In Christianity Today (2005) in an article Eugene Peterson was interviewed about spiritual meaning and the question was asked of him, “What is the most misunderstood aspect of spirituality” (Galli, p. 43). As I was reading , what stood out is one of the core issues in spiritual thought today. The profound misunderstanding about what it means in 2011 to be spiritual person. A closely related question that is important is why do people believe the way they do about spirituality?
My research takes me to one source of understanding contained in the research by Warren S. Goldstein (2009), who cites a “A landmark article written by R. Stephen Warner in 1993 in The American Journal of Sociology, [who] argued that a new paradigm was emerging in the sociology of religion. His article marked a paradigm shift in sociology of religion between the old and the new, between those who advocate the theory of secularization and those who reject it” (p. 157) These findings draw attention to conflicting ideologies which are important to the field of psychology, sociology, and theology by discussing how, “A dialectical understanding helps make sense of how secularization and sacralization can occur at the same time” (p.157). Whether or not there is agreement with the approach, what is important is the conclusions that are discovered.
What are the major themes that are included in the argument for a working theory of spirituality in modern culture?
Today, I was thinking about problem solving approaches and the thought came to me that to understand what is occurring a problem must be exegeted. One apparent truth is that there are profound areas of disagreement that are rooted in ways of reason that are not new, but are influencing how spirituality is defined. What is evident from analysis is that there are at least four philosophical influences—approaches to thinking that are impacting how spirituality is being externalized into identifiable constructs in American culture.
Dialectical Processing of Spiritual Ideals: In the field of psychology and sociology this is a common approach used to understand an issue and synthesizing a point of view. The term, dialectic, was first used by Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel to describe the development of changing historical periods and social revolutions. … A dialectic process involves three stages: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. In the first stage, a particular idea or set of ideas (thesis) exists that is commonly accepted by most people. In the second stage, a new idea or set of ideas that is contrary to the first (an antithesis) is introduced. The introduction of the antithesis causes conflict as the thesis and antithesis are debated. In the final stage, the thesis and antithesis are synthesized to produce a new idea or set of ideas (the synthesis) that then becomes the commonly accepted thesis (Dialectic, 2001). This process of reasoning describes understanding in a progression of thought—where new, better supported, contextually relative ideals replace older which demonstrate a progression of thought.
This is demonstrated a shift in thinking in religious-spiritual thought which takes the original hypothesis using collective reasoning from different understandings—beliefs about spirituality utilizing empiricism—science, and induction from culture synthesizing a point of view as the new norm.
Cultural relativism: which is based upon the assumptions that people acquire most of their personal values from their culture and that values from their culture and normative behavioral expectations vary from one culture to the next” (Ford, 2006, p. p. 70). Cultural relativism indicates a shift in where definition of concepts, principles of reasoning, and a source of authority for determining what constitutes normal within a culture, group, or individuals.
This can be observed in how particular groups take an understanding of spirituality and attempt to superimpose it upon the masses using culture relativity as a basis for authority.
Logical Positivism: a method of reasoning –its distinctive feature an attempt to develop and systematize empiricism with the aid of the conceptual equipment furnished by modern research methodology.
With emphasis upon the verifiability principle i.e., any procedure carried out to determine whether a statement is true or false or verified by the method of scientific research used. The meaning of what is trying to be proved is contained in the method of its verification, that is in whatever observations or experiences show, whether or not it is true. If the method used ads up and the logical processes used are consistent with all observations, they are admitted as meaningful: verifiable by method of research.
Logical positivism is an approach–explaining the meanings of terms, but telling us nothing about how things are in the world. Therefore, what is unverifiable using the empiricism methodology employed is deemed unverifiable by any observation and is ipso facto devoid of meaning.
This verifiability principle is the basis of logical positivism’s attack on theology and metaphysics; its characteristic propositions (about the creation of the world, the nature of reality as a whole, etc.) being thus unverifiable, are neither true nor false, but simply meaningless.
Therefore, all arguments either for or against them are equally pointless. At best, the (pseudo-) propositions of metaphysics, like those of ethics or aesthetics, can be allowed to function as expressions of emotional attitudes, as slogans or exclamations rather than statements of fact (Logical, 2002). This is demonstrated in a movement away from defining terminology and meaning within spirituality with the use of theology, philosophy, or finding meaning in exegesis which makes a systemized empirical method the locus of verifiability as opposed to biblical texts, linguistics, philosophy, or historical data.
Therefore, what is spiritual is verifiable in experience as the methodology, not in an absolute truth of Biblical truth, philosophy, or historical, exegetical study—which is devoid of meaning.
Post Modernism: refers to the crisis of authority of modern culture from the 1960s. Post-modernism, as a way of thinking, points to the culture of a media-saturated consumer society where media images have become more real than lived reality.
In philosophy and social science, post-modernism is associated with the collapse of grand narratives of historical progress, scientific rationality universal ethics and individual identity.
Post-modern social science presents multiple ethical viewpoints, and humans with multiple, shifting identities. Post-modernism may be a shallow consumer culture or the possibility of new identities and new politics (post-modernism, 2002).
A conclusion about the greatest misunderstand is that spirituality is under construction, modification and syntheses, but more needs to be written in another post. The real question is, in the understanding that you have of spirituality what is affecting what is believed to be true?
Dialectic. (2001). In World of Sociology, Gale. Retrieved March 30, 2011, from Credo Reference: Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com.library.capella.edu/entry/worldsocs/dialectic
Galli, M. (2005, March). Spirituality for All the Wrong Reasons. Christianity Today , 49 (3), pp. 42-48. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Goldstein, W. S. (2009). Secularization Patterns in the Old Paradigm. [electronic version]. Sociology of Religion , 70 (2), 157-178. Retrieved from EBSCOhost March 25, 2011.
Logical, p. (2002). In A Dictionary of Philosophy, Mcmillan. Retrieved 30 2011, March, from Credo reference: http://www.credoreference.com.library.capella.edu/entry/macdphil/logical_positivism
post-modernism. (2002). In International Encyclopedia of Environmental Politics. Retrieved March 30, 2011, from Credo Reference: Retrieved from http://www.credoreference.com.library.capella.edu/entry/routenvpol/post_modernism
Key Words:Idealism, Utilitarianism, Relativism, Logical-Positivism, Post-modernism, Multiculturalism, Pessimism, Skepticism.
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