pragmatics, church, transformation, spiritual formation, asceticism, ecclesiology, church fathers, desert fathers, monasticism, monks, wisdom, competencies, evangelicalism, postmodernism, postmodernity, perfection, sacrifice, cost of discipleship, small groups, spiritual health, classes, Christian education, virtue, Christian virtue, particularity, identity, love for enemies, cruciformity


22. Patience

Graham Tomlin dialogues with participants on issues related to the love of enemies and then offers another sample course following the model he established in the last session.  This time he explores patience as a Christian virtue.  He speaks with wisdom and discernment concerning patience toward the unbelieving world as well as toward other Christians.  He gives four reasons to have patience and then gives practical suggestions concerning dealing with disagreement.  He concludes by addressing the difficult area of patience with God. 

Tags: discipline, practice, pragmatics, church, transformation, spiritual formation, asceticism, ecclesiology, church fathers, desert fathers, monasticism, monks, wisdom, competencies, evangelicalism, postmodernism, postmodernity, perfection, sacrifice, cost of discipleship, small groups, spiritual health, classes, Christian education, virtue, Christian virtue, particularity, identity, patience, grace, oppression, enemies, humility, confession, sacrament


23. Generosity

Graham Tomlin addresses the church's task of developing virtue and suggests some ways it might be done more effectively.  He leads participants through one more version of the type of course he’s suggesting – this time on generosity. He discusses a proper Christian response to wealth and how generosity helps transform us into the image of God. Participants are led through a variety of exercises that highlight the richness of God and lead to some sober reflection and interaction on what it means to be a godly steward.  

Tags: discipline, practice, pragmatics, church, transformation, spiritual formation, asceticism, ecclesiology, church fathers, desert fathers, monasticism, monks, wisdom, competencies, evangelicalism, postmodernism, postmodernity, perfection, sacrifice, cost of discipleship, small groups, spiritual health, classes, Christian education, virtue, Christian virtue, generosity, wealth, money, contentment, God’s provision, image of God, imago Dei, hope, beauty, aesthetics, stewardship, rights, ownership, property


24. Tradition

Graham Tomlin explores the relationship between scripture, reason and tradition, with emphasis on tradition.  He traces two competing versions of this relationship through church history, bringing them to a head at the Reformation.  Enter reason and the Enlightenment and the subsequent denigration of both scripture and tradition.  Graham draws from Alisdair MacIntyre, Leslie Newbigin, St. Anselm, St. Augustine, Irenaeus and others to come to the conclusion that scripture is revelation, tradition is the transmission of that revelation and reason is continued reflection on revelation.

Tags: church history, educational resources, Augustine, Reformers, Tradition, Irenaeus, Hermeneutics, Exegesis, authority, power, scripture, reason, dogma, enlightenment, medieval, rationalism, philosophy, modernity, modernism, postmodernity, postmodernism, faith, understanding, deference construct, Wesleyan quadrangle, evangelism, discipleship, community, dependence, evangelicalism


25. Q&A: Heritage

Graham Tomlin interacts with participants on various questions regarding the implications of his previous session on the relationship between tradition and scripture.

Tags: sanctification, giving, heresy, Eastern Orthodox theology, experience as authority, ecumenical dialogue, ecumenical unity, church unity, tradition as authority