Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Emergent Monday: Worshiping the Creation

According to a recent study by Baylor University, if you live in some place like Clovis New Mexico, Upham North Dakota, or Beloit Kansas you probably attend a church and worship God. If you live in someplace like West Palm Beach Florida, Estes Park Colorado, or Westport Washington you may instead spend your time outdoors worshiping God's creation. Upham and Beloit may have a few things going for them, possibly even Clovis too, but the staggering beauty of the rugged Rocky Mountains in Estes Park shouts of the grandeur of God and yes it does make people feel closer to God. Estes Park makes me feel 7,522 feet closer to God. 

Their study, “The Natural Environment as a Spiritual Resource: A Theory of Regional Variation in Religious Adherence”  (the full text can be found here) concludes that 
“Beautiful weather, mountains and waterfronts can serve as conduits to the sacred, just like traditional religious congregations,” - lead author Todd W. Ferguson, a doctoral candidate in sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. 
Their conclusion is that these natural amenities may attract tourists, new residents, and development to an area blessed with these resources, they also drive a wedge between the church that Jesus Christ built and man. In an article in the Coloradan, Larimer county in Colorado ranked high for natural amenities, but only had 435 congregation members per 1,000 people, Meanwhile sparsely populated Phillips County, in Northeast Colorado, ranked lower for natural amenities and had 673 church going per 1,000 people.

Now don't get me wrong, my bride and I love the high country, we got married in a former saloon in the mining town of Georgetown Colorado. We didn't get married there because we were 'spiritually moved' by the grandeur of creation but because we like the town, love the people, and the Christmas lights are pretty. However there are folks that will get married in the mountains because that's their idea of communicating with God. The types of people most susceptible to the notion that hiking in the mountains or strolling along the beach are a conduit to God are those that claim that they are "spiritual but not religious". You know the type, as Lillian Daniel puts it:
Such a person will always share this as if it is some kind of daring insight, unique to him, bold in its rebellion against the religious status quo. Next thing you know, he's telling me that he finds God in the sunsets. These people always find God in the sunsets. And in walks on the beach...Like people who go to church don't see God in the sunset
Ferguson calls these people the religious "nones" - those who do not identify with any religious tradition but are not necessarily atheists or agnostics - who may find something of the divine in forests, lakes and mountains. 
“When a person hikes in a forest to connect with the sacred, that individual may not feel a need to affiliate with a religious group because spiritual demands are being met,” 
We who have read and believed the word of God call this "Worshiping the Creation rather than the creator"

As I mentioned, the impact of "nones" turning their back on Christ Jesus to worship His creation instead of His majesty is found here in my adopted home state of Colorado. Colorado has not only mountains and all the hipster recreational activities to go with them, but also wide open prairies that don't even give a hint that there could be mountains and recreation near by. Greeley CO, a little granger city on the prairie (named after Horace "Go West Young Man" Greeley) is often ranked as one of the most religious cities in the nation. Meanwhile, 40 miles to the west lies Boulder, situated at the very base of the beautiful Flat Iron Mountains. Those are the mountains in the picture at the top of my blog page. Boulder is one of the least religious cities in the nation. 

I like Greeley, it's a nice town with nice people. I feel comfortable in Greeley. Greeley reminds me of North Dakota before the oil boom: hard working people loving each other and God. However in Boulder I cannot get over the feeling that I am in enemy territory. I just can't get over the feeling that Christ is not welcome in that town, and up Boulder Canyon not too far into the mountains is Nederland CO - what can you say about a town whose largest event of the year is the Frozen Dead Guy Days? Say what you want about "spiritual but not religious" these towns are more interested with worshiping the self and the hippie lifestyle to be bothered with worshiping sunsets or their Creator. 

So where do our "nones" go wrong when they chose to worship God by snowboarding or hiking? The best explanation is here:
The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Psalm 19:1)
The "nones" are finding their spirituality in the applause that nature is giving God. Look at it this way - a "none" goes to a football game but he is rating the quality of the game by the sound of the crowd and not by the play on the field. If it's a crisp afternoon day and the game is exciting, the home team is winning big, the crowd is very loud and boisterous the "none" will think it's an awesome game. 

Now let's have the very exact same exact game played at 5 degrees on a windy snowy day. The exact same game will get a different reaction from the crowd. It will be a smaller crowd (except in Buffalo and Green Bay) and the sound will be muffled by gloves, mittens, scarfs, snow boots, and the sound of chattering teeth. The crowd will be much less boisterous having changed from drinking large amounts of beer to smaller amounts of coffee and hot chocolate. A "none" may conclude that the game played in the cold is much worse than the game in the warmer weather even though it's the same game.

