Spirituality and Religion: Crossroads or Intersection?

“I’m spiritual but not religious.” You’ve heard it a hundred times, and so have I. To put my cards on the table, I’m not a fan of that statement. Separating out spirituality from religion seems ridiculous to me. As if being “spiritual” is a conscious pursuit that one can so easily divorce from a “religious” context. As if the human exercise of spirituality could have survived through the ages without its cultivation in religion contexts. As if haphazardly selecting from an à la carte menu of spiritualities could possibly provide more depth than a religious set of narratives and practices shaped by millennia.

That is what I’m thinking when I hear someone profess spiritual-but-not-religious.

But I never say all that. The problem is if I respond like this out loud, I just sound defensive, which nobody likes. Although, truth be told, “defensive” is probably not far off. I am, after all, a pastor, so I’m rather invested in religion. Religion is kind of what I do.

But more than that, when I take a breath and actually listen, I think I get what lots of people mean when they make this distinction. Take, for example, this excerpt from the introduction of Diana Butler Bass’s Grounded, in which the author shares a conversation she had with a woman on a cross-country flight.

I used to be religious,” [the woman] explained. “I grew up Catholic, but left the church over the sex-abuse scandal. The church doesn’t make much sense in the world as it is now. But I still believe in God. I’d say I’m a spiritual person.”

Spiritual but not religious? Diana offers. The woman agrees.

“I’ve thought about [joining a different church],” she confessed. “But ‘joining’ an organization strikes me as a strange way to relate to God. And the institutional church is so broken, so hypocritical. It has wounded so many people. I just can’t do that again with any honesty.” She paused, seeming to wonder if she should continue. “But these other things—the Spirit all around, caring and praying for people, working for a better world—they ground me.”1

Okay, that I get. I don’t want to argue with that. If religion is a hierarchical institution that insists on exclusionary practices and fails to prevent hurtful abuses, and if spirituality is an openness to God’s Spirit and a heightened and healing presence in the world, then I get why people talk as if religion and spirituality are at a crossroads—and why people are consistently choosing the latter over the former.

When self-disclosures like this woman’s disarm me, I am able to see that there are indeed significant, distinct territories occupied by each of these two terms. It is valid, for example, to point out various expressions of religiosity that are devoid of Spirit: institutions, of course, but also lifeless beliefs, tone-deaf platitudes, and practices that harm more than help. Conversely, it is understandable why people might try to carve out a spiritual space unconstrained by religion and engage in individual practices of mindfulness, prayer, care for nature, or service to others, to name a few.

Even from this more understanding place, however, I still venture that both cases are unfortunate—religion without Spirit or spirituality without a religious home.

My interest, which arises to be sure from my location as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor and life-long church-goer, lies at the intersection of these two, spirituality and religion. Yes, like a Venn diagram, from fifth grade math. Accepting that spirituality and religion are two distinct sets, which often are in conflict with—if not totally ignorant of—each other, I want to explore where the two things meet and overlap in creative tension.

Definitions A good place to start might be defining terms. My defensiveness about religion probably has at least something to do with a difference in definitions. Likely, I’m operating in those conversations with a broader use of the word “religion,” where religion encompasses the traditions, practices, and sacred stories of peoples through history—which, in my mind, are basically the bedrock of human spirituality. But that is almost certainly not what many people mean when they say they are not religious, and that's fair enough.

There are myriad valid and helpful ways to define these terms; I happened upon the following useful definitions in an article my wife gave me, written by professor of social work David Hodge.

Spirituality is “a fundamental human drive for transcendent meaning and purpose that involves connectedness with oneself, others, and ultimate reality.”2 To “connectedness” we might add language like being “grounded” or “rooted” or “centered.”

Religion is “a shared set of beliefs and practices that have been developed over time with people who have similar understandings of the sacred or transcendent . . . These beliefs and practices, which are designed to mediate an individual’s relationship with the sacred, are transmitted through community-based structures or organizations.”3

These are helpful, I think. Spirituality has to do with transcendent meaning, connectedness, being grounded, being centered. Religion has to do with communal practices and beliefs, which by their nature require some level of organization and structure.

Religion is probably the more familiar for many of us and the easier to identify. Spirituality is fuzzier, especially when in some circles, the term spirituality is mistakenly confused with labels like New Age, spiritualism, paganism, cults, etc., which are all technically religions.

