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True Spirituality
L. R. TarsitanoóSaint Andrew's Church, Savannah
The Fourth Sunday after EasteróMay 2, 2000
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come" (John 16:13). 

The current fad is to replace the words "religion" and "faith" with the word "spirituality." This kind of switch may seem harmless at first, especially since a large number of people who call themselves "Christians" endorse it. Some even call it a "new kind of evangelism" that "helps" people get around the so-called "barriers" of doctrine and dogma, so that they can get directly to Christ on their own terms. 

The problem with calling this a "new approach," no matter how it is described, is that it isnít new at all, that it goes against the Holy Scriptures, and that it doesnít lead to Jesus Christ. 

The words "religion" and "faith" describe objective, concrete things, as the supernatural becomes involved with all of ordinary earthly life. The claims of a "religion" are either true or false. A particular religion either ties all of reality together, so that life can be lived in a reliable, disciplined way that unites God and man, or it does not. In the language of religion, no two "religions" can be true at the same time. For example, the God of the Bible is God, or the gods of the Pharaoh are god, but not both. If, then, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is truly God, then all religions are false except the religion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 

Likewise, the language of "faith" is a language of objective reality. The key principle of faith isnít "knowledge" or even the "belief" that God exists. As St. James writes, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble" (James 2:19). Those devils know about God and even believe in him, and yet they are damned forever, because long ago they put their faith somewhere else than in the Living God. Trust is the heart of faith, as we entrust our whole lives to God in Christ or we entrust them to someone or something else. What makes faith objective is that whoever or whatever we trust with our lives either has the ability to bless them and to save them, or he or she or it does not. Faith always has a "bottom line," expressed in this world by the way we live, and in the world to come by heaven or hell. 

None of this is true of "spirituality" as that word is being used today. When people say, "Iím not into religion, but I am into spirituality" or "Iím not religious, but I am very spiritual"; they are also saying, "I wish to exempt myself from the objective consequences of religion and faith." This exemption, however, is an impossibility. 

The new spiritualists tell us that "all religions are true" and "all religions give us an experience of God." St. Paul, on the other hand, declares "the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God: and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils" (1 Corinthians 10:20). Both St. Paul and the spiritualists cannot be right. But if Paul is right (and if Paul is truly writing by the Holy Spirit, as 2000 years of Christians have attested with their lives), then the spiritualists are dabbling in fellowship with demons and know nothing of the truth. 

The new spiritualists also tell us, "all paths lead to God," even though our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ clearly taught, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). Both propositions cannot be true. But if Jesus Christ is telling the truth (and telling it at the Last Supper, on the night before he died to redeem the world), then the "other paths" of the new spiritualists are all dead ends in the most literal senseóthey lead to death itself. 

The new spiritualists insist, "every spiritual experience is good and wholesome," despite this explicit warning from St. John: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). The utter foolishness of the spiritualistsí position can be compared to their saying to a child, "Whenever a stranger offers you a ride, just climb into his car because something good will always happen." 

The new spiritualists have made an idol of their own experiences, but it is impossible for a rational person to say that every experience is good. Many experiences are bad, and some are lethal, and when it comes to the experience of other persons, it is the goodness or the evil of that "other person" that principally determines the outcome. And thereís the rub. Jesus Christ is "the best Person." He is the eternal Son of God made man. 

Nevertheless, the new spiritualists cannot admit that Jesus Christ is who he is, for then they would also have to admit that their "other gods" are devils and "their other paths" are a waste of time. They would also have to admit that what happens in the physical world (what we do, what we believe, what we worship) actually matters more than the artificial "spiritual world" they have created for themselves. 

Jesus Christ is not only "True God of True God." He is "True man of true man." Jesus Christ is God come to earth, once and for all, in the flesh, for the redemption of the world and the revelation of his Fatherís purposes. Jesus Christís coming ends the possibility that any other "religion" can be true except the worship of God the Father, body and soul, in God the Son, in the grace and fellowship of the Holy Spirit. 

