Home > Brandenburg, Culture, Truth > Distortion of True Spirituality

Distortion of True Spirituality

Two evangelical or fundamentalist churches could be nearly identical in their doctrinal statements but still be quite different, as much distinct in their view of spirituality as are the disparate understandings of “belief in Christ” terminology for a Mormon and a conservative evangelical.   Yes, I believe there’s that much noncomformity.   This undiscriminating approach to spirituality, I believe, may be the most damaging, though ignored, situation in the church today.  One finds its reality in varying degrees of subjective experience, while the other looks to an objective faith, yet both, again, with the same theological creed.  The similarity of the latter provides cover for the contrast of the former, the diversity explained as a matter of preference or taste.

Church members, professing believers, wish for an authentic spiritual experience in their church attendance.  They judge authenticity by excitement and emotion, even enthusiasm, which might manifest itself in several varied ways.   It’s not that feelings would be their chief criteria if they were asked to mark a box on a checklist.   These same people don’t believe they are being guided by their feelings or that their emotions are being swayed by external factors to produce a false sense of spirituality.  Their feelings, however, are what are telling them that their experience is authentic, especially in their “worship.”

Scripture shows that true spirituality is judged by God’s Word, by the truth.   The two types of churches I’m talking about would both agree with that.   However, that is not how the individuals often judge whether spirituality has been attained.   They might ascertain the spiritual condition by means of release of emotion, shouting, tears, swaying, giddiness, head bobbing, jumping, toe-tapping, or hand waving, all possible indications of something happening in the realm of genuine spirituality.   It also might show up with signs of power, that is, hands raised or movement toward the front at an invitation.  What might not be considered is that all or some of these spiritual barometers might be caused or initiated by human manipulation of some kind, either through the rhythm of the music, the rise and fall of someone’s voice, a story, the lighting, clapping, or by the suggestion of the speaker to a wanting audience.  The shared experience of the crowd further validates the authenticity.  Something good must have happened.

Certain symptoms of legitimacy accompany the concoction of fraudulent spirituality—tightly closed eyes, head tilted heavenward, certain hushed tones, or the Clintonesque biting of the bottom lip.   This is assembly line authenticity, Andy Warhol Campbell Soup Can realism.   A trembling, purposefully scratchy voice, cries out a plaintiff wail with all the gusto that fake authenticity can muster. 

The shared emotions of a church galvanize the people like some chant in the pregame ritual of a football team.    This does have a sort of power.   Many may think of this as heavenly power as they undergo its effects, persuaded that they must have connected with God.   They may even mistake it for love between one another because of the shared warmth.  It has the power to succeed at attracting or keeping people who wish for something more  or different than faith.  Churches not aligning themselves with these ways feel a pressure to use the same methods of provocation. 

Many who choreograph these types of experiences, that replace true spirituality with the fake, know what they are doing.  They know what certain rhythms do.  They want the lighting in the building and the cadence of the speaking and the chords and the speed of the music to have their effect on a crowd.   They manufacture the feelings with fleshly means and then call it spirituality.   Some of the purveyors of these schemes are modern Calvinists, who, while trumpeting the sovereignty of God and bewailing the new measures of Arminianism, whip their own brand of religious ecstacy.

The faux spirituality conforms to a perverted view of Divine immanence, God’s relatedness, stemming from a post-enlightenment evacuation of Divine transcendence.   The new emphasis on God’s immanence corresponds to a cultural shift in focus from God to man.    Sin is less a concern in its offense of God as its psychological implications for men.   The spirit engendered in a church service has the power to overcome a broken relationship or downcast countenance, providing the desired therapy.

Church music, and even all music, reflects the new view of spirituality. Man’s taste has become preeminent in musical composition and performance, both style and words.   I believe the music has had a more detiorating effect on the perversion of spirituality than even the substance of the lyrics in church hymnody.   Professing Christians have watered down the doctrinal content of hymns, but that has followed the use of popular tunes, which are popular because they lure where luring occurs—the flesh.  Man’s flesh isn’t drawn away by his spirit, but by his flesh, and enticed.

Not only have churches been fooled in this particular false spirituality, but also an imposter in the realm of something perhaps even more wicked, that is, mysticism, a secret spirituality found in eastern religions and felt in the their music and worship.  They produce natural, whispery, repetitious sounds that our culture has now accepted as something in touch with God.   It sometimes takes on the calmness of the surface of a mountain lake or the lapping of the waves on the seashore.  The connection isn’t with the God, Almighty God, the Lord of Hosts, but the god of this world, who is also the god of pantheism.  These rhythms and sounds are now incorporated into modern worship music, again fooling people with a counterfeit spirituality.