Hodge offers further help here in clarifying what we mean by spirituality. In his article, he demonstrates for clinical therapists how to conduct an implicit spiritual assessment with a client. The reasons for an implicit assessment include that for some clients, explicit spiritual or religious language is not relevant or relatable to them. However, that does not mean that these clients are devoid of spirituality.4

So, Hodge offers a lengthy list of questions a clinician might incorporate into their general biopsychosocial assessment and ongoing therapy, which may help implicitly to tap into a client’s spirituality. The list includes questions, such as:

When do you feel most fully alive? What gives you a sense of purpose and meaning in life? What causes you the greatest despair/suffering? Whom/What do you put your hope in? What are your deepest regrets? When in your life have you experienced forgiveness? At the deepest levels of your being, what strengthens (or nurtures) you?5

These are productive questions for reflection, no doubt. And Hodge’s advice for therapists is instructive on a couple levels. For one, it may help us religious types be better attuned to the spirituality of those with an allergic reaction to overt religiosity or “organized religion.” But also, I think it helps us push past an opposite tendency we may have to let our religious engagement short-circuit reflection on the more Spirit-oriented questions, questions of spirituality.

Intersections From this social-science point of view, it is clear that these spirituality questions could be engaged apart from a specific religious tradition. And one might also imagine a form of religiosity that rarely—or superficially—engages them. But for this pastor, these deeply personal questions are begging to be brought into conversation with sacred stories, intentional practices, and diverse community. So, then, this makes me wonder where else we might look for intersections between spirituality and religion?

While there may be valid expressions of spiritual-but-not-religious and tragically anemic examples of religious-but-not-spiritual, what might an integrated spirituality-in-religion or religious spirituality look like?

What, if anything, constitutes Christian spirituality, or even Adventist spirituality?

Specifically from my own context, where might my sense of meaning and groundedness (spirituality) be nurtured and shaped by Adventist communal practices, traditions, narratives, and beliefs? And also, how might my participation in this particular religious community be animated by a well cultivated spirituality?

These questions challenge me, but also ground me, not only as a professional religionist but also more basically as a person. The search for and exploration of these intersections are a significant source of meaning and purpose for me. I’m grateful for Spectrum’s invitation to contribute bimonthly to this section of the website; my hope is to engage in and further conversations about intersections of the spiritual-religious variety. Among them:

Places where beliefs and practice, theology and life intersect Places where secular and sacred, mundane and transcendent intersect Places where tradition and creativity, institution and individual intersect

And not because they necessarily have to intersect (they don’t), but more because I’m fascinated by and attracted to—and yes, invested in—these sorts of intersections. On closer self-examination, I realize that it’s not that a split between spiritual and religious doesn’t make sense (it just might in many cases); rather, it’s that I don’t want there to be a split. While there may be legitimate spaces for each to operate on its own, I long for a generative, life-giving intersection of the two.

In Grounded Diana Butler Bass observes that our collective answer to the question “Where is God?” has shifted from “Out/Up there” to “Here,” and hence people are hungry for a spirituality that is not other-worldly, but rather rooted, embodied, and embedded in the world. That I get, too. I resonate with that hunger. And my hope, my longing, is that we unearth and unleash sacred stories like Creation, Incarnation, Sabbath, and Wholeness, and that we learn to tell them in earthy, Spirit-filled ways.


  1. Diana Butler Bass, Grounded (New York: HarperOne, 2015): 17.
  2. David R. Hodge, “Implicit Spiritual Assessment: An Alternative Approach for Assessing Client Spirituality,” Social Work vol 58, no 3 (July 2013): 224.
  3. Hodge, 224.
  4. Hodge, 224.
  5. Hodge, 227.

Vaughn Nelson is Pastor for Discipleship and Nurture at the La Sierra University Church in Riverside, California.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7361
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Thoughtful exploration of a complex subject and, for me, it is interesting when we think about implications for our world today. I recently was reading an article on data by Pew Research Center The article was titled “Millennials are less religious than older Americans, but just as spiritual” It is very provocative because when you finish reading it is points to the uncoupling of the religious from the spiritual and underscores the fundamental challenge of relevancy which you expressed so beautifully when you say,

And my hope, my longing, is that we unearth and unleash sacred stories like Creation, Incarnation, Sabbath, and Wholeness, and that we learn to tell them in earthy, Spirit-filled ways.

