Skip to comments.Responding to “Spiritual but Not Religious” Christians
Posted on 07/23/2014 7:07:07 AM PDT by NKP_Vet
Over the last several years I have encountered a fair number of Christians who claim they are spiritual but not religious. In other words, they do not identify with a particular Christian denomination, using the Bible alone to guide their faith. Its an ideology that says religious institutions are outdated and unnecessary.
People may reach this conclusion for a multitude of reasons. Some are disillusioned by what they perceive to be corruption and hypocrisy in religious institutions. Others may feel like they are not being fed. Others yet may feel that these intuitions teach something contrary to their beliefs regarding political and social issues.
Whatever the reason may be, we must reach out to these people and take their concerns seriously.
Jesus started a religion
Most dictionaries define religion as the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods. It is abundantly obvious from Scripture that Christians are called to worship the one true God (cf. Matthew 4:9, Mark 5:6, Luke 4:8, John 4:23). Im sure most spiritual but not religious Christians will agree with this.
The issue is whether or not one can do this privately, reading only Scripture and coming to their own conclusions on theological matters, or whether one must submit to some authority outside of themselves.
Jesus started a Church
In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says to the apostle Peter, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. Catholics believe that in this verse Jesus is bestowing on Peter a position of authority from which the office of the pope is derived. But even if the spiritual Christian has problems with this belief, there is no escaping the fact that Christ intended his Church to be both visible and authoritative.
In Matthew 18, Jesus says to his disciples:
If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector (15-17).
If Jesus did not intend his Church to be authoritative and visible, then what Church is he talking about in this verse? Its clear in the text that this Church is communal.
It is also evident from Scripture that Jesus intended this community to gather regularly for worship:
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one anotherand all the more as you see the Day approaching (Heb. 10:25).
This verse indicates that, even in the first century, there were Christians who did not think it was necessary to gather for worship. This runs contrary to the idea that one can be a church unto himself as long as he has accepted Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. The Lord intended his Church to be a community.
Is the Bible all you need?
On his way from Jerusalem to Gaza, Phillip the Evangelist encounters a eunuch reading the Book of Isaiah:
So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, Do you understand what you are reading? And he said, How can I, unless someone guides me? And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him(Acts 8:27-31).
The point of this passage is that the clear meaning of Scripture is not always evident. This is reinforced again in 2 Peter 1:20:
First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of ones own interpretation,
And yet again in 2 Peter 3:15-16:
So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures.
Clearly, just picking up the Bible and interpreting it for your self is not recommended. A teacher is necessary; preferably an authoritative one.
What about scandals in the Church?
As my colleague Tim Staples is fond of saying, You dont leave Peter because of Judas. From a Catholic perspective this means you dont leave the Church because someone didnt live up to its teaching.
I came into the Church during the height of the priest abuse scandal. I was certainly concerned about it (as most Catholic laypeople were), but ultimately the number of people out in the world doing good work far outweighs the number of people who have abused their positions. For more on this I recommend reading our special report, A Crisis of Saints.
Many spiritual but not religious Christians have also expressed concerns about events in history. Its true that Christians throughout time have acted contrary to the faith, but like the abuse scandal, it should be remembered that history is filled with good and holy missionaries.
Its also worth pointing out that many of the events in history have been blown way out of proportion in the popular imagination. Catholic Answers has dozens of great articles about this available at this link.
Get back to where you belong
Its clear from the Bible that Jesus did not intend Christians to live out their spiritual lives in a vacuum. He founded a Church, gave it authority in the areas of faith and morals, and guards it from teaching error (Mt 18:17-18).
At Catholic Answers, we have a mountain of great resources making the case that the Church Jesus founded is the Catholic Church. If you or someone you know is spiritual but not religious, please consider reading what we have to offer.
Tough road. There were many mysteries then. There are very few mysteries today.
Importantly, the spiritual Christians not in community with others cannot take communion. This is vital.
“There are very few mysteries today.”
Actually there are plenty.
This merely means that no prophecy contained in the bible was the personal opinion or interpretation of the prophet, but rather the direct world of God. This is made clear in the very next verse where Peter says, "for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." The passage is assuring us that scripture is the word of God not the word of man.
Its an ideology that says religious institutions are outdated and unnecessary.
I was beginning to wonder about this article, When I realized he was speaking of the Roman Catholic Church, I better understood the article.
“Its an ideology that says religious institutions are outdated and unnecessary.”
