Yes, they’ve been abused and lost meaning at times. Yes, there have been times when additional, unbiblical rites have been added. Yes, dead observance of rites and rituals can lead to Pharisaism.
But when done rightly, these things should guide, lead and restrain us.
We know that we are prone to wander. Prone to forget. Prone to embrace falsehood. Biblical creeds, calendars and symbols serve as regular reminders of who we are in Christ.
In his book Desiring The Kingdom, James K.A. Smith says:
We are what we love, and our love is shaped, primed and aimed by liturgical practices that take hold of our gut and aim our heart to certain ends.
In other words, our rituals, routines and regular practices shape who we are as people. The question is not will we be shaped, but HOW will we be shaped?
Will we be molded by and to the world? Will we be conformed to the practices and doctrines of culture? Will we embrace and love whatever is current, in, trendy and hot? Will the liturgy of post-modernism inform who we are?
Or will we allow ourselves to be shaped by God and his word?
This is why, in the spiritual vs religious debate, I think it’s crucial to be both.
The consistent traditions and rites and rituals of the church allow us to be shaped and honed and pruned and trimmed by God’s word rather than the world.
Refusing to Pick a Side
If you choose a side in the spiritual vs religious debate, you’ll end up killing yourself. Those who are only religious are left with dead religion. Those who are only spiritual end up with a vague, vacuous, mushy, usually unbiblical view of God.
Jesus refused to choose sides. He was passionately religious and deeply spiritual.
Maybe we’d be wise to follow his lead.