RESPONDING TO “SPIRITUAL BUT NOT RELIGIOUS” CHRISTIANS

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. It’s an ideology that says religious institutions are outdated and unnecessary.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 site fiable achat viagra.” Others yet may feel that these institutions teach something contrary to their beliefs regarding political and social issues.

Whatever their reasons, 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). I’m sure most “spiritual but not religious” Christians would agree with this.

The issue is whether or not one can do this privately, reading only Scripture and coming to one’s own conclusions on theological matters, or whether one must submit to some authority outside of oneself.

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? It’s 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. St. Paul exhorted the early Christians:

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and 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 in 2 Peter 1:20:

First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s 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, simply picking up the Bible and interpreting it for yourself 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 don’t leave Peter because of Judas.” From a Catholic perspective this means you don’t leave the Church because someone didn’t 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. It’s true that Christians throughout time have acted contrary to the Faith, but, as with the abuse scandal, it should be remembered that history is filled with good and holy missionaries.

It’s 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

It’s 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 (Matt. 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.

WHY CHRISTIANITY IS NOT A RELIGION

The way to be right with God in every religion is by earning your way.  It is based on works, not grace.  Christianity is different from every religion in this aspect: all other religions (including Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism) state that you must earn the right to be reconciled with God.  It is by what you do in this life (good deeds or bad deeds) that determines your eternal destiny.  Christianity is completely different from this.  It is not religion.  My high school American Literature Teacher, Mr. Patton, (who wasn’t a Christian) described it this way:

“The difference between Christianity and every other faith in the world is that all other religions are about man trying to reach up to God.  Christianity is about God reaching down to man.”

This is a very important distinction, and it is core to what I believe, so I would like to try to clarify what I mean.  Here is the way I am defining religion:

Religion is a system of beliefs or a code of moral conduct that judges (qualifies or disqualifies) a person based on their adherence and obedience to certain codes, rules, laws, traditions, or the performance of required acts.

Religion (almost universally) is enforced by those in power in an attempt to maintain, increase, or abuse their power over others.  Religion is the creation of man and is not the intention or design of God.  A modern day example (taken from the movie “Footloose”, starring Kevin Bacon) is a preacher who believes that dancing leads to promiscuity and destructive behavior (the Bible does not speak against dancing).  He uses (abuses) his influence and his position of authority to convince his congregation that dancing is evil and forbids it.  He sets up rules that are not in the Bible and adds additional beliefs that Jesus never endorsed.  He is trying to control the people, using their trust of his authority to force them to believe his version of the truth.  He adds rules that don’t exist in the Bible.  In this example, he even has good motives, but he is still being religious and this “religion” is not from God.  This is so very common.  People have used Jesus to justify adding so many “requirements” to being a Christian.  Here are just a few of the countless examples:

  • Not drinking alcohol
  • Not listening to certain types of music
  • Insisting that church meet on certain days
  • Only certain forms of music can be used in church
  • You can’t be saved unless you are circumcised
  • Reciting ritualistic prayers
  • Saying you aren’t saved unless you get baptized
  • You can’t eat certain foods
  • Requiring you to perform rituals
  • Being saved is conditional upon attending church or church membership
  • Saying that you have to earn your salvation by doing good deeds

I could go on and on.  When Jesus was on the earth, religion was very rampant, as it is today.  There was a group of corrupt religious leaders called the Pharisees who had taken the word of God, passed down from Moses and the prophets (the Torah), and written a commentary on it interpreting what the scriptures said (called the Talmud).  Then they wrote another commentary on that commentary called the “Mishnah” achat de viagra en ligneThe Mishnah was a list of hundreds rules to meet in order to insure that you were obeying the word of God.  These were created by man and had little basis in the actual scripture.

