What is Spirituality?

While the word is used by many different people in many different ways, broadly defined spirituality is a focus on and pursuit of the transcendent.  For some it is the eternal verses the present, the majestic verses the mundane, the immaterial verses the material.  For Plato it was the ideal which superseded the real.  For Kierkegaard it was the existential which superseded the rational.

Regardless of how one defines it however, at its core spirituality is a foundational premise of life itself predicated on the ontological assumption that the universe is more than just atoms and amino acids, more than chemicals and chance combustion… and that life is more than just the meaningless marching on of a massive soulless machine.

Thus more than any other thing, spirituality – which incidentally is not the same as religion – is the fly in the ointment of the modern scientific establishment.  For the establishment, with its religiously unyielding and zealot-like commitment to Enlightenment Rationalism, demands fidelity to the Philosophy of Evolution – which incidentally is not the same as the science of evolution – which precludes any consideration of transcendence.

Ironically however it was this very commitment to the eradication of transcendence which led to the postmodern rejection of objective truth and thus paved the way for a new generation of scientists who see no reason why they should have to choose between science and spirituality.  Decent on this issue is far broader than the establishment would like us to believe, but if you scratch at the surface long enough you will begin to see what really lies beneath the facade… but alas I digress.

Spirituality, which grapples with the nature of the universe and our place in it, does so in different ways.  Whereas the older spiritualities were most often tied tightly to religious groups who by their prescriptive elements tended to govern the spiritual journey of individual adherents, the postmodern spiritualities tend to be much more open, personalized, and subjective.  This shift has even begun to affect the religious landscape as more and more one hears of those who claim to follow a certain religion but then espouse the view that they can pick and choose what aspects of that religion they think are most fitting to them.  Be they conservative or liberal, the shift away from absolute and objective truth has left us without the capacity for making rational judgments about the veracity of a belief or the validity of its expression… more about this another time.

It is not in the scope of this post to delineate the many varieties of spirituality or even to give a sweeping overview, which while quicker would undoubtedly leave many feeling the subject received an oversimplified and therefore unfair treatment.  Rather, it is my desire to explain my own conceptualization of the subject matter as this is one of the operating premises of my life and work and writing.

According to the first three chapters of the first book of the Torah, all things were created by God for the supreme purpose of intimate communion; with Him, with each other, and with the universe.  This purpose is interwoven into the design of creation: Male and female, together bearing His image and likeness, with co-dominion over all that was made (Genesis 1:26-30).  Thus there are two keys to Judeo-Christian spirituality.

First, it is primarily about relationships, not about rule keeping.  There are no checklists, God is not Santa Clause and He is not looking to see who is naughty or nice.  God knows our frame, He knows we are but dust, yet He loves us and is jealous for us (Psalm 103:14).  We were designed to be connected, everything else means nothing without this (Ecclesiastes 12).

Secondly, Judeo-Christian spirituality is holistic, not dualistic.  There is no place for the followers of Yeshua to degrade the material as secondary to the spiritual because God created both and the enjoyment of both are a part of His design.  Thus even in brokenness true spirituality sees beauty, although marred true spirituality sees the majestic, and even though we are frail true spirituality revels in the now and future restoration of all things.

Therefore it is my assertion that correctly understood, Judeo-Christian spirituality is at once a celebration and a pursuit of the transcendence and the immanence of the Sovereign God who makes His dwelling place with us (Isaiah 57:15).  He calls us to mystical union with Himself and with one another, and He incarnates Himself in His Ekklessia so that the world may know that He is the ONE they have been searching for (John 17:20-23).  He is the song within our souls.  He is the home that we have always longed for and yet never dared to believe existed.  He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:1-6).

Jesus writing in the dirt