Spirituality and The Ultimate Differentiation

This is the final chapter of Passionate Marriage but probably not my final commentary on the subject.  But at least I’ll be able to index it properly.


Schnarch covers two major theme in this chapter; spirituality and death.


At first he was surprised as his clients seemed to exhibit a couple of characteristics during therapy.  One was the fact that they seemed to experience a greater spiritual awareness and hunger.  The second was that the more successful they became the more therapy they wanted.


Schnarch seemed to be a bit disarmed by the increasing spiritual awakening of his clients when he first started.  As I’ve gone along, I’ve been connecting some of the spiritual dots along the way.  Deeper intimacy seems to naturally incline us towards a deeper spiritual orientation.  As we become better acquainted with ourselves we begin to grasp a truth that we are greater than the sum of our parts.  Just as sex becomes more than just a grinding of body parts, people become more than a collection of organs.  We discover that there is a soul in there.  In us, and our partners.  As we stop depending on our partners to fulfill our deepest longings we discover an Other that was there all along and only through lifting the fog of fusion can we see Him more clearly.


When one reads this section of Schnarch’s book, it is advisable to tread carefully.  In other words, the reader has to differentiate enough to realize that Schnarch’s views do not have to become your own.  Schnarch takes an eclectic approach to spirituality that gives equal credence to pretty much every faith.  From a marketing standpoint, it makes sense because he wants to have the broadest possible appeal.


Fusion happens pretty much in any and every cult,  In fact, it is pretty much a defining characteristic as these beliefs become progressively more works-based.  God does care about what you do, but only inasmuch as it is a reflection of who you are.  The paradox is that only after throwing off the oppression of man-pleasing do people finally discover God.  Differentiation is a process that involves putting the old self to death and bringing forth a truer more Spirit-led person. While I don’t necessarily agree with his writing on specific spiritual points I do see merit in meeting people where they are. 


While this book has some spiritual content and implications, it is still a secular work.  Anyone reading it should be aware of that and treat Schnarch’s treatment of spirituality with caution.  I think he makes several concepts extremely accessible to a wide audience and in this performs a great service.  It opened my eyes to a lot of things.


Is this scripture?  No.  I think it is consistent with several key scriptural themes but Schnarch uses secular terminology.  For instance, disclosure is akin to confession.


  I see differentiation as being akin to repentance.  At least for me, that was what it felt like.  I confronted my flaws and insecurities and resolved to turn myself around.  You can not repent for someone else’s sin.  You can’t even really confess another’s sin.  The process of confession and repentance is a uniquely individual experience that each person must do for themselves.  Schnarch’s terminology points towards a sort of self determinism or individualism but that is not what it is in practice.  It’s the much more rigorous process that comes from the crucible.


The crucible itself is a process that involves putting the old sinful self to death and becoming a reborn being.




7 Responses to “Spirituality and The Ultimate Differentiation”

  1. Xian Husband Says:

    Interesting. And I mostly agree (and even wrote up some musing on this theme myself today).

    But I did notice one nit I have to pick. You said, “God does care about what you do, but only inasmuch as it is a reflection of who you are.”

    Defend this.

  2. FTN Says:

    XH, I was assuming (hoping?) Digger was just referring to some things Schnarch had written with that phrase.

    I’m sure I’ll see more of these points come together as I get further towards the back of the book. I obviously have no problem with confession and repentance… And Digger, I didn’t mean to imply that you were taking everything Schnarch said as straight scripture. You obviously have taken certain key points from his book and used them to benefit your own life and marriage.

    Thanks for adding the “recent comments” widget here… I can keep track of all of the interesting discussions going on here better!

  3. diggerjones Says:

    Okay, XH. It’s not a problem because I really took that statement from something you wrote earlier when we were talking about pharisees. I believe you said that Jesus had no problems with what they DID as much as where their hearts were. I thought about that, and it made sense to me. Works and moral character go hand-in-hand to be sure. But the pharisees were a good example of people who followed the law exactly and yet were still corrupt mostly from their lack of humility. Many of the parables of Jesus compared and contrasted the arrogant and proud with the meek and humble. There has to be some authenticity to what we do. We do it because of who we are, not because someone threatens to punish us if we don’t.

