Editorial: Spirituality

Those who have their fingers on the pulse of society claim that North America is experiencing a resurgence in “spirituality”. Implicit in this is the admission that spirituality, whatever it is, is “good” and should be applauded.

But what do most people mean by spirituality? Various activities seem to qualify for this category: communing with nature, family centered time, meditation and exercise among others. On close inspection it will be obvious that “spiritual” has been defined by what it is not, rather than by what it is. As long as something is not “material” then it qualifies as being spiritual.

What is actually being described is something lower than the spirit part of man. It is the soul by which man establishes his relationship with all that is around him and his emotions. The “soulish body” (1 Cor 15:44) is not what makes man God conscious but what makes him self conscious. The dangerous dimension to this resurgence in “spirituality” among men is that it has placed an emphasis on “experience” and “emotion”. This has left people open to the occult and the vast array of emotion based religions in the world.

Years ago, H. A. Ironside wrote a book entitled, “Holiness, the True and the False,” in which a sharp and clear distinction was drawn between the false standards and concepts of spiritual holiness then passing as currency, and the true standards of divine holiness. In like manner today, it is essential that we understand what true spirituality is.

On three occasions the Apostle Paul speaks of the “spiritual man” . A review of these will prove insightful for us in an attempt to determine what true spirituality is.

In I Cor 2:15 and 3:1, the context is the revelation of the Word of God. It is clear from the passage that what marks the spiritual man is his relationship to the Word of God. Does he accept it as the message of God to his own soul? Does he accept it as inspired from God? The passage teaches that the spiritual man recognizes the wisdom of God in the message of a Crucified Christ, receives the Word of God through the Spirit, realizes the verbal inspiration of the Scripture, regards and values all things in light of a divine revelation, and relentlessly pursues unity amongst the people of God.

In ch 14, Paul again returns to his mention of the “spiritual man” . This time, it is in regard to the ordering and functioning of the assembly. Spirituality in this setting is judged by the extent to which the Word of God controls my activity in the assembly and my submissiveness to divine order.

Finally, in Gal 6:1, Paul reminds the “spiritual” that they have the responsibility of restoring a brother. No doubt in the context, the spiritual man is the man who allows the Spirit of God to produce the fruit which is seen in chapter 5. Yet, is there not also the suggestion that the spiritual man will have a deep care and concern for his brother, whether his restoration or the sharing of his burden?

Bringing together these three mentions would teach us that the measure of a person’s spirituality can be judged by three barometers: The Reception of the Revelation of God, the Regulation of my assembly life by the Word of God and the Restoration of my brother. Let us return to Biblical standards and definitions, striving to be “spiritual”.