In our society today, there is an increasing desire to differentiate spirituality and Religion by drawing a distinction between the two terms if any exists. Many people have engaged in debates especially here in America in bid to mark a distinction between the two. With this, it has emerged that there is a group of people who believe that spirituality equates to religion while at the same time, there are those who holds that everything bad lies in religion and not in spirituality. This paper shall however endeavor to clearly show that spirituality does not equate to religion and that those who argue so are making distinctions that are not valid. The question as posited by many could be as a result on increasing in interest on the issue of spirituality within our society today.
However, attempt to draw a divide between spirituality has been hampered with negativity that has been entrenched in the mind of people. This has had the effected the number of people who believe that one can be spiritual and not religion. Nevertheless, the arguments that will be presented in this paper will clearly show that Christian spirituality does not amount to religion by any means. This has been the case since many people seem to saddle religion with a lot of negative sentiments while embracing spirituality as positive.
Another problem that has made it difficult to separate the two terms has been the notion that the question lies in America alone and does not arise in other nations. This has made it difficult to arrive at a conclusion that is based on valid arguments rather than emotions or statements that cannot be prove with precision that indeed spiritually equates to religion.
2.0 Definition of Christian spirituality
Before we argue as to whether spirituality equates religion, there is need to define the terms such as Christian spirituality. Antonisamy affirms that Christina spirituality is a kind of life that an individual lives under the leadership of the Spirit of Christ. From this definition, it’s clear that a person who is regarded as spiritual must always be under the leadership of the Spirit of Christ in whatever they do. In other way, Christianity spiritual can be seen as a call that one heed to and devote themselves to Christ.
In understanding about Christian spiritualty, we need to look at the characteristics that define its existence so as to gain more insight into it. This will indeed prove handy when there is need to prove that Christian spirituality has no connection to religion. There about five elements that defines Christian spirituality and central to the answering of the question that this paper addresses. These elements are:-
i) Christian spirituality is manifested by the working of the Spirit of Christ in the church. This Spirit unites the church member making them take their roles in the church.
ii) Christian spirituality also entails the molding up of individuals into a solid life that is based on faith in the word of God that takes over every relationship between the individual with God and his fellow men.
iii) Another element that forms the basis of Christian spirituality in the fact that all the internal realization that individuals have must be translated to outward realizations that are both concrete and objective.
iv) Christian spirituality is also known to promote and enhance the faith of other brethren. By this me mean that those Christians who profess to be Spiritual must be able to communicably intensify the faith others who profess Christianity and lastly
v) A life that has been lived spiritually takes into account of historical situations that have basis and influence to the present teachings in Christianity.
It is evident there are a number of different forms of Christian spiritualties that we can speak off. This emergence of a variety of spiritualties can be pointed to the establishment of doctrinal differences that led to different forms of spirituality. However, as Perrin point out, Christian Spirituality is centered on triune God who is considered by Christian as both one and three.
3.0 What is religion?
A look at what religion is also a necessary part of this paper as it contributes to the exploration of the question. Religion has been defined as a codified set of beliefs that connect individuals to God and influence their life with God. With religion, it is argued that individuals from the society find solace from religion regardless of their race. This is an explanation as to why in every culture there seems to be a form of religion which may differ with other forms of religion being practiced elsewhere. Religion can therefore be taken as a manifestation of diversity that is present in the society today rather than a show of a central belief.
The question as to why there are countless number of religions in the society can be answered by considering the fact that there are countless number of cultural orientations that influence how individuals create and embrace a form of religion. This explains where specific areas of the world are dominated by a given religion and not another.
4.0 Why Christian spirituality does not equate to religion
4.1 Basis of religion
There are number of arguments that have solid basis and serve to emphasize the fact that Christian spirituality does not in any way equate of manifest religion. The basis of religion is believed to be cultural conditioning that exists in a given society. This is to mean that, a given religion is based on the prevailing cultural beliefs and orientation that are present in a given place. In other words, religion is always pegged on the cultural inclination that an individual is surrounded in and not on any other experience. However, this is not the case with Christian spirituality.
