Below you will find short interactions with classic theological literature to help introduce you to some of the giants upon whose shoulders we stand. There will also be irregular posts formed out of sermons, Bible studies, or coffee after 5:00pm.
Movements come and movements go, but humanity is inherently spiritual. Even those who verbally reject any belief in the transcendent are searching for meaning. And our age is ripe with spirituality that says a lot without saying anything. It promises fulfillment with no hope of achieving it. One such movement today is termed the New Spirituality.
The New Spirituality rejects the exclusive claims of any and all religions in order to satisfy the rebellious nature of the human heart. In terms of Christianity, two fundamental doctrines are rejected and condemned as, at best, outdated and, at worst, destructive to real spiritual health. These two doctrines are the authority of Scripture and the holiness of God.
The authority of Scripture is replaced with the authority of the human circumstance. The holiness of God is replaced with the god of my whim. Here's a quick reflection on what is lost when these doctrines are rejected and how believers can reach out to those in the church who have subscribed to the New Spirituality, albeit naively. I have also included some other resources for those interested in learning more about it.
THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE
For the Christian, the Bible is the highest court of authority. In it God has revealed himself and his will for man. It is free from errors and sufficient to bring men to a saving knowledge through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16). To have a low view of Scripture or to disregard it entirely is to reject the only God-ordained revelation to know him in a saving way. By necessity, all other forms of spirituality are sub-Christian or anti-Christian.
This is an intensely dangerous state in which to be. Michael Horton notes that non- and anti-biblical forms of spirituality are by their very nature “enthusiastic,” meaning that God is found within, not without (en-theo, or "god within"). Essentially, this is the classic work-driven position that holds man can ascend to God instead of God descending to man. Horton writes, “Yet, apart from the incarnate Word, this dazzling god we encounter at the top of the ladder is really the devil, who ‘disguises himself as an angel of light’ (2 Cor. 11:14).”
The problem with this “ascension” spirituality is that any biblically-literate Christian can quickly see that the Bible does not allow for this sort of thinking. It is completely at odds and totally incompatible with biblical spirituality, because Scripture tells us that the Son took on human flesh in the incarnation and so descended to us. Therefore, any “spirit” that is encountered at the top of the ladder is necessarily evil or anti-God in nature. God does meet us at the top of a ladder, IE, a life of works or striving for experience, but descends to us in our despair.
The Scriptures are thereby stripped of all authority, and mankind is endowed with the incredible privilege of true power. Belief systems are formed from experience and desire. The practitioners of the New Spirituality also claim the right to change their beliefs based on new experiences and desires. No longer is there an objective basis from which man forms his system of thought. Divine revelation is re-defined to mean what God spoke to me in my heart and mind.
For the Christian, joy is found in being obedient to the revelation that God has given. For the believer of the New Spirituality, joy is found in fulfilling the current desires. The only means for knowing if what a person believes is true is if there are “psychological or therapeutic benefits which are derived.” The litmus test for truth is if it calms a busy nerve, not if it pleases a holy God.
David Wells writes that current spirituality is in essence in line with ancient Gnosticism. Gnostics believed that special knowledge, which would only be revealed in mysterious, inner ways, would raise a person out of his current fight with the physical world into a pleasant spiritual existence. Revelation was not from the outside; the only trustworthy revelation was direct and from within.
This kind of inner revelation only serves to make a person think he is more capable of taking charge of his own life than he truly is. Reality is redefined as something that we must discover. Reality is not something to be shown. The reality revealed in Scripture—creation, fall, redemption, and restoration—is considered to be less than. Real reality must be discovered. The authority, then, is placed in completely unsecure territory. What should happen if one never discovers this reality? What is his fate?
The inevitable conclusion to the problem of authority is that the New Spirituality actually has no authority. Once a person abandons the authority of divine revelation, he has abandoned the only trustworthy source of knowledge and righteousness. Man does not need any other form of revelation to know God more fully, and the revelation that comes from inside the self is illusory at best and satanic at worst. Once the authority of Scripture is thrown into the ash heap with the rest of mankind’s religious baggage, God’s essential attributes will soon be ejected, as well.
THE HOLINESS OF GOD
“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). Over and again the Scriptures constantly proclaim the holiness of God. The “holy, holy, holy” found in Isaiah 6 and throughout Scripture is qualifying God’s holiness as perfect and complete, without blemish or reservation. God commands Moses to say to the Israelites, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy” (Leviticus 19:2b).
