“I’m not Buddhist, I’m not Hindu, I’m not Christian, but I still feel like I have a deep connection with God. I pray all the time—for self-control, for humility,” pop culture icon Katy Perry tells Marie Claire. Though Katy Perry has only one voice, her opinion speaks volumes about the spiritual-but-not-religious trend that is taking place in this day and age. According to a Pew report, almost 1 in 5 Americans identify themselves as “spiritual, but not religious.” These people were identified as having a connection to God but not with any form of institution.
As Christians, we certainly believe that our religion is more of a relationship that we have with Christ. This is a “spiritual” aspect of our Christian faith. However, it is becoming the status quo to forsake many, if not all, of the actions that are a result of our relationship with him: attending church, reading scripture, acknowledging right and wrong and actions, etc. Instead, many opt for just a spiritual-but-not-religious connection that implies a denial of formal Christian practices (i.e. baptism, communion, church attendance, etc.). While it is certainly possible to be a spiritual Christian who seeks to connect with God and form an intimate and personal relationship with Christ, it is not possible to be exclusively spiritual and live a life in accordance to the calling of God; here is why:
Being a Christian means believing in sin
To become a Christian, one must acknowledge that he has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). To acknowledge sin is to acknowledge that there is a definitive right and wrong and that our standards about what is right and what is wrong are derived from God.
This is very different from being only spiritual. To be solely spiritual means that one believes in “the spirit or soul, as distinguished from the physical nature,” according to Dictionary.com. This means that there is an existence of supernatural beings; however, the standards of right and wrong, how one gets to heaven, and if there is a heaven are entirely up to the person and his opinion. This form of religion is different for everyone, there are no standard beliefs, spirituality and God exist in only the person’s state of mind.
A Christian accepts God’s Word
As Christians, we believe that the Bible was inspired by God himself (2 Timothy 3:16). Christians accept God’s word as true and holy and believe that we are called to live a life pleasing to God. We recognize that we will never be perfect but we strive to please God in our actions, nonetheless. Conversely, spiritualists may accept aspects of different faiths and beliefs, disregard parts of spiritual texts that they do not agree with, and in this way, form their own religion.
Unlike a spiritualist, a Christian cannot pick and choose doctrinal beliefs to agree with. A Christian either follows the Lord wholeheartedly or not at all. In Revelation 3, John even goes so far as to write, “I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God […] I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
Christians live with a purpose
As Christians, we believe that God’s love is the greatest love we’ve ever known. We live to glorify God and to tell others the good news of Christ’s unconditional and never-ending love for us. We marvel at the fact that Jesus died for us even in our sinfulness just so he could be with us. Christ’s love is exciting, uplifting, and romantic and we want everyone to know! But in just spiritualism, many do not believe in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Many reject that accepting the Holy Spirit into their lives is the only way to eternal life and most do not feel the need to tell others about their relationship with God because their relationship with God is unique to only their situation. There is no historical background to their beliefs. Their God exists only in their minds and there is no ultimate purpose to live and tell others about God’s love.
Thus, though Christians can and should be spiritual by seeking a deep and personal relationship with Christ that is not defined by works and formal traditions, it is not possible for one to be exclusively spiritual and reject the Bible and its teachings, and still be a Christian. God wants his children to feel a connection to him; it’s the whole reason he sent his son to die. He wants his people to believe him and to accept him and him alone. Though it might be tempting to pick and choose whatever aspect about Christ one wants to believe, falling in love with the one true God is so much more rewarding.
Cresonia Hsieh is a journalism student at the University of Florida. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.