    Repentance plays such a HUGE role. I’ll confess right here that I had not fully understood all of the implications and consequences of it until just going through this process. I think one problem younger guys have with this is they don’t think they have anything to really confess or repent from. but God has a sure cure for that sort of thinking: suffering. It’s the only true way to get humble. I wish there was a shortcut and if you know of one, pass it on!

    FTN, I think when reading a secular book like this, you should always keep in mind what you already know to be true. Schnarch uses novel terms but they describe some very fundamental principles that aren’t so new. The crucible is just the process of becoming humble enough to deal with your own shortcomings instead of projecting them outwards on to your spouse. That’s why marriage is such a growth machine, because it provides so many opportunities to get humble and repent! I’m still processing a lot of it. Maybe you can lend a hand; if differentiation = repentance, then what is fusion? And don’t say unrepentant!

    I figured I might as well do some widget work over here, since there is a steady (but still small) flow of traffic. Mostly from my Stepmania posts.


  4. Xian Husband Says:

    OK, but you CAN take that sort of statement too far into Gnostic morality if not outright Epicurianism, but saying it doesn’t matter what you do, just where your heart is, so if your heart is right it doesn’t matter what you do and ideas like morality and holiness and godliness become meaningless. The Pharisees certainly did forget the heart — which made what they did worthless — but Christ’s correction to them was “you should have done the one without neglecting the other.” Our heart matters, but we are still told to “be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” and that’s all about actions.

    Anyway, the other problem with secular voices speaking about “spirituality” is that the secular mind cannot understand real spirituality. That’s direct from I Cor 2. The heart of Christianity — our relationship with God — is what Paul calls a “mystery.” That which God kept hidden from man and man’s wisdom and only revealed through Christ in person and the scripture in written form. If one rejects the authority of scripture then one rejects all access to real spirituality, because man cannot discover it by himself. Ideas like “deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me” are, as Paul said, foolishness to the world. But that is the absolute key to ALL lasting intimacy — first with God and, through Him, with others.

  5. Desmond Jones Says:

    “. . . marriage is such a growth machine because it provides so many opportunities to get humble and repent. . .”

    Amen, Digger. . . amen to that. . .

  6. diggerjones Says:

    XH, I believe the seeds of particular actions are incubated and germinated in the heart. That’s why murder isn’t just killing your brother but *thinking* about killing your brother, and adultery is *thinking* about doing it. True, thinking about clothing the naked and feeding the hungry isn’t the same as doing it. The two have to go together and are inseparable. One prevailing thought within religion is that if we just go through the motions long enough, our hearts will eventually come into alignment with our actions. I’m not saying that never happens, but the pharisees illustrated how wrong motives could corrupt right actions. This isn’t too out of line with things you’ve already written. I will agree that wrong actions (treating others badly) can and will corrupt our thinking.

    Schnarch and his clients do come close enough to authentic spirituality that if they had some Christian background they could easily connect the dots, and some of those clients do. But I think helping people means meeting them where they are instead of loading them up with all sorts of prerequisites and requirements. And that requires humility on the part of the helper in order to resist the temptation of stuffing spiritually starved people with all sorts of theology. Doing that just gives them another excuse to resist.

    Desmond, I am hoping that my trips through the growth grinder get easier in the future. This constant wearing and tearing at my ego is stressful!


  7. Xian Husband Says:

    I really didn’t mean to drag the discussion completely off the topic. Especially since I really like the topic. That’s why the first words of my first comment here were, “Interesting. And I mostly agree.” I picked at a nit, but I was hoping others would comment more about the real main body of the post. I would have, but I had a lot to say and decided to not clutter up your space, but to put it up on mine.

    So, with that in mind, the last thing I’ll say about this other side topic is just that it is clear from scripture that while doing right without the right motives is meaningless, faith without works is equally dead and meaningless. What we do DOES matter, but it doesn’t matter if we don’t do it from the right heart. You have to have both — understanding that it is often easier to conform our actions to God’s will than our hearts, and struggling with the right heart is not an excuse to not do the action. We can’t say, “Well, because I’m not really feeling this from the right place, I might as well not go through with it because it’s worthless.” I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant about keeping the heart of the matter there, and He certainly didn’t want such considerations to be used as an excuse to disobey the Father.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: