Okay. I’ve got a confession to make…
I dislike the talk about being”spiritual”.
I dislike the talk about”spirituality”.
I dislike the absolute tsunami of theological vomit that usually accompanies discussions of “being spiritual” or “spirituality”. Talk about “spirituality” has generally become an excuse for flakes and fools to unleash whatever completely heretical ideas on the general public under the cover of total ambiguity. Nobody defines the terms biblically, since nobody who talks about “spirituality” has much concern for the Bible. Nobody talks about that stuff with any sort of clarity, since clarity would unveil the charade of the whole discussion. People like the term “spirituality” and talk about “being spiritual” because nobody could ever possibly say anything wrong about spirituality since it can mean just about anything.
What’s worse is that I recently started reading a book on spirituality (because I’m an absolute masochist and a friend asked for my opinion) and it’s so utterly useless, I actually screamed and threw the book. In the book, spirituality is defined as “the quest for relationship to the Other”.
Oh. My. Good. Gravy.
I want to beat my head with a meat mallet.
That’s a definition so broad that it’s impossible not to accomplish it.
Do you try to have a relationship with any form deity, personal or impersonal, real or imagined?
Congratulations! You’re spiritual! Yay!
That fruit is hanging so low it’s subterranean.
Now, here’s a different question that I’ve never actually seen answered: What does spiritual, as in the adjectival form of “spirit”, mean in the scripture?
Well, the Greek term is pneumatikos, which is the adjectival form of pneuma. Pneuma basically carries the idea of energy, movement, wind, etc. when it’s not a proper noun referring to the Holy Spirit. We still have it in English, thousands of years later, popping up in words like “pneumatic”.
The term pneumatikos appears 26 times in the Bible:
1. It qualifies the word “gifts” once (Rom 1:11) and is used as shorthand for “spiritual gifts” twice (1 Cor. 12:1, 14:1).
2. It is contrasted with the idea of “carnal” 9 times in the New Testament:
– Being “spiritual” is contrasted with being carnal; (sold under sin) in Romans 7:14
– “Spiritual” blessings contrasted with “carnal” blessings (namely, money) in Romans 15:27
– “Spiritual” truths (divine revelation) are contrasted with human wisdom (human knowledge) in 1 Cor. 2:13
– The “spiritual” man (the man of regenerate mind) is contrasted with the “natural” man (the man of unregenerate mind) in 1 Cor. 2:14-15.
– “Spiritual” people are contrasted with “people of the flesh”, which is further explained to mean “infants in Christ” in 1 Cor. 3:1
– “Spiritual” things (i.e. the teaching of the gospel and the word of God) is contrasted with “material things” (namely, money) in 1 Cor. 9:11.
– A “Spiritual” body (post-resurrection body) is contrasted with a “natural” body (pre-resurrection body) in 1 Cor. 15:44 & 46.
3. It is used in a metaphor (“spiritual food” and “spiritual drink”) that means something along the lines of “divine sustenance” or “divine preserving power” in 1 Cor. 10:3-4, and it appears in a similar way in 1 Peter 2:5, which speaks of the assembly of believers in the body of Christ and the sacrifices offered via Christ (i.e. the acceptable “sacrifice” of obedience, only possible through the imputed righteousness of Christ.)
4. It is used in parallel with the term “prophet” in 1 Cor. 14:37 as a general term referring to someone who is a highly mature believer , and in Gal. 6:1 it is used as a shorthand term for someone who is a mature believer.
5. It is used adjectivally to describe all the various blessings given to believers in Christ (Eph. 1:3), songs believers sing (Eph. 519; Col. 3:16) and wicked forces aligned against believers (Eph. 6:12).
6. It is used as a shorthand for “divine” in Col. 1:9; referring to “divine” knowledge (i.e. revelation) that believers have in parallel with wisdom.
So there you go. There’s every usage of the term “spiritual” in the New Testament, categorized by usage. As you can see, a majority of the usages basically are contrasts with “carnal”, and the “spiritual” person in the New Testament is the person who is a mature believer that walks in obedience to the Lord. Not that complex. A “spiritual” person is someone who is instructed, empowered, gifted, blessed, and obedient to the Holy Spirit.
So, the next time someone tells you that they’re into “spirituality”, I’d suggest responding “Oh? I’m a Christian too!” Then, when they protest, you can say “Oh…you said ‘spiritual’ but you meant ‘nominal westernized Hindu’. Gotcha!'” (or whatever religious affiliation they actually are talking about). If they continue disagreeing with you, tell them you’re a platypus…since you want to play the “I’m going to redefine random words to mean something they’ve never meant” game too.
Until Next Time,
Lyndon “too spiritual for spirituality” Unger