What you describe is a quest for relevancy. Without relevancy, the organized SDA church, along with many other mainstream christian denominations will continue to wither and decay. My dream as one with gray hair and young adult children struggling to find relevancy is that your hope and longing penetrates the soul of our failing church organization before it is too late.



I liked what you said – a quest for relevancy.

Perhaps in order for your “young” children, and perhaps even for Their “Young” children to find relevancy How We Do Church needs to be rethought. Challenged. Changed.
To make Church less an entertainment center of sitting in a chair for 180 minutes every Sabbath with little interaction to those around, much less interaction with and to those entertaining us up front.
Pay our Tithe and Offerings for Rental Fees for use of a seat each week.
Even the way that Church Buildings and Church Seatings are organized is to prevent interaction with other persons sitting in their chairs and with the persons listed on the Bulletin Program.
Perhaps this is WHY it makes little sense for some to attend “Church”, but to sit at home, surf the Internet on Sabbath to find a Church service, a Church group, a Pastor they can relate to in their Seeking God HERE and not Up There, or Out There.
I am one of those persons who go to my Local church at 9:30 am. But I have my Live Internet Church from San Fancisco Area at 3 PM which provides practical life discussions while I am listening and learning at home. And if I happen to have to miss it, it is archived, and I can listen to it at another time, or on a different day.
For me, this Internet Church is a Teaching Church, a Learning Church, and I find blessings in the discussions. And I find personal challenges in the discussions.

EDIT --Peter I like what you said.
Church is NOT where we go to be quiet and be entertained, then leave.
The disciples of Acts were very busy socializing, getting to know each other, even being invited to each others homes if for no other reason than to “Break Bread” {celebrate the Lord till He come]. Apparently this DID NOT happen just on Sunday, NOR just every 13 Weeks.
It is Jewish culture NOW to Bless and Break Bread before the meal. It is Jewish culture NOW to say a prayer of thanks for Wine before the meal. Jesus took these two activities to be used to remember Him at every main meal of the day.
I believe the Church AND the members miss a lot of Spiritual Food by not being able to participate frequently in the “Breaking of Bread” and the “Drinking the Wine”.
Perhaps to chant
Eat this Bread, Drink this Cup, come to Me and never be Hungry.
Eat this Bread, Drink this Cup, come to Me and you will not Thirst.

A Church without Walls. YES!

Added 3/12-- I cant do anything about IJ but perhaps I can with our Sanctuary doctrine. Actually it was done by Rabbi Elazar Az’kar [1533-1600] in his piyut "Sefer Chareidim"
In my heart a Sanctuary. I shall build to the splendor of God’s honor. And in the Sanctuary an altar I shall place to the rays of God’s glory.
And for an Eternal Flame I shall take me The Fire of Isaac’s bindings
And for a Sacrifice I shall offer God my one and only Soul."
A Tora Portion Haiku–
Mishkan completed
A cloud settled upon it
The Glory of God.

Thought-- Do something wonderful [Think James 1-5]
Someone may imitate it.


My personal experience (and that is all we really can talk about) sees this dissection of the spiritual from the religious in a different way. I see religion as an entryway to the spiritual - an introduction - elementary school leading to the learning pathway. For most people (not all) religion is their first introduction to thinking and talking about things that can lead to spirituality. For myself, had it not been for my intense admiration and love for the Adventist experience (from soup to nuts) I would probably be focusing my life in a totally different direction - but who’s to say. It wasn’t so much the religious part of the SDA experience, but the people it brought across my path, that influenced me most - but how can you separate them - the one produced the other.

If religion is done right, it works itself out of a job, as a vehicle transporting it’s passengers to a direct and personal contact with the Spirit. (Not in a “spiritualistic” sense.) There comes a point where all the ritual and the “running in the maze” no longer means anything. The bus has arrived and it’s time to get off - or we go backwards from where we came. It’s no longer enough to worship by the calendar - the sunsets and the counting of the quarters. It’s no longer enough to just dribble some symbolic water on someone’s feet, or to choke down a dry cracker in the pew. “This do in remembrance of Me” must take us out of that pew into the dust and gravel of life where things can get really messy - where the line between squeaky clean religion gets blurred with the avarice that accepts the thirty pieces of silver - no clear parameters out there.

