Entering the spiritual dimension

By Shane Raynor

I sometimes hear frustration from those who think that some groups within Christianity aren’t intellectual enough. Others complain that certain groups are too intellectual. There are entire ministries built around Christian apologetics, some attempting to refute evolution, others trying to reconcile Christianity with evolution, some dispelling the notion that Christians aren’t intellectual, others wearing anti-intellectualism as a badge of honor. I don’t always see a lot of balance in these ministries, because like many specialty groups, they tend to emphasize one area at the expense of others, even when the areas aren’t necessarily in opposition.

Our intellects are part of who we are, and we obviously need to make provision for our minds. But we also need to realize that many spiritual things simply can’t be explained or perceived intellectually. That’s because our spirituality, in a sense,  is part of a different dimension than our intellect and our emotions. Sometimes Christians perceive something spiritually, yet it seems so natural to them that they just can’t understand why no one else seems to “get it,” especially non-Christians. The reason is that they can’t get it. It doesn’t mean they’re intellectually slow, it means they aren’t able to tune in to that particular frequency. Sometimes the Holy Spirit might reveal something to you or to me in a particular passage of Scripture, and it makes perfect sense to us until we try to explain it to someone else. Then we get frustrated because either we can’t communicate what was revealed to us, or we can’t get someone else to see it for themselves. I believe many incidents like this can be explained by spiritual elements that exists in the revelation.

In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul tells us that “people who are unspiritual don’t accept the things from God’s Spirit. They are foolishness to them and can’t be understood, because they can only be comprehended in a spiritual way” (CEB). By “don’t accept,” I don’t get the feeling the original wording here is so strong that it means an active rejection. It’s more along the lines of not being equipped to process spiritual things—because it’s just an impossibility for someone who hasn’t been regenerated by the Holy Spirit to relate to God on a spiritual level and grasp certain spiritual concepts. That doesn’t mean God can’t speak to people who aren’t Christian. God can speak to people in their thoughts, emotions, or even audibly if he chooses to do so. I’m talking about spiritual revelation here, the kind Peter experienced when he suddenly realized and told Jesus, “You are the Christ, the son of the living God.”

Spiritual elements can be mysterious. Have you ever heard a worship leader who wasn’t the greatest singer help usher in God’s presence in a powerful way while the virtuoso guitar player with the perfect voice couldn’t quite pull it off? I think there’s something going on there in the spiritual dimension that’s spilling over into the natural and we’re somehow able to discern it. Have you ever wondered why a particular church service might seem dead to one person but spiritually powerful to another? Something spiritual is probably going on that just can’t be explained intellectually. One person is possibly seeing into that other dimension while the other one isn’t. Theologian Adam Clarke said that the “natural man” can neither apprehend nor comprehend the spiritual things of God. Even Christians aren’t always going to be on the same spiritual levels with each other at certain times.

Wise Christians soon figure out that they can’t use natural tools to accomplish supernatural tasks, and they learn when spiritual revelation needs to happen. Human persuasion and intellectual arguments have their places, but  there are times when the Holy Spirit and prayer have to be part of a situation to get the job done.

Shane Raynor is an editor and blogger at MinistryMatters.com in Nashville, Tennessee.