Christian Spirituality – Chapter 1.2

9/5/2013

From time to time, we will post sections from Osofo Mante’s book entitled An Outline of Some Basic Principles of Christian Spirituality.

Chapter 1

What Christian Spirituality is Not

2. It Is Not Just Being Nice To Other People

Being nice to other people is a good and wonderful (Christian) thing to do.  But being nice and being spiritual (in the Christian sense of spiritual) are not the same.  Unbelievers can also be nice and some of them are nicer than most of us who call ourselves Christians.  Therefore, we cannot measure Christian spirituality by looking at how nice a person is to other people.  Of course, a Christian would (or ought to) be nice to other people, but the two should not be confused.

There are groups today who have adopted some fundamental principles that I think are out of touch with reality.  Some of them hold the fundamental belief that all of life is energy and it is only by chance and circumstances that we have objects such as trees or animals or humans.  Hence (i.e., because all reality is a flow of energy), we are all in one another as energy in reality, and what we see as individual bodies are unreal.  It is suggested therefore by this group that all that spirituality calls for is that we see the other as us and so be nice to every one for every one is us.  Sometimes the teaching of scripture: “Love your neighbor as yourself” is quoted in support of this doctrine.  Some forms of the New Age Movement hold this position ([2]).

Now, whereas the effect of this doctrine has Christian overtones, its basis is far fetched.  For even if it is true that we are all energy, it is just not true that therefore individual bodies are unreal.  From the position that I am a lump of energy to the position that therefore the whole universe is one lump of energy is bad logic, and one will need more evidence to make that logical move.

But it is very important, in this world, that we see humans as humans (as persons with passions, creativity, love, hate, the propensity to do good and evil) and not put us all together as one lump of energy.  The reason is that if one puts all things that exist together as one lump of energy, one could as well make the unethical move that we should not care for starving people because they are mere energy and their substantial existence is not real, anyway.  Thus there is no real ethical motivation for the view which emphasises the fact that we are all just a lump of energy.

In Christianity, humans are treated as humans and we are exhorted to be nice to one another on the basis that the God we worship is love rather than on the basis that we are all one lump of energy.  Actually, there are times in human existence when we may not have to be nice to a person.  An example is in Hitler’s Germany where the most Christian thing to do was not to be nice to Hitler.  Hence, being nice to everybody at every time, though a good ideal, is not the best Christian ethic in every actual existence.

Be that as it may, a Christian cannot base his/her spirituality on a theory which has no basis in Christ.  Actually, given the loss of identity in most Christian circles, I believe it is very crucial, in this generation, to put an emphasis on the biblical Christ in all our theological constructions.


[2] See J. Gordon Melton’s article, “The New Age Movement,” in Encyclopaedic Handbook of Cults in America, Garland Pub. Inc., New York, 1986, pp. 112-116.

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