Archives For Christless Christianity

The LGBT community’s grievances and the reason for their sensitivity regarding the Israel Folau controversy are understandable.

A non-biblical version of sin has been misused over the years to beat people down, not bring them the to faith and repentance. (See Psychiatrist, Karl Menninger’s ‘Whatever became of Sin?’, 1976)

That historical misuse, however, doesn’t justify the unjust writhing and screaming being thrown towards Folau.

None of this justifies dehumanizing a man and taking away his bread and butter.

None of this justifies any corporation such as Qantas, bullying, via economic sanctions, companies they do business with, such as Rugby Australia.

As far as Qantas goes, their double standard is more than a little bit strange.

Alan Jones is right.

“Isn’t Qantas in partnership with a national airline whose government imposes laws infinitely more damaging to homosexuals than Israel’s utterance of his biblical beliefs?”

As I noted a few days back, Folau quoting from the Bible on his own personal Instagram page, is between him, Instagram and those who follow his social media account. It doesn’t involve the R.A, the L.G.B.T lobby or even Qantas.

This event proves the truth of the Galatians quote Israel posted. The biblical doctrine of sin, as a rejection of grace, a rejection of relationship, a rejection of both God and neighbour, is more relevant than ever. Sin divides, destroys and consumes those who entertain it.

The equality of the Biblical doctrine of sin is that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and yet, because of God’s decision to save humanity, in and through Jesus Christ, redemption from that sin is given and found (Romans 3:23). This is the crux of the Easter message heard around the world on Good Friday, Black Saturday and Resurrection Sunday.

As Jean Bethke Elshtain once said, ‘when we start to regard ourselves in our own light, our light dims’.[1]

Michael Horton echoed the same sentiment in his book, ‘Christless Christianity’,

“Coming to God as consumers saved by following the instructions on the product label rather than as sinners saved by grace is not only the essence of human sin, it does not even deliver on its own promises of liberation. Instead it drives us deeper into ourselves […] Keeping us from ever being disrupted by someone greater than ourselves or by something more wonderful than our own half-hearted achievements’[2]
‘It is the false prophets who “dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious” (Jer.18:11). It is not compassion for the people or zeal for God’s house but their own thirst for popularity that renders the false prophets constitutionally incapable of telling the truth about the crisis. Enclosed in our narrow world of personal spin, we are never introduced to the real world created by God’s Word […] Both sin and redemption are trivialized when we write the script.’[3]

This speaks to the left, the right, the up and the down.

Hence, the call to faith, obedience and prayer; the call to repentance; the call to transformation and the call to embrace God’s costly grace that embraces us in, through and with Jesus Christ.

God does not take pleasure in the death of the sinner, but rather that the sinner should turn from his and her way and live (Ezekiel 18:23)[4].

We hear the Old Testament prophets reminding us that the world must not fall into ignorance and complacency. The pain and suffering of history is broadcasting warnings into the present; warnings about the ensuing calamity caused by ideological crusades that have enslaved men and women, under the promise of establishing ‘God’s Kingdom without God in it’[5].

Of all the current commentary surrounding Israel Folau, including my own, Alan Jones wins the final word:

“If Israel Folau is not free to state his religious views, let alone Christian views, then we are all in trouble. It would be helpful if people analyzed what he said before condemning him to rugby oblivion.”

References:

[1]  Elshtain, J.B. 1995 ‘Augustine & The Limits of Politics’  (pp.11, 66 & 62)

[2] Horton, M. 2008 Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, Baker Books Baker Book Publishing (p.246)

[3] Ibid, p.242

[4] Ambrose of Milan, ‘On Repentance’

[5] Johnny Cash & U2, The Wanderer “they want the kingdom, but they don’t want God in it”.

(Originally posted on The Caldron Pool, 18th April, 2019)

©Rod Lampard, 2019

 

Not including those who spewed out vitriol, abuse, intimidation and violence, congratulations to the Yes supporters. Australia has voted. 7.81 million (61.6%) said Yes to SSM – 4.87 million (38.4%) said No, and another 3.28 million Australians were like, “meh; I don’t really care.”

