America’s Christless Christianity

Back in the 1940’s Donald Grey Barnhouse, a Presbyterian pastor, asked the question, “What would it be like if Satan took over a city?”

Barnhouse speculated that if Satan took over Philadelphia, all of the bars would be closed, pornography banished, and pristine streets would be filled with tidy pedestrians who smiled at each other. There would be no swearing. The children would say, “Yes, sir” and “No, ma’am,” and the churches would be full every Sunday . . . where Christ is not preached.

In his newest book, Christless Christianity, Dr. Mike Horton warns Evangelicalism in America that Barnhouse’s hypothetical scenario is quickly becoming a reality. According to Horton, the driving mantra of so many Evangelical churches today is, “do more, try harder.” Sermons are filled with seven or twelve step plans for having a happier marriage or better finances. Ironically, as a newer generation reacts against the harsh legalism of their parents, they are merely replacing it with a softer (but more sadistic) form of legalism. Famous TV preachers like Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer victoriously proclaim that they have finally realized that Christianity isn’t about following a lot of rules. But they go on to tell their audience that it is only about “Loving God and each other.” The sixteenth century Reformer, John Calvin, heard similar sentiments coming from some of his Roman Catholic brethren (who were also reacting to the harsh legalism of their upbringing) and remarked, “As if that were easier!” According to Jesus Christ, loving God and your neighbor is the essence of the whole Old Testament Law. Loving God and your neighbor is in the hardest thing that anyone could ever ask you to do!

One famous Evangelical pastor has recently made popular the phrase, “deeds, not creeds.” Evangelicals have their doctrine right, this pastor tells us, they just aren’t living it. Against such sentiments, Dr. Horton argues that many Evangelicals actually do not have their doctrine right, or at least they aren’t preaching it correctly. Evangelicals have confused the important categories of Law and Gospel, turning the Gospel message (which is supposed to be the good news of something that Christ has already done for us), into the Gospel program. If you’ll only live out the Gospel (by reading your Bible every day, joining a certain group at church, and learning how to be a Christ-like example to others), you’ll be healthy, wealthy and wise. The question to be answered is, “What would Jesus do?” rather than, “What has Jesus done?” But Horton says that this is a confusion of categories. The Gospel, by its very nature, is not something that you can do; rather it is something that has already been done. This confusion leads to bad preaching. Rather than preaching Christ and the Gospel, pastors try to mine a Biblical text for “practical” life principles that will help to improve your marriage, your finances, your relationship with your children, etc. As a result, many Evangelical churches today are not saying anything that you can’t hear from Dr. Phil, Dr. Laura, or Oprah (and most of the time, Dr. Laura says it better). All of this leads to what Horton calls a Christless Christianity. It is possible to walk into an Evangelical church on a Sunday morning and walk out without ever having heard the Gospel of Christ preached.

The main consequence of this Christless Evangelicalism is burnout. Horton comments that, when Christ is set up as our example to follow (rather than our savior to cling to in our utter weakness), we start to feel like we have to be spiritual giants. But Horton observes that “I am a Christian not because I think that I can walk in Jesus’ footsteps, but because he is the only one who can carry me.” This problem of burnout only gets worse when churches downplay the importance of our radical sinfulness. When sin becomes nothing more than a handicap, rather than a pervasive depravity in need of the most radical salvation-plan imaginable, the Gospel itself becomes of secondary importance to living according to “spiritual principles.” But so many pastors and congregations don’t realize that we can only live a life characterized by godliness after we are brought to our knees by a recognition of our total depravity before a Holy God, and such godly living is only possible because of what Christ had already accomplished for us on the cross. But so many churches today are more concerned with the immediate benefits of religion, specifically happiness (or your best life now…). Horton quotes C. S. Lewis saying, “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” So many Christian leaders, like Osteen, have become preoccupied with now, and they almost completely forget that Christianity is based upon an event that happened 2,000 years ago, and now looks forward to a consummation of that event in the future. Again, as Lewis said, the problem is not that we want too much, but that we want too little. Evangelicals have traded the priceless Gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for better relationships with their coworkers, better finances, and (believe it or not) better parking spaces.

