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Spirituality Vs. Religion
By  Jeff Dull

I have read and heard many definitions of spirituality, and most of them are one sided, indicating that it can only be a Christian experience. I disagree with this concept, because as I read the Bible, God made man in His image and God is Spirit. I also see man as a spirit, soul, and body, with the expression of the spirit as the ultimate form of expression called spirituality. That is to say that ones spirituality will be the expression of what ever is a persons standard for living and dying, or what ever is number one in a persons life at any one time in a persons life. I also believe that there are only two kinds of spirituality, positive and negative, with Christian based spirituality as positive and all others as negative spirituality. After all, Satan is also spirit, and we are in spiritual warfare as described in Ephesians. In my opinion, if there is a war going on, then there must be at least two contending spirits, and the expression of a particular spirit would be called spirituality. Add to that the fact that God designed us to live forever, and on the final judgment day we will find out where we will live forever, in heaven or the lake of fire according to our spirit and spirituality. Here is my analogy as to how I see it.

I use what I call the carbon analogy to describe mankind. When I read Genesis, I see God as creating a pure white sparkling piece of carbon, a diamond with a pure and clean spirit absorbing the light of God and reflecting God's brilliance all around. Then comes the fall... man sins, his spirit dies, and he becomes a piece of dead carbon, a hard black piece of anthracite coal, which can no longer absorb God's light but only produce a surface reflection in one direction. Every person born after the fall is born as a piece of anthracite coal, spiritually hard and black. No matter how smooth and shiney a person may try to become through right living and doing good things, they are and always will be dead carbon, a hard black piece of anthracite coal fit only for the fire. When a person accepts Christ as Savior and Lord, their spirit is once again made alive and they once again become a diamond (albeit a diamond in the rough) and able to absorb and internally reflect God's light. Because there is still sin in our lives we never do attain that original purity and brilliance that Adam and Eve had back in the beginning. We are all diamonds in the rough. Some of us are yellow, flawed, and even uncut, but still a diamond, and saved by grace. As we mature and become more dependent on Christ, and we trust and obey more fully, God the diamond cutter refacets us, removes the flaws and yellowing, and restores the brilliance. However, two problems still remain. First, we are still carbon units, and it is not until Christ returns that we shuck this carbon suit and get transfigured becoming what God intended all along. Secondly, enduring God's cutting process of becoming spiritual and mature is a very painful one and can only be done at our consent. All to often we stop the process and return to religiosity.

In this analogy I have presented two spirits, one white, and one black, both of which result in an expression of spirituality in worship called religion. I also want to point out that the condition and color of the spirit has no relationship to the color of a persons skin. I point this out, because it has been my experience that people do equate the two as one and use it consciously or unconsciously as one of the underpinnings of racial prejudice and bigotry. Back to the two types of spirits. When man uses society, science, nature, knowledge, or himself as standard he is a black spirit and can only produce a surface reflection in that direction. The Bible is also clear that any standard other than God's standard, Christ Jesus, is idolatry and a lie, and one with the father of lies, Satan. Negative spirituality results in the worst type of religion, and the worst type of religious expression, the legalism, hypocrisy, ritualism, and the priestcraft the Pharisees. This type of negative spirituality and religious expression produces a black spirit, a tormented soul, and a tired body. For me the acid test is that Satan, sin, and any other standard other then Christ never delivers what it promises. The results are alienation from God, abortion, broken families, child and spouse abuse, addictions, broken dreams, and eternal separation from God. I believe that the "American Dream" has become obsessive and become an idol which cannot deliver what it promises, and that the pursuit and or fulfillment of it in and of itself is emptiness and vanity. When a man has Christ as his Savior and Standard, he has an internal reflection of God's light returning to God and himself, as well as reaching out to society, science, nature, knowledge, and all others too. Becoming one with Christ is becoming one with the truth, and Christ always delivers what He promises. The positive spirituality produces a bright, clear, and glowing spirit, a peaceful soul, and a rejuvenated body. The results are healthy relationships with God, self, family, and others. The "American Dream" achieved as a result of this spirituality then becomes a by product, and is in proper perspective in value and worth as a gift of God's Grace, and not something deserved due to self righteous achievement. As I indicated earlier, we are not pure white diamonds as Adam and Eve were before the fall. We are flawed, so the expression of our worship and religion is flawed and tainted with Pharisees too. The title of this article contains the word versus in it. The word versus indicates conflict and contention, and rightly so, because we do battle the tendency of religion becoming an idol. It was the same for Israel. When the Jews were about to enter the promised land, God said to them, when you sin, not if you sin, to seek again God's face and confess the sin and receive healing and forgiveness. So when I hear most people speak about spirituality versus religion , what they really mean is positive spirituality versus religion. To close this article I would like to present to you a paper written by an unknown Baptist chaplain about this subject. I stated in the last journal that once I learned the difference between religion and spirituality that my whole life changed and I was able to really see and understand for the first time. This is the paper that initiated that change as I asked the Holy Spirit to show me its meaning for me in my life.


