Spiritual but not Religious?


The spiritual landscape of America is changing.

New Age Spirituality, also known as the “Spiritual but not Religious” movement (SBNR), has grown tremendously in North America. As a lot of Christians have focused heavily on rationalized, modernistic approaches to evangelism, there is a new voice emerging which is simply asking “Why?” Why all this doctrine and systematic theology? Why the institutions? Why religious exclusivity? Why can’t I just be a spiritual person?

Well, you can be a spiritual person, sure. But the real question is this: Does being “just spiritual” fix the problem?

Every worldview has some narrative to it.

And every narrative I have looked at has some point of tension which needs to be resolved. As much as SBNR believers would like to synthesize everything, the narratives of SBNR and Christianity simply don’t mix. They speak of different problems and offer different solutions.

The SBNR movement is a kind of worldview which has really started to flourish in America, beckoning us to adopt a more eastern mindset where all different religions are stripped of their doctrine and you get a kind of spiritual smorgasbord to choose from. All of this is based on a narrative that pantheism is true and our world is filled with spiritual forces which enlightened humans can tap into in order to gain peace, wholeness, healing, knowledge, or to accomplish various other spiritual purposes. For SBNR followers, outsiders seem to be lost in a place of unknowning, perhaps by the veil of materialism or modernism or scientism or religion. Many don’t realize the extraordinary potential of human life and the reality that you, me, and all is god.

Many New Age people have become convinced that we shouldn’t critically evaluate this kind of worldview. In fact, many of them find such an endeavor quite repulsive. Enlightened ones have no need for such mechanical behavior of an age gone by.  This is fascinating to me because as humans we think. Whether we think we think or we think we don’t think, we do think! And so if a system of thought like New Age is telling us not to think about things—about their logical conclusions and implications—don’t you think, that perhaps, there’s something awry here? Does it not strike you as odd that this bold claim for human reality and human purpose and human existence is one which declares war against a central component of human life?

In Christianity, the narrative of New Age spirituality is simply mistaken and the quest to merge Christ into the smorgasbord of spirituality is not possible. If Christianity is true, there is no pantheism and there is only one God. We are not God. We are humans who can become filled with God and His Holy Spirit. The problem is that we are separated from God because of sin. The solution is that Jesus died on the cross to remove our sin and give us the opportunity to accept this amazing free gift. Spirituality gets you to spirits. Only Jesus gets you to God. I’m not talking about dry lifeless powerless doctrine and legalistic teachings. I’m talking about the fullness of human life given to us by a God who knows us, who loves us, and who wants to be in a real relationship with us!

You might be a spiritual person without any sense or care of Jesus as Lord and Savior. Maybe you have spirits doing stuff for you, and so being “just spiritual” seems to be working out fine. Please listen to me: those spirits don’t care about you. The only thing they care about is keeping you distracted from the One who truly does care about you. When you are found by God and God is found in you, when you are truly connected and placed in union with the real God of this universe, God doesn’t just give us another spirit. He gives us Himself. That is the free gift we talk about when we speak of grace.

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