If Australia’s Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnball, is serious about fairness, he’ll preserve the right to a conscientious objection to SSM; the right for people to hold the view, and teach their kids that marriage is between a man and a woman; and that those children have a right to equal access to their biological father and mother.

As I have hopefully made clear in the written contributions I’ve made to this national debate, I see the issues as a matter of social justice. The “no” vote has been about defending truth, liberty, fraternity, science, and even equality, from unbalanced ideological servitude.

The State wants the church to stay out of politics, but the Church is being encroached on by the State. The people want the church to stay out of politics, but it paints their political slogans on church walls, violently interferes with gatherings and misuses the Bible to manipulate or bash Christians into submission. The people want the church to stay out of politics, but they bring politics into the church, demanding a pledge of allegiance to systems that perpetuate hatred and inequality, behind a veil of tolerance, love and equality.

None of this is new, it’s the very same thing that was perpetuated by Nazis and Communists, as French theologian and Marxist scholar, Jacques Ellul noted:

‘But I’ve heard such talk a thousand times, from fascists as well as Stalinists: “You have no right to judge from the outside; first you must join up, sympathize totally with our aims, and then you can talk.” BUT that is just when one can no longer say anything! The experience of those who looked horrified, in hindsight, on Hitler’s or Stalin’s time confirms this: “How could we have taken part in that?” they ask.’
(Ellul, Jesus & Marx 1988:146)[i]

It’s a clear double standard when the LGBTQ and their supporters can freely criticise and push others to refuse service to those who disagree, then turn around and deny those in disagreement, the right to the same free speech and freedom of conscience. That’s not equality.

The line is blurring. Christians who support SSM have confused love of God with love of neighbour, and as such have compromised their neighbour, through a false [Marxist/materialist] claim that says we should place love for neighbour over and above God.

This is what is called horizontal theology. It is grounded in the errors and perversity of natural theology; the implicit claim that by blindly loving  our neighbour we can reach God through our neighbor. This encourages me to treat my neighbor as though that neighbor was a second revelation of God. The kind of ideas that lead to the false worship of Kings, rulers, prophets and objects throughout history. In short, the creature is worshipped in place of the Creator, because the Creator has been confused with His creature.

We are to be Christlike in our treatment of our neighour; have Christ in mind when we go to serve our neighbour, but we are grossly mistaken if we think that Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40 “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me”, means that our neighbor replaces Christ.

This misunderstanding leads is to works-righteousness. It leads us away from the righteousness of God that is graciously placed on us by the dynamic love of God. Grace that is active, free and sufficient, in the work carried out by the obedience of Jesus Christ.

We reject grace, when we reject Christ and put our neigbour in His place. This is because we reject God’s invitation to relationship. It denies God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, “who is the way, the truth and the life”[ii] it denies the fact that life with God, begins with, God with us. Christless Christianity is an oxymoron.

Love is not love, God is love. That “they will know us by our love”[iii] is true, but that love involves the freedom to give both a reasoned “yes” and “no”. The alternative view confuses love with niceness, sloth and indifference.

What this does is turn Christianity into a numb universal ethic of niceness – a lukewarm empty shell; a stoic idol built to reflect and cater to the feelings of men and women.

The ethic of universal niceness is false and incompatible with a thinking faith that commands us to have no god before God; to “test all things, and hold fast to the good[iv]”; to discern and ultimately lean not “on our own understanding, but on God.’’ (Proverbs 3:5-7). To lean not on an abstract or vague idea of God, nor on a god created by human imagination, but on the tangible gracious grip of God, as the One who grasps us and testifies to us about Himself, in space and time, through covenant and in Jesus the Christ.

Faith seeks understanding.

Our response to this is found in prayer and gratitude. Actions; grounded in word, deed and attitude that reciprocates God’s selfless movement towards us, in covenant, manger, cross, empty tomb and beyond.

