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True Spirituality

By Vaughan Roberts
November 2011 | Review by Brian Maiden

Synopsis

What does it mean to be a truly spiritual Christian? At a time when there is no shortage of answers competing for our attention, how do we know what really is from God? This book looks for answers in the Bible, focusing on Paul's first letter to the church in Corinth. The Corinthians really thought they had arrived. By contrast, Paul was unspiritual, ignorant, weak and foolish. Paul writes a strongly corrective letter, not simply to defend his reputation but to restore them to true Christian faith. He picks up the words that they themselves use and says, 'This knowledge, power and wisdom you claim to have are not the real thing. What you call spirituality is worldly. You are being directed by the mindset of the non-Christian world rather than by the Holy Spirit.' That challenge still applies. Paul's appeal is God's appeal to us. We too need to repent of inadequate understandings of what it means to live by the Spirit and instead embrace true spirituality.

  • Publisher: IVP
  • ISBN: 978-1-84474-518-0
  • Pages: 216
  • Price: 8.99
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Book Review

Vaughan Roberts is Rector of St. Ebbe’s Oxford and on the leadership team of the Proclamation Trust. He has a gift for clear biblical exposition. ‘True Spirituality’ is a series of chapters on the various problems in the church at Corinth and the instruction Paul gives to the church in response to them. The Corinthian church prided itself on its spirituality when the reality was that in many ways it was massively immature and unspiritual. The preaching of the cross was being sidelined; leaders were being treated as celebrities rather than servants; sexual sin was tolerated; there were serious divisions among church members that surfaced even at the Lord’s Table and resulted in Christians taking one another to the secular courts; there were problems over women’s liberation and spiritual gifts; love was notable by its absence. In other words, the church at Corinth was remarkably similar to the church in today’s world! It would be hard to think of a biblical book more obviously relevant for us than 1 Corinthians.

      Vaughan Roberts handles these issues in a clear, challenging and readable way. As he points out in the epilogue, the great danger will be that we read the book to see what line it takes on the more contentious issues. ‘We then consign it to one of the boxes we have in our minds: Pentecostal, Charismatic, extreme Charismatic, conservative, mega-conservative or balanced (often a catagory in which we place only ourselves). We will then, depending on which box we have chosen, either dismiss the book or enjoy its confirmation of our prejudices and think to ourselves, “That’s just what the other lot need to hear”. That would not only be a descent into the very factionalism which Paul is so critical of in Corinth, but also a failure to hear the challenge of God’s Word ourselves.’

      This is an excellent piece of straightforward biblical teaching and application. It is accessible and suitable for a general readership. It would be especially helpful to anyone planning their own series of sermons on 1 Corinthians, so long as they are able to resist the temptation to the sin of plagiarism!

 

Brian Maiden,

Kendal

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