Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A few thoughts on holiness

Over the years, I have read quite a bit on the subjects of prayer and holiness. Not because I'm an incredibly spiritual person but because I found most of what I read to be ultimately unsatisfactory and therefore feel like I have to keep looking. My reading on prayer finally hit the target when I found a book by Matthew Fox called On Becoming a Musical, Mystical Bear.

I am yet to find a book on holiness that makes as much sense to me as this one did on prayer. Along the way, I have picked up a few hints that resonate with my own experience - though I realise that they are only really a beginning.
  1. Holiness isn't about being perfect. It needs to be about much more than just adhering to a list of things we must not do. It is about being set apart - not better than others but attuned to a different reality.
  2. Holiness is partly about wholeness. It's related to our human search for completion, for fullness of life, for striving to be all that we can be.
  3. Holiness must ultimately be authentic. We need to be real - holiness cannot be faked. Holiness needs to reflect who we really are, it cannot be about avoiding or masking our identity. True holiness isn't diminished by the shadows of our past or the imperfections of our present - it is a reflection of the anticipation of our future.

I find all of these unsatisfactory on a multitude of levels but I will keep searching. Of course, it's quite possible that the problem is with me and not with other people's definitions ... and maybe that's the beginning of understanding!


Anonymous said...

You refer to a "different reality".

Do you think there is a non-physical reality that is beyond scientific measurement or observation?

The only apparatus we have to experience the world is entirely physical, so how do we interact with this mysterious non-physical reality?

JDK said...

Hi David,

You've identified what I think is the critical theological issue for The Salvation Army at the moment. It has to do with the disconnection that has been established between the physical world and our concept of spirituality. The inevitable result of this disconnect has been to equate the 'spiritual' with the 'unreal' - which I think is to have grossly missed the point of religious intent.

Quantum physics has revealed multiple levels of reality that consistently overturn the expectations of conventional science. I'm not trying to push God into the quantum dimension just because this is currently more mysterious, but it does serve to illustrate some of the limitations of our understanding of this reality. I don't know nearly as much as I would like to about this question but I'm very keen to explore it further at some stage.

On a slightly different note, I was actually referring to culturally defined realities (eg. those created by individualist and materialist ideals) but this is not nearly as interesting!

Regards, JDK