Spiritual

Another heavyweight goodie from Kraus:

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Defining the Spiritual

Before this talk about a spiritual God-dimension can be very useful in our service strategy, we will need to define the spiritual dimension. I would identify it as follows:

1. the self-understanding of ourselves and others as children of God in the image of the Creator, namely, that characteristic which makes it worth a Mother Teresa’s self-sacrifice to give a fellow human being a meaningful death in a compassionate setting.

2. the personal quality of human beings that opens them to the transcendent dimensions and moral demands of life, namely, submission to and trust in God (faith) which enables them to put compassion and self-sacrifice (love) ahead of their own egocentric (sarx) desires and fears.

3. the intuition of a destiny beyond physical mortality (hope) which leads them to risk death in the pursuit of human value and well being.

4. the self-awareness that humankind’s highest self-identity and ultimate meaning is found in solidarity (koinonia) under the loving dominion of the God whom Jesus called Father.

With this understanding of humanity’s essential nature, it becomes obvious that the human problem is fundamentally “spiritual.” Or to put it negatively, it is not simply technological, political, or economic. But in order to understand what this means we need a new conceptualization of spirit.

The human spirit is not a separate part of our individual being like an arm is part of the body. It is not something distinct from and added to our bodies and minds and somehow more essential than they are. Rather, spirit is a holistic term. Spirit describes the whole human being in his/her wholeness made “in the image of God;” for example, not as an “economic animal,” or a “tool-making animal,” but as a “spiritual animal.” The whole self is more than the sum of the parts. In theological terms, it is a creation of the Spirit of God and shares in that Spirit.

So the spiritual describes the texture of our total being. It is the distinctly human dimension of our being both individually and socially. We might speak of it as both a transcendent and depth dimension which involves us in relationship to God and to each other — what the Bible calls the “heart,” i.e, the personal depth of our being. It expresses itself most clearly in our self-image which is simply the under side of our God-image; in our motivations, our underlying assumptions and rationalizations. It is expressed in our human cultures.

Thus to say that the human problem is fundamentally spiritual does not locate the problem in some religious or mystical realm, but rather, locates the material, the economic, the physiological and psychological dimensions within the context of the larger holistic and transcendent reality. It defines the problem, not in reductionist but in holistic terms, not simply in behavioral patterns but in terms of personal-social dynamics and values.

If the human problem, then, is basically a spiritual problem and we do not deal with it, our relief, development, and mediation work will be superficial. As Luzbetak observes, “technical development by no means implies that a technologically advanced society is necessarily able to deal more successfully with its social problems or that it has a greater capacity to cope with its ideational environment more satisfactorily than a less technologically developed society” (The Church and Cultures, 1988, p. 314). Or as Walter Wink puts it, “Structural change is not enough, the heart and soul must also be freed, forgiven, energized…” (Naming the Powers, 1984, p. 117).

This means that in our goals and strategies we must also deal with the elements of culture which inhibit and defeat the goals of holistic human development (salvation). These are “spiritual” inhibitions — fatalism, depression of spirit, self-depreciation (“nobodies”), a sense of powerlessness which is the result of internalized oppression, structures and values that create co-dependency, and self-centered anxiety that often justifies or excuses deceitful and manipulative behavior.
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