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 Its an ideology that says religious institutions are outdated and unnecessary.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.
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