All of this has a direct implication on how Evangelicals relate to the culture. Once we start thinking that you need Jesus to lose weight, stop smoking, improve your marriage and succeed in life, it doesn’t take long before we begin to assume that you need Jesus to run a country properly. That’s when the “culture wars” start getting ugly. We saw a glimpse of this in the last Presidential election. Many Evangelicals refused to vote for Mitt Romney simply because he was a Mormon, despite the fact that he held many of the same conservative views, both socially and economically, as they did. Again, this can be seen as a confusion of Law and Gospel. The Law (thou shalt not kill, for example) is written on the hearts of all men. This is what makes it possible for people of radically different religious (or non-religious) backgrounds to come together and agree on social and economic policies. But when we confuse the Gospel with the Law, we can start to confuse the church with the state, two sovereign spheres ordained by God for two very different purposes. And if America is a “Christian nation”, surely she must have a “Christian” President (I put “Christian” in scare quotes because so few politicians, on the left or the right, who claim to be Christian would actually believe anything close to Orthodoxy).

So, is there hope? Many quarters of Evangelicalism have started to fall down the dark path that Protestant Liberalism fell down almost a century ago, but have they fallen too far? Or is there a chance for a new Reformation? To find out, you’ll have to wait until this Fall, when Dr. Horton releases the sequel to Christless Christianity (which will aim to present the solution to this problem), entitled The Gospel-Driven Life. For now, I will leave you with Dr. Horton’s closing words in Christless Christianity:

The church in America will have to learn what it means to mourn before it can dance. Sticking to the story, fixing our eyes on Christ – even if it means distracting us from what we have diagnosed as our real issues – is the kindest thing a pastor can do for a congregation, the most precious gift we can receive and pass on to our neighbors, and the most relevant mission on earth. In the words of Dorothy Sayers,

“It is the dogma that is the drama—not beautiful phrases, not comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving-kindness and moral uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death—but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to the heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that one might be glad to believe.”

Published by

David Nilsen

David graduated from Biola University in 2008, with a B.A. in Philosophy. He studied Historical Theology for three years at Westminster Seminary in California (his essays on Theology, Church History and Eastern Orthodoxy can be found here). David has been blogging about Philosophy, Politics and Culture since 2004. He has contributed to The White Horse Inn and The Gospel Coalition. You can also follow him on Twitter.

  • Tim

    Hit the nail on the head. And well said, too. Thank you very much!

  • http://girlforgod.wordpress.com Robin

    I just started reading this book now and did a short blog post on it. Very well written and very well said; the book, and your blog post!! Blessings to you!

  • Mr. Incredible

    According to Jesus Christ, loving God and your neighbor is the essence of the whole Old Testament Law. Loving God and your neighbor is in the hardest thing that anyone could ever ask you to do!

    Define “love,” biblically.

    God loved the world. He loved the world so much THAT He gave His Son.

    So, God’s love is His Son. His act of love was to GIVE His Son.

    His Son is Christ. The Christ is the Word of God, and Jesus was the Christ in the flesh. A man.

    The Word is the Message of God’s Reconciliation Offer to Man for Man’s Salvation.

    Therefore, to send God’s love into the world is to send His Word — that is, the Christ — into the world so that as many as possible can be saved.

    In Genesis 1:3, in His first act of Creation, God said, “Light be!” He sent light into the void. Compare that with the first chapter of John. God’s Son is the True Light.

    So, again, our act of God’s love is to shine His Light — the Word — onto and into the world. God had no greater love for us than to send His Word of Reconciliation so that we might be saved. Following Him, we should have no greater love than to give the world His Love — the Word.

    Therefore, God Love is “unselfish concern for the Salvation of others, at least as much concern for your neighbors’ Salvation, as you have for your own.”

    In unrighteousness, you’re selfishly concerned about your own Salvation.

    In Righteousness, you’re concerned as much about your own Salvation as you are unselfishly about your neighbors’ Salvation.

  • Jerry

    Many Christians, myself included, refused to vote for Mitt Romney because he did not act socially conservative while governing. Beware of those who promise one thing and do another. There were many alternatives to Mitt, and believing that he failed during the primaries due to his religious beliefs is disheartedly underestimating America’s conservatives.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Jerry,

    I’m sure there are many like you who did not vote for Romney for substantive political reasons (I think our own Joe Carter would be another example), and I didn’t mean to imply that everyone who didn’t vote for Romney did so because of his religion. I was merely speaking about the large number of Evangelical Christians who were reluctant to vote for Romney because he was a Mormon, and how that illustrates part of the problem that Horton is talking about.

