What Is Spirituality? -- By: Charles C. Ryrie

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 126:503 (Jul 1969)
Article: What Is Spirituality?
Author: Charles C. Ryrie


What Is Spirituality?

Charles C. Ryrie

[Charles C. Ryrie, Dean of Doctoral Studies and Professor of Systematic Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Oddly enough, the concept of spirituality, though the subject of much preaching, writing, and discussion, is seldom defined. Usually anything that approaches a definition will be in the nature of a description of the characteristics of spirituality, but one searches in vain in literature for a concise definition of the concept itself. The reason for this is that the concept includes several factors, and it is not easy to weave these together into a balanced definition. Too, the only verse in the Bible that approaches a definition is rather difficult of interpretation (1 Cor 2:15—”But he that is spiritual judgeth all things”). Consequently, it is avoided. Nevertheless, it is important to try to formulate a definition, for this is like the cornerstone which determines the shape of the entire building.

The Concept of Spirituality

Genuine spirituality involves three factors. The first is regeneration. No one can be spiritual in the biblical sense without having first experienced the new life that is freely given to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior. Spirituality without regeneration is reformation.

Second, the Holy Spirit is preeminently involved in producing spirituality. This is not to say that the other persons of the Godhead do not have their particular work in this, nor that the believer himself has no responsibility, nor that there are not other means of grace; but it is to affirm His major role in spirituality. The ministries of the Spirit involve teaching (John 16:12–15), guiding (Rom 8:14), assuring (Rom 8:16), praying (Rom 8:26), the exercise of spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12:7), warring against the flesh (Gal 5:17), and all of these depend for their full manifestation on the filling of the Spirit (Eph 5:18).

To be filled with the Spirit means to be controlled by the Spirit. The clue to this definition is found in Ephesians 5:18 where there is contrast and comparison between drunkenness and Spirit-filling. It is the comparison which gives the clue, for just as a drunken person is controlled by the liquor which he consumes, so a Spirit-filled Christian is con...

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