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Christian spirituality is hinged on the basis of a personal experience that an individual receives under the influence of the Spirit of God. For these cases, though Christian may have different forms of spirituality amidst themselves, these experiences that define their spirituality come about as a result of them have a one to one relationship with God. As seen early, this relationship makes them be close to God and in a way strengthen their relationship with God. By this argument, it is clear that there it is not possible to equate Christian spirituality with religion being that; religion is based on culture while Christian spirituality is based on a personal experienced.
To most people, religion is always acquired from their immediate environment where individual acquire religions attitudes and belief from the society they are in contact with. Usually, this often occurs at the institutional levels such as families and other forms of organization where individuals are located. This mode of acquiring religion is very different to the manner in which an individual become spiritual as in the case of a Christian. Here, it takes a personalized experienced and leadership of the Spirit of Christ to make one spiritual. On this basis, religion cannot be equated to Christian spirituality.
4.2 Independence of Christian spirituality
One of the arguments that seek to distinguish the religion and Christian spirituality is the fact that spirituality can be attained even in the absence of any religious belief or doctrine. This is what is referred to as the independence of Christian spirituality where individuals attain it only through their experience with the Spirit of Christ. This implies that, a necessary condition for Christian spirituality does not rest on any religious belief of traditions. However, this is not the case of religion. There must be some religious belief or doctrine to make and individual religious without which one cannot be termed as spiritual.
Through the personal experience, it is believed that the reality of God is implied in a spiritual man. As in the case of religion, the doctrine may be embraced as a result of individuals firmly holding unto their beliefs or doctrine that they are subjected to either in their community or environment where they are found.
On the same note, it can be noted that one can be spiritual while they adhere to no doctrine of belief that may be considered as a basis or foundation of a given religion. This explains why there Christian spirituality exists in many forms yet it is very difficult find and enforces a specific orthodoxy as a benchmark for spiritualism. In religion, one is considered as religious upon their confession of certain doctrine or believes which they must adhere to as these believe gives them an identity which may be common across a given religious spectrum. In speaking of Christian spiritualism, there is no way that one’s experience with God will match another. On this basis, there is a definite mark of distinction between religion and Christian spiritualism and thus a show that the two cannot be equated.
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4.3 Membership to an association
There is clear divide is marked between those that are religious from those who have Christian spiritually on the basis of what they hold to. For one to be considered religious, they not only have to hold to some doctrine alone but they also need to belong to a given group considered to be a religious organization. This does not mean that Christians who are spiritual do not go or belong to an organization. Rather, it means that, Christians considered to be spiritual are not bound in a group where their membership is based on doctrine.
It is no wonder that there are many people who consider themselves as Christians who are spiritual yet they have not forma of membership of affiliation to any religious group. This is a strong evidence that depart out minds from the position held by some that Christian spirituality can be equated to religion as this is not so.
4.4 Religion is inclined to the past
One of the distinct features that mark the difference between religion and Christina spirituality has been the case of religion being inclined to history unlike Christian spiritualism. As posited by Fox, religion always draws inspirations to events or activities that did take place in the past while failing to look at the future. To achieve this, religion always employs the ancient texts as a primary basis that will provide salvation to individual who holds to the doctrine relating that particular religion. This is however contrary to Christian spirituality that takes into account of eternal beliefs and that in order for individuals to be fully liberated; they ought to live in the present and looking forward for a brighter future. This is a principle of Christian spirituality where individuals are motivated to concentrate on doing what is present at the moment so as to ensure that their future is taken care of.
