Monday, April 6, 2009

Deeper Spirituality Desperately Needed!

When I was in seminary, a professor of practical theology warned us about "Christian psychobabble." This is where we take psychology 101 or what we "feel" is right and good and import it into the Bible and then come out with advice for living and believing. Unfortunately, we have a LOT of Christian psychobabble today.

The books that line the shelves of any Christian bookstore is full of such babble. In fact, at times it seems like the mixed up languages at the tower of Babel!! I am reading such a book now, and will not reveal the author or name prematurely. But it SEEMS like a lot of babble, talking about the "inward journey" and "deeper longings and feelings" and "spiritual transformation" as a "way of life that opens us up to the presence of God in the places of our beings where our truest desires and deepest longings stir." Then the author launches into chapters loosely based on Scripture and mostly based on aestheticism and subjectivism. I know I am being harsh, perhaps, but I need to make a point here.

The point is that spiritual transformation comes from the work of God the Holy Spirit in a person's being, with the channel being a faithful and true understanding of the written text of Scripture. Yes, I have a HIGH view of Scripture and believe it is fully sufficient for everything we need or ever will need in life and thought and desire. It is because we do not REALLY KNOW the Scriptures that we muck around with aestheticism and looking at our spiritual navels. "The Shack" is such a novel. When we venture outside the purview of the Bible and its principles and applications, which by the way cover everything, we tread into dangerous waters of the "self" and our "projections" onto what God really says about true spirituality.

The problem is twofold--biblical illiteracy and postmodern subjectivism. The first is a real problem in many churches. The test of your church or organization is, Do the MEN READ? Not the women, but do the men of your church or group engage in reading the Bible and literature that helps open up the Bible? Many do not, and are therefore unqualified spiritually to evaluate much of anything. (Now don't castigate me with stories of people who have learning disabilities, who are blind, or whatever. There are other well-known ways of reading.) The point is laziness and lack of transformative desire for God to speak in and through His Word. The other problem in this area is bad preaching! Sorry for being so blunt, but biblical, expository, applicatory preaching has fallen on bad times. Few are really trained in the art, and few seek to practice it. Thus, congregations and ministry organizations are failing to "proclaim the Word," adding to the illiteracy quotient of their people.

The other issue of postmodern subjectivism is an extended topic. Suffice to say that postmodern seekers, especially the young professionals, are interested in the Church truly being the Church, and not some show, or performance, or "salvation-factory." Many are also interested in true biblical expository preaching and speaking that opens up the text of Scripture, not with antiquated illustrations or "canned" stories, but with honest, intellectually sound exegesis and illustrations that are relevant, fresh and to the point. This helps make the truth of the Word more applicable and more sensitive to them and their spiritual journeys.

My first in-depth steps into the Bible and its application to all of life came through the Puritan writers. No--not the secular twisted view of the Puritans, nor the uninformed generalized Christian viewpoint that castigates these godly giants of the faith and paints them as morose, hellfire-and-brimstone witch hunters! I'm talking about John Owen, Thomas Manton, Richard Sibbes, Octavius Winslow, William Guthrie, Thomas Brooks and a slew of others. These men delved deeply into the written Word of God and produced volume after volume of rich, in-depth, heartfelt application of Scripture to the darkest places of the human psyche and heart and mind. You can not seriously read these writers and avoid the "eye of God" upon your very being. But who knows of these laborers of the Word today? Too few, I'm afraid.

I'm not advocating a "return to the Puritans" or their era, as if reading old books is the answer to our Christianized churches and people. I'm advocating SERIOUS, sustained and prolonged study and searching application of the Bible to our modern problems, needs, dilemmas and thinking and doing. "Study to show yourself approved" (cf. 1 Timothy 4:11-16) has never lost its persistent and powerful challenge to the Christian and especially the Christian leader. And, please don't tell me that we are "beyond them" today. We have more access to more information with precious little understanding of what is really truth.

People will say, "you are certainly in a minority" on this topic. I don't care. It's time to get deeper, to get more serious with the Word, to honestly and soberly evaluate where we really are individually and corporately. Let me know what you think!