Spirituality is often given as a contrast to Christianity. The “spiritual but not religious” crowd and the “nones” (those who have some interest in spirituality but no attachment to any religion) continues to grow.
These concepts aren’t a modern invention or novel philosophical concept. Ancient pagan religions (worldview) believed the divine was in each of them. God, they believed, was a somewhat impersonal “thing” (like the Force in Starwars) which (not necessarily who) inhabited and animated all things but was not really distinct from all things. Michael Horton described this philosophy/worldview/religion:
The first grand narrative erases (or tends to erase) the infinite-qualitative distinction between God and creatures. Narrated in myriad myths across many cultures, this is the story of the ascent of the soul—that divine part of us, which has somehow become trapped in matter and history. Although it originates in dualism—a stark (even violent) opposition between finite and infinite, matter and spirit, time and eternity, humanity and God, the goal is to reestablish the unity of all reality. In some versions, only that which is infinite, spiritual, eternal, and divine is real, so all else perishes or is somehow elevated into the upper world. Nevertheless, the goal is to lose all particularity and diversity in the One, which is Being itself.
If one begins with a story of the cosmos in which the divine is somehow buried within us, a sacred spark or soul trapped in a body, space, and time, then the ultimate source of reality is not outside of us but inside. God does not enter into the times and spaces that he has created; rather, all of reality emanates from this divine principle of unity like rays from the sun.
In Platonism, for example, spiritual/intellectual entities possess more “being,” while aspects of reality that belong more to history and matter fall down the ladder in diminishing grades of being. To the “upper world” belong the eternal forms: unchanging, one, and real; the “lower world” consists of the realm of mere appearances: ever-changing, diverse, and shadowy in their existence. In the case of human beings, the mind or spirit is the immortal spark of divinity, while the emotions are slaves of the body and its bondage to the realm of mere appearances. We just need to go deeper within to find the truth, overcoming our sense of estrangement from “being” by returning to the source of a single Light.
In this perspective, if God is considered in personal terms at all, not just as a unifying principle (namely, The One, Ground of Being, Absolute Spirit, the Unity of All, etc.), he is certainly not viewed as someone other, standing over against the self, especially in judgment. In other words, divinity is domesticated, brought inside of the self, so that it can no longer threaten, judge, rule, or condemn. This type of deity does not offend, disrupt, command, or save; rather than a stranger, God, the gods, or the divine principle is the most immanent and personal aspect of one’s own existence.Michael Horton, Christian Faith, 36-37.
The distinction between the Creature and the Creator must be maintained to build and maintain a proper worldview. Perhaps, we gravitate toward, maybe even subconsciously, minimizing this distinction so that God’s authoritative position can be avoided. As Horton wrote, “In this perspective, if God is considered in personal terms at all, not just as a unifying principle (namely, The One, Ground of Being, Absolute Spirit, the Unity of All, etc.), he is certainly not viewed as someone other, standing over against the self, especially in judgment.” If God is within us, rather than above us, we do not have to answer to Him we just need to answer to our own conscience. Does this sound like modern living?
Despite our longing for God to be a part of us and for us to be a part of God, we need to remember that God is the Creator and we are the creatures. Genesis 1 records the existence of God without explanation and then goes on to describe all of God’s creative work outside of himself. Creation was distinct from God and totally dependent upon God. As Horton said,
In sharp contrast, the biblical narrative tells the story of the triune God who created all of reality (visible and invisible) out of nothing for his own glory, the creation of humankind in his image and covenant, the transgression of that covenant, and the surprising announcement of his gracious promise to send a Savior. The “scarlet thread” of the promised Redeemer runs through every book of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation: Jesus Christ is the unifying center of God’s saving revelation.Horton, Christian Faith, 41.
Creation must be dependent upon an external personal power. Just as “every house is built by someone and the builder of all things is God” (Heb 3:4), all creation must have an explanation–a first cause. Without a “first cause” there can be no series of effects. Without an infinite God, we could not expect the contingent realities. But as we realize the essentially of the infinite creator God as the reason and explanation of the universe, we then must acknowledge some sort of relationship toward him. We must investigate our relationship with him to whom we have to do.
“Apart from the gospel we flee from God’s self-revelation, dressing folly in the robe of wisdom and ungodliness in the garments of virtue. It is ultimately an ethical revolt against the God who made us.”Horton, The Christian Faith, 53