Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Are You Over-Spiritual or Under?

I've had a fair amount of evangelical interaction in my life. Over the course of it, I've noticed that evangelicals often end up in one of two groups: they're either over-spiritual, meaning they overemphasize the role of God in their lives, or under-spiritual, meaning they underemphasize the role of God in their lives. Today we look at what it means to belong to each group.

We all know people from both groups. In fact, if you're reading this blog through evangelical eyes, you're probably in one of these groups. You might be over-spiritual if: you talk about everything in the past as if it happened via the direct and perceptible guidance of God. Now, before I raise more hackles than I need to, know that all Christians recognize (and should recognize, absolutely) the providence, or sovereign direction, of God in their lives. This is a key part of the evangelical worldview. Life is not a collage of random moments, but a guided tour of the goodness of God through mystery lands. However, there is such a thing as over-reading providence, as seeing every single event of one's life as the only possible event that could have occurred. When you're telling people that your sandwich meat was divinely chosen, that you perceived divine guidance on what shirt size to get, that you felt special power to turn on your car this morning, you're in over-spiritual territory. Ease off just a bit. Yes, everything happens under God's providence. But we can acknowledge that, we can know that, without representing everything that we do as if little rays of light broke through the clouds and told us what hair gel to buy.

On the other hand, we ought to avoid being unspiritual, or underspiritual, as I've termed it. You might be underspiritual if you never read providence into things, if you think of life as a set of Spirit-less choices you make. If the over-spiritualist overemphasizes God's immanence, or nearness to us and our decisions, then the underspiritualist overemphasizes God's transcendence, and becomes a bit of a practical deist, if not a theoretical one. The underspiritualist, when thinking about life and life decisions, will tend not to see enough of God's hand in things. He'll simply assume that things will go as logic would have it and leave little to no room for the intervention of God in the mechanisms of life. So the next time you hear an overspiritualist say, for example, that no people of such and such a social group will come to the outreach event, correct them with gentleness. Remind them of the immanent activity of God in our world.

Both groups err in different ways. Which way do you go? Or are you the perfectly balanced evangelical?


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