  • http://lawreligionculturereview.blogspot.com Richard

    For added perspective, here’s another review of Christless Christianity from January of this year:
    http://lawreligionculturereview.blogspot.com/2009/01/book-review-christless-christianity.html

  • http://www.russellandduenes.wordpress.com Michael Duenes

    I sometimes find Horton to be reductionistic. Too many have said, “We don’t need creeds, just Christian love.” But Horton too easily goes to the other side and downplays the need for vital Christian engagement in favor of meditating on and understanding “what Christ has done for us.” Can we skip such reductionism and realize that “our hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,” and that having such a hope and faith, Jesus will make a practical difference in our marriages, parenting, et al?

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Michael,

    We certainly need to avoid the opposite extreme of antinomianism (no law). But since Horton hasn’t offered his full-orbed solution to the problem yet, and won’t do so until this fall in “The Gospel-Driven Life”, I’m withholding my judgment until then. I can tell you that Horton fully supports the “3rd use” of the Law (i.e. application), so I’m not expecting too much reductionism.

    Having faith in Christ will definitely impact one’s marriage, parenting, etc. The question is whether Jesus’ primary purpose for coming to earth (and for the Gospel-writers to record his ministry) was to provide us with an example of “godly living” or to die, paying the price for sin, and rise again, inaugurating the “age to come” in the here and now. I don’t think it’s reductionistic to say that Christ came to earth for the later purpose and not the former. After all, the Gospels are not full of stories that illustrate Christ’s character, thereby giving us a moral example to follow. They are full of stories that demonstrate his deity and his fulfillment of OT prophecy, thereby giving us confidence that his death and resurrection actually accomplished something for us. So in that respect, Horton is merely arguing that we should allow the text itself to govern how we do application in preaching, rather than trying to find “practical principles for daily living” in every single text of Scripture.

    Horton is also trying to counter-balance the tendency in many churches to treat the Gospel as something that is only for new believers. Once you get down the basic, introductory story (Jesus died for my sins and rose again) you can move on to the important stuff; learning how to live as a Christian. But Paul says that the Gospel itself is the “power of salvation”, and when he writes his letter to the Romans, immediately after praising them for their great faith he goes into a long explication of the Gospel. He doesn’t say “Well, your faith is well-known, so you’ve obviously got the basics down, now let me tell you how to treat one another and be healthy, wealthy and wise.” To be sure, Paul DOES instruct believer how to live as Christians, but only after (and in light of) the Gospel message.

    That, at least, is what I gather from reading him and talking with him personally. It’s possible that all of this doesn’t come out explicitly in the book, but as I say, this is only part one. I’m going to hold off on discussions about whether Horton provides a successful solution to the problem until after he actually publishes his solution.

  • A Realist

    Folks, honestly, it’s like arguing over who is the most powerful super hero…Superman or Batman? It’s mythology and it has been the scurge of humanity since it became powerful to do so. The Jews were being brutalized in Roman held territories. So why not create a super hero who is above reproach? You can’t fault his mother, she’s a virgin. His father fades away after his birth. The Romans can’t kill a god, can they? Even though this god made the error of making his child mortal, he still can’t be killed. After the Romans and Jews kill him, he rises back! You can’t kill him, Rome! You can’t kill him, Jews! He’s waaaay past that point.

    If you believe the bible, you have to believe that humans and dinosaurs walked on the same Earth. They did not. You have to believe that an ancient wooden vessel could harvest and hold the millions of species on Earth. Impossible. No miracles, just plain impossible. You have to believe that in the duration of human history it took THAT LONG to have a “messiah” visit Earth! Humans had been around for 200,000 years at that point. Where was god then? Why did “he” wait so long to introduce his son?

    Why does a god choose to have a mortal baby? A throwback to Achilles it seems. He was half god, half human. But he had a weakness. One that man was able to exploit. Jesus’ only weakness was his decidedly human side. He had no chance. Non sense!!!! God would have learned that lesson long ago. Don’t have mortal babies, guys! We will just kill them!