Being super nice has the veneer of Christian love, but it’s moral therapeutic deism at best, practical atheism (Christian in name only) at worst. This is the kind of thing that fed the blood and soil ideology of Nazism, and the Marxist ‘deification of the poor, over against THE POOR One’ (Ellul, 1988), through the dictatorship of the proletariat. Not that we should ignore the poor, but that we shouldn’t deify them to further the self-interests of those who take it upon themselves to designate who the oppressed and the oppressors are. For all have fallen short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23).

For the “no” voters there will be a need to take time to grieve.

Then there will be a need to catch our breath, rise and once again say to the world that we refuse to surrender or kneel before anyone but God, and His revelation in Jesus Christ.

To once again say to the world that love of neighbour is not love of God, nor should we confuse the two. For to do so is to make a god of our neighbour, and make love for neighbour, the means of salvation. Love of neighbour is grounded on and in our love of God, without the latter we are not free and therefore, we cannot truly do the former. We will be doomed to serving our own selfish interests.

Jesus is the way, tolerance isn’t. Jesus is the way, love is love isn’t. Jesus is the way, means that no man or woman, good work or intention, super niceness, or feeling is or can be. The true path to freedom, the only path to salvation is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. This cannot be reversed. It is decisive. The path is set.  #bewaretheauctioneers

In light of the changes to come, Christians are to do what they are called to do, centre everything in Jesus Christ. To lay every issue before the cross, following Paul’s words in Romans 12, clinging especially to those which encourage us to ‘…rejoice in hope, be patient in trial, be constant in prayer.’

Kyrie Eleison.


References:

[i] Ellul, J. 1988 Jesus & Marx: From Gospel to Ideology Wipf and Stock Publishers

[ii] John 14:6, ESV

[iii] John 13:35 & Matthew 7:16 ESV

[iv] 1 Thess. 5:21, 1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 John 4:1 ESV

christless-christianityChristless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church outlines what its author, Michael Horton, believes to be a fundamental shift in American Christianity.

Pinpointing cause, consequence and remedy, Horton tackles both Pelagian and Gnostic tendencies within American Christianity and culture. For Horton, America is pulling away from Christocentricity in its social activism and its proclamation of The Gospel.

In its place is what American sociologist, Christian Smith identifies as, ‘Moral Therapeutic Deism’. The basic message of which ‘is that God is nice and we are nice, so we should all be nice.’ (p.42).

Christless Christianity is a critique of both liberal Protestant, emerging and Conservative (American Evangelical) Christianity. (Think of the latter as the body corporate and the former two as the body collective.) Even though the body collective still considers itself beyond institutional Christianity, both are institutional and both have a hand in promoting ‘moral therapeutic deism’.

In Horton’s view, both corporate and collective have downgraded the Christian faith and what it means to be Christian. His criticism begins with a lengthy discourse on Joel Osteen, which then takes on the ‘therapeutic narcissism’ (p.72) of “God is a genie” consumerism (p.68), the “seeker sensitive” mega church phenomenon and the “personal Jesus” of American Evangelicalism. His second criticism flows into a less aggressive admonishment of liberal Protestants, Brian McLaren and the emerging church.

‘‘For many Americans reared on the “Christian America’’ hype of the religious right, “emerging church” movements may seem like a major shift, but [it’s just a change in Parties]’ (p.116) For all of the Emergent Church movement’s incisive critiques of the megachurch model, the emphasis still falls on measuring the level of our zeal and activity rather than on immersing people in the greatest story ever told’ (p.119)

According to Horton, the body corporate is guilty of replacing the proclamation of the Good News with just good advice. Positive psychology is king.Consequently, the understanding of what it means to follow Christ is diminished into slogans and ‘works-righteousness’ (p.123). It has taken the place of good exegesis, deed (sacrament) and the correct teaching of The Word (preaching).

