Have We Overspiritualized The Christian Walk?

Is there a danger to putting our best foot forward? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This is the kind of post that is really hard to write. It’s because I know there are some readers who will be shocked to realize some things about me, but I hope that if they do, it will bring them comfort. I know I am an answer man to many, but there are many times that I have my own struggles and those are often with the Christian walk.

Sometimes I think we overdo how it is. I know many people who have rich and vibrant prayer lives. I don’t deny that for a moment. For me, this is an honest struggle. I have a very hard time with prayer. It could be because of my Aspergers. It’s hard enough to talk to a person. Make that person divine and in fact a being who is tri-personal and it becomes even more difficult. I more often do minute prayers than long extended prayer times. I find it hard to know what it means to wrestle in prayer for someone. If that’s you, excellent. Not knocking you. I am better at brief prayers throughout the day.

Sometimes I see Christians talking about their Bible study and how awesome it is every day. God just shows them something new that they hadn’t seen before. If that’s you, excellent, but I wonder if I’m more like other Christians want to admit. Sometimes, you’re just reading the text. You don’t get anything immediately. Maybe you can make a connection. Honestly, I seem to get more just doing my nightly Bible reading with my wife. I read it out loud for us together and sometimes I do get things that way.

Church services can be outright boring to me. I’ve grown tired of preachers who just give a text and jump straight to an application and Christianity is all about just being a good person. This doesn’t even get to the music. The music part to me seems more like a concert. I don’t really relate and I can’t remember the last time I sang along. It’s all too awkward for me.

Sometimes I think we put forward a position where we shouldn’t struggle in the church and our lives are full of joy abundantly. Excuse me, but I know I’m rarely at that level. Many times when I am in a crisis, I find it hard to follow James and count all things joy. If anything, I can find myself lashing out at God and accusing Him and asking Him if He remembers His promises or if He even cares about the suffering going on.

Yet when I read the Psalms, I wonder if I’m not the odd one out. The Psalmists seemed to do that a lot. It’s strange that the question the Psalmists normally had was not if the people remembered the covenant, but if God remembered it.

We seem to have this attitude in the church that if we put forward an image of our lives being less than perfect, there’s something wrong with us. We’re not fooling anyone. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re free of struggles. Sometimes a good worship service shouldn’t leave you feeling happy. It should leave you feeling miserable with the conviction of sin. (This doesn’t deny that you could have happiness when you realize grace and forgiveness.)

1 in 3 men are said to struggle with pornography in the church, yet how often at a church service do you hear guys sharing that with other guys? It’s almost like we want to treat sin as if it’s not really real. Our messages at church are more self-help and can be found in any episode of Dr. Phil more often. You won’t get the Biblical text from him, but many times the messages are awfully similar.

Maybe also this idea of putting forth this image is damaging. It damages new Christians who think there’s something wrong with them and it bewilders skeptics who think we don’t take life seriously. Christianity is just a feel-good religion to them. I try to tell them sometimes being a good Christian will mean you feel miserable. You feel the evil in the world or you feel the weight of your own sin or anything else.

I fear we can present the Christian life as just one amazing experience after another. I doubt that’s what it’s really like for most people. On the other hand, some could say I am guilty of intellectualizing matters and focusing too much on that area. They could also be right. Could it be like in most other cases, moderation is what is needed? Maybe the middle ground.

I conclude this wondering what your thoughts are. Maybe you’re out there thinking you agree with me and there’s too much show in our personal lives and very little grow. Maybe you think I’m way off base and want to tell why. Comments are always open. Let me know.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Reading the Christian Spiritual Classics

Is there a proper way for evangelicals to engage the spiritual classics? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Reading The Christian Spiritual Classics is a work edited by James Goggin and Kyle Strobel. If the last name sounds familiar, it’s not a coincidence. That is Lee Strobel’s son and this has been his area of study. Lee is a friend of mine who got me a copy because frankly, a book on spiritual classics is quite frankly something I would not have picked up on my own.

In the area of apologetics after all, we’re trying to keep up as much as we can. There are so many new books that we need to read and then there’s all the research and we at the same time are family men who need our own time as well and then there’s still time that we have to spend with prayer, Bible study, etc.

People don’t often realize how big a job ministry is and in ministry, one often thinks they carry the burden of others around them. To an extent, of course we do, but we are not alone and part of the essential process of a Christian is sanctification. This is why I’ve surrounded myself as well with mentors, including a mentor I email every night to make sure I have been keeping up with prayer, an area I need to improve on, and seek advice for problems in my life.

I say all this because this review could sound negative at the start, but it really isn’t. When I started reading, I felt like I was having to push myself through. That is not because this book is a problem. Not at all! It is because I know that this is not what I am used to reading.

This is not to say I never read anything dealing with sanctification, but it is not something that I think we commonly read, much like an apologist I interacted with recently said apologists need to spend more time reading fiction. We should have our place in the academy of course, but we are not to be just in the academy. The best apologists I know are the ones that can also be real people. If I can laugh and joke with someone in my field, I know they’re real. It’s also why I make sure to take time for non-academic interests, such as the Mrs. and I watching our favorite shows most every night.

Reading a book about spiritual classics then is stretching someone in the field, but we need to be stretched. Part of Christian sanctification is being made uncomfortable unfortunately. It’s about doing things that we normally wouldn’t do. I would in fact encourage someone who just reads spiritual classics that they need to pick up books like Lee Strobel’s “The Case for Christ.” Every bit of sanctification we have must be grounded in truth. All that we do must be grounded in truth.

The book in its work tells why they should be read but also gives a warning in our day and age and one that applies greatly to apologists. This book is for evangelicals and so it assumes evangelical positions and tells us we could be reading a spiritual classic and it will talk about the veneration of Mary, for instance, and some of us who might be staunchly against the Catholic position could raise our defenses up and unfortunately, miss all the good stuff that is there.

And yes, this book recommends reading the Catholic classics. It also recommends reading the Orthodox classics. I do not doubt that people in both of those camps would also recommend reading works by people in the other branches just as much. Wisdom can be found in all manner of places in the Christian tradition.

Reading this book gave me a challenge to consider these kinds of areas more seriously and even had me looking on my Kindle to see from time to time if I could find any of these books that were talked about for download.

Christians are called to be holy people and of course, people of truth. It is easy to miss out on any one side. In our church today, we can often reflect on holiness and our experience, without remembering that these have to be grounded in truth. In more apologetic circles, we forget that truth that has no impact on us is just what is going to puff us up. If we believe something is true, we should act accordingly. If we believe in the Lordship of Christ and the advance of His kingdom, we should act accordingly.

It is because of that then that while I read the book as dry at first, I saw myself becoming more receptive over time, and realized the dryness said nothing about the book but about myself. If I went through again, I still think it would be difficult, but I think I would be still getting more out of it. I recommend this book then knowing that it will be a challenge, but a way that we need to be challenged.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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