The Danger of Unanchored Spirituality

Rolling Stone published a list of the top 100 guitarists of all time that has Carlos Santana at number 20. Carlos has won ten Grammy Awards and sold 100 million records. He is a rock legend. He is also a deeply spiritual person.

In his 2014 autobiography, Carlos revealed his practice of sitting in front of the fireplace with a card on the floor next to him. On the card, painted in intricate picture letters, is the word “Metatron.” Metatron is an angel with whom Carlos had been in regular contact since 1994. He keeps a yellow legal pad at his side, to record what Metatron says to him.

Carlos says: “There’s an inner voice, and when you hear it, you get a little tingle in your medulla oblongata at the back of your neck, a little shiver, and at two o’clock in the morning, everything’s really quiet and you meditate and you got the candles, you got the incense and you’ve been chanting, and all of a sudden you hear this voice: ‘Write this down.’ It is just an inner voice, and you trust it. That voice will never take you to the desert…”

Carlos is a great guitarist but he’s not a careful enough theologian. The idea that “the voice” of God or of a benevolent spirit “will never take you to the desert” is simply mistaken. God certainly does send people to the desert. He sent Jesus there. He sent Moses there and St. Paul there too. God’s people aren’t delicate little flowers. They not only survive the desert, they bloom there. God sends them where they’ll do the most good and experience the greatest growth and, if that is the desert, to the desert they will go.

The idea that spirituality is good in and of itself is erroneous. Spirituality is like fire: it can save, or it can destroy. It can be good or bad. It all depends on where it comes from and where it is going. I’m not judging Carlos – I think he’s great – but I worry about where his spirituality is coming from and where it is going. There are worse places than the desert.

Spirituality must be grounded in truth, built on the bedrock of a spiritual universe; that is, on the God who is spirit and truth. Otherwise, it will go wrong. The Bible offers an example of spirituality gone wrong in the Corinthian church.

Some of the Corinthian church members were, like Carlos, fascinated with the spiritual. They referred to themselves as the “pneumatics” – the Spiritual Ones. We are the spiritual ones. We understand. We have insight.

The Corinthians were not, like Carlos, fascinated with angels (that was the Colossians), but they were fascinated with Spirit-inspired speech, like glossolalia and prophecies. They considered these to be a sign that a person was a pneumatic – was special.

When St. Paul wrote the Corinthians that he did not want them to be ignorant about the gifts of the Spirit, it must have felt to them like a slap in the face. They were the spiritual ones. But they were getting it wrong, and Paul knew it. True spirituality never makes people think themselves superior to others. That kind of spirituality is built on the wrong foundation.

That’s why Paul reminds them that, before their conversion to Christ, spirituality had messed them up. They had experienced inspired speech way back then – but it wasn’t inspired by God. Paul insists that the important thing is not whether they are inspired but where that inspiration comes from and where it is going. If it does not lead to a life that confesses “Jesus is Lord,” it is the wrong kind of spirituality.

Any spirituality that causes a person to look down on others doesn’t originate with God. A spirituality that engenders rivalry and one-upmanship is dangerous and devilish. Healthy spirituality, the kind that derives from the Spirit of God and leads to the Lordship of Jesus, is experienced individually but is never individualistic. It is experienced and expressed in community. It thrives in the context of the church.


About salooper57

Husband, father, pastor, follower. I am a disciple of Jesus, learning how to do life from him. I read, write, walk, play a little guitar, enjoy my family.
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