This is an overbroad and misleading statement. I am a Christian, I attend a church, I participate in the fellowship of believers, but I am not “religious”, because religiosity is different from religion. Religiosity, which appears to be what Sorenson is advocating, is the practice of adhering to rules instead of to the two greatest commandments. I can be a believer, loving the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and my neighbor as myself, without being religious.
“In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, freedom. In all things, Love.”
I understand the argument, and would attend a local church if I could find one, but Reformed Baptist churches are as rare as hen’s teeth in this area. Not interested in sitting under preaching that condemns the doctrines of grace.
Christ also said this:
Mat 18:20 For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.
This is one of those “conscience” things. Should we sit under preaching we profoundly disagree with, and feign agreement and fellowship with beliefs we don’t share? I think not. Dishonesty in our worship is sacrilegious and doesn’t honor God.
Joh 4:23 But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
Joh 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.
Thankfully God has kept His Word intact all these years. Where His Word is concerned, if any relative, preacher or denomination disagrees with it, I’ll side with God. Not men.
“When I realized he was speaking of the Roman Catholic Church”
Wrong. He was speaking of scripture and showed you the verses and explained to you the foundation, which you of course ignored when you realized he was a Catholic.
It is clear where the author is coming from.
I will continue to identify with the non-demoninational Christians, thank you very much.
A good start, IMO, would be to emulate what the few successful churches are doing. Please do not misconstrue this to mean getting away from the message and/or the gospel of Jesus Christ. Go to people of this world in their world. For instance, how come every church is not on-line? The Internet is an incredible opportunity to reach out to more people than ever before, and I only see some churches doing this?
The problem is not the scandals for most people that have left the various Christian churches, but the accommodation and promotion of behavior contrary to the teachings of the Bible. Homosexual marriage and toleration of open deviant behavior from the sodomite sects has driven many away. Abortion is another. I attend Baptist and Methodist churches. I give credit to both the Baptist and Catholic Churches for standing their ground.
That's just flat wrong, absurdly wrong. Jaw-droppingly wrong.
Human knowledge is like fractal; or, if you can't imagine a fractal, it's like a gigantic spreading tree. A tree grows, and grows, and grows, and every new little green twig on that tree has a bud of mystery.
I appreciate what you are saying as I was blessed to find a wonderful Reformed Baptist church very close to me, for which I am quite grateful. Are there no classic, orthodox Presbyterian Churches available? Not PCUSA but one of the other, orthodox Presbyterian denominations. I always figured that's where I would go if there were no Reformed Baptist churches available, just so I could fellowship with the saints and be available to interact with and help other Christians in need. The doctrine should be sound there.
Silly goose. They can just say that’s your “private interpretation” and dismiss the inconvenient fact, don’t ya know?
Importantly, the spiritual Christians not in community with others cannot take communion. This is vital.
My wife and I take communion at home after meals from time to time.
“Spriitual but not religious” is an interesting turn of words. In some ways, I would call myself “spiritual but not religious”. But all I mean by that is:
1. The early church had no bibles, so the bible is not my foundation. It IS the Word of God in the way that my parents instruction on how to live a good life was the valid word of my parents. It also explains (from beginning to end) the sacrifice Christ made, why it was necessary, and what it accomplished. That is critical. But What is even more important is my prayer life. God can communicate with each one of us directly, but the bible is a very good additional resource.
2. I don’t go to church specifically to worship God. I do that in all facets of my life, every day. I go to Church to help and be helped by other Christians. Church is about “the church”. This help can often be using them as a sounding board to my ideas about my God and my relationship with Him as well as my interpretation of His Word as it should apply to my life.
3. I have some difficulty with every church I’ve ever attended. I spent 18 years at an AG church, involved in the orchestra, Discipleship Dynamics and even bus ministry. But they had some goofy teaching about tongues that I could never find support for in the Bible. I then moved on to foursquare, Christian and, finally, baptist. The latter because that is mainly all there is out where I now live. But that one has this completely unfounded teatotalling attitude. And it is not even the fact that they are teatotallers. It is the twisting of scripture that they do to support it and so totally judge those that disagree. And yes, it’s a dry county (well, now it’s moist).
4. I CRINGE every time I see an American flag in a church. There is a time and place for everything. A church is about Christians communing in the name of our Lord, not nationalism. They might as well show the label of the largest local employer.
