by ProfDave, ©2021

(Feb. 9, 2021) — Spirituality, true, false and ugly. It is most reasonable to assume that the material cosmos is not all there is. That there is an unseen realm beyond our physical senses from which the cosmos derives and gains its meaning. The cosmos exists, for one thing, and demands an explanation. Are there things that go bump in the night? And if there were not a god, it would be human nature to invent one. 

In our post-modern world there is a lot of discussion of “spirituality” that certainly is not confined to churches.  Hey, you’ve even heard me mention “the Presence” that I feel in my life (He was so real this morning).  Is it all good and true?  Or can it be phony?  Perverted?  Or even evil?  Can I get a witness? 

Back in the day, when you heard someone talking about spirituality it was usually a nun.  It was assumed to be church-related Christianity.  These days it is anything but.  We know the real God of Heaven is out there somewhere, but since we can’t see Him and we don’t read our Bibles anymore we use our imaginations.  He is God-as-we-understand-him.  It is a matter of post-modern dogma that no one can tell us we are wrong.  Any resemblance to the Jehovah of the Torah or the Jesus of the Gospels is purely coincidental.  Our “understand” implies we are examining the data, so – since we are not – we really should call him/her/it/them the god(s) of our imagination.  Add angels, saints, ghosts and spirit-guides and we have a whole world of imaginary entities. 

Essentially, since these entities arise out of our own heads, is it not really ourselves we are worshiping, listening to, “being spiritual” about? Imaginary friends may be very real to you, but is “imaginary” the same as real?  That used to be narcissism.  Note: I am not saying there is no God, no angels, no saints in heaven, just that imaginary ones are not them.  They are idols, false spirituality.

If there is any reality in the spiritual realm, it must be possible – even likely – to get it wrong.  We can populate the unseen world with all sorts of fanciful entities and attribute to the real ones fanciful characters.  One need only to refer to the contrast between the Islamic and Christian conceptions of the Creator.  Note: these differences have this-worldly consequences.  Your spirituality is only true if its object is true. 

Your spirituality is false and misleading if it isn’t true, no matter how much it pleases you.  At best, it leads you in a circle, at worst it can lead you to a very unhappy place – for a very very long time.  That is why I prefer to stick very close to the written self-revelation of the Living, the Judeo-Christian, God – the Bible.

If your spirituality can be true – if there is a spiritual realm that is not purely imaginary – then it can be false, too.  It depends on whether our “experiences” are genuine and connected to what/Who is really out there.  But just because it is real does not mean it is God or good at all.  There may be – the Bible says there are – angels/spirits/”gods” that are in rebellion against the one true God of Heaven.  They are deceitful and malicious towards mankind.  Satan himself, we are told, likes to disguise himself as an angel of light.  If you talk to angels, be very careful who you are dealing with and who is their master!  Are you being recruited by the Enemy?

Yes, spirituality can be ugly.  Both global experience and Judeo-Christian revelation tells us that we are not alone in our rebellion against God.  There are real spiritual beings dedicated to evil and to the destruction of mankind.  You may sneer at Satan, demons, evil spirits, fallen angels, and so forth, but if you really want to do the right thing you become aware of intelligent resistance outside yourself as well as inside your nature. 

Most occult contact is imagination, natural phenomenon and fraud, but not all of it.  The holy angels are transparent, pointing you to their Master – not themselves.  The dark ones distract you from God and His Word, promising special power and insight.  Watch out!  They are not your friends.

How do I know whether my spirituality is good, phony or evil?  Safe or dangerous?  First, I check with what I know for sure.  The Eternal One is light and in Him is no darkness at all.  He is not schizophrenic.  Because He is eternal, He doesn’t change His mind.  If what I am experiencing comes from the Living God, it will agree with what He has already revealed.  Any spirit that does not acknowledge that Jesus is Lord is not one of His. 

Second, I check for self-delusion.  Does this message mirror my bias?  My preconceived plans? I have made some very poor decisions under my own influence. If it is too much like me, it probably is just me.

Third, does this experience lift me to God or to myself?  The enemy is a master of flattery and full of lies.  He promises inside information and personal power, leading to obsession and slavery.  He suggests I try to outmaneuver, outsmart or manipulate God – that is rebellion and doom.  The Holy Spirit urges me to trust in the Father moment by moment to do and receive whatever He chooses – more than I could ask or think. 

“E’er to take, as from a father’s hand,
One by one, the days, the moments fleeting,
Till I reach the promised land” (Carolina Sandell).

David W. Heughins (“ProfDave”) is Adjunct Professor of History at Nazarene Bible College.  He holds a BA from Eastern Nazarene College and a PhD in history from the University of Minnesota.  He is the author of Holiness in 12 Steps (2020).  He is a Vietnam veteran and is retired, living with his daughter and three grandchildren in Connecticut.

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