Monday, September 03, 2018

How Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism Have Invented and Continue to Reinvent A Socially Acceptable Impostor and Placebo Christianity

Have you purchased a two by four recently?  Two by fours aren't really two by fours.  Most people who buy them know that already.  A two by four is really a 1.5 by 3.5.  I'm not a seven footer just because I call myself one.

Today a girl can call herself a boy and a boy can call himself a girl.  Long before this became possible, a person could call himself a Christian, and yet not be one.  He was one, however, because he self-identified.  In general, you were intolerant if you questioned someone who self-identified as a Christian.  To keep the peace, you were required to accept whatever someone wished to be his or her Christianity.

Most of you reading know how offended someone might become if you question his Christianity.  Professing Christians want to keep Christian identity fluid.  They can define what a Christian is or isn't based upon their innermost concept of self without conforming to any established definition.  If you perceive yourself to be a Christian, your claim should be accepted without imposed external requirements.

Christianity isn't popular.  Jesus said it wasn't.  It isn't popular because of what it is, so there are choices.  One, believe Christianity and suffer.  Two, don't believe Christianity and don't suffer for it.  Three, change Christianity into a Christianity where you will not suffer.

What do Christians suffer for?  The world hates Christianity, because it is light.  It is different than the world.  To change Christianity, you would need to remove the differences.  Make a Christianity with the parts that people might like and leave out the parts that people would not like.  However, much, if not most, of Christianity is of disliked components.

The World Chooses What It Doesn't Like

Christians don't choose what the world doesn't like.  As you read scripture, you can see that philosophies or practices in the world arise that clash with Christianity, and that becomes what is disliked in Christianity.  The world chooses what it doesn't like about Christianity and that becomes something Christians have to react to.  In Corinth, the bodily resurrection was disliked and professing Christians started denying it or attempting to blend a denial of bodily resurrection with the rest of Christianity.  That doesn't mean that bodily resurrection is what causes Americans today to hate Christianity.  I don't find that to be a particularly hated aspect of Christianity right now. so it's easy to be pro bodily resurrection.   Who wouldn't want to get a new body?  The world decides what it doesn't like about Christians and Christianity and that might change in succeeding areas and in various locations.

Caesar worship isn't in vogue, but it was a problem for Christians in Paul's day.  There will always be a problem in the world with Jesus as Lord, but Caesar was the competition.  The world has its agenda and Christians will conflict with it.

The history of liberalism in the United States relates to what is unpopular or unacceptable in the academy.  Naturalism or rationalism became fashionable.  It wasn't the truth unless it had historical documentation of a certain quality.  Threatened by unemployment or some kind of intellectual embarrassment, professing Christians bridged the gap between the Bible and naturalism to the degree necessary to remain in the academy.  It isn't actually possible, but they still did it, and this became a new kind of Christianity, a blended form.  In general if you didn't take liberal Christianity or the new harmonization with liberalism,  you weren't accepted.  Original Christian positions separated to new institutions, probably accepting lower salaries and less credibility.

Liberalism didn't translate to the pews of churches.  The unpopularity was in the narrower arena of academia.  Liberalism was unpopular with church members, but it trickled down and eroded churches over time.  The leadership trained by liberal institutions slowly took down the churches of various denominations. False beliefs became more acceptable through various means.  If churches stayed true to scripture, they did it by remaining separate and receiving leadership separate from liberalism and blended Christianity.

Was and is blended Christianity, a Christianity harmonized to varying degrees with liberalism or other alterations of the Bible, actually Christianity?  Are the various "Christianities" equal or should they be accepted in a form of Christianity fluidity?

The Biggest Clash with Christianity Is In and With the Culture

The biggest clash between the world and Christianity comes in the culture or in the practice of Christianity.  The world wants to do what it wants to do without judgment.  Christianity clashes with the culture.  When you read the Bible, the earliest manifestation of the ungodly line is represented by Lamech's bigamy.  He changed the definition of marriage.  He wasn't advocating for polytheism, but disobeying God's original teaching on marriage.  He wanted two wives, not just the one required by God.

Today's Lamech might be acceptable because he hasn't maybe embraced false doctrine.  Or has he embraced false doctrine?  If you aren't doing what God says, He isn't God to you.  You don't get to make up new definitions and self-identify in a different way and still believe in the true God.  The third way above, where blended Christianity is Christianity, isn't true.  It might be accepted as true, and then the acceptance itself accepted, but God doesn't accept it.  Or perhaps you could just wait and find out.

The world wants to use whatever language it wants without judgment.  It wants to dress or undress like it wants.  The world in general operates according to fleshly lust and this characterizes its music, its entertainment, and its recreation.  Just like professors conceded to liberalism in academia, churches capitulated to the culture.  The women in churches of New Testament times started taking on the features of the new Roman woman.  The Apostle Paul sees the world creeping into the church with immodestly or ostentatiously dressed, independent, loose women taking authority for themselves.  He goes back to creation order in 1 Timothy 2 to bring the church back in line and commands Timothy to eradicate these distortions with all authority.  The same movement has occurred in the United States and now Christians have accepted the new American woman, except they say either scripture doesn't judge this innovation or it's a non-essential, non separating issue, not a matter of concern to Christian fellowship.

