In God’s providence, the Protestant Reformation was the movement that brought the public message of the church back to the soundness and absoluteness of the Scriptures. This important belief reestablished that the fundamental doctrines of the Christian Faith are based upon supremacy of the Word of God alone. Through the centuries leading up to the Reformation, Roman Catholicism’s apostasy had destroyed the Scriptures’ public effectualness.
In the Revivalist movement of the 1700s, God moved in a deeper spiritual way bringing a greater consciousness of the Christian life, the Christian experience, and the call to biblical spirituality. A variety of definitions of spirituality honorably came forth from men of assorted theological backgrounds. Noah Webster’s 1828 dictionary gives a simple but biblical definition:
Spirituality is the quality which respects the spirit or affections of the heart only, and the essence of true religion.
Webster’s definition also included spiritual exercises and holy affections, or “a person given to the things of God rather than to the temporalities.”
The apostle Paul gives the understanding of spirituality in his defense of the spiritual versus the flesh in writing to the Corinthians. First Corinthians 12:1 begins, “Now concerning spiritual gifts,” (Gr. pneumatikos, “spiritualities,” in the plural). Scripturally, spirituality includes the concept of living and the concept of the inward workings of God in the human heart. Though men throughout the centuries wrote on this principle of spirituality and called it by different terms, they addressed the same thing. Often, their understanding grew in their progressive quest for God. And within the quest they came to know the spirituality that marks a true walk with God. They came to an intention to “give myself up to God.” They found this to mean that they were to give the heart completely to God in a love that was so deep they longed for more of Him. Many of these Christians called this spiritual quest the “inward religion,” or the “religion of the heart.” William Law’s book A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life (1728) calls this spirituality a “Serious Call.” Others called it “Christian Perfection” or “Christian Maturity.” Even later, men such as Andrew Murray, called it being “Holy in Christ.” Collectively, they all had one declaration: to experience God within the life.
“How does one come to know God?” This question is perhaps the call of most religions, for the term religio means “to bind back” (back to God). Following this binding back the question arises of what must one do or how should one live?
The New Testament speaks of degrees of knowing God. The Greek word gnosko speaks of an accrued knowledge of Him in the mind (though all religions have different perspectives of how that knowledge comes). The Greek word oida is a perceptive knowledge of God. Finally, the Greek word epignosko speaks of an experiential knowledge of God. Epignosko is the highest form of knowledge and the one that should be most coveted.
In Philippians 3:10, the apostle Paul declares, “That I may know him.” It is one thing to know about God, even through the study of the Scriptures; but to truly “know Him” means that this knowledge must somehow lay hold of me and become the experiencing of God within. The Bible speaks of the workings of grace, the workings of the atonement, and the workings of Christ within the human heart and life.
The Pluralism of Religions into the Pot of “Spirituality”
Other religions speak of experiences, of knowing God, or of their perspective of God or gods. They believe their religion is the true one, and their experiences are true from those gods or God. Western civilization largely has been dominated by Christianity, even though this public Christianity often was the apostasy of Roman Catholicism. In more recent centuries European countries have all been profoundly affected by the apostate powers of Protestantism, particularly the powers of liberalism and modernism. These countries also have been affected by Deism, Unitarianism, and the apostasy of Protestantism found within the Neo’s (Neo-Orthodoxy, Neo-Morality, Neo-Evangelicalism, and Neo-Pentecostalism leading into the Charismatic movement). There has also been the encroachment of the cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Christian Science, and Seventh Day Adventist.
Amidst this stirring up of the polluted pot of Christianity and its own present-day questioning of what is truth, we have had the rise of atheism, agnosticism, secularism, and other powerful ideologies that have pervaded all Western civilization. All of these forces converging on the West have destroyed its sound thinking and its ability to reason.
In the latter part of the twentieth century, the Far East’s mystic and surrealistic religions have been westernized. These Eastern religions have been placed into the melting pot of Western cultural thinking. As a result, Americans have become increasingly receptive to these forms of logic, convincing us that all religions should be part of modern American culture.
In more recent decades, America has likewise invited postmodernism’s denial of all absolutes into its social and national logic. The resulting pervasive relativism cries out “there is no true religion” and that all religions must be equally accepted or tolerated (at least for now). This equality of all religions or religious “pluralism” has been forced on all Western civilization and its countries. In order to bring the world together to accept all nations, cultures, and religions, everyone is being forced to become pluralistic. Even in America we have become a pluralistic society diverse in language, dress, food, art, music, literature, and lifestyle. Biblically, God intended for such a pluralism of cultures to be expressed by the distinction of nations. It is only when sin infects and pervades a culture to harm others that a culture becomes dangerous. Increasingly, England and America are becoming melting pots of varied cultures. Such a perspective is yielding a bold form of genocide that will destroy a nation from within.
We have come to an hour in global history of an aggressive political push for each country to become religiously pluralistic. Although religion is often a by-product of culture, more often culture is a by-product of a religion. At its beginning, America was influenced largely by biblical Christianity; today, America has intentionally become a pluralistic society of religions and cultures.
Yet within our pluralistic society of religions, a few religions still claim absolutism. Christianity is one of those religions. It declares it is the only true religion, and thus it is the only way to God and to heaven. Islam is also a religion of absolutism, claiming there is only one Allah and Mohammed is his singular prophet; to them, Islam is the only religion.
In this present environment, increasingly people are very apprehensive of anyone making claims of extremism or absolutism in the name of any philosophy or religion. Because of this national mood (intelligently-designed) politically and educationally, we are going to witness increased hatred against those who will not tolerate other beliefs and concepts of faith. We must remember that the Roman Empire did not denounce Christianity because it declared Jesus to be God; Rome denounced Christianity because it declared that Jesus alone was God. It presented itself to be the only true religion, making all other religions false. This absoluteness is what brought about the imperial persecutions during those earlier centuries. For Jesus made the claim: “I am the truth,” the only truth, and the only way and the only life.