    The largest Christain organization on Earth is the catholic church. Could there be a more reprehensible organization than that? Molesting boys. KNOWING THE TRUTH, and electing to allow it to occur! How awful is that, really? This is why I can never be called a Christain. I have to accept all of that, along with many other issues, and swear allegiance. I can’t be that guy. The bible is not a menu, you either believe it ALL, or you’re an atheist or a phoney. Most of you are the latter.

    Wake up. The politicizing of America by the christain right is what is killing the christain right. The author says the separation of church and state is prudent, but god ordains them both. That is the way the christain right makes it seem ok to grab power in America. The movement that is growing to end this mess, and get America back on it’s neutral ground and give everyone a chance to feel excepted, is expanding. Not just the Mythologists. Think about it.

  • Kathleen

    It’s worse than anyone thought. If you disagree, just read “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” on the “Powered by Christ Ministries” site.
    Kathleen

  • smmtheory

    If you believe the bible, you have to believe that humans and dinosaurs walked on the same Earth. They did not.

    That’s not what the paleontologists tell us. Perhaps you ought to go tell them they aren’t digging up dinosaur fossils on our planet. It’s a good thing we got wise guys like you telling us how wrong we Christians all are.

  • Mike Mitchell

    I’m more familiar with Mormonism than most Christians (my wife was raised Mormon. She left the Church at 20–and we lived in Utah for several years).

    Being Mormon is more than enough reason not to vote for someone for President. Given the radical contradictions and inconsistencies in Mormon history and theology, allegiance to the LDS Church and the LDS prophet shows that a person either has extremely bad judgement or doesn’t consider the most important question in the world (Who is God?) worth the effort to discern for himself, and so passively accepts the tradition he’s accustomed to. Any person about whom these two things are true should never be President of the United States.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Mike,

    While you may have a point on the first count, I think you seriously underestimate the extent to which most Presidents in recent decades are guilty of “passively accepting the tradition they’re accustomed to” when it comes to their professed Christianity. Indeed, this is likely the case with the majority of professed Christians in America. Why is nominal Christianity so much better than nominal Mormonism?

  • G.Scott

    A Realist said:”Even though this god made the error of making his child mortal, he still can’t be killed.”

    Well, if you could JUST explain the “error of God” to me I would love to engage more of your points.

  • Paul

    “The question is whether Jesus’ primary purpose for coming to earth (and for the Gospel-writers to record his ministry) was to provide us with an example of “godly living” or to die, paying the price for sin, and rise again, inaugurating the “age to come” in the here and now. I don’t think it’s reductionistic to say that Christ came to earth for the later purpose and not the former.”

    I actually _do_ think it’s reductionist to boil this down to the either / or choice you have specifically presented in your last sentence.

    While it’s true that ” the Gospels are not full of stories that illustrate Christ’s character, thereby giving us a moral example to follow…” that statement indirectly discounts the rest of the New Testament, which is, indeed, full of discussion that illustrate the living out of Christian faith. (See, for example, the Book of James, which is a treatise on how to live out what we say we believe.)

    Orthodoxy AND orthopraxy – you aren’t allowed to have one without the other.

    Consequently, since ALL Scripture is… well, you can quote it as well as I can… I would argue that it’s a false choice to argue which is more important – the gospels, or the epistles. But that seems to be the approach you’re taking.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Paul,

    Thanks for the comment, it gives me an opportunity to clarify. As I mentioned in a previous comment, Horton fully supports Luther’s “third use of the Law”, which means that he believes that it is appropriate to apply the text of Scripture to people’s lives. This would include application that focuses on morality, “godly living”, etc. So the either/or I am presenting here (on behalf of Horton, really) is not a broad opposition between the Gospels and the Epistles. I completely agree that Paul’s letters are, among other things, guides to living in the Spirit.

    The problem is that much of Evangelicalism today is taking that genre of “guidebook to Christian living” and expanding it to incorporate the Gospel itself. Horton is arguing that by removing the story of the gospel from the center of preaching we are in essence removing Christ from Christianity. Socrates was a pretty good moral example, and today we have Dr. Phil and Dr. Laura to tell us how to raise our children and have happy marriages. In short, if hearing about godly living is the main point of church (and of course, the definition of “godly living” tends to change a bit depending on the agenda of the preacher), then strictly speaking the person of Christ is not necessary. This is also why many preachers don’t know what to do with the narrative texts in Scripture. When you’re preaching from the story of David and Goliath and your primary message is “How to find the right stones to slay the giants in your life”, it’s not a big jump to turning all of the Gospel stories into examples for how to live.

