Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Hidden Spring

In his book Simply Christian, NT Write tells a parable of a spring of water. In the parable, the towns people love the spring in the begging but later realize that open exposure to the spring creates difficulties. Some times the spring isn't as clear as others; sometimes it is tainted by people; some times it causes floods or dries up. As a result, the spring is capped, the water is captured and then piped to its users. This is good in a way. The water is kept pure and quantities are always appropriate for needs. But over time, the pressure beneath the cap becomes so great that the water bursts out. It is such a violent eruption that the water, carrying great amounts of debris, flood homes and businesses of the town. The mucky mess that it makes is great and disturbing to those who wanted it capped in the first place.

The spring in this parable is spirituality, and the story describes how we (the western world) got to where we are today. Once, spirituality was organic. Organic things are not pure, but they are honest. In attempt to purify spirituality, western society institutionalized it. It seemed pure, but it was also isolated. It was separated from "real life". We are now in a trend of spirituality bursting forth, and to those how will only accept the purest of spiritual things, it is an ugly trend.

The bursting out of spirituality is leading people to being more spiritual but less religious. People are looking again for an organic form of looking for God (or whatever). Many have been lead down paths away from the True God to all kinds of substitutes. It isn't a pretty sight for the week of heart.

For those people who are displease with this trend, I would remind them, that the real cause of this is not that bad people are over taking a good institution. Rather, the cause is that spirituality was never meant to be institutionalized. The result is that after years and years of religion becoming less meaningful to everyday life, people need to have something with meaning. The antidote isn't for the church to recap the stream. It is for the church to continue to preach what is pure. What is pure is the Gospel of Jesus and the Grace of God. What is pure is that faith matters in all aspects of our live and that we should be pursuing God even when we are doing the more mundane tasks. What is pure is that when we institutionalize our religious experience we run the risk of drying up the land.

Our goal as Christians is to be spiritual in the world. To withdraw and hope that the world will come to us is naive, at best. The door of our churches need to be left open and the wall of our doctrine brought down to a place that we do not restrict true seekers from finding Christ in our midst. We cannot fear that the muddiness of spirituality will destroy the mission of God's Kingdom. God's truth will prevail. What we need to do is get ourselves out of His way.