God has the right to command his people to do certain things, obey certain laws, and behave certain ways because he is wholly other, completely outside of creation, and sovereign over all. This is the holiness of the Lord our God.
In speaking specifically of American religion, Horton notes that “there is almost no sense of God’s difference from us—in other words, his majesty, sovereignty, self-existence, and holiness. God is my buddy or my inmost experience, or the power-source for living my best life now.” If God is stripped of his most basic attributes, then in so many words, God is subservient to us.
Practitioners of the New Spirituality have formed a god that is not even merciful, for that would still imply an offense on our part. There is no need to define any essential attributes of God, because God is only here to serve us. It doesn't matter that God is different from us in some way as long as he affirms what we believe about ourselves.
If God is stripped of his holiness, he ceases to be a god that is worthy of any honor, worship, or obedience. R.C. Sproul notes that God’s holiness “is more than just separateness. His holiness is also transcendent. […] When we speak of the transcendence of God, we are talking about that sense in which God is above and beyond us.”
The way that Scripture addresses God’s holiness makes it impossible for the understanding of the New Spirituality to be compatible with biblical spirituality. They have disparate belief systems about the very nature of God.
Many in the New Spirituality want to see unity between orthodoxy and their statements about God, but while they use orthodox language, they redefine the terms. For those who are practicing a biblical spirituality, the good news is that the authority of Scripture and the holiness of God are still more than sufficient to sustain us. These truths motivate the Christian to hold fast and move forward.
THE WAY FORWARD
The Christian who holds to an authoritative view of Scripture needs to look no further for the way forward. God’s divine revelation of himself is the means by which he calls men to himself. Of all the things that Paul says Scripture is to be used for, “correction” is among them (2 Timothy 3:16).
There are many brothers and sisters who have fallen into the attractive snare of the New Spirituality. This happens for many reasons: it offers an un-offensive way to speak to non-believers about spiritual matters; the sufficiency of Scripture is not addressed in public worship and private counsel; and Western culture prioritizes inclusion at the expense of objective truth.
Faithfulness to the binding authority of Scripture on the heart and mind of the Christian and a radical commitment to the holiness of God is the only way forward. Scripture does not prescribe any other method for knowing the things of God. Wells notes that it is tempting to take the short view and see this problem as relatively new.
A biblical spirituality understands the world to be governed by a good God who created the world and sustains it by his sovereign grace. He reveals some of his attributes to man through natural revelation, but he reserves saving knowledge to special revelation. At no time does the one true God reveal anything about himself through some inner dialogue with man.
This is the worldview of the Christian. The New Spirituality, however, sees God as a distant divine being who affirms and serves, not convicts and saves. These are worldviews, entire systems of understanding the world, not simply disagreements about method.
The Christian needs not bother trying these methods of finding the God on the inside. The Christian must confront these denials of the gospel with the gospel. Christ promises that the man who builds his house on the rock—his words—will not be shaken (cf. Matthew 7:24-25). How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord, is laid for your faith in his excellent Word.
The New Spirituality denies the authority of Scripture and the holiness of God. The inner revelation is self-centered. Biblical spirituality is God-centered—it attends to the word of God “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Biblical spirituality upholds the holiness of God as the central tenant of why man needs revelation. Depraved man will always look inside himself for truth. God, in his mercy, has revealed to sinful men so that we may be saved from ourselves.
The New Spirituality is not new all. The first man and woman decided to believe their own truth and thereby harmed their relationship with their Creator. In Christ, God has reconciled mankind to himself and has given us all we need for “training in righteousness.”
FOR FURTHER READING
Michael Horton, “Your Own Personal Jesus,” Modern Reformation, 17, no. 3 (May/June 2008): 16.
 Horton, “Your Own Personal Jesus” 16.
David F. Wells. Above All Earthly Pow’rs (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2005), 132
 Wells, Above All Earthly Pow’rs, 140.
 Horton, “Your Own Personal Jesus,” 16.
 R.C. Sproul, The Holiness of God (Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1998), 36.
Wells, Christ in a Spiritual World, 155.
Wells, Christ in a Spiritual World, 156.
Wells, Christ in a Spiritual World, 156.