Current definitions of spirituality are long on deep breathing and Mongolian chanting, but short on authentic biblical faith.

We are going to be hearing more and more calls for a return to spirituality. Being “spiritual” in the nineties could carry the weight that being “politically aware” carried in the sixties.

But these calls will not necessarily be coming from Christian leaders. Nor will they necessarily come from leaders of other religions. They will be coming from a new breed of politician or social commentator who adheres to no creed and worships in no holy place.

Until now a stress on spiritual values in the West has traditionally announced a Christian attack on the erosive power of secular humanism. It has been a call for people to come back to biblically inspired living.

Yet the word spiritual is being drained of the meaning it once had for our society. “I’m not religious in a conventional way,” a leading European environmentalist said recently, “but there is a strong spiritual dimension to my life.”

This is a typically contemporary use of spiritual. This person had rejected Christianity as a teenager. She no longer had any respect for church teachings. But she did have “a profound liking” for “other human beings and species,” coupled with “an awe for the environment.” The liking plus the awe, she said, gave her “spiritual satisfaction.”

The word is even creeping into very high and unlikely places. Speaking to the Council of Europe in July 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev called for Europeans to build a new world worthy of “their spiritual potential,” adding that “the material foundation of life is changing drastically, as are its spiritual parameters.”

What could he have had in mind? Why would he praise European spiritual potential? ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Issue: