Here's a question for the faithful:
Would you rather be "biblical," "spiritual," or a "follower of Jesus?"
Now, before you say those are different ways of saying the same thing, consider the following points:
Living at a time when there are hundreds of Bible translations, and some of those translations are at direct odds with others, how can Christians determine what is truly "biblical?"
The word "spiritual" often means something very different to people of certain non-Christian persuasions than it does to someone approaching life from a "biblical" point of view. Even among Christians, the word can have different connotations. Progressives often think of themselves as spiritual and conservative, traditional Christians often think of themselves as spiritual, but both groups approach spiritual matters in very different ways.
To be a "follower" of Jesus may have its own subjective connotations. For instance, to "follow" Jesus might mean to imitate him in thinking and behavior, or at least attempt to, or it can mean to literally follow him as if he were physically navigating from Point A to Point B. Obviously, no one today is doing that in a literal, physical sense. On the other hand, one could "follow" Jesus in the same way that one "follows" a spiritual or philosophical teacher who is no longer living. Let's say Socrates, or Friedrich Nietzsche. In that sense, one simply means one adheres to a certain set of doctrines, philosophy of life, or manner of living. But is that what Jesus called us to do?
In considering these points, we can see how difficult modern language is in capturing the essence of spiritual discipleship for the Christian. Who among us is a true "disciple?" The word itself means dedicated follower or adherent. In reality, a disciple is someone more devoted than a mere follower. It is someone who has "sold out" to the person or idea to which they adhere. A disciple is devoted to the teacher or Master, not someone who merely follows or tries to "adhere" to the teachings of said teacher. As such, such an individual spends a considerable amount of time trying to understand the inner processes (the mind, the spirit, and the ways and means) of the teacher to whom they have devoted themselves. But what does that entail for 21st century Christians?
This question has been on my mind for several years. I've come to believe that it has nothing to do with going to church, reading the Bible, or any of the usual things that older Christians say to younger Christians to motivate them toward spiritual thinking. A couple more things to consider:
No one in the first century would have said, "I'm going to church." After all, the church, in its proper context, is not a building, a service, or an event. It is the very people of God in whom the Lord Jesus Christ (by means of the Holy Spirit) dwells. After all, God does not dwell in buildings made by human hands.
No one in the first century would have read a Bible. After all, the Bible did not exist. Much of it was being written during that time. Beyond that, if they did have a Bible, most of the people living then would not have been able to read it as they were completely illiterate. That is, they could neither read nor write. This fact alone should give 21st century Christians pause to make Bible reading a test of spirituality.
As a caveat to that second point, consider this: More than 500 years after the translation of the Bible into English, said translation has done absolutely nothing to draw Christians together in unity of mind and spirit. In fact, it has done the opposite. The Christian church is so fractured and splintered today with thousands of sects that cannot agree on which Bible translation is the most accurate, the nature and essence of the church itself, nor which of the Christian doctrines are the most important and should be emphasized. What then does it mean to be a Christian?
I'm not going to answer that question, but I'll leave it open for discussion and contemplation. Perhaps someday we may all agree.
Allen Taylor is the author of I Am Not the King.
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