Reclaiming the Bible

Column by Rev. Brandan Robertson on 2 November 2023 0 Comments

It is essential for progressive Christians to remember that the Bible emerged from the voices of an oppressed and marginalized people, intended to empower and uplift those facing adversity.

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What exactly is ‘spirituality’? Is there a separate realm that exists alongside our physical world? Do we have spirits? How is spirit different to emotion or imagination? Any thoughts are most welcome.


Dear Reader,

You have asked the question of questions.  Is there a nonmaterial spirit world separate from the molecular physical world?  Plato said yes and regarded the physical world as a mere shadow of some perfect heavenly realm.  His view dominates orthodox Christianity and has led countless theologians to become “dualists” who separate body and soul.  Unfortunately, the body became the inferior, treacherous shadow, a mess of finite molecules destined for oblivion.  But the spirit was light, ethereal, and divine.  Dualism has been with us ever since, and all the body shame and sexual guilt that comes with it.

But it was not always this way.  In the earliest known form of spirituality, some indigenous peoples believed that everything in the natural world, including inanimate objects, possessed a spiritual essence.  It was called “animism”(from the Latin anima, breath, spirit, life).  Matter and spirit were not separate, but inseparable.  The whole world and everything in it hummed with spiritual energy.  So instead of a good spirit trapped in a bad body, there was only good creation--body and soul.  This was closer to what Aristotle believed and had it prevailed over Plato’s views, we might have a completely different understanding of God as creation itself, instead of creator, judge, and jury.

Yes, we have spirits; we are spirit; and emotions and imagination are manifestations of that spirit.  Many of us in the Progressive movement regard spirituality as more important than religion, and the movement of the spirit as more important than doctrines.  What transcends our human understanding and animates the universe itself we call God, while others have other names for the Ultimate Mystery—all of which are inadequate.  To say that one is spiritual but not religious is a response to the limitations of dualism and dogmatism.  It’s time we put body and soul back together again.  They are lonely without each other.

~ Rev. Dr. Robin Meyers




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