Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Spiritual Power

"Having the form of religion, but not the power."
Let me tell you a secret. To be fair, it's not really a secret, more one of those "hidden in plain sight" type secrets. Spiritual power is the same thing as psychological power. It's good spiritual power if it's turned to love, which in depth and substance requires the putting away of self (selfishness) that the Christian spiritual practise teaches (the purest love is sacrificial love - it has no hidden motive, no guile, no agenda but gives of itself just because it can). God is love, so any depth in God and any knowledge of God requires a commensurate depth and strength of love. However, any strength of capacity to love is merely the same strength of mind and character found in any strong minded person. Whether that strength is turned to love, or ambition, or anything else is a choice of the heart.

So the path to greater spiritual power, to a greater capacity for love, is a stronger mind and character. Great love requires great depth and great depth requires great strength.

As Christians we can often be lulled into thinking of the life and power of God as somehow "other" from normal humanity, that spirituality exists in some mysterious "spiritual realm". In fact spirituality is merely the art of being human and the spiritual realms are all around us. Divine love is just love. We can be fooled into thinking that we wield tremendous spiritual power that we neither really feel nor experience. This I'm afraid is often fantasy, and so much of Christian life can easily be wish fulfilment, a wanting to believe (confirmation bias at work - something so deeply ingrained that we must strive to overcome it). It's easy to think that believing everything you hear is faith, that every coincidence is God at work. In any other walk of life this would be called gullibility, why is it acceptable in our faith? Relentlessly seeking truth, putting aside fantasy, requires effort along with genuine discernment. In "Crossing the Soul Gap: A Rational Faith" I suggest rational scepticism as a useful approach for growing in discernment and understanding.

We can find it hard to accept that spiritual power is dependent on strength of mind and character. Accepting this can mean accepting how far we are from knowing real power amongst us, a tangible and indisputable power. Feelings aren't all they're sometimes cracked up to be, but if we don't feel the power of God in strength then a straightforward explanation is that it isn't with us. To pretend it's with us when it's not, to imagine it somehow must be because we think we're doing the right things when we don't really experience it, is not real faith. Real faith understands what's possible, is able to be real about where we are now, and presses on until we see the fulfilment of the promises we claim to believe. As I pursue strength of mind, along with depth of love, I have started to experience and understand more of the power of God.

Strength of mind may not always look how we assume, a strong character is a yielded character, and God uses imperfect people, but this principle is still true. Love is fire, love is fierce. Love is gentle, love is compassionate. Let's not be fooled into thinking we can have one side of love without the other.

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