To keep walking in endless circles is hypnotic, causing us to believe that this is our calling . Other religions incorporate that walk - some have the Hajj, Christians have liturgy - Adventist have their own unique walk through the calendar. And so it goes.

There is much talk about the youth leaving the church for being irrelevant - I’m here to tell you, the “oldsters” leave in equal numbers. Perhaps they still show up for a variety of reasons, but when we get together at Starbucks after the reunion is over (OK, maybe at the ice cream bar), the stories come gushing out.

There must be a more noble way to achieve spiritual maturity. My eye always catches the verse where Paul declares that “God does not dwell in buildings made with hands”. Unless “living in the spirit” is equal to religious ritual, there comes a time when that open church window on a warm sunny Sabbath beckons loudly.


The current distinction being made between spirituality and religion is based on the individualistic nature of our culture and society. When religion is understood as an institutional hierarchy, a sharing of traditional stories, etc. it is easy to disassociate spirituality from it. When religion is understood as the outward expression in actions that are effective in a social group of what a person discerns spiritually, realizing that no person is an island, then it is impossible to disassociate one from the other.


When someone has experienced habitual church attendance from childhood, regardless of the particular institution, an expectation of a spiritual blessing is often felt when they cross the threshold. Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Greek Orthodox experience spiritual boosts with the age-old liturgies that allow their own thoughts rather than being disturbed by a sermon. They can truly “worship in spirit”, not another’s words which may, or may not enhance their spiritual life.

Do pastors wish to instill religion in their weekly sermons, or stronger spiritual lives? One can be deeply religious, doing all the right things, but completely miss an uplifting and transcendent spiritual experience because spirituality cannot be taught, only experienced very personally. We have seen that demonstrated in the Jews which Christ condemned: not for their strict religious habits but the total lack of spirituality that focused on others rather than self.

Other churches also emphasize religious habits: weekly mass and confessions; participation in the liturgical year, and for some it’s weekly attendance and the number of converts you may have added to your church’s rolls. Yearly, churches list their membership but there is no measurement for individual spirituality which preceded religion.

But Christ condemned such people as “white-coated sepulchers” bereft of spirituality. Fostering religion is far more simple than spirituality. How much training have pastors been given for encouraging spiritual lives of their congregations?


Spirituality is an ego centric concept. Religion has a dogmatic connotation. Seems that cofessing ones need of redemption and finding that assurance in the Christ Event and living in gratitude is the sum of Christainity. no ones needs or enjoys braggarts. At best we are pilgrims. Tom Z


I agree with the author, Pastor Vaughan Nelson, and found this article to be relevant, informative and eloquent. Real spirituality is deep and we need to continue our quest. Pastor Nelson is asking a very important question “What, if anything, constitutes Christian spirituality, or even Adventist spirituality?”

As Adventist Christians we are often susceptible to pseudo-spirituality in our spiritual journey of faith.
We seem to dabble in competing with others about how sincere we are, how devoted we have become, how we “measure up” to others. Some of the systems of pseudo-spirituality include the following:

  1. Spirituality by personality imitation begins by creating a role model out of another person–getting your eyes on people instead of getting your eyes on Christ. It involves imitating someone whom you admire.
    It involves associating with the superficial mannerisms of that believer rather than having the filling of the Spirit.
  2. Speaking in a certain way with stereotype cliches, holy language. God uses all different types of personality, and you do not have to create a “spiritual” personality. Peter was known for being impulsive. Andrew - open-minded. James - fanatical. John - passionate. Philip - inquisitive. Bartholomew - composed. Matthew - humble. Thomas - pessimism. James {the son} of Alphaeus - quietness. Simon the Zealot - strong-willed. Judas (son of James) - intense. Judas - traitor.

Then of course, the apostle Paul was a genius and a prepared man, the greatest intellect and eloquence of his day, but he was not arrogant about anything.

Another system of false spirituality is spirituality by respectability which is the false contention that a believer is spiritual because his sins are more respectable than the sins of someone else.

This is arrogant self-righteousness involved in arrogant self-vindication or self-justification of one’s own sins while condemning the sins of others. This is the story of, not the prodigal son, but the his elder brother. After the prodigal son came back and rebounded and was restored by his father we see in Luke 15:28 “But he became angry, and was not willing to go in; and his Father came out and {began} entreating him.”

The believer who is arrogant hates to see other believers prosper.



Probably too simplistically, I tend to view religion as being about beliefs, traditions, and activities/rites. I tend to view spirituality as being about living with certain values. The two may be like overlapping Venn diagrams, but not necessarily. Religion may lead to spirituality. It may not. Religion may lead to…more religion. Religion may be a barrier to spirituality. Could spirituality be a barrier to religion? Perhaps, especially when religion threatens to detract from spirituality.

Just this morning, in my reading through the chronological Bible, I read Amos 5, with echoes in chapter 8. LORD expresses his strong distaste - hatred, actually - for the rites and traditions of the religion of Judah/Israel precisely because of the marked absence of the values of spirituality in their lives. Even though the Torah tells us that LORD dictated these religious practices, in Amos, he hates them. Why? The absence of the values of spirituality while they cling to the religious.

That is just my take. Yours may be quite different.


“Spiritual but not religious” may be a slogan, but it captures the essence of religious identity for millions.

For several years in Chicago, I ran support groups where people could explore their own spirituality and religious backgrounds in an open yet emotionally safe space. Priests, teachers, doctors, atheists and students and others attended the year-long journey across twelve main topics. Some were referred by church authorities for abusing parishioners, others were pastors in a midlife crisis, weighing their options for faith, family and future employment. Most were simply seekers who no longer trusted the church or were newly considering what the religion of their childhood or the Bible might have to offer.

The distinction between religion and spirituality was vital to this enterprise, as it gave seekers a standing place to both deny and affirm the work of faith and spirit in their lives. Because these group explorations were unscripted and unconstrained, true community developed, generating some wonderful insights and authentic expression.

The distinction is very helpful when we see how it is best intended. If we can only see religion, we remain blind to our own consciousness and the progress of our faith journey, relying on tradition and on the group to carry us along in life. If we can only see our own value, or defensively muster against organized religion, we become impoverished through a lack of community and common purpose. Our personal viewpoint becomes a god we must worship.


“When religion is understood as the outward expression in actions that are effective in a social group of what a person discerns spiritually, realizing that no person is an island, then it is impossible to disassociate one from the other.”

The pity lies in that the two (religion/spirituality) have not been “associated” with the other…this is the failure in the Adventist church.


When this is the fundamental perspective of this matter, it would of course be ludicrous to imagine that one could be spiritual without being religious. It seems we would also have to deny the converse: the-religious-but-not-spiritual. The pews are filled with them because actually introducing the congregants to the winds of the Spirit would delegitimize orthopraxy, the measure of ones religiosity. Throughout the NT we find a constant struggle between the Spirit-infused and the religious zealots, between humility and condemnation, between longsuffering and insufferable.

Perhaps the most telling in this argument is that spirituality is described as objective, while most spirit-based persons describe it subjectively: the Spirit of God, given to each of us (John 1) is animated by the faithful response to grace to resume the Sovereignty of God on earth in the grateful response of doing His will/good pleasure. It seems that the religious practices offer hypnotic hysteria approximating the ecstatic mystical unification with God, yet they do not produce the fruit of the spirit as discerned in the spiritual.

Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

That IS the " “religious” context." That IS spirituality! To make it about anything else is to abrogate the adherents attention from the things of God to the fabrications of men. That is not a stumbling block which I dare place in the path of my Lord’s sisters and brothers!

I have serious misgivings of Hodge’s definitions, as if we should be using scientific jargon for the supernatural. It is characteristically objective, as noted above. By definition, spirituality cannot be quantified by the scientific process. Yet, here we go.

Practice the Presence of God.


What further connection would a person need? What further connection is even possible?

I’m reading “rooted” or “centered” as a person being fully, consciously in the physical body, and in the moment, which means attunement to self, others, and ultimate reality.

In other words, incarnation, in the very sense Christ was incarnate: fully present to Himself, to others and to the Father, His spirit wide-open to Heaven.

He pronounced seven woes, and said, “Your house is left unto you desolate.”

What would He say to religionists today?

Would He speak of traveling over land and sea to make more children of hell?

Would He speak of what will happen if New Wine is put in old wineskins?