For example, one of the 10 Commandments (from the Torah) was, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”.  The Pharisees had made literally hundreds of rules in the Mishnah that detailed to the n-th degree what you had to do in order to keep that commandment.  There was a rule that you couldn’t walk through a field on the Sabbath because your sandal might clip a grain of wheat, and if it did you would be harvesting grain.  If you were harvesting, you had worked on the Sabbath and sinned.  Another example is that you could not spit on the ground on the Sabbath because your spit would create mud and this was making mortar.  If you created mortar you were working on the Sabbath and therefore sinning.

Jesus hated this!  He hated the way the Pharisees used the people’s love for God (or fear of God) to control them, limit their freedom, and empty them of the relationship with God that was intended.  When you practice religion, your relationship with God is degraded to a mathematical formula.  Do this, then do this, don’t do that, and presto. . . you are right in the eyes of God.  This is TOTALLY missing the point!  God wants so much more.  He wants to have a real relationship with you.  He wants to show his love to you and He wants you to love Him.  That was the point of the original commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy”.  The Sabbath day was supposed to be a day for us to take a little break from working, refocus on what’s important, spend time with our family, and spend time with God.  You can’t build a deep relationship without spending quality time together.

If you read the 10 Commandments you will notice that they are all about relationships.  They are either about improving our relationship with God or with other people.  As Jesus Himself said:

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” ~ Matt 22:37-40

And Paul said:

“For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.” ~ Rom 13:9-10

So the law can be summed up in love; love for God and love for others.  The law is about relationships; vertical and horizontal.  It is about our vertical relationship with our creator and our horizontal relationships with the rest of mankind.  It was never intended to be a list of rules that can be relegated to a checklist or mathematical formula.  We are talking about love.

So the Pharisees took the commandment to remember the Sabbath and added religion to it by making that ridiculous rule about spitting on the ground.  Jesus showed his complete disregard for their rules when he repeatedly healed people on the Sabbath.  The Pharisees considered this “work”.  On one particular occasion, He healed a blind man on the Sabbath by spitting on the ground, making some mud, and rubbing it on the man’s eyes.  Jesus was God.  He didn’t have to spit on the ground to heal the man.  He was making a point to the Pharisees and everyone watching him that religion was wrong.

 “Having said this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam“.  So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.  Then they took the man who had been blind to the Pharisees, because it was on the Sabbath that Jesus had made the mud and healed him.  Some of the Pharisees said, “This man Jesus is not from God, for he is working on the Sabbath.”  ~ John 9:6-7, 13-14, 16

Religion is man trying to reach up to God.  The message of Christianity is God reaching down to man.  Religion is about what man has to DO to be right with God.  Christianity is about what God has already DONE to provide us the opportunity to be right with Him.  Religion says you must EARN your salvation by doing good deeds or certain acts and not doing evil.  Christianity says all we need to do is BELIEVE that Christ has already paid the price for the evil we have done.  Christianity says we are all evil (filled with sin) and there is nothing we can do to earn the right to be saved.  Christianity says that God (in the form of Jesus Christ) stepped into our place and paid the awful price that had to be paid for us.  He gave us the free gift of salvation if we choose to believe in Jesus.

“Christ suffered for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners to bring you safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit.” ~ 1 Pet 3:18

“But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” ~ John 1:12

“Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.  But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.” ~ Rom 3:19-25

We are free by God’s great gift.  All we have to do is claim it.  Just like a Christmas present, it is a FREE GIFT (that cost the giver dearly), but it doesn’t become ours until we believe that the giver does care for us and that what is inside the box is something good.  We then have to receive the FREE GIFT.  It doesn’t become ours until we trust the giver and choose to receive the gift.

You see, as the verse from Romans above states, we can’t be saved by abiding by the law (the 10 Commandments).  This is a list of rules.  We can’t be saved by the effort of man.  The bible clearly states this.

“God saved you by his grace when you believed.  And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” ~ Eph 2:8-9

So often you hear from people that they think they will go to heaven because they have “been a good person”.  Being good has nothing to do with whether you are saved or not.  That’s religion.  You can’t earn it.  Thank God, because none of us could ever be good enough.  “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.”  God is perfect, and in order to be one with God and commune with the Almighty we would have to be perfect too.  Only one person could ever do this, Jesus Christ.  That’s why it took Jesus to stand in the gap and pay the price for all of us.  Our sins are erased because of Christ.  Theologians use a big term for this called “Substitutionary atonement”.

