Thursday, August 1, 2013

Facets of Spirituality

There are different approaches to spirituality and the worship of God.

1. There are those who moved by elaborate approaches and historical continuity. They feel it is worthwhile to do rituals that stretch back to the early days of the church, and they like what is said and done to be detailed and thought out. They appreciate God's greatness and holiness and believe they need to approach Him carefully. But they can become caught up in the details and believe that God will reject them or others if they do not do things exactly right. They can come up with detailed doctrinal confessions which emphasize and enforce many secondary items.

2. There are others who emphasize common sense. They do not want any of this nonsense of extreme ritual or extreme emotion, but  test things based on whether they make sense. Their no-nonsense approach can protect them from pitfalls and help them to get things done on a practical level. But this can also result in throwing out valuable things that do not make sense to them. They can end up being known mainly for the things they do not do and enforcing strict practical rules to promote order.

3. There are those who emphasize the necessity of a deep personal experience of God and are opposed to  going through the motions or worrying about what others think. They tend to emphasize the real joy of knowing God and see following Christ as a celebration. But the problem is that they can end up seeking stronger and stronger experiences, which can lead them to extremes. They may also end up looking down on others who do not have the same experiences they do.

4. There are those who emphasize informal relationships. They see God primarily as their friend and emphasize close personal ties to other believers.  This view can avoid the extremes and pretentiousness of the other views. It can avoid stiff formality and promote honest relationships.But it can lead to a fairly shallow understanding of Christianity, which can be bowled over by adversity or the bad behavior of part of the group. And in encouraging people to be themselves, it can lead them to allow free rein to their questionable impulses.

I am convinced that these viewpoints come together in the cross, where we learn that God is holy but also loves us. It is there we find that there is real evil in the world, but also cause for rejoicing because it has been overcome by what Christ has done. And it is there we learn we are part of an assembly of people that goes down through history but includes the people we know, people who are not perfect, but who are forgiven and have God at work in their lives.

I am convinced that all four perspectives have something valuable to contribute, but we will not find the perfect balance between them in this life. But we can all profit from gaining a clearer understanding of all the different approaches.

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