We bump into the words spirituality and religious all the time. The first term is like a feeling to some people and therefore subject to the truth they want to ascribe to that feeling or setting that they are in. Religious seems like structure as an end to itself. If people fall in to either of these definitions there will be emptiness because no one wants to be subject to feelings in the long term and no one wants to be subject to arbitrary rules that just seem mean and to rule over people like mind control.
The temptation lies in how people call themselves spiritual but not religious. I disagree because spirituality calls one to ask questions about meaning. Questions have answers if even they are the wrong ones. But under the guise of spirituality, asking questions means that there is such a thing as truth. Spirituality is a pursuit for an answer. Stay true to it beyond comfort level is another things.
Take romance without commitment. Take it from your partner? Not so fun. Imagine the love of your life saying after several years, “Well, I was really romantic but I don’t believe in commitment.” The cheater degraded themselves and the one they cheated on. In the same way people that are spiritual but have knowledge of a religion that has the answers, or truths, that are inconvenient area degrading themselves and the Lover of their souls.
Often in pop culture (thank Oprah) people are motivated to get warm and fuzzy as we reflect how your truth is not my truth and that is okay. But that only works until truth has consequences. Then the media points to a principle that is universal and above the whims of the day. Even a secular humanist country or media will believe in moral absolutes when they have to.
So with what I said above, suppose you give religion a chance? What should it look like? How should it work in your life? As a drug and alcohol counselor, I say, “Whatever works for you. Keep converting to more of what you believe.” I say that because the setting is a pluralistic one and I am not supposed to bring in a proselytizing agenda. Fair enough since my professional discipline is all about self-determination of the client.
But if someone is in my faith community, all bets are off. I may occasionally need to serve black coffee (blunt feedback) to someone there. If their “truth” is that God has told my buddy to leave his wife for someone else, I point to the truth of our faith that marriage is for life. Not happy about that? Tough. The holiness objective is higher than your happiness.
The frustration on knowing where to find true north of what is right in a world of mostly moral relativism is high. If I were to search for The Truth, where do I start? I propose some fundamentals that guide us to wisdom that ties spirituality and religion together.
1: Truth for the right way to live alone, the world we see, or any existence unseen by nature cannot be quantified primarily in the physical sciences nor senses. What we have left would be the social sciences and secondarily “coincidences” found in the physical sciences but never explicit.
2: The order of the universe happened because of a First Cause, not “just ‘cause”.
3: If that First Cause is a person that has started this universe, which is corrupted, then that First Cause needs to operate at a level of power and existence above that scene or the First Cause would be too great for right existence.
4: If we were to ascertain a way to make this deity known, it would have to begin on the initiative of this Deity, or Higher Power, and not on the initiative of humans.
5: This leads me last to borrowing from the law of thermodynamics call Entropy. It basically states that order decays by nature.
Many of these principles were in mind of ancient Greek philosopher Plato. He spoke of a then unknown God who existed above what was considered the corrupted realm of earth. He said this entity would have to be the basis of Truth that all the partial views of universal truth points to. He called it the Logos. Plato’s Theory of Forms was located within the Logos, but the Logos also acted on behalf of God in the physical world.For Heraclitus logos provided the link between rational discourse and the world’s rational structure
So if this is a universal instinct, like in the DNA, and put into some philosophical expectations, then what could be guessed by estimation is that there was for the Greeks a “want-ad” for an Ultimate Someone or Something that could exist. So would that want-ad from the Greeks be answered with a job application? I can think of four. The authors of them were Mateus, Ion Marcus, Lucas and Johanan bar Shebedeh. After a lot of translations on their names, we know them as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Sound like too much?
Take John. Yes, he was a country boy from the beach town of Gallilee. Yes, he spoke Aramaic and probably knew some Hebrew (he was known among the temple priests). But like a lot of Gallileans, he was fluent in Greek. And he was educated.
With that in mind, he wrote, “In the beginning was the Logos (Word). And the Logos was with God and the Logos was God.” He also wrote, “And the Logos became flesh and dwelt among us.” They make the applicant Yeshua ha Nazri. Jesus of Nazareth.
But the job application seems to break down if we examine what it means to see Jesus as the Logos. He should not serve us, but He does. Plato also said that if there were to be any altering of this decay in this world, it would have to be done by the Logos. But if Jesus died on the cross, then how could He be the Logos that comes to our world? It makes no sense, unless you interpret the messages of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as pointing to a Logos with Agape. Unselfish love. But that is another story….
So if Jesus is Truth, and all He said is true, then those words are of consequence. And those words tie together what spirituality leads to in religion. “But religion is all man made!” Yes, but if Jesus is divine and a man, then that is okay to follow what He said.
Case in point is a message this mysterious ex-carpenter said on a hill one day in what the religious and secular world call the Sermon On The Mount. It is a dynamic message that is spiritual, points to a set structure of living spiritually and in the physical life and is done with such nuance that it is amazing! I have been Christian for over thirty years and I continue to be a student of Jesus and day by day. Still amazed. Is He worth being looked for, learning from and experienced? With that in mind, I invite the reader to kick the tires in that message.
“When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying…” (Matthew 5:1-2).
When Jesus saw the crowds— If one is to take Jesus, even possibly, as who He is claimed to be by Tradition, then it is incumbent on the searcher to know that you are seen by God and it is His initiative that makes order out of the chaos of our ignorance of truth.
he went up the mountain—This is a symbol of the Logos who is above the fray of the daily life. So he goes to higher ground and the crowd that wants to hear truth go there. Moses did this 1200 years before when he declared the Ten Commandments.
and after he sat down—But does He have authority in what He says? Is Jesus worthy of being called a rabbi let along the Ultimate Truth? To sit down and teach was the posture of a Jewish rabbi who would teach the Law. As the wisdom in this message unfolds, the reader can test out those words for application. But the more those words permeate our hearts, the more we are tested but with an invitation to come and see more. And if we see more, then we can receive more. What is stopping us?