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The Spiritualist

Groups of People: non-followers of Jesus

·         A non-follower is by definition someone who has not given his/her life to follow Jesus.


Group 2: The Spiritualist: believes in every kind of supernatural possibility – ghosts, energy, reincarnation, etc.

 

When I first met my wife, Melissa, she was a spiritualist. It wasn’t that she didn’t believe in a god (little “g”), but more that she thought he or she was one part of a whole host of spiritual or supernatural experiences. Ask some people if they believe in God and they will say “no”, but ask them if they believe in ghosts they will say “yes”. In fact, there’s a whole Discovery channel show dedicated to celebrities who believe in ghosts. Melissa had cobbled together a form of believe from a variety of vague thoughts…careful not to think to thoroughly about any one of them. She had a crystal not because she thought rocks were inherently powerful, but because maybe there was something to some forms of rocks having more energy than others. She believed in reincarnation not because she was a Hindu, but because she wasn’t sure if she was herself or herself come back into time again and again.

And Jesus was just kind of thrown into the mix. Her grandmother was a Pentacostal and Jesus became a childhood addition to a mysterious spiritualistic experience.

In truth, there are a lot more spiritualists who give themselves the title of “Christ-ian” than we care to admit. In fact, there are many self-proclaimed agnostics who probably fit this group more than they themselves would care to admit. I was stunned years ago to read a Galileo poll (Galileo is a Discovery Channel/National Geographic type of organization in Germany) who discovered that European scientists who were either atheists or agnostics wake up each morning to read their horoscope…and believe horoscope predictions.

Smart people choose to believe in Thetans (Scientology).

The spiritualist cobbles together a form of spirituality to keep God at a distance. They can’t ignore the hole in their soul and so must fill it with something…but they don’t want to pay too close attention because it’s too close. So beliefs are formed and built and discussed in café’s or late nights parties when either the supernatural or gods or God is brought up.

No one wants to look like they don’t really pay attention to that side of things.

One final thought about Spiritualists. Most spiritualists aren't like atheists. They’re not going to argue passionately against a God. Rather,  they’ll take a postmodern approach that no one person can actually know the truth,  so all opinions are equally true.

Melissa became a Christ-follower in one conversation. But that conversation was lynchpin conversation with me – someone she loved and of whom she thought highly. It would be some months later until we were wed (at the time of that conversation (very early in our relationship) I wasn’t sure if she was the one for me). I should also mention that she went home and gave her life to Christ by herself and on her own after our conversation (and then waited two weeks to tell me). It was important (and still is) that she made that decision not for the purpose of loving a man, but that her life belong to God.

YOUR RESPONSE

I love meeting spiritualists, but the conversations can be frustrating. It used to be that you could dive deeper and talk about each thread rationally:

Some who wear crystal rocks have good luck while others get run over by buses. (crystal energy)

Someone born in June has as much of a chance at life, love and destiny as someone born in September.  (horoscopes)

If we’re all reincarnated, then no one is really themselves and unique. There’s just a specific number of souls going round the wash. And there are no perfect people, which implies that if the purpose of reincarnation is perfection, then there’s a few perfect cockroaches running around…and if they’re perfect then every cockroach has a conscience and awareness of perfection. Either that, or the more mindless we become the more perfect we are (reincarnation)

If I’m to empty myself and be nothing, then why is there a longing to be something – uniquely creative and unique to history? (nirvana)

If I’ve cobbled together my own belief system, then I’ve also become the arbiter of Truth. And isn’t that what got me into trouble in the first place? (religion)

And one could go on and on with a rational approach.

Certainly, that’s one option (that’s actually the conversation that Melissa and I had as we discussed our beliefs – why she believed in what she did and why I believed in what I did). I think it’s a valid response, which is why I bring it up here.

But

…rationality doesn’t always mesh with this longing we have that we can’t always fully explain. In a world where truth depends on perspective and experience (that’s your truth and not the truth, says the postmodern), I find that a different response is sometimes needed. So respond by lending validity to their experience (not to the belief, mind you, but to the experience). Jesus does this often in the New Testament.

All of us know what it is to sense there is something bigger out there. All of us have these experiences we can’t fully explain (kismet? Coincidence? Cosmic string theory?). It’s perfectly acceptable to first validate a basic, human experience – loneliness, searching, anger, hope, love, faith, or even family culture. But then draw a line between that experience and God. The Good News is that in a world full of spiritualistic options, Jesus still stands out like a sore thumb. That makes sense given that Jesus is the only spiritual option that is personal, alive and unrelenting.

For example: someone may have a crystal rock, but that is because their desire is to find a source of energy that is reliable. Validate that desire. All of us seek something outside of ourselves upon which we can rely, because let’s face it: we let ourselves down pretty regularly. You and I are incredibly bad barometers of self-inspiration. (If we could all self-inspire then none of us would need inspiration, energy, or extra help). Then draw a line – help the other person see how you’ve wrestled with the same issue and found an answer in Jesus. Don’t try to convince them (you’ll come across as if you’re trying to convince yourself). Instead, lay the truth out there – either the rock is inspired or Jesus is. Jesus didn’t give us the option of both (Jesus’ words, not mine).

People are fickle. The city of Jerusalem went from “hail, hail the conquering hero” to “crucify Him” in four days. That’s not just true in the New Testament, but also in the old – it took the nation of Israel 3 days to get over the Red Sea parting before they started to complain again. But ultimately, Jesus is the “stone that makes men stumble, a rock that makes men fall”. We either follow or we don’t. We submit or we don’t. So any conversation with any person will ultimately boil down to that choice.

The response you choose isn’t a guarantee that they will choose Jesus…but the response you  choose may be either another roadblock to that belief (Gandhi’s statement: I would have been a Christian if not for the Christians) or an aid to it (Andrews response: Come and meet the one we’ve been looking for). Neither response is an excuse for the person who chooses not to follow (Gandhi can’t stand before God use cultural Christians as an excuse and the cultural Christian can’t stand before Him and say that because they received a good introduction, they are therefore a follower). Both fall flat before an Almighty God.

So to summarize: in order to help and not hurt the spiritualist’s search: 1) use rational arguments to help them really explore that which they’ve cobbled together or (2) use experiential validation on the motives of their cobbling to draw an experiential and then rational line to God. 

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About
Derek Webster is pastor of Radiate, a new church planting movement in Richmond, Virginia. Derek also works for a national think tank addressing major demographic trends.


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