By Francis Mason
According to a new poll, TIME Canada contributing editor Susan Catto wrote in her article “In Search of the Spiritual” that Canadians are not losing their faith but are becoming believers who are more likely to follow their own script than Scripture.
It would seem that Canadians are treading in the dangerously murky waters of self-proclaimed righteousness. Glenn Smith, a protestant chaplain and executive director of the Montreal-based urban ministry Christian Direction, says, “There’s a massive rejection of institutional faith.” And, according to Gilles Routhier, vice dean of the faculty of theology at University Laval in Quebec City, materialism, secularism, and even Quebec nationalism have emerged as attractions for something in which to believe instead of the church.
It would be easy to write these folks off as atheists, reprobate in their rejection of the Word of God. However, Susan Catto said faith is strong in Canada according to the 2001 Statistics Canada poll on religion: 81 percent of Canadians agree that they believe in God, a figure that peaks at 92 percent in Saskatchewan but drops to 75 percent in British Columbia. Seven out of ten consider prayer to be important. Six in ten believe in heaven and hell, and a similar number think that children in the public school system do not get enough religious or spiritual teaching. This seems to support the statement that Canadians are not a godless people. Yet when asked about the importance of belonging to a religious group, only five in ten said it is important.
All this lends credence to the appalling condition of an affluent G7 nation that has forgotten God, has wandered from the paths of righteousness, and is bowing at altars erected by its own disturbingly twisted humanistic thinking.
The forsaking of the house of God and the teachings of the Word of God have proven once again that grave consideration should be given not only to what one runs from, but to what one flees. Amos described it, ‘As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him” (Amos 5:19).
What are these new forms of spirituality? On British Columbia’s Quadra Island, the local Christian chapel incorporates native traditions into services. Shamans, part of certain tribal societies, act as mediums between the visible world and an invisible spirit world. They practice magic or sorcery for purposes of healing, divination, and control over natural events. These practices are finding their way into the sacraments of the sanctuary and have become part of the order of worship.
For many congregations, preaching has become a diminished part of Sunday morning worship service. Pastors and congregations alike often seem to want other means of worship to be more prominent. When the pastor does preach, less is spoken about what is written in the Bible, giving way to a form of psychology; or an alternative worldview is “shared.” In seeking more bodies in the pews, God’s Word has been left behind. Susan Catto says, “People want a church for people who aren’t into church.”
“It’s a counterfeit spirituality,” says Barry Whitney, professor of philosophy of religion and Christian apologetics at the University of Windsor. “It’s too good to be true. It’s do-it-yourself, self-salvation, self-esteem, selfhealing—quite frankly, it’s self-deification.”
But there are Canadians who are hungry for the reality of God. Dissatisfied with the counterfeit, they want the real. Theresa Rodrique and her husband live in Iqaluit, Nunavut, 300 kilometers from the Arctic Circle. They teach the real gospel of Christ in a Sunday school every week. A French-speaking Bible school has opened in Tres Rivieres, Quebec, under the leadership of Anthony Pio. Using interpreters, he ministers in three languages every Sunday morning. And Paul Graham pastors a dynamic multi-cultural revival church in St. Laurent, Montreal, where more than a dozen languages are spoken to worship God in spirit and truth. The United Pentecostal Church International in Canada is having revival—from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from the United States border to the Arctic Circle.
Francis Mason is the pastor of Calvary Pentecostal Tabernacle in Surrey, British Columbia.