Friday, December 06, 2002

Does my family and friends recognize the authenticity of my spirituality?

I thinking that when I say, “I have no idea,” that’s a bad thing, right? Apparently the ‘spiritual friendship’ factor is missing…

You know, it's a real bummer when one day you wax theological, and the next day a question hits you square in the eyes.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Am I becoming less religious and more spiritual?

First, let’s define terms—courtesy of the American Heritage Dictionary:

Religious: 1. Having or showing belief in and reverence for God or a deity. 2. Of, concerned with, or teaching religion: a religious text. 3. Extremely scrupulous or conscientious: religious devotion to duty.

Spiritual: 1. Of, relating to, consisting of, or having the nature of spirit; not tangible or material. 2. Of, concerned with, or affecting the soul. 3. Of, from, or relating to God; deific. 4. Of or belonging to a church or religion; sacred. 5. Relating to or having the nature of spirits or a spirit; supernatural.

First of all, having read the definitions, I reject the question. The question assumes that being religious is bad. I disagree. Religion is a culturally based means of expressing “belief in and reverence for God.” And that’s not bad. Being religious places us in community. It makes us members of a historical people. It puts us in a larger context.

When is ‘being religious’ a bad thing? When being religious, rather than a passionate relationship with God, becomes the goal. When being religious becomes the end rather than a journey to and with God.

Being religious is something we do. It involves age-old practices and new ones. It changes across time and culture. Its goodness, though, is determined, not by strength of history, but by rightness of object. If the object is anything but God, toss that religion in the dumper.

So, am I becoming less religious? Gosh, I hope not!

If being religious is what humans do, then being spiritual is what we are. We are both material and immaterial. This part of the question fails because it assumes that spiritual is better than material. This assumption is Gnostic, and it is a heresy. A better question would ask about balance and integration. Does what I do with body and soul match who I am before God.

So am I more spiritual? I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question.

In the introduction to his A TREATISE CONCERNING RELIGIOUS AFFECTIONS, Jonathan Edwards asks some important questions: What are the distinguishing qualifications of those that are in favor with God, and entitled to his eternal rewards? Or, which comes to the same thing, What is the nature of true religion? And wherein do lie the distinguishing notes of that virtue and holiness that is acceptable in the sight of God?

It seems to me that these questions hit closer to the real issue.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Am I content with who I am becoming?

Sort of. A few months ago I began to realize that school was taking up too much soul space. School is good and for the next ten years will be a major part of my life, but I must remember why I’m here. I am going to seminary because God has called me to pastor his people—‘pastor’ and ‘people’ being the key terms. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, ‘to pastor’ is ‘to feed’. Feeding people is giving them what they need to be who they are—humans, made in the image of Yahweh and redeemed by Christ. It’s more than ‘bible knowledge’; it’s God knowledge. The kind of knowledge possessed by couples that have been lovingly married for fifty years. ‘People’—well, that one’s obvious: people, humans, one by one, in community, etc. Too often I get stuck in the process of study and forget the purpose of God’s truth: to stir up passion—lived out passion—visible passion—for God, God’s people, and God’s stuff.

Back to the question… I guess I am content, because ‘becoming’ is a long-term thing, not a goal. It is a journey, not an arrival. My thinking over the past few months has been one of those three-degree course corrections. You know, the kind of change that, if done early enough, means you sail to the Bahamas instead of Greenland. Personally (and nothing against Greenland), I’d rather make the change early and go to the Bahamas.

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

I came across some good thought questions for Advent on emergent downunder

Am I content with who I am becoming?
Am I becoming less religious and more spiritual?
Does my family and friends recognize the authenticity of my spirituality?
Am I generous?
Do I have a quiet centre to my life?
Have I defined my unique ministry?
Is my prayer life improving?
Have I maintained a genuine awe of God?
Is my lifestyle distinctive?
Is my "spiritual feeding" the right diet for me?
Is obedience in small matters built into my reflexes?
Is there enough celebration in my life?

Good blog fodder...