Time For Truth

A place to grow in the Grace & Knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ

A Spirituality from Below: An Introduction

“Biblical spirituality and our contemporary spirituality are not two variations on the same theme.  They are stark alternatives to each other.  In the one, God reaches down in grace; in the other the sinner reaches up (or in) in self-sufficiency.  These spiritualities belong in different worlds, one moral in its fabric and the other psychological.  One thinks in terms of salvation, the other in healing.  One results in holiness, the other looks for wholeness.  In the one, God’s sovereignty is seen in the establishment of what is spiritual; in the other, a human-seized sovereignty is at work to create its own spirituality.  Between these two kinds of spirituality there can be no accord, no peace, no cooperation.  The one excludes the other.  This is the message we have heard from the apostles.  This is the message that was recovered at the time of the Reformation.  And this is the message that should be resounding in the church today.” David Wells, The Courage to Be Protestant: Truth-lovers, Marketers, and Emergents in the Postmodern World, pp.177-178

I am beginning a new series on the different religion that is growing and becoming more vocal throughout much of the church today.  It might be because of the increase in internet use, but today most Christians are exposed to a greater level to alternative views of “spirituality” that sounds Christian, but is opposed to Christianity at every point.  It is what David Wells refers to as a spirituality from below.  In subsequent blog entries I will be addressing issues of leadership in my own denomination that is really a spirituality from below and the stark difference this is to historic Reformed Protestantism.

The great “myth” of this spirituality is the story of Indian origin of the blind men and the elephant. The basic idea of the story is that reality can be viewed differently depending on one’s perspective and what seems to be absolute truth is really only part of the greater “truth”.  No one has a complete picture of reality, and so we must be “tolerant” of all views of reality, because they probably have some understanding that we need to hear.

There are certain assumptions of the myth and the view of spirituality from below that must be addressed initially.  First, there is a presumption that there is no one that is greater than we are (humans) that reveals anything about reality that we need to know, and if there is, that person is so different from us that we cannot understand.  If there were a revelation from God, then the spirituality from below would disintegrate.  Secondly, there is an assumption that we “know” that reality is really an elephant and that we are all just hunting around.  This is ultimately self-refuting.  For the story requires a narrator who knows more than all the blind men that there is more to reality than they can conceive.  So too, in a spirituality from below.


June 29, 2009 - Posted by | Christian Living, Mainline Heresy, Presbyterian, Theology


  1. “It might be because of the increase in internet use, but today most Christians are exposed at a greater level to alternative views “spirituality” that sounds Christian, but is opposed to Christianity at every point.”

    I think that it has a lot to do with it, at least in my case. You can google and find people to reinforce your beliefs, whatever they are.

    Comment by Sara | June 29, 2009

  2. Very true Sara. Which means that more than every we must train ourselves and others in logical & critical thinking, because we will be exposed to almost anything. While it is very valuable to be able to hear different views, we must be equipped in discernment.

    Comment by Adel | June 29, 2009

  3. I suspect that the spirituality/religion distinction has been overdrawn, particularly in the modern context where the two blur. I have just posted on it. In case you are interested, here is the link. http://deligentia.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/spirituality-and-religion-a-false-dichotomy/

    Comment by A Free Spirit | October 30, 2009

  4. Free Spirit,

    Thank you for visiting my site and welcome.

    While I think you make some good observations in your post, you have not addressed the underlying distinctions in how the terms are used today. When people speak of “spirituality” it can mean almost anything, but almost always it has to do with the experiential aspect of some “other”, which is rarely well-defined or delimited. On the other hand, traditional historic reformed protestantism, defines clearly and does an even better job of setting certain boundaries of belief and experience from Scripture. As Dr. David Wells highlights the distinction of the origins of biblical spirituality and contemporary spirituality are profound, one originates from a holy sovereign God and the other from fallen sinful humans, who so easily deceive themselves.

    Comment by Adel | October 30, 2009

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