Sunday, May 12, 2013
Authentic Religion: Biblical Christianity
The word authentic is sadly one of the most overused words in contemporary Christianity. It has been hi-jacked by people who think that being authentic is giving yourself permission to doubt even the most sacred beliefs and practices in the Christian community. “I am authentic” has come to mean that I admit to doubting the divinity or resurrection of Christ. “I am authentic” if I challenge historic orthodox dogma in any way whatever. It is the hip thing to do. In fact, rejection of even the most basic, long-standing affirmations of Christendom has become a most sought-after virtue as of late. Admission of heterodox beliefs and practices is lauded in the visible Christian community (the false one that is) in much the same way that American culture lauds openly gay admissions.
The young know-it-alls who seek to usher in a tradition of their own construction tell us they read the text honestly and if that means that Jesus is not divine, the resurrection was just an analogy, the authors were a product of a homophobic and chauvinistic culture, that hell is a metaphor, and that there are many paths lead to eternal bliss, then so be it. After all they say; who are we, the establishment with our boring music and stuffy creeds to tell them otherwise? These young men and women know how to make the Church relevant and meaningful and it isn’t through doctrine, creeds, and ancient music. Tradition is an ideal whose day has passed and the only way to move forward, to progress, to make sure the Church doesn’t die out completely, is to annihilate tradition. It is as if orthodoxy is to be rejected a priori. In other words, as Michael Kruger recently wrote, orthodoxy has become heresy. In fact, what this young group seems to be saying is that the only heresy that exists, if it exists at all, is orthodoxy. Welcome to the age of inauthentic Christianity. It is a fake, false, counterfeit that is designed to appease the whims and desires of a radically narcissistic generation. It is, as one writer labelled it, moralistic- therapeutic deism. Inauthentic Christianity displaces God and Christ, the Church and Scripture and in their place it installs, me. It is the religion of pop-psychology, pop-culture, pop-music, and pop-faith. It is decrepit and bankrupt, empty and without root. It is specifically designed for the uncritical, the non-thinker who wishes to feel his or her way through life. They are in charge because, well, that arrangement just feels right.
John wrote his apocalypse some 2,000 years ago saying to one of the churches, “I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” That sentence would make it past the review committee for must Sunday morning sermons nowadays. But Jesus thundered it to the church at Sardis. It was a strong rebuke for a church that had lost its authenticity. This word means, conforming to fact and therefore worthy of trust, reliance, or belief. Authentic religion is religion that conforms to the facts of reality. No religion that fails to conform to God’s reality can be an authentic religion. The only authentic religion is that religion that is revealed in Scripture. Moreover, that religion happens to be Christianity. However, it is not the Christianity with which most Americans or Westerners are familiar. In fact, most of the world is not at all familiar with Biblical Christianity. If you thought the message had got out, you need to think again. A message has indeed been spread, but that message is for the most part, a pseudo-Christianity that has millions oblivious to the fact that they really do not know or understand the Jesus of Scripture.
J.C. Ryle says, “If you want to know whether your religion is authentic, try it by the place it occupies in your inner man.” [Practical Religion] If God does not occupy the center of your very being, He does not occupy an ounce of you. If your religion is not more important to you than your very next heartbeat, then your religion is nothing more than a membership in a social club that probably isn’t very social.
If you want to know how authentic your religion is to you, examine your feelings about sin. Oh no, not sin in the life of your neighbor. Do not think about the sin in your culture. If you want to measure you authenticity, measure your hatred for the sin that still occupies a place in your own life: That sin with which you struggle, you fight, you wrestle day in and day out. A Church or an individual that does not struggle with sin, certainly does not struggle with righteousness. Can we love what God hates or be indifferent toward that which God loathes and be His friend?
If you want to measure your authenticity, measure your attitude toward others. Are we whisperers, backbiters, passing along juicy information about our brothers and sisters? Do we hate our brothers while claiming to love God? He that hates his brother cannot love God.
How wolves want us to see them.
How wolves really appear!
Authentic Christianity not only stands by God’s truth revealed in Scripture, it also does its best to live up to it. I am increasing confronted by people who desire to call themselves Christians, even evangelical Christians who want nothing to do with evangelical truth. There are hundreds of millions of people across the world that want to claim the label “Christian” but who want nothing to do with the truth and praxis of the Christian religion. They want to deny the deity of Christ and be Christian. They deny the nature of Scripture and want to be Christian. They wish to reject the exclusive claims of the gospel and continue to be Christian. They want to be gay and Christian. They want to have abortions and be Christian. They want to practice pre-marital sex and be Christian. They want to deny the triune nature of God and be Christian. Anything goes with an inauthentic religion. In our day, anyone can claim to be anything and by the claim alone, the rest of us are expect to go along with it. But that is exactly what we cannot do. It is what we have been doing for some time now, and yet, it has been demonstrated that such an attitude simply won’t do.
The Christian group can no longer afford to adopt an attitude of indifference toward those who impose themselves on the gospel, rejecting most of its message while insisting they be admitted into the community. Scholars have to be labelled as the wolves they are when they have clearly abandoned the faith in preference for higher-critical, naturalistic ways of understanding Scripture and interpreting God. Their seats at the table must be reclaimed and all interactions with them must be as with unbelievers. They must be viewed as targets of evangelism, not colleagues with whom we have superfluous disagreements.
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete. (2 Cor. 10:3-6)