Goodbye Religion, Hello Spirituality
Is there a place for the Christian "religion" in the 21st Century?

Doug Pagitt and Tony Jones, two prominent voices in the Emergent conversation, have edited a new book called An Emergent Manifesto of Hope (Baker, 2007). The dictionary defines the word manifesto as, "a public declaration of principles, policies, or intentions." That should encourage people who see Emergent as being too ambiguous, but the book will undoubtedly give additional ammunition to its critics. In the coming weeks Out of Ur will feature excerpts from the book. The first comes from a chapter titled "Converting Christianity: The End and Beginning of Faith" by Barry Taylor.

What it means exactly when a person declares himself or herself to be "spiritual but not religious" is a matter of some debate. Some people find spiritual an irritating term that means nothing of any real substance, a marker for a sort of "wishy-washy" sentimentalism that passes itself off as real faith. Others have embraced it wholeheartedly, and the rise of spiritual language in sermons and discussions, as well as a growing interest in spiritual directors in many churches, point to an embrace of the term on some levels even amongst the "religious."

I don't think there is one definition for the term or for its usage. Spirituality is an umbrella word, a catchall concept used to characterize a commitment to the sacred elements of life. It defies a singular definition, hence the fluidity of the usage of the word; it is also an evolving term rather than one of fixed determination.

One thing that it does signify, almost universally, is the rejection of traditional faiths as a primary source of connection to the divine. I would argue that traditional faiths are no longer the first resource that people go to in order to develop and nurture their spiritual lives, but instead function more as secondary archives with which new spiritual permutations are created. Those who do choose to explore their spiritual quests within traditional faith environments do so with very different eyes and intentions than previous generations of seekers have. For me spirituality is the religion of the twenty-first century.

This is a dramatic shift, and one that some might contest, but the momentum seems to be toward this perspective. It should come as no surprise to us that our understanding of religion is undergoing a transformation. In times of significant cultural change, all the ways in which we order ourselves socially are usually affected. For instance, religion as it was experienced in the post-Reformation period was quite unlike its pre-Reformation incarnation. That faith in the postmodern world is showing itself to be markedly different from faith in modernity only serves to underscore the significance of the cultural changes we are presently experiencing.

March 29, 2007

Displaying 1–10 of 46 comments


April 08, 2007  9:36pm

Simply put and evaluated these claimers put physical things in the place of spiritual. What they call spiritual freedom consists of wearing or not wearing certain clothing or other physcial adornments. While if they were truly free they wouldn't be so confused.In my opinon these claimers are very immature, confused or have not been born again and so they think carnally and physically, seeking material applications as expressions of spirituality, very much like a Christian form of paganism.In fact I think that is what they seek. They rebel against historical tradition simply because they can and for no reason but they are restless souls. Whereas true spirituality overcomes the fleshly desire to be unique, extrememly individual(yet not really) and its physicalised soulish substitute "spirituality".The saved soul can be happy, joyful and content obeying in all things for the glory of Christ and doesn't need a certain type of modern t shirt or ear ring to feel spiritual, and it is in these kind of vain unspiritual things that i think I see them think their 'spirituality' consists. It is simply allowing adolescence to lead and define the way according to their immature and inexperienced desires.

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April 08, 2007  12:48pm

"Religion is always a cultural production, and sociocultural issues cannot be discounted from the ways in which we envision and understand faith." My response. And Spirituality is not? I'm confused here, Barry.

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April 07, 2007  12:05pm

As I reflect on this blog and it's responses as well as reading many others like it across the world wide web, I can only conclude that the emerging church and and its old counterpart Evangelicalism are obscurantist at best. The emerging movement is just more proficient at it than their more conservative counterparts. I am sure that in the next 20 years from now another new movement will 'emerge' that will feel the same way as the emerging church movement now feels about the expressions of Christianity it's trying to reform. What if we do revert back towards modernism? Or post-post-modernism? Will you emergent guys be ready to get on the band wagon? Who cares? That's why I care to watch all this from a distance. 10 years of going to Bedside Baptist, Pillow Presbyterian and Mattress Methodist every Sunday morning has made me very ecumenical. And let's Not have a conversation about that one please!

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April 06, 2007  9:36am

Darren- Thanks for responding the way you have. I wanted to jump in the conversation sooner, but I chose not to because I knew that my comments would probably be put in the "crazy-emergent" box. Thank you for your grace and compassion as you've responded. You've been a good voice in the conversation.

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Darren King

April 05, 2007  9:41pm

Quote: "Spirituality is a crutch when one doesn't want to bend a knee to Jesus." Response: I think you're missing the point. People are rejecting the modernistic, institutional church- not Jesus. Quote: "Read your Bible. It is the Truth. It is the ONLY Truth." Response: I wonder what those poor early Christians did when there was no Bible? I guess they had NO TRUTH; even though they loved and followed Jesus. Quote: "The problem is this guy is putting God in a box to fit his needs. God is much bigger than his box." Comment: I think you're completely misreading the point. It is the modernistic Church- with its enlightenment-inspired conception of reality- that people are trying to escape. In other words, people are trying to "unbox" God from our western, modern traps; not the other way around. Quote: "Love God with all of your being." Comment: I agree!!!

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April 05, 2007  12:00pm

regarding the article: I wonder if Religion and Spirituality are being seen as opposite points on a line. Religion is often seen as the rules and legalism where as Spirituality is the emotional and feeling. Just a thought. regarding the dialog: I appreciate the comments. I was quite impressed by the respect that has been offered to each other. my 2 cents: While I consider myself a bit more emerging in theology and approach to GOD's Kingdom here on earth, I have deep roots in conservativeism. I am concerned not in who is "right," but in how we are seen to those around us. Was it Schaffer who wrote "The Mark of a Christian?" Remember that old song "they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love." We bite back and forth with each other and love is the first casualty. Is this what Jesus died for? For his followers to fight against each other?

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bruce southerland

April 04, 2007  5:06pm

As 'coincidence' would have it, this is my 30th year with Cathy who is also my new and improved (emergent?) wife every day because she knows the sacred writings which have made her wise enough to yield to the living Christ Jesus who she experiences in the midst of a very messy community composed of those who are calling on his name.

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April 04, 2007  3:11pm

Spirituality is a crutch when one doesn't want to bend a knee to Jesus. Read your Bible. It is the Truth. It is the ONLY Truth. Find that relationship with Jesus that challenges you to be humble and courageous. Love God with all of your being. This is not hard to understand. The problem is this guy is putting God in a box to fit his needs. God is much bigger than his box.

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April 04, 2007  1:16pm

This whole discussion bogs me down...I appreciate dialog...I appreciate brothers and sisters who I can pray with and be challenged by in my thinking, I am thankful that we all don't think the same way, or talk the same way...i remember one time recouting to a friend all the things i was learning at seminary...She said that was great, and then added a comment I will never, I'm just struggling to know what it means to love my neighbor as was the whisper of my Father to me... In the midst of the conversation I hope that our lives continue to be compelled by the love of Christ...that we would know what it means to fear Him, that we would be ministers of reconciliation to a world that desperately needs to know that abundant life is for the taking...offered freely through great cost...maybe i am too simplistic...maybe Peterson (in the words of The Message) would call me a Simpleton...i think though that I have realized that sometimes the most profound lessons of faith are found in the most simple of terms... "Let's not get distracted from being His." Let's dream His dreams for His church, and in humility walk into the future together.

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April 04, 2007  2:51am

Somehow this whole conversation reminds me of listening to a middle aged man trying to justify leaving his wife of 30 years to run off with his new and improved trophy wife.

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