A "none" I know has told me that this isn't necessarily true, that she finds God in the bleakest places. Personally I think her definition of bleak and mine are vastly different, mine includes the city of Boulder, But if what she's said is true, then why isn't she finding God in His word and instead of traipsing around the mountains looking for the right view? And maybe she's unique, the survey statistics I quoted earlier comparing Larimer county with Phillips county show that her attitude is going against the norm for a "none".

Maybe we should explore the difference between spirituality and religion. As usual, Got Questions has the answers:
To put it briefly, religion is a set of beliefs and rituals that claim to get a person in a right relationship with God, and spirituality is a focus on spiritual things and the spiritual world instead of physical/earthly things... The only true value of religion is its ability to point out that we have fallen short and are in need of a Savior. Spirituality can be valuable in that it points out that the physical world is not all there is.
The only true value of Religion is to point out that we have fallen short and are in need of a Savior? In a word, yes. First of all, Christianity is not a religion, it's a right relationship with God. I don't mean the kind of relationship that the Contemporary Christian Music artists are promoting - the God is my buddy, Jesus is my boyfriend kinda thing. A right relationship is God is my Creator, Jesus is my Savior Lord and Master. I owe them everything and serve them exclusively. I am a sinner not worth God's effort to squash me as I deserve, but through my faith in my savior, Christ Jesus, God has extended his grace to me and chose to save me. I was created to do good things and my salvation shows through those deeds (but is not dependant on them). 

Religion is valuable in the sense that it points to the fact that there is a God and that we are accountable to Him. Religion can be defined as a belief in God, gods, or something (like a planet or even yourself) to be worshipped, usually expressed in conduct and ritual often involving a code of ethics or series of rules and ceremonies. Protestant denominations are religions, and they are Christian at their core. Catholicism is a religion and there are many Christians that are Catholic. Islam is a religion, but not Christian, in the same way that Hinduism, Shintoism, Wicca, and Atheism are religions but not Christian.

Spirituality on the other hand is something completely different. First we need to figure out what true spirituality is:
True spirituality is possessing the Holy Spirit of God as a result of receiving salvation through Jesus Christ. True spirituality is the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in a person’s life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). Spirituality is all about becoming more like God, who is spirit (John 4:24) and having our character conformed to His image (Romans 12:1-2). - Got Questions
We all know there are false religions - religions who take and twist the word of God, adding their own requirements and fables, ignoring what God has said and replacing it with their own unbiblical prattle and catechism. And the same can be said for spirituality, there is false spirituality. False spirituality tends to substitute connection with the spirit world for a genuine relationship with God. People are lead to believe that the awe they feel when they see a rugged mountain vista or a breathtaking sunset on the beach is a connection with God rather than the soul's natural reaction to the majesty of God. A misconception of spirituality is that there are many forms of spirituality and all are valid. These include meditating, communing with nature, contacting the spirit world, etc. These are spiritual only in the fact that they do not involve the material world. However there is a value in false spirituality, it is that it points to the fact that there is something and someone beyond this physical world to which we need to connect.

Is it possible to be spiritual but not religious? Probably, but not likely. Those that claim to be spiritual but not religious are experiencing an individual thing, whether watching deer roam through the forest or trying to contact the ghost of departed Aunt Bessie, it's generally an individual thing. True spirituality throughout the bible is almost always in fellowship: 1 John 1:7, Acts 2:42, Psalms 55:14, Romans 12:10, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 2:2, Hebrews 10:24–25

Here's my real disdain for "spiritual but not religious"
holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. (2 Timothy 3:5)
These people have been lead into thinking that standing on a mountain side watching the snow fall or repeating the name of your favorite flavor of jello over and over while sitting motionless in a weird position is a connection to God. They have been lied to and have believed the lie, The way to connect to God is to let him speak to you though His word, to let the Holy Spirit convict you of His truths, and to accept Jesus as your Savior, Lord and Master, and to realize that the most awesome thing about you is not your car, your looks, or your income, it is that God loves you.

The "none" that pointed out this survey to me and proudly said it applies to her, announced it on her radio show by saying "Are the mountains destroying church?" I didn't hear how she answered that question (or if she did) but Mandy, the answer is no. Nothing will destroy it.
I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. (Matthew 16:18)

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