Sunday, May 14, 2017

Spiritual but not religious: Christianity and Mysticism

What is the difference between spirituality and religion? To jump off on this post we will look at definitions of both words:

Religion: The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. A particular system of faith and worship.‘the world's great religions’

Spirituality: The quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.‘the shift in priorities allows us to embrace our spirituality in a more profound way’ ‘a deep sense of spirituality that connects them to the natural environment’

You hear a lot of people these days saying that they are spiritual but not religious. I think that is equally true of many who claim to be Christian or are believers in Jesus Christ. In the 1970's I read a book by Maslow, entitled "Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences. The point of the book was there were those who followed religion having vicarious experiences of others, and there were those, he called "peakers" who experienced spirituality on their own.

In my view, religion is the structure and form that a spiritual person uses to express their spirituality. Therefore, people who say they are spiritual but not religious really mean that they do not follow another's form of religion. Spirituality is personally experiential and religion is corporately experiential. So when you hear someone say they are spiritual but not religious, what they are saying in effect is my religion is solely experiential. Religion in and of itself is not bad or good. It is merely a way in which to acknowledge ones idea of God and the purpose of life/existence. 

The damaging aspect of religion comes into play when people are forced to follow without questioning, a leader, or a group. They are thereby, often times, forced to actually go against their spirituality to be acceptable to the standard of religion. Moreover, religion tends to give people creeds to believe, know and follow. By creeds I mean a formal set of beliefs that are necessary to adhere to by the group. It creates the atmosphere where there is orthodoxy and heresy. However, orthodoxy and heresy are merely two words that mean either acceptable by the group or not acceptable to the group. Think about that for a minute. Orthodoxy is merely a set of beliefs that have been deemed acceptable by the group.  Still it has such a profound strength for many within religion.

Here is something to consider. Jesus was not orthodox. Paul was not orthodox. Martin Luther was not orthodox. John Calvin was not orthodox. Zwingli, Tyndale, and Menno Simmons were not orthodox. In fact, all of those mentioned above were called heretics. Interesting! You should understand that heresy is merely a word. It is a word used to control and so is orthodoxy, it too is a word mean to control.

Here is something else to consider. A person can be profoundly religious and spiritual, and not conform to the demands of the group. Here is a passage of scripture that those who want to control your life and your purse ignore a lot.... But you have received the Holy Spirit, and He lives within you, so you don't need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what He teaches is true--it is not a lie. So just as He has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ. (1 John 2:27 NLT)

Yes indeed, the prime teacher of spirituality is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God. Each believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is continually trying to produce spiritual fruit within us. The fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self control.


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