To speak of Spirituality, we must speak of man, and of God. As we saw, Calvin said he didn’t know exactly where to begin:
“Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other.” - John Calvin. Institutes, Chapter 1.
We start with man, because there is a problem in on our side in Spirituality. For some reason, we are not able to encounter God rightly. He is hid from our perception, and what we do pick up about God from the natural world leaves us fighting over the nature of Who God is.
So, the problem that must be dealt with before proceeding further in Spirituality is the problem of the condition of man. The Christian Scriptures teach that this alienation from God, this separation from God is the result of sin. One might have come to mind the familiar verses from Sunday School:
Rom 3:23 - for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Eph 2:12 - remember that you were at that time separated from Christ… having no hope and without God in the world.
The condition of man, as we are taught in Scripture is in separation from God. The effects of sin, however, are not always taught in their two aspects, which we will look at here:
1) Relational Effects of Sin
Most Evangelicals will understand and teach this aspect of the effect of sin. If God is pure and holy, holiness cannot touch what is unholy. Sin represents a great offense to a Righteous God and must be addressed in order to restore a relationship.
2) Personal (Bodily and Spiritual) Effects of Sin
We have been taught about the offense of sin and how it separates us relationally from God. However, we may not have fully contemplated how sin effects man’s ability to relate to God.
There are 2 parts of a human: Body and Soul. Of the two, the soul is the part of a human that perceives and processes reality. Thereby, asking how a human might know God is asking the question: what faculties does a human soul possess?
The Parts of a human soul may be identified in Scripture and observation as corresponding to these three parts:
• Understanding, Faculty of Knowing
• Affections, Faculty of emotion, affections
• Volition, faculty of choosing
It is important to understand the faculties of humanity in order to understand the effect sin has on them. First we are told that sin effects the Body. Physical death and sickness are a result of sin. (Romans 5:12, Genesis 3)
Many may not go on to ask what effect is made on the soul. Scripture speaks to each faculty in this question:
• Mind (1 Cor 2:14, Titus 1:15)
1Cor 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
Man as he is found now in his nature is “not able to understand.” As Paul explains in Titus 1:15, people left in a natural state have: “both their minds and their consciences are defiled.”
This is sometimes called the Noetic effects of Sin: The effect of sin to cloud the understanding.
• Heart (Jer 17:9)
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Jeremiah laments that what men value is “deceitful” leading men away from what they should value, to that which they should not. The Heart too is effected by sin
• Will (Jer 13:23)
Jer 13:23 Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.
Functionally, we see Jeremiah compare the ability of to do good (from the act of the will) just as in line with man’s nature as changing one’s skin color or a leopard, by shear will power changing his spot arrangement. The nature of man is in such a place as to be unable to go what is right by its own power.
We might look at Romans 3:10-12 to see all of these in use:
Rom 3:10-12 - as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands;
(Here we see the understanding of man effected.)
no one seeks for God.
(The heart of man has no inclination to seek after God)
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one."
(The Will of no one does what is good)
Mind, Heart, Will. These are the parts of the soul by which man perceives and reacts to the world and reacts to God. These three parts all are fallen and sinful. “Dead” as Paul describes it. (Ephesians 2:1)
So, before we can properly talk about “Spirituality” as encountering, or communing with God or having fellowship with God, the problem of sin must be answered and solved, and by one not sharing man’s sinful nature.