IO 86: Your “Spiritual-but-not-Religious” Neighbor

by Dr. Peter Jones on January 27, 2012

Sharing the Gospel

When I came to the States in 1964, the great enemy of the Christian Faith was Marxism, with “Commies behind every bush.” My wife recently told me that as a child she would lie awake at night worrying that she would give up her faith when persecuted by godless Soviet commissars.  In 1966 at Seminary, I studied the “Death of God” theology, which, we were told, represented the final triumph of secular humanism.

For a century and a half secular humanist scholars predicted the demise of religion, which Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud dismissed respectively as the opiate of the people, and a mental illness. But the materialistic utopia never materialized. Instead, people have awakened to “spirituality.” Not God but materialistic secular humanism is dead.

One of the Death of God theologians, David Miller (whom we did not read in class) later gave the game away. In his book, The New Polytheism (1974), he made the shocking claim that “at the death of God we would see the rebirth of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome.”  The Postmodern deconstructionist, Mark Taylor, observed that “the 21st century will be dominated by religion in ways that were inconceivable just a few years ago.” A secular literature conference in 2006 boasted the title God is Undead: Post-Secular Notions in Contemporary Literature and Theory and included a lecture entitled “Secularism in the Elimination Round.”

When I was studying the Death of God theology, I never thought that years later I would read an academic book entitled Postsecularism (Cambridge: 2009). Its British author, Dr. Mike King, describes how secular humanists are becoming spiritual, open to questions of the spirit while retaining, of course, the secular habit of critical thought. However, not all “spirits” can apply.

The “in” spirituality includes

  • Quantum Physics, which shows “the human being as joyously co-extensive with and co-creator of that cosmos”;
  • Transpersonal Psychology, since it is both scientific and spiritual (it is actually occult shamanism);
  • Nature worship, which gives us both morals and spirituality;
  • Goddess worship, practiced by cutting-edge modern feminism.

This intellectual openness allows only one spirituality—pagan spirituality, or One-ism. Two-ism is unthinkable. Postsecularists seek to be liberated from two opposing “extremist” forces: traditional religion and atheistic secularism. Post-secularism delivers us from both these dead ends. While atheism is no longer valid, neither is traditional theism. For the postmodern the way forward is pantheism.

This is not just theory.  At his seminary’s annual Convocation, called “Evolving World, Emerging Church,” the dean of Bangor Theological Seminary said that “there is a spiritual revival …afoot, but it is not religious.” The new spiritual icons are rock star Bono, former President Jimmy Carter and celebrities like Angelina Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt. “Salvation in the 21st century is being a good human being.” Appropriately, the dean calls this “humanitarian spirituality.”

How do Christians speak of Jesus to this rising generation of very spiritual people who have had a “personal experience of the pantheistic “god-within”? This new Postsecular context demands a worldview approach to our Gospel presentation.

Our “spiritual-but-not-religious” neighbors believe that

  • all is one and that god exists in everything. According to the Bible, there are two kinds of reality: God and creation, and God in His being is distinct from His creation.
  • everyone shares in the divine power and can bring the world to new levels of happiness and peace. The Bible says that, though made in God’s image, there are two kinds of people: those who are reconciled with God and those who are in rebellion against Him, and that only God can truly save the world.
  • since each religion has some of the truth, we only have to put them together to discover the whole truth. The Bible describes the timeless religious conflict between the Truth and the Lie, and that every human being must worship and serve the true Creator God.
  • our human problems are a result of forgetfulness: we have forgotten that we are divine. The Bible says creatures trying to be God is what created all our problems from the beginning!
  • we should look within to find inner divine power. The Bible tells us to look to God, and His Son, Jesus, who by the power of His Spirit, independent of our efforts, reconciles us sinful creatures to Himself.

Make no mistake; spiritual post-secularists will be as formidable opponents of the Christian message as their secularist forebears. Thus Christians, in order to love these new “spiritual” neighbors, you must understand their worldview to share the Gospel in categories that challenge their view of reality. Only in this way can the contemporary Church be faithful to the task Jesus gave us, of making disciples of all nations.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Marilyn Wilson January 27, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Looking forward to more of this excellent teaching at Think Tank 2012!

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Aaron D. Hodson January 30, 2012 at 8:03 am

Great Article!

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Bobby Alford January 30, 2012 at 8:40 am

Thanks for this article. When a person rejects the God of Scripture, then it appears that One-ism is the natural place to go. When you turn from the true God then you can make your god into whatever you want him/her to be. The problem is, you will have a little “g” god who can’t help you in time or save you for eternity. May the Lord bless your ministry.

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Pete Dayton January 30, 2012 at 10:29 am

this is good as we look into a Christian worldview!

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Denise Tidwell January 30, 2012 at 10:33 am

Dr. Jones does a great job of articulating what we are actually seeing everyday in our culture.

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Geri Collins February 7, 2012 at 11:48 am

This is the best explanation of what it going on with the people of this world. I just listened to Joel Osteen on OWN with Oprah. He has probably the largest followers of his messages (feel good) and said that Jesus would want him to say what he says! His Church fills 16,000 seats! Can you imagine! I listened because I want to know what draws these people to him. This is exactly what Dr. Peter Jones is talking about.

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Craig Boulton February 18, 2012 at 11:36 am

Thanks Dr. Jones for this article. It continues to keep me afresh of what the cultures mindset is.

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Jean Maurice Prosper February 23, 2012 at 4:36 am

this is exact. What we are seeing here in Mauritius, is the rise of this new form of spirituality. We even now have a counsel fo religion and there moto being ” we do not believe the same way” as if saying we all believe in the same God but not in the same way… anyone not accepting this belief is a divider, or someone who does not promote the unity of the island.

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Jessi Richardson March 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Such a great article! I was actually just talking to a friend who believes that there is a higher power but we as humans cannot know him/her until we have further advanced in scientific findings. He said that once we are fully able to understand gravity then we will be able to control everything, making us all gods and allowing us to fully understand what the higher power is. Personally, I don’t understand any of that and it surprises me that other people agree with him.

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Ed Leon March 20, 2012 at 9:35 am

This is the religion of the end times. Many apostate christians are giving up to this “form of godliness”. It is described in II Timothy chapter 3 as “having a form of godliness, but with their works denying the power thereof”. The very emerging of this movement proves that the Rapture of the Church is at the door.

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Janet Balsiger April 18, 2012 at 11:03 pm

I know many of these folks and am constantly seeking ways to communicate the gospel in these “categories that challenge their view of reality”. Any thoughts or ideas?

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Paula N June 12, 2012 at 4:44 am

I heard the “Great Invocation” read repeatedly the week of June 4, 2012, on the radio during conservative talk shows and it caused me to search the internet to see who Lucis Trust could be. Thankfully I found TruthXChange and Dr. Peter Jones. Turns out I actually had a copy of ONE OR TWO in my book stack. I am reading it now and it makes so much sense. Such a valuable resource. Thank You Dr. Jones.

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