Church is horribly flawed in the US, but the bible tells us to attend. And I honestly DO see the wisdom in that. But my wife and I no longer go every week and never went the three “official” times per week they are open.
As Christians we really do need each other. God expects us to obey Him by showing love (which is an ACTION) and compation toward each other as a Christian community. Without Church, that community does not exist. And not going because the church organization is flawed is a cop-out.
There I believe you are conflating two different things being explained by St.Paul: prophecy and the interpretation of prophecy.
Paul affirms two truths: that
This Paul makes really clear in his discourse on the Body of Christ with its many parts and functions:
1 Corinthians 12:7,10
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the discernment of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:28
And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues.
1 Corinthians 12:30
Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
Obviously there are different people appointed by God in the Church with different gifts. Not all can teach, not all can govern, not all can interpret.
"First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of ones own interpretation,"...
Exactly. These things are manifestations of the Spirit, distributed by the Spirit to particular people He appoints in the Church for the common good. We're not just a bunch of in-DUH-viduals interpreting things on our own.
“There were many mysteries then. There are very few mysteries today.”
That’s just flat wrong, absurdly wrong. Jaw-droppingly wrong.
Believing in “evolution” was easy until we found out just how complicated life really is. And then we discovered an actual computer programming language (called DNA) in every single cell of every single living thing. Suddenly it’s not so simple.
Interpreting tounges and interpreting scripture are two totally different subjects so the verses you cite are not relevant to the issue. The verse about “private interpretation” is from Peter not Paul and I believe when read in context it is clearly saying that scripture comes from God not the private interpretation of the prophet who wrote the scripture. The point is that we can rely on scriptue because it comes from God not men. The word “for” (rather than “and”) which connects 1 Peter 1:20 and 1:21 makes it clear that verse 21 is continuing the same point being made in verse 20.
We try to watch one or more of these lessons during each week and find the instruction and encouragement beneficial:
Written by a Catholic to a Catholic...Born again Christians who actually read and believe the scriptures will not fall for this Catholic propaganda...
*shrugs* I have taken communion 50 miles past where the gravel roads end.
If you wuz a Catholic, you'd have to turn around and head back to the pavement...Jesus ain't out there in the wilderness...
I'm not challenging you so much as I'm peplexed who or what you're talking about.
“The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery.” — Fred Alan Wolf
Well stated, and on target.
Billy Graham used to say “...and go to a Bible-believing church this Sunday.”
This article’s writer, it turns out at the conclusion, is speaking to Roman Catholics to return from their absences in attending a Roman Caholic church.
I'm puzzled by people who think Jesus established a church for no reason in particular.
I was influenced by this line near the conclusion:
“Get back to where you belong.”
Since the article apparently intended to direct the readers only to the Roman Catholic church, I then understood why the progression of the article was being directed to only that one conclusion. I hope you can see that.
“I’m puzzled by people who think Jesus established a church for no reason in particular.”
If you were addressing that to me, then I’m puzzled how you could draw that inference from anything I’ve posted.
But thank you for replying.
He literally drew me, physically, away from church... I was attending an orthodox presbyterian church at the time and enjoying the teachings and fellowship and was actually on my way to membership..
But at the same time He drew me away from church, He drew me closer to Him..
And what I have learned in just these two years since is not learned in church, nor practiced in church (or the world)...it isnt earthly based..
It is like the earthly church and the worldly systems it follows is foreign to the what scripture says the Kingdom will be like..
And I have to admit, I prefer preparing for His True coming Kingdom reign than being a member of any earthly counterfeit following traditions of men..
People may leave the ‘church’ for different reasons.
I have Him as my reason..
that isn’t explainable to people who have been members of a church or denomination for almost their whole life...
I am one who has never been a member of any physical church., and the one time I was on that path happily, He stopped me...
The first dictionary I read on the meaning of religion was from one printed in the early 1900s and it said religion came from the word ritual.
21 Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
Meaning you don`t have to go any where to find the kingdom of God.
So I believe religion is just religion and may or may not have any thing to do with Christ.
I do not believe Jesus started any religion, ( he gave us the truth )some of it may have been started by the man Paul as he is the one most religious people get their ideas from.
I have nothing against going to fellowship meetings but I believe the only way to praise god is try to live the way Jesus said to live.
