SPIRITUALITY…. Are You Mystical or Historical

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If I was looking for a PHD subject in the field of religion I would look at what people’s FaceBook statuses reveal about contemporary Christian spirituality. I find it fascinating to look at how people articulate their faith by what they post and how it gives a real window into how people conceptualise their faith.

This whole subject came to my mind today because a few statuses appeared next to one another which kind of confirmed what I had been thinking. I have been wondering whether evangelical christians (well at least those who are my FB friends, and I admit that those who self identify as 5 point card carrying Calvinists are rare among that group) fall broadly into broadly two categories.

MYSTICAL EMPHASIS

Some of my FB friends seem to post mainly about what I am going to call the “mystical” dimensions of Christianity. They tend to post about things like prophecy, about believing the promises of Scripture and about experiences in worship. When it comes to quoting the Bible, verses from the Psalms, OT Prophets and Revelation are most common. The focus when it comes to Jesus is on the Risen and exalted Christ, the one who reigns in heaven, there is a focus on the sort of metaphors you find in Revelation and Daniel, the “lion and lamb” “the one who walks among the lamp stands etc” This group seems to be more what I would call “individualised” in its spirituality. There is a lot of talk about what Jesus does for them personally, the peace, joy, forgiveness etc.

HISTORICAL

The other noticeable group when it comes to their FB posts are those who seem to focus more on what I would call the “historical” dimensions of Christianity. These people are connected to what I would call missional theology. These believers see Christianity and spirituality as being decisively shaped by the missional nature of God. If the earlier group tends to focus on the Risen Christ I would say the missional folks tend to focus on the Earthly Jesus. Their focus is on the historical Jesus, his ministry and mission is very clearly their inspiration and example. Not unnaturally they tend to focus as a result on the Gospels when it comes to quotations from the Scriptures. The other noticeable difference is that they are far more corporate in their understanding of Christianity, there is less talk about “I” more talk about “we,” less emphasis on personal Christian living and more emphasis on the Church.

SO WHICH ARE YOU?

I am not wanting to suggest that either group is right and the other wrong in their emphasis. The very fact that both can draw from the New Testament should tell us that both streams of spirituality are reflecting an emphasis found in Scripture itself. I think there is probably danger in adopting one emphasis to the exclusion of the other.

I just have some questions, they are mainly just for my own interest as I have been asking them of myself but I thought I would share them in the hope others might share their perspective

I think my tendency is toward the second group, my spirituality is more shaped by the historical Jesus of the Gospels than the mystical Christ of Revelation.

What about you? Do you lean one way or the other, or have you managed a “balanced” approach?

What are the positive aspects of both approaches?

What are the dangers inherent in each emphasis?

Do you think different denominations reflect the different approaches?

Do you think our personalities draw us to one of the approaches rather than the other?

What can those who are more connected to “the mission of the historical Jesus” learn from those who are more connected to “the ministry of the exalted Christ” and vice versa?

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