Have you ever had a conversation with a member of any given brand of church when the subject of another church with a different doctrinal belief has been brought up? Have you ever been told, or believed your brand of church doctrine is the only way to heaven and all other brands are wrong, or at least teetering on the edge of blasphemy? In other words, if I am a member of Church A on the corner and our doctrinal beliefs do not include any other music besides hymns, women must clothe themselves in dresses only, and profession of Jesus as salvation for sinners is mandatory before membership is granted, Church L down the block believes worship comes in many forms, prophetic utterance and speaking in tongues is commonplace, and people fall out under the power on a regular basis, and Church P on the other side of town has a gay pastor, sings songs outside of accepted “Christian” music, and has lively church services, which of these will believe their doctrines are correct and the others wrong? Chances are hypothetical members of all the above churches may walk away believing theirs to be right and everyone else wrong. All will also likely walk away praying for the person challenging their doctrinal beliefs to see the light! Strong images and emotions will be associated with each of the hypothetical churches. We may think, “my church and beliefs are good, right, and we are doing God’s work. The others are not because they are wrong, misguided, perhaps even believe contrary to what our church believes to be God’s commands for His people.” So, if only one of them is right, which one is it? If Jesus is the only way to heaven, how can there be so many differing opinions and doctrinal beliefs? To further complicate the conversation, within the doctrines there are sub-doctrines: “once saved, always saved”, Predestination, or Calvinism, Replacement theology, Pre and Post Millennial-ism, and Escapism theology, to name a few. Now what? The argument, as long as we are all worshiping Jesus as Lord and Savior, is not valid. Many deeply entrenched in their chosen doctrinal beliefs firmly contend others not of their same belief are misguided; perhaps not worthy of hell, but definitely wrong. The prayer then becomes one of enlightenment for the misguided before passing on. I have been witness to many of these same conversations with strict adherents to a particular church doctrine.
Now, consider those who choose to walk the path of spirituality, what many know as “New Age” philosophy. Personally, I don’t think there is anything “new” about the philosophy, except it is likely “new” to many in this part of the world. Secondly, too many have wrongly associated New Age philosophy with mystical hoodoo-voodoo without advantage of actual knowledge; opinions are often based on assumptions, not facts. Within the path of spirituality, essentially there are two core beliefs; we are all part of the Divine Source, and to God we will return, and secondly, we are here to learn, to seek wisdom in order to grow. Beyond these two concepts a whole tapestry of varying beliefs arise. I liken it to a diamond with its many facets, yet all a part of the whole diamond. No one person, or subgroup of like believers has all the answers. And so far I haven’t run across anyone who believes they are right and everyone else is wrong. More often than not one may hear, “put it on a shelf for now and come back to it later.
We are all on a journey, a personal journey with God. We all have innate road maps, so to speak, we start at different places on the journey and our life experiences impact our beliefs. No two people are alike, so how can God speak to all in the exact same way? I have 3 children, all with the same biological parents. They share similar characteristics, and yet they are very different. Even my twins are different in their approach to life. I am close to each of them, and with each I have a unique relationship. One would assume God, being Creator of all mankind, would have unique relationships with each of us.
How can we all dialogue and learn from one another if we all believe the same thing? We are not clones or carbon copies of one another; we are unique creations sharing a created world. It would make sense unique creations would have unique understandings of God. Many I have spoken with over the years believe any belief system outside of fundamental Christianity is of “the devil”, perhaps overlooking the passage of scripture when Jesus is referred to as a heretic or blasphemer because He opposed the Pharisees. The Pharisees believed and taught the strict oral and written law of Moses, going so far as to refer to Jesus as a blasphemer and call for his execution. Why? Because Jesus challenged the accepted belief system. The Old Testament teaches the Jews are God’s chosen people, and yet Replacement Theology teaches Christians have replaced the Jews as God’s chosen people. This subset of fundamental Christianity has its adherents with just as many critics opposing their beliefs on the other side of the Christian fence.
New Age philosophy is opposed by Christianity for several reasons, many of which don’t even make sense. Reasons, like Yoga is evil, energy healing modalities are of the devil, and certainly the very vague assertion we don’t believe in God. I find the last one interesting because most I have talked with or listened to have active and intimate relationships with God that would put to shame many sitting in church pews every Sunday. Do many believe in reincarnation, medium-ship, and the Law of Attraction? Certainly, but not all believe or practice these, yet criticism is not heaped on those who do. The organized religious like to toss in their interpretation of the Spiritual philosophy likening it to belief systems and practices steeped in hatred, and the “anything goes” mindset, neither of which are true for believers in New Age philosophy. Any teaching or belief not based on love and radiating the purity of positive energy is no more accepted by New Age adherents than by the religious. We have not tossed out a moral code. No civilized society can exist without a definable moral code. Violations of the moral code experience the same outcome. The word choices are different, but the result the same; judgment from God in the religious corner, and Karma in the Spiritual corner.
People will forever be flawed, motivations skewed, but by and large the overriding theme within New Age or Spiritual philosophy is loving all without judgment, tolerance for others and their level of spiritual maturity and knowledge, and belief in God as the purity of love.
I no longer believe the organized religious system of much of the “Christian” world, especially here in the West, is the only way to God. How can I? Within the world of organized religion so many different interpretations of the Bible and varying understandings of God exist, and none, so far, have come forth as the unequivocal, undeniable, final Word from God. Is Spiritual philosophy the final Word? Of course not. What I do believe is we are here to journey with the God of Love…..