“If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.  But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we are calling God a liar and showing that his word has no place in our hearts.” ~1 John 1:8-10

So, you might ask why, then, was the law was given.  It was given to show us that we need God.  As Paul says in Rom 7:7:

“In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin.  I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, you must not covet.”  ~ Rom 7:7

Without the law as a standard we would not even realize that we needed a redeemer and savior from our sin.  The law was just and correct.  There was nothing wrong with the law.  This is the way we are called to act.  However, as humans we do not have the ability to love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds and love our neighbor as much as ourselves all the time, everyday.  Because sin was introduced into the world by man, we are inclined to sin and no one can live this way.  So, we are in need of redemption from this predicament.  Christ provided this.  He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.

“Don’t misunderstand why I have come.  I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets.  No, I came to accomplish their purpose.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.” ~ Matt 5:17-18

Through Christ we are made perfect in God’s eyes.  We are forgiven from all sin; past and future.  When we receive Him, He gives us his Holy Spirit that has the power to change us and make us more like Him.  This is a process, but as this happens we begin to realize that we are living in the love originally required by the law.  The original intention, the heart of the law, is established in our lives.  Our relationships with God and others are founded in love.

It is the Holy Spirit that accomplishes this within us, not our own human effort.  The Bible describes this process as Holy Spirit producing fruit:

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.  The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants.  And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.  But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses.  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful natureto his cross and crucified them there.  Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.” ~ Gal 5:16-18, 22-25

This is the difference between religion and true Christianity.  There is no checklist or list of rules that you must follow.  It is ALL about your relationships, vertical and horizontal.  There is no rhetoric or rituals that have to be practiced.  Believe that Jesus Christ came to earth and died for your sins, accept his FREE GIFT, let God help you to love Him and love others.  That’s it!  It is so simple it sounds stupid, and it would be if there was no real power here.  I’m here to testify that when you do this, the relationship with God is REAL and the power to change your life is there!  Religion is empty.  But, in Christ there is power.

“The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.” ~ 1 Corr 1:18

So when you look around at the church and what has happened in history you see a lot of bad things, and some good as well.  The key thing that you must understand is that historically “the church” is predominately a religious organization with man-made rules and controls.  This is evil and God is not in it.  Good has been done by the few that truly understand what it means to be a Christian.  These look like Christ.  The Bible says, “You will know them by their fruits.”  It also says:

“But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him.  Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.” ~ 1 John 2:5-6

Here is a verse that shows why most people who claim to be Christians really aren’t:

“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.” ~ Matt 7:13-14

So don’t look at what has been done by religious people and discredit God for it.

If you want to know hear more about why the “good people go to heaven” argument doesn’t fly, you should check out this book.  It is a quick read (it took me about 2 hours) and is worth the time investment.  How Good is Good enough

STATEMENT OF FAITH

We believe that the modern world needs Christians who are prepared to give the reasons for the hope that is within us, and at the Christian Apologetics Alliance we are dedicated to that mission. We have created a community where Christians can learn from each other, ask the hard questions of our faith, and receive the support of a loving community of Christian thinkers.

While any group of this size will always have divergent views at many different points, we are united by our Statement of Faith, which all of us affirm (and which we ask all of our members to affirm). Also see the unity statement in our community discussion guidelines.

Statement of Faith

The Christian Apologetics Alliance (CAA) is an evangelical, non-denominational Christian ministry. Although we have a wide variety of Christian beliefs among our members, the CAA does not, as an organization, have positions on many of the doctrinal or theological debates that take place within the church. While we do believe that many of these issues are significant, our primary concern is to promote the gracious, rational defense of the central claims of Christianity and the irenic critique of opposing systems of thought and ways of life.

