Has Christianity abandoned spirit?

should read "spirituality?"

In the old testament and the new, there are multiple references to "principalities and powers" and "rulers of evil in high places". In modern Christianity, except for, perhaps, the Pentacostal movement, it seems as though there has been an abandonment of "Spiritual Warfare/Spiritualism" in the church.

Casting out of demons is viewed as "dark ages" thinking. It seems as though the church has become more of a "self-help" movement, that has more in common with AA, than with any type of spiritual agenda.

I've been reading a book, "The Handbook for Spiritual Warfare" by Dr. Ed Murphy, and he says that one of the biggest challenges for western Christian missionaries in 3rd world countries is that western Christians live in a 2-dimensional world. The believe in a supernatural dimension - with God, Angels, the Devil, and demons - and they believe in a natural dimension - what is tangible, can be touched, tasted, or felt. In western Christianity, the two seem to meet or interact very rarely.

Meanwhile, the people that they minister to believe in a middle level where the supernatural and the natural interact regularly. Some have gods for everything, extreme pantheism.

The old & new testaments reference much of this middle world - Satan's tormenting of Job, Saul conjuring the dead, Jesus & his disciples casting out demons, Paul "handing" someone over to Satan.

In our modern times, the world's hunger for this middle area seems to be very strong. People are searching for knowledge. The esoteric arts - astrology, divination, channeling, magic - are seeing new initiates all of the time.

Yoga/Eastern philosophy is seeing a new resurgence. New Age religions are growing. Authors like David Icke (Mr. Reptilian Agenda) speak of hybrid bloodlines/serpent/demon/human mixes. And also "refutes" Christianity as a religion created from ancient Sumerian/Phoenician religions. These are the teachers that are "filling in the gaps" for spiritual seekers.

Are Christians missing something here? Is the desire to present a "rational" Christianity - separate and apart from this "primitive" middle area - causing Christians to miss out on a real battlefield?

I've been reading about E. Orthodox monastics lately, especially in the books titled The Mountain of Silence and its sequel Gifts of the Desert both by Kyriacos Markides and I can say for these elders at least that spiritual side of things is a daily reality.

The problem is, however, that most of the people who are just interested in the spirit world are not going to be attracted to authentic Christian mysticism anyway because it is too much work and none of these monks go seeking spiritual gifts or powers.  The gifts of the Spirit come and go according to what the Spirit wants.  If a person has more of a mind bent on magic then they want to be able to manipulate the spiritual world and not actually work on dying to themselves and serving something.

For many people these days the big issue is whether a spiritual realm exists but for these Christians that is a non-issue.  The big issue for them is the nature of those powers.  Just because you have a spiritual experience doesn't mean it was a good entity you dealt with.  In fact many of the people who mess with the occult and get in over their heads have to seek out the help of these elders to exorcise the demons.

Yes I believe this is a much neglected issue in much of Christianity. And I think in pentecostalism it is sensationalized to the point of ridiculousness. We must learn to do battle in the Spiritual world, and recognize that much of our current malaise is a spiritual one.

the rev

Interesting post, Dratherbe.

I've always been fascinated by the Christian "spiritual world," and it was one of the things that attracted me back to Catholicism. I do feel that many people dismiss concepts like demons, Purgatory and Hell, because they aren't pleasant.

Even though this passage is about the proper role of anger for a Christian I think it illustrates how commonplace the spiritual world is for these monks:

"Jesus used anger only to resist temptation. This is the example he wanted to give us, what is being asked of us to do," Father Maximos said. "I always remember the way Elder Paisios handled cases like these even though he was frail and weak from excessive fasting and all-night vigils. There were times, in fact, that he could hardly keep himself upright. Yet, when it was a matter of conscience and of confronting evil he was transformed into a warrior. Old Paisios, frail as he was, had no fear in his struggle against evil."

"Have you ever witnessed him in action under such circumstances, Father Maxime?" I asked.

"Many times. One day I watched how he handled a fellow from Crete who apparently was under the influence of demonic energies. He was tall and powerful and he asked Old Paisios to have a private audience with him. Then he started talking nonsense. At one point he demanded that the elder kneel down and worship him because, he claimed, he was 'God.' Obviously, he was out of his mind. The late Paisios stood up, pushed him away, and told him 'You are not God, you are an ass.' Then the Cretan threw the elder to the ground. Once again Old Paisios stood up and, pointing his finger at that ferocious-looking fellow, warned him 'Tonight I shall take care of you."

"Did he really threaten him like that?" I asked, laughing.

"Oh, yes! It was the devil, of course, that he threatened, not the poor fellow himself. What  Elder Paisios meant was that during the night he was going to pray for the Cretan fellow in order to free him from the demon that possessed him. That young man didn't know what he was doing or saying. So when he heard Elder Paisios say he would take care of him that night, foam started flowing out of his mouth and he jumped on Old Paisios to tear him apart."

