October 6, 2009

The Human Spirit - 6

Augustine said our hearts are restless til they rest in Him. More pointedly, it has been said that every soul is born with a God-shaped hole that can only be filled up with God. This compares interestingly, if accidently, with the Buddhist teaching that, by focusing beyond one's self, one can touch nothingness. For a non-believer, that really should be precisely correct.

But praise be to God, because there is MORE. When one is born from above - born of God, born of spirit - one becomes a spiritual creature. It is as if the human spirit finally ignites or enlivens within the human soul. (If it was there before, it was lifeless and non-functional.) From that moment on, we have something at our center instead of nothing. We have a new form with new faculties that can touch, feel, see and hear the very Spirit of God. In short, we really do become new creatures.

So why doesn't this work very well, for most of us? Because a newborn is a newborn.

The soul of a christian can be slowly transformed, but the spirit of a believer is (to us) brand new on the day of conversion. The soul of a christian can be nothing but a hindrance, at times, but the spirit of a believer is that part which can touch and be one with God's spirit. The soul of a christian can still function selfishly, apart from God. The soul of a christian is intended to be in subject to the spirit of a christian, because the spirit of a believer is that part which can directly sense and "move" as one with the Spirit of God.

And yet most believers, having found God in the spirit, immediately begin to pursue Him in soulishness. No wonder our spirits don't grow. No wonder, the first time I met one of those old wrinkled saints who had truly discovered the mystery, it seemed so mysterious. Years of life will eventually make you "Let go and let God" or else let go of God. But that mature grace seems so bizzare to someone whose head is being filled with "Here's how to be a christian". For good reason. Even when the lessons are spiritual, the new believer is used to being soulish. Even when the teachers are not completely soulish, the newbie gravitates toward what they already know - intellect, emotion, and/or volition. (Some denominations personalities tend to emphasize one or two of the three.)

He really has put a new something within his people, and that is why theological equalising of "soul" and "spirit" is such a travesty. Our spirits are vastly different things from our souls. Again, mature christians may get past this eventually, in practice, but the mish-mosh of theories and terms are significant factors that can greatly complicate the process. Sometimes I wonder if this truth is better off being hidden, but for those who are really on the path towards God, it should only be helpful to communicate more effectively about what we really are, and about what we're really trying to do (and, not do).

Even when we differ in theory, we find the same struggle with Life, as believers. No matter what terms we use, the challenges of true christian spirituality will never change.

To be concluded...

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