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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...


Daily Boost

Jan. 3, 2011 - Spirituality and Religion

By George Paul Wood

Of late, I have noticed with increasing frequency that many people describe themselves as “spiritual, not religious.” In my college logic class, I learned to call such a description a “false disjunction.” After all, a person can be both spiritual and religious. It need not be an either/or proposition. Certainly, I believe that I am both an adherent of the Christian religion and a spiritual person. In fact, I believe that I am filled with the Holy Spirit precisely because of — not in spite of — my belief in Jesus.

Logical quibbles aside, however, I readily understand why so many people describe themselves in this way. Organized religion often seems to put straitjackets on people’s experiences of awe, joy and well-being. “When I look into the night sky,” a spiritual person might ask, “does it really matter whether I’m a Baptist or a Buddhist? Isn’t it enough that I’m in awe of what I see and that I stand humbled in the presence of Reality?”

Well, actually, no. Awe, joy and a feeling of well-being are all emotions that are easy to produce and even easier to manipulate. A Christian singing hymns in a Gothic cathedral, a Buddhist monk chanting his mantra for hours at a time, and an atheist floating in a Jacuzzi filled with warm peanut butter may all experience an awesome and joyful sense of well-being, but so what! The real issue is not whether the feeling exists, but whether it ought to exist. I am told that certain criminals experience joy and even exhilaration when they commit heinous acts of violence, but the feeling hardly justifies the crime. What we need is a standard by which to judge whether our feelings are appropriate to the facts, whether our emotional responses line up with reality.

As soon as you mention “standard,” however, you come to the topic of religion, for standards are precisely what the Christian religion provides: doctrines, rules, canons. Spirituality needs religion to keep it anchored to truthful reality. By the same token, however, religion needs spirituality to prevent it from becoming a dry, dusty formula. What John Adams once wrote about passion and reason applies, respectively, to spirituality and religion: “Reason holds the helm, but passions are the gales.” A sailboat needs both a captain and strong winds to make it move.

First Corinthians 12:1-3 introduces Paul’s treatment of “spiritual matters” (a literal translation of the Greek word “pneumatikon” in verse 1). He alludes to both experiences and standards in these short three verses. In the ancient world, pagan temples abounded with people who, in a trance, made supposedly divine utterances. (The word “enthusiasm,” by the way, was used to describe such people, for they were “en” [in] “theos” [god].) What impressed Paul was not the mere fact of the ecstatic utterance, but its content, namely, whether it blessed or cursed Jesus Christ. A truly spiritual person — and a truly Spirit-inspired utterance — affirmed what a demonically inspired utterance denied, namely, that Jesus Christ is Lord. That four-word statement is the ultimate religious test of spirituality.

And what an awesome test it is! If you align your life with Jesus Christ, you are immediately ushered into the presence of Reality. Why? Because as Paul writes in Colossians 1:19,20, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Jesus Christ], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (NIV). If Christ, then God. If God, then all things.

Now that ought to fill you with awe, joy and an eternal sense of well-being!

— George Paul Wood is director of Ministerial Resourcing for the Assemblies of God and author of The Daily Word online devotionals.



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