Spirituality

Wright (2000) suggested that spirituality is “our concern for the ultimate meaning and purpose of life” (p. 7).  For Kumar (2000), the importance of one’s relational connection was central to his definition: “people think that spirituality means that you have to be a Christian or a Hindu or a Buddhist or have a blind faith in God. That is not spirituality. Spirituality is a deep feeling of compassion and unity and relatedness and connection with all of existence” (p. 4). While many (most?) people have a kind of "spirituality," the choice to have religious affiliations or beliefs associated with that spirituality is a personal one.  

Christians have a more specific understanding about spirituality, with a greater social dimension: “…a belief set, a narrative framework for understanding spiritual experiences, and most importantly, a community outside of oneself that may confront and support one to develop a deeper, more complete relationship with the Divine” (Fredrick, 2008, p. 559).  Ma (2003) defined Christian spirituality in terms of “the process of becoming conformed to the image of Christ, for the purpose of fellowship with God and the community of believers.”  Willard (2008) stated that one’s formation spiritually in Christ “is the process through which disciples or apprentices of Jesus take on the qualities or characteristics of Christ himself, in every essential dimension of human personality. The overall orientation of their will, the kinds of thoughts and feelings that occupy them, the ‘automatic’ inclinations and ‘readinesses’ of their body in action, the prevailing posture of their relations toward others, and the harmonious wholeness of their soul--these all, through the formative processes undergone by his disciples, increasingly come to resemble the personal dimensions of their Master” (p. 79).

While the term spirituality is not used in the Old or New Testament Scriptures, Jesus taught that the Spirit, the third member of the triune God (God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit) would abide in them, the disciples of Jesus, and teach them. And, reciprocally, the disciples of Jesus were to abide in Him, the True Vine, that is Jesus. Jesus said, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:4-5, ESV). The Christian Scriptures are also clear on the essential nature of living the spiritual life in conformity to Christ, not the world. Rom. 12:2 (NIV) tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Spirituality would then be the lived out experiences of disciples of Christ following after the leading of the Spirit in their lives, nesting their lives in the One who is greater, their Lord, Savior, Creator, YHWH, and expressing themselves to others as Jesus did, through love (1Cor. 13).

References

Fredrick, T.V. (2008). Discipleship and spirituality from a Christian perspective. Pastoral Psychology, 56, 553 – 560. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. In The Blackwell guide to philosophy of education, ed. N. Blake, P. Smeyers, R. Journal of Religious Education, 33/3, 327-340. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Kumar, S. (2000) Soul man. New Scientist, 2243, 46–49. Lewis, C.S. Our English syllabus.

Ma, S.Y. (2003). The Christian college experience and the development of spirituality among students. Christian Higher Education, 2, 321 – 339. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Willard, D. (2008). Spiritual formation and the warfare between the flesh and the human spirit. Journal for Spiritual Formation and Soul Care, 1/1, 79 – 87.

Wright, A. (2000). Spirituality and education (London, RoutledgeFalmer).

Biola University
13800 Biola Ave. La Mirada, CA 90639
1-562-903-6000