Would He speak of the Most High not living in houses made with human hands?

The Mindful Brain
byDaniel Siegel

Attunement and Attention

One proposal we can make is that the process of attunement creates a neural state of integration that forms the foundation of the receptive dimension of reflective awareness.

Within interpersonal integration, when we come to “feel felt” by another person, we feel not only aligned with the other, but our brain likely establishes a state of what Steven Porges has called a “neuroception” of safety.

Porges’ polyvagal theory proposes that our nervous system evaluates the state of threat or safety of a situation and activates the brainstem’s vagal and autonomic nervous systems to respond with either a sense of open receptivity with “safety” or with two aspects of “threat.”

One response to an assessment of threat is a state of fight-flight with sympathetic accelerator activation and readiness for action; the other is one of freeze with parasympathetic firing creating a state of collapse. (…)

Porges proposes a social engagement system that “provides a system for voluntary engagement with the environment with special feature associated with the prosocial behaviors of communication.”

The activation of this vagal system may involve the release of the hormone oxytocin and its distribution throughout the body with sensations of positive states associated with physical touching and proximity.

We can extend these interpersonal mechanism into the view of internal attunement by imagining what we can term as a “self-engagement system” that activates a form of intrapersonal communication that is embedded in a similar sense to Porges’ interpersonal notion of “love without fear.”

Love without fear is a wonderful phrase capturing a COAL (compassion, openness, acceptance, love) state of mind in mindful awareness. (…)

Decety and Jackson have proposed that empathy requires three primary components:

  1. a sharing of another’s affect
  1. the maintenance of a separate self-representation
  2. flexible mechanisms of emotional self-regulation to allow engagement of the differential perspectives of self and other. (…)

In sum we are proposing that mindfulness involves a form of internal attunement that may harness the social circuits of mirroring and empathy to create a state of neural integration and flexible self regulation.

The sense of safety that is established with internal attunement then initiates receptive awareness in which executive attention is open to whatever arises in the field of on-going experience.

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

It seems to me that the process of attuning to God, to neighbor and to self is the same neurological process, and creates the same sense of love without fear.

I’m not sure that translates into needing to attend the church of one’s heritage, especially if that is a church that teaches fear and separation, and has no interest in human development, social cohesion, and nurturing children in the highest possible ways, even if it upholds the values of conversation and community.

But that, of course, is an individual choice that no one else can make for another person.


The religion /spirituality contrast is somewhat obscure until someone specifically explains or defines it.

Why do the terms have to be presented? Jesus mentioned to the Samaritan lady that some will worship in spirit & truth.
There are SDA who worship & idolize the denomination and some who despise it. They do so because they are not spiritual or have God as their worship focus. I deal with institutionals all the time at church. The ones who are touchy when one speaks about the defects in church. Evidently there are defects because EG White mentions them in so many SOP writings and the GC pushes revival and reformation and churches everywhere mention…Laodicea.