In the 1960s, the Jesus movement portrayed itself as authentic Christianity, tapping into the counter-culture sweeping the United States and then the world.  The emotions and even rebellion young people felt in their relations to traditional family and government structure and authority was revealed through their music.  These feelings were real.   The music itself became, to them, an expression of their inner yearnings.   The people involved put on no airs—in their dress, with their hair, with their physical touch.   They didn’t hold back, just let it hang loose, elucidating the kind of liberty they felt in Christ.  They also talked “like so sincere.”  The Jesus people took that music and incorporated it into Christian worship.  The music itself became associated with authenticity and genuine spirituality.  Other forms were stilted, repressive, and against the feeling of the movement.  The music not only reflected the emotions, but produced or proliferated them.  They were accepted as evidence of spirituality.  This movement has bridged the gap for all forms of the world’s music as true expressions of man’s relationship with God.

Not every church takes the tactics to their furthest end.  Don’t think that because someone is worse than you that you get a pass on these techniques and this warping of true spirituality.  Many churches have stirred up their own unique stew of varied strengths and styles.

This attack on the meaning of spirituality is an attack on the truth.  There is true spirituality defined by Scripture.   Genuine spirituality is sanctified by God’s Word, not by people’s feelings.  

I think that what we have here is equal to the perversion of false doctrine.   We have dumbed down  or altered spirituality and then many other theological concepts necessary for true worship and obedience to God, including love and the nature of God Himself.   God does not receive the affection of which He is worthy.  And many men through this deceit are further tangled in a web of pseudo-spirituality from which for many there is no escape.

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  1. Buddy Woolbright
    November 23, 2010 at 8:20 am

    Bro. Kent, This is a good scriptural message. The problem is that your choice of words and phrases will frighten off many who might benefit from it. As a teacher of adults in an independent Baptist church, I know that a large number of blue collar tradesmen, industry workers, stay at home moms and retired workers could not follow you train of thought. Can you dumb it down without losing its main force? The Bible(KJV) is the Word of God and outweighs all emotional, educational and experiencial arguments in all areas. Thank you for your stand. Just help those of us who aren’t quite as erudite as yourself.
    Sincerely in Christ, bw, 2 Timoteo1:9

  2. br. steve
    November 23, 2010 at 9:39 am

    Mr. Woolbright,

    I beg your pardon but I am one of those blue collar tradesmen. I work in a factory 12 hours a day, am a Marine (and a machinegunner at that), and sometimes as smart as a box full of hammers.:D

    I said all that to say that I do get Br. Brandenburg. Sometimes he goes top shelf and I have to think a little, but that never killed anyone. No harm no foul.

    Be. Brandenburg,

    Do you believe this is why, perhaps, those who are in “hyles” type churches won’t leave despite the errors?

    I know many that will not leave their “fundamentalist” churches because the excitement present at their church outweighs the “dry” yet necessary expository preaching or “dull” yet God honoring music present at a church 15 minutes away.

    There is no way we can rightly put anything before the Word of God, especially something as prone to change as feeling.

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Br. Steve

    Gal. 2:20

  3. br. steve
    November 23, 2010 at 9:55 am

    Mr. Woolbright,

    I beg your pardon, but i am one of those blue collar tradsmen. To further compound this fact I am also a Marine (a machinegunner no less)and occasionally as smart as sack full of hammers. :D

    I said all to say that I do get Br. Brandenblogger !! He hasn’t yet ventured into anything like abstract reductionism, but I digress.

    I wonder if this is why many will not leave fundamentalist churches that are mired in error. They love all the hollerin’ and hymns that are played to manipulate emotions. But, they never get fed. They never get sound expository preaching or hymns that aim to glorify God even if they don’t necessarily please us.

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Br. Steve

    Gal. 2.20

    • November 23, 2010 at 10:27 pm

      Hey Steve,

      I do think that folks in many churches stopped judging based on scripture, in part because they aren’t exposed to Scripture on a regular basis. Good seeing you.

  4. November 23, 2010 at 10:51 am

    Thanks Buddy. Let’s hope that people stretch a little and give it a shot here. As far as whether the arguments are made from scripture; they are. I didn’t quote per se, but the principles are in there in exposing the error. I would give more credit to the readers here too. I think they can get it even if they have to read it through more than once to catch everything. Thanks again for the concern.

  5. November 23, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    It seems that our recent discussions have provoked you to writing a good blog-post and I rejoice in it. They won’t admit it, but a lot of independent Baptists are very much like Mormons when you get down to the bottom line: They live by “the burning in the bosom.” Statements like “but I just have peace about it,” or “I really can sense it,” and “there’s no doubt that God showed up because we all _______” (you fill in the blank) are very common among many independent Baptists. This even after the Scriptures have been cited to demonstrate that their activity is un-Scriptural!