    But Paul calls the gospel message itself the power unto salvation. It is only by hearing that amazing truth, that the Son of God died for our sins and was raised to life again as the first fruits of our future resurrection, that we can even begin to ground any moral teachings that follow. Without the power of the gospel, imperatives to godly living will be ultimately futile.

    So really, Horton is arguing to reclaim more of a BALANCE between Gospel and Epistle. Paul never gives moral imperatives in his epistles without first repeating the gospel message that is the grounding and beginning of the work of the Holy Spirit that makes godly living possible in the first place.

  • Paul

    I’ll buy that, David; one of my favorite professors in seminary (Howard Hendricks) has said that “the Christian life isn’t merely difficult, it’s impossible – without the power of God.” And, of course, the power of the Spirit is only available to those who have a relationship with God through Christ, which in turn in is made possible only by Jesus’ death and resurrection – i.e., by the subject of the gospel.

    My concern as we attempt to swing the pendulum back to the middle is that we don’t move to far back to the other direction by teaching – or seeming to teach – that the only purpose of the Christian message is to provide a “fire escape.” That’s why I said that you can’t have orthodoxy without orthopraxy, and vice versa.

  • Brandon

    Wrong, a city conqured by Satan would be destroyed by God. Where there are no righteous men God will destroy them. But, where there is even one righteous man God will spare the lot for God pitties and loves all his creations. We have all seen the Godlessness of the Presbyterians in ordaining women and homosexuality. Satan works to hide his face because you could not stand to see it. God hides His face because you could not bear Its Glory. It is in the deception that somehow a city of good deeds must belong to Satan. If that city hearing the Gospel, believes, then God is with them regardless of what they have done.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Brandon,

    I’m not quite sure I understand the exact nature of your criticism, but if you have understood Dr. Horton’s point to be that only belief counts and not action, then you have misunderstood. Dr. Horton believes, as Reformed theology has always taught, that good works are the fruit of genuine faith. Thus it would be impossible to truly believe and be born again, and yet bear no “fruit.”

    Moreover, Dr. Horton is not a Presbyterian (and I should point out that you unfairly generalize when you accuse all Presbyterians of ordaining women and approving of homosexuality, since there are several conservative branches of Presbyterianism, such as the OPC, that have done no such thing). You are referring to the PCUSA, which is part of the so-called “mainline” (i.e. liberal) Protestant churches. The irony of your criticism is that Dr. Horton would argue that the mainline churches (such as the PCUSA) were the first to embrace Christless Christianity (back in the early 1900’s). Thus the PCUSA abandoned the Gospel long ago in favor of exactly the sort of Moralism and self-help preaching that Horton now warns has infected Evbangelicalism. Thus, ordaining women and approving of homosexuality would not seem to be the result of embracing orthodox Reformed theology, but of abandoning it.

  • S.B. Hotalling

    I just ran into this blog this evening – very interesting conversation. One thought concerning the Gospel message – it seems to me that some of the above conversation puts God in a box, a finite man-made box. God is not finite. Regardless, I do agree that there is much going on in many congregations that is merely “feel good” for the life here on earth rather than doctrinal presentations concerning repentance, salvation and a spiritual afterlife. I believe this is often revealed in the actions of young people raised in such congregations, as their language, interests, activities, moral clarity, etc. seem to have no differentiation to that of peers with no so-called Christian upbringing/influence. I await Dr. Horton’s next book.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    S.B.,

    Thanks for the comment. I agree. The place this is hitting the hardest is in our youth groups. And often times youth group is even worse than regular church, since the message is even more niche-driven and catered to the problems and interests of teens. Sadly, between nursery, youth group, and campus ministries like Campus Crusade, it’s now become possible for a child to have grown up in “the church” without ever having attended an actual church service.

  • http://www.nopearlsb4swine.com Wes Wetherell

    I used Dr. Horton’s book as a discussion-starter for a short series in teaching my local church’s College Class. While I understood – and agreed – with the book, I was really surprised at the accuracy of the indictment, particularly in the college ministry. The Biblical illiteracy, rejection of the authority of Scripture, “Palagian” thinking… we all know it’s out there, but it is heart-wrenching when you see it in your local “Bible” church. And even more so when leadership doesn’t see – or even perpetuates – the problem.

