I had an extremely encouraging conversation with a friend who is both much younger and much smarter than I am. Those conversations can be challenging, but also rewarding. I realized in the conversation that our faith must embrace everything that we are.
It seems to me that we fall constantly into the trap of denying one truth in order to believe another. And that seems evident in our attempts at spiritual growth: some of us attempt to deny our emotions, others attempt to deny our wills, or our bodies, or our intellects in order to achieve some sort of spirituality. But of course none of those things is actually spiritual. True spirituality is not a denial of any part of what we are, it's being all that we are under the control of the Holy Spirit, under the Lordship of Christ (Colossians 3:17).
So the path to spirituality isn't denying our emotions in order to focus on our intellects, any more than it is denying our intellects in order to focus on our wills. We are made in the image of God, and we have emotions, intellects, wills, physical bodies, and so on. We don't become more spiritual by being less intellectual, any more than we become more spiritual by being less emotional, or by being less physical. The point of Christianity isn't that any part of what we are becomes less, it's that all that we are comes under the Lordship of Christ, under the control of the Spirit of God.
Our faith is to be intellectual, but not merely intellectual. It is to be emotional, but not merely emotional. It is to be intentional, but not merely intentional. It is to be physical, but not merely physical. But all under the Lordship of Christ.
But of course that's not really enough. Our faith is transformational: we who have died with Christ are transformed by it. We die as one thing and are raised another (1 Corinthians 15:40–45). So please don't misunderstand me to be saying that spirituality is continuing exactly as we were as unregenerate people, that's not at all true. My point is that Christianity doesn't involve becoming less human: Christ is completely Man in His resurrection, just like He was before He died. We, too, will be fully human when we have been raised with Him. Christian perfection is not to be less intellectual, or less emotional, or less physical. We will be all those things in the resurrection.
My point is that denying our wills, or our emotions, or our intellects, or our bodies isn't spirituality. Spirituality is to have a will under God's control. It's to have emotions under God's control. It's to have a body under God's control. It's to have an intellect under God's control. Spirituality is being what God has made us to be, especially being subject to Christ in everything we do, think, and feel.
Many years ago I was reading Watchman Nee, and I was struck by his statement that Romans 6 isn't aspirational: it's not that we aspire to be crucified with Christ. It's a statement of fact: we have died with Christ.
Many of the sermons I listen to go off the rails at precisely this point. When those preachers talk about New Creation, they're not talking about something they believe to be real. If you listen – really listen – to what they say, they believe Romans 6 and Colossians 3 and Galatians 2 are metaphors: they are statements we should all be working hard to live up to.
I absolutely believe this is the leaven of evangelicalism: it's the idea that new birth is an addition, as opposed to a replacement. Nothing could be farther from the truth!
But having said all that, the Christian life is nothing less than the life of Jesus in our mortal bodies (2 Corinthians 4:6–12). It's not a diminishing of the mortal body, it's not a diminishing of what we are as God's creations. It's a transformation. It's a change. But it's the life of Jesus worked out in mortal bodies. We can't shortcut the Holy Spirit's work in us by denying our intellects (although our intellect gets us into trouble) or by denying our emotions (as messy as they are) or by denying we have wills (as problematic as our wills prove) or by denying our physical bodies (as much as we might long for transcendence). The Spirit of God is working in us to reveal Christ in those things. And we are foolish to think we can help Him out by denying them.