Purifying Ourselves: Moral Formation in the Bible

“And everyone who has this hope in [Jesus] purifies themselves as [Jesus] is pure” (1 John 3:3).

What does it mean to become “good”? To produce “spiritual fruit”? To receive a “heart of flesh” in exchange for a “heart of stone”? For faith without works to be dead? To be transformed and sanctified? Not to be merely hearers of the Word, but also doers? To become disciples?

All of these questions regard an area we might call “moral formation.” Religiously neutral versions of these questions focus on behavioral change and ethical uprightness apart from divine intervention, grace, or law. Whether religious or secular, ideas about moral formation always presume underlying ideas about what it means to be a human and how humans function and develop as embodied beings with minds and emotions—beings who can, for example, reason about right and wrong, feel shame and empathy, and form habits.

The articles in this series explore the many ways the biblical authors describe the expected character of God’s people, as well as what the authors seem to presuppose about how humans can and should acquire this character.


Coming soon:

  • Joshua Cockayne and Gideon Salter responding to James K.A. Smith’s view of desire and proposing an alternative, holistic model of ritual formation
  • Ryan O’Dowd on moral formation in Proverbs
  • Melissa Chia-Mei Tan on the biblical role of shame in moral formation
Moral psychology in the Bible

But Was Abraham Good? Ethical Complexity and Moral Reasoning in Genesis

We may take for granted that characters in the Book of Genesis, as in many stories, each manifest certain desires,…

Part of the Purifying Ourselves: Moral Formation in the Bible series

1 John

Becoming Disciples: Moral Formation as Gift and Task

The gift of discipleship carries with it the task of actively and strenuously seeking to become the disciples God desires.

Part of the Purifying Ourselves: Moral Formation in the Bible series