North Americans are fanatically searching for “spiritual experiences.” People are looking for “god” outside the traditional avenues of Western Christianity (i.e., the Church, monastic communities, religious institutions, faith communities, etc.). There is a frenzy of people who want to be “spiritual but not religious,” but what does that really mean? What is spirituality apart from a religious experience with the Other? Who is this Other drawing people to search for things beyond scientific rationalism or secular liberalism? Are these manifestations of our subconscious anxieties? Is god an amalgamation of our societal hopes, ideas, and dreams? Or is God the One who has revealed the Divine Self in a particular place, time, and people?
I am overjoyed with the contemporary search for “spirituality!” There are great hope and potential for another Great Spiritual Awakening in America. However, without a firm biblical understanding of the Trinity, spiritual practices can devolve into corrupted practices, such as paganism, emotionalism, or Christological Unitarianism [Freeman, Curtis W. “God in Three Persons: Baptist Unitarianism and the Trinity” in Perspectives in Religious Studies 33, no. 3 (Fall 2006), 324]. Searching for God without dogma is like a restless sailor setting sail for the Western waters without a compass, a map of the port of departure, a telescope to survey the landscape of his coastal homeland, or books that contain the wisdom of past sages. Where will he finally end up, and how can he return home to tell others of his experiences? Can we journey alone like Amelia Earhart into the spiritual realm? Or will we travel with other pilgrims like St. Patrick’s sojourn into the interior of Ireland? If we do not know Who we are looking for, how will we know when we have been discovered by the Divine?
This blog is part of my research project at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, Iowa, for the Doctor of Ministry degree in Missional Spirituality. This three-year residency and research program has focused on the spiritual practices or “piety” as renewal for personal and congregational ministry. I have read and learned extensively from the great Christian Reformers on practices of prayer, devotional writing, ethics, and piety, along with contemporary researchers, thinkers, and theologians within and outside my religious tradition. Posts will consist of devotions, ideas, questions, and opportunities to share religious testimonials. I invite you to join the journey as we search for God together.
The Reverend Ivan E. Greuter, M.A., M.Div., D.Min. is Senior Minister at West Side Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas and President of Midtown Community Services (a not-for-profit community development agency). Raised on the prairie in Nebraska, Ivan earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Ottawa University, Kansas. He then earned a Master of Arts in Theology and Master of Divinity degrees at Northern Baptist Theological Seminary, Lombard, Illinois; and the Doctor of Ministry degree in Missional Spirituality at the University of Dubuque Theological Seminary, Iowa. He is an ordained clergyman serving with the American Baptist Churches of the USA, International Ministries (aka the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society), and the American Baptist Churches of the Central Region. Rexanne and Ivan have three children.