Whereas the body collective, in its rejection of both Pentecostal and American Evangelical consumerist institutionalism, progressive “Christian” (liberal protestant) and Emerging churches, aren’t free of guilt. In many ways they’ve replaced Jesus as the Gospel with the social gospel. Theology is surrendered into the service of an ideology.

 ‘In many ways mirroring the Religious Right’s confusion of Christ’s kingdom of grace with his coming kingdom in glory and the latter with a political agenda already defined by a political party, the Religious Left seems just as prone to enlist Jesus as a mascot for programs of national and global redemption.’ (p.114)

As Horton states,

 ‘Loving and serving our neighbour is the law, it’s not the Gospel (p.123) […]‘There exists today a false distinction between law and love, whereas the biblical distinction is between law and grace – the law tells us what God expects of us; the Gospel tells us what God has done for us (p.125).’

In today’s terms, this is equal to the theological statement, “God is love” being replaced with the term “love is love”; Good, grace, holiness and righteousness are interchangeably used with niceness and tolerance. “Love is all you need” and being nice become seen as the prerequisites that an individual can use to buy into God’s good graces. Jesus as free gift and His embodiment as ‘grace in the flesh’[ii] is ejected.

 “Just love God and people” is not the Gospel; it is precisely that holy demand of the law that we have grievously failed to keep. Our love toward God and neighbour is the essence of the law; God’s love toward us in Jesus Christ is the essence of the Gospel; 1 Jn.4:10’ (p.136)

Horton’s description of the basic message of Moral Therapeutic Deism, shares similarities with late feminist and political scientist, Jean Bethke Elshtain who in her book of the same year, ‘War On Terror (Just War Theory)’ warned of the dangers attached to reducing the depth of Christianity to an “ethic of universal niceness” (source). From which we don’t see Christian doctrine, but instead a Machiavellian politick, where appearances become more important than substance.

‘’Seeker friendly” filters tune out that which is deemed non-offensive and tune into whatever wins popular applause. As a result, the Gospel and the mission of the Church are obscured. The uniqueness of Christ is undermined. The Christological centricity, along with the centripetal and centrifugal nature of Christianity-as-mission is then effectively negated.

‘To the extent that churches in America today feel compelled to accommodate their message and methods to these dominant forms of spirituality they lend credence to the thesis that Christianity is not news based on historical events just another form of therapy’ (p.180)

Horton labels this as the takeover of Christian doctrine by self-salvation, Pelagians and special inner revelation; self-deification, Gnostics. Christians are encouraged to ‘feed themselves’; to rest their faith in an inner ‘voice (p.59); to buy into any spiritual’ (p.179) experience where they can attain ‘self-salvation’ (p.42).

The act of grateful obedience, in response to the Divine judgement and mercy that delivers humanity from sin in Jesus Christ is jettisoned.

In sum, ‘Christless Christianity‘ takes a stand against corruption. In doing this, Horton pushes back against Pelagian and Gnostic influenced trends that see Jesus as the Gospel, replaced with the social gospel, and  the ‘preaching the Gospel replaced with preaching just good advice’ (p.202).

Horton makes no apologies for charging straight into the behemoth of Christian compromise for corporate or collective benefit. It is no secret that the left and right divide permeates the church as much as is does the state. In his critique, Horton calls out both, arguing that they are as guilty as each other in preaching an alternative Gospel. The only remedy for which is resistance and reformation.

Horton’s critique is relevant. It’s sharp and appropriate. Christ cannot be divorced from Himself, nor can He be separated from those He represents:

‘…being grafted in Christ, we are delivered from this miserable thraldom; not that we immediately cease entirely to sin, but that we become at last victorious in the contest.’ [iii]

Come the second reformation.


Notes:

[i] Horton, M. 2008 Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church, Baker Books Baker Book Publishing

[ii] Attributed to John Webster

[iii] Calvin, J. Commentary On Romans (Romans 6)

Disclaimer: I purchased the book and received no payment of any kind for offering this review.