Religion – Solo or Group?

by Joseph Wolpert

Historic Christian Faith has always placed a great deal of emphasis upon the “body of Christ” – the corporate aspect of faith.

In fact, Christian theology – is always “corporate” – it is always concerned with the faith of the “group”.

The essential idea goes back to the Old Testament.

Israel, as a group was called or chosen by God – to receive and transmit God’s revelations.

The “church” in the New Testament became a “New Israel” where this was to continue.

Consequently, Christian faith, historically, always contains a “corporate” aspect.

Mainstream, traditional, and evangelical groups today maintain this understanding and concept.

But, there are many people, particularly in the New Thought and New Age movements (and those who share the same mindset) who find this notion quite unusual if not strange.

The corporate identity of Historic Christian Faith has been replaced by a vigorous individualism.

Such folks view themselves not as members of a corporate body with a “shared” faith but as independent seekers of truth.

The “why” of this shift is traceable historically.

Ever since the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century – there has been an ever-increasing focus on the role of the individual – so much so, that personal consciousness has become both the starting point and the end-all of spiritual matters.

Ever since the French mathematician and philosopher, Descarte coined the phrase “cogito ergo sum” – “I think, therefore I am” – the idea that personal consciousness is to be the focus of our efforts has become pretty well solidified.

The fundamental presupposition of this view is that all human problems have their origin in individual human consciousness so the individual human consciousness is the appropriate arena to focus on. The solution then for human problems is to discover, find, and acquire any and all techniques, strategies, or tools from “wherever they can be found” that can assist in overcoming the individual obstacles to spiritual experience.

This view is predicated on another notion – the idea of personal responsibility which states that we are responsible for what happens in our lives and therefore we are responsible for the solutions. Inherent in this viewpoint is that “we can” overcome any and all obstacles through our own efforts once we find the “right” techniques, strategies, and tools for doing so.

Consequently, there is really no need for traditional categories of Christian Faith.

Instead of Christian theology which is always “corporate” we find a philosophical approach to life which deals with a few of the questions common to theology but which neglects the corporate aspect and therefore a truly “Christian” identity.

This shift in identity has produced a large number of people who are “Christians in name only”.

There is little if any understanding of historic Christian faith – it’s traditions and practices. And more importantly, in this view – there is no need to!

Identification with traditional and historic Christian faith is seen as “limiting” – what is sought is “universal truth” that crosses all lines. There is a very positive result of this viewpoint and that is there is an openness, sincere regard, and respect for different religions. This is admirable and I only wish that more conservative “Christians” would do this.

But there is also a downside – such a universalist view hampers personal spiritual development and maturity.

The evidence for this can be found in the fact that the models for spirituality found in such explorations were not as “universalists” as present day “seekers” attempt to be: Moses and Jesus were Jewish, Buddha -was a Hindu, Rama Krishna was a Hindu, St Teresa of Avila and Meister Eckhart were Catholics – and the list goes on and on.

Respecting all religions and trying to apply “eclectic” practices from all of them is quite different.

The fact is – ALL of the spiritual giants whose lives that we can know anything about were committed to one particular spiritual discipline. It is simply not true that if and when a person makes a commitment to a particular religion, denomination, or group that he or she is being intolerant of differing groups or is limiting his or herself. The fact is the person will begin to grow spiritually far more rapidly than

they otherwise will because they will begin to focus their activities. Also, they will receive far more mentoring and support from the group who shares the direction their spiritual lives are now taking.

Joseph Wolpert is the Founder and Director of Joseph Wolpert Ministries. An ordained minister, he travels extensively across the United States and Mexico teaching on The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts. He also conducts Healing Meetings where he prays for thousands of people a year

Joseph Wolpert Ministries also offers Consultanting Services to Churchs interested in growth and development. JWM produces a wide range of audio cassette tapes. Reverend Wolpert is the author of The Crux, The Core, and The Cross of Christianity, I Don’t Know How To Pray But God Does. You can visit his web site at http://www.josephwolpert.org/

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