Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Rampant Fake Spirituality

I'll be writing more about the same-sex marriage case.  I read the SCOTUS oral arguments.  They were very interesting.  I'd like to break it down with some commentary.  I've also read experts' take on what they think that what they said meant as to a clue to their decision.  Most focused on Anthony Kennedy, again, as the deciding vote.  I will add here to what I wrote on Monday, that there is a third possible decision in light of further reading.  The court could refuse to decide on the appeal, and homosexual marriage would occur in California without making a major ruling.  Some people think this is what the ruling will be, because of some things Kennedy said in the hearing.  Alright, now to the post.


In addition to a number of other issues that Paul dealt with in the epistles, one was a problem of a false type of spirituality, that was either something fake or something real, yet the latter not the same spirit as was being claimed; therefore, also fake.  Satan, the world system, and men in general have had almost two thousand years to refine and supplement where the spiritual deceit was in Paul's day.  We should not think that New Testament churches could not be prey to widespread fake spirituality.  The conditions are more conducive than ever.

I've been preaching through 1 and 2 Corinthians on Sunday mornings for some time now, and this is my second lifetime trip through.  Nothing has struck me more on this recent occasion than the influence of a fake spirituality on the church at Corinth.  Because fake spirituality was promoted at the college from which I graduated and many of its affiliating churches, it was a difficult struggle for me for many years to sort through this.  It's hard to see when you are a part of it.  Questioning fake spirituality to professing Christians goes about like the questioning of same-sex marriage to secularists.  Yet, when Paul had to leave his old life, he didn't take baby steps, but he went straight to counting it as dung.

The evangelicals and fundamentalists, who speak strongly against the Charismatic movement, can be especially prey to fake spirituality, since they think they've got that potential deceit covered.  When Jesus told Peter he would deny Him three times, Peter rejected the possibility that was true.  I don't expect people to admit that they've got a problem.  They'll just attack me instead.  One said to me recently was that I was just chasing after windmills, a Don Quixote reference.  We would all do better to deal with the actual arguments, the evidence, than to evaluate the state of mind or the motives of the messenger.  As I said in the previous paragraph, this is what makes it tough.  Fake spirituality is as personal as lip prints and criticism akin to tearing up the front lawn.

Paul deals with fake spirituality all over 1 and 2 Corinthians, but in 2 Corinthians 5 he talks about it right in the middle of a section in which he explains how he prepares himself for death.  He continues with confidence, despite persecution, because he possesses the right way of thinking about death.  Because of the influence of fake spirituality, Paul took the time to deal with a wrong view related to death.  His desire for losing his old body, or first physical body, what he calls a tabernacle or tent in v. 1, was not because he wanted to be "naked" or "unclothed," that is, bereft of any body, to be only spiritual without a body.  He wanted a new building not made with hands, not no building, or in other words, he wanted an eternal body.  Greeks could easily support the idea of losing a body, because of their view of spirituality.  They saw having a body as the problem.  Death to them could alleviate that problem, like it would today with a Buddhist, who sees himself at death being sucked up into pure spirit, what the Buddhist hopes for.

Chapter 15 in the previous inspired epistle dealt with a fake spirituality.  Corinthians rejected bodily resurrection for a purely spiritual one.   They were willing to shuck the glorified body under pressure of Corinthian spiritualists.  Paul saw the glorified body as the end of his sanctification, the glorification that he mentions at the end of Philippians 3, when his vile body would be fashioned like unto Jesus' glorious body.  In the quest to be like Christ, the physical and the spiritual harmoniously interrelate.  Like Paul wrote to them in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, that they're bodies were the temple of the Holy Spirit, and that they glorified God in their bodies.  God wants to be glorified in a body.  Jesus glorified God in His body.

Certainly the Charismatic movement is fake spirituality.  I'm not talking about that right now.  People think they've got fake spirituality beaten, because they're not Charismatics, even though you'll also notice a unique acceptation of reformed Charismatics today among the strong opposition to Charismaticism.   And then you've got the fake spirituality of revivalism, which is big, all over, and influential in churches that think they reject revivalism.  I'm not talking about that either.  I am talking about a couple of the influences of fake spirituality that are perhaps more subtle, but rampant and dangerous.  They are likely related to Charismaticism and revivalism, but not officially a part of either.

God is a Spirit, so fake spirituality should be a concern.  It was a major subject for Jonathan Edwards as he diagnosed spirituality in the colonial period of America.  While expressing fundamental aspects of Christianity, John commanded to "test the spirits."  People are being fooled spiritually.  I want to talk about two ways.

First, I see a fake spirituality relative to the one fooling Corinthians within the gospel-centered movement of evangelicalism and fundamentalism.  Recently, a book was written by evangelicals on modesty.  The immodesty of evangelicals has gotten bad enough even for them.  They want to do something about it, but fake spirituality hinders an attempt to dress modest.  Their own book description starts with "Modesty is about freedom, not about rules."  Here's the whole blurb:

Modesty is about freedom, not rules. Does that seem off? What we mean is that what you say or do or wear is not really the point, not ultimately. In a sense, we don't even care what you choose. But we care a lot about why you make the choices you do regarding clothing or speech or behavior. Because what really matters here is your heart. The point of this book is that true modesty does not come from following a list of rules. It flows naturally from a solid grasp of the gospel. That means modesty doesn't need to look the same from one person to another. It's about your motivations, not your wardrobe.

You can't separate modesty from rules.  The physical body is clothed by physical fabric.  Too little fabric is immodest.  Uncovered body parts are immodest.  This detachment of the spiritual from the physical is akin to what Paul is talking about in 2 Corinthians 5.  Alright, the words "naked" and "unclothed" are not related there to modesty.  However, you're not more spiritual by deemphasizing the physical.  The physical is not bad.  You don't get to a more spiritual state by practicing a form of Christian ying-yang.

Our conscience warns us based upon its highest perceived standard.  The conscience needs perceived standards to work properly.  It doesn't help to remove those out of fake spirituality.  The prodding, picking pain of conscience, accusing and warning, is not the working of legalism.  It is a tool God created to protect from moral destruction.  Rules and standards of modesty are necessary for modesty.  It is "spiritual" to have them.

Passages that talk about modesty talk about real clothing items.  When nakedness is explained in scripture, actual body parts are mentioned.  God replaced too skimpy leaf coverings with better covering animal skin ones.

The detachment of physical standards from the spiritual sprouts from a fake spirituality.  You've got a spiritual problem if you won't cover up.  It is spiritual to care what you choose to wear.   What really matters in modesty is not your heart, but whether you've got enough clothes on or not. An unsaved person can dress modest.  He is dressing modest if he follows biblical teaching.  If he has scriptural standards or rules, and the professing Christian doesn't, the Christian isn't more modest just because he believes the gospel.

The above kind of talk, applied to many different areas, is rampant now in evangelicalism and fundamentalism.  Under the influence of it, someone may think he is spiritual, when in fact he is not.

More to Come


DLF said...

Good stuff, Kent, even for those of us that are pastors. It is certainly very easy for "good" pastors of Bible preaching churches to have a fake spirituality. I'm reminded of I Corinthians 10:12 - "Where let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall."


Kent Brandenburg said...

Thanks Bro. Flaming.

DLF said...

Sorry about the typo...should be "Wherefore" - I don't want anyone to think I've come up with my own translation. I'm sticking with the KJV.

D. Flaming

Ricci said...

"What really matters in modesty is not your heart, but whether you've got enough clothes on or not."

This statement is troubling to me because both are important. Modest dress that is only a result of rule following is not good. Modest dress that is coupled with great pride in having better standards of modesty than others is not good. So, I think, the heart matters a lot.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Ricci,

It's true, but in their view, there are no external rules. It's only internal. All of us are prey to possible wrong motive. Are the rules themselves the reason? The standards?