    A very important read… I’m looking forward to the next book.

  • http://john-doherty.blogspot.com John Doherty

    Hi all –
    I am also looking forward to reading this book. I think that Horton is touching on some very important themes in his new book.

    I think much of the American church has the tendency, as Horton seems to be saying, of thinking that Jesus came to make our lives here on Earth better. Therefore, the natural progression of thinking goes that the only thing that will make one’s marriage/habits/life better is Christ. In fact, sometimes believing in Christ will make all of those things more difficult. Following Christ is ultimately the most fulfilling (though not easiest by any stretch of the imagination) road.

    The “Health and Wealth” “gospel” is crumbling from the inside out. That is seen by the pastors who are being exposed as adulterers and frauds, as well as the American economy collapsing and people’s ideas of Christianity making them healthy and wealthy are being found to be unfounded.

    I pray that we can get back to making Christ and his work on the cross and subsequent resurrection of paramount importance in our lives, and using that to love others well as fellow humans, and also to point them to the person and grace of Jesus Christ.

  • Mr. Incredible

    ==…the natural progression of thinking goes that the only thing that will make one’s marriage/habits/life better is Christ.==

    The natural progression of thinking aligns with the worldly, not the eternal. The natural progression of thinking is that WE, not Christ, can and must make things better. Christ said that this kinda thinking does not square with the facts of the eternal.

    ==In fact, sometimes believing in Christ will make all of those things more difficult.==

    “Sometimes believing”? Or “sometimes, believing”?

    If you mean the second, it is true that our trusting in Christ is seen by the world as a stumblingblock to the world. But so what? As long as it’s not a stumblingblock to Christ.

    If you mean the first, it is true, too, that, when believing intermittently will make things difficult.

    ==Following Christ is ultimately the most fulfilling (though not easiest by any stretch of the imagination) road. ==

    “My burden is light [hardly a burden].” It was a very heavy burden before He came.

    His burden is also Light [enlightenment].

    ==The “Health and Wealth” “gospel” is crumbling from the inside out. That is seen by the pastors who are being exposed as adulterers and frauds, as well as the American economy collapsing and people’s ideas of Christianity making them healthy and wealthy are being found to be unfounded.==

    No one claims that Christianity makes one healthy and wealthy. People get that idea, but that’s their perception.

    On the other hand, John 15:3, for one example, and Joshua 1:8, for another.

    So, does not Christ touch the eyes of those who receive Him? Does He not make them see? Does He not make them walk, and, in this vein, isn’t Amos 3:3 true?

    ==I pray that we can get back to making Christ and his work on the cross and subsequent resurrection of paramount importance in our lives…==

    We can start by refusing to confess that He does not heal, refusing to confess that He wants those who know and receive Him not to prosper.

    ==… and using that to love others well as fellow humans…==

    What is “love,” biblically?

    God loved the world. He loved the world so much THAT He gave His Son.

    So, God’s love is His Son. His act of love was to GIVE His Son.

    His Son is Christ. The Christ is the Word of God, and Jesus was the Christ in the flesh. A man.

    The Word is the Message of God’s Reconciliation Offer to Man for Man’s Salvation.

    Therefore, to send God’s love into the world is to send His Word — that is, the Christ — into the world so that as many as possible can be saved.

    In Genesis 1:3, in His first act of Creation, God said, “Light be!” He sent light into the void. Compare that with the first chapter of John. God’s Son is the True Light.

    So, again, our act of God’s love is to shine His Light — the Word — onto and into the world. God had no greater love for us than to send His Word of Reconciliation so that we might be saved. Following Him, we should have no greater love than to give the world His Love — the Word.

  • http://butnotlost.blogspot.com Tyson

    I come from a charismatic background, where I’ve learned that the greek for “salvation” (souzo) means much more than a ticket to heaven–it also means that we are saved from all the ill effects of sin here on earth as well. Certainly, the main reason Jesus came to earth was to make a way for us to be with Him eternally, but He also did much to help people while they were on earth. Therefore, I think we can apply the gospel to relationships, health, and, yes, even parking spots sometimes. :-)

    I agree that it is immensely dangerous to lose sight of the cross of Jesus. I just don’t want to apply the message of the cross to eternal salvation only.

