Making Spiritual Progress: Building Your Life with Faith, Hope and Love
by Allen Ratta
Reviewed by Clint Walker
Making Spiritual Progress is an interesting book, and not quite what I expected. A lot of what I read about spiritual growth has what I would call more of an "organic" twist to it. In other words, it talks about how to grow people in their faith honestly and naturally and led by the mysterious hand of the Holy Spirit. This book is much more of a system and method of spiritual growth. I am still trying to wrap my mind around it, and decide if I buy this neat little system for spiritual growth, and for understanding human motivation.
Ratta believes that what motivates a person's heart and life is what rules their life. That makes sense. He says, basically, that the key to helping people grow is teaching them to be motivated by the right things, and then right living with flow out of the character motivated by the Spirit. He describes the key motivators of the Christ-centered life as faith, hope, and love. And Ratta believes that world revolves around the "isms" stunt Christlike formation by motivating us with the wrong things: namely hedonism, materialism, and egoism. In Scripture this is worked out through the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (I John 2:16). As he says, "The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are not your ordinary garden-variety evils....they are spiritual conditions of the heart. They each motivate a world of behaviors" (p. 51).
Making Spiritual Progress is nothing if not hands-on. The next part of the book describes a regimen of spiritual disciplines and exercises for spiritual growth that help to address the heart through training it to be motivated by better, more godly things. The final section of Making Spiritual discusses how the vital virtues that Ratta advocates can be perverted and/or misunderstood.
The thing I struggle with in this book is whether the whole description of the spiritual life is to clean and neat for describing the way soul work really happens. In my life, growth is often messy and ugly, and not nearly as simple and straight-forward as Ratta describes.
What this does describe, in its own way, is what Dallas Willard describes as a VIM approach to growing souls. It gives people a vision, intent, and means to be transformed. And that is a very good thing.