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Spirituality or Religion?

Nothing is more personal to me than what I believe to be ultimately true. Nothing is closer to who I am than my spirituality. Maybe you feel the same way.

But, that begs a question: If spirituality is what takes place in the inner sanctum of the soul, what is religion? Do we not tend to understand the one as the opposite of the other? Spirituality is something private, inside of me, and in my own hands; religion is something public, outside of me, and in the hands of an institution. So, we leave ourselves with an either/or. What will it be? Spirituality or religion?

Why do we think this way? I would argue that we separate spirituality and religion in order to protect ourselves. We are taught to doubt institutions. We are taught to trust ourselves. So, we separate spirituality and religion in order to protect the one sphere of life we feel we can actually control. No one has the right to tell us what to believe, right?

The Bible does not know about a separation between spirituality and religion. In fact, the Bible would teach us that these two things are simply two aspects of one thing. Faith is that one thing.

Faith is private — spirituality — but faith is also public – religion.

I would argue this separation of spirituality and religion is not only false and self-centered, but is also unhelpful and even destructive to faith. So, we lose the very thing we try so hard to protect.

When we separate spirituality from religion, we lose community. When my faith is lived out in isolation and secrecy is it actually alive at all? Faith is certainly personal, but who benefits if it is private? It is the church that provides community for faith, gathered by God as a fellowship of people that support, serve and love one another.

When we separate spirituality from religion, we also lose accountability. Where is the standard for what I believe if I am the only one who knows what I believe? It is the church that provides accountability for faith by holding to a standard, a public confession.

Most of all, when we separate spirituality from religion, we lose certainty. When spirituality is only a matter of what is within me, how can I ever be sure that the beliefs I hold in the imagination of my mind are actually true? It is the church that provides certainty for faith by grounding it in the God who made heaven and earth. The Lord Jesus Christ called the church to baptize in His name, to teach what He taught and to celebrate His supper. These do not only happen within me and for me but also outside of me and to me. There is certainty here.

Why rip spirituality and religion apart? Why try to protect something that will be lost anyway? Why not keep them together and enjoy community, accountability and certainty? Is it really worth settling for anything less?