Hello again. Rz and cc are correct. The passage in 2 Peter 1:20 is not addressing a problem of readers interpreting prophetic text. Rather, in context, Peter is building an argument for confidence in the promises of God contained in prophecy. Look back to verses 12 and 13. Peter is anticipating his soon departure from this life, and he wants his fellow believers to remember and believe the truths of the Gospel after he is gone. So he reminds them he was eyewitness to the glorified Jesus, even hearing the voice of God from heaven confirming Jesus as God’s Son. But then he says we have the more certain word of God in divine prophecy. He is building a case for certainty.
And what is the basis for us to be certain we can rely on the promises of God? Because those promises did not come to us through the private information dumps of the prophet’s own mind, but that prophet wrote as he was guided by God the Holy Spirit. Again, the point is, you can rely on these words at least as much as if you were eyewitnesses to the events themselves, because they are both of God.
As for your passages on teaching gifts versus interpretation of tongues, those are radically different domains. Tongues were actual utterances in languages unknown, for which an interpretation was essential, and not everybody in the assembly could do it. Teaching on the other hand necessitates some degree of ordinary interpretation by every single learner. You are using private interpretation right now, just to know what I am saying to you. You are also using it directly on Scripture every time you disagree with me or anybody what a given passage means. You have to. It’s how God designed the human mind to work. It’s not wrong, and it certainly does not conflict with this passage in Peter, or any other Scripture.
There I believe you are conflating two different things being explained by St.Paul: prophecy and the interpretation of prophecy.
Paul affirms two truths: that
I will have to disagree. Paul interpreted his own visions, as did Peter.
The foremost thing that Paul is saying is that those who prophesy are accessing 'THE' Prophecy - That is, accessing one single monolithic thing. That is why it is left to the prophets to interpret prophets. Thus, even while Paul interprets his own vision (as given, of course), what he says, while it may be revelatory, cannot step upon the prophets and prophecy which have come before (lest YHWH is made to be a liar).
Think of an incredibly ancient brick wall, covered in dust and grime from the aeons it has been standing - Some have scraped off the years and revealed the writing on the bricks... Some large portions have been cleaned off contiguously because some prophets were equipped with a pressure washer... And others revealed but a brick or two, this one and that one, because they had nothing but a putty knife and a wire brush... But the wall, and every brick in it, has been there since the very foundation of the world.
It can be no other, as the spirit of prophecy is the testimony of Yeshua the Messiah (Rev 19:10). One thing, which cannot contravene or contradict. It describes a will, an intention, which has been actively carried out since the very beginning with exquisite accuracy.
So on the whole, I will have to agree with circlecity.
There is no such thing as the “Roman” Catholic Church. There is a Catholic Church. It is sometimes referred to as the Roman Catholic Church, but the correct title is Catholic Church. The Church’s hierarchy is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope ,who is the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church composed of the Latin Church and the Eastern Catholic Churches in full communion with the see of Rome. If you’re a member of the Latin Church or Eastern Catholic Church, you’re a member of the Catholic Church.
I doubt God would draw you away from obedience to His own word. We are under instruction from Scripture to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Furthermore, doing all that Jesus taught, as you say, is impossible apart from the community of fellow believers. We are given an extraordinary example of this, well before Paul entered the scene, in Acts, where we see the assembly Jesus created gathering regularly for teaching, sharing lives, sharing through bread and wine the remembrance of Christ, prayer, and so much more, all enlivened and directed by the Holy Spirit acting through Jesus’ apostles. To say that God would lead some individual to reject all that is to say the impossible. God’s mind is not divided.
However "Get back to where you belong" could also, and reasonably, be applied to anyone on God's green earth, since "where we belong" is within the will of God; God wills that all men be saved, and come to a knowledge of the Truth; and Christ established His church for a reason, namely to be the "pillar and foundation of the Truth."
So it stacks up to be practically a syllogism. If not quite apodictic, it's at least a reasonable inference that everybody ought to be a member of that Church which He founded, which is the Body of Christ.
I wouldn't expect all the members of the FReeper Brethren Fellowship to snap to attention and say "Oh, I get it, I'm supposed to be a Catholic" --- most people are not, actually, much moved by reasonable inferences --- but this might give you an insight on how a Catholic would see it.
Billy Graham would also have Catholics in the audience and he would tell them, and everyone else, to return to their churches and be good Christians. Billy Graham was despised by many evangelicals because he would not put down Catholics and treated them like fellow Christians. On the death of JP2 He said that JP2 was “the most influential voice for morality and peace in the world in the last 100 years”.
