Sept 29, 2007

Monastic Counter-Assertions; Consecrated Spirituality Necessitating Exuberance for Life

The following is a response to Away/Toward by Jamie. You can read his blog post for proper context at

Do not take this as a meaningless criticism or counter-point, it is spoken by someone seriously praying about making the same commitment in the same paths you have.

If I could distill the entire instigation into, process thereof, and assertions thus far in my studies of theology – it would be this: what is the authentic embodiment of not just faith, but holiness? Far too often, I believe we accept lies as to what this is, how it is cogently/vibrantly lived out and authenticated in our lives. Some individuals make great hay of the concept of liberty and do just about anything without any fear or consideration of God and His Word. Others – conspire to cocoon themselves in a veritable shield of a condescension of physical reality in lieu of an emphasis on what is assumed to be the natural good of an emphasis on spirituality-, which is usually anything that is not physical.

It is my assertion that we forget that Christ speaks into two distinct dimensions within our lives; the first of which is the compositional essence of our existence – this is to say that He, being both wholly Spirit, and wholly Flesh – speaks to us equally in terms of our own existential base in these same regards. Put simply, Christ is not just a spiritual concern in terms of my own self-awareness, but the tangible, physical aspects of my life and being are no less negated, obfuscated or rendered inconsequential. The imperative necessity of a physical resurrection assures that my bodily existence carries equal concern to my spiritual, even if both the genesis of all physical reality and the redemption thereof both inhere in the spirit, the wholeness of their concurrent physical concern is unabated. The disingenuous disinvestment of a concern with physical reality is nothing less then the ancient foe of Gnostic Dualism reincarnated into the Doctrinal consciousness of Christianity.

In addition to addressing and affirming a concern with not just my spiritual dimension but also my physical dimension, there is the second proclamation that can be made – and that is that also tied back to the resurrection is the idea of what life and it’s aspects looks like as viewed through it. It is my assertion that there exists within the Christian mindset the continued Manichean machinations that continually process physical reality in terms of a subjugation in relation to the spiritual. This is simply not the question, nor the answer. The imperative affect of the Resurrection is a not just a reassertion but also a renovation of the physical. Where there was brokenness there can be wholeness, where there was pain – there can be more then just joy, but pleasure. We have accepted the blatant lie that the Resurrection can only be seen in terms of a spiritual dimension. When Paul speak of the mortification of the flesh, it is a false assumption to declare that he is someone only speaking to our physicality – the depravity and brokenness common to the nature of man extends through the entirely of not just our physicality but also our spirituality. I am apposed to any structure that seeks to affirm a redeemed spirituality and yet constantly demeans or depreciates the authenticity and importance of a likewise redeemed physicality concurrently present in an individual truly exemplifying the Risen Lord and Savior necessarily across the fullness of their own compositional state: all of their spirit and all of their physicality. This is why we are so firmly instructed that it is not enough to be merely spiritual, but that we must be the most earthy of all substances -we must be salt: for physical life is expressly impossible (both now, but much more consciously present as a faceable reality in the Ancient World) without it. This may seem like a contradiction in terms – but the opposite is both true and affirmable, and when seen correctly, what is commonly accepted in lieu of it is actually demonstrated to be the more sophistic of the two. It is an indirect lie to say, I love my Christ but deny my friends – because if Christ is loved authentically and completely – that love is best expressed in the tapestry of the friends within ones life and the love, sacrifice and service rendered unto them by the Christian in question. The foundation is not the friends – the foundation is Christ; but when that foundation is properly built – it is fitted and framed both within the physical and spiritual; condescension of the physical renders the whole organism impotent and inept. This is why Gnostic dualism is so loved by the Enemy – because it is such an easy lie to proffer, and on its face it seems so much to edify but in the end so greatly devastates. This is my great concern with the Monastic tradition: that it shares commonality with so much else within both spiritual reality and that of an economic or political ilk: that the more power there is within something or put better – opportunity – the likewise more opportunity for opportunity itself, and likewise also, the more potential for abuse. Put simply – the more power resides within a thing; the greater the potential for abuse therein. Monasticism is perhaps the greatest expression of this truth – that correctly applied it can be a veritable mine of spiritual learning and focus; but isolated from not just a disavowal of Gnostic dualist tendencies but also the full spiritual/physical implications of the Resurrection it is just bondage of meaningless spirituality cloaked in overblown piety. The trap of inauthentic holiness is one that even the most seasoned saint can fall into; as we are constantly desiring to express ourselves from within that framework; and we are constantly misrepresenting Christ as being the same thing as the spiritual – and I think that this is yet another false assertion. To borrow from Tillich; we have a God who is “above God” or a God that is truly beyond what we would envision or comprehend a spiritual reality to be. While God is in fact spirit – it is a mistake to assume that spirit is God. For God is both the genesis and redeemer of all spirit and physical, and to assume that a spiritual inclination is to by default affirm God is to make a big mistake. Millions of individuals practice devout spiritual adherences, sometimes emphasized by a full or partial abstraction from physical motifs or concerns – and yet they are completely lost. To practice spiritual dynamics outside of the question of “what does this look like as viewed through the Resurrection” is to almost always pursue error. By nature of the consideration of an integration of a Resurrection concern – it is my assertion that authentic spirituality will be inescapably existentially earthy.

I don’t care how much you pray – if your spiritual existential base is truly authentic it will by virtue of the reality mirror itself into the physical reality of your life. A true Christian will by nature of being a true Christian not flee from life – but will be fully immersed in it: and not life as the world knows it- but Life as we know it as redeemed and inescapably reconstituted from it’s brokenness by the Cross. The dynamic of Abraham and Isaac is the fundamental expression of the operation of all authentic soteriology – that when you truly surrender yourself both spiritually and physically; God in His sovereignty desires to give it back to you. This is the ultimate expression of His true jealousy – for it is not out of meaningless concern; but rather He is jealous for your full redemption not just spiritually but also physically. I believe that when one grows in authentic spirituality – that authenticity of that will necessarily be mirrored back into the physical ground of ones being. If this is not so; it is either expressly out of the sovereignty of God as in accordance to His will towards some purpose – or, as is more often the case, the true outworking is a false spirituality operating out of a lie. The consecration of oneself towards spiritual concerns necessitates attention towards one’s physicality – and a genuine spirituality does this – as emphasized previously. It must also be stated – that the subsequent, secondary brokenness of a false spirituality that neglects the physical dimension of one’s existential being/state is that that part of one’s compositional being will reassert itself; and that reassertion will almost always be evil. It is my strong conviction that this is the reason that so many Spiritual leaders fall prey to sexual iniquity; they were so busy being spiritual that they forgot to be physical – because how can being physical in anything be holy if holiness only comes from the pietistic expressions of some spiritual extrapolation? C. S. Lewis was aware of this – and he rode his bike everyday to speak energy and attention into his physical dimension. I believe that these concerns must be expressly addressed within the Monastic Mindset; you cannot hyper focus on pietistic expressions of spirituality that ultimately demean the physical component of who you are. A true monk walks the pinnacle of power and lives a deeply consecrated spiritual life – but by virtue of this state must live exuberantly and with immense passion for life and everything about it. The focal point being Christ and his resurrection: that the Glory and the power of not just a redeemed Spirituality is manifest in his or her own life, but also that of a redeemed Physicality. The denial of one or the other will invariably result in an existential dissonance – the causes of which comes not from human hands – but the divine – you were inescapably made to be both; never ever, ever forget that – it will be your undoing to ever allow that to happen.