Even today true biblical Christianity is a non-negotiable claim of absoluteness amidst a pluralistic, postmodern society. But again, the governments of the world are pressing for religious pluralism, seeking to destroy any religion of absolutism. The world leaders have come to a firm belief that all religions are essentially the same and lead to the same goal. Therefore, socialistic pressure is being placed upon all religions to come together with a common unity of purpose through “Interfaithism.” Such pressure globally will force all religions to relinquish their individual distinctives.
How can this collectivism come about when the obvious and clear differences between the religions are evident, especially in their fundamentals? Buddhism is not a true religion (though it purports to be). It is more a philosophy that does not believe in any particular god. Hinduism believes in more than 33 million gods, and their caste system promotes reincarnation. The three monotheistic religions believe in a one-God concept, but their belief of Jesus Christ is radically different, with only Christianity believing He is God. And there are irreconcilable worldviews of each of these religions. All religions speak of “the way” of their religion. But again, they are different. What is the gate to the way, and what is the way? Only Christianity declares clearly that Christ is the only way to God—the only way to live.
Sadly, Christianity’s historic claim to absoluteness is greatly diminishing as the pressures of postmodernism now control governments, education, and broader world philosophies. Public Christianity now believes it must leave its position of absoluteness and ecumenically become one of the many. It must be acknowledged that modern Christianity has led the way for the present-day ecumenicity as well as encouraged Interfaithism. Present-day Christianity has denounced the Bible (its book of revelation), purporting it to be a myth and outdated. By doing so it has opened its doors of doctrine to become a melting pot with accommodation for all the other religions. Do we not remember that a number of years ago Billy Graham (viewed as spokesman for Evangelical Christianity) announced to Robert Schuller (of the then-famed Crystal Cathedral) his belief that there are other roads to God, and there will be others from different religions that make up the body of Christ and will enter heaven? Similarly, the mega churches today have done away with the absoluteness of the Gospel message. Yes, there is an intense subversion within Christianity to overthrow the distinctiveness of the message of Christianity.
Christianity publicly has denied the very heart and soul that God gave to it. The church has become a byword in the world because of its many compromises and changes. By leaving its very foundational identification it has fallen away. The biblical concept of spirituality found within the Scriptures (and overflowing in the hearts of the remnant over these many centuries) is now ridiculed, mocked, denied, and even condemned from within Christianity. The true “spiritual experiences” have become so existentially interpreted that postmodernism has shaped a global spirituality declaring that all religious experiences must be equally valid. The spiritual experiences of Buddhism and Hinduism are equated with the Christian call to the new birth, the only difference being its terminology.
The rebirth of the New Age movement and its ever-mutating influences opened the door to “experiences of spirituality” now being westernized, along with the “spirit experiences” declared by other religions. They all are being forced upon us as being the same experiences. The new birth and the infilling of the Holy Spirit are now presented in every religion, with each expressing its own definition of the experience. And we are told that one’s religious presentation cannot be differentiated or denounced as “not the same” by another religion.
To the Christian, these experiences are not the same. Other religions do not know the true and living God. Even Judaism’s monotheism is not the same as Christianity, because Christianity is a Trinitarian monotheism and Judaism is not. The Jews and their religion are in apostasy today. But within the public presentation of Christianity with its different labels and tags, brands and breeds, the true remnant must be careful. A Roman Catholic does not know the true Christ; their Christ is the Roman Catholic Christ within the Eucharist. Whatever they experience is not of the Christ of Scripture and therefore, not a biblical experience. The liberals and modernists may speak of the existential leap of faith where they have an encounter with God. However, their god is not the God of the Bible, and their experience is not of the Holy Spirit.
Men such as Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, and others on the ever-increasing list of Neo-Christianity do not believe in the God of the Bible. They believe in the fabricated god of their faith, the product of their faith (which does not come from the true God). How often people speak and testify about experiences they have had: voices of God, visions of Jesus, dying and coming back (a biblical death is when the soul leaves the body, not when the heart stops). Spirituality is now being viewed as a spirit experience, a metaphysical experience, an existential, surrealistic experience; these are not biblical experiences of the true God. Such professing people have met something, a demon coming as an angel of light, an experience of the mind, perhaps, but not the true God. Therefore, it is imperative to judge everything we experience through the Bible. Was it a true new birth? Was it according to Scripture? Was it a John’s Gospel experience? Was it a First John fruit-bearing experience? Or was it a feeling? Was it simply a God consciousness that a child experiences? Was it guilt that abated? Or was it a definite, life-changing experience in God?
How should we then live in days of the demise of biblical spirituality? We must come to the Scriptures, to the Christ of Scriptures, and call upon Him for a spiritual, God-wrought work within a broken heart and a contrite spirit. How should we then live in the days of the heresy of the Charismatics and modern-day Pentecostalism? We must pray for the Holy Spirit to empower and live within us! Our inward walk with God in communion must ever be based on the Word of God. We must ever be diligent in the study of true spirituality in the context of the Scriptures, not in feeling or emotions as the manifesting evidence of the experience. We must seek God and pursue a life of holiness and devotion to Him. We must seek a consecrated life. Therefore, in these days of the declared experiences of both false religions and the Neo-Christianity, we must ever remember that it is the “inward religion” of biblical Christianity that is the true “experience” of heaven. True Christianity is the only religion identified and assigned to “the heart,” a heart that has been given by God and to God.