Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Sorry Rob, everything is not Spiritual

Rob Bell has a nicely provocative title to one of his latest DVD sermons called "Everything is Spiritual." Later he says that he means everything in life is spiritual. While think I know what he is getting at, these two statements are not true to what scripture has to say about "spirituality" and what is spiritual.

One of the things he says is that in Hebrew, the word "spiritual' does not exist. He says that for the Hebrew mind, everything in life is spiritual, meaning it comes from the life giving Spirit. In the beginning...the Spirit hovered over the waters. The Spirit is the creative power. So the creation is of the Spirit. But is everything that happens in this world of the Spirit or from God? Is God pleased with everything in this world he created?

The short answer, is no. God is not pleased with everything in the world. The life-giving Spirit who made us and the universe is not pleased with what has happened. Was it "spiritual" for Adam and Eve to disobey God and eat the fruit he forbade them to eat. No. Was it "of the Spirit" that Israel turned away from the God that made them a nation and blessed them so he could bless the world. No. Is it "spiritual" for us to murder, to be angry, to divorce our spouses, to not provide for our children, to make war against innocent nations? No. It is not of the Spirit.

Paul the Apostle tells us that there a lot of things that our not Spiritual. He says thing that things like " sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like, are contrary to the Spirit. He says, " I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal. 5:19ff He says these anti-spiritual things are from our sinful nature. Clearly not of the spirit.

But Pauls says that the " But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Gal. 5:22 ff. Paul makes a clear distinction between that with is spiritual and that which is not.

So we cannot really say "Everything is Spiritual". Rather we should say, everything that God himself made is spiritual. The way that God intended us to live, is spiritual. But anytime we create something that goes against the nature of God, like gas chambers for killing millions of people, we create an unspiritual object. Anytime we live life in a way that that is against the nature of God, like hating our neighbors, we are unspiritual.

But...if Rob is saying, that there is an artificial divide between the sacred and the secular, then he is right. Natural is not unspiritual and, supernatural is spiritual. God made the natural, God is supernatural. The natural is of the spirit. Work is no less spiritual than play. Church work, is not more spiritual than work outside the church. Both where made by God, they are spiritual.

So let's not hear any more of this nonsense that everything is spiritual. God wants us to use our head's so nonsense is not spiritual.

Sorry Rob, but, I just thought (in all humility) I'd keep you from being unspiritual. But we're both spiritual even though we both at times act unspiritual.



At 10:24 PM, Blogger Catherine said...

Hmmm. The word "spiritual" can mean so many different thing, legitimately. It can mean "of THE Spirit" or "of spirit." If it is used to mean The Spirit, of course it refers to things which are spiritually healthy. But if it refers only to spirit, then it could go either way. Just as I can talk about being physical and not necessarily mean something good for my body (like exercise and healthy food) but some bad for my body (like junk food). Clearly in the passages you quote, the Bible is referring to things with are of The Spirit, spiritual because they are right. But those things which negatively impact my spirit are still spiritual...using a different definition.

Great discussion! I look forward to "blogging" with you in the future. :)

At 8:58 AM, Anonymous Vince Morris said...

Or maybe Bell, star of the Emerging Church movement, is really trying to get at the old Reformed doctrines that our entire lives are fraught with spiritual import? Our "worship" permeates our day-to-day tasks?

At least this line of thinking helps us move toward avoidance of the neo-Gnostic heresy of the dichotomy of the "spiritual" ("good") vs. the "material" ("bad"), which is so damaging to creation care progress, among other problems it causes.

At 10:38 AM, Blogger Paul Luedtke said...

It is difficult isn't it to at once affirm the whole of life as spiritual, while not making the mistake of saying that everything is spiritual. But the problem is that Rob puts the Hebrew (which he likes and often favors) at odds against the Greek, (which he sometimes gives the impression come from an inferior philosophical underpinning) to say the Hebrew doesn't know a separation of spiritual/unspiritual without admitting that such language exists in the "God-breathed" writings. But I agree with you that we do need to redress the problem of a dualism that has crept into thinking of the church. Thanks Vince (and Catherine)


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