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In adventism there is quite disagreement as to the concept of “spirituality”. And V.Nelson suggests another more. In a review of the term “spirituality” within denominational, theological, sociological and medical Adventist literature I find 11 authors with diversity definitions. 1.-Rosado C. “What Is Spirituality? Memetics, Quantum Mechanics, and the Spiral of Spirituality”. Rosado.net, 2003; 2.-Wong, J. “Christian Spirituality in the Postmodern World”. Adventist Review. 2001; 3.-Manners, B. “Developing an Adventist concept of spirituality”. Ministry. 2008; 4.-De Benedicto, M. “A search for spirituality”. Ministry. 2006; 5.-Aguilar dos Santos. “O gene da espiritualidade”. Kerygma,(SaoPaulo) 2010; 6.-Jantos, M. “Spirituality in the Twenty-first Century” Adventist Review 2007; 7.-Kuhalampi, H. “Holistic spirituality in the thinking of Ellen White”. University of Helsinki; 8.-Szalos-Farkas, Zoltan. “A Search for God: Understanding Apocalyptic Spirituality”. Editura Universitara. Bucarest, Rumania. 2010; 9.- Fayard C. “Christianity and psychotherapy: clinical implications from a Seventh Day. Adventist biblical anthropology.” (LLU) 2006. 10.-Taylor Elizabeth J- “Spiritual Care: nursing theory, research and practice”. (LLU) 2002; 11.- Sorajjakool S, Lamberton H. “Spirituality, Health and Wholeness”.(LLU) 2009. To try to explain the Adventist diversity, the first thing that appears is that two areas of spirituality are mixed, an field referred to human spiritual dimension, or constitutive basic attribute of being, as physical, emotional, social, mental and vocational dimensions, with the another scope of spirituality as life experience and existential phenomenological development. This is how some Adventist authors hasten to put limits on the human relationship with Transcendence by the fear that the esoteric spirituality, pantheistic and / or meditation strain, running the risk of leaving out the respect for nature and the environment created by God, or reduce solidarity and interpersonal networks. While on the other hand, when highlight the experiences of justification, sanctification, conversion and an Adventist Christian religious life, such as Andrews U statement, they may be neglecting elementary and simple spiritualities (biblical) of Abimelech, Rahab, Ruth, Queen of Sheba, widow of Sarepta, Necho, Cyrus, Artaxerxes, Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuzaradan, king of Nineveh, ten men of all languages (Zech 8:23), centurion at the foot of the cross, Cornelius, Canaanite woman of Tyre-Sidon, healed Samaritan leper, centurion of Capernaum, which, if they lived today probably would not be many of them members of Christian or Adventists churchs. I think it is timely to have a definition of “spirituality” as constitutive dimension of being human, expressed in Psalm 40: 1 and Romans 8:16, and another definition for spirituality, as more comprehensive than denominational “spiritual experience”.


Whereas spirituality is a personal quest for understanding answers to ultimate questions about life, its meanings and relationships to the sacred or transcendence, religion on the other hand is an organized system of beliefs, practices and symbols designed to facilitate closeness to the sacred or transcendence and foster understanding of relationship and responsibility to others. Thus spirituality is individualistic, subjective, less orthodox, emotionally oriented, non-authoritarian and not doctrine driven while religion is community focused, measurable, orthodox, behaviorally oriented, authoritarian and doctrine driven. Two opposite sides of the spectrum where contamination with each other should at best be prevented.

With this in mind, I’ll be following this discussion to know more about what others define or understand as “Adventist spirituality,” without entertaining cognitive dissonance at a minimum or schizophrenia at best.


is not Sabath a chance for spirituality ? I gladly remember the long Sabbath afternoon walks with my father through the meadoews, vineyards and fields - we live at the dge of the city, no long way to enter those paradises. we did not talk much. It was experiencing God in the Nature, there a remark, here an advice, then a view on these narrow paths with ants and beetles quickly seeking shelter - -

Th RC offers "Exercitien " - spiritual exercises , mostly in monasteries, one week of being secluded in the silence of wall built more than a millenium ago. I did not join such a group, I was there alone twice for two weeks, visiting one of the convent who in school once had given me the most hell to keep up with what I missed in school on Sabbath : Silence, no program, no lectures. The bells also calling for the austere breakfast and the austere supper , Silence,. we all eat togethger, me at the guests table, after the abbot has taken his spoon - - details, that create an atmossphere of considering, thinking, doing a step into the timelessness, an environment for meditation. .

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A Venn diagram is a good way for me to think about this subject. Here is a quick illustration of how I was thinking about the intersection of Spirituality and Religion.


Thank you for your Venn diagram Carolyn - I find it most helpful. I suppose in place of ‘learning’ I would have ‘listening’ - as I would hope to hear the voice of the Great God Himself; but perhaps that is covered in your listing of ‘mindfulness’ and ‘meditation’. At the same time it is true - it is after all learning which leads us to ask more questions and finally come to the place where we never know the final answer - and not knowing leads us to the transcendent God. Fundamentalism - ‘the Bible and the Bible only’ takes us nowhere because it insists it has the answer to that final question about God and His purposes.
Your inclusion of ‘gardening’ is without doubt remarkably right. I first took an interest in plants when studying botany as a schoolboy in 1952 and the discovery of the helical structure of DNA by Crick, Watson, Franklin and Wilkins in 1953 set me on an exciting lifelong journey into the interior world where God ‘puts it all together’ in the living cell.
What a wonderful journey that has been. It is for me a spiritual journey as I am always in a state of awe when examining His handiwork. I come away from it all completely at a loss for words.

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