The CAA Statement of Faith:

We affirm that there is only one, Triune God,
existing eternally in three distinct persons:
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

We affirm that God is the all-powerful Creator.

We affirm that Jesus Christ, our Lord, is the only Son of God,
fully God and fully man, yet one person.
He became incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit and was born of the virgin Mary,
lived a perfect and sinless life,
was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
suffered death for the forgiveness of our sins, and was buried.
On the third day he bodily rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and
His kingdom will have no end.
We look forward to the resurrection of the dead.
There is no other name by which we may be saved. [1]

We affirm that the Holy Spirit is the Lord and giver of life,
who is to be worshiped and glorified with the Father and the Son.

We believe the Scriptures are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and
we affirm that they are historically trustworthy and doctrinally authoritative. [2]

We affirm that there is one, holy, universal, and apostolic church. [3]

We affirm the Christian worldview encourages a holy and joyful renewal of each individual and the whole universe. We therefore promote the biblical convictions:

*that the love of our neighbors and the alleviation of human suffering in all its forms is integral to Christian discipleship, [4]
<br id=".reactRoot[2640771].[2]{comment681967261830377_681967461830357}.[1:0].[4:0:1].[3:1].[4:0:1].[1:1].[1:0].[1:0:2] viagra 100 mg doctissimo.[2:0].[3:3].[2:1].[3:0:59]” />*that marriage is a lifelong covenant between one man and one woman, and
that marriage is the only legitimate context for sexual activity,

*that all human beings have a right to life, including those not yet
born, [5]


*that we are called to participate in the restoration of all things, and

*that the Christian Apologetics Alliance is ultimately meant to serve the church and our family in Christ, as one part of God’s mission to evangelize and disciple all people to maturity in Christ. [6]

CLARIFYING NOTES:

[1] The doctrine of universalism–that all will eventually be saved, even those who explicitly reject the gospel–is contrary to our Statement of Faith.

[2] The “Scriptures” here refers to the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments. The CAA does not take a position on the Apocrypha.

[3] The phrase “the one, holy, universal, and apostolic church” does not refer to a particular denomination. Instead, it refers to the universal Christian church without regard to specific denomination.

[4] We are commanded by God to show compassion to suffering people. We explicitly reject any teaching that says our health, wealth, or prosperity indicates our righteousness, the strength of our faith, or our standing before God. These teachings stonewall our mission to alleviate the suffering of our neighbors and therefore contradict our Statement of Faith.

[5] This is a ‘prima facie’ right to life. The CAA does not have a position on the death penalty or just war theory. We recognize that some members may believe abortion is permissible in certain, strictly limited situations, but we are clarifying that our basic principle is pro-life.

[6] This includes support for members whose calling is to the university, the marketplace, the home, the arts, politics, and all other spheres of influence.

What does Nondenominational Church mean?

Many people are not familiar with the Nondenominational Church and I am often asked about it so I thought I would try to clarify it here as briefly as possible.

There are a large variety of churches within this category so an explanation would necessarily need to be quite broad, but all these churches began as a way to expand Christian teachings and provide a more open and accepting Christian environment.

For the most part, Nondenominational denotes churches that are independent of the traditional Christian denominations. These churches have their own doctrines and leadership and do not answer to a central council of doctrinal authority. This can often make them more effective in reaching out to their congregants and seekers in an individualized way.

What this means in general terms is that the Nondenominational churches are Christian based yet tend to be more open and welcoming of all beliefs viagra bon pour. Where many Christian churches have a tendency toward strict rules and narrow biases, Nondenominational churches are usually more accepting of broader spiritual concepts. Their teachings embrace a wider blend of spiritual philosophies under the umbrella of a Christian perspective.

The growth of the Nondenominational Church

Nondenominational church memberships have been growing at a phenomenal rate across America for many years. The rapid spread of these congregations points to a desire in our society for a deeper spiritual life that is logical, accepting, enhancing, integrated into our daily lives and speaks to the goodness of our humanity. Many are finding this within the ecumenical Nondenominational churches.