Posted by: Philip Rushton | February 28, 2011

Easy-Mac Spirituality And Why It’s Bad For You

Most of us have probably come across Kraft’s Easy-Mac. Easy-Mac is a microwavable version of Kraft’s popular mac and cheese product. As the title of this product suggests, Easy-Mac relieves consumers from the arduous process of making original mac and cheese. Instead of the unthinkable 8 minute wait, we can now have our mac and cheese ready in 3.5 minutes. Instead of having to open the separate cheese packet and mix it in with milk and butter, we can now simply add water to the pre-mixed product. With the release of Easy-Mac we reached a new level of impatience as a culture. We now have a fast version of what is already a fast food.

Unfortunately, we often tend to approach discipleship and spiritual formation like we do our mac and cheese. I think a lot of us believe that spiritual transformation is an instantaneous thing that happens through a profound spiritual experience. Dallas Willard suggests that Christians, “continue to hope that lightning is going to strike us and out of this we will come glowing with spirituality.” For example, Willard quotes a prominent charismatic leader who laments the state of the charismatic movement. This leader suggests that the hope for the future of the church, “begins with fresh spiritual fire, the fire that consumes the juvenile need for human recognition . . . a fire that engulfs carnality.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I think spiritual experience is an important part of what it means to be a Christian. Spirituality is not just a cognitive exercise, it involves the emotions. As Jonathan Edwards reminds us, “the Holy Scriptures do everywhere place religion very much in the affections; such as fear, hope, love hatred, desire, joy, sorrow, gratitude, compassion and zeal.”

The point that Dallas Willard makes, however, is that spiritual experiences do not lead to instantaneous transformation. A fresh outpouring of the spirit is not going to “engulf our carnality.” Addiction, or bad habits are not immediately eradicated through a spiritual experience. Willard writes, “generally expressed, baptism in the Spirit, spiritual experiences, high acts of worship, and other experiences of worship do not transform character . . . They have meant a lot to me, but they have not transformed my character.”

Instead, Willard reminds us that spiritual formation is a serious process that takes time. Spiritual formation is something that requires a commitment to obey Christ. Transformation requires a commitment to the disciplines of the faith, which include prayer, study, silence, solitude, service, fellowship, and so on.

Spiritual experiences may be part of the process. We may have a profound experience of God’s love, and this may lead us to repentance and a change in behavior. However, there is still going to be a process. We still will need to learn to, “put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature” (Col 3:5). Willard concludes by saying, “I hope your life is full of ‘whoopee!’ moments. We should all have them, but they will not transform us. What transforms us is the will to obey Jesus Christ from a life that is one with his resurrected reality day by day, learning obedience through inward transformation.” (All quotes taken from Willard, The Great Omission, 64-65).

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Responses

  1. Phil,
    I agree that “spiritual experience is an important part of what it means to be a Christian” and I am thankful for some powerful spiritual encounters in my life. Those experiences have typically lead me to a renewed commitment to Christ. We don’t live on the mountaintop, but life flourishes in the valleys of life.
    Keep encouraging us to “spiritual formation … a serious process that takes time”.

  2. Thanks Randy,

    Your make an important point about how spiritual experiences can lead us towards renewed commitment. While spiritual high’s do not instantaneously transform us they can act as an important catalyst for further commitment. In fact, that is how Jonathan Edwards distinguished between true and false spiritual experiences. True spiritual encounter leads us towards transformation.

  3. You know Randy, I don’t think we live in the valleys or flourish in them! But sometimes those A-ha moments are what pull us out of the Valleys and up onto the mountain tops so that we can experience a rejuvenation so that we can live a well balanced life in the middle. We don’t want to yo-yo back and forth from the mountain top to valleys too many times. My intense spiritual “yankings” back onto my feet have definitely saved me from the abyss a couple of times. My thoughts or outlooks have done a very sudden transformation as I had something key revealed to me. I very much appreciate that transformation of character takes time and commitment, the disciplines as you have said Phil. And that is always the real sharpening of iron, or jumping in the refiners fire!

  4. A good analogy for Willard’s point might come from marriage. Greg Hawkins writes, “great marriages are not built on the first rush of romantic love but on effort, attention and listening. Couples with strong marriages work at them. Similarly, the most devoted Christ-followers spend markedly higher amounts of time dedicated to working on their relationship with Christ by engaging in personal spiritual practices such as prayer, Bible reading and solitude.” From Reveal: Where are you? pg 44.

  5. I eat Easy Mac at work. When time and appliances are scarce, sometimes it’s the best option I’ve got. So I say, let he who is without sin cast the first noodle.


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