"Well, did you save him?" I asked half seriously.

"He didn't need any help. I was with another young monk that day and I thought we would all die. Things developed so rapidly there was hardly any time to react. Before we had a chance to intervene, the elder, frail as he was, stood up and gave him a slap so hard that he almost fell on the ground. Then the Cretan began cursing not only the elder but also the Holy Virgin. At that moment Old Paisios delivered him such a sharp slap on his mouth that I thought his teeth would fall out."

"Wasn't he afraid that this person could kill him?"

Father Maximos dismissed that possibility with a gesture. "Old Paisios was not afraid of demonic possession. He was not afraid of Satan. He was a master exorcist. The struggle that day was not with that troubled fellow but with the demon who was inside him and kept tormenting him." Elder Paisios, Father Maximos went on to tell us, spent all night praying for that man, whose mental health was eventually restored.

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"The big issue for them is the nature of those powers. Just because you have a spiritual experience doesn't mean it was a good entity you dealt with."

I absolutely agree with this. I think that many people are searching for and through this stuff without any kind of guidance and will ultimately give evil entities footholds in their lives - the Bible says that the devil presents himself as an angel of light. What was his first sin against man? Deception.

"The problem is, however, that most of the people who are just interested in the spirit world are not going to be attracted to authentic Christian mysticism anyway because it is too much work and none of these monks go seeking spiritual gifts or powers."

I don't fully agree with this statement. I don't think everyone that digs into mysticism or esotercisim is looking for magical powers. I think many are looking for more information about a world they somehow know exists. Further, for those that are seeking personal power, or an allegiance with/mastery over "others", they are often subjected to arduous, difficult paths, rites & disciplines.

I think much of the Church plays hide & seek with the spiritual realm:

A. If you want to know about this, you have an unhealthy interest in the occult.

B. If you don't know about this, it's because it is one of God's mysteries, not meant to be uncovered.

C. If you are interested, you probably see the devil under every rock & bush.

D. You are wanting to avoid personal responsiblity for your actions by blaming demons & the unknown.

John Warwick Montgomery writes in his book, "Principality and Powers, the world of the occult" that, in the Church, anything unexplained or paranormal is often automatically assigned to evil - i.e. apparitions, telepathy, ESP and other unexplained phenomenon.

Paul the apostle states that our battle is not with flesh and blood, but with principalities & powers.

  • Is the Church simply content to occupy itself with salvation, self-improvement, & social events ?

  • If this spiritual warfare is going on, are Christians doing their part?

  • If they are not doing their part in this spiritual war, doesn't it seem as though they are short-changing believers and presenting the world with an impotent gospel that promises freedom from oppression through self-discipline alone - a works-based freedom?

Just curious...

And I think in pentecostalism it is sensationalized to the point of ridiculousness.

Rev,

I am suprised to see you write that but I am kind of glad you did.  Now if I remember right you consider yourself to be a Charismatic so can you elaborate on this a little more?

Dratherbe,

I said "most" for that reason.  I am not dismissing the intentions of all people who seek to know about the reality of a spiritual realm.  I think some are genuinely wanting to know if there is more than just this material existence.  I do think that the popular religion in the US is to have some vague notion of God and spirituality that doesn't really amount to much in terms of real demands on their life. 

I don't think a good part of the "church" is equipped to deal with the spiritual world because it is not a reality for a good part of the clergy.  How can you give advice about something you have barely experienced yourself? 

With that said, though, I think some people actually overemphasize the spiritual war we are in and attribute everything to Satan when that is not always the case.  In the book I am reading there are 4 things which influence us.  The first is God, the second is Satan and evil entities, the third is our environment and the fourth is ourselves.  Some of the things which people attribute to Satan are actually just derived from their own imaginations.  A good part of Christian maturity is having the discernment to know the difference between a real spiritual attack or a natural thing like chemically based depression.  Many mentally ill people latch on to demonic language but the way to help that person will depend on rightly recognizing the cause of their problem. 

I agree with those four items - God, Satan, Environment, and Self - but I think that we are heading into a period where Satan & his demons are being welcomed into this world by people that really have no idea who or what they are dealing with.

I think that one of the main reasons for this is the Church's shying away from spirituality in an effort to appeal to a "modern" world.

  • How do we reach the "Gen-X" crowd?

  • How do we show people that we're not still in the dark ages?

Is it just a show/business? Just about salvation/"get out of hell free"? Or is it about victory & freedom?

Dratherbe,

I think we are in agreement.  I think the question is ignored in part because of a negative association with superstition and the "dark ages".  If people went too far in that time subscribing nearly everything to the work of demons our error is clearly in going to the other extreme.

