The Religious Melting Pot

Last week the news carried a story based on a Wall Street Journal article by Stephen Prothero entitled “A Hint of This, A Pinch of That.” It seems that a recent Pew study shows Americans “are swingers as well as switchers, flirting with religious beliefs and practices other than their own without officially changing their religious affiliation.”

In other words, a growing percentage of Americans who identify themselves as “religious” incorporate more than one belief into their lives or practices. According to the article, for instance, 23 percent of those who claim to be Christians also believe in astrology, 22 percent in reincarnation, and 21 percent in yoga as a spiritual practice.

How, how, how is this possible, I wonder. Surely these people can’t be sitting under Biblical teaching and come away thinking reincarnation is consistent with what they just learned.

But this is probably the critical point. They are NOT sitting under Biblical teaching. I know from scant exposure to religious TV programing that there are preachers out there claiming the name of Christ but declaring a false gospel.

Some dismiss parts of the Bible wholesale. Others I’ve heard yank verses out of context and string them together until they say what the preacher wants them to say.

Either way, the net result is a “Christianity” that is far from the teaching of the Bible. In fact, it reminds me of the error of the Israelites in the Old Testament, worshipping God but also keeping their household idols, first the ones they brought with them from Egypt, but eventually the ones deified by the nations around them (2 Kings 17:7-18).

Interesting, I thought, that Mr. Prothero started his article with this line:

So much for the jealous God.

Instead, it seems more and more people claiming the name of Christ are happy to claim the name of whatever other spirituality they think might be of help. A little Jesus, a little Eastern mysticism, a little humanism and … wa-la! Out comes contemporary religious experience that makes all roads lead to happiness as long as the seeker is sincere in his journey.

It sounds so consistent with a theology of peace. We need to love others by accepting them as they are and allowing then to hold their own beliefs without persecution, but also without challenge. After all, the most important thing next to freedom is tolerance.

Sadly, anyone declaring such is a false teacher. It is not loving to allow someone to march into eternity without Christ!

The Pursuit of God

I started two books in the last two days, and although they are drastically different, they have a point of confluence.

The first one, which I found in our church library, is Oprah, Miracles, and the New Earth: A Critique by Erwin Lutzer (Moody Publishers, 2009). Here’s the opening:

More than one hundred million Americans claim n allegiance to a church, synagogue, or temple. Many of them, perhaps the majority, are pursuing some form of what we’ll call Spirituality, hoping to connect with something greater than themselves. They are looking for meaning, seeking for some higher purpose that will fill their inner emptiness and persistent longings for peace. And they are being told that they can do this without believing doctrines, without acknowledging their sins, and without having to commit to believie anything too specific.

I don’t know about you, but my mind immediately traveled to The Shack, for certainly I think this paragraph could have been written with that book in mind. Actually it was not. Rather, Mr. Lutzer wrote with the New Age and eastern mysticism influences in mind.

So far, everything I’ve read confirms my belief that The Shack essentially incorporates elements of eastern mysticism with Christianity. But Mr. Lutzer’s book opened my eyes to how pervasive the influence of this brand of spirituality is … and how influenced by Satan.

To be honest, I felt weighed down, depressed. But then, in preparation for my quiet time, I picked up The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer (Horizon House, 1948). I’d pulled it off my shelf yesterday in preparing my last Shack post and decided I’d read a bit before putting it away.

Here’s the section that especially served as a salve to my soul:

Religion, so far as it is genuine, is in essence the response of created personalities to the Creating Personality, God. “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.”

God is a Person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires, and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions. The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion. (pp. 13-14, emphasis mine)

So The Shack can lambaste established religion and New Age writers can claim secret spirituality, but only Christ can give us what our hearts need, and only Scripture can reveal this truth.

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