     Much time and effort is spent clarifying the difference between religion and positive spirituality. So this paper is written to specifically clarify the inequality between the two.

     Religion is knowledge about God while Spirituality is knowing God. Religion satisfies the mind and emotions. Spirituality satisfies the soul.

     Religion puts on its best manners, clothes and face on Sundays or whenever certain people are around. Spirituality behaves itself everyday and everywhere, even when alone.

     Religion is working as hard as we can for God. Spirituality is God working as hard as He can in us after we have made our decision to turn our will and life over to His care.

     Religion will cause a person to be found in church - everyday, if necessary. Spirituality will cause the church ("Body of Christ") to be found in the person - everyday, as necessary. Religion will make us do a lot of things we really do not want to do. Spirituality will make us do only what we should do, because the desire is in our heart.

     Religion will make a certain set of "good habits" form us. Spirituality will cause us to form "good habits." A person works on their religion. Spirituality works on us. Religion will cause us to do good. Spirituality causes us to be good AND to do good as well.

     Religion can make us look good to others, while Spirituality makes us look good to God. Religion is concerned with showing "love, joy, peace..." (Galations 5:22-23). Spirituality is concerned with possessing "love, joy, peace...," then one will automatically produce these positive attributes.

     Religion makes us more pleased with ourselves than with God. Spirituality makes us pleased with God and never completely pleased with ourselves.

     With religion, the human is the dominant entity. With Spirituality the Creator is all in all. Religion is powered by the love of self. Spirituality is powered by the love of God. Religion will allow a person to feed the poor but hate their neighbor. Spirituality will cause us to love everybody. (1 Corinthians 13:3)

     Religion allows a person to worry about how people are treating them. Spirituality, however, causes us to be concerned about how we are treating people. Religion will make us "feel" like we earn and even deserve heaven. Spirituality will make us know that it is "But for the Grace of God" (gift).

     Religion may sometimes make people "sick" of another person. Spirituality will make us sick of ourselves. People will see the beauty of the Godly life and desire it. Spirituality attracts. Religion is what we - since times beginning - have been offering to God. Spirituality is what God - since times beginning - has been trying to offer to us. This, then, is the chief difference between the two: Religion arises from the earth; Spirituality comes down from Heaven.

     To get religion, you must give up certain "things!" To get Spirituality, which is the free gift of God's Grace, you give up EVERYTHING out of love.

     Religion by no means is all negative, but it sometimes gets in the way of Spirituality when "THE RELIGION" becomes God. As a spa or gym is to an individual who has decided to become more physically healthy, so is religion to one who wants to exercise spirituality.

     I understand God in the traditional Christian concept of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the personality of God which is unconditional love or "God's Love" (Agape). For me, Christianity is not only a "Religion" but a relationship" with Jesus Christ as personal Savior. Therefore, the difference between religion and spirituality is only non-existent in Christianity, when Christ is the focus of attention.

Copyright 1996 Jeff Dull Christian Underground Journal
January 10, 1997 by Jeff Dull, reprinted here with permission after Christian Underground Journal webpage was taken off-line in 1998.

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