A year ago I blogged about Adventist Spirituality. Adventists aren’t used to using the terms “spirituality” or “spiritual formation” or “spiritual disciplines.” Yet Adventists certainly engage in practices that may be referred to as “spiritual disciplines”: prayer, fasting, the Sabbath, a wholistic lifestyle, Bible study, personal devotions, small groups, etc.
I define spirituality as “the lived experience of a personal relationship with God.” Some reflect on that experience and, in the words of Gustavo Gutierrez, propose it “to the entire ecclesial community as a way of being disciples of Christ.”
There are lots of things in the contemporary world under the heading of spirituality, however. How do we decide what is true and what is false? In that article, I suggested that Seventh-day Adventist spirituality is rooted in (1) our understanding of the person of Jesus, his work, and our relationship with him, (2) a Biblical understanding of the human person, and (3) a proper distinction between the Creator and all creatures, reflected in the worship we offer to God.
False spiritualities will have an unbiblical understanding of Jesus or our relationship with him. For example, they may deny his uniqueness, and suggest that all paths are equal. They may suggest our relationship with him is based on works rather than grace–they may, as in spiritualities rooted in Neoplatonism, speak of our ascent to him, instead of his descent to us in the incarnation.
False spiritualities will have an unbiblical understanding of the human person. They may see us as divine, or as having a spark of divinity. They may be focused solely on getting the soul to heaven, with no regard to our life on earth. They may devalue the body, and seek to punish it. They may see us in isolation from one another, instead of members of a human community.
False spiritualities will have an unbiblical understanding of the relationship between the Creator and the creature. They may blur the line, suggesting we are divine, or immortal, or they may suggest our relationship with God is based on our human efforts, as has already been suggested.
I’m going to be wary of any spiritual practice that is focused on me or what I must do, that seeks God inside of me or gives a ladder for ascent to God. I’m going to reject any that have more in common with Buddhism or Hinduism than the Sermon on the Mount. I’m going to steer clear of those that depend upon the philosophy and metaphysics of pagan authors, whether Plato or Jung.
But with those cautions, I’m willing to learn from all Christians, Adventist or Lutheran, Protestant or Catholic or Orthodox … I’m just going to judge all they say by the clear teachings of Scripture, and whether they speak truthfully about Jesus, mankind, and help me to grow in that relationship and in my relationships with others.