  • Mr. Incredible

    Tyson says:
    July 31, 2009 at 10:21 am
    …the greek for “salvation” (souzo) means much more than a ticket to heaven–it also means that we are saved from all the ill effects of sin here on earth as well.
    ————————————————
    However, that is included in “Salvation.” Salvation is the goal. He came to save.

    Tyson says:
    July 31, 2009 at 10:21 am
    Certainly, the main reason Jesus came to earth was to make a way for us to be with Him eternally, but He also did much to help people while they were on earth.
    ——————————————————
    Whatever else He did was a vehicle, not the goal.

    Tyson says:
    July 31, 2009 at 10:21 am
    Therefore, I think we can apply the gospel to relationships, health, and, yes, even parking spots sometimes.
    ———————————————————–
    Only as far as Salvation is concerned.

    Tyson says:
    July 31, 2009 at 10:21 am
    I agree that it is immensely dangerous to lose sight of the cross of Jesus. I just don’t want to apply the message of the cross to eternal salvation only.
    ———————————————————–
    People do all sorts of things to the Gospel. However, He is what He is, not what WE want Him to be. We have-ta be what He wants US to be, not the other way around.

    To apply what WE think is “love” is to apply a worldy understanding to what Christians say is biblical. The biblical understanding of “love” is not OUR understanding.

  • http://www.afcmin.org/ateam David Nilsen

    Tyson,

    I think the point is to let the Bible dictate what we should apply being “saved” to in this life. The Apostles were persecuted and eventually executed for their faith. Do you think they were concerned with something as trivial as good parking spaces (or the 1st century equivalent)? Hardly. Perhaps you could argue that God will open up good parking spaces or better seats on airplanes when it will help to further the gospel in some way (i.e. by moving you to First Class you will end up sitting next to an unbeliever with whom you can share the gospel), but such rare instances will never be the focus of the gospel message, nor does the Bible teach that we should expect to receive such earthly, material blessings for their own sake.

    Will becoming a Christian improve your marriage? Undoubtedly. But there’s no reason to think that an unbeliever cannot also have just as happy a marriage without Christ in his life (there are noble pagans, after all), and the Bible gives us no reason to believe that. And that’s the whole point: It doesn’t matter how polite you are, how well you treat your spouse and children, how generous you are, how you handle pressure, etc. Without Christ you cannot achieve the true purpose of life: eternity spent in worship and fellowship with God Himself. Thus, when the sermon has nothing to do with how Christ became a man and purchased this invaluable, eternal gift for you on the cross, but instead is all about how to be more polite and generous, how to handle pressure, etc., you’ve completely missed the point (and I dare say you’ve substituted an idol for the real thing).

  • http://yourownjesus.net David Beck

    The reason some perceptively see a “Christless Christianity” is because they realize the frontman in much of Christianity is a puppet, a straw-man Jesus if you will, of the World System’s ecclesiastical branch. “Reformation” was actually a futile endeavor trying to reform that institution when it functions perfectly well for World inhabitants.

    Assemblies who’d otherwise spit at the Roman Catholic Church may think they’ve got the right Jesus up there, but if they are signed on with Cain’s hegemony through its tax-exempt incorporations and other sin management contracts, it’s no wonder they’re “Christless.” Many who place the name of Jesus on their lips simply can’t fathom the meaning of Jesus’ very words, “My Kingdom is not of this World,” They’re surprised when He’s nowhere around?

    Still grafted to the World they’ll just continue to run run run in the reindoctrination wheel of Michael Horton’s little Christian culture compliance cage.

  • gcaveman1

    Yeah, I’d like to see America be a “Christian Nation” as so many conservatives love to trumpet. “America is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles.” they preach.

    Turn the other cheek to Iran and Al Quaeda.
    Take back all the bombs you have dropped on the innocent.
    Love the queers, feed the Mexicans.
    Pay for the oil you have stolen and killed for.
    Give up your false gods on Wall Street and corporate boards.
    Forgive.
    Love Hamas and Korea as you love yourself.

    America cannot be a Christian nation in this world. Reality does not permit.

  • Manny

    Christianity

    The belief that some cosmic Jewish Zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

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