Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What's up with that: Being a spiritual AND physical being

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An informal series addressing questions Protestants and Catholics have about each other

When you are converting from one Christian denomination to another there are certain tenets or over-arching themes of the new denomination that stick out to you in a way members of the denomination might not always realize are as palpable as they are to outsiders.

One of the themes that has always stood out to me about Catholicism is the acknowledgement that we are both spiritual and physical beings.  There is a bit of an idea among modern Christians that our body is unimportant.  We can be cremated when we die because our body is of no use at that point.  Being physically present with other Christians is not that important because we can spiritual on our own.  Partaking in sacred ritual is nice, but not necessary because faith is intellectually-based and as long as we are thinking and believing the right things we are doing fine.  It reminds me of the trend to be "spiritual but not religious".  You may have even seen the video that was going around over a year ago with the rap about Jesus hating "religion".

I've always hesitated when people would say that they were spiritual but not religious or that people need faith, not religion.  I recently finished reading a book I won in a giveaway from Carrots for Michaelmas called When Donkeys Talk by Tyler Blanski.  It's by a very enthusiastic Protestant Christian encouraging Christians to not assume that the wonder and mystery of Christianity is over.  To not assume that the kind of stuff that happened in biblical times will not happen today.  When I read a book I think will be good for blogging purposes I always read it with a bunch of Post-it flags at my side.  The very first flag I used in this book was for this thought:

"If I am born again, I can no longer be an individualist of a therapeutic or a materialistic deist.  I should not want to invent a personal faith of private devotions in my closet at the expense of living actively in the corporate body of Christ's church.  The Holy Spirit inside of me cries out for me to live my faith in the community of believers.  This 'lived faith' is religion."

I loved this last sentence.  It's exactly what I've been hoping to find.  I want religion to stop being a taboo word.  I want there to stop being a negative connotation when someone is described as "religious".  I want Christians to embrace the benefits of religious ritual and practice.  I think in our efforts to be certain that we were not "going through the motions" we lost sight of the significance of the motions in assisting us to live our faith.

I don't think God stopped being present in our daily lives when the Bible ended.  God knows us--he would never have left us without a way to know him.  We aren't that much more complex than medieval Christians, no matter how much we'd like to believe it.  God gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us.  God gave us sacraments that would be physical expressions of spiritual gifts.  Our God meets us where we are and He has given us plenty of ways to know Him, to hear Him, to be in His presence.  He knows just like scientists know that when we use our bodies to do something we remember it better.  We need to acknowledge that God must have given us our body for a reason and use it to live our faith.


  1. Ohmygosh yes! I HATE that religion is a four letter word because it's such an important part of our lives. I just hope that more people read that book!

    1. I've just become so irked at the perversion of what religion is--people perceive religion as rules and a bunch of empty practices and faith as the goal, but like Blanksi said, LIVED faith=religion!

  2. I found your blog at Carrots for Michaelmas and was happy to see this post on Tyler Blanski! He actually went to my Alma Mater (Hillsdale College), and while I've never read his book, I obviously had more than a couple professors praise it. =) I loved what you had to say about the fact that religious rituals are our way of God now being present in our lives--the desire for that, for the sacraments and a discernible order wherein to practice & experience the presence of God (and not just a mere emotionally-driven hyped up service) was one of the major reasons I left my mainstream evangelical church and joined a confessional Lutheran church. I'm excited to read more of your blog! =)

    1. Welcome, Sarah! I'm so glad you're here and that you commented. How cool that you have that connection to Tyler Blanksi! I'm going to add a bit more to the thoughts here about physical worship in another post still coming so I hope you'll look out for it. So far I've been going for a post a week, but that may change. Since you mentioned you're Lutheran, do you happen to have any questions about Catholicism or any beliefs as a Protestant that you'd like to explain to Catholics? I would love your input on the series if you have any.

    2. I'm so excited to read the rest of the series! I had some of an opportunity to discuss doctrine/religion with my Catholic and Orthodox friends in college, and I always cherish the opportunity to discuss and explore those differences & similarities. One thing that I would love to see discussed (especially between Protestant and Catholics) is how the differences we might have had in the early Reformation years may have changed. I sometimes think that especially in my Lutheran circles, we tend to have an uncharitable view of the Catholic church that really isn't based in reality anymore, but is instead rooted in problems that (perhaps) aren't a contemporary issue. In other words, we can be stubborn and cherish a desire to re-hash issues that have been put to bed LONG ago. ;) Unfortunately, such a discussion tends to be difficult because a lot of my Protestant friends have Catholic-resentment. So, I guess that's less of a point and more of a general question and a definite excitement to explore our contemporary differences. =) I'm excited to see more of this series!

    3. I have actually been musing on the same topic for the last 7 or 8 months! It's funny that you mention that. I have wondered, if the Reformation helped to spur the idea of laypeople reading the Bible and other ideas that eventually came to be in Vatican II, was it all bad for Catholics? And I know what you mean about there still being this "heat" in the Lutheran church as I was briefly Lutheran for a couple of years. I won't get too far into it, but I'll see if it can turn into a post. I welcome guest posting as well!


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