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On this basis, Christian spirituality appears to be breaking individual’s attachment to the things of the past such that, as they base their faith on their experience on what they have experienced in their life. This makes them have solid belief that their faith is bound to reward them rather than holding to any history of traditions as in the case of region. The fact that religion heavily relies on texts to get a hold of people shows that this religion completely departs from what Christian spirituality can be seen. For this reason, it is common for one to find individuals who profess to be Christian and are spiritual yet they are not confined to ancient texts that may pull their faith against looking what God has done to them at the present.
4.5 Religion imposes fear while Christian spirituality does not
The presence of fear is one of the features that make religion differ from Christian spirituality. Religion uses fear to instill obedience to the doctrine to those individual who are followers of it. This is one of the elements that separate religion from Christian spiritualism which on the contrary advocates for the love of God and not fear as exemplified in religion. As Shedd confirms some of the religious doctrine fail to have a glimpse or radiate the compassion that God has but in return, it reminds individuals of the past and how that their mistakes will bring judgment. While this may be true, such notions have an overall effect of creating fear which is not healthy to individuals considered to be religious.
On the other hand, Christian spirituality is based on love for God and this brings out the thought that religion cannot be equated to Christian spirituality. Unlike religion which point to the past to generate fear, Christian spirituality does look at the way of life as a path where God and man walk together and that God does require love for He Himself of love. This approach to fear and love is thus one of the differentiations that exist between religion and Christian spirituality. In other words, those that are in religious will be seen to be inclined towards the keeping of doctrine based on fear while those that are spiritual will be better placed to have a life that is full of love towards their God and those around them. It is therefore wrong and invalid to posit that religion can be equated to Christian spirituality as the two are based on different approached one being of love and another towards fear. No wonder Blake believes that, at the kernel of religion is the teaching of fear which is aimed at making people few God as a means of being saved.
4.6 Where is God?
This is one of the questions that are looked at in different angles by religion and Christian spirituality. What is true is that the answer presented by religion in answering this question differs from that adopted by Christian spirituality. For this reason, we cannot argue that religion can be equated Christian spirituality seen that their answer to the above question differ. While religion holds that God is in heaven, Christian spirituality states that God is with the people and is not restricted to one locality seen that he is omniscient. Since this is one of the fundamental question that concerns both the spiritual and religious, it is very clear that at no point will an individual who is religious be equated as one who is regarded as spiritual seen that they hold different answers to such a central question.
Furthermore, those that are considered to be spiritual maintain that God is within them and that God can be realized in their hearts when they fully accept Him based on a definite experience. On this account, the religious persons differ with them arguing that God is without and can only be worshipped outside while outside man. In this notion, the religion paints God as far from the reach of humanity and his fellowship with man cannot be realized as presented by the Christian spiritual. With many religions talking of God in heaven and such places, it is clear that at no point can we equate a Christian spiritual and a religious man seen that a Christian believes that God is with man and He fellowships in the heart of men. This in however not the case for a religion which promotes that God is supreme and at the same time remote from man and cannot interact freely with man as thought.
4.7 Outer Worship versus inner worship
While looking at why we cannot equate religion and Christian spirituality, we cannot fail to point that the two adopts different forms of worship which are quite different from one another. However, it will be very important to point out that both religion and Christian spirituality have worship as one of their core values which are embraced whole heartedly. But for the case of religion, worship is often seen and taken as an outward sign of committal to God and his word. On the other hand, Christian spirituality takes worship in an inward manner deserving inner emphasis.
From the argument presented in the paper, it is very clear that we cannot equate religion with Christian spirituality seeing that the two are distinguished from each other. The assertion that man cannot freely interact with who dwells in the heaven is one of the statement that differentiate religion form Spirituality who holds that God is omniscient and can be realized in the heart of man. Additionally, religion asserts that God has to be feared by men and that salvation can only be achieved by adhering to ancient texts. Contrary to these, spiritualism holds that God desire fellowship with man and the way of approach is by love rather than fear. Even on worship, we can note that a religious person can by no means regarded as spiritual bearing their difference in worship. All these point to the stand that religion does not equate to Christian spiritualty.