The Most High doesn’t live in temples made by human hands. (Acts NLT)
Christendom is largely constituted by this [aesthetic] sense – its architecture, its ritual, its music, its adornment, its lighting (or lack of it), its tone, its atmosphere, its vestments and so forth. All are of the soul.... Spiritual death marks that realm, and while there may be intense emotions which make for resolves, "high" thoughts and desires, there is no genuine change in the nature of those concerned, and repeated doses of this must be taken to maintain any measure of soul-self-satisfaction which makes them feel good. All religions have this soulish feature in common, more or less, and it is here that the fatal blunder has been made by many religious people who contend that other religions, which are undoubtedly devout and sincere, should not be interfered with, but the good in them should be recognized and accepted. It is the confusing of religion with what the Bible means by being spiritual. Religion can rise to high levels and sink to terrible depths. It is the same thing which does both. But that thing never rises above the human level; it never really reaches God. Religion can be the greatest enemy of God's true thought, because it is Satan's best deception. Asceticism is no more truly spiritual than aestheticism. There is no more a brief with God for rigors, denials, fastings, puritanic iciness, etc., as such, than for the opposite. Simplicity may give God a chance, but it is not necessarily spiritual. It may be a matter of taste....
How near to the truth in perception and interpretation can the mystical go! What wonderful things can the imagination see, even in the Bible! What thrills of awe, amazement, ecstasy, can be shot through an audience or congregation by a master soul! But it may all be a false world with no Divine and eternal issues. It may all go to make up this life here, and relieve it of its drabness, but it ends there. What an artificial world we live in! When the music is progressing and the romantic elements are in evidence – the dress and tinsel – and human personalities are parading, see how pride and rivalry assert themselves, and what a power of make believe enters the atmosphere! Yes, an artificial world.... The tragedy in this melodrama is that it is "real life" to so many. This soul-world is the devil's imitation. It is all false, wherever we may find it, whether associated with religion or not.... "The Christian Faith" embraced as a religion, a philosophy, or as a system of truth and a moral or ethical doctrine, may carry the temporary stimulus of a great ideal; but this will not result in the regeneration of the life, or the new birth of the spirit. There are multitudes of such "Christians" in the world today, but their spiritual effectiveness is nil.
By T. Austin-Sparks