For many Christian people, spirituality is set against our humanity. In order to become more spiritual, we must lose ourselves, our desires, our identities, and become more like some abstract idealized vision of what God wants for us and from us.
This is not at all a biblical vision of spirituality. God’s original intention for humanity was to grow up into and fill out all that it meant to be human. In our brokenness, we’ve become pathetic and perverted caricatures of true humanity. In salvation, God does not remove us from our humanity, but is at work in Christ and by the Spirit to restore our humanity. Spirituality, then, involves our participation with God in this restorative process.
Steve Guthrie says it this way in his book Creator Spirit: The Holy Spirit and the Art of Becoming Human:
[T]he spiritual is not opposed to the human. Quite the opposite. There is in fact a deep and intimate connection between Spirit-uality (the work of God’s Holy Spirit) and our own deepest and truest humanity. We might even say that the Holy Spirit is the humanizing Spirit, the breath of God that transforms dust into a living soul. The work of the Holy Spirit is to fulfill, complete, create, and re-create our humanity, remaking us after the perfect humanity of Jesus Christ (pp. 34-35).
I am so thoroughly enjoying Steve’s book and will likely have much to say about it in the next few weeks. It’s quite wide-ranging, very well-written, and entirely readable. It’s an exploration of the arts through the lens of the Holy Spirit, and a theology of the Spirit through the lens of the arts.
5 thoughts on “Becoming Human: Steve Guthrie on Spirituality”
Very interesting. I’ve seen so many young Christians (including myself at times) get thrown into disastrous patterns of anxiety and worry because they aren’t doing what the Christian songs say they should be doing (emptying me, wanting more of You… etc.) I used to sit in the pew and wonder, “Worship leader/pastor, how the heck am I supposed to do that? Empty myself of my desires? What?” I want to get married to my girlfriend. Is that desire from God? How do I know? … So goes the cycle of analysis/anxiety and torment.
It seems that, if Guthrie is right, the fulfillment of our desires does not come by self-actualization but by “Christ-ization” where our lives/desires/what makes us human are fulfilled through the Spirit. Looking forward to seeing what you post on this topic.
Hey David, I’m not sure that he’ll get into some of these specifics, but the book provides a richer way of conceiving of the Spirit’s work and provides great resources to critique poor and, frankly, harmful visions of spirituality. There are several major points he’s made in the first few chapters that would inform this very point, but I’m still formulating my thoughts in response to his provocative work.
Great post. Thanks for sharing these wonderful thoughts. One quick thought/question of my own below.
“In salvation, God does not remove us from our humanity, but is at work in Christ and by the Spirit to restore our humanity.”
I wonder if perhaps a more comprehensive way of summing or stating this might be something like “…but is at work in Christ and by the Spirit to restore the image of God within us.” I’m not sure that God is simply restoring our humanity in salvation, though this is definitely a good portion of it. It just seems that the restoration of the image of God is a more complete summation than the restoration of our humanity. Though it would seem that contra to salvation, hell would be something like the removal of our humanity/image of God we have rejected.
Do you see our humanity as being one-in-the-same as our being made in the image of God or is there more to the story?
Thanks for this, Tony. Yes, our humanity–according to God’s created intention–includes the notion of our being in the image of God. Or, we could say that they’re precisely the same thing–they’re synonymous.
Our humanity is perverted at the fall and this is what God is restoring. God is reclaiming and restoring our being in God’s image, or our humanity, and this has to do with the various facets of that–our relation to God, our relations to one another, and our relations to the creation and animals.
Ernest Disney Britton
I am beginning the book tonight. Thanks all for the perspectives.