“Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”… from the Gospel according to St. John.
Sometime during my high school years, I started to rebel against what I saw as the Establishment, which mostly meant my father. I let my hair grow long, much to his chagrin, and started to emulate my new heroes, the stars of Woodstock.
I was what we called a long-haired hippie freak. I know, it’s hard to imagine that the theological conservative Anglo Catholic priest standing before you was once a libertine and an anarchist.At that time I also started to embrace a sort of new aged spirituality that had as its soundtrack the John Lennon 1971 song, Imagine.
I’m not sure I really understood the song at the time, but it talked about peace, so that sounded good to me. Lennon himself later referred to it as a sort of Communist Manifesto, while claiming that he was not a Communist himself, nor belonging to any movement whatsoever. And he certainly got a fair amount of criticism for the line, “and no religion, too.”
Being just a little older now, I can see the childish folly of the song, which describes a Kindergarten more that anything else. We had our chance to live in the Garden of Eden, but we blew it.
The lasting effect of the 1970’s upon culture was the introduction of a New Spirituality that has slowly developed and influenced society in subtle yet tangible ways.
The problem with New Spirituality is that it is a deception. As long as this world is inhabited by human beings there will be conflict.
In a recent study by the Barna group, whose 30 year history of over a million interviews tracks the role of faith in America, it was found that among practicing Christians 61% agree with ideas rooted in New Spirituality. (and other alarming results.)
32% of practicing Christians agree with the statement “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad you will receive bad.” This either reflects a belief in karma, which includes belief in reincarnation, or what I like to call Country Karma, which means, “What goes around, comes around.”
This is not a true Christian belief! It’s closer to the Old Testament law of, “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” whereas Jesus taught forgiveness and reconciliation.
The second statement rooted in New Spirituality is that “All people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” 28% of Christians agree with this. Some Christians believe that the God we know and love is the same as the Muslim God, Allah.
The Muslims certainly don’t believe that, because they explicitly reject that God has a Son. Christianity is inherently Trinitarian, and we know him as the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And we know his name, “I AM” or in Hebrew Yahweh.
Jesus made this clear in his teaching we heard today in the Gospel. He used God’s Holy Name in that famous verse, “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”
He goes even further. Listen to this again:
“Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, `Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?”
You can tell that Jesus is a little frustrated with Philip, can’t you? The question might be valid for us, too:
Do we not believe that Jesus is in the Father and the Father is in Jesus?
Yes we do believe! And we affirm it in the Nicene Creed that we read every Sunday. And we read it every Sunday because it crucial to our belief in God as revealed to us by Jesus Christ, our Lord.
In fact, many Christians in the Middle East are martyred because they will not renounce their faith in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. How easy it is for us to proclaim it, and maybe take it for granted, while people are being killed for it.
The third statement of New Spirituality is that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is.” 27% of practicing Christians agreed with this one. I’m not even sure what that means.
If 61% of practicing Christians believe in at least one of the three statements rooted in New Spirituality, then many of the preachers and teachers of the Church have failed to effectively communicate the faith once delivered to the Saints. Maybe if they just read the Nicene Creed occasionally things would be different.
Jesus’ statement in John 14:6 is definitive, and it is distinctive of the Christian religion. It is, or at least should be, taught and emphasized in every Christian denomination, and in each branch of the Church of God: Anglican, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox. This is not optional.
Someone might say you that God is just bigger than all that, and that we are being bigoted, but do not give into the temptation to soften the message. Remember, Jesus was made man so that he could lead us to the Father, like a shepherd leads his flock. He died for the forgiveness of our sins, and he rose again to give us eternal life.
I urge you to read the Nicene Creed today with open eyes and ears, and hear what the Spirit is saying to you. Amen.