Friday, November 28, 2008

Chesterton Reflection #5 - "Spiritual but not Religious"

Many well-meaning persons today wish to maintain the position that they are "spiritual, but not religious." Usually this is intended to indicate that the person wants to maintain a world that is still full of potential, if undefinable, ultimate meaning, without actually committing themselve to any particular creed, which they find to be a self-limiting demand. No matter that everyone from true believers like Pope Benedict to professional skeptics like Dr. Bart Ehrman have insisted that spirituality without religious content is vapid, they insist that this is their prefered outlook on the divine.

Simply put, transcendence, which is the beginning of meaningful mystical experience, requires one to go outside of themselves and come into a contact that is not only beyond themselves, but patently superior to themselves. God isn't much of a God if it does not challenge a person's self-understanding and pre-existing standards. Truly, the Bible would indicate that to say one is a "spiritual person" is redundant. In Hebrew the word for person means "embodied spirit". In John I it is simply taken for granted that "there are many spirits", the worshipper must test them, because only one is the spirit of Christ - the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the only divine force on the market, but rather one of many options. Further, a person is by definition an embodied spirit, so they have a spirit, and thus a spirituality, by default. The question is not whether or not there is a spirit presence, but only which spirit that may be.

Chesterton: "Of all conceivable forms of enlightenment the worst is what these people call the Inner Light. Of all horrible religions the most horrible is the worship of the god within. Any one who knows any body knows how it would work; any one who knows any one from the Higher Thought Centre knows how it does work. That Jones shall worship the god within him turns out ultimately to mean that Jones shall worship Jones. Let Jones worship the sun or moon, anything rather than the Inner Light; let Jones worship cats or crocodiles, if he can find any in his street, but not the god within. Christianity came into the world firstly in order to assert with violence that a man had not only to look inwards, but to look outwards, to behold with astonishment and enthusiasm a divine company and a divine captain. The only fun of being a Christian was that a man was not left alone with the Inner Light, but definately recognized an outer light, fair as the sun, clear as the moon, terrible as an army with banners."


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