    The first Baptists demanded, “Prove all things” and “try the spirits.”

    Scripture is to be the final authority for God’s servants, but, far too often, it is the experience.

    Many independent Baptists seek after signs and wonders just as ardently as do Charismatics. They just seek after a slightly less amazing, scaled-down version of signs and wonders.

    I praise God that I am affected by the truth. It stirs my heart. It fills me with joy and laughter and with shame and tears. Sometimes even joy and tears at the same time! I am glad that the Holy Spirit is at work in my heart and life with the Truth. Based on the Scriptures, I can say that I have seen God do wonderful things in the lives of His people. I know this because of what the Scripture reveals about “wonderful things.”

    However, the truth is the truth and I am to obey it whether I am “stirred” or not. The Holy Spirit dwells within me because I’ve been born again and that is a fact no matter how I feel. Whether I can “see” God doing wonderful things in lives or not, if I am obeying the Scripture then He is being glorified and He is doing “wonderful things!”

    We should not be seeking feelings or experiences, but we must be “searching the Scriptures.”

    Thanks for provoking me “to love and good works.”

    • November 23, 2010 at 10:32 pm

      Bobby,

      Thanks for the comment. I was thinking about what we had talked about and I’m probably going to do one or two more on the same subject.

  6. d4v34x
    November 23, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    Bro. B.

    Well put. Especially salient was the point that this problem is one manifested in various degrees, not “all or nothing”. May the Lord reveal the areas in which we do not bother to seek His truth and/or honor Him with our affections.

    BTW, that Clinton lip-biting thing used to drive me nuts.

    Also, the beard is a good look on you.

  7. Buddy Woolbright
    November 24, 2010 at 11:29 am

    Dear Bro. Steve, I apologize if I offended your Jarhead :) sensibilities. Being retired Army AIRBORNE I know that there are many tradesmen, workers, housewives, etc. who are far smarter than me. But in my feeble efforts on door to door visitation, trying to minister to the homeless persons who hang out around our church location and working with those within our own church body, I stand by my statement. It has been said and I believe that it is generally true, we reach more people by preaching and teaching on a twelve year old level. Just read Jesus’ messages. I realize that Bro. Kent’s articles are generally for more advanced readers, like Marine machine gunners, and maybe I just do not understand the situation, but, those are my thoughts. May God richly bless you as you stand for Him and His Word. In Christ, bw,
    2 Timoteo 1:9

  8. November 24, 2010 at 3:11 pm

    D4,

    I think it widespread. I think several factions think the other is the one with the problem, when it is everywhere.

  9. br. steve
    November 25, 2010 at 11:07 am

    No offense taken Mr. Woolbright.
    D4 the beard does kinda make him look uh….stately, scholarly.
    Way to go Bro. Brandenblogger.

    Respectfully Submitted,

    Br. Steve

    Gal. 2.20

  10. Br Steve
    November 26, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    Dear Mr Woolbright,

    No offense taken, really. My aim was to illustrate that even a ground-pounder like me and perhaps the simplest of individuals could understand this (momma and daddy sed i would be reel brite like one day and i is). Hes not delving into van til-isms or abstract reductionism. We may have to read and re read it..but its there.

    May God richly bless you as you endeavor to serve Him, Mr Woolbright!

    D4, plus 1, the beard gives him a stately scholar like look. Hes still just as goofy as he is serious although so its kind of off putting in a way though?!

    Bobby, you look like one of my old drill instructors, creepy….

    Respectfully Submitted

    Brother Steve

    Gal. 2.20

  11. November 26, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    I appreciate this post. I oppose ANY effort to manufacture spirituality and emotionally manipulate the crowd. While you’ve list “tightly closed eyes, head tilted heavenward, certain hushed tones, or the Clintonesque biting of the bottom lip”, I would add the kinds of theatrics and hyperbole commonly engaged in by many who still have the Independent Baptist Seal of Approval. They know what will stir up the “Amens” and the shouting and hanky-waving, and they use these tactics liberally. They can’t stand to preach to a quiet crowd. I personally object to the assumption that if there is no audible or visible crowd response, the Holy Ghost isn’t moving in people’s hearts.

    I’ve closed my eyes in a service and tilted my head heavenward as I attempt to avoid distraction and focus my worship on the Lord. I’ve sat motionless, staring, because I was lost in thought about what was just said. And I’ve waved a hanky or two in my time because I felt so overwhelmed by God’s mercy and majesty that I thought my head would explode if I didn’t do *something*. But the minute we quantify the moving of the Holy Spirit and attempt to artificially produce it, we are in trouble.

  12. November 26, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    Excellent addition, Susan.

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