More spiritual than God.

I have said that Jesus is 100% God and 100% human. He is 0% angel. So Jesus did not come to turn us into angels who are constantly engaged in spiritual activities, but he came to enable us to thrive in our human lives. The Christian faith is an earthly, material faith. The physical world is both the object of God’s creation and the scene of his redemption. There is no salvation without a physical incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. So yes, evangelicals who sing the Platonic line [salvation as escape from the physical world] (and they are many) are ironically attempting to be more spiritual than God. This was the Corinthian problem. They thought they were too spiritual to have sex (1 Cor. 7) and believe in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15). Paul told them that they are so spiritual that they are no longer Christian! (1 Cor. 15:12-17).

That’s author Michael Wittmer in an interview on Internet Monk’s blog.  I’ve been meaning to read Wittmer’s Heaven is a Place on EarthI think I should finally crack that spine in the next couple of months.

5 thoughts on “More spiritual than God.

  1. Toni

    I *think* I understand where he’s coming from.

    It is slightly unfortunate that to highlight the material aspect he has diminished the spiritual aspect. The bible doesn’t seem to see a divide between the spiritual and material: both influence each other and how we are in one will spill over into how we are in the other.

    I would suggest it is foolish to concentrate on either exclusively. Yes, we are seeking the kingdom of God on earth, yet we are striving to see Jesus face to face (i.e. not on this earth). There is a tension and a harmony at the same time.

    It will be interesting to see what you make of the book (I’ve not read it).

  2. Marc

    Let’s try that again:

    Right after the bit I quoted, Wittmer goes on:

    …I do think that some are appropriating a similar idea in dangerous ways. The declaration “Everything is spiritual” is true if we mean that everything in the world matters in God’s kingdom, but it’s dangerously false if it is used to flatten the distinction between the natural and supernatural realms. Gathering for corporate worship is not the same as having a conversation in a coffee shop; reading Scripture is not the same as reading Charles Dickens; and prayer is not the same as twittering. If we forget the transcendent value of God, we will also lose the value of everything else. If everything is spiritual, then nothing is.

    This *may* answer your uneasiness about diminishing the spiritual.

    I imagine Wittmer would disagree with you about seeing Jesus face to face “not on this earth”. The NT hope seems to be one of Jesus returning to/coming to *us* as opposed to us leaving this earth–i.e. Jesus isn’t returning retrieve us, but coming back to reign over and with his followers. One might argue that it isn’t *this* earth per se, if it is to be recreated/transformed (new heavens and new earth), but it will be *an* earth (cf. Rev. 21).

    I’m at work, so I can’t hunt up relevant passages. Of course, this is a decidedly non-Dispensationalist position, so if you happen to be a Dispensationalist, you’ll likely disagree!

    What Wittmer is rejecting and responding to is the (Gnostic) notion within the evangelical world that salvation is about escaping the body and living some kind of disembodied “spirit” existence for all of eternity (e.g. that whole bit about not turning us into angels and Jesus being 0% angel)

  3. Toni

    Um, this is where it diverges a bit.

    I’d suggest that the things in that quote he differentiates as being spiritual are so because of the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Scripture and dickens are both words on a page without the Holy Spirit to bring the scripture alive to us. Talking before a time of worship with church family is the same as talking in a coffee shop with church family – or did he mean the act of worship? Is worship of the teams at a football match any less powerful spiritually speaking than our time of worship in church (different spirit, but you get the point)?

    It seems to me, what makes something spiritual or un-spiritual is much more what is going on the the heart and spirit of the man taking part than the activity.

    To divide physical activities into spiritual and un-spiritual is something that is traditional within certain church streams. I need to check my specifics to quote accurately on this, so I’ll give no further details. However I do not believe this is a correct understanding of the true nature of either reality of God at work in us.

    Re: the earth and face-to-face, I’d say that our expectation (based on a couple of thousand years of history) is that we will see Jesus face to face after we die, but that we should not strive any less to see His kingdom established here because of it. Yes, I look forward to living with Him on the new earth, but do not have faith to expect that in my lifetime.

    TBH I can’t remember what dispensationalism is, and not sure I care enough to look it up again. Tell you what, I’ll see your dispensationalist and raise you a Theophany – can you trump that? 😉

  4. Marc

    Hmmm…I don’t think he intends to make a spiritual/secular/unspiritual distinction (the subtitle of his book is, “Why Everything You Do Matters To God” but I can’t speak for the author).

    Anyway…no point carrying on since I seem to agree with both of you. 🙂

    (Dispensationalism is a theology within evangelical circles which arose in the last 150 years ago. It’s the theology behind things like Hal Lindsay’s “Late Great Planet Earth” and the Left Behind series of books and films.)

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