Even so I don't think the spiritual world is an everyday reality for many Christians so beyond just acknowledging that it is very much a part of authentic Christianity there is a general lack of experience there.  In part I think that a westernized, materialist lifestyle cuts us off from spiritual realities both in the sense that we try to rationalize too much and in the sense that our hectic and consumer driven lifestyles don't lend themselves to real spiritual contemplation.  I think these monks are experiencing certain things because they are far more open to those realities but they shouldn't even be close to the only ones having those experiences.  The difference is these monks and nuns pray and fast and worship on a regular basis.

" I think the question is ignored in part because of a negative association with superstition and the 'dark ages'."

If the Scriptures and the examples are correct and explicit, I think this signifies the need for a change in the Church.

I believe there are spiritual things happening now, people opening doorways - the wrong doorways - through mediums, rituals, drugs, that are going to up the ante. The Church should be prepared. I don't read in scripture anywhere where lack of familiarity or comfortability is an excuse for shirking Christian duty. I think the Church has the same problem as the military does, too many politicians, not enough warriors.

the idea of spiritual warfare is not chasing demons, and the supernatural is not pushing people over and barking like dogs. Spiritual warfare is fighting against the spiritual issues that stand against us, as well as dealing with the demonic when it comes along. It does not mean blaming demons for every thing. It also means we are in a war, the kingdom of God is at war with all of the other kingdoms. But the kingdom is to be the aggressor, not hell, the gates of hell will not prevail. Gates are defensive not offensive. By our fighting for social justice, freedom, compassion, and living in healthy commumnities, rejecting consumerism, and living sacrificially we are at war with this world, but we will prevail.

As to Gen x I think the church acknowledges that they are more open to supernatural ideas than the moderns. I think the current state is more caused by wanting to please the modern world, not the post modern world.

the rev

Christian Spiritists deal with this all the time.

But it is not considered a battle, because we learn that we have to love our enemies.

" I think the current state is more caused by wanting to please the modern world, not the post modern world."

I think Churches, in general, want to attract as many people as possible - it's an enterprise.

John,

I agree except for the part about barking like dogs. ;-)

But it is not considered a battle, because we learn that we have to love our enemies.

I agree with one part of this statement in the sense that ultimately if we have the love of God then we will even love demons in the sense that we wish they could be redeemed.

What I don't agree with is that there is no battle involved.  I mean what do you make of people who are possessed by demons and whose lives are destroyed through it?  I don't think Jesus hated even Satan but he certainly did battle with Satan in the sense of resisting him.

I agree wholeheartedly, but I see this not as a Christian phenomenon, but one of the West as a whole. In the past 10 years, the Kabbalah has received more attention than it has in the last 600. Jews are fiddiling in Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism more so than Christians in general (1 in 3 non-Asian Buddhists in the US was born Jewish!). Obviously, something must be done.

Also, please do not mix up Pantheism, Polytheism and Panentheism.

MS

Yes I think it is a product of Western rationalism gone too far.  Now there is a great deal of value in the rational approach but it doesn't explain the whole of existence and when it comes to religous experience especially people want more than just a rational acceptance of a creed.  They need a an authentic experience.  Unfortunately some people are so hungry for any kind of experience that they will accept a phony one over the real thing.

On a side note the idea that the "Dark Ages", which is an erroneous title anyway, were caused by Christianity is simply not accurate.  The Eastern half of the Roman Empire did not experience a dark age and it was totally inundated with Christianity.  I was actually the illiterate barbarians which brought civilization to a new low in the West and the Western church was actually responsible for preserving what few classical works they could as well as being the only source of education at a certain point. 

dogface, gen x is the first generation in america to be predominantly post modern, and Gen y would tend to be ever more so. This is not however a certainty, as everyone is different. You have a more modern outlook on life despite the generation that you are part of.

And ofcourse it is easy for you to condemn what we believe as you have not experienced it. So even though I operate socially very well, function perfectly well in society, have no symptoms of mental illness in any other ways, and indeed have been thoroughly tested for such illnesses in previous job assesments, you conveniently accuse me of schozophrenia because I have had experiences that you have not, nor accept as reasonable.

However, if you can explain to me how rational human beings can spin infants by their feet, impaling their heads onto a spike lodged in a tree, in the killing fields of Cambodia, starve people to death in tribal fueds in Africa, or disembowel the church leaders, and then rape the women and daughters of all the men while they are forced to watch in Uganda, with no external forces guiding them along, then I would suggest your understanding of humanity is more debased than the Christians version of original sin. Evil exists, and there is much proof to my eyes.

the rev

We are in a transition time, moving from one world view to another. So there are those in Gen Y and Z that still will hold to modernism as their world view. As there are those in the post war baby boomer generation, and the depression generation that are post modern in their world view. I was pointing out that though you would be in a generation more geared towards post modernism, you function in a modern mindset.

As to your sentence about Christianity being easily replaced I am not sure what you mean. It appears to me that Postmoderns would be a bit more accepting of religions, but also less dogmatic about what is right and wrong, or the correct religion.

the rev