It’s either this or it’s that, but it can’t be both, right? Some things really are life or death, black or white, good or bad, apples or oranges. Dichotomies can be helpful. Dichotomies can also be unhelpful or false. God’s people have been known to make unhelpful distinctions between their “spiritual life” and their “home life”, “social life”, etc. When I recently asked a friend of mine in the Carolina’s what he thought Christians meant by their “spiritual life” he said, “Quiet times, prayer time and Sundays”. Is this really what constitutes Biblical spirituality? Is true spirituality just the private time we have with God? Is spirituality only about those specific times we gather with others to do religious things and focus on the desires of the soul? Or, is spirituality about the body AND the soul? Does it concern the private AND the public life? And finally is spirituality wholly a work of man OR fully the work of God?
The answer appears in Jesus’ resurrection and ascension as recorded in Luke 24:36-53. Luke’s record turns us to the answer that true spirituality is physical, public and pneumatic. Christ has bodily risen as the Lord of all creation: True Spirituality is Physical. Just as Jesus is raised flesh and bone, he is about the business of redeeming us body and blood. Christ calls his disciples to preach repentance from sin in all areas of life: True Spirituality is Public. Just as we are to be a part of the movement to call people to pray and read their Bibles we also are to call for proper use of money, excellence in engineering, and justice in warfare. Ascending to the Father Christ will pour out his Spirit upon his disciples: True Spirituality is Pneumatic. Just as the disciples are given understanding regarding their mission they are told to stay put till they are clothed with power. Without the grace of the Spirit of Christ they could do nothing and neither can we.
Here’s the rub: if we see spirituality as only applying to the reasonable soul (Plato), the private world of values and not the public world of facts (Enlightenment), and a work of only man or only God (Pelagius or Hyper-Calvinists) we ultimately fail to grasp the goodness of the gospel. False dichotomies are like Pied Pipers leading us to the wrong places for help. When we don’t see that Christ came to redeem the body we will tend to look to others for that need. If we think that Christ’s authority doesn’t extend to the workplace or our bank accounts we will look to other guides as our ultimate hope. We may even grasp the bodily and global implications of the gospel and yet fail to see how God promises to empower us to live out the implications. Thinking we can accomplish it on our own will only lead to pride; thinking it is completely God will only lead to confusion. Jesus won the promise of the Father for us through his death and resurrection. We have not earned or deserved the forgiveness or power we receive by the Holy Pneuma (Spirit). Yet, by his presence in our lives we are being restored and are a part of God’s work to bring restoration to his good creation.
If you are interested in reading more along these lines there are intriguing reads like Creation Regained by Al Wolters, Living at the Crossroads by Goheen and Bartholomew or anything by Christopher J.H. Wright.
Questions for Conversation