Missing Ingredient: Why Spirituality Needs Jesus

By Peterson, Eugene H. | The Christian Century, March 22, 2003 | Go to article overview

Missing Ingredient: Why Spirituality Needs Jesus


Peterson, Eugene H., The Christian Century


THE SEETHING energies of spirituality are evident everywhere. That is good. What is not so good is that spirituality is also prone to lack of clarity, making it difficult to carry on a conversation about it. In the enthusiasm for firsthand experience, many of the men and women to whom I have been pastor and teacher set aside the Christian's basic spirituality text, the Bible, and take up with new "scriptures" which strike them as fresh and fascinating. Having entered the spiritual culture of sell-help and self-sovereignty, their discourse is soon emptied of any gospel distinctiveness.

I love the energy that I discover in my friends but I am wary of the reductions that take place when God is interpreted through fragments of ecstasy or strategies for happiness. I want to harness these spirituality energies in biblical leather and direct them to Jesus.

Spirituality is like a net that, when thrown into the sea of contemporary culture, pulls in a vast quantity of spiritual fish. In our times, spirituality has become a major business for entrepreneurs, a recreational sport for the bored, and for some--whether many or few, it's hard to tell--a serious and disciplined commitment to live deeply and fully in relation to God.

Once used exclusively in traditional religious contexts, the word "spirituality" is now used quite indiscriminantly by all sorts of people in a variety of circumstances and with diverse meanings. This once pristine word has been dragged into the rough-and-tumble of the marketplace and playground. Many lament this, but I'm not sure that lament is the appropriate response. We need a term like this.

The attempt to reclaim the word for exclusively Christian or other religious usage usually begins with a definition. But attempts to define spirituality, and they are many, are futile. The term has escaped the discipline of the dictionary. Its current usefulness is not in its precision but rather in the way it names something indefinable yet quite recognizable: transcendence vaguely intermingled with intimacy. Transcendence: a sense that there is more, a sense that life extends far beyond me, beyond what I get paid, beyond what my spouse and children think of me, beyond my cholesterol count. Intimacy: a sense that deep within me there is a core being inaccessible to the probes of psychologists or the examinations of physicians, the questions of the pollsters, the strategies of the advertisers. Spirituality, though hardly precise, provides a popular term that recognizes an organic linkage between this beyond and within that are part of everyone's experience.

We need a term that covers the waterfront, that throws every intimation of beyond and within into one huge wicker basket, a term that is indiscriminately comprehensive: spirituality.

Historically, the word spirituality is a relative latecomer to our dictionaries. Only very recently has it entered everyday speech. St. Paul used the adjective spiritual (pneumatikos) to refer to actions or attitudes derived from the work of the Holy Spirit in all Christians. It was only in the medieval church, primarily in the context of monasticism, that the word began to be used to name a way of life restricted to an elite class of Christian, those who lived at a higher level than ordinary Christians. The lives of spiritual Christians, mostly monks and nuns vowed to celibacy, poverty and obedience, were contrasted with the muddled lives of men and women who married and had babies, who got their hands dirty in fields and markets in a world where "all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; / and wears man's smudge and shares man's smell...." (Gerard Manley Hopkins). Spirituality then came into use to designate the study and practice of a perfect life before God, of extraordinary holiness in the Christian life. It was a specialized word having to do with only a small number of people and so was never part of everyday speech. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Missing Ingredient: Why Spirituality Needs Jesus
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.