Thursday, January 23, 2014

Religion versus Spirituality

One of the common disagreements today involves "religion" versus "spirituality." Now the problem, to begin with, is how do you define these two terms? The word "religion" is a vague word, and in most cases lacks any useful, meaningful definition. It is difficult to come up with any clear criterion that divides the beliefs which are considered religious from those which are not. "Spirituality," cut free from any particular belief system, is also very slippery to define. "Spiritual" can mean someone who takes their beliefs seriously and, specifically in respect to Christianity, can mean putting our trust in the work of the Spirit of God in our lives. ("Religious" can also be used the same way.) However, apart from any context, both are nebulous. But the basic contrast seems to be this. "Religion" reflects more of any organized system, while "spirituality" reflects a more individualistic approach. Which of these is correct?

Now it must be noted, at the outset, that different belief systems naturally have different degrees of organization. Also, there may be considerable dispute within a given faith over how centralized their organizations should be. I am convinced we need to start with deciding on our basic beliefs and then deciding what kind and degree of organization those beliefs call for. Choosing a belief system solely based on its degree of organization is like choosing a car solely for its color.

But it does become a question within Christianity which approach is correct. What I would conclude is that the extremes on either side are wrong. It is clear from Scripture that we are not to consider ourselves acceptable to God simply because we are part of the right group or go through the right motions (Romans 2:17-29; Malachi 1:10,11; Revelation 3:1-6). God is concerned with what is in the heart, not what we affirm or look like on the outside (John 4:24; 1 Samuel 16:7; Romans 2:16). Ultimately, we come to God based on genuine faith in Him (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9), resulting in a real change in life (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Corinthians 3:18). However, God says that Christians are not on their own, but are part of a body of believers which is to grow up together in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27; Romans 12:3-8). We are called to build one another up in the faith (Hebrews 10:24,25; 12:12,13; Colossians 3:12-17). We are told that the way to God is through a definite person, Jesus Christ (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5), who has delivered a definite message (Galatians 1:8,9; Romans 1:16,17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11). I am convinced we cannot come into the presence of God on others' coattails, but we also cannot just go it alone. Therefore, I conclude that believers in Jesus Christ need each other, not just in name but in fact, and we need to accept this. But there is more involved in following Christ than simple external conformity.


  1. "part of a body of believers which is to grow up together in Christ "

    Speaks to me of relationships with each other.