Wednesday 3 August 2022

More on Different Spiritual Priorities

 I am going to wade into turbulent waters again because I feel the need to say something about the ongoing disagreement between those who put their primary faith in intuition and those who put their faith in a church. Ideally there should be no disagreement because in a perfect world these would be exactly the same. Inner and outer would reflect each other completely. But this is not a perfect world. It's a fallen one and the fallen nature of the world corrupts both intuition and outer institutions. There is nothing perfect in our world. That is just a fact and one we have to deal with.

What this means is that we must have checks and balances for both the inner and the outer. This is as it should be. God wants us to grow but he wants us to grow properly. You know those little fences one puts around young saplings to make sure they grow straight and upright? This is tradition and authority. Without that fence the tree might not grow properly. But what if you leave the fence on too long? Then the tree won't grow properly either. It might be hemmed in and stunted. This analogy can't be pushed too far but what it means is that spiritual growth must be guided but it must also come from within.

Regarding churches, I must mention the accident of birth problem. Might it not be that those who are currently ardent upholders of Religion A might have been equally ardent upholders of Religion B had they been born in a different time and place? I have met Hindus and Muslims, especially the latter, who speak in very similar language to that used by the church Christians. They would say heaven or enlightenment or whatever they call it is only gained through adherence to certain customs and rituals belonging to their religion. I'm not saying all religions are equal because I don't believe that but this tendency of human nature should give us pause for thought. 

Romantic Christians, that is to say those who feel unable to give full allegiance to any outer church because they search for what to them is a more fundamental connection to God within, have been described as enemies of Christianity. All those I am aware of merely think that outer forms cannot contain the full measure of spirit and that the modern age is one in which that is particularly true. They see spiritual life as an evolutionary thing, growing and unfolding, not a static once and for all revelation that will never develop beyond where it is now. Of course, they acknowledge Jesus Christ as the foundation on which all truth rests but they do not necessarily think that Christianity, especially modern Christianity, contains all that Christ is. Do traditionalists think it does? They might counter that official Christianity contains enough of Christ for us here and now and that to look beyond it risks falling into deception. That is true enough as far as it goes but I firmly believe that Christ wants us to know as much of him as we can. He calls us to that. What lover is satisfied with just part of his beloved?

This looks like being another sad story of believers fighting each other instead of seeing that there are bigger fish to fry nowadays. If I were an atheist I would be having a good laugh. I might even feel my opinion validated. And I'll tell you something else of which I am absolutely sure. This debate is irrelevant to God because he looks at the heart. If the human heart is open to him and then seeks an honest and loving relationship with him, he is satisfied. It's all too easy to get distracted from that basic element of the spiritual life and focus on side issues.

The bottom line is that no one in this world has all the answers. We are all struggling and growing or should be. We also all have the tendency to spiritual pride and I don't say this lightly. We all do, but as long as we measure ourselves against the reality of Christ and strive to follow him in our hearts and minds then outer disagreements should not be so important. Certainly some disagreements are fundamental and cannot be overcome. Peace at any cost is no answer to anything. But I also think each side in this debate should acknowledge the sincerity of the other even when they disagree with them. After all, no one proposes a radical reassessment of the great bulk of what Jesus taught. It really just boils down to couple of verses of the Bible, Matthew 16:18-19, and whether to take them absolutely literally. To me to do that seems almost totalitarian and not like the Jesus of the rest of the gospels at all. I could be making a mistake but if I am it is motivated by a desire for truth so I would hope to be forgiven.


High Atlantis said...

"This debate is irrelevant to God because he looks at the heart."


The issues at stake are more political-cultural than religious.

Bruce Charlton said...

"This looks like being another sad story of believers fighting each other instead of seeing that there are bigger fish to fry nowadays. "

I agree; because 1. most Christians are in churches; 2. the real/ serious Christians (in The West) are spread across many churches/ denominations (as well as no church). But 3. they seem to be a pretty small minority in all churches.

If strict traditional-orthodox definitions of who-is-a-Christian apply, then the situation is extremely bad - whichever kind of Christian is assumed to be The One True Church, there are very few of them.

I cannot ignore that (by all appearances, from what I can discover) a large proportion of church going Christians ceased to practice from the birdemic (it seems that church attendance has probably gone done some tens of percent since the birdemic lockdowns which is about a ten-twenty-fold increase in the rate of decline).

So if all churches are in decline and Christians are indeed spread across many churches and no church - then it seems more important than ever that those who follow Christ recognize and support each other.

This can only be a robust and genuine alliance, however, if 'Christian' is understood in a way that cuts-across the denominations which contain good Christians, and if real Christianity is recognized to be possible for current and future non-church members.

William Wildblood said...

The only real Christians are the ones that try to forge a personal relationship with Christ never mind what church they are in or none. A church only exists because of Christ. He is what matters and not the church.

Lady Mermaid said...

I wholeheartedly agree that Satan is laughing at believers tearing each other apart again. The inability for Christians to remain united was a major factor in Islam's triumph in North Africa and the Middle East. Satan is quite pleased indeed.

The "birth factor" is something that resonates w/ me to a certain extent. I was born and raised a Baptist in the American south. I went through a long period starting in late high school of questioning my faith. I finally found an assurance of my faith three years ago and embrace the religion of my family. I found Christ separately from my church, but my church helps develop my understanding if that make sense. I love my church, but if I were to ever lose it my faith in Christ will still abound.

While I agree that consciousness has changed, I don't think this is necessarily the whole story of the triumph of modernity. Consciousness has always changed from the time of Adam. It's also true that our ancestors did have easier access and greater awareness of the supernatural than us moderns.

However, the breakdown of tradition also played a factor. I pointed out on Francis's blog that when discussing tradition v. intuition, the large elephant in the room is which tradition? Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholicism both claim the be the true Church. Orthodoxy further divides into Oriental v. Eastern. Adding Protestantism into the mix will really complicate matters. It's hard to say "follow tradition" when there are competing authorities.

Jesus prayed for His body to be as one so the world will come to know Him. That prayer obviously remains unanswered at the present time. However, the feebleness of modern institutions presents a great opportunity. While the path of John has always been necessary, I don't believe that the path of Peter is finished yet. While the inner church will always be primary, an outer will eventually arise from that inner. The current outer churches may fall, but something will arise from the ashes as God separates the wheat from the chaff.

William Wildblood said...

Excellent comment, Lady Mermaid. I agree with what you say about the path of Peter. We will always need an outer body to manifest the inner soul but sometimes the form of the body has to change to come to terms with a greater understanding of the soul.