Generic Spirituality

It's becoming "the mantra of the new millennium," says American Demographics magazine: the phrase "I'm into spirituality, not religion." The slogan means people are searching for spiritual experience, but they don't want dogma or doctrine. Today's common view was expressed by a Washington, D.C., psychic, who said: "All religions will take people to the same place, if they practice spirituality within themselves." I can't tell you how many times I've heard even Christians say the same thing. How do some believers get sucked into cultural trends that are so contrary to their faith? The answer is that we have not fully understood that Christianity is not just another route to spiritual experience; it is a claim to truth. Christianity is a worldview, and it can be tested by seeing how well it answers the fundamental questions every worldview must address. Those questions can be broken down into the traditional biblical categories of Creation, Fall, and Redemption. Creation refers to ultimate origins: Where did we come from? The Fall asks what's wrong with the world: Where do evil and suffering come from? And Redemption asks how the problem can be fixed--how we can create a better world. By using these three categories, we can show that, among all the religions of the world, Christianity gives the best answers. For example, compare the New Age movement with its repackaged Eastern religion. On the question of ultimate origins, New Age thought does not hold to a personal God who created us and loves us, but merely a Universal Spirit, a substratum of energy underlying all things. How well does this answer the question of origins? It fails miserably. A basic principle of logic is that an effect cannot be greater than its cause. Yet New Age thought implies that personal beings-you and I-were created by an impersonal energy substratum. Moving to the Fall, New Age thought teaches that suffering and evil result not from human sin, but merely from an illusion: from our failure to recognize that we are all part of God. We think we are separate individuals, and from that arises all forms of selfishness, greed, anger, and resentment. But does anyone really believe that suffering and evil are at root massive illusions? Tell that to someone who's just been mugged. Finally, the New Age offers no real redemption, only enlightenment: Using meditative techniques, we are urged to recover a mystical knowledge of the divine within. But can anyone insist, with a straight face, that we are divine, that we are God? In a scene in Shirley MacLaine's television miniseries "Out on a Limb," she is coached by her New Age counselor to shout over and over, "I am God," until she can say it with confidence. It's not easy to convince ourselves, against all the evidence of our sin and failures, that we are actually divine. No, the answers offered by New Age thought simply do not stack up against reality. Christianity alone offers an account of our origin and our destiny that is rational and realistic. For Christians, THAT should be "the mantra of the new millennium," the message we bring to the spiritual seekers of our world.


Chuck Colson



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