Christians stick out the most in the world because of their discord with the culture.  The easiest way to popularize Christianity is to eliminate the cultural differences, to blend Christianity with society. This has been done now in and by evangelicalism and fundamentalism.  They have bifurcated Christian doctrine from Christian practice.  The doctrinal positions are elevated to a distant priority from the behavior of Christianity, except where the lifestyle could coexist with the culture.  Christianity can still be Christianity and also acceptable to the world.

Several Christian leaders observed the possibility of the coordination of social justice with Christian living.  Christians could practice Christianity with social justice and appropriate worldly acceptance.  The Washington Post could like that Christianity.  It's also a gospel the world might advocate.

Change in Practice Also Changes Doctrine

The difference in culture between the world and Christians doesn't quarantine itself from doctrine.  God is One and all His truth is One.  You can't pick off Christian practice, leaving doctrine without damage, just like you can't pick and choose favored attributes of God.  If you eliminate one attribute of God, He isn't Who He is anymore.  He is a different God.

If you allow the world to influence the music accepted in churches for worship, God becomes how you worship.  Music hasn't been amoral and isn't amoral.  It has meaning.  Your God will be shaped to the music you offer Him.  Then when God accepts fleshly lust, the worshiper becomes lustful.  The priestesses of Diana or Artemis in Ephesus were prostitutes, holy to their god.

Like the other cultural issues, where Christians have adapted to the world, to take away the unpopularity and the conflict, evangelicalism and fundamentalism has relegated cultural distinctions to non-essentials.  In a very noticeable way, now these changes are also changing doctrine.  You can't segregate practice from doctrine in a way that will keep doctrine pure.  The two are inexorably connected, mutually inclusive.

Jesus is Lord.  Apostates deny the Lord who bought them (2 Pet 2:1).  They don't want a boss.  Rebellion most characterizes the world's problem with God.  They might be fine to acknowledge Him if He would leave them alone.  It is a volitional problem.  The conflict in will between the world and God finds itself most in the culture.  Christianity is different than the world.  When it is the same as the world, is it still Christianity?  Is it really still the same God?  I'm saying and wanting to prove to you, no, it isn't.

This is where I see Christian fluidity preceding something like gender fluidity.  The latter proceeds from the former.  You can't be the Christian you imagine in your innermost being, self-identifying as a doctrinal Christian and not a practical one.  There is a doctrinal problem still, even if you don't recognize it.  This is a different gospel that doesn't really repent, even if it claims the word, repent.

In recent years as it had also in the far past, a heated discussion arose over the right understanding of the Trinity, or a correct surmisal of Who God is.  Theological hairs were split over God's nature.  Is it three Persons or three Manifestations?  Many believed the specifics mattered, but some tried to bridge the gap between views to increase the size of the tent.  Christianity had already been negotiating over its doctrine and dropping individual parts to keep the whole, like vestigial organs.  The skids were greased by all the approbation of worldly culture.

What isn't acceptable today in Christianity with the compliance of evangelicalism and fundamentalism is Christianity.  Christianity is a whole, not just parts.  You can't take out its parts and have it still be Christianity.  It has become for people to judge when it has dipped below the level of being Christian.  Now if you don't advocate for dismissing parts of Christianity, you aren't a Christian.  Toleration has become a major tenet along with the new accompanying doctrines.  Unity is now agreeing to disagree.

Before the Lord Jesus Christ ascended up through the clouds in real time all the way up to the third heaven and on to a throne at the right hand of God the Father, He commanded His followers to make disciples of Him among all nations.  This is right at the heart of Christianity and of the gospel.  Accompanying that imperative were three participles: go, baptize, and teach.  In the third of these three participles, which are necessary for the obedience to the one command, Jesus says:  "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."  You can't make disciples or obey Jesus' command without "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever" Jesus commands them.

A disciple is someone who starts following and then keeps following Jesus.  Following Jesus is obeying everything that He said either to do or not to do.  Evangelicalism and fundamentalism have attacked this indispensable component of the Great Commission and have justified it in many different ways that have also become part of their new creed and confession.  They are actually the ones changing the gospel under the guise of "together for the gospel" and "the gospel coalition" and "gospel centeredness."  They have changed Christianity.  They have made it acceptable to be a Christian without being a Christian.

If Christianity, the only Christianity, is to be preserved and then propagated, men are going to have to stand against the blending or capitulation I've described -- all of it.  First, they need to understand it. If they haven't agreed to it, they need to admit that they had it wrong before.  They can't get along.  I'm asking you to join me in this.  We need men who will do this and stop sitting on their hands, acting like none of it matters, minding their own business.  If you read this and it sounds true, or you find yourself being convinced, at least admit in public that you are thinking about it and are willing to consider it.

Men are afraid to today of sticking out.  Like the men in the growing liberalism of old, they had to go outside the camp and lose something.  Be willing to lose what Paul says is loss.  Giving up loss is acceptable.  Count gain as loss and loss as gain.  Go back to square one, whatever it might mean to your career or your perceived success for the sake of the truth.

1 comment:

Mark Suever said...

Well thought out and well stated. I am thankful and find it encouraging that there are still some thinking Baptists left rather than the run of the mill reactionist who often just want to take an exception to whatever anyone says.

Mark W. Suever, pastor