Have you ever assessed the massive difference in quality of professing Christianity between you and either that of almost all of evangelicalism and even of much of fundamentalism and wondered how they could all be considered to be actual Christianity? There is a gigantic qualitative dissimilarity between our church and every evangelical church in our area. We do not allow much of what they do in our church. Many today call these differences non-essential, that we actually agree with these evangelicals on what’s important, so that the variation between us doesn’t matter. They would even say that we’re wrong for judging them, that we should just accept them, despite the differences.
One of the key arguments for accepting evangelicals and fundamentalists who differ is one that says churches or professing believers should separate only on gospel oriented teachings. It is expressed by the notion that the gospel is the essential basis of unity among Christians, so that agreement on the gospel should be enough to bring professing Christians together, even if they differ on many other doctrines and practices. I don’t agree with this position, but for the sake of argument, I want to say that it is true. Again, I don’t think it is, but let’s say that it is. Let’s make just the gospel the basis of fellowship between believers and churches, what you will hear me call minimization or reductionism.
Even without purposes of argumentation, I want to get along with everyone. Everyone should desire to get along with everyone. God wants reconciliation with everyone. I want it. I do want to get along with all the evangelicals and fundamentalists, let alone with everyone else in the world. I so much want to get along with all of them, that for the purpose of argumentation, I’m going to consider the standard, not my own, of getting along based on only the gospel – only the gospel. Nothing else. Only the gospel. I am going to try to get along with all of them on their terms. Will that still work for me, for anyone?
With this standard, it would seem that, to start, everyone would need to agree on what required components of the gospel are. That alone is going to begin to truncate the group, but I don’t even want to do that, so I’m again going to simplify by saying that the gospel is “to believe in Jesus Christ.” For the sake of argument, what will unify evangelicals and fundamentalists with me and others is faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. With that being the case, to get along I would need unity on what faith or belief is and then Who Jesus Christ is.
Many evangelicals and fundamentalists are messed up on what faith or belief is. To believe, it has to be belief. Belief isn’t belief when it isn’t belief. It must rise to the level of belief to be belief. Let’s say belief was a glancing thought about Jesus. I’m being extreme there on purpose. However, that’s short of saving faith, and, therefore, short of the gospel. I would have to divide on that shortfall of saving faith as part of this essential that the gospel is supposed to be. What it does establish is that someone can fall short of saving faith in a gospel perverting manner. There are other further and better iterations of faith than a “glancing thought about Jesus” that also fall short of being saving faith, that pervert the gospel. I estimate that those alone separate our church and me from most of evangelicalism and fundamentalism today.
I can hear in my head the protestation of evangelicals and fundamentalists, who don’t either want to be questioned on whether their faith is legitimate or not. I would like to talk about that more, but the point of this post is the second simple component of the gospel, and that is Who is Jesus Christ. You will hear me say often that I could believe in Jesus Christ, but if he is a jar of peanut butter, then he isn’t Jesus Christ. If he isn’t Jesus Christ, then the person believing in him isn’t saved. That also perverts the gospel. That brings me back to my initial thought of this post, that is, the vast differences in the Christianity of evangelicalism from ours.
I am contending that a vast majority and then most of fundamentalism do not imagine a right or true Jesus. I’m saying their Jesus isn’t Jesus. They have formulated a Jesus in their imagination who conforms to what and who they want him to be. Their Jesus wants rock and rap music for worship. Ours doesn’t. Can those be the same person?
I’ve been to the doors of many, many evangelicals, who come with tiny shorts or skin tight pants or a revealing blouse, cleavage showing, and if I ask them if they believe in Jesus, what do you think their answer is? They say, yes. They say they believe in Jesus. Their Jesus, their grace, their belief, and their God is very fine with all that.
Most of you know that a vast majority of evangelicalism and much of fundamentalism has already slid further than what I’m describing. Their Jesus is fine with all this. They believe in that Jesus, the one who is fine with all this. That’s the Jesus they believe in. Is this a case of mistaken identity? I’m saying it is. I’m saying that don’t know Jesus, because their Jesus clashes with the scriptural one. The one in their imagination is different than the Bible, and it is the One in the Bible Who must be believed in for them to be saved.
There is only one Jesus. The one Jesus is the only one also to be believed in, so that a person could be saved. When Jesus has been reduced in people’s minds to a goodymeister, someone akin to a boyfriend, a therapist, a buddy, or a thrill provider, he isn’t Jesus anymore. He’s been reduced to someone less than Jesus in the imagination, one who Satan would gladly have someone imagine, another Jesus, not the one of the Bible.
I understand how that people would be fine with a Jesus who conforms to want they want in their imagination. I understand how that people would be fine with a Jesus who will conform to their desires and whims. I understand how that people would be fine with a Jesus who accepts worship of their taste or feelings. I understand how that a church could get bigger and better attendance from forming a Jesus in the imagination that looks like someone people see in the mirror.
In 2 Corinthians 11, changing Jesus into another Jesus is presented as a way that the gospel is perverted. A major reason that a large majority of evangelical and most fundamentalist churches are different than ours is because they have a different gospel. Their gospel is different in that they have an unbiblical Jesus formed in their imaginations. Jesus is real and there is only one of Him, but the one we believe and worship is in our imagination. If He is not the right one, then we are not saved. The gospel has been corrupted in a salvific way. It is a gospel issue that separates our church from theirs.
If we are only separating over the gospel, the wrong Jesus is enough to separate. That alone separates our church from most churches. We are not going to agree that we are all worshiping the same Jesus, just because people say we are. God knows that we aren’t.
You may think that you are bigger or more loving because you show more acceptation of varied imaginations of who Jesus is. You may think that you are affording more people access to heaven by increasing the acceptable possible imaginations of Jesus. In the end, when they profess that they knew Him, when they didn’t, they’ll find out too late that you weren’t helping them or anyone else. They’ll know you actually hated them in the worst way possible. You got a lot of credit for your toleration, while damning their souls.
I’ve found that people in general are far more picky about what people think of them than what they think about Jesus. They have a very high standard for people’s assessments of themselves. It’s not good enough for people to think whatever they want as it relates to what people are saying about themselves. On Jesus, they are different. They don’t care as much. He can be a much larger range of possibilities and still be adequately him. They are fine with him being more like they want him to be, while accepting only what they expect people to think of themselves.
If a false gospel damns men’s souls, which it does, we should at least separate over a false gospel. I don’t think it’s enough to separate over, but I would agree that the gospel at least should divide. If the gospel is what brings us together, then the Jesus at least needs to be the same Jesus. If he isn’t, then we’re just playing games with this idea that the gospel is what brings us together. I’m saying that almost all evangelicalism and most of fundamentalism is playing games.