AFAICS, there are two different versions of “spiritual but not religious” Christians, with very different motivations and desires.
The first group consists of, to use Bellah’s term, Sheilaists. They want to believe what they want to believe, whether or not the Scripture teaches it, whether or not Christianity teaches it. They tend to be theologically and politically leftist, but they don’t see any need to spend time and money in any specific leftist denomination (ELCA, PCUSA, most UMC, etc.).
The second group is very different. What you often hear from the second group is that they want “a relationship, not a religion,” meaning they want an experiential rather than a liturgical approach to their faith.
Herein lies the dilemma. Let’s be honest: most liturgical services are formulaic, and can quickly become a dry habit. For example, I would be afraid to count the number of times I have recited the Creed, or the Lord’s Prayer, or sung the Gloria or the Sanctus, gotten to the end of it, and realized that I had done it mindlessly: I hadn’t purposefully offered it to God, and I hadn’t thought of the possibility of any response from God, I had just said what I said without thinking and without really meaning it—I hadn’t *not* meant it, I simply did it because that was what one did at that point in the service.
The liturgy, at its best (and I mean that in a positive sense), is a connection to the great cloud of witnesses, to the church throughout the ages, (as I put it in my lessons) from St. Clement to Kim Clement, all gathered before the Throne in praise, worship, adoration, desire for reconciliation and closeness, petition for the saints both present and future, to feel His presence, hear from His Spirit, receive blessings from His hand, and join Him in the wedding rehearsal dinner where He gives Himself to us.
But that is the liturgy at its best. For most Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists, etc. at most times, it is instead a dry ritual, something that you do because The Church Boss says you’re supposed to do it. Now, to be fair, all of the above have attempted over the centuries to generate a desire for the experience of God within and beyond the liturgy. In the 20th century, for example, the Cursillo movement in all its various iterations (Emmaus, Tres Dias, Kairos, etc.) aided in bringing the presence of God into the work and worship of parishioners, even though one of its unintended effects was to bring about a separation between insiders and outsiders, those who had the experience and were therefore closer to God, and those who hadn’t.
To be frank, the liturgical churches have done a poor job of ensuring the experience of the divine presence in the daily/weekly practice of worship—but to be equally frank, the experiential churches have done a poor job of ensuring the sense of the historical drama of the faith, and how that leads inexorably to the present drama of the faith. To put it another way, liturgical churches connect people to the churches of the past without effectively providing the experience of I AM, the God of the eternal present, while experiential churches provide the experience of the I AM while creating the heinous illusion that God has been waiting 2000 years for churches filled with people who really want to know Him, and that it’s only now that He has them.
Personally, I desire to be one of those who bring out of their storehouses treasures both new and old. Will we ever form such a church before the Marriage Supper?
That's true, since most Catholic churches stay in the same place...
(The way my grandson eats noodles I think he's going to become a Ramen Catholic, but I digress.)
“Importantly, the spiritual Christians not in community with others cannot take communion. This is vital.”
Not only that, their reasons are usually vain and self-serving.
Just one more example of the totally corrupted word church used in place of the correct word assembly used in the New Testament.
Im with you on that one.
I see the church of today observing a foreign calendar, foreign sabbaths and foreign holy days that are traditions of men and not what is given in His Holy Word or described in the very life events of the Messiah of Israel..
I see a church in the world that has conformed to the world and in some respects taught the world these counterfeits....
His Kingdom is not filled with saturn’s days, sunsdays, Tiw’s days or july’s or August’s or christmas or easter..those are man made counterfeits taught by the church and the world..1000 year reign will teach us all that...
Being obedient to His Word has meant rejecting the church of today and the world it has conformed itself to...regardless of how it appears or what the consequences are...
what profit is there in vain worship of counterfeits?
Like I said, it cant be explained to people who have a belief the church todsy represents the truth..
His Truth never changes... and hundreds of denominations and the fights on FR prove that the church today has no idea what Truth is. There are so many versions of truth in what the world calls the church that it can only mean one thing-satan has done a good job of muddying the water..
He is not the author of confusion... and I am so thankful to get my lessons direct from Him..and am able to test what other people say with His Word, proving all things..He has truly opened my eyes to the counterfeit world and the accepted lies..
And just as Jeremiah stated, I have done it in my own life
the Gentiles shall come unto thee from the ends of the earth, and shall say, Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit.