Master of Arts

Spiritual Formation

Units by Discipline
Total Units Price per unit Bible Exposition Intercultural Studies Languages Philosophy Practical Ministry Research / Christian Education Spiritual Formation Theology Electives
49 $621 6 0 0 0 0 0 34 9 0


The student will learn to appreciate and deeply grow in the reality that true Christian spirituality is grounded in the double knowledge and encounter of God and self. Understand the Word of God and its role as a primary datum for true Christian spirituality and integrate truth from the data of extra-biblical sources of wisdom and true Christian spirituality. Develop deeper discernment of the Spirit and understanding of sin dynamics at work in one's life and others. Discern what is of truth or falsehood in light of various contemporary competing spiritualities. Grow in personal commitment to obedience and character of Christ and cultivate deeper intimacy with Christ in prayer.

Because the program is experiential and theoretical in nature with respect to spiritual growth and the dynamic processes involved, the M.A. Emphasis in Spiritual Formation draws upon an interdisciplinary faculty from both Talbot and Rosemead School of Psychology.

It includes both in-depth theoretical and integrative coursework, employing the creation disciplines such as theology, philosophy, psychology and education as well as experiential-relational soul work in classes and co-curricular requirements to aid in understanding the spiritual life mentoring.

Note also that this more academic MA with an emphasis in Spiritual Formation is to be distinguished from the more professional M.A. in Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, the latter being fashioned more along the lines of an Apprentice Training Model which includes training, supervision and service components in spiritual direction and mentoring.

For more information visit the ISF website.


Personal Spiritual Direction

Required of all Spiritual Formation students. All students are required to experience monthly spiritual direction in each semester they are enrolled in courses for the sake of their own spiritual growth and training in Christian soul care (enroll in TTSF 585). The fee structure between spiritual director and directee is to be arranged between the parties and is not the responsibility of the Institute or University. A list of qualified spiritual directors is provided to the student.

Didactic Therapy

Each Masters level ISF student is required to experience personal didactic psychotherapy concurrent with enrollment with a clinical therapist approved by the faculty (a minimum of 12 hours). This is intended to introduce the students to the work and world of Christian psychotherapy as well as enhance the student’s understanding and experience of the psychological dynamics and defenses at work within themselves. The fee structure between therapist and client is to be arranged between the parties and is not the responsibility of the Institute or University. A list of qualified psychotherapists is provided to the student.

Faculty-Student Retreat

For all SF students, along with weekly chapel, faculty and students participate together in a yearly weekend retreat for the purpose of developing a more intimate and meaningful community in relation to God. Student costs for such retreats are the responsibility of each student and on occasion are provided by the Institute.

Personal Retreat

All students in the ISF programs are required to go on 48-hour solitude retreats for the purpose of cultivating the inner life before God. Four retreats are required for master’s level students. This is to be done in consultation with both the student’s designated spiritual director and advisor before and after the experience. Student costs for such retreats are the responsibility of each student.

Spiritual Formation Master's Project-Thesis

Students are required to complete a Master's Project-Thesis in the area of spiritual formation, spiritual direction or mentoring (concurrent with enrollment in SF 740 which includes 3 units for writing and one unit for personal growth exploration). The project must involve both a theoretical and practical/experiential dimension in consultation with thesis advisor.



  • Be able to understand and apply God's written word to the development of a distinctly Christian worldview that is lived out in daily life and ministry.
  • Have a growing personal knowledge in light of biblical study, resulting in an increasingly intimate knowledge of and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Have a worldview shaped by biblical study and a sense of historical location within the Christian church by which to evaluate current trends in the world and in the church. This worldview should grow and develop in conjunction with continuing biblical, historical, and theological study.
  • Be able to research and interpret the meaning of a passage according to its context, taking into consideration:
    • Its historical and cultural context as determined through archaeological, historical, and cultural (including linguistic) research.
    • Its broader biblical context as determined through comparison with the content and themes of related biblical books.
    • Its theological context as determined through comparison with systematic theology (which is derived from the biblical text).


  • Be able to teach the results of a researched biblical text in modern contexts such as:
  • In the church. A Sunday school class, a lay training institute, or a church based Bible training program.
  • On the campus. A college-campus based Bible study, seminar, or Bible instruction program.
  • In a community Bible study setting. A men's or women's large group Bible Study context, such as "Workmen of the Word."
  • At work. A workplace Bible Study.
  • On the mission field. A missions setting.
  • Be able to explain to others interpretative differences in the most widely used Bible translations and paraphrases.
  • Be able to provide a reasoned and informed perspective on critical issues related to the Bible, such as issues prominent in critical scholarship and especially those that attract media attention.
  • Be involved in mentoring relationships with others to show them how to develop their intimate knowledge of and relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Admissions Requirements

  • Applicants must possess a baccalaureate degree. Each should be a graduate from an accredited college with a minimum grade point average of 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale).

  • Three essays in addition to those required by the Talbot application are required to be submitted with the supplemental cover sheet.

  • General essay of at least 1000 words addressing (a) your understanding of spiritual formation and soul care and (b) why you wish to pursue graduate studies. Include in your essay potential ministerial goals, personal interests, etc.

  • Personal essay to briefly express how you envision this program practically affecting your personal life while going through the program (time commitments, family, job and financial needs, etc.)
  • Personal biography of at least 1000 words, particularly focusing on the significant spiritual developments of your life, how they have shaped you as a person, and where you are now in your spiritual development.

  • Submit an additional full-page letter of reference where the person freely discusses why you would be appropriate for the Institute for Spiritual Formation program. This letter should be completed by one of the above references and attached to the reference form.

  • Due to the unique nature of this program, all applicants will be personally interviewed.

Graduation Requirements

  • Satisfactorily complete 49 semester units as outlined in the curriculum charts below.

  • Submit an acceptable Spiritual Formation Master's Project-Thesis, which includes 3 units for writing and one unit for personal growth exploration. The Project-Thesis must involve both a theoretical and practical-experiential dimension in consultation with thesis advisor.

  • Obtain a 3.0 average with no grade below a "C-" in all courses to be credited toward graduation.

  • Complete the entire program in no more than five years.



Course Units
TTSF 517 Hermeneutics and the Word in Spiritual Formation 3
TTBE 519 Old Testament Survey 3
TTBE 520 New Testament Survey 3
TTTH 521 Theology I: God, Scripture, Creation 3
TTTH 522 Theology II: Christ, Humanity, Sin, Salvation 3
TTTH 623 Theology III: Spirit, Church, Last Things 3
TTSF 521 Introduction to Christian Spirituality and Prayer 3
TTSF 524 History and Theory of Christian Soul Care and Direction 3
TTSF 531 History and Traditions of Christian Spirituality 3
TTSF 532 Developmental Spirituality and Contemplative Prayer 3
TTSF 543 Personal Foundations of Spirituality and Retreat 3
TTSF 544 Personality Development and Psychopathology 3
TTSF 585 Personal Spiritual Direction *  0
TTSF 642 Spiritual Disciplines Seminar 2
TTSF 645 Christian Virtue and the Spiritual Disciplines 3
TTSF 672 Personal Retreat and Formation ** 3
TTSF 701 Spiritual Formation Seminar 2
TTSF 740 Spiritual Formation Project/Thesis 3
  Total 49

* TTSF 585 must be taken every term of enrollment
** TTSF 672 should be taken twice, one time for 2 credits and another time for 1 credit, equalling a total of 3 credits

View the 2017-2018 course catalog.

BOLD courses are now available through an online/hybrid format

Biola University
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