Monday, May 4, 2009

Spiritual Temperaments and Book Reviews

Gary Thomas has identified a set of nine spiritual “temperaments” which describe the different ways in which we connect with God. He discusses these in a book called "Sacred Pathways". Myra Perrine followed this up with a book of her own describing the temperaments and adding new material - "What's Your God Language? Connecting with God through Your Unique Spiritual Temperament". Perrine defines “A spiritual temperament is simply a God-given preference indicating how someone best and most naturally loves and serves God. Spiritual temperaments can be bold statements in our churches of how God has legitimately, though diversely, wired us to know him while also displaying differing facets of his character to a watching world!”

Thomas describes the following nine types / spiritual temperaments:
  • Naturalist who is most inspired to love God out-of-doors by being in a natural setting.
  • Sensate who loves God with the senses -- through awareness of taste, smell, touch, sight, and sound.
  • Traditionalist who loves God through ritual and symbol
  • Ascetic who prefers to love God in solitude and simplicity
  • Activist who loves God through contributing towards justice and the enhancement of life in the world.
  • Caregiver who loves God by loving others.
  • Enthusiast who loves God with mystery and celebration.
  • Contemplative who loves God through contemplation.
  • Intellectual who loves God with the mind.
The "Sacred Pathways" book  is a refreshing look at how we connect to God and how our personality and unique design affect how we relate to Him. After introducing the concept of a spiritual temperament, he spends a chapter on each of the nine temperaments. He describes what these temperaments look like, how they interact with God and Scripture, and gives some biblical and/or contemporary examples of people with that temperament. There are a set of questions at the end of each chapter to help the reader assess which temperaments are most prevalent.

The last chapter is particularly useful, on "Understanding Your Sacred Pathway." There he gives suggestions on applying knowledge of your temperaments to worship, devotion, and bible study. The book has a number of good ideas on how to improve your devotional times, which can look as different as the people who have them. While I wish he could have gone a little further in the area of 'what do I do with this information?' I did find the book to be quite helpful and encouraging. It should be an interesting read for most Christians, especially those who feel like their current devotions have become dry (or have disappeared).
Looking for more on the application side, I also read Perrine's book, "What's Your God Language?" She does an excellent job as did Thomas with describing the concept of a spiritual temperament and describing each of the nine, in an approachable and inspiring way. There are also two assessment tools within the book, one to discover your spiritual temperament, and another to assess your current spiritual practices.

What does this book cover that goes beyond Thomas' book? Perrine is more focused on application, and with each temperament there is an outline of four-weeks that gives practical exercises for experiencing God through for that temperament. There are hints and sidebars throughout which provide additional ideas for personal reflection, prayer, and journaling. Chapter 4 addresses "How Does My Spiritual Temperament Help Me Love God?". Chapter 5 is completely new material, on "Denominations and Differences in the Church Today". Chapter 6 is quite good, addressing "The Lifelong Journey of Knowing a Loving God." You get the feel throughout the book that the author cares deeply about the material, about connecting with God, and has a lot of experience in helping others do this.

If you're curious what your spiritual temperament might be, check out the free online assessment for spiritual temperaments based on Thomas' "Sacred Pathways". I also found a page that summarizes the pathways and gives some other examples. Me? I'm an Intellectual / Ascetic / Contemplative / Enthusiast. Consider for yourself how God wired you to worship Him.

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