The "new spirituality," in rejecting the completeness of Godís coming in Jesus Christ, is revealed as just a new name for a very old error. Almost two thousand years ago, St. Paul visited Athens, where amidst all of the Grecian idols was an altar inscribed "To the Unknown God" (Acts 17:23). The Greeks thought that they were covering all their religious "bets," exempting themselves like the modern spiritualists from the final judgment of their beliefs by the true God and by reality. St. Paul said to them then, "Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious" (Acts 17:22). "Superstition" is the old name for todayís "spiritualist movement," and the word "superstition" in Greek has the underlying meaning of "a fearful respect of demons." 

The basic errors of superstition are an addiction to powerful emotional experiences, a dread of gods, goddesses, nature, and of every other hypothetical "power," and the effort to placate them all. These errors are compounded, however, when Christianity (the only true religion) is made captive to a system of superstition, as in the supposed "new evangelism" and "new spiritualism." 

True evangelism makes loyal disciples of Jesus Christ, who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. But so much of the "new evangelism" encourages the worship of "other gods" than the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Likewise, true spirituality enters into the communion of the Holy Spirit through God the Son and to the glory of God the Father. It does not, as in the false "new spirituality," make the focus of religion either the emotional experiences of human beings or their private "spiritual insights." True spirituality does not tolerate the notion that human beings have a "spiritual power" of their own, whereas the false "new spirituality" not only tickles the human ego with visions of personal power, it even goes so far as to set the Holy Spirit against God the Father and God the Son. 

This may sound like a strong accusation against people who call themselves "Christians," but it is a necessary one. All sorts of people now claim that their experience of "the Holy Spirit" contradicts some teaching of Christ or some commandment of God revealed in the Scripture. This contradiction is impossible. As God told Malachi, "I am the LORD, I change not" (3:6). God does not change in either his good will towards men or in his revelation of himself to them. Thus, the Holy Spirit cannot speak against what God and his Christ have already revealed. They revealed it, after all, by the Holy Spirit, who is God himself (with the Father and the Son), and who with them as the LORD God does not change. 

Consider the verse from todayís Gospel with which we began: "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come." The Holy Ghost does not speak for himself, but for and with the Father and the Son. 

As our Lord Jesus Christ said of the Holy Spirit, in this same excerpt from his Last Supper sermon: "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you" (John 16:14). But even Jesus Christ the Son of God has no separate truth of his own, since all of the Truth begins with God the Father. And so our Lord explains, "All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he [the Holy Spirit] shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you (John 16:15). 

The Spirit of Truth that descended upon the Church on Pentecost is God the Holy Ghost, in perfect union with God the Father and God the Son. When the Holy Ghost leads the Church and her members "into all truth," it is not some "new truth," but the same perfect Truth revealed by the Blessed Trinity in the Holy Scriptures. No "spiritual experience" coming from God will ever speak against or contradict the Truth of the Holy Scripture because that is the changeless Truth of the one and only changeless God. 

In the same way, no prophecy of "things to come" can ever be true or from God unless it is consistent with what God has already revealed, consistent with the glorification of God in his own good purposes, and consistent with the Biblical prophecy that Jesus Christ will return on the Last Day to judge the quick and the dead according to his Fatherís revealed will. Every other prophecy will be a lie, and come from the "spirit of antichrist," rather than from the Holy Spirit of God. 

We may reach out in charity to those who proclaim the "new evangelism" and the "new spirituality," offering them the life-giving Truth of Jesus Christ in place of their life-threatening errors. But we must be certain, for the sake of charity to our neighbors, and for the sake of our love of God, never to treat spiritual error as truth and never to agree with those who are in danger of losing their souls, even if it buys us a few moments of social peace. Those who have embraced this repackaged form of ancient superstition may resent our telling the Truth, and some people may find us "hard" for opposing the false religions of others. But the cross of Jesus Christ was hard, and he bore it, and we must bear it with him, too, when the salvation of others is at stake. The "new spirituality" jeopardizes souls, and we must oppose it with faithfulness to the only God who is. In the Name of the Father, etc. 
 

Please note: These sermons are offered for your meditation. If you wish to use them for some other purpose or republish them, please credit St. Andrewís Church and Dr. Tarsitano.