EXPERIENCE OF AN ADVENTIST PASTOR WITH SPIRITUAL FORMATION
by Janez Borse, retired Slovenian Adventist pastor
February 10th, 2019
In my youth when I was a Roman Catholic preparing to be a priest in a monastic order, I underwent the course known as Spiritual Formation — spiritual exercises in which it was designed I should find my spiritual peace and fulfillment. I have recently become very concerned by the fact that some of these spiritual discipline techniques are infiltrating into the Adventist Church.
My practice of Spiritual Formation accrued during 15 years of intensive teachings of the monastic Spiritual Directorate, by teachers, mentors, and confessors. During that time due to distance and poverty I had only occasional written contact with my parents. With submissive obedience and dependence, I dreaded the monastic teachers and superiors, as they were alleged to be God’s representatives.
I was proud because I belonged to a special generation formed with the Bible instead of ecclesiastical canons, and I participated in post-Conciliar monastic renewal (Second Vatican Council 1962-1965). We were recommended and offered Bible and group studies, but my mind was closed to the evangelical message. The interpretation of the Holy Scripture was under the strong influence of church tradition and subordinate to church teaching (Magisterium). Free interpretation of the Holy Scripture was forbidden, the re-examination of belief was considered as devil’s action, while in the mutual relations even the well-intentioned critique was declared to be a hatred.
I was a member of the Catholic monastic order “Brothers of Saint John of God”. There I was subjected to spiritual formation in my sensitive teenage years. For this, we had spiritual directors, confessors, preceptors and mentors, and in front of all of them we had to be like an open book without hiding anything. I accepted this, because I was not directed to regard God as my personal mentor and friend.
Some elements of Spiritual Formation, which I had adopted while being a Roman Catholic, remained within me subconsciously even when I had converted to Adventism. My “instant” conversion was only of a doctrinal nature. I immediately entered a two year program at a Theological Seminary. I had great challenges serving in the ministry, which was imbued with a learned idealizing of superiors and a negligence or underestimation of the real needs of my family. For forty years retained delusions secretly tormented my soul. All that time, I endeavored to do my best to fulfill my duties (as I used to fulfill monastic rules in the past) so the spiritual fruit of actual conversion did not manifest. Although others praised my exterior, I was aware of the problem in my relationship with my neighbors, my over sensitivity, and the inability to accept other people as they are. But I was “solving“ this problem by paying attention to my feelings, considering them as the climax of the spiritual realization and the proof that there is no problem between God and me. But today, with deep regret, I find that the principles I had introduced from Roman Catholicism into my concept of Adventism had undermined my 33 years of ministerial service in SDA Church.
Somewhere at half–way through my ministerial service I wrote a letter of resignation to the church administration, but they concluded that I was too conscientious and sensitive, and encouraged me to continue. Ministering in fervent activity due to personal ambitions in the middle of challenging evangelical and church programs, I did not work on the building of my character, or on the role of a husband and parent, but focused on solving other people’s conflicts and problems. Only by the grace of God it did not come to breaking my marriage. God led my wife, imbued with persistent will and reformatory spirit, to raise three children alone, and in addition she managed with her patience and prayers to lead me to a saving point at the age of 71. Both of us, during 38 years of our marriage, were confused, because we did not understand the causes, let alone treating them. So I think that I am the real example where Spiritual Formation, with an emphasis on feelings, leads to when adopted at an early age.
Seven years ago, I suspected that I could be a legalist, and I was trying to get out of it with the help of videos and books by Margaret Davis, the preaching of pastor Bill Liversidge, and George Knight’s book The Pharisee’s Guide to Perfect Holiness, which my wife and I both studied. We attended marriage counseling, yet were still searching. Among other literature we studied the book Boundaries, yet without any progress on my side. My wife, in this hopeless situation removed her hands from me and handed me over to God.
But finally, from the study of Milos Bogdanovic’s book Infiltration of Jesuitism into Modern Protestantism and Contemporary Psychology, we came to the knowledge which helped both of us to understand the cause of my spiritual turmoil, the family repercussions, and the pastoral failures.
In his book, Milos Bogdanovic gives a brief historical overview of the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, and relates them to the contemporary forms of Spiritual Formation techniques, which are also infiltrating into Adventism itself. In his presentations and popular book Celebration of Discipline, antinomian author Richard Foster inserted Loyola’s powerful instrument of the Roman Catholic counter-reformation into decadent Protestantism, and rebuilt it as a means of a false revival of unconverted Christians. These Spiritual Formation principles are also used in psychology and psychotherapy.
Elements of these techniques are especially noticeable in the therapeutic program of 12 Steps and in the book Boudaries, which my wife and I had also studied. In the book Infiltration of Jesuitism into Modern Protestantism and Contemporary Psychology, these techniques are exposed in such a manner that a person can easily recognize it if he has used them unconsciously. The abuse of feelings, the wrong role of confession, the unconsciousness of the great Ego, self-complacency with ourselves instead of God, are very strikingly and clearly explained.
The author of the book does not deal only with the reader’s awareness of his own problem. As an alternative to all pseudo-psychological techniques of concealment, Milos Bogdanovic directs the confused postmodernist who seeks to solve his problems to the right solution: biblical conversion caused by God giving a change of internal motives. The experience of justification by faith in Christ is a preventive and solution for the vast majority of human problems, which people do not even perceive as being the product of their misunderstanding of that truth. But this justification by faith is not possible if a person previously, through the sublime demands of God’s law, did not understand all the depth of his own sinfulness and dependence on Christ.
Therefore, today, thankful to the Savior, I strongly recommend against practicing any of the techniques of Spiritual Formation, but highly recommend the book Infiltration of Jesuitism into Modern Protsetantism and Contemporary Psychology by Milos Bogdanovic!
Retired Slovenian Adventist Pastor
The following is a link to the book Pastor Borse read which gave him freedom from the confusion caused by his indoctrination with Spiritual Formation: